The first time I met Ellen Forney was on a slightly sweaty summer’s night at a bar in New York City in Hell’s Kitchen, out back, on a patio crowded with a mix of lit kids and post-corporate-jobbers. She was visiting town from Seattle to do a reading, and knew one of the writers there. I thought she was young, just a kid, with her punky, spiky haircut, and her enormous eyes, and her light giggle. (Of course she’s around my age, which is not to say we are old. But. You know.) She held a copy of her juicy collection, I Love Led Zeppelin, in her lap, and when I looked at the cover, which was a self-portrait of her in a tight shirt, short skirt, torn fishnets, and big, bad-ass boots, leaning against a classic old car with authority, I thought: GIVE ME THAT BOOK NOW. She is the same as her work, which is to say she makes you want to know her immediately, and also that she is immediately knowable. She’s got a refreshing transparency about herself. She is deep, but she is flawed. She is funny and wild, but is also very much a grown-up. She is extremely interested in discussing sexuality, but knows when to protect herself. This mixture of openness and strength makes her work, including Lust: Kinky Online Personal Ads (a collection of her illustrations of personal ads for The Stranger) and the National Book Award-winning The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, extremely powerful and relatable, and probably very necessary for your bookshelf.
She asks me about how physical exercise affects my work (I’ve never been asked that before!), if I do actually learn from my students (yes), my dating habits (the answer was “not really”), and a bunch of music questions (what do I listen to when I work? –Uh… usually nothing? Maybe NPR really low? Does white noise count?). Full interview here. Thanks, Jami!
Me ‘n’ Jami in Seattle