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thewrongway

Image description: Book cover for The Wrong Way To Save Your Life by Megan Stielstra, with a very vivid & colorful model of a human heart on a light blue background.

If you’re done reading the wonderful and hilarious We Are Never Meeting In Real Life and looking for something else to read, my friend’s Megan’s essay collection The Wrong Way To Save Your Life comes out today.

I can’t celebrate her book launch (and my 17th anniversary of moving to Chicago!) in person today ’cause my alter-ego Captain Cinema Professor Jennifer is in Los Angeles for the University Film & Video Association conference. Megan has written about the exact material I’m presenting this week, if you’re interested and want a “worlds collide!!!!!” moment. A version of the same essay is in the book with the title “Stand Here To Save Lives.”

My UFVA presentation Wednesday morning might be mostly me reading aloud from Casting Call Woe and @Femscriptintros and then screaming HOW DO WE UNFUCK THIS? at the other film professors.

(Not really, I made a PowerPoint with hardly any swears and I have some specific ideas about how to unfuck this shit incorporate diversity and inclusion organically into first-year production classes).

Whatever happens, I’ll have a little imaginary Megan Stielstra on my shoulder saying “That sounds like a story, you should write it down” and looking at me with the world’s kindest eyes.

 

 

 

If you’re here because you saw my talk on constructive criticism at work at GOTO Chicago yesterday, welcome! I really enjoyed meeting so many of you and I’m interested to adapt the talk to make it more applicable. Thank you for letting the weird art kid come play in your sandbox. Edited to Add: My slides and video should be available through the conference site soon, but you can also access a pdf here if you like: PeepasGOTOMay1 [/Edit]

I’m going to be thinking about Erin Horáková’s essay about the collective retconning of Captain Kirk for a while. Disclaimer: I am a mere Padawan learner in the lore of Trek, so your comments about the details of the episodes and the character might go over my head. Things I really love:

  • Her portrait of Kirk as quite a lovely, thoughtful, dutiful person (vs. the “Chest Manbeast:Ultimate Rebel” he’s become a shorthand for) made me want to go back and watch.
  • The idea that the Boring Guy You Meet At Bad Parties is part of “a vast eldritch horror sitting in another dimension that extrudes its thousand tentacles into our own, and that each one of This Guy is merely an insignificant manifestation of the beast: they couldn’t all be so boring in precisely the same way by chance, surely.”
  • The discussion of Dickens and Helen Keller and Norman Rockwell and the way stories get updated and remanufactured to erase their radical roots and ideas. We love a truth-teller and a rebel and a hero, as long as their radical acts are safely in the past and can have the edges sanded off for the “nation-building, heritage-canonising costume drama adaptations.
  • This sentence:Robinson Crusoe is a dull, badly-written, racist pile of shit (and it’s “the first novel” like I’m Romy and it’s my high school reunion and I invented the post-it note).” I don’t know you, Erin Horáková, but I think I like you.
  • And finally, this:

“Thus it becomes a matter of reclaiming texts via attentive reading. In the post-truth world, attention is a skill. Reading is a skill. We must vigilantly listen to the hum of the currents of power running through texts and their interpretations, to actions and their spin. We must insist upon reality in order to meaningfully and morally do the work of relativistic interpretation: there are four lights, for fuck’s sake. We do have to have stories, and so we need to be able to see them. It’s important both to add marginal voices to canons and conversations and to protect the marginal elements already there from conservative erosion, for the sake of accuracy, artistic quality, and politics. We need to have access to their resources and to be able to use our own, not to host within ourselves an enemy that occludes all we see, that drains the progressive potential of everything we have access to. What good things we have done ought to be preserved. There are histories of resistance, large and small, that we ought not to lose; that we cannot afford to lose.”

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I’m doing stuff out and about. Join me? Events listed in the order that they’ll happen:

  • Saturday, February 25, 2017: I’m teaching a short smartphone video workshop for beginners  at the Second City Training Center in Chicago. Want to shoot & edit video on your phone? Want to make it look and sound better? Still some spots left! $70.
  • Sunday, March 5, 2017: I’m reading at the final That’s All She Wrote show. 8pm, Great Lakes Tattoo, 1148 W. Grand Avenue, Chicago, Illinois. True stories. Free admission.
  • Saturday,
    cafe-le-jardin-du-petit

    Image of the cafe’s outdoor space (source: TripAdvisor) They have comfier-looking chairs inside, too.

    March 18, 2017: Awkward Meetup in Paris, France. I’ll be at the Cafe Le Jardin Du Petit Palais at 2:00 pm that day, with Mr. Awkward in tow. From what I can tell they have various coffee, tea, and sandwiches in a nice, centrally-located space with free admission. If you know you’ll attend, RSVPs are appreciated so we know to look out for you and how many seats to save.

 

Readers! Especially Readers Who Are Also Writers! Here is a blog you might want to know about:

Longtime Awkwardeer Rose Fox has started an advice site for writers called Story Hospital. Every week Rose answers a question from a writer who’s struggling with a work in progress or with writing in general. The site’s tagline is “Heal your relationship with your writing” and it reads a lot like a relationship advice column, with a balanced mix of writing tips and deeper analysis of what leads writers to feel blocked, anxious, or uncertain about their work. So far the site has covered being your own muse, writing peer-reviewed papers while feeling overwhelmed by academia, patching plot holes in novels, and figuring out when to let go of a script draft that’s just not working out, among many other topics relevant to both fiction and nonfiction writers. The site is supported by Patreon and patrons get cool perks, including inspirational postcards and access to a priority question queue. Rose has been a professional writer, editor, and book reviewer for 20 years and is overflowing with great advice. Take a look at their site, and if you’re having trouble with writing of any kind, ask them a question!

I’ve got a piece up on awkward holiday conversations at BuzzFeed this week.

If you’re a new reader, here’s some stuff you might like to know:

Welcome!

 

O Captain my Captain:

How on earth does one ever take charge of the creative process when it requires the input of others? Please help.

The specifics: I’ve written a novel. (Okay, actually I’ve written three. But I could imagine that someone might want to publish this one someday.) Various friends, colleagues, etc. have offered to read it and provide comments. Of those people (all of who have received it roughly 6 months ago), I’ve gotten responses from … one. Out of ten.

The jerkbrain has a really good answer to this: it’s such shit that nobody can finish it, and they don’t want to be honest, so I should just smash the computer and move on with my life and find something else to do. Preferably something where I can fool people into thinking I’m competent. Fuck my dreams. Fuck the work I put in. I’m bad at this and that’s that.

How do I silence the jerkbrain? Actually, more importantly, how do I actually get some useful feedback so that I can actually work on making it better? (That would go a long way towards silencing the jerkbrain, since it would give me something to actually work on!)

I’ve tried leveling with the people I’m the closest to, and asked them to commit to reading it and getting me comments by some specific date. And: radio silence from one, broken promises from two more. And some good news: regular updates from one about the life events that are keeping her from getting there, which is awesome, and keeps giving me hope!

— the next Bulwer-Lytton [or insert your least favorite author here]

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My friend and Agony Aunt colleague Robin “Miss Conduct” Abrahams has written an excellent piece that combines two of my favorite things: Better Caul Saul and boundaries. Kim Wexler, a character on the show, is a master of boundaries and you don’t have to watch to appreciate the piece.

Piny linked me to this great piece from Heather Havrilesky, “Can I trust my judgment around men?” It’s very relevant to our discussions of the
Darth Vader partner and how they come on so strong and magically at the beginning (bolding mine):

When you meet someone who’s charming and very intense and he immediately starts talking about long-term goals for love and marriage and kids, that’s a seductive thing. In my experience, that kind of intense talk can actually be a sign of trouble, a sign that the guy is trying to quickly correct all the mistakes of the past and award himself a “happily ever after” without knowing much about the person in front of him. The one time I met someone who talked this way, it was hard not to get caught up in it. So this is how it feels to finally meet The One! I thought. You both just know, immediately, that you’re meant for each other! After years of encountering caution and hesitation from dates and even boyfriends, I was thrilled to find someone who could recognize in an instant HOW GREAT I WAS.

Even once I discovered that he was newly separated and still reeling from his wife’s sudden exit, I didn’t give up. I didn’t recognize that he was handling his sadness by escaping into something new, something that HAD to lead to marriage to make up for what he’d just lost. Looking back, I can’t believe I could be so dumb. But at that point, I had never experienced that kind of confident intensity from a man. He was also older than me. After years of dating one man-child after another, I thought I was meeting a mature adult male for the first time.

Hello, 31-year-old me staying up all night on the phone with some guy who talked really big. Hello younger versions some of you, too. Jedi Hugs to our younger selves, and to our older, wiser selves.

There is a Washington, D.C. Meetup in the works for April 26. Details:

Washington, DC Meetup

Rubymendez and Flightless have arranged an event in DC.

Time/place: Sunday, 5pm April 26th at Dupont Circle’s THE BOARD ROOM (http://boardroomdc.com/)

They serve happy-hour-priced drinks from 5-7pm on Sundays, with board games for rent — EVERY board game you can think of! They don’t serve food, but they allow you to bring in food, or get it delivered, so hopefully all dietary needs can be accommodated. For instance, you could grab empanadas from Julia’s down the street and bring them over (we will have some bites to share!)

To find us: rubymendez will be wearing a rainbow winter hat; flightless has blue hair and will be wearing a railway conductor’s hat. Feel free to rock your own hats, rainbows, or zany garb! We’ll also have stickers or blank nametags you can customize as desired.

You can post on our DC Meetup thread in the forums if you have questions.

FEELINGSNOTE: I MISS D.C. IN SPRINGTIME AND JULIA’S EMPANADAS. Have the best time. If you’re in Chicago and you did your taxes already stop by the Awkward Meet & Geek tomorrow at Geek Bar anytime between 6 and 10 pm and say hello. I’m also reading at That’s All She Wrote on Sunday night, April 19, Great Lakes Tattoo, 8 pm, BYOB/Free admission.

Finally, we have traced the creator of the Riding-The-Nopetepus gif if you wish to marvel at its glory:

Animated gif of a girl riding an octopus and saying "nope!"