Behind the post and the art: ASK AMANDA #1 is OUT.
Hello my loves. It DONE AND PUBLISHED. Please go read it, and please comment and feed the discussion.
Here’s the question I picked.
Shall we start with something light and fun?
I’m dying of cancer at 39. Yes, it’s very sad, thank you.
My husband, and love of my life, Jason, is finding himself very much afraid of the crippling grief he expects will follow my death.
I know you spent some time in a similar situation with Anthony. How did you get through that fear and what advice would you give to my husband, or your younger self, about how to face it?
Thanks very much.
The link to my whole answer – which wound up being OVER 4,000 WORDS, which is LONG – is here. It’s free: there’s no paywall to read it.
Please, please, go read it and comment, and subscribe.
Read it first. Okay?
Then come back here and read this.
Hi you’re back. Stop crying.
There will be (at least) three more issues of ASK AMANDA and FUCK THE QUESTIONS ARE REALLY GOOD. Michael has been assisting me in sorting them, and if I wanted I’d already be in this job for a year, weekly, that’s how many good questions there are.
A reminder to all of you patrons that I’ll be experimenting with publishing on Substack for three more weeks….then we will decide what to do. It’s worrying that Substack isn’t taking a stand against bullies like Graham Linehan (who was banned from twitter for hate speech and being a meanie) and it’s worrying that people (like Grace Lavery, who’s trans) are leaving the platform. And there’s fucking Spotify. I’ve had a lot to think about this week. DUDES. I AM TIRED.
Anyway, there’s a lot to think about. I’m about to test out some beta software on Substack to upload a video reading of this letter, and it will go to everyone, including the free subscribers. Then, for three weeks, I’ll put those videos behind a paywall. Then I’ll figure out how to merge Substack and this Patreon and see what you all think. We will do this together.
In the end, it was a lot more work than I thought. A LOT more. I figured I’d be in for 4-5 hours of easy writing and work and it’d be a breeze.
Jesus. Why do I always think that things are going to be simple? I am 45. I have done like 1,235 projects. Why do I think that. Why?
Is it like amnesia after childbirth? EVERY? SINGLE? TIME?
I suppose I had just forgotten how much effort it takes to write something and then REALLY edit it, and edit it over and over and over again. All in all, I probably spent about 20-25 hours working on this piece, drafting, writing, re-writing, working with all the editors, either over email, in person, over text or on the phone. I wound up roping in five different friends – Jamy, Catherine, Kya, Jamie, and Bijan – to read my drafts and give me feedback, in addition to Rina Bander, the official editor/copy-editor of the piece. Some of them worked for hours to help me out. I owe everybody a lot of wine and sushi.
But also, when you read the piece, you’ll understand why it was all so significant. It felt like a group effort to send love to this person, to these people, to Jason and Penny.
I also spent a ton of time working on the artwork with Sarah Beetson, the official “Ask Amanda” artist in residence.
Here’s some text screenshots…we exchanged, seriously, about 100 text messages and voice messages getting to the final artwork, which is truly a thing of beauty.
Sarah is also a mum to a new baby (well, he’s PRETTY news, he’s ONE), and we were both juggling our hectic mom schedules. I hired her for a reason. We get it.
Here’s a long walk-through of just how many changes the artwork went through….after I sent Sarah the VERy initial and rough rough draft of my letter back to Penny.
While I worked on the text with my editors and pals, she cranked on the art.
Here was Sarah’s VERY first concept:
And I liked the idea of the coffee, and the black and white, but it felt really UNEMOTIONAL to me. Just too many things and not enough peoples. I told her so, and we mused about how to show these people. Sarah the me the old iconic Annie Leibovitz picture of John and Yoko in bed (taken only a few days before John was shot, did you know that?)
….and i responded with the photo of me and Brian (the drummer of the The Dresden Dolls) re-creating the photo.
I couldn’t believe it, but she’d never seen it.
God I love this shot.
I miss Brian.
Not to get sidetracked, but when the Dresden Dolls tour again, fuck this HAS to be a poster and a shirt.
So then Sarah sent over THIS:
….and I was like OHHHHHH!!!!!!
But it felt too plain. So we talked about how to give it depth, and Sarah started working with layers and textures….
Part of the idea of “Ask Amanda”, and having Sarah as the resident artist, is that we will work within a palate. All the work will live in a certain world. And we talked about how that world will be a black and white world, accented with important color, and elements of collage. Sarah is so good at this shit, she gets it immediately, and she works fast. Luckily she’s in Australia, so the time zone change isn’t a killer. Even then, we had to wait for each other a lot to respond. AHHHGGGG I AM WITH THE CHILD GIMME THREE HOURS was a common text. It also felt like a little mom support group.
SO NOW we were getting somewhere. I noted that the dude seemed a little too bright, too figurative. I liked her being real for some reason, but not him. So Sarah worked on him.
But that made his face too popp-y. Comical. That was not good.
So Sarah worked on him again.
And THIS I loved…but I missed his ARM. So Sarah put it back in…and the effect was really beautiful. Wonderful accidents make wonderful art.
Here’s the final, with a border for good measure….
Things take forever when you want them to be right.
I spent the last week also trying to take Ash on a healing let’s-visit-the-dark-past road trip down to our old hood in Hawke’s bay. This was, in retrospect, a dumb idea. I figured I would write and work on Ask Amanda in the earlyu mornings and late nights. Ill-advised. Ash would wake up early. I didn’t have time to focus. I’d planned poorly. It all worked out in the end. Barely.
But it worked out because I had HELP. I asked and fucking asked and asked again.
Here are some more photos to amuse you….beginning with my hot oil-filling selfie of me on (deadly) route 5 between Taupō and Auckland on our way home after cutting the ill-advised trip short.
Here’s my pal Jamie MacPhail, literally editing/feed backing the piece for me when he thought we were just meeting for coffee and a catch up having not seen each other for so long.
(This is, by the by, the famous coffeeshop of Havelock North that got me really fucking yelled at on the internet last year.)
Same story, different day:
This is my pal the writer Catherine Robertson (who interviewed me at the Auckland Writers Festival). She came over for a walk and a hey-I-haven’t-seen-you-in-ages and she wound up getting roped into being my editor (I think she secretly loved it? Her feedback was amazing, she’s a goddamn writer) and babysitter while I scrambled around trying to clean the house we were staying in before leaving.
Friends are the best. They help you raise your kids and they help you edit your shit.
My friend Jamy – who edited and doula’d the Art of Asking, wrote to check in, and I rewarded him with a WILL YOU READ THIS THING AND HELP ME text, and he happily obliged. My friend Bijan (who many of you will know as one of the best poem-whisperes from the webcasts) came in like a knight in shining armor and decided to endlessly help with the edits and stumbling sentences. Why? Who knows. To be kind. Kya checked in to see if I’d gotten back from Hawke’s Bay okay and asked how the piece was going. I sent it to her. She caught a typo that Rina missed.
Here’s me this morning, in my final editing suite coffeeshop in Auckland:
It is not lost on me that my own book keeps continuing to teach me.
The theme of the piece – finding the random Sams of solace, so needed – became the theme of the work itself. The village steps up.
Ask, and the village will appear.
the ongoing lesson continues:
You gotta ask.
People will help.
People sometimes like to help. Sometimes they NEED to help.
I won’t tell you who this text was from, but just..read it. I sent it to one of my secret santa editors right after we published. They’d had a unimaginably hard day with really fucked up family issues.
Sometimes when you ask for something
….you give something….
Never stop asking.
Be the Sam you want to see in the world.
I love you all so much.
———THE STUFF I SAY AT THE END OF EVERY POST———
1. if you are a patron and new to my work, don’t forget your patronage allows you access to ALL of my patreon releases to date. HERE is the link to download my latest big solo record, “There Will Be No Intermission”, and HERE is a link to download the PDF of the art/essay book that goes with it.
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5. are you new to my music and TOTALLY OVERWHELMED? TAKE A WALK THROUGH AMANDALANDA….we made a basic list of my greatest hits n stuff (at least up until a few years ago, this desperately needs updating) on this lovely page: http://amandalanda.amandapalmer.net/
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