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LAist Interview: Hillary Carlip

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Hillary Carlip is a handful. She's an author, juggler, entertainer, and all around prankster. She's just published "Queen of the Oddballs," her memoir about about growing up at celebrity's edge in Hollywood. Independent booksellers selected the book as their Book Sense Pick for May.

Hillary is also a familiar web presence. Two years ago, she started the FRESH YARN literary website, the first online salon for personal essays. The site resumes its publishing schedule next week on August 11th.

You can catch Hillary in person in September. She'll take part in a panel discussion about memoirs at the West Hollywood Book Fair on Sunday September 17.

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Occupation:
Past and present: Author, visual artist, juggler, fire-eater, professional brainstormer, editor and host of online literary salon, singing telegram deliverer, leader of an “all-girl, all ex-con” band, Multi-mediaist.

How long have you lived in Los Angeles, and which neighborhood do you live in?

I’ve lived in L.A. on and off for decades. I was born and raised here. My memoir is chock full o’ L.A. From spending teenage days in Laurel Canyon when every important musician lived there, to seeing Pat Collins, the Hip Hypnotist at her “Celebrity Club” on the Sunset Strip. A friend actually created a Queen of the Oddballs Activity Book and there’s a Map to Stars Home-ish type mapwhere you can match the escapades in the book with the locations.
Now I live in the hills on the cusp of Hollywood and Studio City.

Why do you live in Los Angeles?
It’s the biggest freakin’ salad bar around. So many tasty things to choose from. And once you’re born here, you can go live in other places (as I have), but there’s no leaving for good.

Why do you call your book "Queen of the Oddballs"?

It’s from a chapter of the same name that’s about my experience appearing on, and winning, I might proudly add, the ”Gong Show.” All these oddballs surrounded me, like an overweight woman dressed like a chicken, and an old toothless fiddler. At first, I freaked out wondering if millions of viewers would think that I was as crazy and delusional as the other contestants were. But by the end of the taping, after hanging out with this posse of oddballs, I saw that they were basically creative people being fully who they were. It was a turning point for me to start fessing up to my own oddballness.

Why did you write this memoir?
I felt like I had many fun-filled, outlandish experiences to share. In addition, I hoped it would inspire people who have felt like outsiders to embrace their differences and uniqueness.

How did the website FRESH YARN come about?
I had been performing around L.A. at Spoken Word events, and what really struck me was the overwhelming reception from the audiences. They were hanging onto every word each reader spoke. I saw how much people love self-revelation. They love humorous, moving, confessional work with universal themes that evoke and invoke each of their own foibles, flaws, strengths and insights. I realized then that there were very few outlets for personal essays -- no publications or websites devoted solely to the genre -- so I decided to create FRESH YARN.

What phrase or adjective is overused to describe or explain our city?
Melting Pot.

What is a story about Los Angeles that you are longing to tell or remains untold?
I'm writing a book now that takes place entirely on buses throughout L.A. We're so damn isolated in our cars. There are worlds and communities we never get to experience by not riding buses.

Best LA-themed book(s)?
Francesca Lia Block's works. She puts a glittery sparkle on L.A. and makes even the darkest places vivid and gorgeous.

What is the city's greatest secret?
I'm answering this one quite literally. Asthma Vapineze. A neon sign on Fairfax just south of Santa Monica Blvd, on the east side of the street, hangs in front of some decrepit cottages in a courtyard. What the hell is Asthma Vapineze?? If anyone knows, please do tell!

Do you find the threat of earthquakes preferable to the threat of hurricanes and long winters?
Absolutely. At least it's still sunny and cheery as everything crumbles into a heaping pile.

Where do you want to be when the Big One hits?
Where else? Asthma Vapineze! At least I'll find out what the hell it is, and maybe even get some help as I'm gasping for breath.