Artist Interview: Beth Lisick @ Notes and Words

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Writer Beth Lisick is just cool. I think the first time I saw her read was perhaps seven or more years ago at what might have been a Writers with Drinks event at the Make-Out Room. Beth epitomized the hippest of the San Francisco literati as she cast a knowing, hilariously self-effacing eye on life as a creative in the Mission District. She was clearly the real deal.

Since then she’s only built more cred: amidst much writing and publishing, she’s toured Europe, played the Lilith Fair with her band The Beth Lisick Ordeal, wrote a nightlife column for SF Gate and continued to help lead the Porchlight Storytelling Series. With two acclaimed memoirs to her name — the lauded Everybody into The Pool and Helping Me Help Myself—as well as a husband and child, Lisick remains one of the Bay Area’s favorite voices. On April 1, Beth will read as a part of Notes & Words, a benefit concert and reading for Oakland’s Children’s Hospital and Research Center at the Fox Theatre. As she readied for the reading, Lisick answered some questions about the event and what keeps her creating.

Q What are you working on now? Helping Me Help Myself was a(nother) big success–is there a follow-up in the works?
I am writing a novel, which is really challenging and so much fun. After two memoiry, nonfiction books in a row, I was not only slightly tired of myself, but tired of thinking about how to write about myself. It feels so liberating and exciting to write in the voice of another character. I think some memoir writers probably feel that freedom when they write about themselves, but I started to feel very constrained.

Like I was constantly editing out some very real material because I wasn’t comfortable sharing everything. Helping Me Help Myself was a constant struggle for me to express myself while still maintaining some privacy, so now I’m on to fiction for awhile. It’s letting me explore a lot of things without having to take responsibility that these are the thoughts and opinions of Beth Lisick, the person. It’s fun to be surprised what weird things pop out of my head.

Q San Francisco has vibrant creative community-how has or does your writing community influence your work?
BL: I would be nowhere without my creative friends. Those are the people who inspire me on a daily basis. I collaborate a lot, which opens me up to new creative possibilities, but I am always amazed by the creative process that happens in private. I’ll go see someone’s art opening or read their new book or see their new film, and I get so inspired by the work and energy they put into it. It makes me feel like my friends are magicians.

Q Who do you count as big inspiration/teachers or mentors? What have you been reading or listening to lately that blows you away?

BL: As evidenced by the last answer, my friends are my main inspiration! I love all my comrades from Sister Spit, the group of writers and performers that Michelle Tea puts together. I love Bucky Sinister’s new book Still Standing about trying to stay sober when you come from the punk/art world. I share office space in Oakland with authors Mary Roach, Lisa Margonelli, Anita Amirrezvani, Novella Carpenter, and radio producer Roman Mars, who are constantly working on smart, interesting things. My comedy partner Tara Jepsen makes me laugh so hard. I co-produce the Porchlight Storytelling Series every month with Arline Klatte and I am so inspired by the storytellers and audiences who come to that show. My husband just made a record with a mind blowing band called Tune-Yards. I’m taking a solo performance class with Martha Rynberg, who is so intuitive and funny. Oakland filmmaker Frazer Bradshaw, painter William Swanson, the hilarious tweets of comedian Rob Baedeker. It goes on and on. There’s just something about knowing someone, seeing them dropping their kids off at school, trying to keep their life together, and then they have this whole creative world inside them. It’s fascinating.

Q: Do you stick to a writing schedule? Can you talk a bit about your process?

BL: Since having a kid, I’m strictly on banker’s hours for writing. Not my natural rhythm, I don’t think, but it makes me manage my time better. Something with a deadline usually wins out, but if I’m in the mood (and have the time) to just lose myself, I will pull out the novel. The process for that so far is just to write what’s fun. I’m still figuring it out, so I will think of a scene and then try to write it without worrying about where it’s going to go. I’m really keeping it loose.

Q What can audiences expect at Notes & Words?

BL: Obviously, the greatest night of our lives so far. I am super excited to be inside that gorgeous theater and hear Kelly and Michael, and listen to the bands. I’m still deciding what I’m going to do. I will probably read from the novel because it’s always fun to read something new. And scary. I like to be a little bit scared.

Beth Lisick reads at Notes & Words, April 1, 2011, 8pm at The Fox Theater in Oakland, CA.

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