Grow Girl

An Interview from Identity Theory

Interview: Heather Donahue, Author of Growgirl

By Matt Borondy | Published: April 18, 2013

9781592407040 Interview: Heather Donahue, Author of <em>Growgirl</em>At the age of 34, Heather Donahue meditated for a few days, then burnt the remains of her acting career, which included starring in The Blair Witch Project and the Steven Spielberg miniseries Taken, to begin a more organic life growing medical marijuana with her new boyfriend in Northern California.

Growgirl: The Blossoming of an Unlikely Outlaw is Heather’s very funny memoir of finding her way in the hippie pot-growing community and inventing a more enlightened, post-Hollywood identity out of smoke and ashes.

In her interview with Identity Theory, the writer formerly known as The Girl fromThe Blair Witch Project talks about ideal marijuana legislation, misunderstandings about pot farmers, and the future of her writing career.

Mike Doughty said in our 2006 interview, “I’d like to get weed recognized as a drug that people can become seriously addicted to and wreck their lives with. I don’t judge drugs—I stopped doing ’em, but I love ’em. But this nonsense that weed is some kind of light non-drug is pure fiction; a major problem in our society.” What is your response to that?

Just because something is powerful, doesn’t mean we need to take it away from people. From children, sure, but not from the grownup among us. I don’t think that anybody is suggesting that cannabis isn’t a powerful plant, it clearly is. That’s why there’s all this political and economic hubbub around it. It’s like the Force, Luke. You can use it in a lot of ways, but that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t have the opportunity to choose responsibly. Free, right? That’s the best of our national brand. America: Home of the Babysat. Just doesn’t have the same ring.

In the year-plus since Growgirl was released, major transformations occurred in the marijuana policies of several states. Going forward, what does the ideal pot policy look like at the state level?

It doesn’t really matter all that much what happens at the state level until there’s a Federal change. However, I think Colorado is on the right track. Let legalization happen, let there be enough regulation to protect the consumer. Let’s make sure there aren’t pesticides in there that trump the medicinal value of cannabis, but let’s also allow people to grow their own. That’s what legalization means. You can grow your own, freely. That is absolutely not what they’re getting in Washington State. The policy that they’re working on estimates 3 tons of weed produced a year. They will be awarding (and I use that word deliberately) 200 grower permits. That’s like handing a golden ticket to the highest (sorry) political bidder. Ick. It won’t go like that in California. The industry here is too big and folks are finally starting to unite to protect their livelihoods. I think true criminality in the Cannabusiness would be taking it away from the people who built it. Not the cartels–like any big business they can and will and do diversify. I’m talking about the family grower, the single mom, the artist, the musician, the writer, the small town whose economy depends on everyone having their little slice of the pie. Cannabis is the only high-value commodity whose resulting wealth is distributed at the mom-and-pop level. It provided opportunities for entrepreneurship during the crash of ’08 and beyond, especially where I live in Nor Cal. I think the small grower and dispensary entrepreneurs should be considered in any legalization discussion.

What’s the most common misconception people have about pot farming?

I think people don’t see the families who grow. I think they don’t see the grannies whose pensions aren’t cutting it. I think people don’t understand how entire towns that lost industries like logging are have become not ghost towns, but thriving, diverse communities. It’s not all cartels and guns. In my experience, it’s not like that at all.

A character in a novel I just finished reading invents a program that eradicates all online mentions of famous people who want to be anonymous again. Would you have used such a service to start over after leaving Hollywood at 34 if it were possible?

It would be really tempting, but it would also be disingenuous. I am all of these stories, made up of all of these events. The stories I tell myself about those events and how they shape me, even those are fluid. “I am not I” and all of that, because to say “I” is to assume some kind of solidity. Writing Growgirl made me think a lot about that. The rather more diaphanous off-the-page story that I tell myself about myself constantly challenges me to reinterpret my relationship to big, internet-permanent events like Blair Witch, and without that challenge I would be a lesser person. I’m always changing, always growing up and out of what’s come before. Blair Witch repeats on me constantly, like cucumbers or chili, all the better to make peace with it.

Growgirl was your first book, and you’re still quite young. Do you plan to continue to work mostly in personal nonfiction, or are you going to transition to other forms of writing?

I’m working on a novel called Bounds right now. It’s an erotic black comedy about a trio of cancer researchers. The theme is love and other consumptive malignancies. At the same time, I’m launching a business called Prettywell. It’s a mix of herbal and lab-tested ingredients for whole bodies. My first four products, about to fledge the nest, are Lift, Feed, Mojo, Buff, and Hump.

Your dog Vito was one of my favorite characters in Growgirl. How’s he doing now?

He is the planet’s finest creature. Intelligent, mellow, with uncanny comedic timing. He’s five now. He does a lot of this:

heather donahue vito 1 500x375 Interview: Heather Donahue, Author of <em>Growgirl</em>

And also this:

heather donahue vito 2 500x333 Interview: Heather Donahue, Author of <em>Growgirl</em>

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Epiphanies Spring Eternal


There are some things I think I know, but when I test them with another, especially another naked person, I falter. The perils and joys of solitude, which my winter was full of, are in learning what I need to know. Then I have to welcome my test buddies when they come to call. Bringing aspiration into knowledge, body deep, is hard until it’s easy; until you finally have enough of the desperate friction and eager fiction.

I’ve had enough. I’m sitting in an empty cup again. Okay not entirely empty, I’m thinking there are some very nice flowers in it. California Poppies and Cynoglossum officinale. Or something like that.

I finally have sincere gratitude and some much needed forgiveness for the naked test buddy who drafted me into Heart Boot Camp. His indifferent handling of delicate valves taught me to be steady, to grieve as deep and hard and lonely as can be, and trust that it will pass. The heartbreak hangovers grew shorter every time. I persisted with him, out of a stupefying mix of nostalgia, love, loneliness, and straight-up get-those-fucking-clothes-off-and-sit-down-in the-big-boy-chair desire. He could rely on my yes, and so he did.

It was a stupid thing I was doing, even the internet said so. Sex with the ex is a bad idea, particularly one you thought you’d spend the rest of your life with. I had to learn to let go again and again. He timed my recoveries well and by the time he’d call again I opened my heart (and assorted other body parts) to him just as readily as the last time. Friends thought this was the very definition of insanity and were tired of hearing about it. I was tired of talking about it, but being with him in this untethered territory was fun and playful in a way that it wasn’t when we were together, especially that last year.

When it was done, and he went back to workaholic absence, I tried to find a way to keep the sense of play amid the flood of memory and story that I could not write. I had at my disposal several versions of what once was, and, I considered all too often: could be again. I wanted to know. I wanted to know now. I wanted the plot back. The memoirist in me was stifling the puny human. Teetering between love and hate, rage and gratitude; I couldn’t just let fragile fire be.

Borage Flower


About five different narratives clashed in my body as I tried to write an essay about it. Chaos was giving order the Philly Phinger. I just had to sit in it. Drown in it some days. In crazy-ex fashion, I even reached out to one of his breakup-time lovers, to try and suss out which memory path would bring me closer to the truth: the one where he was a controlling asshole, or the one where he was an gentle teddy bear safe and hot and home. I thought someone else’s story could stabilize mine, as if that would sandbag the balloon.

Well, it sort of did. That’s what stories are for. They do that. We do that for each other in the telling. As it often goes with unstable dichotomies, he is both. A fuzzy stormtrooper. Just his nature. That must be hard. We are, none of us but the sociopaths, trying to hurt each other. Paths cross and don’t, and though I can’t believe what a dirty hippie I’m becoming, to trust in the necessity of that, to persist in allowing comfort in uncertainty, is the order of the day.

A sudden poppy. California Poppy.

I don’t know anything, except that when I am still, I am safe. I discovered that this morning, just like that. A sudden poppy. This is not to say I won’t veer, oh god, not at all, veering will hopefully just deepen my understanding. Desire is disruptive. Desire is life-giving. It is spring now, after all. But still, this morning has the ease and light of an actual epiphany. I think I might really finally know this beyond my tricky brain, deep in my sturdy bones, all the way to a steady heart: Everything is going to be okay.


Big props to naked test buddies.


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