When the Thing on the Inside of Your Head is Now Suddenly on the Outside

And in your hand!!!

Hello, Lovelies, Pardon the intermission. California is still burning, but I very much want to finish this story…

To recap: it is a dark and stormy morning the opening day of BookExpo where my first book was being featured. Somehow all the galleys have gone missing, then been found in a trash compactor room on the Upper West Side by a mysterious woman who has tracked me down in a city of 8.53 million people via my daft little website, and now she’s walking up to me in the lobby of her office. She looks just like Nancy Drew—but with hot-nerd glasses. She even has Nancy’s hair-flippy-thing that I always try to do when I’m blowing out my crazy bird’s nest (except I just end up looking frizzy, like Cher from the Witches of Eastwick.)

She’s smiling as she opens a farmer’s market bag topped full of my little book. I flip to the dedication page, immediately wanting to nosedive into all the ink and paper and cry. I never thought SPAZ (the original title) would get this far. I wasn’t sure I had the… discipline. So, I’m wobbly and I don’t know how to thank this woman. It’s too early for drinking. I realize I should be Instagramming and twitscaping all the promotional moments that you’re supposed to do as a first-time author. I should be completely jumping for joy, but instead, I’m frozen as I stand there thinking, “Oh, my fucking God, what if she’s actually read the damn thing? She must know what an absolute kook-a-doo I am, what with my ridiculous bionic face, my psychedelic seizures, and yodeling for speech therapy? Holy cats! I’m going to have a seizure simply from signing my book about seizures!”

I think Alain de Botton said it best: “If we are not regularly deeply embarrassed by who we are, the journey to self-knowledge hasn’t begun.” I am suddenly deeply embarrassed and thanking this perfect stranger when out tumble the words: “Would you maybe… like one?”

She nods eagerly as I search my bag frantic for a pen. I find myself consciously having to steady my hand as I sign the galley. Am I even doing this right? I whisper to her, “This is the first book I’ve ever signed.” Her eyes widen to saucers.

Moments later, I’m schlepping past the lions of The New York Public Library toward the conference. The sky is still so dark and thunderous. Just as I reach Bryant Park, the fairy lights blink to life in the trees as if by some odd magic, and I realize right then, after all this time… I am finally a writer.

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Hold fast and stay rad, Lovelies. xoxo – gg

Of All The Trash Compactor Rooms in the City, She Had to Walk into This One…

Okay, what’s the term for squealing and holding your face for five minutes straight after reading an email from a complete stranger who has tracked you down by way of your very tiny blog to tell you that… in a city of 8.53 million people, she and her super-thoughtful boyfriend have found a box of galleys of your very first book in the trash compactor room of their building? The stories you toiled over… That somehow had gotten lost in the mail… And suddenly your publisher doesn’t have any left. And it happens to be the first day of BookExpo? Does it qualify as an epic moment? I think it does. Whatever, it’s my truth and I’m standing in it.

You’d expect an entire girlhood spent devouring Nancy Drew would have prepared me for repeated head injuries, multiple chloroform-kidnappings, and clandestine meetings to do with lost papers… but Sarah R. actually giving a f*ck and rescuing my little book meant so much. I cannot thank her enough!

We’d arranged to rendezvous near Grand Central. It almost like felt a blind date or episode of Search Party. Who was this mystery woman? What should I wear to the drop? Should I try to look more like a writer? What does that even mean? I was so nervous! I kept checking my hair. It was a dark and stormy day out and I had yet to even hold a copy of my book…

TBC’d tomorrow! Stay rad, Lovelies – xoxo – gg

 

 

 

The Big Sleep…

Don’t you just love this picture of Joan Didion? She looks so vulnerable—like she just woke up from a nap.

Hi there, Lovelies. It’s 79 and gorgeous along the Hudson where I have been leaning out… way out over the last 6 weeks. Another shout from the cool, dark little corner of New York where the fan on my desk whirs away and I ponder over how to organize a new thriller tentatively titled MUSE WITCH BEAST. Again, all kudos and love to Jami Attenberg’s #1000wordsofsummer for fueling my creative sleep.

There’s a lot of connective tissue that remains to be woven across the bones of the monstrous creature but if I’ve learned anything at all from writing SPAZ (or Gotham Girl Interrupted as it’s now titled) it’s that the book you set out to write is rarely the book that gets written.

One minute you’re penning a heady little yarn about creativity, electricity, and the brain, the next you’re wading through the swampy musings of what it means to be the loudest mute lady in NYC, and now I’ve ended up with this very long thank you note to the people who’ve looked after me all these years of dealing with epilepsy. One thing I’ve noticed (and I don’t think I’m imagining it) is that as you edge closer and closer toward your release date, the more squirrelly people around you become. They’re entirely more careful about what they say in your presence. Their voices go up an octave, sharpening in this nervous, whistling-past-the-graveyard kind of way. It’s as if they are preparing to be completely horrified by some revelation, embarrassment, or cringe-worthy detail you may have included about them. Some go radio-silent altogether. It’s surreal.

There’s this awful story/rumor that came across my feed during final editing about a memoirist who wrote a tell-all of her marriage. Apparently, her husband read it and immediately committed suicide. The prospect of any reader feeling driven toward such tragic action by anything I might jot down completely terrifies me. We’re all unreliable narrators (even of our own stories) and what if we inadvertently trigger someone or everyone? Should there be some kind of warning label like at the beginning of Incredibles 2? It keeps me up at night. The thing I woke up to however during the writing process is that while my own style of comedy often vacillates between ridiculous self-deference and subversive snark, the target is always just me. I think I’d always rather have everyone else coming off clever and effing hilarious.

I want to ask other comedians and writers about this… I especially want to ask Ottessa Moshfegh if people she knows recognize themselves in her books, or is it all some kind of wild fictitious channeling? I am reading her latest about a white girl with a trust fund who self-medicates to the point of a near-continuous blackout in the hopes of changing her life in her sleep. Who knew self-destruction could be so entertaining? There are many days I would like to nap my way to a better existence.

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Her voice is intoxicating—with zero fear of the grotesque. She also portrays privilege in a manner that makes it hard to look away.

Alas, no big sleep for any of us yet…  Get outside today, Lovelies – XOXO – GG

How New York Breaks Your Heart…

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And face (in sixteen places)… could be another title for my tiny-little-potato-of-a-book. Yes, I buried the lede in my last post. It’s coming out this fall and I actually have a sneak peek available here!

An official playlist and silly trailer are in the offing. In the meantime, if you’re in the mood for a snarky, sweary, hilarious rant from The New Yorker‘s own Kimberly Harrington, give yourself, your mother, and all the other mothers you know Amateur Hour: Motherhood in Essays and Swear Words

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If you’re in the mood for something visually stunning and uber-New-Yorky, try Bill Hayes’s photography collection: How New York Breaks Your Heart. I can never look away from what he manages to always see.

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One day, all our kids will run off to New York. Back to panhandling words. Have a meaningful day, Lovelies – xoxo – gg

 

Be the Unlikable Female Narrator You Long to See in the World…

Even if it is a cat. Seriously, Maris Kreizman uttered the above words last week and, bless her heart if they haven’t become my goddamn rallying cry.

Hi there, Lovelies. How the hell are you?

I have, quite literally, been trying to get down with my bad self… to conjure up the very worst person I could conceive of for my next book—a most rageful, strange, and despicable girl. I need her to possess just enough heartless psychopathy but without being too creepy-cool—though don’t you just LOVE Killing Eve on BBC America? I retreat often the Beeb for emotional support viewing given the rollicking media climate stateside.

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I also tend to prefer my killers a little more hapless and awkward while still fully owning their unfettered self-righteous indignation. My girl needs to stub her toe on the ottoman in the middle of a supremely venomous diatribe. She never quite makes a clean getaway. If anything, she makes a slightly gross one. I generally know that the experiment is working if I’ve frightened Ed or my dad. Fortunately, the ritual never lasts for more than a day or so…  either because I’m morphing into a nap-oriented, Frankie-type or something entirely lovely happens like this…

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I had no idea it was even going up. And of course, I still want a different subtitle…

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Mostly because I think of this book as equal parts epilepsy, anxiety, and depression… minus much of the unending despair you usually see associated with epilepsy (or all the) Sick Lit narratives. Evidently, I lost this round, but maybe it’s not the end of the world. Maybe it’s the beginning. #SickGirlFunny?

Speaking of beginnings, if you have a chance to get outside today, Manhattan is practically a fresh-washed, Technicolor™ movie musical…

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I SO want to challenge a complete stranger to Bananagrams in Bryant Park but I have to stay inside at my desk and channel pissed-off lady criminals. I am in writer jail. Think Lorelai Gilmore goes a bit Grey Gardens. Have a meaningful day, people. Hold fast and don’t get chronic dry eye from Clockwork Orange-ing the news… xoxo – gg

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Day 21 of the Writer’s Retreat. Change Status to…

Phew!!!…  Okay, yesterday was a close one… the thought of having spent years on a book only to have it ruined with a seven-word subtitle—made this girl pretty squirrelly. I just feel like anybody curious enough to pick up my book in a store or online should feel like a welcome guest… They need snacks and like-minded company. They should never say to themselves, “Holy cats!!! I am SO in the wrong place!” Thank God funny, pithy sanity is prevailing (for the moment). I never imagined there could be such a tussle over things like subtitles…

I also want readers to feel like they could be me. On any given day, at any moment, their comfy brains could suddenly just decide to rebel for whatever reason—genetics, hormones, immunological things, stress, etc. As a single mom with epilepsy, struggling to make ends meet, I used to look around at the privileged, married moms in the private school where my daughter went and think, any one of you could suddenly be me. Any day. Strangely, it helped me to accept them (and our situation) a little more… and then, of course, I also just loved these other moms. Even the judgy ones whose daughters I could see were on the cusp of morphing into mean girls. But blerg… it’s so freakin’ complicated and intersectional and there’s no one right way to do things.

In the meantime, it’s beautiful as hell here and Gary (the beaver) was just looking over at me like, “Why aren’t you writing faster?” He’s finishing a late brunch… that guy’s a day drinker if there ever was one…

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In the meantime, I am being a good citizen and filling out all of my book marketing forms with frequent flyer numbers to Kenny Loggins and a whole marathon Yacht Rock playlist. Stay rad, Lovelies…  xoxo – GG

 

Big Little Sighs

Photo illustration by Cristiana Couceiro. Source photograph: Igor Ustynskyy

Hello, Lovelies… How the hell are you?

Behold, Spring. Mother nature’s way of saying, “Let’s get down!”

Amid the four nor’easters we’ve had here, I’ve found it necessary to shelter inside an emotional support meatloaf… Vegetarians, look away. This one’s a mashup of Ina Garten’s recipe tempered with the dark arts of Lipton onion soup mix. (Thereby sparing everyone the weepy misery of chopping three yellow onions in favor of a little packet of MSG nirvana.)

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It’s a blend of high and low culture that satisfies every time—much like champagne and potato chips. Oh, but gone are those days. A cheat day now and then is the best I can muster. And I’ve been cooking at the end of a long, snowy road, on hiatus from the city while I freight train through two TV scripts.

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One, dealing with neurodiversity, I’ve started and stopped at least twenty times with my writing partner… I’ll say cranky things like, “No, no, no… That’ll never work, that’s been done…”  just as he manages to pry the barnacles off and we come up with something nifty and almost weird enough to work. The other script is a single-camera half-hour rom-com series built around epilepsy, anxiety, and depression. My heart/brain still skips a beat/synapse that anyone’s actually interested, but there it is.

For reading during this latest storm/news cycle… I’d originally planned something intellectually rigorous like Diane Ackerman’s gorgeous A Natural History of the Senses. (Imma comin’ Diane!)

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Instead, I found myself retreating to the comforts of David Rakoff’s hilarious essay collection Fraud (since imposter syndrome is the central theme of my life).

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I’ve also been fangirling the eff out of some of my favorite writers on women’s pain and addiction like Abby Norman (review of Ask Me About My Uterus to come!) and Leslie Jamison.  Damn… Jamison’s words in her anti-memoir The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath “More. Again. Forever…” recalled the watery longing of mothers I knew from many a wine-soaked book club, the palpable ache for a deeper connection, more than for access to any Jack London’esque “white light” of creativity.

I’ve never been one who can write on the sauce (despite loving it). And I don’t get writer’s block as much as a kind of writer’s malaise that manifests in the form of big little sighs, working alone every morning in my pajamas, until some Mary Karr-ish language tumbles out: Fuck. Shit. Fuck. Don’t. You daft girl… Who on earth ever told you that you could do this? 

But then I go on. Here’s a great huzzah to the thrumming of buds and bugs and to a few more words.

Until tomorrow, hold fast – XOXO – GG

Little Fires Everywhere

 

Hello, Lovelies… How the hell are you?

Yet another rollicking couple of weeks for self-described narcissism expert, grief counselor-in-training, and aspiring diminutive hand model… DJT. But I can’t think about that ridiculous yahoo right now. Are you done with those college essays?

It’s been a wild few days here. Halloween was unspeakable tragedy followed quite literally by plucky resiliency. Witness this guy below dressed as a chicken telling a reporter he’s not scared.

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You have to love a town where “none of your business” means, of course, it’s everyone’s business, which somehow makes you less afraid. Everyone’s right there, so what could possibly go wrong? But then it does, which is why we have to look out for each other. If you roll an ankle in a pothole, a New Yorker will surely catch you.

I woke up and it was blustery as all get out with serious Mary Poppins antics downstairs. I had an email from my editor asking about changing the title of my book on motherhood, comedy, and neurology to appeal to a broader audience of women positioning it as Gilmore Girls-meets-neurology…which I admit, I’m kind of grooving on but need to see the cover before I fully commit. I’m still such a visual nerd.

Then, my neurologist (who lives downstairs because, of course, it’s New York and everyone’s right here) phoned up to say, “Holy cats, lady! From this latest scan, even on all the drugs, your brain is still wicked electric.”

“Aw man, does this mean all my sobriety and juicing is for nothing?”

“No, your skin looks fabulous. But yeah, it’s like there are little fires everywhere.”

“You know, you really shouldn’t say those sorts of things to epilepsy patients. They might take you seriously. I just finished that book by the way.”

“What book?”

“Little Fires Everywhere.”

“Ooh, how was it?”

“SO riveting. Celeste Ng is such a badass. The conversations about race were like finely woven cloth and the sense of maternal longing at the end was completely palpable. It gave me chills.”

“Wow, no wonder you’re sparking. Look, I’m voting we have you go back into the hospital to the epilepsy unit so we can figure out what’s going on, film your sleep, etc.”

So back I go. It will be my gazillionth time in a skullcap… It’s a tough look to pull off. I really don’t have the head for it. At my age, what you want is volume without frizz. Wow, do I really miss having stupid problems 🙂 Still, I believe in science and I believe in figuring this out. If it means playing the part of a lab rat Chez Lenox Hill for a few days, I plan to savor every tedious, annoying second of it and make it totally funny anthropology.

November is epilepsy awareness month. The types of seizures I have are the scary kind you often see portrayed in the media. Think of Will at the end of season 2 of Stranger Things and you’ll have an idea.

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Life just gets shaken to pieces. In the eight years that I’ve dealt with this condition, my biggest learning is that you think the human brain is weird but it turns out… the human brain is weirder than you can think. With little fires everywhere, it’s our last undiscovered country, our biggest, most complicated upside down.

But here I go… Stay rad and have a meaningful day – xoxo – GG

 

Laura Dern is Really Good at Being a Shark

Hello, Lovelies,

How the hell are you? It’s been a rollicking few weeks, dear readers! That bigoted sack of Bisquick is still airing his balls in the Whitehouse instead of the Big House, Hurricane Jose is en route to NYC and I turned in a book… the one about going from being a mostly-dead girl… voi-la…

 

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photo: Holly Mckeown

to a mostly-alive girl…

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I still feel like some parts of the book are missing. I keep having these epic middle school dreams where I have a line in some awful 6th-grade pageant but no pants on, which is distracting in the best of cases. Yes, the pants are the pages.

About midway through, I wrote this lazy quip “No more Laura Dern-style meltdowns for me,” and I got this big note back in black Sharpie that simply said, “Is she even known for this?” and I thought holy cats, I am so fucked! My silly book had been bought by smart, literary people who don’t watch television, which I completely, totally get. We should all be reading more, but we’re talking Laura Dern here, people!

George Saunders may have said it best: “A book is like a shark. A shark hasn’t evolved in 40,000 years because it’s still really good at just being a shark. A book is the same.” So is the human brain. It’s still the most efficient storytelling device on the planet, sending all variety of messages from brain-to-face-to-body.

This is where Laura Dern is an especially good shark. I wanted to tweet my editor all these pictures of LD melting down throughout pop culture history. Etsy even makes buttons of them…

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The other funny thing about breaking your face and having your lower jaw torn off like an act-one Stephen King character is that all your surgeons and speech therapists want you to be during recovery is Laura-fucking-Dern because those splendid facial gymnastics she’s famous for actually help you to get better.

Another note I got on the book… was “more emotion” which made me do a full-on spit-take (and I wasn’t even drinking anything). I walk around thinking I’m chocked full of emotion, but with most of the nerves on the right side of my face severed it’s no longer so wildly apparent. My mug is a little inscrutable these days and it’s not only changing my interactions with people, it’s changing my written words as well. I believe that when you stand alone on the precipice of big change, you can either fill the gaping chasm with dread, devastation or drollery. It’s not to say that you’re not afraid, not sad, not homesick for the “dear ordinary” that you knew before, the one all the therapists have you reenacting each day, but you can choose other ways to fill the abyss. I chose drollery.

There was a point in my epileptic life where I probably liked my seizures a little more than I despised them. I know it’s not supposed to work that way. In the current zeitgeist of the differently-abled, you are supposed to stand up, resistdefy, and even hate your chronic condition or illness whatever it may be. But there’s something about my particular brand of seizures that scratches this deep ontological itch I have. There’s an odd satisfaction to them I still can’t name. Why are we the only species that seems to yearn for oblivion?

Yes, I still wake up from each fit thinking “Ugh, not again…” because the crawl back to normalcy is usually such a doozy, but my seizures are also terribly gorgeous, like being caught in a tornado of stars. It’s an instance of overpowering joy that I get a snatch at, which holds almost as much allure as a drug. In this way, I feel like a traitor against the cause to cure the condition. I don’t hate it as much as I’m curious about it and long for another glimpse.

In this way, the grief I feel around epilepsy is strangely deferred, less about me, and more directly related to the fear I’ve caused the people around me. You don’t feel bad for you, so much as you feel bad for how frightened, vulnerable and Laura Dern-like you may have made the people around you feel in the moments when they were watching you thrash and flail around on the ground. It’s their meltdowns you tend to, once you are back and awake.

Maybe that’s the whole point, we’re all Laura D, we’re all really good at being sharks at one time or another, which is how we persist. I’m not sure yet. I think I need to read and stew more.

This week I have fallen head-first into Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere, which is one of those books that just calls out to you at the end of the day as you come in the door. “Read me,” it beckons with its siren’s song.

 

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Ng’s prose flows like water and her witty, wry conversations between siblings are so exactly how whole generations grew up speaking to each other. I highly recommend it for this week’s weather. Or in any kind of weather.

For now, stay rad and hold tight in those crazy winds outside. XOXO – GG

The Longest Day: Time to Bust Out Those Flower Crowns and Druid Dresses!

Happy Solstice Lovelies,

How the hell are you? I just realized we’re going to need a whole lot of Pagan rituals if this cruel, Illuminati, Skull & Bones healthcare bill passes. In the meantime, if you’re around Times Square today, keep your eyes peeled for thousands of people with their bums in the air in down dog for the Mind Over Madness solstice party. Yes, I’ll admit to finding something momentarily erotic about it all until I realized we’re going to need to start making special electrolyte water out of reconstituted boob sweat to keep the planet going. Oy. I can help with that.

And I’m sure I’m not the only one who was disappointed in Pope Francis’s condemnation of yoga. What gives Pope? What happened to all are welcome? Every culture celebrates the solstice in its own way. What happened to the whole acceptance vibe? Cranky.

I also realized if I’m to survive the rest of this year, I need to stop shuffling around the apartment with Warren Ellis hair (my hero) and get to work on the next thing. I have something fermenting. I’m just haunted by a crapload of “Should I haves” and “Is it too lates?” with SPAZ.

Should I have talked more about how when Marlene moved in next door I had to buy sniper earmuffs? She looked at me like I was Dexter with a kill box when I opened the door wearing them. They were only $14 (on Amazon, of course) and I was desperate to quell the sound of her explosively yappy dog, not to mention the boom-boom of the 70-inch flatscreen she mounted on the other side of my bedroom wall? Oh, Marlene…

Should I have recounted the Nancy Drew-style Search Party investigation my BFF Ed and I conducted to get to the bottom of the Marlene mystery? How it ended with me actually meeting someone from the show?

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Is it too late to talk about why epilepsy belongs in the neurodiversity NeuroTribes category along with Autism Spectrum and ADHD, Anxiety, and all the other ways in which we are wired as people?

Is it too late to do work that scares my dad? That’s been my goal all along, but he might be too old by now. I wanted to write a comedic book about having a totally unapologetic relationship with my damaged brain and now I’m having big separation anxiety about it. Does this happen with all first books? I think I need other neurotics to weigh in. David Sedaris? You up? Or is there a Pagan rite or ceremony I can perform today that doesn’t involve so much boob sweat?

Meanwhile, happy solstice everyone and stay cool, you exhausted futurists, you!

xoxo – GG