Friday, February 29, 2008

Hillary Carlip and my Dancehall Days (or Daze as the case may be…)

Okay, I guess I lied in the last entry when I said I wouldn’t be getting more personal than I did there. I’m about to do it again. I’m bound to get personal now and again. My writing roots are in the per-‘zine after all (aka personal zine, I wrote three of them in the mid-90s, Goddess Defiled, Hospital Gown, and Do Not Go Quietly Unto Yr Grave) and one day I’d like to write a memoir or essay collection type thing, so I’m sure I’ll end up practicing on here every now and again like I’m inspired to today.

I’ve written a few personal essays such as the one on that I pimped a few blogs back. Hillary Carlip, who runs, is a mentor to me in many ways. She published excerpts of Hospital Gown in her book ZINE SCENE and has basically nurtured me as a writer since I was sixteen. And if I ever do a memoir-type thing it will be inspired by her book QUEEN OF THE ODDBALLS, which has to be the coolest memoir I’ve ever read. (Though her next book À LA CART: THE SECRET LIVES OF GROCERY SHOPPERS looks equally amazing and she has the coolest book trailer type thing on her website I would strive to be funny the way Hillary is, which is pretty much the opposite of my per-‘zines and of many of the tales I have to tell, such as the next one…

This is not really so much a story as a time period in my life that just came back in an overwhelming flash a few minutes ago. A combination of things triggered it, I think. One would be my train of thought about addiction yesterday. Another would be music—that’s always a big one for me. Okay, here’s another Stephanie idiosyncrasy for you, for the past few months I’ve been listening to the albums on my iPod in alphabetical order. Not all of them, just the ones I haven’t heard in awhile. I figured this would be the best possible way to go through my whole catalog (well what I’ve uploaded to my iPod since probably only 60 to 75% of my CDs are on there) and not miss anything. It’s been an exciting venture for the most part, but the last three albums were Siouxsie and the Banshees- The Scream, Depeche Mode- The Singles 86>98, and Bauhaus- The Sky’s Gone Out. All are very fine albums, however all remind me very strongly of a period in my life circa ’97 to ’00 which we will call the Dancehall Days or perhaps Dancehall Daze is more appropriate.

During this time period, those bizarre years between 18 and 21, I gave up on punk rock and became a goth. My logic for this: I was sick of being let down by punks who claimed to have ethics, but really only cared about their image, drugs/drinking, and violently dancing to the cool band of the moment, not about if someone in their scene was doing really shitty things to girls. Goths on the other hand were upfront about only caring about their image, drinking/drugs, dancing (in a more swirly safe fashion) to bands mostly from the 80s. I’d rather hang out with the group that was honest. Hey, it made sense in my teenage mind. And I was bitter and jaded and enjoyed lots of black and listening to the Cure nonstop.

I spent the majority of my Dancehall Daze in Madison, Wisconsin. I moved there after I graduated high school a semester early in January of 1997. I took a brief break to attend Antioch College in Ohio for a year which might have been one of the best years of my life or the worst depending on how I look at it, though I did make some great friends and have some very messed up adventures, once of which was chronicled in No Touching Magazine and I just found out is online here. Then I returned to Madison where I basically spent two years working minimally at a telesurveying job (though I did manage to learn html when they promoted me to technical writer, so it wasn’t a total waste) and the rest of the time dressing up and going to goth clubs underage. I have two photo albums worth of pictures of me in strange outfits (everything from renaissance-type dresses to vinyl pants with silver Christmas tree tinsel worn as a boa-- an outfit that you can see above. Note the white face powder that made me so pale you can hardly see my nose) with long, jet black hair that I sometimes crimped, sometimes wore in Princess Lea buns, sometimes streaked with red or blue pomade. I thought I was glamorous and I loved being the girl at the club that everyone knew and wanted to party with. Sounds fun, right? Umm, kind of. I allude to this phase pretty flippantly in the bio on my website and I laugh at myself when it comes up in conversation. But, the truth? It wasn’t really fun or funny.

That’s why as much as I still do love the Cure, Siouxsie, Depeche Mode, and Bauhaus, I’ve hardly listened to them in the past several years and it actually was hard for me to not skip over them on the iPod. That period of my life was pretty pathetic when I think about it, which I did in the bathroom at work today when I saw a dime on the floor. Yeah, the triggers I mentioned a few paragraphs back. That was the last one. The dime.

I saw the dime. I looked at it. I opted not to pick it up. I felt glad that even though I feel really broke right now because I’m saving to go to my friend’s wedding in April and to do a sort-of book tour in July, I’m not that broke that I need the germy dime. Then I remember when I was that broke. Towards the end of the Dancehall Daze in 2000. After paying rent, I had about 150$ a month to live on. I spent it all on box wine, my drink of choice at home. In the clubs, people bought all my drinks and I never paid a cover. I charged groceries on a credit card. On Sundays when I always had the worst hangover, I scrounged the house for spare change to order a pizza from the strip mall down the street. Yeah, I stopped being vegan then because it was easier/cheaper to fill up on cheese and dairy. Alcohol was the priority, not food, not personal ethics. So, the truth of my situation, I was an alcoholic and I wasn’t even 21. The nights at the clubs that I would tell myself were so fun usually ended with huge fights with my then-boyfriend and me feeling suicidal, taking a ton of sleeping pills to escape into dreamland, half-hoping it would kill me and I’m damn lucky it never did.

I saw the lowest of my lows (or one of them) happen all over again when I was staring at the dime on the bathroom floor at work: I come home on a Saturday night after driving blindly drunk and I projectile vomit all over the bathroom floor. It’s all liquid, all red: boxed wine and vodka and cranberry. I look at the mess and crawl to bed to pass out. I wake up the next morning and find my beloved cat Sidney sitting outside the bathroom door just staring at the red liquid because it separates him from his litter box and water dish. It made me cry, realizing how much I neglected him to party. It still brings tears of guilt to my eyes to think about it.

I got better after that. Not instantly. But I moved back to Chicago and went back to college, started to write again. Writing focused me, gave me a goal and eventually I learned to drink (mostly) in moderation and surrounded myself with healthy, productive relationships. I’m crazy disciplined and I got myself out of an unhealthy place in the nick of time, that’s the only way I think I was able to do it on my own.

Hmm, okay, I don’t know where I’m going with this. It was just a moment in time that I remembered and needed to get out on the page and it seems to fit with my last blog somehow. Like if I am going watch these people in their darkest hour on Celebrity Rehab, maybe I should share mine, unsensationalized, and maybe it will help someone, who knows.

So yeah, that was a rare personal moment. Or maybe not rare, but a rare dark one. I’d rather tell the lighter ones or tell the dark ones in a light but meaningful way. I hope I didn’t depress everyone. Go to Hillary’s site and watch the trailer, it will make you laugh, I promise! Or laugh at my embarrassing picture above. God, the white face powder...

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Celebrity Rehab and my addiction to addiction stories

So Celebrity Rehab was on when I went to the gym today. I was so sucked in I barely noticed the half hour I did on the elliptical. (I love it when TV is that distracting at the gym, makes working out way easier.) That show is the only thing I can really call a guilty pleasure. (Maybe I should feel guilty that I love Rock of Love and One Life to Live and Matchbox 20 and P!nk and other clearly un-punk/uncool stuff, but I am so over elitism, have been since high school. I like what I like for the reasons that I like it and I accept that all of those weird little idiosyncrasies add up to the unique individual that is Stephanie Kuehnert. If other people can't, oh well.) But when I watch shows like Celebrity Rehab and Intervention, I *actually* feel guilty about watching them and being so fascinated by the horrible situations people are in. I feel like I’m helping to exploit someone even though I tell myself, “they signed up for this” (though while they were in what state of desperation) and “this is resulting in treatment for them.” But I keep watching because well, I'm addicted to addiction stories I guess.

Why is this the case? Well, there are personal and professional reasons.

By "professional reasons," I mean that addiction fascinates me as a storyteller. People become addicted to so many different things for so many different reasons, and some of them can shake it and some of them can’t. Each story is unique and it's important to tell them. Addiction is a product of our culture and society and I think it's important to raise awareness of the many issues surrounding the many addictions out there. This is not to say that I go out and pick an issue and write a story around it. Not at all the case. But all the characters that come to me are troubled (yes, I talk about my characters as real people who visit me, I know it's a little wacky, but like my deep-seated love for soap operas, you just have to accept it about me) and I try to hand their troubles sensitively and realistically and I do hope that other people connect with their experiences and my story is not only entertaining, but works for the greater good in some way.

Okay, enough of that tangent. Addiction is a way people run from emotions/situations they don't want to face. All of my characters do this. In IWBYJR Emily escapes into music. The book I just finished writing has a main character who cuts herself and also spirals into heroin addiction and getting to know Kara (my M.C.) was probably the most intense emotional experience I’ve had writing so far, even more so than Louisa from IWBYJR who certainly is a very pained character. One of the characters in one of my next book ideas is addicted to anger/revenge. When I read/watch/hear addiction stories, I think up a thousand different characters and different scenarios. So I guess that's why I'm so "professionally" fascinated by addiction.

And of course, they say you write what you know.... Personally, addiction stories fascinate me because there has been a lot of addiction in my life. Right now I'm thinking of two people that I have no idea whether they are dead or alive because when I walked away from them last they had serious drug problems. I've had a very close friendship and a relationship destroyed by alcoholism. (Believe me there's an alcoholic character waiting to be written. Her name is Ivy, but I've told her I'm not ready for her yet, give me a couple books.) There was a period of time in my late teens/early twenties where I verged on alcoholism myself and I spent the past ten years of my life on some sort of sleeping medication. I weaned myself off of it last month and those nights that I spent sobbing to my boyfriend, begging him to let me have my pills, beating myself up for it if I gave in and took them, I felt like I belonged in rehab. Don't delude yourself into thinking those meds are safe just because you have a prescription for them. Anyway, there will be more on that when I'm ready. A blog or more likely a proper essay. I'm receiving acupuncture treatment for my 15 year insomnia problem now, so I'm waiting to reflect on it all after I see how that pans out.

Hmm, okay, that was probably about as personal as I'm gonna get in my blogs. But back to Celebrity Rehab... So I justify watching it because I think that at least it is pointing out a major problem in our society. It definitely takes away the glamor to see Jeff Conway who I loved as Kenickie (wow, how many times has Grease been mentioned in my blog in the past two weeks) drooling in a wheelchair begging for opiates. But I still feel like the show sensationalizes it all, so I'm torn. Opinions?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sit and drink Echinacea tea....

So as I mentioned yesterday I have this cold. Sort of. I have a cough and some random body aches. Nothing awful, but enough to make me uncomfortable and unable to properly concentrate on anything. I hate that. I just want to feel well enough to go about my day without distraction or be sick enough to justify staying home and catching up on my reading (vampires, vampires, and more vampires!) and those Degrassi the Next Generation DVDs I’m so hooked on. (I still love the original Degrassi, but I can’t get enough of shows and stuff that involve kids facing real issues, hence I’m a YA writer I guess.) This cold is really throwing me off because it is nothing like my usual cold. I’ve never gotten a cough since I quit smoking in my early twenties. Usually I get a sore throat, then a runny nose and then a head ache and body aches. When those body aches kick in or I am sneezing way too much, I stay home from work. I get a decent amount of sick time. I don’t believe in infecting others if it is avoidable. I wish the people who have been hacking up a lung around my office would return that courtesy because I know it’s their fault I have the mystery illness.

I’m trying desperately to fight it off so it doesn’t become a full blown cold and I can return to normalcy (though a couple days on the couch with books and DVDs does sound incredibly appealing, not so much if it involves feeling like ass). Since there is no cure for the common cold I have my own methods. I don’t like cold medicine if I can avoid it, though I did take Nyquil last night to make me stop coughing long enough to sleep (and part of me wonders if I feel like crap because of the Nyquil). I am all about mass quantities of liquids, especially OJ and these Traditional Medicinals teas I’ve been sucking down the Breathe Easy brew all morning along with Organic Echinacea. I don’t know why but I’m convinced that Echinacea and ginger will cure everything. The ginger thing I got from a friend who worked at Whole Foods, he used to drink a shot of it every day for the 7 years he worked there and apparently never got sick once. So when I can I go get a smoothie with a ginger shot when I feel like I’m getting sick, otherwise I eat ramen with a strong ginger base. I also used to swear by airbourne even though my pharmacist scoffed at the idea, but I don’t know that it is done so much for me as of late and I get so sick of drinking it every few hours, it’s too sweet. So liquids, Echinacea, ginger and vitamin C are my main things. I would say sleep, but I’m bad at that. When my body lets me do that, I am more than happy to, but often even when I’m sick it doesn’t. Anyone else have any unorthodox cold cures I can try so I can get back to my normal self and write blogs that are more interesting and less whiny?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Check out this cool teen poetry event in Chicago!

Well, I don't have much to blog about today. It's snowy and cold again and I really don't know if I will survive this Chicago winter. Not to mention I have developed an atrocious cough which I hope doesn't turn in the atrocious virus my co-workers have been passing around. (Umm, people, if you are sick won't you please stay home!!!! The rest of us do not want to be infected and in my office we have a ton of sick days so there is no excuse!) So I thought I would just inform people of this event because right about now it feels like one of the only things that keeps me in Chicago is the fabulous literary scene. I can't attend this event, but I hope some aspiring young writers will!

What: Louder Than a Bomb! Teen Poetry Festival
When: Thursday Feb 28, 2008
at 10:00 AM
Where: Columbia College Chicago
Hokin (623 S Wabash) & Conway (1104 S Wabash)
Best city in the whole wide wide world, Illinois|14 60605
United States
Click Here To View Event

Monday, February 25, 2008

A cultural virus or a fad, you decide....

I’ve been tagged for a meme by Diane.

I wasn’t entirely sure what a “meme” was so I checked on wikipedia. (Yes, I do sort of live in a cave. Or maybe I have writer tunnel vision where I go through long periods of being completely oblivious to things outside of the books I’m writing or reading.) One definition likened it to a cultural virus which excited me, that sounded sort of revolutionary. Another called it a fad and I generally prefer not to get involved with those (except for the slap bracelet fad, I loved slap bracelets), but this looks like fun and it’s another dreary Monday in Chicago and I have nothing to blog about except for still being excited about the aforementioned ARCs and carrying one everywhere with me.

So without further adieu, my meme:

Here are the rules:

1/ you link back to the person who tagged you.
Check, see the link to Diane’s blog above.

2/ post these rules on your blog.

3/ share six unimportant things about yourself.

  1. I loved slap bracelets and am hoping for more mildly violent jewelry trends in the future.
  2. I’ve never seen an episode of “Friends.” At first it was just because I had no interest, but now that I’ve gone so long without seeing it, I purposely avoid it just so I can say I haven’t seen it.
  3. Though I wanted to play Rizzo or Frenchy in Grease, I ended up playing Cha Cha, the girl that steals Danny Zuko from Sandy. This occurred between the summer of 7th and 8th grade and I sometimes wonder if this role caused all the bad dating karma I seemed to have during high school. Or maybe that was just high school…
  4. I still have my blankie from when I was an infant. She’s really just a knot of fabric now, but I still sleep with her under my pillow. And yes, she does have a gender.
  5. Birds freak me out. I like them, but I don’t like to be to close them. I learned this when a sparrow got into my room Thanksgiving of 2003 and it practically caused a panic attack. And that movie The Birds, well it seems realistic to me.
  6. The first concert I ever saw was Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation tour. It was for my 10th birthday. It was far too loud for my virgin ears so we only stayed for three or four songs. But I felt ashamed to go home so early. My mom, ever supportive woman that she is, drove me around the town where the concert arena was located. It was actually the town she’d lived in during high school, so we had a neat little bonding moment where I learned all about her childhood. Thanks, Janet.

4/ tag six random people at the end of your entry.







5/ let the tagged people know by leaving a comment on their blogs.
Okay, I am off to do this.

Those of you who were not tagged should feel free to participate as well by telling me some random things in comment form. (I like to change and convolute fads.)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Advanced Copies of my book!!!!

Yesterday I arrived home from work to find that my boyfriend had left a large box from FedEx the entryway. It's addressed to me. Hmm... What have I ordered recently? About a Son DVD. Nope, box is way too big. Business cards? Again, too big. Okay, I also ordered 1000 promo bookmarks. This box still seems to be too big, but it's either that or someone sent me a present. Box label says something about printing. I guess it is bookmarks. Ooh, but this seems a little heavy.... Could it be???? No, my editor said no ARCs until the end of March. But I hurry to open the box nonetheless and I find:

Rush upstairs to email editor and thank her for not warning me of this. Best surprise ever and the boost I needed for what I know will be a hard weekend (today is the birthday of a friend who passed away last fall). In the midst of typing the email to editor, email from agent about something else pops up. I reply to her quickly, adding, Ohmigod ARCs are here! In the middle of this I am calling boyfriend to excitedly tell him to hurry home and see the books. Agent hasn't gotten her ARCs yet, she wants to know what they look like. I struggle to take a cell phone photo of my book with shaking hands and send it to her and a bunch of other people. My cell phone is being a bastard. The message only sends to half the people and this is after multiple tries. I give up, I will email the rest of the people tomorrow after I blog about it and post proper pictures. Besides Scott's home. He needs to see the books and help me take decent pictures. And I need to call my mom and tell her to come over tomorrow and pick up her book. Then, Katie is on G-chat. Gotta tell Katie, she's been the writing partner in crime for so long.

Okay, deep breaths. Supposed to meet Amber for dinner in an hour, it's time to shower and such. Going to have to put the book down to do that. I get ready and put the book in my purse. Text Kathy that she needs to definitely stop by Cobra so she can see the book. At Cobra, I get to show off the book to Amber and her fiance and Kathy and her boyfriend.

I bring the book up to the bedroom before bed and Scott says, "Are you going to sleep with it?" And I say, "No, because you'd make fun of me." But I sit and stare at the book for a while. I hadn't noticed somehow that on the back in huge letters, it calls me a "brilliant debut novelist." I point this out to Scott, he says, "Well, why wouldn't it? It's the truth." (He can finally honestly say this because he finished reading the book last week when he helped me go through the page proofs. Oh, I should mention that is the other reason I didn't expect the ARCs so soon because I just sent in the page proofs a week ago, but I guess I proofed the pages as they appear in the ARC, so yeah, anyone who gets this ARC, I know about all of the typos!)I page through the book for a few more minutes in awe before Scott goes, "Can I turn the light out now?" I begrudgingly put my book (wow, my book) down since he does have to work early.

I wake up before his alarm and immediately pick up my book. I'll be carrying it around all day with me. Maybe all week.
Here are some up-close shots of it that Scott took (my hands were too shaky to do it without blurring). The cover will look exactly like that when you go to find it in the bookstore this July (except for the whole advanced copy disclaimer on top), but on the back all the marketing stuff will be gone and you'll get to see a little picture of me and also a nice little blurb from Melissa Marr.




Friday, February 22, 2008

IWBYJR Countdown Clock and yay, street team members and teen book reviewers!

I’m extremely excited to share this fabulous countdown clock for I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE that was created by Rachael/The Book Muncher. I’ve plastered it all over my blogs, myspace, etc and if you want to put it on your pages you can get it on my downloads page (and for those of you participating in my latest contest, putting this up would count as a contest entry so please let me know if you put it up).

Rachael is one of my street team members and this was yet another reminder of how happy I am to have all these amazing people helping me get the word out about my book. So I wanted to take a minute to give them major kudos.

Also I wanted to mention that several of my street team members are teen book reviewers like the Book Muncher. In fact the first person outside of people in my various networks (ie. friends, family, fellow authors, etc) to send me a message to let me know how psyched they were about my book was Jocelyn/Teen Book Reviewer. I remember that moment so clearly and fondly. It was the night before Thanksgiving. I’d just come home from an awesome Against Me! concert, checked my email and got the myspace message from her. I exclaimed to my boyfriend, “Oh my god, my first real fan!” and immediately responded to the message. I thought it was so cool that Jocelyn was not only a writer as I was in high school, but she also ran a book review site. Since then I’ve found out that there are tons of teens with book review sites and I can’t tell you how much this excites me. (And I probably should have known about these sites, but I was one of those oblivious writer types, who hid in her office just reading and writing and not paying attention the biz/industry until she found out she was getting published, and I should tell other new writers, don’t follow my example!) I have to admit there is a lot about pop culture that scares me, like how Paris Hilton can be famous for nothing and what exactly is she a role model for? But to know that there are still a ton of teens out there who love to read as much as I did and who in fact love it so much that they spend their free time promoting literacy and books? *Bends down and kisses the teen book reviewers’ feet* You guys seriously rock my world. You are the real tastemakers in my mind. It’s people like you who make sure civilization doesn’t decline into something completely vapid. You give me hope, you make me so happy, and you certainly make my life as a writer worth it, so kudos to all the teen book reviewers out there, too.

So yeah, that’s my big celebrating reading moment. Celebrate with me and post a comment about either what you are currently reading or your favorite (or your own) teen book reviewer site.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Rock Star Fantasies

I not-so secretly wish I was a rock star. I can't really sing or play anything though so instead I hope to become a literary rock star. This manifested itself in my dreams the other night. I dreamt that in advance of my book coming out that MTV Books decided to put out a limited edition seven inch of my reading two chapters from my book. It was released on black, mint green, and periwinkle vinyl. The sleeve looked like a photocopy, like the super underground punk seven inches I bought back in the day. It had a picture of angry looking me speaking into a microphone. It was so awesome. I even went to the plant where the seven inches were made. I held them in my hand and thought this might even be cooler than holding my book... Well just as cool at least. Then I woke up. I was so pissed that it was just a dream. It seemed like such a cool promo idea that I groggily tried to think of a way to pitch it to my editor, but when I fully awakened I knew it would never fly. But maybe it was a little bit psychic because when I got home in the evening I found that the IWBYJR guitar picks that I'd ordered had arrived! Not a seven inch, but still a damn sweet promo item. Check em out. The IWBYJR logo is the front and is the back. And you can win some in my latest contest! PS. Thanks to my good friend Elise Coleman for designing the picks!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

MTV Books Blog and Happy B'Day Kurt Cobain

I blogged at the MTV Books Blog today about sending off my second manuscript and other things I have trouble letting go of. Visit me there and comment.

And I also just have to mention that today is Kurt Cobain's birthday. Nirvana is my all time favorite band and Kurt Cobain is one of the key people that inspired me back as a geeky junior high kid to embrace my weirdness and find my voice so I have to pay tribute to him every once in awhile :) Of course my greatest written tribute is an essay on and today is a good day to check out that essay if you've never read it.

Also for those of you who are Nirvana/Kurt fans, I don't know if you are familiar with the documentary Kurt Cobain: About A Son, but it is available on DVD now. I had the privilege of seeing this at the Seattle International Film Festival last summer. It is basically gorgeous imagery of the three main places Kurt spent his life, Aberdeen, Olympia and Seattle, Washington and then all of this audio footage that Michael Azzerad had from doing interviews with Kurt for his biography Come As You Are. So you get to see the place where Kurt was from while listening to him talk about his life, his art, and his views. Since Kurt Cobain is such a legendary figure his life and art has been analyzed and theorized about by everybody, and it's refreshing to hear him discuss it all in his own words. Of course it's also haunting to hear his voice and makes you miss him. But it's a unique take on Nirvana and Cobain and the cinematography is absolutely breathtaking, especially for someone like me who loves the Pacific Northwest. Oh and the soundtrack? Totally awesome. I feel like it's a mix tape that Kurt himself might make. I've been listening to it today in his honor.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Things that inspire me and things that make me sad

I guestblogged today at Young Adult Enchanting Reviews. It's all about the things that inspire me as writers so please check it out.

As for things that make me sad, I'm talking about the shooting at NIU. Every time I read about a school shooting, it breaks my heart, but this hit closer to home. 65 miles from home to be exact at a school where many of family members have attended through the years. And the towns that some of the victims are from, I had friends who grew up in one of those towns and my best friend currently lives in another. And then this comes just two weeks after the shooting at Lane Bryant in Tinley Park, the town where my mom grew up. All this unnecessary death and violence just makes me sick.

I'm not one to get political in my blog very often. That doesn't mean I'm not political. I was raised by activist parents who taught my brother and me to practice non-violence, I became an animal rights activist at the age of ten, and I went to an extremely radical college for a year. But my main passions are writing and music and those are the things I feel most comfortable talking about. I'll leave the talk of politics to those who really know their shit like my activist friend and my little brother who went to school for political science and is now about to become a labor law lawyer. But today I need to express a political view. If you disagree with me fine. If you want to skip over this blog today fine (as I mentioned above, I did write about writing today, so visit the guest blog instead perhaps). But I need to talk about guns because this is upsetting me severely.

The last time I was this upset was when Virgina Tech occurred and I wrote my feelings about guns in the most eloquent manner I was capable of so I will be reposting that below, but I have a thought to add. I read the blog of a writer I know (well, we've talked online at least) who attends NIU. Obviously, she is in deep pain about what happened at her school, her community. In her blog about it she mentioned that she wished she could design bullet proof clothing so everyone could safely go to school, that she fears that this will get so bad that one day her young children will be encouraged to go to school online and miss out on all that we gain by human interaction. This made me cry. The idea that we need bullet proof clothing for school. The idea that the way we are schooled may have to change due to violence. The idea that we can't protect our children or our friends from random disturbed individuals who have easy access to guns. And it made me angry because, please tell me, what is more important, my right to getting an education in a safe environment or your right to bear arms? What is more important, my right to feel safe when I leave my house to go to the store or your right to bear arms?

Anyway, like I mentioned, I know I can't express my opinion about guns and violence better than I did last April after the shootings at Virgina Tech. So here is my statement on Gun Culture:

I just have to get something off my chest. I'm sure many people will disagree with me, but I really don't care. Gun culture sucks. There is nothing good about guns.

I was raised to abhor guns. My parents didn't let us watch GI Joe or cartoons or movies that they felt glorified guns/violence/war. We never had realistic looking toy guns and we weren't allowed squirt guns until we were old enough to fully understand the difference between a water gun and an actual gun (don't worry, I had my share of water fights, instead of squirt guns, I had plastic shaped animals that spat water from their mouths or trunks). And people laugh and call it silly, but it shaped me. I have never touched a gun and have no desire. I still hate movies and shows and videogames that glorify violence for violence's sake. I live my life as non-violently as possible. I feel that as part of what is supposed to be the most intelligent species on the planet, I have a responsibility to try to make the world a safe and peaceful place for my fellow humans and all creatures. Unfortunately I don't think most people feel that responsibility.

The biggest mass shooting in US history occurred yesterday. 33 people died. 8 years ago, Columbine occurred. In the time in between, how many school shootings have taken place? Can we even count? Does anyone remember the one where a kindergartener brought a gun to school? And nothing at all has been done about it. In England and Australia when these sorts of events took place, the government responded by banning/restricting firearms. But is that going to happen here? No because we love cowboys, love 'em so much that (slightly less than) half our moronic country voted a warmongering one into office. And we love violent flicks (there's so much blood in this one, they had to make those sections black and white, yeah, that's fucking awesome dude! Desensitize away!) and war video games that look like Army of One commercials. And above all we cling to the second amendment like its not as antiquated as the one that said black people counted as 3/5ths of a person and slavery was cool.

Guns have no place in this world. None. They are instruments of death. They were made to kill people and animals. They were forged with the purpose to shred flesh from bone, to stop a beating heart. There is nothing beautiful or glorious in this. I realize some people like to shoot at targets or cans or clay things or whatever, but I honestly don't get it. How can you hold that thing in your hand knowing that it was created with the purpose to kill or maim? Why not throw or hit a ball as your form of release instead? Or if you absolutely have to shoot shit, simulate it with a video game instead (as long as you are old enough and have been responsibly educated about real vs. fake).

Guns are not some representation of freedom. You have a right to bear arms, against who? The British? The government? Haven't we evolved enough to use our words instead? To try to solve things without wars? And don't I have a right to live? To not worry about some gun-wielding psycho killing me? To not have to think, maybe I should never have kids because someone could just walk into their school and shoot them? And what about accidents? What about the day one of my friends could have killed my best friend because one of our friends' dads had a gun in the house and my one friend didn't know the gun was loaded and he pointed it at my best friend as a joke and he had his finger on the trigger and the people who knew wanted to shout, "No, don't!" but were afraid he'd get spooked and just fire. And she'd be gone. And he'd be crazy with guilt. This isn't freedom. How is this freedom? Unless death is freedom, which perhaps it is in some existentialist way, but I'd rather live without fear. Living without fear is freedom.

I know, the bad guys have guns. And they are gonna have guns. But we can make them have fewer guns. We can make them so hard to get and so expensive that some child is not dying in a drive-by every single day. First the regular people have to give up their guns. No selling of guns in Wal-Marts and gun shops and on ebay. I'm sorry if it was your granddad's gun, but what's more important, an antiquated piece of metal or keeping your children safe. I don't care if your gun is historical. Do we need "war relics?" List visit the graves of the dead instead. No war is glamorous. No weapon should be treated as some sacred holy object. We should remember the sorrow of our history so as not to repeat it, not glorify it so it sounds so cool, let's do it again. And as for your need for "protection," I know its hard to trust the police (that's a whole other issue), but you need to. And you also need to remember that a weapon you use to defend yourself is one that can be easily turned on you. Learn martial arts instead.

Once regular access to guns is gone, fewer bad guys will have them. Of course, it is never going to be perfect until we have world peace. Until we all realize that we can settle our differences with words and diplomacy instead of violence. I can't wait for humans to evolve to that point and finally realize that every weapon should be melted down. No armies. Wouldn't it be nice? I know that day is far away and may never come, but I like to hope. Until that point, we should work to reduce as many fatalities as possible.

Would you give up your gun if it meant one of those innocent Virginia Tech Students got to come back to life? Well, I'm not a fairy godmother so I can't make that happen, but if regular people are willing to give up their guns now, we can save future lives.

Can we please make some progress? Or are we just going to have media frenzies every time something violent happens. Let's play the shocking footage again. Let's ask stupid questions, like "do the survivors feel guilty for surviving? Was it scary in there?" How about instead we ask the tough questions like "What is the government going to do to ensure this doesn't happen again? Are they finally ready to stop sacrificing children to appease lobbyists?" and "How does the NRA plan to comfort those families that lost loved ones so they could have the right to go shoot at animals or clay shit or keep some relic from our violent history in their homes?" And perhaps the media can start questions themselves, "Instead of playing up the shock value, how can we educate the public about violence?"

We are all responsible for our gun culture, our culture of violence. We need to encourage legislation. We need to educate the children in our lives about the difference between TV violence and real violence (I don't believe in censorship, but education, however, I don't think violence for violence's sake is art and I hope that our culture will evolve to appreciate higher art and better storytelling someday). We need to think about what kind of right the "right to bear arms" really is. We need to practice peace and stop letting history repeat.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Banners, Contest, and Rent!

My super-b webmistress, Jenny Hassler, created the hott banners that you see above. You can get them at She also posted the code you need to put the banner of your choice on your website, myspace page, etc.

We are officially less than 5 months away from IWBYJR’s release, so I can use all the help I can get to get the word out about my book. So if you would be so kind as to post these banners on your website, blog or myspace I would really appreciate it. In fact I’ve decided to create a little contest involving the banners and a little mission I’m calling PLASTER THE WEB!

When I was a crazy riot grrrl punk in the early nineties, we plastered every available surface stickers and flyers to promote bands and awareness of social issues. Of course that bordered on vandalism sometimes and I could never encourage that ;) but fortunately now we can do the totally legal cyber version of stickering and flyering.

Here are some other ways you can help me plaster the web:

  1. Post IWBYJR banners on your web pages, myspace, blog, etc.
  2. Ask friends to post IWBYJR banners on their web pages and myspace.
  3. Join my street team or refer friends to join.
  4. Be my myspace friend and tell your friends to be myspace friend. You can friend me at
  5. Become a fan (and encourage friends to become fans) on facebook at:
  6. Mention the book in your email signature or signature on message boards. You can create a sig that says something like "I can't wait to read I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE, out July 2008, MTV Books,"
  7. If you have another idea, go for it! I will probably love it!

Here's how the contest part of this works: Send me (via email or myspace message) a list of links to where you posted a banner/info about IWBYJR as well as any other web activities you did (ie. I put info in my signature here, I became your myspace friend and/or your facebook fan, this friend of mine joined the street team, etc). For each link or web activity, you get one contest entry. So, if you get the word out about IWBYJR in 10 ways, your name will be entered 10 times and you'll have a better shot at winning.

Deadline: The contest will end on March 31, 2008. So you have plenty of time to enter as many times as you want and find creative ways to plaster the web with IWBYJR. Oh and you don't have to send me one big list at the end, you can email me a few times throughout the contest period. I'll be excited to see all the places where IWBYJR is mentioned.

What are the prizes? I will draw 7 names at random and those people will receive IWBYJR swag packs including bookmarks and, most exciting, official IWBYJR guitar picks. I will give you enough swag so you have some to keep and some to pass out around town.

In addition to that, I will award a grand prize to the person who did the most cyber IWBYJR plastering and a second place award for the person who did the second most. (Of course both these winners get swag packs, too.)

Second Place gets the IWBYJR soundtrack and the newspaper with my first interview in it (though if you won this stuff in the last contest, I will find a cool substitution for you).

The Grand Prize is a gift certificate to DownloadPunk (my fave place to download MP3s and the songs work with iPods and other kinds of players) AND a signed, Advanced Review Copy of IWBYJR (this means you are getting the uncorrected proof that reviewers get, so it may have a few typos, but it will be a rare version of the book and you get to read it like 3 months before most people). Please note: while this contest is open to anybody, you have to be a member of my street team to be eligible for the grand prize.

Final Clarifications: I know this is kind of a complicated contest. They won't usually be like this, but this is probably one of the most important contests, so I hope you'll participate and feel free to ask questions. One thing I do want to explain is asking your friends to post banners or join the street team. Maybe you have friends who will just put a banner up, but don't want to be involved otherwise, that's fine. Send me a link to where the banner is posted and you get a contest entry for that. But maybe when you talk to them about it, they get excited about the book and want to join the street team or enter the contest. If that's the case, all you have to do is let me know that you referred them and you will both get an entry. Make sense? Basically I want as many people to be able to enter the contest as many times as possible, makes things more fun.

Oh and if you want to put up a banner but not enter the contest, more power to ya! I appreciate it!

Ok, I hope everyone is having an absolutely lovely Valentines Day. I’m looking forward to going to home have a faux steak (thank you vegweb) and mashed potato dinner with my bf. Ooh and I just have to swoon briefly and say that I took my mom to see the Broadway production of Rent last night and it was sooooooo amazing. Way better than the movie. Reminded me of how much I love theater. I could never be a playwright, but I am so envious of how they tell a story from the stage with limited sets and particularly in a musical like Rent, how they find unique ways to push the story forward outside of the songs using brief monologues or voicemails like they did in Rent. Ah, it was just so cool. I hope you all can treat yourselves to a play or musical soon. And please, tell me about your favorite plays and musicals!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Under Construction/For Previous Blog Entries

So I've been blogging over on myspace for a few years now purely out of convenience (most of my friends were on there and it was the easiest spot for them to catch up with what is going on with me). But when I started blogging at the MTV Books Blog, I was like, oooh I like blogger. So I've decided to make this my main blogging place and cross post to myspace and maybe LiveJournal, too. This site will be under construction for the next week or so while I figure out how to make it all pretty. In the meantime if you wanna read what I've been saying about life, rock 'n' roll and especially words (my first novel I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE comes out this July and I talk a lot about writing and going through the publishing process for the first time), check out the back entries at my myspace blog.

Oh and if anyone wants to share tips and pointers on how to make this blog look cool, please let me know. And opinions on if I should post on LiveJournal, too are welcome!