Heather Reddy 9 March 2008
Novelist, blogger, ex-webbie, dog-mother, very worried about informal logic
Heather Reddy has been living in Portland for a year, having spent most of her life doing hard time in the Midwest. She writes and reads a lot and then takes the dog for a walk and stays up late.
Already claiming to be a writer in infancy, she won the Young Authors contest in her western Michigan elementary school every year until the fifth grade, when her decision to switch from sentimental prose to a story about the adventures of a sentient mayonnaise jar was met with a mixed critical reception. “I don’t even understand,” her teacher wrote. “Is this supposed to be funny? I think you should write something else.”
Heather continued writing weird stuff in the secrecy of five subject notebooks throughout her childhood, each with a section devoted to letters to imaginary people, unsent letters to real people, constantly revised charts of friends, a section for poetry and a section for more fantastic stories. During the mid-nineties, she and her best friend designed some of the most elaborate, and poorly written, personal websites to then ever exist. At the time, she was a teenager working in Systems Administration. She is glad that the gothtastic animated GIF’s and adolescent spleen are cleared from caches, but remains active as a blogger, through her personal blog, sorry to be so heavy. She has also remained interested in and engaged with information technology in many different settings.
Heather’s blog reflects her continued interest in always very weird, sometimes autobiographical writing, the fact that she suffers from an education in philosophy (graduating with a B.A. from Kalamazoo College in 2002) and that she continues to study philosophy of language and philosophical logic. Heather has had a lot of adventures, like dropping out of divinity school, living in Europe and learning PHP. She gets nervous when people try to speak German with her. She lives on a lush alley southeast Portland with her boyfriend, lots of books and their ridiculous looking dog.
What are you up to?
Writing wise, I’m working on a memoir, written in a series of letters to myself, which is making more sense the more I write it. Also, I am finally getting around to looking at a novel I wrote last summer, about colon therapy culture in southern California. Yeah, you read that right. My best friend, Kevin WIlson, and I are collaborating on a screenplay that is drawing us down a very strange path. I organize a writing social group that meets weekly at a cafe in southeast. It was formed out of a desire to have a writing group that wasn’t centered on critique, but rather on the common ground that a lot of my friends have even though we write in different genres. It’s ended up starting romances, finding people jobs, finding people room mates and generally being a good way to spend one night a week. I’m also developing a website for an arts organization that I find really exciting. Anyone who wants to come to my writing group or blog about arts culture in Portland should contact me. I also help to organize a monthly writing event, Shut Up and Write.
What are you into?
I’m fairly obsessed with how institutions, concepts and art works are perceived as organized or meaningful, which has led to working in database development, watching Judge Judy with a critical eye, being fascinated by improvisational composition in music, studying vagueness in quantum physics, and writing experimental fiction and memoir. I love reading about the politics, ethics, history and logical implications of everyday language. I also seem to read steadily about medical history, the history of cinema, social history in general, and works by and about Wittgenstein and Proust.
I also like to play music really loud, collect religious pamphlets, and sleep in.
What do you like most about Portland?
People’s willingness to organize outside of religious institutions and the nuclear family. Growing up in Michigan, and even living for a long time in Chicago, there just isn’t the same level of infectious enthusiasm about forming new, local communities and traditions. While I don’t participated in things like Santacon, Brides of March, or Zoobombing, I love that I live in an area that can sustain such events as tradition. Some people complain about the transient culture and the increasing rarity of natives. Sure, it can be weird to live in a city where “since 2004″ is something to brag about in 2008. But I think this flux has really inspired people in Portland to think outside traditional social, economic and familial models that aren’t really working anywhere. Portland is full of people who are excited about finding new ways of living. The results are sometimes inspiring, sometimes ridiculous and sometimes a lot of both.
Really, I can’t say what precisely led me to fall in love with Portland, but I know I’m a complete convert. I don’t want to ever move, or even go on vacation most of the time. I love living in southeast, where I can go the coffeeshop slouch, eat at Pix, and get a pitcher and see an old movie at The Laurelhurst Theater without really walking too far. I treasure some of my favorite places, like Jace Gace, the art gallery, beer and waffles space at SE 20th and Belmont, because they are spectacular and seem like they could only exist in Portland.
The other day, I checked a local blogging community and saw that a guy who posted looking for wedding dress to fit a 6’4″ man with a nearly 60″ chest had found it within a couple hours of posting to ask for help. That made me happy about Portland for reasons I can’t fully explain.
What led you back to writing, from being interested academia and tech work?
I was always writing on the side. I majored in Philosophy because it seemed to give me good questions, rather than just teach me a craft like majoring in writing or compsci would have. This actually really worked. Studying very abstract ideas, working in libraries and working with computers all my life made me understand the mechanisms through which I express myself better. Being adept at programming and explaining technology to people with various competencies made me think about language and how it functions. Writing literature is just one more way of doing what I was doing all along: trying to understand the world and explain it to other people, on the fly and subject to constant revision.
What strange experiences have come from keeping a personal blog?
I get “fans” in weird places. I’ve gotten long, personal letters from both logicians and poets in response to some entries. Recently, I wrote about the best-selling six word memoir book, Not Quite What I Was Planning, by the founders of Smith Magazine, a social networking and story-telling website. I ended up going out with them when they read at Powell’s and talking with Rachel Fershleiser about memoir writing, activism and looking bad on photo ID cards. In general, people who have read my writing before meeting me kind of assume tend to assume I’m going to be more serious. They’re often greatly relieved that I don’t talk in run-on sentences with variables, the way I often write in my blog. On the other hand, people who know me and only later read my writing are often shocked at how much I’m always digging below the surface of everyday experiences, including ones they shared with me and coming up with eccentric results. I’ve been accused of having a dark, very analytical side, which is definitely true. The fact that I tend to be cheerful shows that I find humor in very strange places. The greatest thing about writing about the weirdness of your perceptions is that a lot more people than you’d think end up getting the joke, and being able to laugh with you.