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Is This Thing On?

9 Aug

A woman walks up to a microphone. Taps it a few times.

“Is this thing on?” It isn’t. She flips the switch. Feedback squeals.

She says, “Hello?” It echoes through the empty theater. That won’t do.


It’s been a while.

In my last post, “Curtain Call,” I said goodbye to 2000 Irises while I worked on “some new, pretty time-consuming projects.” Three years later, I’m happy to announce that my “projects” have flourished beautifully. I opened a business in digital marketing, and now I spend my days creating content, copywriting, and managing social accounts for businesses and non-profits. I even have an employee. Yep. I went from part-time college professor to business woman in three short years. It’s been quite a ride.

Lately though, 2000 Irises has been calling to me. The topics I was exploring in this blog never stopped being interesting, I just didn’t have the time to keep the blog updated. Nonetheless, there’s still plenty to say, plenty of good examples of feminist pop culture happening, and I’ve got an itch to write about them again. So I’ve decided to take another crack at it and reopen the blog. I’m not promising a post a week, but then, I never really managed that anyway.

So welcome back, and I’ll see you soon with a brand-spanking new blog about Mindy Kaling, who I’ve been dying to write about for three years now. If you haven’t seen it yet, go watch a few episodes of The Mindy Project, and you’ll see why.


New Writer Crushes

16 Jun

The Summer issue of Midwestern Gothic is due out in a few weeks. I’ve seen a preview, and it’s fantastic. They kindly published a poem of mine, but even better than that, I now have a slew of new Writer Crushes. It’s true I’m pretty easy, but these people rock.

Nina Badzin is a writer, momma and wife, so naturally I enjoy her work. Her blog is beautiful, honest and well-written. May I recommend her post “New Writer Finds Readers”? It’s about resisting lit mag snobbery and having the guts to shoot far and wide. Pretty inspiring.

Chad Simpson is another writer and English prof whose publication list seems to grow daily. He blogs about every angle of the writing life — from idea generation to publication, with teaching and speaking thrown in. Add in his wife Jane Carlson’s frankly stunning photography, and there’s a lot here to admire here.

Nancy Devine is an educator and holy-cow-prolific writer whose blog is packed with personal thoughts, musings on writing, creativity and work, and a blog roll to die for. Her site’s so huge, I’ve seen but a teeny-bit of it, which is good. Lots to explore.

I think I may have an actual crush on Eden Baylee, who writes female-friendly (but by no means soft focus) erotica and erotic romance with originality, creativity and style. Her blog is not exclusively focused on writing erotica (although there’s some of that), but on writing in general with interviews, links and music. It’s an adult site though, so you know, NSFW, but definitely check it out.

I know I have an actual crush on Robert James Russell. (I’m trying to convince myself he’s less compelling in person, like maybe he doesn’t shower much, or hates puppies or something.) Russell co-founded Midwestern Gothic with Jeff Pfaller, and I really, really dig his blog. He edits, writes poetry, fiction and comics, and co-founded the indie comics press Saint James Comics. His blog is eclectic and dorky and funny. Plus he has awesome taste in music.

As I mentioned, Jeff Pfaller co-founded MG with Russell. He is also involved with Saint James Comics, and writes comics and fiction and these funny little “Napkin Haiku Reviews.” Plus he seems to also do design or content (or both) as a day job, which I admire, because if I had a day job, I wouldn’t write a damn thing (see the last 10 years.)

These are just a few of the wonderful writers involved with MG, and I’ll post more links as I make my way through the issue. I hope you’ll check it out when it’s finally available, so you can get all crush-y too.

Two things…

2 Jun

First, Midwestern Gothic has revealed the cover of its summer issue, which will include my poem “Severed Tail,” so you can peek at that and say “Oooh yes…her name is on the cover, along with all those other writers.”

Also Holmes fans, Wessex Press has opened registration for the From Gillette to Brett III conference. They have really exciting speakers lined up, including Nicholas Meyer — author of The Seven Per-Cent Solution, and all-knowing Sherlock scholar Leslie S. Klinger. Parties, screenings, so much more. It fills up quick and there’s not much room at the inn, so to speak, so hurry hurry.

Weekly Round Up

10 May

While I wrestle my newest post-in-progress into submission, I thought I’d share some of the most intriguing/thoughtful bits of webby goodness I’ve come across this week. Some newish, some older, in no particular order:

First, I’m hosting the Downtown Throwdown Poetry Slam and Coffee Binge at Blackbird Cafe in Valparaiso on June 3rd. Click through for details, and then tell me you’re coming to read, ’cause I really want you to.

Second, Meet Laurie LaGrone at Fooleryland. Ms. LaGrone writes terrifically smart, funny pieces for (among other things) and her blog has way more.

Next, if you’re into positive sexuality, I give you Violet Blue, author, editor, educator. Her racy site is not appropriate for those under 18 or easily offended, but awesome for everyone else. I particularly enjoyed her recent podcast, How to Flirt With Geeks. (No, I’m not flirting with anyone, Mr. Irises. You’re the only geek for me.)

Also, I discovered the results of the Women in America study, released by the White House in March. It’s a lengthy PDF, but well-organized and pretty clear. Worth a look.

Finally, this is not new but it’s wonderful: the It Gets Better Project, founded by sexuality columnist Dan Savage, works to send positive reinforcement and hope to young LGBTs. Take the pledge, make a video, tell everyone you can.

Smiling at Strangers

5 May

2000irises: Smiling at Strangers

This piece originally appeared on Smartly Chicago:

Smiling at Strangers

At 21, with just $600 in my pocket and the full wind of naïve bravado at my back, I moved to London alone. This dumb fearlessness served me quite well in London, but not without cost. London aged me, taught me fear, and gave shape to my own limitations in a way I’ve been working to undo ever since.

One night, about 11 pm, I was walking the 2 ½ miles from SoHo back to the hotel in Paddington where I lived and worked, when I was approached by an elderly man. I walked the same route several times a week, and by then I knew to be alert and careful: walk purposefully, head up, never make eye contact. Never, ever smile at strangers. Aside from the plentiful homeless, no one ever said a word to me on the street. I was justifiably leery when the man stopped me, but he only handed me a bloom – just the bloom – of a small red carnation and said “Cheer up, love, night’s still young.” Then he smiled and continued on his way. I cradled that flower in my hand all the way back to my tiny room. I hoped it would live for a while, but you know it didn’t.

As soon as the man spoke to me, I realized I’d been walking about London for months with a fierce, cold expression on my face. This ferocity ran so counter to my ordinary cheerful, friendly nature that it disturbed me. I had to consider if my love of London was really worth such a sacrifice.

This transformation began as soon as I arrived in London. Fresh off the airplane, I settled into a window seat on the Tube with my considerable luggage flowered around me. I donned my earphones and cued up my portable CD player (cutting edge technology in 1994.) A man took the seat across from me. As he sat down, I looked up and smiled – just a polite “hello” smile. He smiled back, and I looked out the window.

A moment later, he tapped my arm and smiled at me again – a huge, inviting grin. I smiled weakly, nodded, and pointedly went back to looking out the window. A few minutes later he tapped me yet again and smiled. This time I didn’t respond, but I knew he was staring at me, grinning like an idiot. I hoped he would get off the train soon. Then he touched my knee. I frowned and shoved his hand away.

I resigned myself to hauling my luggage off at the next stop to wait for the next train. When we slowed for the station, I stood up, but he stood too. Then he leaned down and kissed my cheek. I was too astonished to react. I just stood there, horrified, frozen. Finally, another man realized what was happening. He shouted “Hey!” and loverboy dashed off. This was the moment I realized I might have gotten in over my head.

You would think I’d have learned my lesson after that, but I didn’t. All over London, men reacted very differently to me than any American man ever had. While, thank God, no one else ever touched me, I’m not used to drawing strangers’ attention, and it took me far too long to figure out what I was doing wrong. I was smiling at strangers.

Perhaps I overcompensated then, disconnecting from others completely in exchange for an imagined invisibility. The old man made me realize I wasn’t invisible at all – just afraid and angry: angry at myself for having been naïve, angry at the world for being dangerous for women. I wanted independence so badly that I fooled myself into believing I was invincible, and when I realized that wasn’t true, I mourned.

I still miss my stupid moxie, the beautiful illusion that I could do anything at all – the same necessary, optimistic lie we still teach our daughters. I would get on that plane to London again in a heartbeat, but if I did so now, I would have to take my fear with me. Heavy luggage indeed.

photo by d’n’c

The Perils of Listening In

26 Apr

2000irises: The Perils of Listening In

This piece ran on smartly. Chicago on April 25, 2011:

Remember the last time you were sitting in that café, minding your own business, chatting with a friend? You were completely focused on one another, catching up on recent events, sharing traumas and victories, emotions, fears. It was a wonderful conversation, wasn’t it? Personal and satisfying, meaningful, refreshing.

Yeah. I remember that too. I was listening the whole time.

I possess the dubious superpower of Super Hearing. (Imagine concentric red lines emanating from my ears.) I’d rather have Super Strength or Eidetic Memory, but I suppose I’ll take the hand I’m dealt (or ears, if you will.) I haven’t yet used my power to thwart criminal masterminds, but I totally will if the opportunity rises.

Like most superheroes, I have a love/hate relationship with my super ability. Generally, I use it for good. After all, Super Hearing can be practical and useful. For example, when I waited tables, I always “magically” knew what my guests needed before they asked. Imagine the tips! Later, as a teacher and professor, I easily discerned whispered conversations, the rustle of passed papers, the pucka-pucka of cell-phone keypads. A glance in a student’s direction usually sufficed to bring them around. You can also easily imagine how handy Super Hearing can be for a mom.

Beyond its benefits to maintaining order, though, Super Hearing can be vexing. You see, I can’t turn it off. There are many, many conversations I just don’t want to hear. For example, recently I’ve been unwittingly privy to:

* “She thought it was hidden, but I found her diary under her mattress. She called me a bitch.”

* “I’ve been clean since I got out of prison, but it’s hard. I’m lonely a lot.”

* “Oh yeah, she’s hot. I’d love to get my hands on that ass.”


All this wouldn’t be so bad if I weren’t also ridiculously empathetic – another “talent” I can’t turn off. Sometimes others’ whispered confessions and harrowing stories bring me to tears or inspire such fury, I have to escape to the safety of my car and cry. There have been times when I’ve heard things so awful I’ve considered whether or not to contact authorities. Occasionally, with students in genuine need, I have intervened, but mostly I keep my nose out of other people’s business.

Instead, I compensate. I never leave home without my iPod because I don’t want to hear your hushed argument with your boyfriend, your regressive political views, or your cell-phone conversation with your divorce lawyer. I don’t want to know the details of your sex life, drug habits, medical issues, bank account balances, or relationship with Jesus. I always wear my noise-canceling earphones in the café, in doctor’s waiting rooms (deadly), in the library, on public transportation – anywhere bored people are prone to chit-chat.

Originally, I cultivated my Super Hearing. As a young child, tuning in to others’ voices served me well if things got dicey. But I no longer need this skill. Voyeurism holds no allure for me. I’d happily trade my Super Hearing for, say, Time Travel or Super Speed. Super powers never come free though. As Spiderman, Batman and Catwoman have demonstrated, there’s always a cost.

I imagine old age will eventually dull the constant din of other people’s voices, especially as I’ve spent the last twenty-five years listening to loud music through earbuds. In the meantime, know that I honestly don’t want to eavesdrop, but if I’m sitting nearby without my earphones on, I’m listening.

smartly. Chicago post #1

25 Apr

Have a look-see at my first post for smartly. Chicago. I’ll repost the essay here in a day or two.

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