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Dora Emma Esze, LISP 2022 Short Story Finalist by 'Emerald Lavender'

LISP 2022 Short Story Finalist 'Emerald Lavender' by Dora Emma Esze

- Can you please tell us about you and your daily life?

I live in Hertfordshire and more often than not work in customer service. Just can't get enough of talking to strangers.

- When and how did you get into writing?

When I was little, there was always a family member to read me a bedtime story for as long as I can remember. My Mum, my Grandmother, her sister, my aunties, my step dad, anyone I was able to lure in, really. At around five I pestered the grownups around me to teach me the alphabet letter by letter. That's how I learned to read. You see, books are people. They see you, they know you, they talk to you. Reading and writing form a mystical union. You listen, you say your part, you listen again, you think of something, you put it down, you read your words, you read someone else's words, those words talk to you, then your own words come talk to you, then your words start reading you, then your words start writing you. It's one glorious hippy commune, images and colours prancing around on the verbal plane, a very pure form of love. When you live, you live. When you read a hundred books, you live a hundred lives. And when you read and write constantly you just become a permanent resident of the cosmic adventure park.

- How often do you write? Do you have a writing routine? And what inspires you to write?

Usually during the weekends. As I was born in Budapest I first started to write in Hungarian, in point of fact I have nine novels published in my other language. Golly if I know how and when I found the time. Somehow in English I'm more drawn towards short stories but that probably has nothing to do with time management. I write something and re-write it dozens of times, or more. Easily. What I seem to have an eye for is human drama. Real drama, not drama-queen-drama. Wounds, pain, coping and processing and healing and growing. I'm not very humorous I don't think but since everything is connected basically anything can inspire me. Looking out the window on the bus. Checking out Scottish castles on Instagram. Spotting a flyer at the library. Chatting to the guy who cuts two copies of your key and lets you have a neon green one gratis. Opening a book anywhere, any page. Reliving your memories and understanding them in layers.

- How does it feel to have your work recognised?

Euphoric and very humbling at the same time.

- What's the best thing and the most challenging thing about writing a Story?

Think of climbing a mountain. Quite difficult, as you move forward increasingly so. Every moment holds a hundred opportunities. You won't be able to honour them all but they will be around you, they all want to show you something. Of course you're busting your ass off as you proceed but that's okay. What else would you use your behind for, sit on it?? The creative process is worth living for. Dying, too, but it's highly recommended you write a thing or two before that happens.

- How did you develop the idea for your LISP-selected story? Is there a story behind your story? And, how long have you been working on it?

This is a text I have written in a few sittings and then kept returning to it for months adding stuff, throwing stuff out, showing more of a character, inserting another scene or two, chucking a bunch of redundant adjectives. It is based on two true stories. One is serendipitously stumbling upon an enthralling piece of music, losing it due to a misunderstanding and then miraculously finding it again. And two, I spent my university years in an abusive relationship. I had no idea that's what it was called, I had no idea that's a thing. We're talking verbal abuse, not domestic violence but hitting words have an extremely high torture value.

I was brought up to believe causing pain is a non-starter. This boy figured this out quickly -- actually, I probably told him so -- and from there on out whenever I said no to his ideas he went "How can you do this to me? Can't you see I'm suffering? Are you really this evil?" -- and, abracadabra, his dinner was cooked. That's how he had full control over me for years. That's why it took me 9 months to break up with him. (I know.) He presented me with a psychological chokehold – overlooked, yes, as it doesn't have visual evidence to identify immediately.

This was a guy madly in love with himself. I don't think he ever really noticed me. Unfortunately I doted on him, which he really appreciated. Other than that he foul-mouthed the living daylight out of me for years on end. I think I really irritated him. He made fun of me constantly, I was his favourite target. The good bits, too, like being straightforward or ambitious. On the other hand he could not afford to lose someone who took him so seriously. Looking back it's pretty obvious I facilitated his excessive narcissistic tendencies. Make no mistake, when I finally got out I blamed myself, not him. Never should have stayed with him at all. No question. But a few months prior to meeting him I had ditched my oldest childhood friend and got into a nasty car accident shortly after which then I saw as punishment from above. I was convinced it would be horrible karma to break up with this boy. Convinced I didn't have the right to leave, that it would be selfish to pursue my happiness. Also, I was desperate for him to notice me. The things he said about my character were quite abhorrent, also utter bullshit. So I lingered on to prove him wrong. Very sad. I know. Believe me it took me forever to forgive myself, about ten times longer than the actual relationship. However, without honesty there is no storytelling so there you go. The bit about the funeral is completely made up though, thank Goodness he is very much alive. So much so that he regularly messages me. To this day it warms his heart to look back on that wonderful little thing we had together!

- Can you please give us a few tips about writing a Story?

Write with a heart ablaze and fight through the editing phase with a sword forged of ice. Once you're finished with a piece, definitely sleep on it. If you feel the urge to showcase your baby to the world, sleep on it again and then some. Wait for a week, write something else, go back to it. Finally, and I cannot stress this enough, please, please enjoy creating a second, third, fourth version of your text, please love fiddling with the details. Never let the mistakes of the first version scare you. Re-writing is where the depth comes in. That's when you actually start to explore your topic. That's when you start to understand your characters. You will learn so much about yourself, it's incredible.

- What's the best thing and the most challenging thing about competitions?

It is always exciting to have a shot at public success. Sometimes your name is not on the list, and that's okay. Other times your piece is noticed and your name is chosen. The real deal, however, is when an editor rings you up after reading your manuscript, or when readers find a way to contact you and drop you a line to tell you what they feel you've given them. Those are the best moments.

- Lastly, do you recommend the writers submit their stories/screenplays to LISP?

I think I do, all the more so as this was not my first submission. I know what it feels like to realise certain paragraphs of mine are not exactly tearing it up in Competition Country. Just keep going. Open your heart and fire up your keyboard. Wherever you come down on this, inner work is never lost.

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