Where are you and what are you doing right now in this very moment?

I’m at the airport in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I’ve never been here before, but as it turns out—this is an amazing airport! It’s comfy with lots of outlets and interesting coffee places. I have a three hour layover before I go to Oregon, and I just finished eating an egg salad sandwich and an orange and I’m drinking drip coffee and making myself stop procrastinating doing this interview.


You got an egg salad sandwich at an airport? That’s disgusting.

I know! I thought about that! But it ended up being really good.

Are you a vegetarian? Have you ever been?

No and no. I love hamburgers.


So, your book, Legs Get Led Astray is released on April 3rd, 2012. Where’d you get the book title?

I took the title from the song “Last Love Song For Now” by Okkervil River, from the album Black Sheep Boy Appendix. I’ve always been moved by his lyrics and I read them when I want that extra oomph of motivation.


Did you get permission to do that?

Thanks for your concern. I did, actually. My publisher wrote to Mike McGonigal of Yeti magazine and Mike wrote to Will Sheff and let him know the scenario. Will said, “Tell her it’s no problem.” He told me it’s no problem! I hope we get married someday.


What’s Legs Get Led Astray about? Is it about sex and Brooklyn and PBR? 

Duuuuude. No. I think it’s hard for all authors to describe what their work is “about.” But I will try: LGLA is about exploring relationships and heartache and cities. It’s about looking for intimacy in every corner. It’s about looking deeply inward and experimentation and all of the different kinds of love. A friend put it well when he said that I am “an obsessive stenographer.” I think LGLA is a really relatable book because I write about universal experiences.


What would you rate your book? Do you think it’s appropriate for people under a certain age? Like, could teenagers read it?

Hmm…I think I would rate it PG13. I know as an adolescent, I loved reading books, some which were maybe not quite appropriate for me at the time. Actually, I recently had a girl in my writing workshop—she’s seventeen—buy a copy of LGLA. I was a little apprehensive about it, but when I saw her a couple of weeks later she said she was loving it. I asked her if she thought it was too provocative for her age and she told me that there are way more risqué books out there that she and her friends were passing around, such as Piece Of Cake by Cupcake Brown and Push by Sapphire.


What books did you like to read as a kid?

Oh my god, I loved the American Girl Doll books. I had the doll Addy because my mom wouldn’t let me have Kirstin, the blonde. I read all about Addy eating worms on the plantation. I learned to read from those books. I also read the Babysitter’s Club, (and watched all the movies) constantly. When I was an adolescent I liked books like Go Ask Alice, Prozac Nation, and The Torn Skirt. I liked books with drama, conflict, and drugs.


What are some previous titles you had for Legs Get Led Astray?

First: Sun Down Yellow Moon Night Bird.

Second: I Am a Human Being and I Have a Human Life

Third: Diaries Get Found and Opened

Fourth: Don’t Fall In Love with Everyone You Love

Fifth: Lambs Out Wandering.

Ha! I don’t know what the hell I was on when I thought those were good ideas.


Your essays are extremely personal. Do you ever worry about how you will be received by the public?

Not as much as you might think. My essays are me, but they’re just a slice of me. My writing is not my entire being. The way I see it—we all have a past, I just happen to enjoy writing about mine. I understand that may make some people uncomfortable, but it’s something I enjoy doing. My mom always says to me, “Do you really want so-and-so to know that you did _____? And my answer to that is this: “No, I don’t sit around thinking I want so-and-so to know I did _____. But that detail contributes to the story, so I need to keep it in. To quote Kierkegaard: “By being an author, I have, in a sense, made the public my confidante.”


What was it like working with Kevin Samspell, the man behind Future Tense Books? Is he gay or what? 

Kevin Sampsell is married to the blonde bombshell B. Frayn Masters. I am 97% sure he is not gay. Haven’t you read about the prostitute obsession in his book, the one that he claims is not an obsession? Working with him was pretty painless—we agreed on all of the major stuff. But there were a few testy moments, especially toward the end of the edits. One night on the phone he told me that one of my essays was “a little dramatic” and that I sounded “slam-poet-ish” and I started to cry and gave him the silent treatment. Three phrases he was constantly saying to me were “Say no to drugs,” “Look at a book,” and “Settle down.”


What will you work on next? 

I have a mixture of sadness and relief now that my time working on LGLA is over. I will keep writing essays and see what happens. I have some heavy ones in the works, exploring places I haven’t gone yet. Here’s a sneak preview: Tori Amos, divorce, car accidents, snow, painkiller addictions, steak, scotch, and Shamanism. Brace yourself.


Braced. What books have you read recently?

In the last six months or so I’ve read: Wild by Cheryl Strayed. The Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy. Truth and Beauty by Anna Patchett. The Rules of Inheritance by Claire Bidwell Smith. Currently I am reading Half A Life by Darin Strauss and How to Be Inappropriate by Daniel Nester.


From your essays, you seem like you drink a lot. True or false?  

False. I used to I suppose, as much or maybe a little more as anyone in their early twenties living in a big city does. But now not so much. I become too emotional or tired when I drink. And when I write—I never touch a drop of alcohol.


What do you wear while you’re writing? 

I usually wear a lot of layers. Sweatpants, thick socks, a bright colored sports bra, a tank top, and a sweatshirt. If I get bored with myself or if I really need to transcend because I am writing an emotional essay, I put on lipstick and a hat and headphones. That’s my transcending trick.


What do you do when you’re not writing? Like, what are your other hobbies?

I know, right? I kind of forget what else I like to do. This past year I was really immersed at the desk. When I wasn’t writing I was across the street at yoga class. I do a lot of yoga. I want to start using a different part of my brain—I want to maybe take a painting class or boxing class or something.


What would you say is one of your worst writing habits?

I’m guilty of being a stuntman for my writing. I like to write about my true life, and there have been times that that fact has provoked me to act out because I think…this would be a hilarious thing to write about…but I do understand that doing so could get dangerous, so I’ve cut back on that. Also—sitting on my leg until it falls asleep. I did this once all morning and when I got up to refill my coffee cup, I accidentally put weightleg on my sleeping leg and I went flying across the living room.


Best writing habit?

I give myself mini goals on the clock. Such as: You must be done with this draft by noon and then from noon to one you must edit such and such essay. I also often print my work out and read it aloud, sometimes record it into an mp3 and listen to it over and over to really feel out the rhythm and then go in for the edits.


What was the best part of the book process? 

I had the fortune of doing my major book edits in Portland at author Cheryl Strayed’s house in Portland this past January. That was really special. The house was quiet and I drank coffee from a Write Like A Motherfucker mug and it snowed and rained for about four days straight. When I entered her house, I actually wept.


That’s kind of dramatic.

Oh, shut up.


You shut up! 

You shut up!


Stop copying me. 

Stop copying me.


I’m serious, Chloe. 

I’m serious, Chloe.


What would you like to say to the people that will read Legs Get Led Astray?

I would like to say thank you.

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CHLOE CALDWELL is the author of Legs Get Led Astray (Future Tense Books). Her essays have appeared in The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Mr. Beller's Neighborhood and The Frisky. She is the founder and curator of the Hudson River Loft Reading Series. She lives in upstate New York.

2 responses to “Chloe Caldwell: The TNB Self-Interview”

  1. […] self-interview, (read: I talk to myself) is published on The Nervous Breakdown today. I cover advice from Kevin Sampsell, egg salad, what I’ve been reading lately, and […]

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