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Member Spotlight: Ellen Birkett Morris

author Ellen Birkett Morris and her book Beware the Tall Grass

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world? Writing has always been an important way for me to discover what matters and how I want to live in the world. This doesn’t always happen on a conscious level, but I find seeds of my lived life and concerns about the world cloaked in the fiction I create. My short story collection, Lost Girls, reflected my experiences as a woman and gave voice to the concerns raised by #MeToo. My novel Beware the Tall grass explores issues of advocacy and courage, which have been central to my life with chronic illness, through the lens of mother whose son is having past life memories and the soldier who lives the memories the son has. Writing is an important medium for the world because it serves as both an escape from our own challenges and a window into the lives of others. It is my greatest hope that writing builds empathy and kindness.

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block? I keep my eyes open for original ideas and pull out my list when I am blocked. I wrote Beware the Tall Grass after hearing a story on National Public Radio about children with past life memories. I imagined my way into the dilemmas this would create for a mother who wants to give her child a perfect life and the tension that could create in a marriage. That helped me get unstuck.

What is your favorite time to write? I love writing in the late morning when my neighborhood is quiet and my dog is snoring lightly in her crate next to my desk.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers? I had the honor of interviewing Alice McDermott. She said “To write is to recreate the world in your own vision. It is lovely to have lots of readers and hear that people have been touched by your work. It is great to sell lots of books, but that is fleeting and not enough of a reward for all the sacrifices you will have to make. At the end of the day, I put my best effort forward. The satisfaction of that is the only reliable satisfaction.” I think of that every time I sit down to write.

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age? There is so much great writing out there and so many interested readers. I think the form is alive and well!

Ellen Birkett Morris’s Beware the Tall Grass is out now with University of Georgia Press.