Most of my college essays as an English major at Barnard College were focused on books or plays. Over the past year, I’ve been approached by college students, informing me that my blog is somehow an assignment for them. I’m sure it’s more about blogs emerging into literature, but I’ve been asked to respond, several times, to many questions about my blog and my writing. Especially now that I am doing press for my upcoming book release, I’ve been more open to answering questions and taking interviews. The following paper was recently sent to me by a college student named Beth Ann. I’m posting it because it’s flattering. I’m also posting it because Beth Ann gave me permission, and because I was impressed. I’m not a journalist, so when I read pieces like this one, I am reminded of how different each writer can be, and yet, still how communicative, expressive, and impressive. I think the following interview answers a lot of interesting questions I’ve been asked lately. Enjoy.
An Interview with Stephanie Klein
Blogging is the newest evolutionary step for the Internet. A blog can be an e-bulletin board that is used to post ideas and announcements or a public diary. According to Stephanie Klein, a single New Yorker who just turned thirty, her blogging began as "a convenient way to store all my ‘stuff’…writing, photos, drawings." A way to update friends and family of her latest escapades. Shopping, eating, dating, or the state of her emotional condition are frequent topics for Ms. Klein. Under the name "Greek Tragedy," the activities and issues of her everyday life have an undercurrent of serious complexity. Those opposing concepts may be the reason this particular blog has risen from obscurity to addictive popularity in less than two years. There is more to Ms. Klein than titillating anecdotes.
It seems fitting that my interview with Stephanie Klein was via the Internet. My questions to her were basic and straightforward as were her answers. Somewhere, between the lines, the real Stephanie Klein shone through. She seems to easily jot down whatever comes to her mind in her daily blog. I discovered that Ms. Klein’s process is anything but effortless.
I began the interview by asking Ms. Klein if she had always been a communicator. She replied, "I’m pretty sure I’ve always been at ease with communicating. In school, perhaps it took me longer to formulate opinions, so I wasn’t as eager to share my thoughts until I was certain about my standpoint/view." This is an interesting contrast to the raw openness in which she communicates today. I began to see a glimmer of the serious side of Stephanie Klein. She went on to add, "I’ve been doing creative writing in one form or another since I was in the fourth grade…and I was always eager to share such writing." Creative writing seems to be her window for expression.
Ms. Klein was an English major at Barnard College with a concentration in writing. It was there that she honed her skills writing fiction, memoir, poetry, play writing, and more. Psychology was her minor at Barnard. "A lot of my writing is anchored in my fascination with psychology…coming of age, self-esteem, and social conformity." For now, she admits that memoir seems to be a "natural fit for this time in my life." This is very evident in "Greek Tragedy," a majority of the topics she covers fall into the self-esteem and social conformity categories.
I asked Ms. Klein if she had a purpose in mind for her writing. She replied, "Never, they [ideas] just come to me when I’m out at a bar, in a conversation, late at night, at the gym, walking the streets of New York." She feels she writes best while reading, listening to music, and discovering new words. In describing how she stays motivated she says, "I’ll write based off the perspective of a song…use a writing exercise I’ll find on the Internet or in a book." Another exercise she uses frequently is to make "a list of objects that are sturdy…then one [object] will find its way into my book." Ms. Klein spends an enormous amount of effort to keep her thought process fresh and her writing skills as sharp as a knife edge. Her "public face" does not reveal this level of professionalism.
When Ms. Klein experiences a block in her writing, she reads. She told me that she draws inspiration from authors like: David Sedaris, Mona Simpson, Alice Munro, John Irving, Jonathan Ames, and Augusten Burroughs. She enjoys reading other memoirs, but avoids reading other authors who write on topics she frequently uses: being overweight, dating and divorce, and camp. She fears that their ideas would work their way into her head and she would be unknowingly influenced.
I asked Ms. Klein how she perceived her style of writing in the future. Her reply was, "I don’t imagine my style will change. Topics might change, but I doubt my voice will change. Who knows though." She is determinded not to box in her possibilites and by doing so she will continue to stay motivated. I have noticed that Ms. Klein’s writing has already changed. In the beginning she admits it was utilitarian. It became a way for her to flex her writing and to find her "voice." Later, as she received feedback comments and reactions, she seemed to write what the readers wanted to read. More recently, there have been vignettes of probing introspection containing genuine substance.
When I asked Ms. Klein if she saw her writing style as a current trend or a new genre, she replied, "The topics about which I write are timely, yes, but that has nothing to do with my ‘style’ or ‘voice.’" She feels her writing is read because it reflects the human condition, which in turn reflects her fascination with psychology.
During the course of the interview, I asked Ms. Klein what she thought about the medium by which she expresses her writing style, blog. Ms. Klein said, "Blogging makes writing more accessible to the masses…It’s the written form of ‘reality TV.’ People are voyeurs; blogging is just a big keyhole through which people peep."
I was curious about how much of her blog was inspired, Ms. Klein replied, "Most of it is inspired by events of my life…blogging is very now, in the moment…a diary that way." Blogging allows her to work out her ideas, "clear her throat" as she puts it, to give her a break from the television and book writing she is currently working on. She also uses blog as a filtering system so, as she puts it, "I can get to the good stuff for the book." Her blog writing has a new facet today, it serves as providing ground for the next phase in her writing career, books. "Greek Tragedy" makes an excellent platform for her to "voice" her thoughts and then refine them.
"Do you see blog as another form of literature," I asked? She replied, "I see it as art…and of course literature. Literature is a body of written works, imaginative or creative; it’s not scholarly, no, but it’s literature in as much as it’s certainly representing a time period, a form, and yes, it’s a collection/body of writing."
Combining the writing style and medium Ms. Klein uses, I asked her how the two have shaped her "voice," she replied that her style goes "through phases." By inviting comment to her writing on a daily basis, she has omitted topics that stir up aggressively angry responses. She remarked, "Some days, it’s jut not worth it to open myself up to so much criticism." Ms. Klein further explains that this flood of criticism "changes my future writing…makes me more self-conscious in my wriitng, which means less honesty…and then my writing suffers."
Honesty is important to Ms. Klein. It flows like an underlying current throughout her writing. Her second book will be a coming of age memoir about camp and weight loss. She describes it as being different from her daily writing in the sense that "it’s more my writing style and voice than the sexy voyeuristic nature of what I’m writing on the blog." After this comment, I was convinced that the Stephanie Klein who writes "Greek Tragedy" was not the narcissistic figure she portrays. She is serious. Blogging may be just the tool she uses to refine her craft.
I found Stephanie Klein to be an intelligent, savvy young woman who knows what she wants to accomplish and is not afraid to step out behind the safety of the faceless Internet to accomplish her goals. She strives to keep her "voice" honest, fresh, and poignant. There is ineed more depth to Ms. Klein than her daily topics suggest. Maybe her books will reveal this to the masses.
*This interview was conducted in a series of e-mails on September 28, 2005, October 2, 2005, and October 3, 2005.