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Q and A

Apr 01, 2011; Liam Liam LIAM!!!! Asks:

Hey, Stacey. Here are some urgent questions:

Are you friends with singer/songwriter Aimee Mann? Because I bet you 2 would get along famously. (If you're not friends, please explain why not.)

If you had to be in a literary feud with a writer of a past era, who would you choose? (I bet you could have socked it to Ayn Rand.) Also, if you're brave enough to answer this, what current-day writer would you choose to get into a literary feud with? (Roiphe seems like the obvious choice, but Rick Moody would be farrrrrrrr more interesting.)

If I ever have to write a paper about you, or answer some "Discussion Questions" printed alongside one of your stories in some anthology, can I just ask you very general questions about that particular story, and then use your responses in lieu of providing my own analysis? It would save me some time, so you'd totally be doing me a solid. (Think it over.)

What is the most prurient and/or low-minded thing you're into right now? For instance: Are you watching "Jersey Shore"? Eating Pizza Bagel-Bites by the box? Spending obscene amounts of money buying airbrushed sweatshirts off of HSN? Give us the dirt, Stacey!

Are there times when it's appropriate to be passive-aggressive?

Who is you favorite Muppet, and why? (If you simply cannot name only one, then a small list would be acceptable, and, in my opinion, preferable.)

Okay, Stacey! You've got your work cut out for you. Get crackin'!

Your current admirer and future literary rival,

Stacey answers:

Okay, let's take these one by one:

I don't know Aimee Mann. I do like Aimee Mann's music though. I don't know her because she's a beautiful rock star who lives in Los Angeles while I am a mousy little writer holed up in Tucson. Also, I don't know most people. However, I do know Lisa Loeb.

If I had to feud with a writer from the past, I'd choose Gertrude Stein. I don't want to attack her, I just think it would be great to deal with her in any way. I bet she'd feud like a rapper--we'd be like Lil' Kim and Nicki Minaj. For a current-day writer, I'll take Jonathan Franzen. (I can't fight with Roiphe; I'm crazy about Roiphe). Though it's true that I'm a big fan of the Frazen, I think that feuding with him would be good for my career. In the course of our skirmish, I'd try do that confusing, infuriating thing that makes everyone feel crazy, where I criticize him for things that I deserve to be criticized for myself. He writes too slowly! His characters are not nice! I sense inside jokes in his work--what's that about? Some of that stuff that happens is not realistic! Has he had botox? Gastric by-pass? He should get some sun!

I won't provide answers for your study guide. Except if you give me presents, I might.

I don't really like any of the Muppets. Their eyes don't move, and I've always found that disturbing. However, as I was watching Muppets in Space last night, I realized I do like the little minor-Muppet crab who speaks with a French accent. I wish Muppets in Space could count for the undignified thing I'm into lately, but I only watched it for ten minutes to see F. Murray Abraham. I'm a big F. Murray fan, and while I don't know him, I did once see him walking down the street in New York City. In fact, I only started watching it in the first place because I'd just finished watching a great episode of Nature that he narrates, and I wanted keep up my F. Murray Abraham roll. (It was the incredible dog episode with all the animated dog skeletons and the sled dog puppies born on the ice and the wonderful Belyaev foxes, as well as the sad-faced shepherd who says of his border collies, "I love them deeply." I love them deeply too! I don't even know them and I love them. In fact, if this writing thing doesn't work out--and it seems like it's not going to, especially given how long it's taking me to answer this question--then I'm going to get some border collies and spend the rest of my life teaching them language, or at least the names of hundreds of toys, everyday, for hours and hours. Then we'll go outside and go running, running, running).

I can't believe I'm still doing this. Ha ha, very funny. Okay: the most prurient/low-minded thing I'm doing (besides looking at porn) would probably have to be catalog shopping, for bras, a lot, I don't know why. Something's come over me. Also, the last two books I read were Why Me? The Sammy Davis Jr. Story (it's excellent) and Wunnerful, Wunnerful: The Autobiography of Lawrence Welk (which is not quite as good)--both ghost-written, out-of-print pap.

Is it ever appropriate to be passive-agressive? Wow. What a great question. If my life is any indication itís always appropriate to be passive-aggressive, but thatís not my real answer. My real answer is: yes. First of all, itís entirely appropriate, even worthwhile, to be passive-aggressive with your psychotherapist. Otherwise, howís he going to help you see what an asshole you are? Acting like a dick is also a good test to see if the therapist is on his toes, but since true passive-aggressive behavior is unconscious (otherwise, itís just aggression), you might have to wait for it to kinda just leak out. (Iíve been late four times in a row? No I havenít! Whatever, I canít control traffic, Iím not God. Nice shirt. I did so pay you! I don't run the post office. Etc.) Itís also customary to be sullen, late, forgetful, thieving, obstinate, dishonest, and catty throughout oneís adolescence, and though no one loves this, I would say itís become a tradition and is therefore socially acceptable.

In all other cases, the answer is no. Try to stop yourself, good luck, but still: no. Instead, I recommend channeling your energy into indirect aggressionóbeing sneaky. Slash her tires! Pee on the bed (for dogs)! Steal one shoe! Text a naked picture! Use the return envelope to mail a brick! Leak the porn video! Burn your leader in effigy! This takes some initiative, and therefore requires that you acknowledge the evil within, but weíre all horrible people anyway, so what the fuck? Oh sure, it's not as admirable as being direct, but it's not always smart to be direct (little woman, big man). At least being sneaky-aggressive carries its own little nugget of glee.

Mar 26, 2011; taylor Asks:

I read "the caveman in the hedges" and i now have to answer some questions on it. One of them, is how this story shows satire. The other question im stuck on is how this story is how magic realism applies to this story. Any help?

Stacey answers:


Mar 25, 2011; Tom Hancock Asks:

Say it ain't so! You don't like music? Whoa, that's tough. Well, I'll have to cancel my plans to buy a copy of Twin Study. Furthermore, I've thrown away my copy of My Date With Satan. Ok, not really. But I am sort of shocked that such a creative person doesn't like music. Why not?

Stacey answers:

Hi Tom. I've answered this before-maybe even several times. Why don't you page back and see if you're satisfied with my previous answer?

Mar 18, 2011; Tom Hancock Asks:

How to be good had kind of a disappointing end. I think I get what he was trying to do, sort of a life goes on thing, but i just didn't work. I just finished A Long Way Down and enjoyed it quite a bit. High Fidelity remains my favorite of Mr. Hornby's work. Even if it was made into a horrible movie. Since this is supposed to be a Q & A, here goes a question. What kind of music do you listen to? My guess is Sea Shanties sung by Somali pirates.

Stacey answers:

Ah ha! You're not the first person to ask, and the answer remains that I hardly listen to anything. I know it doesn't seem quite human but I'm not really into music. Occasionally I still love a song, or think something suddenly sounds great, but overall I'm disappointed by music and sound in general. Today, if I were forced to sit in a chair and listen to music for a few hours, I would choose ELO, The Feelies, and Blossom Dearie.

Mar 15, 2011; tom Hancock Asks:

Hi Stacey. Are you familiar with the work of Nick Hornby? If so, what is your favorite book or story by him? How is the pirate novel coming along?

Stacey answers:

Hi Tom. Weird you should ask, because the night before you did, I literally was lying in bed thinking how I'd only read one book by Nick Hornby (How To Be Good), and that even though there was a lot about that was cool, in the end it was the wrong one for me to start with (I didn't like it that much). I think I should try High Fidelity next. I did enjoy The Polysyllabic Spree, but it's not really a book book.

The pirate novel is great! Everyone now has only one eye.

Mar 15, 2011; Wag Asks:

Hi Stacey. Sorry to be a bummer and all, but is the world going to hell in a hand basket? Or am I just more aware of these hard times now that I'm a middle-aged father? I mean, is any of the crap that's happening now (Libya, Wisconsin, Japan) any worse than the stuff that was troubling to our parents (Russia, Mississippi, Cuba)?

Stacey answers:

It's you. Yes, the world is going to hell in a hand basket, but it's always doing that. Young people have a knack for blowing off the danger of the world--they're terrified, sure, but it's more of a personal terror based on uncertainty about their own lives. (Will I have enough money to live? Will I be drafted? What will I be when I grow up? What does life mean? Will I ever get laid again? Will I ever have my own family? Am I safe in my apartment?). Once you get mostly past that stuff, you start to feel the danger of the world and a sense of yourself as part of it. Like, I have to go to school every night in my dreams. It used to be that I had to go to an unfindable Spanish/Math test lesson class, but in recent years I have to go to an unfindable History class test lecture thing. History--get it? I don't really. But I kind of do.

If it's any comfort, I think Russia, Mississippi, Cuba were all way worse than Libya, Wisconsin, Japan. Chernobyl was worse than Japan as a nuclear accident (at least they shut down the reactors in Japan, which is more than they did in Chernobyl), but it was cloaked in Soviet silence so no one knew what was going on until later. As far as I know, there were no pictures. One thing that makes the hellish stuff so vivid now is that we get to see it. Here's a thought--maybe I'm totally psycho--but there's something exciting about being able to see it. There's something amazing about having such access to history, to images and information. Maybe it's an exciting time to be alive. And it's way better than the fourteenth century! At least we don't have to worry about the Black Death.

Mar 07, 2011; Tom Hancock Asks:

Could the story be in Mr. Moody's collection, Demonology? I haven't read Demonology but I like the cover pic of those sour candies called Smarties. I read The Diviners about a month ago but didn't enjoy it as well as I did Purple America. I can't wait to read you novel. What is it about? By the way, the first story in My Date With Satan and The Ocean are my favorites. Good Work!

Stacey answers:

Thanks! I'm not sure if it's in Demonology--I could get up and go look but I'm feeling too lazy. My novel is about capitalism, which just led me to type into my right corner oracle-god "Is capitalism capitalized?" with unenlightening results. Though for a while, I've been telling my father that it's about pirates, which is maybe kind of the same thing.

Feb 27, 2011; Tom Hancock Asks:

I have just began re-reading My Date With Satan. Great stuff! I was wondering if you ever plan to write a novel.. I'm sure you have been asked that before and I hope you are not tired of answering it. Also, I read a short story several years ago and I can't remember the authors name. It was about a guy that wanted to be a writer but couldn't think of anything to write about so he started writing fictitious letters to a romance advice column in a local paper. Was that one of yours? as I remember, it was really funny. Thanks Tom Hancock Athens, Georgia

Stacey answers:

Hi Tom Hancock. Yes, I'm planning to write a novel. I'm writing one right now, in fact. I have to go finish it now. Or soon. Or something.

I'm not sure I know that story...there's one sort of like that by Rick Moody. I forget the name right now. I'll see if I can come up with it for you.

Feb 25, 2011; Your marketing deparment Asks:

Do you really want help with marketing? I admit I don't actually have experience with authors, I just have some ideas. I'm happy to help, if you want.

Stacey answers:

I'd be delighted to hear your ideas, but sad if you were disappointed if I ignored them or blew them off or procrastinated or otherwise showed my bad character. Mostly I'm just flattered and glad to be prodded--though I definitely could use some help figuring out website things, if you have any knowledge about that. If you still feel like it, why don't you email me and we can discuss it? It's

Feb 24, 2011; Kyndra Myers Asks:

Dear Stacey, I am a student at Mesa Community College in Arizona. I am taking a course where we study short stories and this week you are one of the chosen authors. We read your story "My Date with Satan" and as a group we study and discuss your work. On my part, I am to look for information regarding the author and it would be so amazing if you told us a little bit about yourself. How you got into writing, your awards, why you like a certain styles of writing and just small knowledge of your background. I would really appreciate your help but understand completely if you are busy! Thank you so much for taking the time to read this! Sincerly, Kyndra Myers

Stacey answers:

Hi Kyndra. I think any account of how a person gets into writing has a practical part and an inner part, so to tell the story more fully I'll give you a little of each. The first time I tried writing was when I was a senior in college. I was a student at Berkeley and applied to a fiction writing class (taught by the late, great Leonard Michaels) and a poetry class (taught by Ishmael Reed). I only got into the poetry class so that's what I did. At the time, I felt really angry, and kind of alone, and sort of self-destructive, and I had a great drive to say something about that--I didn't know what I wanted to say exactly, but it had to be about that stuff. (I still feel like that, though now I know a little about what I'm trying to express). My guess is that this feeling, of being driven to say something that can't be expressed in a simple way, is something that motivates a lot of artists.

I think my impulse was, and is, to make art. I ended up writing because it was the only thing I could do with any facility, but I wish I'd been able to paint--that sounds so great! So wordless and calming. So anyway, in college at that time I had this weird thing where I wouldn't talk in class, I would just sit there and sulk, and do my work and get good grades, but I think I sort of scared my teachers. I didn't want to say anything because it all seemed obvious and like it had already been said. Also, though I loved my professors in certain ways, I hated how they (they were all woman for some reason) had a very controlled, precise, well-spoken way of acting. I thought to be a grown-up I would have to act like that, and I didn't want to. For me, life was messier, and I wanted to see a wisp of that, at least, in the life that lay ahead of me.

The great thing for me about Ishmael Reed (there are many great things about him, of course), was that he was so grouchy. Sometimes he arrived late for class or blew it off entirely, as well as being impatient, too smart for us as undergrads, and kind of mean--though at times he was happy and generous too. In other words, he was a real person, and suddenly I was talking in class all the time, I was engaged, I felt less alone, and Reed encouraged me (subtly, but he did encouraged me). So after college, I began writing regularly--fiction, mostly, or whatever. I took some writing classes to get some feedback and to feel like I wasn't writing in a total vacuum. A few years later I got a master's degree in writing. That was good for me because I wasn't a good enough writer to be published, and I still wasn't sure what I was doing or what I had to say, but I continued to have a strong sense that I did have something to say and I needed some time to figure it out. In grad school I was neither discouraged or encouraged--or maybe I got a little of both--which sort of worked for me. (I remember one teacher who threw my story on her desk and rolled her eyes in disgust--discouraging--and another who, after some reception wine, said to me: "You're wonderful! I mean, not you, your writing.")

After graduate school, I moved back to Arizona, which is where I had grown up. It took me a few more years to get my fiction published, but in the meantime I had a job working at a newspaper, The Tucson Weekly, which was great because it totally calmed down my parents, who were hysterically anxious about my decision to be a writer (and who can blame them). The first thing I had published was a poem in the Sonora Review. The second thing was the story "My Date with Satan," in the Greensboro Review. Because I felt like the emotional parts of my life were so much bigger than the outward events, I was drawn to writers whose work reflected that. It's a strange list--Kathy Acker, Flannery O'Connor, George Saunders, Joyce Carol Oates, Carl Jung, Denis Johnson. I tried to put those elements of largeness and realness together in my own work, and I think I probably always will, to some extent.

There's more, I guess, but this seems kind of long and maybe it's enough for now. Some kind soul or souls have made a Wikipedia entry for me with some biographical information too. I'm thrilled that your class is reading my story!

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