Smoking With Alexandra Fox

Read the Story December 15, 2004

“Three Blind Elephants Met a Man” is an interesting twist on the Hindu fable, “The Blind Men and the Elephant.” What inspired you to write this, Alexandra?

It’s good to start with an easy question. In my writing group we do regular flashes, and “Three Blind Men Met an Elephant” was a flash prompt one evening. I must have been feeling contrary, because I turned it on its head. The turmoil and carnage on the river bank came from a news item about crush-deaths at a religious gathering at the Ganges.

Your prose has such poetic and rhythmic beauty to it, as in this: “There was no point of a world without feeling the criss-cross trammels of the bark of the banyan tree, breathing the heavy oil of its slippery, waxy leaves, paddling his fat baby legs in water, stirring the velvety sloosh of the oozing mud, showering himself with cold heavy drops.” Do you write poetry?

Several people have suggested that I try writing poetry, but I’m afraid to. My stories generally have more words in them than they need for the plot, and I think it would be even more difficult to hone the language down to just the perfect phrase for poetry. I do love playing with words, making them up, trying odd combinations or going for the sound rather than the sense. It’s one of my favourite things about writing.

How has participating in an internet critique group shaped your writing?

It’s taught me everything I know about writing. I didn’t go to university, just got married and had babies. I joined Alex Keegan’s Boot Camp and it taught me about all the different parts of short stories. I didn’t know anything about Theme, or Show-tell. It was scary at first critiquing other people’s work because it was so much better than mine, but that’s a good way to learn because you see the good and the bad bits and you know what to copy and what to avoid. Alex is so great with beginners; he gives 110%. Sometimes I’ve been really stuck, and felt like giving up, and I’ve emailed him all upset in the middle of the night and he’s always sorted me out. Once you start at Boot Camp you know you’ll carry on because it’s compulsory to post a story a fortnight so you can’t get lazy, and because it’s all online with people all over the world you can fit it in with a busy life, like writing when the kids are at school or in bed.

You describe yourself as a “new writer.” When did you begin and what inspired you to start?

I have been writing for about six months. I just had a story in my head one day, and it kept niggling at me until I simply had to write it down. There was a pile of ironing in front of me and I just pushed it away and sat down at the computer instead. It was the beginning of people having crumpled shirts but a happier and more fulfilled mum. They get very cross with me sometimes and say I haven’t got my mind on them like I used to, but it’s my life too, and I hope the girls will remember that and keep some corner of their lives for themselves when they grow up. It’s easy to get swallowed up and not realise until it’s too late.

What effect has motherhood had on your writing?

Motherhood gives me lots of material, but I don’t dare use most of it. I had to change my name a bit when I write so if the kids do a search on google they won’t come up with any of my stories, because often they are in them (not in this Elephants one, though!) It’s difficult to find time to fit writing and families in together, and what I’d really like is a laptop computer so I could keep it by me and just grab at spare moments when the thoughts come into my head, but I don’t know whether I’d be able to concentrate well enough with all the noise and bustle going on. If any non-writing mums are reading this, I’d like to tell them that there is still a real person somewhere inside you, and if you write you can let her out.

About the Author:

Alexandra Fox is a new writer living in the U.K. She is a busy mother but is enjoying learning to write short stories with an online critiquing group.

About the Artist:

A native of Ohio, Marty D. Ison lives with his wife transplanted in the sands of the Gulf of Mexico. He studied fine arts at Saint Petersburg College. In addition to the visual arts, he writes poetry, short stories, and novels. See more of Ison's work here.