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!

What It Feels Like to “Find Out”: Review of “Vow”

Tucker Lieberman has published essays in anthologies including Balancing on the Mechitza, which won a 2011 Lambda Literary Award, and Letters for My Brothers, which was a 2012 Lambda finalist. He also writes fiction and poetry, co-organized a monthly open mic in Boston, serves as the volunteer channel manager for Historical Literature on Helium (www.helium.com), and produces a twice-yearly publication on ethics called Moral Relativism Magazine (www.moralrelativism.com).

tuckerlieberman

Link to Vow:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1608198235/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1608198235&linkCode=as2&tag=theresplenden-20

“I used to think marriage was based on passion and love. Now I see that it’s based mostly on loyalty,” Wendy Plump writes in her new book, Vow. (“Loyalty with warmth,” she adds.)

In this emotionally stunning and pragmatically philosophical memoir of marital infidelity, Plump gradually reveals the layers of her story: her several affairs, followed by her husband’s affair–and his affair, she convinces the reader, was a worse transgression. She is not innocent, and she does not assume the mantle of righteousness. At the same time, she is angry about the specific way in which she was wronged–its “blast corridor” that she had to navigate through an “emotional coma”–and Plump’s anger brings her to a deepened perspective about marriage, family, romance, and herself, all of which she shares generously and directly.

Having committed infidelities herself, she does not present herself within a gendered narrative as a “wronged woman” oppressed by her husband’s behavior as much as she presents herself simply as a person who has suffered. “The received certainty that men cheat more than women doesn’t sit well. I just do not think it’s true,” she writes. “There are not men who cheat and women who endure them. There are people who cheat and there are people who don’t. It divides much more neatly along those lines. Spouses weaken at the same rate, as the (male) poet Galway Kinnell puts it. Look at Madame Bovary. Look at Anna Karenina. It’s only literature, but it’s great literature, and nothing if not reflective of our humanity. I raised myself on these classics, which may have been where I got the idea in the first place.” Continue reading

Author interview: Tommy “Teebs” Pico !

Tommy “Teebs” Pico is the driving force behind birdsong, an antiracist/queer-positive collective, small press, and zine that publishes art and writing. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in [Pank], Barrelhouse, theTHE poetry blog, and Bomb magazine. Originally from the Viejas Indian reservation of the Kumeyaay nation, he now lives in Brooklyn.

For more information about birdsong and to help with donation efforts, please check out these links:

and

http://heyteebs.tumblr.com/

photo-6

What was the process of becoming a writer and editor like for you?

I first started writing in kindergarten, when my teacher asked us to make book marks with drawings on the front side and words on the other. I drew mermaids, and on the back I just wrote words that I knew, which were “THE AT IS THE THE THE.” I became an editor in fifth grade when I asked friends and cousins of mine to draw comic strips for me, which I copied and bound and sold as “Tommy Gunn Comics” for a dollar. I don’t know why I added the extra “n.”

How are you inspired when writing? Who and what have been your influences?

I am most inspired by film, because it’s this thing that starts and finishes in an hour and a half, whether you are paying attention or not. At the moment my primary influences are Sherman Alexie, Ariana Reines, and Jean Seberg.

How did you decide to organize Birdsong Collective? How has the experience been so far?

I started Birdsong because I knew (and know) a lot of really talented people who were (and are) making a lot of really incredible work, and I wanted us to be making it together. So far it’s been like a souffle or something. It’s really delicate and it keeps rising and I want to be careful and make sure it’s just right. Continue reading

Author Interview: Vanessa Taylor!

Today’s dating landscape has drastically changed. People are increasingly relying on texting as a means to start — and sometimes end — their romances. But, how does one navigate the waters and achieve results that lead to dates? Well, I interviewed Vanessa Taylor, dating coach, author of Text. Love. Power.: The Ultimate Girls Relationship Guide to Texting and Dating in the New Millennium and blogger at Platinum Girl Celebrity Blog. Check out what she had to say!

How has text messaging influenced heterosexual romantic relationships?

For men and women alike, it has made relationships very casual. People are having a lot of their communication take place over text — everything from planning dates, having arguments, to breaking up. People spend more time getting to know each other over text instead of out on dates. That is why in my book, Text. Love. Power., I recommend that women limit the “pen pal” conversation with men. If he isn’t asking her out on a date or otherwise doing something to move the relationship forward, he’s a time waster. She doesn’t need to respond to every text to keep his attention. If anything, it helps if she doesn’t.

What are the similarities and differences between feminine and masculine communication styles in heterosexual romantic relationships?

The only similarity when it comes to texting is that both men and women like the convenience. One excuse I hear from people who have thoroughly embraced texting is that they, “just don’t feel like talking.” Overall, though, the communication styles are more different than they are the same. Most men don’t like to have long conversations over the phone or call every day. On the other hand, many women become nervous when they don’t hear from a man every day or he cuts the conversation short. The advice I offer is pay attention to whether he asks for plans. A man might not be interested in chatting with a woman on the phone like her best girlfriend would. But, what matters is that he’s setting dates. If he’s calling everyday but not setting dates, that’s a very bad sign and a woman shouldn’t be too hopeful about the relationship.

Author Interview! : Matthew Aaron Browning

MABrowning

Please read below for an interview with Matthew Aaron Browning, an author of gay-themed YA fiction who lives in Charleston, W. Va. He is represented by Stephen Fraser at the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency. Learn more about him at www.MatthewAaronBrowning.com.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? What was the process like?

I was fourteen years old when I “knew.” I used to write and draw these little comic books about the students and teachers at my junior high school. They were quite inventive, and I still kick myself for not holding onto them. It was just something I did for fun. I also began writing poetry during that time. I was confused and lonely and in need of an emotional outlet. Writing provided that and helped me through a tough adolescence. Finally, I was blessed with some teachers who showed me the value of writing as an art form. So becoming a career writer was always this far-off dream I thought of while I went to college and worked a day job, writing in my bedroom at night. I didn’t really start thinking of myself as a “Writer” until I got an agent. That’s a mistake. You’re a writer the minute you start writing.

How do your identities influence your writing if at all?

I write fiction, but I focus on gay-themed fiction. So who I am and my experience bleed into my writing constantly. For instance, I grew up a lonely gay kid in a little coal town, and my first book is about a lonely gay kid in a little coal town! Granted, my protagonist’s journey is more exciting than mine was, but there’s a lot of me in there. You’ve heard the old adage “write what you know”? I used to think it was silly, because if we only wrote what we knew, we’d be awfully limited, wouldn’t we? But I’ve stopped saying that now, because it makes me a bit of a hypocrite. I’m always mining my past and present for inspiration and using pieces of my life in my work. I don’t want to box myself into a category, but I enjoy writing about gay characters. We need more good books about them. Continue reading

Fearless

I have always lived in fear.  Fear of what people think about me, fear of challenging myself and a fear of failing in general. Unfortunately this fear is often followed by a quick decision that I soon regret.  Next enters the paralyzing panic that cripples my life. Stunned, confused and ashamed I muddle through my bad decision until I make another questionable decision and begin the process all over again.

By my senior year in college, I was still very unsure of what I wanted to do with my life. Add to this dilemma that my mother died the year before, leaving me parent less, as an only child I felt all alone in the world. While in the student lounge I noticed a flier for a seminar about entertainment law.  I had an epiphany: I would be a lawyer.  I decided I would be an entertainment lawyer.  It sounded like a blast hanging out with celebrities and making tons of money.  I went out and spent twenty bucks on a prep book and I was well on my way.  In this prep book were some facts and law school applications and an article on how challenging the work is, and how difficult it was to get into a good school.  My solution of course was to panic and then enters the paralyzing fear, basically I did nothing.  I managed to keep my part time job at a museum, but my life was a mess and I had no idea what to do about it.   Next, I muddled through a succession of good jobs that I left because I was restless and silly.  Finally, I landed a decent job at a large university.  I should have been happy, but inside I was miserable.  What should I be doing with my life?  So, I made a rash decision, I moved to another state, just a blind jump and the landing was harsh.  I despised my new life and I missed my city, the only place in the world where I felt I belong.  I knew that I wanted to be a lawyer, but I let fear of failure and low self esteem put this dream on hold for no good reason at all.

Now here I am 13 years later hoping to live out my dream.  I am looking forward to being fearless.  OK maybe just less afraid and better prepared.

-Sam V.