Saturday Sundries – Interview with Dana Sitar

Hi everyone, happy Saturday!

Today, we have Dana Sitar with us.  I met her through the forums probably about a year ago.  Her first book came out a short while back, and the second one will be coming out soon.  This post is going along with her blog tour.

So, let’s get on with this interview!

In the preface of Welcome to the Shit Show, you write “Not too long ago I wrote the words ‘I don’t claim the title writer.  I am just a person who writes.'”  Why were you, at that point, unwilling to claim that you were a writer?

For a long time, I felt unworthy of the title. I considered myself a student, or a video store clerk, etc. But writing was just a hobby – i.e. I wasn’t making money doing it or going to school for it – and I felt like people would totally know I was a fake if I called myself a Writer.

What was your most confusing moment in coming to terms with the artist inside of you?

There wasn’t a ton of confusion about becoming an artist. In Spring 2010 (the period of Welcome to the Shit Show), it kind of struck me that I was a Writer, and that I needed to focus more on creating art as a writer. But, there was about a 6-month period between that realization and the understanding that I needed to write professionally. For a while, I was still going to school for Community and Non-profit Leadership and thinking that I would need to graduate and find a Real Job and just write on the side for 20 years and maybe publish a novel one day.

In Fall 2010, I took a Community Newswriting course for my major and fell in love with journalism. About three weeks into the semester, I discovered the comedy scene and the Nick Hart for Mayor campaign, and my desire to write for real was solidified when I started writing for them.

You very much like to watch people, it’s obvious from the way you write them in your book.  What’s the first thing you tend to notice about a person?

I usually note something that they say first. I’ll start to pay attention to someone if I catch them saying something interesting. I’ve found that this is kind of detrimental when I try to write about them later, because I forget to note physical characteristics. And it’s challenging to portray a real person’s tone of voice in writing! But, definitely quotes are the thing I note most from people.

Doing you think artists and writers are more aware of the world around them?  Do you feel like you see more than other people?

I don’t know about myself in particular, but I do notice that the artists around me are very aware of what’s going on around them, and their awareness varies depending on their art. Comedians will catch things that are bizarre or out of place and ask why. Photographers see light in a space that I can never notice. I think that it is fair to say that artists are more aware in general – I think that awareness drives someone to create.

Your next book coming out is The Hart Compound, and it’s also a memoir like Welcome to the Shit Show.  How much does your life change in it?

The Hart Compound is the second volume in the same series, so the stories more or less pick up where Welcome to the Shit Show left off. My life made a huge shift at this time. In The Hart Compound, I discover who I am, both as a writer and as an independent person. It’s just after my divorce, and I have to completely start my life over – I find new friends, quit school, and start writing seriously. The inclusion of news articles in the book shows this commitment to writing; I’ve taken my first job as a journalist, and my writing is more journalistic and less introspective (for the most part).

While Welcome to the Shit Show stays mostly inside my own head, The Hart Compound puts a huge focus on the comedians around me – Nick Hart, Stefan Davis, and the Madison comedy collective The Isthmians of Comedy – because meeting them was the pivotal event in my life at the time. They were a group of people who welcomed me as a friend when I was totally alone, and they were a group of artists who accepted me as a writer without ever questioning the validity of the title, which made a huge impact on my own acceptance of myself as a writer.

What else is on your writing plate in the next few months?

My goal for 2012 is to focus more on journalism, and less on short stories or fiction in general. So I’m trying to beef up my freelance writing and blogging, pitching articles to publications and reaching out to bloggers – which is very time-consuming!

My big project for this year is a non-fiction book, The Comic Project, a resource and inspiration for beginning stand-up comedians. Right now, I’m interviewing comedians from around the country about their experiences in the industry and what it’s like to be on the road. In April, I’m going to start 6 months of doing stand-up myself in order to relay the experience personally in the book. I’m very excited for this project, because of all of the awesome comedians I’m meeting, and because it incorporates both memoir and journalism. It’s really helping me solidify exactly who I am as a writer.
Author bio

Dana Sitar is a freelance journalist and author of the ongoing memoir series This Artists’ Life. Her upcoming release, The Hart Compound, follows the writer to her journalistic roots as Senior Campaign Writer to a Mayoral campaign headed by two Madison, Wisconsin comedians. Dana shares writing tips and anecdotes at her blog by.dana.sitar.

Follow @danasitar on Twitter.


If you’re interested in winning a  copy of Welcome to the Shit Show, please visit my facebook page here for a giveaway!  I will warn you, this book contains mature themes and situations, so don’t enter if you don’t want to read things like that.