Hayden's Ferry Review


A Cup of Ambition: Writer, Performer, Playwright

We've all heard it before, at dinner parties, from relatives, from our therapists: "Oh, you write. Does that mean you'll be a teacher?" Fine, fine. We can't make enough money to "eat" or "live" from our poetry. Every MFA graduate knows the horrible feeling that settles into her stomach as graduation approaches. You finished a whole book!, you keep telling people. And still, no prospective employers come a-calling. Here at HFR, we know how you feel. We thought it might be interesting to take a closer look at some jobs we writers and lovers of books might enjoy. Or do enjoy. Or have tried, and regret. This regular post, A Cup of Ambition, will talk to those in-the-know about what the working world is really like. (To see previous posts, click here.)

Meet our tenth guest...
Tania Katan, writer, playwright, performer and instructor for writing workshops held here in Arizona and other locations, such as Italy for the Topography of Memory workshop.

How did you come to have this job?
Well… Being a kept woman isn’t easy, especially when your lady-friend is a professor, you know, with all the furloughs and stuff. Wait, which job were you inquiring about? OH, writing, yeah, that’s a tough one. I’ve been writing since I was six years old and somebody gave me this tiny pink patent leather diary. The covers shut tight and were held in place with a gold lock and key. The lock was the size of my thumbnail and the key was the size of a grain of sand, a gold grain of sand key, and all I wrote in that shiny pink diary was, “I like Brian, but I think he likes Stephanie. My mommy is not making my favorite cake for my birthday. Today was good.” So even at 6 years old I had some innate understanding that my job as a memoirist would be one of finding the light in disappointing situations.

The Good Stuff
Tania Katan is an author, playwright and performer. Her memoir My One-Night Stand With Cancer is the winner of the 2006 Judy Grahn Award in Nonfiction, an honoree of the 2006 American Library Association’s Stonewall Book Award in Non-Fiction, and a finalist for the 2006 Lambda Literary Award. Rock-n-Roller Melissa Etheridge said of Tania’s book, “This book rocks! It’s passionate, playful, and downright beautiful,” and the Library Journal gave the book a Star Review. Since the success of her first book, Tania has been performing her one-woman show, Saving Tania’s Privates (adapted from My One Night Stand With Cancer), which made its European premiere at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August 2008 where it was a critical success! In the U.S. Saving Tania’s Privates has been seen at such prestigious venues as ACT in Seattle and The Painted Bride Art Center in Philadelphia. Katan is a regular contributor to The Advocate, Compete Magazine, Stand Up To Cancer’s online magazine, and others. And because of her unique ability to write and perform she has become a regular performer at Comedy Central’s Sit-n-Spin. As a public speaker and teacher, Tania is invited to teach writing workshops and give performative lectures around the world. After winning the 700.is Experimental Film and Video Festival in 2007, with a video made by Angela Ellsworth starring Tania called Hot Air: a one-woman all-boy band, Katan and Ellsworth were invited to Iceland to teach a “Performing for the Camera” workshop. She is a regular on the university circuit, speaking at Loyola Marymount, UC Berkeley, University of Connecticut, California College of Arts, Arizona State University, and others. At writing conferences she is seen on panels with Brett Paesel, Bernard Cooper, Laurie Notaro, and Steve Almond. As a playwright, Tania’s plays have been seen at Connecticut Repertory Theatre, Circle Repertory Theatre, Pacific Residence Theatre, Theatre of N.O.T.E., and other venues throughout the United States. Katan has received the American College Theatre Festival Award in Playwriting, the Jane Chambers Playwriting Award, and others. Katan’s work has been written about in The New York Times, Bust, Library Journal, Bitch, Running Times, DIVA, GCN Ireland, The Scotsman, and other national and international publications. In addition to writing and performing, Tania is extremely proud to be a graduate of the New York Artist in Residence program at the Creative Center, an organization that brings the art making process to the bedsides of people in the hospital dealing with cancer. You can usually find Tania running marathons, sipping espresso or in Italy where she teaches a creative writing and drawing workshop with her lady-friend, Angela Ellsworth called Topography of Memory. For more information please visit: www.taniakatan.com or www.twolittlewishbones.com

The Bad Stuff
Having people ask, for a second time, “So, what do you do for a living?” And once again I say, “I’m a writer.” And then they ask, “I know you write, but what do you do for a living?” So now when someone asks what I do for a living I just say, “Sales. I sell signs, like banners, but with more words.”

Surprise Me
I am very hot in Iceland. My band is anyway. Seriously, we’re called: Hot Air: a one woman, all boy band.

Who makes a good writer/playwright/performer?
Someone who practices her/his craft often. Someone who is open to other people challenging their ideas. Someone who is open to being wrong, to learning more, to going deeper than is comfortable. Someone who enjoys being uncomfortable and even if they don’t enjoy being uncomfortable they know that discomfort is part of the creative process and do it anyway. Someone who likes other people making them look smarter than they really are. Someone who delights in collaboration even if they have many moments of fighting it, of protecting their flimsy ego. Someone who loves being present and living the details so that recalling them will be a pleasure, a puzzle, something to chew on and type out. Someone who tells the truth; their truth.

How do I become you?
Approach the counter at the fancy coffeehouse across the street from where you live. You are slightly disheveled, playing the part of the genius writer. So disheveled and genius that you forget to bring money with you to the counter and need to go back to your computer bag to retrieve it.
Back to the counter. The sexy barista, who looks Jewish or Amish, is staring, ish, into your eyes and her full-under-the-age-of-thirty-lips open slowly to ask you a question, “What can I get for you, Tania?”
Ok, ok, you know she knows your name because you get your coffee there 6 times a week, but let’s just pretend that she’s memorized your name, maybe even asked a coworker, “Whose that hot lesbian who appears to be a genius, but always forgets her money?”
You can feel your heart pumping faster than necessary, “I’ll have a double dry cappuccino.”
“Would you like that cold or…hot?”
She punctuates the question by smiling at you too long, staring directly into your eyes and you know if you really thought about it, clearly assessed the situation, she’s just a skilled customer service worker, but you find that thinking sometimes clouds reality and you’re all about creating your own reality, living in the waking dream and all that stuff. Plus, you’re a writer, so it’s your job to either embellish situations or incite embellishments within situations, either way, you get paid to dream, not think. And in your waking dream, when you say to the sexy barista, “Yes, I want it hot.” She says, “How hot do you want it?”
“As hot as you can make it.”
“Scalding, Tania. Scalding.”
OH NO, you’ve awoken from your waking dream with the facial equivalent of a wet dream!
The blood from your heart has swum upstream and into your nerdy face and now all the sexy barista can see is your huge Face Boner! Red and hot, engulfing any indication of your race, the boner has taken over your visage! There’s no hiding it, sure you have some tricks to try and keep your Face Boner down, like taking off your glasses and rubbing your eyes, or pretending that a swarm of bees just bit your face, or itching your red cheeks like you’ve got a rash, or dropping your keys hoping that the sexy barista thinks the blood just rushed to your face upon bending over, and, and, AND… You don’t want to be me; it’s way too embarrassing.