Interview with Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam

ECKHART TOLLEBonnie Jo Stufflebeam reached out with information about her Kickstarter project, Strange Monsters, which she began with her partner, Peter Brewer and successfully funded. I was immediately inspired by her feminist spirit and bold voice that I had to know more about her project and how she came to be a feminist fiction writer. Read my interview with Bonnie below and follow her trail on social media to stay up to date on the release of Strange Monsters!

[divider type="dotted" spacing="10"]

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]ntroduce yourself to our audience! Who are you, and what do you do?

I’m Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, fiction writer. I write fantastical stories (a few poems), which sometimes appear in magazines both speculative and not-speculative: Lightspeed, PRISM International, Room, Clarkesworld, etc. During daylight hours I work in marketing.[divider type="short" spacing="5"]

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hat inspired you to begin Strange Monsters, and what is it about?

My partner, Peter Brewer, is a trumpet player/composer/recording engineer. We have a studio where he does recordings, and he’s helped me with recording some of my fiction. We wanted to do a project together, something utilizing both words and music. That’s how we came up with Strange Monsters.

Strange Monsters is going to be a six-track album of my fiction and poetry read by actors then set to Peter’s compositions. He’s going to write the compositions to specifically fit the words. We raised the money for the album on Kickstarter. I chose stories I’d already written, and as I began choosing them I realized I had enough stories that fit this specific theme of women coming into their own voices.[divider type="short" spacing="5"]

[dropcap]H[/dropcap]ow has feminism played a role in the evolution of your project?

I’ve always loved May Sarton’s poem “My Sisters, O My Sisters.” This one specific phrase always stuck with me; she refers to creative women who trade in a traditional domestic life for a creative life as “strange monsters” who “renounce the treasure / of their silence for a curious devouring pleasure.” This idea of a woman as a strange monster has evolved with me, and I’ve been obsessed for years with writing stories about "monstrous" women.

At first I wrote mostly about monstrous women distancing themselves from their partners, unable to connect and struggling with their sexual selves. I’ve always been an advocate for sexual openness, but I struggled against the ideas drilled into me by a conservative hometown as well as the prejudices of a conservative state (I live in Texas). Later, as I gained distance from it, I wrote about teenage girls as monster outcasts; these were metaphors for growing up queer. Now I write a lot about women struggling to express themselves without judgment in a world of monsters or women breaking under the pressure of worlds that try to force them where they don’t fit. Strange Monsters includes all of these stories.

image1We’re also making very sure that we have an even number of men and women working on the project in terms of the actors and the musicians. That was always very important to me, even if it meant I had to work harder to find the right talent. The jazz world, like the publishing world, is male-dominated, but it’s not impossible to find highly-skilled women who fit the style we’re going for.[divider type="short" spacing="5"]

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hat advice do you have for people who are interested in your field?

I’m going to answer this for the publishing field, as I’m still a newbie in the audio field. The best advice I ever received was this: write as much as you can. I was told real writers write every day, and while this is my ideal, it’s also not practical for someone working full-time who isn’t willing to give up their social life and sanity. I’m an anxious person, and I found that I need to be more flexible than that. If I need a day off, I take one. If I’m invited to do something inspiring—to see a show, to have a new experience—I consider that as valuable as a day’s writing.

Reading, too. I would say half your time working on this goal should be for writing and half for reading.

If you have the time, work on finding friends in the field. Writing can be so alienating, but it doesn’t have to be. When I joined the Stonecoast MFA program, it was like a whole other world opened up to me; suddenly I had friends who understood what I was doing. Once I was finished there, I found a whole new community on Twitter. I joined a couple of writer’s forums, too. It’s great having help when you need it and feeling like part of something bigger.[divider type="short" spacing="5"]

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]ny advice for successfully fundraising campaign with Kickstarter?

Ours took up *a lot* of time. I thought I knew how much time it would take. I didn’t. Be prepared to do a lot of marketing. Ask for as little as you can afford, to ease as much stress as possible. Reach out to news outlets a month or so before you publish the Kickstarter. Ask friends and family to donate that first day, because the first and last days of your Kickstarter will be the most active, and you want to have as big a surge as possible right at first to encourage other people. Do a lot of research on marketing Kickstarters, and keep doing it throughout.[divider type="short" spacing="5"]

[dropcap]S[/dropcap]ocial media plugs, events, or info you want our readers to know!

The Strange Monsters album will be out in April 2016. The first track is already available for free; listen to it here. To receive word of its release, sign up for my newsletter, follow me on Twitter or Facebook, or subscribe to my website I also curate an annual collaborative show of visual art and prose/poetry in Fort Worth, Texas, every year, accepting submissions each March. There's more info on my website for interested people. And anyone in Fort Worth should consider coming to Art on the Boulevard on 9/26/2015.