When one tries to make a living as an artist, one’s potential for weird-ass jobs skyrockets. You need work that has flexible hours, open minded employers and will pay a good amount for a short, concentrated, burst of work. And, it turns out, they don’t call them odd jobs for nothing. Also, as a writer, I will often take the opportunity to do something strange or stupid or possibly dangerous just for the material. But to be quite honest, I don’t usually search these jobs out. More often than not, they find me. Case in point, my first gig.

I asked my friends on Facebook about their first first jobs and they mostly seemed to be pretty standard: yard work, lemonade stands, food service, babysitting. These jobs were largely unavailable to me. I grew up in a very rich area where they could afford to pay actual money for these things. All yard work was done by Latino immigrants. Most children had full time au pairs. I don’t know how old our paperboy was but I know he made deliveries from a car. (ironically, one of my childhood friends said that his first job was as his mom’s book keeper at age 10. Marin was weird, is what I’m saying.)

Technically my first gigs were ages 10-12 when my dad paid me and my best friend to dress up as elves and advertise his portrait studio’s Photo With Santa day. That was kind of odd, but I don’t really count it as my first gig because I got it from my dad and the salary was downright exploitative. I don’t remember how much they paid me the first time someone I was not related to hired me to do something, but I do remember that the evening was strange enough for it not to matter.

Have you heard of the Antenna theatre company? Probably not, so I’ll explain as best I can. They create installations that the audience wanders through, while listening to the performance (a sort of theatrical sound track/soundscape/voice over) on headphones. Sometimes there are actors and when there are they wear masks like, oh, say, this Amnesia_1

Now, there was an event, I don’t remember exactly what it was but I’m pretty sure it had nothing to do with the antenna theatre company. I remember it being kind of corporate and there being a powerpoint presentation during dinner. Since it was the mid nineties in the bay area, it may have been some kind of internet start up, I don’t know. What I *do* know is that it started with a networking happy hour. And to facilitate this networking they had an ice breaker game where people would have a name tag on their back, with the name of a celebrity, and other people would give them clues about who that celebrity was so they could guess who it was, thus starting up a conversation. It’s not a bad idea but you still have to talk people into playing the game. You have to explain what the game is and get them to consent to having a name tag put on their back. And for this task the event planners wanted teenagers in Antenna theatre masks. Let me repeat, teenagers. In giant weird masks. Talking people in business suits into a game where something is written on their backs. I don’t have photos so please content yourself with this poorly photoshopped artist’s rendering.

I don't think this even really captures just how strange the night was.

I don’t think this even really captures just how strange the night was.

I have no idea why they wanted teenagers. Maybe to cut costs. Maybe to fully set us apart from the crowd, lest people think the mask was some sort of neo-lampshade-on-the-head version of cutting loose. I don’t know. But I do know this: you can’t talk in those masks, you can’t see in those masks, and people don’t want a name tag on the back of their suit jacket. They just don’t.

Also, someone hit on me.

While I was wearing the mask.

It’s a snow day here on the east coast and the dead of winter in the whole northern hemisphere. This is the perfect time to hole up and create whatever solitary art floats your boat. But first you need provisions. You don’t want to be that asshole who makes a delivery guy trek through the snow and who has cash for that anyway? Winter is also a great time for cooking because it heats up the house and you were just going to stay in anyway.

I am by no means and expert in healthy eating, but I’m pretty sure it has something to do with eating plants. So you should start by going to the grocery store and buying all the plants that look appetizing to you. Hell, buy some that don’t look appetizing; I hate spinach but I don’t notice it when it’s cut up and thrown into a soup. I think broccoli is disgusting but I love broccoli cheddar soup. I think most vegetables can be made delicious if you add enough cheddar and butter to them. (like I said, not great at healthy eating.) What’s great about soup is that you can put pretty much anything into it and all the flavors get blended together and you can fix nearly every flavor problem with enough garlic, seasoned salt, or cheddar (assuming you are into savory food, which I really am.) Unless, of course, the problem is too much salt. We’ll talk about how to fix that later.
When buying supplies, keep in mind what you want the foremost flavor to be and what flavors are going to go with it. Beets and peppers would probably not be good together but tomatoes and peppers would be delicious. Some veggie flavors are more dominant than others so keep that in mind. Other veggies don’t have terribly strong flavors but still have a ton of nutritional value so throw those in to extend the soup and make it more healthy. A cooking show once told me that the more colors you have in a meal, the more healthy it probably is. You can also use canned frozen veggies but their flavors are often dulled and sometimes made downright gross by the canning/freezing process. Still, you’ve got to work with what you’ve got access to.
Also, feel free to add whatever meat you like as well, assuming it’ll work with the flavors you’re going for. One of the great things about soup is you can use the cheaper, less appetizing, bits of meat because you’re boiling them and can strain out any bones or whatever. But you’re also free to use whatever yummy kinds of meat you like, too.

You’re also going to want some stock (veggie, chicken, beef, whatever) or at least some bullion cubes. If you want to be super thrifty, you can make your own stock by saving the carcases of whatever animals you eat and/or the leftover bits of whatever veggies you cut up (i.e. carrot ends, onion tops, etc.) and simmering them for a period of time that closely resembles forever, until the water tastes like whatever you’ve been boiling in it. Run it through a strainer and voila, you’ve got stock for free. When boiling animal bits, be aware that bone has its own particular flavor and the more meat that’s in the carcass, the more the stock will taste like meat than bone, which is generally what you want. BUT bone flavor is actually pretty good, too, so don’t discount it. And this is a great thing to do with BBQ leftovers or when you’re lazy and just get a roasted chicken at the grocery store. I don’t know if this would work on something like KFC I kind of think it wouldn’t, given how little meat, fat or skin is left on the chicken once its been eaten, but I don’t know for sure.
It occurs to me that some people might be grossed out by this talk of bones and fat and carcasses but if it does, you may want to re-examine your decision to eat meat. Just sayin.

The soups I like are thick and creamy, so that’s what we’re focusing on. If you’re like me and prefer those kinds of soups, you’ll want a thickening agent like milk, cream, cheese, sour cream, the vegan equivalents of same, flour, potatoes (or probably any root vegetable,) or even blended up cashews or chickpeas. I am not as familiar with the non dairy options so you might want to consult an actual recipe for advice on this. I did try blended up cashews once and it was delicious but I think you might need an actual food processor rather than just a regular blender. I think most of these principals work for non creamy soups, too. Just skip the mashing/blending/adding dairy part. You can also add quinoa, rice, pastini, probably other grains as well, either as a thickener or just a feature of the soup.

I probably should have posted this yesterday, before it snowed, but I was too busy cooking. Luckily, if you’re at home and don’t feel like going outside, soup can be made out of nearly anything. Poke around your refrigerator, freezer and canned foods, odds are good you’ve got some soup makings. When I was a kid, one of my favorite stories was “Stone Soup” where a stranger comes into someone’s house and, in return for being allowed to stay the night, they offer to make soup for the home owner who has no food. The stranger insists that all they need is a pot of boiling water and a stone. As they boil the stone and sip the water the stranger keeps saying “Oh, this would be perfect, if only it had some ____” and the home owner says “Oh, well, I think I have a little ____” and they end up with a delicious soup. This is a great metaphor about creativity and resourcefulness overcoming dire circumstances, but it’s also a pretty legit recipe for soup (stone not necessary.)

Chop everything up and saute it in some oil and garlic and whatever herbs and spices you wish on a mid to low heat. Start with the denser and more strongly flavored veggies. This is a really good article about aromatics, the flavors on which you base the rest of your dish. You can also saute whatever meat you want to add with the veggies, or you can save them and add them (fully cooked) at the end if you want chunks of meat in the soup. When the veggies seem translucent, throw them in a pot with your stock or some water with bullion cubes and bring to a boil. How much stock/water you add is hard to say because it changes, depending on how much stuff you’ve thrown into this soup. Make sure you have enough to cover everything and let it float freely but not so much that it looks like it’s mostly liquid. If you have any root vegetables, this is when you want to add them. Same for any grain based thickener. Let it boil for a few minutes then bring the heat way down to a simmer. A simmer is when just a few bubbles come up to the surface every couple seconds. You probably want to let it simmer for at least 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.While it’s simmering, you can continue to add whatever flavors you want be they spices, sauces, juices, booze. Seriously, throw in whatever you think will taste good. I mean, probably not pizza, but use your best judgement. If you *really* want to use pizza you might be able to use it like a crouton in french onion soup, but that’s a bit beyond my knowledge.
You can also use this time to clean whatever you’ve already dirtied. If you are at all like me, cooking creates a GIANT mess.

When your soup starts to look, well, like soup and/or your root vegetables look like they’ve softened to the point where you can easily poke a fork into them, taste the soup. Don’t get worried if it tastes bland.

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It’s not going to be a boring soup, that’s just the base, you have to add stuff to it.

If it’s SUPER bland, you might just need to let it simmer a little more. If it’s been simmering for a while and it’s still kind of bland, move on to the thickening process, you can probably still save it! If it’s got some good flavor going on and you just want a soup of the tasty-broth-with-stuff-floating-in-it variety, congratulations, you’re done! If you want a thick, creamy, soup you’ve got a little bit of a ways to go. At this point I like to throw the whole thing in a blender and see how it comes out. If you don’t have a blender, simmer until everything is soft enough to mash up, then mash away. Once it’s got a good consistency, check the flavor again. Still not great? Turn off the heat and try adding some dairy/dairy substitute and continue adding whatever herbs/spices/whatevers you think would taste good. Seriously. I’ve added, beer, whiskey, coffee, lemon juice, orange juice, hot wing sauce, throw in whatever you think will work. A good trick to guessing what will be good is to taste the soup and then smell whatever you’re thinking of adding. Just add a little at a time. That should give you a decent idea of what it’ll taste like.

Another good thing to keep in mind is that salt, sugar and sour balance each other out. So if your dish is too salty, try adding a little something sweet and something sour. Too sweet? Add salty and sour. Too sour? You get the idea. Spicy is a little harder to counteract but it’s usually taken down a bit by dairy or beer. I don’t know why. I learned that from an episode of home improvement. Seasoning a soup is much like embellishing a crazy outfit, just keep adding more until it works. If you do end up with something that’s just too damn flavorful, try adding water and/or more bland thickening agents, like potatoes.

Odds are good that this will yield you a ton of soup so freeze some of it for later or just invite a bunch of people over.

Enjoy!
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This blog could often be called “Life lessons from Joss Whedon.”Image

I’m not gonna lie to you, readers, this has been an awful year. It’s been an awful year for everyone so I won’t recite the litany of my sorrows but most of the past 8 months has just been a struggle to go through the basic motions of eating, working, keeping a roof over my head. In the world of burlesque I took on way too many things and I burned out hard. To the point where I spent a lot of time thinking about giving up. Giving up plans included everything from moving back in with my parents, moving to the middle of nowhere and trying to be a normal person, selling all my possessions and drinking myself to death in New Orleans, or just straight up dying. I’m not saying that as a cry for help cry for help or anything, it’s just illustrative of how bad this year has been.

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Things are getting better, thank God. The major source of my stress is no longer a part of my life. My crappy day job just became a job I can do from home (or anywhere else!) which will allow me to pick up more work that I like, do more art, and intern for a career that I actually want. An extraordinarily generous friend is paying for me to fly across the country and take a vacation. And I have only one more show to do before I can take a two month break from producing!

I’ve been dreaming about doing this show for over a year. I have put a fuckton of work into it but when the time came for the big advertising push I was so burned out that I just couldn’t do it. I don’t know how to advertise something I’m not excited about and I couldn’t be excited about anything.

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So then my super amazing co-producer, Sarah Topps, reminded me that the show was coming up HELLA fast and I had a panic attack, which is kind of *like* being excited about something, but still not helpful because you’re paralyzed with fear. Luckily, Sarah is, as previously mentioned, a really spectacular co-producer. She remained calm. She encouraged me. To reference the title of this post, she has carried me a lot this year.

She said “Dude, we got this. I can run this show no problem and we have an amazing cast. All we’ve got to do is get some butts in the seats and the show will be fucking awesome.” And she was right. We already have an awesome show. We just need people to see it.

And it was those people that carried me, too. This talented, smart, beautiful cast and crew, the brilliant photographer and graphic designer that made our promo materials, this source material (thank you Joss!) these people I love and respect and trust to help me when I need it. I’ve been crawling for a while and just the thought of these people has carried me back to excitement and joy and doing everything I damn well can to get this show a great audience.

Because we deserve it.

Wanna see an awesome show? Come to the Bell House this Saturday.

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*hilarious drawings from the amazing blog Hyperbole and a Half. Read it! Love it! Buy the book!

I’m not entirely sure when I started wanting to do a Shakespeare Burlesque show.  Shamefully, it may have been inspired by this song.

Because I’ve always found it hilarious that the last line of the chorus (You’ve had a lot of dick, but you ain’t had mine) is, in my opinion, the best way to sum up Sonnet 135.  This is funny to pretty much just me and my best friend from Shakespeare camp but, whatever.

I think this got me thinking about songs that would work for Shakespeare inspired burlesque acts; Dig Ophelia by Rasputina, Blood on my Hands by Veruca Salt (for Lady M,) I Could Never Be Your Woman by White Town (for 12th Night or As You Like It) And that was all well and good but a Shakespeare show without Shakespeare’s words is… kinda like going to New Orleans and not eating or drinking.  Sure, it’ll be pretty, sure you’ll probably have a good time, but you’re kind of missing the best part.  So why not have the burlesquers do Shakespeare scenes between acts, or even as part of the act?  THAT is a show I would want to watch.

And then 4 years later I got up the nerve to actually do it.

So I started thinking about what Shakespeare characters my burlesque friends would play really well. I’m not someone who thinks you need a TON of training to be able to act Shakespeare.  I think if you can act, and you take the time to learn what all the words you’re saying mean, and you connect those words to your own experience and say them honestly, you will do a good job.  This is not to say that doing Shakespeare is easy, but you don’t need years for training at the RSC to do it.  Honesty, passion, knowing what the hell you’re talking about, these things will get you far.  Especially if you are cast well.

I chose the performers I did largely because I knew they had strong theatre backgrounds, I liked the work they did, I liked working with them and they had confessed a deep and abiding love for Shakespeare.  For casting, I had some ideas but, for the most part I let people cast themselves.  That way I knew they were doing something they would be passionate about.  To my mind, passion is one of the most important components of art.  I have seen a great many potential trainwrecks actually succeed based almost solely on passion. When I was 22 I was part of Shakespeare and Company’s month long intensive and the first thing they have you do is a monologue of your choosing.  They encourage you to bring a monologue from a part that you would never normally be cast in but, more importantly, something you *really* want to do.  Watching people do those monologues is the best proof on the planet of just how deeply Shakespeare’s words can resonate in people.  I wanted to bring the passion and emotional rawness that I saw there into this show.

And also I had to have a sword fight because, dude, sword fight.

Once I got everyone on board, we spent quite a while hashing out who would do what and in what order.  I made some suggestions and I nudged people here and there but I tried to push people as little as possible.  I wanted them to make their own choices and I wanted to trust these people as artists in their own right.  Because that’s what they are.  I don’t subscribe to the AUTEUR idea of theatre.  Sure, I sometimes HAVE A VISION but I’m pretty sure it can be made better with the help of people who are as, or in most cases more, talented than I am.

Demented Vision

Once I had a cast and a venue and scenes/monologues cobbled into a script, I had to get to the hard part.  REHEARSALS.

Now, if you’re a theatre person, you’re thinking “Well, yeah, rehearsal. Duh. That’s what you do.” But if you’re a burlesque person you’re thinking “OMG REHEARSALS?!? With, like, OTHER PEOPLE?! Are you nuts?” I may be exaggerating, but only a little. Burlesque performers (and rappers and storytellers) are by and large, solo performers and they’re solo performers for a reason. Not because they’re jerks or anything but because they’re very independent, often introverted, and have weirdass schedules. Some have day jobs, some have night jobs, some work weekends, ALL of them have gigs on random nights and weekends and all of them are CRAZY busy.  This is New York, if you’re not busy 6 nights out of seven, you’re a fucking wuss.

And have I mentioned that I am not a planner? I am not. I am not a planner at all.

I am an agent of chaos.

Luckily(?) most of the ideas I had for duet/group scenes/acts were 86ed pretty quick for the above reasons so people were mostly left to their own devices. BUT I wanted to have at least one group rehearsal where we ran through the whole thing, worked out some kinks, made sure no one was using the dreaded SHAKESPEARE VOICE (discussed more thoroughly in my post, Shakespeare UR Doin it Wrong) Otherwise we would only have one shot at this and I didn’t just want this show to be good, I wanted it to be fucking phenomenal.

So after the fifth panic attack I had just *thinking* about trying to schedule this rehearsal it occurred to me I DON’T HAVE TO DO THIS ALONE! I know people, organized people, who like me and might want to help me. It occurred to me that I know an actual professional stage manager who’s job it is to be good at things I am bad at. And she seemed to think I was pretty groovy and, it turned out, was also a HUGE Shakespeare nerd. So she agreed to help me, thank freaking God. For legal reasons, I don’t think I can name her in this blog but she is a GODDESS. She emailed people and worked with schedules and Lo! she was able to find two and a half hours when we could get all 10 of us in the same damn room together LIKE A GODDAMN WIZARD. It may seem like I’m exaggerating my awe, but I seriously am not. Stuff like this is like black magic to me. I think I would do a better job putting together a car engine than scheduling a group rehearsal. My first year design teacher, who said my greatest obstacle was taming the logistical nightmare that was my life, once said with a sigh

“Well, maybe you’re just going to be one of those directors who depends on the kindness of strangers.” And, by God, he was right.

Things were going well.  My charms cracked not, my spirits obeyed. And then my kneecap went rogue and dislocated itself, putting me out of commission.  Even right after it happened, when I was still screaming from pain and the horror of having your kneecap suddenly be where no kneecap should be, one of the loudest voices in my head was saying “This can’t happen.  Not now.  Not with Bardlesque in three weeks.” I thought about postponing. But I had a venue, a great cast, some press, a few people had even bought tickets already. More importantly, the show was not about me. It was my show, sure. And I’d been thinking about doing it for four years. But it was no longer just *my* show. It was *our* show.  And our show was going to be fucking awesome.

Besides, I could still act. I figured out a way to do my Hamlet act and I could do my scene from As You Like It. If no one saw my As You Like It Striptease, well, the world would keep on turning. They would still see Nasty’s Lavinia Act and Rita’s Lady M act and Iris’ Henry V act and and and and, really, this show is going to be amazing. These are talented people and I trust in their genius.

So I guess what I learned is that the people in my life are my greatest resource. It is unlikely that I’ll ever make money or qualify for a grant or be hired by Hubertus Bigend to travel the globe and spend tons of money creating the worlds most depressing burlesque show.* BUT I will always know awesome, talented, people. And I will continue to meet and befriend more. And if I can shut up the stupid voice in my head that thinks I have to do everything myself, I can work with those wonderful people and get a show that’s way better than anything I could do all by myself.

For reals, come see this show.  It’s this Friday.

Bardlesque Flier

*obscure William Gibson reference

Someone asked why I would do a Shakespeare Burlesque show and I was actually kind of stumped for a minute because, well, why on earth wouldn’t I do a Shakespeare Burlesque show?  The coloration between the two seemed so obvious to me, so perfect, that I forgot that it wouldn’t be so obvious to, well, anyone else.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t like Shakespeare.  I grew up in theatre so, to me, the theatre has always been both magical and a part of life.  I thought that theatre was magical in the way that most children think of adulthood as magical.  Someday *I* would wear these beautiful costumes and say these beautiful words and sing these amazing songs.  And I somehow always knew that Shakespeare was especially magical.  My mother told me the plots of Shakespeare plays like they were fairy tales and she told me their meanings and lessons, their emotional resonances.  At the dinner table, my parents would tell stories of rehearsals gone awry and the dress rehearsal of Midsummer where everything went wrong and the play within a play was such a disaster that the whole crew laughed so hard they thought they might die.  When I played with my mother’s makeup, it was my mother’s makeup kit.  I painted my face all the colors of the rainbow and played with puck ears and Fairy Glitter.

The college that my Godmother worked for had a Shakespeare festival every year where high schoolers would compete with scenes and monologues and a bunch of the college students would dress up like Queen Elizabeth’s court and sweep around the school in these fantastic period costumes. And from the time I was 4 or 5 my Godmother would make me a tiny period costume and I would go around with the court.  I’ve always been pretty damn fem so I LOVED it.  I loved wearing corsets and bumrolls and petticoats and giant skirts.  There was something so exciting about wearing clothing that fancy and heavy and swishing down corridors and courtyards. It’s amazing how excited I was, especially considering I was doing pretty much nothing, other than wandering around and watching teenagers perform Shakespeare scenes.  NOT the ideal day for most five year olds but I fucking LOVED it.

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When I was 10 my mother put me in Shakespeare camp, a month long theatrical day camp at the Marin Theater Company.  This was when I really got into studying Shakespeare. My teachers; Maura Vaughn, David Kudler and Don Williams, they were heroes to me and they didn’t shy away from teaching Shakespeare to kids.  They never dumbed it down or changed the language.  When I was 12, I played a courtesan in Comedy of Errors.  Maura was very frank about what a courtesan was and Don taught me how to act more vulgar and how to steal someone’s wallet.  They told us the stories, they explained (some of) the dirty jokes, they made sure that everyone did character work and everyone had lines.  This was no small feat considering Maura had to cram 50 kids, ages 5 through 17, into Much Ado About Nothing.  These people cared about Shakespeare and they cared about us.  They taught us that Shakespeare was vital, that it was living, that it was fun and sexy and scary and funny.  They taught us that Shakespeare was for everyone; smart, dumb, young, old, aristocrats and groundlings.  It was for everyone.  And it still can be.

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That was the spirit that inspired me to do a Shakespeare Burlesque show.  Because burlesque is the same thing.  It’s vital and sexy and scary and funny.  It is for everyone.  It kills me when people do boring Shakespeare and it kills me that people think Shakespeare is boring.  So I think an injection of sexy ladies is just what  Shakespeare needs in order to counteract the bad name that it’s been given by shitty, boring, directors.  When I first met Peter Aguero, he said that he loved that I (and other performers) used the fun sexiness of burlesque to hook people in and then hit ’em with some art.  Art has a bad name in this country.  It’s been made boring and inaccessible.  It’s been made cerebral rather than visceral.  But it doesn’t have to be.  If you ask me, good art is sexy.  Good art is heartbreaking.  Good art is funny.  And maybe if more of the world believed that, artists wouldn’t all be fucking starving.

So, if you’re in the NYC area, please come check out Bardlesque and see how goddamned sexy Shakespeare can be.

Bardlesque Flier

My next post will be about how we put this whole thing together, because this shit was not easy to do.

The Next Big Thing Bloghop

Posted: March 10, 2013 in Uncategorized

I was tagged by David Henry Sterry, the awesome writer and book doctor in this thing called the Next Big Thing Blog hop where writers answer questions about their book and finish by tagging other writers, asking them to do the same.  I’m really honored that David chose to tag me because he’s awesome and he knows a TON of awesome writers.  He’s currently editing an anthology that I will be a part of, the follow up to his hit anthology Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys.

1.What is the working title of your book?

Something’s Always Wrong

2. Where did the idea come from for your book?

The original idea came when I was 15, watching the movie American Pie and thinking how much I’d rather watch a screwball comedy about *girls* trying to lose their virginity.  Then I fell in love with a 23 year old man and it turned out that trying to lose my virginity to him was more like a screwball tragedy.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

There’s a relatively new genre known as New Adult and I think this falls pretty squarely into that category.  Its protagonists are people in their late teens and early twenties, trying to figure out how life works.  It’s a coming of age story masquerading as a doomed romance.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Emma Stone in Easy A is a pretty good approximation of my main character, Melora.

For the male lead, Dylan, um…… Who’s the modern equivalent of Luke Perry?  I’m just going to say Joseph Gordon Levitt because he’s dreamy.

Yeah, that works.

5. What is a one sentence synopsis of your book?

Something’s Always Wrong is the story of two people who fall in love despite their best efforts but no matter where they go, or whom they fuck, they stay in love whether they like it or not.

6. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

The idea, relationship, and bits of writing knocked around in my head for over 10 years but from the time I actually sat down with the intent to write a novel to the time I actually had a full first draft was about a year.

7. What other books would you compare this story to in your genre?

I’m still trying to figure that out, actually.

8. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

“Dylan.”  Always “Dylan.”

And a hell of a lot of 90’s music.

9. Will your book be self-published or by an agency?

Oh, christ, I hope it gets picked up.  If I can’t get it published, I’ll self publish.  But first I’ll have to take a long, hard, look at *why* it didn’t get published.

10. What else about the book might piqué the reader’s interest?

It’s not all longface about difficult, young, love.  There’s also a TON of hot sex scenes.  A number of beta readers have described it as “boner inducing.”

and now…

TAG, you’re it. The following writers have been called out for their chance to answer these questions about their own work and then to TAG others

Marc Dolan

Catherynne Valente

Brad Lawrence

David Kudler

Evolution of the Zipper Act

Posted: February 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

When I was 16 I worked on a production of Pal Joey.  It was not a good play, but I had a great time working on it and the songs were pretty catchy.  One song in particular stuck with me because it was about the things a burlesquer thinks about while she’s working.  I did not yet know that I was going to be a burlesquer, I didn’t even know what burlesque was, but I thought this was a pretty awesome song.  In our production the singer mimed unzipping parts of her costume every time she sang the word Zip, which is a hell of a lot of times.  One of the cast members said that, while they were rehearsing, she thought that the singer would *actually* be unzipping a hundred tiny zippers all over her costume.  I thought that would have been a hell of a lot more fun to watch, though it would be absolute murder on the poor costumer who had to make it.

I wasn’t wrong.

About 10 years later the idea was still with me and I realized it would be even cooler if it was ONE zipper.  One really fucking long zipper.  A friend of mine had a purse that was made out of one long zipper and I thought it would be awesome to make a dress like that.  But a purse is one thing, a dress is entirely different.  People aren’t columns, they’re curvy, thus some pretty major engineering issues crop up.  Also, where the hell do you get a zipper that long?  Or even know how long a zipper you’ll need?  Now you’re starting to get an idea of why it took me, like, three years to make this damn thing.

The first thing I did was wrap my dressmaker’s dummy in ribbon that was about the width of a normal zipper and then I measured that.  I don’t remember how long it was but it would have been ridiculously expensive and taken FOREVER to get off.  So, I decided to widen the space between one side of the zipper and the other.  I picked my ribbon, wrapped it around the mannequin, and measured that.  It was 21 feet long.  Which is really fucking long for a zipper.  BUT I found a place that sells zipper by the yard and one of those zipper fixing kits that has zipper heads and such.

Then it sat in my sewing room for a really long time because I didn’t have a deadline to make me actually make the dress.  The project sat there, glaring at me, daring me to finish it, rolling its imaginary eyes every time I said I’d get around to it.  Then Nelson wanted to do a steampunk show and I thought “Zippers are kinda steampunk, right?”  And that was good enough for me.  I wouldn’t get to use the same song, but the dress would be done.  And done is always better than perfect.  I’m going to repeat that because I think it’s important

DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT.

Put it on a t-shirt.

I started by sewing ribbon to the top and bottom of the zipper.  My parents live near a ribbon outlet so I have ALL the ribbon.  I could make a TON of these dresses if I hated myself enough.  Once I had that done, I wrapped the zipper around my dress maker’s dummy and pinned it into place.

You can see some of the construction problems raised by the curves of the human body.  I tried a bunch of configurations, but this ended up being the best way to put it all together and make the zipper lay relatively flat.  I smooshed some fabric under the open parts and pinned that into place as well.

Then I unzipped the zipper and sewed the whole damn thing.  I originally thought that I’d have to hand sew everything while it was pinned to the dummy.  I’m REALLY glad I didn’t have to do that.

This post makes it sound kind of easy but, trust me, it was not.  As far as I know, no one’s ever done this before so I’m really fucking proud of myself.

We have done the impossible and that makes us mighty.

After that, all I had to do was decorate it.  I bought some appliques, some trim, and played around.

A good tip I learned from Amber Ray is to cover the backs of your appliques with hot glue so they don’t fall apart.  I wish I’d learned that *before* I sewed all the appliques to this dress.

Add a corset, a bussle, an adorable wig, and BOOM steampunk act!

Zipper Dress1Zipper Dress 2 Zipper Dress 3 Zipper Dress 4 Zipper Dress 5 Zipper Dress 6

A few months later Nelson and I decided to do Epic Win Burlesque: The Musical!  Theater nerd that I am, I was super psyched.  I came up with this act to Morning Glow from Pippin where my costume mimicked the changing colors of the sunrise but that was going to be REALLY REALLY HARD and I’m creating, like 15 acts this year and producing 42 epic win shows, and a Shakespeare show and hopefully a few other things and… and I just couldn’t do it.

BUT Pal Joey’s a musical, right?!  Finally a chance to do this act the way I originally intended!

The dress was more or less done so I just had to make the undergarments.  I’ve recently become obsessed with cage panties and was lucky enough to have a few bought for me when I posted them on Facebook.  (I used to be a domme, I am not above getting sexy things in exchange for photos of me wearing said sexy things.)  I used the panties that were bought for me as a pattern and made my own out of some pretty scrap fabric and some elastic I dyed to the right color.

Photo 145

I learned a very valuable lesson from making these: Different elastics have different amounts of stretchiness.  I thought I had enough elastic to make the panties but “measure twice, cut once” simply doesn’t apply to sewing.  It’s more like “measure all you want, you’ll still have to fix it later muahaha!” So I ran out of elastic and decided to use beaded fringe instead.  It looks great but makes the panties kinda hard to put on.

I also modified a basque but apparently I don’t have photos so fuck it.

I also made a hat!  I had a pretty specific idea in mind and, of course, couldn’t find a hat buckram that was anything like it.  So I went kinda janky with it and made my own out of felt dipped in watered down elmer’s glue.  Then I covered it with pretty fabric and glued a zipper onto it.

Look I made a hat where there never was a hat.

Ironically, this is probably the classiest costume I’ve made and it’s also the most glued together.  Someone gave these shoes to my mom and they just happened to fit me and already have heels covered in rhinestones so she gave them to me.  The perks of having a costumer for a mother are plentiful!  I glued the trim and bows on them.

Finally, the dress left my neck a little bare and I still had a bunch of trim and zipper heads lying around so I pulled some chain out of my jewelery making drawer and voila!

These accessories were brought to you by E6000 and the PILES of random stuff I have in my apartment.

The musical show is this weekend 2/15 and 2/16.  Come see the dress in action!