The Sunday Salon: Jessica Hagy

I’m trying to listen to myself more—which also requires knowing when to listen to my own excuses. Last Wednesday, I felt an urge to go and do something, so I decided to hie myself down to the First Baptist Church to hear Jessica Hagy, the woman behind the blog Indexed, present on her new book, How To Be Interesting. Unfortunately, the reading wasn’t there, it was at the library proper. One impromptu car ride with a very nice nurse later, I finally scuttled into the reading.

Indexed! at Design Commission Gallery

Previous to the reading, I didn’t really know much about Hagy—I’d browsed a little bit through Indexed before, but not in any great detail. And, shamefully, in coming late, I missed a good sixty percent of her presentation. Luckily, How To Be Interesting is based on a 2011 Forbes article Hagy wrote by the same title. You can check it out here. The book, naturally, expands on it, but the highlights reel Hagy took us through (complete with Powerpoint) was pretty similar to the original post. To put it even more succinctly than the article, Hagy encourages the reader to forget the haters (whom she refers to as “scolds”—adorable!), be passionate, be generous, and be curious. In short, the best way to be interesting is to be not only yourself, but being a self that is open to adventure and to others.

Jessica Hagy: How to Be Interesting

While I missed out on the bulk of the presentation, I was present for the question and answer session, which is always the best bit. Jessica Hagy is… well, she’s Midwestern. It’s very easy, in the United States, to forget that it’s such a large country and people can be quite different from one region to another, but I still manage to backslide into the “West Coast/The South/New England” trinity of American identities that rule my life. So seeing Hagy, who is quiet, self-effacing, marvelously articulate, and gifted with incredibly timing, was a welcome disruption to this mental rut.

Pop!Tech 2007 - The Creative Instinct - Jessica Hagy

The questions asked were pretty common ones, all around—someone asked about her background (she used to do advertising), what television shows she watches (she described Game of Thrones as “Lord of the Rings meets Guiding Light“) and her cartooning role models (Bill Watterson and other web comic artists). I asked about the process of expanding the post into a larger book, if only to apologize for my tardiness.

What stuck with me in particular were two specific things Hagy said. When asked about who she finds interesting, she described the most interesting kind of people as “mildly subversive, but self-sustainable”. That description stopped me dead in my scribbling tracks; what a wonderful way to put that! Subvert the status quo as you need to, but make sure you can keep yourself going. There’s always a tension between the world you want to live in and the world you actually live in, and the people Hagy describes in that single line are the ones who successfully negotiate that tension.

Jessica Hagy at Design Commission

But the thing that really blew my mind was Hagy explaining her art. One of my fellow First Baptist crashers asked her what she’d missed; Hagy explained that she uses her diagrams and charts to tell stories. (“Oh, these are good,” the crasher said.) To her, Hagy said, these diagrams and charts are like grammar—an equal sign can mean “to be”, for instance. While I’m not a math person, there’s something soothing about how clear everything is in mathematics. I’d simply never considered taking that aspect of math and using it instead as a method of storytelling. Co-option and reclamation are often are the forefront of my thought, but this idea is so subtle and creative. Much like Hagy herself.

It’s Easter! I’m off to a brunch with the assembled clans (I am related to so many people), including my beloved nephew, Wolfboy, before a harrowing discussion with my parents about my future. It’s okay, I called this meeting to order myself. This week, I went to go see Jessica Hagy read (duh), watched the return of Doctor Who, ended up procuring a blue velvet blazer for a secret, eighties-related project. (God bless you, thrift stores of Atlanta.) I also managed to get through Letters from Egypt and We Killed, but, as ever, I feel like I need to step the reading up a notch.

This week’s links:

Have you heard of Jessica Hagy or Indexed? What do you make of it?

4 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon: Jessica Hagy

  1. I hadn’t heard of Jessica Hagy before, but she sounds really (am I the first to say it?) interesting! I’ll check out her blog. Indexing was one of my most interesting classes in library school!

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