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Starving Artist Interview #5: Davis Schneiderman
January 25, 2010, 1:47 pm
Filed under: art, interview | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Davis Schneiderman swoops in from above to scavenge more dead, dying, & live! writhing with desire! language while eagerly mocking us all. Davis was interviewed in MP#3 about collaborative fiction and his novel Abecedarium. Since then, here’s the news:

My novel, Drain, will be published in June 2010 by Northwestern University Press, with a fantastic afterword by Megan Milks. It’s about a near-future where Lake Michigan empties of water, and all sorts of crazy starving-artists stuff goes down. Why not pre-order a copy for your loved ones here? And I am trying to blog more often here.

1) If/when (now or in the past) you have used the term “starving artist”** in relation to yourself, how literal are we talking in terms of actual starving? What would you count as part of the territory that comes with being a “starving artist” and what would you disallow?

Davis Schneiderman

I use this term when reading Kafka’s “The Hunger Artist” which is sometimes translated as “The Fasting Artist” or “The Starving Artist” and fills itself with ennui and anonymity at the decline of public interest in the starving-artist spectacle. I read the story, conversely, after a feeding frenzy that consumes everything possible at the local all-you-can-eat/eat-all-you-can buffet establishments: Chinese and American. How much lo mein can i eat in one sitting? Can i make a steam-table parcel of reddish-pink Alaskan snow crab legs disappear by the time you finish a series of slow belches? Just you watch me, Kafka, just you watch.

2) What would you say is your general level of starving as a starving artist? By that, I mean, when you look around you, or think about starving artists in history, how would you place yourself in a kind of spectrum?

Less than Ghandi. More than Ben Kingsley.
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Starving Artist Interview #4: Leeyanne Moore
January 15, 2010, 11:05 pm
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Our series of Starving Artist Interviews (defiantly sans scare quotes!) continues with fiction writer, playwright, and longtime MP contributor Leeyanne Moore on the hard times and the life skillz she got out of em:

The marvelous Leeyanne Moore reads as part of MP's Issue 3 release party at the Bridge.

The starving-est time had to be when I took the big leap. After years of earning only minimum wage, I was working at an after-school program. I got no respect, not enough hours, and hated the alky boss with a passion that left me stinking with rage. I literally suffered from Rage-Sweat, each night peeling off my clothes to take a bath (our little attic appartment only had a bath stuck under the eaves) and my husband and I would notice how badly I stank from the stress.

So I quit and decided to start teaching creative writing workshops to children and teens. I kinda snuck in under the radar at this arts organization where I’d started taking writing workshops myself, and sent out fliers in the summer. The first day of the first week, no one came. I sat there alone at a table with paper and colored pens and felt pretty bad. But when I got home there were two messages on the answering machine and the second day of class I had three students. The fourth student showed up by walking into the room through the emergency exit. She had Asperger’s but was an awesome writer and I was on my way to never being employed by anyone else again.

I think that being a full time writer takes that same kind of business creativity that it takes to start a business. As someone once said: a lot of people are talented writers. The most successful writers are talented at managing their talent. For me, teaching those workshops became a set of life lessons in being entrepreneurial that have stayed with me. The most successful times I’ve had as a writer have had the same feel as that breathtaking plunge where I left behind the regular paycheck once and for all.



Starving Artist Interview #3: Sandra Newman
January 4, 2010, 2:42 am
Filed under: art, interview | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Sandra Newman is the author of the novels Cake and The Only Good Thing Anyone Has Ever Done; as well as the book How Not to Write a Novel (co-written with Howard Mittelmark); and has published short fictions in numerous venues, notably in Conjunctions (<–read “The Potato Messiah”). She was interviewed in MP#3 about Cake, bank robbery, and gender and experimental writing.

Here’s what she had to say about the writing life and $$ woes. (Interview conducted by Leeyanne Moore.)

illustration by john bylander

When you use the term “starving artist” in relation to yourself, how literal are we talking in terms of actual starving? What would you count as part of the territory that comes with being a “starving artist” and what would you disallow?

I haven’t ever been starving in the food sense; in my experience, in the Western world, the only way one could arrive at “starving” would be via ”utterly friendless.” And while my adventures in nearly starving have put a strain on my relationships sometimes (I don’t often borrow money, but I do stay on people’s couches for prolonged periods of time in my recurring dry spells), this has never gone into friendless territory. People with non-art jobs have all the food in the world, in my experience. In fact, you can pretty much make a three-course meal in the kitchen of a gainfully employed person without them ever knowing that the food is gone.

For me, most of being a starving artist in America is about taking risks that other people aren’t willing to take, sacrificing status, and often — the part no one ever talks about — making selfish decisions about other people’s welfare. Any starving artist with parents is at the very least making those parents miserable. In the vast majority of cases, s/he is also spending those parents’ money, which the parents perhaps had plans for and wished to spend themselves. Finally, any starving artist with children is going to feel like a criminal at certain points. There is no point pretending that the children would not have a better prospect in life if you worked for a reinsurance company and could afford to send them to private school. The children will be paying for your art career for the rest of their lives, in many cases. Of course, there’s no guarantee that you would have been a great success in your other, purely imaginary, business — no doubt you would just have become a starving, untalented claims adjuster. This point, however, tends not to impress anyone — people will generally relate to the artist as if she could have become a millionaire in any other field at all, at will.

Sandra's second novel

What’s been your most profound moment as a starving artist in terms of suffering? Has this shaped how you view your art or how you view the world & humanity?

For me, the worst part of being a starving artist is (as alluded to above) that one cannot afford to be ethical. This is a common feature of any poverty: Brecht writes a lot about this. In the modern world, this is usually a fairly harmless thing, amounting to a sin of omission generally. You can go a long time without confronting this, but eventually there will come a time when the choice is between doing the right thing and, for instance, getting your book finished. So you end up finishing the book, even though it means living off your partner for a few months, for instance, and you know the partner has no belief that your book will sell, and in fact, your partner thinks you should get a job in insurance, because this artist crap is going nowhere. Soon the partner is gone, sans a fair chunk of money, and the book is left behind as a monument to your warped priorities.

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