Save the Date…

And now for something completely different…

If you’re going to be in the New York area next month, DO come out for an evening of snarky banter as I yuck it up with fellow writer Jessica Keenan Smith of Living Well With Epilepsy for the launch of our new podcast FITS N’ STARTS—recorded LIVE at EPIC. We’ll be discussing my debut collection of comedic tales GOTHAM GIRL INTERRUPTED  (or SPAZ as I like to call it).

Join us on November 15 @ 7PM. Book signing to follow. Please do RSVP to Jean Dunn at jdunn@epicli.org or call 516-739-7733, ext 155.

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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

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

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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Sick-Lit is Giving Me the Vapors

Greetings Lovelies,

How the hell are you?

Can you believe the world today? I feel like we’re all living in an episode of Dr. Who. (No wonder my apartment feels bigger!) Every day is like having a new case of the damn vapors…

Nervous, sweaty well wishes from The Overlook where I just finished the book. The big, long, messy book.

You’d think I’d be jubilant. Instead, I’m pretty much an exhausted husk of a human. A strange, feral being who looks like Sasquatch fathered a lovechild with the-Unabomber. My hair is Origami. And when did I decide to stop wearing a bra?

In my head, where there used to be a book festering, now there’s only an empty windowless room. It’s like I finally moved all my stuff out of that grad school storage locker on the Westside highway. You can still make out the corrosive staining of my melted MacBook on the dusty cement floor that is my brain. For years now, people have been coyly asking, “How’s the book coming along? Done yet?” which is like asking a chronically ill person, “So, how’s the death coming? Dead yet?” Lordy… words are hard.

I know a decent number of writers at this point in my mid-life, and only two warned me about how completely terrible I would feel after I hit send to my editor. Amy Poehler, who said you just get “gray” as it comes down to the wire, and another writer who just turned in his debut novel, and who is now attempting to morph into the marketing machine his publisher needs him to be, except he suddenly found himself entirely without words. Nothing left to say. He’s a husk. This rarely ever happens to me, but my brain parts are wicked tired; I’m late with book reviews, guest posts and multiple other projects I’ve been stalling on for months. But of course, instead of doing any of those things, I hit send in my Outlook and immediately raced out to lunch with the girls.

Where did I go for lunch, you ask? To the 1990’s rom-com queen of all New York restaurants, the quintessential Meg Ryan of eateries: The Loeb Boathouse in Central Park, which used to have totally “meh” food and way too many people from Texas, all wearing shorts and comfortable shoes, and sporting golden rape whistles. It still has a few of those, except the mac and cheese there is now fantastically awesome! It’s like a huge flaming Baked Alaska of carbs and salt and butter fat. So restorative! And the company was fine indeed. I power-walked all the way there listening to Michael Buble to get in the mood, sweaty hair stuck to my neck, but it was SO what the doctor ordered. Lordy…

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It probably doesn’t help that my book, SPAZ: Adventures in Life, Love, and Electricity, tends to fall into the “sick-lit” category. It touches on epilepsy, the fun of breaking my face last year during a seizure and being a mute girl in here the city which is a curious business if you’ve never tried it. When you can’t talk, suddenly 8 million people tell you EVERYTHING. No wonder I’m fried!

Sick-lit is not new. In the Victorian Era, it focused primarily on heroines with tuberculosis. As a popular genre in the 1980’s, it predominantly featured young, sickly white girls who found waify redemption through handsome love interests and who wore makeup so that they could maintain the illusion of wellness until they were either healed or passed away tragically. Narratives of the 1980s also focused on a protagonist’s transformation from nerdy misfit to socially adept girl.

What makes sick-lit so complicated to write is the idea that if one depicts an illness in the wrong way, it might romanticize the condition and this can make things harder for the people actually dealing with the real thing. For my part, by normalizing something like epilepsy, I just didn’t want to diminish it or the surrounding struggles, which can be enormous. I also wanted a better narrative outcome. The electric girl should find agency, love and some degree of funny sanity amid all the thrashing about and ER visits.

In recent years, the voice given to chronic illness is borne out of personal experience and there are a lot of survivor narratives out there. Now, I love Gloria Gaynor as much as the next guy, but I didn’t want to write a survivor narrative because I just longed for some agency for the reader (and for me). I didn’t want a Lifetime Movie of the Week. (No offense to Lifetime, it’s just not my jam.) For me, the story was as much about what went comedically right as what went neurologically wrong. Add to that, my totally inadequate reckoning with both pieces of the pie, and that was what I was going for. I won’t know if it worked for a few years.

In any case, now that I’ve had my Baked Alaska of mac and cheese, it’s time to get to back to fiction, which is always easier for me since, having worked in Advertising for so long, telling big lies feels pretty on-brand.

Also, some big changes coming to GG: a new neurodiversity in NYC series, a store with snarky merch, a book club, a GG events calendar, embarrassing video from the SPAZ tour and some podcast-ish things. It’s all crazy exciting and suddenly making me a tad woozy… My stars, perhaps it’s… the vapors.

Stay rad lovelies, drink rosé and have a meaningful day – xoxo – gg

First Prince, Now Hodor… What Next?

Hello Lovelies,

Is it just hot as balls out, or what? A perfect day to binge watch by the AC while doing Blogilates on the side (anything to avoid the dreaded writer’s bum)

A bunch of you have written in to ask what I thought of Prince and then Game of Thrones last week… what with Hodor saving the day in an epic, grand mal time seizure in which he is trapped in a last-moment loop before his own horrible death.

I spend a lot of time these days thinking about how to transcend the niche of epilepsy. Either through humor, the personal essay or any kind of narrative…  and I can honestly say… I don’t know what I think. I cried with the rest of Gotham last Sunday night.

On the one hand, Hodor has been portrayed to us over the years as a giant broken simpleton–without high cognitive function. A person with no there, there. (And Bran has been a little turd to him all too often)

On the other, the joy of serialized TV is that with each episode, we, the viewers, are given the opportunity to constantly correct what we thought we knew and that’s super fun. Our curious human brains love it.

Last Sunday, we corrected our knowledge of Hodor’s inner life in a big way. For me, the real tragedy was that there was a there… there all along.

I want to believe the boundary between being able and disabled is becoming increasingly porous, but my concern is that without a horribly tragic demise… the respect, the tiny openings just aren’t there. I too chuckled at all the memes that followed GoT, but as an out spaz… I don’t want to be a doorstop… just because I’m still getting all my words back and am stuck in a bit of a time seizure, myself.

Hodor talk pretty some day?

Still noodling over it… Stay rad and cool. XOXO – GG

For more on the troubling ethics of Hodor… see this completely compelling piece in The Atlantic Monthly.

 

My Beautiful Broken Brain… Wait, is that too high fallutin’?

Cartoon by the amazing Allie Brosh (hyperboleandahalf.com)

Yes, I came home from the wild and went in for the final reconstructive surgery…

Dr. Ira Sturman and Dr. KareemofWheat…  you are indeed the crafty Oliver Sacks-van Gogh-Jan Svankmajer team of maxillofacial artistry…

And to that poor/sweet anesthesiologist who yanked  me back into life by disemboweling me through my nose… Guantanamo-style… I’m so sorry if I scared you… don’t be afraid chica, it gets fucking better, I swear 🙂

And to Sherill and Nada… feel my love ladies! You are the greatest nurses in the world… you deserve some crazy-meaningful prize… or something… a big-ass raise.

Have been shuffling around my apartment having David Lynch-style real estate dreams and looking like a drunk lady, wearing a jockstrap on my chin…which is so not fair because I have been very, very good in that regard… but I am almost one year without a full grand mal seizure and I almost feel/look like me… Even if I can’t fully talk yet… I still love what’s crackling in my beautiful broken brain and I cannot wait to see this… Feel like I have lived it 100 times over…

And now to fight eviction… by the sweetest, most patient landlords who ever were… not that I wouldn’t just give them the keys because they are the best (and I will), but when you are like I am these days… all you crave is the constancy and sameness of your books and your friends 🙂

XOXO – GG