Writer Heather Jacks has hosted many pop-up events at Spark Arts. From selling her rockin' handbags made from old vinyl records and their covers to hosting one of her many amazing book events.
(Interviewed by Wolfram Alderson, on behalf of Spark Arts, San Francisco)
Describe your body of work.
I am a storyteller. Those stories appear in books and random places, where words congregate. I have written for everything from Chicken Soup for the Soul to Marilyn Manson’s musician site; the 9513—(the world’s largest country music blog) to Highlights for Kids; Match.com to Mother Earth…and my own books.
My last book is, The Noise Beneath the Apple®; A Celebration of Busking in New York City. It is a deluxe edition coffee table book with a vinyl record and a film. It won some cool awards; including Independent Book of the Year. My current book is a series of autobiographical essays; My Headdress Is On Fire…stories from a White girl growing up on & off Indian land. It is starting to heat up and get some legs and I can’t wait to share what is happening behind-the-scenes with it, soon.
Was there someone in your life who provided special encouragement for you to be an artist?
Every month, My Grandmother would make the trip off Indian land to Betty’s Book Barn. Betty’s was a run-down barn, with crows nests tucked into the eaves, horses tied up outside and cows grazing nearby. Inside, plywood planks across sawhorses served as miles of shelves and whiskey barrels made of oak were used as tables. Books of all ages, genres, categories and sizes covered every open space. I spent hours in the cavernous space and I discovered other worlds from Poe to Tolstoy; Hemingway to The Hardy Boys. I was hooked. My imagination ran wild and free. When I left Indian land, at the age of 15, I took that imagination with me; today, it still runs wild and free.
Who and what are your most important artistic influences?
“I was nine years old when I read, The Death of Ivan Ilyich. It was a paperback version, pages yellowed with age and dog-eared with time. The stamp, Betty’s Book Barn, emblazoned on the front. It was buried in an old wicker basket, beneath the Sears Roebuck Catalogues and Montgomery Ward’s circulars. The basket sat in the corner of the Outhouse. It was what my Grandmother referred to as a novella; meaning it was short and easy to read.
The book was published in 1886, by a Russian, right after his religious conversion, meaning it might have been short; it was not easy to read. It was the only time my Grandmother lied to me.
Tolstoy was bitter, and the themes of the story reflected that; the falsity of life, disillusionment, an existence devoid of passion and participating in a living death. It was bleak stuff wrapped in a layer of hopelessness.
One line stood out. I reprinted that line, onto a page out of the Sears Roebuckcatalogue, while sitting on the ‘focus hole’ of the Outhouse.
"Ivan Ilych's life had been most simple and most ordinary and therefore the most terrible.”
It was a line that terrified me.
I wanted an ambitious life.
I wanted an extraordinary life.
I wanted a wonderful life.
I did not want to be Ivan.”
From My Headdress Is On Fire….
What attracted you to showing your work in a community gallery space like Spark Arts?
As an independent writer, one has to be open to non-traditional venues and opportunities. Fortunately, this works well with the way I approach the world. Spark Arts is a beautiful, intimate venue and Angie and Aviva are supporters of their community. I asked. They said, ‘sure’ and a friendship was born.
Why do like to work in these mediums?
I love the portability of books; that you can take these other worlds with you wherever you go, and be transported. Like those moments, when you’re riding the MUNI, and you finish a book and then look around and realize that everyone else is just carrying on with their lives; as though you hadn’t just had an emotional experience at the hands of a paperback.
Or the connection I feel, when I hear young people say things like, “Lie Low” or “What’s done is done” or “Good Riddance” and I know that they too, must have read Shakespeare.
What is the zeitgeist or central theme or ideas behind your work?
Life is simple; it is a series of choices. As we get older, we aspire to making better choices. I can’t claim that I understand life any better in my post-50’s than I did in my 20’s; but, I’m old enough to admit it.
What can you say about being an artist in the world today? What can you say to artists who are struggling with idea of even being an artist or moving their art into a public domain?
It’s like that film Pulp Fiction. No matter what you are; a painter, a writer, a poet, a musician…we are all in this thing called life. It starts out cool, we look great; we are having fun and sex and cussing and indulging. Then it gets confusing and chaotic and then we all die. What did we learn from Pulp Fiction? A couple of things:
Sometimes things make a lot more sense if you go back to see what happened first.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained....but that is a quote I cribbed from Chaucer.
(Damn…another one of those pesky poetic stories that stood the test of time.)
What can you say to young people who are just beginning to explore their creativity, but might be lacking encouragement or confidence to take it to another level, to pursue a life as an artist?
Very simply; I'm a professional writer; which means that I was once an amateur who didn’t give up.
To learn more about Heather and view links to purchase her books, visit www.heatherjacks.com.