Interview: Elliott DeLine! (Part 1 of 2)

Underneath This just enjoyed interviewing Elliott DeLine. Please read some more about Elliott in his self-penned biographical statement before reading part 1 of the interview. Stay tuned for part two in the following weeks!

Elliott DeLine (born 1988) is a transgender writer and activist from Syracuse, NY. He is the author of the novel Refuse and the novella I Know Very Well How I Got My Name. His work has been featured in the Modern Love essay series of The New York Times, The Collection: Short Fiction from the Transgender Vanguard, and Original Plumbing Magazine. Elliott attended Purchase College and graduated from Syracuse University in 2012 with a BA in English. He is a founding board member of the nonprofit CNY for Solidarity, Inc., and the general coordinator of Queer Mart, and LGBTQ arts and crafts fair. Elliott currently lives in Syracuse, NY, where he works, volunteers, and writes.

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Please describe your path to becoming a writer.

It probably sounds corny, but I’ve always been writing, since I was able. I used to make books as a kid, with paper and staples. Growing up, writing was always something that came pretty naturally to me. That, along with books, music and art, was my way of escaping and expressing myself. I was pretty involved with my high school literary magazine and had a lot of poems and short pieces I would share that way. When I got to college, I decided I wanted to focus on creative writing the most, and not visual art I didn’t really know much about art, I just enjoyed making it. I didn’t like the classes so I switched to an English major and focused on reading and writing. The first times I was really published were in college literary magazines, prior to writing Refuse. Then I self-published Refuse, and then I was a runner-up in the New York Times Modern Love Essay Contest, and then my story was accepted for The Collection, a transgender anthology. Then I also became a blogger for Original Plumbing. Everything built upon itself and more and more people read Refuse. I started getting semi-regular “fan mail,” requests for interviews, and got to read or speak at some events and colleges. Nothing too crazy, but enough that some people took me seriously. I then self-published I Know Very Well How I Got My Name. That’s all it really was. Mostly, I asked people to read my book, or sell it at their store, or to read at their event, and enough people said yes. And it built upon itself.

How has living in Syracuse, NY informed your writing?

Very much so, given that it’s the setting of probably 75% of what I have written the past few years. I’ve lived here most my life, but it took going away a few times to get perspective on it. I’ve become fascinated with the city and region for these past five years or so. The architecture, history, demographics, crime, everything. It seems like everything about me is tied to my location, and I’d never noticed it before. I feel like Syracuse explained everything. Why I am who I am. It was empowering to stop being embarrassed about my history. I was embarrassed because it was so ordinary and I wasn’t anywhere near as worldly as my college friends at least pretended they were. So I wasn’t from some place hip or interesting. So what. I was glad. I am still glad. And people like that are wrong anyway. I’ve always had a lot of hometown pride. It’s common here. It’s a love-hate sort of thing. I think it’s a unique setting because it’s nothing special. Not to outsiders at least.

In what ways has your work been feminist and/or reflected social justice themes?

Like many trans people, I have a conflicted relationship with feminism. I think my books challenge the ways some (cisgender female) feminists view the world. I was actually surprised my second book, I Know Very Well How I Got My Name, didn’t get more backlash. I have to imagine it’s because so far fewer people read it. I thought the depiction of a trans person sexually abused by a cisgender female would be more controversial. Because it’s sort of the reversal of societal expectations, where the trans person is the predator, and male-identified people are predators, and cisgender women are victims only. Feminism is a tough one, because I’ve seen so many trans women as well as men hurt by the words of self-identified feminists. I don’t think my books are anti-feminist. But that wasn’t my concerns when writing those particular pieces. The social justice themes I am most concerned with in Refuse and I Know.. are probably access to healthcare for trans people and a sorta anticapitalist view of work, particularly given trans unemployment. And I think there is a lot to be said about class and location, like I previously mentioned. But I figure what is good for trans people is good for all gender equality. So in that sense, feminists and I are on the same page.

What was it like being part of the first annual QueerMart arts and craft fair?

It was wonderful. We put a lot of time and energy into promoting it and it really paid off. The crowds were big and everyone was so excited. Most the artists made a decent amount if money. I don’t think there’s ever been anything like it in Syracuse. I’m really proud of it. It really brought people together for something positive and fun. It felt empowering.

How did you become involved with CNY for Solidarity and how has this experience been?

Well, that is a long story. It started out as a small project of me and a few friends, because we wanted to spread the word on the CeCe McDonald story. We decided to march in the Syracuse Pride, which, like most LGBT stuff in the area, is overwhelmingly white and cisgender. We are white, so in a way it felt like, “Is this really our place?” But I was so glad we did it. We tried to make it clear that we weren’t speaking for trans women of color, just showing our support for them. Other women we were honoring included LaTeisha Green, who was murdered in Syracuse in 2008. We don’t want people to forget, because not much has changed since then and it could happen again. We wanted people to realize there are members of the LGBT community who have a lot more to worry about that marriage equality and how to decorate their float. Trans people should be a priority, because we are still second class citizens on the whole, and trans women of color should be the TOP priority because there’s nothing short of genocide against them. To be frank, we were a group of quiet but radical people who hadn’t ever felt connected to the LGBT community, particularly in Syracuse. It’s basically a buzzword for us at this point, but we wanted to focus on intersectionality. Single-issue trans activism really turned us all off. Eventually, the group got larger, and some older, very passionate and intelligent individuals got involved, giving us a huge energy boost. My friend Joey single-handedly did the research to make us an incorporated non-profit, with a board of directors. He established the LGBTQ food pantry, and a bus to get people down to Philadelphia for trans-positive care. It’s a mess up here, in terms of getting on hormones and getting general care as well, as a trans person. We try to focus on the real bare bones stuff, because needs just aren’t being met. We want to get people food, healthcare, shelter, jobs, safety, as well as support and empowerment. We have a support group now called Intersections Cafe, where we serve free coffee and dinner and we’re having another Queer mart on May 3rd. We’re starting an indiegogo soon, as well as applying for grants, and hope open our own center in downtown Syracuse. It would start as a resource center, and hopefully in time, we can also develop a solution for trans health care in Syracuse. The Mazzoni Center in Philadelphia has been very supportive of us in this endeavor. There is no general LGBTQ center in Syracuse. There’s one at Syracuse University for students, one for elderly/aging people, and one for youth. But the rest of us don’t really have anything but scattered support groups and gays bars that are always closing down a month after they open. Really, the amount that has been achieved in Syracuse by others is astounding. But it often seems like the left hand isn’t talking with the right. Unfortunately, that hasn’t really improved. But we offer a slew of new resources and services, and we hope in time that other community organization leaders warm up to us. But we try to focus on the community itself and not get bogged down in the politics. There’s work to be done and I’m trying to just move forward. We’re having elections soon for Board Officers, and forming committees, and hope to do some workshops on name change documents, food stamps, and other stuff that can be harder to obtain when you’re trans. We’ve got plenty of energy and ideas, now we just need the funding.

Who have been your creative inspirations?

I find music the most inspirational, which explains for all the references to Morrissey and The Smiths in my work. Morrissey has probably inspired me more than any other artist. This summer I was very inspired by Joni Mitchell. When it really comes down to it though, it’s the people in my life who inspire me the most. I don’t like the idea of “muses,” because there’s a gendered connotation to it that strikes me as gross. However, my desire to make sense of my relationships often drives my work.

I always have drawn inspiration from marginalized artists who were controversial in their communities. Philip Roth was someone I became fixated on for a while. Native Son by Richard Wright made me feel like it was OK to have a deeply flawed protagonist…one who may even appear on the surface to live up to stereotypes, but in reality, to the careful reader, is ultimately sympathetic and powerful in a way that the “poster boys” can never be. I like authors who play with fire, because that’s how you test your beliefs, and that’s the only way you’ll come to anything like the truth. James Baldwin’s Another Country gave me permission somehow, too- to focus on interpersonal relationships more than plot. Not to the point that it’s a soap opera, but it really is OK to just write about the world around you. It doesn’t have to be something far outside your experience and invented. In fact, I think it’s better when it isn’t.

Have you envisioned your novels being made into films? If so, what may that be like?

Yes. I think about this a lot too. I would love that. I’d want to be very involved of course, and I’d want to cast trans people as actors. I would particularly love to see Refuse as a movie. I’d love to pick the songs for the soundtrack. I always envision the opening scene as Dean riding a bike through the suburbs with the song “Please Help the Cause Against Loneliness” by Morrissey. And I always picture it in black and white. And then he’d go up to his room and sit down at the computer and there would be a sort of cheesy voice over narration as he typed. That would quickly fade into the past, or in other words the story that he’s writing. Those scenes would have no voice over. It would switch back and forth between present and past. Maybe the past could be in color, but the present part where it’s just Dean in his head at his parents’ house would be black and white.

What are some of the most salient issues facing trans people today in the United States? How can individuals be an informed ally to trans folks and communities?

Healthcare, including mental healthcare. The healthcare system really fucks us over. Unemployment and poverty. The real bare bones stuff. Our community really suffers, on a grand scale, with basic needs going unmet. It’s sort of sickening. And then there’s isolation and loneliness. People can become informed by listening to us.

On what projects are you currently working?

I’m currently working on a book I’d like to have finished this summer. That’s all I’ll say.

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Interview: Ruth Marimo!

Underneath This had the soulful and meaningful experience of interviewing Ruth Marimo. Before reading the interview, please read more about Ruth in the bio statement that she wrote.

Ruth Marimo was born and raised in the Southern African country of Zimbabwe. In 1999, at the age of nineteen, after arriving in England she found herself booking a round trip ticket to the United States. She never boarded her return flight. Ruth now lives in Omaha, Nebraska, where she feels her number one job is raising her two beautiful children. To support her family, she owns a small residential and commercial cleaning business, and in her free time she continues to work on her writing, advocating for immigration reform, and speaking out against the mistreatment of LGBTQ people in Africa as well as the world. You can learn more about Ruth’s current work by visiting her website: ruthmarimo.com.

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Please describe your path to becoming an activist and writer.

My path to becoming an activist and a published author was quite accidental. I started writing my life-story in jail awaiting deportation back in 2009, my book started as a goodbye letter to my two children. I was finally released from immigration hold after 30 days in jail. I went to church that first Sunday after my release and the pastor of the church preached an anti-gay sermon. I was so angry that I confronted him about who I was after the service. That was my first act of activism and I have never looked back since that incident.

In what ways have your social and personal identities influenced your activism and writing?

Who I am intersects on so many different levels with so many marginalized minority groups: I am an African immigrant who was undocumented; I am a single black mother; I am an out African lesbian woman; I was in an abusive interracial heterosexual marriage; I have children who are biracial; I was orphaned at the age of five; I date outside of my own race; and I am a woman from a third world nation. So in a sense I feel that I have so many causes to fight for, that my battle is never really done.

You have so much resilience. How have you survived and thrived through very challenging times?

As ironic as it sounds, I think losing my mother at such a young age and basically having this understanding that I was an outcast from childhood has made me resilient, I had to find ways of coping at such a young age and that has helped me deal with life’s trials as an adult. I have also been resilient because I have never wanted to repeat the actions my mother took, so I have never allowed myself to feel so defeated that I give up.

Your mother died by suicide when you were 5 years old. What could the world be doing more for those who have lost loved ones to suicide?

Society needs to understand the pain inflicted when suicide occurs – especially for children. I grew up in a culture where bad things are not talked about so I suffered in silence as a child. Society needs to understand that grief counseling is a must any time suicide occurs. Also silence about the person does not help, it is better to reflect on the person’s life and find healthy ways to remember them. Perhaps the most important thing is to foster environments that prevent suicide from occurring in the first place. Which could start by removing the stigma associated with mental health disorders.

What was the coming out process like for you as a woman from Zimbabwe?

It was extremely challenging. My ex-girlfriend had to literally force me to come out of the closet. When I finally did come out I faced a lot of homophobia from both family and friends. It was as if I had stopped being the person they knew, I felt shunned and people I was once close to distanced themselves in very obvious ways. It was lonely, even though I live in the United States.

Homophobia and heterosexism are experienced and perpetuated around the world, and there has been much focus on aversion to LGBTQ+ people in Africa today. What do you make of that and how do you respond?

I think it is so tragic the way African nations think they are fighting back against a Western influence by punishing their own citizens. The ability for Africans to easily turn violent against one another is something that has always bothered me. What is more disgraceful is the influence of the evangelical right from Western nations in perpetuating that hatred. That factor is actually one of the main reasons I have recently made a decision to walk away from religion. I can no longer identify with something that is so divisive.

What was it like emigrating from Zimbabwe to the UK?

It was a challenge because I was only eighteen and so uniformed about the ways of the world and its laws. I experienced some of the most difficult transitions in my life while living in the UK.

You are a survivor of domestic violence perpetuated by your ex-husband. What are ways that services can be more accessible to survivors of abuse?

I think funding programs that help employ people equipped to counsel survivors of abuse would help greatly. That area needs more case workers, more follow ups of these women and their children. Programs that actually help women escape abusive situations are imperative because most women stay because they have nowhere else to go, with no means of starting over alone. Here in Omaha Nebraska organizations like Heartland family services and Catholic Services are great examples.

What were some of the most challenging parts of being in the immigration detention center in the United States?

As an undocumented immigrant in custody I had no rights whatsoever and the jail that housed me had no information regarding my case . If I did not have relatives here who managed to hire an immigration lawyer on my behalf, I have no idea what would have become of me. The lack of rights undocumented immigrants have in detention centers is deplorable. I lost twenty pounds in thirty days – that is how miserable I was while in jail.

What has it been like living as a lesbian woman of color raising two children in Nebraska?

For the most part it has been good, we live in a great neighborhood in Papillion, which has some of the best schools in the nation and ranks among the safest in the country as well. My kids play outside with the rest of the kids in our neighborhood. I am out and open at their school which is diverse in terms of ethnicity, and ability, which makes the school terrific and inclusive. However racial disparities are very apparent in Omaha depending on where you live.

Speaking!

What have been some of the most rewarding experiences of the activism and motivational speaking you have done? The most challenging?

Last February I traveled to Yale as one of the featured speakers at the annual IVYQ (Ivy League Queer Conference) and last week I facilitated a creative writing workshop at a women’s symposium at Metropolitan Community College. I have had many challenges but I haven’t noticed them as much because my activism started from rock-bottom. I was prepared to stand entirely alone when I began this journey.

Congratulations that your next book, “OuTsider: Crossing Borders. Breaking Rules. Gaining Pride” is being released very soon, in fact on the National Day of Silence. Was this date selected intentionally?

Yes. So many aspects of my story are views we never hear. People living in the shadows are too busy trying to hide and survive and hence never speak up.

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What has the experience been of writing and publishing this work?

It was a grueling process, my editor, Stephanie Finnegan, was relentless in making sure I brought raw emotion to paper. The publishing team at Scout Publishing LLC, CEO Ryan Sallans and Art Director Erika Block, have respected my voice and believed in my story. My girlfriend, Deanne, is also a writer and helps to give me different perspectives.

How has your family responded to your art and activism?

They have been mostly silent, they don’t yet know how to react. I think writing my story is too revealing for them and who I am is still uncomfortable for them. We come from a culture woman don’t grow up to write books – let alone their life-stories. However my family has come a long in accepting my identity and I am included in anything that pertains to family.

In what ways is your work feminist?

Every aspect of it is, especially from an African perspective, I have done everything I grew up being told women simply can’t do.

How does the experience of performing poetry compare to writing a memoir?

They’re both cathartic and are inspired by my experiences so I guess the difference is only that I use more metaphors when I write and perform poetry and writing a memoir is more factual and with performing I’m in front of a crowd and in writing I’m alone.

In your poem, “Who Am I?”, you eloquently and vulnerably reflect on some of your experiences including being “an alien to my own nation.” What do those words mean to you now?

Those are deep words that remind me that I am less valued where I come from because of my sexual identity. That I am less understood by the people I share a blood line with. That I was an outcast among my own people because orphans are not loved equally in my culture. That my own biological father never bothered to have a relationship with me – most likely because I was a girl.

As an African woman, how do you perceive the LGBTQ+ rights movements in the United States? How inclusive are the communities?

The LGBTQ movement in the US still has a long way to go, there is often division within the community. We have a long way to go as far as being trans inclusive, particularly in making space for trans people of color at the table. The rainbow flag is still largely a white flag; and that needs to change.

What feedback do you have for aspiring activists and authors?

You have to master the ability to stand in your own truth. The ability to allow people to walk out of your life because they will. The ability to make new families made up of people who see you as you are and believe in what you say.

On what projects are you working on next?

My next focus will be the first of a 12 series children’s book, titled ‘What Is Africa Really Like’. I will partner with American based Cameroon artist, Gerard Pefung. The motivation behind the project is to give children everywhere an accurate depiction of far-away places in the world. Often the picture they get from television is largely one sided and inaccurate.

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Interview: Cristina Black!

Underneath This had the enjoyable experience of interviewing musician and journalist, Cristina Black. In the subsequent paragraphs, please read more about Cristina’s influences, inspirations, and insights about the difference between art and journalism…

Please describe your path to becoming an artist.

I’ve been a writer and musician since I was a little kid, but I think I really became an artist about six or seven years ago, when I started writing songs. You know how you get a song stuck in your head and it drives you insane? That started happening to me all the time, except the songs didn’t exist yet. They were mine! I was writing them in my head and they were killing me from the inside. They were so heavy. I had begun taking ukulele lessons on a bit of a lark, and those tunes made their way out of me through that little thing, that instrument that everyone thinks is so twee. It was scary and painful and almost didn’t happen. I’m so grateful I got there, even to the people who made things hard for me so I would figure it out, because it’s the dreamiest dream.

Who and what are your creative influences?

Lately I’m really into Angel Olsen and Kendrick Lamar, but I always come back to the same people: Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, Fiona Apple, Eminem, and anyone who just totally fearlessly puts their bloody heart on the chopping block like, here, take it. I don’t care if people think I’m a diva or a drama queen or a crazy bitch or what. I take it as a compliment because that’s what they say about everyone I look up to.

Your music has been described as similar to that of Nico and Joni Mitchell. What is it like being compared to those classic musicians?

Oh, it’s amazing, of course. But not at all surprising. Classic songs and quirky vocals are my thing.

I really enjoy all of your songs on the “The Ditty Sessions” and “Purple Houses” is especially powerful to me, especially the line, “We will never been children again.” What was it like making that song?

That song is about a conversation I had on a weekend trip in the Catskills with my very best friends at the end of the summer of 2005. My life, at that moment, was as close to perfect as it ever has been before or since. We were watching the news and Hurricane Katrina was in the Gulf of Mexico, swirling toward New Orleans, where all of us had lived or did live. And I just remember thinking, no, please no. But the next day, we woke up to a yes. I actually wrote the song a couple years later, when I was driving around New Orleans appreciating the colorful homes there. I remembered how scared I was that it would all go away.

That line, “catalog of emotion revealing the notion / we would never be children again” refers to the horrible loss of innocence you feel when you see how unfathomably wrong things can go, like a very intense “party’s over.” I remember feeling like that when 9/11 happened too. It’s the kind of instantaneous growing up where you realize things aren’t going to be okay for a long time, or maybe never.

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What inspired “Summer’s Over”?

That’s a funny one for me because when my friends heard it, they assumed I’d had an affair with my married surfing instructor in the Hamptons. But it’s a story I made up where summer is a metaphor for romance: an ephemeral season where things get real hot, and you lose your mind and do things you wouldn’t normally do. You feel free to do silly, sexy things and not think about the consequences. Then it ends and you’re supposed to go back to regular old life? That’s hard to face.

There is a palpable pathos on “When I Think of Christmas.” What was it like recording that song?

Recording it was super fun! I got to work with such cool LA musicians, and we really went to town making it sound like a classic holiday tune. I wrote it for anyone who ever had to get through the holidays with a heavy heart, which is basically everyone.

Is your work feminist? If so, how?

Absolutely. I think gender equality happens when men and women both feel free to be, at turns, powerful and vulnerable. That’s what the characters in my songs, and my life, are like. Complicated. I love it when John Boehner cries. I just think it’s so beautiful. I wish Hillary Clinton could do the same without people bringing up PMS. I mean, I doubt she even ovulates these days.

One person who really bent gender-specific behavior in music was Kathleen Hanna with Bikini Kill and Le Tigre. I love the way she always wore that fire engine red lipstick. She took a product that was invented to please men and used it to draw attention to her mouth, like I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY. I always wear red lipstick when I sing, even if I’m recording and you can’t see me.

How do your different social identities influence your music?

In college, my friends called me “the withdrawn observer.” So, there you go.

You are also a music journalist. How does that process differ from writing songs?

In journalism, you’re supposed to tell the truth. In art, you can make shit up.

What feedback do you have for aspiring musicians?

If you’re afraid, that’s good.

Interview: Bella DePaulo !

Hi. I had the very enjoyable experience of interviewing Bella DePaulo after being quite inspired by her writing an views on singlism. Thanks Bella! Before reading the interview below, please check out the bio sent by Bella:

Bella DePaulo, an expert on single life, is the author of Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After and of Singlism: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How to Stop It. She also writes the “Living Single” blog for Psychology Today. Dr. DePaulo has a Ph.D. in psychology from Harvard, and has been a Visiting Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara since 2000. Visit her website at http://www.BellaDePaulo.com.

Bella DePaulo

How did you first become interested in doing scholarship and activism regarding singlism?

In an interview that a friend conducted with Bella, she expressed, “For years, I kept a secret file folder of observations of what I would later call singlism. Some of them were stories in the media. Others were my personal experiences. The thing about my personal experiences, though, is that I really didn’t know if they had anything to do with the fact that I was single, or whether there was some other explanation entirely.

For example, when I first started at a new job, my colleagues invited me to lunch during the week, but over the weekends, the couples would socialize only with other couples. Were they excluding me because I was single or because they didn’t want to spend time with me (and felt obligated to include me during the week when they left from work to go out to lunch)?”

Please read more of this interview at: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/living-single/201110/personal-history-passion-single-life-and-singles-advocacy

In your groundbreaking book, “Singled Out,” you cogently identify 10 myths associated with singles. The most emotionally intense is that singles are lonely, tragic, and miserable. I like how you described research to combat that stereotype. What are some ways folks can become involved in activism to work against singlism?

In a post on Psychology Today, Bella recommended,”Are you someone who is willing to engage in conversations about the issues? Keep posting your comments at relevant blogs and other media sites. If you have the time and the inclination, write your own blog (and let me know about it if it is not already on my list).

Lots of stories in online newspapers, magazines, and television sites allow for comments. Jump in and have your say. Whenever possible, post your comments early so you have a better chance of influencing the subsequent conversation. Don’t just point out the stereotyping and stigmatizing of singles – also let writers know when they get something right.

For more ideas, please visit: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/living-single/201103/stopping-singlism-what-will-work

After being inspired and informed by your work and as a single person myself, I am wondering if there is a more affirming term for “singles.” What are some of your thoughts about this?

I have to confess that I don’t love the term “single,” but I have never been able to come up with something I like enough to use instead. Here’s a discussion:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/living-single/201104/what-does-single-mean

How do cultural, gender, and national identities affect the experience of singlehood?

I think these are very important distinctions. (I don’t have one article or blog post I can point to that addresses these distinctions comprehensively, but I have written a few articles here and there about specific groups.)

http://belladepaulo.com/2013/03/31/what-do-we-know-about-the-experiences-of-singles-around-the-world/

http://belladepaulo.com/2013/09/02/single-men-are-too-often-marginalized-but-not-i-hope-by-me/

In what ways can politicians reach out respectfully to single voters about issues that can be compelling for them?

Sex and the single voter

Anyone want a few million more votes?

Single voters should rule, but will they?

How has the progress regarding marriage for LGBTQ+ individuals affected the zeitgeist about singles?

A key argument in the same-sex marriage movement is that you should not have to be a certain kind of couple (heterosexual) in order to have access to fundamental rights and benefits and protections. I think all of the conversations around that issue should have made one particular question very salient – why should you have to be any kind of couple in order to qualify for basic rights and protections? Although there have been writings here and there expressing that point of view, they have not taken hold the way I would like them to.

How can workplaces make systemic improvements for people who are not partnered?

Best story I’ve ever read on singlism in the workplace

Creating a singles-friendly workplace: How would you do it?

Enlighten your workplace: From speaking out to buying an office kid

Hey, Singles: Do Co-Workers and Bosses Expect You to Cover for Everyone Else Over the Holidays?

Sabbaticals for singles?

Please describe how you developed the single at heart concept and what has the reaction been to it from readers?

I think it started when someone once asked me how they could tell if they were “meant to be single.” When some people use that phrase, they mean it in a bad way. But I just loved the idea that some people really are single at their core – single is how they live their most meaningful and authentic lives. That’s how I think of myself.

Many people seem intrigued by the idea. People who identify with it, well of course they love it. Others just can’t fathom that there really are any people who really are single at heart – they believe that people who claim that they love their single lives are just fooling themselves.

Please see more here:

http://belladepaulo.com/2013/03/09/single-at-heart-what-do-we-know-about-it/

How have your friends, students, and colleagues responded to your research and advocacy?

It has been a very telling experience. I learned some things about the people around me that were not always obvious or predictable. Some responded very enthusiastically, and that was great. But others were very resistant. I had been studying the psychology of lying and detecting lies before I started studying singles and singlism, and there were clearly some colleagues and even some friends who wished I had just stuck to that.

I understand why it was difficult for some of them, perhaps especially the ones who were coupled. In my talks, I often pointed out ways in which coupled people act in privileged ways and treat singles unfairly, and that did not go over well. What compounded the problem for some of them is that they think of themselves as very progressive people who are not prejudiced or unfair, yet they could see for the first time that some of the ways they thought about and behaved toward single people were not very enlightened.

What has been the most surprising part of your research about singles and singlism?

I can tell you about the most surprising – and discouraging – thing about the work I do in debunking myths about single people: Those myths are entrenched in our culture. We are so sure that getting married transforms miserable, lonely single people into happy, healthy, connected married people that it sometimes seems that no amount of data can dislodge those beliefs. It is especially exasperating to me when fellow scholars, who should know better, eat up these myths.

What was it like collaborating with other authors to publish, “Singlism; What It is, Why it Matters, and how to stop it?”

I loved doing that. On my Living Single blog, I put out a call to readers to contribute. Some published authors responded, but so did some people who had never published before. One of the things I loved about the result was the variety of perspectives and experiences and domains of singlism that were explored, from religion and politics to teaching and research and the workplace, the marketplace, and the media.

I just learned of National Singles Week even though it is about as old as I am. Are there ways you commemorate it? How can the media increase visibility of it?

Part 2: Taking singles seriously – in a fun way

What are some examples of positive media images of people who are single?

In a blog post, Bella indicated, “Before the 60s, producers worried that a single woman “would fail to carry a series and capture viewers’ loyalty.” As the number of single Americans continued to climb, though, single women (usually called “girls”) began to be cast in lead roles. Concerns about viewer loyalty were forcefully addressed by the success of series such as The Mary Tyler Moore Show, That Girl, Charlie’s Angels, Cagney and Lacey, The Bionic Woman, and many more.” To learn more, please read the link that follows and the subsequent ones:


Before ‘Mad Men’: Single women take 1960s and 1970s television by storm

Skimpy attire but strong messages: Single women in popular media in past decades

The movie ‘Brave’: Has Disney gifted us with a princess who is single at heart?

In sitcoms, singles are not alone; in movies, marriage…

Bite me? That’s what TV and movie romances do

Has the media in the United States made progress in its portrayal of those who do not wish to partner? If so, how?

Singles rule! The surprising media phenomenon of 2012

5 sweet somethings for singles: Enlightenment is so delicious!

What future projects you are considering?

I really want to learn much more about people who are single at heart, so I will be continuing to do research on that. I have also been interviewing people about innovative ways of living and how we all find our place, our space, and our people. http://belladepaulo.com/2013/07/07/new-book-project-is-on/

-Sem

Writing towards the center by D. Allen

Underneath This is pleased to feature the writing of D. Allen, a talented creative person.

D. Allen is a poet, musician, and artist currently living in southern Ohio, but their heart belongs to Madison, Wisconsin, Durham, North Carolina, and the entire state of Vermont. You can read more of D.’s work on their website, thebodyconnected.com .

"Photo by greyspace photography, 2012,"  http://greyspacephotography.net

“Photo by greyspace photography, 2012,”
http://greyspacephotography.net

At a job interview at a university, three men sitting across from me at a table. On my CV it says that I am currently working on a book about the color blue. I have been saying this for years without writing a word. It is, perhaps, my way of making my life feel “in progress” rather than a sleeve of ash falling off a lit cigarette. One of the men asks, Why blue? People ask me this question often. I never know how to respond. We don’t get to choose what or whom we love, I want to say. We just don’t get to choose.

Maggie Nelson, Bluets

I’m re-reading Maggie Nelson because I have started and stopped this essay three times, and I keep resisting the very thing I have been trying to write about. I keep drifting away like a college kid seduced by Buzzfeed the night before turning in a big paper. The page is blank, and I am elsewhere. But Bluets feels like a good place to start; it is familiar, comfortable, a book I have read many times. Like Nelson, I have also been working on a book of poems for a couple of years, invoking its name when people ask, but most of the work of creating it has not involved writing at all. My blue, and the center of my book, is my body, and my body is the very thing I will do almost anything to ignore.

A few years ago I was diagnosed with a genetic connective tissue condition. All of the physical quirks I had become used to—hypermobile joints, easy bruising, chronic joint pain, constant exhaustion, a heart murmur—suddenly had a name, and things I thought were normal about my embodied experience took on new meaning.

Collagen, the organic glue that holds our muscles, tendons, bones, and cartilage together, is not always made perfectly. The word defective gets tossed around in this diagnosis, but I’d rather say that there’s just not enough collagen to go around. Connective tissue cushions parts of the body that would otherwise rub together, and it is the rubbing together of these unprotected parts that causes me pain. Just as we don’t get to choose what or whom we love, we don’t get to choose our bodies. But I am trying—I am learning—well, I want to learn—to claim mine. And writing is part of that.

My identities as a poet and a queer and gender non-conforming person have profoundly impacted my relationship with my body. I started writing about the diagnosis when it happened, and for a year or more, I put words down on the page because I needed them; they helped me process my grief, anger, uncertainty, and pain, and they were not for anyone else.

I began talking with close friends and family about my disability, sharing pieces of new writing with the group of queer writer-activists I met with twice a month, but it was painful. For every word I spoke aloud, there were twenty more that I couldn’t bring myself to say. As with any disability that remains largely invisible, I was struck both by how much talking I had to do when my disability was made visible, and by the silence I clung to when my disability wasn’t readily apparent. Talking about my disability meant explaining my wrist braces and tiger balm and limited hand mobility to friends, co-workers, customers, or employers, but telling—telling was another story. I told very few people that my body felt like an old car rattling apart at every turn. I could not find the words to describe what it felt to inhabit a creaky, achy, worn, 25-year-old body. Telling made it real. Telling still makes it real.

The problem is, I am a writer. I can spend endless amounts of time avoiding writing like the best of them—and once I sit down to write it takes more work and presence than seems possible—but I am not at ease unless I’m working a piece over in my mind or on the page. And my mind, oh, how it loves a challenge. A year after my diagnosis, after researching my condition and trying to make sense of it, the concept of a lack of connective tissue started to feel really interesting.

I was (and am) still feeling deep grief, loss, anger, but a piece of me—the piece that steps back and watches things happen—was curious. As a poet, I’m interested in liminal spaces; I like my work to exist in the shadows between poem and essay, between truth and possibility, between reality and imagination. What would happen if I started writing poems that re-created in language what my body lacks in material? If I tried to reflect the loss of connective tissue in the structure of my poems as well as in the content, could I make a body of work that did more than tell a personal story? I believe that telling stories about our difficult experiences can transform the world, and I also believe that the vessel we make to contain a story is just as important as the narrative itself, that it can and should be compelling, well-crafted, innovative, and moving.

With those questions and curiosities as guides, I have followed my slow writing process through drafts of poems that involve armadillos and other friends’ illnesses and my fear of loss, poems that feel only tangentially related to the material of my body. Every time the writing starts to feel too personal, I walk away. Literally. I find myself in the kitchen making a snack, turning on Netflix, drawing a bath. But when people ask, I tell them I am working on a book of poems about connective tissue. I have used an elaborate version of this description to apply to six residencies and three graduate schools in the past nine months. When I went to my first residency last fall, I spent three weeks sitting with this book. I did write poems there, poems that I now refer to as my “manuscript in progress,” but saying that still doesn’t feel quite right.

I’m not sure these are the poems I set out to write. I like them, and I believe in them, but I still can’t fully articulate what it is that I want these poems to achieve. I am still afraid of what’s at the center of it all, that unshakable, unstoppable truth: I feel broken. Ours is an ableist society, yes, and I have internalized messages about what it means to be disabled, but I also cannot yet bring myself to accept that I will be in pain nearly every day of my life, and that there is no cure. That is the plain truth that I cannot approach in writing. I am looking for meaning in between bones and muscles, but the only presence there is absence. How does a writer write about this?

This is why I’m turning to Bluets today. I feel a kinship with Maggie Nelson when she writes

I have enjoyed telling people that I am writing a book about blue without actually doing it. Mostly what happens in such cases is that people give you stories or leads or gifts, and then you can play with these things instead of with words.

When do we make the switch from “playing with these things” to writing about blue? Her book is about blue, yes, but it is also about heartbreak and longing and profound pain. Incredibly, blue stretches to encompass all of those things. Her subject is blue, and it is not blue.

I remember watching the night sky as a child, standing on the dewy grass, pushing my glasses up on my nose, squinting to bring the constellations into focus. Only when I shifted my gaze a little to the left could I see a particular star enough to make sense of its brightness. Maybe collecting objects and ideas was the only way that Bluets could have begun. Maybe writing poems about armadillos is the only way I can write about my body right now. Maybe the feeling of being “in progress” can only come after we’ve told ourselves and others that we are.

*Quoted material is from Bluets, by Maggie Nelson, sections 13. and 14

Musician/Author Interview: Laurie Lindeen!!

Laurie Lindeen is the author of the memoir PETAL PUSHER. Her work has appeared in the anthology DRINKING DIARIES, The Huffington Post, and the Morning News. She teaches creative writing in Minneapolis.

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I was really moved by your path to becoming a musician and your overall view on life in “Petal Pusher.” What inspired you to write this memoir?

I was initially moved to write this memoir to figure out what, exactly, happened during a very fast-moving and confusing period of my life. I seem to do my best thinking when writing.

What were reactions of friends, fellow musicians, and your family to the experiences you described? Were there any surprise reactions?

I gave my family and band members galley copies of the book
before it was printed. Not all of them loved some of the topics I
chose to write about, but everyone okayed it ahead of time. I tried
to be tender, and I most certainly did not “tell all,” I just tried to shape a cohesive narrative, which is all about choice

You wrote, “sometimes it seems like the more you do, the more you’re capable of doing.” How has this perspective influenced you?

I seem to be at my most productive creatively when my calendar
is crammed full. I’m sure there is some reverse psychology at work there.

In what ways is your art feminist?

My art is feminist because I am female. Natch.

I appreciated your essay on 2004 about Liz Phair. What do you think of the media coverage of women in indie and mainstream rock since the early 90’s? Has there been progress? Regression?

It seems like women have to be tartier, more perfect, and
less outspoken to get noticed these days, so I guess things have regressed.

What do you think of The Replacements’ reunion?

I’m all for Paul & Tommy playing those great songs together.

Who are your creative influences these days?

I’m creatively influenced by all of the interesting people I encounter in every day life or by reading a really fine book.

Laurie's recommended memoirs shelf at Magers & Quinn bookstore in Minneapolis

Laurie’s recommended memoirs shelf at Magers & Quinn bookstore in Minneapolis

On what projects are you currently working?

I wish I knew what I was working on exactly; I seem to be circling
around a couple of different manuscripts, neither of which has revealed themselves to me through the writing.

What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

My advice to young artists is to set realistic goals, practice, practice, practice and don’t take yourself so seriously.

Artist/Educator Interview: Josh Rivedal!!

Before reading Underneath This’s interview with Josh, please read some more about him and his work:

Josh Rivedal moved from New Jersey to New York City at the age of 21 to tackle the world of fame, fortune, and the Broadway stage…in what he thought would be a stepping stone to Hollywood and a star on the walk of fame. Eight years later and through a series of remarkable life events, a bad economy, and mixture of collegiate and self-education; Josh reinvented himself as an international public speaker, author, playwright, theatre producer, educator, business consultant, and entrepreneur.

Josh wrote and developed the play, The Gospel According to Josh for the commercial stage and launched a second version accompanied by youth suicide prevention advocacy and education which is currently touring the United States and Canada. He has been published in Personal Branding Magazine as a co-author with Vikram Rajan on an article entitled The Art of Entrepreneurship vs. The Entrepreneurship of Art. He also writes for the blog The Arts Entrepreneur and The BLOGospel According to Josh . As an actor, favorite roles include Richard Loeb in Stephen Dolginoff’s Thrill Me, the voice of Hippo in Scholastic’s Rabbit and Hippo In Three Short Tales, and the narrator of Julianne Moore’s Freckleface Strawberry and the Dodgeball Bully.

Josh is the founder and President of Artful Coaching Resources—a business coaching and social media and content marketing consulting firm for arts professionals and small business owners.

He currently serves of the board of directors for the New York City chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and as an advisory board member for Elijah’s Journey: A Jewish Response to Suicide Prevention.

joshRivedal181

Please describe your path to becoming an artist and educator.

My desire to work professionally as an artist came first. I’ve been singing since six years old, and television practically raised me. Initially, music and acting were used as an escape from an undesirable childhood and poor self-esteem. When I started to work professionally in music and theater at the age of 19, I enjoyed the creative process behind what I was doing. Playwriting soon followed because I wanted to be more in control of the finality of the creative process. Being an educator came much later, but it was a natural progression. Teaching and engaging with the student is an art in itself. I use theater to educate on suicide prevention, mental wellness, bullying, and black history. I also educate arts professionals on how to manage their careers as a business. The way I educate is a perfect amalgamation of my interests: sociology, writing, performing, teaching, social responsibility, business, and marketing.

What has it been like performing such personal and emotionally vulnerable experiences in the “Gospel According to Josh?”

It’s been one of the best experiences of my life. The show and everything surrounding it has given me so much. I wrote the piece over a six month period, in 2009-10, only a few months after my father’s suicide. It helped transform me as performer, writer, and person. I think you might be asking if it’s been difficult to perform on a consistent basis, a show that includes my father’s death. This is a question that I get a lot. I would say, in general, the piece is difficult to perform because it’s me on stage for more than sixty minutes, I’m playing 30 characters, and the mood of the play ranges from poignant to comedic to perseverant.

How have audiences (family and friends included) reacted to your performance?

Have there been any surprises (in any direction)? The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. Family was difficult to perform for because the story is so personal. They have different opinions than I do on the subject matter and if we were all playwrights, we’d each have a different play. However, they were very supportive of my work. The press reviews have also been favorable. Surprises? My old self may have been surprised that so many people have come out of the woodwork to help me get the word out about the show and spread its message. But in my current mindset, I believe that I’ve manifested the goodwill and support from others by working hard at my art, but more so being someone who actively works to help others without keeping score. It’s a delicate karmic balance that I don’t wish to interrupt or jinx by calling too much attention to it.

How has it been working on the book version of the” Gospel According to Josh?”

Put simply, it’s been the bomb. The book is being published in September 2013 and at that point I’ll have been working on the project for twenty months. I’ve grown so much as a writer while putting this piece together. Four of the book’s first five chapters are similar to the play but the final fifteen chapters go further and expound deeper. I’ve read so much fiction, other memoirs, and a bit of non-fiction as well which has helped me develop my unique style. There are a few things done in this book (i.e. using the fragments of one’s mind and conscience as a set of three comedic and mercurial voices on the page) that I’ve never seen done before. I’ve also come to a resolution on some of the personal matters discussed throughout. I’m a better person because of this book, and I think people who read it will feel the same way (and will find it entertaining as well).

In what ways do your different identities affect your work?

These days, I always want to have an idea of what will sell. If one creates art in a forest and no one is around to see/hear it, is it truly art? If I create something—whether I’m writing or producing a play, musical, or book—I want to know if a sizable amount of people will enjoy it. I’m a professional and I need to make some sort of living at my craft. Otherwise, it’s a hobby, and there is definitely a place in the world for that, but not right now for me. I also try to incorporate some sort of message or overarching societal issue as a theme to anything I write (even if it’s on a small scale). And I try to include a philanthropic or charitable angle when I’m producing a piece of work. It’s always a good idea to align with an exceptional cause.

I commend you for becoming involved in youth suicide prevention. How do you balance humor with more serious messages in this context?

You can’t be flippant about the actual causes and effects of suicide. The humor involved in the work I do generally involves self-deprecation (unrelated to suicide) and waxing philosophic on themes that have permeated my life that other people can relate to. Using humor this way is a carrot of sorts to string along the casual social activist and those who wouldn’t otherwise be involved in suicide prevention. Another point—everyone deals with grief in different ways: desolation, isolation, and even comedy. I, personally try to diffuse difficult situations in my life with humor. That’s my process.

What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

Work harder than you think you’re able to achieve what you want. Surround yourself with people who are smarter and more talented than you. Be willing to make certain sacrifices to ensure your success. Be open to constructive criticism without taking offense. Know what success looks like to you. Have clear-cut goals and set deadlines. You may not always meet your deadlines but setting timelines will help you achieve more than you would have otherwise. Learn something about how to market yourself and your work. Be persistent. Be willing to pivot, i.e., if you’re not achieving the level of success you desire, use the skill set you’ve acquired as an artist to find equally challenging and creative employment. Be trustworthy. Follow through on your word always. If you make a mistake, apologize and rectify it. Think about long-term relationships over shortcuts. Be on time. Ask others how you can help them and do it often. Network in and outside of the arts. Be a voracious learner. Read often. Take breaks—Rome wasn’t built in a day.

On what other writing projects are you working?

I’m currently working on writing the book (script), additional lyrics, and some music on a new farcical Spanish language musical Rescatando la Navidad, playing Miami, Florida and Austin, Texas for a five week tour during Christmas 2013. I’m also co-writing a play with music tentatively titled Following the Drinking Gourd which will make its premiere in January 2014. I’m also ghost writing on a few smaller projects!