plzplztalk2me: Abby Norman

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Welcome back to plzplztalk2me, an occasional series in which I talk to folks who want to talk to me! This time around, I talked to Abby Norman.

Abby Norman is the author of ASK ME ABOUT MY UTERUS: My Quest To Make Doctors Believe In Women’s Pain, out from Nation Books in March 2018.  Abby and I talked post-election, when we were miserable but still in shock. The interview is short, mainly because I’m a bad interviewer and spaced out our email correspondence over the course of several months. Abby discussed the X-Files, ballroom dancing, and surviving.

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Abby Norman: It has been the STRANGEST of times. I might be a little FRANTIC AND MELANCHOLY. In general, but today specifically because of the Senate vote.

But like fuck me, right!?

p.e. garcia: Frantic and melancholic is the current state of the nation, I think. Things seem to get worse each day. What’s helping you survive?

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Norman: Yeah, it’s a strange time. . .I’m not sure I feel like I am surviving. The last few weeks I’ve found it progressively harder to work in every sense. I should consider myself lucky, I have a manuscript due to the publisher in one month, and therefore there’s always at least a small chunk of my day that MUST be devoted to that and nothing else (i.e. news twitter). For me, there’s always the physical factor because I’m ill, and that I’m used to. I’m not used to being, like, spiritually exhausted. I’m used to wanting to work and finding it challenging because of illness. I’m not used to the feeling of just. . .not wanting to do it in the first place. I don’t know if it’s coming from a place of futility, or exhaustion, or both.

So, I find myself taking my dog for longer walks. Which is probably good for both of us. I live on the Maine coast so we can spend a lot of quiet time in nature which I’ve found particularly helpful. I’ve found myself harkening back to what made me happy as a kid, too: new books that aren’t work related, watching The X-Files before bed, dance lessons. I do ballroom and had gotten to the point over the last few months where I really couldn’t afford it anymore. After the New Year I finally said, you know, fuck it. I’ll find the money. Because I can’t give this up. It’s literally the only non-work related thing I have. It’s physically good for me. And it’s fun. And I’m good at it. It’s not something I show up at and fail at, which is probably a good confidence boost. It’s not like waking up and getting on the internet and having people call me a feminist slut and telling me to kill myself before 9 AM, you know?

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garcia: Would you like to talk about your illness? I don’t want to push you to reveal anything you may be uncomfortable sharing.

I understand that feeling of futility and spiritual exhaustion quite well, I think. Lately, I think I’ve become more fatalistic. I think to myself: we will survive, because we must, or we will die, because we will. It’s made me feel like I have less to lose, and thus I feel more open about how I’m feeling and what changes I want in this dumb world. I’m not sure if that attitude is exactly survival, but it’s something.

I’m glad to hear, though, that you have small pockets of self-care. It’s strange what a radical act self-care has become. What books are you reading? What made you interested in ballroom? Where are you in the X-Files (like what season)?

I think there’s been such a strange attitude lately–mostly of people in positions of privilege–of being consolatory toward folks who would literally tell you to kill yourself. But fuck those people. Fuck anyone who would say such vile things to you. You’re better than them, infinitely, and you can take some satisfaction in knowing that their pathetic lives will be spent rotting neck-deep in the viscous garbage that is their own opinions. I would like to place those people on a bicycle, push the bicycle into a lake, and then hurl the lake into an active volcano. I don’t like them.

That’s probably little comfort, of course, but I do hope at the very least you know that you have a supporter in me, and that I will personally challenge anyone who is mean to you to a fist fight.

Norman: Well, I’ve practically built my career on being transparent about my myriad health problems, which were initially of repro nature. I was diagnosed (rather: fought to have the diagnosis I determined confirmed by doctors who thought I was hysteric) with endometriosis several years ago. That’s the subject of my book. Over the last year or so, after struggling with it for about six years, I’d finally started to feel as though I had a handle on it. Then I got shingles, which really fucked me up for a few months. After that, in the spring of this last year, I started having trouble thinking/speaking. My left side went numb. I was terrified I’d had a stroke, which can sometimes happen after you’ve had shingles. Long story short, 9 months worth of testing, and the doctors I’ve seen think its MS. I have some shit going on with my spine that looks freaky as hell, but of course no one has taken the time to explain it other than to call it demyelination. Naturally, being a writer with a proclivity for investigating things at 2 AM, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the Annals of Radiology trying to disprove their theory, but also not liking the looks of the alternatives.

How this shakes out in my day to day life is that I’m very tired and in a lot of pain most days. While the numbness resolved over the course of a few months and is now intermittent rather than constant, I’ve still struggled with certain neurological quirks that’s really given me a crisis of self. I’ve always heavily identified with my intellect, particularly as it pertains to my ability to write and speak. Having that be so imminently threatened has depressed me beyond measure. Imagining that I will soon likely lose my insurance, and no longer be able to experiment with medications that have given my glimpses of normalcy and relief, is beyond depressing. It’s put some of that fatalism in me, too.

But, so too has it put a fearlessness in me. I haven’t got anything to lose except everything. My quality of life, first and foremost. The course of the disease is unpredictable and there’s no way to know, for sure, what particular iteration of it I’ll have or not have. I’ve been told by one specialist that I likely won’t know anything about its progression for at least ten years, because it’s all assessed retrospectively. So, I figure I can’t count on anything. But y’know, no one can really. I guess I just have a more deliberate framework of uncertainty in which to operate.

Self care has always been somewhat radical for me, I think, because it often is for women. I’ve always felt guilty about it. Now it’s just more en vogue to feel guilty about it. As sick as I am, I still feel guilty about even doing things that are arguably quite necessary to my well-being, to my ability to function day in and day out. I often think I’m making things worse by trying to “hold out” and “grin and bear it” as long as possible. I think prevention and proactivity has been cross-wired with indulgence somehow.

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plzplztalk2me: Elizabeth Schmuhl

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Welcome back to plzplztalk2me, a semi-regular feature in which I talk to folks who want to talk to me. Recently, I talked and made art with Elizabeth Schmuhl. Schmuhl is a multidisciplinary artist and the author of Presto Agitato (Dancing Girl Press & Zoo Cake Press, 2015) and Premonitions (Wayne State University Press, forthcoming). She illustrates essays for The Rumpus, has taught at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, works as a content strategist and writer, and currently lives in New York City.

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Elizabeth Schmuhl: Last night I saw the sky and it was navy blue with no stars I didn’t expect to see a navy blue sky in a city referred to as a fruit but here I am! Is this the beginning?

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p.e. garcia: I’m never sure what color navy blue is but then again I’m opposed to the military industrial complex. I tend to support pacifist colors, like brick red and seagreen. I wish the sky was brick red.

It’s a beginning, unless we cut it out or move it. Then it’s nothing, or it’s something else.

How are you?

Schmuhl: i have been vacillating and trying to just be and maybe that’s all i’m doing?

i feel like sitting down i feel like sleeping and that terrifies me because it usually means my depression is flaring is pulsing once again and why is that any surprise to anyone, least of all me? it’s not. no surprises in this state of emergency no surprises because and emergency is not a surprise it’s a response to an action that’s already happened ( loosing my train of thought because i’m loosing in general i am a woman so minus 5k points for me).
in my head i am writing a book titled WHITE: THE CULTURE OF SILENCE and yes that semi colon is definitely there intentionally.
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i will be in nyc and not at home i will be in this city in an apartment that is crumbling i am unafraid of anything i need to do i am here and i want to help i am here and i am ready i am getting stronger even on days when it feels like the sky is crushing down on me when that blue is just too much because all i want is peace because of the war i’ve been fighting inside for my whole lifetime i am hoping for peace and if someone calls me and says they are thinking of killing themselves i will never say “sorry , i don’t have time to talk! i’m going to the spa!” because someone said that to me and i know how it feels it’s as if i’m feeling these feelings so i will be ready so that i open even wider i am not my feelings but oh when they move through me they make a big space and i will listen to the memory i will hold it because i am a human and all i want is to be moved, to move you, to move.
garcia: What’s your favorite food?
Schmuhl: Pizza. You?
garcia: What kind of pizza? I like lasagna or any kind of baked pasta.
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Elizabeth: Goat cheese bc I’m allergic to all other cheese-cheeses. I wish I liked lasagna bc Garfield likes it.

garcia: I feel like Garfield is weird because cats shouldn’t eat lasagna, right? It can’t be good for them. What’s your favorite animal?

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Images are a collaboration between Elizabeth Schmuhl and p.e. garcia. If you want to talk2me, hit me up: plzplztalk2me@gmail.com.

plzplztalk2me: Mary Duffy

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Hi there! I’m so glad to see you. Welcome to plzplztalk2me, a semi-regular feature in which I talk to folks who want to talk to me about stuff they want to talk about.

Recently, I talked with Mary Duffy. Duffy works as an editor of interactive fiction at Choice of Games LLC and is an editor at The Scofield. Her work has appeared on Literary Hub, Fusion.net, The Scofield, and Pacific Standard. She lives in Colorado where she is writing a book about the Jewish refugee crisis that preceded America’s entry into the war and her family. She tweets @maryfduffy.

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plzplztalk2me: Andrea Lambert

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Oh, hello there. Welcome back to plzplztalk2me, a semi-regular feature in which I talk to folks who want to talk to me about stuff they want to talk about.

Recently, I corresponded with Andrea Lambert. Lambert wrote Jet Set Desolate (Future Fiction London: 2009), Lorazepam & the Valley of Skin: Extrapolations on Los Angeles (valeveil: 2009) and the chapbook G(u)ilt (Lost Angelene, 2011). Her writing appears in 3:AM Magazine, Fanzine, Entropy, Angel’s Flight Literary West, HTMLGiant, Queer Mental Health and elsewhere. Her work is anthologized in Haunting Muses, Writing the Walls Down: A Convergence of LGBTQ Voices, The L.A. Telephone Book Vol. 1, 2011-2012, Off the Rocks Volume #16: An Anthology of GLBT Writing and elsewhere. Lambert paints in figurative mixed media oils critically referenced as “kitchy maximalism.” Her artwork features in Angel’s Flight Literary West, Entropy, Hinchas de Poesias, Queer Mental Health and Anodyne Magazine. CalArts MFA. Website: andreaklambert.com. Twitter: @AndreaLamber.

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plzplztalk2me: Moss Angel Witchmonstr

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Welcome back to plzplztalk2me, a semi-regular feature in which I talk to people who want to talk to me about stuff they want to talk about.

Recently, I e-mailed back and forth with Moss Angel Witchmonstr. Moss Angel Witchmonstr is author of four books, most recently Sea-Witch v.1 (2fast2house, 2017). She is a scorpio & a transsexual & lives in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on patreon at http://patreon.com/monstr.

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plzplztalk2me: Eve Ewing

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Hi! Welcome to plzplztalk2me, a semi-regular feature in which I’ll be talking to people who want to talk to me about things they want to talk about.

The first person I talked to is Eve Ewing. Ewing is a poet, essayist, scholar, and visual artist from Chicago. Her work has appeared in venues such as Poetry, The New Yorker, The New Republic, The Atlantic, The Nation, Union Station, the anthology The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop,  and many other outlets. Her first collection of poetry, essays, and visual art, Electric Arches, is forthcoming from Haymarket Books in fall 2017.

We chatted just a few days after the election, so we talk a lot about that, as well as art, hero-worship, and the Harold Washington Library.

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i love you, we’re dead meat

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My student apologized to me for voting for Donald Trump. He regretted it, he said, because he hurt me, and he never thought it would hurt someone like me.

The week before, he sat with me for almost an hour in my office, and we bonded over poverty. He told me how hard it was to be in college with rich friends, to be so different than them. He felt alone.

He’s talented, and I told him so. He’s funny, and aside from some trouble with comma splices, he’s a good writer. He told me that he’s majoring in business, but he wants to be a journalist. I encouraged him to do that.

He’s talented, and he’s sensitive, and he voted for Donald Trump.

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