Category Archives: Interviews

I Can’t Rank My Loyalties: An Interview with Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

Rowan Hisayo Buchanan’s debut novel Harmless Like You is not a comfort read. At least, for me, a woman who has yet to be married or have a child, its themes revolve around a marriage at the point of potential break and a child abandoned by his mother. Reading the novel, I couldn’t help but fear “what if I do it all wrong, too? What if motherhood and marriage are jobs some people just aren’t meant for?” Luckily, I got to right to the source of the novel’s intense themes and ask Hisayo Buchanan about these questions and more:

Kati Heng: Harmless Like You touches on the hard questions many of us without kids are most scared to ask: What if I’m not meant to be a parent? What if I’m bad at it? The novel explores this idea; but, taken from your side and not the characters: Do you believe parenthood is a choice you make, or a role that naturally suits some and not others? Does it fall somewhere in the middle? Continue reading

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Cosmic Femme Punk Visionary: A Conversation with Taleen Kali

Taleen Kali photo by Emery Becker

I first encountered Taleen Kali at a small zine fair that was taking place in an open air courtyard in an arty Los Angeles strip mall. “How LA,” I thought. While browsing, I was struck by Taleen’s beautifully put together publication, DUM DUM Zine, and the sense of both playfulness and artistic gravitas surrounded her. So of course, after picking up a copy of the zine, I did what any fangirl would do: I followed her on Instagram. Through the images and stories she shares I learned about Taleen’s work as a yoga instructor, guitar shredder, dog-mom to an adorable pup named Leelo, her recent shoot with BUST magazine as a glitter makeup model, and got a sense that there’s almost a mystical girl gang that hovers around her. She seemed to embody the spirit of Weird Sister, so of course I had to talk with her more. We caught up over email about intersecting artistic identities and communities, cultivating creative rituals to survive these current political times, and the upcoming EP she is recording.

Eleanor Whitney: You do so much! You are a writer, editor, artist, musician, yogi, glitter makeup model and all around badass. Do you distinguish between your different projects or do you see them more as one integrated art practice?

Taleen Kali: The glitter makeup story for BUST Magazine was definitely a fun surprise!

As an interdisciplinary artist my projects have always been conduits, helping me to excavate and express different parts of my identity. I think it’s human nature to compartmentalize, yet the more stuff I make the more I realize it’s coming from the same source, even if it’s expressed through different mediums.

EW: You have played in punk bands around L.A. for a few years and now you are gearing up to record and release a solo EP and play a type of music you describe as “cosmic femme punk.” How did you hit on that description for your sound?

TK: All the writing and music projects over the years helped me figure out what I really wanted to write, and ultimately sing about: transcending the bullshit, comprehending the beauty of the divine feminine, and elevating my surroundings. Arriving at that mindset is what cosmic femme punk means to me.

Over time my music began to evolve from this “doom” persona, becoming less about bleak narratives and more about sonic expression and reclaiming femme visibility, and getting to decide what that means. As a first generation Armenian American it’s really important for me to use my voice and resources to uplift fellow women of color, queer communities, trans folx, and other marginalized voices. What we need to talk about will change too as media and culture evolves, so I thought: why not start with “FEMME AS FUCK” and go from there?

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Beauty Doesn’t Seem to Go Anywhere: An Interview with Catherine Lacey and Forsyth Harmon

There’s a sort of guilty pleasure that comes with reading a book illustrated on every page. Even more delicious is an illustrated book filled with exposed affairs, connected relationships, and literal-drawn-out lines of influence exposing our favorite artists from the decades gone by. When these elements come together in The Art of the Affair: An Illustrated History of Love, Sex, and Artistic Influence, the result is the most electric read with which to start the new year.

I had the chance to ask writer Catherine Lacey and illustrator (and Weird Sister contributor!) Forsyth Harmon more about their new book, their favorite tidbits of gossip, and more:

Kati Heng: I know you had to cut down and leave out sooo much to include so many of these relationships in your book. If you were to write and illustrate a single book about the intermingling affairs of one couple or group (since it seems like every didn’t just settle for one partner!), who would you focus on and why?

Catherine Lacey: Anaïs Nin was a big inspiration for the early research and looking back, she was also one of the most prolific characters in the book as far as friendships, affairs and alliances go. Her diaries and letters reveal a sort of fervency she had about the people in her life and she left troves of writing about her relationships.

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Using Your Feminist Superpower: An Interview with the Pussyhat Project

pussyhat project weird sister, feminist activism, craft, knitting

Pussyhat Project organizers drawing by Aurora Lady

I handed my two skeins of bright pink yarn over the counter at the demure yarn store outside of Freeport, Maine, “And I’d like a pair of size eight needles please,” I said. The woman working there looked at me as she rang me up, “I think I know what these are for,” she said, quietly, nodding with approval.

I smiled, “Yes.”

“Are you going to the… ?”

I nodded back, “Yes.”

“Are you scared?”

“No way.”

“Good for you, I’m so glad you are doing that. You are doing that for all of us.”

I felt I had been inducted into a not-so-secret underground society of knitters who were uniting to change the world, and in a way, we were because that’s exactly what the Pussyhat Project is. Specifically, it’s a Los Angeles-based project co-founded by two friends, screenwriter Krista Suh and architect Jayna Zwieman, who are joined by artist Aurora Lady. Simply put, the project encourages people of all genders to knit, crochet or sew pink cat (pussy) hats and share them with marchers headed to Washington D.C. on January 21st for the massive Women’s March that will highlight the importance of a diverse, vibrant feminist movement.

But the Pussyhat Project is so much more than knitting hats to make a bold visual statement: it’s an accessible and inviting way to build community, to open a dialogue about women’s rights, and to come together to share and heal post-election. In bringing people together to make and connect, it draws on a history of radical crafting and activist art. It also demonstrates to participants that they can engage in activism starting from where they are, and contributing skills they already have. In advance of the historic march in Washington (and the many sister marches around the country), I caught up with the Pussyhat Project organizers over email (they are busy ladies these days!) about the ideas, experiences, and philosophies guiding the project, and the power of feminist doing and making post-election.

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Love Doesn’t Save Anyone from Themselves: An Interview with Angeli Cabal

Angeli Cabal

I first encountered Angeli Cabal’s work as the co-editor-in-chief of {m}aganda Magazine. My staff and I were blown away by the pieces she submitted–poems critiquing colonialism, Western beauty standards, and the figure of the Filipino woman. I was stunned to see that in addition to being a poet, Cabal is also a visual artist and multi-genre writer who creates sleek, intricate, highly clever illustrations and incredibly heart-wrenching creative essays. In addition, Cabal has been a devoted fanfiction author since age 12 and has garnered an impressive online readership on Tumblr. In 2013, Cabal self-published her first chapbook, True Love and Other Myths, which sold out after the first printing. She went on to publish a second chapbook, The Anatomy of Closed Doors, joining the ranks of  poets and writers who use social media as their vehicle. Cabal’s work is raw, evocative, hands-on, and accessible. She joined me for a conversation where we discussed fanfiction, our immigrant parents, and which three fictional characters she would invite for a session of afternoon tea.

MV: I’m not sure if you’ve read this recent Buzzfeed article about women and fanfiction, but they argue that fanfiction is a central genre for women writers because it allows us to create narratives that are not available in everyday life. Why fanfiction? Why should we keep writing and reading fanfiction? What power does this form of creation give us?

AC: It’s been 14 years since I started writing fanfiction and I’ve never grown out of it. Fanfiction is so much more accessible for me because of world building. In fanfiction, you already have this world created for you so there’s less pressure and you can focus on the narratives you want to tell, particularly characters you want to transform and flesh out. When you have these characters presented to you and you see all the paths and avenues the author could have taken to make them more human, these are awesome opportunities to take. It is also such a supportive community, I can’t even read some of the stuff I wrote back then because it was so horrible but I get reviews that say, “Hey, this is really good, keep it up.” That was so important for me as a young writer because no one else knew I was writing fanfiction. It really encouraged me and is one of the reasons why I still write fanfiction today. Continue reading

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We’re Obsessed With: Astro Poets

Started by “actual living poets” Dorothea Lasky and Alex Dimitrov, the new Twitter account Astro Poets is everything anyone could ever want from the internet all in one 140-character space: astrology by poets for everyone.

For those who don’t know, I’m obsessed with both astrology and good writing which is why I can’t get enough of this account. Lasky and Dimitrov are funny, charming and masters of their form. The Twitterverse is so lucky to have these two and I am so lucky to have had a chance to ask them a few questions about their absolutely magical collaboration known as Astro Poets.

Astro Poets cross

Dorothea Lasky and Alex Dimitrov

 

Cathy de la Cruz: What made you start the Astro Poets Twitter account?

Dorothea Lasky: The account was started on a whim one night. Alex had put a poll on his Twitter asking his followers whether he should date a Taurus or a Virgo that night. I voted for Taurus and that prompted Alex to ask me if we should start an astrology Twitter account. I said yes and he put a poll up asking people if we should start one and lots of people voted that we should. So we did. We both agreed going into it that the largest goal was to bring people some laughs during what has been a bad year.

Alex Dimitrov: I think we’re both pretty funny people and also we both really get… how do I say this… human nature. We finally decided to share that in a more public way. I mean we both have so much going on in our lives, this is kind of a side project that speaks to the entertainers and prophets in us… but it might turn into other things!

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Space to Roam: An Interview with Kelly Sears

Kelly Sears is one of my favorite filmmakers. Using animation as her primary medium, Sears animates cut up and collage appropriated imagery focused on American politics and culture to create interventions of the history found within each frame. In New York City this week, where Sears was in town to screen a body of her work at Anthology Film Archives, I had a chance to ask her a few questions.

Kelly Sears

Cathy de la Cruz: How long would you say you’ve been operating at the vanguard of non-commercial cinema? What lead you to begin making experimental moving image work?

Kelly Sears: I saw my first hand cranked 16mm camera at Hampshire College and just thought this little apparatus could do so much, all powered by me cranking it! Movies can be made by large teams – or movies could be made by one person experimenting and asking a lot of questions. It was the first time that making films seemed like something I could do as an individual. This was at the time where digital video was taking hold and it was all about progress and technology. I was really captured by smaller, individual experimental films I was seeing in my classes. I’d loved the abstract films, animations, essayistic work and strange narratives that were screened and I wanted to make all of the above. I also took a video class as Smith College and got my first introduction to feminist moving image communities.

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To Cut / To Snap :: An Interview with Kelly Luce

kelly-luce

If you weren’t already tuned into Kelly Luce after her debut story collection Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail hit shelves in 2013, now’s the time to change things. Kelly Luce’s first novel Pull Me Under, coming out November 1, is primed to astound. Following the life of Chizuru, a woman who’s left Japan after she ages out of the juvenile detention system (it’s no spoiler to say this here: Chizuru , in a fit of rage, fatally stabbed her classmate at the age of 12), Pull Me Under uncovers a story of redemption, truth, and how the past continues to touch the present. Read on to hear some questions from this brilliant young voice:

 

Kati Heng: Can you tell me about the time you spent in Japan? What did you do there, and in what ways did it influence the novel?

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Identity is a Fickle Thing: An Interview with Marisa Silver

A child is born in an unknown country and two things are immediately noticed: The girl, named Pavla by her parents, is both beautiful and her growth is absolutely stunted. So begins Marisa Silver’s magical new novel, Little Nothing, which traces Pavla’s transformations from a young girl with dwarfism to a beautiful non-dwarf teenager, and finally, into a wolf. The story bursts with magic, with the longing to discover identity, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, a forbidden love between Pavla the wolf and the man who protects her. I spoke to author Silver about this new novel, so read on to reveal more of the magic:

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Kati Heng: Is there a metaphor hiding inside Pavla’s transformations from dwarf to beauty to wolf?

Marisa Silver: When I wrote the book, I avoided thinking about what it meant. I know that’s probably an odd thing to say, but if I decide in advance what a novel is supposed to be about, what its big themes are, then the resulting work will not find its way towards surprise. I just put my head down and write characters and try to make their actions and behaviors true for them during any given emotional moment or situation.

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Between Memory and Forgetting: An Interview with Gabrielle Lucille Fuentes

Photograph by Brittainy Lauback

Photograph by Brittainy Lauback

I’m lucky to have known Gabrille Lucille Fuentes for several years now– we both live in Athens, GA and attend the same PhD program, and we co-curate a reading series together at our local indie bookstore. The first time I got to hear Gabrielle read her work aloud I was spellbound– not only was her prose riveting, but her ability to embody the work as she read it made for a thrilling listening experience. I knew she was a serious workhorse when it came to writing– working on several novels at once, and more diligently than most writers I know– and brilliant to boot, so it would only be a matter of time before her work began to enter world as books. Fuentes’ first novel, The Sleeping World, is out tomorrow (9/13) from Simon & Schuster/Touchstone, and it is ferocious, a book hot with searching and loss, tension thrumming constantly at the periphery. Per the jacket copy:

“Casasrojas, Spain, 1977. Military rule is over. Bootleg punk music oozes out of illegal basement bars and fascists fight anarchists for political control. Students perform protest art in the city center, rioting against the old government, the undecided new order, against the university, against themselves. At the center is Mosca, an intelligent, disillusioned university student, whose younger brother is among ‘the disappeared,’ kidnapped by fascist police, missing for two years, and presumed dead. Spurred by the turmoil around them, Mosca and her friends carry their rebellion too far and a violent act sends them spiraling out of their provincial hometown. But the further they go, the more Mosca believes her brother is alive and the more she is willing to do anything to find him.”

You can feel this novel in your bones– when the characters are sore and tired, sweatily roaming through Spain and France, your body meets the book in feeling. I was excited to ask Fuentes some questions about her writing process, the seeds of the book, and much more.

Gabrielle Lucille Fuentes is a writer and teacher. Her first novel, The Sleeping World, will be published by Touchstone  (Simon & Schuster) in 2016.  She has received fellowships from Yaddo and Blue Mountain Arts Center and was a Bernard O’Keefe Scholar in Fiction at Bread Loaf. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in One Story, Slice, Pank, The Collagist, Tweed’s, NANO Fiction, Western Humanities Review, The YokeSpringGun, and elsewhere.

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Gina Abelkop: What and when were the first seeds of this novel planted? Where were you living? Did it begin with a plot, character, or an emotional impluse?

Gabrielle Lucille Fuentes: Song lyrics often start stories for me. I’ll become obsessed with a song—especially one with a scrap of narrative and want to enter into the world of the song through my writing. Or the song will provide entry into a world I’ve carried but didn’t yet have access to. The Sleeping World began as a short story I wrote while listening to The National’s song “Runaway.” I was living in Boulder, Colorado and had just started my MFA. Boulder is a surreal town—it’s surrounded by gorgeous mountains but the town itself like a play-land created by Patagonia and Disney. Very new, very expensive, very white. The initial story came quickly, transported by a few of the lyrics. I wanted to communicate a tension between forgetting and memory, and when I went back to the story, I found that I was writing my own, despite the distance between me and the narrative. My brother had recently passed away and writing was a way for me to grieve, to speak to the dead and carry him with me in the living world.

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