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Oct 12, 2012; littleshirlybeans Asks:

Hello! It's your admirer again! I met someone the other day who is from Tucson, and, of course, thought of you. I told her that one of my favorite authors was from Tucson and mentioned your name. She didn't know who you were. I was flummoxed! You're bigger than life in my head and surely big in Tucson, right? I guess that's just how life goes. Everything is bigger in my head and there are more good writers than you can shake a pack rat at. This is why I try not to get down about getting published. It will happen or it won't. I'll still be me. Anyway, I was wondering how you felt about aging. I feel young. I'm curious when I'll start to feel old. For my 30th birthday I bought a new dress and went out dancing with friends. It felt great! But now, close to 35, I'm starting to LOOK old. I was stretching the other day and my knees looked old. Old! Really! I'm grossed out that this even crossed my mind. It's more than my knees, but I don't want to give you a laundry list. I've never been super concerned with my appearance, but things just seem to be falling apart recently. So, do you worry about aging? I'd really like to stop this worrying nonsense because it's just not my style.

Stacey answers:

Hi Little S. B. Yes, I worry about aging. My approach is to alternate between panic and denial. I'm worried about death, I'm worried about not writing all the books I want to write or reading everything I'd like to read before I die. I'm worried I'll lose my intelligence and become someone who doesn't understand technology, and I'm worried about losing any hotness I have, because I'm still using it and I'm too insecure not to. The only people who seem to be worse off than me are every other woman I know, practically, chicks in their forties who get a glass of wine in them and are like, "Ugh, I'm such a dried-up old bag." They're usually painfully beautiful, not to mention successful, and I stare at them in shock. Every now and then I'll say, "Really? Is it really so tragic to be hot and 45? What's the problem? Did you really want to fuck everyone? You still could. Go ask that guy! Come on, don't be a pussy."

It's less of a problem if you don't believe, on some crazy-belief level, that getting older is somehow your fault. (Neither is getting fatter, by the way). My advice is to go into aging with a plan that takes into account the fact that it's completely out of your control and will not stop until you die. Once you understand this, you can decide how terrible you really think it is. Do you really want to mourn your disappearing youth, every day, at 35, 36, 37, 47, 57? Or do you want to enjoy what you have? There's an ocean of peer pressure, for lack of a better word, for women to feel bad about themselves. We are self-punishers, we are supposed to be; somewhere in our brains we believe we can have perfect lives if we look perfect, and it's hard to get an exemption from this.

But getting older has perks. You're smarter, you know what to do when people act like assholes, and you have a bed rather than a futon. It's fine and dandy. With the years you do not automatically turn into your mother or some cafeteria lady you looked at with disdain when you were seventeen. Your knees are not revolting--you just thought that once, when you were seventeen and hated your mother and that lady in the weird suit swimming laps in the pool. Back then, you didn't have anything except your youth. You were an idiot, I promise; you had no idea that hating older ladies was going tempt you into hating yourself when you became their age. You had no idea that the bad thoughts of our society had permeated you so thoroughly that you'd started directing them on to other women who would someday be represented by your knees, or that youth itself is full of a howling emptiness that is often really fucking unpleasant. I say wait to mourn losses until you have real losses. Your knees are fine. They're adorable. Someday, if they hurt, they will not be fine. Until then, they are just little and shirleyful. Go take them out to play.

Oct 03, 2012; Just Somebody Asks:

Stacey, you are a genuinely thoughtful person. It is heartening to know such a person is out there and I consider it generous of you to answer these questions. I really enjoy your Q&A pages. I find myself wanting to come up with questions just to ask you to see what you'll say. But a part of me also feels like I shouldn't because it would be like the pesty little brother and probably you have better things to do. I used to be a lonely little brother and my big sister was always on the phone or something and I always felt inadequate and unable to be at her level, and often she would slam the bedroom door shut on me and I was standing there on the shag carpeting staring at a door. I don't blame her because that is what big sisters do, and she had a lot going on in her world. I am sure a pre-teen girl's world is a whole lot more complicated and freaky than a boy's world. At least, on average. Anyway I guess maybe you remind me of my big sister. Always like you know something more than I do, but also in a nice way, like you wouldn't mind helping me learn more too, at least for a while before you need to shut your door. I thank you for that. I think you are nice. I am supposed to ask a question here. My question is, um, what were your favorite children's books? What was the earliest memory you had of reading a book, and what did you like about it? One of my favorites was Harold and the Purple Crayon. I was fascinated how he made worlds out of a crayon and then could climb up onto them, or into them.

Stacey answers:

Dear Somebody,

No, you're nice! Thanks so much for your complicated compliment, and also for taking the time to construct a mental world in which to put me. I have an older sister too, my only sibling, and I used to curl up outside her door and/or sleep on the foot on her bed when I had night terrors. (She feels bad about that now, but I'm just grateful someone was there at all). Actually, there's nothing I'd love more than a pesky-little-brother-friend, but in real life I'm too annoying (needy & supercilious & mean) for this to ever happen. I will stomp on your dreams, Somebody, and believe I'm doing you a favor, so watch where you put them.

The first book I can remember "reading" was Walt Disney's "Cinderella," a Golden Book, which I couldn't really read but memorized. It remains the dominant myth of my life.

Sep 27, 2012; Sean B. Asks:

which is better 'hunger games' or '50 shades of grey'? i have a book report.

Stacey answers:

I've only read The Hunger Games, but if you go to a school where you can write a book report on what I believe to be softcore porn, I say do that--and more power to you! I quite liked the first book of The Hunger Games though. It's scary and a little bit satirical. And why not try your hand at capitalization while you're at it?

Sep 26, 2012; Danny Forever Asks:

I like "The Shining" but I don't understand why Scatman Cruthers travels all the way to the hotel and then he shows up and is immediately killed. Wouldn't it be a better movie if Scatman Cruthers went all Samuel Jackson on Jack Nicholson's ass and made him his bitch? All work and no play makes Jack into Scatman's bitch. Also what kind of a superhero would "Scatman" be? Would he have the power of scat? Would he say, "Put down your weapon or I'll shooba-de-dooba-diddle-bop-a-shimma-shimma-jing-jang!"? I wonder.

Stacey answers:

Well, yes. Have you seen The Simpson's version of The Shining ? It's in one of the Halloween specials and has a great send-up of the axing of Scatman Cruthers. Don't you think it's kind of scary though, how he just walks in and gets his skull split? Where's his power of shining gone off to? Now we know just how much danger Danny is in, because if Scatman can't overcome the bad thing, how can a one little boy? Even if he is aided by another little boy who lives in his mouth.

I love Scatman Cruthers in that movies. He is fucking brilliant. "Say somebody burns some toast..."

Sep 26, 2012; your name R.menjivar G. Asks:

Your Question: I have to write and argumentative essay about the beauty treatment, but I can find any ideas. How should I beging? I have written notes but still nothing happens. Thansk.

Stacey answers:

Begin by using proper grammar and punctuation, my friend. You are not texting your bro, you're writing an actual author and asking her to help you with your homework. What should I make of: "I can find any ideas?" If you can find them, use them.

Sep 23, 2012; T. Gassert Asks:

Recently a close relative died. We grew up playing together and used to be very close. During and after the college years, we grew apart but stayed in touch. We exchanged phone calls and many emails. Then somewhere along the line, she became rabidly political, in the right-wing sense. She sent out emails to numerous recipients where she referred to the president as "The Kenyan" and linked to articles from Breitbart and Glenn Beck's website. We had a few awkward phone conversations in which she would talk about how much she loved listening to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, and how the country is going into the toilet because of Obamacare. I gradually stopped talking to her. When I heard she died, I was sad but a part of me did not care. I feel a lot of guilt over how little I am grieving for her. I feel like I didn't lose my childhood friend, but that her death was an act of mercy after her heart and soul were already destroyed by Pod People aliens from "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." Is there something wrong with me that I mourn so little?

Stacey answers:

Hi T. Gassert. What a hard question! I don't know if there's something wrong with you for mourning so little because I don't know anything about real grief. I've never lost a close relative or a friend except for my grandmother who died at 103--at that point it was difficult to feel anything but lucky for having her around for so long. But fortunately, I do know something about being an asshole. What I've noticed is that when a person is having a hard time, sometimes she will express this by being insufferable. It makes no sense since niceness works better for getting sympathy, but when things are really, really bad, or endless, or hopeless--things that you'd think would make someone cry, or scream, or paint their house crimson, or jump out of an airplane, or quit their job--sometimes they make a person a total unendurable dickwad instead.

I wonder if your friend's dogmatic tirades had anything to do with being ill, and if she couldn't express it otherwise? After all, denial seems to exist in order to mediate between our forward-thinking brains and our knowledge of death. Maybe going off on "The Kenyan" made her feel closer to someone in her life who had already died. Maybe being a right wingnut made her feel closer to her dead father who she unconsciously hoped would escort her from the tunnel of light to a Rush Limbaugh afterlife. Maybe her heart and soul weren't destroyed but just terrified. Maybe she was trying to make everyone hate her so there was less to leave behind. Maybe she was trying to mitigate her own grief and terror at leaving the world by saying it sucked anyway: it's better to leave a country going down the toilet, after all, than to leave a golden age full of wonders, where everything we want to learn or see or hear is right at the tips of our fingers.

That was her outer self, I think. I'm guessing. There was another self? You can always mourn the little girl you knew. She died too. I'm sorry.

Sep 20, 2012; Tom Asks:

Wrong answer. Pirates never die! Arrgh!

Sep 20, 2012; Jasmine Greene Asks: Let's say you became president tomorrow and you had an enormous amount of political capital and the power to get things done on an international level. What, then, would you do to solve the conflict between Israel and Palestinians? Do you favor a two-state solution, and what should be done about the settlements in West Bank? If you could force your will on both parties, what would be the best solution, in your estimation? Thanks.

Stacey answers:

Thank you for asking me a question of such significance. My answer is: I have no idea. Here's a link to a joke about it though:

Sep 19, 2012; Juan Ian Hans Johnson, III, Esq. (a.k.a. Asks:

Your "captcha" ate my question. I guess "captcha" is the part where you have to type in letters that look like they're from a funhouse mirror. I guess those letters must be having a great time at the carnival. I wonder if they also eat cotton candy and go on the spinny rides and then have cotton-candy-colored barf.

So here are my questions: First, do you have "Top 5" lists of your favorite movies, novels, and music albums? Maybe for all time or even just for the last few years? Do you have "guilty pleasure" versions and if so, what makes you feel guilty? What is the guiltiest you have ever felt for liking a book or movie or record? If you feel guilty for some pleasures, do you ever feel proud of others? How come there are "guilty pleasure" movies and stuff, but not "proud endurance tests"? Like, "That crime drama was so hard to get through but now I feel absolved of sin!" Anyway, more questions:

Do you feel that a writer has to have a lot of unusual experiences in order to be a worthy writer? Could a person just sit in his room reading newspapers, magazines and books and end up just as good a writer as somebody who traveled the world six times over while working some intense job that involved riding dolphins and performing magic tricks for the children of potential terrorists, or something? What about you Stacey, do you have a bunch of experiences that make you a good writer? Do you ever go out and do stuff with the idea that it will make you better at writing? Does that ever get in the way of enjoying doing things, or does it make you more observant? Do you think there are any books that will be written today that will deserve to be classics in the future? Or that aren't classics now but ought to be read by everybody in high school? Okay so that is my question. That is my one and only question.

Stacey answers:

Juan! So inquisitive! I'm going to start with the guilty pleasures thing.

Pleasures: I don't have a list of the best books, movies, and albums, not even a mental one--I'm not like that. Instead I have obsessions, usually with things I love but sometimes with things that are flawed in a way that's interesting or maddening to me. A sampling of the obsessions of the last several years would include Marcel Duchamp's Étant donnés (which I recently got to see in Philadelphia, to my joy); Just Kids by Patti Smith (very good and fucked up in intriguing ways), Bob Dylan's version of "Froggie Went A Courtin,'" Roberto Bolaño, the movie The Shining, Updike, the Ramones (they all died!). I tend not to feel too guilty about liking things, though occasionally I feel ashamed. I'm ashamed to have liked Two Weeks with Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant. I'm a little ashamed of liking the novel One Day by David Nicholls but only because of the sappy ending. The most media-based shame I've ever felt (if you don't count playing Boggle online) came from regularly reading The New Yorker. At the time I had a subscription it was a smooth swirl of snappily written prose that seemed intelligent but was really just soothing. I finally cancelled my subscription after the article about the Mach Three razor. (Apparently, it has three blades). I'm sure I'd feel a proud pleasure if I read Ulysses in it's entirety.

Classics: I like your question about classics. Yes, I think there are books written today that will deserve to be classics to be read in high school or maybe college, and some of them may not seem like classics at the moment. That's how it always goes. One of the reasons books come to be classics is that they embody the zeitgeist of a particular era; it's hard to tell, when you're in that era, that this is happening. I would say Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho is a classic of sorts, though no one though of it that way when it was first published. (Another recent obsession: Bret Easton Ellis).

Experience: I would never say you have to go anywhere or do anything in particular to be a good writer, though I think it depends on your temperament. Obviously Jack Kerouac liked to see stuff and write about it--that was his whole deal. If it's your deal, then yeah. But if it's not, then it's not. As it turns out, not everyone has the ability to do all that running around with the dolphins stuff; I can't do it, my peeps can't (the sick, infirm, elderly, and pained). But look what Frieda Kahlo made, despite living with great pain (or maybe even because of it). Having limitations doesn't dampened creativity. And being a homebody doesn't either, if that's who you are. Knowing yourself always comes in handy. Being observant can be about the world out there, but it's also be about the world inside, between your ears.

The experiences that affected my writing most were the experiences of my childhood.

Sep 15, 2012; thomulon Asks:

Do you believe in a deity? Does your belief or lack there of effect your writing? How? Jimmy Cliff is alive! He is a Muslim, converting from Rastafarisam in 1974.

Stacey answers:

Thomulon, I hail thee! No, I do not believe in a deity. I don't think I'm an atheist though, since I've never renounced or longed for a belief in a diety. I'm so sincere in this that the Jehovah's Witnesses won't even come back to my house, though I ASK them to. I invite them, I urge them, but once I've told them that I don't believe in anything, they wander off and don't come back. It's the same with the little Mormon Elder boys.

Though that particular idea doesn't seem to affect my writing, I do think that belief fuels fiction, absolutely, and I think that everybody has a belief system, even if they're not aware of it. Because if you don't have a point of view, or something to say, or a strong idea pushing you forward, what's the point? That's interesting about Jimmy Cliff!

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