Monday, September 17, 2018

Riot! Riot! Riot!

As the title suggests, I attended Riot Fest this weekend in beautiful, sprawling Douglas Park. Although I didn't "riot" so much as relax on the lawn listening to music while other people rioted.

I ate two hot pretzels in a span of three days. Two! It was glorious.

Bands I saw:
  • Typesetter - Wow I'm so cool I know a band who played at Riot Fest so cool. Turns out that if you walk confidently, you can just stroll backstage and nobody's going to stop you. There's free bottled water back there! Show was rad, as always--their new album comes out in October. Get on it. 
  • K. Flay - I had never listened to K. Flay before, but I'd heard good things. I did like her music--though whoever was doing her sound was awful. It was like listening to a blown-out speaker in an old car. Her cover of Harvey Danger's "Flagpole Sitta," however, was charming.
  • The Bombpops - When they said they'd signed with Fat Wreck Chords I was like, oh, of course they did. Talented, pleasant enough to listen to, but derivative. Harsh? Perhaps. They seem like good people. I just wasn't bowled over.
  • Taking Back Sunday - It turns out Taking Back Sunday has released roughly one million albums since I was in high school, none of which I cared to hear. But it was all worth it when they finally got to "You're So Last Summer." THE TRUTH IS YOU COULD SLIT MY THROAT AND WITH MY ONE LAST GASPING BREATH I'D APOLOGIZE FOR BLEEDING ON YOUR SHIRT. High school, man. High school. 
  • Gary Numan - Caught only the end of his set--it takes an hour and a half to get to Douglas Park from my apartment via transit, so I was doing my best. I enjoyed watching him, and I enjoyed watching the crowd even more. I was born in 1988, so I mostly missed that decade, and so did my parents since they were getting married and raising me. Everything I've learned about the 80s I've had to piece together myself, and artists like Gary Numan are just another piece of the puzzle. I like trying to imagine a time when loads of people were like YES! THIS GOTH SCI-FI NEW WAVE DUDE! Not that he's bad! I just have a hard time imagining someone like him getting popular these days. Anyway, "Cars" is stuck in my head now. 
  • Cat Power - I am only the most casual of Cat Power listeners. No matter--I just chilled in the grass and drank a beer and let her soft voice lull me. An wonderful way to spend a sunny afternoon. 
  • Elvis Costello & The Imposters - I'm also only a casual Elvis Costello listener--greatest hits and no more. It was a fun show, but I think he couldn't hear the monitors? He often seemed a few beats behind.
  • Interpol - High school again! Unlike Taking Back Sunday, Interpol was well aware that we only wanted to hear their first two albums, and they delivered. (But for the record, I did give their new album a listen and it's actually pretty good, especially the first half.) In my opinion, their songs sound especially nice outside--they're very atmospheric, and the sound just washes over you in waves. Whoever did their lighting design was inspired--it was gorgeous. 
  • Johnny Marr - Caught the end of his set. Never a bad day when you get to bop around to some depressing Smiths songs. "How Soon is Now" is an excellent closing number.
  • Blondie - ohmigodBlondieohmigod. I'm obsessed with Blondie--this was easily the thing I was most looking forward to all weekend. And that 73-year-old goddess Debbie Harry was perfect. I wish I were 1/10 as cool as her. She's the ultimate fuck you to people who think aging women are disposable. It was essentially a greatest hits show--"One Way or Another," "Call Me," "Rapture," "Heart of Glass," everything. But they also played a few songs off their latest album Pollinator--which is actually a great album! I have listened to it many times! So anyway Blondie is the best don't @ me.
  • Alkaline Trio - Because of course I saw Alkaline Trio, along with every other human who was a Chicagoland area teen in the early 2000s. Huge crowd. Lots of singalongs. Always fun. 
  • Father John Misty - I love Father John Misty's music, and after a lackluster third album I was super pleased with his fourth. His lyrics are so cynical, and I think if I had to hang out with him for a day I'd probably chuck something heavy at his head, but his voice is so beautiful I don't even care. I've seen him live several times--memorably on the roof of The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas--but he really outdid himself this time. When he performed his new song "Hangout at the Gallows," I was literally breathless. I lost. My breath. No breathing. Also need to congratulate whoever did his lighting design because it was phenomenal. 
I unfortunately didn't get to stay for any of the big headliners because while I would have liked to see Beck and Run the Jewels, and while Weezer is cheesy-but-fun, I have a dog to care for and also I'm an old lady. I've been living off ibuprofen all weekend. Hot pretzels and ibuprofen. 

I would like to propose a lineup of all-female headliners next year, if I may. Distillers just dropped new music for the first time in 15 years, so they'd be perfect. Couldn't we reunite Bikini Kill, too? And let's be real--Lady Gaga and Janelle Monae are punk AF. Someone should let me plan music festivals. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Vote! (from your couch)

The midterm elections are less than two months away, and I just wanted to take a quick moment to plug one of my favorite things:

Absentee voting!

Initially I voted absentee because I was literally absent. I first voted for president when I was studying abroad in Rome. Since then I've also voted from Las Vegas and The Netherlands, even though I was still registered in Illinois.

But now I prefer to vote absentee. It has two distinct advantages to regular voting:
  • I don't have to get off my lazy butt.
  • I can research the candidates while I fill out the ballot.
Admit it--at one point or another, you've walked into a voting booth and been faced with an extensive list of local officials you've never heard of before. Maybe even positions you've never heard of before! What is a comptroller anyway?! (Comptrollers do money stuff, FYI.) 

When it comes to voting, the internet is your friend. I normally just sit down on my couch, ballot at my side, computer on my lap, and I Google the candidates one by one so I can decide who I prefer. Too many candidates to handle at once? I can spread it out over a period of several days--most states only require that your ballot be postmarked by election day. 

Absentee voting makes me feel like I'm actually making informed choices. And it's so easy! The ballot comes to my door, I fill it out, I pop it in the mailbox. The end. 

The one downside? I don't get a sticker. But because I'm at my apartment, I can reward myself however I want. An "I voted today" sticker doesn't compare to "I voted today" ice cream, now does it? 

Absentee ballots are already available in many states! can help you find your local voting resources. Join me in lethargically performing your civic duty. 

Thursday, September 6, 2018


I recently joined a competitive, invite-only online trivia game called LearnedLeague.* For every weekday in the month-long season, you play against one other person in your division, and you each answer 6 questions. However, guessing the right answers doesn't always mean you win. You can see your opponent's stats, and you use those to determine which defensive points you're going to assign. For example, if you see that your opponent has never missed an art history question, and you have an art history question that day, you'd probably assign 0 points to that question so they gain nothing by answering it. These questions are incredibly difficult--on a good day I get three correct answers. One day I got five! And I still lost that day--though I was playing the highest-ranked person in my division.

But I'm not here to discuss the logistics of the game. I'm here to discuss science, and how I apparently don't know anything about it. I have missed every single science-related question since the competition began. Every. Single. One.

This is frustrating, because I thought I knew some stuff about science? Like photosynthesis! Photosynthesis is the thing where plants turn sunlight into food. Via...magic, I guess. Science is magic, right? I know that Pluto's not a planet anymore. That is definitely science. We are all made of cells and cells are very tiny. White light is actually made of many colors. Water is made of hydrogen and oxygen.

I'm no expert, obviously. But I do read a decent amount of pop science articles online, and I had to study biology and chemistry in high school like everyone else--I even took honors bio! I think the problem is that it goes in one ear and out the other. My poor friend Austin has explained the theory of relativity to me at least twice, and I just...can't remember what it means. Something about curved space-time, maybe?

The issue is not that I don't use science in my daily life. That's true, but there are loads of things I don't use in my daily life that I remember in great detail. Like the wives of King Henry VIII:

  • Catherine of Aragon (divorced)
  • Anne Boleyn (beheaded)
  • Jane Seymour (died in childbirth)
  • Anne of Cleves (divorced)
  • Catherine Howard (beheaded)
  • Catherine Parr (outlived Henry)
It's strange that I can recall the important women of Tudor England, but not the basic building blocks of life itself. 

I think I'm going to start listening to some science podcasts during my commute--maybe it will stick that way. Please comment with your favorite science trivia, and I'll try to memorize it. And wish me luck for LearnedLeague--I will most certainly need it. 

*Sorry, trivia fans--because I'm in my rookie season, I have no invites available at this time! Let me know if you're interested, though, so I can reach out later.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Becky Robison Southern Writing Retreat

First, please excuse any grammatical weirdness in this post; I think I'm coming down with something, and my brain isn't quite up to par at the moment. Basic emails are a struggle.

But I still wanted to tell you about my upcoming road trip!

Aside from a brief jaunt to Denver in June, I haven't taken any time off this summer, mostly because all my coworkers have. Meg just got back from their honeymoon, my manager has been visiting prospective colleges with her son, my other teammate was in Alaska, and now she's somewhere else? At any rate, I've been holding down the fort while they do what they need to do.

Now it's my turn.

Not now, exactly. I'll be heading out in mid-October, faithful dog at my side. Yes, Okie's coming! I'm excited to see how that goes. The main purpose of the escape is to work on my writing more diligently than I'm normally able to do with a 9-5 gig, but also to visit some places I've never been. Here's the itinerary:

  • Nashville - I'm staying about 30 minutes outside the city in a real Tiny House! There will be lots of hiking in the area for Okie to get some exercise, and it should be fairly secluded--no one to distract me. Of course, I'm planning on popping into the city as well to play tourist. Eat some barbecue, etc. 
  • Louisville - I'll be a little closer to town here, in my own apartment. My past experience of Kentucky has been limited to cabins in state/national parks, so I'm looking forward to witnessing actual human life there. 
  • Columbus - I'm ending my trip here for a friend's wedding--and staying in another Tiny House! After the wedding it's back to Chicago, with one more day off to recover. 
Because I've never been to any of these cities, I'd love to hear your recommendations! Anything I absolutely can't miss? 

Monday, August 13, 2018


So the big news in my life is I GOT AN AGENT! You probably already knew that, since I've been bubbling over with the news since it happened. I can't help it—I've been querying for months, and finally, finally, finally Zoe Sandler at ICM saw the potential in my manuscript that I always knew was there. It's extremely validating.

Also, extremely bananas. I have an agent. An agent. What? Is this real life?

[listens in earpiece] Sources tell me that it is, in fact, real life.

Anyway, I thought my fellow writer friends out there might be interested in the statistics of my querying process. It won't be the same for everyone, of course, but I found it comforting to read other people's experiences while I was querying. Hope this is comforting for you, too.

First, if you're not using QueryTracker, you're doing it wrong. It helps you to research agents (links to their Twitter feeds, Publishers Marketplace profiles, etc.), organize the agents you're planning to query, and track your progress—all for free. And because so many people use it, you can see on average how long it takes for various agents to respond. It's an amazing tool.

The other thing you should know is that I queried on average 2 agents per week. Sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on how busy I was. I had one standard letter that I used—and I worked on that letter a lot before I started querying—but I tweaked it for every agent that I queried to include information regarding why I was seeking them out specifically.

Date I started querying: 12/1/2017
Date I received offer: 7/31/2018 
Total agents added to my list: 78
Total agents queried: 75
Full manuscript requests: 9
Partial manuscript requests: 1
Rejections (not including those who initially requested manuscripts): 26
No response: 39

And out of all that, I received a single offer of representation! Fortunately for me, Zoe is the best. I know this because she and I agree that 10 Things I Hate About You is one of the finest films ever made. Also because her other clients say she's the best.

Here are some other resources I found useful while querying:
  • Writer's Digest has a "Successful Queries" column where agents and authors share the query letters that got the job done. If you're not sure how to write a query letter, this is a good place to start. 
  • When Zoe set up a call with me, I wasn't entirely sure which questions I should be asking. Happily, there are helpful lists out there—like this one from agent Jim McCarthy at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret, which I modified and used. 
Now that Zoe's on my team, she'll be compiling a list of potential editors, and hopefully we'll sell this manuscript! Which is totally surreal! Ahh! 

I'll keep you posted on major updates, as always. Thank you all for being so supportive—not everyone receives constant love and cheerleading when they decide to do "impractical" things like write a book. I'm forever grateful for your kindness. 

Monday, July 30, 2018

Plans on plans on plans

Oh, foolish Becky. So naive to think you could write a whole second novel draft this summer.

True, the summer's not over. But summer plans always seem to multiply without warning. Things I have done lately include:
  • Attending the final day of Pitchfork Music Festival. (Noname was on fire as always, Chaka Khan was freaking amazing, and Lauryn Hill actually played!) 
  • Witnessing the glory that is Ezra Furman, savior of rock'n'roll. 
  • Getting my first pedicure—not as scary as I thought it would be.
  • Going to see Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again with my parents because we're adorable. (Surprisingly good.) 
  • Going to see Sorry to Bother You. (Brilliant—it belongs in a genre all its own.) 
  • Meeting up with Leta's parents for dinner. 
  • Playing D&D. 
Things I have coming up include:
  • Joining a competitive online trivia league.
  • Reliving my teenage years at a Franz Ferdinand concert.
  • Rocking out at Riot Fest. (They lowered the ticket price to $99!)
  • Picnicking with friends for Okie's birthday. 
  • Attending my cousin's wedding.
It's too much! And on top of all that I'm trying to finish reading this French novel, and I need a haircut, and Geri's due for her 10,000-mile checkup, and Okie's still in obedience lessons, and on and on and on. 

Overall I'm glad to lead a busy life—it's better than boredom. But I would love one weekend with no plans at all. Perhaps I should just steal away to some cabin in Wisconsin with the doggo and ignore you all for a while. You know. In my spare time. 

Monday, July 16, 2018

Love Stories

A few weeks ago I saw the film Call Me By Your Name for the first time. I wasn't expecting to like it—the previews struck me as overly saccharine, and my guess was that one or both lovers would die at the end, as is virtually always the case in romantic dramas. But as it turns out, I loved it. I watched it twice in two days!

One reason I liked it so much was the kissing. Excellent kiss scenes, my friends. Truly excellent. There should be an Academy Award for making out.

But the main reason I liked it—and I had a difficult time articulating this until yesterday—is that Call Me By Your Name did upend the tropes of romantic films. It wasn't a goofy rom-com, nor was it a lovers' tragedy. (Everyone lives!) Instead, the film perfectly captured the breathless infatuation of a summer fling. And the ending was bittersweet—not exactly sad, not exactly happy. Elio and Oliver couldn't stay together past that one summer, but at least they had that one summer, and all was well.

What's more, it's a 1980s gay love story that doesn't end in AIDS DEATH AIDS DEATH! Not that we should stop talking about the AIDS crisis—it's an important part of our history (all of our history, not just queer history), and it deserves attention. But so many movies that feature gay romances end in tragedy. It was wonderful to see one that didn't. Gay people are allowed to have happy relationships, too.

I'm not sure I've ever seen another film that was such a love story, pure and simple. Regardless of the couple's sexuality, most movies that address love seriously tend to end in death, and those that don't end in death tend to be romantic comedies. I enjoy lots of romantic comedies, but they're not the same. Rom-coms are about intrigues and misunderstandings; they're not about love itself.

So now I'm on a quest: does anyone know of other movies that are genuine love stories and are neither tragic nor comedic? Let's just say I'm feeling sentimental these days.

Monday, July 9, 2018


On Thursday night I went to see my personal Lord and Savior/girlfriend Janelle Monáe perform at The Chicago Theatre. It was everything I wanted it to be. I'm obsessed with her newest album Dirty Computer, and she performed literally every single song on that album, in addition to several bangers from her previous albums. I love that she is essentially Prince/Michael Jackson/David Bowie/Stevie Wonder/James Brown all rolled into one, but better because she is a woman. Though she's popular, she doesn't get as much credit as she deserves, and I'm sure it's because she's female. Case in point: Childish Gambino is a "genius" for one song about the state of America, whereas Janelle Monáe is not, even though she wrote an entire album about the state of America and simultaneously released a 40-minute movie to go with it.* Not that "This Is America" isn't a genius song and video. It's just that Janelle is a genius, too!

Putting aside the genius discussion (she's a genius), I feel it is important to note that THE VAGINA PANTS ARE REAL AND I SAW THEM WITH MY OWN EYES. #blessed

I've never seen The Chicago Theatre so riled up. Initially I was disappointed that they decided to hold the concert there, simply because rows and rows of chairs don't make for good dancing. Fortunately, the entire audience disregarded those chairs and danced anyway. We were all soaked in sweat by the time we left--I didn't know such a large venue could get so hot. It was the best queer anti-Trump dance party in the entire world.

Which brings me to my next point: I really miss dancing. I gave up my legendary, semi-professional, 1960s-style gogo dancing career to move to Vegas and become a writer, and now I live in a third-floor walk-up. I suspect my neighbors wouldn't appreciate me stomping on the squeaky wood floor--I feel pretty bad when I fall over doing yoga. I'm not sure how viable taking a class would be; it sucks to leave my dog home alone all day and then leave her home alone all night again.

But I do miss it. Gogo always made me feel sexy and fun and confident. While I still feel fairly confident, I feel way less sexy and fun these days.

What is the opposite of sexy? A sexless blob? I feel kind of like a sexless blob.

Which isn't to suggest that I'm not strong. I go running all the time. But running is not sexy, nor is it fun. Honestly, it's kind of annoying. I'd give it up if it weren't a quick, efficient, and free way to burn calories.

Any dancers out there? How do you squeeze it in? Do you have to stay up late on weekends? I'm not sure I can do that anymore--I'm a sexless blob of an old lady. Unless you're Janelle Monáe--I'll do anything for Janelle.

*The Childish Gambino vs. Janelle Monáe "genius" discussion is not my original thought. I saw it on Twitter, and no matter how hard I search, I can't seem to find the original Tweet now. My apologies to the smart person whose idea I'm citing.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Summer 2018 Playlist: Annotated

It's finally summer, so the playlist is heeeeeere! The weather's been somewhat strange lately--lots of rain, the Midwest's very own monsoon season. The temperature keeps soaring into the 90s, then plunging back into the low 70s. I think this playlist reflects those highs and lows.

1. "Paint Yo'nails," White Mystery: Whenever summer rolls around, I'm always happy to listen to White Mystery, one of Chicago's finest garage rock bands. Thought I'd kick this playlist off with a straightforward retro jam.

2. "Plastic Skeletons," Jealous of the Birds: Found this song on my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist a few weeks ago, and I was obsessed. It also starts out with a garage vibe, but the chorus moves into more of a punk sound. 

3. "Out Of," Cuesta Loeb: This is an artist who keeps popping up for me on Spotify, and I always like her songs, but she only ever releases singles? Why no album?! Want!! I feel like this song would be on the Twin Peaks soundtrack if Twin Peaks were a sunny, happy show. It's like alternate universe Twin Peaks

4. "Cheated Hearts," Yeah Yeah Yeahs: I've been listening to lots of Yeah Yeah Yeahs while running lately, because apparently cardio exercise + gloomy weather = Yeah Yeah Yeahs in my brain. I decided to include this classic because it's endlessly magnificent. 

5. "Run to Your Mama," Goat: Last fall I listened to a great podcast about the mafia in Providence, Rhode Island called Crimetown. This was the theme song. At the time I thought to myself, "This song is going on my summer mix." I made it happen.

6. "Lifeboats (Freestyle)," Jorja Smith: I first encountered Jorja Smith on the Black Panther soundtrack, but this pretty little song is off her new album. Her voice is amazing. Cutest British accent ever.

7. "Pynk," Janelle Monaé featuring Grimes: As many of you know, I am madly in love with Janelle Monaé, and have been for years, and her new album is the best, and I'm putting songs from it on all of my playlists for the foreseeable future. Now go watch her Dirty Computer movie. I want to join the roving gang of Bowies.

8. "Be Careful," Cardi B: This is the summer of Cardi B, so I felt she ought to be included. Or maybe last summer was the summer of Cardi B? At any rate, it's the first summer after she dropped her full length album. I like this song.

9. "The Pact (I'll Be Your Fever)," Villagers: Because what goes better with Cardi B than Irish folk music? Initially I wanted this song to be a coda on the entire playlist, but I had to put the Mountain Goats at the end because SOME PEOPLE like to leave a whole minute of silence on the end of their recordings. I think it works here, though. Something about the bouncy bass part even seems to mimic the music in "Be Careful" to a certain extent.

10. "Big One," Madeline Kenney: This is another one that Spotify handed to me on a Discover Weekly playlist. The first line is "my other car is your face," so that means it's my new favorite song.

11. "Not Abel," Hop Along: The perfect song for when you want a folk punk waltz with a Bjork-esque vocal line that somehow ends in 4/4 time.

12. "If You Could Know," Shannon and The Clams: Bringing back the garage/surf vibe with one from Shannon and The Clams' latest album. I saw them once in Vegas on what was potentially a date? It was unclear.

13. "Cardboard Castles," Dengue Fever: I can't remember who it was, but someone pointed me to the band Dengue Fever when I was traveling around Cambodia, because their lead singer is Cambodian. Thanks, whoever it was! I like this band--another with the retro surf sound.

14. "Sticky," Ravyn Lenae: Ravyn Lenae is great and I'm going to see her at Pitchfork in July! I felt that the organ in this song followed the previous song well.

15. "deep end," Lykke Li: I was disappointed in Lykke Li's new album. It was nothing like her previous album, which was more like sad-sad-sad-pop-folk, and while I typically have no problem with artists experimenting, it was jarring in this case. However, I kind of like this one.

16. "Date Night," Father John Misty: Unlike Lykke Li, I am *so pleased* with Father John Misty's newest album! It reminds me more of his first. There were lots of good songs I could have picked, but this one seemed summery, and also bitter AF, as is his wont.

17. "Everything is Everything," Ms. Lauryn Hill: I am also going to see Ms. Lauryn Hill at Pitchfork! I'll get to relive my childhood! Assuming she shows up! This song is a classic. Duh.

18. "Nobody," Three Dog Night: This was a later addition to the playlist. I was listening to my dad's old copy of Golden Biscuits on vinyl (the 70s were a special time), and it just seemed to fit. So joyful.

19. "We All Die Young," The Decemberists: Though all the songs on I'll Be Your Girl sound like they belong on separate albums, they're still good songs individually, and this one is no exception. It's very glam, like The Decemberists do Gary Glitter. Minus the serious criminal charges, I hope.

20. "Absolute Lithops Effect," Mountain Goats: In May I was fortunate enough to see Mountain Goats perform an acoustic show at Old Town School of Folk music. I've seen them several times, but never so raw. It was delightful. I love this song because it's hopeful, and I think we all need a little hope this summer. 

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Rest and Relaxation

I just returned from a trip to Denver to visit my lovely Letakins. Aside from my return travel—40 minute train delay due to lost power, 6 hour flight delay due to weather—it was a calm, stress-free vacation. I'd forgotten how to relax!

We went to a fun but poorly attended Motown dance party. We read books outside in the park. We took Denver Pride by storm. We strolled through the botanic gardens. We ate all the food. All the food.

We watched movies! I hardly ever watch movies anymore!
  • The 2001 Josie & the Pussycats film totally holds up.
  • Love, Simon is freaking adorable.
  • Ever After is just as delightful as it was 20 years ago. (oh god.) 
  • Empire Records is still in my top 3 films of all time. What's with today today? 
We also powered through several episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. That show is never not funny. Its writers deserve every award under the sun. 


It was glorious.

Considering how awful the news has been lately (here are some scripts for calling your senators and representatives post-executive-order-which-doesn't-help-anything), it was nice to get away from the office and other responsibilities. Missed my dog, though. We were very happy to see each other when I finally did get home at nearly midnight on Tuesday.

I should take vacations more often. 

Monday, June 11, 2018

A Bookish Sunday

Yesterday I got my butt out of bed, dug my wrinkled raincoat out of the closet, and took the L downtown to make my mostly-annual visit to the Printers Row Lit Fest.

It really was miserable outside, but fortunately, the events I came to see were both inside. First I went to see Jac Jemc (author of the ambitious and ultra creepy The Grip of It) and Augustus Rose (author of The Readymade Thief, which I have not read) speak about their work. The tickets said the conversation was supposed to be an hour, but it ended up being only a half hour, which was too bad. On the other hand, it was a small crowd, so I was able to actually speak with both authors. And I got a lot of compliments on my passport stamp tattoo sleeve. [insert painting nails emoji here]

Later I went to a performance celebrating a new Black Girl Magic poetry anthology, hosted by none other than the *freaking amazing* Jamila Woods (listen to her music immediately), with performances by several other brilliant artists including E'mon Lauren, Britteney Black Rose Kapri, Eve Ewing and more. Not to mention DJ Ca$h Era who brought all the best 90s jams. Mind blown. [insert explosion emoji here]

I also bought lots of books, because who do you think I even am? Of course I bought books.
  • The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 2: Black Girl Magic, edited by Mahogany L. Browne, Idrissa Simmonds, & Jamila Woods - Picked this one up before I saw the show. Excited AF.
  • Mammother by Zachary Schomburg - I almost always pick up a book from local press Featherproof when I'm at Lit Fest, and I've heard good things about this one. 
  • Boring Boring Boring Boring Boring Boring Boring by Zach Plague - One reason I always buy from Featherproof is that they have good deals. Got this one for free. 
  • The Readymade Thief by Augustus Rose - After seeing him speak, I thought his novel sounded wonderfully weird. I also felt bad that most people were there to see Jac Jemc instead of him. I'd hope that someone would do the same for me. 
  • Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky - I've been wanting to read this one for a while, but I haven't been able to find a paperback copy. Thanks, Sandmeyer's Bookstore
For a while I'd been trying not to buy any new books, since I already own so many I haven't read. Hence The Backlog. But here's the thing: thanks to the corporate job, I have the money to buy books. And independent booksellers need money. If my purchase helps a nice bookstore to stay open another day, I'm happy, even if I never find time to read the book.

Literary good citizenship, y'all. Literary good citizenship.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Red Wine, Success!

My title has very little to do with the actual content of this post; it's just a Cold War Kids song from several years ago that I suddenly remembered liking. It may have utterly depressing lyrics for all I know. Though I'm a writer, I am terrible at listening to lyrics. I listen to The Smiths when I'm in a good mood because their melodies are so goddamn chipper.

Anyway, it's the "success" part I wanted to bring to your attention. Last week I tweeted about how I'd been having trouble writing lately, and I asked for good vibes to help me push through the block.

And boy oh boy did y'all come through.

Not only did I edit multiple stories last week, but I also started a completely new one. The idea just popped into my head. Who needs a muse when you have supportive friends? Thank you, thank you, thank you.

In other writing-related news, I've had three flash stories published this month!
Pleased as punch that all of these weird little stories found such good homes. (Can you tell I submitted a bunch of stories to magazines at once?) Just this week I've also had two more agents request full copies of my manuscript, which is obviously exciting. It had seemed like things were tapering off, despite my continued queries, so I'm glad to know my baby book has not been forgotten. 

I truly can't thank you all enough for being supportive of my writing. Because I don't get paid to do it, it can feel unreal sometimes, like the world views it as a cute hobby--whereas in my head, my corporate job is just some random thing I do to pay the bills so I can get home to my real work. It feels wonderful to know that you care about my writing, and that you want me to keep doing it. 

Let me pay forward some of that love. We just published our #SplitLipFAM round-up for the month of May, so you can check out that list for a TON of amazing stories and poems. I especially recommend Dorothy Chan's poetry, Robert James Russell's illustrated nonfiction pieces, sally burnette's story and Marianne Chan's poems. Split Lip is also currently looking for fiction readers, so if you're interested in pulling some gems out of the slush with us, fill out this application.

<3 <3 <3

Monday, May 21, 2018

Unconditional Love

I've always said that I prefer dogs to cats because dogs show their owners constant, unconditional love. When you get home, dogs are waiting at the door, ready to throw themselves at you. Cats, on the other hand, hide away in whatever nook or cranny they can find, and only seek out attention when you're busy with something else.

It wasn't until I adopted a dog, however, that I realized how terrifying unconditional love can be.

My initial assessment was more true than I realized; Okie does give me total, adoring, unconditional love, no matter what. I brought her home from the shelter one day and she was in love. Period.

And now there's this little, semi-helpless creature depending on me at all times. She loves me when I'm frustrated, or when I'm ignoring her because I'm trying to finish something. She loves me when I don't let her chase squirrels.

It makes me feel inadequate. Don't get me wrong--I freaking love my dog. I am convinced that she is the cutest creature ever to grace the planet. And I know that I completely lucked out in terms of shelter dogs, too. She's trusting, she hardly ever chews anything she's not supposed to, and she has never once had an accident inside.

But I feel inadequate because I'm afraid that I don't love her as much as she loves me. I wouldn't die without her, obviously. And sometimes I get so exasperated that she barks at the door when she hears the neighbors. I realize that this is completely normal dog behavior, but I'm afraid she's going to get us evicted. Completely normal dog behavior doesn't always work when you're living in a third floor walk-up. In those moments, though, I'm always more frustrated with myself, that I can't train her not to bark no matter what technique I try.

I feel like I don't deserve her unconditional love, that I'm not worthy of it. I worry that I'm not a good enough dog-mom, that she needs more from me than I can give. (Not that I wouldn't try to give it, just that I wouldn't have the physical/temporal/emotional capacity.)

Yes, I realize that this is the most "me" thing ever. I am well aware that I have major guilt issues.

But I also think that these particular feelings may be so strong because society doesn't do a good job letting people express stress about pets? Just like human babies, they're supposed to be little bundles of joy. And I knew that taking care of Okie would be hard work, but the hard work isn't what I expected. It's not really all that hard to take her outside when she needs to go, or to feed her. But it is hard to take my laundry down to the basement knowing that she might knock down the kitchen gate trying to get to me, and writing is hard when she interrupts me seven times to bark at the neighbors and I have to direct her away from the door over and over again.

It's hard knowing that she wants and/or needs my constant attention, and I can only give her a percentage. I wish I had a roommate or a live-in partner to pick up the inevitable slack.

Don't worry--I'm not even remotely considering giving her up. For me that's a barely forgivable offense. Pets are family, and should only be returned to a shelter under the direst of circumstances. And overall things are great. She is, as I often tell her, my love-bucket. (I have no idea where this nickname came from.)

But hey, pets are stressful. Are your pets stressful? Why don't we ever talk about how stressful our pets are? Why don't we ever talk about how unconditional love is so sublime?

Monday, May 7, 2018

A God Thing

This weekend my sister Molly and I had what we dubbed a Cultured Weekend of Theater (CWOT).

On Friday night we went to see Future Echoes at The Den Theatre, directed by none other than BFFL Meg McGrath. Meg made sure to seat us in the "scary seats," so that bloodied, wheezing actors slithered over our feet to crawl onto the stage. Delightful.

If you want to see an ambitious play, Future Echoes is for you. Everything about it is formidable, from the physics-heavy script to the open set design. Bring your brains along--you'll have to do a lot of thinking. Also, you may very well get stage blood on you! I recommend it.

On Saturday we went to a matinee of Jesus Christ Superstar at the Lyric Opera, and HOLY MOLY did it blow my mind. I would honestly rank it in the top 10 productions I've ever seen in my life. The set design was really cool--the orchestra was sitting in two different places on the stage, one half atop a platform and one half tucked into the trees (yeah, there were trees), so the conductor had to lead the musicians via video screens attached to the balcony. The performers were phenomenal--I can't get their voices out of my head. The guy who played Jesus actually got a standing ovation in the middle of the show for "Gethsemane" because it was that good. And they made some bizarre directorial choices that I loved. Herod especially was brilliant--the actor played him as a demented, violent (but fabulous!) drag queen in a diaper. Sort of like Caligula on steroids? But he somehow made that ridiculous song scary, which was a first for me.

The whole production was a much darker interpretation of the musical than I normally see, but I loved it. It's in Chicago until May 20th, so if you get the chance, you should go, despite the cost. Totally worth it. In the meantime, I'll be searching desperately for a cast recording.

During intermission I was talking with Molly about my second novel (it's still in the very early stages--don't get too excited). Though it's completely different from my first, the plot still involves religion to an extent. Molly said people were going to think that I had a "God thing."

But I do have a God thing, even though I'm not involved with organized religion at all anymore. There are two obvious reasons for this:
  • Residual effects from years of Catholic schooling
  • I'm agnostic, not atheist 
More than that, though, I simply think the concept of faith is interesting. People often make serious decisions based on no empirical evidence whatsoever--only the conviction that their beliefs are the correct beliefs. And it's not just traditionally religious people. Most people have faith in something intangible, even if it's not a god. That's why religion and God seem like universal themes to me, even if religion isn't universal. Faith is. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Pure Talent

As you may have noticed, I have been bad about blogging this month. While I've been busy at work, I've also been moody lately--though I am feeling somewhat better now that we've had multiple sunny days in a row. I should get one of those natural light lamps.

At any rate, I was going to write another moody feelings post, but then I decided f*** that. I'm going to tell you about my talented friends instead. 

One reason I love working for Split Lip is that I now have a whole new network of writing comrades. Not only can I share work with them, but also they just get it. When you're a writer, it's really important to surround yourself with people who get it. Writing and submitting is a weird, exhausting, exhilarating process, and it's hard to go it alone.

Recently several of my Split Lip friends have had some great successes. Get ready to add to your reading list:
  • Amy Rossi is Split Lip's hair metal-loving Managing Editor, and she is truly one of the most delightful people I have ever met. She's also a phenomenal writer. Check out her latest in Wigleaf, a witch story for the #metoo movement called "What's Done Is Mine." 
  • Maureen Langloss is Split Lip's Flash Editor, and I love how kind and positive she is. Anytime I express an even remotely negative thought on Twitter, she's right there with support. Historical flash fiction isn't something I see that often, but Maureen crushes it with her piece "La Rabida Heart Sanitarium, 1954" in The Sonora Review. 
  • Marianne Chan is Split Lip's Poetry Editor, and she was also in my MFA program at UNLV, so I've known her for quite some time. She is clever and funny--a force to be reckoned with. And I think she might be magic, because she always finds the best poems I've ever read for the magazine. This month her poem "When the Man at the Party Said He Wanted to Own a Filipino" was featured on The Rumpus for National Poetry Month.
  • Katie Flynn is our wonderful Fiction Editor. I love when she critiques my stories in our editor workshop--she has such rare insight into character and structure. Not only did her piece "A History That Brings Me to You" win second place in The Masters Review's Winter Short Story Awards, but she also was just named a Steinbeck Fellow at San Jose State University, which means she gets a whole bunch of money just to write stuff. Can't wait to see all the new work she'll be able to produce.
  • Kaitlyn Andrews-Rice is our fearless Editor-in-Chief. She has boundless energy, and the magazine has come so far in so little time thanks to her leadership. She writes addictively voicey fiction. One of her newest pieces is in the Spring issue of Copper Nickel.
But wait! There's more! I have loads of non-Split Lip friends who are also being spectacularly awesome these days. 
  • Timea Sipos joined my MFA program when I was in my final year, and I wish I could have spent more time in workshops and other classes with her. She is a good writer and a sharp cookie. She's published several translations, but you can read her original story "What They Call It" in Juked. 
  • Speaking of Juked, my friend Maegan Poland has a story in their newest print issue. She also just got her PhD, so perhaps I should say Doctor Meagan Poland. 
  • A few years back my dearest friend Leta Keane started at Turing School in Denver to learn coding. She got so good at it that they asked her back to teach front-end development (developing? computer stuff?), and this summer she's leading a workshop at the DinosaurJS conference
  • In Chicago? Like gore? Other dearest friend Meg McGrath (Norine McGrath to you theater geeks) is directing a world-premiere play called Future Echoes. It opens THIS WEEKEND, so you should probably get tickets right now. 
I only associate with the most accomplished people, so I've probably missed some on this list. Even so, I hope you all admire my good taste in friends and check out their work. 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Smear Appreciation Post

I am happy to report that Leta came to visit this past weekend, so it was All Smear All the Time.*

We mostly stayed in our pajamas and ate food. But we also went shopping at some thrift stores and dancing at a 90's party.

I am so, so, so lucky to have had these friends for so long, and to know that I'll continue to have them. Even if all my other support networks failed, the Smear wouldn't. Couldn't! It's unbreakable.

I am not sure how people survive without lifelong best friends.

Love you, M&M&L.

(And HBD, Leta!)

*The Smear of Brain is a friendship group whose inception dates to 1990, when my baby sister Molly was born. Meg came along a few years after that in the second grade, and Leta at the neighborhood block party when we were eleven. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Spring 2018 Playlist: Annotated

Spring is such a strange time of year--it might be my least favorite season? It's difficult for me to ping-pong between exhausted cold and hopeful warmth and gloomy wet. On the other hand, my Spring listening ends up being pretty eclectic for the same reason.

Hope eclectic is something you enjoy. Here's the playlist.

1. "Linger," The Cranberries: We lost Dolores O'Riordan recently, so I knew a Cranberries song had to make the list. I know I could have gone for a deeper cut, but let's face it: "Linger" is iconic. Not only is it gorgeous, but its lyrics are universal. Everyone has felt that way at one point or another.

2. "Copper Mines," Mothers: I've been listening to a wonderful podcast lately called I Only Listen to the Mountain Goats. In theory it's a show where Welcome to Night Vale creator Joseph Fink interviews the Mountain Goats' John Darnielle about his album All Hail West Texas, one song per episode, and at the end a different artist covers the song. In reality it's more like Joseph Fink and John Darnielle talk about philosophy and politics and emotions; you don't have to listen to the Mountain Goats in order to enjoy it. Anyway, Mothers was one of the artists who covered a song, and I loved it, so I decided to check out their original music, which is also great.

3. "Color in Your Cheeks," Ibibio Sound Machine: Speaking of I Only Listen to the Mountain Goats, this is an actual cover from the show. Ibibio Sound Machine's version of the song is wonderful because you'd never guess it was a Mountain Goats song to begin with--it sounds completely different.

4. "Be the One," Dua Lipa: I'm a sucker for a good pop song. I was introduced to Dua Lipa by my friend Meg, who insisted I watch the women-supporting-other-women video for "New Rules." While "New Rules" is indeed my jam, it didn't really fit on my Spring mix, so I decided to go with "Be the One" instead. It's a little dreamier.

5. "The Same Star," Belle & Sebastian: The new Belle & Sebastian album is really hit or miss for me, but I like this one. It sounds like standard B&S at first, until you get to the middle, where it picks up a bit.

6. "Time in a Bottle," Lykke Li: This was a last-minute addition to the playlist. I was listening to Lykke Li's 2014 album the other night since I was feeling angsty, and I decided to check if she had anything new. How delighted I was to find this cover of Jim Croce's 1973 classic "Time in a Bottle." The vintage sound matched the vintage sound of the previous track well.

7. "She," The Monkees: Since the playlist was moving in a retro direction, I figured I may as well throw in a song that's actually old. I will not apologize for my love of The Monkees. I always enjoy listening to them in the Spring.

8. "Finally," Franz Ferdinand: I often joke that I'm Franz Ferdinand's last real fan in the United States. My high school boyfriends released a new album this year, so yeah, I knew I was going to put one of the songs on my Spring playlist. To be honest, the new album isn't my favorite of theirs, but there are a few gems. The organ here matches the organ in The Monkees' song, so figured it was a good follow-up.

9. "Faded Heart," Børns: Børns is one of those artists that Spotify always tells me to listen to, so I finally decided to take them up on the offer. As usually, Spotify knows my tastes better than I do. Algorithms work, my friends. Børns makes poppy glam goodness, and "Faded Heart" is a perfect example.

10. "Home," Tune-Yards: Lots of new albums from awesome artists this year--2018 is musically blessed. I really like how this song by Tune-Yards is really ominous and ethereal at the same time. Kind of like Spring weather!

11. "Redemption," Zacari with Babes Wodumo: Everyone keeps talking about how Black Panther was the best movie ever--and I'm not disagreeing with them. But I feel like not enough people are talking about how Kendrick Lamar's soundtrack for the film is the best soundtrack ever. Sure, I'm being hyperbolic. But it's awesome. There are few songs I don't like on the soundtrack, but this one was the most Spring-like to me.

12. "Can't Get Enough of Myself," Santigold featuring BC Unidos: I've loved Santigold since she released her self-titled album in 2008. This chipper number from her 2016 album seemed like the perfect encapsulation of warm, hopeful Spring days. Plus, it's basically my anthem. I truly can't get enough of myself.

13. "I Lost My Innocence," Ezra Furman: I suspect Ezra Furman will frequently appear on all my playlists, partially because he releases music so frequently, and partially because that music is always rad. His newest album Transangelic Exodus may not be as killer as Perpetual Motion People, but I still really like it. This one is a whole lot of fun.

14. "Room," Shamir: People always think of The Killers when they try to name musicians from Las Vegas, but let's be real--Shamir is the best artist to come out of Sin City, my second home. He released this song just this year, so hopefully that means a new album is on the way. Along with the Ezra Furman song, I tried to move the playlist back in a retro direction here.

15. "Control," J.C. Brooks and the Uptown Sound: This song from J.C. Brooks' 2013 album Howl came on shuffle the other night, and I was reminded how much I love it. I felt compelled to put it on the Spring mix--though it was difficult to find a good place for it. It's a soul number, and while there are many vintage sounds on this playlist, not many of them are soul. This was the best place I could find, so I hope it works for you. It's a great song, anyway.

16. "Julia," Charly Bliss: Earlier I mentioned Joseph Fink's podcast Welcome to Night Vale. It's a fictional podcast that takes the form of a small town radio show in a world where every conspiracy theory you've ever heard of is true. Each episode when host Cecil Palmer announces the weather, it cuts to a song by a different artist. I've discovered many wonderful artists this way, and Charly Bliss is one of them. I also had a hard time placing this 90s-style grunge song, so I decided to put the two outliers together. I think it works.

17. "Getting to Me," Caroline Rose: Another great source of new artists is Spotify's Discover Weekly playlist; that's where I found Caroline Rose. Felt it was a good way to drive the playlist back in a positive, poppy direction.

18. "Childhood," Sammus: Sammus is another artist I discovered on Night Vale's weather! A PhD student/activist/rapper--what's not to love? "Childhood" is an utterly charming song.

19. "Boyish," Japanese Breakfast: I was introduced to Japanese Breakfast by my friend Marc Bannes, who also likes dreamy girl pop-rock. The strings in this song are the best transition I could find between Sammus' rap and The Decemberists' decidedly not-rap.

20. "Once in My Life," The Decemberists: I've been listening to The Decemberists since high school, but lately their albums haven't done much for me--until their most recent release. I'll Be Your Girl isn't the most cohesive album--all the songs sound like they could be from different records. But individually the songs are quite good. This one song is what I imagine The Decemberists would do if they had to write the soundtrack for a 1980s Brat Pack movie. I also think it's very similar in structure to "Linger," so it adds a nice symmetry to the playlist.

And there you have it. Managed to corral myself back into the 20-song limit. Well done, me. 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

How much does it cost to buy a camper?

I've been having a week

I mean, it's not the worst week I've ever had. But it hasn't been fun.

First I received a noise complaint about Okie on Monday. This makes me mad for several reasons:

  • You think her barking is loud for you? Try living in my apartment.
  • If you don't like the sounds that dogs make, don't live in one of the few dog-friendly buildings the city has to offer.
  • Puppy training is not an overnight process.
  • Can't you come to me first before you go to the management company? 
  • People suck.
She doesn't even bark that much! It's only when she can hear someone out in the hallway that she can't see—especially when my neighbors across the hall enter and exit. We're working on it.

I think it will be okay. I explained to the management company all the steps I was taking to train her, and they seemed satisfied with that, at least for the time being. But now I'm even more stressed out when she barks. 

Then what I thought was just stress quickly developed into a cold. Sore throat and coughing right now, but I can tell the mucus is coming. I haven't been able to properly rest or exercise much lately—having a new dog will do that to you.

I've also felt terrible about my writing—like I haven't been writing enough, and what I do write is bad. Like I'm idea-less. It doesn't help that a bunch of my writing peers just had their stories selected by Aimee Bender to appear in this year's Best Small Fictions; I was nominated, but didn't even make the finalists. Which is totally fine! My rational brain recognizes that the vast majority of nominees didn't make it, but my emotional brain is convinced that I'm the only one. And I am really proud to know these other writers—they deserve the win. 

I think I'm feeling more bummed about this than I normally would because I haven't heard much about the book these days. I've still been sending the manuscript out to agents, and three are reading it in full. Again, my rational brain recognizes that this is fantastic, but my emotional brain thinks OHMIGOD THEY HAVEN'T GOTTEN BACK TO ME YET THEY MUST HATE IT EVERYTHING IS AWFUL I AM AWFUL.


It's gotten to the point where I'm questioning all the decisions I've made in the past year or two and I'm thinking maybe I should just quit my job and buy an Airstream and live as a nomad and survive on...something? Nothing?

Not seriously, of course. 

Here's what I've decided I really need: all your good news. What's going well in your life? I want to live vicariously through you. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Mugmosas and Publix Sub Sandwiches: #AWP18 in Tampa

As you may remember, I'm the social media/marketing coordinator for Split Lip Magazine, the Sleater-Kinney of monthly online lit journals (that's my description, anyway). Despite manning the Twitter feed for almost exactly a year, however, I had never met the majority of the staff in person.

Until this weekend.

Every Spring since 2014 I've trekked across the country to the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference—Seattle, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, D.C., and now Tampa. But this year was different. For the first time, I was coming not as a student of writing, but as a publisher of writing. 

I mean, it's not like I'm ever not going to be a student of writing. But that wasn't my primary focus. 

It was amazing to meet the rest of the crew! We got along swimmingly—our virtual friendships translated perfectly into real ones. Our table at the book fair was popular AF (might have had something to do with the beverages we served in the mugs we were selling), and we hosted an offsite reading on the rooftop of Fly Bar that was ridiculously fun and more than well-attended. 

We sold a ton of our FIRST EVER PRINT ISSUE. Have you bought it? You should buy it.

Multiple people expressed their appreciation for my social media skills, which was really nice—I seriously almost ended up crying at one point. It's a lot of work, so it's lovely to hear that people are enjoying it!

I also got to see many of my MFA friends, of course. I stayed in an Airbnb with Tim and Shannon (and theoretically Timea, though she was better at staying out late than we were). I reunited with Olivia. I groggily sought out breakfast sandwiches with Dan. I saw Kayla and Brett read their work in Ybor City.

Other highlights: Alissa Nutting remembered who I was and gave me a hug. I met Brandon Taylor, brilliant writer and personal Twitter hero. I befriended the Midwestern Gothic crew. I bought a solid stack of books and a "Read More Women" tote bag.

On Sunday I drove my rental car down to Punta Gorda to visit my parents in their snowbirds' paradise. My Aunt Trish was also thereand my Aunt Patty and Uncle John showed up unexpectedly in their camper. A regular family reunion. I ate mint chocolate-chip ice cream and got a sunburn. We hopped on my dad's boat and sailed to a nearby restaurant for dinner. Later that night I soaked in their hot tub.

I had to set up all their electronics, too. Such is the plight of a Millennial.

Monday night it was back to Chicago, to my VERY EXCITED dog. While I'm enjoying puppy cuddles, I wish I could have spent more time away. Because I'm stuck in a corporate environment most days, it's a blast to get out and flaunt my creative side from time to time—blue lipstick and everything.

Monday, February 26, 2018


I adopted a dog today. She's a 1.5 year-old American Blue Heeler mix, and she's already the love of my life. Her name is Oklahoma.

Why Oklahoma? That's where she's from. She migrated from there to a clinic in Arkansas, where she got her shots, and then she traveled north to Chicago Canine Rescue, which is where I stumbled upon her. The moment I saw her picture online, I thought, "this one." The moment I met her in person, I thought, "definitely this one." 

She's fairly high-energy—enjoys long walks just about anywhere and loves to jump on people and give kisses. That said, she's been shockingly well-behaved so far. She barely makes a peep, and she doesn't beg for food. Which is to say: I piled myself a plate of food, sat at the table, and ate it, all while she sat quietly behind me. Never seen anything like it. Maybe she doesn't realize that she can eat human food? Let's hope she never figures it out. 

Only downsides are that she sheds constantly—I'll need to get a Furminator—and that she whines when I put her in her crate and leave the house because she thinks I'm never coming back. Like I could abandon that face! And those ears! 

The best ears.

It was great working with Chicago Canine Rescue; if you're so inclined, it would be cool if you threw a little cash their way. Lots of cute doggos in need. And if you're in Chicago, you can also come sign a waiver and walk their dogs! Fun and helpful. 

I also want to give a shoutout to ALIVE Rescue. I tried to adopt from them more than once, and it simply didn't work out—bad timing, not a good fit for an apartment, and so on. But they were so kind and forthcoming—I appreciated how much they wanted their dogs to find the correct home, rather than just any home. You should consider donating to them as well. 

Want more photos? Okie has her very own Instagram: @okey_dokey_okie

Want to give me dog owner/training/whatever tips? Leave a comment. I'd appreciate it. I'm a little nervous to be a dog mom! 

Monday, February 19, 2018

Birthday month continues...

As you know, my birthday requires not a mere day of celebration, but rather an entire month. It is only right and proper. And I must say, 30 is turning out to be quite an extravaganza. My friends and family are really pulling out all the stops this year.

Last Wednesday I went to see Hamilton with the parents and sister. (Technically this was a Christmas present, but I'm going to count it as a birthday present.) It was just as good as everyone says it is. Charming as hell. Even my grumpy, conservative father loved it, which is amazing considering that he normally will not deign to categorize rap as music at all. The songs are wonderful, but I feel like not enough people are freaking out about the brilliant choreography and set design. The final duel between Hamilton and Burr blew my mind. Dancer-as-bullet! A magnificent piece of theater.

Saturday night, however, was the kicker. 

A few weeks ago, my dear friend Felipe had organized a drag night for Saturday—Meg, our friends, and I enjoy turning Felipe into the gorgeous Felicia Fish from time to time. So Meg and I packed a suitcase full of ballgowns and make-up, and after a belated birthday dinner with their family, we headed over to Gena's, where the event was to take place. 


Yeah, that's right. Our friends threw us a Harry Potter-themed surprise birthday party. And because Rachel is a theater props designer, this happened: 

It was one of the most incredible things I've ever seen. I am so ridiculously, stupidly lucky to have friends like mine. Not sure what I did to deserve them. <3 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!

My hips and lower back still haven't recovered from our whirlwind birthday trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter this past weekend--but I suppose that's what turning 30 does to a body. I have no regrets, however. It was just as magical as I hoped it would be.

Meg, Marc, and I arrived at our hotel on Friday afternoon, where we were met with an impressive spread of cake, fruit, and champagne, courtesy of our generous parents. I never knew how much I needed a tacky airbrushed shirt until Marc provided Meg and I with our very own. Along with our obligatory birthday tiaras, we were ready for a night out on the town.

And by "town," I mean the Universal Studios CityWalk, full of overblown restaurants and loud pop music. We ended up eating dinner and drinking chocolate old fashioneds at the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium, which is basically a steampunk chocolate shop and eatery. We interacted with the "proprietor," who asked us about how best to land her dirigible in windy Chicago. And we made ourselves sick on sweets, as is only right and proper.

The next morning we stepped through a brick wall into Diagon Alley, where I was able to fulfill my childhood dreams. We raided the vaults of Gringotts bank, drank butterbeer and pumpkin juice at the Leaky Cauldron, and my wand chose me at Ollivanders (vine wood with a unicorn tail core, obviously). The wands they sell are equipped with bluetooth, so there are actually spots all around the park where you can do "magic." I felt somewhat bad taking a turn when there were so many little kids waiting around to try, but you know what? Little kids can deal with it. I've been waiting for my Hogwarts acceptance since I was eleven, dammit.

Speaking of Hogwarts, we had to take the Hogwarts Express from Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross Station to get there. (The Harry Potter worlds are spread between both Universal Parks--because tickets are more expensive that way, of course.) We got off the train in Hogsmeade, then walked up to the castle for another wild ride. The attention to detail is amazing--I loved the paintings of the four Hogwarts founders bickering with each other. And the roller coasters aren't really roller coasters; many of the effects are made with screens and 3D and hydraulics. The engineers who built the place must have had a field day.

I mean wizards. Wizards who built the place.

We also visited Hagrid's hut and bowed to Buckbeak the hippogriff, had another butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks, and stocked up on candy at Honeydukes--which is when I received a fraud alert asking whether I really meant to buy nearly $100 worth of chocolate in a fictional town. DON'T JUDGE ME, BANK.

After all that we were pretty tuckered out--it was a full 8-5 day of walking around and standing in lines and skipping with excitement--so we went to our hotel and soaked in the hot tub for a while. Then it was back to CityWalk for dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe (we had a coupon), where our waiter made us stand up in front of the entire restaurant and blow out the candles in our complementary ice cream sundaes.

Our flight back was at 6 a.m. on Sunday morning. Gross. The moment I returned to my apartment, I fell into bed and slept for three more hours. I then proceeded to spend the rest of the day in bed as a birthday staycation. It was glorious.

Needless to say, being back at work is kind of a bummer. But at least I have so many magical memories. Not to mention nearly $100 worth of chocolate.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Change of plans, personality...

Remember how I was supposed to head straight to Denver after a two-day turnaround post-Vegas trip? Unfortunately (on many levels), Leta got the flu. Therefore, I am not in Denver.

And quite frankly, I'm kind of happy about it? Except for the fact that I don't get to smush Letakins, of course.

Vegas was fun, but exhausting. I was with people essentially every single minute of every single day. That combined with a total lack of exercise left me feeling uncharacteristically irritable. Not at anyone or anything in particular. Just cranky as hell.

I suspect this has something to do with the fact that I live alone now, so I've been indulging my introverted side more and more. When I was young, I was extraordinarily shy. Eventually I trained myself to be extroverted, because I noticed that extroversion was generally more valued in society than introversion. I knew that, in order to get ahead, I'd have to make myself a social creature. And with a lot of hard work, I did.

I don't regret it! I would have missed out on dozens of friendships and opportunities and adventures if I'd remained as shy as I was. But after so many years of repressing my introverted self, I feel enormous relief now that I can spend more time alone. It's lovely.

And to think I was initially worried about living by myself. Those concerns stemmed from my anxiety—I thought my hypochondria might flare knowing that no one would be there to help me if something happened. But lately I've been exercising regularly and taking my medicine, so my anxiety has been fairly well-controlled. And of course, there are plenty of people around to help me. I live in an apartment building. There are two people my age and a dog just across the hall.

At any rate, I'm sad to not see Leta (send her healing thoughts!), but I'm happy I have time to recharge. Meg and I can always reschedule our Denver trip. And our birthday trip is still this coming Friday, so it's not like my wanderlust won't be sated.

For those of you keeping track of novel news: one agent requested a copy of the full manuscript.

I know.

Trying to keep my wits about me, because I'm well aware that this request is by no means a guarantee of representation. But still, it's exciting. It means I'm probably not a terrible writer. Happy dance.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

That Jetsetter Life

Remember that blog post I wrote last week about my relentless schedule? Well, it seems that schedule came back to bite me. Over the weekend my body crashed pretty hard; I felt sick, but I think I just needed rest. Spent a lot of time in bed.

But I'm glad I took the time to recover, because I'm going to need to be in good health to make it through the rest of this month. As you know, my soul is consumed by wanderlust, and it's been far too long since I took a trip. So to make up for it, I'm taking three:
  • 1/20-1/24 - Flying to Vegas for the Women's March—and to visit my friends, of course. Let's go to Stake Out. 
  • 1/26-1/31 - Meg and I are driving to Denver to visit Letakins in her new apartment. Let's drink Bhakti Chai.
  • 2/2-2/4 - Meg and I are flying to Orlando to spend our birthday at Harry Potter World. Let's turn 30. 
I'm simultaneously thrilled and exhausted just thinking about it. 

In other news, I got a kind and positive rejection for my novel the other week, which is great news—at least I know I'm not completely alienating agents with my cover letters or anything like that. And on the same day, I found out that Pithead Chapel had nominated my story "In Captivity" for Best Small Fictions 2018, which means a lot to me. I love this little flash piece, and it was rejected many times before it found a good home. Give it a read, won't you? 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Ambitious & Restless

Earlier today I exclaimed to a coworker that I am "a goddess of productivity." Which is true! I mean, every once in a while I lounge in bed and binge-watch something on Netflix like a normal person. But for the most part, I accomplish a ridiculous amount each day—even though I don't always give myself credit for it. 

For example: yesterday I got up at 6:45, got ready, drove to work, answered emails, posted a blog entry on our intranet, wrote another blog entry for our intranet, attended three meetings (one of which I ran), answered more emails, created two job aids, researched an article, answered still more emails, drove to the gym, ran for 40 minutes, lifted weights, stretched, drove home, showered and ate dinner, queried an agent, prepared the Split Lip Twitter queue for the next few days, answered personal emails, read a book, and went to bed at around midnight. 

Like I said. Ridiculous. 

I've been considering why I so frequently put myself through days like this—or rather, why I can hardly imagine having days that aren't like this. 

I'm sure it's partially due to the fact that I grew up watching my small-business-owner parents working their asses off 24/7, and therefore learned to imitate their work ethic. And I'm sure it's additionally due to the fact that I'm a neurotic, anxious mess who measures my self-worth by my accomplishments, which is really unhealthy. But at least I know it's unhealthy? 

However, lately I've been been coming to terms with the fact that I'm also ambitious. It's a trait that I didn't recognize in myself for a long time, and when I first had an inkling of it, I tried to suppress it. Proper ladies aren't supposed to be ambitious, of course—that's why female CEOs are "bossy" or "bitchy." There are a billion articles about that phenomenon, so I won't elaborate here. 

But I think the fact that we associate "ambition" with corporate careers is another reason that I failed to acknowledge my own ambition for so long. I don't think of myself as a "corporate" person—even though I now work at a major corporation. (Oh! How the tables have turned.) I've always thought of myself as more of an "artistic" person, except that it also took me forever to consider myself an artist. I'm still not sure I'm comfortable calling myself an artist. I call myself a writer now, but I have trouble identifying as an artist, though I understand that by writing, I am making art. 

It's all in the connotation, both for "ambition" and for "artistic." I think "artistic" connotes impracticality, but I'm a rather practical person. Yes, I did travel around Southeast Asia for two months with no particular agenda—but I worked remotely while I traveled and earned money. See? Practical. And I think that "artistic" can connote "ambition," but mostly for male artists. I imagine the connotation isn't there for female artists because, as I mentioned earlier, women aren't supposed to be ambitious according to the norms of our patriarchal bullshit society. 

But I can't deny it: I am an ambitious woman. I want to publish my novel. I want to publish my stories. I want to write more stories and more novels and publish those, too. I want to travel to every country on Earth. I want to try new hobbies, and when I take them on, I want to excel at them. I don't want to do anything by half measures. I want people to admire me for this. 

And that brings me to my second point. I believe that my ambition also causes me to be a restless person. Though I'm sure my wanderlust is caused in part by curiosity, I think I also just don't want to stay in one place. One place isn't good enough. I want all the places. As a restless person, I fill my day to the brim in order to avoid standing still. I can't achieve my ambitions standing still. 

I worry about my restlessness. Again, I'm not sure it's entirely healthy. But I'm also worried because our society isn't structured in a way that's conducive to restlessness. You're supposed to live somewhere, not everywhere. You're supposed to do one job, not many jobs. What if I fall in love with someone? Will the love of my life be okay with it if I just jet to Tasmania alone for a while? 

Of course, I've already determined that our society is a bullshit society. So I should just reject it, right? Easier said than done. 

Anyway, I'm not sure where I'm going with all this. It's just something I've been thinking about lately. I should head to bed now, or I won't have time to read. 

In related news, I need to become more ambitious about sleeping. 

Friday, January 5, 2018

Winter 2017/18 Playlist: Annotated

Happy New Year! Get your winter tunage right here.

1. "This Strange Effect," The Kinks: A cover of this song was on an Apple commercial during the autumn, and I think it unconsciously set the tone for most of the stuff I decided to listen to over the winter. But I didn't want to go with the version from the commercial because, you know, The Kinks rule.
2. "We Were Beautiful," Belle & Sebastian: Belle & Sebastian is one of those bands who almost never substantially changes their sound, and for some reason I'm 100% okay with that. Their newest EP is hit or miss for me, but I enjoy this one, and since they write mod-throwback music I figured they'd be a fitting follow-up to The Kinks.
3. "Venus," Television: I had a hard time placing this song, but I wanted to include it because I'm translating this French novel for fun right now (yeah, I know), and the novel mentions all these wonderful 1970s punk/glam bands that I'm now exploring in greater detail. Television is one such band.
4. "Moment," Timber Timbre: I've been listening to Timber Timbre for some years now--their song "Woman" might have to go somewhere in my top 100 songs of all time, as I never seem to get sick of it--and while their sound is always vaguely creepy, they really take it up a notch on their new album Sincerely, Future Pollution. It's like if the Twin Peaks and Stranger Things soundtracks had a baby. "Moment," however, is one of the less creepy songs on the record, and it has the same synth vibe that permeates most of my winter playlist.
5. "Strange Phenomena," Kate Bush: Kate Bush plays a major role in the French novel I'm translating, but ultimately I wanted to include her because her music is so. damn. wintery. It's as though she distilled winter into a musical genre. Also, if "synth" is one theme for this playlist, "high-pitched vocal arpeggios" is another, and Kate Bush kicks that theme off here.
6. "Oh! You Pretty Things," Lisa Hannigan: Always down for a good Bowie cover, always down for more high-pitched vocal arpeggios. I like that the cover sort of defamiliarizes the original song (strange effect indeed). Putting it here was a no-brainer.
7. "four ethers," serpentwithfeet: I've been trying to fit serpentwithfeet on my seasonal playlists all year to no avail until now. Their music is unlike anything I've ever heard before. It's like...indie opera R&B? Maybe? I suppose it's what you get when you mix a "classically trained" R&B singer with "Bjork collaborator and producer the Haxan Cloak." Make of that what you will.
8. "Pulaski," Andrew Bird: Included this song for several reasons. First, it's all about Chicago, which coincides nicely with my move back into the city. Second, my sister was kind enough to take me to see Andrew Bird at the Fourth Presbyterian last month, and I always like to add songs by artists whose concerts I've seen recently to my playlists. Third, serpentwithfeet is a hard act to follow, and only Andrew Bird could do the job.
9. "Isn't That Enough," Joan Shelley: Joan Shelley opened for Andrew Bird, so she fit logically here. It was also the only spot on the playlist where a sweet little acoustic number seemed to make sense. Her voice is gorgeous, though I find much of her recent album to be somewhat bland. This song, however, is a favorite of mine.
10. "I Wish I Didn't Miss You," Feist: Here I relied on Feist to bring the playlist from straight-up acoustic back into slightly weird territory. Still can't get enough of her album Pleasure.
11. "Audrey (Spending All My Time With You)," The Shacks: Remember that Apple commercial I mentioned earlier? The Shacks are the band who covered "This Strange Effect" in that ad. I still wanted to give them some credit for inspiring me, so I included one of their original tunes here. I think it's a nice bridge between soft mod rock and the synth the playlist moves into next.
12. "Sober," Lorde: When Lorde's new album Melodrama came out earlier this year, I didn't like it nearly as much as her first album, apart from a few songs. I don't know what happened in my brain this winter, but Melodrama finally clicked for me--I'm obsessed with it. (Except for "Supercut of Us," which still seems like a total throwaway.) I could listen to "Sober" on repeat basically forever.
13. "Prom," SZA: Let's be real--SZA easily produced the most finely-crafted album of 2017. She crushed it. There's no way I could not include her on this playlist, and the synth in "Prom" made it a natural fit.
14. "Cautious Lip," Blondie: Blondie plays the largest role in that French novel I'm translating, but as many of you know, I've been in love with Debbie Harry for years--it's one of the reasons I was so adamant about translating the novel in the first place. I decided to throw in a Blondie deep cut for good measure.
15. "Axolotl," The Veils: Here's one from the new Twin Peaks soundtrack that I couldn't find space to include in my fall playlist. It's like...dark grunge American roots rock. (Speaking of grunge, have you seen that video of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" transposed into a major key? It's hilarious.)
16. "Thumbtacks in My Marrow," Asaf Avidan: Asaf Avidan is that Israeli artist whose music I like so much that when I was in France, I traveled to Nice just to see him play a festival because he virtually never plays in the U.S. (I mean, I also had a great time in Nice otherwise. It's a lovely town.) I've been revisiting some of his albums lately, and this song seemed appropriate for winter.
17. "Second Skin," Maiah Manser: Stumbled across this song in one of my Discover Weekly playlists--thanks, Spotify! It bumps the playlist from acoustic back into another round of synth.
18. "Electric Blue," Arcade Fire: Their songs have been featured on all my other seasonal playlists this year, so why not winter, too? I saw them back in late October, and it was phenomenal--the only time I saw them before that was in high school, right after Funeral came out. This song is perfect for the playlist because it has synths AND high-pitched vocal arpeggios.
19. "Reality Check (feat. Akenya & Eryn Allen Kane)," Noname: Noname is one of the best artists to emerge from Chicago in the past few years, and I was lucky enough to see her not only in Amsterdam in 2016, but also the night before New Year's Eve last month. She is outrageously talented, and what's more, she is freaking adorable. You all should go see her live if you get the chance. She's playing Coachella this year, which is amazing.
20. "Scales," Solange: This would definitely have been on my winter playlist last year if I had made a winter playlist last year. A Seat at the Table is literally one of the best albums I've ever heard in my entire life. And this song has plenty of high-pitched vocal arpeggios, to boot.
21. "Smoking Section," St. Vincent: I don't like St. Vincent's new album as much as I'd hoped I would (or maybe it just hasn't clicked yet), but I am a fan of this song. It's like St. Vincent wrote a Lou Reed song.
22. "Pure Gold," Carl Hauck: So Carl Hauck is my sister's friend--she used to play music with him on a regular basis. And years ago, I saw him play this song at a show, and it totally bowled me over. But he didn't release a recording of it until this year, and I got very excited, and I had to include it so that you can all listen to it and become equally enthralled with it.
23. "Blackstar," David Bowie: Since we're nearing the anniversary of the death of my personal god/soulmate David Bowie, I knew that I had to include him on the playlist. It's one of the last songs he ever released, and it most definitely has a strange effect on all who hear it. It's as though he managed to include 2/3 of all musical genres in one song. Because he's a genius, through and through.
24. "I Only Have Eyes for You," The Flamingos: As much as I love "Blackstar," it seemed like a depressing way to end the playlist. So instead I went for The Flamingos' classic "I Only Have Eyes for You." It may not initially seem to fit, but you need context; my friend Scott once wrote a short story where this song was used to extremely creepy effect, to the extent that I'll never be able to entirely separate the ballad from the ominous overtones that he gave it. So if you consider the lyrics in a sinister way, I think you'll see where I was going with this.

I normally try to keep my playlists to 20 songs, but there were just too many good ones this winter! I hope you enjoy it.