Curiouser & Curiouser: When did you start playing drums? Tell me some things about that hobby/your drumming adventures.
Gayle: I started playing drums probably about five years ago. It was one of those things that I had always wanted to do, secretly, but felt like for some reason it wasn’t an option (because drums are loud and I’m supposed to be quiet and inconspicuous). But after marrying my husband I started to feel secure and liberated in my adulthood and realized there was no reason why I couldn’t do whatever the heck I wanted. So I started taking drum lessons from someone at the college where I teach, and then got a set of drums over Christmas that year. Then I took more rigorous lessons from another dude for a while, and after several months of that he suggested I look into joining a band. So I perused craigslist and landed upon a post by Adam Loewen looking for someone to join his band, Stein. He mentioned he was also a writer and he sounded intelligent and interesting, so we emailed back and forth, then got together and made music. Other members came along, and soon I was playing gigs. Which was super awesome. I got to be a rock star. But about a year ago I gave up the band because I had taken on so many things my life was becoming impossibly busy. I still keep in touch with my band friends and hope to drum again sometime when those 50 hour days start happening.
C&C: Kids. Minecraft. Mine loves it, too. What do you think about this video Legoland Minecraft stuff?
G: I think it’s great. It encourages creativity, spatial reasoning, collaboration, and so on. And any time kids can play with a “toy” that doesn’t leave a mess is always a plus. I’ve never played it myself (that whole number of hours in the day thing again), but I love seeing what the kids do with it. My husband is a computer nerd and has this array of computers in the basement and the kids all have their own and can play together. My almost-four-year-old has developed scary coordination with the mouse and keyboard. It’s one of those things where, you didn’t watch your kid pick up the skill, and then you see it in action and it looks like a magic trick. See this video here:
C&C: Did you celebrate Christmas as a kid? What’s your most memorable holiday, either way?
G: Christmas, it just so happens, is my birthday. I come from a Catholic background, though my parents were never super religious and seemed to abandon religion altogether at some point during my childhood. But we always celebrated Christmas, just not really as a religious event. The standard Santa visit, presents, and eating lots of food with relatives, which is the same thing I do with my kids. I’ve always had mixed feelings about my Christmas birthday. You want your birthday to be about you, but on that day pretty much everyone is celebrating something else. That said, if I had a nickel for every time someone saw my license and said the words “Christmas baby,” I could retire.
C&C: What do you have in your pockets?
G: At this very moment, absolutely nothing. But any other time there might be keys, cellphone, hairclips, garbage handed to me by a child, candy I’m secretly eating while trying to not let the kids see, or wadded up pieces of paper with either math or writing on them.
C&C: Do you have any tattoos?
G: No tattoos, and no piercings. I begged to get my ears pierced as a kid. My parents made me wait until I was twelve. Got it done. Decided I didn’t care for it shortly thereafter. I’m not the least bit opposed to body modifications, but just don’t feel the drive to do anything to my skin. Part of it is because I can’t imagine coming up with something I would feel represented me in some permanent way that I’d want it on my body for my entire life. I like to leave room for myself to change completely as a person.
C&C: Do you wear shoes and socks inside the house? Why?
G: Shoes, no. Socks, only if my feet are cold. As a general rule I’m barefoot whenever it is appropriate. Though I did get in the habit of wearing socks and non-sandal-like shoes on a more regular basis when I tore a ligament tripping over one of my kid’s toys, and the doctor suggested keeping my feet super warm to promote healing. Because apparently ligaments take a million years to heal. This is very true, I learned.
C&C: Do you dream regularly, and do you have any recurring or especially vivid ones?
G: I do dream regularly. I can’t think of any recurring dreams off the top of my head, but I do recall it seeming like I visit similar places in some of my dreams. My dreams are really all over the place, often super epic adventures, or post-apocalyptic scenarios. Or they’re about having to pee and never finding a private place to do so. But here is a summary of a recent epic adventure dream:
I was suddenly thrust into this post-apocalyptic world when visiting a nearby town with my daughters. I had separated from the older one because, being 11, I was allowing her new independence, and I was riding a bike with the little one when everything started getting weird. I couldn’t find my way back and suddenly realized I had no way to reunite with my older daughter. As night fell we were warned to get inside somewhere/anywhere. Mutant buffalo and apes apparently roamed free at night, savagely killing people. I somehow ended up in a meadow inside some makeshift houses with some other people, and we only had tarps for doors which wasn’t great protection from the mutant buffalo. There was a lot of running in terror and making sure you were always in a crowd because other people around you created a buffer—the buffalo would eat them and not get to you. Right when a herd was about to trample our makeshift house, a band of warrior people came charging at them with weapons. They killed the animals by skinning them alive. Why that was the method of choice, I have no idea, but the animals would scream horribly during the process and there was always blood everywhere. So I’m roaming around in this world trying to protect my youngest child, all the while not know what might be going on where my husband and son are, and feeling like the world’s worst mother for separating from my oldest child who was very likely dead by now. Right before I woke up, I was attempting to take refuge in the side of a building with a passageway too narrow for me to fit while the band of warriors were skinning a giant mutant ape alive.
C&C: For awhile you entertained using a pen name, but ultimately decided to go with your own – was there significance behind that decision, or did it just prove easier/more logical to be one person in regards to being connected to your work?
G: A little of both. There were several reasons I was looking into a pen name. One was that it would separate my everyday life from my writing work. I have a lot of conservative extended family, and have often felt unsure if I really want any of them aware of what I write. Another was that I noticed when I wrote that I naturally gravitated towards writing male POV. I thought having a male pen name would be more true to the identity I often felt while writing. I’m not sure when I made the decision not to bother with a pen name. Part of it was because I decided I didn’t need to be influenced by my fear of the opinions of others. No more crouching in fear of judgment. After all, writing for me had become about NOT caring about what other people think and just going all in with reckless abandon. Part of it was a result of coming to a clear picture in my head of what gender identity meant to me internally and externally after a long and awesome conversation with my husband about it on an anniversary weekend getaway. (That sort of boiled down to him completely understanding and recognizing where I am in my head and me feeling validated enough that I didn’t care that I have a female encasing. Now I pretty much consider my gender identity to be a mix of everything. There are ways I can express different parts at different times. But the fact that my brain happens to be in a female body is sort of arbitrary. I go with it out of convenience and ultimately don’t care a whole lot either way, most particularly, I think, because I feel valid as a person in ways I didn’t used to.)
C&C: Do you like to color, or doodle? If so, what?
G: Not really. There was a time when I was younger that I was interested in generating visual art and I took a drawing class as an undergrad to explore that a little. But it’s just not something I invest any time or effort into, nor do I feel any particular drive to at the moment. This may change some day. But at present I don’t feel the tug of it as a needed outlet. That, and my hands and wrists tend to cramp up from holding writing utensils and using them for more than five minutes.
C&C: You read with Chuck Palahniuk. He’s a legit celebrity. Did it awaken any celebrity aspirations in you, or the opposite, or anything in between?
As I like to tell people, the reading was utterly terrifying, but I think it went well. I definitely felt awkward and unsure of how to interact with Mr. Palahniuk, but I brought my A game to my reading and people clapped and said happy things afterward. As for celebrity aspirations, I fully intend on being famous. It’s a work in progress. I feel like I’m sitting on a balloon full of brilliance and am about to explode all over the world. This is the delusion that keeps me pursuing my goals.
C&C: You’re sort of an example of “There’s no excuse” when it comes to getting a freakish amount of things done….
G: I frequently get asked “How do you find time to do it all?” like I’m some magic superhuman. So to address that, as well as how I’m destined for greatness:
This is what I’ve got going on: I’m married, I have three kids and I teach physics full time at a local community college (though with an awesome schedule that only requires me to actually go to campus 2 days a week). My son is on the gymnastics team, which practices 6 hours a week, my youngest takes a gymnastics class once a week, and my oldest is in choir. I write novels and short stories—I can produce a novel in a span of 3 months to a year depending. I edit a weekly Microfiction magazine, I recently cofounded Blue Skirt Productions, which is an artists’ collective that has regular website content, local shows/readings, offers editing and writing services and (soon)classes, and most recently has ventured into indie publishing, which has led me to learning all about book formatting, cover design, and marketing and publicity. I consider life to be an elaborate game of Tetris and multitasking is the only way I survive. Laundry is never really done—just sort of exists in a clean pile and a dirty pile and when the clean pile gets low, we send some dirty pile through the machines. But I clean the kitchen enough that we rarely have an ant problem. I have to watch myself because when I’m in the right mood I seem to get the idea that I can take on more projects and it won’t be a problem. There are so many things I want to do, so I just do as many as I can all the time. Every once in a while I burn out for a few days, and then I’m right back in the thick of it. I’d say it’s all by choice, but a big part of it is obsession. Writing is much less a past time, or a hobby—it’s a complete and utter obsession. I’m addicted. I can’t help it. I can’t make it stop. I have far more ideas for novels than I have time to pen them all. One day when all of the kids grow up, I’m going to be crapping out like a novel a month, because it’s all backed up and pressing on the flood gates. But someday very soon the world is going to recognize my brilliance and the 7 figure book deals will come raining down. My husband will be able to retire and play minecraft with the kids all day every day, and I can write to my heart’s content because we’ll be hiring a maid, who will totally fold the clothes and put them away. It will be amazing.