The Write Stuff: Andrea Kneeland on Balancing Happiness and Sincerity
The Write Stuff is a series of interview profiles conducted by Litseen, where authors give exclusive readings from their work.
Andrea Kneeland is a person who does things. Her work has appeared in more than 50 literary journals & anthologies, some of which can be found online. She is an editor at Hobart and her first book, the Birds & the Beasts, is forthcoming from The Lit Pub.
When people ask what do you do, you tell them... ?
It depends. When people ask me what I do, I assume that they want to know what the majority of my day is devoted to, and that's not writing. Right now, what I do, mostly, is hang out with my 15 month-old daughter. So I tell them I'm a stay at home mom. Which sounds weird, I think, but that's what I do. When people ask me what I do for fun, I'll mention writing, but I don't get detailed about it.
What's your biggest struggle -- work or otherwise?
My biggest struggle right now is writer's block. I haven't been able to produce really anything since my daughter was born. I find myself relating to the world in a fundamentally different way, and haven't figured out how to relate to my writing from this new spot yet. It's a huge challenge.
If someone said I want to do what you do, what advice would you have for them?
For writing? Be sincere. Don't get caught up in trying to write "for" other people, or other journals. Don't get caught up in self-promotion.
Do you consider yourself successful? Why?
I'm not sure. I'm not sure what being successful means in terms of writing. At a certain point, before you ever have anything published, getting published is a really clear, significant benchmark. And after that I'm not sure how to measure anything. I like it when other people tell me they enjoy my work. I want someone to read my work and relate to it, and/or be moved by it in a significant way. I guess that's success. If I've done that, I feel pretty good about it. In terms of life, yeah, I think I'm successful. I'm a happy person, which is not something I could not have said for about 90% of my time on earth. Happiness is the only success that matters to me anymore.
When you're sad/grumpy/pissed off, what YouTube video makes you feel better?
Do you have a favorite ancestor? What is his/her story?
I don't know who my ancestors are.
Who did you admire when you were 10 years old? What did you want to be?
Wow. Probably Madeliene L'Engle.
Describe your week in the wilderness. It doesn't have to be ideal.
I went on a one-week cross-country road trip one time where most of our nights were spent camping. Wilderness included a pitch black forest in South Dakota, a perfect spot in Yosemite, and a KOA campground that was next door to a trucking center that operated all night. It was paradise. It was the best trip I ever took.
Would you ever perform a striptease? Describe some of your moves. Feel free to set the mood.
Not now, but when I was younger. The moves would have been sad and awkward and very, very stoned.
How much money do you have in your checking account?
I don't know.
What's wrong with society today?
Nothing that hasn't been wrong with it for pretty much all of recorded history.
Are you using any medications? If so, which ones?
What is your fondest memory?
The day we brought my daughter home from the hospital.
How many times do you fall in love each day?
I have a toddler. So, like, a zillion times every day.
What would you like to see happen in your lifetime?
Less bigotry. A decline in participation in fundamentalist religions. Less poverty. Less rape.
What is art? Is it necessary? Why?
Art is the manifestation of something slightly outside of what can be verbalized through rational discourse, and something that creates a potent reaction in the observer. It is maybe distilled beauty. I don't think it's possible to make sense of the world without it.
When you have sex, what are some of the things you like to do?
I like to achieve orgasm.
What are you working on right now?
I'm working on figuring out how to reconcile my own happiness and my ability to write, while still having something sincere and meaningful to say. I know it's possible; I just haven't figured out how to do it yet.
What kind of work would you like to do? Or: what kind of writing do you most admire?
I'm a serial monogamist. I will stick very closely to one "type" of writing for a few years and then move onto something else. Poetry, fairy tales, "experimental" writing, bad sex/realism, speculative fiction. I was just moving into a serious speculative fiction phase when the writer's block started. I admire really good writing that has both stunning language and an inventive plot. It's hard to find both.
If there were one thing about the Bay Area that you would change, what would it be?
I want shorter lines for brunch and more parking. That's two things, but you can't limit me like that. We have freedom of speech in this country.
A night on the town: what does that mean to you?
It means I found a babysitter and something to do that actually sounds like more fun than sleep.
What's the strangest thing you've ever seen?
The largest villa at the Bellagio. There was an elevator you took to get up to it that had three buttons: "limousine," "casino," and "villas." The villa was so big it had it's own hair salon. We found a kitchen we didn't know existed after we'd already been there for seven hours. Seeing that level of excess, in person, damaged my brain in some permanent way.
What can you do with 50 words? 50 dollars?
With 50 words, I might be able to punch someone in the gut if I try really hard. With 50 dollars I can buy someone a nice present.
What are some of your favorite smells?
Paperback. Wet asphalt. Bergamont.
If you got an all expenses paid life experience of your choice, what would it be?
Oh. I don't know? I would have to ask some friends of mine because I wouldn't want to do it alone, and I would want to pick something that someone else would enjoy just as much as me. There is no one thing, but I could come up with a list and find someone I love who was interested in something on the list. Or who could think of something better than what is on the list. Those things would include:
- Going to the north pole
- Having someone actually teach quantum physics to me in a way I could understand (some experiences last years, yeah?)
- Finding out what goes on in a top-level Scientology meeting (without having spies/lawyers sent after me and eventually getting killed)
- Staying in one of those neat underwater hotels
- Petting a tiger (again, without getting killed)
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