Gayle Brandeis, Self Storage
I am so excited because my friend Gayle's book is out today! Self Storage features many different elements from a mother trying to hold her life together to a woman from Afghanistan. It's about saying YES to the possibility of what could be, it's about an uninspired husband whose greatest contribution is putting a dent in the couch cushion. The backdrop is Riverside County, California a nonglamorous place that can be as dry and dusty as the very boxes held in a self storage facility. And how can I forget Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, a central component to the story!
I think I've given you enough clues to what the book contains, you must read this for yourself to find out more. Gayle's writing is beautifully poetic, I've been a huge fan of hers since reading Fruitflesh a couple of years ago.
I am thrilled to bring you this interview. Yes, I might be a little bit biased because she is a good friend of mine but truly Gayle Brandeis is a talented writer whose book is sure to be a hit. And do you not just love the cover?
What do you hope people will take away from reading your book?
I hope people will put the book down with a fresh sense of possibility, with the desire to access the truest source of "yes" in their lives. Maybe a new, or renewed, appreciation for Walt Whitman. A more open heart would be wonderful, too.
If you had an emotional self storage locker, what would you put in it?
Oh my. That locker would be pretty full. I would want to let go of my difficulty expressing (and sometimes even acknowledging) negative emotions. I can handle them in my writing, but not so well in my life. Same goes with my aversion to conflict—it's easy enough for me to put my characters in all sorts of uncomfortable situations, but I shy away from it in the real world. I wouldn't want to let go of all of my shyness, because it's part of who I am, but I would like to get rid of any shyness that keeps me from fully engaging with life.
When I turned 30, I asked everyone at my birthday party to put who they wanted to be—not who they were—on their name tags. I wrote "Loud Bossy Chick"—sort of as a joke, sort of not--because I was pretty much the opposite of that. I am 38 now, and I've definitely gotten louder, if not bossier. It's a slow but steady evolution.
I think that even when we lock those emotional things away in their locker, we still own them. They still make us who we are. So maybe instead of locking those parts of myself up, I would rather open myself to all of them and give them (and myself) room to breathe, to change, to grow.
You are involved in a lot of humanitarian work, tell me about what groups you will be working with in 2007?
My main focus is two women's peace organizations—I am "Communications Goddess" for the group CODEPINK. The title makes me blush, but I am so grateful to do this work. I write the alert that goes out to over 100,000 members around the world each week, and I love being involved with such a creative, fearless group of women. Locally, I am a founding member of the Women Creating Peace Collective—another creative, fearless group—and love finding ways to promote peace in my community through the arts. I want to use Self Storage to raise awareness about two Afghan women's rights organizations, as well—RAWA, and the Afghan Women's Mission. Both are bringing education, healthcare, and other important resources to women and children in Afghanistan.
Does life play out as it’s supposed to with no real coincidences, everything being predetermined? Do you believe in synchronicities?
I am a true believer in synchronicities—most of the major decisions and shifts in my life have come about from mind-blowing coincidences, from unexpectedly being in the right place at the right time. I just try to stay open so I can recognize those moments and see where they take me (sounds like my writing process, actually!)
How do you begin each day- do you have coffee or do yoga or read the online celebrity gossip blogs?
I am not a morning person, so I pretty much begin each day in a stupor. I wake up enough to drive my daughter to school in my pajamas, and then I sit groggily at my computer, checking email, catching up on news, and reading all my blog subscriptions (some of which are, yes, celebrity gossip blogs!) until my eyes focus and I feel ready to start writing. I would love to start the day with yoga—I'm sure it would help shake the cobwebs out and clarify my intention for the day—but I'm more of a night time yoga person (although I'm not that as often as I'd like, either). I wish I could drink coffee—maybe I'd feel more like a grown up if I did—but caffeine makes me feel like my bones are going to shoot through my skin.
If you won a million dollars tomorrow, how would you spend the money?
I would take care of practical things first—pay off our mortgage, set enough aside for the kids' quickly-approaching college years, etc. I'd definitely travel more. And I'd see how I could use the money to make a difference. So many wonderful organizations need funding for their work—the groups I mentioned earlier, of course, plus Mercy Corps, Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International, Food Not Bombs, Heifer International, the Nature Conversancy, etc. I want to support what they're doing, and maybe create some new ways of helping, as well.
Poetry is a huge part of your life. Are you planning on maybe putting together a book of poetry in the near future?
I have a chapbook of poetry out from Pudding House Press—Dictionary Poems, which came about when I gave myself the assignment of finding a new word in the dictionary every day and writing a poem around it. I loved the process, and still do it every once in a while. I have a couple of manuscripts of poetry that are just sitting in my files now—a collection named Lack/Luster, and a memoir in poems, The Sick Girl. I started writing the latter as a traditional memoir, but it kept coming out in short little bursts, and I realized that those wanted to be poems. It's a pretty raw story, about a year when I was sick as a teenager, and the year after, when I pretended to be sick to keep my sick girl identity going, and I'm not sure I'm ready to have it out in the world yet. Maybe I should just put it in that emotional storage locker for the time being! But I should definitely get off my duff and send Lack/Luster around.
How are you feeling about the release of Self Storage, are you nervous? And I want to hear all about the upcoming book tour! Sounds like a lot of fun.
The release of a book is always both exciting and nerve-wracking. I am trying to keep my expectations low, but my hopes high. We'll see what happens. I'll be touring up and down the West Coast--LA, the Bay area, Portland, Seattle, plus my cousin's amazing bookstore in Olympia, WA (http://www.decoloresbooks.com/). I'm also working with Lauren Cerand to put together some events in Chicago and New York. I was so scared before my first book tour in 2002—I was more of a hermit at the time, and the thought of being public with my work was terrifying to me—but I love book tours now. It's a real pleasure to meet with readers, with booksellers, to get out of my cave and connect with the world. Plus I get to stay in hotels and order room service!
Tell me what a perfect day would be for you, where would you go, what would you do?
I'm not sure exactly where I would go—so many possibilities!--but for me, a perfect day would include luscious food, natural (or cultural) beauty, creative inspiration, and lots of dancing. A day to feed all five senses, for sure.
What books are you reading or looking forward to reading?
I just finished reading Necklace of Kisses by Francesca Lia Block. I adore her Weetzie Bat books, so it was a delight to reconnect with Weetzie and her circle of loved ones now that they're all grown up. I'll probably read Mary by Janice Cooke Newman next—I am writing a novel based, in part, on the Lincolns, and am eager to see what she did with Mary Todd's life. I've heard great things about it. I'm also excited to read Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st century, edited by Alex Steffen. I got it for Christmas; it promises to be a very cool compilation of essays about how to create a sustainable future (plus the packaging is gorgeous!)
What's next for Gayle Brandeis?
I hope to finish my Lincoln novel soon. After that, who knows? I am ready for the next synchronicity!