The L Mag Questionnaire for Writer Types: Beth Greenfield

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12/10/2010 9:42 AM |

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Beth Greenfield, who lives on the Upper West Side and in Provincetown, is the author of the memoir Ten Minutes from Home, from which she reads on Monday evening at the Franklin Park Reading Series.

For our readers who may not be familiar with your work, what’s the most accurate thing someone else has said about it?
I’m not so comfortable repeating praise from others, but I like to believe that what writer Kevin Sessums so graciously said about my memoir, Ten Minutes From Home, has truth to it: “With language poetic and spare, Beth Greenfield mines the tragedies of her life with a humble grace… Greenfield’s hard-earned voice is all her own—witty, courageous, close-to-the-bone.”

What have you read/watched/listened to/looked at/ate recently that will permanently change our readers’ lives for the better?

Just finished reading Patti Smith’s Just Kids, which I found beautifully affecting, and I’ve been a bit obsessed with Brandi Carlile’s Give Up the Ghost CD since it came out a few months ago. Ate several home cooked meals guided by Terry Hope Romero’s Viva Vegan cookbook—a must-have, in my opinion, for any vegan home kitchen. Oh, and the new production of Angels in America.

Whose ghostwritten celebrity tell-all (or novel) would you sprint to the store to buy (along with a copy of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius so that the checkout clerk doesn’t look at you screwy)?
OK, playing along: Joan Jett, Lindsay Wagner, Jerry Garcia. But I would never actually sprint anywhere for any celebrity’s tell-all.

Have you ever been a Starving Artist, and did it make you brilliant, or just hungry?
Honestly, no. Not starving. But only because food is the very last category I’d ever consider budgeting myself in, even at my, ahem, leanest times.

What would you characterize as an ideal interaction with a reader?
For my words to be emotionally moving—to inspire crying or laughing out loud, preferably—and for them to make the person feel that they’ve never read anything like it before.

Have you ever written anything that you’d like to take back?
Not much. But once in college I wrote a very long piece for a literary magazine in Maine (it was part of a semester-away documentary program) about this quaint little town, and it was completely overwritten and self-conscious, with ridiculously precise descriptions of all my subjects—including every little wrinkle and sagging bit of skin on this 90-year-old woman. Some of her friends wrote letters to complain, and I felt sick about it. No one ever wants to look decrepit, even when they are. As a 20-year-old, I just didn’t get that.