Take one talented woman best known for a film that explores awkward romance and the delicate art of “pooping back and forth forever,” now poised for wider recognition after the May release of her painfully beautiful short fiction collection, No One Belongs Here More Than You. Mix with another, equally talented young woman (who happens to be the singer of Lavender Diamond, the much-hyped Matador act set to release its debut, Imagine Our Love, also in May). Provide construction paper and somewhat faulty markers for hand-made medals; allow female duo to gratuitously praise each other’s virtues in an Echo Park kitchen. Wait. Listen. Pray.
MJ: Ok, so. Here we go then.
BS: Here we are with our ceremony.
MJ: It's an award ceremony, cause we feel like we just don't get really enough awards for the right things.
BS: That's right, so we want to change that here and now.
MJ: Yeah so we can just give out these awards throughout the interview—when we deserve them.
BS: Yes, we should preface this by saying this awards ceremony is also a question-and-answer ceremony.
MJ: Aka, an interview. So—I've written a book of short stories, you've written a record, they both come out in May, and we're good friends. With my book, I wrote it over a period of time, so its really obvious to me which of the stories were the early ones and which ones are the later ones, and the later ones are more related to what I'm doing now or what I'm interested in now…but then they're all mixed up in a jumble, and hopefully they will look of a piece and no one will be able to see the evolution. Are you aware of [the same thing] in your album? What’s the oldest song?
BS: I wrote some of the songs many years ago. The first song on the record, “Oh No,” actually [was] written four years ago; the day the U.S. began bombing Iraq. Certain songs, I sing them all the time in concerts, and now the record’s coming out so I have to go sing them again. All the time. But it’s amazing to me that some songs I just don't want to stop singing. The resonance in them is still gathering.
MJ: Sometimes I feel like my old stuff is actually better and I've sort of lost my magic—and then sometimes I feel like I've really progressed.
BS: The newest song is “Bring Me a Song.” That [was] written several days before we went into the studio. You think: how will I make things in the future? ‘Cause you think the old things are better. I'm putting all my faith in the future. There's so much to do, so much work to be done to bring people together. We need a lot more songs, you know? I was a little worried that I'd never write a good song again, but I have to write more songs.
MJ: Ok, well—now I'm going to give you an award. Yeah. If you were feeling maybe a little insecure about your answer, fear no more. You're getting an award, which I’m going to write with this pen.
BS: Best At Having a Good Answer?
MJ: No. Um, all these pens are wet, by the way, because I washed them—just…don't ask. Ok, so this is kind of stressful because I don't want to…well I guess if I do mess it up I can always put another…I wanted to be kind of off the cuff. I wanted to do something about “staying the course”, you know? Like it seemed with that answer that maybe you lost your way a little bit, but you stayed the course and kept going, and you're good at that, you know? There's a certain point when you sort of seem like you go, “Fuck it, I'm keeping on going.”
BS: Best at Keeping Going?
MJ: Number One Has Kept Going The Longest? Sounds like you're a battery or something.
BS: I really like where you're heading with this.
MJ: Or like you have sexual stamina—although that’s more of a guy thing, isn't it?
BS: I think so. Am I allowed to help?
MJ: It's collaborative. Don’t you wish you could help people give you awards?
BS: Something about perseverance? Best at…
MJ: I'd like to incorporate “fuck it” into it.
BS: Best At Telling People To Go Fuck Themselves?
MJ: No no, that’s a different award. No, it’s just like…Best At Continuing Without Hope? No, you have hope. Maybe just, Number One At Keeping On Going? It’s not like our awards are getting awards. They don't have to be, like, perfect. Oops, this pen is not Number One. Keep on going, pen! All right Becky, I'd like to present this award to you. Not just in your answer, but all the time, I've noticed that you're really good at just keeping on going. In fact, you're Number One At Keeping On Going.
BS: Thanks Miranda. Ok, now it’s my turn to ask you a question and award you with a medal. First of all, I just want to say that I really love you for writing No One Belongs Here More Than You. It's really beautiful. There's so much thought, it's so rich and your mind is so present in the book. I feel like if it was my mind, it would be so tangled. So I want to know: how do you untangle your mind so well? Do you keep it brushed? Do you condition your mind?
MJ: I take flax oil, which is sort of an internal conditioner. I have to fight distraction, you know, and then distraction leads to self-hatred. I'm just focused on all these other things, and not the thing at heart and then I'll just start to hate myself and then that's a real spiral of not being able to write stories. Like today actually, I had all these stupid interviews—not like this interview, they were not question-and-answer ceremonies, they were just straight out interviews. Those can kind of make you feel hollow and outside yourself and competitive with ghosts and people who aren't even there. I have to make myself let that go, then things just kind of flow out, and that's my greatest joy. My delight in the world and in myself can come forth and it’s sort of magical. But to get to that place—that accepting place—is a lot of my work. But I have to do it because writing is one of the only ways that I really know how to love myself and not be hard on myself, so I really need it. I need it to have access to other joys.
BS: Well, that was an excellent answer. And now that leads me to give you this award.
MJ: I'm all excited! Why don't you tell me before you start writing? I'm so controlling because you never usually get this chance to review it before its engraved.
BS: Well I would like to give you an award for being the best at having access, providing access to other joys.
MJ: Do you know how to spell “access?” Because I don't.
BS: A-C-C-E-S-S. Other joys is kind of a good thing. Best at accessing other joys? Best at providing access to other joys? You could be like a cable company—”Providing access…”
MJ: See, that's the surprising thing about you; you know how to write in cursive and spell “access.” Of the two of us, people would probably think I could do that, but I would have no idea how many Cs. And I could never write in cursive. Thank you, Becky. I feel like I really deserve this, so thanks. It’s been a long time coming.
I just want to say now, I've been living with your album for a while and you just finished reading my book. I didn’t actually know what you thought of my book, until just now. You know that I love your album, but I would just like our readers to know that you know that I love your album. I'm just so happy that it turned out above and beyond my expectations, which were through the roof. This is all redundant to our readers because they've already listened to it and it's already changed everything. They're living in a future with your album which is just a much more peaceful time.
Ok one of my questions: When I listen to your song, “I'll Never Lie Again,” I'm thinking: is she really going to never lie again? Because I know I'm going to lie again.
BS: Well, sometimes I think we tell lies that we don't even know that we're telling and they reveal themselves to be lies. And then your whole life was built around a lie of who you thought you were. The lie that we tell ourselves that's most painful is about not living the truth of our own strength. It is so painful to realize that you've constructed your life around thinking of yourself as limited, or not able to be who you really want to be, who you really are.
MJ: It's comfortable to not be who I really am. That discomfort is preferable than the risk.
BS: It's terrifying to women—to all people really—to take responsibility and to acknowledge how powerful we are. That's the primary lie that we tell ourselves, more than anything else, is that our lives don’t matter, that we don’t have any power to change anything. If we would stop telling ourselves that lie, it could be like the difference between thinking the world is flat to thinking the world is round. That’s the problem with religions and any kind of power systems that make you believe that it’s not really up to you, that you don’t have the power to decide.
MJ: I want to give you an award. Oh, this one’s going to make me cry. I’m just going write it: you’re One Of Our Very Best Ones that we have, on earth, right now.
BS: You are, too. Ok, my next question. On page 54 of your book, you talk about “everyone.” I had a dream about “everyone,” too.
MJ: Both of us tend to invoke the grand scale of things—like your idea of world peace. That does not fall short in scope.
BS: There is such a thing as “everyone”; that’s a true idea. That is real. So when you talk about talking to “everyone,” there’s so many people on the planet, and communicating with everyone seems sort of impossible to do. One thing I relate to in the way that you think and work is the feeling that you want to talk to everyone. Like, “Hey everybody! Hey everyone!”
MJ: I’ve been in meetings, like pitching a movie where they’re like, “So who do you see as the audience for this movie?” And I’ll say, “Everyone in the entire world.” And I’ll just stand by that. I don’t see why not. Why else would I work this hard? And its not that I think everyone’s going to like it, but what am I going to say? “20-somethings?” Our target audience is everyone. The living.
BS: I have another question but I guess I already asked you one question so I’m not supposed to. Should I just give you the medal?
MJ: Just give me the friggin’ metal!
BS: ‘Cause then what I wanted to ask, except I don’t think I need to ask this—what would you want to say to everyone? But I think that’s in your work.
MJ: Proof is in the punch.
BS: I thought you were going to say, “Proof is in the punishment,” for some reason.
MJ: Oh no, no. But I can punish you if that’s what…no, no.
BS: I think that this next award should go to you for Best At Addressing The Living. It’s a little too heavy. Best at…
MJ: Communicating with the living?
BS: Or Best At Talking To Everyone?
MJ: Talking to everyone sounds like I’m really social at bars or something. Goodness knows that’s not true.
BS: That’s not true. I’m good at talking to strangers at bars. But you would get Best At Addressing The Living. Oh wait! My mother, I’m just remembering, has a saying: “Am I addressing the living?” That’s a Southern saying. Do you know that?
MJ: What? No.
BS: Maybe she just made that up.
MJ: Maybe you just made that up right now. Go for it. As long as you know how to spell “addressing,” which is another one I don’t know how to spell. You graduated from college!
BS: I went to school and I studied literature. I cannot stop my urge to want to decorate and punctuate. Like I want to put a diamond sign at the end of this.
MJ: You can do what you want with that, because I’m going to make you re-do it before the photo shoot.
BS: That was my rebellion while you weren’t looking. Decorating. Decoration.
MJ: I have something for the end of the ceremony. Since we’re both nervously anticipating our new things going into the world, I thought we would each say a little prayer.
BS: That’s a good idea.
MJ: Should we do it each for our own thing? Obviously I want your record to do well, but tell me what you want. Say a prayer that can shake the heavens. No pressure.
BS: No pressure. I love to pray.
MJ: I thought you might. Pray for your album. I’d like [our readers] to know that Becky has interlaced her hands in prayer.
BS: And closed my eyes. We can hold hands if you want.
MJ: Your hands look totally clean.
BS: No they don’t, my fingernails are kind of…Ok. Right here, in this moment, we say a prayer of thanks for opportunity that we have to share our love of the world. We know that the joy that we have for everyone being together, here, on a beautiful planet, this joy is all that we need to transform our lives in any moment, at any time, and so we pray here today, together, that this record of songs, Imagine Our Love, this record of our love will find its way in our world to the people that it would mean something to, the people that it would make a difference to, the people that it could serve so that our world can grow into a more peaceful place and so that we can all live together in joy and abundance and peace in this beautiful planet together. Amen.
MJ: I’ll pray. Yes, I feel very thankful that there’s going to be a book at all. That seems really, really lucky. And I just pray that when people read it, they feel like the world is a little bit more relevant to them and maybe like if someone’s having trouble getting out of bed or telling their husband or wife something they really feel or doing something that they’ve wanted to do for a while, that maybe there’ll be something that I wrote that will help them along. The way your record has helped me along and other books I’ve read have helped me along. I pray that this book might do that. Amen.
BS: Amen. I think praying is really fun.
MJ: Yeah, I love prayer. All right, well this has been a great question-and-answer ceremony.
BS: You know what I’d like to say a prayer for? For the proliferation of praise. Wasn’t this wonderful?
MJ: It was so fun to praise you.
BS: It was really fun to praise you, too.