Joy Lanzendorfer on Saying Something About Life and What It Means to Be Human

Joy Lanzendorfer on Saying Something About Life and What It Means to Be Human

An interview with Joy Lanzendorfer from The Write Stuff series:

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

I tell them I’m a writer, but I try to avoid the topic because it usually ends with me having to list off my publication history or someone telling me about a novel they’ve always wanted to write.

What’s your biggest struggle—work or otherwise?

My obsession with time and its relationship to death is a regular anxiety-inducing struggle that wakes me in the night.

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

I would say to only do it if you have to. Writing is not for the fainthearted.

What’s been most important to your writing: education, or the real world? Why?

Good question. I think I would land on education because it’s difficult to write well if you haven’t read copiously.

If you could give advice to your 15 year old self, what would it be?

Calm down, relax, things aren’t as bad as you think they are.

Do you consider yourself successful? Why?

Not compared to the levels of success I want to achieve. I’m pretty ambitious.

Why do you get up every morning?

Most days I wake up energetic and eager to get on with things. So I suppose I get up in order to live my life, which I enjoy.

Do you have a favorite ancestor? What is his/her/their story?

I’m related to Eric Liddell, the runner who’s the subject of the biopic Chariots of Fire. I’ve never seen the movie, but we had the piano score for the theme song when I was little. I guess he was a very fast Scottish runner who wouldn’t race on Sunday.

What’s wrong with society today?

Corruption and greed on a large scale. It’s literally destroying the world.

What would you like to see happen in your lifetime?

I’d like to see us get climate change under control, remove corporate/business interests from politics, and insure equal wages for women. And I think it would be fascinating if they brought back a woolly mammoth.

What is art? Is it necessary? Why?

Yes. Art is a form of creative expression that says something about life and what it means to be human. It’s how we understand each other and learn to think about the world outside our own experiences.

What’s your relationship to clothes? Or: describe the shoes you’re currently wearing.

I like the clothes I wear to be interesting or have a story, rather than just mass-marketed fast fashion. In general, I like bright colors, patterns, and classic cuts.

Right now I’m wearing socks with yellow lemons that I got at an import store that’s going out of business, so the socks were half off. I also bought a pair with red apples on it and another pair that look like owls.

What are you working on right now? Or: what kind of work would you like to do?

I’m writing a second novel, editing an essay collection, and writing a bunch of essays, short stories, and articles.

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

Homelessness. It’s a disgrace that such a wealthy area has so many people in desperate straights who aren’t getting the help they need.

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

A date night involving fancy food and a movie or a show.

Have you ever seen a ghost? Or: what’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen?

No, but my next novel is narrated by a ghost. I don’t actually believe in ghosts (sorry, I know a lot of people do) but they’re great metaphors in fiction.

What’s the most important life lesson you’ve learned? Or: what was your last moment of awe?

Moment of awe: I was watering my garden when a hummingbird flew up and hovered beside me, about a foot away, for what seemed like a long time. The evening sun was hitting the patch of raspberry-colored feathers on his throat so that they shone like metal. I gasped. He gazed at me with stern eyes, then flew away.

What are some of your favorite smells?

Fog off the ocean mixing with redwood trees, the smell of my childhood. Jasmine and roses wafting from someone’s garden. The smell of our wall heater the first time we light it in the winter. Baking bread and yeasted dough. Those cinnamon pine cones they have in supermarkets at Christmastime, which I’ve never purchased but generally enjoy. The aroma of a nice red wine.

What are you unable to live without?

The love of my friends and family.

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

Travel through Europe for a long time eating lovely food in pretty places, going to arty/historical/cultural nerd things, and staying in a castle at least once.

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