The Next Big Thing Interview

First a note of thanks to talented poet Shannon Ward for tagging me to participate in this cool project. (“The Next Big Thing” book interview project has been circulating around the world for some time now and asks writers to answer a series of questions about their recent or forthcoming book, post it on their blog/web-space, and tag others for the next week.)

What is the title of the book?

The book set’s title is A Guide to the North American Obeast. Book one is titled Obeast: A Natural and Unnatural History. Book two is Obeast: A Broader View.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

This book set was inspired by my ongoing conceptual art project, Museum for Obeast Conservation Studies (MOCS), which functions as a psuedo-scientific organization devoted to the study and conservation of the North American Obeast–a genus of bipedal mammals performed by me while wearing a muumuu. MOCS installations incorporate many different media in order to simulate an authentic museum experience: sculpture, painting, ceramics, video, animation, graphic and website design, music, and writing. Given the importance of didactics to this work, it was a natural move that it be translated into book form. (Read about and see pictures of the work on my website.)

What genre does your book fall under?

That’s complicated given that the first book is a collection of fictional scholarly articles about obeasts (and therefore part of the MOCS art project as a whole) and the second book is a collection of real interdisciplinary scholarly articles about my project in a wider cultural context. All that said, I’d most expect to see it in the art section.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Umm… My project already involves people playing parts, but if this work were being made into a movie, I’d want Christopher Guest to direct it with his usual cast of actors. (Also, Melissa McCarthy would make a damn adorable obeast. Just saying.)

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

A Guide to the North American Obeast is a two-book set that satirizes fat stigma and the legitimizing tropes of scholarly research through a collection of fictional scientific and historical articles about obeasts, and then considers my conceptual art project in a wider cultural context through a collection of real interdisciplinary scholarly articles.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

The obeast project began in 2010, so parts of the first book were written three years ago. However, the majority of the writing occurred after Daniel Fuller with the ICA Portland (Other) approached me with this publishing opportunity in the summer of 2012.

What inspired you to write this book?

The obeast project, and therefore the books, were inspired by my feelings of frustration/amusement at the dehumanization of fat people in the media. My own experience of fatness just didn’t match with the media’s depictions of fatties as lazy, unhappy, ignorant, or unhealthy– and my guess was that it didn’t match others’ experiences as well. Because I am a little obsessed with nature documentaries and science in general, I found myself one day mentally reconfiguring Jane Goodall’s Gorillas in the Mist into Fatties in the Mist. Everything else kind of fell into place from there.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

This book set includes an ensemble cast of fabulous contributors like fat activist Marilyn Wann, activist and art historian Stefanie Snider, Temple University professor Chuck Dyke, University of New England professor Jennifer Denbow, NYC comedian and writer Jenny Hagel, Methodist University professor Carl Dyke, curator and Chicago Art Institute dean Rebecca Duclos, librarian Lindsay Anderberg, Methodist University professor J.R. Hustwit, and artists Michelle Lyon and Derek Toomes. These folks are brilliant and have contributed brilliant and/or hilarious pieces to the books. You should check them out.

Is your book out in print, upcoming from a publisher and/or represented by an agency?

A Guide to the North American Obeast has just been published by Publication Studio and will soon be available through their website.

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TAG! Jennifer Denbow is finishing an amazing book and I have tagged her to participate in this self interview project.

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