The Art of Asking, Making Decisions, and Being Thankful

Published November 24, 2014 by Teresa

I had the pleasure of attending Amanda Palmer’s event for her new book, The Art of Asking, at the First Unitarian Church in Los Angeles this weekend. I’ve been looking forward to the book, which is based on her awesome TED talk, for a long time, because she espouses a view that I firmly believe in – that asking (for help, for support, for guidance, for what we want and need) isn’t audacious because it’s shameful or selfish, nor is it a sign that you are incompetent, because you can’t do things on your own; and that giving to one who asks doesn’t mean you’re being taken advantage of simply because you had the audacity to give. I was looking forward to reading this book about how Palmer’s history of asking has propelled her forward – mostly because asking has propelled me forward.

I’ve asked for job opportunities, for financial assistance, for guidance, for connections. And I believe I’ve evened out the scales by providing help in return, by paying it forward, by offering writing that people seem to find valuable for whatever reason. People seem to marvel at how easily I ask, and receive. I think it’s because 1) I never expect a “yes.” “No” is always an acceptable answer; and 2) I give freely when I’m asked for things, be they time, money, expertise, or anything else. If I have it, and can give it, it’s yours. Trades are even so long as both sides are getting something they value. The arrangement doesn’t have to make sense to any outside party.

But the event itself was about more than just the topic of asking. It was a mixture of Palmer reading excerpts from the book, playing some songs, and having an on-stage conversation with legendary music writer, Bob Lefsetz, and her “book doula,” Jamy Ian Swiss. Some highlights:

1) Palmer sang “The Bed Song” in complete darkness: I sat snuggled next to The Boy as we Had a Moment, and I realized that this song is the complete opposite of our relationship. And I’m so grateful for that. :) (Fun fact: Amanda Palmer’s music is one of the first things we bonded over when we got together, and this was the first Palmer event we’ve attended together.)

2) Massage therapist Courtney, from Seattle: in The Art of Asking, Palmer tells a story about dealing with internet hate, and how she was feeling particularly shitty about it on her birthday as she was being pilloried over the “She’s Not Paying Musicians” kerfuffle. She and her husband were in Seattle, and he booked her a massage to make her feel better. As it turns out, the massage therapist, Courtney, had written some scathing, deeply angry things about Palmer on the internet, and wasn’t going to take the appointment with Palmer at first. But she did, and she told Palmer before the massage that she wanted to be completely honest about having written things about her, and not being her biggest fan, etc, etc, giving her an out if she wanted one. But Palmer stayed, Courtney gave her a full-body massage in silence, and it was apparently a hugely healing experience for both of them. Well, Courtney was in attendance at the L.A. event, and it was cool to hear her and Palmer talk about what fuels internet anger and what can lessen it. Courtney, a singer-songwriter herself, sang a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Hey You,” which both sounded amazing and was hugely appropriate. It was a really heartwarming and inspiring moment. People can change. Wounds can heal. Relationships can be formed despite a tumultuous beginning.

3) The part about Henry David Thoreau: my favorite excerpt – the one that made me really glad I bought The Art of Asking – was the part where she humorously talks about Thoreau and the experiences that lead to his famous work, Walden, which is entirely about living living simply and independently apart from society to gain perspective on it. People hold it up as an ode to self-sufficiency while ignoring the fact that the cabin he was staying in was on a friend’s land, and that his mother and sister brought him food (including doughnuts!) every day. We wouldn’t have a book like Walden if an artist didn’t get support from a tight-knit community of people believing in him and helping him live day-to-day so that he could produce his great work.

A sweet moment I captured between Palmer and a young fan who brought her a piece of art she made.

A sweet moment I captured between Palmer and a young fan who brought her a piece of art she made.

So, what does all this have to do with me? 

The entire evening of conversation about art, asking, pursuing passions, the business of entertainment, and the place where hard work and creativity meet got all the wheels turning in my head about what I want to focus on and what I want my career/writing/life to look like in the coming year. You may have noticed that my output has been low lately. I haven’t posted much this month here at the blog, or over at Beacon. Writing-wise, I’ve been in a cocoon trying to nurture the stories I’m creating and laying low on the internet. I’ve been working on the production side on Incredible Girl. I’ve been meeting weekly w/my writing partner, Adam, to work on our hour-long pilots. I’ve met w/my writing mentor and am working on developing a project with her, and I’ve met yet another, kind writer who’s agreed to show Adam and me the ropes to the best of his ability.

What I want and need most is the freedom to pursue the projects that are most meaningful to me. I’ve been a pop culture critic for a long time, writing about all things geeky, interviewing geeky creators and actors, analyzing television and film from a feminist perspective or through the prism of race. It’s work that’s important, and that I enjoy doing. But my ultimate goal is to create stories. To write things that will eventually be criticized by other pop culture critics. To make things up for a living. :) I’ve built a name and a career on my non-fiction, and since that’s where a bulk of my money has come from, it’s what I’ve focused on. Because hey, writers gotta eat.

What I’ve been wrestling with as we approach the end of the year is starting to make decisions based on the path I want to be on, rather than the path I have to be on. I’ve built a wonderful resume writing for some amazing outlets, but I want to start being paid for the stories I create, and there’s no way for me to do that if my writing time continues to be taken up with hustling for non-fiction gigs. I want to expend my hustle energy wisely! Of course, I’ll always want to talk about representation in media, or gender equality, or activism, and it’s likely that I always will somehow, but I don’t want, nor did I ever intend for that, to be my job.

Also, there’s the matter of needing to make more money, period, than freelance writing is paying me at the moment. However, I don’t want to take a full-time job unless it’s on the path I want to be on. I’ve spent too many years working jobs that go nowhere I want to go, running in a hamster wheel in the name of practicality.

What’s funny is that, even having flown across the country to Follow My Dreams, my decisions have been based more in fear and practicality than they have been in moving forward in the career I want. And yes, I’ve built up a quality resume as a writer. Now, I want that resume to reflect more of the writing I love.

Basically, if I’m gonna have a 9-5, it’s gonna be in the industry I want. And if I’m gonna be making freelancer money, it’s damn well going to be writing stuff I love, because the stress of this kind of life is just not worth it any other way. 

I have three major goals for next year:

  1. A full-time job anywhere in the television industry (office work in any department, PA, assistant, agency – doesn’t matter. As long as it’s in the television neck of the woods).
  2. A Patreon page, so that I can earn financial support for the projects and stories I want to be creating, rather than churning out writing that has outlived its usefulness to me.
  3. Adam and me getting to know L.A. (and the television industry specifically) as a Writing Team.

All of the decisions I make from now on to be in the service of these goals. :)

Lastly, since Thanksgiving is coming up, I want to say how grateful I am to all of you reading this. To those of you who’ve already supported my writing up until this point. To those of you who’ve reached out to me at various times to tell me that, for some reason or other, something I’ve written has struck a chord with you. To those of you who’ve subscribed to me at Beacon, purchased my chapbook, bought an anthology because I was in it, written a kind blog comment, or shown your support in any way over the past few years.

I write, because I hope that, by revealing the ideas and feelings rattling around inside me, you will recognize yourself and feel less alone. I hope that my work allows communities that don’t know each other well to get to know each other and communicate better. Your support makes me feel like my work is doing what it’s supposed to do, makes me feel like my work has value – and that is amazing. Thank you so much, and I hope that I can continue to contribute to your lives in a valuable way.

More to come… :)

CHICKS DIG GAMING IS OUT TODAY!

Published November 11, 2014 by Teresa
Chicks Dig Gaming cover illustration by the squee-worthy Katy Shuttleworth.

Chicks Dig Gaming cover illustration by the squee-worthy Katy Shuttleworth.

I know, I know, I haven’t been blogging lately. Lots going on. But I had to break my involuntary radio silence to remind you that CHICKS DIG GAMING (in which I have an essay titled Who in the Hell is Carmen Sandiego?) is out TODAY from Mad Norwegian Press!

These are the same folks that brought you the Hugo-winning Chicks Dig Time Lords, the Hugo-nominated Chicks Unravel Time, Chicks Dig Comics, and Whedonistas! Chicks Dig Gaming is an amazing, diverse collection of essays about all things gaming (video, tabletop, and everything in between) by a wonderful assortment of female writers including Catherynne M. Valente, Seanan McGuire, G. Willow Wilson, and Racheline Maltese, as well as exclusive interviews with Paizo CEO Lisa Stevens and Dragonlance writer Margaret Weis.

Oh, and an essay by me. It is insane that I’m in this company. :)

If you’d like a sneak peek of my essay, check out this video of me reading from it at a DTLAB reading at Traxx at Union Station!

To read the rest of my essay, and to check out the work of all the other talented women in this collection, grab yourself a copy of Chicks Dig Gaming! Hey, it’s almost Thanksgiving, which means the winter holidays will soon be upon us…know any gamers in need of a gift? ;)

 

NEW AT BEACON: “That Person is Racist” Vs. “That Costume is Racist”

Published November 3, 2014 by Teresa

For those of you who missed it on Halloween, here’s my latest piece at Beacon! It’s about planning costume choices based on your interests AND ensuring racial and gender equality. It IS possible for White people to dress as characters or celebrities of color – but it has to be done in a very specific way. I talk about this, and other things in the piece.

EXCERPT:

As I said, racism is about a power dynamic. One group has to be superiorand another group has to be inferior. In the case of costumes, White people have the power, because there are more White characters to choose from. And that’s the case, because minorities don’t have as much representation in pop culture as they should. There are more White celebrities to choose from. And that’s the case, because it is more likely that a White person will have the advantages that will allow them to make the choices that will lead to them being a celebrity (they’re in demand to play all those White characters, for starters). 

That freedom and variety of choice is the power in this situation. And so, when people talk about costume choices as racist, it’s not to say that the White people who do this are horrible or hate minorities. It’s to say that the act of choosing to appropriate cultural garb as a “costume,” or to paint your skin black or brown, or to apply make-up to your eyes to make yourself look Japanese or Chinese perpetuates a racist society by further appropriating things that have already had a difficult time surviving to begin with. It’s racist because, even with all the freedom of choice in the world, you’re choosing to take from someone else, rather than making use of the myriad options you already have.

To read the entire post, or to comment on it, CLICK HERE!

Whether you subscribe to me at Beacon or not, you can now read all of my posts for FREE for seven days. So feel free to not only read and comment, but pass the link around! Hopefully, you’ll like what you read enough (both my work and the work of some of the other talented writers at Beacon) to subscribe to me for as little as $5/month and enjoy all that Beacon has to offer!

And if you like what you read, don’t forget to click the “Worth It” button at the bottom of the article! :) Thanks!

Nanowrimo-A-Thon! (or, Help Me Help Incredible Girl!)

Published October 31, 2014 by Teresa
A scene from the upcoming Incredible Girl teaser!

A scene from the upcoming Incredible Girl teaser!

There are two pretty big needs I have at the moment. Well, two pretty big needs OTHER than more income.

The first big need is to raise money to be able to shoot the Incredible Girl pilot. The team and I have several ideas in motion at the moment in order to accomplish this goal – but every little bit helps, right?

The other big need is my need to write prose fiction.

I’m sure many of you didn’t even know that I did that, and those of you that did have probably forgotten that I did that – or assumed I’d stopped. I haven’t. There’s one story in particular that, if I write no other prose fiction in my life, needs to be out of me and in the shape of a novel.

Given that I have these two big needs, I thought of a way to kill two birds with one stone.

Introducing THE NANOWRIMO-A-THON!

For those of you who don’t know, Nanowrimo is short for National Novel Writing Month, which happens to be the month of November. It’s a non-profit that promotes the written word, and the point of Nanowrimo itself is to take the month of November to finish a 50,000 word (about 200 pgs) novel. You might have missed the key word, so I’ll repeat it: finish. The point is to just keep writing without stopping to second-guess yourself. At the end, you might have written a load of crap…but you would’ve finished something, which is the thing that most people have trouble with. You can edit later. You can realize what’s crap later. The point is simply to finish.

I’ve never completed Nanowrimo, which has always disappointed me. You know what I have completed? 100 pages of a great webseries. :) And now, I’d like to use one endeavor to help the other.

He’s how it will work:

** 50,000 is about 200 pages. If I can get 50 people to donate $0.50/page ($100 if I finish!), I can potentially raise $5,000 for Incredible Girl (BTW – we’ve budgeted the pilot at about $15,000!) so….

THE GOAL: $5,000

** Email theteresajusinoexperience[at]gmail[dot]com with the amount you’d like to pledge per finished page. Put “NANOWRIMOTHON” in the subject.
** Starting TOMORROW, I write furiously for 30 days. Donors can check my progress at my Nanowrimo page. I’ll also be keeping you updated here!
** Hopefully, throughout November, you will SHARE THE LINK TO THIS BLOG POST to tell others about this endeavor!

** I will alert donors of their final amount, and they can go to THE NEW INCREDIBLE GIRL WEBSITE to make an online donation to Incredible Girl in that amount through our fiscal sponsor, FROM THE HEART PRODUCTIONS via PayPal. These donations are tax-deductible! (If you prefer to write a check, we can make arrangements for that via email)

That’s it! Very simple, and it will help get two original works of art out there – work that I hope will help us look at issues of gender and sexuality in a new light.

So? Wanna help me write a novel and produce a webseries? ;)

NEW AT BEACON: Saved By a Kiss: Neil Gaiman’s “The Sleeper and the Spindle”

Published October 24, 2014 by Teresa

Illustrations by Chris Riddell.

Today’s piece at Beacon discusses a new book for young readers written by one of my faves, Neil Gaiman, called The Sleeper and the Spindle.

EXCERPT:

It’s the story of a woman saving another woman, teaching that we can and should help each other, rather than compete. It’s the story of a queen who is unsure of marriage having an adventure and hoping to do something bigger with her life than just stick to the prescribed path of marriage-babies-death. It’s the story of a woman who sees something that needs doing and is capable of solving the problem herself, rather than calling the nearest man to do it. In a fairy tale setting, that’s huge, because so often, girls are taught to wait for princes.

To read the full article and/or comment on the article, CLICK HERE! That’s right! Whether you subscribe to me at Beacon or not, you can now read all of my posts for FREE for seven days. So feel free to not only read and comment, but pass the link around! Hopefully, you’ll like what you read enough (both my work and the work of some of the other talented writers at Beacon) to subscribe to me for as little as $5/month and enjoy all that Beacon has to offer!

And if you like what you read, don’t forget to click the “Worth It” button at the bottom of the article! :) Thanks!

HOTPIXEL POST: The Hot List: PAUL OSBORNE – Writer/Director/Exec. Producer of FAVOR

Published October 23, 2014 by Teresa

favor_207

It’s time for the monthly Hot List over at the HotPixel blog again! This time, I had the pleasure of interviewing the awesome Paul Osborne, writer/director/Executive Producer of the thriller, Favor, which I recently watched on Hulu, and was amazing (and slightly insane).

EXCEPT:

Favor, Osborne’s narrative feature directorial debut, explores the adage “A friend helps you move. A good friend helps you move a dead body” completely literally. Kip (Blayne Weaver) has always gotten everything he’s wanted: a thriving career, beautiful wife, and an affluent lifestyle, all of which is put in jeopardy when Abby, the waitress with whom he’s having a casual fling, is accidentally killed in their motel room. Desperate, he ends up on the doorstep of childhood friend Marvin (Patrick Day), an unemployed and divorced loser, and asks him for a massive favor: help get rid of the body. What comes next is an examination of how time and class affect relationships.

“I think we all have friends where the friendship has outlived its shelf life, but we’ve maintained them out of habit, and you have nothing in common anymore,” Osborne explains. “And I’m at an age when I remember a world before social media; where if you lost touch with a college friend, they were gone. Now, they’re around. So, people I knew from junior high are finding me on Twitter and Facebook, and I don’t really have anything in common with some of them anymore. I go on my Facebook feed, and I’ll post something and responding to it will be someone I worked with when I was twenty, a high school friend, my mom, my daughter, someone I met at a film festival, and my wife. It’s very strange. So that’s part of what I wanted to explore.”

For the full post, or to comment, CLICK HERE.

NEW AT BEACON: “ANNOUNCEMENT: New Feature at Pop Goes Teresa” (and FREE TRIALS)!

Published October 7, 2014 by Teresa

There’s a new feature up at my Pop Goes Teresa column at Beacon where you can talk TV with me and fellow Beacon readers! (not to mention a special offer below!)

EXCERPT:

Starting later today (with Gotham), I’ll be posting discussions in the Updates section of my profile (subscribers will be emailed whenever a new discussion posts). They’ll go up the day after each show airs every week, and I’ll start each discussion thread with a topic or a question to get ‘er going. This way, you can stop by and discuss the current episodes with me and your fellow Beacon readers! Look for [SHOW TITLE IN CAPS]: [Title] [date] in the list of discussions, and keep coming back to join in the chat about the shows you love! 

If you want to check out the full list of shows I’ll be writing about, you’ll have to subscribe to my work over at Beacon! Starting at only $5/month, you’ll be able to access all my pop culture criticism, as well as the work of 100+ other journalists writing about the topics you care about. Check it out! Once there, please click the “Worth It” button on the bottom of my article! (That is, if you actually like what I’ve written.)

And if you’ve been thinking about subscribing to Beacon, but you’re not sure if you’ll like it, HAVE I GOT GOOD NEWS FOR YOU! Email me at theteresajusinoexperience[at]gmail[dot]com with “BEACON TRIAL” in the subject line, and I’ll have Beacon send you a free trial to the site! If you like what the other Beacon writers and I do and think we add at least $5.00 a month’s worth of value to your life, you can subscribe after the trial! (And hey, it’d be nice if you subscribe specifically to me so that I can go on doing the work I do. Don’t worry, you’d still have access to the whole site!)

Happy reading, everyone!

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