The L Mag Questionnaire for Writer Types: Helen Phillips

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05/05/2011 2:04 PM |


Tonight, BookCourt hosts the release party for And Yet They Were Happy, the first book by our friend Helen Phillips. She’ll also read from it at the Franklin Park Reading Series this coming Monday, the 9th; at the Earshot Reading Series next Friday, the 13th; and the Tandem Reading Series on Sunday, June 12. Her story “Wilderness” was featured in the L’s first-ever Summer Fiction Issue, and her wonderful story “Lux et Veritas” is featured in the inaugural issue of Brooklyn Magazine (on newsstands now!). Helen, the 2009 recipient of a Rona Jaffe award, teaches at Brooklyn College, and lives in Ditmas Park.

For our readers who may not be familiar with your work, what’s the most accurate thing someone else has said about it?
“Bob Dylan really should read this collection.” Justin Courter in the Brooklyn Rail.
At least, I want this to be the most accurate thing.

What have you read/watched/listened to/looked at/ate recently that will permanently change our readers’ lives for the better?
Doesn’t fit into any of those categories, but will definitely change lives for the better: a full-body, sleeping-bag-style down coat. I wore mine (thank you Brooklyn Industries sale rack) all winter long and never noticed the cold. Everyone in New York City should invest in one of these coats, including men. Now’s a good time of year to get them on the cheap.

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)?
Mary Magdalene’s.

Have you ever been a Starving Artist, and did it make you brilliant, or just hungry?
There was a time when every teabag got used at least twice and I worked a job that paid me in Corona, chips and salsa. Lived on love with boyfriend (now husband). Luxury estranges you from your creativity, or so we told ourselves.

What would you characterize as an ideal interaction with a reader?
Whenever I finished one of the stories in And Yet They Were Happy, I’d print it out for aforementioned boyfriend/husband, and he’d read it aloud to me in bed.

Have you ever written anything that you’d like to take back?
When I was 13 years old, I made a New Year’s Resolution to write a poem a day, a tradition that lasted eight years. There are many ill-advised uses of words such as “autumn” and “lover” in those that I’d be delighted to take back, but probably it was good for me to get all those thousands of bad poems out of my system.