Complete the sentence, “Being a Pisces is like…”
Joe Osmundson: All the feels, all the time. Always a drive to do creative work. Deep empathy for loved ones and strangers alike.
Omotara James: living in a house with open windows and unlocked doors…and being charged with the responsibility of figuring out why someone’s appeared and from where…
Laura Theobald: “I want everything planned; I want everything spontaneous. This is my Piscean way. At the end of the zodiac, Pisces bears all the wisdom and failures of the entire cycle. It’s a lot to sift through. I am two fish, panic and serendipity, swimming in opposing directions, facing each other, opening and closing their mouths. ‘What are you saying?’ I ask the fish. ‘O’ they say.” – Nicole Sheets, “More Colors, More Wings”
Max Cohen: Drowning management.
Naima Coster: Tenderness and ache and swimming around with your eyes wide open.
Elle Nash: having a really unstable sense of who you are since you are always changing, but being really annoyed if anyone else points it out to you because down in your core you know there’s some kind of real you in there trying to claw its way out.
Faith Adiele: In college, my BFF and I once found the perfect descriptor in a newspaper horror-scope (or was it in a fortune cookie?) that we’ve used to refer to me ever since: Weepy, dreamy fish-girl. Though I’m feelin’ Joe’s All the feels, all the time and Lauren’s emoticon bio. All I know is, Make it stop!
Lauren Clark: ???
Do you identify with your astrological sign? How?
Joe Osmundson: I do. Professionally, I’m a scientist, and so, you know, I’m not supposed to believe in things like ‘pseudo-science’ and astrology. I remember being in 7th grade in a general science classroom learning about the scientific method and learning – specifically – that astrology wasn’t a real science. We were given horoscopes and had to pick which one best defined us, and essentially no one picked that belonging to their sign, but a separate group who *knew* the sign attached to their horoscope almost all identified with it more than any other.
Ok, fine. But, for me, astrology is a framework that helped me understand myself. Growing up as a deeply emotional little boy in a tiny logging town, I never quite gave myself the space to feel. Learning about my piscean ways and connecting to other people with similar dispositions – especially other queermos – gave me the space to be a boy and a feeling human being ALL AT THE SAME TIME. So, thanks stars. Thanks astrology.
Omotara James: I identify 100% with my Pisceans-in-arms. I just introduce myself to new friends as an empath now, as I persuade them to divulge their life-long secrets, (probably within the first twenty minutes of conversation). Empathy is a euphemism for the depths we Pisces, swim. We are givers. We are listeners. We are you-first-ers. We feel for you. IMHO, all Pisces are astrologically qualified to be online therapists and should jump to the head of the diploma line to start dispensing facts, Jack.
Lauren Hilger: Growing up, I could never focus in team sports. I would practice one-handed cartwheels in the outfield, dream off during volleyball–my gym teacher once said my team would get a point if I just attempted to go for the ball. Way too emotional for badminton. I never wanted to bring my sneakers for gym, period, and those gym teachers were always getting mad at me. Attribute all of this to my sign.
Max Cohen: It’s funny, but astrology has always been more of an emotional bulwark than like, a lifestyle. Like I get what Joe is saying—the idea that whatever your sign is, you’ll be able to find yourself in it. But I think that’s really beautiful and useful—and honestly, it’s what I turn to art for most of the time. The idea of finding yourself in something that wasn’t specifically made for you is such a magical thing to me, such a miracle of human connection. So I love the things I can pull from being a Pisces—the dreaminess, the raw nerves, the compulsive empathy, the, uh, lack of practical skills. But more than that I love the feeling of sharing these with the rest of my sign. Being a fish is lonely work, but it’s comforting to know there are others in the sea.
Bükem Reitmayer: ^Max, yes.
Laura Theobald: I do. In the Florida Keys, where I grew up, the old hippies get together and have pisces parties. Not for any other sign. I think we’re drawn to the same things and places. My longest relationship was with a pisces (spoiler: it didn’t work out that well). I share my birthday with one of my closest friends (shoutout, moon sis). I wonder if piscean “mutability” is not another way of saying instability. I think our moods are really dependent on others’.
Naima Coster: 1000%. Being a Pisces has been such an integral part of how I understand myself since I was a girl. I’m creative, emotional, moody, desirous of connection but also very much a loner. Many of the people I adore most are also Pisces, except for my dog. He is an Aries but that hasn’t proven to be a barrier to our relationship.
Elle Nash: in a way, yes, in the sense that i absolutely identify with myself more than i identify with anyone else but at the same time i end up ‘feeling’ like other signs around me or at least wanting to be like them in some ways. especially with virgos, which i think is my midpoint sign. also when i meet other pisces i find myself wanting to be like “RELATIVE” but all pisces i have met are also so different from me, or maybe it’s that they are distant/wanting to connect but too afraid to JUST LIKE ME
Lauren Clark: I’m friends with a former assistant to an astrologer. He’s a poet now, but stays listening for the stars. I once told him I’d had a bad time when I lived on an island, that everyone else’s stars were shining way too brightly on me there. He just looked at me and said, A fish can’t live in an aquarium. Maybe that was the most Pisces read of my life. Of course I started to cry.
Faith Adiele: I do! Though the other, non-Piscean astrological descriptors sound like hogwash. Before Myers-Briggs came on the scene, Pisces was my only excuse, so thanks, Max (Being a fish is lonely work) and Naima (I’m creative, emotional, moody, desirous of connection but also very much a loner) for using your words. My late mummi was Pisces, born 5 days and 50 years before me; my husband is Pisces, born 4 days and 7 years before me. Mummi is probably the reason I’m a writer, and one day, while my husband was rubbing my head and telling me stories, I realized that I’ve essentially married my Finnish grandmother — in male Nigerian form.
How does being a Pisces affect your writing life?
Lauren Hilger: Daydreamiest. I do like incorporating that side–imagining that which I would like to be true and trying to write it in way that, I hope, feels real to my reader.
Joe Osmundson: My writing is very queer and very emotional even – and maybe especially – when I’m writing about science. I just can’t not put my feelings and my internality on the page. As a cis-man, I think that’s actually quite a political thing. It doesn’t matter how smart my reader thinks I might be, I want them to feel something.
Omotara James: Heroically. To be a Pisces and a poet is no joke. Think: intense. Processing while Pisces is like striking a tuning fork against lightning and producing sound: except you are the instrument, through which the voices of the dead and the living travel.
Bükem Reitmayer: I got diagnosed with ADHD at 24 and asked my therapist, “Do you know if this is a Pisces thing?” So yeah, trying to write a novel as a Pisces is like trying on every outfit in your closet, baking a cheesecake, shopping online, stalking your BFF’s ex’s Instagram, Googling: is this rash normal?, inviting your friends out, cancelling the other plans you forgot about, checking your bank balance, then writing a few lines of prose on your iPhone notes, thinking: I wrote today!
Max Cohen: I don’t know if it’s a shame thing or a complex or what, but I feel like I’m always trying to hide the Pisces in my work as I’m making it, abstracting the emotional/confessional into behavior, scenery, thought experiments, etc (the nonfiction piece I have in CA is a rare exception). It all comes through anyway, of course. We’re suckers to think we can hide, but I think the desire to try anyway is Pisces to the core. Maybe the struggle is the interesting part, there.
Laura Theobald: I feel like the mom in Home Alone before she realizes she left her son in a different country, when she’s still trying to remember what she forgot, pretty much all the time. But I don’t have any kids, so. That’s basically where my poetics comes from. I feel like this general state of mind is also pretty piscean.
Naima Coster: Being a Pisces has been great for my writing life. It’s my impulse to understand my feelings, myself, the people, and the world around me that drive me to the page. At my heart, I am very much an observer. All the watching, waiting, and thinking I do become active when I write. My preoccupation with the past and with memories are also a tremendous resource.
Elle Nash: i feel my way through everything and i prefer working through my feelings on the page which i guess makes an ideal internal environment for being a writer.
Lauren Clark: Sometimes the world around me can be very difficult for me to understand, and I do attribute this to being a Pisces—it’s like being tuned into every radio station on the planet at once. Writing and translating are my tools in unscrambling all the signals and formulating a more whole picture. Poetry allows flexibility of form, which means I can use it as a map of all the information I’ve received.
Faith Adiele: Oh God. Oh yes. All of this! A couple years I sent myself and my multi-generational, multi-genre, multi-media, multi-page manuscript to Chris Abani’s house for an intervention: “Use your best Nigerian accent, yell at me to sit down, then tell me what to do,” I begged. “Just accept it,” he cautioned. “No one sees the world and all the connections you do.
What qualities in writing/reading are you drawn to because of your Astro position?
Joe Osmundson: Writing that is complex and emotional from the level of the sentence to the level of the narrative. Faulkner is a favorite, Didion is a favorite, Hilton Als is a favorite. They all have these messy relationships (even with themselves) and commit that type of family to the page (both in fiction and non-fiction).
Omotara James: S E C R E T S. I most closely relate to confessional poetry, even though (in my experience), people in the literary community use that term derisively. The Pisces in me is drawn to work that navigates emotional honesty, plus I require examples. In other words, if you’re gonna preach pathos, show me the receipts.
Lauren Hilger: I care very deeply about humans’ emotional lives. This is why I go to philosophy and my favorite poets–to interrogate and spend time with other humans’ feelings. It’s not surface–I’m curious about what moves me, what makes me cry.
Bükem Reitmayer: First person, present tense narratives so I feel like I’m getting the overshare I always wanted from a perfect stranger.
Laura Theobald: I also like people who over-share.
Omotara James: ^s e c r e t s.
Naima Coster: As both a reader and a writer, I’m drawn so much to the interior lives of characters. I want to know not only what they’re feeling but what the feeling means to them—how they understand it, how it shows up as sensation in the body, how it manifests to others. I could write about the interiors of characters all day, with just a hint of plot, because that’s what interests me and also feels true. It’s been hard to find writing that fulfills this desire of mine to crack into the consciousness of other people, and, maybe then, deeper into my own. It’s perhaps why I’ve turned increasingly toward creative nonfiction and memoir, which seem to be genres in which self exposure is more acceptable, and you’re less likely to hear some sort of pedantic critique like, “Show, don’t tell.”
Elle Nash: i’m going to echo Omotara and say SECRETSSS. i find myself absolutely drawn to work that pulls a particular emotion out of me, especially work that is obsessed with self-reflection/inner turmoil, work that reveals darker shit about how monsters live inside people (and unlikeable characters, without being super edgy about it), and work that on the sentence level is interesting and complex. i enjoy experiencing how a story is told over the story itself, or like, the emotional content of a piece of work over some kind of traditional narrative structure involving plot/dialogue/blah.
Max Cohen: Secrets, yes, but not juicy ones. Much as I love gossip, I feel like intentionally scandalous lit tends to leave me cold. I’m really into little revealing moments, like the secret dance you do to yourself between the shower and the closet—things that are secret by default, maybe, or that you keep to yourself not for any burning reason, but because they are yours and don’t need public sharing.
But I think the most Piscean trait that grabs me, in all of art, are emotional landscapes. I love seeing someone’s feelings run amok and contort the world around them. It’s what I turn to poetry for.
Lauren Clark: Honesty.
Are there habits (good or bad) you attribute to being a Pisces?
Joe Osmundson: I AM SO DISORGANIZE [sic]. I am actually comforted by clutter, but sometimes it gets to be too much. That’s why (see below) I need a fucking Virgo in my life at all times.
Elle Nash: ^OMG JOE ME TOO. why have all my best friends been virgos?
Omotara James: My good habits include, but are not limited to kicking you out, if you attempt to sit on my bed with your filthy outside clothes or pathogen-carrying shoes. Please, respect the sacred space.
My bad habits include: BATHING MYSELF IN THE SOCIAL MEDIA OF MY ENEMIES.
Bükem Reitmayer: ^ Omotara omg… “bathing myself in the social media of my enemies” is the sea I swim in.
Naima Coster: I have pretty excellent survival skills that come from having an overly active imagination and a propensity to expect the worst. It’s not always fun to be in my brain, but it does mean that if the zombie apocalypse comes, and you’re rolling with me, you’ll likely outlive anyone who thought the day would never come.
Max Cohen: I’ll second the debilitating disorganization—as another ADHD Pisces (props to fellow Ritalin girl Bükem) this has been the bane of my entire existence. I’m really environmentally sensitive too, which is helpful in writing but not really anywhere else—it’s led to me moving house more often than is probably advisable. There’s also that weird combination of self-obsession and a deep and undying love for my friends that makes Pisces life such an emotional rollercoaster—whether that’s a positive or a negative is dependent on our Facebook status.
Lauren Clark: I’m a fairly organized person—I have some heavy Capricorn influences in my chart, and my south node is in Virgo, which are explanation enough—but I also think that being a Pisces means receiving so much raw information that your life becomes an organize-or-drown situation, and the impulse to order is therefore one of my best Piscean habits.
The bad is bad: as a Pisces you hear and believe so many conflicting versions of the truth that the most expendable version sometimes is yours. Another astrologer acquaintance recently used me as an example of a Pisces-gone-wrong on her popular astrological blog. It was unmistakably cruel, but as a Pisces I know that she was also speaking what she believed to be true in pursuit of helping others. I work to allow everyone dignity of thought, but it also means that I sometimes question my own reliability as a narrator. This is the only aspect of Pisces life that ever makes me wish I were another sign. Imagine living life with the self-assurance of a Libra or a Sagittarius.
Faith Adiele: I’m with Naima (an overly active imagination and a propensity to expect the worst), Max (Pisces life such an emotional rollercoaster—whether that’s a positive or a negative is dependent on our Facebook status) and Lauren C here (Being a Pisces means receiving so much raw information that your life becomes an organize-or-drown situation). Except that I am always convinced I’m right and have few real-life survival skills. Strangely, my Piscean husband plays Relentless Optimistic to my sad, weepy fish propensities.
What survival tactics do you have to offer fellow Pisceans?
Lauren Hilger: You are the only water sign without a shell, but you need to keep it together.
Omotara James: ^?????????? Lauren.
Joe Osmundson: Never, not ever, not one time, not for a day, not for an hour, should you date another pisces. Do not double tap on one, do not swipe right on one; do not DM another pisces. Run.
1) Learn a trade.
2) Never listen to The Cure after midnight. Too many feels.
3) If you’re feeling peckish, but don’t know what to eat: tapas. Can’t go wrong with tapas
Bükem Reitmayer: It’s ok to Sharpie your to-do list on your arm.
Laura Theobald: Joe Osmundson! To add to that, find someone who can teach you how to laugh at yourself.
Naima Coster: Remember other people can’t be vessels for all that you carry. Keep a journal. Maybe write a novel.
Omotara James: ^Preach, Naima!
Elle Nash: date an aquarius at least once (aka the WATER BEARER. GET IT??). but i married one so i might be biased. also, let yourself have some goddamn alone time once in awhile.
Max Cohen: If you’re too far from water, art works in a pinch.
Lauren Clark: A fish can’t live in an aquarium, of course.
Faith Adiele: Carry turkey jerky and earplugs. I used to say, don’t inflict yourself on non-Pisces, so Joe and I are opposed on this one. And yes, it goes without saying: No Smiths, no Cure after midnight.
What sign drives you crazy? Why?
Bükem Reitmayer: Only one? I’d say if you’re not a Virgo or a Cancer or my specific week of Pisces, there’s a good chance we’re at a stage in our friendship where I send you a passive aggressive response like, “K”
Joe Osmundson: [ redacted ]
Omotara James: Sign? I’ve got astrological restraining orders out on a couple signs. You know who you are.
Laura Theobald: I find Libras to be vexing and also appealing. I always feel like they’re not telling me something.
Naima Coster: It’s hard to say when there’s so much more to someone’s star chart than their sun sign. I’ve found myself drawn to fire signs over my lifetime, in friendship and in romance, but it never quite works out.
Elle Nash: aquarius. but in a good way. there’s nothing quite like having “weird AND emotional” match up in a relationship. maybe bc i’m such a ‘feeler’ it tends to be very easy for me to read people and figure them out rather quickly but aquarians (aquarii??) tend to be complex/weird/soooo intense about rationality rather than emotions that it keeps things really interesting to me. I’m always like, wtf is going on in ur brain?? which is fun, but also maddening. virgos are equally maddening in their absolute desire to feel nothing EVER like tiny little robots. stop it, virgos. (jk, ilu)
Max Cohen: Oh jeez, this’ll get me in trouble—but all my worst, most devastating breakups were Scorpios. So, uh, don’t date Scorpios. They can’t help but hurt ya.
Lauren Clark: Strong agree with Naima. At the same time, I’ve been honest with the several Aquarians I love that I just dooooon’t get what they’re up to. And not being able to understand their motivations makes me absolutely nuts.
Faith Adiele: Haha, don’t believe in them, except when it comes to Pisces.
What sign do you love / couldn’t live without?
Joe Osmundson: Virgos! I don’t know what it is, and it’s true both in friendly and somewhat-more-than-friendly attractions, but I am drawn to Virgos. I think it’s that we both feel the world very deeply and are very in touch with our emotional beings, but we deal with it differently. Virgos organize (how jealous I am of this); pisceans create. Together, the world is ours.
Bükem Reitmayer: OMG Joe you are speaking straight to my soul!!!! All my close friends and my partner are Virgos and I’d be a perpetual puddle if not for them. My BFF Caroline makes me itineraries so I can survive the week and my partner spends a majority of his work day helping me find my keys. I think a Virgo is automatically born when a Pisces is. Otherwise the world would explode.
Omotara James: ^Joe, Bükem: Pisces + Virgos Forever Tour? I know a dude who will lend us his van. My Virgo roommate of 8 years has basically adopted me. Plus, shoutout to my Cancer baes. Jennygirl, aka Cancer bae 4life, holds me down, but keeps it ? in my daily 23 hours of need.
Naima Coster: I wouldn’t be nowhere without my fellow water signs! But I also love me some earth signs who are clear-eyed, grounded, and wise.
Elle Nash: aquarius + virgo.
Lauren Clark: Taurus forever, ~~ shoutout to my sister ~~
Max Cohen: I’m with Lauren—so many of the most supportive people in my life are Taurus. I’d be a blubbering mess without them.
What lyrics most describe a Pisces?
Bükem Reitmayer: When Blue Ivy says, “Good job, B!” at the end of Daddy Lessons I’m like, yeah Büks! good job! you’ve got this!
Joe Osmundson: ^This made me tear up, not joking.
Omotara James: When Sarah McLachlan sings:
The world’s on fire and/ It’s more than I can handle/ I’ll tap into the water/ Try and bring my share/ I try to bring more/ More than I can handle/ Bring it to the table/ Bring what I am able,
I want to incorporate this into all my cover letters, until the end of time.
Joe Osmundson: Every lyric to every Sufjan Stevens song ever.
Naima Coster: “When you gonna make up your mind? When you gonna love you as much as I do?” –Tori Amos, “Winter.”
Elle Nash: fiona apple is clearly a virgo but the entire song “every single night” is basically my anthem. AHEM:
“my heart’s made of parts of all that surrounds me / and that’s why the devil just can’t around me / every single night’s alright, every single night’s a fight / and every single fight’s alright with my brain / i just want to feel everything”
Max Cohen: “I’m afraid I have more in common with who I was than who I am becoming”-Silver Jews, “Black and Brown Blues”
Faith Adiele: From Pisces Nina Simone (Oh lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood) and George Harrison (I look at the world and I notice it’s turning | While my guitar gently weeps). Or anything from Lauryn Hill’s “crying album”.
Famous Pisces you adore?
Lauren Hilger: I share a cusp birthday with Philip Roth.
Joe Osmundson: I googled pisces writers and Rihanna came right up so that seems like fate to me.
Omotara James: J’adore Nina Simone et Albert Einstein. They are my cosmic, parental, Piscean units.
Bükem Reitmayer: I share a birthday with Wanda Sykes. Oh and Connie Britton, but specifically when she’s Tami Taylor.
Max Cohen: I share a birthday with George Harrison, but Kurt Cobain was the first famous Pisces I was aware of and continues to be the one I resonate with most.
Laura Theobald: My birthday is the same as Nina Simone’s. And, yeah, Cobain is one of my fav pisces.
Naima Coster: Obviously, always and forever, Kurt Cobain.
Elle Nash: “The diary taught me that it is in the moments of emotional crisis that human beings reveal themselves most accurately. I learned to choose the heightened moments because they are the moments of revelation.” —ANAIS NIN (is there anything more pisces than this quote?)
Common misconception about your sign?
Lauren Hilger: That emotional sensitivity does not mean strength.
Joe Osmundson: For me at least it’s that because I’m emotional I’m not also driven and tough. I cry when I’m frustrated, but I’m also competitive AF. A rejection might make me cry off and on for a day, but then I’m back moving forward (even if occasionally through tears).
Bükem Reitmayer: I think a lot of people think we’re empathetic to a point of being a super durable sponge that doesn’t need time to wring itself out. Like dude, I’m not your therapist. But I’m also bad at saying fuck off, so I’ll be your therapist and get super involved in your life and business and threaten to murder your boyfriend for being a fuckboi. ???
Omotara James: Folks assume we don’t know what we’re doing, or that we err on the side of irrational. Appearances are deceiving + organization takes many forms. In addition to hording all the emotions, Pisces keep all the receipts. ??
Laura Theobald: Seconding what Lauren said.
Naima Coster: The fact that I am both deeply sensitive and emotionally expressive often makes well-meaning friends very worried. And while having intense feelings isn’t always convenient for me, it isn’t a disaster either. My ability to feel things intensely doesn’t hold me back—it gives me vital information about myself, and fire.
Elle Nash: that being irrational is a bad thing. irrationality is my obsessive little artistic engine. also, that being a sad girl means i don’t enjoy my life or that i’m not happy. it makes sense to me that i can be both, easily.
Lauren Clark: I agree with all of this. The most common misconception, though, is that feelings are our whole and only feature.
Max Cohen: When I was in my early 20’s, my girlfriend at the time bought me Sextrology, and their passage on Pisces painted them as these detached sexual dilettantes. I think that’s the main thing I bristle against—this idea of Pisces as effete, wistful nothings. Dreams have form, water can be ice, you know.
Faith Adiele: The tears! The only person who has ever gotten them is Pitt professor | Kenyon Review editor Geeta Kothari. Every time she reads a Facebook post, she asks me, “How many cryings did it take?” Yes, Omotara, tell it! (In addition to hording all the emotions, Pisces keep all the receipts)
What does “Peak Pisces” mean to you?
Joe Osmundson: LOLsob.
Bükem Reitmayer: Me on the first day of my period getting upset that I only have two tampons left, and it’s not fair, because the tampons I like are expensive, and why aren’t tampons free?, and I’m looking up Thinx underwear, then one reviewer says they’re not that good, then I lose hope in everything and decide to stay in the shower until the end of my cycle, then I ask Mike to go get me tampons, then he calls and asks which ones, then I start crying because… does my husband even know me?
Lauren Hilger: wearing a bathing suit and Hawaiian shirt in February while working on my computer from home (pretending I’m elsewhere.)
Omotara James: ?:?+??+?+?+?+??=?♋️?
Translation: This one time: the night of a full moon eclipse, around the one-year anniversary of a break-up, on the heaviest flow-day of my cycle, while I was listening to The Cure (after midnight) and drinking red wine, I [redacted] the [redacted] account of my con-artist-lying, cancer-faking, cheating ex.
Joe gets it.
Laura Theobald: Being actually psychic.
Naima Coster: Peak Pisces is me telling a story about some intense mood swing I had, and it being absolutely hilarious, and everyone cracking up as they hear the story, but somewhere halfway through, I start tearing up, because it’s funny, but also because it happened, and I have a range of feelings about it, and it’s actually a very vulnerable moment that I’ve found a way to get out into the open as a storyteller because that’s what I ultimately am as a Pisces—a teller of tales. For me, Peak Pisces is also intensely planning and dreaming about trips that I never book.
Elle Nash: lol. one of my best friends Kacy (VIRGO) once described to me a story about how her pisces dad would ride his bike on the weekends and find like, broken robin’s eggs and cool rocks and sticks and bring them home to show her when she was a kid, like it was the most magical shit in the universe. apparently he did this so much that her mom restricted him to keeping these objects in a porcelain duck-shaped box so that his collecting wouldn’t get out of hand. when she told me this story she was helping me move out of my apartment and we walked into my bedroom where i pointed to this giant stick i had picked up off the ground and hung up on my wall, and then my husband complained about my giant shiny rock collection that he didn’t understand.
Lauren Clark: Like Laura said: being actually psychic. But then ignoring your intuitions and visions or writing them off as irrational, especially if someone else is involved, only to discover in a matter of minutes that you were absolutely correct, and are now stranded somewhere in New Jersey without your phone charger or a coat.
Max Cohen: Listening to Stars of the Lid, staring out at Lake Michigan, sobbing uncontrollably, with a bottle of whisky, and my boobs hurt.
Compared to other humans, how hard is it for you to get out of bed in the morning?
Lauren Hilger: Can wake up easily. Is this not a piscean quality? Is it because I’m on the cusp?
Joe Osmundson: What’s the morning?
Bükem Reitmayer: I’m not functional until at least 10:30am + a venti latte + adderall + fifteen minutes of looking at Cool Dog Group on Facebook.
Omotara James: Super easy: as long as I set 4 separate alarms to go off in intervals of 15 minutes, for an hour.
Bükem Reitmayer: ^LOLOL Omotara YES.
Elle Nash: same. the only reason i’m up in the morning is because my shifts usually start at 5am and i work in a coffee shop. on my days off i’ll sleep 10 hours a night.
Laura Theobald: This question made me cry.
Naima Coster: It’s easy for me to get out of the bed if someone is expecting it of me. If I have to go to work or get breakfast with someone or read an essay for a friend, I’m up and at it. It’s harder when all I have to do is wake up and do something for myself, even when that thing is writing. If I didn’t love writing so much, and if I didn’t need it as much as I do, I’d probably hardly ever get to it. It’s that classically Piscean and deeply problematic impulse to be pleasant and mutable and put the needs of others above my own. And the patriarchy only makes it worse.
Lauren Clark: Generally, all I have to do is have a plan for when I want to wake up. Then my body wakes me up at that time. I only use alarms on special occasions.
Max Cohen: I try my best to make everything outside of bed as bed-like as possible to ease the transition. Often I go straight to a bath.
Faith Adiele: OMG, when I was a toddler / child / teen, my mum had to sing a special song — while gently rocking the bed — on a loop, until I could reconcile myself to wakening. (Kinda the kid equivalent to Omotara’s 4 separate alarms at 15-minute intervals for an hour.) The two classes I failed in college and grad school were scheduled before 10:00 am, and I couldn’t even find the room the day of the final. And yet, as a Buddhist nun, I started my day at 4:30 am. But there was no bed from which to arise — just a straw mat on a wooden floor. Hmm…
Do you like celebrating your birthday? If so, what do you do?
Lauren Hilger: I do–I love birthdays. I remember crying right before I turned seven because I could not handle how excited I was to have my friends in the same room as a beautiful cake. I am always down to celebrate. What should we do this year?
Joe Osmundson: I just need to be around four or five people I love, and the longer they’ve been in my life the better. Sparkling rosé and cuddles (tbh that’s all in need in life).
Bükem Reitmayer: Every year I promise myself it’ll just be me and a few close friends, then I see some rando in the hall and I’m like, YOU COMING TO MY BIRTHDAY BASH? It’s probably because, as a kid, I had “issues” with birthday turnouts (homeschooled), so now that I have a social life I feel compelled to turn my birthday into an event. Once I made all my friends read to me on stage at a cafe I rented out. Like wtf? I genuinely don’t remember wanting to do that. I get these birthday planning blackouts and wake up the day after my bday like, “Who are these selfies even with???”
Joe Osmundson: ^we are basically the same human being.
Faith Adiele: Bükem: LOL. Yes. Last year I cleverly scheduled a retreat with my writing group (of mixed-race Buddhist women writers — yup, I live in the Bay Area), so that they were trapped on a vineyard with me on my birthday and beholden to celebrate. Luckily, they did this, and childhood was redeemed:
Omotara James: Sure, if by “celebrate,” you mean research and compare the biographies of my idols to the puny timeline of my uneventful life and hum the tune to: All By Myself, in a questionable pitch.
Laura Theobald: I’ve made it a personal goal to figure out in this lifetime how to not be disappointed by birthdays. I think I’m making progress by keeping my bar for that day low, and contemplating pretty seriously what would make me feel the closest to anxiety-free for 24 hours. This usually involves being with someone I love very much, and doing not a lot, and eating food. I also love sparkling rose!
Naima Coster: Each year, I absolutely dread my birthday and am invariably sad on the day year to year. It’s too much pressure to have a good time, ask for attention, feel special, and then post a string of ecstatic Instagram photos. Usually, I eat some cake, hide out at home, and I’m grateful when it’s all over.
Elle Nash: i have always weirdly dreaded my birthdays as a teenager and in my early 20s because of self-loathing and sadness, and like, for some reason i just always figured people would forget about me (which, i mean, my parents have forgotten my birthday a few times, but i’m over it) but now they are kind of whatever. i spend a lot of time celebrating my partner and my friends when we hang out (i’m so grateful for all of them) and so also when i am with them it always feels like we are celebrating each other so like, my birthday doesn’t seem to matter as much to me right now? birthdays seem like an ideal time to just remind the person that you love them and are happy they are alive but i feel always reminded of that by the people in my life right now anyway. i’ll be 30 this year though and one thing i am looking forward to is the (hopeful) stability that being in my 30s will bring.
Max Cohen: I love birthdays but I have a huge complex about them. Nothing makes me happier than being surrounded by people I love, and birthdays are a great excuse to do just that, but the fact that it’s all a thing *for me* makes me really insecure, so I usually end up sending out half hearted invites for drinks the day of, with a lot of “it’s ok if you can’t make it” backpedaling.
Lauren Clark: I love that everyone has the longest answers about their birthday struggles—it makes me feel better about being so notoriously awful at my birthday. I love being surrounded with the love of my community, but I don’t like being responsible for plans that might disappoint or be a hassle to others, and I hate being the central emotional thermometer of any outing. On my best birthdays, I end up sober, asleep, wrapped in a blanket in the middle of a fully lit room where my friends and family are all drinking and talking loudly. This has happened several times and I am always mercilessly mocked for it.
What do you say to people who don’t believe in astrology?
Joe Osmundson: Look. I get it. Logically, it doesn’t add up : you share all these qualities with all the people born within a – what? – month long period. Moon rising? What in the fuck? Actually, belief doesn’t have much to do with it. Astrology is a way to get to know yourself, to see yourself reflected back in the qualities that are meant to be associated with your sign. Even if you reject some (or all) of these qualities, you’ve still done the work of self-reflection and placing yourself into a larger context. I think that’s great. And, again, understanding that being a pisces associated me with all these big hearted, creative people was freeing. So, I don’t believe in much, and I don’t know if I fully believe in this, but it’s made my life a little easier and a little better, and that’s actually done quite a lot of good.
Bükem Reitmayer: When I left the religion I grew up with, I felt lost without a way to justify my actions, understand the people around me. So when people don’t believe in astrology I kinda revert back to my religious days where I was like, let’s peacefully coexist and agree to disagree. I need my moon, my rising, and my mercury in retrograde to function, to analyze situations, to have hope in the weeks to come. Chani Nicholas gets me out of bed in the morning. And it’s cool that some people don’t believe in it, fine, no big deal. But I’m still going to look at you like, oh you Gemini moon you. That’s my language.
Omotara James: If you don’t have anything nice to say about astrology, come sit by me.
Max Cohen: Lighten the fuck up?
Laura Theobald: Me neither.
Naima Coster: The universe is wide and full of mysteries.
Elle Nash: i don’t really care if people believe it in or not
Lauren Clark: Nothing. Non-belief is just another personal trait to be added to the map.
Faith Adiele is author of the memoirs The Nigerian Nordic Girl’s Guide to Lady Problems (Shebooks) and Meeting Faith (Norton), which won the PEN Open Book Award. She is also writer/subject of the documentary, My Journey Home (PBS), and co-editor of Coming of Age Around the World: A Multicultural Anthology (New Press). She lives in the Bay Area and at www.adiele.com and teaches travel memoir around the world.
Lauren Clark’s first collection of poems, Music for a Wedding, was selected by Pulitzer Prize-winner Vijay Seshadri for the 2016 AWP Donald Hall Prize in Poetry. It will be published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 2017. They work as Program & Development Coordinator at Poets House in New York City, collaborate with Etc. Gallery in Chicago, and live online at www.laurclar.com.
Max Cohen is a trans woman poet born in Texas and currently living in Chicago. Somewhere in-between she got her MFA from UMass Amherst. Her work has been featured in Ninth Letter, Sixth Finch, and alice blue, and she’s left a range of conflicting bios in her wake. She co-hosts the music taxonomy podcast Desert Island Discourse, and you can find her on twitter as @warsaw350125. She continues to subsist primarily on iced tea and seltzer.
Naima Coster is a Brooklyn-born writer living in North Carolina. Her first novel, Halsey Street, will be published in October 2017 by Little A. Her stories and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Rumpus, Arts & Letters, Kweli, and Guernica, among other places. She tweets as @zafatista.
Lauren Hilger is the author of Lady Be Good (CCM, 2016.) Awarded the Nadya Aisenberg Fellowship from the MacDowell Colony, where she was a fellow in 2012 and 2014, her work has been chosen for Harvard Review Online‘s Poetry Pick and has appeared in Gulf Coast, Kenyon Review Online, and Massachusetts Review, among other journals. She serves as a poetry editor for No Tokens.
Omotara James lives in NYC. She is the recipient of Slice Literary’s 2016 Bridging the Gap Award for Emerging Poets, as well as the Nancy P. Schnader Academy of American Poets Award. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Winter Tangerine, Crab Fat Magazine, Arkansas International, Newton Literary and elsewhere. Currently, she’s working on a children’s book, of all things! Visit her website to say “hi” or book a reading at: www.omotarajames.com
Elle Nash is the author of the forthcoming novel Animals Eat Each Other (Dzanc Books, 2017), and the poetry chapbook i can remember the meaning of every tarot card but i can’t remember what i texted you last night (Nostrovia Press, 2016). She is a founding editor at Witch Craft Magazine, a fiction editor at Hobart Pulp, and lives in the Ozarks with her husband.
Joseph Osmundson is a scientist and writer based in NYC. He started a podcast, Food 4 Thot, with three of his favorite witches, and you can find more of his writing – mostly creative nonfiction – at www.josephosmundson.com.
Bükem Reitmayer is the Editor-in-Chief of Cosmonauts Avenue. Born in Istanbul and raised in Chisasibi, Quebec she is currently an MFA candidate in fiction at UMass Amherst. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in No Tokens, Carousel, and FLOOD, among other places. You can find her on Twitter @bukemr.
Laura Theobald is the author of the poetry book What My Hair Says About You and the chapbooks The Best Thing Ever, Edna Poems, and Eraser Poems, and is a book designer for BOAAT and OOMPH!. She has an MFA from LSU and tweets @lidleida.