Blogger and essayist Mark Brennan Rosenberg loves to make people laugh. The best fodder? His own life. Now touring in support of his book of essays Eating My Feelings, Rosenberg spoke with Our Town about body image, the publishing industry, and his unexpected love for Hugh Hefner.
Our Town What’s your writing process like?
Mark Brennan Rosenberg A pot of coffee, a pack of Marb Lights and a laptop. I'm one of the weirdos who can sit on a bus and write. Whenever the mood strikes me, I will drop everything and start. You can never let a good idea go to waste, so I will literally leave a party if I get a good essay idea or write all through the night so that I don't forget anything.
OT Who are your influences?
MBR Hugh Hefner - which I know is odd - but the man is a genius and changed the game by creating a product that not only offered good material but gave the world something they didn't realize they were missing. I love historical non-fiction, so Erik Larson has been a huge inspiration. His books are so eloquently written and take years and years of research to finish -- I would love to know his process! I also love David Sedaris. He is a comedic genius and if it weren't for him, people like me would never get a chance to do what they love.
OT In writing about your life, how do you deal with the issues surrounding using your friends and family as characters?
MBR Carefully! I never want to hurt anyone's feelings. When you're writing comedy and you are using people who are close for material, you tread a very fine line on what they will find funny and what they will be offended by. Luckily, most of the situations I speak about in "Eating My Feelings" are things that happened so long ago that my family members can look back at a very tumultuous time in all of our lives with laughter.
OT We’re used to women writing about overeating and their relationship with food. Not so much men. Why?
MBR Everybody has a relationship with themselves when they look in the mirror - male or female - and what they see is always different than what the rest of the world sees. Men, particularly gay men, like women, have a certain look that they strive for. Whether it be a six pack of abs, or more defined chest, men have a love/hate relationship with food and body image.
OT As a man, why did you feel it was important to address the subject?
MBR Because the media always focuses so much on women's body issues but men have them as well. As time goes on, more and more men are striving to become this perfect male specimen because, just like women, we are trying to always look our best and are now more willing to try new fad diets or workouts to achieve that perfect body than every before.
OT Obviously you’re able to write with humor about body image issues, but they’re a pretty real concern in the gay male community. What’s your experience been like?
MBR Men are very much focused on the aesthetic, so when you are trying to mate and date, especially in a big city, you get this feeling that every gay is always looking for something better. I've had guys dump me because I wasn't in the best shape or look past me at a bar because someone was in better shape. Gay men can be particularly mean to each other when it comes to body image issues.
OT What are the best and worst things about touring?
MBR I love traveling and seeing the fans who have helped make this possible. However, with the book publishing industry being the way it is, I foot the bill. I also don't get paid for events so I basically spend five-six weeks touring, working my ass off, traveling from town to town on my dime and do not get paid for my time. I love sharing my work - but I will tell you what, it costs a fortune.
OT What makes you laugh?
MBR Organic comedy. There is nothing funnier than going out with a group of friends and just laughing about the random crap that has happened in their daily lives. The truth is always stranger than fiction but real life comedy is so much funnier than a made up joke.
Catch Mark Brennan Rosenberg a noon on September 30th at Barbara's Bookstore at the Willis Tower.
A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for sites like Pop Matters and
afterellen.com Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," was called “poetic and heartrending” by ALA Booklist. Sarah is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
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