Amanda Stern has lived a couple of lives, if you glance at her website, which boasts a range of projects. We were most familiar with Amanda through her reading series, The Happy Ending Reading Series, but we felt we had some more questions...
Okay, exactly how many careers have you had? We tried to count, but we gave up.
1. Bad actress
2. Middling playwright
3. Independent Film Lackey
4. Hack Comedian
5. Ace Janitor
6. Happy Writer
7. Happy Ending
Any good Terry Gilliam stories from your time as a casting director on 12Monkeys?
The only thing about Terry Gilliam I remember is that he liked Cappuccino. I didn’t work on the set for 12 Monkeys. I was in the Casting Department. They shot that movie in Philly. Or Baltimore. I can’t remember. But I was only around him when he came into town to watch call-backs. That said the best stories I have from my days working in film are from that experience. My immediate boss threw staplers at us. Made us pick the phone up on the half ring. She was pretty brutal. Unfortunately, I found myself in her good graces. It’s never pleasant to be the teacher’s pet especially when everyone hates the teacher.
How's it going in your current state as writer and mover-and-shaker in the NY literary community?
The current state I am in is anxious and premenstrual, not mover and shaker.
How did the Happy Ending reading series first come about? How much work does it take? What other reading series do you check out?
The series came about when I asked my friend Oliver (one of the owners of Happy Ending) if I could read at his bar. Instead of giving me an answer he proposed an entire reading series. It wasn’t until I was on stage premiere night, two months later, that I realized that the answer to my original question, can I read? was no.
The series itself takes an enormous amount of work. I have databases of my databases. It’s ridiculous. But it does give me license to complain and resent people for taking up more of my time, so in that sense, it’s very rewarding.
There are a lot of amazing series out there. I can never get to Little Grey Book Lectures because it’s on the same night as Happy Ending, but John Hodgman is enormously talented. KGB obviously has consistently good people. Cupcake promotes strong female voices; One Story devotes their nights to one author, Sunday at Sunny’s and Barbes are also pretty special. There’s a lot going on.
What kept you from getting your driver's license for so long?
Well, I grew up on MacDougal Street, so driving to high school in the East Village didn’t seem that necessary.
Driving didn't exactly cross my mind in high school as a fun extra-curricular activity. If you had to study for it and take a test I wasn't interested.
Was being a new driver the real reason why you had a contest to find a driving companion while you went on a book tour of your novel, The Long Haul?
Actually, yes. I failed the test twice. Both times I failed, I cried in front of my teacher, the prison guard DMV person and the sixteen year old girls waiting their turn. I got my license seven days before I left for the tour. Needless to say, I was unprepared and desperate for help.
So, I turned to strangers. And remarkably, they answered. And to prove how much I needed someone is this little fact:
The amount of time (in hours) that I spent driving on my cross-country 28 day book tour?
Amount of time (in minutes) I’ve driven since returning a year ago:
We want to know how you'd answer some of the questions you posed to potential driving companions:
Do you listen to Journey, Yes, or Jethro Tull?
No. No. No.
Do you have any strange fascinations with Jesus?
No. I only have strange fascinations with people who have strange fascinations with Jesus.
Do you have a website and you will be wanting to stop at every Internet cafe to "upload"?
No, Starbucks is sponsoring this tour with a wireless car.
And do you still keep in touch with Jenn, the winner?
Yes. Going to Michigan next weekend to see her. I couldn’t have and wouldn’t have gotten through that book tour without her.
You have rejection letters from publishers on your site. Did you have your agent send them copies of your book?
Yes, but I believe they sent them back. Or sold them. Or put them up on ebay. Or used them as stocking stuffers.
And what's next for you?
MacDowell, book number 2, another month without cigarettes, cleaning binges.
Some questions about NYC life...
Favorite subway line
Better headlines: NY Post or NY Daily News?
Favorite NYC politician
Best/worst Brooklyn gentrification trend
Best arthouse movie theater
Sunshine – any time but the weekend.
Dogs, cats or babies
Meaning do I have these or do I like these?
I have none of the above. I like two of the above. And would like to have two of the above.
I hate cats.