Mar 25, 2008

"ASK ME, UH-HO-HO, ASK ME"

Today here at the 'mouth, I have a very special guest. If you're like me, you've read her work for years in Bust and the like, so I am très heureux to present the one and only Janice Erlbaum and a very interesting way for you to win a copy of her book.

Janice Erlbaum is the author of Girlbomb: A Halfway Homeless Memoir, and the Have You Found Her (Villard, 2008). She was a contributor to BUST magazine from 1994 through 2007, and has also written for NYPress, POPsmear, and McSweeneys.net. She is featured in the anthologies ALOUD: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Verses That Hurt, and The BUST Guide to the New Girl Order, and she's been written about in magazines including Poets & Writers, The New York Times Sunday Book Review, Elle, PAPER, Harper's Bazaar, Seventeen, the Daily News, and New York. She once kissed a girl on MTV. She now lives in her native New York City with her domestic partner, Bill Scurry, and their three cats, where she sometimes volunteers at a shelter for homeless teens.

Janice was kind enough to swing by and here's what she said:

Amy Guth: Tell us what you write, what you have written and how you do it?

Janice Erlbaum: I write a bunch of things: journal entries, blog posts, emails – endless fucking emails! – short stories, poems, and, so far, two book-length memoirs (Girlbomb, about running away to a homeless shelter at the age of fifteen, and Have You Found Her, about going back to that same shelter as a thirtysomething volunteer).

In the past, I’ve written a feminist news column for BUST magazine, jokes for my unsuccessful stand-up comedy career, slam poetry for my thank-god-defunct poetry group the Pussy Poets, blurbs about shopping for New York Press, and articles on subjects including female rapists and teenaged murderers for a magazine called POPsmear.

I generally start a day of writing by sitting down with my notebook and just unloading a bunch of crap – to-do lists, complaints, dreams, more complaints – then I turn to my laptop and open whatever document I’m working on, and go for two hours or so (sometimes less, never more). When I find myself stuck on something, I turn to my notebook and say, “What am I trying to say here?”, or, “What comes next?”, and I usually find myself writing the answer to that question. After two hours, I take a break, then come back to it for another two hour session, after which I sum up the day’s work in my notebook. Also, I work at a writers’ room in Manhattan, which helps tremendously – I get almost nothing done when I work at home, because of the cats and the internet and my general lack of attention span.

AG: That's a great ritual, Janice. I love the notebook; I do a variation of that myself. What grand things are next for you? What would you, we're talking dream gigs and adventures here, love to be next for you?

JE: A third book is what’s next – I’m writing about real-life experiences, AGAIN, but I think I’m calling this one fiction, just to buck the recent trend of people making shit up and calling it “memoir,” and also so I don’t have to apologize to my friends for writing about them (“What? That’s not you, that’s…a fictional character!”).

As for dream gigs and adventures, I’m a huge, screaming, crazy Disney World fan, and I’d love to find some way to write about Disney World professionally, some way that would afford me the opportunity to go as often as I wanted until I was sick to death of the place. I know I should say “travel the world,” or “explore space,” or “solve the problem of global resource disparity,” and I’d love to do all of those things. But first, Disney World.

AG: What Smiths or Morrissey song or lyric best sums it up for you right now?

JE: “Every day you must say/So, how do I feel about my life?”

So true, Moz! Every day, I sit down with my notebook and ask myself that very question, then spend the next half hour answering it. It’s the best exercise any writer, or any aspiring sane person, can perform.

AG: Thank you, Janice for coming by. Do visit again anytime. Now, dear readers, I have a very special treat for you! Remember how I said you could win a copy of her book. Indeed. Here's the scoop: we're going to play a little scavenger hunt game. Go find an image out in cyberland that represents the word shelter to you and leave the URL in the comments section. The cleverest, funniest, creative-est interpretation wins a copy of her book Have You Found Her. She'll send it right to your door. Am I looking out for you folks, or what? I have a copy, and it's wonderful, so don't flake. You'll kick yourself if you do. So don't.

Now, once you do that, you know what to do! Head over to Good Reads, then to Shelfari and then over to LibraryThing and claim and rate her books. Also, swing by her website and look at all of the wonderfulness over there, and check back often to see when she'll be where. And, when you hear that she is reading in a place near you, do whatever it takes to go show her some love and hear her read. You will be so very glad you did.

Want to be a featured author/writer type for this? Well, just send an email to me and I'll tell you everything you need to know.

7 comments:

J Rock said...

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nilsjorgensen/49721082/

leah said...

I made my image in the link of my name.

brian said...

http://www.flickr.com/photos/12086699@N07/2279520061/

productiongirl said...

http://www.catster.com/cats/95724 Home is where the cat is...

hannah said...

I definitely think of shelter as something more primal than "home." Maybe because we hear the colloquialism "shelter from the storm" so often, or maybe because it's the word used in the book where I first read about Maslow's pyramid of needs. We don't call them homeless homes; we call them shelters. Temporary. Stop-gap. Home has cats and painted walls and all our stuff, but shelter:

http://www.franklin.ma.us/auto/upload/schools/horace/290-coreyariellewebshelter.jpg

Amy Guth said...

Hey Hannah and Brian-- would you mind leaving those URLs again as links so we can check them out? Or email them to me?

Amy Guth said...

Updated:
Hannah's URL