August 2, 2002

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August 2, 2002

Today is the day to play hopscotch.

Thanks again to everybody who sent in their most disgusting stories yesterday. They really made me sick, and I say that in the best possible way.

On that note, I extend hearty apologies to Mike Jansen, for misspelling his name yesterday and neglecting to link his blog.

Now, normally I'm a strident hardass about deadlines, but I received two additional disgusting submissions and I really thought that you would be lacking in your personal life if I did not share them with you, so before I begin today's fabulous interview, here we go:

From Lars C., Who Has Learned Way, Way Too Much Gross Stuff in Med School
I decided to send you some great sentences...which are all from only two pages of my pathology book:

"Fecalith causes pus accumulation"

"Infection gives rise to bloody diarrhea"

"Amebae are most readily identified by microscopic examination of a warm stool specimen"

"Amebiasis has become one of the diseases associated with promiscuous anal intercourse" (remember those little one-celled creatures from high school biology? imagine them psuedopod-ing around colonizing your anus, and you will see how gross this sentence really is)

"Anything can happen in the anus and often does"

From David Mogolov, Who Amazingly Forgot that He Knew This Story
In Kansas City, a two-steps removed acquaintance named Bubba, high on cocaine (two-steps removed, I remind you--no cocaine here, thank you...), sliced his eyeball open with a razorblade while attempting to spin it on his fingertip, a trick his more agile friends did with ease. According to his companions, his vitreous humor plopped out through the slit and landed on his shirt (he was enormously fat, so it sat on his belly). He saw it with his other eye, freaked out, and was eventually led to the curb to await an ambulance that was called anonymously just before his friends scurried away, fearing legal problems.

He now wears an eye-patch. I've seen it. And since he looked like Thelonius Monk before the incident, he thereafter looked like a complete badass. Don't mess with Bubba.
This buildup was worth it, I promise. Please put your e-hands together for Shauna McKenna. She's a great writer. She's charming. She's witty. Are you ready for this jelly? I don't think so. But try to be, anyway.

The Shauna McKenna Interview: Slightly Less Than Twenty Questions

First and foremost, you are being interviewed during the unofficial Disgust Week at So what's something, or some things that truly repel you?
(a) The reality television show The Bachelor; (b) Gwen Stefani; (c) Vienna sausages (though in the interest of full disclosure I will add that I've got no problem with Spam, EZ Cheese, or chicken nuggets); (d) Grown men who refer to one another as "dude"; (e) Vomit on the sidewalk; (f) Other people's socks, removed from the feet and strewn willy-nilly.

You are a self-described military brat. Where are some of the places you've lived and which was your favorite and least favorite?
It's tough for a kid to isolate feelings about a place from feelings about school, about peers, about family. I was pretty lonely, always new. I was lonely in Tacoma. I was lonely in England. I was lonely in St. Paul. Indiana was pretty lonely, I'm guessing, but I was too young to be sure. I'm going to include places I've lived as an adult, because there's been less pervasion of ouch. So, my favorite has been New York City, my least favorite has been Fort Lauderdale. For obvious reasons, both.

Where have you not lived that you would like to?
Rome. Oh, mamma mia.

Why do you think people like you are called 'military brats'? Don't you think that's sort of an unnecessarily negative connotation?
Avital Gad Cykman, fiction writer, tells me that in Israel it's called "The Ministry of International Relations' Children's Syndrome." Shall we try that one on for size? MIRCS? I am a MIRCS kid. You wanta piece of me? I'll MIRC your ass. Don't think I won't. Connotate this. Mirc-hata.

Much better, yes?

You've been published all over the durn place. What are some sites or publications that you have your sights on?
McSweeney's, Fence, Gettysburg, Fictionline, The American Journal of Print, the Sweet Fancy Moses print edition, Open City, and Post Road. Here is my special secret publishing strategy: I WILL WEAR YOU DOWN, RESPECTED EDITORS, OH WILL I EVER. They reject me? HERE'S ANOTHER SUBMISSION. They reject me again? AND HERE IS YET ANOTHER!

You are the cofounder of Moonshinestill. Tell us about it, and why we should be interested in it.
You should be interested in it as a living artifact of what happens when stubborn people collaborate. Look! See where it ends! See how it begs, pleads, howls for submissions, with an e-mail address that doesn't actually deliver anywhere, anymore! Sorry about that, folks!

In the movie "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," Jennifer Grey's character, Ferris' sister Jeanie, tells Charlie Sheen's character that her name is Shauna. I have never really understood why. Can you shed some light on it?
First you must read Notable American Women by Ben Marcus. In this you will learn about the importance of naming practices. What is omitted from Notable American Women, because NAW is a work of fiction, is the benign potency of the name Shauna.

You're reading it, right? I'll wait.

[Shauna fixes a peanut butter and jelly bagel]

[Shauna pops in a video]

[Shauna "cooks" a little "dessert" using her "spoon" and a "hypodermic needle," wink wink]


Okay. Jeanie is actually the character's middle name, and Shauna her first.

You have been experiencing the intensely unstable job market of late. What would be your ideal job?
Chatting on internet forums, with merit bonuses awarded for particularly funny pseudonyms. I boost my spirits on doleful evenings by remembering the time I thought up "Todd Zuniga." Oh ho ho. That's one for the books. Zuniga! Haw!

You are another participant on the Atlantic Monthly Typing, typing, typing" Dave-Eggers-related board. What are some of the benefits and drawbacks of participating in such a forum?
Benefits: Temporary and part-time employment offered by other thread participants, the satisfaction of public confession without the technical hassle of maintaining an actual blog, dissipation of the ego into one communal keystroke.

Drawbacks: When people start to preface what they say to you with, "Don't post this on the internet..." Ouch.

I may be incorrect, but it feels like there are more guys than girls writing for the smaller (i.e. unpaying) literary sites and journals right now. Do you think that the girls have a responsibility to represent a female perspective in their writing, or they should just write what they want?
You are correct, I've made that observation myself. I used to try and work a covert feminism into each of my stories, but frankly, I've stopped caring. I certainly would never insist that other women figure an agenda into their work -- feminist, political, sexadelic, whatever. I read web sites and journals that contain the sort of writing I admire and would like to emulate. By definition, this is writing that appeals to women, because I, I am a woman. So the fait, it is accompli, as far as I'm concerned. Maybe I'm a freak. Am I a freak? You'd tell me if I were a freak, wouldn't you? Do I look fat in this shirt?

Do you ever throw away books that you think you'll never want or read again, or do you keep every one?
When I packed up my apartment in Brooklyn, I threw away some books. It was a day of hard reckoning, I'll tell you what.

When did you first realize that you were a writer?
Hm. That's tough, because I always knew I wanted to write, as soon as I started reading. Maybe it passed from aspiration to accomplishment when I won a short story contest in high school. Most of the finalists were my classmates in a special literary arts program at a statewide arts high school. Those people humbled me daily, and still do, in memory. And I won. How 'bout that.

You had a story in Pindeldyboz #2 called "Nina Farina," which was a lovely piece. What inspired it, and how did you come up with such a great name for a character?
First: I thank you. It was inspired by the need to write a lengthier piece than my internet hijinks for admission to MFA programs. So I figured I'd explain me, the way you're supposed to do in academic applications, and I wanted to use an easy reading narrative arc, even though it's impossible to explain a human being with the typical short story plot curve. I wound up doing a triptych. "Nina Farina" is sort of like Shauna McKenna except you can eat farina.

Is there anything that you have trouble writing about?
I keep changing my answer to this one. Writing about what you have trouble writing about is a koan, isn't it? It is. You're welcome. Gesundheit.

You have a story in the Mississippi Review called MacKay, about a son who becomes a celebrity. How did the idea of celebrity come to you as a subject? Do you think most writers long to be famous?
Celebrity in that context was simply handy. Usually, when people become alienated from one another, they have to let go of knowing what's happening in that other person's life, they don't have the privilege of knowing that everything's okay, or that so-and-so has stumbled into hard times, or even that so-and-so is still alive. Maybe that's not the case with everybody, but as we talked about earlier, I move a lot. Celebrity seemed like an interesting way for one character to watch another character from a vast emotional - and physical -- distance. Regarding writers longing to be famous: I want to be selectively famous. I hate anything that draws attention to me in public, and it would suck if that thing happened to be my face. But I would love seeing some foxy young man (Steve Delahoyde, for example) and saying "Hello. I'm Shauna McKenna. I present myself to you for adulation."

You have uttered the phrase "I love editing." What about it do you like, especially compared to your experiences as a writer?
I guess it caters to my diabolic arrogance, you know, I found your typo, nanny nanny boo boo. My experiences as a writer, on the other hand, tend to belittle. (Oh, that story had no point? Oh, I see. Yes, I guess that's my fault. I didn't show you a point. Bad, bad, me.)

You have lamented your fear/inability to cook. If you were a good cook, what would you make?
Vietnamese take-out, without the box.

What was your best literary acceptance and worst rejection? You don't have to name names.
Best acceptance was probably M__ Her___, because he declined my first offering, but with such kind encouragement that I furrowed my little brow and sat down at the keyboard and plunked out one more, and I think Matt, I mean M__ used a phrase on the lines of "That's gold!" to accept it.

Worst rejection: The worst rejection is silence. That nugget of uncertainty just stays down there, in my organs. It's like a kidneystone, but I can't pass. (This is why you chose me for Disgusting Week, isn't it?)

I am getting tired of asking this question because everybody always takes it as an insult, but I don't want to stop because it's become tradition. Anyway. How does it feel to be the 19th person interviewed for
Number 20, you're a sucka, Sucka!