For recently betrothed C. James and Jessa Bye, bed is not merely a playground, wrestling mat or sanctuary.
After receiving an advance copy of The Way We Sleep (Curbside Splendor Press, 2012), an anthology of short stories, interviews, and comics all dealing with, surprise!, the way we sleep, I had the delight of speaking to editors C. James and Jessa Bye.
1.) In your book’s intro, you suggest that this project worked at least partially as an escape or distraction from a routine that had become tedious. Now that the book is finished, how has the process changed or evolved? The book once provided distraction, but has something else taken its place? Is that no longer necessary?
Jessa: We’re dying a slow painful death.
Casey: Honestly, we’re too busy to feel boredom and tedium. Jessa’s finishing her second year with Teach for America. I took on a new position at work and re-launched Knee-Jerk, the magazine I started in grad school over the summer. Plus now it’s all press and party planning for the anthology, so we’re still really in the thick of it, even more so than say at the beginning of this year.
Jessa: Not to mention over the holidays we’re finalizing most of the plans for our wedding which is this coming June. I’m sure in a few years things will slow down and we’ll find something else to throw our energy into. Like another book. Or having a baby
2.) Very few engaged couples work this closely on a project together. What did the process reveal to you about your relationship?
Jessa: I would say that through this process I realized just how much we do have in common and how well we can work on things together. So really it was an affirmation. Maybe the only downside is after the editing and layout was done, all the pieces there, I became really busy with work and grad school and hadn’t had as much time to contribute to all the stuff between having the content there and getting that into the hands of readers.
Casey: It didn’t bother me. I eat that sort of stuff up—contacting press, thinking of fun ways to promote. It’s totally self-serving. I get a real self-esteem boost from getting replies from editors saying they think the anthology sounds like an exciting project, or a writer responding with a really heartfelt and positive blurb I’ve requested.
Jessa: It’s like you were born to send pleading emails to people you respect, asking them to do stuff for you.
3.) My wife and I believe that our day-to-day relations improved dramatically (and this is no joke) once we bought a quality mattress. And we wondered how many problematic marriages see their problems accelerated by poor sleep. In the hierarchy of elements important to all forms of happiness, where would you put “good sleep”?
Jessa: In my first year of TFA, especially the first months, I was a horrendous bitch, I think in part, because I rarely got good sleep. We had a kinda rough patch when we moved to Memphis, which completely disappeared when I started going to bed earlier.
Casey: It was a whole transition thing. But Jessa working eighty hours a week definitely affected our relationship for a while. Recently our bed broke.
Jessa: We have a history of breaking beds. For no reason.
Casey: Yeah, nothing dirty. But we’ve broken three beds in our time together. My sister’s guest bed, which was an antique, the bed in our resort room at Knee-Jerk editor, Steve Tartaglione’s wedding, and now our bed frame, which we bought for $200 New Years Day 2011 because we went to go to see The King’s Speech but didn’t know what time it started, so we just drank long islands next door, then wandered into World Market to waste some time. The guy knocked off $100 and when we sobered up and the movie was over we had a bed frame to pick up.
Jessa: You actually are underestimating the number of beds we’ve broken, because in my old place in Rogers Park (a neighborhood on Chicago’s far North Side) you sat down to like tie your shoe and my metal bed frame just warped and collapsed. So maybe we are just too fat to use beds. But then a few months ago the crossbar broke on the World Market bed because our dogs are always jumping on and wrestling. So we had to sleep in our guest bed that has a cheap mattress we bought from a place called Crazy Mikes. It’s awful and hard and tiny.
Casey: The bed frame, though, is sturdy and quite aesthetically pleasing. We bought it from writer, Mary Hamilton when she was moving to L.A. Anyway, I was lazy, or we were busy, so we slept there for several weeks and I’d wake up with sore hips because that mattress is basically like sleeping on hard floor. Last week I finally threw out the World Market frame and we’re very happy back on our box spring and soft mattress, which are now on our bedroom floor, college loft style.
4.) Your book’s title suggests an answer to the question, “How are we sleeping?” Well, what’s the answer? Are we sleeping well?
Casey: Looking at the book and the pieces in it—from fictional characters sleeping, to what’s said in the essays and interviews with celebrities about the way they sleep—the quality of everyone’s sleep these days varies widely. In the interviews, at least, no one ever says that they’re completely immune to the sort of things that keep any of us from a good night’s sleep. I work at a university, and I was awake in bed until 5:30 am last night stressing about what I was going to do for my campus Christmas party sketch video, because I’d gotten an email saying they moved up the deadline to Monday, which totally ruined what we’d planned over the last month.
Jessa: Honestly, there’s nothing really to learn about sleep from the book though. That’s why we chose the subject—it’s so familiar, all angles of it. Everyone knows what it feels like to not be able to sleep or the fun you can have in bed. So really the point is, reading the pieces, you’ll see things you recognize doing yourself in bed.
5.) Do you sleep differently after treating the topic as intimately as you have?
Casey: Nope. We talk about the same stupid things in bed, play the same stupid trying to fall asleep games, lose sleep over the same stupid worries.
Jessa: Yup, we are stupid and have learned nothing.
The Way We Sleep is an anthology of short stories, interviews, and comics all dealing with the way we sleep in a handsome 10 x 10, glossy coffee table style layout, 250 pages. Edited by C. James Bye and Jessa Bye, published by Curbside Splendor.
C. James Bye is the co-founder and Arts and Media editor of Knee-Jerk Magazine. He insists on being the little spoon, despite his six-foot three-and-half inch frame.
Jessa Bye was the web editor of Monkeybicycle for three years. She kicks off her socks when she sleeps, and her husband has to pick them up. Like, every single morning.
Photo by slightly everything.