Excellent meeting with a guy who wants you to have his book, free.

I’m working on becoming a nonprofit slave.

I am a nonprofit slave, actually.

Running two blogs, tweeting and facebooking with intention, meeting with people, networking, hatching ideas, and doing graphic design is really more than I have time to do.  But I’m managing so far, and once we get some funding, I can hire a couple of interns to take over some of the marketing stuff.  I need some help with the marketing, the social media.  That stuff can really, really suck time.  But I’ve discovered two cool things:  Tweet Deck, and Twuffer.

I launched my StartSomeGood campaign, and this is SERIOUSLY awesome.  I am so excited about the responses I’ve had.  We’re already close to $400 on our way.  People are so warm and receptive to the idea.  I keep scoring meetings with awesome people who are well-connected, full of ideas, and who Want to Help.

One such dude: Peter Damian Bellis.  He wrote that book pictured there, and it was in the running for nomination for the National Book Award.

Click that book.  You get a free present from him.  You can read it on the train during your holiday travels.  Or read it to escape from the obligatory familial torture you’ll endure in the next few weeks.  Or maybe you can just let it junk up your hard drive till you get around to reading it.  But you should definitely grab it.  And tell all your friends, too.

Also, the book is special.  I’ve read maybe 6 total pages of it, and it’s really kind of teetering on the precipice of avant garde, I’d say.  But delicious, and it grabs you.  I’ll write more once I’ve read more.  But for now, you should read it too.  Then come back here, or go to my other blog and talk about it.

I was so freaking energized after meeting with Peter.

It’s been a long time since I had a meeting that gave me a nearly uncontrollable urge to write.  Peter reminded me to listen to myself.  To just let the writing happen.  That was a good reminder.  I’ve been so focused on ends and means lately.  Too much so.  Peter reminded me that I didn’t start to love reading because I like stories.  I started to love reading because I love language.  That’s why I started to love writing, too.

It was a great meeting.  And Peter’s going to be a terrific ally for Billtown Blue Lit.  Which, in case I didn’t mention yesterday, you can go donate by clicking here.

Guest Post: Five Failed Barbie Concepts

Marc Schuster, a PA Literary writer, will be guesting over at Billtown Blue Lit’s blog on alternating Mondays.  Here’s a delicious and funny post by him that didn’t quite fit in over there.  I’m honored to share it with you here, and hope you’ll go buy Marc’s book.


  • Grindhouse Barbie: Cool concept, but hard to fit into a pantsuit.

    Woodstock Barbie: Proposed in 1994 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Woodstock, the roll-out for this edition was to include a pink flower-power themed VW microbus. The doll was axed due to alleged licensing issues surrounding the Woodstock trademark, but rumors circulating at the time suggested that authorities had found a “sizable” bag of weed in the VW’s glove compartment.

  • Muscle Madness Barbie: Also known in some circles as ‘Roid Rage Barbie, this Barbie represents the most dramatic departure from the standard skinny waist and buxom chest that most collectors associate with the plastic fashionista. Though seven prototypes were produced by placing Barbie’s head on various Ken bodies, the idea was eventually scrapped when the US Senate escalated its investigation into the use of performance enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball.
  • Grindhouse Barbie (pictured): With the 2007 release of Grindhouse came plans for a down-and-dirty version of Barbie based on the film’s iconic heroine, Cherry. Oddly, this version of Barbie tested poorly among the target demographic not because she was missing a leg, but because children found it difficult to slip Barbie’s fashions over the machine gun.
  • Lock ‘n’ Load Barbie: When Sarah Palin was tapped to be John McCain’s running mate in 2008, Mattel jumped right on the bandwagon with this brunette version of Barbie, which came with stylish glasses, a plaid hunting jacket and cap, a rifle, and a fake-fur bear carcass. Plans for the doll were scrapped, however, with the election of Barack Obama.
  • Midlife Crisis Barbie: Although Barbie’s 50th birthday has come and gone, rumors continue to circulate that a Barbie with crow’s feet and a sagging neck is in the works. Though Mattel has not commented on this matter, the National Association of Cosmetic Surgeons is gearing up for a massive boycott. “If it’s okay for Barbie to get older, then what does that say to women throughout the world?” said one surgeon on the condition of anonymity. “That aging is natural? That laugh lines are no big deal? Please!”

Stream of Consciousness, Billtown Blue Lit, Dizzy, Grateful

Thank You

Today, I am grateful.

Here are things I am thinking about:

My other dead grandma.  Not the one I wrote about here.  She used to come into our house in the morning in winter, wearing a too-light coat, and exclaim, “It’s DAMN cold out there!” Yes, caps and italics.  It was the word she said most enthusiastically.  It is a shame that she didn’t live longer and that I didn’t know her better.  I think she is my spirit guide.  WWFD, What would Flo do?

Great friends, supportive family and people, and new adventures.  I launched the Billtown Blue Lit fundraising campaign last night at Start Some Good.  I am so grateful to have $300 of support already.  I feel like a sentimental ninny, and I feel validated.  So often, I shout my ideas into a void, and my throat gets raw and I hop up and down and get red in the face and I say, “somebody help me! I want to do something good/cool!”  I think a couple of things are happening here.  1.  I’m a full-on grownup.  People think I’ve learned something about life b/c I’m now 31.  So that belief/faith/deference that other people show toward me fortifies my inner strong person, and makes her confident and productive.  2. I live in a really Excellent Town.

And here’s how you can help, too: go to Our Campaign.  Donate.

I want to provide shout-out links to these excellent, smart, good-writin’, supportive or prolific humans who have helped with this project directly, or who have helped my brain these past few months by giving me great stuff to read, replying to my increasing stream of solicitious emails, or pledging to the campaign real early, or providing great ideas, or agreeing to be on the board.

Help them by visiting them online, buying their books, their merchandise, or reading their blogs.  You can also just give them a great big virtual smackeroo on the lips, cos they deserve it.

These are in no particular order:

Jamie Clarke Chavez

Carlos Antonio Delgado

Marc Schuster

Julianna Baggott

Penelope Trunk

Tim Parrish

Katney B

Ellen Line

John McNally

Steve Almond

Brock Clarke

Cathy Day

Alex Budak

Ron Currie Jr.

Jo Steadman

Jim O ‘Connell

Jennie McCormack & Roe v. Wade make WTW?! Moments for a Recovered Single Mom.



Jennie McCormack by Robyn Twomey for Newsweek

Read This, and tell me it doesn’t break your heart.

People are all, “I don’t like news.  I like human interest stories.”  That’s why so much “news” is a bunch of watered-down BS rhetoric, and we can’t get coverage of stories that matter.

But when there’s a real human interest story, the national journalist takes the opportunity to wax speculative about why nobody on either side of the abortion debate is taking up this woman’s cause; to analyze the potential effect Jenny McCormack’s case will have on holding up Roe v. Wade.

Aside from that pro-life people do not visualize the world without abortions clearly–especially since these same people are people who would restrict state and federal aid to women who carry unwanted pregnancies to term and are then saddled with a wee one–and are picturing an idyllic world of happy mommies with freshly swaddled, clean babies;  it has long been my contention that this (and many other personal decisions involving family and sexuality) should not be a political issue.

Jennie McCormack is a 32-year-old blonde who lives in a heavily Mormon area of Idaho.  She’s got three kids already and last year around this time found out she was prego again.

The article is careful to point out that she doesn’t have the internet, that she gets $250/month in child support from only one of the baby daddies, and that her life is deeply pathetic.  She is quoted as saying, “I could’t do that to my kids, I couldn’t make their lives even worse.”

Anybody else think that sounds like projection?  Just sayin’, I don’t know a single kid–rich or poor–who wouldn’t be thrilled to bits to find out she was going to be a big sister…

The article also points out that her baby daddy was tossed in the clink, around the same time she realized she was pregnant, for robbery.  Sheesh.  Bright side: at least it wasn’t for beating her, killing kids, or selling drugs.  I bet he was just robbing someplace because he thought it’d be the right thing for his family.  Also, the timing seems a little bit too coincidental to me…

So McCormack has her sister (who apparently has the internet) order her the abortion pill, which I’ve only really heard about, for $200, and since she hasn’t gone to the doctor, she takes it only to find out that she’s just given herself an abortion at around 20 weeks.  What a buzz kill.

She freaks out, puts the fetus in a box, puts it on her back porch, and calls a (male) friend, who calls his sister, who calls the cops.  WTW, Jennie?

Listen, I’m not unsympathetic.  When I was 24, I got pregnant.  My daughter’s father is, well, kind of an idiot.  I mean, he’s real fun to be around and not bad looking and reasonably intelligent, but he was kind of 24 going on 13.  I didn’t think I was screwing my life partner.  I was being young and having fun and drinking, um, not Pepsi. We were using birth control.

I am pro choice.  My choice was to carry the baby.  I asked him to choose, too, and he did.  I felt like it was unfair for me to make the choice for both of us.  My thought was, “If I can get off the hook by having a procedure, why should he be on the hook if I don’t want to?”  He has not been involved at all.  Zero contact.

But I have some questions for Ms. McCormack.  I’m 31 now, and even if state money doesn’t pay for abortions, I know how babies are made.  From first hand experience.  I also know that when you are poor and you have multiple children, there are programs available to you to make your life totally liveable, most of which are still very much in place.  And I would think that if I were 32, broke, alone with 3 kids, I would become suddenly frigid if I could not afford hormonal or procedural birth control.

Why fuck a criminal?  Why?  You know what it’s like to be alone with kids, how hard and desperate it is.  Shouldn’t you have a pretty good BS meter by now, Ms. McCormack?  Shouldn’t you know how to use a condom, contraceptive jelly, or go on the pill?

Listen, I don’t think she should go to jail for terminating her pregnancy.  I don’t think Roe v. Wade should EVER be overturned.  I think EVERYBODY who wants an abortion should be able to get one in a clean, safe setting with sterilized equipment and a loving, competent physician and oreo cookies and orange soda and a great big pile of really interesting magazines, a deep tissue masseuse on staff, and a basket of tootsie pops to which you get unlimited access. In a perfect world, wishful thinking would be birth control.

Why was the abortion pill her ONLY option?  Ok, yes, she could drive 5 hours one way to Salt Lake City, then make another 10 hour trip after the waiting period, but she couldn’t manage that logistically or financially, which I TOTALLY understand.  But why not have the baby and give it up for adoption?  I mean, what an amazing thing to do.  What a totally legal, PC, Idaho/Utah-safe thing to do!

What about her family?  She says her mom is Mormon and embarrassed by the whole thing, but her sister helped her–couldn’t she have sat with the kids while McCormack went to Salt Lake City?  Aren’t the Mormons about procreating?  I bet she has a gaggle of other siblings, at least one of whom she could’ve hornswoggled into watching her brood while she took care of this small matter, right?  Or lending her the cash?

I guess I just don’t have a lot of pity for Ms. McCormack.  I have been so traumatized by my ONE unwanted pregnancy, by my FIVE years in various forms of poverty, by the way in which having a baby–especially having one by yourself–makes everything about 17 times harder; that I just wouldn’t have made babies two and three.

Once a person is part of the poverty culture, you hear about all of the stuff that’s available.  I could’ve had way more welfare than I did. I had welfare birth control for a while.  I had food stamps and cash assistance off and on.  We had WIC during Child’s first yearish.  And while it was stressful, we always had a place to live, heat, food, a phone, and enough.

I’m not boasting.  I’m just saying that there’re ways to handle shitty situations.  And making more babies is probably not a legitimate choice.  Especially since there are systems in place to help a woman take control of her fertility.

Maybe I’m not being fair to Ms. McCormack. Maybe all three of her children were planned, and the guy who’s in jail is her husband who used to have a nice job and she was a stay-at-home-mom and they lived in a reasonable apartment.  Maybe all of her children have the same dad (but why is she only getting support for one of them?), and maybe she was being extremely cautious (with multiple forms of birth control), or maybe she was raped (heaven help her).

But I suspect that if her story was one that doesn’t make her look like an irresponsible boob of epic proportions, it would be getting told, and the pro life people–or the pro choice people–would’ve latched on a year ago.  She’d be making money off speaking engagements and would’ve been able to move someplace less rural where she could have friends who don’t care that she’s had an abortion.

My point is that yes, the people around Ms. McCormack are not at all acting like the God fearing people they purport to be, but it would seem that Ms. McCormack is making a bunch of low-mental choices which should not be excused on the basis of the bigoted behaviors of the religious people in her region.

I feel like in 20 years, when Abortions are all legal and nobody thinks twice about it because they’re too busy trying to stop human cloning, this would be one of those things that wind up in Darwin Awards:   Woman performs own abortion, puts medical waste in shoe box on porch, sues city.

Schtupping: 12 Romance Genre Sex Tropes

this is from frank151.com

I have always loved sex writing.  In college, I read a lot of it in lovely literary fiction stories.  Literary sex writing is called erotica.

But romance novels are the ones whose reputations would provoke readership based on sexy writing, I would posit, undeservedly.  But Romance genre has a massive and enviable following, and I know that there are folks who both read my blog and with whom I am personal friends who would be upset that I’ve said so.  But I can’t take it back.  Call me a snob.  Lash out if you want.

The easiest difference to describe between the two  is the use of tropes.  Romance has ’em, and erotica doesn’t.  Erotica aims for an impression or a psychological experience of sex, often using pronouns in place of words like cock or mound, and does not provide lurid details about the actual orgasm, as in “She spasmed around him once, then again, then again.”

I proofread and copy edit romance fiction now. It is nothing like a guilty pleasure, but I am in total awe of the doggedness & networking genius a lot of contemporary romance fiction writers possess.

I am often struck by how the tropes are sort of porno, that is, they stylize sex.  In fact, almost every romance heroine has multiple orgasms, every time; and people are always coming at the same time, “shattering into each other.”

The women become aroused instantaneously, and their juices regenerate, even after hours of “mind-blowing” penetration.  Even if the men are bloodied by battle, drunk, tired, or broke, they can always get it up, and always please the lady first.

Don’t get me started on the magical way in which strong, smart, competent heroines suddenly become simpering, drooling fools who can’t so much as tie their own shoes as soon as large-cocked, clever, oddly hairless, well-muscled men arrive on the scene.

Believing there might be some value or validity to these tropes,  I’ve personally employed some of the methods they describe–often to wan effect, or to discover that they are not physically possible, probably not even for skinny people.

Here are a dozen examples.

1.  She sheathed his length.  The length is always considerable, and her sheath can generate an ocean’s worth of lady lube.

2. Her thighs quivered (with desire).  I don’t know about you, but my thighs only quiver if I am going faster than a plod.

3. She swirled her tongue around the head of his cock. Trust me, he won’t notice.

4. She was hot, wet, and ready.  Like spaghetti.

5. She melted into him.  So she’s become tallow?  

6. She wanted him inside her.  Snore.

9 . He jack hammered into her. Ouch! 

10. She tested the weight of his balls in her palm.  Oooh.  Magical detachable testicles.  Nice.  I wonder if they smell like lemons.  That would be cool.  

11. Her nipples were dusky peaks. Huh?  So like mountain tops?

12. She clamped his face to her breast, encouraging him to suck harder.  Be careful, lady.  Don’t want to suffocate the guy.  

Journalist Notes: Schmoozing the Press, 11 Tips for Creators

First off, I want to say that 88% (yes, 88) of the time, the people I get to interview are INCREDIBLY accomodating and flexible and perfect subjects.

88% of independent musicians and local artists/performers/troupes I have had the pleasure to talk with are an absolute joy.  Even when these are kind of a big deal, like Foghat and The Midtown Men (original stars of Jersey Boys on Broadway) and Rosemary Wells.

So this is not a post whose purpose is whining.

This is a post where I recognize the multiple coolnesses of some of what I get paid to do.  And where I encourage other musicians, artists, performers, writers to embrace the free press, how to do it, and what to do if things go awry.

this is from miamicondoforum.com

You can read some of the work I’ve done here.

I LOVE this work.

Journalists want to help.  They want to write interesting stories that people will read.

Why is this important?

Because it’s free publicity for you!  Being an artist is the only way I can think of to get a free half page ad in a  newspaper, in an insert devoted just to you and your pursuits, or a Sunday section, or on the front page of Lifestyle.

It’s online advertising, too.  Anybody who Googles either of us (me, the journalist, or you, the artist) will get a result for the article/image/Q&A.

You want to keep making stuff, and I want to keep writing stuff.  Our press relationship is symbiotic at least. There’s no space for antagonism between us.

Here are some tips, learned the hard way.

1.It’s okay to state your preferences or say no. Writers still get paid for their work, so we WANT the interview to be good.  If you are best at a phone interview, email interview, or IM interview say so!  We don’t mind!  If you’d rather not be interviewed, politely decline. Do not accept the interview and then half-ass it.  That makes you and the journalist who’s interviewed you look like schmucks.

2. Most writers have no power in the publication for which they write besides what they wield with their words.  Getting interviewed by an arts/culture journalist is not a good forum in which to suggest changes to or beefs with the newspaper or publication she represents.  Answer her questions, and address your concerns to the appropriate editor/section/manager at the newspaper.

3. Make an online press kit, or send some MP3s and/or images and a bio with your press release!  While we do get paid, we do not get paid well.  We have to write a LOT of articles in order to make any reasonable amount of money.  Time we spend combing the internet for sample work or images is time we’re not spending learning about you so that we can ask you smart, interesting questions. See #1.

4.  If you have a publicist or agent, make sure you have a system in place to respond to journalists.  Some artists have a special link, phone number, or email address for journalists.  We appreciate that.

5.  Make sure your contact information as available to the public is correct.  You can’t reply to queries you don’t get.  Journalists can’t write stories about people they can’t contact.  If the only contact info for you online is an email address, check it every day.  Journalists are good at making phone calls.   If you’d rather we call you, give us a phone number.

6.  Be polite and professional.  Contrary to a prevailing notion, professionalism and creativity are not natural enemies.  Be on time.  If you will be late or unavailable at the agreed-upon time, call, email, or text message with an ETA or request to reschedule.   Write reply emails with whole sentences. Short, straightforward sentences are better than a simple “sure.”  Sure what?  Sure you’ll do the interview? Sure you’re on tour?  Sure you’ve got an exhibit up at venue X?  Sure you’re starring in the community production of Avenue Q?

7.  The journalist probably does not have time to show you the copy before it goes to press.  There’s no universe in which that is standard operating procedure.  If a journalist offers, you may accept.  Please do not ask.

8.  If there are factual errors in the piece, most journalists will be as distressed to learn of it as you were to read it.  Errors are not the end of the world.  Corrections can be run.  Here is the right way to manage such a situation: phone or email the journalist and explain the error calmly and give her the correct information.  The journalist will bend over backward to help you fix things.  She will feel very bad about the mistake, and she will be concerned for her integrity.  Here is the wrong way to manage the situation: criticizing the journalist on facebook, twitter, or in your blog.  That makes you look like a petty a-hole, and when the journalist discovers it, she will be loathe to work with you again.

9.  Once the piece is available online, link it from your facebook, tweet it, link to it from your website, tumble it, reddit, whatever.  This is additional free publicity for you, and for the journalist who is as likely as not working for multiple publications.

10.  If you’re pleased with the work, let the journalist know.  You don’t have to put her on the list at the door or give her a free copy of your CD, print of your work, or ticket to your play (these things are appreciated, but never expected), but a quick, one-sentence email, phone call, or text message letting her know you’ve seen the work and are pleased by it is a sure way to create a reputation for yourself as a conscientious artist who’s a pleasure to work with.  It will also give the journalist massive warm fuzzies.  And who doesn’t dig warm fuzzies?

11. Since a lot of writers who do these kinds of pieces are freelance, let a journalist know if there’s a publication you’ve been dying to be featured in.  The journalist may be able to pitch a piece to that publication, and write it with no additional information from you, or better yet, have a working relationship with its editor.  If the journalist needs additional information, she’ll know where to find you, and it’s always more pleasant to work with people whose work you know and like.

Buck up, Penelope!: an essay for Penelope Trunk

I want a big sister like Penelope Trunk.  Or maybe I want to be a big sister like Penelope Trunk would be, if she were my big sister.

I feel like I’m pretty useless to my sisters and brother.  I feel like when I should’ve been getting to know them, I was busy getting away from them.

But we are still really happy and like each other, see?

This is me, my sibs, and Child. We are at a funeral which is sad, even though we don't look sad.

But something I’m learning as I grow older and and more open to the vigors of youth and the wisdom of the aged, being somewhere in the middle myself, is that sometimes, little sisters have to pretend they’re big sisters and provide insight.

One of my sisters did this recently by sending me piles of info and links to webinars about starting a nonprofit, which is something I’m working on now, and the field in which she’s in her second year as an intern.

It’s easy to forget that little sisters are people in addition to being annoying brats, even though my sisters were never especially bratty and have not been annoying in some years.

I think this is true for children and mothers, too.  Sometimes, instead of thinking about Child as a whole person, I think of her as an exhausting accessory.  That is wrong, and I know it.  I also know that I have done and will do a lot of wrong things as a parent, partner, sister, daughter, friend, cousin, niece, employee, businessperson.

So Penelope is having a rough patch.  A seriously rough patch.  A rough patch that if any of my siblings were in, I would be in their faces, imploring them to do something differently.

I think anybody would want to help Penelope out of her rough patch.

Penelope, are you listening?

My parents love me.  They are (and were) not always perfect parents.   They did not hit me too often or think I was a psychopath, but they did tell me–without saying with words–that I am of lesser consequence than other people, and that I probably shouldn’t get too attached to any plans I make or ideas I have because they’ll probably be wrong or bad.

For example, while repeating “actions speak louder than words,” my parents affirmed extremely poor behavior by grown ups who were supposed to love and encourage me back when I was a teenager.

That event really fucked with my self perception and my ideas.  I think I’ve worked through it in some good ways, and it’s an event for which I am now mostly grateful. I’m working on a novel about it–or inspired by it.

The short version of the story is that when I was 16, I wanted to start a drama team at church.  My folks sent me to a meeting with the Worship Commission on my own because I told them I didn’t need them there.  I told them that because I thought that was what they needed me to say.  They had two small children, my dad was a business owner, and I was very competent for a 16-year-old.  But I was still a 16-year-old.

What I hope I do better than my parents did is to identify when Child is not capable of doing something, even if she thinks she is, and to be there to catch her if she falls–not to do it for her, but to provide appropriate input and/or intervention if it is necessary.

After the pastor left the Worship Commission meeting, about half way through, one of the committee members said things that made me cry.  As a grown up, I believe that these things were probably sane and reasonable, but I do not believe that they were encouraging or designed to edify a person who had a pile of energy and enthusiasm and just wanted to be involved.  Of course, I cried and blubbered in the meeting and then I gave up on that church.

My parents kept going to it, though.  They told me it was because my other siblings were very happy there and they couldn’t justify moving the whole family because I was miserable, even though they said with words that they thought it was horrible that I was treated so badly.

At the time, I expressed understanding because I knew I had to.  But that was hard. And I was extremely angry.  In fact, I still feel like my siblings’ success and happiness are more important to my parents than mine is.

Anyhow, I was sixteen and I could drive, so I went to a different church not too long after that.

Not too long after that, I gave up on church all together.  It was after reading Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham, which I would recommend for any adolescent.  It’s not about sexy bondage, it’s about spiritual, personal, philosophical bondage, about the quest for self.  It is a beautiful book.

My point, Penelope, is that parents fuck up.

Once we become parents ourselves, whether or not the timing or circumstances are ideal, we have to try not to fuck up.

Staying in a house with a man who hurts you is fucking up.

What will hurt your kids more: having to adapt to change, or watching you be hurt by someone who claims to love you?

I guess there’s no sure answer to that, but the best thing a parent can give a kid–and a thing I wish I got from my folks–is the knowledge that they are whole people who deserve love and happiness.  Neither of my folks believed this about themselves, which is why they couldn’t show me.  But we do.  We all do.

I am still shocked when I have success, even though I run around chasing it pretty constantly.

Maybe you can identify with that.  I suspect you can.

So buck up, Penelope.  Get an apartment and hire tutors to give your kids reading and math and logic and geography.  Get your work done and realize your potential.  Spend time alone and think about yourself, just yourself, and not about how you can propel a larger construct.  Cry.  Sleep.  Read a book for pleasure.

Even though I don’t really know you, Penelope, I admire you.  I think you’re really smart and I like the way you write.  I tell people to read your blog.  I find you to be inspiring.  You deserve to realize your potential.

You are a whole person, Penelope.  And you deserve love and happiness.