On Sunday, October 29th the Broadway Theatre Center’s lobby will be filled with published Wisconsin authors before, during, and after performances of Renaissance Theaterworks’ production of SEX WITH STRANGERS. The authors appearing from 1:00pm to 5:00pm on Sunday are: Cari Taylor-Carson, Christi Craig, Kathy Lanzarotti, Mel Miskimen, Pam Parker, Lisa Rivero, and Kim Suhr. They represent memoir, non-fiction, humor, and short stories.
As an advance introduction to the authors, Renaissance (RTW) asked them questions related to their writing and some of the conflicts presented in the play SEX WITH STRANGERS by Laura Eason.
RTW: Congratulations on Sit. Stay. Heal. Can you tell us a little about your next book?
Mel: My current book is a memoir about two of the most frustrating / fulfilling relationships in my life: spouse and house. How did I come to accept both of their flaws? What did it take for me to realize what true love is?
Back in the 1980s, every Thursday night, Bob Vila et. al., kept us on the edges of our thrift store sofa cushions. Could that house be saved? Could Norm Abrams bring that woodwork back from the dead? When the time came for us to buy a house that’s what we’d do! It all looked so easy sitting there, slurping ramen noodles from our mismatched Melamine bowls. With the ink still wet on our marriage license (I proposed 8 hours after we had met) we bought a 120 year old fallen woman of a Queen Ann in a seen-better-days part of the city.
The honeymoon phase was full of hope. Promise. We’d knock down walls! Put in a new kitchen! Granite countertops! A master bath! But, then, reality. Money woes. Children came. Colic. Sleep deprivation. Day care trumped tile. Vacations were spent wiring and plumbing. A new car became a new boiler. He snored. Her single pane, double hung windows rattled. He developed a paunch. She developed rot. His hair thinned. Her paint peeled. He worked a lot. She needed work. A lot.
This is a story of a house and my relationship with it. It’s a story of a marriage. How both changed me. For the better? How I went from hope to despair, to acceptance, to deep love and awe abiding respect.
RTW: Talk a little about being a woman writer who is funny.
Mel: I didn’t know what to do with ‘funny.’ I learned the hard way to internalize the obvious answer to open-ended questions like, “Who can tell me why there are 3 persons in 1 God?” Sister Mary Gregory did not appreciate my diagnosis of a supreme being with a multiple personality disorder. I had to wash the chalk off of so many blackboards I developed ‘white lung.’
In high school, if I wanted to get a date to prom, I had to closet my quips and one-liners. Do you know how hard it was to stifle snark when a date shows up in a tuxedo with awning striped bell bottoms, a ruffled shirt and a jacket with bat-wing lapels? Perhaps that is the reason for my acid reflux.
I came out as funny in the late 1980s. Briefly attempted stand up comedy. I wasn’t bad. I’d like to think I could have made a go at it, but, I chose instead to stay married, somewhat sane, raise children and have a ‘real’ job. So . . . writing. But, what? The outlets seemed limited. It seemed like there was only room for one Nora Ephron and Anne Lamott. Everyone else? Sorry. Funny Women Need Not Apply. Then came the Internet. Opportunity. I’m still hoping for Kristen Wiig to call. To collaborate with Roz Chast. If anyone knows anyone who knows someone . . . like my mother always said, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get!”
Mel Miskimen is an award winning Wisconsin writer whose works have appeared in the Huffington Post and on public radio. She was a cast member of Listen To Your Mother in 2014 and 2017.
Her book, Sit. Stay. Heal: How An Underachieving Labrador Won Our Hearts and Brought Us Together, (Sourcebooks 2016) is available at Boswell Books, select Target stores, Amazon.com and Barnes and Nobel.com. It was called a ‘must read,’ by Modern Dog magazine. The book was featured on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Chapter a Day program in May of 2017.
She lives in Milwaukee with her husband Mark and dog Seamus in their 130 year old, drafty, empty nest they have been in the process of restoring for over 33 years. Of course, she’s writing a book about it. You can find her website: www.melmiskimen.com and follow her on Twitter: @mmiskimen.