Behind the IHOP Papers

Remember that post about the IHOP Papers I published so long ago? Well, here’s a surprise for you–an interview with the author herself, Ali Liebegott.
A few words about Ali: Her book length poem The Beautifully Worthless was published in 2005 with critical acclaim. As Curve mentions, the book is part epic poem, part love letter, part to-do list and part road trip opus. In her 2007 book, the IHOP Papers, Liebegott continues to prove that she is a major contender in the literary world. Her prose is reminiscent of authors like Kerouac, but she shines in her own light.
In addition to writing, Liebegott has contributed and performed her work with Sister Spit.
So with no further ado–the interview with Ali Liebegott:

1. How long have you been writing? When did you know that you wanted writing as a career?

I’ve been writing since I was young. By the time I was in high school it felt like a serious ambition. I was going to readings and participating in poetry groups, etc. I think it’s hard in the US for writing to be someone’s career. My other career, (how I pay the bills is by teaching), but I long for the day where I can just focus on writing.

2. If you weren’t a writer, you would be…

something with animals… a petting zoo manager…a goat hugger… a geese anger management counselor…

3. Of all the characters you’ve created, have you found yourself identifying completely with one of them? if so, which character/why?

I think that in a way all my characters have pieces of me in it. I’m definitely one of those writers who expands on real life experiences.

4. Where is your favorite place to write? Do you listen to music while writing? (If so, what kind/songs?)

I need to be at home to really write. I really need to be alone. A shut door. Psychic space. For two years I rented a studio space for 180 dollars a month that was all mine and it was amazing. I wrote there. I’ve also written while at other people’s homes. But they can’t be there. Or at least I need another room alone to write in. I’m all about a door that shuts. I can’t listen to music with lyrics. For my first two books I obsessively listened to Henryk Gorecki’s Symphony No. 3. It’s so sad and amazing and great to write to.

5. Would you rather have the monetary and extremely mainstream success of JK Rowling or the notoriety of Poe?

I’d take either one of their situations!! Without being too earnest, I’ll just take inspiration, my health and time to work on my stuff.

6. Where do your ideas come from? How much of your fiction is inspired by actual events in your life/the lives of people you know?

Most of my work starts from autobiography.

7. What’s the worst job you’ve ever had (all in the name of supporting the lifestyle of the starving artist career…)?

Wow. There are so many to choose from. I’ve had many bad waitressing jobs.

a. Manhattan Chili Company (NY, NY)–turquoise polo shirt and black pants coupled with homophobia and ten different chilis that were supposed to be differentiated by eye.
b. Fire and Ice (Providence, RI) basically waitressing at a shopping mall buffet with sorority girls and trying to convince customers they should tip you at a buffet.
c. The Crest Cafe (San Diego, CA)I worked for the most miserable person ever to walk the face of the earth– she used to take money out of people’s checks if they forgot to charge a customer for cheese on a hamburger, etc. One older man I worked with would have to pay 15 dollars almost every day for forgetting things! I only lasted about six weeks there! I just realized that this bad job list is a kind of Pandora’s Box and I could go on and on forever!!

8. Do you consider yourself a feminist/riot grrrl?

No. I’m not a giant label person. But I of course support rioting and feminism!

9. What is your favorite pop culture obsession?

I’m not sure if this counts but I’m a total sucker for COURT TV. Especially Forensic Files. I could watch it for 14 hours straight. Even though I believe it’s really promoting terrible things, violence toward women, etc. I love those bullshitty 48 hours shows. Thank God I don’t have cable TV! I’m also a huge baseball fan. Mostly, The NY Mets. But I live for April -September. I like to draw ducks and listen to the baseball game on the radio.

10. In The IHOP Papers, Francie discovers that she can save money by putting it literally into the walls…was that a creative ploy or have you ever had success saving money by that method?

I actually worked with someone who used to keep their money and jewelry in the wall.

11. Images of bisexual women and lesbians are much more prevalent than they used to be, which is, in several ways, a double edged sword. Some of the images are harmful and exploitive (just look at the treatment L Word co-stars Jennifer Beals & Cybill Shepard’s were given by the View hosts Sherri Shepherd and Elisabeth Hasselbeck) and there are a lot of positive images (such as the L Word & South of Nowhere–though none of these shows are perfect!)….where do you think our culture is in regards to realizing the GLBTIQ movement is a reality for many people within our society–how long ’till mainstream society embraces it and stops calling the “other”?
What do you think are some of the most harmful stereotypes and how can we, as writers, musicians, activists, students, etc, combat these stereotypes?

Wow. I just saw The View with Jennifer Beals & Cybill Shepard!! I have to say it’s amazing publicity for UPS. For years UPS has benefited from bull dagger slurs!!

I remember when there weren’t even lesbians on TV so as far as culturally– I do think we’re moving in the right direction. I feel much happier for queer youth today that they can see images of gays and lesbians on TV and in books, etc. There are gay groups on high school campuses, too. People are trying to get gay marriage passed. It wasn’t that long ago that homosexuality was actually categorized as a kind of mental illness, so… I know it’s hard sometimes when people have their heads up their asses, but I do think some things have become better. I could never choose the “most harmful stereotype”. I just think as artists and writers we need to keep including lesbians in our work when it’s natural to do so, not compromise on content for the sake of capitalism. Critique each other when representations seem problematic. Be willing to look and work on ourselves constantly as human beings on the earth.

12. Any words of wisdom to inspire people everywhere?

Don’t kill yourself! Stay alive! Remember life is to be enjoyed not endured. And lastly, never feed ducks bread! Give them cracked corn instead or popcorn with no salt!

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