Liz Green is a writer, performer, and educator based in Oakland, California. As a performance poet, she has featured at slams, special showcases and workshops in middle schools, high schools, colleges and open mics across the country. She was on two national slam teams: San Francisco in 2004 and Berkeley in 2005. As a playwright and writer/performer, she has had her work produced at multiple local and national theater festivals. She received her BA from Vassar College and her MFA from Mills College in Creative Writing. She was a 2010 Lambda Literary Foundation Emerging Voices Fellow in Fiction. She attended the Tin House Writers’ Workshop in 2012 and was a Catwalk Artist in Residence in 2013.
Liz is a long-time advocate of radical, critical pedagogy and was lucky enough to work with Augusto Boal on several occasions. She integrates his legacy and the work of Paulo Freire into her college English curriculum. She is Assistant Professor of English at Los Medanos College in Pittsburg, California.
When people ask what do you do, you tell them…?
I write, I perform, I educate, I geek.
What’s your biggest struggle—work or otherwise?
Perfectionism and obsessive thinking. They both cut both ways.
If someone said I want to do what do you do, what advice would you have for them?
- Teaching career (I teach community college, just landed a full time job at Los Medanos College in the English department after seven years of adjuncting and interviewing. Eleven interviews, including final rounds):
Have enough grit and tenacity to stick to it for the years it takes. I’ve heard 5-7 years of adjuncting and interviewing is average for English.
- Writer and writer/performer
Put in your 10,000 hours. Humility and confidence are two sides of the same coin. Don’t give up while you are struggling in obscurity. Enjoy the opportunities you do get along the way; there is no real “arrival”—just more, deeper, louder, sweeter connection with other humans through creativity and care.
Do you consider yourself successful? Why?
I feel like I am on the cusp of successful, and have felt that way for years. So maybe I need to listen to my own advice! I think I have had great moments of success and joy—moments where I feel like I am in mastery and feel fulfilled artistically. I don’t know if success, like happiness, is a state of being—a destination—or a quality and experience that comes and goes.
When you’re sad/grumpy/pissed off, what YouTube video makes you feel better?
Pot belly pig shaking it to Rihanna’s “Work.”
Do you have a favorite ancestor? What is his/her story?
I am not really into genealogy. I adore my deceased Grandma Dorothy though and I have a very strong spiritual connection to her.
Who did you admire when you were 10 years old? What did you want to be?
Ann M. Martin, the author of the Baby Sitters Club Series, which I was obsessed with. I wanted to be an author.
What’s wrong with society today?
Power over, not power from within. (this is from bell hooks—the genius!)
What is your fondest memory?
1) Performing in a serious ritual of personal catharsis and healing at my first poetry slam tournament, finals stage, Southern Fried Regionals in Memphis, Tennessee, 2002.
2) I had a spiritual experience in the Piedmont Cemetery in Oakland. I was with a friend, talking about our lives, late into the evening. The moon came out. I was entranced and felt a subtle, yet powerful whisper from my inner guide that I was supposed to be contributing to the radical mental health reform movement in some way. That this, as much as teaching or writing, is an important calling. I’d done this work before with The Icarus Project, but I am also doing it in my writing now, too with The Body is Not an Apology.
How many times do you fall in love each day?
What would you like to see happen in your lifetime?
Dismantling of capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy, heterosexism, ableism, cissexism, xenophobia, religious intolerance and a halt of climate change.
And a Buffy reboot with the original cast members.
What is art? Is it necessary? Why?
Art is a mirror to reflect the world shaped like a hammer to shape it. A glamour hammer. (areworking of Bertolt Brecht)
Brecht says art is not a mirror but rather a hammer. However, I think engaging with that reflection, even if the interaction is forceful (although it doesn’t have to be to be effective), is an important conceptualization of the work that art does. We don’t want to have a static mirror, but the space of reflecting, and then distorting or morphing that reflection is the infinite power of art to change hearts and minds.
Art is vital to changing the world. Art is a catalyst. We see ourselves in it and then we shift consciousness which can change individual and collective action.
Obviously there is an urgent call for socially conscious, catalytic art in this historical moment.
When you have sex, what are some of the things you like to do?
What are you working on right now?
1) An LGBT YA Sci Fi novel called The Ella Verse.
2) I also write articles on radical mental health and sexuality for The Body is Not an Apology, and the occasional poem.
3) I am in conversation with a publisher to co-edit an anthology with a social worker friend on radical alternatives to the current mental health care system tentatively titled: We’ve Been Too Patient: Sanctuaries, Mutual Aid, Peer Support, and Other Radical Models for Mental Health Care—An Anthology of Voices Across Movements
Call for abstracts ongoing! If you’re interested, email email@example.com for more information.
What kind of work would you like to do? Or: what kind of writing do you most admire?
I admire cinematic, character and story-driven, sweeping epic speculative fiction (Sci Fi and slipstream alike). Octavia Butler, Margaret Atwood, Jonathan Lethem, Aimee Bender, China Mieville, Cory Doctorow and Kelly Link all come to mind. I also admire humor, so the obvious gimme there is David Sedaris. The YA author who deftly combines those two categories is MT Anderson. Feed, a dystopian satire about consumerism and digital technology (and environmental devastation) is absolutely one of my favorite books.
Speculative fiction is important to me because it allows for room to really deeply engage with the “rules” by which our society and reality operate.
If there were one thing about the Bay Area that you would change, what would it be?
I miss lightning and lightning bugs.
A night on the town: what does that mean to you?
Dinner, movie or cultural event, dancing.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen?
Strange is such an interesting word. I love the word “mirus” in Latin. It means strange and beautiful. Strange in English seems pejorative.
Many things that are commonly called strange I find “mirus.” I love coincidence and serendipity. Recently a stranger put a turquoise cross to my car window. I could choose to see this as hostile or as a gesture of love. Mirus.
What can you do with 50 words? 50 dollars?
A bio. A prompt for a student essay. Several dandy outfits from second hand clothing stores. Several books from a used bookstore.
What are some of your favorite smells?
It’s weird, I never liked lavender for years and now I love it. Cilantro has always been good in my book. Coffee, obviously.
If you got an all expenses paid life experience of your choice, what would it be?
A years-long trip to Brazil to 1) learn Portuguese 2) study and practice Theatre of the Oppressed, 3) study and practice Soma Therapy (an anarchist therapy) 4) tour all over, including the rainforest, 5) support “blockadia” there (Naomi Klein’s term for direct action, radical environmental activists, often connected to indigenous rights movements—e.g. Standing Rock) and 6) witness and learn capoeira.