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Inspiration in the Least Likely Places

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When I searched for “inspirational quote” this week on Twitter, the above 2 Chainz graphic came up. I’m always looking for inspirational quotes, even though many of them are terribly cheesy and/or don’t make sense. But sometimes things like funny 2 Chainz lyrics come come up, and things like this from Rilke, and it makes all the searching worthwhile:

So you must not be frightened if a sadness rises up before you larger than any you have ever seen; if a restiveness, like light and cloudshadows, passes over your hands and over all you do. You must think that something is happening with you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand; it will not let you fall.

I like Twitter best on Saturdays, probably because all the people who incessantly post all week are doing other things, like writing blogs to post on Twitter the following week.

I reread this Dear Sugar column today, her last column. It was over a year ago, which seems crazy. I used to read her columns at Mother Jones and cry at my desk. Many people did, I think. Cheryl Strayed made crying at work okay. She made a lot of things okay, actually.

Lately Kelsey has been waking up early and reading depressing news on her phone. Before putting in her contacts even, she’s scrolling through the fuckedupness of the world while I lay there next to her asleep. This week has been particularly awful. After the Trayvon Martin ruling, there were riots in Oakland for days. Windows were smashed all along Broadway — the Chase bank, the beleaguered Foot Locker, Sears, local restaurants, the Tribune.

chase_windowAs we passed the boarded-up side of Sears, Kelsey joked that it was an improvement to its usual windows, like its Man Casually Lounging with Microwave display. Rioters also smashed the storefront of Oaklandish, which doesn’t make any sense. Oaklandish sells local art and wares that directly support the community. A waiter at Flora also got bashed in the head with a hammer. I was reading about mob mentality recently, for a Redeye advice column, weirdly enough. Anonymity makes people feel a kind of invincibility, a freedom from consequences. It makes sense when you think about all the vitriol in Internet comments. All the vitriol online everywhere, actually. Most of us hide behind screens and not hammers, but it happens all the time, nonetheless.

I keep meaning to write, to, at the very least, post links to my writing elsewhere, but it feels so redundant and self-important a lot of the time, so I don’t. If you want to read that stuff, you should visit my FB page. You should visit it, anyway. There’s a video of a cute girl playing a ukulele with a kitten.

I was on the Frank Relationships podcast a few weeks ago, talking about how to come out to your mom as polyamorous, etc. It’s an hour long and was at 6 a.m., but if you want to listen to it, it’s here:

Listen to internet radio with Frank Relationships on BlogTalkRadio

Also, my friend Louise asked me to do a “how we met” story for her Tumblr, and that’s here. This is my favorite line:

…that’s the beauty of taking chances. Everything begins as infinite potential — like listening for waves in the desert. Only later do we learn if we’ve been lucky or crazy, or both.

It’s strange how doing a little bit of everything can sometimes feel worse than doing nothing. That’s how life seems lately — I’m on a boat and it’s moving but where it’s heading feels largely out of my hands. But that’s life in general, I suppose. There’s no meaning except too much. I distract myself by looking for vacuum cleaners on Craigslist. I distract myself by reading The Joy Luck Club again because my mom gave it to me and she was in the hospital this week which made everything more meaningful because death does that. Even the threat of it does.

One time I was obsessed with a girl named Rose and told my roommate that I kept seeing roses everywhere and didn’t that mean something? And she said, “You’ve been seeing the most common flower around? No way!” No meaning. Except too much.

Jobs sound so much cooler in German

The Unemployment Perk No One Knows About

swedish chef

Bork!

I was laid off in March from my editor job at SF Weekly, and aside from freelancing, watching Seinfeld re-runs, and fighting with the EDD to get my UI benefits (a full-time job in and of itself!), I also started going back to school. A friend (who’s a kick-ass designer, by the way), told me about a federal program called the WIA (Workforce Investment Act). The WIA offers counseling, support, job market info, and up to $4,000 in education and training in a variety of different fields.

Once I learned about all the programs I could pursue, I briefly dreamed of eschewing my  media/technology goals and pursuing my childhood fantasy of becoming the Swedish Chef from The Muppets. (Ed. note: There is a really cool program called The Bread Project for low-income people who want to become bakers/work in the food service industry.)

However, upon remembering that I don’t like waking up at 3 a.m., I decided instead to pursue a Web Development certificate through the BAVC (Bay Area Video Coalition), which I started this month. Hooray!

I won’t lie — getting funding for WIA training was kind of an arduous process, but it’s proved to be totally worthwhile. Here are a few of the hoops I had to jump through:

  • Enroll in East Bay Works, the career center in Oakland
  • Attend 16 hours worth of job skills classes, including how to write a resume, how to interview, job search, etc.
  • Stage two informational interviews with people in the field I was interested in pursuing
  • Perform a mock interview with two career coaches
  • Write a personal statement defending why I deserved funding
  • Take three SAT-type tests in reading, math, and graphical information (which forced me to go home and look up how to calculate the volume of a cylinder because I had forgotten from 9th grade geometry)
  • And, somewhat bafflingly, take an online quiz and print out all the information pertaining to my Myers-Briggs personality type

The friend who introduced me to the program didn’t have to jump through nearly as many of these hoops to receive funding, so I guess it varies depending on the career center you attend. But as I was attending all the job skills classes, the one overarching theme that kept coming up with me and my fellow job hunters was how few people knew what the WIA was or how it helped people get jobs.

So hopefully this blog post will help demystify the process a little. (I plan on doing a whole “how to survive unemployment” series here, so if you have topics you’d like me to address, holla at me in the comments or by email.)

I highly encourage those who are unemployed, low-income, or self-employed to find out if you’re eligible for training. From the WIA website:

While eligible laid-off workers are generally individuals who have been terminated from their last employment and are unlikely to return to their previous industry or occupation, displaced homemakers and self-employed individuals also may qualify for these services.

And here is the list of approved schools in California and what courses they offer. If you’ve been wanting to pursue a different career but lacked the money for training, this may be your golden ticket.

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Lesbian Sex Haiku Continued

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Lesbian sex is like

badminton — No one actually

knows the rules.

_______

It’s like straight sex, but

dry humping remains in style

after high school.

________

It’s like straight sex, but

our first orgasm was

with the shower head.

________

Names for oral that

didn’t make the cut: Juicin’

the goose, peach gobbler.

________

Lesbian sex math:

Two vaginas = twice the fun  /

double the wet spot.

________

It’s like straight sex, except

sometimes other pussies

get in the way (cats).

(not like that!)

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How Did You Get this Number?

cold cuntSo glad to see my efforts to mainstream frozen vaginas are finally being recognized! Actually, I have no idea how googling “cold cunt” would lead someone to this blog. Maybe it was something about Robert Pattinson.

In other news, here’s what you’ve missed if you’ve been trapped in a time warp of Cat Font.

On AlterNet:

On the Redeye:

On AfterEllen:

Plus, I told a one-night stand story at Bawdy but my phone ran out of storage space right at the punch line and I’ve been thus far too sad-lazy to try to make it better. But, you know, here’s some suspenders!

bawdyslam Other things on the Internet that are awesome:

Flickr/Joanna Penn

How to Please Your Editor

When I was working solely on the writing side of the divide, I used to get pretty upset when my editors ignored my emails. They must hate me, I thought. They must’ve thought my piece/idea/pitch was a piece of crap and that my hair looks stupid too. Surely if they did not think these things, they would’ve responded.

And then I became an editor at SF Weekly and realized how many balls editors have to juggle every day. Many of us, in addition to managing staff and freelancers, are writing too, promoting your work on social media channels, doing database entry (no one can escape it!), attending meetings, checking analytics, managing interns, and trying desperately to release the stuck Doritos from the office vending machine.

When added up, this can make responding to every freelancer’s email a low priority. This doesn’t mean writers don’t deserve a response — they totally do most of the time — it just means you might have to try a little harder to get an editor’s attention. Here are some tips to help you with that.

Be Persistent

As an editor, I was flooded with hundreds of emails a day, of which I was physically capable of responding to maybe 5 percent of them. Seriously, if I had read every one of those emails, that would have been at full-time job. And a really boring one at that. Granted, many of these emails were ridiculous PR pitches asking me to pen op-eds about lube, but some were genuine queries that deserved my attention and response. If yours is one of the emails that slips through the cracks, write again. Write as many times as necessary (every few days, I’d recommend). Is it annoying? Yes, but sometimes that’s what it takes to get through. I’ve never looked poorly on writers who kept on me to do my job. Honestly, I appreciated the reminders (most of the time).

Be Patient

That said, sometimes editors ignore your emails because we genuinely don’t have a status report for you. Perhaps we’re waiting on something — a source, a weird glitch in the content management system, direction or feedback from a higher-up, etc. If your editor tells you to wait for further instruction, then don’t keep pestering them. That is annoying AND won’t get you anywhere.

It’s Not You (Maybe)

If an editor ignores your emails, it most likely has nothing to do with you or your abilities as a writer. However, there is a slim chance that it is you, and here are the most likely circumstances why.

1. Your email is vague. It doesn’t list specific information that editors need to make decisions — like when you can turn it in by, what your particular conundrum is, it doesn’t ask a specific question, etc.

2. Your emails are status updates. It’s sweet that you try to give editors up-to-date info on a piece, especially if you’re over deadline, but it’s really not necessary to tell me that you’re “waiting on pictures” or that you’re “doing some last minute fact-checking,” and it adds to the chances that your later emails will be ignored. Talk to me when you’re finished, i.e. ready for me to look at it and edit it.

3. The piece you submitted is sloppy or unfinished. It was rare, but sometimes I would open a piece that was turned in and see typos galore, adverbs gone wild, improperly cited source material, or paragraphs riddled with cliches. Because said pieces take infinitely more time to edit, I would often cast these to the bottom of the pile and focus on pieces that demanded less overhauling.

Make Your Pieces as Finished as Possible

Don’t create more work for your editor. They are stressed and under deadline too. The best way to gain the respect of an editor is to be as professional as you can. Make sure you are editing your work first and foremost. Check for typos and misspellings. Adhere to word counts: If your editor tells you 300 words, don’t submit one that’s 700 because we will then have to cut half your piece or reject it entirely. Read it out loud to see if it sounds weird or off. And please please check the spellings for people you may have mentioned. You may think you know how to spell Arnold Schwarzenegger, but double check anyway.

Realize Your Editor Is Human

Remember the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you with a giant red pen (or however it goes). And by that I mean, be nice to editors. They are your gateway to published work, fame and fortune*. Bug them nicely but not in a way that’s overly self-deprecating. We know that your work is a precious snowflake, but to editors, it is one more item on a massively long to-do list.

*and by that I mean web traffic and/or beer money.

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There Goes My Weekend

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cat_font_2You guys! There’s a website that lets you write in cats! It’s in Japanese I think, but it’s pretty easy to figure out. I promise I’ll write about something useful next — how to deal with unresponsive editors or something — but seriously, CAT FONT. What could be better for your life than your text spelled in cats?

I thought so.

Maybe I’ll submit my book proposal this way…

Flickr/Paul-in-London

The Wrong Way to Make a Girl Orgasm

bawdyIt’s been a while since I’ve told an embarrassing sex story in front of dozens of strangers, but that time is upon us once again. Come to Bawdy Storytelling’s event on Thursday, May 16: BawdySlam at Balancoire (2565 Mission St, S.F.). The theme is “Never Saw Them Again” so I’m going to tell a story about a dude who thought he could make me come by osmosis. There’s no FB link yet, but tickets are probably $10, $15 at the most, and it’s always a superfun evening.

For a teaser, here’s the video of me performing forever ago at Bawdy:

winter sunset

The Minimalist Guide to Moving On

Like, waaay after we broke up. Still besties.

In India, waaay after we broke up. Still besties.

I have a new essay up on Salon. It’s about my breakup with Ellie (Just when you thought I couldn’t possibly write anymore on the topic!), but mostly it’s about love and transition and the ways that love gets shifted around as we grow and change.

I was talking with my therapist recently about why queer women are so often friends with their exes. I said, it’s because the community is so small, you can’t afford a lot of enemies. It’s easier to swallow your pride and move on. That’s the bitter viewpoint though. The more optimistic take is that we started off as friends so it’s not that surprising that we ended up there again eventually.

I wrote the essay back in September, right after Ellie’s wedding, and then I didn’t look at it again until recently. I needed some distance from the essay, like I needed some distance from Ellie after we broke up. But, it was San Francisco and it was expensive, so we continued to live together for longer than we should have.

Here’s a snippet:

There was a moment I remember a few months after we had broken up, but were still living together. Ellie burst through the front door in tears, knelt down in front of the chair I was reading in, and took my hand in hers. “What’s wrong?” I said. “What is it?” Expecting that she was hurt or something worse. Instead she told me that she had found an apartment. She cried and it was like she was confessing an affair, something truly terrible, and not that she was moving on with her life. I think about that moment a lot. We were trying so hard. She was trying to hurt me as little as possible and I was trying to pretend I was OK and neither was going to work until we let go.

Here’s a funny story. Ellie and my current girlfriend both grew up in Minnesota. Over Christmas they were both there and they went out for a drink. It was synchronicity at its most pure and lovely. I wish I had been there. They sent me a picture though, so I felt like I was. That’s love.

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Freelancing Tips for Lazy People

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I’ve given a lot of advice in my writing life — from anal sex pregnancy rates to how not to be a douche on Twitter — but I’ve written very little about writing itself. I’ve started freelancing again recently, and that change has also prompted requests and interesting discussions about how one actually survives as a freelancer.

I don’t know the answer to that really — it varies for everyone, but I do have some ideas, having done it full time for most of 2012, and thought I’d explore that here, with you, and see if we can help each other figure it out.

Here are a few tips that stand out most to me, immediately, about freelance writing.

Ask for Help

Writers are known for being solitary. We sit at our laptops alone at home or in cafes with headphones. We write poetry about clouds. We are awkward at parties. We are known to dress like fire victims on purpose. And so, of course we have a lot of difficulty asking people for help. People are scary!  But not reaching out to others is a terrible practice if you want to succeed as an artist.

Most people WANT to help you. And in this day and age, we are connected to thousands of people through social media networks. Use those connections. Ask for feedback, ask for an opinion, ask for referrals. Hell, ask for inspiration. I frequently troll my friends’ Facebook feeds to see what they’re reading and posting and if I can take anything away from it. Aside from the increasingly prevalent pictures of my friends’ unborn children, I’m rarely disappointed. When you do reach out, just be sure to ask nicely.

Pay It Forward

In a similar vein as asking for help, you should also be helping others in return. It’s good karma, first of all, but second, when you make a decision to help someone, even if it’s just plugging them on Facebook or providing an email connection to someone they should know, you will be more memorable to that person, and they will think of you when an opportunity comes up. Also, if you are always taking taking taking, people will start to perceive you as an ingrate or succubus, neither of which will help your career, unless you’re Robert Pattinson.

This doesn’t mean you should let people take advantage of you or say yes to everything when you don’t have time. It just means to be considerate of others. Helping and supporting other people’s kickstarters and books and dreams have been instrumental to my overall well-being, and to my own success.

Pay Attention

I’ve never been good at sticking to a “writing schedule,” but through time and practice, I figured out that I write best in the morning, when my mind is clear and my energy is up. If I try to write at 9pm, I will be up until 3am, and my body and writing will take a beating the next day. Start paying attention to what works for you, your schedule, and life and then stick to it. Notice how much time you waste on Twitter. Notice what habits are leading you nowhere, and then figure out a way to change them.

Do the Work

Once you’ve figured out that watching Food Network marathons for five hours is antithetical to your professional life, it’s time to sit down and do the work! Pitch that query. Submit that idea to a friend. Write a first draft. Write a fifth draft. Doing the work is not the fun part, but it is necessary.  Chris Brogan has written beautifully on this subject and I return to his words often. Also, one of my all-time favorite quotes is from Susan Sontag, who once wrote: “Do something!” It’s so simple, and yet we all struggle with getting “it” done, whatever it is. We are too busy “being” and “talking” and not doing.

Make Yourself Accountable

That said, I am just as guilty of procrastinating and avoiding work as the next person. I’ve found that what helps is to have people around who can help hold me accountable and to shame me properly if I don’t come through. This can be part of your “ask for help” team. Often, it’s a close friend, an ex, or my mom who does this for me. But having this be someone in your field might be more helpful. Sometimes I’ll bet something small, so the consequences will help motivate me further. Like “If I don’t finish this deadline, I’ll buy you dinner or clean your bathroom. ” Make sure these people actually care about your success on some level or it won’t work!

Put a smile on someone’s mug…with a mug!

So, I know it’s been 80,000 years since I’ve written here. But I have a really good excuse. I was making you mugs. Hand-crafted, one pixel at a time, on the Internet.

You’ll recognize the words from Haiku for Adulthood #110. But this is even better because you can enjoy it at the SAME TIME you’re enjoying a beverage. The future is magical!

Seriously, it’s 2013, folks. Now is the time to finally stop drinking out of measuring cups.

Get on that and I’ll get on you.

In other news, I was interviewed on LateNight Bubbles with Bernadette, a variety show about artists and performers in San Francisco. Everyone else was wearing an amazing spandex contraption or had 8-foot hair, or their nipples were on fire, so I asked my friend Jacques La Femme to tie me up so I didn’t seem so J. Crew 20% off sale. Then I got carried on stage by two beautiful gay boys.

There’s a whole series of clips on YouTube that I am too lazy to embed! But feel free, mom and dad.

One of the many topics we discussed was this essay I wrote for Salon, “Dominatrix for a Day” which is about what I always write about … exploiting my life experiences for money.

And this “10 Fun Facts About Lesbians” post continues to be wildly popular, and resulted in perhaps the most satisfying work email to date: “[Your lez post] is beating 5 Signs Tom Cruise Is Gay.” I’m adding that to my resume.

What else? Here, I wrote you this poem*:

Kisses are great,

and so are hugs,

but if you buy

a mug, I’ll get 2 whole dollars!

*I never said it was good

What’s new with you? What are your goals for the year? What are you reading? What are you writing? I want to know.