I think the single most thing I love about blogging is its serendipitous nature. Oft times I’ll click on a link on a blogroll and then another and another and like a beagle, I’ll end up somewhere far from where I started and have no idea how I got there. Using that approach to the internet and life, I’ve met a lot of nice people, made some new friends and discovered some really incredible writers.
And that’s exactly how I found The QC Report written by Quinn Cummings. Which is to say, I have no idea how I found her. Quinn is the author of the new book Notes from the Underwire and if you haven’t read her work before, I recommend you start by reading this post on Christmas, which I loved. Then go here for something poignant and thoughtful and then here for something funny to top it off. Think of it as the Quinn Sampler Platter.
Following is my interview with Quinn which I promised last week. At the end, leave a comment telling me the title of your would-be autobiography for a chance to win an autographed copy of her book.
Mine? “Confessions of a Neat Freak ~ I Straightened Up Your Medicine Cabinet When I Used Your Bathroom”
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AM: Okay Quinn, I know that you were a child star in Hollywood back in the day, but based on what I know of you and what you write about, that fact seems to be more a less just a footnote to your life. It doesn’t really seem to define you all that much. Is that how you view your experience as a child star, or has it shaped you more than comes through in your writing? That’s my way of saying, you seem so normal. Just like me. Only with more normal thrown in.
QC: You see normal, I see the state about to get involved.
Last week, I took my daughter to a water park, which is basically like swimming in the urine of a middle-school. And then we were starving and the pizza line moved not one person in twenty minutes and we were hanging on each other from low-blood sugar, so I bought us a funnel cake to eat for lunch. I ask you, is that normal? By the way, the average American is FAR more tattooed then I suspected. Things you learn at a water park.
Acting took up no more than about six years of my life. They were six rather public years, but even during those years I wasn’t an actress every second. Mostly, I was a ten year old roller-skating, or a eight year-old weaseling out of math homework or an eleven year-old washing the dog. The part where I was acting was such a fraction of my life even then that I think I’d be a pretty pathetic figure to define myself by that. It would be like introducing myself to people as the second-fastest runner in the third grade.
AM: Actually Quinn, I WAS the second-fastest runner in the 3rd grade. It’s really a shame how few occasions there are to drop that in conversation.
So then, if not Hollywood, what people or events of your life shaped you and your world view?
QC: In case you wondered if I was really geeky and weird when I was a kid, try this one for size; I never saw an episode an episode of “Charlie’s Angels” and I ate dinner in front of “60 Minutes” every week. I saw my mother and father working hard every day of their lives, which certainly informed my idea of what real responsible adults looked like. I think the person who most deeply affected me was this internal vision I had of what being an adult was. I was to be well-read, hard-working, crusading for the afflicted, all that. I’m rarely her, but when I become disappointed with myself, that’s the image I see, the one I’m not living up to.
AM: I absolutely loved the story where you tried to help this stray dog, but ultimately it doesn’t end well. It was funny and tragic all at the same time. At the root of your stories is this sort of average girl who just wants to be helpful to people and animals and sometimes things go awry. Is that true? If not, what two or three words would you use to describe yourself?
QC: That’s it. Perfect. I’m weird and asocial, but I want to be the good person, doing the right thing, helping those who need help. And if only my need to be of service could be put into another body, much would be accomplished. But, sadly, that part of me is stuck with the inappropriate and graceless part of me.
AM: I am a huge fan of the short story, which is one of the reasons I love this book and your blog, because right now, with a 5-year-old, it’s all I have time for. I love the sort of randomness of the stories, I love that all together they are just the right mix of funny and charming to sweet and tender. Did you set out to write a collection of short stories or have you been writing these all along?
QC: The blog format suited me, because after about fifteen hundred words, my fingers and my brain goes numb. I have a friend who is working on a historic epic. She’s been doing the background work for years. It’s going to be such a page-turner you won’t be able to breathe! I’m in awe of her and could no more do that than take out my pancreas. When I write my stories, in my mind I’m walking through Target with my friend Veronica telling her about my newest ghastly exploit. The nicest thing I’m hearing from readers is that reading a story is just like having a friend with them.
AM: What I love about your writing is how precisely you use language. As a reader, it feels as though the words just laid down on the paper for you. There is no evidence of the struggle of writing and for me that what makes it a pleasure to read. Does writing come easily to you?
QC: Thank you for your kind words. I steal from Patrick Dennis when he had Auntie Mame say, “Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.” I feel that way about language. I think about what I’m going to write for a long time before it goes on to the page. When I find the right word to describe something, I giggle in delight. But also, my brain works in metaphors anyway. I can’t rest until I’ve decided how something I’ve just seen is like something I already know. Ask Consort about how nice I am until I can find the missing metaphor.
AM: Is blogging a help or hindrance to writing a book?
QC: They’re not dissimilar, but thanks to an editor who said very firmly, “Blogs are what happens every day; books have to take on bigger topics,” I sort of instinctively shift some stories from “Ooh, book!” to “Oh, you’re a blog.”
AM: I know you did some screen writing a number of years ago. What other types of things might you like to write? Do you aspire to write a novel?
QC: I know better than to say never, if for no other reason than the universe tends to throw you the “Never” thing, just to see you explain it to your friends. I will say this; I write a fine little miniature about my life, but I don’t make up stories. It’s not my inclination and it’s not my talent. I cannot imagine the circumstances under which I’d write a novel. I think I’ll stay with my miniatures.
AM: I think all moms who blog have to decide at some point if and how much they are going to write about their children. What does your daughter think of the book and having her life put to words? What do you hope she will say of this book 10 or 20 years from now?
QC: Her strongest feeling is being miffed that others get to read it and she doesn’t. She’s read a couple of chapters and laughed in delight, but not everything is for kids. Especially not the kid who is in the book; I chill at the thought of her doing something cute someday and turning to me and trilling, “You should put that in a BLOG!”
I hope she reads this ten years from now, twenty years from now and a year after I’m dead and thinks, “My mother was a lunatic but she adored me.”
AM: When the reader has turned the last page and closed the cover, what idea or concept or feeling do you hope they take away?
QC: I got a phone call from a friend with nice things to say about the book. She said, “I had no idea how much we were alike.” You have to believe me when I say that there’s no way we’re alike. She’s sort of glowy and runs a fabulous house and her stationary is flawless and she was raised right. And she still saw herself in my cracked and finger-printed mirror of a book. I want every reader who sees herself in some way in my careening well-meaning, that we’re mostly all a little lost, running late, with every intention of helping with the school fund-raiser this year just as soon as we can determine the source of the weird smell coming off the dog. I started off this book thinking I was incredibly weird. And while I still think I’m a couple of bubbles off plumb, I think a lot of people need to be reminded that we’re all doing the best we can.
AM: What’s next for Quinn?
QC: Tonight? Sleep. After that, some writing and a little parenting. And it’s safe to say that I’ll accidentally insult someone. If it’s you, please accept my apology in advance.
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That’s actually Quinn on the cover in one of her “going to the grocery store” outfits. What a fashionista!
Don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win an autographed copy of Quinn’s book!