Laura Relyea Talks About a Chapbook of Her Own—and Glitter

By October 23, 2013
Laura Relyea.
Laura Relyea

Upon first glance at Laura Relyea’s debut chapbook, All Glitter, Everything, you might think that she and Ke$ha, a party-happy pop star, have had some wild and dramatic times together. But Relyea has never met Ke$ha. In fact, Relyea says she didn’t know a lot about the singer before starting the book. She knew Ke$ha’s songs and her reputation for being a strong, independent female, and while writing some stories for a reading in January 2013 Relyea cleverly used the singer as a transformative character to represent the women with whom Relyea actually has had some wild and dramatic times. Don’t let the pop star’s presence fool you, though. These stories are not all late-night parties and glamour—though some are. There are various situations and emotions that the people in the stories are forced to deal with, and throughout the book we see the growth of the narrator and the people around her.

Rafael Soldi: A body in transit is now on view at the Frost Museum, Miami through December 4

Relyea was kind enough to answer some questions about her new book.

Scott Daughtridge: How did the project start?

Laura Relyea: Jayne [O’ Connor] invited me to be a part of the “Bad Bitches” reading. I had a lot of discomfort with the word bitch, so I was trying to get myself acclimated to it and figure out who are [some] women that I admire. For the reading I wrote five stories, but then realized it would be awkward to get up there and say, “Here’s a story for this specific woman who none of you know.” Ke$ha’s a bad bitch, so I substituted her name in and that gave me a freedom, which I didn’t anticipate, to address all sorts of issues within myself and to address any woman openly. She takes on this transformative role. Then the stories picked up speed, and Matt [DeBenedictis] and I were talking one night and [he] asked, “Can you do 31 of these?” And I said yes, but inside I was thinking, No. But, lo and behold, I guess I had it in me.

 SD: Who is Ke$ha, the real person, to you?

Re:Focus a photo exhibition on view at Swan Coach House in Atlanta through October 27

LR: It’s funny, people have been asking me, “Why not Madonna? Why not someone more famous?” First, I had been coming to terms with the fact that I was a Ke$ha fan for quite some time at that point. I actually like her music! She kind of symbolizes and encapsulates everything that terrifies me about womanhood. She’s this chaotic and intelligent mess; she’s totally unrepentant and kind of carnivorous and uncompromising. In some respects, very much the opposite of me. When I first starting writing these I was very threatened by other women and insecure in my own womanhood. I wasn’t just afraid of the word bitch, I was afraid of the word sexy, the word woman, in [regard to] myself and applying them to other women.

This gave me an opportunity to own that shit. Ke$ha, as I’ve learned, is very smart and writes her own music; she used to sit in college lectures just for fun. She’s also crazy. She literally has a bathtub full of glitter and has a full-time glitter assistant named Santa. His real name is Boots, but [Ke$ha] calls him Santa and it’s his job to make sure she and her audience are totally covered in glitter.

She’s known for partying and binge drinking, but she’s also an advocate for individualism. I’ve come to respect her.

SD: How long did it take for you to amass all of the stories?

LR: I started them last December and finished them all over Labor Day weekend.

SD: When I think of Ke$ha, I think of a fun, lighthearted party tone, but not all of the pieces are like that. Can you talk about the development and the varying tones of the stories?

LR: I never recognized there was a plot arc until Matt and I were addressing what order the stories were going to be in, and when I laid them out I saw the overarching themes.

The narrator isn’t always me, and the stories aren’t arranged chronologically, either. They’re arranged to have that narrative. Also, I think the tone that the narrator addresses Ke$ha in is really different. There is a change. I think the narrator, which is me and not me, is scared in the beginning and trying to engulf herself in this new thing that’s not native to her, to try and sort things out.

SD: How has it been working with Matt at Safety Third?

LR: He’s so communicative and so involved, but [he] lets me run with something, then he runs with something. I got a message saying his wife had filled [small] bags of glitter that will come with each copy of the book.

There are a lot of people who I feel have ownership in this project, but Matt more so than anyone else. It’s been a really collaborative, joint effort. I really believe in Safety Third. I’ve worked with them for years now, and I think they do beautiful stuff, so of course I’ve really enjoyed working with him.

It’s been a learning process with me because I’m really exposed to one side of the publishing industry through what I do with Vouched, but being a part of the publication process was totally different.

SD: You do a lot of interviews and reviews, and you host readings through Vouched. How has it felt to be on the other side of that, and how do you see that transition playing out?

LR: It’s been pretty awkward. With Vouched, I spend most of my time talking about other people and how awesome their work is. I still think of this book as championing other people, it’s not about me. It’s also kind of surreal, though, because I’ve been focusing on promoting other people’s work for so long [that] to have the tables turned is kind of amazing.

SD: In your list of acknowledgements you write, “Thank you glitter, even though you cut me.” Can you expand on that?

LR: Extended metaphor aside—glitter means more than small, shiny particles—for the promotion of the chapbook we decided to go way over the top, and my friend offered to do promotional photos where we were dumping pounds of glitter on my head. Which sounds awesome, like it would be a really good idea. So they dumped four pounds of glitter on me and afterwards I had lacerations all over my body. Tiny cuts all over my scalp. I’m actually a little afraid of the release reading because I will also have glitter on me.

The book release event for All Glitter, Everything is Thursday, October 24th (8 PM) at the Highland Ballroom. 

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