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  • Writer's pictureKD Webster

The Writers Block - Amy Armstrong



Hey there! Welcome back to The Writers Block! So with every interview I'll do an intro that's simultaneous slightly disjointed yet somehow relevant to my guest. I dunno, it just seems to work out that way.

Well, I had one in mind for this one. It was going to be something about the importance of taking care of one's mental health. Thing is, every time I would get to the second or third line, the voices in my head kept vying for my attention. Two of them wanting to throw their pair of pennies in the mix. Scratch saying this, Pandora saying that. I mean, the amount of times I got halfway through this intro, only to turn around and erase it. By the time I got both voices to settle down, my whole entire train of thought got derailed.

Guess I should probably just get to it, huh? My next guest is a psychotherapist, a writer, has hosted a live online storytelling show, and is an all around cool person. I introduce to the masses, Amy Armstrong.


KD: Okay, let's get into it. Tell me about Amy Armstrong.

Amy Armstrong: I am a deeply flawed human trying my best. I also tend to use sarcasm and humor to disguise my deeper feelings, but now we’re being way too serious. Telling stories has always been a thing for me. Before I could read and write, I would draw elaborate pictures on the back of placemats at restaurants. (This was back when McDonald’s actually gave out placemats without stuff printed on the other side. You know, profligate times when we didn’t care about trees.) My first “series” was about a dog guardian angel named Ferginicky. He was my main guardian angel dog. Eventually, I added a horse named Socks. I’m not exactly sure how their roles differed. This might have been my early tell that I had a future of creating too many characters with overlapping functions in the narrative.


(I won't say I had to Google profligate, but I won't not say it, either.)


KD: Quick shout-out to your neck of the woods.

Amy Armstrong: Colorado has lovely scenery and a lot of good-looking tall men.


KD: The scenery is quite nice. And all you good-looking tall men, go ahead and take a bow. "Stories Live!", what’s the origin story?

Amy Armstrong: When I moved to Denver, I started looking for open mics that focused on fiction. I heard that The Mercury Cafe ran a lot of events like that, so I stopped by on one of their open mic nights. It was actually the one for music, but they had wine and a very attentive bartender, so I hung out and listened for a while. One musician who had been making eyes at me the whole time fetched me the event calendar (more tree killing!) and pointed out "Stories! Stories!" It said to call Ed Ward if I was interested in telling a story. I was a bit intimidated because phones terrify me. Yes, I text and update Instagram and Facebook constantly, but that’s not the same as actually dialing and talking to someone. Things can be misunderstood. The other person could be on the toilet. See? It’s horrifying.

Anyway, I’m happy I got up the nerve to call Ed because not only did he get me on the roster, but he also proved to be a source of community, support, and caring until his recent death. Since "Stories! Stories!" was an in-person event, the pandemic derailed that and I realized that I missed my writer friends and I missed the story telling, so I created "Stories Live!". Admittedly, "Stories Live!" episode recordings are available all the time, so it’s not always live, but the great thing about being creative is being able to embrace contradictions.


(Note, "Stories Live!" was an online event where writers and authors would recite excerpts from stories they've written. Each session was recorded and is available to watch on YouTube. I included the link to the channel here.)


KD: I know how important taking care of one’s mental health is to you. That said, what does a mental health day typically look like for you?

Amy Armstrong: Sleep. Wine, and doggies. If my back hurts, I go to the spa and get a massage.


KD: Personally speaking, you had me at sleep. I will take a nap in a New York minute. That is, assuming a New York minute still means what I think it means. So, I know that writing isn’t your day job, but does said day job influence your writing? If so, how?

Amy Armstrong: I’m a psychotherapist and I specialize in trauma. I think all writers have to be amateur psychologists. My observation skills when it comes to human behavior definitely strengthen my scenes and characters.


KD: Speaking of influences, who are your writing influences?

Amy Armstrong: Margaret Atwood is probably my strongest influence. She’s the first feminist author I encountered. I also admire Tobias Wolff’s ability to fill every sentence and paragraph with emotion and characterization. He does it so deftly, I don’t know what hit me until the story is over and I’m wrecked. Speaking of wrecked: Amy Hempel. First, she has the correct first name. Second, her short stories are brilliant.


KD: I did a quick research dive into Amy Hempel. She is indeed quite the writer. I plan to dig into one of her short stories in the near future. Okay, coffee or tea or other?

Amy Armstrong: Wine, water, and sometimes coffee–black–nothing weird in it.


KD: Wait, in that order? Because to place coffee - the elixir of life - in last place. Well, that's just sacril-...anyway, how would you classify your writing style?

Amy Armstrong: I think it is clean and modern.


KD: Nice! Your social media accounts run from books you’ve read to humorous cartoon clips to uh…well, let’s just call them sassy posts. Is it all part of your brand, or just how you’re feeling at any given moment? Like, from what I can tell, the dogs, Twister and Ernie, they are as much a part of your social media as you are.

Amy Armstrong: Twister and Ernie photograph better than me, so I like to put them in posts.


KD: And they're both such the cutest things!

Amy Armstrong: Also, they upset fewer people than my rants about wishing Texas would secede.


(My Texas readers...uh...we're still friends, right?)


KD: How would you describe yourself as far as personality and character?

Amy Armstrong: I don’t put up with bullshit.


KD: To thine own self, be true, huh? And how do you think your friends would describe you?

Amy Armstrong: Smart, kind, tenacious, but has her limits.


KD: And now the thing I ask of of every writer for this interview series. Tell me a story using five sentences.

Amy Armstrong: I thought best friends were forever, but she proved me wrong. Like Salt ‘n’ Peppa says, opinions are like assholes and everybody’s got one. I’m sure in her “opinion” I overreacted - I disagree. Maybe I could have paused and thought things through more, but she could have too. Besides, forces beyond my comprehension were at work.


KD: Love that! It's cool that you can throw Salt-n-Pepa into a short story...but I do need to ask, what exactly did you say to her that created the schism? I'll maybe follow up with that in a second interview. As far as writing, what genre is within your wheelhouse?

Amy Armstrong: Mostly contemporary fiction focused on women’s issues, humor, personal essays, some sci fi.


KD: What, to you, is the greatest aspect of America?

Amy Armstrong: We popularized blue jeans.


(Right??)


KD: Flipping the coin, what do you feel is the greatest challenge facing America.

Amy Armstrong: Americans.


KD: Well, you're definitely not wrong. Back to writing and writers. What's your thing? Like, that thing that writers make their thing when they're writing. And yes, I know I made that as clear as mud. Like, I always use a Pilot G-2 pen when I write. Black 10 ink, of course. That's my thing. That, and listening to certain types of music while I write.

Amy Armstrong: I am much happier and write faster if I have a cheesy playlist that only I know about!


KD: Name something you wish you would have known or learned way earlier than you did?

Amy Armstrong: Most people are full of shit and say you’re full of shit because they want to distract others.


KD: Sounds like a powerful lesson. So I know that we're already knee-deep into February, but what was your biggest accomplishment of 2023? What's a goal you have for 2024?

Amy Armstrong: I finished a draft of my novel in progress and joined The Book Incubator. I opened a high yield savings account and continue to read submissions for The Masters Review. For 2024, I plan to finish at least two revisions of my novel because by July, I’m out of time in The Book Incubator.


KD: Your two cents on the topic of AI in the literary world?

Amy Armstrong: AI can strip itself of everything it learned from Mona Awad, Margaret Atwood, and Ottessa Moshfegh and then we’ll talk. I think it’s the Tokyo vending machine of writing.


KD: I can honestly say that of all the times I've asked the question, I haven't heard it put quite like that. What's an unpopular opinion you stand by?

Amy Armstrong: Woke white suburban biotches don’t know shit about me.


KD: Uh...well...

Amy Armstrong: I grew up in a house with a hole in the floor, got spat on and could flatten them in the Hilton Women’s Room any day. ::cracks knuckles::


KD: Just gonna...move on to the...next question. I believe every writer has a Muse that speaks to them. How does your Muse speak to you?

Amy Armstrong: You Better Work Bitch.


KD: Your Muse is...well...down to Earth. Yeah, that's it. Down to Earth. I'm gonna close this out with this...do you have a website you'd like to promote?


This has been quite the memorable interview. One of the more enjoyable ones I've put together. I reserve the option to bring you back for a second interview in the future. Or, if not you, perhaps Ernie and Twister.


My thanks to Amy Armstrong for her contribution to The Writers Block. And my thanks to you, the readers. I continue to hope you enjoy reading these interviews as much as I enjoy putting them together. The Writers Block will continue. Still a few more interviews to go. In the meantime...

Take a break from your world...visit for a while in mine. Come often. Stay for a spell.

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