In our latest author interview (see also Maureen Roberts’s Q&A with Kelly Hunter), Stephanie Anderson, head of readers’ advisory at Darien Library, chatted with Jessica Hagy, who wrote and illustrated the just-released effervescent self-help manual How To Be Interesting (Workman Publishing).
Many know Hagy for her Webby Award-winning blog, Indexed. We like her pro-librarianness, yes, we do. Dig her specially made illustration for this interview, above.
SA: Which pieces of your advice do you think would be best for librarians? Where do we start?
JH: Librarians (as a whole, please don’t take offense at the generalization) are curious by nature. They dig and poke and look into things—curiosity is practically a pre-req for the job. And when curiosity is really strong, it forces us to push past all sorts of things that stand between us and our desire to find out more. Librarians let their curiosity guide them, and we’d all be more interesting if we followed their examples.
SA: I see on page 139 there’s a shout-out to librarians! Any libraries or librarians you love?
JH: I spent a lot of time in Taylor Library (now just called the Cuyahoga Falls Ohio Public Library) in middle school. A posse of subversive librarians (revolutionary hearts under wooly cardigans) encouraged me to read books above my grade level, like all the Vonnegut ever published, tons of Updike, Cheever (and Naked Lunch!), textbooks on art history and anthropology, and amazing anthologies of short stories and essays on everything from feminism to uranium mining. I will always be grateful that they didn’t censor what I checked out, and actually encouraged me to delve even further into topics other adults would try to shield me from.
SA: “Set your own boundaries” (226-7) is great advice that’s hard to follow. How do you do this for yourself?
JH: When things bother us and we cope or try to accept them, they don’t stop bothering us—we just get better at ignoring the itchy, achy, awkward feeling in the back of our minds. It took me a long time to realize that I didn’t have to meet annoying people for happy hours, or take on client work that made me feel like a shill, or sit behind a desk when I could be wandering and jotting down notes from anywhere—and merely realizing that allowed me to do the things I actually WANTED to do. Taking small steps away from tedium leads quickly to fun.
SA: What did you do today to be interesting?
JH: Today I am sorting through the stack of business cards I collected yesterday at a conference, and I am doing my best to be a serendipitous force for good between a lot of strangers—introducing people to each other who would otherwise never meet. Email is an spectacularly overlooked tool for making friendships and partnerships happen. I know this for a fact, because it’s how my husband introduced himself to me (before he was my husband, of course).