I Moved!

Never fear! I'm transitioning to www.audreybrown.com. It'll take a while, because audreybrown.com is still kind of a half-finished mess of a portfolio website that I kept starting and stopping. But the change is for the best, professionally speaking. 

I have some big things coming up in 2014 and I want people to be able to find me by my actual name on this here internet machine. 

Born For Geekdom isn't going anywhere though, it'll stay put and you can read through the archives anytime you want. 

And we're going to take Born For Geekdom to a blog farm upstate, where it can play ALL DAY LONG with all the other blogs! It'll be happier there...I promise. 

Born For Geekdom shall stand as an eternal testament to my long and languishing bouts of grad school and freelance journalist-era depression, my strangely aggressive movie reviews (Bitter Bonnie is a frustrated writer/director!) and all of the overbearing feminist opinions of my twenties that you can handle. 


Fangirl Burnout: It's Real

I don't think I want to be "Born For Geekdom" anymore.

I don't want to self-identify primarily as a "raving fangirl".

Am I one? Yep. Will I always be one? You know it. But I think there's more to life. More to me. When I started self-identifying that way publicly, years ago, it had a different tone. Now, to me, my place in it feels shrink-wrapped, commercialized and inauthentic to who I am on a daily basis.

I used to say, "I suffered for my geekdom" because it was true. But now I think about that statement that used to feel so important to me as a part of my story and I think, "So what? Do I really want to carry around the mantle of having suffered and make it 'my thing'?" I used to feel liberated by my geekdom, now I feel a sort of consistent pressure to prove how much I know about movies and superheroes and blah, blah, blah. Being a geek, for me, used to mean ducking out of that rat race. It used to feel liberating.  I don't think anything has changed about the culture I love so much, I think I'm just situated incorrectly within it at the moment. Or did it shift? Did anyone else feel it move just an inch or so under our feet?

I'm not one of those, "Boo! Nothing should ever change!" people either. I'm really not.

Let me be absolutely clear, I support the movement of geeks and nerds embracing their true identities, especially my fellow women. I'm still for the cause. All the way. 

But...there's more out there. We all know this. I suspect that none of us think that our online identities or the time we spend at cons are the sum total of who we are. It's a part of who we are. Right? We are telling young girls that...right? 

If we're not, we're making a mistake. A big one that young girls (and young boys, for that matter) are going to pay for down the line. There's no difference between an overly sexualized commercial culture that makes girls feel pressured to be something that they're not so they'll spend money and an overly sexualized commercial culture that makes girls feel pressured to be something that they're not while wearing a Harry Potter/Star Wars/Dr. Who costume so they'll spend money. We get that, yes? We're not teaching them to swoon over men and be obsessed with boys, just in a context we're more comfortable with, I hope.

Are we encouraging the young women in our lives by showing them examples of female sci-fi writers or other women in the industry? Are we pointing out when a beloved geek culture film or TV show fails the Bechdel?

Who is on Death Star watch? We're not building one of those, right?

I am more than my Netflix queue. I am more than my tattoos and my t-shirts and my comic books and my movie collection and the conventions I attend and the trivia I can cite. I can use my geek powers for good. I can parlay them into doing something, making something or helping somebody. We're advertising that part of the geek job description, yes? Not just running around and seeking approval or attention or talking about how cute Han Solo is, I hope. Not just forking over dollars. Not just slapping the label "empowering" on something and then behaving the way that the rest of the world behaves about everything else.

I think I'm experiencing fangirl burnout. Has that ever happened to you?

Maybe it's my age. Maybe it's the fact that I "fangirled" as a living for so many years.

When I started this blog, I wanted to be Wil Wheaton. This is cheesy, but now I'm kind of interested in what Audrey Brown has to say.

Changes are coming to this blog. I don't know what they will be, probably a title swap, a template change. You need to know, I am grateful for every reader. I hope you stay with me as I navigate this shift. In fact, more people have been visiting this blog lately than ever before. Through massive traffic swings and down times, I've resisted the urge to over-monetize this blog or sanitize it for the sake of more traffic. Because I've always needed it to be able to grow and change with me.

And I know, what I'm saying here is really unspecific. I don't ever want to attack anyone, so my complaints seem vague. Maybe I'm just having a moment. If it's one thing I hate, it's "Anti" people. People who are obsessed with the negative, always "against" and never "for". I'd rather be pro-something than anti-whatever.

I'll never eschew my geekdom. Ever. You can't cast off who you are. There's no shame in the way I grew up or the things I love. But as a fangirl, I feel completely stagnant. I'm struggling to recognize my culture amidst homogenization. I want more from my years of doing this...being this. I expect more.

Has anyone else experienced fangirl burnout? Talk to me, goose.

"My Girlfriend's Boyfriend" Resonates

My best friend Lindsay introduced me to Mike Bibirglia on the way home from a "Back to the Future" screening at the Hollywood Palms a few years ago. Lindsay is one of those people who knows about everything good before 98% of the other people on planet Earth. She's a tastemaker. I think the only thing I ever introduced her to was "Wicked" and Jim Gaffigan. The other thousands of things that we both love came directly from her. 

Mike Birbiglia is funny. But he's also skilled at writing and performing emotionally resonant material. His film "Sleepwalk With Me" floored me. It ran through my thoughts for days after my initial viewing. It was hilarious, beautifully shot, but most importantly, it had something specific to say. There's a lot of meaningless comedy in the world. (Which is okay. Sometimes the meaninglessness has a meaning.) But Birbiglia's comedy is grounded, focused and helpful. It's adding something to the world instead of taking something away. 

I used to say these really preachy things in columns I wrote about religion and relationships for various print magazines. Birbiglia speaks to similar subjects, but it's more palatable because he's the fall guy in his own stories. 

Listening to his material rings a bell inside my mind. It makes me reflect on the fact that I cook my writing from the outside in. I start with an idea, a passion for a specific genre or a superficial goal and I find what I have to say from there. This often leaves my writing emotionally hollow and unfocused. It's usually why I walk away from a project. What is the point of writing anything if you don't have something important, specific or personal to say?

I'd love to hear about Birbiglia's writing process. Does he start KNOWING that he wants to talk about how he feels marriage is an outdated tradition or does he write his way to that conclusion, go back and redraft based on what he has figured out from his writing process?

I have to read my own writing like tea leaves. I lack a lot of self-awareness and it takes me a long time to figure out what I'm trying to say. It's frustrating. Or maybe that's not it, maybe I'm afraid to write anything too personal. Maybe I hide behind genre. 

But I know I can change. I think I'm ready for that kind of artistic growth. 

Have you ever watched or listened to something and just thought, "Well, if I knew you could do it THAT way, I would've tried it a long time ago." That's how I felt last night watching "My Girlfriend's Boyfriend". 

I don't mean that in a, "That looks easy, I bet I could do that!" sort of way. Since I've been acting again, I find that everyone thinks they would be a really great actor. That's been true of everything I've ever done. Making a short film, writing a script, doing voiceover...everything I've ever done professionally (with moderate success) there's ALWAYS been that one guy standing on the sidelines kind of going, "I could do that," in that smug way that sort of diminishes your efforts.  

But I think that guy has existed since the dawn of time on the outskirts of every profession and every friendship. That guy was rolling his eyes at Marie Curie at a dinner party. That guy was telling his friends he had a better idea for the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. That guy

So, what's new? What have you discovered lately? What gets you amped? What completes the puzzle in your mind? How do you "recognize" material like this? What do you do once you've finally recognized it?


Week Two: Fistful of Failures #amnoveling

I promised that I would write about my experiences here auditing Cathy Day's novel-writing class. I explained that instead of writing a novel, I would be using my weekly word count to get to twelve full and polished comic scripts by Christmas. Scripts that would be properly formatted and ready for pitching.

Week one was a fantastic success. I tried a brand new format, comic book script. I polished up a draft of an idea I've been mulling over and working on for months. I even sent it out to trusted friends for feedback and to an artist I'm interested in working with in the near future.

I cleared my schedule today for the sole purpose of writing. So naturally, at 9:00am, I started cleaning the house. Then I talked with my sister on the phone for a while. Then I invited my husband to come home early for lunch. He was here from 11:30am to 12:30pm. Then I watched Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Then I took a three hour nap. Then I got up, sat at the computer and wrote two paragraphs. Then I went for a two hour walk.

At 8:00pm on the last day of this, the writing week, I sat down and pounded out 2,000 very sad, very nonsensical words. Issue #2 is "done", but it's not properly formatted. I didn't return my friends' any feedback in kind.

In short, I failed.

It's a terrible feeling. As a writer, I have to confront myself. Do I really want to write these comics or do I want to just run around telling everyone I'm writing a comic. Do I actually have something to say or do I just want to play the part of a writer, have people think of me as a writer.

For those of you that know me, I'm going to tell you something that should indicate to you just how serious I am about getting more writing done.

I let my Disney passes expire.

I live very close to Walt Disney World. Nary a stone's throw away. (For a really strong person, say, an Olympic shot-putter.) I've practically been a citizen over there for over two years now, almost the entire time that I've lived in the sunshine state.

On the one hand, going there really fuels me creatively. It's great to be inspired by all of that collective and practically applied imagination. On the other hand, it has lulled me into passivity. It's sedated me creatively and I need a break from treating it like a second home.

My husband reminded me of something really important recently. William Goldman, famed novelist and screenwriter, once talked about how writers should never move to California because it's really hard to be productive in a state where it's warm and sunny all year 'round.

Did I mention I live less than half an hour from the Happiest Place on Earth? I did, right? (I'm pretty sure I have to capitalize it like that...I think it's Disney law.)

When I taught creative writing, I used to hand out a sheet of paper to all my students at the beginning of the semester full of famous (and true) quotes about the writing process. The divine Mr. Goldman also said,

"The easiest thing on Earth to do is not write."

That's the truth. You know what else I didn't do? I didn't think about my story. I went about my different gigs and finishing my various freelance projects and I forgot to mull it over. I think 90% of the writing process is just thinking about it. Letting it gestate. I didn't do that either.

I was riding the writer's high all week. Feeling good about myself because I had completed something. Which tells me just exactly how out of shape my writing muscles are.

So, it's a new week as of this moment. I should be in bed. I have work early in the morning. But before my head hits the pillow, I'm going to go read my friend's writing draft again and provide him feedback.

This week, I'm taking a different tack:

1. I will think about my story every single day.

2. I will sit down at this computer at least three times between now and next Tuesday to redraft both of the issues I have written down, especially my atrocious issue #2, as well as working on issue #3.

Still, I #amnoveling. You?


My Birthday. It Happened.

I was going to write a whole "hilarious" blog about coming up with new nicknames for myself in my thirties. Nicknames such as "A More Annoying Zooey Deschanel with Shorter Hair", "Fat Posh Spice" or "The Ron Swanson of Christianity". (It would take too long to explain.)

Then I watched the documentary MissRepresentation and felt really guilty for how often I talk negatively about my appearance here on this blog, even for the sake of comedy. So I shall de-nickname myself for now. 

Or maybe come up with nicer, more appropriate titles like "A Slightly More Feminine Garrison Keillor" or "Future Comic Book Writer for Vertigo Whose Appearance Doesn't Factor Into or Measure How Talented or Hard-Working She Is". 


This Fall, I #amnoveling. In My OWN Speedboat.

Thomas requests a wing of chicken, if you please.
I'm going to write a book. Again. Sort of.

The last time I wrote a book, it was my thesis. I finished it over two years ago. Then I put it in a very large box at the back of my closet. Where it sits untouched today, like a secret treasure of old or some book at the beginning of a horror movie that kicks off a bunch of horrible, evil things.

First I had grand illusions about redrafting and publishing my individual chapters as essays in online lit mags. But I learned to adjust my expectations. For example, now I am very happy that my cat likes to stand on it from time to time. "Cat Stand: The Memoir."

The experience of writing it was revelatory and cathartic. Hooray for learning experiences! (Said almost nobody ever, unless they were watching Reading Rainbow, or learning that Daddy Warbucks just adopted them.)

One of the brightest spots in that writing experience was that I had help from very caring professors who were beyond patient with my sloppy and over-eager work. I wanted to write a book of funny essays, like Laurie Notaro, Tina Fey or Nora Ephron.

It came out like word sausage. Like I just smashed together bits of everything I had been reading for years with all my pent-up hopes and dreams and every clever anecdote I could remember about my childhood and then sent them right through the literary grinder. My book was a naughty little pet and I crushed it.


Yesterday, I Decided...

...That if I lived in the Harry Potter universe, Bea Arthur would be my patronus.

If a dementor ever showed up and tried to suck my soul away, I would simply yell, "Expecto Patronum!" and a Golden Girls-era Bea would come out of my wand, all shimmery and majestic. She would stand in front of me with her hands on her hips and deliver spectacularly insulting punchlines until the Dementor felt so bad about himself that he went away.

She might say, "What are you wearing? I haven't seen that much fabric draping since the last time Shelley Winters went to the Oscars!"

Maybe we actually cross over into Golden Girls territory and this happens, "I know I'm no spring chicken, but try some hand cream. Are those fingers or Blanche's leftovers from KFC?"

Blanche would then appear. She might say, "Dorothy, I do not appreciate the insinuation that I eat at Kentucky Fried Chicken."

Dorothy would reply, "Oh, I'm sorry Blanche, that was rude of me. You don't eat Kentucky Fried Chicken...you INHALE it!"

The really sad part is, I could sit here and write new Golden Girls dialogue for HOURS. You know that trick from Steve Martin's Roxanne where he rattles off twenty nose jokes in a bar without even having to think about it? My gift is Golden Girls dialogue. (Unfortunately, it's not very timely.) Also, my husband has pronounced this gift "completely off the rails".

So now it's off to work for the day. If your patronus could be ANYONE, who would it be and how would they defend you? (I think my back-up would be Dorothy Michaels from "Tootsie".)


Embrace Your Identity Crisis

I remember the day my parents took me to Indianapolis to see "The Nightmare Before Christmas". It was a wonderfully overcast Indiana day in November 1993. In a fit of fantastic genre agreement, it was also the first day of snow.

1993 was the year of Jurassic Park. I was ten, so to go from the breakthrough summer of Jurassic Park to the fall of Nightmare, the times...they were good.

I remember wanting to identify with Sally while I watched, thinking that I should. Because she was the girl. But Sally was already self aware. She knew who she was, what she wanted, and she did whatever it took to go after it.

Jack's problems rang more true. He wanted to be something that he wasn't, glittery and glowing and light. Normal. I too, with my weird quirks and strange style and natural bend toward the gothic, envisioned a more populist way of being a kid. I wanted to be in step with the world around me.

There's something so effortlessly magical about the image of an innately dark character discovering the joy of Christmas. Holding a tiny delicate snowflake and feeling wonder, maybe even hope, for the very first time. It gets me. It really does.

I watched the movie again yesterday while hanging my fall garlands and orange and purple lights. The best movies can show you something entirely different with each viewing. I'm enjoying watching my favorite films at different stages of my life and seeing what comes through that never did before. Sometimes a viewing hits you in an unexpected way, that's what happened to me yesterday. I can't explain it just yet. Not fully. But it muddied the waters. In a good way.

Nightmare Before Christmas is a fish out of water story, but it's also a coming of age. It's a story about self-acceptance, even amidst the discovery of something new. The question of the film, for Jack, is "Who am I in relation to this new world that I have discovered? Where do I fit? What is possible now that wasn't possible before?"

What would the movie have been like if he locked himself away in his tower and never gone through his identity crisis? What if he hadn't almost ruined Christmas? What would he have learned?

I say, let's go through. Let's find out.