Monday, May 27, 2024

The 40 But 10: Christy Tending


I had decided to retire the literary Would You Rather series, but didn't want to stop interviews on the site all together. Instead, I've pulled together 40ish questions - some bookish, some silly - and have asked authors to limit themselves to answering only 10 of them. That way, it keeps the interviews fresh and connectable for all of us!

Today we are joined by Christy Tending (she/they). Christy is a writer and activist living in Oakland, California. Their work has been published in Longreads, The Rumpus, and Electric Literature, and received a notable mention in Best American Science and Nature Writing 2023. You can learn more about their work at or follow Christy on Twitter @christytending.

Why do you write?

As a memoirist, I like the Joan Didion quotation: I write to find out what I’m thinking. I write primarily to make meaning of the things that have happened to me and to understand and interpret them for myself. I write to make connections between all of the different parts of myself, to invite all of them to the table so that they can speak to each other and learn from each other. And I write to help other people feel less alone.


What’s something that’s true about you but no one believes?

I have been arrested for political protests eight times. I’ve been an activist my whole life pretty much, but these days I look like a regular, suburban soccer mom, so I think it catches some people off guard.


What’s your kryptonite as a writer?

A cat who wants to snuggle. It doesn’t matter how much of a roll I’m on, if a cat starts begging for attention, I’m an absolute goner. Life is too short not to snuggle the cat who has appointed you worthy.


If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

Teleportation. I’m a climate activist who loves to travel, so fossil-fuel emission-free mode of transportation is the actual dream for me. Also, I’m impatient, so the instant gratification would be amazing.


What’s the one book someone else wrote that you wish you had written?

Most recently, it’s The Hero of This Book by Elizabeth McCracken. It does things in a book that, structurally, I didn’t understand were possible or permissible. Not only is the prose beautiful, but it’s a truly inventive book that smashes genre into smithereens and spits in the face of categorization. The author bends time and space right there on the page in a way I’d never seen before. I’m obsessed with it.


You have to choose an animal or cartoon character that best represents you. Which is it and why?

Louise Belcher from Bob’s Burgers! She is tiny and an absolute menace, but she loves so fiercely and she’s so protective of her family in a way that I aspire to. And she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty. I’d like to think I have that kind of grit.


Which literary invention do you wish was real and why?

This might be cheating, since they’re more characters than inventions, but I would love to live in a world where the Ents from the Lord of the Rings series were real. It would be very cool to have talking, walking trees that could carry you around and fight back around as allies.


What’s on your literary bucket list?

So many of the things on my literary bucket list involve connecting with other writers: to have writers I respect and admire read my work, or for our work to exist in conversation, is the dream. I love other writers so much and have so much admiration for the way my favorite writers think about craft that I am always pushing myself to get closer to that level. There are a lot of external markers for success that would be nice, but feel ultimately empty without that camaraderie.


Do you think you’d live long in a zombie apocalypse?

My book is called High Priestess of the Apocalypse, and it imagines, in part, my role at the perceived end of the world. So, I’d like to hope so! I believe strongly in community care and gathering the skills to survive past the world as we currently know it. I’m not sure how I’d do against zombies, but I’d have a solid plan and a great attitude about it.


If you were stuck on a deserted island, what’s the one book you wish you had with you?

The Leaf and the Cloud, by Mary Oliver. It’s one of her less popular books—it’s a book-length poem—but it’s a masterpiece and I’ve read it at least 100 times. It’s my essential text for life, really. It deals with grief, place, nature, memory, family, impermanence—all the juicy stuff.


High Priestess of the Apocalypse is a lyrical exploration of disobedience, grief, and healing (often simultaneously). This memoir reckons with climate grief, the impulse to fight for what we love, and how to turn dread into action. It examines, with intimacy and tenderness, the future of our planet and the humanity that informs the longing for a better world. Part memoir, part direct action primer, part love letter to the new world we’re collectively fighting to create.

Purchase a copy here

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