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A guy, a girl, and a pizza place

A Tulsa Voice Q&A with bestselling author Molly Wizenberg

We sat down with Molly Wizenberg, a native Oklahoman and New York Times bestselling author, to talk about her second book, “Delancey” (Simon & Schuster, $25), which tells the story of how she opened a pizza restaurant with her husband, Brandon—or, rather, the story of how Brandon opened a pizza restaurant and her reluctance about the whole thing. Molly will be in Tulsa Thursday, May 8, at 7 p.m. at Fifteenth and Home, 1512 E. 15th St., for the release of her book as part of a Booksmart Tulsa event.

You attended the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute at Quartz Mountains as a high school student and went back in your early twenties to work as an assistant. What was your experience there?

When I was growing up, poetry was really important to me. I got really into writing poetry in high school—poetry was my thing in high school, a big part of my identity. While I was lucky to have really excellent English teachers at my normal school, getting into Quartz and studying under accomplished poets who really took us seriously was very empowering.

Was there one aspect that was particularly meaningful to you?

The “Conservations with the Artists,” in the evening—I remember being incredibly moved by the photography teacher, Ted Orland. He talked about the problem of art and fear. It was the first time I heard someone talk about this. There is often a lot of fear and dread involved in creating. That is something that we have to learn how to manage, how to work with this fear. That is the dark side of making things: the fear of not knowing how, the fear of failing. It was the first time I heard someone acknowledge the dread involved in creativity.

Both your blog and your books center on very personal subjects. What is it like for you to meet people who may feel like they know you based on your writing?

I’ve always had a very easy back-and-forth conversation with my readers. I feel closer to them than I would if I hadn’t had a blog. I feel indebted to them. I wouldn’t get to do what I do if they hadn’t come along to read my blog. I certainly don’t know them but it doesn’t seem weird to me that we have a relationship.

I feel like writing about our lives is always a careful balancing act between writing down the details that interest me and help me to tell the story, with what is comfortable for me and for my readers. At this point, it feels really intuitive to me, since I’ve been blogging for ten years. It’s like what you would talk to your best friend about versus a friendly acquaintance.

What was it like putting your writing on hold as the restaurant was opening?

I got concerned letters from some of my readers and a relative, saying that I was giving up my career for my husband, since I wasn’t able to write a lot when we were opening. That was really hard for me to hear, because I made a decision to help Brandon with the restaurant. That was a decision I made on behalf of my marriage and my spouse’s happiness—and, by extension, my happiness. I wasn’t giving anything up, because I was just putting something on hold to do something I needed to do. 

What the situation really was: I was scared shitless. I was scared of this thing that has been successful. My choosing to do something to go along with him, to help him, was me being really smart, me taking care of our marriage, and of our future being self-employed, independent people.

Brandon’s decision to open the restaurant came as a surprise to you. What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of getting married, given the surprises that will necessarily arise?

I feel like the most important thing is that you both want to get the same thing out of life. What makes you both happy is the same. There can be plenty that you disagree on or approach differently, but if you both have the same definition of what it means to live a good life, I think you’re going to be okay.

For more information on Wizenberg's Booksmart Tulsa event, visit the Booksmart Tulsa website.