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Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Write Stuff: Amy K. Bell on Getting a Good Scare and Contributing to Society

Posted By on Thu, Jan 28, 2016 at 8:00 AM

The Write Stuff is a series of interview profiles conducted by Litseen where authors give exclusive readings from their work.

click to enlarge bio_portrait_akb_seattle.jpg

Amy K. Bell lives in Oakland. She is working on a speculative fiction novel, Bald Mountain, and is a co-editor of Drop Leaf Press, a woman-run publishing concern. She also writes web and marketing copy for local businesses. More at

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

Honestly, I oscillate between telling them I’m a Copywriter (the narrow, income-defined answer) and a Writer (the more eyebrow-raising, truer-to-my-soul answer). It depends on who is asking. I have trouble owning the artistry side, the work that would say I am an artist. Even writing it just then, in the subjunctive, feels a little funny.

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

Compilation videos of stirring speeches by Captain Picard (Star Trek: The Next Generation). Like this one. He appeals to the good and noble in us all.

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

When my grandmother was a teenager in Beijing, her father, a liberal arts professor at Yenching University, was imprisoned by the occupying Japanese army. She was responsible for bringing fresh clothes and soap to him in jail. She would give him the new clothes and he would give her his old clothes covered in lice to take home and wash. During those terrible months of his imprisonment, she became familiar with one Japanese guard, a man she says was kind to her during the ordeal of signing in to visit her father. He protected her from harassment and allowed her to sneak in books and snacks. Her recollection of this enemy soldier’s kindness, this little transcendent moment not lost to her and her understanding of humanity, is very powerful to me. She and my grandfather were avid ballroom dancers in their retirement years in the US.

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

I wanted to be a doctor like my mom and dad. I would boast that, since she took care of old people and he took care of babies, they had both ends of the human lifespan covered. That there were two ends to every life was a novel idea at 10. Heck, it’s still pretty novel at 31.

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

I would go up to the Shasta-Trinity forest and backpack out to a lake somewhere and feel that delicious anxiety of a truly remote place. It’s not wilderness if you don’t get a good scare.

How much money do you have in your checking account?

Right now I’m the primary caregiver for my six-month-old daughter, so I live off my husband’s income minus a little that comes from contract copywriting. I’m very concerned with money and how little I contribute to my family financially. Being a fiction writer and a small press editor only multiplies this concern. But that’s my personal, privileged situation. What is actually concerning is how little esteem caregivers and artists are given as contributors to society.

What’s wrong with society today?

So many damn things. But I love my generation. I think we’re helping to open minds to the idea of the Spectrum in human sexuality, expose and articulate racist and sexist systems, and assume an ethical stewardship of the planet. I have a lot of hope. One must.

For events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook. This interview was conducted by Evan Karp. Follow Litseen at @Litseen
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Evan Karp


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