Thursday, April 01, 2010

Idle Thoughts with Kristen Tsetsi

Kristen Tsetsi is one of the founding members of Backword Books, co-creator with R.J. Keller of the writers' YouTube series "Inside the Writers' Studio," and the author of the semi-autobiographical novel Homefront, the short fiction collection (e-book) Carol's Aquarium, and How to (Not) Have Children. She was raised in Germany and received her MFA from Minnesota State University Moorhead. She is a former reporter, former cab driver, and a former instructor of playwriting, screenwriting, expressive writing, and college English. Currently, she edits the literary journal American Fiction. Kristen Tsetsi's writing has appeared in a number of publications, and her award-winning short fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

When were you happiest?
I've had many happiest single moments, but more generally, I've just reached a place in the last few weeks that I can only describe as "inner peace." I might be at my happiest right now.

What is your greatest fear?
I'm afraid writing it down will make the words available for later use in some commentary on the irony of life, so I'll just say "spiders."

Which living person do you most admire, and why?
Ian (my husband). He has a magical way of balancing professionalism and kindness that makes him an extraordinarily effective and valuable leader and/or teacher to those who need leadership. Some people have it and some people don't. He has it.

What was your most embarrassing moment?
I don't read Sci-Fi, so - to the horror of many, I'm sure - I had no idea who Philip K. Dick was until I wrote his publishing company one day, looking for authors to contribute short pieces to a flash-fiction magazine I'd created. I received an email informing me of his long-ago demise and was probably as embarrassed as I should have been. There was no space deep, small, or dark enough for me to crawl into.

Property aside, what's the most expensive thing you've bought?
A trip to Jamaica. Most relaxing, carefree week. Ever.

What is your most treasured possession?
My box of letters from Ian - dating from around 1993 to 2003, with a few empty years in between. The bulk were sent from Iraq or Afghanistan. But that's not why I like them - I like them because he writes incredible letters. In this box, too, is a short video of the two of us hanging out downtown Heidelberg when we were 17. When you don't get together with someone until over a decade later, it's pretty cool to have that recorded memory to look back on. And the hair. We had the typical, big and/or mullet-y, early 90s hair.

What would your super power be?
To be invisible.

Who would play you in the film of your life?
Julia Stiles or Kristen Stewart, probably.

What is your most unappealing habit?
Fidgeting. Picking at the skin around my nails. At least, that's the one that's least appealing to me. Someone else might not like ... well, many things...but what might stand out is a sort of OCD issue. It's not medically diagnosed, or anything, but there are days when I must have things just so.

What is your favourite word?

Is it better to give or to receive?
I like both equally.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

What do you owe your parents?
I don't know that parents and children owe one another anything. At least, not ideally. Parents live their role and we live ours, and with luck, we both do the best we can for one another.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Ian and writing.

What does love feel like?
Like a best-friendship but with the benefit of all the romantic-relationship extras. Even when I don't like myself, or even when I get the impression I may not be very likable to others, there is that person who knows the all of you and loves - and likes - it. It is, to me, not fidgeting during a conversation with him because with him, I am always comfortable. Never worried about judgment. Completely at ease.

What is the worst job you've done?
Assistant to a man who used a business-office restroom with the door open. Pants around his ankles. Newspaper open. Bad scene.

If you could edit your past, what would you change?
The way I treated people when I was middle-school aged.

How do you relax?
Watching TV.

How often do you have sex?
As often as I like.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

What keeps you awake at night?
Leftover traces of anxiety. I'll find many things to worry about. "Did I say something stupid?" "Was I obnoxious?" "Why do I think about myself so much?"

What song would you like played at your funeral?
I used to think I'd want "Dust in the Wind," but that was after I'd first heard it and fell in love with it. Now it seems a little too obvious. I haven't thought about it much since then ... when I think about that day, I'm more interested in trying to figure out what I'd like them to engrave on my headstone. I think I'd like "Hi!"

How would you like to be remembered?
As kind.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
That the things I once thought were important aren't really that important, and that having only one go-'round means it's probably a good idea to retain some kind of focus on what will leave me with the fewest regrets. Some day, it doesn't matter when, but some day - as we all know - everyone alive now will be dead, and the planet may even be gone. I mean, we have to assume that, someday, it WILL be gone. No one will be left to remember anything, to read anything, to know anything. There will be no names lingering, no movies being talked about, no one to care who had money or who didn't and what they did with it. With this in mind, I've adjusted my priorities significantly and have a new relationship with life and living. I want to get to whenever my end is knowing those whose lives mingled with mine - whether "they" are animals or humans - were treated well by me, were made to feel interesting and/or loved. (Obviously it depends on the person. I don't love everyone. Actually, I don't like people very much as a species. But I do enjoy individuals, and when I meet them, I'd like them to feel & know that I enjoy them.)

Where would you most like to be right now?
Living in an old, character-filled home in anywhere, New England attached to acres of farmland where rescued strays of all kinds are cared for by a staff of veterinarians. Or Germany.

Tell us a joke.
God, no. I cannot tell a joke.

Tell us a secret.
I have tried and tried, but don't like apple pie.


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