Portland, Oregon / Chittagong, Bangladesh
Razorcake Columnist / Designer
Lauren: As you know, this is part of a series of interviews with Razorcake contributors; a project I have undertaken so that we can all get to know them beyond what they write in Razorcake. Are you already on familiar terms with any of the other Razorcake contributors?
Amy: Yep, before living in Portland/China/Bangladesh, I used to live in Los Angeles where the Razorcake Familia is based and got to know all the folks who put the magazine together. Prior to writing for Razorcake, I was hanging out with a contingent of folks from Alabama, like BD Williams and Fose, who have contributed to the magazine. I’ve met lots of contributors through the years, all of them extremely nice folks and makes me proud to be part of this magazine. Unfortunately, for the most part, I can’t remember many specifics of meeting these folks because it was usually at parties or shows where there were lots of alcoholic beverages being consumed. I do, however, recall that at a Razorcake BBQ function Art Fuentes told me that his mom was serving up shots of tequila and that I should partake in the festivities. I can’t remember if this was before or after he proposed to me.
Lauren: Did you get involved with Razorcake through a friend who was already writing for the magazine, or did you approach Todd on your own after reading an issue?
Amy: Here’s the semi-convoluted story behind how I got involved and connected with Razorcake (as far as my terrible memory will serve me). I met Ben Snakepit at the Portland Zine Symposium 2004, where I called him out on his beer gut and how he did not depict said gut in his eponymous zine. We met up again later that summer in LA, where I was living, and he introduced me to Todd and the rest of the behind-the-scene folks like Megan Pants and Josh Bama. It was neat to see the Razorcake headquarters, which was a small two-bedroom apartment in Highland Park—but I didn’t think much of getting involved with the zine. A couple weeks (or months) later, I ran into Josh again at (the now defunct) show/community space in downtown Los Angeles called Arts in Action. That’s when I first met BD and Fose and thus began my summer of perpetual drunkenness. But that’s another story entirely. BD was really involved with doing interviews for the magazine at the time and he showed me all the back issues he had. One of the things that I noticed, and no offense to Todd and other’s for their tireless work, was that the magazine was kinda lacking on the design front. I remember this very vividly. A bunch of us were hanging out at a dimly-lit pizza joint, before or after a show, and I just grew a pair of gigantic arrogant bastard balls and went up to Todd and said, “Hey, lemme design a cover.” Just like that. Todd was pretty nice about it, he didn’t even tell me to fuck off. In fact, he invited me to try designing a layout first and I agreed. A few issues later, he eventually entrusted me with a cover (Razorcake #29). I’m also fortunate because I’ve designed a few more after that. I had also been consistently art junking layouts since #26, but had to take a break when I moved to Bangladesh because I just don’t have time. As far as the column is concerned… I can’t remember exactly how it happened. Although I’m confident about my writing, it’s also something that’s very close to my heart so I don’t think I demanded a column like I did with the cover. If I remember correctly, Megan may have been reading a blog I was keeping about my job at the time and she suggested that I submit some stuff. Todd gave me a test run with a web-column and I guess it wasn’t so bad. My memory is very visually based, and I can still picture the way the setting sun streamed through my blue blinds the afternoon that Todd called my dinky studio apartment to offer me the columnist gig.
Lauren: Your most recent zine was “Monster of Fun,” which reprinted a bunch of your Razorcake columns. What made you want to compile all of your Razorcake columns into a zine?
Amy: A friend of mine, Mullet, is my copying patron saint- and I wanted to churn out some zines before leaving American again (and before Mullet quit is special job at the copy place). I’m also really proud of some of the stuff I wrote, so I wanted it all in one place.
Lauren: Do you still write personal zines, or is Razorcake the sole outlet for your writing these days?
Amy: The first place I go to get my writing out is my blog thing: amyadoyzie.com. In fact, some of my columns have been aggregates of blog entries. What’s happen as of late is that I tend to comb through my blog to find relevant stories and compile them into a tangible print zine later on. For the most part, I feel like the blog is just a nice store room that forces me to write almost daily-to shake off all these thoughts that sit inside my fat head-where I can go to later to find material for print. The interweb is also a lot more accessible, for the reader and myself, because I just don’t’ have the time or money to print a zine here and send it across the ocean to the half dozen people who might actually want to read it. It’s easier for me to wade through it when I’m in the comfort of home and compile
Lauren: As far back as I can remember, your Razorcake column has been about various aspects of your life in Bangladesh, China; where you volunteer as a teacher of English. How long have you been living overseas and did you write Razorcake columns before that?
Amy: I’ve been in Bangladesh since March 2008, so it’s been about 8 months now. I’m halfway through, hoping to return home sometime during summer 2009, which means I’ll have lived in Bangladesh for a year and a half. I was in rural China, in the Hunan province, for a year in 2006-07. I’ve been a columnist since 2005, right after my “retirement” from the real world when I moved from LA to PDX and I began this international volunteer thing.
Lauren: Do you get more writing done now that you live in Bangladesh versus when you were living in the States?
Amy: Anyone who writes will most likely tell you that it is one of the most unglamorous activities one can partake in. it’s terribly non-social and a constant debate and argument with yourself. But even so, it’s something some of us feel inexplicably compelled to do. I feel as though I write the same amount as I do in Bangladesh as I did at home. But it’s hard to say because the last time I was home, I had six months to party my guts out before moving to a Muslim country—so writing wasn’t a priority. I was too busy doing things that I can’t do in Bangladesh to really devote myself. Before that I was in China, where I wrote a healthy amount as well. I’ve been writing stories since I was nine-years-old, and it seems that regardless of where I live- they just seep out of me.
Lauren: When do you feel most at home?
Amy: Geographically? In America, especially Portland, Oregon. Non-geographically? It could be anywhere, as long as I’m surrounded with people I love. And hopefully in a country where there isn’t prohibition (like Bangladesh.)
Lauren: And because doing a “Top Five” list every two months just isn’t enough, tell me your favorite:
Lauren: Razorcake column besides your own:
Amy: Whichever column Steve Lardner happened to illustrate for that issue. That kid is talented.
Lauren:Way to travel:
Amy: Bulging backpack, a window seat, my flip-screen digicam is all I need.
Lauren:Band that your friends are in:
Amy: Almighty Do Me a Favor
Lauren:Way to waste time:
Amy: Reading celebrity gossip and hunting for vintage dresses and t-strap shoes on eBay.
Lauren:Saying in Chinese:
Amy: Hui1 Ying4 (It means “taint” in Mandarin Chinese. [Not contaminate taint, but bathing-suit-area taint.] Literally translated, it’s the “in between shadow.”)
Lauren:Method of staying in touch:
Amy: E-mails. Le sigh.
Lauren:Thing about being a teacher:
Amy: It’s cliché, because it’s true, but when you can see that your student understands something like her eyes light up a little or a slight nod of the head that she’s finally grasped an idea or a new word or she’s changed her opinion of something—that feeling of helping someone will stay with you much longer than any paycheck stub.