An Interview with Anne Elizabeth Moore: Author
Sylvia: Hi Anne, it is such a pleasure to interview you. Please give our readers a brief introduction of yourself and a little about your book.
Anne: Thank you Sylvia. Although introductions to interviews about me often shorten this to “indefatigable,” I am in fact a Fulbright scholar, UN Press Fellow, the Truthout columnist behind Ladydrawers: Gender and Media in the US, and the author of Unmarketable: Brandalism, Copyfighting, Mocketing, and the Erosion of Integrity (The New Press, 2007), Hey Kidz, Buy This Book (Soft Skull, 2004), and Cambodian Grrrl (Cantankerous Titles, 2011). For four years I ran the now-defunct Punk Planet; I founded the Best American Comics series from Houghton Mifflin; and I teach in the Visual Critical Studies and Art History departments at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I work with young women in Cambodia on independent media projects, and people of all ages and genders on media justice work in the US. My journalistic work is frequently exhibited as conceptual art, and I have been the subject of two documentary films, and have lectured around the world on independent media, globalization, and women’s labor issues.
I have written for N+1, Good, Snap Judgment, Bitch, the Progressive, The Onion, Feministing, The Stranger, In These Times, The Boston Phoenix, and Tin House. I have twice been noted in the Best American Non-Required Reading series. My work with young women in Southeast Asia has been featured in Time Out Chicago, Make/Shift,Today’s Chicago Woman, Windy City Times, and Print magazines, and on GritTV, Radio Australia, and NPR’sWorldview. My friend—and one of my favorite fiction writers—Elizabeth Crane wrote a short story about me and it was widely reviewed. So what’s weird is that the Village Voice has called me a “Possibly perfect protagonist;” Washington City Paper said I was “A woman who has always been comfortable in her own skin”; and Hipster Book Club said I was “A perfect altruistic punk-rock super-heroine.” I have appeared on CNN, GritTV, WBEZ, WNUR, WFMU, and Georgian television. Last summer I mounted a solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. Hip Hop Apsara: Ghosts Past and Present, a book of photographs and accompanying text, comes out in August from Green Lantern Press. I live in Chicago and like cats and pie. And although the press continues to ignore my talent in this area, the thing I am best at in the world is making vinegar.
Sylvia: You have an interesting background. What inspired you to write your first book?
Anne: My first book was called Hey Kidz, Buy This Book: A Radical Primer on Corporate and Governmental Propaganda and Artistic Activism for Short People. It’s a middle-school book on media literacy and advertising in mass media, and it came about because the publisher asked me to write it. I have an accessible writing style and know media literacy inside and out, so it was easy enough, but I think I was selected for the project because of my sense of humor.
Sylvia: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Anne: Well, this book is non-fiction, a lyrical essay about modern-day Cambodia in pictures and words that describes the country’s move from a static state of mourning into the most rampant economic development it’s experienced in around 1,200 years. In image and text, loss and desire are sifted through to explore the state in between; that beautiful half-noticed sense between smell and sight and between hearings and touch that is pure unverifiable memory. So Hip Hop Apsara: Ghosts Past and Present is—it’s a difficult book, in terms of how you read it and in terms of what it says. But we live in a complicated world. And what I hope the readers get from this book is a sense of how beautiful those complications—especially in one of the most economically depressed places in the world with one of the bloodiest histories—can be.
Sylvia: Tell us more about how Hip Hop Apsara is different from your previous books.
Anne: The essays in this piece are my first non-journalistic take on Cambodia, and thus are more playful reflections on the emerging nation than I usually get to put out in the world. Cambodia’s plagued with a great number of very serious social issues, both in the present day and in the past, but it’s also a deeply happy, gorgeous place. Hip Hop Apsara focuses on something aesthetic that’s actually economic and social; it represents a new view on Cambodia, a place people generally think they know about, that they believe does not and cannot change, because the Khmer Rouge regime—in which between 1.7 and 2.2 million people were killed in an ultra-communist revolution—looms so large. But it is changing, very quickly.
A lot of the images are about what happens when traditional forms begin to adapt to globalizing forces. In the public exercise and dance images, traditional Apsara dance moves get combined with hip-hop choreography. They show how people move on from loss. In the final images, of a concert I was lucky to attend in Kandal province of this amazing group of musicians called The Messenger Band, the images are of how traditional notions of gender and sexuality are impacted by the global garment trade and the local sex industry. The concert space offers a chance for Cambodians to rethink that impact, and question who supports it. The book is really about that space, about the moment before tradition shifts, to more efficiently allow for profitability.
Sylvia: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Anne: They say everyone has a book in them. I’m not sure that’s true. I used to row crew and a common saying passed round my boathouse was, Everyone should row at least one regatta and write at least one book in their lifetimes. I’m not sure that’s true: I’ve rowed a few regattas and written several books, and while I’ve learned a lot from the experience, I don’t think you should feel pressured to do either. Making the world’s most perfect cake, going for an incredibly long walk, and raising the most adorable cats ever are equally worthy pursuits. There’s a lot of pressure to have a presence in the world of media these days, and I believe it’s driving people a bit batty. Even if you do have a book in you, and you want to go through the heartache and stress and expense of putting it out in the world, I think it will be a better book if you don’t feel forced into it.
Sylvia: What marketing techniques have you used to sell your books and which ones have been most successful?
Anne: Writing a book that revealed the underpinnings of the marketing industry was, by far, the most successful “marketing technique” I’ve ever encountered. Unmarketable: Brandalism, Copyfighting, Mocketing, and the Erosion of Integrity was beloved by marketers, who basically know what they do is weird and sometimes flat-out illegal or wrong, and love to be on the cutting edge of everything, including telling people what’s wrong with their own industry. But if that’s your strategy, heads up: get your facts right. No sense telling people they’re wrong about something when you’re making just as many mistakes.
Sylvia: Why should we buy your book?
Anne: It’s beautiful, you will learn from it, and you’re probably not going to find a more stunning art book for $20, ever again, in the world of publishing.
Sylvia: Is there a special place that you prefer when you write?
Anne: I only ever really write at a wood table I’ve commandeered as my desk. When I travel, I of course have to make do with whatever space I can find to fit my laptop, but I always envision myself writing in my Chicago apartment, my cats snoring kind of obtrusively behind me, window open to my left so my Serbian landlord can poke his head in and ask if I’m eating enough white foods—he’s concerned about my health and he believes white foods have healing properties.
Sylvia: What projects are you currently working on?
Anne: I’ll be touring with Hip Hop Apsara, so maintaining sanity during a book and lecture tour is my first priority. After that’s completed, I’ll finish New Girl Law, the follow-up to my previous book Cambodian Grrrl: Self-Publishing in Phnom Penh. I’m also launching a long-term art investigation around economics, literacy, and pencil manufacturing. Although my work is primarily journalistic, it often takes the form of art interventions or conceptual art exhibits. It’s like what Mike Daisey does, without the lies. I explain this because I have no idea what this pencil project will look like, but I am very excited about doing it.
Sylvia: What is your POWER WORD? Why this word?
Sylvia: Ok, that’s an interesting word. Anne, thank you for your time! I enjoyed learning more about you and your book. Please let our readers know how to contact you.
Anne: You are welcome.
- Website: http://www.anneelizabethmoore.com/
- Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Anne-Elizabeth-Moore/54605271217
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/superanne