Stacy D. Flood on Never Losing Your Sense of Awe

An interview with Stacy D. Flood from The Write Stuff series:

Originally from Buffalo, and currently living in Seattle, Stacy D. Flood’s work has been published nationally, and performed on stages nationwide as well as in the Puget Sound Area. He has been an artist-in-residence at DISQUIET in Lisbon, as well as Millay Arts in New York, and he is the recipient of a Getty Fellowship to the Community of Writers. Published by Lanternfish Press, The Salt Fields is his first novella.

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

If asked prior to last year I would have answered that I was “in computers” or “program management,” but now I proudly say that I’m a writer. It took decades for me to get that courage. I’m not sure why.

What’s your biggest struggle—work or otherwise?

I would say it is the age-old dilemma of time, and not having enough of it to accomplish everything I want to do, nor to connect with friends and loved ones as often as I would like.

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

Read. Write. Revise. Repeat. And enjoy every step of the process. I’m honestly happiest when I’m writing, and if someone can find that same joy in that journey then they are “doing what I’m doing.”

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

I think you need a balance of both: you need real world experience in order to both interpret and honestly display the world around you, and you need education to open yourself to new techniques in telling your own story, as well as differing perspectives on the world ― ones outside of your own purview, which can give richness and insight into your characters, narratives, and themes. Too often, between education and life experience, prioritizing one over the other can lead to a flatness, or didactic nature, to the story you’re eager to tell.

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

To never lose one’s sense of awe and wonder, and to search for it every day.

Also, to eat less candy. 

Do you consider yourself successful? Why?

I vacillate, which I actually believe is kind of healthy. Some days I think I’m successful at a number of things; some days I think of how I can grow and improve in each, two actions I never want to stop doing in any sense.

Why do you get up every morning?

To create and experience art. Period. That’s it. I’ve learned that the planet is perfectly capable of spinning without my input, but hopefully someone on it will read something of mine, or watch one of my plays, and for a moment the world will spin a bit more slowly, with a little less inertia, so they can enjoy or contemplate it for a breath.

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

My father and my grandparents were huge influences, but there are so many other candidates, and all of their stories are those of Black triumph that hopefully I am able to honor.

That said, my mother, who recently passed away unexpectedly, was my greatest influence, as her spirit and essence are so much a part of me, and her strength, vivacity, intelligence, kindness, and class are all things I strive to emulate constantly; I celebrate the chance to fail daily.

What’s wrong with society today?

Pandemic aside — or included, depending on your perspective ― I would say it’s a lack of kindness: to each other, the environment, and ourselves.

Where do you go to find sanctuary?

I try to find small moments throughout the day — whether it is through a favorite song or a quick passage of a beloved text or a few minutes playing a video game or simply sitting, Michael Corleone style (but less sinister), and contemplating the time: what I’ve done and what I want to accomplish next.

I’m not one for much nature, but I love art museums, art walks, and late-night diners and cafés. These are my other sanctuaries. I’m something of a night owl, so I used to love visiting the all-night cafés near the university where I could be among people focused and silently, intently, studying or working. It was like a temple for me.

What is your fondest memory?

There are so many that I don’t think I could pick a fondest; all of them have touched me in some way, from Christmas mornings early in life to long kisses on midnight New Year’s Eve, from standing on a shore one early evening in Maui to watching a storm over that same ocean years later from a hotel room in Panama, from kitchen laughter with my grandmother to the first time I saw Paris and Vienna, from an amazing night in Seoul to extended weekends on the San Juan Islands, from the opening of every one of my plays to the launch of The Salt Fields. All of these moments I hold fondly, feel deeply, and remind me of the beauty about our world.

What would you like to see happen in your lifetime?

The end to all forms of discrimination.

And aliens. Really nice ones. Who will give us cool technology and take us to other planets and introduce us to other species. And who will also threaten to blow us up if we don’t start living together peacefully and protecting our environment.

What is art? Is it necessary? Why?

There’s always the question of whether something is art or not, whether it rises to preconceived notions or standards, and whether, in turn, it constitutes success in that form. The answer to me is whether the object, creation, or exposition makes you feel, think about something differently, or reconsider your world. That defines art for me, and even a cursory examination of the world in which we live proves how much feeling, thought, and reconsideration are needed.

Therefore, art is necessary simply because it makes us fully realize ourselves, each other, and our world.

What is the relationship between your identity and your desires? Perhaps related, perhaps not: why is sex (un)important to you?

Oh I’m sure they’re related in some sense. It’s a beehive in all of us.

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

It’s the pandemic. Who wears shoes anymore? 

But I would say that I still have a love for, and a lot of, clothes. At one point I had over 70 sweaters and 25 suits, but I’ve given most of that up in the past couple of years. However, a clothing sale is still the enemy of my financial well-being.

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

I’m currently working on another novella, as I’m still in love with that literary form.

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

It would be the cost of living. It is such a gorgeous area that so few get to take full advantage of, and where too many struggle simply for sustenance.

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

Starting the evening by getting ready in a nice hotel room, then off to a nice restaurant for dinner, followed by a show — theater, movie, music, or even magic — then drinks afterwards, closing down the bar, then off to an afterparty or some touristy scene/attraction, and ending with watching the sunrise from a rooftop or the top floor of an office building, followed by breakfast at an all-night diner or doughnut shop, with smiles, friends, and laughter the entire time. Then back to the hotel for sleep, breakfast, and a new day.

In other words, the usual. 

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

I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a ghost. I’ve seen figures and forms in the night that didn’t seem real, or sinister images in my periphery, but I can’t say whether they were spectral, illusions, or imagination. I’ve heard mysterious bumps in the middle of the night, which, just as curiously, stopped once I started humming Phil Collins’ “Sussudio.”

But the strangest things I’ve seen are some of the bugs in the rainforest. Those things are crazy… and HUGE.

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

I think it’s just that: never losing your sense of awe. I recently went to New York for the holidays ─ the lights, the ambiance, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, and all ─ and each time I visit I find it mesmerizing. And yet I can also find that same sense of awe when reading a novel or seeing a play and a line or performance simply takes my breath away. I never want to lose that appreciation of, and opportunity for, wonder in everything I experience.

What can you do with 50 words? 50 dollars?

Hopefully I could use the first to improve someone’s life ─ even in a small way, even with a single sentence ─ and do the same with the second, whether it is with a meal, a night of shelter, or the chance to connect to a loved one and share a smile.

What are some of your favorite smells?

I would say the usual: coffee, lavender, etc. But I also love the smell of gasoline and fingernail polish. Weird, I know.

What are you unable to live without?

Art, without question, in any and all of its forms.

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

Like many I would love to travel the world, even to Antarctica, and write from each location, as I’m convinced that every place I visit can give me a new perspective on my work, my humanity, and myself.

If you could live in your ideal society, what would your average day be like?

I would spend the day writing, learning, and talking with friends and family, with each day having the possibility to meet someone new and learn their story, their chosen paths, and the dreams and happiness they’ve seen fulfilled.

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