Better Know A Hoodline Writer: Upper Haight's Amy Stephenson

Writers at Hoodline get to know everything happening around them. But who are the people bringing you your neighborhood news? We're starting a regular interview series with our staff so you can find out.

First up, meet our Upper Haight co-editor, Amy Stephenson.

One of our longest-running staffers, Amy wrote her first article back in 2012. Today, she's nearing her 600th. She's also been busy with her day job at local independent bookstore The Booksmith, where she founded an erotic literary event called Shipwreck.

The monthly event, which was profiled by the San Francisco Chronicle last week, features erotic fan fiction about famous works of literature, written by local authors. It regularly sells out, and later this month, Grand Central Publishing will release Loose Lips, a book-length collection of erotic stories produced for Shipwreck.

But we're here to focus on the mastermind: Amy Stephenson. We caught up with her to hear more about her life as a Hoodline writer.

What’s your favorite story so far out of all the ones you’ve written for Hoodline? Why?

Oh man, that's a hard one. I'm pretty obsessed with the Bibliobicicleta story — about the bike-powered mobile book rental service. I like stories about cool, industrious locals doing positive things in the community. And later, when the founder, Alicia Tapia, did a Kickstarter, she hit her goal in two days! I hope we helped. 

What’s your favorite story written by someone else here?

Stephen Jackson's story about Lil' Wayne the duck wins handily. Mostly, I just loved how everyone in District 5 turned into a mobile duck-hunting unit until we finally tracked him and his people down. I feel like at one point, I even posted something in our Slack channel like "White duck heading east on Masonic at Baker Street, 3PM."

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about your neighborhood since starting here?

That the Alvord Lake bridge is an engineering icon! It's such a cool story; I highly recommend the episode of 99% Invisible about it. 

What's the best part of being a neighborhood editor?

I like getting to know everyone who lives and works here through writing stories. I can't walk down the street anymore without having three conversations about the neighborhood. I had that a little bit from Booksmith, but with Hoodline, it's a whole different level. 

Why/how did you decide to join Hoodline?

I was asked! I liked what [Hoodline predecessor] Haighteration was already doing, and when Andrew [Dudley] said he was thinking about expanding to the UH and was looking for writers, I loved the idea. 

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen/done for a story?

It's not that weird, but every time I have to take a photo of the kids' playground in the Panhandle, I feel like suuuuuch a creep. Just a grown adult, alone, at 9am, taking photos of a playground. Nothing to see here! And that playground gets vandalized all the time, so we're always doing stories about it. Every time, I feel like I'm going to get arrested.

What makes covering Upper Haight unique/special?

I feel like the Haight is such an underdog in San Francisco. Everyone in San Francisco vaguely hates it, the city sort of ignores it, but it keeps plugging along, with all its tourists and street kids and illegal vintage furs. It feels like living here and liking the neighborhood is so uncool that it's almost all the way back around to being cool again.

What topics intrigue you most?

I'm drawn to the stories about cool people doing cool things and making stuff better. Like Bibliobicicleta, or the guy who collects discarded signs from homeless people, stuff like that. It's so easy to complain about the Haight, and it's always fun for me when we find someone who loves it here and is engaging with the neighborhood in an interesting way.

Any tips for aspiring writers/neighborhood editors?

Talk to everyone! Make tons of friends! Always carry business cards (always). Immediately try to get on the listserves of whatever neighborhood groups exist. I get 50 percent of all my tips from being the secretary for the Haight Ashbury Merchants Association, for instance. 

What are your favorite events or event spaces in the Haight (besides Booksmith/Shipwreck)?

I love jazz at Club Deluxe. I like a lot of the stuff Milk Bar does, in terms of comedy and music. I really love the figure-drawing class at the Red Vic. And I can't wait to see what Second Act comes up with next.