Monday, January 13, 2014

The Women That Keep Me Writing (Stephanie Kuehnert)

When I was bartending, I had a fair number of people (usually dudes), come up to me and say, "Oh, you're the girl who wrote the book about the Ramones" presumably because they'd seen an article in the local paper about my book, I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone, and ummmm, not actually read the article or the description of my novel.

"No," I'd explain patiently. "I wrote a book about a girl who wants to be a punk musician called, I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone. It's named after the Sleater-Kinney song."

Usually they'd just shrug and start talking about how great the Ramones were because that was the conversation they wanted to have. I'd participate politely--I definitely did my share of bopping around to "Sheena is a Punk Rocker" and "I Wanna Be Sedated" as a teenage punk--but I'll be honest, the Ramones did not change my life the way these ladies did:
Sleater-Kinney

Or the way the band who helped me discover Sleater-Kinney and the Riot Grrrl movement did:

Bikini Kill

Laura Ingalls Wilder might have given me the idea to become a writer when I was five and Kurt Cobain and Nirvana may have introduced me to punk rock and helped me see that there was a place for my angry, misfit voice, but I would not have lived to tell my story, I would not have found my distinctive voice if it weren't for bands like Bikini Kill, Sleater-Kinney, Hole, 7 Year Bitch, Babes In Toyland, and the Gits.

I wrote I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone to honor them. The boy punks--the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, the Clash, Nirvana--they've all gotten their due and they get it again and again. I think the fact that people automatically assume my book is about the Ramones and rarely recognize the Sleater-Kinney reference goes to show that. I wanted to create a world where Corin Tucker and Kathleen Hanna were as huge as Joey and Kurt.

These women continue to be my inspiration. In December, I saw a documentary about Kathleen Hanna called The Punk Singer. I'd been in a writing slump for a while--in fact I've been in and out of one for the past three years, but watching Kathleen's journey as an artist--especially hearing her speak about what truth means for women--reinvigorated me and reminded me why I do what I do. I have truths to tell--in the form of fiction and nonfiction--and they are important for the world to hear no matter how I get them out there.


I'm fortunate to have one outlet for my work that also reinvigorates me daily and the theater in Seattle where I saw The Punk Singer was right next to the venue where I'd recently attended one of our events. Rookie is an online magazine for teenage girls, created and headed up by a teenage girl, Tavi Gevinson. It is the kind of words/art/media space I dreamed of as a teenager and it is creating the kind of world I was dreaming of when I wrote I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone, a world where young women's voices are not only heard, but are the catalyst for change. This brilliant piece by Hazel Cills, which calls out the way young women are written about in the media by grown-up men, is a prime example.

I write because of Hazel and the other Rookies--those on staff and the incredibly talented and creative young women that I've met assembling zines at our events. They are my new Kathleen Hannas and Corin Tuckers, and I believe they are going to take over the world.

3 comments:

  1. The way music influences your writing is just too cool...

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  2. I love that Kathleen Hanna's story pulled you out of a slump! I'll bet she would love to know that too. Artists need to stick together because it's a tough life we've chosen!

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