Author and journalist
Born c. 1969; married Eli Crews (a musician and music producer); children: Gus. Education: Earned degree in American studies from the University of California—Santa Cruz, 1991.
Addresses: Office —c/o HarperCollins, 10 E. 53rd St., New York, NY 10022.
Assistant to the publisher of the Bay Guardian , early 1990s; also worked in operations at SF-Gate, the online news site of the San Francisco Chronicle , c. 1995; writer of the "Buzz Town" column for www.sfgate.com after 1997; first book, Monkey Girl , published by Manic D Press, 1997; poet, spoken-word, and founder of The Beth Lisick Ordeal, a music-and-poetry ensemble, which released their first album, Pass , on the Dunord Recording label, 1999; collaborates with Tara Jepsen on stage and film; co-founder of the Porchlight storytelling series with Arline Klatte, c. 2002; signed to book deal by Regan Books, for the 2005 memoir Everyone into the Pool: True Tales.
San Francisco-area comedian, writer, and musician Beth Lisick is the author of Everyone into the Pool: True Tales , a collection of entertaining essays that chronicle her life to date as a poet, band front-woman, and mother. Throughout the chapters, Li-sick's counterculture attitude and penchant for wise-cracks echo her stage performances as well as the nightlife column she once authored for a Bay Area newspaper. "I tried to write a book of funny stories without resorting to things typically associated with women, " she explained to Reyhan Harmanci in the San Francisco Chronicle , "like 'men' or 'shopping.'"
In the mid- to late 1980s, when Lisick was at Saratoga High School in California's Santa Clara Valley, she was both a track champion and her school's homecoming queen. After graduating from the University of California's Santa Cruz campus in 1991 with a major in American studies, Lisick moved to San Francisco and drifted through a series of low-wage jobs. "For a long time, I thought I wanted to be a pastry chef, " she recalled in the San Francisco Chronicle interview. "Talk about bad hours and bad pay!" She discovered her true calling one night when she took the stage at a San Jose venue for open-mike night. As she told Harmanci, "I learned something really important after that first time— that I'm not afraid of public speaking."
By 1997, Lisick had had her first book published locally—a collection of poetry and prose titled Monkey Girl —and was writing a nightlife column for the website of the San Francisco Chronicle. She also founded a band, The Beth Lisick Ordeal, which featured her poetry backed by Beatnik-style instrumentation. Her act won a slot on the 1998 Lilith Fair, the national tour showcasing female musicians, and a year later they released an album, Pass , on a San Francisco record label.
Much of Lisick's poetry and storytelling revolved around her rather mundane childhood in Saratoga, the daughter of two parents who were transplanted Midwesterners to northern California, but missed out entirely on the hippie era. "At open-mike bars, everyone was denying their past like it wasn't cool, " she told Las Vegas Sun journalist Kristen Peterson. "They're acting like they were raised in the Chelsea Hotel. I loved growing up in the suburbs."
In 2001, Lisick's second book, This Too Can Be Yours , was published, and around this same time she had a child, a son named Gus, with her husband, a musician and music producer. She landed a book deal after an appearance at a 2002 event called Litquake, when a literary agent in the audience was impressed by her reading of a selection from This Too Can Be Yours. Signed to Regan Books, an imprint of Harp-erCollins known for its nonfiction bestsellers, Lisick produced Everyone into the Pool: True Tales , a collection of stories from her life. She revisits her suburban high school life, reveals incidents of sexual experimentation, and chronicles her experiences inside San Francisco's thriving alternative culture, which included a stint as a squatter, or illegal resident of a dwelling unzoned for residential use.
As Lisick writes in the introduction, she had a pleasant-enough childhood and family, and "it seemed as if I was on my way to becoming a highly functioning member of society or at least someone who wouldn't end up living the way I did. I'm talking about the illegal warehouse spaces, the ten-year lapse without seeing a doctor or dentist, driving cars held together by Bondo, crashing on floors across the United States and Europe while touring with my 'poetry.' Now, at age 35, my yearly income hovers right near the poverty line."
Everyone into the Pool earned good reviews, and prompted comparisons to humorist David Sedaris from some critics. "Lisick's self-effacing voice keeps the book moving at a brisk pace, " noted People book reviewer Jonathan Durbin, while Jennifer Reese, writing in Entertainment Weekly , described Lisick's writing style as "both offbeat and upbeat, wised-up yet curiously wholesome."
Lisick has continued to collaborate with others, including Arline Klatte, with whom she founded the Porchlight storytelling series in the Bay Area. She also works with friend Tara Jepsen on film projects, some of them involving an act they call "Mitzi and Carol." She also performs occasionally with her husband, Eli Crews, as The Loins. Their stage shows involve dancing and singing to pre-recorded music tracks. "It's sweaty couples-therapy rock, " Lisick told Lessley Anderson in the New York Times. "We're working out our relationship issues through a series of dance moves."
Lisick's next book project involves meeting do-it-yourself experts from across the United States, such as a Wiccan in Indiana and a table-tennis champ in Wisconsin. She and Crews live in a Bay Area community best described as in transition. "We live basically on the Berkeley-Oakland border, " Lisick told Portland Tribune writer Eric Bartels, but noted that their neighborhood was not the ideal place to raise a three-year-old. "I'm ready to be able to live decently. It's so gnarly in our neighborhood; he's just being shuttled in and out of the house—no hanging out in the street. It's just these crazy kids running around barefoot and lighting firecrackers off their parents' lit cigarettes."
Lisick does not refrain from taking the occasional odd job for extra cash. She appeared in a series of television commercials for a Bay Area check-cashing chain, and as late as 2002 helped out a friend's food-delivery company by appearing in a public-relations stunt that involved impersonating a piece of fruit. "I realized as soon as I put on the foam banana suit that I wasn't really embarrassed about it, " she recalled with her characteristic wit in the interview with Harmanci for the San Francisco Chronicle , "but I felt bad for other people seeing me, a thirtysome-thing mother in a foam banana suit, who felt bad."
Monkey Girl (poetry and prose), Manic D Press, (San Francisco, CA), 1997.
This Too Can Be Yours (short stories), Manic D Press, 2001.
Everyone into the Pool: True Tales (memoir), Regan Books/HarperCollins (New York City), 2005.
Entertainment Weekly , July 8, 2005, p. 75.
Las Vegas Sun , July 21, 2005.
Library Journal , June 1, 2005, p. 128.
New York Times , August 28, 2005, p. ST4.
People , July 18, 2005, p. 49.
Portland Tribune , August 26, 2005.
San Francisco Chronicle , January 21, 1999, p. D1; November 4, 2001, p. 1; July 12, 2005, p. E1.
Beth Lisick Website, http://www.bethlisick.com/ (October 12, 2005).
Excerpt from Everyone into the Pool: True Tales , Amazon.com, http://www.amazon.com (October 12, 2005).
— Carol Brennan