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Shock yourself with honesty, or, how I got started as a writer

Holding my copy of the Riot Grrrl Collection, I'm so proud and happy my zine writings from Cupsize are in this book!

Holding my copy of the Riot Grrrl Collection, I’m so proud and happy my zine writings from Cupsize are in this book!

When people ask me how I got my start as a writer, I say Cupsize. Cupsize was the stapled-and-photocopied zine that I wrote with my friend Tara Emelye. We wrote our zine back in the nineties before the Internet took off, when email was still exotic and blogs did not yet exist. The Internet has been a huge force for my work to take off, especially quirkyalone, but there was such an amazing power in making something tactile like a paper zine.

Tara and I called our zine Cupsize to ironically reclaim our ample bosoms. Our zine wasn’t about women’s issues, per se, but we were young women and we wrote honestly about our lives. We wrote Cupsize when we were in college. I also wrote for newspapers and magazines. It was thrilling to see my byline on the cover of the Village Voice, but it was really through Cupsize that I learned how to just say it. To explore whatever called to me. Tara and I had a great creative chemistry and we egged each other on, whether we were writing about the taste of grape soda or visiting a peep show in Times Square, bisexual chic or feminism and class. Read more ›

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Posted in Books, Creativity, My Life, Personal Growth

Quirky Survey Report #1: What We Mean When We Say “Quirky”

This is me being quirky :)

As you many know, I am a quirkyologist, in love with the study of what makes people unique. I’m going to be offering an e-course about discovering your own quirkyness and relishing it, in yourself and in the world. The course will provide you with inspiration to dance to your own beat and get EVEN more quirky if you already are! And you’ll meet kindred souls. If you want to feel more quirky spirit in your life, please be sure to sign up for my mailing list to be the first to hear when registration opens.

To prepare I took a survey of people about what they mean when they think of the word “quirky.” I’ll be sharing the results in a series of blog posts, and here is the first one. I’m excited to share with you.

The results are qualitative rather than quantitative for the most part, though I will tell you that the 96% of the 150 people who replied to my super-long survey (I get so curious and can’t stop asking questions) identify themselves as “quirky” based on their own definition and 94% think of “quirky” as more of a positive word than a negative one. So we can already see “quirky” people are not only at peace with being quirky–they think it’s admirable to wear mismatched socks, or as many of them said, dance to their own drum. Dancing came up often in the definition. Read more ›

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Posted in Creativity, Quirkyness

Liberation to Write Poetry (Bad or Good)

the bounty of life

the bounty of life

Once upon a time, in early 2011, I was living in Buenos Aires with my Belgian best friend and conspirator in life Griet. Mostly we were obsessed with tango. Griet got me writing poetry. We would go to a cafe and each take a notebook, write a poem and share it with each other. Neither of us write poetry, so we had an untrained, silly, beginners-mind joyous kind of feeling writing poems. Then, if memory serves, we would actually clap!

I never allowed the possibility of writing poetry into my life. I submitted a poem to my college literary magazine in my first year of college and the poem got rejected, so I got the idea in my head, I am not a poet. But those afternoons with Griet were so fun. They gave me a novelty feeling, a no-pressure feeling, a kid-like feeling. I am at a point in my life where I want to cultivate that no pressure-feeling again, to make creativity pure fun again without worrying so much about whether something is “good.” So today I start with a no-pressure ode to heirloom tomatoes. I invite you to write your own no-pressure poem in the comments.

An ode to heirloom tomatoes

The Internet is full of life lessons
And I hate to write another
But there is a succulent juicy suck in an heirloom tomato
And you can even suck on one on public if you are brave
I like seeing people
Eat a tomato like a fruit
Break the rules of polite society
The boundaries between fruit and vegetable
The borders between public and private
The line between sweet and sour

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Posted in Advice, Creativity

Writing in the Age of Google

Cupsize #5

There is a snake-slithering-off-the-skin quality to being a writer—or for that matter, to being a human being; the thoughts of today are not the thoughts of tomorrow, they’re the skin to shed to stay fresh and alive. Yet now the skin collects online. Once you say it in the age of Google, you’ve said it forever. Once indexed attached to our names, our words follow us forever. Always indexable, always searchable, always viewable by parents, future grandchildren, future employers, intimate partners, and who knows who else. People still publish in offline forms that do not find their way online, but those cases are increasingly rare. Google scans books too.

Fifteen years ago, we could still say things to a limited audience of concentric circles. That’s how I started out as a writer. As a cut-and-paste, tactile zinester who wielded tape and a staple gun. When I first started writing in college, my friend Tara and I collaborated on a stapled-and-photocopied zine we called Cupsize. Our name was a play on our large busts.

Cupsize was a chance to play, and a collaboration of lightness and freedom. I never thought of what we wrote being read by a future employer. We printed about 500 copies of each zine and traded and sold them to our readers all over the world. We got in-depth letters in response, often in mail art envelopes. We wrote the zine to embrace our creative chemistry and to give ourselves total freedom to write about anything we fancied exploring in print. We wrote about everything, from the mundane to the meaningful, we said, from labor politics and bi chic to the taste of grape soda. Read more ›

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Posted in Creativity

I Travel the Foggy Path

The foggy path (coined by coach Tara Sophia Mohr) is the path where you move based on impulse, and take one step at a time, without really knowing what you are building or where you are going. The foggy path is the only path I have ever really known. It feels like the way life is for must of us when we are open to possibility and summon the courage to follow our impulses. Whether I was writing books or starting a magazine or traveling alone, in a very unplanned way, in South America, I have always moved one step at a time. Before I read Tara’s blog post, when I felt lost or swamped by doubt in a project or my life, I would think of this quote from EL Dcotorow: “It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

I’ve thought a lot about the foggy path lately, as I am writing a memoir. Writing a memoir is a big leap of faith. I’m going on instinct that the story will cohere. As I write, I have often thought of Eat Pray Love. I need to be aware of it as a hugely successful memoir about a woman discovering herself through long-term travel; my project has a lot of commonalities. (Of course it will be very different too!) Although I really enjoyed Eat Pray Love, there was always something about the book that I found fundamentally unbelievable. It didn’t feel like a foggy path. She structured the book to say that she would be exploring pleasure in Italy (Eat), devotion in India (pray) and balance in Bali (love). When I read her plan in the beginning of the book, I thought, “Really?” Did you really know what you would be exploring in those countries? That has never been the way life works for me. Does it work that way for anyone? I go on an impulse and then figure it out.

A memoir is not life–the writer gets no credit for experience, only for the art and structure in creating a journey that a reader wants to read. Gilbert effectively created structure on top of her experience (108 sections, representing the number of beads in a japa mala or strand of prayer beads). Those sections were then divided into three groups to represent each country she visited. That structure creates a book that is easy for readers to grasp, almost a product, really. I am so impressed with her for creating a structure that obviously worked for so many people. Structure is not easy. Still, though, there is something about that that bugs me about the book because it does not feel true (at least for a foggy path person like me). Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail is a new memoir that Oprah chose as the first book of her new book club. Wild feels like a “foggy path” story. Literally it is the story of a hike along the path. She knows where she will end, but she makes decisions on impulse not anticipating what will come. That feels like life to me.

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Posted in Advice, Creativity

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