Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Always Winter and Never Christmas

I haven’t blogged in a while. I’ve been waiting till I settled into a better frame of mind before hoisting myself upon the masses but it’s winter and my mood has been getting worse, not better so I figured fuck it, the only people who stumble upon my blog are Russians searching for depressing sentences* so, really, this is right up their alley.

So, here’s the deal, I’m depressed.

Well, when I’m at work I’m pretty much ok. I do my job in a surprisingly cheerful manner. I help out and joke around with my co-workers. It’s not an act. I’m actually feeling what most would describe as happiness, or at least contentment. Then I get home and it’s like I stepped through the wardrobe into a Narnia without Aslan.

The funk has been slowly building for a while. I wasn’t happy in my relationship so I ended it. And then I became more-un-happier. Then my brother got engaged. Then my cousin got engaged. And it’s not that I’m not happy for them (cause I really, really am), it’s just that I would be happier for them if I were happier for me.

The cherry on the top was developing a silly little office crush that made me feel like an awkward twelve year old. And believe me when I tell you that I did not enjoy twelve the first time around and was not happy to go there again. I’m thirty, damnit, (God, that’s frightening to see typed out) when does the "I am woman hear me roar" kick in?

I miss my ex. And I miss having a boyfriend. Especially now with Christmas just about here. I want to snuggle and watch The Muppet Christmas Carol. I want someone to get me and love me and hold my hand while we’re walking to the car. But I don’t have any of that and it doesn’t look like I’ll be checking them off my list anytime soon so instead, I wallow.

This weekend I bailed on attempts at social interaction so that I could stay home and self medicate with hot chocolate and ABC Family holiday specials the way alcoholics self medicate by getting knackered and assaulting police officers.

Something called “Holiday in Handcuffs” made me cry. It’s about a woman (Melissa Joan Hart) who suffers a bit of a nervous break down and kidnaps a man (Mario Lopez) so that she can bring him home for Christmas to pretend to be her boyfriend. And then they fall in love. You have no idea how embarrassed I am typing this right now. There were actual tears falling out of my face and I think I’m going to go find a sword to fall on because really what’s the point of going on if you're jealous of Stockholm Syndrome love?

I also watched “Christmas Cupid” and “Christmas Caper” and then I fell into a coma.

The thing is, on the grand scheme of things I have a pretty great life. I get that. I’m grateful for that. It just doesn’t feel all that great right now. It’s pretty messed up how the one thing I’m missing makes all the things I do have (great friends, family, job, roof over my head, a savings account, free time to do things that I love) seem so insignificant. It’s just wrong. But I feel what I feel and all I can do is push through the forest and hopefully the ground will start to thaw and it will be Spring somewhere.

*No, seriously, I looked up my stats there is a surprising amount of Russian traffic here- I really have no idea why. Also, an alarmingly large number of people google “depressing sentences” and find my blog. Most depressing sentence ever Is the 3d result. Look at me making a name for myself on the googles.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Yeah, I'm really really bad at blogging consistently. It's a good thing I only have 3 followers. No one to disappoint!

I have a new story up at Toasted Cheese. I wrote it for their Three Cheers and a Tiger contest. One of the guidelines was that it had to be written in a weekend, so, please be gentle people!

Toasted Announcements: The December issue of Toasted Cheese is here!: http://bit.ly/v8X7SG

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

you just keep on trying till you run out of cake

Walking through the streets of Manhattan and you see a guy dressed like this.
Now, is he attending the con or does he just live here? (photo from Geeks of Doom) I heart NY.

I'm fairly certain if all the cosplayers at NYCC had gotten together they could have successfully robbed a series of banks in Manhattan. Something to think about for next year. Nerds of the World Unite and Take Over!

NYCC '11

Even though the stark underground panel rooms of the Javitz Center remind me of a poorly funded city college (I know, I went to one, it was all eerily familiar) I have a special place in my heart for NYCC. It may not have glitz and glamour and celebrities swinging from palm trees like it's more fashionable sibling, SDCC, but I can't ever seem to get tickets to SDCC and NYCC is in my back yard so, you know, <3. I go to cons for the panels. The show floor always kinda leaves me meh, every time I see something shiny either I can't fight my way up to it or the crowd pushes me past it and instead of struggling for a better look I decide to just search for it online. Where I'll probably find it cheaper anyway. The one exception to my show floor ennui was last year when Jeff Lemire took the time to not only sign my Sweet Tooth #1 and The Nobody but also leave me with some lovely little doodles. That was awesome. Last year I went from panel to panel to panel, often forgetting to eat, sometimes remembering to pee. I got into every panel I wanted, even the insanely popular Walking Dead preview. Last year was awesome. This year there were more attendees and less panels. The Felicia Day panel was full before I woke up in the morning. People started lining up for the Avengers panel approximately 8 hours before it started. So, NYCC was a bit of a mixed bag for me this year. Here's a run down of the good, the bad, and the ugly of NYCC '11. Or, at least, what I got to experience of it. The Good: The Science Chanel Panel:

Michio Kaku. I can't imagine ever not being a Michio Kaku fan girl. I could listen to him talk for hours, days, maybe even years if someone orders out for pizza. He is the Barack Obama of Science. My only gripe is that he was part of a panel instead of having his own again. The panel was excellent though. I LOVE the Science Chanel and I am very much excited for both Ridley Scott's new series, The Prophets of Science Fiction, and for Trek Nation.

Brian Greene: His books make my head hurt. I love things that make me feel stupid, like there's always going to be something else to learn and I'm never going to understand it all no matter how hard I try. The clips from his upcoming NOVA special were the perfect balance of cheesy visual effects and mind blowing science. Also, Brian Greene is vegan. Yay.

Brian Greene sitting at the table, Sweet Tooth sitting in front of me.

Nerdist Podcast Live:
Ok, so TECHNICALLY this wasn't part of the con. So what. It was probably the best part of MY con.
1. This podcast has some really awesome fans, the kind of people that make standing in line for an hour, and then watching the same 4 video game trailers over and over and over, actually an enjoyable experience.

2. Matt Mira's stand-up. Everyone was funny to the point of making my face hurt but Matt Mira's set was by far my favorite of the night (don't fight boys, I love you all).

3. The whole darn thing was just a bundle of good times. And there were posters. Got mine signed. I never do well with the whole autograph thing though, mostly because if I like you enough to be willing to stand on line for your autograph then I probably want to impress you and once I want to impress someone I almost certainly never will. So I wind up standing around awkwardly aloof. Which explains my track record with guys. Yeah...

I only took one really crappy picture of Chris Hardwick. Now that I'm posting this blog I'm wishing I had some shots of all the guys but I was just too busy laughing to think about it at the time. c'est la vie.
God, that guy's skinny.


Disorganization: How frustrating is it to wait on line for over an hour only to watch people just walk right in to the panel you're waiting for.

Line Cutters: Yes, fezzes are cool but if you're dressed as The Doctor, chick, you should use your powers for good!

The Roddenberry Panel: It was almost exactly the same panel as last year. So, that was kind of a disappointment.

Breaking into Comics the Marvel Way: The panel was a misnomer. In reality it was an extended Q&A session where all the questions and answers were the same and no one told us "the way" to "break into" comics. What I took away from the panel is that there really isn't a way to break into comics, especially if you're a writer. Just keep writing and cross your fingers a lot. Though, it's kind of hard to do both at the same time.


The Kevin Smith Clusterfuck:

Sigh. Just, you know, sigh. So many things went wrong that we just wound up getting a refund and leaving. Which totally bummed me out. We were really looking forward to seeing the Jay and Silent Bob Get Old Podcast. But: 1 Javitz Center employee yelled at us for being in the wrong line (we weren't), cursed out volunteers for putting us in the wrong line (they didn't, all the volunteers were pretty awesome) and made us move from the front of the line we had been on for 1/2 hr to the back of a crazy long line. Which made me cranky. 2 we paid $50 for prime seats only to have people who paid a lot less sit next to and in front of us, which made me wonder what exactly we were paying the extra money for. =crankier 3 The show didn't start until after 8pm which meant we would have had to leave early in order to get the VIP seating for the nerdist podcast that we also paid extra for (I broke out the big bucks this year). So, we got our money back and headed down to the Gramercy. We've seen Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes before, hadn't seen the Nerdist boys, so, we made a choice. It sucks that we had to choose but that's life. And the awesomeness of the Nerdist et al. assuaged my nerd fury.

So, NYCC 2012? I don't know. Maybe. Or maybe I'll just go to World Science Fest instead.

On a less ambivavlent note I'm listening to Jonathan Coulton's new album Artificial Heart right now. It's being beamed to me from the cloud. The future is now, people. It is not just some kind of wonderful (eric stoltz, anyone?) but all kinds of wonderful. You should stop reading and go download it, he's much cooler than I am anyway.
Yay Jeff Lemire!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

It's not real until it's on facebook

I’m thirty, newly single, and I’m in New Hampshire listening to my little brother and his fiancée discus table linens and entrée options with wedding coordinators at a series of country clubs and hotel ballrooms.

A high school football coach is screaming at me from somewhere inside my head. “Are you crying? Are you a little sissy girl? Do you want your mommy? SUCK IT UP! Stop being a baby! PUSH THROUGH THE PAIN!!!” I blink the tears back into my eyes and flip through a brochure of happy brides and over the top bouquets and cocktail hours with too much food. I’m a grown-up. I will not cry over flower arrangements. I won’t. I think I can… I think I can… I think I can…

A week ago my boyfriend and I broke up. I spent that weekend lying on the couch drowning in regret and reality TV. I cried for four days and wrote tragic journal entries that need to be burned. I wanted to stand on his front lawn with a boom box over my head. I wanted to crawl into his bed and pretend like none of this had ever happened, to feel him wrapped around me again and know that everything was going to be okay. We broke up for all sorts of sensible reasons but none of that seemed to matter anymore. I hurt and I wanted it to stop. This was my first real relationship and thus, my first real break-up. Which is kind of like getting chicken pox for the first time as an adult; it could kill you.

There were lots of emo texts and phone calls at 2 am and my friends all assure me that it gets better. (Though, they could have just been saying that because they wanted to go back to sleep.) It has gotten somewhat better. I’ve moved on from the sharp, stabbing, I can’t breathe or feel anything but pain phase to the dull aching almost numb, I’m never going to love anyone again phase that comes with a free order of eating your emotions in the form of food that makes you feel a little better for a little bit before making you feel so much worse for so much longer.

Before I can put the cookie dough away and move on with my life I have to update my relationship status on facebook. I’ve been hiding behind it so I don’t have to talk about the break-up, and so I can swim around in denial a little longer; it’s not real until it’s on facebook. I may not have a boyfriend anymore but I can sign into facebook and see “Michelle is in a relationship with…” Even if it’s not true it’s a lie I’m not quite ready to stop telling.

I’m quite looking forward to the next phase, where I try to loose all the weight I’ve gained while eating my emotions, and I take up a new hobby. Maybe needlepoint. Or finally cooking up some of the recipes in that Low-fat Vegan cookbook I haven’t opened. Or… who’s up for badminton? But to get there I have to let go. We may have broken-up but there is a difference between breaking-up and letting go. And I will; I’ll get there. I’ll let facebook know that I’m single and I’ll change my phone’s wallpaper from that picture of us in Boston to a picture of my cat.

But first I’m going to go get some cookies.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Random musings apropos of nothing

I put "write a blog" on my to-do list today and I really like checking things off my to-do list, so, here I am...

Most of the stuff that has been whirling through my head over the past 10 days would probably make for exceptionally good reading, but this isn't the forum for those thoughts just yet so..


I like Starbucks oatmeal. They give you brown sugar and nuts and stuff. And you can get a grande tea and oatmeal for exactly $5. Breakfast of Champions, bitches.

Fleet Foxes make pretty music. I wish I made pretty music. I write pretty words sometimes. Do you write pretty music? Do you want to be my Johnny Marr?

I haven't listening to The Smiths in a while. I need to do that. Also, have you seen that video of David Tennant dancing to "Boy with the thorn in his side"?

Yeah, I just stopped writing to go watch that on youtube. This video is probably my favorite thing in existence. Watching David Tenant lip sync to the Smiths makes me tingly in all my naughty nerdy parts.

doobie doobie doo... I wonder what's going on at twitter right now...

Sometimes twitter makes me feel like I'm back in high school:

There's the popular kids: The celebrities and quasi-celebrities that you have crushes on *cough* @nerdist *cough* and really hope they'll read a tweet and think you're awesome and then they'll follow you on twitter and fall in love with you and you'll have lots of nerdy babies you can teach to speak klingon and what? I mean, um...

And there's the indie/artsy kids: not exactly celebrities but they've got awesome twitter feeds and have lots of followers and they write a groovy blog where they talk about crocheting and leading the revolution from their studio apartment and you just know they smoke clove cigarettes and wouldn't give you the time of day but still you tweet at them thinking maybe you won't embarass yourself and maybe you can become hip by association.

And then there's me, and probably a lot of you, with 28 followers (many of which I know are not real people) I have a day job and a cat. And sometimes I write little pieces of fiction that other people like. Can you stand all that glamour? Every time I tweet at someone I don't really know I kind of feel like I'm asking them to prom.

I'm 30, a "grown-up" who pays her bills on time and has people who love her. So why do I keep signing up for social experiments that make me relive the most awkward and debilitating, humiliating, depressing, moments of my existence?

Why? Lean in and I'll tell you a secret. Deep down underneath all the awkwardness and insecurity and fear, I really do think that I'm cool. Ok, well maybe "cool" isn't the adjective I'm looking for, but you know what I'm damn funny and somewhat entertaining and sometimes i'd even go so far as to say interesting. I have a twitter account because, fuck the adolescent fears that just won't die, I'M AWESOME AND THE WORLD SHOULD KNOW.

Which, I'd wager, is why you have twitter too.

This blog was brought to you by Fleet Foxes, celebrity crushes, writer's block, and caffeine. Yay, caffeine.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Dip Trip Flip Fantasia: Or things my English teacher should have told me

Remember when we were kids and we couldn’t wait to be grown-ups because then nobody would be able to tell us what to do?


Oh, sweet ignorance of youth, how I miss you so.

When we were kids if we didn’t do what we were told or didn’t do it well enough there were repercussions, like detention or being grounded or not getting that shiny thing we were so sure we couldn’t live without. As grown-ups if we don’t do what we’re told or don’t do it well enough we get fired and and they stop giving us those lovely paychecks we use to pay for things like the house we live in and the food we eat and if we don’t get someone else to give us and job and start doing what they tell us we end up down by the river fighting with plastic sporks to defend our cardboard box and collection of Barbie dolls heads we found floating in the muck.

If they had told us this when we were kids none of us would have made it past 23.

Growing up, daydreaming about being a writer, I imagined book tours that let me travel the world and have exciting adventures with interesting people, signing books for adoring fans and generally being fabulous all the time. I imagined days filled with hours and hours of writing. Back in the blissfully ignorant days of my youth when I imagined being a writer I imagined being a writer. That’s it. I didn’t imagine I’d be spending 40 hours a week doing other stuff for money and squeezing in writing in the few glorious moments I had a couple of brain cells to spare and wasn’t lured by the siren call of pizza, booze, telly.

What my 7th grade English teacher should have told me when she was encouraging me to be a writer was: “You should be a writer, you’re very good. But the most important thing you need to know, more important than writing every day or wearing sunscreen, is that you’re gonna need a fucking day job. And you’re just going to have to deal with it. You’re not going to get a million dollar book deal right out of college and be able to live the life I’m sure you’ve been imagining. You may never actually make any money for anything that you write and you know what? You’re just going to have to bend over and take it. If that doesn’t sound like something you’re up for you should maybe consider reevaluating your dreams.”

She didn’t do that so here I am, 30 years old, nursing a cold mocha at Starbucks on my day off, and trying not to think about the fact that I have to go back to work tomorrow. Still, this is what I want to do. As long as some of my words make it out there to someone I’ll continue to bend over and take it from the powers that be in exchange for a paycheck.

If Ms. Seventh Grade English Teacher had warned me instead of encouraging me to continue writing and giving me a pretty little journal at the end of the year I may have given the path I was on a serious rethinking and given up the long and winding road to literary obscurity in order to pursue the much more sensible dream of Broadway Stardom.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Nerd Therapy Torchwood: Miracle Day

Do you have any idea how excited I was about this show 2 months ago? And now? Now, I’m just sad. This should have been the most insanely awesome season of Torchwood the world has ever seen. 

I loved the darker sexier little brother of Dr. Who when the series premiered. I adore Captain Jack and fell in love with his new cohorts. The show was charming and disturbing, heart breaking and funny. And Welsh. Oh how I miss Ianto and his beautiful Welsh accent. Then came Children of Earth and it was dazzling. Torchwood completely stepped out of the shadow of Dr. Who stood on its own, and blew me completely the fuck away. I waited for 2 years, nearly burning up with the anticipation. What could possibly top this???

Nothing, apparently.

Torchwood: Miracle Day makes me mad, in much the same way that I infuriated most of my teachers growing up. So much potential, so much promise, and yet…

I put off blogging about Miracle Day until it was done hoping beyond hope for Mr. Davies to pull something out of his magic hat that would make me jump back from the screen and flagellate myself for ever having doubted him. I’m still waiting.

I don’t know what happened. They did everything right. They staffed the show with entirely fantastic writers. There is not a single person credited with writing Miracle Day that I wouldn’t kill to learn from or work with.  But it just didn’t feel like Torchwood.

Jack and Gwen felt like slim Slitheen wearing Jack and Gwen suits. Esther and Rex didn’t engage me. I still don’t understand why Oswald Danes was there. The only character that grabbed me at all was Jilly.

My boyfriend and I have pretty much decided that Miracle Day might actually have been kind of wonderful if they had edited it down to 3-5 episodes. Also, Also, the reason Jack is immortal isn't because of something special or hinky in his blood but because Rose FREAKIN Tyler decided that he should be a fixed fucking point in time. He never should have been able to have been made mortal and shouldn't have been able to bestow Rose's gift/curse onto anyone else!!! Deep breath in...and out... and nerd rant over. 

I don't want to be an armchair quarterback here. Who am I? I have a blog. Oooooh aren’t I just the Big Bad? No. No, I’m not. I’ve written one novel that couldn’t even get past the interns at a single Lit Agency, and a few pieces of flash that have made their way out into the world via online lit mags. That’s it. I’m just a blogger.

After the first couple of episodes the evil blogger in me did want to spew vitriol and tear the whole thing down. But that’s not what this is about. This is me showing my virtual therapist about where the bad man touched me.

This season, it’s like date rape. I invited Torchwood into my dorm room because we had grown to be such good friends then Miracle Day slipped a roofie into my solo cup and I woke up with crabs.

Did I go too far there?

I arrived at Starbucks with the intention of starting the rewrite of my novel with it’s new narrator, so I thought I better blog instead. I wish this post had a purpose, some conclusion to share with you, some piece of enlightenment to add to the world and elucidate truths about the creative process and the journey of mankind so that if anyone who ever watched or worked on Miracle Day happened to stumble upon this blog they would walk away from the computer feeling a bit of closure and hope. It doesn’t. Not even a little bit. So, instead, I leave you with this:

rainbow our puppy princess
**this picture was shown to me by Patrick Scaffido who is a whiny bitch and wanted you all to know that I didn't find this on my own.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Woke up this morning feeling pretty blah. Disturbing dreams, the realization that certain relationships are changing, ending, also, my allergies are causing my brain to drip down the back of my throat. It's okay though, that one was pretty rubbish and I needed to grow a new one anyway.

I've been staring at the blank word processor screen of death for a while now trying to figure out something write, all the while just feeling eh. That's when youtube came to the rescue.

Did you see that! When the moma pulled the kitten in for a closer snuggle wasn't that just the cutest thing ever?!?!

That one was great, right? So educational and informative, full of advice on how to volunteer, and oh yeah, JAGUAR KITTIES ARE SO CUTE!!! Just look at that face! Now, I may not suggest running out and getting one of your own but feel free to put this video on loop if you're having a bad day and in need of a cute fix.

I don't know about you but I'm feeling better already.

If this isn't enough cute for you, never fear, Ginger and I are on the job!

Also, if you're a cat lover check out The Teal Cat Project Helping kitties one tchotchke at a time!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Coulda had a V8

I've been feeling a lot like celery lately. I've heard people say that it takes more calories to burn celery than there are calories in celery. It's probably not true, just one of those things people say because it feels true. 

Right now I'm reading Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link.  She makes my best prose look like it was written by a five year old who has been dropped on her head a few times. 

After the first few stories I was depressed. (This is not a new phenomenon, just the most recent occurrence.) How could I possibly continue to write when the standard has been set so much higher than I could ever reach? 

This was it. Last straw. Game over. No more pretending that I was a writer. I’m turning in my pens and giving up. I'm going to be in this cubicle till the day I die.

Then I thought about what that would really mean. What a life without writing, even bad writing, would be like. A life where the only work I did took place M-F in my itty-bitty cubicle in the insurance industry. I could see that life rolling on and on day after day, being caught up in the waves with only my paycheck to hold on to. 

I felt like I was going to throw up and it was awesome. Because that's how I know that I AM a writer. Even if I'm a bad writer, even if no one but my best friend ever reads my books and I have to publish them myself, I'm going to keep writing. No matter how bad I might feel about myself, comparing my work to Kelly Link or Neil Gaiman, or *insert brilliant writer who makes me feel like a stalk of celery here*, not writing feels worse.

I may always have to keep my day job. I may always have to struggle to get writing time in, and struggle to get my writing read, and struggle to keep writing when I feel so mediocre that I can't imagine ever writing anything worth it's weight in ink. The struggle sucks and it makes me wish that I could give it all up and be an accountant, but the struggle is who I am.

I’m a writer not because I can’t imagine doing anything else but because I CAN imagine doing something else and it scares the shit out of me.

Monday, July 25, 2011

What I Read/What I'm Reading/What's Up Next


The Complete Essex County by Jeff Lemire 

I'm a late in life comic nerd and Jeff Lemire's Sweet Tooth is one main reasons why I now how a pull list at my local comic shop. Lemire is an infuriating talent because he writes interesting, beautiful characters and he can draw them too. The Essex County stories come together to form a wonderful love letter to his home town and to hockey.

Flappers and Philosophers by F Scott Fitzgerald

After watching Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris I hopped on a bit of a Fitzgerald kick, first re-reading The Great Gatsby last week and then downloading this to my kindle. I'm always sort of had a crush on Fitzgerald and these stories only served to make me just the more wistful for a Tardis en route to the Jazz Age.

Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour by Bryan Lee O'Malley

What can I say, I LOVE Scott Pilgrim. LOVE.

Northlanders: Metal by Brian Wood

Brian Wood is fantastic and his historical fiction series of comics, Northlanders, is one of the best things out there right now. Vikings. Who doesn't love vikings? What really keeps me coming back is that each volume tells a different tale from a different time. His protagonists are fierce and flawed and always have you rooting for them even if you don't always agree with them.

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Bossypants is not Remembrance of Things Past, so, if you're looking for the meaning of life or moving literature to lift you up where you belong then Bossypants may not be for you. But I'm pretty sure you were able to figure that out from the title and the cover photo (sometimes, people, you really should judge a book by it's cover). However, if you're looking for a laugh and to maybe feel a tiny bit better about being an awkward freak trying so hard to pretend to be a respectable adult, this may just be the perfect thing to unwind to after a hard day at the cubicle.


The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe

For no other reason than Neil Gaiman said to. And I am oh so in love with Neil Gaiman.


the rest of the Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe (Shadow of the Torturer is the 1st of 4 parts)
The Magicians by Lev Grossman
Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link
Fables vol 1
Fables vol 2

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Bring Out Your Dead

The fall after I thought I had graduated from college- after I had walked in the ceremony but before I found out that I still needed three more credits- I got a job at Borders, just for a few months around the holidays, just too earn a little money and get off my mother’s couch while I was figuring out what I was really going to do with my life. I was a bookseller for a year, then a supervisor, then an assistant manager. My “three months until I find something better” turned into three years. I worked for Borders in two different states and if it hadn’t been for a manager who dicked me over when I moved back to NY I would probably still be there now, at the end of days.

I honestly can’t remember when the first Borders opened near me, or, really, a time before Borders. I went straight from Scholastic book orders to spending hours among the rows and rows of books, getting lost in the possibilities, desperately trying to figure out how to convince my mom to let me take it all home. Or maybe one more, just one more book, I need this book!

As an English major, Borders seemed like the logical place to work. I mean, if I was going to go back to retail it might as well be selling things I know a little bit about. And I really did love the store. So, I accepted a job that I was overqualified for, for less money than I could have gotten, because I got to be around books all day, and really, this was only going to last for a few months…

If I had had any kind of dignity or self respect or esteem at all I probably could have found a “grown up” job that paid a livable wage and said goodbye to Borders and retail in the three months I had allotted myself. If I had done that maybe I would be more financially secure right now, more stable, climbing the ladder not worrying who’s looking up my skirt. But then I just wouldn’t be me.

More than high school, more than college even, working at Borders made me who I am today. For whatever that may be worth to society. My coworkers were musicians and actors, aspiring directors, writers, artists, bibliophiles, and students. It was a while before I was able to shrug off enough of my insecurities to start making friends.

They all seemed so much cooler and smarter than me. They weren’t exactly the popular kids from high school, they were the smart alecks who sat in the back of the class and fell asleep because they were out last night at some bar you could never get into, listening to a band you’d never heard of. Because of these misfit toys I finally committed to being a vegetarian while on my lunch break (at a McDonald’s), I discovered all those bands I had never heard of before, and my life changed forever when a co-worker told me that I HAD to watch Battlestar Galactica. I had gone into Borders with a rough sketch of who I was and they helped me shade in the colors.

Now, it wasn’t all roses and sunshine. In fact, it mostly wasn’t roses and sunshine. It was retail and retail means customers who will demoralize you and then make you clean up after them, it means managers who sit in their office all day doing god knows what, while you try to manipulate yourself out of her line of sight whenever she does grace the sales floor with her presence because the only leadership tool she has is fear, and it means shitty, shitty pay.

It’s been a couple of years since I left Borders though, and now I look back on my time with the company much the same way so many people remember high school. All those things that had me cursing and complaining, threatening to walk out in the middle of a shift, and getting drunk with co-workers on a Tuesday night have faded into this warm hazy glow and I’m left with only the rose colored memories. Even the terrifying night I spent alone in the parking lot with Harry Potter fans who were not yet allowed in to buy Deathly Hollows feels like part of the good ole days.

I miss talking teenagers out of buying new Gossip Girl and instead sending them off with Looking for Alaska.

I miss the advance copies of books that publishers sent to the store and I, almost exclusively, absconded with.

I miss the discount, even though Amazon is still probably cheaper (My first few months at Borders I worked myself into a decent debt before I was able to reign myself in- millions of books and I get a discount, how could this possible go wrong?).

I miss walking the aisles finding new things to love.

I miss shoving The History of Love into customers’ hands and telling them that they would love it.

I miss talking to nerdy compatriot customers about Sandman and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

I miss discussions about the validity of having an African American lit section when really shouldn’t it just be with the rest of literature?

I miss all the crazy stupid things we did to keep each other sane, like cart races or reading erotica over the walkees.

Every so often in this awkward quest I'm on to be "a grown up" I fantasize about ditching the cubicle and running back to Borders, back to the books and the misfit toys. Guess I need a new escape route.

Even if I do figure it out, if I find my way into the life I really want, one of peace and security and success on my terms, there’s probably always going to be part of me that misses working at Borders.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

We Hate it When Our Friends Become Successful

My boyfriend is sleeping. At least, I hope he is. I’m lying in bed next to him with the light on so I could read. I finished the book I was reading and thought about turning off the light and trying to sleep, to be a better girlfriend (the light usually keeps him up), but I just don’t feel like closing my eyes. So, I’m telling myself he’s already asleep.

I’m dating a 23 year old and that means that sometimes I get to feel like (pretend) I’m 23 again- which is a feeling somewhere between empowering and heartbreaking. I’m 30 but I wish I could be 23 so that living in my parent’s basement without ever having come close to realizing any of my childhood dreams wouldn’t be such a big deal. “I’m only 23,” I could say. “There’s still so much life stretched out before me just waiting to be lived!” 23. Everything is just starting and all these mistakes you’re making everyday? They’re learning experiences, character builders, amusing anecdotes to tell your friends when you’re 30 and successful.

Successful is a relative term. I have a pretty decent job that gives me health insurance. I have a rocking credit score and I actually seem to be maintaining a serious romantic relationship. So, yay me. Still, I’m looking down at the copy of my friend’s book in my hands wondering where it all went wrong. Okay, well, not so much wondering where I went wrong as wishing that I hadn’t.

Some awkward children grow up to be fierce, interesting people who get tattoos and cultivate a sense of self so strong that whatever they do think, drink, say or wear is by default cooler than anything you could ever pull off. The other awkward children grow up to be awkward adults masquerading as respectable citizens the best they can all the while plagued by the knowledge that somewhere along the line they slept through some seminal coming of age moment that would have transformed their awkward into awesome. Instead they go about their adult lives slouching in their cubicles, scrolling through facebook, and filling the rest of their hours with TV shows and other people’s stories. I am one of the latter awkwards; Cassie J Sneider belongs to the former.

Cassie and I worked together for a while at one of those large chain bookstores that used to be a pretty fantastic place to work with other interesting weirdos you could have intelligent conversations with and then race through the store on tiny precariously balanced book carts. Then people began to realize that they could get their Nora Roberts fix half price at Costco or Amazon and slowly the place went to shit. Most of us went our separate ways. I jumped ship to fold sweaters at dressbarn and then sell insurance at a call center. Cassie continued to live her life in her awkward adventurous way, compiling her tales in her new book Fine Fine Music which is available on Amazon.

When I picked up my copy, from the bookstore we used to work at, my first impulse was to tear it in two, though I probably would have done more damage to my hands than to the book if I had attempted it. Still, I was pissed. She had done it. She wrote a book. Someone published it and there were real life people out there buying it. My next impulse was to stomp my feet and howl. I didn’t do either. Instead, I sulked. Sulking, while still unattractive is slightly less repellent than a temper tantrum. Cassie had published a book and was driving around the country giving readings at hip independent bookstores where adoring oddballs and intellectuals were lining up for autographs and I… I have this blog that I sometimes write in even though I only have 3 friends who actually read the thing. Jealousy is a nine year old sticking her tongue out at you.

It was probably a week before I was able to open the book past the message she left with her signature on the title page. I read a story and put it down again, disgusted. Not because it was bad but because it was good. It is easier to deal with other people’s successes if you can tell yourself it’s not really a success. If her stories had been vapid or banal or the writing had been crap I could have written her success off as more evidence that the publishing world is catering to mindless drones with a 5th grade reading level *cough*twilight*cough* and I could have padded my ego with some righteous indignation. Unfortunately for my ego, I’m going to have to find something else to be indignant about.

Cassie is a talented writer with an interesting view of the world, a strong voice, and she has done a thing or two worth writing about. Have I mentioned that pisses me off? Writing this now I’m thinking about lighting the pages on fire just to watch them burn. But then I’d have to go on Amazon and get another copy and that one wouldn’t be signed. Also infuriating? Knowing that I can type her name in an amazon search and receive a result that is actually her.

I was published once (and I’m talking real world here, not junior high lit mags. The fact that those were flooded with our poetry doesn’t count). An extremely short story I wrote made its way into an online lit mag for flash fiction. It’s not much of a portfolio. Cassie has taken the dream and fueled it with diner coffee, karaoke highs and cross country road trips. I took the dream and shoved it under my pillow somehow hoping to achieve it through osmosis. It doesn’t seem to be working. Maybe it’s because I forgot to add water. Or maybe it’s because I stopped living in stories.

Instead of writing for hours I watch TV or sleep in. I phone it all in waiting for something to happen, waiting for a story to happen to me instead of creating one. Nothing much happens when you’re stuck in a cubicle. And I’m the one who put myself there. I don’t just mean work either.

I stayed awkward. But maybe it’s not too late for me. Thirty is supposed to be the new 20, right? I can still conquer the world! ……Well, at least I’m not dead. I have a couple of good years left in me and if I ever get my ass off this couch I might be able to make something of myself. Something that looks more like who I thought I was going to be. Pull that dream out from under my pillow and make it fucking happen.

In the mean time, read Cassie’s book, it’s really good.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Come Alive by Jonathan Mead

Life wastes itself while we are preparing to live. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you had one week left to live, would you still be doing what you’re doing now? In what areas of your life are you preparing to live? Take them off your To Do list and add them to a To Stop list. Resolve to only do what makes you come alive.

Bonus: How can your goals improve the present and not keep you in a perpetual “always something better” spiral?

(Author: Jonathan Mead)

If I had one week left to live I doubt that I'd be doing anything that I'm doing now. I'd spin a globe, put my finger on some place i'd never been and just go. I'd spend my days exploring beautiful things, my evenings making love, and each night I'd write about everything till my fingers cramped up around my pen. It sounds like a perfect way to die- but a difficult way to live.

My job does not make me "come alive". But it doesn't make me entirely miserable either and it's a pretty decent way to pay the bills. If I had my druthers I would be making a living off my writing. The thing about that dream though is that the publishing world is kind of a crap shoot. I could write the most brilliant, beautiful piece of fiction the world has ever known and struggle my entire life only to die in obscurity- or I could write something completely mediocre and live out the rest of my days in a mansion. I'm not saying genius is never rewarded in literature I'm just saying that you can't count on it. What I'm saying is there's really no way to know for sure that what you write is going to sell. So, as much as I'd love to quit my job and do ONLY what makes me "come alive" I haven't earned that life and truth is I probably never will.

That sounds depressing, and it kind of is. My dream for as long as I can remember has been to write, just write, without having to worry about doing anything else to keep the bank from repossessing my car or kicking me out of my home. That dream is still a possibility. People do it. It could happen. But I have to gird myself for the possibility that I may never get there and readjust the way I look at myself. Because never getting there doesn't neccessarily mean that I am a failure. Being able to pay the bills is not what makes you a successful writer. Writing makes you a successful writer.

That's everyone's dream though, isn't it? To get paid, and paid well, to do the one thing that you love the most. But what I think is my dream may actually be killing my true dream. Money is not at the heart of my dream, it just surrounds it because we need money to live. If money didn't matter how many of your dreams would change? But we do need money. We need it to put shelter around us, clothes on us, food in us. We need money to buy our car, put gas in it, pay the tolls on the interstate and to do whatever it is we want to do when we get where we're going. I don't write because I need money but I need money in order to write. And that's where the American Dream is killing the real dream.

Did you ever wonder what Dickens would have written if they hadn't been paying him by the word?

As much as my dream is to live a life where my only professional focus is writing, if I spend all my time trying to write what I think will pay the bills what I thought was a dream could turn into a nightmare. The money is secondary, the work is what matters. Writing stories that matter is what makes me come alive. The need to earn money harshes that quite a bit but it's not going away.

the question is, which need am I going to let lead me? I can let money be my guide, put aside writing all together or focus my writing on subjects and characters that have the best chance at being profitable. OR I can accept the fact that in order to fully embrace my dream of writing what matters I have to let go of this idea of profit, of using my words like one of those toddler beauty queens. My real dream, what truly makes me come alive, is writing what matters, putting stories out there that effect people, help people, change the way they see themselves and the world. Am I really willing to sacrifice that for a cushier life?

So, maybe I can't quit my job and run off to Tahiti or disappear somewhere in the Scottish Highlands but I can stop waiting for the world to hand me the life that I want. I can stop defining my successes and failures by how much money I have in the bank. I can go to work and do my job and bring home the paycheck I need for food and rent and car payments and I can stop making myself miserable for not having written a New York Times Bestselling-soon to be major motion picture-retire off the royalties book. If I write one person's favorite book I'll be living my dreams. Even if I'm living in debt.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing. The force of character is cumulative. – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

If ‘the voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks,’ then it is more genuine to be present today than to recount yesterdays. How would you describe today using only one sentence? Tell today’s sentence to one other person. Repeat each day.

Spent another day walking in someone else's shoes, I've almost gotten used to the blisters.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

We are afraid of truth, afraid of fortune, afraid of death, and afraid of each other. Our age yields no great and perfect persons. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

You just discovered you have fifteen minutes to live.

1. Set a timer for fifteen minutes.
2. Write the story that has to be written.

There was a girl who, since she was very young, lived on mountains. She climbed their heights and she dove down through their caves and she lived off what they provided for her. The mountains always had more to give than she could take. The mountains were always growing and so was she.

The little girl grew strong and brave and taller and taller until she was not quite so little anymore. Still, the mountains were taller. The mountains were her magic. She thought they would never end. She thought she could go to the end of the world and always be jumping from mountaintop to mountaintop.

And so the girl set out to wander the world, to see all the mountains. She saw very many mountains, all of them beautiful, all of them fierce and strong, like her. She climbed to their tops and slipped down through their caves and laughed at the loveliness of it all. She laughed and heard its echoes dance around her for miles. She sang as she leapt between the mountaintops, singing an endless song until the mountains ended.

The girl balanced on top of the last mountain, one foot on the cold steely tip, one foot stretching out in front of her, into air, twirling about in a cloud as the girl understood that there was nothing there. This was it. There were no more mountains, no more heights, no more caves.

The rest of the world was laid out before her, little hills no more than goose bumps, valleys that spread out like a heart ache, rivers and lakes and roads and trees and somewhere down there, she knew, people.

The world was more than mountains. There were so many things that she could not yet name, things that would hurt and steal, things the mountains had never whispered of. For the first time in her young life the girl felt weak and small and afraid. The leg she was standing on began to shake beneath her. She needed to make a choice; the mountains or everything else. She breathed deep the chill mountain air and put her foot down. Then she took a step.