Monday, August 29, 2016

Why Just-For-Fun Writing Is As Good As The Gilmore Girls

I had grand plans to write a million words over the summer. Of course, I also had plans to launch a magazine so you can guess how far I got with those plans...

But, despite all the craziness of a new venture {and I do mean craziness—I mean, have you ever started a magazine? It's insane. I don't know what I was thinking!} I've started playing with a new, entirely frivolous story because
            1.) I needed to write
     and 2.) I needed something low pressure and high fun.

gilmore girls fan fiction is good for you

Let me back up just a little bit.

I have this friend. She has this love. It's not necessarily a conventional love. It's not a man or a dog {though she does have both of those, too}—it's a television show. A 2000-2007 obsession. A where you lead me, I will follow kind of passion. When Gilmore Girls was a new, hot thing, I didn't even blink at it; she, on the other hand, fell madly in love and has been watching it over and over and over since its inception.

AND THEN Netflix announced a reunion show and she was all GAH and I was all whatever, I've never seen it. And she was all I'm going to have a viewing party when it airs and I was all I want to come to your party!

AND SO, I buckled in and I went for the seven season ride and it was glorious. Actually, I'm rather bothered by how much I loved it. I don't think of myself as a romantic comedy kind of a girl, but guess what? It caught me hook, line, and sinker. {#TEAMJESS}

How embarrassing!

ANYWAY, I needed something to get me writing and after finishing the seventh season I HAD SOME QUESTIONS!

How perfect!

So I've started a story, picking up five years after the season finale {and five years before the reunion season} just because.

It's stupid fun and very low pressure and maybe ten people will read it, but you know what, it keeps those writing muscles going even when I don't have the space for bigger things right now.

Like every other muscle, the more you work it, the stronger it becomes. Writing is no different. It's a snooze-you-lose kind of thing. The wider the gap you allow between moments with a pen or a keyboard, the easier those gaps become, and that's a terrible tragedy—especially if writing is something you claim as important.

a Gilmore Girls fanfictionWaiting for a break, for that moment of discovery, for a publishing deal, for a film-rights contract with Paramount Pictures {HA!} is just waiting. It's meaningless. Sure, I wrote a novel and yeah, I think it's pretty great, but that's not all I am. Writing should be present-tense. All. The. Time.

Gilmore Girls is great. Writing my own version of them is great. It doesn't matter that I can't make money off it because it's working my writing muscles, and that's great.

In conclusion: writing a piece of fanfiction {or other just-for-fun write-projects} is like yoga; it doesn't change the world but it does make you feel better about yourself.

If you're a Gilmore fan and you're curious about this silly little exercise, you can follow along with the story here.

And you know what, just for giggles, I'll paste the first chapter {teaser} chapter right here ↓ {and—hint, hint, wink, wink—the game is: how many music/song references can you find???}

~ the charcoal troubadour ~

A long, long time ago
I can still remember
How that music used to make me smile
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they’d be happy for a while
     The guitar came from a thrift store in Queens. It had a long, deep scratch on the body and I liked to imagine that some cowboy with a silver ring had done it intentionally, as a notch for the prettiest girl he’d ever seen. Like he’d cheered a jager-shot to a beauty in the back of the bar and drawled into the microphone in a slow surfer speak: you’re so groovy, baby. Anyway, that scratch helped me barter the sales guy down another forty-two dollars, which left me just enough in my pocket for a bus ticket and a questionable tuna sandwich from a gas station. 
     It was garbage. The guitar. Old and beaten up like an abused mistress. It stunk too. Like beer and sweat and bad decisions. Like maybe that ‘pretty girl’ wasn’t so pretty in the cheating light of morning. 
     I cleaned it with steel wool. I really leaned into it, stripping it down to the original raw wood until it was all naked and apologetic—like it didn’t know who it was anymore. I sat with it on the stained tiles of my kitchen floor (which was also my bedroom floor and my living floor) in my tiny studio apartment over the strip club in Brooklyn, with the bass pulsing through my body from below, churning in my gut with the same intrusive sickness it had stuck on me the day I moved in, trying to reinvent it with my attentions. I’d already been told I wasn’t getting my deposit back. As if the water-stains caused by the leaking bathtub in the apartment above were my fault. As if everything was my fault. As if I was a pariah and I deserved to leave with nothing. 
     No. Not nothing
     Some people want to rescue animals. I’m aiming to rescue the heart of rock and roll. And to do that, I need to rewind and re-find myself. 
     I fell in love with that ugly second-hand (third-hand? fourth-hand?) guitar. I rubbed olive oil into its raw surfaces and then I rubbed in my tears, too. I lay back on the floor and hugged that beaten instrument to my chest, and together we felt the music beat through us. We fit against each other like two pieces of a puzzle and we became one in that rocky, intimate space. It understood me. It felt like home.  
     And it birthed a strength within me that began to swell. 
     Music can save a mortal soul. I know it. Don McLean knew it, too, I just think he was afraid to be conclusive. A question mark feels so much safer than a period. 
     On my thirteenth birthday, my mother gave me a beautiful Epiphone acoustic with a warm, rich, woody tone. She paid for lessens from Roger Sprites who used to tour with Neil Young when he was actually young and I Bryan Adam-ed myself to the point of bloody fingers. Those were the best three years of my life. But then my mother met Nathan and Nathan used my magnificent guitar to break her cheekbone before emptying her savings account and skipping town. I was never able to play that guitar again. Every chord broke my heart like it broke her face. We sold it on Craig’s List. Mom bought me another one from the Sears catalogue, but its cheap twang destroyed my spirit, so I planted a bonsai tree in the sound hole and I named it Charlotte’s Web because that book broke my heart, too. Mom made me throw it out when the wood started to rot and that nearly killed me. “Suck it up, Charlotte,” she said to me, her face a little less pretty since The Incident, the left side just a bit sunken and lower—like a doll left in the sun long enough that her plastic cheek started to melt—her eyes a little harder even though she really wanted to be okay. “You did this to yourself. A tree in a guitar? Honestly.” 
     I’d cried then. Not a gentle kind of cry. No, this was a torrential downpour of adolescent angst that included slamming doors and piercing my ears with a sewing needle just to show her I made good decisions all the time. It feels good to lose it sometimes. Isn’t that when we’re the most human? When we’re raw and vulnerable? Just try and tell me that Eric Clapton wasn’t completely shattered while he wrote Tears In Heaven—snot running, face blotchy, voice hitching. That’s real. Real real. Life and death real. 
     I tested my fingers along the frets like I was playing the piano. There were no strings. Not anymore. The strings that came on it were dead, so old they had rusted where they curled around the tuning pegs. I’d taken them off and turned them into a wrap bracelet as a humble nod to the history of my new best friend. It circled my wrist like a ghost of something I couldn’t quite remember and it smelled like metal—the acidic irony blood-like smell that clings to the shiny things people stop loving—and I decided I wouldn’t take it off until I knew who I really was.  
     Should I stay or should I go? 
     No. Scratch that. 
     I will go. 
     Get rid of question marks. No hesitation. Hell, let’s get rid of the periods, too. 
     I will go!
     I lay the guitar in its case like I was putting a baby down to sleep in a crib and I stood in front of the fridge. An advertisement was held there by an ‘Eat Lombardi’s Pizza’ magnet. I read it again for the hundredth time.

Seeking one highly motivated singer/musician with:
    - eclectic (non-controversial) taste in music
    - willingness to contribute to small-town charm without showboating
    - humility and virtue (thou shalt not sing Madonna)
Offering flexible hours, affordable housing, community integration, complimentary WiFi, and one complimentary milkshake/week.
Please report to Taylor Doose at Taylor Doose’s Old-Fashioned Soda Shoppe in Stars Hollow, Connecticut, on Sunday, June 3. Line up at 8:30 am. Auditions to commence promptly at 9:00 am.

     I smiled to myself and it didn’t hurt me. I pulled the bus ticket from my pocket and used the same magnet to stick it up with the advertisement.

     I will go!

Want to read more? Click here for Chapter Two: I Drove All Night

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Blank Spaces Is Anything But Blank

I'm feeling overwhelmed with gratitude right now and there's nothing I can do except open up my arms and throw out a big thank you hug.

As of this moment, the first issue of my {heart-project} magazine has broken even. I don't know if I should laugh or cry. So I'm going to do both. Like I'm watching an episode of The Foster's. {Seriously, how does that show make happy-cry-sad-cry every single time??}

Blanks Spaces magazine is gaining traction
Maybe I shouldn't be surprised. Maybe I should shrug my shoulders and just be like: yeah, of course people believe in me. Except I really thought people would shrug their shoulders and write me off as crazy. I mean, who do I think I am, trying to launch a new Can Lit magazine? Who?

I began this project with intentions to lose money. No. Let me rephrase that. I began this expecting to lose a little money. It was an experiment. It was almost a whim {though I don't want to sound so flippant} and I had no way of knowing whether or not it would gain any traction. I thought, I'll give it a try. I'll see what happens. I'll front the money because it's my venture and that's fair. People pay for their own pursuits every single day.

When I set up a donation option on the website, I didn't expect much. But people gave.

When I promoted the pre-orders, I didn't expect much. But people pre-ordered.

Is it weird that I feel a little freaked out that this thing is actually working?

Yes. Yes, it is weird. I need to get over it.

All this is to say, when Blank Spaces 'hits the stands' on September 1st, it will not have cost me a single dollar. Of course, there's the HUNDREDS of hours I've poured into it, all that coffee I've been drinking, the time away from family, the late night editing sessions with my WONDERFUL/GORGEOUS/SELFLESS volunteers...but I'm okay with it because {for the most part} it's been fun! And it's exciting to see other people get excited by something that was birthed in my brain during one night of writerly frustration...

And so, profits from the sale of this first issue, from this moment on, will fund the second issue which means this is the real deal.

And that's scary AND amazing!
If you're interested in making me cry some more happy tears, you can head on over to the magazine website and put in your order for the premiere issue. I'm accepting pre-orders just until Saturday {August 20} so if you want one at my publisher's rate, you'll have to act fast.

To those of you who have believed in me by ordering and/or donating, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I am humbled and amazed by your generosity. And when you do hold your freshly printed copy in your hands, I would be thrilled to hear your feedback. It's my hope that each issue will be better than the last.

Stay beautiful, my friends, and stick with me as we fill in the blank spaces...
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