josh kilmer-purcell

Halloween makeup tips

by Susan Henderson on October 31, 2006

We interrupt this week’s programming to bring you some Halloween makeup tips!

If you want to look like the Henderson zombies, you’ll need these materials:

liquid latex
different color cream makeups
glicerine if you want them to look slimy and oozy (we didn’t use it)

And now, Mr. Henderson will show you how to create scars and rotting flesh:

Apply latex to skin in large areas. Let dry clear.

Create base of rotting color.

Pull latex off of skin to form boils and rotting flesh.


Halloween seems as good a day as ever to talk about death. Please check out what Neil Gaiman has to say regarding writers’ wills and then download the pdf for what to do with your literary estate. Thanks! Okay, back to costumes …


The costume party that led to my terrible hangover:

Kathy, Kenny, me, Mr. H; Ritchie (aka, the hangover-maker)

me and Mr H; Candy, Kathy, me, Rich

And a few choice costumes, as modeled by LitPark regular, Aurelio:


And last but not least… make-up tips from your favorite drag queen and mine!


Hello little fishes,

Halloween is just days away, and while the Fundamentalists are busy hiding their children from us pagans, I thought it was time to bring to light one of the truly dangerous practices of the season.

Halloween marks the one time of year when men of all colors, creeds, and sexual deviances (including heterosexuality) feel secure enough to present themselves to the world at large in the garments and accoutrements of the fairer gender.

Sure. It all seems like good fun. A cheap wig. Some dimestore makeup. Ha, ha ha, right?

But bad drag is quickly becoming a menace to our way of life. It’s a sign of our society’s diminishing industriousness and leads to all sorts of laziness and sloth. Like poor table manners. Or bad penmanship. Or starting wars in the Middle East with no concrete escape plan.

So this Halloween, I want all stout pink-blooded American men to take heed. To put a little effort into their drag. And to that end, I’m divulging the secrets of effective cross-dressing.

Publicly sharing drag techniques is a little like a magician sharing the tricks behind the illusions. I fully expect to be shunned by my fellow queens. But I cannot bear another seasonal sighting of a hirsute, six-foot, pot-bellied man wearing summer season Payless heels and a Jaclyn Smith Casual Elegance blouson:

So. Here is a complete and technical guide to effective drag. I urge you to spread this missive far and wide. Forward to your friends. Leave no e-mail address unturned. No blog unblogged. It’s time to end the scourge of bad drag once and for all.

Please. Think of the children.


[For those of you who’ve read my book, “I Am Not Myself These Days: A Memoir” (Harper Perennial 2006) some of this information is included in Chapter 11. For those of you who haven’t read my book, well, there’s a reason you feel uncool in social gatherings. Read the damn book already.]

LESSON 1: Good drag happens in this order:

Go out
Bring home random stranger, expose genitals, and try to forget everything the following morning.

I assume you have the drinking part down already, so I’ll skip those lessons.

LESSON 2: Shower/Shave

Prepare a hot hot hot shower or bath. Shave everything on your body TWICE in opposing directions. Even if you think it’s not going to show – shave it. It might later.
Areas to include: legs, ass, genitals, chest, neck, forearms, face, 1/2 inch around hairline, fingers, toes.

And yes. Arch pluck your brows. Will they grow back? Who knows. That’s to worry about tomorrow. (Mine did.)

LESSON 3: Tucking/Hose/Undergarments

There are several methods of tucking. Some more complicated and potentially fertility-threatening than others. I recommend the following middle of the road one… (Btw, if you don’t tuck, you’re not in drag. You’re in clown costume. And you should always wear something that will reveal that you’re tucked. Contorting your genitalia is the most sincere way to show that you care about your audience):

Must have: one pair of two-sizes-too-small nude colored spandex control panties. They must be thick and tough. Not dainty. You won’t see them when you’re through, so don’t worry about sexiness.

Start with the panties around your ankles. While your package is loose and steamy from the shower, bend forward. Reach around behind yourself and sneak up on your twig and berries. Grab it all while it’s least suspecting and pull backwards firmly. Show it who’s boss. Then quickly pull the tight panties up to trap it all in place. Breathe. Move around a little till it settles into its new home for the evening.

Quickly afterwards, pull on two pairs of panty hose. (We’re not talking L’eggs here. You need to buy Danskins type sheer tights. Mass-market pantyhose all have control top seams that start around mid-thigh. You need yours sheer and seamless all the way to the waistband.

If you want to start feeling sexy, now is the time to put on your decorative “outer underwear” and prance around a bit while pouring another drink. Your bottom half should now look like a naked Barbie Doll. And that should feel inspiring to you. And a little bit dirty.

LESSON 4: Makeup

No drugstore make-up. Tyra doesn’t wear it, and neither should you. Go to your local MAC counter. If you’re self-conscious about it, just tell the queen behind the counter that you’re doing a drag part in a play. But trust me, they don’t care. They’ll be excited to get the chance to advise someone other than a menopausal divorcee looking to “jumpstart her look.” (Apologies to my menopausal divorcee friends. But really. You know what I’m talking about.)

First up, if it’s going to be hot where you’re partying, I recommend spraying a little aerosol antiperspirant on your visage. Not a lot. Like perfume – just spray a cloud in the air in front of you, and step into it. This will help keep your make-up on when sweating like Rush Limbaugh coming off of Oxycontin.

Foundation goes on first. You will need three shades. One a little darker than your skin, one lighter, and one that matches perfectly. Buy the cake kind. Work a little moisturizer into your make-up sponge. It will help the foundation sink into your skin. Apply the darker shade of foundation first, on either side of the nose, to slim it. And underneath your cheekbones. (Not on top them. It’s not blush.) Perhaps dab some at your temples. And a little on your chin if it’s prominent.

Then apply the lighter shade of foundation on the bridge of your nose. At your cheekbones. On your eyelids.

Next, apply your natural shade of foundation. All over. Even lightly on top of the lighter and darker portions you just applied. Then blend blend blend.

(P.S. Don’t forget your neck and decolletage in all this.)

Finally, press on powder that matches your main foundation color. Not too much, or it’ll cake and crease. Just enough to take off the sheen and “set” everything up.

Your face should look like a mannequin’s. Only God can help if it looks like a mannequin from Barneys or one from Daffy’s.


Now for the fun bits of the make-up.

The eyes are the most important feature. First – eye shadow. (Please God, not blue. If the last time you noticed a woman’s eyeshadow was a hooker on Barney Miller, pick up an Elle magazine.) Use a couple of different shades. Think of your lid in three vertical zones. Nearest the nose, use a lighter shade. Even put a soft dot of almost pure white at the inside corner. Use your brightest hue (again, not blue) in the center. Use a darker verson of that same hue on the outside near the temple. Draw the shadow gently up into a point as it reaches your temples. And blend blend blend.

Remember. It’s not about color. It’s about dramatic shading. Think of yourself as a silent screen star. Especially if you get overly gabby when you’re drunk.

Now eyeliner: use pencil eyeliner that you can wet a bit. IMPORTANT: EYELINER DOES NOT SURROUND THE EYE. It should line about 3/4 of the outside upper lid, getting thicker as it reaches th
e temple. Same for the bottom, but not as thick.

And finally lashes. You need three pairs of uppers, and one pair of lowers. Press the three upper sets together before gluing them on. And set them towards the outside of your lid, extending just past where your normal lashline ends. Same on the bottom. Keep them far away from your inner eye corner or you will look inbred. (Apologies to my inbred friends, who probably are having a difficult time comprehending all this. Sound it out. Use your phonics.)

Now you may want to touch up your liner to cover any dried glue.


Moving on to the lips.

I can’t stress this enough: NO RED LIPS. Only about 3 women in the world look good with red lips. And one of them won’t be you. Bright red (and all dark colors) will recede the lips, highlighting your prominent lantern jawline. Just don’t do it. I admit, it’s tempting. Instead pick a neutral, slightly colored lip color. It should match one of the shades of your eye shadow.

I outline first, and touch up later. Tho some disagree. Line your mouth with a shade of pencil liner SLIGHTLY darker than your chosen color. This isn’t Spanish Harlem. (Mucho disculpas to my Spanish Harlem friends.) The liner should line up directly at the corner of your mouth, but then as it reaches center top and bottom, you can exaggerate slightly beyond your natural lip line. Shape it how you’ve always dreamed. Within reason. I’m not privy to your dreams, tho I’m sure many of them include moi.

For lipstick, I always mixed my own. Again, MAC. Mix up a batch of liquid lip gloss, bronze and gold metallic powders, and a neutral colored powder. Then brush the glop on, blending into the lip liner. As a stunning finishing touch, put a soft finger dot of your white eye shadow powder in the center of your lower lip as a highlight. Be sure to bring an extra brush and small vial of premixed lip glop with you when you go out. You will need to reapply.

Drink. (With a straw from now on).

Your face is done. That’s right. No blush. Your foundation sculpting should have already given you plenty of shading. Any more and you’ll look like the whore you’re trying desperately not to be. Whores should be felt, but not seen. That’s what my mother always used to say.

LESSON 5: Costume

This one’s up to you. A few tips tho. Think mini-mini’s to show off your tuck. Or very high slits.

And I will let no one walk out the door without an old fashioned lace-up corset. Buy a decorative one to wear on the outside and build the rest of the costume around it.

A corset is the ONLY way you will gain a waist and hips, which is the most prominent visual cue of the female species. I saw this on NOVA once. I don’t care if you’re already a thin-as-a-rail twink. Without the corset to reposition another couple of inches off of your waist and onto your hips, you’ll merely look like a twink in a dress.

But, since I’ve now convinced you to wear a corset, I must warn you – don’t eat anything after a light lunch on the day of your debut. You’ll be far too technically complicated – with the corset and the tucking and the costume layers – to, umm, as my grandmother would say: “make a BM.”

If your biceps and forearms are particularly muscular, here’s a little trick. Buy a pair of CHEAP pantyhose that match the color of your outfit. Cut out the crotch and toes and pull it over your head like a shirt. Pull the legs down off your shoulders. Wear this under your outfit, trimming away the neckline or whatever else you don’t want to see. It’s a very effective way to cover and draw attention away from your arms.

Shoes: if you can’t walk in 7-inch heels, you don’t deserve to wear them. Practice.

And please, wear something revealing. Tho many enlightened woman may disagree, the biggest part of being a woman is being sexy. Unless you’re Barbara Bush. Commendably, and blessedly, she doesn’t even try. (Apologies to my Republican frien….ah, fuck it.)

Two things I can’t help you with. Tits and nails. I always worked opera length gloves into my costumes, because I hated fake nails, and my hands are just too big. And my aquarium tits were my signature, worn in every outfit, so I never had to do the prosthetic route. Sorry. I hear oatmeal or birdseed in pantyhose balloons works. And will help you survive should you find yourself in a car wreck that isn’t discovered for weeks.

Drink more. It’ll dull the pain from the corset.

LESSON 6: Wigs

That’s right. “Wigs” – plural. One wig ain’t gonna do it. You’re not a chemo patient. (Apologies and best wishes to all my cancerous friends.)

Buy three wigs of the same color. If you can’t pin them together and style them yourself, take them to a friendly hairdresser. Tell them to “take it to the top.”

You won’t look sexy in a thin little bob. You just won’t.

Wigs go on last, of course, so you don’t mess up your make-up.

Use a wig cap to keep your real hair back.

Earlier, you shaved 1/2 inch around your hairline. You will want the wig-line to rest where your hairline normally does. If you leave your real hair unshaved, you’ll have to pull the wig forward to cover it, and it will look like, well…like you’re trying to cover your real hair. For those of you with receding hairlines, this may be your one silver lining. Sad, isn’t it?

Poke some bobbypins through your wigs until they dig into your real hair at the scalp. Losing your wig during the evening is a terrible tragedy. I’ve seen it happen once. And I’ve seen a disemboweled human once. Only the fallen wig still haunts my dreams.

If you’re very worried about g-force twirling, brush a line of spirit gum along your (shaved) hairline and press the wig into that.


Now take a deep breath (or as deep as one can in a liver-crushing corset) and head out into the world. You’ve done your part to rid the world of bad drag, and for that you can be proud.

What you do once you’re out at your parties in drag is your own responsibility. I would suggest you try something you won’t be proud of.

Looking as good as you do, it should come easy.

Happy Halloween, and thank you for making this world a prettier place. Please spread the word. Your ugly friends will thank you.

Hugs and Fishes,

P.S. My first atttempt at drag in my mother’s wig. As you can see, I was a natural:


Happy Halloween!


Josh Kilmer-Purcell

by Susan Henderson on August 31, 2006

Josh Kilmer-Purcell, some goldfish, & PETA’s Fish Empathy Project.

What an exciting beginning to my week with Josh Kilmer-Purcell! Josh is the author of the memoir, I AM NOT MYSELF THESE DAYS, about a good-boy midwesterner who moves to NY to work in an ad agency by day and perform as a drag queen named Aqua by night. There is much more to his story than this, but for today, it’s important to know that Aqua’s costumes always include clear, uh, orbs, containing live goldfish.

Here’s the video again, in case you missed it.

If you’ve read this book and would like to send praise to my guest, please do write to me. And if you’ve not read the book, please buy it today because it’s Hysterical, Harrowing and Heartwarming.., and I’ll be very surprised if you don’t love it. Tomorrow we’ll talk about the book itself. But today, a few fireworks from PETA’s Fish Empathy Project:

March 6, 2006

Josh Kilmer-Purcell

Dear Mr. Kilmer-Purcell:

I am writing on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and our more than 1 million members and supporters to ask that you stop keeping live animals inside your costume and, of course, that you never design a similar costume that would treat animals so abusively.

You must not have put much thought into what being inside this costume is like for the animalscrammed into such a little space in their own waste, terrified by your every movement. Of course, like all of us, fish feel pain and fear, and scientific studies prove that fish are intelligent individuals.

Allow me to offer just a few examples:

A University of Edinburgh study found that fish can learn to escape from a net and retain the ability 11 months later. Scientists said that, for a human being, this would be like remembering a lesson learned 40 years earlier.

Oxford University research has determined that fish can complete some mental tasks that are too complex for dogs.

Culum Brown, Ph.D., says, “In many areas, such as memory, [fish’s] cognitive powers match or exceed those of ‘higher’ vertebrates, including non-human primates.”

Fish suffer horribly in captivity. They get motion sickness from vibrations and constantly sloshing water: Imagine how it would be for fish, whose biology is designed for living in an ocean’s worth of water, when they are forced to make do with the bust of your costumeit would be, for you, like living in a covered bathtub that’s constantly moving, tossing you around as you defecate in it. It’s filthy, painful, and terrifying for these animals.

In light of the scientific evidence proving that fish are intelligent animals who feel pain, it is only a matter of time before society views cruelty to fish with the same revulsion that we feel about cruelty to dogs or cats.

Won’t you agree to stop using animals in your projects and to never recreate Aqua’s costume with live fish? I have included more information about fish intelligence, which is also available at (If you eat fish, I’m guessing that this letter and the attached information will turn you off of fish consumption as well.)

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Karin Robertson, Manager
Fish Empathy Project

Interview: I Am Not Myself These Days by Josh Kilmer-Purcell.

Have you read this book..? I just love it. By the time I got to page 19, I couldn’t put it down, because that’s the page where Josh, still drunk from the previous night, is frying an egg while talking on the phone with his mom. He’s trying to explain to her how dressing in drag is different than being a cross-dresser or a transvestite, saying “I’m a celebrity trapped in a normal person’s body.”

I read my limited edition copy–the one with Jame’s Frey’s quote still on the front cover. And though both Josh and James signed my book, I read it the way I always read a book I love–bending the spine backwards, dog-earing all the pages I want to go back to, and folding it into a coat pocket so it’s always nearby. The books I love are twice as fat when I finish them–but because this one is signed and therefore extra-special to me, I did not read it in the bath.

Let’s get right to some q and a with Josh and then I’m going to say some more about why I loved this book until you are convinced.

What was the hardest thing about writing this memoir? Were you nervous about anyone reading it once you accomplished the huge feat of having it published?

The hardest thing about writing this memoir? Remembering.

I was a big ole’ drunk drag queen. That’s why every other chapter opens with either “I came to on a subway car” or “I woke up wondering where I was.”

Many people have called me “brave” for exposing all the warts that I did. I never thought of it that way. I was a fey, shy, nervous little Wisconsin boy. At some point in my early adulthood, I made a desperate stab at bravery. Hence the drag years. But, similarly to hunting an animal you’ve never seen before, I went out tracking bravery, and came home with the carcass of shamelessness.

I’ve never been ashamed of anything in my life. Or at least nothing in the book.

Did you feel that there was something you could do in drag that you couldn’t do without the costume and makeup? Can you talk about that a little?

The book is all about alter egos. We all have them. I just indulged mine a little more visibly.

We’re all raised with a certain set of “rules”. I was taught not to speak too loudly, not to make fun of other people, not to drink too much, not to stand out. And, though maybe not always implicitly, I think gay people (at least of mine and prior generations) were taught by the world not to be gay.

Then I broke the don’t-be-gay rule and came out. And it didn’t suck. (Well, I did, but this is a family blog) Coming out was one of the greatest things I’d ever done for myself. Which led me to wonder: if I can break one rule and succeed, what other rules are arbitrary? Drinking? Drugging? Prostitution? Waking up in strangers’ beds? Waking up on subways with only one high heel and no purse?

Except that this fey little gay boy who played first chair bassoon in 7th grade wasn’t emotionally equipped to ask a group of sailors on fleet week whether they’d like to drop anchor in an hourly hotel room on the West Side Highway.

But Aqua was born ready to break any rule put in front of her. It took four hours of makeup to put on a disguise thick enough to hide that nervous Midwestern boy.

Your voice and writing style are wonderfully humorous even during the most serious and horrifying situations. Can you talk about the disparity between the often lighthearted telling of pretty harrowing stories?

I think I’m pathologically unable to deal with seriousness. I didn’t really try to make the harrowing moments funny. To me they just were. Funny in an absurd way. I mean, how does one come to grips with the concept of waking up in a puddle of their own urine/vomit after narrowly avoiding being raped and finding a gaggle of rich upper east side private school kids pointing and staring at your exposed thong? It would take years of therapy for which my insurance won’t pay (why should they?) to even skim the top of that little adventure.

When you start to tally up all those self-inflicted wounds, a triage judgment call must be made. I can either try to heal them, or just slap on a bunch of Scooby Doo bandaids and hope I don’t look too stupid.

(See, I approach everything metaphorically. Some kind reader should really chip in with some pro bono therapy for me.)

Do you miss Aqua? Why did you give up drag? Is there anything that’s taken its place or filled the same need?

Writing the book was a way to bring Aqua back. I’ve had fun with her through the whole process. And it’s a hell of a lot easier to type her onto paper than squeeze myself back into a 22 inch corset.

What do I miss? The fake celebrity, the cute and horny fans, the sense and fulfillment of danger. What don’t I miss? All of the above.

I gave it up because there’s no retirement plan for drag queens. The career trajectory is short and potentially deadly. Much like writing, I’m beginning to find out.

Are you still with the guy you dedicated the book to?

Yes. Six years and counting (hopefully counting up, not down.)

Personally, if I were him, I’d feel a little odd having a love story dedicated to me that wasn’t about me. But there’s something kinda special about a guy who has no problem with that. And by “special” I mean “odd.” And by “odd” I mean “endearing.” I obviously have a fucked up internal thesaurus. (see above cry for pro bono therapy help.)

Where does Kilmer and the hyphen come from?

Kilmer is my biological father’s name, and Purcell is my stepfather’s name. My stepfather raised me from the time I was five, so when I turned 21 I added his name to mine. I guess I feel that they both deserve to share equally in the shame.

Are you working on another book? And if so can you tell me about it?

I’m working on a novel right now. It follows a young boy who’s obsessed with celebrity and envisions God as Tony Randall. He has a lesbian mother, a brother with Prader Willi syndrome, and a best friend who’s kidnapped and brutally murdered.

Obviously, It needs some editing. From a therapist. (hint hint.)


I really do adore this author. But let me talk about his book for a minute because I’ve been dying to do it. I don’t want to give away too muchjust a taste.

I AM NOT MYSELF THESE DAYS is about a boy who knows how to disappear into someone else….

This is how I become not me:

It is an exacting processthere’s no room for error, and little for improvisation. It is ritual and sacred, and regardless of my physical or mental condition, it is unchanging.

It begins by monitoring my diet for the entire day before any show. My body must be relatively empty of food to fit into the corset, and relatively full of alcohol to dull the discomfort.

About four hours before I head out, I gather together the pieces of my predetermined outfit.

Two pairs of pantyhose. Up to three wigscombined together and prestyled. Tucking panties. Decorative panties or thong. Matching elbow-length gloves. Bag. Shoes. Necklace. Earrings. Assorted accessories. Wig cap. Toyslaser guns, bubble makers, candy to toss out into the crowd. All is transferred, piece by piece, into the bathroom.

No one is allowed to witness the transformation. It occurs completely behind the closed bathroom door. It’s a slow motion magic act where the male audience volunteer disappears into a box and a woman appears from the inside hours later (pp. 139-140).

I AM NOT MYSELF THESE DAYS is about a boy who shares some things with his family….
Both my mother and stepfather, who raised me and who I call “Dad,” are extremely accepting of me being gay, and have been genuinely fond of my prior boyfriends. The drag thing threw them a little, but since there’s little chance of their Wisconsin church friends wandering into a New York nightclub and recognizing me through three wigs and a quarter inch of foundation, they’ve pretty much just adopted a “don’t ask, and for God’s sake don’t tell us about it” philosophy (p. 116).

and hides other things. His drug-dealing male escort boyfriend can pass as a doctor with his expensive apartment and a pager that goes off at all hours. And his boyfriend’s clients, such as the married CEO who secretly pays thousands of dollars to be left naked in their apartment with his wrists tied to his ankles, can be rescheduled when family comes to NY for a visit.

I AM NOT MYSELF THESE DAYS is a boy who begins to long for a quiet life that more closely resembles his childhood home, where he ate baked acorn squash with butter and maple syrup…
I’m too tired to bother with the squash, so I just take it out of the bag and set it on the counter. That’s enough for me, actually. Just looking at it there on the counter amid the piles of tin foil and burnt spoons and Brillo pads and glass pipes and baking soda and rubbing alcohol and the rest of the crack paraphernalia is soothing enough (p. 204).

I AM NOT MYSELF THESE DAYS is the story of a doomed love relationship…
“I have a client in the bedroom.”

“Our bedroom?!” Jack and I agreed early on that he wouldn’t do anything with his customers on our bed. It may seem like an insignificant bow to traditional monogamy, but to me it’s as close as we come to a family value.

“He’s not on the bed. He’s in the chair watching me on the TV. It’s a live feed (p. 227).”

Try this book and tell me how you like it. I’ll have more fun with Josh later in the week, but tomorrow is the day I’ll award a prize to the fabulous Ron Currie, Jr. Stay tuned.

I received an AQUAgram!

The beautiful, 7-foot Aqua has written to me about my interview with Josh Kilmer-Purcell and his memoir, “I Am Not Myself These Days,” that features both Josh and Aqua. Read on….


Dear Sue, I’m writing from a cabana somewhere south of”¦well, somewhere. Your guess is as good as mine. As long as there’s a drink menu within arm’s reach, I’ve never let the little details of where I wake up in the morning concern me.

Been following your blogging with my ex-alter ego, Josh. He appears to be getting on rather well for someone with so little to offer. But there are a few clarifications to his scribblings that I think you should be made aware of. Not that I’ve read the book, mind you, but neither have many other people.

First off, I’m not a drunk. He was. I drank to indulge him. And because I was thirsty. “They speak of my drinking, but never my thirst.” I don’t know who said that, but it was someone important. More important that Josh, certainly. And really, did he need 300 pages to say what I just did in one sentence? You’re kind to humor him as you do.

Secondly, I didn’t commit suicide. I was escaping. As a rather promiscuous alter, I can’t commit to one ego. Especially one as self-deprecating as Josh’s. (that’s not to say the deprecation isn’t well deserved.) I’m currently interviewing for new alter ego positions. I seem to be getting a strange amount of requests from right wing closet cases.

Thirdly, where’s that drink?

Fourthly, why do authors always look like shit on television? (Not Josh mind you. He can’t even get a TV gig.) Don’t show up in front of Katie Couric wearing some sloppy t-shirt and hoodie. Blow that miniscule advance on something designer. It makes Katie happy. It makes your audience happy. It makes your mom happy. You’re not a hipster any more. You’ve got a signed book deal. Think Jackie Collins. Now there’s an author people can get behind. And probably many have.

Fifthly”¦have I finished a fifth already?

Sixthly, theriously authors, stop picking the most melodramatic portions of your book for readings. Go with the funny bits. No one’s actually there to hear you read. They just want to get their signed copy in hopes that one day it’ll be worth something on Ebay. They shouldn’t have to suffer through a poetically metaphoric childhood rape scene to get it. These people have lives, even if you don’t.

Seventhly”¦Oh fuck it. I can’t drink and type at the same time. And guess who loses? You.

Hugs and Fishes,

Surprise! My mom interviews Josh Kilmer-Purcell’s mom!

Okay, to close out my week-long focus on Josh Kilmer-Purcell’s memoir, “I Am Not Myself These Days,” I have a little surprise for him: a mom-to-mom interview. I’m so excited about this!

So here is my mom (that’s me in the little nurse’s outfit)…

interviewing Josh’s mom (that’s little Joshie fixing a wedgie)…

Oh, I sure do hope this is a nice surprise for Josh and not too much of a shock. Okay, here are the moms . . .


When you first read Josh’s book, “I am Not Myself These Days,” what was your reaction to the details of his Technicolor life?

My first reaction to Josh’s “technicolor life” was such relief regarding his safety now, then sadness at the necessity of his journey, and finally great anger at some of his decisions…….much like when you lose sight of your toddler while shopping. Upon finding them once again, you are so happy to see them you want to shake them for your worry!!!!!

Josh’s witty humor is very evident in his writing. Is this something you were well acquainted with about your son?

Oh yes, as soon as Josh could verbalize it became very difficult to discipline him because most of the time, while he was not necessarily behaving as you wished, he was clever and just plain funny in avoiding the issue at hand.

He was also able to put into words what was going on around him in a very descriptive manner. I was driving a jeep over a washboard section of country road when Josh was about 3 or 4. He was humming to himself in that mindless way that children do and we hit a particularly rough spot in the road. He remarked, “Mama, you are wrinkling my tune.”

When you are mentioned in his book, Josh describes how he felt he needed to concoct a story to explain some of the details of his life with Jack. How did you view this hoax that Josh and Jack had created about Jack’s need for a beeper?

I knew the beeper story was not as it seemed. I wasn’t sure what exactly…..but I knew the “story” was pretty hollow. However, I felt my lack of confrontation and digging “forced” him further down a path of lies and he would eventually not like who he had become to the family; no longer really “true to himself” and his place within our lives. It was a chance I took.

When reading my daughter’s writing, I lose my usual critical reader’s perspective because I am so compelled by what her experience was in our family, and I am especially curious about anything said about me. How do you react to Josh’s comments about you which, by the way, seem quite complimentary?

Josh’s comments about me, good or bad, were interesting of course. But they were just that. We all appear differently to each other; especially in family relationships. We become who we are needed to be for each other. How many times do we each have a very different view of Grandma Sally? Yet she was very special and unique to each one of us. That is what a memory truly is. It’s all about perception isn’t it?

Have you ever asked Josh not to write about something concerning you and/or your family?

Absolutely not. I trust Josh in his ability to discern what would truly hurt another. And I don’t really have any fear regarding others’ judgements…..again it is all about perceptions and egos and trying, but usually failing, to be objective.

In reading Josh’s amazing story, were you alarmed by the dangers he faced, and the frightening situations he put himself in?

I was very frightened and alarmed at the dangers regarding Josh’s life at that time. And I am very thankful to have him safe, not bitter and most of all, free of emotional baggage….excepting Aqua’s make up case, of course!!! I credit his partner, Brent, for this.

How have you come to grips with having a fairly well-known writer in the family?

Having a “fairly well-known writer” in the family is exciting and wonderful, but has really not changed much for us. We are happy and interested in all his good news and pleased to provide respite when we can for him. Last winter Josh spent a week with us on vacation doing a final edit and it gave us much joy to be of use. Next time we shall charge rent!!!

What kinds of books to you usually read? What books are in the stack of books you’d like to read soon? What book, besides Josh’s has had the biggest effect on your life?

I read all kinds of books. Like most of us, I go in phases….all history, all biographies, all mystery, all romance, all memoirs, and so on. The only book in my pile currently is Gifts of the Sea which will be a re-read for a book club. I have just completed Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos. This will cause some “tension” I am certain but the book that has had the biggest effect on my life is the Bible. And if that is an unwise choice, you may use The Little Engine That Could.”

Congratulations on raising a brilliant and beguiling son, who is having lots of attention paid to his new book. Do you have any advice for me when my daughter’s book is sitting in the “New Arrivals” section of Barnes and Noble or Border’s Books?

I really am not good at giving advice (except to my children!!). When your daughter’s book is sitting in the “New Arrival” section of a bookstore, you won’t need any coaching on how to be proud, supportive and thankful. Keeping one’s ego in check and pride in down-to-earth proportions is not a bad idea either….of course, I am speaking about the writer, not the mom!!

We all know the pressure of “publish another book right way” is very real and consuming to writers and NOT dwelling on that is important. You can tell it’s not working for me.

Is there anything I have not asked, or that you would like to tell us about being the mother of the writer, Josh Kilmer-Purcell?

Being the mother of the writer, Josh Kilmer-Purcell is such a pleasure. I have learned much about the industry, which is fascinating, and met so many wonderful people. His inclusion of us all in his life is very generous. It has been a bit of a revelation for me to recognize that we are as important to him as he is to us. There it is again………..that perception thing.

Thank you for reading and answering these interview questions from one writer’s mother to another. I hope you have a fascinating year ahead. Susie’s Mom.


Aren’t they both so lovely? Don’t forget to pick up Josh’s book. I know I always provide Amazon links for ease, but it’s always best to buy from your local independent bookseller.

Hmmmm. I wonder if my mom likes Josh’s book or my book better? I’m off to ask her exactly that.


Ron Currie, Jr.

by Susan Henderson on August 31, 2006

My prize winner: Ron Currie, Jr.

Last week I ran a contest, offering a prize to the first person to correctly guess my mystery guest, Josh Kilmer-Purcell. His prize? A little fun right here. So welcome to Ron Currie. I’ve been a fan of his writing for a long while, but for those of you who need introductions, Ron’s stories have appeared (or will soon appear) in Alaska Quarterly Review, Glimmer Train, The Cincinnati Review, The Sun, Ninth Letter, The God Particle, Swink, Willow Springs, New Sudden Fiction (W.W. Norton), and Night Train. His novel-in-stories, “God Is Dead,” will be published by Viking in 2007.

You’ve had a pretty amazing year so far, going from longtime short-order cook to a guy with a book deal. Can you fill my readers in?

Sure. The past few months have made a lot of my decisions to this point (dropping out of college, not marrying or having kids, working throwaway jobs to protect my writing time and energy) look suddenly pretty smart. As far as the book deal itself, I had a comparatively easy go of it. I first started querying agents in October of last year; by December I’d signed with Simon Lipskar of Writers House (who, despite the fact that he’s a Yankee fan, is a whip-smart, fantastic agent and great all-around guy to boot). Simon started submitting the book near the end of January. There was immediate interest (due as much, I’m convinced, to Simon’s wisdom about where to send the book as to the quality of the book itself) and within two weeks I had a deal. So in the span of three or four months I went from where I’d always been–slinging slop and writing on the side–to where I am now, where I’ve always wanted to be: writing full-time. I feel extraordinarily lucky.

How has your personal life changed since you signed your contract?

The biggest difference is I don’t trust anyone anymore. If my girlfriend tells me how handsome I am apropos nothing, for example, I know what she’s really thinking is: ‘I hope he goes on the Daily Show so I can make out with Jon Stewart in the green room.’ Before, I was such a loser by most standards that if anyone offered praise I could rest assured that they were a)sincere, or b)drunk. Now it’s more complicated. I spend a lot of time hiding in dark rooms, waving a boxcutter at shadows and such.

But, kidding aside, things haven’t changed a whole lot. I bought my first car. That was nice. If I want to go somewhere for a few days, now I can afford it. And I won’t miss any of those Red Sox/Yankees weekend series now that I don’t have to work. That’s about it.

Tell me some of the praise you received from the folks who jumped on board with your book (editors, agents, film people). No need to be modest–you’re just passing along quotes.

Just about everyone I spoke with during the process of selling the book–editors, mostly–was so flattering that I began to suspect the whole thing was a put-on. How is it possible, I wondered, that so many people like this so much? I remember at one point I called Simon’s office, and his assistant told me she’d read a few stories from the book and it ruined her for the rest of the day–she couldn’t work. How do you respond? I said, lamely: ‘Sorry about that.’ I’m not exactly gracious when it comes to taking a compliment.

Are you looking towards the next writing project or busy fine-tuning “God Is Dead”?

Both. At the moment I’m revising “God is Dead,” but also going over the concept for my next book with my agent. It should be equally weird; I find I have very little interest in writing anything that doesn’t feature, say, omnipotent dogs who walk on water and speak Aramaic.

Who are some of your favorite writers besides me? ; )

Good God, how much time do you have? Carver and Vonnegut stick to me over the long haul. David Foster Wallace and George Saunders are two of my favorite not-dead writers. Bernard Malamud. Junot Diaz. Kafka. Thomas Lynch, an undertaker who writes these beautiful essays, the kind of writing that makes you immediately feel like a better, smarter, more actualized human being the moment you read it. I went through my Kerouac phase and still enjoy some of his stuff. Hunter Thompson. Jeffrey Eugenides. Harlan Ellison (I don’t care what John Gardner said about the guy; he can be brilliant). And on and on…