Elizabeth Chats With…Ingrid Jendrzejewski
My guest this month is Ingrid Jendrzejewski, Secretary to Swanwick Writers’ Summer School (and hence a very important cog in that particular wheel). She grew up in Vincennes, Indiana, studied creative writing at the University of Evansville, then physics at the University of Cambridge. She started submitting work for publication in 2014 and has since found homes for around 100 of her pieces; has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Vestal Review’s VERA Award, and multiple times for Best Small Fictions. I met her when she won her first trip to Swanwick through Writing Magazine’s short story competition. She has won awards such as the A Room of Her Own Foundation’s Orlando Prize for Flash Fiction and the Bath Flash Fiction Award, and is a co-director for National Flash Fiction Day. She serves as a flash fiction editor at JMWW and as editor-in-chief at FlashBack Fiction and Flash Flood. Ingrid currently lives in Cambridge where she writes, freelances, and occasionally runs writing workshops. I am in awe of her productivity and her success and am delighted she agreed to visit my site.
Hello Ingrid and welcome. Let’s start by taking you back to your childhood. What is your earliest memory — and how old were you at the time?
I think I remember standing on my tiptoes in a cot, and just just just being able to reach a box of tissues on a nearby table enough to pull out the tissues, drop them, and watch them float to the floor. If this memory is real, I must have been young enough to still be in a cot. What stands out in my mind is how the tissue box never emptied, even when one pulled out a tissue, and how the tissues expanded into a big mass on the floor.
What was your favourite subject at school — and which was the lesson you always wanted to avoid?
Oh, this is a tricky one! I loved maths throughout, as well as science and literature and well, most things. I must admit, I didn’t always enjoy history as sometimes it felt like an exercising in memorising dates, battles, and the names of men I didn’t necessarily admire. Perhaps this is one of the reasons I ended up working on the FlashBack Fiction project; I’m drawn to stories about the people, places and events that weren’t always on the syllabus.
Talking about yourself, how would you finish the sentence “not a lot of people know…”?
Not a lot of people know that I can deadlift over 100 kg. I love lifting and am training for my first powerlifting competition. I’m not aiming to place, just to have fun (and not embarrass myself too much).
If you knew you only had 24 hours left, how would you spend them?
Hmm. I’d probably want to say goodbye to people, but I’d likely be in a bad mood and a bit morose, so perhaps that wouldn’t be a good idea. Perhaps best to let people remember me as I was before I found out time was so short. Instead, I’d like to organise my hard drive so that when I was gone, my daughter could easily find all the journalling and stories I wrote about and to her as she grew up. This question makes me think I really ought to get to this now, in case I get hit by an meteorite or something on my way to the shops tomorrow.
If you could change one law, what would it be?
If I could, I’d change Stigler’s Law of Eponymy, which states that no scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer. I’ve always thought it a bit unfair that our naming conventions for scientific laws, constants, theorems, and whatnot often honour someone other than the person who came up with the idea or discovery first, though I take the point that sometimes discoveries are made in parallel, and that even today, it’s not uncommon to ‘discover’ something without knowing it has already been discovered by other people in some other time and place.
Describe your ideal menu — and where would you like to eat it?
The absolute best meal I’ve ever eaten was a vegetarian meal in a small café in Kyōto, somewhere vaguely near the Tetsugaku no michi (Philosopher’s Path) in the Higashiyama district. It was a simple meal, but full of the most beautiful tastes I have ever tasted. I would love to go back there and experience that meal again.
If you were a car, what type would you be — and why?
I would be a burgundy 1988 Toyota Corolla Station Wagon. It was the only car I ever enjoyed driving and I have eyes for no other car. It didn’t accelerate too quickly, but always got you where you wanted to go in the end. Wait, I’m not sure I like where this extended metaphor is going…. Still, I stick with the Toyota. It was a great car.
What would you have printed on the front of your T-shirt?
From a purely practical standpoint, I would love a t-shirt with all the words that I really love but can never think of when I’m actually writing printed upside-down on the front so that when I’m working and can’t think of a word, I could just look down and find it on my chest.
Would you describe yourself as left-brain (analytical), right-brain (intuitive) or a mix of both?
Both, although I’m not sure I really believe in the distinction. As with C P Snow’s Two Cultures, I suspect we’re often hindered by putting too much stock in these sorts of divisions. It seems all too easy for these sorts of labels to end up being used as excuses for not exploring certain activities, disciplines, approaches or ways of thinking. Creativity, be it in creative writing, programming, mathematics, art or science requires both.
What is your favourite thing to do with friends?
Puzzles! I love writing and solving puzzles, and it’s extra fun in a team. Every year, I participate in Pablo’s Armchair Treasure Hunt, as well as several online puzzle hunts throughout the world. I set a large puzzle for my family every Christmas, where part of the puzzle is to discover how the puzzle actually works. The Christmas puzzles have become quite elaborate over the years, and I now post them on my website for puzzle enthusiasts .
Thank you Ingrid for finding the time in your busy schedule to come and chat. Readers, you can find out more about Ingrid and her writing on her website; on Facebook; or on Twitter. Me? I’m off to look up that Christmas puzzle!