Never say never

Sometimes never comes sooner than you think

Things I have said in my life:
1) “I will never move back to New England from the West Coast”
2) “I will never give up on thinking a bikini might look good on me one day if I just try very, very hard”
3) “I will never write another book like Amateur Hour

That last one? I said never because 1) Honestly I didn’t think I’d ever be asked / allowed to write another book! and 2) Amateur Hour was a tough book to write. I’ve spoken a lot about the reasons and if you want to know them you can email me. I need to stop boring people with tales of the timeline and the summer lost and the crying and the typing. All this to say that when I was on my book tour and someone would ask me during the Q&A when I’d be following up Amateur Hour with an Amateur Hour-like book I always answered “HAHAHAHA literally never! I’m never doing that again!” and I meant that shit.

Well here are some updates on how “never” has worked out for me:
1) I moved from Oregon to Vermont … 15 years ago
2) LOL bikini!

I am excited about this book. I am excited to write it. I’m even more excited to have a whole entire year to work on it! I know people get nervous about the topic of marriage and divorce or feel obligated to message me and say something along the lines of I’M SO SORRY ABOUT YOUR MARRIAGE :( :( :( YOU ARE PROBABLY DEVASTATED

Please don’t do this. To me, to anyone. You make so many assumptions when you say things like this. I have done this too, so I know it’s a natural knee jerk reaction. But as the jerk on the other side of the knee now, I beg you to pause and stop before you react this way. Want to know more? READ THE BOOK. Just kidding, I have no idea what 85% of this book will be about.

What I do know: This will be a book that will examine marriage and divorce conceptually, through humor, essays, culture, assumptions, media, my life, my relationships, and probably how my hips are to blame for all of it (esp the bikini part). I’ve started reading through my journals from high school and college so, you know, brace yourself. Things could get weird. Or stupid. This will not be a book about blame or finger pointing. I like my ex-husband so much he is actually still (technically/legally) my husband and we still live together. I don’t think this book will be a downer. I don’t want it to be a downer! This is not a book I plan to cry my way through. Well, maybe a little. I think it will be different and weird, I think it can be funny and unexpected. I hope people who are struggling with their marriage or their assumptions of what they’re supposed to want from life will read it and think, “Okay well, at least I’m not the only loon thinking about this.” And I hope when you’re done reading it you will close the book, look off to the horizon, and whisper to yourself, “Well, that was not … terrible.”

I was just looking through my photos from the SUMMER OF AMATEUR HOUR ‘17 and every photo is of my laptop and a coffee or a glass of wine or my poor neglected dog begging to go for a walk and can I just say I am triggered? I’m grateful to have the space and time to work this book through, while also walking my dog, and spending time with my kids, and co-parenting and possibly camping with my future ex-husband. It feels positively luxurious to be able to roll ideas and thoughts around at this early stage instead of feeling panic from my eyeballs down to my pinky toes like last time. I’m excited to be able to think, to have space, to structure it and balance it. I can’t believe I’m lucky enough to get to do this whole thing again. I promise to do my absolute best to not fuck it up.

There is no preorder information yet, it’s entirely too early for me to start shoving that stuff down your throats, but I hope you will be interested enough in this process to hear occasional updates.

A week after my first book deal was announced in June 2017, we headed to Maine for vacation. We decided to hold off on the celebration until then and brought along a little bottle of sparkling wine given to me by an excellent friend. We poured a tiny sip for my kids (at the time, 11 and 13, very European!) and much bigger sips for my husband and I. My son announced that, as we must be aware, it was against the law for him to drink alcohol and he refused his glass. My daughter gulped hers, tasted it for a nanosecond, then spit it all into the beach roses. We’re not going to Maine until the end of the summer this year but you can bet I’ll be trying this again, just to see what happens. Lives change, kids grow, but the law’s the law, man.

Happy summer, everyone! I’ll be stepping back from this newsletter just a bit this summer so I can soak it all in too. I hope you have the best summer ever with only minimal feelings of murder towards Instagram. (Ahem, related.)

Due to a quirk in timing just about every piece I’ve been working on over the past 6 months all pubbed within just a few weeks. Right now I don’t have a single thing out on submission or forthcoming, not even a book proposal! Whoop! FEELS LIKE (temporary) FREEDOM! Anyway, here are all my latest pieces from the past month:
• THE NEW YORKER (humor): “Answers to ‘Is Your Dog Friendly?’ Applied to Me”
• McSWEENEY’S (humor): “Fast Times at Alabama High”
• THE CUT (humor): “How To Be the Best Mom”
• LITHUB (humor): “Is this my first book tour or my own funeral?”
• THE BELLADONNA (humor): “We heard you. And decided to do something else instead.”
• AIRBNB MAGAZINE (humor): “Road Tripping With Teenagers: A Survival Guide”
• PRIMA MAGAZINE (personal essay): “You Never Think You’ll Turn 50”
• OVER 30 UNDER 30 (interview): Talking work, life lessons, and ageism in the ad industry right here —-> “The Writer”

• IDEAS: Aside from lifting her notecards idea for organizing my book (In fact, I was at Staples yesterday buying my multicolor index cards and my dork excitement levels were OFF THE CHARTS), this brief interview is something else. “There’s a story where we were on vacation and I was being a jerk and complaining about things. And he said to me, ‘Looking at you is like looking into a dirty mirror.’ I remember that stinging in the moment, and stinging when I was writing it. It shows that he wanted me to be a mirror image of himself, but was disturbed when it actually looked like him.” “Erin Lee Carr on Father-Daughter Joys and Struggles” in The New York Times
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO READ THAT BOOK? Yes, really. (FWIW Amateur Hour comes in at 4 hours and 16 minutes)
• UGLY SCREENSHOTS: As far as I can tell publishing is an industry where time moves in reverse, deals are considered binding just based on a verbal a-okay, and people probably still slap each other across the face with thin leather gloves when offended. So it would make sense that the screen shot everyone shares to announce their book deal (ahem) is a throwback to the beep-boop-beeeeeeeeeep-wong-wong-wong sounds of a dialup connection: “Here’s Why Authors All Tweet An Ugly Screenshot From The Same Websites” from Buzzfeed
• NOSTALGIA: I was an absolute whore for George magazine back in the day and reading this piece brought it all back (plus: the heyday of print magazines! *sobs*): “The Inside Story of John F. Kennedy Jr.’s George Magazine”
• HUMOR: I mean, these are the first two lines: “Some say that being an artist and being a parent are incompatible. They are correct.” So good. “An Artist’s Guide to Raising Children” by Marco Kaye in The New Yorker.
• DREW MAGARY: You know Drew Magary even if you don’t. He wrote these. Back in December there was an alarming post from Deadspin about him being injured but providing no details. It’s weird to be worried about someone you’ve never met, someone who only exists via your wifi connection. Here’s the incredible story of what happened to him. The fact that he can write this himself, in his same voice, still so fucking funny, is astonishing.
• HUMOR: This Twitter thread on childhood and bodies of water is, without exception, the funniest way to kick off your summer. I feel personally attacked by the reservoir one.

Like what you’re reading? Subscribe, share, forward it to your friends who are ready to summer so hard.
You can find my copywriting work here and my writing-writing work here.
You can find me on Twitter.
You can find me on Instagram.
Please do not find me in real life. I am busy writing another book I definitely said “never” to.

You know what time of year it is


It’s that time of year when I look at my calendar and see zero white space.

It’s that time of year when I regularly put my head down on the dining room table and want to cry.

It’s that time of year I’m both very ready for summer vacation and also a little terrified of summer vacation because I won’t have a day to myself again for 10 weeks but I still have to work?

It’s that time of year that inspired this.

And although this time around, it’s all an absolute mess primarily due to my own shit—freelance, book proposal revisions, existential issues, the inability to reschedule Mother’s Day yes really— vs. having little kids whose educational ecosystem required much more hands-on everything (teacher gifts! popsicles! field trip chaperones! all the everything!) it all still comes to a head no matter what.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this article (that I used as a bit of a punchline in this piece) that said 90-year-olds identified the years when their children were young and living at home as the happiest of their lives. I know they’re right. I know they are. Life with kids feels full (full of what exactly changes by the day, often by the minute). These years have not felt lonely, they have not felt dull.

Since my kids are teenagers I find myself thinking more often of that future moment when there will be no kids in my house at all. There is a small part of me that’s ready for that chapter (she said, from the comfort of her perch 4+ years away) and it has nothing to do with them. If keeping them in my pockets until my dying day was an option, believe me, I’d be looking into it. But as much as I (theoretically, very theoretically) am ready for my next chapter, I think I will miss having teenagers. What I will not miss, I hope to God, is this last month of the school year. It’s not just that it’s an organizational 10-pounds-of-shit-in-a-5-pound-bag hell. It is an emotional hell too, it always feels like there is a “last”. There is always a gut punch hidden somewhere. There is always something to take in at the same time you give another year away.

Funny thing, I was never cut out to be the mother of newborns or infants or toddlers. Unless it comes naturally to you and you are super chill about literally nothing ever going the way it’s supposed to go, it is hard. It’s relentless. It requires heaps of patience and the setting aside of self over and over and over again. But I did all the things anyway. I went to the festivals and the field trips and the music hours. I suffered through Sesame Street Live where my son, only five, *flipped out* when they flooded the aisles with balloons because on just a regular day he would feel terrified by the suspense and potential sound of one single balloon popping so you can just imagine. We took a day trip to see Thomas the Tank Engine once, a drive that was four hours each way. Although exhausting as that entire experience sounds now, I remember it as one of our greatest days as a little family. We put our backs into this thing is what I’m saying, not every day and not every time, but often enough to matter.

I have grown exponentially lazier with each passing year. I’m not telling them to pack their lunches or make their own dinner so they can learn to be independent. I’m telling them those things because I’m out of friggin’ gas, people. I just cannot anymore. I blew all my energy and attention on the years they don’t even remember. I know this, because I ask them all the time. “Don’t you remember the so-and-so and the such-and-such?” They do not.

Yaaaaaaaay, parenting.

Anyway, my point being, as terrified as I was for the teenage years—and granted I am only at the beginning of them—I love having teenagers. I love to hear what they think about the world and learn what they care about as pre-adults. I get most of the day’s headlines from my son and try not to like too many songs my daughter also likes because obviously that would be the kiss of death. I took her to see Ariana Grande a couple months ago and, given everything that’s happening right now, an arena packed with (mostly) young girls acting joyful and carefree is something I needed. There is a reason we all carry our teenage years with us to the grave. For better or worse, we just can’t shake them. The feelings cut deeper, the highs were higher, all the firsts indelible. To watch these years unfold from the outside is a privilege. Even when it is hard, and it can be, I am into it. This was the phase I was built for.

I read this piece this week and I found it incredibly depressing. College can suck it, honestly. Another point of view for another time but spending your entire adolescence building a resumé instead of following the curves and dips of your own curiosity or just working a regular old teenager-type job is a depressing concept to ponder. Sorry, I’m not a good enough writer to say it any other way—it’s stupid and it sucks. My generation of parents and the one before me and likely the one after me are doing a very solid job of ruining the experience of being a teenager. We’re trying to make every moment of childhood magical and then every moment of adolescence … Harvard Business School? Fuck that. If the delicious college scam has taught us anything, it’s that parents see everything their kids do as their own personal performance review, forgetting they are not us, they never were. And robbing them of the opportunity to organically figure out their world and their place in it, absent of recognition or college admissions, is a crime against teenage humanity.

I wish I could write more about all of this now but I can’t. I have a mammogram follow-up and a work deadline and a presentation today. I need to balance our checkbook and one of my kids has a piano lesson and I wonder where the field trip permission slip is for my daughter? I need to look over her speech for a friend’s bat mitzvah this weekend and figure out if we’re all getting our pictures taken together Friday after school or what. I will likely end up eating Oreos and milk tonight for dinner. Again. (That’s not a Ben Carson joke, it’s just facts.) I badly need to get to yoga before I implode mentally or explode spectacularly through my pants. I’m keeping my eye on the prize of mid-June when my kids are released into the suburban wilds again. And I’ll realize on that last day of school, the same day they all head off for a weekend of Dad Camp, that of the 18 summers I started out with when I left the hospital with babies, there are only 4 and 6 summers of kids-at-home left. It’s fine. I’m fine.

• McSWEENEY’S: Watching Fast Times at Ridgemont High four times back-to-back gave me a lot to think about. Highly recommend as a coping strategy 10/10 “Fast Times at Alabama High”
• LITHUB: This piece slowly took shape on and off over months, based on a joke I told at the beginning of most of my readings on book tour. “Is this my first book tour or my own funeral?”
• THE BELLADONNA: A little piece about all the many, many areas of life where we keep getting the exact opposite of what we want and I am not angry at all! “We heard you. And decided to do something else instead.”

• McSWEENEY’S: LOL “Increasingly Less Sure Ways to Get Bob Seger To Go”
• NEW YORKER: “What Is Writing and Does This Count As It?” by Mia Mercado
• THE BELLADONNA: “Whoops! That Doesn’t Feel Right. Please Wait While We Redirect You To The Clitoris.” by Rachel Ciferno
• HYOOM: A wonderful, in-depth interview on the humor writing process with Sarah Hutto.
This is the meanest thing Riane Konc has ever done.
• FRESH AIR: I am so obsessed with PEN15 and I will not apologize for it. Don’t listen to this if you haven’t watched the show yet! “Return To Middle School In 'PEN15': Creators Say ‘It's All About Survival’”
• McSWEENEY’S: Lot of valid points here “I Don’t Think a Women is Electable in 2020 Because Last Time Around the Female Nominee Only Got Three Million More Votes Than Her Opponent”
• VOX: This is so satisfying and keeps getting better, right down to the writer’s bio. I’m gonna feel high on the phrase “eclectic tragedies” for some time. From 2018 but evergreen in our current hellscape: “Betsy DeVos’s summer home deserves a special place in McMansion Hell”

Like what you’re reading? Subscribe, share, forward it to your friends WHO JUST CANNOT RIGHT NOW.
You can find my copywriting work here and my writing-writing work here.
You can find me on Twitter.
You can find me on Instagram.
Please do not find me in real life. I am busy X-ing off days from the school calendar.

Exhausting, Exhilarating

Mothering, no matter what day it is

This was a long week. A long, emotion-filled, jam-packed with big ups and frustrating downs kind of week. The sort of week you wonder—big picture—why the Earth hasn’t shaken us off like fleas (God knows it’s trying.) And the kind of week that leaves you—small picture—washed up on the shores of Friday afternoon like Tom Hanks in Cast Away.

This was a week of getting-ready-for-braces and what’s-wrong-with-your-leg-PT appointments (and eating creemees in between appointments, in place of lunch), early morning jazz band rehearsal, buying giant boxes of salty snacks for the play bake sale because ain’t nobody got time to bake fuckall this week. Then in the midst of these mundane happenings, there was another school shooting just a week after another school shooting and it’s becoming clear we are training children to fight the fights the rest of us don’t want to fight. We are training children to become martyrs. I cried this week, I think three times? All different reasons. I stomped around and complained loudly about moving out of this country, making my daughter burst into tears over leaving her friends (we are not moving out of this country). I just want to tuck these-now-giant-children under my arms and flee the godforsaken gun culture whose grip may never be broken. And run away from the the hounds of Hell that’ve been released, gushing, full of thick poison, into our collective bloodstream. I want to escape, I want to keep them safe. I love them. I worry. I worry every day. Then I had to cut the conversation short because laundry.

This week I’ve fielded no fewer than six new freelance projects, wrote three new pieces, and desperately tried to find homes for three other mother-themed pieces under the annual Mother’s Day deadline. I absorbed complicated rejections—the worst kind of rejections that are actually acceptances initially then officially rejections. Ugh. I’ve picked up my kids from play rehearsal late every night as they prepared for their final performances this weekend and all that entails—nightly washing of the same socks and shirts, nagging them to take showers, soothing last minute panics, celebrating triumphs, weighing criticism, so many emotions, pretty much all of them. I’ve had to process their feelings with them while not even remotely keeping my own in check.

This all to say, I have been a mother this week. I have been a mother to these kids right in front of me. I have mourned, thinking of the mothers across this country who have lost their children this past week in ways unimaginable yet increasingly unsurprising. I have mourned, thinking of the mothers here in Vermont who lost their girls this year—one in February, one just a couple of weeks ago. I have mothered up and all the way down this week, trying to make as much money as I can, say ‘yes’ to everything that has come my way, then in parallel write pieces with little to no chance of making me any money at all but to get the work out there, help sell my book, and in the midst of it, field feedback on my second book.

I have found pockets in this chaos to drag myself to yoga early over and over again. I’ve crawled onto my mat, facedown, and spent fifteen minutes before class just inhaling through my nose, exhaling loudly out of my mouth. Trying to get it out, get it out of me. I have clicked OKAY on notifications every 4 minutes that my hard drive space is low and hello bitch Dropbox can't sync until you free some disk space up.

Free some disk space up. Fuck you, free some disk space up. YOU FREE SOME DISK SPACE UP.

I have had estimates pouring in for things that need to get done to our house that we can’t afford to do yet still need to get done. I’ve been sorting boxes of old photos and spent most of that time wondering who that person is. Who is she? Who was she? Did she know anything at all? Did she have any idea?

This week I wrote about what being fifty is like, the 6-week “heartbeat” bill, intense mothering advice, juice cleanses, rape defense classes, mass shootings, easy ways to support moms, and now this thing. I was so written out and wrung out by last night that this newsletter existing at all is a Mother’s Day miracle.

Because of my book, because of where and how all my writing began, I feel pressure to chime in on Mother’s Day. To get pieces published. To say something, anything. This newsletter squarely falls in the “something, anything” category because I don’t even know what my point is. Other than Mother’s Day is one day. I won’t even be celebrating it tomorrow. We have to work on our house. My kids will have gotten home from their last play performance around midnight, exhausted, exhilarated. There are no reservations, there are no plans. A year ago on Mother’s Day I was at Powell’s doing the biggest, most meaningful reading of my entire book tour. Three thousand miles away from my kids. And it wasn’t sad. It was exhausting, exhilarating.

Just like being a mother.

Happy Mother’s Day, whatever that might mean to you. It doesn’t have to mean anything, really. It can just be a Sunday you spend reading the paper and walking your dog, feeling the sunshine on your face, and thinking of all the exhausted, exhilarated women who keep it all going. The women who know how you feel and, if they don’t, love you enough to really try.

• MCSWEENEY’S: I now have to write a follow-up piece based on the reactions to this piece. 🙄PSA: No one ever died from shutting up. “Things People Say When You Get Divorced That They Really Should Say When You Get Engaged”
• THE CUT: I am v v v thrilled to be back on The Cut, especially with this piece. I think it’s my favorite piece of 2019 so far! “How to Be the Best Mom”
• MEDIUM: My reaction to the 6-week “heartbeat” bill. “Other Clumps of Cells That Should be Considered ‘Natural Persons’ and Worthy of Rabid Protection”

• SLATE “An Ode to the Moms”, an excerpt: “There is a photo in one of my photo albums that my mother must have taken a version of hundreds of times, over decades: a cluster of middle-aged women, glowing tan from the sun and wearing drapey, jewel-toned fabrics, holding plastic cups of wine or gin and tonic, turning toward the camera and smiling. These are the Moms, the matriarchs of the families that surrounded us throughout my childhood … Because I’m an American woman, as I get older, it becomes harder to see myself as interesting, funny, or magnetic—as anything other than surplus. But because of these women, I can imagine being middle-aged.”
• THE NEW YORKER “The Hormones They Are A-Changin’” One of my favorites by Emily Flake, and that’s really saying something. Favorite line: “What has two thumbs and is real chill?”
• THE ATLANTIC Knock Down the House and the Quiet Insurgency of Tears” If you haven’t watched Knock Down the House PLEASE DO. It will truly make you feel better about the state of this country. Maybe don’t read this piece until you do, though, it’s spoiler-y when it comes to the emotional punch this doc packs. A (safe) excerpt: “Knock Down the House offers a counterargument to empty stoicism and the strict-father model: The tears, here, double almost as campaign promises. They suggest the kind of passion and compassion that, the film argues, have been absent from the behavior of many of the (white, male) politicians who have shaped the status quo to their preferences. They suggest that the feminine-coded qualities that have often been treated as liabilities in political life are, in fact, profound assets.”
• WGBH “The Kid Who 'Put Everybody In Stitches' At Boston Symphony Hall Has Been Found” This story brought the happy tears, for lots of reasons. “Seconds after the orchestra stopped playing Mozart's ‘Masonic Funeral Music’ at the Boston Symphony Hall on Sunday, 9-year-old Ronan Mattin was so swept away by the music that he loudly exclaimed — for the whole auditorium to hear — ‘Wow!’ After a beat, as Ronan's awe-filled ‘Wow!’ echoed throughout the hall, the audience burst into laughter and cheers.”
• NYTIMES “What Good Dads Get Away With” This viral op-ed is by the author of the amazing book I told you about here, ALL THE RAGE: MOTHERS, FATHERS, AND THE MYTH OF EQUAL PARTNERSHIP. An excerpt: “Sociologists attribute the discrepancy between mothers’ expectations and reality to “a largely successful male resistance.” This resistance is not being led by socially conservative men, whose like-minded wives often explicitly agree to take the lead in the home. It is happening, instead, with relatively progressive couples, and it takes many women — who thought their partners had made a prenatal commitment to equal parenting — by surprise.” Oh well, Happy Mother’s Day!

Like what you’re reading? Subscribe, share, forward it to your mom friends who are too busy to read much of anything, really.
You can find my copywriting work here and my writing-writing work here.
You can find me on Twitter.
You can find me on Instagram.
Please do not find me in real life. I am probably busy bringing a kid somewhere.

*breaks the tension*

Let's talk Satire & Humor Festival! Let's smile smiles!

X Mayo, writer for The Daily Show. Photographer: Rafael Rautha

Hoo boy, my newsletters have been peak 2019 y’all and hella depressing. Suicide, being jealous of people going on vacation, life being disappointing and not lucrative, shuttering RAZED, abandoning resolutions, being mad about the inequality between fathers and mothers. This has been some kind of bullshit year (it’s only April LOL WTF) but I have got to lighten things up or I will unsubscribe from my own damn newsletter.

So basically with this newsletter I’ll be trying to say in 1000+ words what is best summed up at the 1:00-1:09 mark in Finding Nemo.

Let’s talk Satire & Humor Festival! Let’s talk tons of comedy links! Let’s talk winter is finally over here in Vermont which only took 18-1/2 months! Way to go, Vermont! I knew you could (eventually) do it!

Caitlin Kunkel contacted me a few months ago about a brand new festival she was co-producing. She asked if I would come, said maybe there’d be a book panel, and Emma Allen had already committed. That was December 31st. I booked my ticket January 4th not knowing what exactly would be happening, who else would be there, or what involvement (if any) I would have. It says a lot about both my desire to travel to NYC as a “business” “expense” and the fact that there was nothing else like what she (and her co-producers, James Folta and Tulio Espinoza) were proposing. Satire and humor writing isn’t always stand-up. It’s rarely flashy. And it sure as hell isn’t lucrative, for most people anyway. Although there are all kinds of overlap and subsets in this group—late night TV writers, authors, comedians—most satire writers have day jobs and writing is a sideline.

As much as we all complain about the internet, this community wouldn’t exist in quite the same way without it. While a lot of writers are based in NYC, many aren’t. In fact, two of the writers I was most excited to meet in person came from Ohio and Maine. And because many of the connections we had were all online—between Binders and The Belladonna—I had the same takeaway as Rebecca Saltzman. It’s a pretty incredible thing in this day and age to truly feel like comedy in any form is a chick thing and that you *actually forgot* it’s something men do too, because your sense of community is just that strong.

I won’t recap it event by event because booooor-inggggg but this is what still stands out to me a month later:

Spearheaded by Irving Ruan (a man who writes satire?? You go Irving!), a few of us met up for dinner before heading out to the opening night drinks get together thing (I am articulate!) Even though it was an “unofficial” “festival” “event” it was my first indication of what I was missing by not having an irl writing community. Writing humor has been a huge part of my life for the past 4-5 years but this work I love, the people who write it, and the conversations about it only exist online for me. It was a welcome feeling to be able to talk about writing in person. We had a superstar table (Riane Konc, Sarah Hutto, Mia Mercado, Lucy Huber, and yeah no other dudes aside from Irving as it turns out hmmmm suspicious) and honestly it was an honor just to be nominated / invited.

The organizers expected about 40-60 people to attend the get-acquainted-drinks thing. Over 100 showed up. It was loud. It was full of, dare I say, giddy energy? I was, dare I say, full of sweat? I met more people in three hours than I’ve met in three years. At 10:30 I panicked I was losing my voice from 5 straight hours of talking then shout-talking so I fled. IT WAS A GREAT NIGHT.

The reflection off my sweat almost makes me invisible to the naked eye. Sarah Hutto has pretty hair that *I will* touch next time.

There had been approximately 8 billion jokes about how meeting everyone in person felt like a convention of talking and moving avatars. While depressing as general commentary, it was also highly accurate. Most of us knew each other only by our handles or the most popular pieces we had written.

The wonderful and smart thing about that first night is it gave everyone a built-in / I-talked-to-you-last-night / I-know-your-face community for the rest of the weekend. It was like having the summer BBQ before your first day of kindergarten except for introverted grownups who write themselves into a black hole.

I was signed up to teach a workshop, participate in a book panel, and do a reading. And that’s also the order in which I organized my nervousness initially, with the workshop being the thing I was most freaked out about. That order completely reversed itself two weeks before the festival when I realized I was much, much more nervous about the reading even though it was just a five minute commitment. Prior to my book tour I put an enormous amount of effort into working through my anxiety over public speaking. I’ve learned a lot since then in general and specifically about which elements trigger my nerves. Panels? No, they’re easy! Workshops? Turns out, although I had never taught one in my life, I wasn’t nervous at all and really enjoyed teaching. Was the workshop perfect? No, no it was not. But I would love to teach more and keep improving. But a reading? In front of ALL THE PEOPLE WHO HAD COME TO THE FESTIVAL? In the same lineup as writers who are McSweeney’s legends, New Yorker legends (everyone?), viral Medium legends, late night writers for Seth Myers, Colbert, Wyatt Cenac's Problem Areas, Our Cartoon President, AND with the humor editor of The New Yorker in the audience? Wow, fuck that is all I can say about saying yes to that fucking thing.

Except: it was great. My nerves settled down. The energy that James Folta in particular brought to that event was warm and supportive and loose — exactly the opposite of my energy which was akin to panicking bees being shaken relentlessly in a glass jar. When I think about that night, where just about all of it was 100% a brand new experience for me, I’m like, “Well yeah you were actually right to be terrified. You don’t like not knowing things.” I didn’t know how the curtain worked, where the opening was. It makes me sound very stupid and bOnKeRs to admit that yet here we are. I watched that curtain like a hawk as every person got off / on the stage. I didn’t know if I was supposed to talk about the piece first or just dive into it (I dove into it, I AM NOT A STAND-UP), I still love that I was concerned over perhaps being last in the lineup (HELLOOOO LAST IS FOR HEADLINERS DUMMY). But once I was out there and started reading and got laughs I had … fun? I really did. I was hard on myself afterward and still think about things I would do differently but, like the workshop, I remind myself that jeez it was the first time I ever did a group reading! I deserve some slack. And although on the face of it, the lineup was intimidating credits-wise, everyone was really lovely person-wise.

“Everyone is really lovely person-wise” would be a very on point tagline for the entire festival. I hate the phrase “on point” but I’ll allow it.

It took so long for me to get around to writing this newsletter that a piece read by Evan Waite—that absolutely killed that night—ended up being bought by The New Yorker and it ran in print last week! You’ll find it here. My piece … was also for sale (I didn’t know that was an option??) … but anyway :(

Late Night Writers Panel. Photographer: Rafael Rautha

There was a kinship, sense of support, and vibe of Mutual Admiration Society that ran through the entire festival, through every event. Networking and Q&A were built into just about every panel or event and it helped broadcast the feeling that no matter who you are or what stage you’re at, you can do this too. I can’t think of anyone who wasn’t a fan of someone else there, making it feel like a space that was absent of the impenetrable hierarchy that permeates so many festivals / conferences / whatevers.

It’s only been a month since that weekend and, in many ways, I feel like I’m still coming down from it. I’m already excited for next year and come hell or high water, I’ll be there. I don’t know what involvement I’ll have (if any), I may have hit saturation point out of the gate! But what I’ve learned is it’s crucial for me to keep pushing myself even when I feel uncomfortable or freaked out, that I really do have an entire other community that exists in this world, and there are always new goals to aim for and big swings to take.

Me very timidly showing off my book cover during the book panel. Photographer: Samuel Burriss

In the lag between getting back to regular life and finally writing this, I read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. There were a lot—and I do mean a lot—of jokes leading up to and throughout the festival about introverts, social anxiety, and awkwardness. But you’d never guess any of that was an issue if you’d been dropped into any of these events. Plenty of talking, socializing, laughing, and (possibly deceptive?) extroversion were on display. What I realized in reading Quiet is that satire writing is a perfect fit for introverts — because introverts are studying studying studying everything and trying to make sense of it all without necessarily hungering for attention. And when it comes to performing their work or mingling, they’re rising above their introverted tendencies because what they’re doing is so important to them, it’s worth the trade off.

A very serious shot of a seriously fun book panel. Photographer: Samuel Burriss

This from pg. 210 especially caught my attention: “According to Free Trait Theory, we are born and culturally endowed with certain personality traits—introversion, for example—but we can and do act out of character in the service of ‘core personal projects’.”

As the author goes more in depth into this in her book, it made me realize how common this seems to be in the writing community in general. I know I seesawed between feeling energized and exhausted all weekend and it took me a week to recover after it was over. It’s the same experience I had on my book tour. I’ve talked to many people who seem completely at ease at their readings or performances but will tell me they’re practically catatonic after. What Quiet made me realize is introversion isn’t bad, unlike what American culture tells us. It’s not something to be fixed and it’s not a flaw. It’s just a different way of interacting with the world that can have some pretty powerful (and pretty funny) results.

If you’re looking for another take on the festival, check out Caitlin Kunkel’s newsletter and subscribe! If you know of other recaps, send them along and I’ll include them in a future newsletter. To sign up for updates on the next festival (along with events and workshops that will be happening throughout the year), drop your email here.

Ain’t no beer like a half-chugged post-reading beer. Fight me.

• McSWEENEY’S: This timely one for McSweeney’s pubbed the day after The Mueller Report was released! 1) I only had a 30 minute window to write it so thank you Jesus for searchable PDFs. 2) I will go back to the Radiohead well as often as I’m allowed.
• OTHER HUMOR: I have pieces forthcoming in The New Yorker (yes I know I’ve been saying this for almost 4 months now, I swear I’m not lying I just don’t know the date yet!), LitHub, and Airbnb Magazine.
• AMATEUR HOUR for MOTHER’S DAY: We’re just two weeks way from Mother’s Day but never fear! You can still get a signed / personalized copy of AMATEUR HOUR mailed to you or your mother-person from my local bookstore Phoenix Books. If you’re local, you can shave that deadline even closer! All the details are here.

• HUMOR: This is, by far, the most fucked up, most utterly BANANAS, most off the charts weird ass parenting thing I have ever read AND I LOVE IT SO MUCH.
• DIPSHIT: Yes, dipshit. Guaranteed the best piece you will ever read about this word. From The Paris Review (right?! I know.)
• LATE NIGHT: Considering writing for late night? Tons of great insights and advice here from Sara Schaefer re: submitting your packet. Followed up with this advice on how to find the opportunities to submit.
• PODCAST: It feels like there is a middle school-themed renaissance happening, one that is ironically not appropriate to share with your actual middle schoolers. We’ve got absolute perfection as demonstrated by Big Mouth and Pen15. And I would like to add a much more obscure / far less dirty yet no less delightful entry with the podcast The Jedediaries. It’s genuinely funny, a touching portrait of friendship then and now, and I was never prepared for all the emotional curveballs along the way (much like middle school.) “25 years ago, a 12-year-old boy kept a diary. He wrote in it every single day of the year 1993. This year – 2018 – that boy is a 37-year-old man, and he's going through that diary, week by week, to see how he's different, how he's the same, and what we can learn by figuring out who we used to be.”
• CREATIVE MORNINGS: This wonderful Creative Mornings talk by Grace Bonney, founder of Design*Sponge, is the sort of emotional, real talk that anyone who’s making big uncertain leaps, walking away from sure things, and/or truly hungering for more connection in real life needs to hear. 😭😭😭
• NEW COMEDY ON NETFLIX: This is the first time I loved an interview so much I was all in on a show I had never even heard of. I’m 6 episodes in and it’s just so good.
• SNL: This is highly relevant to my interests and also utterly perfect. “Wes Anderson Horror Trailer”

Like what you’re reading? Subscribe, share, forward it to your introverted funny friends.
You can find my copywriting work here and my writing-writing work here.
You can find me on Twitter.
You can find me on Instagram.
Please do not find me in real life. Unless we’re at the Satire & Humor Festival where obviously that’s fine and normal.

Mother's Day is May 12th

(Ahem, one month from today)

Hello friends and “friends”—

I’m dropping in very quickly to let you know Mother’s Day is exactly one month from today. I KNOW. (Did I just hear you hiss “Shit!”? I know you did.) But it’s okay because someone you and I both know wrote a book that would make a perfect Mother’s Day gift!* In fact it came out last year just in time for Mother’s Day so there’s your proof! It includes this piece that appeared in The New Yorker and this other piece that was excerpted in The New York Times. Who could that person possibly be?? Oh it’s me, hi!

Because local booksellers are the best booksellers, Phoenix Books here in Burlington, Vermont has set me up with my own page for Mother’s Day gift giving of that very book, AMATEUR HOUR: MOTHERHOOD IN ESSAYS AND SWEAR WORDS! You can order your 23 copies right here and have them inscribed with something personal-ish. Any requests to “Sign it the funny way David Sedaris signs his books!” will result in me setting your book on fire and mailing your mom the ashes with postage due. You can also indicate “please include swears” because honey I have been down this path before and I will do it.

You can also order by Ye Olde Telephone-o by calling my friends at Phoenix Books at 802-448-3350. Shipping is just 5 bucks but if you spend $30 or more shipping is FREE! So get to it, you are officially out of excuses. Also: does anyone know when an author is supposed to stop promoting her book? Because it feels like this could maybe go on forever?

*Honestly? Only get this book for someone who can hang with swearing. Even I think it’s too much swearing at this point but turns out print books are permanent LOL. And yes, people actually do complain about all the swearing even given the very obvious subtitle. Hello, civilization is almost over, move on everyone.

The next newsletter will be a real one, I promise! In the meantime:
Subscribe, share, forward it to your shopping-for-their-moms friends.
You can find my copywriting work here and my writing-writing work here.
You can find me on Twitter.
You can find me on Instagram.
Please do not find me in real life. I’m real busy signing books I hope.

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