On Saturday, I packed a backpack and headed about 40 minutes outside of Austin to Elgin, Texas, where New Republic Studios is located. I was going to my first ever Writer’s Retreat, and it was also the inaugural Writer’s Retreat hosted by the Austin Film Festival, where I’ve been volunteering for the last two years.
I have always wanted to go to some sort of writing retreat, and I was excited about this one because it was just a day event, so I could test the waters. When I registered, I got an email saying to just pack my writing supplies, lunch, and any snacks – everything else would be provided.
I feel like I always have so many ideas in my head for things to write, but I’m not very good at just sitting down and bringing it to fruition. This is a problem many writers face, especially if we’re doing other things to pay the bills (there’s no shame in that game) and/or if there’s no deadline or reason to write, other than to satisfy our minds. We are all guilty of putting ourselves and our needs last, right?
The thing is, one of the major projects on my mind involves my dad, and I’m still very emotional about it. I know that is a big reason I’ve been putting it off. I’m so emotional, in fact, that the entire WEEK leading up to the retreat, I felt anxiety and grief. I finally just had to keep telling myself that this retreat was for me, and if I went and didn’t feel comfortable working on that particular project, then I didn’t have to – I have so many other things I could work on. I also reminded myself that I was under no obligation to stay the entire time. If the retreat wasn’t beneficial to me, then I could leave.
So, I packed up my laptop, notepad, journal, pens, headphones, and lots of snacks, and headed on my way. The little road trip to Elgin was a treat in itself. I am a sucker for scenery, and some of these tattered curves seemed straight out of a Nicholas Sparks’ book – there were dusty roads, cattle, and rolling fields of bluebonnet. I even spotted a cardinal perched along the road!
When I got to New Republic Studios, I was impressed. I’ve been to movie and sound studios before, but this was such a neat setup. It’s right along the Colorado River, and has multiple studios for filming.
Upon checking in, we got a schedule for the day, and there was free cold brew coffee and snacks. A few different people welcomed us, and talked about the day, and how important it was that we were carving out this time to work on our craft.
Then, everyone sort of went their own way and got to work. Some people went to an optional improv hour, and others (including me) went to write. I chose a spot outside – it was such a beautiful day, and I feel like I don’t get outside enough.
I worked on my project about my dad for as long as I could, and I also worked on my blog some, but I spent hours just journaling. I started writing in my journal in October, when I felt like I couldn’t turn to my blog as an outlet, and I stopped writing in it about three days before my dad died. I think I was scared to even go there – but I filled many pages on Saturday!
I sat outside almost the entire day – moving to a shady spot in the afternoon. I’d packed a small blanket so I could sit in the grass, and that was nice.
However, one of the people who is affiliated with Austin Film Festival, was at an outdoor table for most of the day, and spent that entire time talking and laughing to a few other people. I don’t know if anyone else was bothered by this, but I definitely was. It’s really difficult for me to concentrate on my work when I can hear other conversations.
This was a Writer’s Retreat, not a talking retreat, and this was someone who had just given us a speech, “You are a writer, no one can write the story in the way you can.” And here he was being so loud that he even said, “Sorry if we’re being too loud,” but then continued to talk! How about not being sorry and simply being quiet?
I put in my headphones and listened to music for a little bit, but then I realized, what is the point of me sitting here with my headphones in? We all paid to be here, and I could sit anywhere with headphones in. So, I packed up and left about 30 minutes early. I’d gotten all I was going to get out of that day.
All in all, I really enjoyed myself. But I would encourage the Austin Film Festival staff to be more respectful to those of us who need a quieter environment.
I couldn’t help but think about how much it takes for some people to write. I have had this blog for more than 10 years, among other blogs I’ve had, and am always doing something that involves writing. And maybe I’m a rare breed, but I do feel like many writers will go out of their way to avoid actually sitting down to write.
This is something Stephen King talks about extensively in his memoir, that writing is something you just have to DO, even if it means locking yourself in a room and doing it, and it often doesn’t look like anything fun or glamorous.
I met so many people at the retreat who were scared to even call themselves writers – because they hadn’t been published or hadn’t had a movie made… it takes work! And even sometimes, the result might not be what you planned.
It certainly does help to have retreats and environments that support writing and creativity. But sometimes you’ve got to make those spaces for yourself, or you’ll never get it done.
After the day at the retreat, I felt relaxed, like my mind was a bit clearer. And that is something I haven’t felt in a really long time. I’m so thankful for that.
Howdy! I’m sitting in my bed (my usual blogging spot), I’ve had two glasses of wine, and I’ve got a mud mask on… and it’s about time I just wrote something.
You may recall that last week, I finished up another semester of teaching Blogging for Beginners at UT – and while it’s a time-consuming additional to my full-time gig, it never fails to teach me SO much about the craft of writing (and blogging).
I have realized lately that my life is so full of words and content – perhaps more full than it has ever been. I’m creating content 40+ hours a week for my job. I have to fill Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, and a blog, with fresh content all week – and sometimes every single day (I post around 12 tweets a day for work).
I also have this blog, plus I read, and watch TV, aaaand I’ve been doing freelance editing sometimes on the weekend. That = a TON of words! Which, is not a bad thing, don’t get me wrong, but I realized I haven’t had a chance to get away from the noise to actually think for myself.
One thing creatives can do to keep their juices flowing is to make time for activities that don’t involve words; such as listening to music (without words), taking nature walks, or simply relaxing in the tub without distractions. It’s times like these when our brain actually gets to wander to the places it wants to go – it’s why we often come up with great ideas in the shower or during the night.
But I’ve been a bad creative and haven’t made time for activities like these. Currently, I have no blog strategy, have barely Tweeted on my personal account in weeks, and well, my SnapChat game? It’s suffering.
Truth be told, I worry that I’m coming down with content-overload. Did I turn a fun hobby into something I can only see as WORK by taking a job in social media? It’s certainly possible.
It’s easy for me to say that 2017 has already just been full of surprises! I kicked off the year with a new career, but also with a newfound fatigue – actual physical exhaustion. While I am awaiting confirmation that it’s nothing physical, I have always been able to rely on my creative mind.
But now… now what? I am still trying to get my butt to bed at a decent hour so I’m not dragging the following day, and I’ve found myself without many ideas to jot into my little notebook – I feel… I feel boring!
Pair that with a picture of me in bed on a heating pad this weekend after three hours of dance, and it may start to click: maybe this is just 32? My birthday is in a month, after all.
I know, I know, this probably all sounds so dramatic. But the feeling is real.
And so, I’m not sure how many writers how there read this, but if so, I’d love to know what you do when you’ve reached true writer’s block? Is there an activity or routine that brings light into your mind? I’d love to hear about it!
I know this is a feeling that will pass – I probably just need to take a good walk, or throw myself into an experience that brings out my inner thoughts. It’ll come – but until then, stick with my posts about TV shows, books, and food.
Hey, it’s all part of the journey.
**The following is a piece of original writing I entered into an essay contest. It didn’t win, but I like it, and I thought you might, too. Happy Humpday, y’all!**
Each employee was to schedule a meeting with our new manager to discuss our job roles, challenges, and goals. My meeting was set for a Thursday afternoon, and I’d taken a few notes on my iPad before heading downstairs to her office.
But when I entered her mahogany kingdom, I was met with an employee from Human Resources. My new manager and I weren’t going to be discussing my job, but rather, the fact that my “services” were no longer needed.
For nearly seven years leading up to that day, I’d served as the Web Editor for a large, state university. I’d written stories for the website, reorganized departmental sites, led national advertising campaigns, and created social media strategies for the brand. I’d just received the largest raise in the office due to my hard work over the years.
That day, my previous work, all of my experience – it meant nothing.
“Any questions?” my boss asked.
There were papers to sign in front of me, and I was given strict instructions to pack up my office (do not touch your computer or any other university property, they said), and would be escorted out of the building and was never to return to campus.
“Yes,” I said, working to move my jaw. “Why is this happening?”
I was told that it was an “at-will” termination, which meant that according to state law, I could be terminated for any reason, at any time, without warning, and without being told of the reason.
So, I went to my office where there were empty boxes waiting to be filled. I was watched as I packed, and escorted to my car, walking past the offices of my former fellow employees.
I’d built my life around my job, which had become my career. I’d stayed in the city, 15 hours from where I grew up, for this job, and had little intent to leave. I lived in a coveted loft, a place I would soon come to resent given the high rent and my lack of funds.
The next day, I started applying for jobs. I applied for jobs like my life depended on it – because, in a way, it did. I applied all over the country, for all sorts of positions that sounded remotely interesting. When weeks passed without so much as a phone call, I started looking for short-term work as well.
The holidays were approaching, so I applied for retail positions that would at least get me out of the apartment and I could earn a paycheck.
Around Thanksgiving, I accepted a position as a part-time associate at a shore store near my apartment. My first shift was scheduled for five hours, but a few hours in, I was asked if I could stay until the store closed, making it a 14-hour shift. I said yes.
It was hard work; I was on my feet, and I only got a 30-minute break. The store was constantly busy, and I quickly learned shoe style numbers, sizing, and how to reasonably make a sale. The pay was only $8 an hour, so I’d packed a peanut butter sandwich in order to avoid the food court.
That night, I cried on my short drive home. I was fairly certain my feet had never hurt quite so bad, and I wondered how long this was going to be my life. My next shift at the store was scheduled to start in just eight hours.
I quickly missed the comfort of my desk, my office, and the luxury of simply knowing how to do my job. But I kept on, working as many shifts as I was allowed and picking up extras for fellow employees when they needed time off. I wasn’t going home for the holidays that year, so I could just keep working.
As the days passed, I sometimes saw friends or old coworkers in the store. It was awkward having to explain my situation. Even a few family members turned on me, making condescending comments about how I was “just a shoe salesman at the mall” now.
For a moment, I hung my head in shame. But, my friend who worked in Human Resources for an ad agency and often served as my workout partner, offered some wisdom.
“Head up,” he said. “Everyone has a job to do.”
He was right. There are all sorts of jobs that are less-then-glamorous, and they are held by employees doing what they need to do to get by in this life. It doesn’t really matter if it’s part of their passion or their intended journey, it was a job that needed to be filled in order for the ways of the world to keep going.
No, I didn’t go to college to work at a shoe store, but I was making an honest living, and I was applying for other jobs during my time off. I also accepted two additional retail jobs, and got a promotion at the shoe store, making my work week at least 60-hours.
I learned how to operate three different cash register systems, memorized the opening and closing procedures for each job, and started to find joy in the little things – greeting and helping customers, getting to know my coworkers (despite our 10-year age difference), and going to bed each night knowing I’d done everything I could that day.
That year, I spent Christmas alone. In fact, Christmas Day was my only day off in weeks, since it was the only day all of the stores were closed. I found comfort on my couch, with my heating pad, and my decorated tree that I’d reluctantly pulled from my closet in November.
It took me eight months to find a job that fit my career path and offered a salary with benefits. The job was in another state, and I worked my retail jobs until the day I moved.
There’s no doubt that it was the most difficult eight months of my life – there were very few days off, no health insurance, and a very tight budget I had to follow. But, I’d somehow made it work. I kept my loft until moving day, never missed a bill, and I learned how to juggle the schedules of three jobs.
I also learned a lot about pride and hard work. At most job interviews, they ask how you’d describe yourself. I’d said I was a hard worker before, but now I’ve truly lived it. I’ve worked when I thought I couldn’t even stand, I’ve done jobs that some people wouldn’t even consider, and I’ve smiled when people from my career-life would whisper, “What are you doing here?”
There are days when even my current salaried gig isn’t all I dreamt of during my long shifts in the retail stores. But no matter what job I have, at any point in my life, I know I’m going to do it with my head held high.
Take pride in the ability to get up each day, and do whatever it is you have to do to keep going. Find joy in the walk to the office, the people you see each shift, or the discovery of all the new things you’ve learned.
Almost two years after unexpectedly losing my job, I still carry fears that it will happen again, but then I remember that I made it work. Sure, it wasn’t easy, but I did it, and I found some good in that chapter of my journey.
Looking back, my job at the university had its perks, and it looked really good on my resume. But it wasn’t challenging, and there was no room for growth, meaning I would have had to leave eventually. How it happened wasn’t any sort of dream scenario, but it forced me out of my comfort zone, and into the reality of another person’s shoes.
Last week, my mom and I ventured to the Drafthouse to see “La La Land”! We were both pretty excited to see this movie, having both been fans of musicals since forever, and well, who doesn’t love Emma Stone? Sorry, I’m not huge on Mr. Gosling (and this is when everyone stops reading).
But anyway, I saw the preview for “La La Land” when I saw “Fantastic Beasts”, and I was immediately hooked. It was clear this was a movie about dreamers, and Hollywood, and entertainment, with lots of dancing – so basically all of my favorite things crammed into a single movie. Yes.
Here’s the plot from IMDB: Mia, an aspiring actress, serves lattes to movie stars in between auditions and Sebastian, a jazz musician, scrapes by playing cocktail party gigs in dingy bars, but as success mounts they are faced with decisions that begin to fray the fragile fabric of their love affair, and the dreams they worked so hard to maintain in each other threaten to rip them apart.
There’s absolutely no question the singing and dancing in this movie is ON POINT. And in my wildest dreams of having my life burst into a musical, I couldn’t quite imagine something as fun as the opening scene where people are literally dancing on top of their cars during rush hour in L.A. Fantastic!
But, there were parts of this movie that were difficult for me to see the reality from the dream (I’m sure a purposeful move), but at times that line was blurred between downright ridiculous to serious and nearly depressing.
Many critics named this flick the “feel-good movie of the year”, and while yes, there were many scenes that had me smiling, I left the theatre closer to tears, and not the good kind. I won’t give any spoilers, but if you’ve seen the movie I’d love to hear your thoughts on the ending!
Would I recommend it? Yes – I mean, if you’re a fan of musicals… and dreamers, too.
I also have to talk about “Newsroom”, season three (the final season), because I spent Monday laying in bed watching it, in its entirety.
It took me a year to watch all three seasons of HBO’s “The Newsroom”, and I’ll admit that I wasn’t really that into it during season one. Frankly, it wasn’t that well-written, and it mostly did the same thing all shows about journalists do – romanticized what it’s like to be one.
But, I stuck with it and season two was grittier, and way better. So, I was really looking forward to season three – except for the fact that it was the last season! There was a part of me that was putting off watching it because I knew it would be that much closer to being over.
Season three is sadly only six episodes, though it was clearly written to be an end, and it was definitely the best season of all of them.
I came across a review of the series finale in The New York Times (don’t click that unless you want to know how things end), and it talked about how the series continued to struggle, from day one, with relevancy, given that it was a show about journalists and their battle with the digital change, and the show itself was covering events from two years prior.
On the one hand, covering events that moved us in real life was hook-worthy… but no one’s mentioning the fact that ACN was the worst news network anyone had seen. They were the last to cover any story, because they were stuck behind their desks and not actually out in the world living it.
So, Will McAvoy can be a charming playboy and a witty-one liner news anchor, but the folks typing the crap didn’t have it together – but they sure did have a love for their craft (or the one they were being paid for).
Nonetheless, it was a fun show to watch – because, well, writers are an interesting breed. I’ve heard, though, that people really enjoyed watching “Scandal” instead, soooo… maybe I should add that to my list!
I just had a team meeting with the office in Columbus, and we’re making a few changes to the structure of the magazine. With the new format, we’re looking to get away from more national trends and really focus on content that shouts “Baton Rouge.” We’re a local publication, and we really want to play that up.
You’ve been an asset to the team thus far, but unfortunately because you’re not living in Baton Rouge anymore, it’s difficult to assign you columns because they wouldn’t necessarily reflect what Baton Rouge has to offer. If you have any ideas for other ways you could contribute to the magazine, I’m definitely open to those.
I apologize that we have to rethink your assignment so close to the deadline — I think both your website and your columns are great, but DIG is changing and unfortunately content has to change with it.
Thanks for your understanding.
…So, I got fired, via email, from a person I’ve never even met, for a reason I cannot control. Thanks. Thanks a fuck ton.
And just to note here, I was never “assigned” columns. I came up with all 100 columns on my own, and to suggest that they should all have a Baton Rouge spin is ridiculous. Love is universal.
Let’s just start from the beginning – how I came to Dig magazine in the first place.
In 2010, I was approached by the editor of a publication then-known as Tiger Weekly. She asked if I was interested in writing for them, and the truth is – Tiger Weekly was the tabloid of Baton Rouge, and not the good kind. But the other half of it was, I needed money.
I can’t speak for all writers here, but for me, there has never been a day when I’m not trying to figure out how I can capitalize on my craft. I know I sound like a total sellout, but I thought that if I still maintained my journalistic integrity, then it didn’t necessarily matter what publication I was writing for, as long as I was following my personal ethics and media law, then the check was mine to cash without shame. So, I did it.
I wrote for Tiger Weekly regularly – I got in trouble for it at my 9-5 job, as they were afraid of a conflict of interest, which I would never do. But at the risk of getting fired, I continued to write at Tiger Weekly under a false name. About five months into things, I got this email:
I know there have been a lot rumors circulating about the future of Tiger Weekly. Here’s the deal:
First off, everyone should know this: Our new magazine wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for Tiger Weekly, and we are all grateful for the work you did with us. This e-mail isn’t going to convey that gratitude very well, but we all know where we came from, and I am serious when I say that we appreciate what you have done.
I came down here as a consultant, tasked with improving Tiger Weekly and exploring the market, to determine what all was possible here. I have started two successful magazines for the guy that owns Tiger Weekly, one a monthly 25-35 slick in Columbus, Ohio, and one a Tiger-style campus pub for the Austin scene. Here we wanted to see whether we could pull off something like the Gambit: a full-service alt-weekly, with everything from investigative journalism to entertainment, sports, etc.
My evaluation of Tiger was not positive. I was underwhelmed with the content. The quality of the writing was largely very poor. The ideas were not exciting. It didn’t seem to have any overall directions, or editorial goals. And, as you all know, it was under-resourced.
We decided to make a lot of changes, including a top-down re-branding. Part of the reason you haven’t heard from me is that I didn’t want to tell anyone that I didn’t want their work until I had time to go through as many issues as possible.
That said, I decided to basically start over. There were many reasons for that. If I have contacted you individually, than you know that I am interested in trying to work with you; please disregard.
If I haven’t, then I didn’t see a place for you in the new publication…but, we have only done a pilot issue. We aren’t going to do a “real” first issue until January.
So, if this is the first you’ve heard from me, I invite you to essentially re-submit your cover letter, your resume, some samples of your work (things you are especially proud of) and, most important of all, ideas…those were lacking in the old Tiger. I will scrutinize the kinds of ideas you are bringing to the table more closely than anything else you send me.
To be frank, I think that many of those that I decided not to work with have potential, some of you a tremendous amount…and that potential wasn’t being realized in your work with the pub. I am good at working with writers who are enthusiastic and willing to bust their ass, but I am not good at working with people who are just “phoning it in.” I think, for some of you, Tiger had run its course and you had grown as much with the pub as you felt was possible. This new magazine is going to be different…a lot different. While the stories will be somewhat better paid, I will demand twice as much from you as you are used to giving. It won’t be proportionate with the pay increase. A $50 story will take you many hours to do, and I will expect multiple sources, high-quality interviews (no more e-mail interviews, ever), and a real emphasis on good writing. No more press-release journalism. It will be a better magazine for your portfolio, but it’s going to be a lot harder. I was in the office from 9 a.m. until 4 a.m. three days in a row. I work hard, I am passionate about my job, and I don’t accept anything that isn’t the product of sweat, courage, and violent creativity. I have been a freelance journalist for much of my career, and I know how hard it can be, and how frustrating. I can help you make this a more beneficial job, but it’s going to take a lot out of you, too.
If this sounds like something you are interested in, please e-mail me. There is a chance that I might even get to hire a few people full time. I don’t want to hire anybody full-time that isn’t willing to bust their humps doing it freelance, so please do not apply “just for” the full time position.
Thanks for your time, thanks for Tiger, and I am truly sorry it took so long to hear from me. That wasn’t very professional of me and I apologize.
My initial thoughts? This guy was a total dick – it WAS the first time I’d heard from him, so that meant he was, in no way, “impressed” with my work. I probably should’ve skipped off at that point. But, I have been rejected many-a-time in journalism, and my writing usually speaks for itself – turning the rejections into positives. Not to sound like a shit, but I’ve worked my ass off to be a writer. And I wasn’t going to have some “Consultant” judge my portfolio based on a few random clips from a newsroom filing cabinet.
So, I gathered some clips and starting thinking of some pitches to offer the new publication. And then, this email came thru:
First of all, I am responding late because I was too busy job hunting for the last two weeks since I was basically fired via email from some demeaning stranger. Secondly, I have a few responses to your critique of the former Tiger Weekly layout. We as writers, both contributing and senior, were not allowed to conduct proper investigative journalism.
Two of my own articles that showcased real, sufficient evidence of modern day discrimination of a burlesque dancer set to perform at The Spanish Moon and a gay couple shopping for furniture in a prestigious shop in the Baton Rouge Garden District were both not published because they were deemed too controversial by Tiger Weekly overseers, like yourself. I also had to edit other articles of mine that tackled political issues such as the moratorium and the Murphy Painter scandal for the same censor based reasons. I would have loved to push the button as much as I could with my writing; but, unfortunately, I was not allowed to. Therefore, I (and other writers that received the same criticism) adapted to a new style of writing – one that was fun, simple and non-controversial. Let me tell you, people like it.
Here at LSU, The Reveille and Tiger Weekly serve two different purposes and pertain to two different audiences. The Reveille has the automatic advantage of being a daily publication, encouraging its writers to cover the hard hitting issues of the moment. Tiger Weekly doesn’t stand a change of going up against a daily publication for best, intimate news coverage of a teacher that was fired… today. All TW has is more time to find some new, interesting information that The Reveille missed out on, but The Reveille will win most of the time, if not always, with braking stories. Tiger Weekly is an entertainment magazine. Period. That’s what the readers not only expect, but what they want. We had a great following in 2010, and I am proud of all the work we have done. There, I really don’t appreciate such harsh criticism from an outside source.
As far as your undercover investigation of our publication, I can only see you as a coward. I agree ten-fold that you were very unprofessional in the way you chose to email our staff with such negative insight. The proper way to handle this situation would have been to email us with your initial thoughts and given us some constructive criticism, rather than firing most of us and staffing a new group of people to write a secret, pilot issue without any of our consent. I have found another job, as I’m sure most of the former TW staff has, so I can only wish you the best of luck with the new publication. Just remember, this is an entertainment magazine. If you try to knock heads with The Reveille for the most up-to-date hard hitting issues in the area, you will lose. Most importantly, readers have developed a relationship with TW and will always expect the same spunk its writers have always had. Take care and good luck.
…Like whoa. Despite the obvious shadiness, I continued with my pitches, scheduled a meeting, and I was given a one-story chance. I wrote about a cupcake shop that had just opened up at the mall. It was approved, published, and my career as a stringer at Dig began.
I wrote about roller derby bouts; a local t-shirt shop; I interviewed Pat Green (several times); a boxing gym, a sleek furniture store called Monochrome (and the owner was suuuuperfine); I covered local reality shows and recruiting for fraternities and sororities; when rumor struck that you could actually live off a Croc-shoe, I bought a pair, boiled one, and ate a chunk of the pink foam-ish shit covered in duck sauce; I did an investigative piece on bankruptcy in construction projects; I wrote gift guides and helped write an entire issue on weddings. I even got to interview Miranda Lambert. I wrote about ghost hunters and profiled Andi Dorfmann on “The Bachelorette”.
Over the course of five years, Dig saw nine different editors sitting in the “Chief” position. This meant, I saw a lot of emails like this:
So for those of you whom I haven’t met, let me introduce myself: I’m Dig’s new editor-in-chief. I would like to get some feedback on Sunday meetings…
I have more than 950 emails in my account regarding Dig magazine – including a series when they finally considered me for Editor, but I’d already accepted a new job and moved to Austin, Texas. And why? Because I was fired from my full-time job in Baton Rouge (yes, I maintained a full-time job and wrote on the side for the magazine).
And while I was never given a reason for the firing, I will forever believe that it was because of some of the more controversial things I wrote for the magazine. I am not ashamed or regretful of those things – I will always stand for what I believe in, even if it means tossing away a $43K salary and benefits for $50/week to write what I want. Because that’s exactly what I did.
Of course, no one can live on $50/week, so I had to move when I got a job offer 8 months later. I was thankful that Dig still kept me on, and it was providing me with extra cash. And then, of course, I got that email.
I don’t appreciate being let go from any job via email – no one does. It’s disrespectful and cowardly, especially since I do believe I was a staple writer for the publication. While some of the editors I worked under completely sucked, some of them are writers I respect greatly, and feel really luck to have worked with them – you know who you are.
I had one editor tell me something that I’ll never forget. He told me I had a mix of something that’s rarely seen in journalism – the ability to write well, and keep a deadline. And I’m forever grateful for learning that about myself, because it’s been an asset to survive in my career as a writer.
Although I’m still hurt from the way things ended, I know I had some really great times at Dig. For a little more than two years, I got to write a weekly column based around the content on this blog. I have always dreamed of doing that, and I’m really thankful that I got the chance to do it (a little more than 100 times).
I also got the chance to interview and write about some of my favorite people, including (but not limited to) blues musician Marc Broussard, award-winning poet Denice Frohman, tattoo artist Micro, author and journalist Karen Zacharias, country artist Pat Green, and music legend Tracy Lawrence – in which he told me “Stars Over Texas” was indeed written to make a grown man cry, and also confessed to being a wino (he was drinking during our intervies to my pleasant surprise).
And with that, I’ll just put it out into the universe that I’m currently looking for freelance writing work. I am up for writing about pretty much anything – I’m a wordsmith, and I just like talking to people, spreading stories, and making a little green from it. I’m down to write locally, nationally, globally – and I’m really hopeful that this one door closing is just an opportunity for another one to open.
So, if you’re an editor looking for a hard-working writer, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and if you’re one of my precious readers and still want to support my writing in some way, feel free to check out my books! Because I do this all for free, and I have to pay my taxes (at some point).
Have a fantaaaastic weekend, everyone! Thank you for continuing to be interested in my life, my writing, and my cat, Blanche. We love you all – See you right back here on Monday!
As much as I hate to admit it, I’ve become addicted to watching “Vanderpump Rules” on Bravo each week.
I’ve watched this show since its first season (season four just finished airing) and it’s a show that follows the very petty drama of the employees at an upscale Hollywood restaurant called SUR.
One of the employees, Katie, has consistently complained – during each season – about how her boyfriend-turned-fiance has a problem with commitment.
It took years for her to coax him into proposing, and he’s constantly moving from one job to the next.
But I feel like men are always getting pegged for not being able to commit. Is it all men in general? Perhaps it’s just a personality type that’s scared off by promises.
I often see lots of articles based around, “How to get him to commit” or “The types of women a man will commit to”, and all of these seem pretty misleading.
I’d venture to guess that different types of men will commit to different types of women – and vis-versa, depending on their respective personalities. Right?
When you take a step back, it’s pretty obvious that our current societal situation isn’t really big on following through with commitments.
Right now, everything is offered to us quickly, and if we don’t get it fast enough, then we’ll just punish the world by staring at our phones every chance we get.
Dating apps, social media, and even reality television (all things I’m a fan of), promote a lifestyle that’s fast-paced, fleeting, and often self-gratifying.
So, I’ve got three reasons why all of us may be just a little terrified of committing:
- We’re looking for the bigger, better deal. We all have expectations for how our lives are supposed to turn out. I’m definitely a fan of having standards, and not settling. But there’s also something to be said about giving something a chance long enough to see what it could be. Perhaps we’re too focused on what’s next, that we can’t see what’s right in front of us, which could be something good.
- We self-sabotage, and/or are masochists. Whether your parents are divorced or every guy named Matt has screwed you over, there’s something in your blood that must be ruining dating for you, right? Not necessarily. If we’d get out of our heads (and believe me, I’m so guilty of this) every once in a while, maybe we could see that we’re not destined to fail. If I’m being super optimistic, I’d say that things are probably designed to work out for us all, we just have to let it happen.
- We just haven’t met the right person yet. As cheesy as it sounds, I truly believe that once the right person comes along, all of this commitment horseshit is going to go right out the barn window. That person, whomever they are, is going to make us stop saying we’re too busy, make us stop saying “I’m cool doing me”, and possibly make us stop asking, “Why does this keep happening to me?”
Instead, the past will not matter, and the future will look certain. And for once, perhaps only once, that certainty, that commitment, won’t be something to fear.
It will finally be something to embrace.
I’ve been reading the same book for, like, seven months. And it’s not a thick book, it’s an easy, fun read. I’ve just only looked at it about twice.
And why? Let me explain that I used to read ALL. THE. TIME. There were years, not long ago, where I read 25 books a year. As a writer, I feel it is my job to keep up with other writers. And, when I was learning to write, a great writer once told me that in order to BE a great writer, you must read great writing.
So, I’ve read a ton of books. But there’s a ton more out there I want to read. It’s not that I don’t want to read. I blame my lack of reading on last year, when I was constantly (and I do mean constantly) working to make ends meet.
But this year is different! So, I’m ready to finish reading that book I started last year (The Liar, The Bitch, and The Wardrobe by Allie Kingsley), and start (and finish) a bunch of others.
I’ve had this goal in mind for awhile because, like I said, I really do love reading. I also love curling up on my couch, getting lost in a great book. It’s the perfect escape and I’m ready to get back to it. I even got a few bookstore gift cards for Christmas, so I’ve already started my stockpile.
You may recall that last year, I treated myself to two books: The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith and The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty. Well, I still haven’t read them, so those are still on my list (it’s sad, I know).
But, here are some others I’m hoping to read this year:
When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg. Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible–and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality.
With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands, and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them…
In the New York Times bestseller that the Washington Post called “Lean In for misfits,” Sophia Amoruso shares how she went from dumpster diving to founding one of the fastest-growing retailers in the world.
A murder…A tragic accident…Or just parents behaving badly? Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive. What’s indisputable is that someone is dead.
In a series of linked cyanide capsules, Legends of the Chelsea Hotel tells the odd, funny, and often tragic truth of the writers, artists, and musicians; the famous and the obscure alike; who have fallen prey to the Chelsea.
Jennifer Weiner’s talent shines like never before in this collection of short stories, following the tender, often hilarious, progress of love and relationships over the course of a lifetime. The Guy Not Taken demonstrates Weiner’s amazing ability to create characters who “feel like they could be your best friend” (Janet Maslin) and to find hope and humor, longing and love in the hidden corners of our common experiences.
What books are you reading right now, or looking forward to reading this year? I’d love to add to my list!
The following is an original fiction piece, written by Holly A. Phillips in 2007, with great inspiration form her favorite hockey player, Sean Avery.
I had 30 seconds left in the penalty box. From my bench, I could see the rows of puck fucks in the lower sections. “Once we go Black…” one sign read; a blonde was waving it above her head. I squinted my eyes. She didn’t know shit about going Black. The clock timed out and I jumped back onto the ice. Only two minutes left in the game; the game we were going to win.
“Number 27, Wade Black, back in the game.”
I flew past 65, hoping to get another snarl in before the end of the period. He was easy to piss off.
“Look who’s back for more,” he said. “It’s box boy. You want another penalty, fucker?”
I laughed and spit in his direction. My teammate, 45, was already ahead of the blue line with the puck, about to spin it toward me for one more goal, one more slap in the face for the Flyers. I tapped my stick on the ice, waiting.
The puck skidded my way and I slapped it into the goal, fast, yelling as it coasted into the net. The goalie feel to his knees, trying to block it, but had failed. Sweet victory. The sirens roared and so did the fans. I held my stick in the air and scanned the other team for more possible takers — fucking Flyers. Nice try, boys.
Winning was glorious in Madison Square Garden. Fireworks popped and the crowd was loud; decked out in jerseys to match us. The reporters hobbled onto the ice in heels, only to get rejected.
“Black. Just a few questions from WCBS News.”
“Outside the locker room,” I held my hand up in her direction.
I took of my mask, skated off the ice and onto the rubber tiles near the locker room. I was sweaty and my shoulders burned. I walked to my locker, loosening my pads as I neared the benches.
“Hey fuckers, we’re all my clean towels?” I asked.
“Chill out, dick lick,” 23 said. “Check the shelves.”
I glanced in the other direction. Clean towels.
“Hey Black. Saw some ladies out there screamin’ at ya tonight,” 12 said.
“Did ya? Who?” I asked.
“‘Once we go Black…'” he said, laughing. “That was a hot bitch, bro.”
“Well, you can have her,” I said.
“Oh really? She didn’t do it for you?”
“Who the fuck knows. Never seen her. You know I’m over that shit.”
“I swear you’re gay, man, I know it.”
Outside the locker room, the reporter was waiting. She had taken a seat on the wooden benches amongst the 6-year-old boys, their fathers, and the puck fucks.
“Black. Questions?” she asked.
“What’d you say to 65 to start the fight?”
“Oh, I keep that to myself.”
“Okay… What’d you think about tonight’s win?”
“It was expected. Even though we’re full of new players this season, we still come in to win and that’s what we did tonight.”
“What will you do when you face your old team?”
“The Kings are any other team. This is my job, my business.”
“That’s all I need. Thank you.”
I walked past the blonde and saw a boy wearing a tiny Black jersey.”
“Hey buddy,” I knelt down. “You have fun tonight?”
He was silent.
“He’s a little shy,” said an older man with him.
“That’s alright,” I said. I patted him on the head and moved to the driveway, hoping to catch the team driver before the night was over. It was too cold to walk back to my apartment in Chelsea.
By the time I got home, it was past midnight. I made it to my floor, empty as usual. There were only two other doors on the floor; one belonged to an older man, a writer who never emerged. The other to Kate; she styled clothes for a teen magazine. I walked past her door, 9, and tried to see if there was any light coming from under the door. No luck.
My apartment was dark and quiet. It still smelled like paint. I flipped on the TV and sat on the couch. Sports Center.
“Rangers score second win over the Flyers this season. Black gets into his 98th brawl. We’ve got highlights here on Sports Center tonight.”
“Who keeps track of this shit?” I asked the TV.
I coasted through the channels, drifting in and out of sleep. I tried to coax myself into the bedroom. I had practice in the morning. I rolled off the couch and moved to my bedroom. There was no beautiful woman by my bed that night. I slid between the coolsheets and tucked a pillow under my neck; it smelled of Icy/Hot. Back in L.A., when I first signed for the Kings, I never went home alone. My L.A, sheets didn’t smell like me, they were scented with Dior and Armani. Their perfumes lasted, but those women were states away, probably still at the Kings’ games. I drifted off to sleep and tried to remember the name of the last girl I slept with; it was after the Kings played Colorado…
* * *
Wanna know what happens to Black? Check out part II next Friday, October 2!
In the meantime, I’m heading to Baton Rouge this weekend to say a final goodbye to my apartment, and well, I suppose I’ll drink to the Tigers kicking some ass! Check it out on SnapChat @OrangeJulius7
Happy Friday, y’all!
Today is the first day of college for many students – this is something most people probably don’t pay much attention to, but when you live in a college town, it’s all anyone talks about. It probably doesn’t help that I work with mostly college students.
But, hearing my coworkers’ stories often reminds me of college, even though it’s been 12 years since I started and a whopping 8 since I graduated! However, working at LSU for almost 7 years… sometimes it feels like I never left (until I actually did).
For the longest time, I never even considered going to college. Neither of my parents went, and I figured their lives were pretty good. But the older I got, the more my friends talked about college as if it wasn’t even a question: of COURSE they were going.
When I presented an interest in higher ed, my parents graciously offered to send me wherever I desired. They also offered a piece of advice that ended up being invaluable to me: get out of state.
My parents knew that I had dreams of leaving Indiana, and that if I didn’t leave for college, I would probably never leave. And so, long story short, I ended up in Baton Rouge to attend Louisiana State University.
I won’t lie, it was scary as hell the day we had to pack up and leave the house I grew up in. Even after an entire semester down South, I was homesick. It was a huge culture shock. But of course, I wouldn’t trade it for any other experience.
I learned a lot in those years — in and out of the classroom. I look back at it, and sure, there are moments when I wish I could have worked less, partied more, perhaps studied more, or been more social. But I am who I am, and a lot of that had to do with my college years.
I saw an article on Huffington Post offering advice to incoming college freshman. A lot of it was pretty worthless, so I’ll offer the only three pieces of advice I think you’ll need:
- Get out. If you can’t go far away to college, at least make new friends — no one wants to relive high school. It also helps to explore the city you’re in; get off campus and see what’s out there.
- Do the extracurriculars. Sure, the whole experience of college is overwhelming, but you’ve got to join a club, or something! It should come as no surprise that I was a complete media rat and worked for 4/5 media groups on campus. Not only did I make a little money, but I made some life-long friends. I also met upperclassmen that gave me invaluable advice about classes and graduating. And honestly? I learned more in my media work than I did in any class I took, ever. It looked great on my resume and it packed my portfolio.
- Follow through. Go to class. It’s so easy to skip, but if you actually go, it’s really easy to make good grades. I learned it the hard way! If you go to class, pay attention and take notes, studying is much easier, and the tests are a breeze. And by all means, just graduate. College can be overwhelming, and there are times when I was tempted to quit. But not having a degree is going to make your entire life that much more difficult. Take it from me: the job hunt is literally a HUNT. Get that degree!
I won’t say that college is the best time of your life; because if that’s the case, then what’s the point of living after college? I will say, though, that it’s a unique time in your life and it’s certainly a great opportunity to learn about yourself — the person you’ll be post-graduation.
Is it just me, or does it seem like ever since Facebook happened, everything surrounding weddings has to be big, bigger, biggest, and frankly, better than yours? Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to keep up with so many people and their happy life moments — those that I would definitely know nothing about if it weren’t for social media — but there are times when it seems disingenuous.
What happened to the art of eloping? The destination weddings? The backyard BBQ nuptials? Or even the Carrie Bradshaw-esque, courthouse “I do”? Dare I say it, but I think we’re missing the big picture. In fact, we’re thinking of pictures — Instagram posts and Facebook albums — instead of just that one other person.
Which is why I say, we should all elope.
An article from Marissa Higging on Huffington Post listed five reasons to elope: 1. Only consulting one other person when it comes to making decisions, 2. Saving money, 3. Leaving out unreliable factors; i.e. other people, 4. Avoiding family feedback, and 5. Having the intimacy of a small wedding.
An article in The New York Times (2012) suggests that while many think of eloping as running off to Vegas, there is always an option of making it extravagant and personal, just without guests. Many people are choosing these types of wedding mainly to avoid 12 months of planning and stress.
The answer: arrange an elopement with all the production values of a fairy-tale wedding. The couple hired a wedding planner, Andrea Eppolito, who booked them a corner suite of the Cosmopolitan hotel, with a wraparound balcony overlooking the Bellagio Fountains. She found the location, a private garden located on a nearby lake, hired Your Beauty Call — a company that provides hairstyling and makeup for celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton — to style Ms. Tombalakian. And she reserved them a window table at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant, which served a miniature three-layer cake for two.
I’m not suggesting to ditch your dreams if you want to be Heidi Montag in a fru-fru cupckae gown and waltz down the aisle in front of 400 guests and a slew of cameras. It’s your wedding you can waltz if you want to!
But don’t get sucked into the machine. Sure, weddings are about making memories. But they’re also a crap-ton of money, and frankly, whether you’ve got it or not, wouldn’t you rather slap that on a house or a bomb-ass vacation? I know I would.
Because I’m not the only person thinking this way, many hotels and resorts are now offering wedding or eloping packages for couples looking to tie the knot in style. So, where should you elope? Here’s a few ideas:
- Have a reception-style party once the wedding is over
- Pick a destination that means something to both of you
- Plan to marry in a place that’s the vacation of your dreams
- Get married in a hot air balloon
- Customize the vows
It all sounds cool, I kind of wish I had a boyfriend (or hell, even a crush on someone aside from John Mayer) to fantasize with. But that’ll come one day. Until then, I hope to see more small weddings, less showing-off on my home feed. Yep, went there.
* * *
“I need to talk to someone about financing a building.”
The clerk looked Charlie up and down; from his miniature blond mohawk to his worn Chuck Taylors. It was the look Charlie always got; because he was just a kid in South Dakota.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
“Hoffe?” she asked, eyebrows raised. “Any relation to the painter?”
“Yeah,” Charlie sighed. “He’s my father.”
“Must be proud,” she said. “He’s nearly painted this whole town.”
She pointed to the waiting area outside the glass offices.
“Wait there,” she said.
Charlie sat down and hoped there was no one at the shop who wanted a tattoo. When his name was called, he walked into the office and sat next to the candy dish. He told the woman what he was hoping to do and she scowled at his left arm; the one covered in psychedelic designs.
She gave him a few building options, but listed even more problems. All of the buildings had to be brand new or completely renovated to agree with local tattooing laws. “New” meant money and “makeovers” meant even more money. She suggested he stay put for a few more months to save money. Charlie asked if she wanted a tattoo.
Three months later, Charlie walked briskly into Tucker’s with a grin on his face. Sara was there; she didn’t look up from filing her nails.
“Today’s my last day,” he said.
“I got my own place. No more Tucker’s; no more sharing a sign.”
“Why leave now — you’ve done pretty well here,” she asked.
“I know, but I’ve always wanted my shop, my address, my sign.”
Sara shrugged and got back to her nails. Charlie waited in his corner and spent free time packing his things. He tattooed a semi driver who wanted a nude Elvira figure on his shoulder.
“Good work, kid,” the man told him.
Charlie loaded the Corolla with boxes and supplies and drove home. He opened the door to the other half of his house and setup his tools. It wasn’t a shop on The Strip or near South Beach, but it was his. He opened a box of neon tubing and hung the square in his front window. He plugged in its cord and rolled the switch. “TATTOO” lit up the entire room; a blue and orange glow.
He hadn’t talked to his dad in a good week. His heart was beginning to cool from even trying. But he couldn’t think about that now, his work was cut out for him. The new location brought a new batch of tattoo virgins. He hoped they’d get addicted like he was and return over and over again. He’d done a wolf for the lady next door and a cross for her boyfriend. He’d started a “Starry Night” rendition on the arm of the garage band singer on the corner. He was still eating noodles, but he thought less about it.
He called his dad mid-week.
“Dad, you know I don’t work at Tucker’s anymore.”
“Oh, so you called for money?”
“Nope. Actually, I was calling to tell you to stop by my shop soon.”
“Your shop? Since When?”
“Since…well, since awhile. I’ve been building clients and doin’ okay.”
“That isn’t really what I meant when I said you should look beyond Tucker’s.”
“But this is what I wanted… you should think about stopping by.”
Charlie knew his dad was disgruntled, but he tried not to think much about it. Only Charlie knew what was best for him and he was just glad he really didn’t need the money from his dad. He knew his shop wasn’t up to his father’s standards; it probably never would be.
Later, Charlie was in the middle of a sketch — a thorny rose for the woman bartender in the city — when a truck pulled up. Charlie kept working. It was Charlie’s father. He approached the screen door and stood.
“You okay?” Charlie asked.
“Sure, son. Why wouldn’t I be?”
Charlie opened the door to the shop. His father stepped inside with caution as if the floor would fall in. He slowly gazed at the posters on the walls and looked the bartender up and down.
“Well, this is it,” Charlie said, gesturing around the room.
“Okay, well do you have time to give me a tattoo?”
Charlie’s eyes grew wide.
“Sure,” he said. “You got somethin’ in mind?”
Whoop! It’s 11:37pm on Thursday, July 23, and I’ve just gotten home from the PREMIER of “Paper Towns” — the movie based on the bestselling book by fellow Hoosier, John Green (Yep, I read it).
Y’all don’t understand. I’ve been looking forward to this movie since the day I put down the book… which was like… more than a year ago. I even thought the movie came out JUNE 24, and I was frantically searching online for movie times, and when I didn’t see any local showtimes, I was totally prepped to plan a damn road trip to see a movie… ABOUT A ROAD TRIP.
Anyway, so, yeah, I just saw the movie and I’m still kind of spinning with all of these thoughts on it. Was it good? Yes. I won’t give any spoilers, but I’ll say right now, that the book was better. If you’ve read the book, like my friend Derek, we agreed, the book is much more introspective and that’s really hard to display on the big screen.
However… I’m going to say this, and coming from me, it will probably come as no surprise. This movie took me back. I don’t know what everyone’s experience was in high school. But I know what mine was, and I know that the few friends I had, we had some fantastic adventures when we least expected it. And I know that all we wanted was to be recognized by the cool group in school — and there were times when we were noticed; we actually dated people in THE cool group.
And I’ll tell you it was always a disappointment. There were nights I spent in the homes of kids I never thought even knew my name. And they did the same things my friends and I did — and that fact was a little validating.
And, that’s kind of the point of “Paper Towns.” We have a tendency to build up people or things we know nothing about (story of my life), and in return, we feel like less than. But perhaps, in discovering that truth, we learn a little something about ourselves.
I’m not sure where you’re at in your life. But if you’re at any variable close to me — a person who’s been looking at maps, calculating mileage, and applying to jobs nationwide — this was the exact movie I needed to see this weekend. I highly recommend it.
“It is so hard to leave—until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world.”
—Paper Towns by John Green
Over the weekend, I’m proud to say that my friends and I completed what’s known as an “Escape Room.”
I won’t give anything about our particular scenario away, but these escape rooms are all over the country (I even saw one in London, too!) and groups of people are setting out to conquer them. I’ve boycotted “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” franchise, but I heard there was an escape room on one of the episodes this season.
Basically, you and a group of people are placed into a fictional scenario and you have a certain amount of time to get out.
Our scenario was that we were kidnapped by a local serial killer, taken to his home, and given 60 minutes to get out before he returns to “consume” us.
The “room” was actually about four rooms, all full of puzzles and riddles that must be solved before continuing to the next part of the room.
I’m happy to say our group was added to the 10% of people that solve ALL of the riddles and make it out before the killer returns — we didn’t have a second to spare — and it was incredibly fun! I love mysteries and CSI, so it was cool to be a part of something similar.
I will openly admit to anyone that I’m scared shitless of everything. I hate Halloween, I cannot watch scary movies (can’t even watch the previews), and I’m terrified of several things that happen in every day life. So, this whole escape room thing took a little convincing.
My friends assured me that no one would be chasing us, no one would be hiding in the room to scare us, and we wouldn’t ever be left alone. It was more about problem solving. I do love a challenge, so I agreed, and I’m so glad I did.
Was I scared at first? Yes. The morning of our appointment, I paced my apartment; told my mom I loved her in case I didn’t make it out; and I fed my cat enough food for a week. Despite having one vodka drink before entering the escape room, my stomach was in knots. But once our time started counting down, I knew there was no time to be scared and I just wanted to help the group.
The cool thing about our group? We all contributed in some way. We didn’t fight, and we all celebrated together, with the 13th Gate Escape Room staff. Afterward, we recounted every single minute of our adventure over mango margaritas.
It was a glorious summer night.