Word Games Are Humor Writer Mia Mercado’s Love Language

Q(uar) & A is a series of interviews with some of our favorite storytellers and creators about how they’re living while in lockdown.

“I had a photoshoot with my book because I wanted to and felt like it. This was also an excuse to show off my very good gray sweat suit.”

Mia Mercado is a writer based in the Midwest whose work has been featured in places like The New Yorker, the New York Times, and McSweeney’s. Her debut collection of funny non-fiction essays, Weird But Normal, is out now.

Where are you currently sheltering in place?
My house in Kansas City, KS, with my husband, my sister, and my dog.

What does your face mask look like? 
It’s this KC Heart Mask made by Charlie Hustle. I match every suburban mom in the greater Kansas City area.

Do you follow any kind of routine at this moment? 
Most days I try to get up between 9:30 and 10:30 in that I get up at, like, 10:29. By that time, my husband Riley has been up for at least an hour and a half to make coffee and do work (go snorkeling in Animal Crossing). (Also, he’s a teacher and it’s still unclear when school will start back up and in what form.)

Almost immediately after I wake up, we do the daily New York Times crossword. Half-way through, I take the shit of my life. After the crossword, we try to do the other daily Times puzzles, Letterboxed and Spelling Bee. Word games are our love language, our couples therapy, the only way I use more than 1% of my brain, etc.

After that, most of my days have been some combination of checking email, writing when I have a specific assignment, looking in the fridge, checking email again, going outside for a bit if it isn’t so hot as to make me pass away, thinking about writing something that isn’t for an assignment, absolutely not doing that, thinking about what I’m going to buy the next time we go grocery shopping, and staring at my dog.

I’ve been going to bed around 1AM. How I am able to truly stay occupied between 10:29AM and 1AM. is one of mankind’s greatest unsolved mysteries. I play Candy Crush while listening to a sleep hypnosis podcast until I pass out.

“I was very excited to cut Riley’s hair until the moment I actually had to cut it. This is the only picture I have from the experience. The haircut turned out very OK.”

What are some pieces of entertainment that you have consumed and loved during this time?
Crosswords and jigsaw puzzles have been my Lexapro. Also Lexapro is my Lexapro. I read Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby the second it came out. Right now, I’m reading Self Care by Leigh Stein and A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green, and Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Davis. I scroll through TikTok more than I should because I have worms in my brain. My sister Ana and I have a codependent relationship with Married At First Sight. I’m almost finished with all of Netflix — please no spoilers!!!

“Virtual readings and book events have taken the place of any in-person events I had planned, which has been nice because 1) this my first book and I don’t know any different 2) more people have been able to see each event and 3) I don’t need to be presentable from the waist-down.”

Are you working on anything during this time? And if you’re having trouble “creating” things at the moment, how are you getting around it?
I just had a book come out thus I don’t have to work ever again for the rest of my life or at least that’s what my body feels like right now.

Have you taken up any new hobbies? 
Making smoothies and holding hands with my dog.

What’s the best meal you’ve eaten so far during quar? What’s the worst?
Every meal I’ve made in the past few months either takes five minutes or three hours. I’ve been making honey mustard tofu a bunch (it’s tofu coated in honey mustard and then panko and baked until it’s brown and crunchy) and it tastes like fancy fake chicken nuggets. I also recently ate an entire can of black olives as a meal and I am taking no further questions on that.

What’s your current iPhone wallpaper and what’s the story behind it? 

Chris Pine’s vacation outfit. The story is I saw the picture once and realized it was something I absolutely need to see every day of my life. I spent an embarrassing amount of time editing the image so that he would be perfectly tiny in the bottom right corner because I love to spend long amounts of time working on things that are not my real job. My lock screen is a picture of my dog Ava and it needs no explanation.

What’s the best quar purchase you’ve made so far?
Honestly? I’m extremely glad Riley bought a Nintendo Switch. Against all odds, I have become someone who deeply enjoys Mario Kart. Also, weed.

Who are the writers, storytellers, or makers who are bringing you great joy right now?
Samantha Irby, Jia Tolentino, Reductress, the little kid in this TikTok saying “a little more sugar,” Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti in Palm Springs, Tierra Whack, Flo Milli, Ankita from Indian Matchmaking, the McElroy brothers, my dog who recently learned how to shake paws.

“This is what I looked like when I got my book in the mail. Riley didn’t tell me what was in the box and took a video of me looking…like this. Which does constitute as bullying. “

Any unexpectedly memorable moments so far?
Early on into quarantine, when we were still young and full of hope, Riley and I did scavenger hunt where we made a list of things we thought the other wouldn’t be able to find in the house. (e.g. I made him try to find the dried dill in our pantry, he made me figure out where he stored an empty rice bag seven years ago). We only yelled at each other the entire time. Ana was the judge and the only one to come out a winner.

Also, when I saw my two-year-old niece for one of the first times since March, she took off my hat and I asked how my hair looked and she laughed and said, “yucky!!!”

Follow Mia on Twitter @miamarket, on Instagram @mia.market, and on Facebook @miamercadowrites. And subscribe to her newsletter, Cake for Breakfast!