Tampa writer Enid Shomer has been captivated by the beauty of language for as long as she can remember. She started weaving words into poems at an early age and published her first poem when she was only 10 years old. “I always wanted to write,” she says, “but I just didn’t know what to do about it.” Although she majored in Sociology and Anthropology at Wellesley College, she took enough courses in English for a major. Her Masters degree in American Studies from the University of Miami focused on American Literature. But it wasn’t until moving to Gainesville and joining a writers group that she wrote her first book. From then on, there’s been no stopping this talented wordsmith. She has won over twenty major awards for her works, many of which have been included in prestigious literary collections and publications.
Shomer started out as a poet, publishing four collections of poetry: Black Drum, This Close to Earth, Stalking the Florida Panther, and Stars at Noon: Poems from the Life of Jacqueline Cochran. Stars at Noon, published in 2001, is a poem biography of the first female aviator to break the sound barrier. Shomer was inspired to shine some light on this exceptional woman after hearing a lecture by author, Alice Walker. “Walker said that every woman should find another woman to resurrect, and Cochran was mine,” Shomer explains. Shomer also uses her expertise as a poet in her position as editor of the University of Arkansas Poetry Series.
As much as she loves poetry, Shomer felt the need to branch out into fiction. “I became interested in poetry because of my love of the language itself,” she says, “but then I became very interested in how people change over time, that is, in character. I realized poetry was not the best vehicle for writing about that, so I turned to fiction.” She published two highly-acclaimed collections of short stories: Imaginary Men, which received the Iowa Fiction Prize and the LSU Southern Review Award, and Tourist Season, ten stories about women facing pivotal moments in their lives. Tourist Season was awarded the gold medal for fiction in the 2008 Florida Book Awards. Shomer says she was thrilled, and went to Tallahassee for the ceremony in which Governor Crist “hung a beautiful gold medal around my neck.” Shomer was subsequently asked to be a judge in the poetry category of the Florida Book Awards.
In January, 2012, Shomer will be going back to college when she visits the University of Tampa as a Distinguished Visiting Writer in the new Low-Residency Master of Fine Arts program. She, along with fellow writer Michael Connelly, will be reading from their works. “It’s the only program like it in the state,” Shomer explains. “It’s a two-year program that only requires students to be on campus twice a year. Each faculty member will be assigned four to six students, and they will correspond by e-mail.”
Shomer’s favorite book is “the one I’m working on at the time,” which happens to be The Twelve Rooms of the Nile, a historical fiction novel that is scheduled for publication by Simon and Schuster in the summer of 2012. At first glance, this may seem like a departure for her, but she doesn’t see it that way. “I’ve always been drawn to reading deeply on various subjects, and I’ve always done lots of research, even for my poems. But I’ve never wanted to write a novel until now.” The story is set on the Nile River in 1850, a period when Europeans were just beginning to visit the Orient. Shomer describes the book as “partly a love story; partly a story of evolving genius.” It tells the story of a fictional meeting between writer Gustave Flaubert and nurse Florence Nightingale during a trip down the Nile.
According to Shomer, the goal of her writing is “to tell the truth, entertain my readers, and produce something structurally beautiful.” For her, there’s nothing that can compare to “the feeling that I’ve captured something no one’s put into words before.” She describes her Ideal Reader as “someone intelligent and literate who enjoys a well- turned phrase; someone who’s curious and likes to have a vicarious emotional experience; someone who wants to go for a ride and not know where they’ll be taken.” And if this sounds like you, be sure to join Enid Shomer on a reading journey you’ll never forget.
For more about Enid Shomer, visit her website at http://www.enidshomer.com/
Next: Michael Lister - Passion for the Panhandle