Lyzette Wanzer on Having a Thick Skin

An interview with Lyzette Wanzer, from The Write Stuff series:

Lyzette Wanzer is an Affiliate Artist at Headlands Center for the Arts. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Mills College. A flash fiction connoisseur and essay aficionado, her work has appeared in CallalooTampa ReviewThe MacGuffinAmpersand ReviewJournal of Advanced DevelopmentJournal of Experimental FictionPleiadesFlashquakeGlossalia Flash FictionPotomac ReviewInternational Journal on Literature and TheoryFringe MagazineAesthetica Magazine, and others. She is a contributor to The Chalk Circle: Intercultural Prizewinning Essays (Wyatt-MacKenzie, 2012) and 642 Tiny Things to Write About (Chronicle Books, 2015). Lyzette has been awarded writing residencies at the Blue Mountain Center (NY), Kimmel Harding Center for the Arts (NE), Playa Summer Lake (OR), Horned Dorset Colony (NY), Virginia Center for Creative Arts, and The Banff Centre in Canada. She is the recipient of an Investing in Artists grant from the Center for Cultural Innovation, an Individual Artist Commission grant from San Francisco Arts Commission, and two Professional Development Grants from the Creative Capacity Fund. Lyzette has completed a short story collection, and is currently at work on an essay collection entitled Gelatin Prints.

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

I ask them, “Do you mean the day job?” If they confirm that’s what they’re after, I tell them I’m a Web Content guru who works in the healthcare industry. Otherwise, if I’m at a residency or other artist-immersion environment, or if the person says “Day job and what else…?” I say I’m an author, or writer.

What’s your biggest struggle—work or otherwise?

Finding time aside from, away from, and outside of, the day job to write, read, and attend to the administrative business aspects of being a writer.

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

Be sure you have a thick skin, are resilient and tough, know how to market and brand yourself, and are committed for the long haul. If piles of rejections and harsh critiques crumple your spirit, this isn’t the profession for you.

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

1) Anything with cats or dogs in it 2) old commercials 3) any documentary about spies of WWII from Nat Geo.

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

I worshipped Pippi Longstocking, and spent many an hour “researching” her Swedish address in Astrid Lindgren’s books, and in the Pippi movies. I wanted to invite her to come and live with my family. In the end I thought I could write to Ms. Lindgren herself, and have her forward the invite to Pippi, but I never found Ms. Lindgren’s address.

Describe your week in the wilderness. It doesn’t have to be ideal.

Actually, if I’m spending a week in the wilderness, it does have to be ideal. As in: no mosquitoes, no spiders, no roaches, no other insects that I’m unable to identify. A comfy tent or a cabin (spider-free). No rats, though mice are welcome. I’ll build my own fire if I have a fire starter to help. And I’d need a compass and, preferably, a dog. Or a horse. And I’d learn to cure meat beforehand and have a map of the area, lest I wind up like Christopher McCandless.

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

Welllll….back in the day, I used to model nude for art classes. Does that count? I lifted nearly every pose from hatha yoga asanas. I’ve even published a short piece about it, called Portrait.

How much money do you have in your checking account?

Well, I’ll say this much: as of today, my writing checking account is actually larger than my regular checking account. Boy, how often does that happen?

What’s wrong with society today?

Nothing is anybody’s business anymore. “It’s not my business”=”It’s not about me, doesn’t affect me, and doesn’t benefit me, so who cares?”

How many times do you fall in love each day?

Two or three times daily. And that would be with my Siamese mix, Peppermint.

What would you like to see happen in your lifetime?

I’d like to see the U.S. Constitution updated for 21st-century society.

What are you working on right now?

I have two projects: first, I’m shopping around my short story collection entitled Gelatin Prints. I’ve heard from one publisher, whom I decided to pass over, and have received one encouraging letter from an agent (though she didn’t take on the project). Second, I’m working on the last quarter of Jaywalking, my essay collection. This is what I’m working on as an Affiliate Artist at Headlands Center for the Arts.

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

I’m a big fan of Latin American flash fiction, whether it has magical realism in it or not. I’m telling you, they are the masters of the flash form. I also enjoy reading true crime, ethnic histories, and collections of sudden fiction. Kenji Yoshino’s Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights is still one of my favorite nonfiction books. I’m still waiting for something to surpass it.

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

Having REAL SUMMERS in San Francisco! I’m a native NY’er, and believe me, I miss hot, steamy summers soooo much.

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

It kicks off with dinner and/or drinks, followed by the theater, a symphony, the ballet, a Commonwealth Club-type talk, or a sports viewing party (for baseball or tennis only).

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen?

Better not say. But it was in my apartment here in SF. I’ve only told one person about it, a friend back in New York City.

What can you do with 50 words? 50 dollars?

In this expensive-as-all-hell city, I can do more with 50 words than I’ll ever be able to do with 50 bucks. How’s that grab you?

What are some of your favorite smells?

Patchouli, Tahitian vanilla, apple pie, broiling salmon, melted butter. Baby powder with talc.

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