Interview with Sarah Hansen

“Eleanor the Time Traveler”

“Eleanor the Time Traveler” has a very distinct voice among our pieces. What was your inspiration for this voice and for the piece itself?

“I think the voice of this piece was really centered around the character Eleanor’s circumstances. I really wanted to explore her perspective and her mental state.”

Eleanor the Time Traveler” was greatly admired by our screening team. A large part of what everybody liked about the story is the way that you explore a mental disorder from the perspective of the afflicted. What was your process in writing from this perspective and making it seem believable to the audience?

“Honestly, I think the best way to start exploring a mental disorder is from the perspective of the afflicted. Whatever the mental disorder is, I think it’s important to try to understand what someone with that disorder might be going through. Obviously I’ve never actually been in that situation of living in a nursing home and trying to figure out what was happening, but I really wanted to try to understand what it would be like for someone who has. Optimistically, I wanted to believe that they would be trying to make sense of what was happening to them in a positive sort of way. That’s where the ‘time travel’ aspect of the story came in.”

Were you ever worried that the audience might get lost in Eleanor’s perspective and not understand what was actually happening in the story?

“I actually worried quite a bit about that! I tried to include clues throughout the beginning of the story that Eleanor was an unreliable narrator. I wanted the audience to spend the first half of the story living in Eleanor’s version of the world, and then slowly realize what the reality of her situation was. Again, I tried to be very intentional with the clues I left the audience so that they would be able to figure out what was happening!”

As a Midwest-based literature magazine, Portage takes the idea of the Midwest very seriously. Is there anything about “Eleanor the Time Traveler” that strikes you as distinctly Midwest, either in the piece itself or in your process of writing it?

“I actually considered that when writing this piece, because I wrote it specifically for Portage. Personally, my favorite part about living in the Midwest is going to the lake with my family during the summer. Even though there are lakes outside of the Midwest, visiting the lake is something I see as a very Midwestern experience. I thought it would be fitting to have a lakeside cabin as Eleanor’s version of ‘heaven’ while writing Eleanor as a Midwesterner. The lakeside is where she feels happiest and safest, and I think that’s something a lot of Midwesterners can relate to!”

Prose is a very popular industry, and writers are subjected to a lot of judgement. What are some tools you use when handling rejection or criticism?

“Just keep writing! I try to use criticism as constructively as I can, even when it’s not necessarily what I wanted to hear.”

Born and raised in northern Illinois, Sarah Hansen is a recent Carroll University graduate. She is an alumnus of Portage Magazine, serving as the 2017 Poetry Editor and 2019 Editor in Chief. This is her first publication.

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