Beth Pickens: The TNB Self-Interview

by Marylee MacDonald in For Readers
Click here to view original web page at thenervousbreakdown.com

What’s up with this book?

I had no capacity to take new clients and I turned down everyone who reached. There was no one to even refer them to. I am the only person (that I am aware of) who does this specific set of services for artists with my precise training. I thought if I wrote it all down in a book, I could be of service to more artists.

Then the 2016 presidential election vomited all over America. I quickly wrote up a pamphlet called Making Art During Fascism as a toolkit to help artists think about how to maintain their lives, their practices, and their (probable) increased activism. My friend, the writer Michelle Tea, asked if I wanted to expand this pamphlet into a short volume for Feminist Press where she’d recently launched the imprint Amythest Editions. I both expanded that pamphlet and incorporated a written account of what it is I do with artists. That’s how this all went down!

What are your favorite icebreakers for any environment?

  1. Describe your first memory when I say ‘school lunch’
  2. What are your Sun, Moon, and Rising signs and what is the worst thing about your Sun sign that is true about you?
  3. Have you ever had an unexplained encounter?
  4. What do you want done with your corpse after you die?
  5. Describe the most disastrous vacation of your life.

What cultural identifiers are you most aligned with?

I used to think it was queer or feminist or Capricorn but several years back I learned I am part of a micro-generation called the Oregon Trail Generation (also known as Generation Catalano and Xennial.) I have never felt SO SEEN as when I took various online quizzes to validate my micro-generation experience.

What do you do? What is an ‘art consultant’?

The great thing about the job title ‘consultant’ is you can do literally anything but know literally nothing. Luckily, I have credentials and experience to back me up.

I provide career consultation, fundraising services, and financial training support to artists. I also do grant writing, fundraising, strategic planning, and conflict resolution for arts organizations. My background is therapy and professional feminism. I went to graduate school to become a therapist but I found that the only population I truly wanted to devote my life to is artists.

I moved to San Francisco in 2007 and started working full time in small LGBTQ arts organizations, which sharpened my fundraising and management skills. When I helped administer a queer writers retreat in Akumal Mexico from 2009 – 2013, I heard all these incredible writers and artists talking about their career and self-esteem issues. I realized ‘Wait! I can help them! I totally went to school to deal with these exact questions!’ So in 2010, I launched a consulting practice that integrates my counseling training with my fundraising and arts management backgrounds.

Why are you so negative in the book about your hometown?

Look, I’m not down on Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Lots of people living in Pittsburgh love it and with great reason. Growing up there in the 80s and 90s as a pre-internet queer feminist person in a small town was fucking terrible and I challenge anyone to convince me otherwise. My experience growing up there was filled with lots of overt and covert racism, which I also hated but lacked language and resources to address.

Here are things I love about Pittsburgh: the bridges and rivers, the Andy Warhol Museum, the Mattress Factory, the now-shuttered Beehive Café and movie theater, the now-shuttered vintage shop Crimes of Fashion, the view from Mount Washington, Police Station Pizza in Ambridge, historic buildings, and my favorite Pirates pitcher Randy Tomlin (1990 – 1994) who I once sat next to in an appliance store.

Should I quit writing or making art?

No. If you are an artist or writer, you need to make art and write to be on the planet. On the days when you want to quit or believe you even can quit, read the book first!

What will your next careers be?

Maybe an ASL interpreter? That’s something I love and have considered since I was very young. I can also imagine fundraising for animal welfare. I love history so much that it pains me I cannot get hundreds of higher degrees in history. The problem with being a Capricorn with a Gemini Rising is that I have a million strong interests and the desire (and drive) to master them all.

BETH PICKENS is a Los Angeles-based consultant for artists and arts organizations. She provides career consultation as well as grant-writing and fundraising assistance to clients across the United States.

TNB Nonfiction features some of the web's best essays, excerpts of up-and-coming books, self-interviews, profiles, and humor from a wide range of authors. Past and future writers include Emily Rapp, Mira Bartók, Nick Flynn and Melissa Febos, among many others. Our editorial team includes: SETH FISCHER is the Nonfiction Editor. His work has appeared in Guernica, Joyland, Best Sex Writing, and elsewhere, and he was the first Sunday editor at The Rumpus. His nonfiction was selected as notable in The Best American Essays, and he has been awarded fellowships by Jentel, the Ucross Foundation, Lambda Literary, and elsewhere. He is also a developmental editor of nonfiction and fiction, and he teaches at Antioch University Los Angeles, UCLA-Extension, and Writing Workshops Los Angeles.

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Marylee MacDonald is the author of MONTPELIER TOMORROW, a novel, and BONDS OF LOVE & BLOOD, a short story collection. Her books and stories have won the Barry Hannah Prize, the Jeanne M. Leiby Memorial Chapbook Award, a Readers' Favorites Gold Medal for Drama, the American Literary Review Fiction Prize, and many other awards. She holds an M.A. in Creative Writing from San Francisco State. She has been a Writing Fellow at Arizona State University and has taught workshops on literary editing.


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