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Amber Tamblyn, acting out a literary dream


Amber Tamblyn


Amber Tamblyn knows what you're thinking: An actor stars in the CBS drama Joan of Arcadia and the teen blockbuster The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, and suddenly she thinks she can write a book.

"I've found that obviously reviewers and the general world will not base you solely on what you write but also on your celebrity, and you can't help that, which is unfortunate," Tamblyn said by phone from San Francisco.

Tamblyn, 26, knows what you're thinking, but she doesn't care. She produces the annual Los Angeles poetry event The Drums Inside Your Chest. Besides, she has been writing poetry for as long as she's acted.

Tamblyn grew up in Santa Monica, Calif., surrounded by the friends of her artsy parents, actor Russ Tamblyn and Bonnie Tamblyn, a teacher and musician. When she was 12, her parents' buddy Jack Hirschman, who eventually would become San Francisco's poet laureate, had her poem Kill Me So Much published in a local magazine.

Though by then Tamblyn had a recurring role on General Hospital, the girl was thrilled to see her name in print. She started carrying a notebook on sets, and throughout her teen years, she and her mother made chapbooks of her work at Kinko's. That was as far as Tamblyn's writing career went until Simon & Schuster approached her. Kill Me So Much is the first poem in Tamblyn's 2005 book Free Stallion, a collection of mostly free-verse poems.

"That was a really big step for me and a very scary one, too," Tamblyn said. Because the truth is, she does care what you think. How could she not? As an actor, she gets paid to feel things. She feels it all. And, unlike acting, there is no director to blame when the finished product faces stinging reviews. Though both Free Stallion and Tamblyn's 2009 sophomore effort, Bang Ditto, were critically acclaimed, she let one Free Stallion reviewer particularly affect her.

"I still remember his name: Jason Quackenbush," she said. "He said that he refused to read celebrity trash like this. So he gave away the fact that he hadn't even read it, but he was already going to post up a review on Amazon about how bad it was. Obviously, most people would not take that to heart, but when you're used to thinking and feeling from your heart all the time, … I'd be a liar if I didn't say some of that stuff affected me."

Then again, the things that irk Tamblyn become creative fodder. She jokes that Quackenbush was the inspiration for Hate, A Love Poem:

Your sex is a broken slot machine that will never change. It's as intimate as a business card. … I sit in fast food bathrooms, just to remember your smell.

Hate, A Love Poem is a crowd favorite at Tamblyn's public lectures. For her appearance Saturday in St. Petersburg, her mother will provide musical accompaniment.

After birthing poems on stinky ex-boyfriends, surprise half-sisters, life in Hollywood and more, Tamblyn is taking a break, "letting the muse rest."

For now, she's a writer who isn't writing. And she doesn't care what you think about that. Except, she does.

Bang Ditto

By Amber Tamblyn, Manic D Press, 128 pages, $16. She'll speak at 2:15 p.m. at the St. Petersburg Times Festival of Reading.

Amber Tamblyn, acting out a literary dream 10/22/09 [Last modified: Friday, October 23, 2009 4:33pm]
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