Y’all know that not only is Liz Flaherty one of my very favorite authors, she’s also my writing buddy and my travel buddy and a real bestie. Retired from the post office, Liz spends non-writing time sewing, quilting, and wanting to travel. The author of twenty-some books and her husband Duane share an old farmhouse in North Central Indiana that they talk about leaving. However, that would require clearing baseball trophies from the attic and dusting the pictures of the Magnificent Seven, their grandchildren, so they’ll probably stay where they are.
N: Hi, Liz, welcome to the blog!
L: Thank you for having me, Nan. This book is such an adventure, but it’s also uncharted waters for me. I appreciate my friends touring with me!
N: What inspired you to start writing?
L: The easy answer is, Louisa May Alcott did, every moment I spent reading the covers off Little Women. But I think it was deeper than that—something that was always there and wasn’t going to be denied. In my younger years, I would have exchanged it for good hair or being able to dance, but I’ve grown to appreciate whatever the extra or lacking gene is that made me a writer.
N: Window Over the Sink is a step away from your usual fare, but you’ve always written essays. What was the impetus for collecting them into a book?
L: I’m married to him. Duane has encouraged my writing from the first time he realized I didn’t move far without a pen and paper. Probably less than a year into my writing a newspaper column, he started asking me to compile the essays into a book. I try always to do what he asks, so 30 or so years later, I did it.
N: Can you share with us how you chose the ones you did? What was the criteria for making it into the book?
L: A few made me laugh when I read back over them and I hoped they’d make readers laugh, too. I felt like a few of them were important. Some of them were memories—not just for me but for others, and I hope they enjoy revisiting them. And then there was the one on high school football, written in 1991, that holds such a big chuck of my heart I could have left my name off the book before I left it out.
You and I and virtually every writer I know have talked about “books of our heart.” My own One More Summer is still that for me. The essays in Window Over the Sink? Well, they are, too.
N: What is the most surprising thing you discovered about yourself as you sifted through the essays for Window Over the Sink?
L: How much I’ve grown as a writer, which was both expected and pleasing, although not surprising, since I’ve been writing for…well, a long time. What was surprising was how much I’ve grown as a person. Maybe I’m not better, but I like who I am much more now than I used to. That was a nice thing to happen onto as I read.
N: What do you hope your readers take away from Window Over the Sink?
L: The nicest thing readers have said to me over the years is that I say what they think. I hope they come away with that. If they’re lonely, I hope opening the Window makes them a little less so. If they need a laugh, I hope they find one. If they use up a couple of Kleenex, I’m good with that, too. Mostly, I want them to be glad they read it.
N: Do you write listening to music? If so, what music inspired or accompanied this current book?
L: No. I have to have silence. However, if I’m just going back over work or doing revisions, I’ll have on 60s on Six or, if it’s between October and January, Christmas music. (Before you ask, there’s always coffee or tea there, too.)
N: What were the key challenges you face when writing an essay or a blog as opposed to when writing a novel?
L: Oh, essays are so much easier! The only voice I have to hear is my own. Sometimes columns will sound too much alike—a problem I have in novels, too. The fact that I seldom write an essay that’s longer than 1000 words means almost instant writer gratification—something else that makes it easier.
N: What was the hardest essay you ever wrote? Is it included in the book?
L: “Sad on Sunday, Still Sad on Thursday.” It’s about depression and it was hard to write. I was so scared of making someone feel worse that I made myself feel worse. It is in the book. It’s also one that has changed several times over the years since I first wrote it. Depression isn’t static, and neither is how a person feels about it.
N: Does writing energize or exhaust you?
L: Yes. 😊 It’s like walking. I hate exercise, but I love walking. Even then, though, I have to talk myself into it on some days. However, I feel wonderful doing it, wonderful after I’ve done it, and sleep wonderfully that night. Writing’s the same way. A good writing day is the best there is, and it wears me out.
N: Are you working on anything at the present you would like to tell your readers about?
L: I have a completed story I’m submitting here and there, about which I could write a long and sad story on rejection but won’t. And, oh, glorious blank page!—I’ve started a new story. I haven’t written enough to know its direction yet, but I’m really liking Sid. And her four kids. And Fallen Soldier, Pennsylvania. And…
N: What do you like to do when you are not writing?
L: I sew. I make quilts. I read. I spend entirely too much time playing Scrabble on my phone. I say I should clean, but manage to interrupt myself in time not to do that.
N: What did you want to be when you grew up?
L: A writer. 😊
N: Favorite book when you were a kid?
L: I suppose Little Women would be it. Understood Betsy, Anne of Green Gables, everything Trixie Belden, Beany Malone, or written by Rosamund du Jardin, Janet Lambert, or Laura Ingalls Wilder. Oh, you said one? You didn’t mean that, though, did you?
N: If you could choose three people, living or dead, to invite for a dinner party, who would they be and why?
L: Hillary Clinton, Dorothy Parker, and Eleanor Roosevelt. Can you imagine the conversation?
Liz can be reached at:
Window Over the Sink:
It’s been nearly ten years since we retired. I’m still in the office Duane and the boys created for me. The seven quilts I promised to make have been completed. A few books. He has new knees and new guitars. We’ve had grief and loss in these years, occasional discontent, times of being alone even when we were together. We’ve also had a blessed amount of fun. Of music and laughter and family. Of the other side of being alone that comes of knowing we never really are.
Much has changed in those nine years and change, and much has stayed the same. At first, it seemed as if this book was a vanity thing. Or a thing for the grandkids to look at and think Okay, Nana, what do you want me to do with this? But in the end, like most other things in life that are worthwhile, it is a labor of love. A gathering of thoughts and dreams and memories.
Thanks for joining me on the journey.