During her tenure as a story editor at Rookie, writer and editor Amy Rose Spiegel not only dropped humorous and relatable truth-bombs, but taught us how to put our faces on like a pro. Last year, she founded Enormous Eye, a space for writers she likes to record everything they see and do on their Saturdays, be it plot-driven or pure rumination. And some of our favorites have contributed over the past year: Tavi Gevinson, Sarah Nicole Prickett and Doreen St. Félix, to name a few. On the first Monday of 2016, Enormous Eye released several such posts so invigorating, we just had to call up Amy Rose for a chat.
Enormous Eye got started early last year, right? How and why did you start up this project?
"The first post went up on Valentine’s Day 2015. It started in observance of this tradition I’ve had for a long time, which is that I take a very long, loping Sunday constitutional, walking around. Whoever is with me is with me, or I’ll do it alone. I was talking to a companion I had at the time about a longstanding dream to make a website where I could hear my friends talk in their own voices about what their lives were. I realized on that walk that I didn’t have to wait. That I could go home and send an email to 50 people and say, Hi! I have this idea. It’s called Enormous Eye. The idea for the name happened instantaneously on that walk. People were really into contributing, and they did, that Saturday, under a week later, and I published it that following Monday." What did the name come from?
"That comes from one of my favorite essays by Virginia Woolf called 'Street Haunting,' where she’s talking about taking this long walk through the streets where she lived in order to buy a pencil. It’s an excuse, like my Sunday constitutionals are an excuse, to go and look at the world and marvel at it privately. In the essay, she writes something like: when you’re doing this, the shell covering is stripped away, and all that’s left is an enormous eye. It just seemed completely fitting." [Ed. note: After our call, Amy sends me the excerpt in question from Woolf’s “Street Haunting: A London Adventure”: “But when the door shuts on us, all that vanishes. The shell–like covering which our souls have excreted to house themselves, to make for themselves a shape distinct from others, is broken, and there is left of all these wrinkles and roughnesses a central oyster of perceptiveness, an enormous eye.”] That’s what I call being a floating, walking brain.
"Floating, walking brain is so often how I feel! Like a Futurama-style head encased in a bell jar." How do you choose the writers?
"I have a running list that I keep on a sheet of notebook paper that is hung from a nail in my bedroom. I have a long, long list of asks, because there are so many writers whose work I revere so much, it’s not hard to come up with people to do this. So I send asks to them, but I also get lots of submissions now, and in that case I’ll have them send me clips and if it seems like a fit, I’ll assign them a Saturday. I have a really clear and uniform set of specs, so to speak, that I send to each writer who agrees to do it, and it’s really clear when they submit, when the deadline is, what’s expected. People have been amazing at it all the way through. "I’m really proud of it for two reasons, the first being: Oh my god, I love these brains so much! I just want to squat and loiter in their neural passageways for as long as they will have me. The second is, I did the very first one and I got so much out of the exercise. It sounds self-aggrandizing, but it’s true. It made me feel so much more confident in the way that I observed the world and then put it down in writing. It expanded that for me and I think it had a really nice impact on my own work." Which entries stand out among your favorites? Anything particularly memorable you’ve learned or gained from an entry?
"It’s so hard to identify just a few that really resonated with me. I love the ones by writers that I revere and respect like Durga Chew-Bose, like Jia Tolentino, just as much as I do ones like Nomali Cele, who wrote a really beautiful one about where she lived in South Africa. There was one from a girl named Aoife Daly, who lives in Perth, across the world from me. Lena Singer wrote a really beautiful one that starts with this stream-of-consciousness, drunken stopping and starting of sleep, which I feel is the ideal form for one of these. I love particularly the ones where a writer is not trying to have a good bombastic Saturday in terms of what the events of it are. I love the ones where a writer is just reflecting upon what they’re thinking and feeling and doing. That has never been contingent, for me, upon plot." Enormous Eye kicked off the new year with several simultaneous posts! Did that keep you busy over the holidays?
"These are a mix of people I wanted to have bring in the new year, and people I’ve had my sights set on for a little bit. Typically, Enormous Eye, if I’m doing really well, I’ll have a couple of weeks set in advance. But when people started wanting to do it of their own volition, which was pretty early, it became easier to gauge interest, figure it out the week before, send people the specs, the instructions, and have them go for it and send it to me on Sunday night. They all typically come in on a rush from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. the Sunday after somebody will do it, then I publish them typically in a clump the next day. [Laughs.] Clump is the worst word." Dayna Tortorici’s entry this week was really lovely; I especially loved the line “What am I but gifts and weapons?”
"Dayna Tortorici is a fucking gift and a weapon in and of herself! I find her writing to be so galvanizing, so beautiful, just the model for what I want to commit to the world, and she has an incredible intellect and heart, so I was unsurprised that that one was just…bulletproof. Anyway, please make this piece into a fan letter to Dayna." Wolf Pupy’s is one of my favorites on EE. What’s the deal with Wolf Pupy, anyway?
"Here’s what I know about Wolf Pupy: Wolf Pupy, I first commissioned a piece from back when I was a story editor at Rookie. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend his Rookie piece, "Damn it’s the Teen Girl Life." It’s one of my favorite things. Wolf Pupy, as far as I know, will only identify as a wolf puppy. I think Wolf Pupy is an artist living in Australia, but I’m not sure. I could see that there was potential for this format that only Wolf Pupy could fully realize, and it worked out beautifully. Also in terms of absurdist and adorable, have you read the one by the rapper DVS? Oh my god. He’s one of my best friends here in New York. He writes really irreverently and absurdly, but his is mixed with so much heartfelt tenderness." Can you tell us about what’s coming up on EE in the near future?
"Next week’s are going to be amazing. I have a few writers that I’ve had my eye on for a while that are going to do this week’s Eye, which is on the 9th, going up on the 11th. I’m looking forward to having a really robust and gorgeous year. I don’t really have any aspirations for it. I just want it to persist and give big ups to people I think deserve big ups in every aspect of life. Just more of what we know and expect of this website, which is the innermost workings of the human heart! Or what-the-fuck-ever [laughs]."