It’s bleak out there today. As a woman, a feminist and as the mother of two lovely young women and one budding adolescent girl, I’m more than a little concerned and enraged about our backsliding to the dark ages with regard to women’s sexuality. Anyone remotely concerned about our kids getting accurate, evidence-based sex education, about women’s access to health and reproductive care via agencies such as Planned Parenthood, and women’s rights to make private, personal decisions about their bodies should be alarmed and aghast by recent campaign vitriol and inane laws passed by states like Arizona. It’s enough to make you want to dive into a good book, or better yet, a quick and sassy, provocative novella.
It’s your lucky day, thanks to Beaufort author Lisa Annelouise Rentz. On Friday, April 20, Rentz’s imaginative and compelling book, Dr. Aa’s Pennyroyal Tabules, is available as a free Kindle download at Amazon.
Rentz’s slimy Dr. Aa is a Limbaugh-lowlife villain and his blackmail scheme hawking alleged-contraceptive “Pennyroyal Tabules” embroils three college-aged girls and their beaus in a hot and steamy South Carolina summer-to-remember. Expertly and cleverly crafted as a prologue and a five-part epilogue, Rentz’s agile narrative is told from multiple points of view over multiple decades (the 1920s seem frighteningly like today) in a multimedia flare, incorporating newspaper clippings, letters, and vintage photographs to add texture to her historical fiction. But it’s the timeless themes of love, longing, fear and consequence that drive the novella. Highly recommended as a balm for today’s embattered women — and anyone who appreciates a good read.
In addition to writing fiction and nonfiction (published by the Oxford American, Liars’ League London, Versal, Salon.com, Alternet.org, Charleston Magazine and Skirt!, among others) Lisa promotes all things creative as the PR coordinator for ARTworks, the arts council for Beaufort county, and teaches creative writing in elementary schools. Her arts education app, “Pencils, Words & Kids” was published by Sutro Media of San Francisco. You can read more about Lisa and Dr. Aa at Lisa’s website, eatgoodbread.com.
She was kind enough to answer a few questions for us:
Writing takes energy. That means I have to be more than interested in or capable of my work, I need to be pissed off and vengeful about it too. I need to work on something for fuel to spark the ideas and then sustain the entire writing process, which can be grueling (and carpal tunnel-inducing.) This anti-contraception issue in the news (and on the agenda for the past hundred years) is a control issue, and writing about Dr. Aa is one way I exert my control and fight back. In 2008, I organized a “Literary-Visual Art Show with Issues” soon before election day. That made the election season more bearable to me. Writing is my bid for change. I’m occupying my desk.
I think reading is the best thing that anyone of any gender can do, it’s like yoga for your mind. Reading and writing are intrinsically feminist, equality-pursuing acts— using your brain, forming opinions, sharing opinions, making choices for yourself. Making good choices requires this practice. In places like Afghanistan, and who knows where else, schools are burned because some people think that women shouldn’t read and write. Women in the United States have the specific responsibility to persistently choose to read and write. I don’t care about what. And not just to compensate for horrors like those Afghan schools, but because we can, because the best way to defend our rights and privileges is to use them. And because control freak fundamentalism spreads faster than print technology. I do recommend The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. One of the epilogues in Dr. Aa’s is my homage to her. The Handmaid’s Tale was published in 1985 and it’s frustratingly relevant today. I also envy Kristin Schaal her position of being able to share her comedy routines (the formulation of which I bet includes writing) on The Daily Show.
How did you become a writer? What is your creative process/writing discipline like?
When I was younger, English class was my best subject, a way to graduate from high school and college (in addition to German.) Since then writing has become of form of self-defense. I have a bad case of l’esprit d’escalier — in conversations, I always think of what I should have said later, when it’s too late. In writing I get to dwell and formulate and edit, and get closer to being clear. I could edit for years— that’s one aspect of the ebook format that I like, I can update it! I heard an interview once with Alice Walker, and she said that she’s marked up library books with her post-publication edits.
I am very deadline oriented. I read and write for my job at ARTworks, in media and public relations, so I literally have a deadline every other day. I schedule my creative writing just like everything else on my To Do list. I also schedule in do-nothing time because I require lounging. I am very fortunate to workshop with Amber Dorko Stopper, a well published short story writer and fiber artist in Philadelphia. She’s fantastic– in her stories she seems to know everything and in her feedback to me she’s always right. And I have a muse, my husband Irby. He’s so smart and is a great storyteller. He’s my go-to source.
I don’t have children myself, so the main benefit I get is simply working with them, being around their pureness instead of the toxins of many adults. Kids are really great people who deserve a lot more of our wealth and civic resources in this country– we have way too much childhood mortality, hunger, poverty and illiteracy here, in addition to a knack for crushing creativity. Teachers– not me, but real teachers– need to be better compensated and honored, because that is an important, tough job. I am glad to contribute. I love seeing the natural manifestation of the writing skill in kids. Even the 4th grade boys who still can’t do handwriting can tell stories. The skill is really in there, inside most of us, and I really like the fact that it’s genetic as walking.
Costume drama! Mainly for the time-trippy aesthetic differences. Like in The Return of the Native, I really enjoyed reading the walking scenes, everyone was always trudging across those heaths. I chose the 1920s for Dr. Aa’s because they had electric lights and still plenty of that old fashioned, train-travel slowness. Retrospect is a great way to slow down.
Order Dr. Aa, FREE today!