Dead Like Me…

Hello, Lovelies, How the hell are you?

Day 985,622-ish of lockdown and it feels like we’ve reached the beet dyeing stage of things, no? Grim colonial settlers slogging away at candle and butter making?

Perhaps you’re tired of having to sound like an enlightened Montessori teacher around your kids? All that breathy perkiness. Or you’ve started referring to your excessively cheery virtual yoga class as “fucking yoga”? Maybe you’re more inventive and your household is now responding to each other entirely in Hamilton lyrics?

I told you all about having my social hacked last month… well, it gets even better! This past week I received a notice from the government.  According to their records, I’m both deceased and incarcerated. Not one or the other, but BOTH and would I mind please checking the boxes on the forms to indicate either yes or no if this is correct? Pray tell, from whence would I be doing said box-checking?

I guffawed so loudly in the yard, the neighbors must have thought I was having a stroke. I couldn’t help thinking of the line from Crip Camp: “When you’re disabled, somebody always wants you dead.” This sentiment has never felt more true than with COVID-19. Why should we save a person who spends half her life on the ground having seizures when we might possibly save someone more functional? Someone who adds more value, as the corporate suity-types often put it? It’s some scary ICUgenics to be sure. The whole thing made me want to immediately design a “Say No to Ayn Rand!” t-shirt.

The best alternative I could find was this little gem from The Second Shelf in London:

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It turns out it’s terribly hard to prove you’re alive during a pandemic. There’s really no one you can call. Everything is shut—from county clerks’ offices to notaries to banks with actual humans in them. When I tell people what’s happened, this slight glitch in the matrix, they’re absolutely enchanted and envious at my newfound status. “Ooh, you could completely disappear!” they say. Then they start naming countries we can no longer go to and joking about never again having to pay taxes.

The thing is… I’ve actually fought very hard to be here and alive these past ten years. Not because death is such a bummer or because I fear it, but more because being alive is well… entertaining? I’m constantly amazed by the absurdity of it all, and I’m quite keen to be included… to work, pay taxes, follow the ridiculous rules, and love people. Funny how abled people still make this hard for us. (Sighs resignedly).

When I was first writing my book about coming out about my condition, I was asking myself, “Who will I be now… with epilepsy? How will I be?” Well, I’m definitely going to be funny was the first answer. And certainly not broken was the second.  (Though I do have one super-judgy friend who’s constantly insisting I’m broken, even though he himself has loads of temper tantrums, extramarital affairs, and also undertakes all kinds of ethically dubious adventures. At a certain point, you just have to put people like this in the “not for me” pile as life’s simply too short.) In any case, I find a great deal of power in disability… and zero power in the kind of erasure others around me would seem to enjoy.

I suppose I could skulk around as a bureaucratically dead girl doing mildly subversive things… upending people’s assumptions about what a person with epilepsy can actually do, but life is so much more interesting when you’re not masking for other people’s benefit, i.e., “Oh, here, darling… come let me make you feel better about my overly-electric little brain that’s not in any way my fault… Oh? Wait, I’m supposed to be ashamed of it? Ahh…” Yeah, I don’t think so.

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A friend of mine has five books coming out next year. It seems insane to me, but now looking at my own crazy board of projects, most shut down as I work to remap the next two years of life, I think I will attempt the same. Some projects will need to switch continents or be rejiggered as more “international” in order to get made. Others can exist happily as books if I just double down and commit. I try to work from 8am to 2pm daily. I shut myself away to ignore everyone and everything, but man… the world is merciless in its ability to distract.

What I loved seeing out in the world this past month is how the different platforms for performance are adapting, like the ZOOM-based play What Do We Need to Talk About? from Richard Nelson and The Public Theater… it’s no longer up, but was completely poignant and subtle. Nevermind that it’s on bloody ZOOM, the writing was decidedly alive, and the actors were ever more connected than if we were all crammed into a smelly little black box theater… it’s pieces like this that let me know… somehow we will all still work. Work as simple and GREAT as Nelson’s is reason enough to check the damn box on the dumb form that YES, in fact… you are still very much alive.

Stay rad and stay safe, lovelies.  xoxo – gg

I solemnly swear that I am up to no good…

Hello, Lovelies… Greetings from LA… Cozy den of narcissism that it is.

My eyes are about to fall out of my head from waaaaaay too much screen time. I have been working feverishly on a Christmas movie about what else… Pie. Hey, a girl’s gotta eat!

With the book tour for Gotham Girl Interrupted winding down, I have to confess, I did something slightly evil… I found out my nemesis was dissing me to booksellers all over the country… So, in every city that I went to, in every airport bookstore, in every chain, in every indie… wherever that guy was taking up lady shelf-space with his complainy, whiney, white-boy misery memoir…  I slipped a bookmark into his book redirecting readers to my book. TBH, I feel he perpetuates wildly negative stereotypes whereas I still believe humor opens the door for greater empathy which leads to broader mainstream understanding… above and beyond the grim woebot narrative. This pie is for that guy. My favorite part of the tour is still my interview with Jessimae Peluso from Sharp Tongue – Episode #150. If you haven’t had a chance to listen, let this help you snort-laugh on your way home today. 

For now, stay rad, stay warm, and stay safe. xoxo – gotham girl

 

 

 

 

 

 

Girl Meets Dirt

Hello, Lovelies, How the hell are you?

Greetings from the burning world… Yes, I’m coming to you live from the charred hinterlands of Shasta, California not far from the Oregon border—a place that feels like the way-way back of the region’s old-school family station wagon. I’m here writing about the apocalyptic wildfires from which many are still recovering, where makeshift tents, trailers, and rickety shacks pepper the blackened, wool-folded mountains. Everywhere you look… there’s just SO. MUCH. DIRT. I thought New York was dirty, but I’m wrong. I’m sure we all walk around with a fine coating of fecal matter on our face’s every day but it’s nothing like this. The other eerie thing… There are no birds.

To put a cherry on top of the irony sundae that is my all-too-meta-meta-life right now… The house I am staying in also caught fire this morning. Something to do with improper dishwasher wiring. It’s fine now, but for a stretch there, my audio cortices were tortured by way too many white guys grunting and arguing about what had actually gone awry. Much like an impacted wisdom tooth, there was the surgical removal of the troublesome appliance, followed by the sharp ka-thud of its carcass in the front yard. All the while, I’m yawning at them on the deck under a yolk-yellow sun, a sliver of belly smiling out from between my shrunken yoga top and flannel pajama bottoms. I never thought (of all people) I would tire of handsome firefighters, but I’m closing in. Mostly, I just want things to stop being on fire—my brain included—I am 82 days seizure-free.

One thing I never realized is how long the smoke and fire continue after a blaze is reported as being “contained”. It’s a totally Wagnerian aria of chainsaws, chippers, and heavy machinery. The process of controlled burning, bulldozing, tree-falling, land scraping, soil testing, and hydroseeding required to rebuild even smallest structure can feel eternal—it’s like the effing Ring Cycle. People are working crazy-hard. There’s a strength in them that feels bred-in-bone.

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Another consequence of the wildfires is that with the sudden presence of all the federal, state, and local officials, a whole host of once-hidden felons and petty criminals comes out of the woodwork—primarily because there is so much actual woodwork to do. Once thick with evergreens and generations of belligerence, you come to this part of the world to get lost and stay lost. Now it’s a mostly barren wasteland. Even the few trees left feel oddly temporary. Just here for a quick visit. There’s also a distinctly Carl Hiaasen-esque Florida vibe to the place. I keep waiting for an ornery redneck to jump out from one of the remaining shrubs with a decapitated Rottweiler head attached to his arm with some sort of rural tomfoolery in mind.

In other news, I’ve been working in an old garden shed that’s quite possibly the dirtiest, most delightful place I’ve ever worked. I may build my own when I finally get back to New York. In the meantime, I will be in Los Angeles tomorrow. If any of you lovelies happen to be in the area, I will be signing books at the National Walk to End Epilepsy on Feb 2 at the Rose Bowl. Details to follow!

Stay rad & stay safe! xoxo – Gotham Girl

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Featured photo courtesy of Jeremy Bishop

 

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

And Then I Spied Her…

Continuing on from yesterday…

She was a total badass with a smirk. It was a riot of thunder and lightning as I schlepped from Grand Central to our appointed public meeting spot.

Just who was this mystery woman? This patron saint of lost galleys? Obviously, she was conscientious and proactive. But would she be judgy? What if she’d already read the book and thought I was a complete kook-a-doo? Would she simply drop and dash?

I feel like the unboxing of your first book is a big-ass deal that should come with a certain amount of pomp & circumstance. When the thing that’s been inside your head for years finally exists outside of it in the actual world, you just want to commemorate the f*ck out of itI’d planned to live tweet my unboxing with our badass doorwoman, Vilma. I also thought Ed could film me skipping down Broadway in a musical version. Now, because of the USPS, schedules, and racing to BookExpo, I was missing out on all that joy. The whole thing would need to be re-enacted like a true crime series, that much was clear.

I texted her as I entered the dimly-lit Art Deco lobby and checked my rapidly frizzing hair for the zillionth time. Then, out of the corner of my eye, emerging from the last elevator on the left, I spied her…

TBC’d tomorrow… last, coolest, part. 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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When Your Subconscious is a Postal Worker/Mob Boss Named ‘Bruce’…

Morning, Lovelies…

Oh. My. God. What do you do when your subconscious is a postal worker/mob boss named Bruce who chases you around your own damn dreams with copies of a book you would never presume/deign to write?

All night long… Bruce kept showing up with bound galleys of Gotham Girl, Interrupted that had these horrifying Tony Robbins-esque subtitles. Everywhere I looked words like, “success” and “empowerment” were jumping off the cover. It was the worst. And I kept handing the book back to him, trying to explain, “This is not me, Bruce! I’m not qualified to talk about that stuff. I’m not a self-help writer. If anything, I’m a self-destruct one.”

But he wouldn’t listen… this guy is torturing me. Well, I am gonna shut it down, Bruce. I’m making a new rule: I/you can only think/dream about my/your next book—a novel called Muse.Witch.Beast. Repeat after me, mister… Muse.Witch.Beast, Muse.Witch.Beast, and so on.

Happy book birthday to Meaghan O’Connell… So excited to read this one because the ordinary still has so much to teach us all.

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Have a meaningful day, people… xoxo – gg

 

All We Ever Wanted Was Everything

… is the name of Wil Wheaton’s new book and dammit all if I’m not squirming with an acute case of title envy… I can’t wait to read it and am going to implore him to send me an advance copy.

But hello there, Lovelies. How the heck are you?

The above was my whole being on Friday during a conference call about a streaming series that I wrote a while back and am now just finishing up as a book… it’s netting out to about 65,000 words. I used to be afraid of the sheer number of letters, but after Gotham Girl Interrupted, I’m not… It was a Herculean task getting that book out the door. The edit was wicked painful. Every day… just fighting to keep any morsel of levity in what could have been a very bleak sick girl narrative, took every ounce of what’s left of my gray matter. But it worked. The book works.

So, when I’m sitting there on the phone Friday hearing these guys in LA expecting me to give away years of life spent on this other book/series, a neuro-thriller based on my daughter, I just said, “No… I get paid to do the bricks and mortar work of writing and I’m not doing it for free… ever again.” I’d rather be a dishwasher. Well, they told me I was “fucking arrogant.” And then, came text after text of bullying… All for asking for a livable wage and credit. It shook me… Didn’t we just have #TimesUp? What happened to “Topple the Patriarchy”? Where is Jill Soloway when I need her? What happened to #FemaleFilmmakerFriday?

I’m used to being low-balled as a writer, but this was no-balled.

And then, of course, I balled right there in the car… because all I ever wanted was everything. I showed the texts to my girlfriend and manager who both said, “Hey, look at you! Finally standing up for yourself!”

But I don’t like it. I’m not built for it. It’s the same as leaving New York… I just get all:

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At least, the sun came out for a bit today. I think I’ll read some Sedaris to cheer up…  I am fixed on finishing this draft… There’s a term from Norse mythology called Doom Eager and it means to be sick with an artistic idea… There’s a caughtness to existence. I think that’s where I’m at today.

Hold fast and know that in my downtrodden state, I’m still cheering for you. xoxo – gg

 

 

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