Kathleen Lane is a freelance writer who has worked for several agencies including The Martin Agency, McKinney and Work, Inc. She has also worked as a staff writer at Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam. Lane was co-founder of ART 180, a Richmond, Virginia nonprofit that partners volunteer artists, writers and musicians with children living in difficult circumstances. Currently, she is active in the arts community of Portland, OR as a writer of short fiction and as creater and co-host of SHARE, an event series that brings artists from various disciplines together for an evening of creating and sharing.
LN: At what age did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
KL: I was one of those quiet observer kinds of kids, with most of my social interactions taking place in my head, so in a way I guess I’ve always been writing stories. I remember looking around and noticing who was embarrassed or sad – at least I believed I could see this! They were probably perfectly fine but that didn’t stop me from constructing
entire narratives around them. I didn’t think seriously about writing, though, until I joined Tom Spanbauer’s critique group. All of those smart, hilarious, open, honest people sitting around a table telling their stories – revealing secret parts of themselves, “going to the dark places,” as Tom says. I was a square girl from Eugene, Oregon, so it really shook me up – in a good way. I needed a good shaking.
LN: I know you’ve had experience with several types of writing, from children’s books to ad copy. What is your favorite genre to write?
KL: Short stories feel most natural to me. Anything longer than twelve pages and I lose track of the story. Plus I like the experience of entering a world, getting to know the people there, then moving on. Fortunately, I’m more committed to my real relationships.
LN: Who are some of your favorite writers? What are you currently reading?
KL: Many favorite writers – Kurt Vonnegut, Alice Munro, Tom Spanbauer, Steinbeck, Harold Pinter, Flannery O’Connor, Bob Dylan, John Updike– have to throw Edward Gorey in there, too.
Right now I’m reading Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann, David Copperfield by Charles Dickens and Charles DiAmbrosio’s The Dead Fish Museum. I just finished Kurt Vonnegut’s Bluebeard, which has everything I love in a book – strong character and language, and a narrator you believe in and want to listen to for 500 pages.
LN: You recently started an invitational art event called SHARE with friend Margaret Malone. Can you speak a little bit about SHARE’s origins and the concept behind it?
KL: It started as one of those “wouldn’t it be amazing if…” kinds of thoughts. We loved the experience of gathering writers together, so what about widening the circle and bringing in other artists? I was also at a not so good place with my writing – I felt like I was dragging it around with me wherever I went, it had become heavy and just not very fun anymore. I really needed to find a way to get the joy back.
Everything about SHARE is joyful. For each event we invite a different group of artists– musicians, painters, sculptors, dancers, actors, writers, chefs. (Past artists are invited to return, so the group grows a little each time). A few hours before the event, Margaret and I text a one-word prompt to the artists. At 6:30PM everyone arrives at the studio – a lovely space in China Town’s Goldsmith Building – and finds a space to work. 7:00PM, we start – writers at their typewriters, musicians at their keyboards, artists at their sketchpads… we’ve had actors and dancers rehearsing in the hall. Then, after two hours, we come back together and share what we’ve made.
LN: What are some of the most surprising projects that you’ve seen take place at a SHARE event?
KL: Honestly, all of them. Every project has been surprising in its own way. We had Shawn Bowman who gave each artist her own pet goldfish for the prompt “Temporary”. Her experiment was whether or not we’d grow attached to our fish and want to keep them (uh, NO). For the prompt “Organ”, Noah Nakell created Experimental Organ, a five-foot tall foot-pump operated organ made entirely of paper, cardboard tubing and masking tape. Andrew Dickson had us in hysterics with his power-point presentation for “Hoodwink”. But really, I’ve been amazed by all of the creations – all of the actors, dancers, writers, painters, musicians who are able to pull such beautiful poignant stories out of themselves in just two hours time.
In fact, I have to say, my favorite part of SHARE is what happens before the sharing – those two hours when everyone is working. I love the mix of sounds and materials… and smells. We had a “food artist” at our last event – he brought in a portable stovetop and cooked up (among many other dishes) bacon– which, of course, was not at all distracting! The smell of bacon combined with writers banging away on their vintage typewriters and Lynn Yarne arranging chicken hearts into the state of Oregon while Corrina Repp composed a song (listen below) in the hall was heaven to me.
LN: SHARE is now going into its 5th event. How has it evolved since its inception and are there any offshoots?
KL: We’re making little adjustments as we go, but what we’ve loved about the events is that each one feels as new and frightening as the first. Because each event is a different group of artists, there’s no predicting or controlling how the evening will go. There’s so little that’s within our control that it’s really an exercise in being open to whatever happens – the nervousness, the awkward moments, all of it.
Some ideas for offshoots have come up. Courtenay Hameister, who has been a great energy and idea source for us, suggested a larger event and even a weekend retreat, but we haven’t made any plans yet.
LN: How has being involved with SHARE affected your writing, if at all?
KL: I get really inspired by artists who don’t put any worry or judgment into their art. At SHARE, you only have those two hours, so there’s no time to think about your audience and what they might think of your work, there’s only time to create. You have to just go with your first impulse and see it through – and then be willing to stand up and share it. Seeing people being brave with their art has made me want to be braver with my writing.
LN: You recently had a short fiction story titled “In the Jetway” published by Swink Magazine . Can you share the premise of this story?
KL: “In the Jetway” is the story of a woman so desperate for connection that she invents connection. It’s also about how it’s possible to be surrounded by people – be within feet of people – and still feel a deep loneliness. Sounds like a fun read, right?
Actually, to be honest, I didn’t set out to tell that story. Most of my stories begin with a thought or phrase and either I keep going with them or they float away. In this case, I happened to be standing in a jetway behind a bald man – I’ll leave it at that.
LN: What I really enjoyed about this story is that I can truly imagine it being spoken by you, which is incredibly telling of the honesty of your writing style, especially in this excerpt:
“Right now I could walk up there and squeeze that old woman’s arms. I could squeeze her arms, I could tickle her in the pug folds of her neck, I could pick that old woman up and spin her around and around until her shoes fly off.”
I think many people have those sorts of thoughts, but you are able to convey them in such a humorously, poetic conversational way. Is this story indicative of previous work?
KL: I guess a lot of my stories are about characters with tangled internal lives – characters who find escape by way of their imaginations.
Maybe I listened to too much Hank Williams Sr. growing up, but I’ve always loved stories that have a kind of sweet sad longing to them. I’m also a fan of dark and sometimes inappropriate humor! (See Edward Gorey)
LN: What writing projects are forthcoming?
KL: I have a story coming out in the next issue of Poor Claudia . It’s part of a short story collection I’m working on – which also includes “In the Jetway”.
LN: Do you have any future plans for SHARE?
KL: Invite in more lovely people and see what happens.
For more information about Kathleen Lane visit: www.kathleenlane.info