Finding love on Twitter: an interview with Sarah Elwell

Finding love on Twitter: an interview with Sarah Elwell

Love seems to be in short supply on social media. Fear and hate seem to abound. It can be draining for the soul. Yet now and then a quiet voice whispers of compassion and beauty, offering sanctuary amidst the twittering. One such voice is author Sarah Elwell, whose tweets offer a gentle reminder that love matters, in words of exquisite poetry. Her books and short stories are equally as beautiful and deeply thoughtful, and I am honoured to offer you this interview today.

Sarah Elwell lives quietly at the edge of the world, between a river and the sea. Her books are made of fairytale shadow, old magical songs, and dreams. You can find them and her other writing, including her Heroine’s Journey template, through her website (click to go there). You can find her on twitter: @knittingthewind

Which writer or writers opened your eyes to the magic of storytelling and why?

One of my earliest books was a collection of the Grimm Brothers’ tales, beautifully illustrated by Walter Crane. I lived on the outskirts, surrounded by hills and trees, and I entered more deeply into the Grimm’s stories than the real world beyond those hills. When I was five I was also given a book of Greek legends by Charles Kingsley which sent me into years of obsessive interest in the classic myths and legends. Also, just before my family moved to the suburbs, I was blessed with an old copy of The Land of Far-Beyond by Enid Blyton. It gave me a vision that I used as a kind of waking dream when the suburbs and city tried to dull my spirit. This was more than escapism, it was visiting the other world. I think I turned to writing because it was a way to immerse myself even more deeply in that world. I’m eternally grateful to my parents for providing me with such rich literature as a child so I could develop a robust imagination. 

Why do you think people need stories in their lives?

Apart from the very real importance of escapism, I believe people need stories because they all in some way echo the one great Story that tells us we are in this together as one (people, animals, trees, mountains, spirits) and that Life has purpose. The best stories realign us with love. They remind us of our belonging – and our “longing to be”, as Melina Marchetta puts it. They are our shared spirit singing the Songlines to ourselves.

What is your greatest magical power as a writer?

That’s a hard one to answer because I’m a New Zealander and we’re taught not to talk about ourselves too much lest it come across as boastful. So let me just say writers in general have the ability to listen and look for those Songlines I mentioned before. We tune in to the pace of a heart’s journey, we see the waymarkers along the route, and we find the words that will resonate for other people going the same way. We do this by observing our own hearts and those of people around us – by which I mean, noticing the angle of a friend’s smile, the way two people on the street are looking at each other, a fragment of a sentence someone writes on Twitter, the seasonal hues of the moon. All these little things are like points in a journey. I’ve heard some people describe writers as shamans but I disagree – we don’t travel into a separate spirit world, we stand deeper in this one, we look deeper into it, and we know how to share what we observe so you think we’ve been looking into your own heart.

Which mythic archetype or magical character most resonates with you and why?

The trickster-maker, the tinker-teller, the magician, the wind, Gwydion. He’s an important part of my life and my spirituality. He’s the wild god who is never what he seems to be. He brings change, and it appears to be a trick or a storm at the time, but it’s always done with Love. I am not like him but I do resonate with his energy because as a storyteller it’s my job to bring change to ideas, characters, and readers.

What themes or ideas do you find keep arising in your writing?

Longing and love. Almost every story I’ve written explores those intertwining themes. I’m also particularly interested in the relationship between masculine energy and feminine energy – hard power and soft power I guess is a simple way of putting it (each equal to the other). Mythically you could say the king and the wilded woman. Scientifically you could say wave and particle. All those terms are really just ways of describing the relationship between the body and the soul, and ultimately the God and Goddess for those of us who are pagan. I approached it in Deep in the Far Away, but it can be a difficult theme to explore because it’s a gender-political minefield these days. The old myths and fairytales are rich in such stories, and I suspect that’s why I love them as I do.

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