Tag Archives: books

The Life of a Grown Ass, Improv-ing, Traveling Lady Nerd Ain’t Easy

nerd: (noun) (informal): a foolish or contemptible person who lacks social skills or is boringly studious. Synonyms: bore; a single-minded expert in a particular technical field. Synonyms: badass

nerd alert

nerd alert

Before all of this, before the improv glory and the blog fame, before I knew how to order coffee and shamelessly ask for water at bars, there was just me with a purse full of pens, and I was a nerd.

I did not realize this growing up. I didn’t think I was cool, but I certainly did not consider myself of the nerdly sort. There were, however, blatant clues that I missed, like the fact I listened to The Lord of the Rings soundtrack on repeat for much of my senior year of high school and tried to write a poem about track 17.

And now, years after high school, I’ve matured into a full fledged traveling, improv-ing grown-ass lady nerd, which pretty much means I do what I want and don’t give a s****j.

Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you’ve also felt the pull of the bookshelves at a friend’s house and spent 30 minutes perusing, and also using the word perusing in your head. Maybe your first destination in most cities is the public library or a museum. Maybe you read academic articles for fun and enjoy wordplay. Maybe you also relish finding used bookstores on your travels and then sit and enjoy a cup of coffee with your new book. Secretly, however, you’re peeking over the top of its pages and imagining a life with the man on the other side of the cafe who has a very ironic mustache and is reading something by Alice Munro.

Maybe you’re him. Maybe you’re that man. Are you that man? Is it you? Do you like the book Dear Life? I almost read that one, but I went against it for Empire Falls. Did I make the right decision? Should we be together forever? Oh oops, I haven’t even introduced myself. I’m Emily and you’re….

No, tell me your name! I mean, you’re clearly smart, funny, attractive, well-kempt, good-smelling, and you like reading, so just tell me your name. We have so much in common let’s grow old together! Wait – where are you going? Come back! I love you! No don’t leave me here!

(sits down in silence)

Being a traveling, improv-ing, grown-ass lady nerd might not get all the men. But it will get at least one. Eventually. Good thing I have my tennis shoes on. All the better for chasing you down with, my pretty.

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Sage Advice for Young Writers and Bloggers

Renee of Life in the Boomer Lane is a former hula hoop champion and a writer that keeps a hilarious blog, one of those blogs vampire blogs wish they could suck dry. Recently I asked her to write something for Snotting Black on the advice she would give to a 23-year-old wanting to be a writer or a blogger. She graciously agreed and sent me a really beautiful piece that I found touching, informative, and jealousy-inducing because of its depth and wittiness. May it invoke similarly complicated responses in all of you.

I’m not worthy.

Sage Advice for Young Writers and Bloggers

The first thing I did when Emily asked me to guest write a post for her blog was to be amazed that anyone would want to take such a risk.  The second was to look at the topic: what I would tell a 23-year-old who wanted to be a writer or a blogger.  I did a quick calculation and discovered that in the intervening decades between age 23 and where I am now, I have lost approximately  239 lbs and gained approximately 259. My hair has changed color and style 41 times, and my bra size has gone from 34B to 34D. My shoe size and hat size have remained constant, but my height has decreased by 1.5 inches.  Two husbands appeared, but not at the same time. Small beings in my immediate vicinity have appeared, gotten larger, and eventually disappeared. One has now produced two small beings of her own, thereby assuring me that in the distant future, after I am gone, someone will look at photos of me and wonder why people looked so funny back then.

Writingwise, the decades have contained fiction and non-fiction, some self-published, some published by others.  A couple contests were won. A short story was read on NPR.  Many rejections were collected. A blog was started a little over two years ago.  None of my writing has made me famous, and very little of it has made me any money at all.  All of it seemed of value when originally written, but not all of it withstood the test of time.

So, back to the topic: What would I tell a 23-year-old now, about wanting to be a writer and/or a blogger?

The good news is that you are coming of age at a time in which anyone has easy access to self-publishing.  The bad news is that you are coming of age at a time in which anyone has easy access to self-publishing.  Chances are overwhelming that the only way you will see your work in print will be because you put it there, not because you are discovered.  Chances are also overwhelming that you won’t get paid for what you write.  There are way too many writers out there, really good writers, happily giving their words away.

Most people who are currently successful in publishing are online.  Print magazine subscriptions are plummeting, while Huff/Post is thriving.  The Kindle has passed the vibrator as the #1 sex toy for women.  So throw out your dildos, and whatever you do, do it online.

Just because you have a passion to write doesn’t mean that the world is waiting for your words. They are too busy stockpiling water for the Armageddon or watching Bachelor Pad 2 or standing in line for the next iPhone.  Whether you have a publisher or not, the only person who will market your book is you. If you don’t create a demand for your book, there will be none.

The easiest way for a literary agent to assess the quality of your work is to ignore it.  Literary agencies throw unread manuscripts into large boxes and anyone who has time on their hands can take free reading home.  Few people do. If you want someone to actually read what you submit, you are going to have to be very creative and very diligent. In other words, you are going to have to do more than send out query letters.

Like book writing, people aren’t waiting for your blog posts, either. Building up a blog readership can be ridiculously time consuming, and, just when you are patting yourself on the back over having 1000 followers, you discover someone who has 10,000 or 100,000 followers and they aren’t famous, either.

Freshly Pressed is like a one night stand.  A hot one night stand, yes.  A one night stand that will make you shriek and rock you to your toes and back again. But it won’t last longer than that.  You won’t be able to take it home to introduce it to your parents.  It might ask you out again for more one night stands, but on subsequent romps, no matter how spectacular, some part of you will know the deal.  You will know that in the morning, you’ll be alone again, and Freshly Pressed will be gone, off to fondle another blogger.

The bottom line is that you won’t listen to any of this because you really, really believe in the depths of your soul that you have what it takes to be a writer.  You believe that what you write will be the next Big Thing.  You believe that the world will take a texting break in order to read what you have written.  And thank goodness for that.  Because after the marriage and the mortgage and the mayhem of child rearing, you might set the writing aside, in favor of more pedestrian pursuits.  And that would be a shame.  Because you might have been the one to beat the system.

P.S. from Snotting Black: Isn’t she great? Visit her blog! Give her a high-five!

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The Job I Want

What I would wear as a professional square dancer, sans backpack

I just finished the book my mom had forced me upon me in an attempt to help mold my ethereal career path. It was a book called Quitter, in which Jon Acuff outlines the process of chasing, catching, and devouring your dream career. Aside from the fact that the book was casually written and could have used a good edit—this coming from a girl who is the published author of nothing—I found its advice helpful.

I am certain, however, that much like Plato in The Republic, Jon Acuff was advocating the opposite of what he stated directly. He encouraged people to be smart, evaluate risks, and continue working hard at one’s day job, all of which I interpreted as, “Follow your impulses, throw caution to the wind, and treat your co-workers like crap and your current job like the joke it is*.”

That brings me to my next point: skinny jeans.

I was astonished when I finished the book and found that Acuff had not addressed wardrobe renewal. Since wardrobe is the most important part of a career and because of “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have*,” I decided to update my wardrobe to match my dream of moving to San Francisco and being an indigent writer.

In a bold first move, I purchased a pair of dark skinny jeans. This inaugural pair of denim marks my transition from the oh-so-square world of boot leg and flare jeans to the hip, edgy, sub-world of skinny pants wearers. For years I have resisted this trend, and finally I realized that it was obstinacy in the denim department that was holding back my writing career.

As I wear these skinny jeans and they slowly age, fading, fuzzing, and developing holes in various places, I will not be able to replace them because I will be poor. These might very well be the only pair of skinny jeans that I will be able to afford for the next 5-7 years. However, the ragged appearance will only add to my credibility as an author and therefore this is a great investment.

In addition to the skinny jeans, I should also make improvements in other areas such as hair symmetry. My hair style is currently symmetrical, or rather, boring as all hell. Since hair-dos are the cherries on clothing sundaes, I will need to edge it up by going asymmetrical and highlighting its asymmetry with neon. This will, of course, be accompanied by a nose ring instead of a nose stud. I’ll know I’ve hit the mark when I get at least one or two blatant gasps out of my grandparents.

Final touches will include tattoos I can’t afford and a tube top, though I’m not sure if indigent writers wear those or not. More research is necessary. I also can’t decide if smoke-stained teeth are mandatory or merely a plus, but I’ll be sure to learn more after my initial visit to the West Coast in a few weeks.

Thanks for the career book, Mom! Can’t wait to go shopping! Can I borrow some money?

*Joke semi-borrowed from Parks and Recreation, a wonderful show

*Just to be clear, he doesn’t recommend those things, and the book  is actually good.

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The day’s adventure: a glimpse of heaven, crushing disappointment

Thanks to years of  being subjected to family scorn, I am overcome with self loathing whenever I wake up past 8am regardless of how late I went to bed the night before. I could have run a 5 hour midnight marathon and woken up at 10:30am, and my family would still say upon seeing me with my marathon trophy, “You just got up?”  Thus, as I transition to a more Ramadan-appropriate slumber regime, sleeping at 4am and getting up at 12 pm, the first thing I feel upon awaking is a sense of shame, followed quickly by righteous indignation. “I didn’t even go to bed until 4 am and I got exactly 8 hours of sleep so there is nothing wrong with this. NOTHING WRONG. I’M NOT CRAZY.” Before I even drink my morning nescafe and peruse the morning internet, I’ve experienced a veritable roller coaster of self-blame and justification. My family has clearly taught me well; I look forward to imparting a similar sense of self-loathing to my own children.

After this train wreck, I pulled myself together and then made the mistake of sitting in my living room for four hours straight as I planned my upcoming Italian vacation. This was a poor decision since my living room is generally an unbearable place, filled at all times with stale air, heat, and gaudy furniture. When we removed the heat element through the wonder of air conditioning in addition to closed windows, we were left with a new evil: florescent lights. As I lingered in the harshly lit cave, clicking through endless tabs of travel advice, I found that having the fluorescent lights suck the soul from my body was equally uncomfortable as sweating through every layer of clothing I have on.

Realizing I needed some soul revival, I set out on a little errand that would take me where some sun rays could splash my pasty skin and help me remember once again what life felt like. And so I descended from the den of death and burst into the sunshine. Never had I seen Cairo more beautiful. It felt like my first spring day, even though it was near a dusty 100 degrees. I even saw several trees wither and die while I saw out, but to me everything was beautiful. While wandering around the shaded streets of Doqqi, I noticed a burst of greenery resplendent in the sunlight at the end of a street. What joy! I thought. Perhaps this is a park I didn’t know about! I saw visions of myself wearing ribbons in my hair, strolling in the park while licking lollipops and petting puppies. As I savored the possibilities of the future, I came upon the green area and found to my chagrin that it was merely a spit of weedy grass with some scraggly trees in the middle of a traffic circle. There was no park to be found here, and if I wanted to come and lick lollipops with ribbons in my hair it would be weird.

So I went home and sat in my room and read a book with the window open, suffering through the sweat so I wouldn’t have to suffer through the depths of fluorescent hell once again.

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