Jamey Genna on Never Giving Up
An interview with Jamey Genna, from The Write Stuff series:
Jamey Genna teaches writing, theater, and art in the East Bay area of San Francisco. She received her Masters in Writing from the University of San Francisco. Her short fiction has been published in many fine literary magazines, such as Crab Orchard Review, The Iowa Review, and Big Muddy, among others. Her short story collection Stories I Heard When I Went Home for My Grandmother’s Funeral: Iowa Stories was a semifinalist for the Iowa Prize and is now self-published. You can find it here.
When people ask what do you do, you tell them…?
I say that I teach art, theater, creative writing, and English, and oh, I’m a writer.
What’s your biggest struggle—work or otherwise?
Being able to teach the things I’m best at teaching, like art, theater, and creative writing. The arts are the first on the chopping block when it comes to budgets at my job.
If someone said I want to do what you do, what advice would you have for them?
Write every day. Get an education—make sure that this is what you really want to do.
What’s been most important to your writing: education, or the real world? Why?
The real world—because that is the source of my writing—life experiences.
If you could give advice to your 15 year old self, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to say how you truly feel about people and the world and, by the way, you look great.
Do you consider yourself successful? Why?
I am successful because I try to grow and change and learn new things. I never give up or become complacent. Well, I have at times, but the fighter in me always gets back up again.
Why do you get up every morning?
I gotta go to work and pay my bills.
Do you have a favorite ancestor? What is his/her/their story?
Ooh, tough one—my Grandma Skinner because she loved to crochet and make things and she grew roses and took pics of everything. She had a book she wrote from the point of view of her cat. She knew how to pickle.
What’s wrong with society today?
The person who thinks he’s in charge of our country.
Where do you go to find sanctuary?
My front porch step—nice place to just sit and ponder.
What is your fondest memory?
My dad brushing my hair before school one day. I think I was five.
What would you like to see happen in your lifetime?
Grandchildren and the end to global warming.
What is art? Is it necessary? Why?
I’m kind of down to earth and hate describing things like that, but I know art is necessary. When I write a story, I want to feel something, sort something out inside myself about the world, and I want someone else to feel that too.
What is the relationship between your identity and your desires? Perhaps related, perhaps not: why is sex (un)important to you?
I think a huge part of my identity has been tied up with my desires, especially the importance or unimportance of sex. My relationships have begun and ended because of a lack of good sex or an abundance of good sex. Ultimately, though, sex becomes unimportant and gives way to other means of expression that are equally or more important. Most of us figure this out as we get older.
What’s your relationship to clothes? Or: describe the shoes you’re currently wearing.
I LOVE CLOTHES. I make some of my own clothes and I make costumes for theater productions. The shoes I’m wearing right now are black flip-flops ordered from Clarks because they are stylish and comfortable and last a long time.
What are you working on right now? Or: what kind of work would you like to do?
I’m writing a collection of stories that deal with a woman in her fifties who experiences dating after divorce. She’s also sorting out her relationships with her exes and her children. I’m also painting landscapes and animals in nature, people in nature. For some reason most of the men in the picture have their backs turned to the viewer. Hmmm.
If there were one thing about the Bay Area that you would change, what would it be?
I love the Bay Area—maybe less traffic and more parking. Isn’t that paradoxical?
A night on the town: what does that mean to you?
Go to a local bar that has live music and dance all night.
Have you ever seen a ghost? Or: what’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen?
No—no ghosts. My mom said, though, that my dad kept having a dream one night where the bridge went out and then the next night he and my mom were driving home and the bridge crashed down in front of them. Oooo-weee-ooooo.
What’s the most important life lesson you’ve learned? Or: what was your last moment of awe?
I guess a life lesson I’ve learned is that sometimes you have regrets and that you may not always get an answer or resolution to some life event. You have to grieve those things.
What can you do with 50 words? 50 dollars?
Tell you a true story about Bill Murray. Oh it might take more than 50 words.
What are some of your favorite smells?
I love the smell of cinnamon rolls, puppy breath, lilacs, Calverts Coke and whiskey on my father’s leather jacket, chocolate and coconut together.
What are you unable to live without?
Diet Pepsi—too true.
If you got an all-expenses-paid life experience of your choice, what would it be?
I’d want to be the lead in a musical that toured the world. Then I’d get to sing and see the world.
If you could live in your ideal society, what would your average day be like?
Sleep late, get up and clean the house a little, write a little, paint a little, go out dancing. Sounds like a good day.