Emme Lund on Life, Rewrites, and Going for That Second Cup of Coffee

Emme Lund on Life, Rewrites, and Going for That Second Cup of Coffee

An interview with Emme Lund, from The Write Stuff series over at SF Weekly:

Emme Lund was born in Portland, OR, the son of a salesman and a teacher. In Portland, he wrote short stories and was a regular contributor for both an online beer magazine and a print skateboarding magazine. He moved to Oakland, CA in 2011, where he received an MFA from Mills College. Words he has written have appeared in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Paper Darts, 580 Split, 34th Parallel, Bad Futurist, Xenith Magazine, and Nib Magazine, among others. He is the co-founder and co-editor of HOLD: a journal, which will have an inaugural issue soon. He is currently finishing up his first novel with the help of his pug, Iris.

When people ask what do you do, you tell them…?

It depends on the situation. I often tell people I’m a writer, but sometimes when I do that it opens up the door for them to relay all of these stories they want to see written, like maybe I will write the story of their grandfather or an old neighbor. If I don’t want to get into it, then I simply say I work nights at a restaurant in Alameda. I used to think it was really important for me to claim the title of writer, but I think that urge was grounded in insecurity, like I’m not sure if I’m a writer, but if I tell enough people, then it will have to come true.

What’s your biggest struggle–work or otherwise?

Life is nothing if not a big struggle.

I work evenings so my writing time is first thing in the morning, which means I struggle with getting out of bed. I usually write for three or four hours and then go to the restaurant where I work another six or seven hours, and this all means that at the end of the day I’m very tired. Thus, I struggle with not getting black out drunk, closing down a bar, and stumbling home.

I struggle with paying my bills.

If someone said I want to do what you do, what advice would you have for them?

Make sure it’s what you want to do and then simply do it. Write the thing. Rewrite the thing. Let others read the thing. Repeat.

Always have that second cup of coffee.

Going out is overrated, but you should still go out once or twice a week.

Do you consider yourself successful? Why?

Sure. I used to think that I’d feel like a successful writer once I hit certain milestones: got a story published, got paid to write, had a story published in so and so magazine, got an MFA, but I did all of those, and I still didn’t feel like a successful writer. But now I’ve learned that success feels like spending a large chunk of time writing everyday and doing the best work I can. I’m part of an ever-expanding community of writers and that, too, is starting to feel like success.

When you’re sad/grumpy/pissed off, what YouTube video makes you feel better?

This one:

Because this album came out the day I moved to the Bay and sometimes I can put aside my disdain for the very rich in order to watch a group of people have, what seems like, a really, really good time.

Who did you admire when you were 10 years old? What did you want to be?

I was really into Country music like Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson and Reba McEntire. I was learning guitar and thought that maybe someday I could be a cowboy. I was also obsessed with Bruce Coville and RL Stine, so I thought I’d write horror movies or something, but I think my biggest desire at that point was to draw cartoons like Bill Waterson or Jim Davis.

Would you ever perform a striptease? Describe some of your moves. Feel free to set the mood.

Would I?!? Yes, and yes. It’d be pizza themed because who doesn’t love pizza? But I wouldn’t do any of those “sausage” antics because those are tired and they’ve all been heard before. I’d just wear a pizza costume and slowly take off each topping until I was nothing but a breadstick or something like that. There’d be marinara. It’d be messy. I have other striptease ideas and they’re all food based.

What’s wrong with society today?

A lot. People don’t love enough. Capitalism ruins people’s lives. People have to struggle with becoming who they are. No one is allowed to be comfortable in their own bodies. I believe our society is crippling to the individual.

What is your fondest memory?

When I was six or seven, my cousin Brandon, my father, and I all went fishing at Lake Promitory in Oregon. We got up before the sun came up and Brandon and I each got our own roll of Bubble Tape. We each caught fish that day. The sun started to set and all these bats started flying over the lake, swooping over us, eating bugs. For dinner, my dad dipped the trout in cornmeal and pan-fried it.

How many times do you fall in love each day?

I fall in love with my partner, Stella, every morning and again right before I fall asleep. But beyond that, I crush a lot. I mean, I think I have six or seven bus crushes right now, add those with my Facebook and twitter crushes, plus all of my friend crushes and artist crushes. Oh boy. A lot. I think it’s important to fall in love with multiple people a day. Mostly humans can be pretty awful, so why not fall in love with every single one of the good ones?

What would you like to see happen in your lifetime?

I really just want to see people be allowed to be happy. I would like to see the way we treat the poor and the marginalized revolutionized.

What is art? Is it necessary? Why?

Art is, um, difficult to explain. I know it when I see it.

Of course art is necessary. We’ve been painting horses on cave walls for 30,000 years. What else have we been doing for that long? Jobs aren’t that old. Capitalism isn’t that old. Democracy isn’t that old. We have been doing very few things beautifully and consistently for 30,000 years. I can guarantee that as soon as humans developed speech, we started telling stories. Imagine it: cave people telling stories throughout the night, their cave laughter filling the forests.

What are you working on right now?

I’m finishing up a novel about a boy who has a bird who lives in his chest. He lives in Montana and life is not easy for him.

What kind of work would you like to do? Or: what kind of writing do you most admire?

I’m very happy with the work I am currently doing. Over the past few years, I feel like my writing has become unabashedly my own. That’s the kind of writing I most admire, the kind that can be written by no one other than the author. Clarice Lispector changed my life, as did Vladimir Nabokov, Virginia Woolf, and Grace Paley.

I would like to do the work that is wholly my own.

If there were one thing about the Bay Area that you would change, what would it be?

I would move all of my friends and family down from Oregon. I miss all of them a great deal.

A night on the town: What does that mean to you?

I’m a social butterfly. I love going out and drinking with friends or dancing at some party. Don’t get me wrong. I love a night in, watching television and reading, but a night out is about getting out and dancing and laughing, feeling invincible.

If you got an all expenses paid life experience of your choice, what would it be?

I really just need a tropical vacation. If someone wants to send me to an island on their dime, I would accept.

Here to read all The Write Stuff profiles; here to watch all the videos.