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Born to Be Public in a Pandemic
By The Editors
Greg Mania's life was destined to be public. So much so, CLASH Books is publishing his memoir Born to Be Public, a hilarious book about coming out and coming up in the world, this August.
But how can writers and artists stay public during a pandemic? We don't have all of the answers, but Mania may have the antidote.
What inspired you to write your memoir?
Well, I sort of didn't have a choice: I have a very limited skill set! My mom wanted me to become a pharmacist, and if she had her way your Lexapro refill would probably contain a rogue Skittle. But in all seriousness, I wanted to create a snapshot of life in my early twenties. I knew that I had a story of community and family (both chosen and not) and comedy to tell, because not everyone grows up closeted to Polish immigrants parents and then goes on to live a double-life as a club kid in New York City's downtown club scene while also being a college student, all on top of presenting a version of himself that he's long outgrown to his family and loved ones back home in New Jersey. I wanted to chronicle the discovery and rediscovery of identity, because identity is many things, but one thing it's not is neat. It's frenetic, always shifting, and each layer of ourselves is a vital piece of the totality that makes up who we are. I wanted to honor each facet of myself in a body of work, all while making the reader laugh (and cringe, because I have the grace of an emperor penguin that's under the influence) along the way.
As a comedian, how have you seen humor help those who are anxious about COVID-19 cope with the circumstances? How have you used it?
As someone with a clinical diagnosis of anxiety, depression, and OCD, I'm like, WELCOME TO MY BRAIN, NEUROTYPICALS. Okay, see, that's what I do. I avoid chaos and serious shit by making a joke out of everything, but honestly it's how I've survived my life. I metabolize everything through humor, this ongoing pandemic included. We have to laugh to keep from crying. We are getting slammed left and right by news, both credible and not, speculation, people's takes, and everything in between, and it's made my anxiety a hundred times worse. I have to remember to limit my media intake, but it's hard because my job is, like, 70% social media. So I try to find laughter where I can, because if not we're all going to go bonkers.
How has COVID-19 affected your career and your personal life?
I was supposed to go to the L.A.Times Festival of Books next month to promote the upcoming release of my debut memoir, Born to Be Public. I was also scheduled to do an off-site reading at Permanent Records Roadhouse that week. I had to cancel my flight and everything. Here's the thing: even though my book publishes on August 25, I am being published by a small press. Our distribution is limited; we don’t have Big Five distribution, so festivals, conferences, and events—public appearances—are just as important as pre-orders. Getting into bookstores and on readers’ bookshelves is going to be a lot of work, and that work starts now. Small press books deserve all the love and attention mainstream books get.
Why is it important for people to support the arts, even during times of uncertainty?
Because it's how a lot of us make our living! People don't understand the economic impact this pandemic is going to have on small businesses, like indie bookstores. These bookstores are a vital organ of the community, and they are taking a hit because a lot of them rely on events, tourists, and foot traffic to survive. And if that falters, so do authors and their book sales. It's a fragile ecosystem, and we have to do everything we can to support one another.
And one thing: don't ever, ever, ever feel bad about promoting your work online, even if there isn't a pandemic. You worked way too hard to make it where you are, and how else are we going to know about your work if you aren't sharing it?! Shout it loud and proud from the rooftops (but make sure you're at least six feet away from the other person shouting about their work)!
What are your other book recommendations for those who are looking for material to read during mass quarantines? (In addition to your own, of course!)
All scheduled book releases for the months of March and April to the front of the line!:
Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby
I Don't Want to Die Poor by Michael Arceneaux
The Herd by Andrea Bartz
Later by Paul Lisicky
These Ghosts are Family by Maisy Card
The Prettiest Star by Carter Sickels
Heaven by Emerson Whitney
Life of the Party by my pressmate, Tea Hacic-Vlahovic, who was supposed to have her launch party during the L.A.Times Festival of Books
La Belle Ajar by Adrian Ernesto Cepeda, who also was supposed to promote his book at the L.A. Times Festival of Books
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.