Monday, June 16, 2008

If I Were a Stalker

P has been a mentor to me without even knowing it. I first discovered her back when she had a blog on MSN Spaces. I was new to blogging, and her wit and thoughtful meanderings made me want to write more and write better. After a few years and a switch to Blogger, I'm still reading everything she writes and hoping every day for something new. She was like the popular girl in high school that I always wanted to hang out with but never felt worthy of, despite her willingness to be friends. If I were a stalker, she'd be the one I obsessed over.

If you don't already read P, I highly recommend it. This interview will give you a taste of what you've been missing. (It's a little long, but well worth the read. I just couldn't bring myself to edit her answers any more.) And if you do already read her, well hopefully this will give you more insight into the inner workings of a Biped Sideways.

Let’s start with my favorite question. Where did the name of your blog, “biped sideways,” come from?

Long story (but I’ll make it shorter). Several years ago I was a bit of a lost soul, made several dumb dumb dumb choices, and yada yada yada wound up face down, drunk, and alone in the middle of a street. Very classy. I vividly recall being on the ground and considering the viewpoint, the feet of strangers coming to my aid, which I later described in a very bad poem called “Sideways and with Feet.” I have always remembered that moment as a metaphor for all the times I feel lost and the world goes sideways. I started the blog and the column more recently in a discombobulated period and out popped “Biped Sideways.”

When I first started reading your MSN Spaces blog, which no longer exists, you were working as a school psychologist. The decision to move on from that career and find something you could love doing wasn’t easy. What is your dream career?

School psychs are more involved with assessing learning disabilities and behavior problems and ... assessment feels very cold a lot of the time – like my job was to admonish teenagers for not being normal. That didn’t feel very good. The only thing that was hard about leaving it was that I was worried I wouldn’t have a title anymore. Stupid and totally ego-driven. But normal, I guess. Oh, and the paycheck. That hurt.

Dream career. Easy! Prolific, profound, paycheck-earning (but non-contracted) writer of novels and essays and chaptered thoughts, which later become Oscar-buzzing movies with killer soundtracks. I would like to have a non-career and still earn a living.

Well in my humble opinion, you’re well on your way. You’re an amazing writer, full of insight and thoughtful contemplation. Did you always write so well?

Ha! Thanks! I don’t know how to answer that without sounding like a jackass. I think my voice developed more confidence only just a few years ago, after I’d matured and had experiences. I’m still developing. Writing is how I think and make sense of things. It’s how I discover my opinions and concerns. So I think my style of writing and my voice just naturally evolved with my soul and my thoughts.

But my first stories were in 7th grade when my friend, Tanya, and I wrote each other into romances with the boys we liked. They were horribly corny. Even beyond that, when I look back at all the stuff I wrote in college, even after I had decided I was a writer, it’s pretty horrible. I see it as really contrived and superficial pseudo-intellectual poo. I didn’t know who I was, and my voice reflected that. I feel better about what I write now because it’s more authentic.

I think that’s what I like so much about your writing. It’s clear that, just like the rest of us, you’re fumbling through this life and just doing the best you can, and you’re completely honest about that when you write. I have to ask, who are your favorite authors and what books have had the biggest impact on your life?

Favorite authors: Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison, Anne Lamott, John Irving, Milan Kundera. The book with the biggest impact…hmm….It’s a total cliché, but Catcher in the Rye is one of only 2 books I have read more than once (the other is House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros). I’ve read it 3 or 4 times. It was the first time I felt a profound connection to a character.

I suppose clichés are clichés for a reason. I think Holden resonates with the type of people who tend to become writers and artists. I don’t see any poets in that list, but you’ve been writing a lot of poems lately. What prompted the switch from prose to poetry?

I don’t know. It’s just how my thoughts have been flowing lately. Wasn’t a conscious decision. Hmmm…

What is your favorite childhood memory?

I had a great childhood – lots of cool memories. The first memory of pure joy and delight that comes to mind is the first time I rode a bike without training wheels. Big sister’s purple bike with the black banana seat and multi-colored streamers, wobbly but upright on the sidewalk from the driveway to the front porch. I was 4 or 5 and we lived in Missouri at the time. I don’t remember anyone being around. I remember the thrill of accomplishing something independently.

You live in Iowa and the immigration issue seems to be hitting very close to home for you lately. What about this issue strikes a chord with you?

I think it’s marginalization. I think very bad, cosmically lopsided things happen to our humanity when we fail to recognize ourselves as brothers and sisters and we marginalize each other ... Marginalization etches very very very deep patterns/ruts into our foundations. With as much progress as we have made, all you have to do is look at the extreme overrepresentation of Black people in prisons, in poverty, and in special education, to understand that those patterns/ruts are very difficult to climb out of. Such obviously bad consequences, yet we keep doing it in one way or another. Some would argue that immigration and racism against Black Americans is not the same thing. But I would argue that it doesn’t matter whether the behavior looks the same if it boils down to the same root – Marginalization. Marginalization = Bad.

I spend a lot of time worrying about our (collective) future. And I don’t think we will EVER EVER EVER make any progress beyond the progress that is encouraged and supported within our marginalized populations. (Of course “progress” is a totally subjective term. I think of progress more in spiritual, humanitarian terms, because I think little else truly matters. I think others might think of “progress” as capitalism and paved streets.) I get angry when people insist on Us vs. Them mentalities, because I think that kind of thinking is short-sighted, inhibits progress and makes the world a craphole.

What other social issues are important to you?

Our punitive system worries me -- namely the rate of recidivism and lack of rehabilitation in correctional systems. It goes back to the idea of marginalization. A) Many people in prisons are from marginalized populations (further proof at the consequence of dividing ourselves); and B) Prison marginalizes them further – necessarily so, yes. But again, we’ll never make any progress beyond our margins. It’s not about going soft. It’s about recognizing the very deep deep deep roots of our broken communities and addressing those.

I also really wish people would stop treating the planet like it’s their own personal toilet. And stop cutting up natural resources to build new subdivisions. Enough already!

And be kind to the animals. They are pure and soulful and add much positive energy to the world.

Really, I just want people to go gently and with humility and stop being giant, thoughtless dicks.

Amen and A-Men! Finally, a few lighter questions. What’s your favorite color?

I like lots and lots of color. My favorite color COMBO is turquoise and red.

Where is your favorite place to write?

My comfy red chair in the front room.

What is your favorite song and why?

Alanis Morissette’s ‘So Called Chaos’ (of the same-titled album). Like most of her catalog of music, this song speaks exactly what I would speak if I’d spoken.

I love to use certain words, and tend to put them in everything I write, at least in the first draft. Do you have a favorite word?

Hmm… Cool question. My favorite word is “sphere” but I don’t think I’ve put it into anything. I’m sure there are words I overuse (and misuse), but it’s usually by accident due to my limited and childish vocabulary.

Thanks for sharing with us, P!

Head on over to Biped Sideways and see what else P has to say. You won't be disappointed.


patresa hartman said...

i am cyber blushing. holy cow. if i didn't spend every waking and sleeping moment with myself, i might start to think i was something other than a giant dork.

very cool, ami. thank you for making me feel like a rock star!

amy said...

Fabulous interview, Ami. It is about time someone recognize P, and I will also tell this to P on her own blog. One day, when she is a famous Nobel Lit winner, as well as a richie rich author with an optioned novel/Oscar winning movie adaptation under her belt, we will say: Ah well, we knew her when.

I would also like to add that this past spring, I got to have lunch with Patresa and she is just as kind and inspiring in person as she is on a computer. Also, had she not had to leave to get the Georgia coast before dark, I totally would have taken her to both Murder AND Disco Kroger. Because I could totally tell: those are the kinds of things that are right up Patresa's alley.

nejyerf said...

this interview just makes me love p even more!

and the thing about her being the popular girl? for the longest time that is how i felt about p.

it brought me right back to high school.

i could barely bring myself to comment on her blog for fear she would think that i was just a lowly freshman who was stalking the cool senior class president/prom queen.

but she has been kind enough to comment in return. which makes her all kinds of cool in my book.

i'm go glad you interviewed. well done ami.

Ami said...

P - You ARE a rock star! You have many more fans than you realize.

Amy - Thanks for stopping by. I am SO jealous of your lunch with P. You're so lucky!

nejyerf - Glad you enjoyed getting to know P more. So did I! And I'm glad I'm not the only one who gets star-struck around her!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this. I checked out the Biped Sideways blog; it is really incredible. I love her writing style.

gord said...

this is great, just awesome

You AND P? what a team!

Clicky Web Analytics