Interviews and guest posts from the writers and artists of Versal 10. Next up, a conversation with the wonderful Lisa Annelouise Rentz, whose story "Conrad's Hammer" can be found on page 91. Lisa's stories have been published most recently by the Oxford American, Liars' League London, the Not A Stitch gallery show in Philadelphia, and in a book from They Draw and Cook. She lives in South Carolina.
Have you been to Amsterdam? What did you do while you were here? If you've not been yet, what do you think you'd do in our fair town?
I have been to Amsterdam. I spent the summer in Germany after high school and we visited for just one day — my friend was still in school, so it was actually a field trip. We went to the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijks Museum, and walked all around town. This was 1988 — I remember the street bums and canals, finding an Indonesian shop that sold bags of krupuk, and hearing Creedence Clearwater Revival on the bus's muzak. Later I made sate sauce for everyone to go with the krupuk.
What is the first creative thing you ever did?
As an adult — when I was first dating my husband, I hand-drew a silly drivers license for him.
What is the dumbest thing anyone has ever said to you about being a writer?
Announcing "I'm a writer!" because they're in a critique group and keep a journal. I think most people are and can be and should be avocational writers — it's an important skill for daily life. For being a civilization. But at the same time, cool it with making "writer" into a title for a business card.
If you were an angle, what kind of angle would you be?
90 degrees all the way.
If you could meet a writer from the 15th, 16th or 17th centuries, who would it be? And what would you talk about?
Maria Sibylla Merian, she studied and documented insects by making beautiful drawings (which include writing, introductions, etc.) of the creatures and their habitats and predators and prey. I've only read up on her lightly, so if we met, I'd love it to be back in her 15th Century studio so she could show me around. She was German, so we might be able to chat. I'd like to hear how she financed and arranged her travels to South America, and how she stayed committed to her work. Show me the originals please, and let's see the notes too! I just googled her to refresh my memory-- and she eventually lived and died in Amsterdam, and according to wikipedia the city of Amsterdam sponsored her for a trip to Surinam! I have a newly finished story set in the near future with a character based on her. I learned about Merian from a friend, an accomplished nature artist and teacher. She's got a great out-of-print book that's a compilation of Merian's work.
Tell us something few people know about you.
I really like privacy.
Other than Versal (which has clearly been awesome), what's one great place you've been published?
Liars' League London, because it's London, and because their live reading-performances and e-audio files are a new format for me. Plus I don't know who else would have taken that piece about how Santa and Lillef (the future Mrs. Claus) met.
Why did you send work to Versal? Be honest.
Well I do judge a website by its cover, so I definitely approached Versal that way at first. And perhaps there was a suggested theme for issue 10 which I felt "Conrad's Hammer" suited. Either way, as I dig around looking for the right place for my work, I try to get a feel for the quality and editorial needs of the journal. Also, I like the low submission fee, it's very fair. I don't often submit to annual publications, out of impatience, but Versal appealed to me.
What has lasted you ten years?
Too much of some and too little of others.
Tell us what you're working on right now.
I'm working on a short story that's getting pretty long already. Like "Conrad's Hammer", it's set where I live now, more explicitly this time. It's about objects, antiques and heirlooms and art— the neat old stuff that's still around and how the current owners handle it all. Haves and have nots. The bad guy is a pastor, an Episcopalian priest. I tried to resist that, but it's true, I find a lot of religious people to be more harmful than good. It's also set at Christmas, and right now it looks like the end of the story will be a big Christmas bash, where I plan to kill off the pastor during the festivities.