The Accidental Anglican — How an Evangelical Girl Discovered Liturgy & Never Turned Back


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Holy-Eucharist-IconI was raised Evangelical. If you want to get specific about it, I was raised Baptist. My family likes to joke that I was baptized twice–once when my mother was baptized as an adult (8 months pregnant with me), and again when I was 15.

The Church (big C church) has been a part of my life literally since before I was born. I was raised on Vacation Bible School skits and 90s CCM and felt-board Sunday School lessons and memorizing the books of the Bible, in order, in exchange for mini Snickers and Reese’s Cups. So I can only imagine how odd it must have been for my mother when, my senior year of high school, I told her I wanted to attend the Episcopal church in town.

In a way, it was prompted by something my English teacher said. One of the perks of attending a Christian school is that your teachers can go off topic and talk about the Protestant Reformation (a topic that is also covered in World History, but hey). My teacher said that Luther didn’t want to split the Church (big C) up into Protestant and Catholic–he just wanted the Church to stop selling indulgences and passing Church titles down to the sons of priests and Cardinals and Popes that officially didn’t exist. He wanted the Church to start following God again. And it did! After the schism the Catholic Church had what is called the Catholic Reformation (by Catholics) or the Counter-Reformation (by Protestants who were likely a little sore about being labeled Protestants). But what stuck with me was the idea that the Episcopal denomination was as Catholic as you can get without actually being Catholic.

My parents had very different reactions. They were both raised Catholic, but they met at a Protestant church and raised my sister and I as Protestant. My mother didn’t understand why I wasn’t fulfilled by Evangelical worship, and my father thought it was fascinating that I—-the daughter who only attended mass when I was with his parents, my paternal grandparents, (and who once, famously, asked my sister if Catholic people worshiped idols after I saw said grandparents genuflect before the Crucifix before mass), was, after all, fascinated by high worship.

So they were confused (and amused) but they didn’t forbid me from going. So I bought a set of prayer beads and my Dad and I went to the Episcopal church in town. It was largely populated by elderly people, so I never went back and attended that Baptist church until I moved away for college and that, I’m sure my mother believed, was that.

The problem was I had a hard time finding a church in Chicago where I felt comfortable. I went to Evangelical churches and they felt familiar, but they also felt large. I didn’t have the luxury of being a part of those churches my entire life, and I had absolutely no idea how to make friends in a church without my parents beside me. When I graduated college and moved to Los Angeles (the land of the mega-church) it was even harder. If I thought the churches in Chicago were large, they were nothing compared to the multi-building campuses and elaborate graphics and impeccably planned sermon series’ in Los Angeles.

Through a strange twist of fate I ran into a casual acquaintance (my best friend’s husband’s college roommate) at an alumni event, and he mentioned that he attended a Lutheran church on the UCLA campus. I was sad and lonely and I didn’t feel at home at the mega-church down the road I attended half-heartedly, so I went. It was the first time I had attended a liturgical service since high school (excepting the handful of Ash Wednesday Catholic masses I attended with Catholic friends in college). Suddenly I remembered why I loved going to church. The liturgy spoke to me–a piece of familiarity that reminded me that even though I hadn’t attended this church my entire life, that I was part of the Church (big C again) that stretched across millennia.

The Lutheran service was almost as different as it was possible to get from First Baptist Church of Reading, but it felt more like home than any church I had attended since.

I didn’t go to this church very long–it was a long drive, and by this point I was already planning my move back to Chicago, so I didn’t want to get involved in a new church. I was also confronting some reoccurring depression symptoms, so I wasn’t in a great place all around.

I didn’t plan to go to a liturgical church when I moved back to Chicago, but I moved into a neighborhood where four out of the five college friends I still kept in touch with lived, and they all went to the same church, so why not? And I loved it. I felt even more at home at Redeemer than I did at the Lutheran church at UCLA. I learned the liturgy and prayed the hours and observed Lent and Advent and Epiphany and Lent and Pentecost and marked the days through Ordinary Time until the feast days came back around. And then I left that church too–for reasons too complex and painful to go into in this particular blog post.

But unlike the other times I left churches–when I left First Baptist after I graduated high school, or when I half-heartedly searched for churches in Chicago and Los Angeles–I knew where I wanted to go next. I knew I wanted to worship with liturgy. I’m attending a Lutheran church again. We sing the liturgy instead of speaking it–making this new church different enough from my Anglican church that the similarities don’t hurt as much. I don’t know where I’ll be in 5 years or if I’ll still be at a Lutheran church (or if I’ll move on to Episcopal or Methodist), but I do know that worshiping in liturgy will have a space in my heart for as long as I live.

Book Review: Graceling, Kristin Cashore


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I was all set to review Bitterblue, the third Seven Kingdoms book by Kristin Cashore, when I realized that I hadn’t written a review for book one: Graceling! Graceling was written before Fire, but it’s set roughly 30 years after the events of Fire. There’s even a character who crosses over from Fire into Graceling. If you keep your eyes peeled, see if you can catch him.

The Plot: In the world of the Seven Kingdoms, some people are born with two different colored eyes. They’re known as Gracelings, and they have special skills. Some people are Graced with cooking, some with long-sight, or incredible aim. Some are skilled with holding their breath or  swimming.

Lady Katsa is Graced with killing. Her Grace announced itself rather suddenly when, as a child, she accidentally killed her grope-y cousin.

Katsa’s uncle, the King of the Middluns, wastes no time in exploiting his young niece’s talent for killing, and uses her as a living weapon to enforce his reputation as a bully among the Seven Kingdoms. Katsa doesn’t know how to break free of her uncle’s influence, but she tries, in her own small way, by creating the Council–a group of lords, soldiers, tenant farmers and merchants who try to right the wrongs caused by the five selfish kings of the Middle Kingdoms. One night, on a mission for the Council, Katsa meets Prince Po of Lienid–the seventh kingdom, and an isolated island. Po is graced with fighting. As Po and Katsa become fighting companions, then friends, Po helps Katsa find the strength to walk away from her uncle.

Unfortunately, the trouble doesn’t end there. Po and Katsa embark on a long journey to unravel the strange web of tales that surround Leck, the King of Monsea–the sixth kingdom, isolated by a mountain range. The more Po and Katsa learn more about Leck and his kingdom, the more they realize that there is something deeply sinister about the one-eyed king.

The Characters: Katsa starts off the book like a wild animal–violent, uncivilized and unpredictable. Her character arc, as she becomes less wild and more like an actual human, is fascinating to watch. Part of the reason she’s so wild is because people (most notably her uncle) expert her to be wild.

Po (sweet, lovable Po!) helps bring Katsa out of her wild shell and civilize her (partially. Not even Po could civilize her completely).

There are a few other characters–some who make appearances in the other books (such as Princess Bitterblue herself), but Katsa and Po are the true main characters and this is absolutely their story.

The Good: Po! and Katsa! and Po and Katsa together fighting and learning to fight and discovering their Graces!

The Bad: There were times when my attention wavered and the action, though interesting, kind of lagged, but generally it was a solid book. The ending was a little anticlimactic as the villain was disposed of… really quickly and easily.

The Verdict: I love Graceling more than Bitterblue (the third book, and the next up for review), but not as much a I love Fire–mostly because Fire as a character is more interesting to me than Katsa is. Plus Leck is really gross and he’s in less of Fire than he is in Graceling.

Have we reached max capacity for YA Dystopia?

Probably, if Maze Runner is any indication.

Here’s the thing–I enjoyed Maze Runner. I like Dylan O’Brien (like, a LOT). It’s a well-put-together movie, lots of action, excellent suspense (as my friend Hannah can attest to, I was literally on the edge of my seat for large parts of the movie). It’s making a decent amount in the box office, not Marvel money, but hey we can’t have everything. I also liked the book–I’ve read the first in the series and I will likely read the rest.

So why, when I was leaving the theater, was I not excited for the upcoming sequel?

I love The Hunger Games. I devoured the books, I love the films and I am eagerly awaiting the last two installments (though I am annoyed that studios have realized if they split books into unnecessarily multiple movies they’ll make more money. Curse you, basic business strategy!). I also loved the Divergent book and film, and I am similarly excited for the upcoming films. But there was something about Maze Runner that left me cold.

One of the core aspects of YA dystopia (and I suppose would be an aspect of adult dystopia if such a thing exists) is social commentary. Divergent is about a world that has responded to war by rigidly structuring both society and their citizens and anyone who steps outside these rigid boundaries is met with suspicion and violence. The Hunger Games is also about a world responding to war with rigid control, only it has the added layers of decrying consumerism and celebrity culture. The Giver is about a world that is “perfect,” because it is a world without the memory of pain (or, in fact, memory of any strong emotion at all).

Maze Runner is about torturing children. I mean yeah, so is Hunger Games, but unlike The Hunger Games, Maze Runner has no additional social commentary to elevate or even explain the horrific things these kids are forced to do. (Spoilers) These kids are trapped in the center of a maze, with no memory of who they are, only their names. “Maze runners” run the maze every day, mapping it and searching for a way out. They return to the Glade (the center of the maze) by nightfall, or else risk being caught and stung by horrifying, gigantic, insect-like creatures called Grievers. They fight their way out of the maze, only to discover that the world outside has been scorched by the sun, and most of the people who didn’t die were wiped out by a virus. The second generation of humans (the generation these kids belong to) have some sort of natural immunity or resistance to the virus, so the government (or possibly a separate organization?) decided to run tests on these kids and see how “tough” they are, to prepare them for the world. It’s mindless, it’s cruel, and it doesn’t make us think about the society we live in today. (End spoilers)

So what’s next? If we’ve moved away from dystopia-with-social-commentary and into dystopia-for-the-sake-of-dystopia, the death of the trend can’t be far behind. Or I should say that death of the success of the trend. Ostensibly the final nail in the vampire/werewolf/monster trend coffin (if you’ll excuse the expression), was Twilight, but that didn’t stop 2011’s The Wolfman (34% on Rotten Tomatoes), 2011’s Red Riding Hood (10% on Rotten Tomatoes), 2014’s I, Frankenstein (4% on Rotten Tomatoes), or the upcoming Dracula Untold, which will probably score 1% on Rotten Tomatoes if the current trend continues.

And Maze Runner has been decently received by critics (63% on Rotten Tomatoes, right on the cusp between Fresh and Rotten), but The Giver did considerably worse (35%–solidly “rotten”). Even Divergent, which I noted earlier was thematically a deeper dystopia than Maze Runner, only got 41%.

This won’t stop 20th Century Fox from making the sequel, The Scorch Trials, into a film, and as long as the sequel makes decent money they’ll likely make the third book, The Death Cure (jury’s still out if they’ll make the prequel, The Kill Order). The bottom line is as long as these movies make money, they’ll keep making more. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but I do think that in 5 years we’ll all have moved on to something else.

My money’s on YA cyberpunk. Cinder, the first book in the Lunar Chronicles, has been optioned for a movie, but the studio is being kept under wraps and it’s a fair bet it’ll be stuck in development hell for a couple years. Who knows? If the YA cyberpunk does well maybe we’ll finally get the Neuromancer movie we’ve all been waiting for.

The Eternal Question — “What’s Season Two?”



I watched Selfie the other day–partially because of the indescribable draw of both Karen Gillian and the Choverlord John Cho and partially because I’ve been a sucker for adaptations of Pygmalion since a high school classmate lent me her much-beloved VHS copy of My Fair Lady.

Aside from a couple small issues (way too much extended rhyming and verbal hashtagging), I enjoyed the pilot, but I was left with one giant question:

What’s season two?

It’s a question my college professors often asked my classmates and I in our TV writing and development classes. We would pitch a story idea, our professors would listen and then ask “what’s season two?”

It’s an important question, because TV–especially network TV–is all about making money. Who’s going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a TV show that will end after one season, banishing it to a fate of being randomly discovered on Netflix one night when you and your sweetie are arguing about what to watch over take-out. (Like Awake. Anyone remember Awake? I only remember it because Jason Isaacs was in it, and until I googled Jason Isaacs’ filmography I thought the show was called After.)

Selfie is cute and the premise is simple, but it’s a little too simple. The premise of most sitcoms is situational (hence why they’re called sitcoms–situation comedy). In the case of Selfie the situation is Eliza Dooley–Instaqueen and member of the Twitterati. She’s selfish, she’s vapid, and she’s kind of a bitch. After a misadventure with a married man, possible food poisoning, and poorly constructed airplane barf bags lead her to be splashed with vomit on an airplane in front of all her coworkers, Eliza realizes (in the words of the synopsis graciously provided by ABC), “being friended is not the same as having friends,” so she enlists Henry, a marketing guru at her company, to help her rebrand herself (“you mean become a better person?” Henry asks in the pilot. “Or that,” Eliza responds).

Sure there’s a quick moment of romantic tension between Eliza and Henry, and undoubtedly Selfie will introduce a Freddy Eynsford-Hill character (the temptation for a love triangle would be too much to resist), but those aren’t enough to build multiple seasons on. Either Eliza will change (and she won’t need Henry anymore and we won’t have a show anymore) or she won’t (and no one will want to watch her anymore).

Part of what makes long-running sitcoms work is that the situation doesn’t revolve 100% on one character and how she does or does not change. This is why shows like Parks and Rec, The Office, 30 Rock, The Mindy Project, and Community are popular–the situation is a workplace (or, in the case of Community, a school), which allows characters to change and grow while generally remaining in the same physical location.

Eliza and Henry do work together, and I admit I am interested in learning more about the children’s pharmaceutical company that manufactured children’s nasal spray that caused Satanic hallucinations, but it’s not enough.

The other tried-and-true option for a sitcom is a communal situation–Friends, How I Met Your Mother, and Big Bang Theory are classic examples. Instead of a workplace situation they rely on a friend group and flesh out the settings with apartments the characters live in for 10 years (giving me incredibly unrealistic expectations of a. how often people move apartments after college and b. the implied cost of rent in New York City and LA).

Sadly Selfie falls short on this scale as well. In the pilot we’re introduced to Eliza’s hipster neighbor (with book club friends who come complete with tattoo sleeves, chevrons, mason jars and chalkboard paint), but there’s no community there, and even if they developed one, we’re back to square one: When Eliza changes, what’s to keep us tuning in every week?

The pilot makes it clear that Eliza is the situation. Her desire to change is the inciting incident for the entire show–without her desire to change we would just spend 30 minutes a week watching a beautiful woman Instagram her breakfast and selfies (#blessed). Watching her change will be wonderful and hilarious, but after 22 episodes… what else will there be to see?

There’s a reason Shaw ended Pygmalion after Act 5. Once Eliza Doolittle has married Freddy Eynsford-Hill, she’s not nearly as interesting to watch, because half the fun of the play is seeing her struggle to use the Queen’s English “properly,” her moment of triumph at the ball, and standing up to Henry Higgins in the end and leaving her “creator” behind (the way the mythological Galatea abandoned Pygmalion himself).

In a way, the entire pilot encompasses the dramatic structure of the play–the challenge, the lessons, the moment of triumph, and the last word. The pilot leaves us with Eliza vowing to make Henry more fun (even as he vows to make her more kind and selfless).

In the end, as enjoyable and entertaining as Selfie is, it’s lacking something that makes all other sitcoms great. At its heart the show may have more substance than Eliza’s Instagram feed, but it lacks the potential Henry (and the viewers) see in Eliza herself.

Note: Selfie premieres on ABC on Tuesday, September 30th at 8:00pm. The pilot is available to watch now on Hulu and

You have no idea how hard it was not to put an Eminem or Terminator reference in this subject line

I’m going to be 100% honest here: part of the reason I’m resurrecting this blog is due to a promise to the one, the only, Caro Griffin. (Part of the reason is because my TV show list was WOEFULLY out of date, but I digress). At least once a month I get a text (or, if we’re hanging out, some side-eye) about this blog.

“When are you going to update your blog?”

And my reasons are varied and many. I’m writing a novel, I’m moving, I don’t have internet set up in my apartment yet, I’m 3 years behind on a scrap book i promised my best friend for her wedding. Well, the novel is a first draft, I’m settled in my new apartment, I have internet and the scrapbook… well, the scrapbook can wait another 10 minutes while I resurrect this blog.

The thing is I struggle with what to write about. Book/movie/TV reviews? I have a friend who works at E! Online who writes those better than I ever will. (She’s got a by-line and everything!). Running? I feel like everything I can say about running has already been said by people who have run more than two 5ks.

So hey, I’m just going to write about my life, because my life is extremely interesting. (I mean, it is if you ignore the fact that I spent most of today playing Cookie Jam, a bastardized version of Candy Crush where you match macarons while a voice encourages you with quasi-French phrases like “ooh la la!” and “c’est manifique!”)

I’m a cute 20-something living in the greatest city in the world (suck it, New York) and I’m about to embark on a huge adventure called LIFE. Well, I guess I’m already embarking on a huge adventure called life because I’m living right now, as we speak. Oh I’m getting off topic.

SO blog resurrected, and I’m off to go add a couple pages to the aforementioned 3 year late scrapbook because if all my blog excuses are gone it means my scrapbook excuses (moving, writing a book, need to work on my blog) are dwindling as well.

In Celebration of the “Creative Posse”

Author’s Note: This piece was originally published in the Winter 2014 Issue of Take Out, a handwritten paper zine.

I learned a lot at college. I learned how long it would take me to walk from my dorm to class; how late I could leave while still having time for a Dunkin Donuts run. I learned how many people you could shove into a 3’ x 3’ elevator without tripping the weight sensors (I think the record was 12). I learned how to write, how to craft stories, and how to properly use an Oxford Comma.

learned a lot at college, but the most important lesson can be summed up with a phrase I learned during freshman orientation: “creative posse.” It was a favorite phrase of Columbia College’s vice president, Mark Kelley. He promised each and every one of us (freshman and transfers alike) that if he saw us on the street during the semester, he would ask us if we had our creative posse. If we didn’t, he would tackle us.

It may have been the fear of being tackled by a 6’5’’, lanky man with wild grey hair and infectious energy that made me find my first creative posse, it wasn’t fear that lead me to create my second, or my third.

People think that writers are solitary creatures. And we are. Mostly. When push comes to shove I would much rather hole myself up in my room and write from my bed, ensconced in an oversized sweatshirt and some fuzzy slippers. But if you want to get fancy about it, no man (or woman, as the case may be) is an island, and you have to emerge sometime.

And that’s where a creative posse comes in handy. When you just have to tell someone about the amazing scene you just wrote or when you’re about to tear your hair out because nothing is coming together the way you want it to. You need people you can share in your joy and frustration. People who can look at your art and answer your questions with an honest heart. People who you can trust wholeheartedly when they look at you and say “I loved it.” “This moved me.” “I don’t understand.” “I want to know more.”

My first creative posse was a group of playwrights. They taught me that there is a time and a place for esotericism (and that that time and place is very rarely found in my writing). My second was a collection of TV writers who helped see that “commercial” and “broad audience” could be compliments. My current posse is a rag-tag group of 20-something novelists, poets, and bloggers who hold me accountable for the projects I start and refuse to let me abandon them.

I have been a playwright, a screenwriter, a novelist, and my creative posses have grown and shrunk and reformed as necessary. And if I saw Mark Kelley on the streets of Chicago, I’d thank him for making my first college lesson a good one. And then I’d beg him not to tackle me.

Five Things No One Told Me About Living Alone

Author’s Note: This piece was originally published in the Fall 2013 Issue of Take Out, a handwritten paper zine.

In the six years since I graduated high school, I’ve lived in six different apartments, in two different states, and I’ve had over 15 different roommates. I like to think that I’ve become an exceptional roommate–minimal bad habits, streamlined living conditions, et cetera et cetera. However, when I moved back to Chicago last year, there was one point on which I was immovable: I wanted to live ALONE. I plan to get married someday, and I wanted to live by myself before I found the person I would share a home with forever (and ever).

But I gotta say… no one really prepared me for the all-out joy (and occasional sadness) that comes with living alone.

For one thing, pants are totally optional. You guys. This was ground breaking. Sometimes I would catch myself sitting on my bed, wearing pants and I realized that I could just take them off. It’s liberating.

The only annoying habits you have to deal with are your own. A couple years ago I lived with a roommate who would put the empty ice cube trays back into the freezer. Empty ice cube trays. Into the freezer. It drove me NUTS. I couldn’t understand why she didn’t take two steps to, you know, fill it up with water first. The only reason I didn’t confront her was a) I’m afraid of conflict and b) I had three roommates and I didn’t know who the culprit was.

But when you live alone… the ice tray is always filled with water before you put it in the freezer. And the toilet paper roll is always oriented over, not under. And you always know who watched your DVDs last, or whose turn it is to buy dish soap, or who left the light on all night, because the answer is always “you.” Or the ghost who lives in your closet. Maybe I need to get out more, but it’s surprisingly liberating to be the only person racking up the electricity bill.

The only downside is that if you gripe about the fact that no one washes their damn dishes after they cook dinner then your friends think you’re insane.

You have to deal with your own spiders. When I lived in California, I found no less than three black widow spiders in my garage. Three. And one of them had laid an egg sac. I made my roommates dispose of all of them (using fire, because black widows point and laugh at shoes and tissues).

Unfortunately, the first time I saw a spider in my studio, I realized that there was no one to kill it for me–I had to be a big girl and deal with it myself. I compromised by leaving my window open for 3 hours until it found its way outside because there’s no way in hell I would ever touch a spider.

Your apartment becomes an impregnable fortress of solitude. Not unlike, in the words of Penny from The Big Band Theory, “Superman’s big ice thingy.” The best part of living alone (in my socially anxious opinion) is that you can control who’s there. If you want to be alone, you can be alone. You don’t have to live in fear that someone will arrive home and want to (God forbid) talk about their day, or watch a movie you don’t want to watch, or cook brussels sprouts that make the entire house smell like cooked vegetables. You always have control of the remote, and you never have to close the bathroom door, and you never have to listen to music you hate unless you’re in a masochistic mood.

It’s almost as freeing as not having to wear pants.

…But sometimes you still get lonely. If you hadn’t guessed it already, I’m an introvert. I recharge my batteries by myself, and my energy is drained when I spend too much time with people and not enough time alone. Before I moved into my studio, I believed that I would never get lonely living by myself, because why on earth would I want to be around other people? Preposterous! But perhaps my most important lesson, is that it can be kind of lonely to live by yourself.

For the first 23 years of my life, if I wanted to pop open a movie, or have a couple beers, or cook dinner with someone, or share the stories of my day, there was a 60% chance (almost 80% when I lived with five other women) that there was someone home to hang out with me. And during the 40-20% of the time that I was home alone, I was able to appreciate it more because it was a moment in time and I knew someone would walk through the door in an hour or two.

That might be the reason why, even though I loved my year of solo-living in my adorable studio, I was more than ready to trade it in for roommate-living again. I’m writing this sitting happily next to my roommate, who is tearing recipes out of magazines while we watch episodes of Buffy. And I don’t mind trading in wearing pants, dealing with someone else’s annoying habits and sacrificing my fortress of solitude in exchange for companionship. And someone to help me kill spiders.

Cubicle Monkey (Or How I Learned to Love My Office Job)

Author’s Note: This piece was originally published in the Fall 2013 Issue of Take Out, a handwritten paper zine.

My first full-time job out of college was as a copywriter. I thought I had won the artistic lottery. “For the rest of my life,” I told my mom, “I’ll be able to tell people my first full-time job was as a copywriter.” And yeah, that’s true. But if I had known that the cost of my bragging rights would be nine months of stress, panic attacks, emotional turmoil and some truly bad copy, I probably would have turned it down. Or maybe not, because for a 23 year old who has just spent a year in Los Angeles getting paid nothing in exchange for the intangible promise of “someday” and the opportunity to have Casey Affleck touch my arm, thirty grand a year is a powerful draw.
See, that’s the thing. You have to weigh your sacrifices.

I love television. I love watching television, I love writing television and I love reading television scripts. But I wasn’t willing to make the sacrifices. Life in Los Angeles is hard—anyone who says differently is probably closely related to the president of Warner Bros. If I wanted to, if I really, really wanted to, I could have gotten a paid television job in LA. It might not have paid much, and it might have been fetching coffee, but with enough time and tenacity I could have done it. But I missed Chicago. I missed my friends. And more than anything, I was frightened of the instability provided by an ever-changing industry. The sacrifices weren’t worth it, so I left.
I loved the cache of saying “I’m a copywriter.” The first time I met my roommate Mallory (who, at the time, held the much more interesting job of investigating rich people who claim their Monet was stolen), she said “I’ve never met a copywriter before.” I loved it, but I wasn’t willing to make the sacrifices.

When I quit my copywriting job, I told my friends and family that I didn’t want to find another creative job because I wanted to focus all my creative energy on my novel. I was also too scared to risk finding another copywriting job under a Creative Director as insane as the one I just left.

I’m going to be honest with you: this post was supposed to be brilliant. And witty. And just a little bit smug. It was supposed to be about how working in a cubical isn’t the end of the world, how it’s appallingly easy to keep up with your writing-on-the-side when you don’t have a job that requires you to pour out all your creative energy writing emails that will be torn apart by your crazy boss (and then deployed to 60,000 people, maybe 2% of whom will actually read it). When I landed my office job (complete with a cubicle), I thought I had it made. I could leave work at 5 every evening and go home and write endlessly!

I was, as I so often am, hilariously mistaken.

I told my friend as much when she asked me (as all my friends do now and again) how my writing was going. Because the truth is, it’s hard. It’s hard to balance a 40-hour work day and a novel on the side–especially when you have other pressing issues to attend to, like cooking dinner or finding an apartment that isn’t located in the intersection of two rival gang territories.

My friend pointed out that this post would be the proof in the pudding (or the proof would be in the pudding of this post. I’ve never really understood how that saying works). If I could just write this post it would be proof that being a cubical monkey and being a writer are not mutually exclusive.

Would it be easier for me to go on as I have, clocking in and out and going home and curling up with a book or my laptop or my Netflix account? Of course. But you have to weigh the sacrifices. If I keep deciding that things are “too hard,” soon I won’t be a writer anymore, just (in the words of Dorothy C. Fontana) “someone who dreams of about being a writer.”

I didn’t want to be a TV writer bad enough to stay in LA. I didn’t want to be a copywriter bad enough to brave a new creative director. But I sure as hell want to be a novelist bad enough to push through my own laziness and keep writing. So that’s what I’m going to do.

The hills are alive (with the sound of labored wheezing)

I’m a New England girl. It doesn’t matter that I haven’t lived in New England since I was 18, that I’m a resident of Illinois, or that I spent a year living in California, I’ll always be a New England girl. My friends roll their eyes when I bring it up, but I can trace my family tree all the way back to the Mayflower.

I’m a New England girl… but I’m a Midwestern runner.

Over Christmas I was excited to spend a week and a half in Massachusetts with my family, partially because I was excited to explore new running routes. I had forgotten, in my absence, about the hills. Oh, the hills. Hills that I used to walk up and down on my way home from school, hills that I would breeze down on my bike on long summer days became giant, terrible, STUPID mountains when I was faced with running up them on the second half of a long run.

I was used to the lovely, straight Sheridan road, with no bumps and very few curves—just one long stretch of pavement beckoning me forward. I was not used to running up two hills, down two hills, turning around and running up and down them again.

I would lie to encourage myself to keep going. “This is your first hill,” I would say, “you can walk the whole way home once you crest this one,” I told myself. But I’ve never been a good liar, and the thing about lying to yourself is that you know it’s a lie, so when you do crest that hill and you start to walk you know that you can’t walk the entire way home, and you have to start running again once you reach that doctor’s office because that’s what you promised you would do.

Running by yourself involves a lot of self-bribery, self-deceit, and motivational self-abuse—army general style. Sometimes all you can do is tell yourself you’re being a lazy bum and start running again. I ran three times during my week and a half-long stay in Massachusetts, twice alone and once with Zach and Elspeth (which involved much less self-deceit and self-bribery, but roughly the same amount of motivational self-abuse).

In the end I was happy to return home and reunite with the wonderful, flat, hill-free urban prairie that is Chicago.

Small Victories


, ,

I am
a series of
small victories
and large defeats
and I am as
as any other
I have gotten
from there to

—Charles Bukowski, “The People Look Like Flowers At Last

When you’re depressed, sometimes small victories matter as much as the big ones, because they take so much effort to achieve. To a (quote-unquote) normal adult, something like doing all your dishes or throwing out that carton of milk in your fridge that has been slowly curdling for two weeks is easy, but for me, depending on how my week has gone and how much serotonin my brain has produced, it can be incredibly difficult.

So I’ve started to measure my running accomplishments in small victories, like how I’ve gone running two or three days a week for the past two months. Or how I went from running for 1 1/2 minute stretches to 6 to 10 minute stretches, or how I’ve gone at least five runs without getting a lung cramp, which means I’ve been regulating my breathing more consistently.

Elspeth and I started running with an app called C25K, which is… a good app, really it is. It ramps up its expectations each day, which is good because it presents a challenge and doesn’t allow you to plateau. However, it also kind of sucks because this means it’s anti-small victory. The app works by ramping up and up and up until SURPRISE! You can run a 5 k! Big victory!

I hated it. I hated running. It was hard and it kept getting harder. Every day it wanted me to run further for longer and longer. All I could think is “I ran for five minutes without stopping yesterday and now you want me to run for 12? I’m not Wonder Woman, you demon.”

So Elspeth (wise trainer that she is), altered our training schedule. Instead of ramping up and suddenly running 20 minutes at once, we’re running 3 six minute stretches with 1 minute walking intervals.

And yesterday something amazing happened. I enjoyed my entire run. Not just the first half, while my legs were fresh and my lungs were full. The entire run.

Tomorrow I’m going on my first run alone. And (don’t tell Elspeth) I’m considering trying to lengthen a couple running intervals.

Maybe 8-6-8.

Or 6-8-6.

I don’t want to get too crazy.