Do you consider yourself an artist?
Yes -everything I do from my creative output to my moral living is an art. Art is a way of looking at the world through multiple perspectives, and translating experiences to an audience.
What does “artists” mean to you?
People who devote time to creative enterprises on a daily basis. It is a person’s primary job to express themselves through art – all other pursuits are secondary.
Do you have a specific art form that you work within, or is creativity more of a spectrum for you?
Creativity is a way of thinking. I play games with my daughter that focus on writing and art — I play piano with her. This is a creative pursuit. I think creatively when I write. I tend to lean toward free-verse poetry, but also engage in prose writing with my writing partner every weekend.
What inspires you? How does your inspiration manifest?
I am inspired by the people I love and those I admire. Characters are born of them. I am also inspired by my own difficulties; my characters often work through my own troubles in their worlds, which offers me insight.
Do you think there is a focal point in your life that put you on this path?
I have always looked to writing as a means for expression, but later, I worked with writing as an art. My writing partner is a very critical person, so when I write, I find myself trying to impress him with my craft. It is through my work with him that I have approached writing as more of a craft to perfect rather than a means to express my feelings.
What is your greatest aspiration?
I would like the novel I am working on now to be taught in school. I plan on writing a teaching unit for it when I’m done.
Who, if anyone, do you look up to?
People are generally a let down, so I have nobody I revere. I’m too realistic about people. Nobody is a hero and nobody is a villain; we exist in the shades of grey in between. It’s not worth pinning hopes on heroes. I am most inspired by past students who contribute to the world — particularly the world of writing. When Juma from Eve, the Zine let me know she was planning to publish women’s writing, I was so proud of her. She inspires me to impress her. All of my students inspire me. It is a remarkable privilege to work with teenagers. My editor is a dear friend and past student who I know I can count on.
What do you think defines you?
Probably my sexuality and my motherhood — no job is more integral to me than motherhood. But my unique position as a pansexual allows me to see the beauty in all people. I love to write poetry about interesting people.
What is the most challenging part about creating for you?
It’s amusing, but I love beginnings. Introductions. The build of suspense or tension. I have a difficult time wrapping things up neatly. In life, nothing wraps up until your death, so I struggle with endings that don’t involve death. I am on the 12th chapter of a 13 chapter book this evening, and I’ve slowed down. The agony of ending things!
What is the hardest emotion for you? Why?
At the moment, gratitude is the hardest because I see the world as a pretty shitty place, populated by pretty shitty people. I’m often driven by love rather than gratitude, and I give my love away indiscriminately. I’m thankful for my daughter every moment I breathe, but I feel plenty guilty for bringing her into this world. Thank you, “god.” Haha.
What is the significance of creating for you?
Creation is a woman’s necessity. I happen to birth words, poems, stories, instead of people. Women were made to make, and so I do. Creation is an act of pure beauty. An act of love. When I write about you, I am loving you the best way I know how.
What words of wisdom do you live by? Why?
The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination. That’s Einstein. I skipped a grade when I was young, and went to a gifted program in elementary school. They could never figure out how I excelled in English, and failed Math miserably. Ahh, my imagination was in full working order, but my academics suffered. Einstein was right though, about intelligence. If one can only see what is, one misses a thousand possibilities of what could be. Writing is an exploration of all of those “could-be’s”.
What advice would you give to your future self? Past self? Present self?
I would congratulate my past self on amassing so many experiences that I could write forever. I may caution her against believing that writing you do on drugs is actually publishable… but I like her, the past me. She was unafraid.
For my present self, I would remind myself to breathe. I keep believing that time is running out. I hope it isn’t. I would remind myself of how many rejections Stephen King got before Carrie was published. I would convince myself that my people will love me even without success. No. I would say finish this project and prove to them that it’s good. Work your tail off to finish this. I’m a machine.
What are some “taboos” you face in the art community?
I think that I don’t schmooze like writers must. I work at home, live in the burbs, and don’t drive, so I’m alienated from the literary community. People may not take a high school English teacher too seriously. I have also felt that I am not legitimate as a member of the gay community because I am married, although my poetry is often about women.
How has your art brought about an understand of yourself/your world?
I think I interpret my life through writing. Though I don’t journal, I write every day. I work out dreams and troubles as well as anxieties through my writing, and my characters enable me to see different perspectives on a particular difficulty. Some degree of empathy is necessary to breathe life into characters that are dissimilar from oneself. This helps me as I move through the world, and meet people different than myself. I try to learn from everyone — from everything, and incorporate new understandings into my writing.
How would you like to be seen? How do you, in contrast, think you are seen?
I wouldn’t mind being seen at all. I am a professional writer. In contrast, I believe I am largely invisible. I hope that The Skin Farms, my new novel, gains acclaim.