Friday, September 26, 2008

Ah, the Beacon, the good, the bad, and the WTF

Today I'm over at the Teen Fiction Cafe discussing my love for fall, sharing photos of old Halloween costumes and congratulating my brother Dan for officially becoming a lawyer (he passed his bar, yay!) today. Go check it out here!

So, I've been back at the Beacon for slightly over a month now and I figured it was time for me to catalog some observations since I've been back. I think they fit into three categories: the good, the bad, and the WTF.

  • I'm happy to be hanging out with my regulars again. (Except for the one that was an obnoxious drunk last Saturday, got cut off by the owner and decided to walk out without paying or tipping and has yet to apologize to me. Even if you don't remember the details, you know you walked out on your tab and therefore didn't tip because you had to pay the tab the next time you came in. Would it hurt to apologize?) I've also got some new regulars who I really like, too. Including, oddly enough a woman who has to be in her sixties or seventies. We had a really great conversation about cats when she came in one Thursday for lunch and now she comes in every Thursday for lunch. I like that this job enables me to meet and talk to people I would not normally think I'd hit it off with.
  • The stories. It's great to be surrounded by stories. I've already heard some good ones. Like a regular who told me that in her one hitchhiking experience, she and her friend were picked up by John Wayne Gacy. Supposedly he even had some of his clown garb on and warned them about hitchhiking. This woman was like, "If I'd been a boy, I would have been dead." It's hard to know if this is actually true because, well... alcohol... but the time period as well as the neighborhood in Chicago is accurate so who knows. Either way, now it is material. Ohhh there is so much more material at a bar than at an office!
  • Tipping is not a city in China. People who don't know how to tip are now the bane of my existence again. I am a firm believer that everyone should be required to work in the service industry at some point so they learn how to treat servers. People who don't tip at all are the biggest assholes. Like the other day I had this guy who gave me a dollar more than what cover the cost of his beer. Like it was 4.50 and he gave me 6$. Generally when this occurs, it is implied that the dollar and the change is mine. So I put this in my tip jar. When I walked past the guy again, he snapped at me, "Where is my change!" So I apologized, tried to explain my confusion and gave him the 1.50$ back. He didn't leave me a tip at all. I suppose I was being punished. Ugh. But the people that also irritate me are the people who are really cheap with their tips. It is pretty universal that you tip $1 per drink if you are getting good service (and I am good server, prompt, friendly, etc). If you've been in the service industry, think your bartender rocks or want to be their friend in hopes of a free drink here and there, you tip more than that. Now, I have a few retiree-aged folks who come in, drink a few beers and only leave a buck or two. They are on a limited budget and they are drinking the cheap bottled beer. They are also regulars and very friendly to me, so this rule does not apply. But Mr. and Ms. Twenty and Thirtysomething who are ordering the expensive cocktails and microbrews, you should be tipping more than fifty freakin' cents. Seriously!
  • Cha-cha-changes.... I used to have nightmares that I went back to the Beacon and it was this hip, clean, up-to-date yuppie bar with all this food I had to make and didn't understand and a new-fangled computer system and yuppie customers who didn't tip. Well, it's not that bad, but there have been changes at the Beacon. There's a beer garden, which is cool, but kind of screws me because either there is no waitress and I'm running myself ragged going out to take drink orders, making them and taking care of the regular bar. Or there is a waitress and I'm still run ragged making all the drinks but I don't have to carry them outside however, I lose out on the majority of the tips. I can't win. Also there is an expanded menu. I have to cook this food, the majority of it being disgusting meat products, and the people who order food for the most part don't seem to get that I'm making their food, I'm bringing it to them, I'm making their drinks and bringing them to them and I have the rest of the bar to deal with. And then they tip me like they would a waitress.... Ugh.

  • To continue in the vein of people who for some reason now seem to think of the Beacon as a restaurant rather than a bar that happens to have food so if you start drinking early and forget to eat dinner you can be accomodated.... Yesterday a women came in with her four and six year old boys. Yes. A woman brought her kids to the bar. Then she proceeded to ask me what we had to drink for kids, while her obnoxious little rugrats (I like kids, don't get me wrong, but when they are being loud and annoying in a place that is supposed to be for adults like R-rate movies or... I don't know... A BAR, I get irritated) screeched for chocolate milk. I had to restrain myself from saying, "Well, I can make a shot that tastes like chocolate milk..." Instead I named off the stuff we use to mix with booze, Coke, 7-Up, Orange Juice.... Of course they proceeded to order food with special demands to appease the kids. Of course it put off my regulars some of whom were there to shout obscenities at the TV when the Sox or Cubs screwed up and vent about their crappy days using colorful language that you can use at a bar because, you know, it's supposed to be for adults. And of course the lady tipped like it was a freaking restaurant, not like I was bartending, cooking, and doing special kid service...
  • The crazies. Oh the crazies. Sometimes they amuse, sometimes they irritate, so they just fall in the WTF category. Apparently in addition to Napkin Note Guy, we've collected some new weirdos over that the Beacon such as Creepy Al and his girlfriend. I can't really explain Creepy Al without doing a vocal impression, but his girlfriend came in a couple Saturdays ago while I was slammed and stopped me from what I was doing FIVE times to ask me if I'd seen Al, if I was sure I hadn't seen Al, if I knew who Al was, and even though I reassured her each time. When I wasn't looking, she still absconded into the Beer Garden (which was closed because it closes at midnight and this is indicated by not one, but two closed doors) and Dan O. had to chase after her. She told him that she thought Al might be sitting out there... Never mind that the Beer Garden was closed and IT WAS POURING RAIN! Ah the adventures of Creepy Al and Crazy Chick. But now to update you on Napkin Note Guy. I hadn't seen him in awhile and thought hmm, maybe he did read the blog and is staying away. But he's turned up again and he won't ever read the blog because he doesn't know how to use a computer apparently. Also, for those of you who were like, oh maybe he's not that creepy, I've collected stories from other bartenders and regulars about him. Including about how one regular smashed his camera after he took a picture of him at the urinal.... And apparently he's been banned from a couple other bars because the Napkin Notes creep people out. The latest Napkin Note however, is just nonsensical.
From Wednesday night (note spelling is left unedited):
No Difference- Today- Now - 12 Midnight
Steff- Today- Toninght- I Saiad- Hello- To Yoou--

And the last word is debatable. Most think it says So What, but there is some question as to whether it says Soul Mate. Also 12 Midnight is crossed out and kind of looks like Mitten and kind of looks like Midkiskf

So yeah, that's the adventures of the Beacon this month. Sometimes insane, sometimes annoying, but mostly I'm still enjoying the ride, happy to be among old friends and observing all kinds of craziness!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Women Who Rock Wednesday: Cecil Castellucci!

Welcome to my new favorite day of the week, Wednesday when we celebrate the women who rock my world. Among them so far we have had writers, musicians, and a fashion designer. Last week, I featured my new favorite band, Civet and the winner of a special promo edition of their CD Hell Hath No Fury is eeeeeeeee from MySpace! Next week, I'll be featuring one of my favorite artists, Liz Adams. And this week, I'm above and beyond thrilled to be hosting Cecil Castellucci, author of BOY PROOF, THE QUEEN OF COOL, THE PLAIN JANES, JANES IN LOVE, and one of my all-time favorite novels, BEIGE!

You can read my original squees and sighs about BEIGE here. I love BEIGE because it's the perfect combination of a fish out of water story and a coming of age story set against a punk rock backdrop, which made the book for me, of course. I was the girl who felt like she never really fit anywhere and I suspect a lot of my readers were those kinds of kids, too. BEIGE is all about figuring out who you are when you march to a different drummer. I think everybody should read this book and for those of you haven't you now have an excellent chance because Cecil will be sending out a signed copy of the book to a random winner chosen from those who leave comments! But without further adieu, let's hear all about BEIGE and Cecil Castellucci's many other projects straight from the rockin' lady herself!

Q: Your book BEIGE is my favorite book on the planet right now and while I could gush over it, my readers would probably rather hear straight from you about it. So can you tell us what Beige is about and what inspired you to write it?

Cecil: When I first moved to LA I got a job at Epitaph Records, hung out with Tim Armstrong from Rancid, wrote in a cafe that Eric Melvin from NOFX owned, was waited on at my fave breakfast place by one of the Circle Jerks and another one of the Circle Jerks did my taxes. Everything was so punk rock and I was so indie. I felt totally out of place and totally beige. I thought it might be interesting to write about a scene from an outsiders point of view. Also, everyone thinks that punk is so in your face, and it's not. It's a state of mind. Katy doesn't want to be punk, but she ends up being punk because of who she is, not how she dresses. I also thought that a lot of books about music are about how music influences you, but I thought that writing about the absence of music in someone's life could be interesting, too.

You can watch me talk about it here

Q: JANES IN LOVE came out yesterday. It's the second volume in your Janes graphic novel series for Minx. Can you tell us about that series? What's it all about and how many books will be in it?

THE PLAIN JANES is about a girl named Jane Beckles whose parents move her from Metro City to the suburb of Kent Waters after she is in a bombing. At the bombing, Jane save a John Doe who left a sketchbook that says ART SAVES on it. Jane believes that art will save the world and help make sense of its madness. When she gets to Kent Waters she decides she'd rather not be popular and goes straight to the reject table which is filled with three other girls named Jane. They start an all girl guerilla art gang and do art attacks. But the town doesn't like them, it makes them afraid. JANES IN LOVE continues the story, starting a few days after the end of book one. The girls now are trying to figure out how to do art in a way that won't make the town angry and they're still teenage girls and there is a dance coming up.

Q: I'm sure writing a graphic novel is a quite a bit different than writing a regular novel. Please tell us how your writing process differs and how it is the same. What is it like working with an artist?

Cecil: It is different. But writing a story is writing a story. You have to be a little leaner and meaner with your text in a comic book. After all you're telling a lot of the story with the pictures. As the writer I basically kind of try to tell the story with panels but I work very closely with the awesome Jim Rugg, the artist on the Janes. Sometimes he has a better idea about how the panels can be laid out, and so he'll open it up or pare it down.

Q: How did you get started writing graphic novels? Do you read a lot of them and what are some of your favorites? Minx is an incredibly girl-positive imprint of DC Comics, can you tell us a little bit about working with them?

Cecil: I was always a big comic book reader. Love them! Growing up I loved Superman, Batman, X-men, Tin Tin. Oh, too many to list! It was my big secret wish to write one. I sort of lucked into it because Shelly Bond at DC was launching the Minx line and was looking outside of the comic book world for stories. Since the Minx line is YA stories for girls, she thought she'd try the YA world and my name had been recommended to her. It's been amazing. It's DC! Superman is in the lobby! Batman roams the halls!

Q: In addition to your varied literary talents, you are also a musician. Tell us about your music, how long have you been playing, who your influences are and most important where we can check out your songs! Also can you speak to how music feeds your writing or your stories feed your music?

Cecil: I play indie rock, more specifically a sub genre called Twee. I have been playing guitar since 1993 and I played in Bite, Nerdy Girl and then under my own name Cecil Seaskull. You can get the Nerdy Girl and Cecil Seaskull albums on iTunes or emusic. And there are a couple of free tracks on myspace. Go get it! I love a good girly singer songwriter and songs about L O V E. So, I'm influenced by everything from Patsy Cline to Feist. I guess you would say that right now, like Cher, I'm in retirement, but I could always make a comeback! For me music really gets you in the mood for writing. So it feeds the atmosphere. For example, with Beige, I listened to a lot of punk rock and right now, the new book I'm working on takes place in 1982 so it's been a steady stream of those hits that have been on high rotation!

Q: I admire you so greatly because you write strong, smart, REAL girl characters that are really great examples for teen girls and a reminder to the world of what girls are capable of. Many of my blog readers are the kind of young women that you write about. Can you give them some advice or words of wisdom about staying true to themselves or surviving high school/college/work when you are a creative, sassy, smart soul?

Cecil: Always look up in the sky to the north star and even if you feel lost or small or need a friend, it will always show you the way. Also, ice cream. Also, a good true friend.

Q: I always ask two standard questions of my Women Who Rock. What was the first album you bought and the first concert you attended? Be honest, we don't judge. We like to see the true roots of rockin' women!

Cecil: I think the first album I bought was Donny Osmond "Alone Together." I loved him and his purple socks. He was a "little bit rock and roll." And at 4 years old, I didn't know that he really wasn't that rock at all. I think my next album was Shaun Cassidy. Hey, you said you wouldn't judge!

First Show was REM, Joan Jett and The Police at Shea Stadium

Q: According to the cover flap in Beige, you've had Thanksgiving dinner with Tim Armstrong of Rancid (I'm so seriously jealous!), you wrote in a cafe owned by Eric Melvin of NOFX and had your taxes done by a guy who was in the Circle Jerks. Not to mention you are an acclaimed author, filmmaker, actress, and singer-songwriter, so no doubt you've had lots of rock star moments, but we want to hear about the moment where you felt most like a rock star. Maybe it was a concert you went to or played, a moment of big success in your career, an "I'm Not Worthy!" Wayne's World type moment where you met someone cool, or a time where you just got the rock star treatment. But please dish!

Cecil: I could say so many things, tell a bunch of stories, name drop like crazy. But, I'm going to say that my biggest rock star moment was when I got invited to the Warner Bros. lot. I got "lost" a little on the way to my meeting and I found myself on the New York Street. It's a street on the studio lot where they film city scenes. No one was there and so I did a musical extravaganza number where I danced and jumped around for joy. A security guard drove by as I finished and he just shook his head and drove on.

Rock star moments are sometimes not what you think they'll be.

Seriously, how cool is Cecil Castellucci! Now you can see why she's my idol. I'm sure she has given you lots to think about and comment about (especially her take on the rock star moment, it has to be the best answer I've gotten so far!), so get to commenting because you wanna win that signed copy of BEIGE, dontcha?

I'll announce the winner next Wednesday when I introduce you to the fabulous artist Liz Adams and I'll also be announcing the details of a very special WWRW that will be taking place during Teen Read Week in mid October!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

YA for Obama

I promise this won't become a political blog, but seeing as the theme of this blog is Life, Words, and Rock 'n' Roll, and politics are a part of "life" for me, especially around election time, it's gonna pop up every now and then.

I think I've made it pretty clear that I'm voting for Obama, so this won't surprise you:

View my page on YA for Obama

Yep, I've joined YA For Obama, which officially launched yesterday. Quoth Maureen Johnson, the fabulous author who started this social networking site, "YA for Obama is a community of YA writers and readers and friends who have joined together because of our commitment to Future United States President Barack Obama. We think he’s the right person for the job."

Now the last thing I need is another social networking thing to be a part of. Seriously, I can barely keep up with the three blog sites I post at, MySpace, and Facebook. I was considering joining twitter, but I barely have time to write as it is, it seems. But I believe that YA For Obama is more important than of those sites right now, so I joined.

One of the things I love best about it is that it is a place that gives people under the voting age a place to voice their views and I know how much that would have meant to me when I was younger. I was an incredibly politically active teenager. I was a riot grrrl who put out several feminist 'zines (this was pre-blog days, nowadays I would have had a blog, too.) I volunteered at a domestic violence agency. I petitioned to have self defense workshops added to gym class and a women's history class added to the history department curriculum. I did AIDS walks. I donated money I made from babysitting to Planned Parenthood and PETA. And most important, I read extensively on the issues that were important to me and stayed informed. All of these things were important and all of these things are influential whether or not I was of age to cast a ballot. YA For Obama can help young people find even more ways to participate this election year. I can't tell you how irked I was to read one gossip blog's reponse to the site saying basically, "Why are they acting like kids matter. Kids can't vote." Grrr. I think kids matter and so do the others over at YA For Obama.

YA For Obama isn't just for teens though. You can be a member no matter what age you are or what country you live in. You can be a member if you are not an Obama supporter because the site encourages dialogue. There will be lots of cool things happening over there including blogs and participation from authors way more famous than me like like Judy Blume, John Green, Scott Westerfeld, Meg Cabot, Megan McCafferty, Holly Black, Libba Bray . . . and the list goes on. So I hope you'll join me over there and feel free to send me a friend request and say hello!

Visit YA for Obama

PS. Today is the last day you can enter to win a special promo copy of my new favorite band Civet's album Hell Hath No Fury. Check out last week's WWR Weds blog and leave a comment to enter!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Tattoos, Lies, and Linda Gerber!

If you want to see the finished version of my IWBYJR that I started and blogged about back in June, go to the MTV Books Blog where I am showing it off today.

Also as a part of Linda Gerber's cyber extravaganza for the release of her book, DEATH BY LATTE, I guest-blogged on her blog today about a noble lie that I would have told for a friend. Go here to read about my sordid past and if you comment, you'll be eligible to win a signed copy of I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE.

You will want to check out the rest of the extravaganza on Linda's blog or MySpace, too because tons of authors are dishing about the lies they've told and by commenting, you can win copies of their books and daily prize packages and become eligible to win the grand prize which includes a signed copy of DEATH BY LATTE, a custom-made latte mug, assorted gift cards and Seattle swag. Then I will be highly jealous of you because you know I want all the Seattle swag I can get! Here is the awesome video party invite that Linda put together which has more info:

I am also excited to host Linda Gerber and her book DEATH BY LATTE as a part of the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit tour today!!! Linda's DEATH BY series looks like so much fun and with this book being set in Seattle, well you know it is going on the top of my TBR pile! So here is some more information about it!

Following on the heels of this summer’s killer YA mystery, DEATH BY BIKINI, DEATH BY LATTE is a modern-day romantic mystery/suspense in the tradition of Victoria Holt and Philippa Carr.

Aphra Connolly, who had been living a quiet existence on her father’s secluded island resort, until Seth Mulo turns up and steals her heart… and provides information that leads her to find her mom in Seattle. But the reunion isn’t quite what she expected. Aphra’s mom, Natalie, doesn’t seem happy to see Aphra, and Natalie’s boyfriend, Joe, insists that Aphra go home. Even worse, Seth shows up, only to ask her to return the ring he had given her that summer. At least Natalie’s good-looking neighbor is sympathetic. But when Joe is found dead at a nearby coffee shop, Aphra discovers her whole trip to Seattle has been based on a lie. And now someone just might be trying to kill her. . . .

And here is the scoop on author Linda Gerber who you can visit at
Linda recently returned to life in the Midwest after four years in Japan, where she served as the Regional Advisor for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. She currently lives and writes in Dublin, OH, blissfully ignoring her husband, four kids, and one very naughty puppy.

Of course, I got more in depth with Linda, asking her my usual q's for the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit:

Please list five songs that would be on the soundtrack to your book and explain how they relate to your story or characters.

Evenflow by Pearl Jam and Lithium by Nirvana because the action takes place in Seattle and these are great Seattle bands.
All Around Me by Flyleaf because the lyrics express so perfectly what Aphra would be feeling.
Here I Stand by Madina because it sounds like Aphra missing Seth.
Check Yes Juliet by We the Kings. These lyrics are so perfect. Especially:
"Run, baby, run
Don't ever look back.
They'll tear us apart
If you give them the chance."

Q: Name some of your main character's favorite musicians or bands.

Linda: Foo Fighters, Nirvana, Amy Winehouse

Q: Name some of your favorite musicians or bands.

The Doors, Seal, The Beatles, Moody Blues, Santana

Q: Even though music plays in so heavily into my storytelling, I rarely can actually listen to it while I'm writing. Can you? How does music fit into your writing process?

Linda: I listen to music when I'm researching and before I start writing to help set the mood, but I can't write with music playing, either. I want to sing along that tends to be a bit distracting.

Linda: While music is my muse, I know other writers find their muse in theater, sports, art, the great outdoors, etc. What is your main muse?

Q: Nature. I like to be outside or at least sit by the windows overlooking the woods in our backyard when I'm at home. If I could, I'd go to the mountains or to the beach every day to sit and write. That would be heaven.

Yeah, me too, Linda. We should start a writer's colony. And seeing as Aphra and I have the same favorite band (Nirvana), I'll be delving into the DEATH BY series ASAP!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Adventures in the Subway Riding

Remember how taking the CTA was one of things I had mixed feelings about giving up when I left my job? The whole never-on-time, always-slow thing irritates me beyond belief, but you see some interesting shit. Well, I still take the CTA a little bit in my new life. This week I took it downtown twice, once to do an event at Columbia, once to the Chicago Culture Center to chant and both of those occasions reminded me of my loathing for the Blue Line. It took forever to leave the station and then the train crawled downtown, taking double the time it is supposed to take on both occasions.

But last Friday, my Blue Line experience was definitely the most interesting yet! Now, I gotta say if this had happened in a normal situation where I was alone on the train trying to get some place on time, I would have been freaking out. But as it happened, I'd met Kathy after work (and we met on the train. I'm now the queen of arranging on-train meet-ups!) and we were headed back to her neighborhood to walk her dogs and have some dinner. We were catching up. The train went underground. We still had several stops to go. Then the train comes to a stop. Yeah, not unusual. This happens often. Especially seeing as the Blue Line sucks and they tend to run a billion trains in one direction and none in the other. After work, I would always see about 5 trains go by the other way before a train went my way. Now I was going the opposite way with the ton of trains, so I figured we were stopping either because we were "waiting for signals ahead" (AKA, the train ahead of you isn't out of the station yet) or the usual working on the tracks type thing.

But then there was an announcement about a "medical emergency." Hmm, okay, maybe someone pressed the emergency button and the conductor is going back to check on them. Kathy and I begin to discuss that it would seem more logical to hurry to the next station so that the person having the medical emergency could be taken off the train and get care. But then the lights go out. The train engine dies. There is another vague announcement about the medical emergency, urging us to sit tight and not open the doors. Umm okay.

"I've never been on a train where they completely turned the power off," Kathy says.

"Yeah, me neither."

"If you weren't here, I'd be freaked out."

"Me, too. I'd feel claustrophobic and have no way to contact the outside world because my cell phone doesn't work underground."

"Mine neither." Kathy says. Only US Cellular and now Verizon phones work in the tunnels.

"But since we're together, this is a little bit fun. It's an adventure in away," I say and Kathy agrees. I'm sure the people around me who were just trying to get home from work thought we were nuts.

We make more small talk until another announcement. This time the conductor says, "Please remain in your train car. There has been a medical emergency and we need to exit the train. Please remain where you are, I will be coming to each car to help you exit the train."

Murmurs of excitement. Kathy and I might be the only ones who are actually exciting. "Oh my god, we get to walk through the tunnel!" I squeal.

"Thank god, we're in the third car so we can get off fast," Kathy adds and we both state again that we are happy we are together and this is definitely an adventure. We're also pleased that we are between La Salle and Jackson, not Clinton and La Salle, like we'd thought, which is a much longer distance between stations.

Like most things CTA, I have always had mixed feelings about actually getting trapped on a train that cannot move for some reason. I've had a reoccuring nightmare since I was a little girl about getting stuck at this abandoned station between Cicero and Austin (I later realized that I don't think it ever was a functional station, it's just a platform that's there for CTA workers) and having to swing from what were essentially monkey bars all the way to Austin because we couldn't walk or else we might touch the third rail. I think these nightmares were about A. my lack of upper arm strength and B. my fear of that electrified third rail. One time I was going downtown with my neighbors and the son dropped his glasses and the dad jumped down on the tracks to retrieve and I seriously thought I was going to watch him get fried right there.

But anyway, ever since I read Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, I've been fascinated about the subway tunnels. My imagination totally runs away from me just thinking about what it is really like outside in the darkness that I'm speeding through. So I was psyched to get out of that train and walk to the station. A little freaked because I was under the impression that it was a pretty skinny ledge we'd be walking along. I'd had rebel punk friends who used to actually sneak through those tunnels either just for the thrill of it or to do graffiti, but I'd never gone along because of my third rail fear.

Fortunately it is not a ledge, it's a skinny sidewalk. In most places two people could even fit side by side. Other than that, it was as a dark and dingy as expected. There was disgusting crap dripping down from the grates you walk over on the street. It smelled like basement. I didn't see any rats, but wouldn't have been shocked if I did. It was perfect. And of course Kathy and I documented it to share with you:
Yeah, sorry you can't really see much. Except that I am way more excited than I should be about the situation. Of course, we did have the problem of figuring out how to get to Kathy's. We decided to catch a cab, but that took about 10 minutes because it was rush hour and raining and everyone wanted a cab. Once in the cab, we started texting and calling everyone to tell them of our debacle though. I asked Scott to investigate what happened and a couple hours later he texted me to let me know what I'd already basically figured out... What's the only medical emergency that would cause them to turn all the power off? Someone on the tracks. A person had been "hit" by a train two stops ahead of us. I put "hit" in quotation marks because you really don't just get hit by an L train like you would a car because you can't just walk in front of it. Most likely this person jumped. And it was probably the train or two in front of us that hit them and we would have been on that train if I hadn't been running late. So that certainly put a damper on the tunnel adventure.

But CTA amusement is limitless... On my way home, I was offered "Boomers" by a kid, marking the second time in two weeks I've been offered drugs on the train. I turned them down without admitting I had no idea what Boomers were. I texted Kathy and Scott's little sister to see if they knew. Kathy was as clueless as me. Her theory was speed, which was mine as well. But a couple hours later Scott's sis texted me back, "Dude, you just turned down shrooms!" Well, I guess it was appropriate that I invited that kid to the Irvine Welsh reading...

Anyway, so that was last weekend's adventure. Anybody else have weekend adventures or train-related adventures to share?

And don't forget to go check out my girls Civet who I featured for Women Who Rock Wednesday this week. The girls are overwhelmed with interviews and stuff right now, so I'll do an interview with them later, but I am giving out a sweet promo version (so therefore collector's item to music junkies like me!) of their new album Hell Hath No Fury, so you'll wanna leave a comment!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Women Who Rock Wednesday: Civet!

Welcome to Women Who Rock Wednesday, the day I highlight the gals that rock my world because of their amazing music, books, art, etc. Last week, I paid tribute to one of the women who has influenced me most in my life, Mia Zapata of The Gits. Since Mia's life was tragically cut short, I couldn't interview her personally, but her bandmate Steve Moriarty wrote a beautiful tribute to her. Steve also agreed to send out a copy of my personal favorite Git's album, Frenching the Bully, (which I believe he is gonna sign) to a lucky winner and that person, chosen via random number generator from all the comments is Liviania! Liv, please send an email to stephanie at stephaniekuehnert dot com with your address so I can pass it on to Steve.

This week I'm thrilled to feature the mindblowingly awesome band: Civet and give away their amazing new CD Hell Hath No Fury!

There are only a handful of bands that I have gotten me as excited and revved up about music as Civet has (Nirvana, Hole, Social Distortion, Rancid, Sleater-Kinney, The Distillers, and Against Me!) and only two of those bands (The Distillers and Against Me!) came out after I graduated high school. I don't know if if I'm getting old and jaded or if there just aren't as many good bands as there used to be, but it takes a lot more to impress me lately.

I discovered Civet via a contest that Melissa Marr and I did on her livejournal. I was giving out early copies of IWBYJR to five people who listed the best girl power anthems. A girl named Kate posted a link to Civet's myspace page and told me to listen to the song "Son of A Bitch." I listened to it five times in a row. It was still a week before I'd choose winners, but I knew already that Kate would be one of them. Where was this song four years ago when I was going through my last terrible break-up? Where was this band when I was in high school and I needed more kick-ass punk girls to growl along with? And why why why was I going to have to wait all the way to September (it was June then) to get my hands on their album Hell Hath No Fury, which was coming out on my favorite punk label, Hellcat?

I spent the summer listening to the songs on Civet's myspace and telling everyone who listened that I thought they were the best band out there. They filled the void that Hole and The Distillers left for me when they broke up and what was even better, is unlike those bands this quartet is made up of all girls. Beautiful tattooed punk girls who could totally kick your ass and who IMHO are rocking way harder than most of the boys out there. Femme Fatale Punk Rock is what they label their music

Of course I worried a little bit that I'd spent the summer revering this band and then when I heard Hell Hath No Fury I'd be disappointed (funny to say this because I know so many of the book bloggers who said this about my book), but that concern was totally unfounded. I got HHNF a week ago and I haven't listened to anything else since. I'm addicted the same way I was to Nirvana, Hole, and Rancid albums in high school where I literally just cannot stop listening. Like I said, this is really, really rare for me now.

Hell Hath No Fury is going to make my top albums of all-time list because not only is it some of the best punk rock I've heard in awhile, it's music that empowers women and girls and there has been a lack of that since the original riot grrrls. I could go into detail about why I love every track on the album because I do and there is not one I skip over while listening to it (again, that's a rare thing for me these days it seems), but there are a few in particular that stick out to me right now.

"Son of A Bitch" is still my favorite song. There are a lot of songs on this album that would have gotten me through bad breakups in the past and I will certainly be buying this CD for any of my friends going through heartache because it doesn't just help you get out the rage, it empowers you and encourages you to be true to yourself. Like the song "Brooklyn," which reminds us, "Don't ever let someone get in the way of what you love/I'm gonna stay true/I'm gonna stay gold." Then there is the last part of the song "You Don't Know Me" that I can just imagine me and my best girlfriends in high school chanting along to with Civet girls: "We got something that you can't touch/We got something that you can't touch/You can try really hard, but you can't beat us."

And I told my best friend that our new anthem is "All I Want," which is a song co-written with Tim Armstrong of Rancid because it's all about the importance of tight friendships between girls ("All I want is you to stand by my side/We've been through everything/We'll be sisters to the end/What's broken we will mend/Boys will come and boys will go just like street cars"). I really admire this song because I think there needs to be more celebration the importance of sisterhood instead of being women pitted against each other... Well, you know my feelings on saluting your sisters, that's why I do this blog.

Anyway so that is my big ol' salute to the femme fatale punk rock foursome, Civet. And I had really, really hoped to post an interview from them today, but they are busy ladies with this album just coming out. However, I couldn't wait any longer to post this feature on them because I am too excited about them and want to give them a big push right now when the album is fresh. When I do have the interview, I will post it, but in the meantime, I thought it would be cool to share these "Rock Journal" episodes that is doing on the band. It really gives us the behind-the-scenes of being in a band, which fascinates the hell out of me.

Also a few days ago, I shared the video for "Son of a Bitch" on my blog, well now Yahoo is doing this Who's Next thing where if you vote for Civet, they bring them into the studio for a performance. That would be rad as hell, so click here to vote for these fabulous ladies.


As always I'm doing a giveaway for my WWRW guests, so leave a comment to be entered to win a sweet promo copy of Hell Hath No Fury, this is a collectors item, not found in stores! I will choose the winner next Wednesday when one of my newfound favorite female authors, Cecil Castellucci, comes to visit us!

Last but not least, I have a big event tomorrow at the Oak Park Library, so if you are in the Chicago area, come out, hear me read, ask me a million questions and lets talk books and punk and women who rock!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I rocked Metro!

I did it! Reading at Metro might have been the scariest thing I've ever done in my life, but I did it! I spent all weekend full of anxiety, but when I finally walked on stage, I did it with confidence. I told myself, I deserve to be here, and I have to work the stage like I deserve it and I think I actually pulled it off! So thank you to all of you who sent me comments and messages of encouragement. It meant a lot to me and helped me muster up the necessary confidence. So here is the story of the night in photos.

The first thing we saw when we arrived was this:
My name on the Metro marquee. Holy crap, I can't even begin to express my excitement! I never ever thought I'd see it up there where I'd seen the names of all my favorite bands. So, Scott and I went in. There was a little confusion as to who we should talk to and for a moment they acted like Scott couldn't come in with me, but it quickly got straightened out. We waited in the hallway until the backstage area was ready. Bill Hillmann, the other reader and his wife came in and it was such a relief to see them because Bill was clearly as nervous as me, but also just as excited. It was good to hang out with someone who was feeling the same way. We tried to get over our nerves by snapping pictures of things with our names on it. Like the schedule:

And these flyers:

Then we explored the backstage area and walked on the stage where so many of our idols have played and of course posed for pictures.

Irvine showed up while we were hanging out on stage. We went downstairs with him to the backstage area where there was cold Stella Artois waiting for us (and the backstage manager was nice enough to get me some drink tickets since I'm not a beer drinker). We had a few beers and Irvine caught us up on his adventures on tour. He's always got wild stories to tell and the ability to make me laugh even when I'm scared shitless. Bill and I kinda sucked at keeping up our ends of the conversation though because we were both so nervous about going on.

I also got to meet Joe Shanahan, the owner of the Metro. Meeting Joe was like meeting a rock star. I'm so grateful to that man because his venue was my home away from home during my teenage years. I can't count how many Metro shows I've been to. I was trying to remember which was my first and thinking it was Beck, but I looked at my scrapbook filled with ticket stubs today and discovered it was Urge Overkill. Anyway, I think another thing that gave me confidence was the conversation Joe and I had before I went on. He told me how much he enjoyed the book and really felt like he was right there in the story. He also told me how River's Edge reminded him of the really early days of Metro when he was just having local punk bands like Articles of Faith. It just really gave me a surge of pride to know that my little punk book had impressed a true music connoisseur like Joe!

They ended up switching up how they were going to do things at the last minute and decided to just do music before and after the readings and have the three of us read right in a row, introduced by my former professor and another author I hugely admire, Don DeGrazia. Bill went on first and I watched from the side of the stage, which was a totally cool experience in and of itself, but also it just helped me build up my strength to go on even more to watch this guy who I'd spent the past hour being totally nervous with just own the stage. He read a short piece and then he did another completely improv, just telling the audience the story. It was freakin' amazing. I was so impressed and proud.

But when he walked off, I knew that I was moments away from going on. I reminded myself for the last time, that I deserved to be out there. That Irvine and Joe thought my book was good enough for me to be there. I also knew that my friends were up in the balcony to my left and they would be laughing at the right places and cheering for me. The crowd wasn't too huge since it was a Sunday night and Chicago had been in a state of torrential downpour all weekend, but I knew there were about 150 people out there. The beauty of it was that when I stepped into the spotlight, I realized I really couldn't see beyond the front row. That totally helped. I just pretended I was reading for about ten people and my friends up in the balcony and I read as I had been practicing. I really try to read from inside of the story when I read. I try to become Emily and use her inflections and emphasize certain words and lines the way I meant for them to sound when I wrote them. One of my regulars at the Beacon told me a couple days ago that that was what had really brought him into my story when I did my reading at the release party at the Beacon. "Just read your heart out like you did then and you'll be fine," he reassured me. I took that to heart and I was. I'd never gotten so much applause in my life. I can't tell you what a rush it was!

Scott took some pictures of me while I was reading, but they are a little dark and blurry because I guess he didn't want to use flash. The first one he took from the side of the stage and the others from the balcony:

We also took this picture of Irvine from the balcony while he read an excerpt from his new novel Crime. It's such a moving story. I bought the book and had him sign it while we were signing together and I can't wait to delve into it.Yeah, I also felt like such a rock star sitting beside Irvine Welsh and signing my book. Of course he signed twice as many books as I did, but the dude is a hero. I was just elated to be there and to have people coming up to me, telling me I did an awesome job and they were so excited to read my book. The Metro also had us sign a bunch of posters which they'll be auctioning off for charity at some point.

And they gave me four of the posters! I'll be getting one framed of course and giving one to my mom, but I imagine at least one will end up as a contest prize for a contest I run at some point. Of course I completely spaced on having Bill and Irvine sign my posters, but I'll see them both in a couple of weeks so hopefully I'll remember then.

I've gotta say that I've honestly never felt so good about myself and like I really am accomplished as a writer as I did right after Metro. It continued on to the next day too because I spent my afternoon yesterday at Columbia doing their Fiction Writers at Lunch event. It was so amazing to be the one giving the presentation when only three years ago I would have been watching it as a student. I could tell that I truly inspired some of the students and that really meant the world to me because I want all the creative people out there to acheive their dreams. Also one girl told me that my book photo didn't do me justice and I am totally gorgeous. As the girl who has always felt like an ugly duckling, that just made my day too.

So yeah, now it is time to pour some of this energy into my writing! But before I go, I just want to remind you that it's your last chance to enter to win a Gits cd by commenting on last week's Women Who Rock Wednesday blog. Also I did a couple more great interviews so go check them out on Angel Young's blog and Book Review Maniac!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Saturday Scribe and Sunday Read Against Recession

The fabulous book blogger Mrs. Magoo invited me to do one of her Saturday Scribe interviews. It was loads of fun, so go check it out here!

And tomorrow night is the big night. *GULP!* My Read Against Recession event with Irvine Welsh at the Metro. I read for 15 minutes starting at 7 pm. Doors open at 6 and you should plan to get there then because in the past Irvine's free events have filled to capacity. That's a thousand people. YIKES! I know because of the weather and such it may not be that huge, but still promises to be my biggest event yet, so please come and support me if you can and if you aren't in Chicago, cross your fingers and toes that I wow that audience and sell a lot of books and don't nervously trip over my reading and bore everyone to tears. Sigh, I'm gonna be okay, right???

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hearting Civet, Hating Palin

I want to say thank you to all of you leaving comments about the tribute to Mia. It's wonderful to read about all the lives she's touched. I've sucked at replying to blog comments lately because I'm still behind on everything, so excuse the mass thank you, but I hope to better with it and everything next week.

And because I'm so freakin' obsessed with the band Civet right and I want to get everyone pumped for their upcoming Women Who Rock Wednesday visit. I thought I'd share their music video for "Son of A Bitch" with you. This is the song that made me fall in love with them in a way I haven't fallen in love with a band since The Distillers. I hope they become hugely popular and famous because they totally deserve and they get me revved up the way music did in high school which just feels so good.

On another note, I need to get political for a second. If you don't like politics or don't agree with my politics (which I think I made pretty clear in the subject header), that's fine, you don't need to read the rest of this blog then. But due to the nature of my writing (stories that are punk rock and feminist), I'm guessing that many of you might be politically oriented. And I can't not share how I feel about the Republican Vice Presidential nominee, Sarah Palin.

I kept my boyfriend up late last night worrying about where we'll move if she and McCain get elected into office because I seriously could not handle being in this country anymore. Canada seems like the obvious choice, but I worry about work visas and if we can take the cats. I also pondered if one of us could get dual citizenship in the countries where our grandparents are from (Italy for him, Poland for me), but I'm really afraid we couldn't take the cats to Europe... I'm trying not to think about this right now and just focusing on Obama getting elected because I don't want to feel like I have to flee my home because Sarah Palin is like a natural diasaster. So the pro-Obama thing I've done today is contributed a signed copy of IWBYJR to a group doing a silent auction to fundraise for him and now I'm also writing this blog as a way of making my views public.

I'm disgusted by the nomination of Sarah Palin for many many reasons, but today the top reason is that I think it is such a slap in the face to American women, particularly to Hillary supporters, for the Republican party to choose her. I mean it really shows that Republicans think women, particularly Hillary supporters, are idiots. They really think that if they wave a woman in front of us, no matter how anti-women's rights that woman has to be, that we'll vote for her. Like we're more concerned about ovaries in the White House than, for example, our right to choose what happens to our bodies if we get raped. I mean, seriously, to say that even rape survivors shouldn't have rights to abortion??? Does this woman have any empathy? I have so many friends that are survivors of sexual abuse or assault and I wish I could make Palin to sit down and listen to all of our stories and what it would be like to have carry a physical, growing reminder of that for nine months. Ugh.

Anyway, I know many of my readers may be Hillary supporters and I do hope you won't fall for this Republican trick. Personally, I have been an Obama supporter all along because his beliefs were most in line with mine (there are no mainstream candidates that I would ever 100% support because I've got kind of radical political views), but I do admire Hillary for certain things and I do admire her supporters and like them, really want to see a woman in the White House in my life time. But not this woman.

There is a blog,, which is posting comments from women about the Palin nomination. I encourage my outraged female readers to contribute to it and my outraged male readers to pass this on to the woman in their lives. They invite you to reply to womensaynopalin at gmail dot com (don't spell out the at or dot) with a short, succinct message about why you, as a woman living in this country, do not support thiscandidate as second-in-command for our nation. Please include your name (last initial is fine), age, and place of residence. I have sent in my thoughts and will share them below. Also I would like to share something a a friend passed on to me by Eve Ensler creator of the Vagina Monologues as her thoughts are written much better than mine (it's been awhile since I wrote a good political piece I guess.)

Anyway my thoughts:

As the daughter of two healthcare workers, I cannot support Sarah Palin as a Vice Presidential candidate. My father is a public health worker who, among other things, has been working to end the AIDS crisis since the 80s. Palin's stance on sex education and birth control will set back all of the progress he and his colleagues have made. We need more education, not less. My mother, a neonatal nurse who often cares for premature infants from communities without access to birth control and sex eduation, can also speak to this.

As a long-time vegan and lifelong environmentalist, I cannot support Sarah Palin as a Vice Presidential candidate. The people of our nation have finally begun to recognize the danger our environment is in and have begun act on it. We need to keep that momentum going. Sarah Palin will deter those efforts and that would harm us all and leave our children and grandchildren with a world they may not be able to save.

As a writer, I cannot support Sarah Palin as a Vice Presidential candidate. She is a major threat to free speech and the exchange of ideas that makes this country great.

As a survivor of sexual abuse, I cannot support Sarah Palin as a Vice Presidential candidate. In stating that abortion should be illegal even in the case of rape, she shows absolutely no compassion for her fellow woman, especially those of us who have been violated.

Ultimately, as a women, I cannot support Sarah Palin as a Vice Presidential candidate because her views and policies would create an extremely dangerous world for me, my family, my friends, and especially their children.

Eve Ensler's piece:

Drill, Drill, Drill by Eve Ensler

I am having Sarah Palin nightmares. I dreamt last night that she was a member of a club where they rode snowmobiles and wore the claws of drowned and starved polar bears around their necks. I have a particular thing for Polar Bears. Maybe it's their snowy whiteness or their bigness or the fact that they live in the arctic or that I have never seen one in person or touched one. Maybe it is the fact that they live so comfortably on ice. Whatever it is, I need the polar bears.

I don't like raging at women. I am a Feminist and have spent my life trying to build community, help empower women and stop violence against them. It is hard to write about Sarah Palin. This is why the Sarah Palin choice was all the more insidious and cynical. The people who made this choice count on the goodness and solidarity of Feminists.

But everything Sarah Palin believes in and practices is antithetical to Feminism which for me is part of one story -- connected to saving the earth, ending racism, empowering women, giving young girls options, opening our minds, deepening tolerance, and ending violence and war.

I believe that the McCain/Palin ticket is one of the most dangerous choices of my lifetime, and should this country chose those candidates the fall-out may be so great, the destruction so vast in so many areas that America may never recover. But what is equally disturbing is the impact that duo would have on the rest of the world. Unfortunately, this is not a joke. In my lifetime I have seen the clownish, the inept, the bizarre be elected to the presidency with regularity.

Sarah Palin does not believe in evolution. I take this as a metaphor. In her world and the world of Fundamentalists nothing changes or gets better or evolves. She does not believe in global warming. The melting of the arctic, the storms that are destroying our cities, the pollution and rise of cancers, are all part of God's plan. She is fighting to take the polar bears off the endangered species list. The earth, in Palin's view, is here to be taken and plundered. The wolves and the bears are here to be shot and plundered. The oil is here to be taken and plundered. Iraq is here to be taken and plundered. As she said herself of the Iraqi war, "It was a task from God."

Sarah Palin does not believe in abortion. She does not believe women who are raped and incested and ripped open against their will should have a right to determine whether they have their rapist's baby or not.

She obviously does not believe in sex education or birth control. I imagine her daughter was practicing abstinence and we know how many babies that makes.

Sarah Palin does not much believe in thinking. From what I gather she has tried to ban books from the library, has a tendency to dispense with people who think independently. She cannot tolerate an environment of ambiguity and difference. This is a woman who could and might very well be the next president of the United States. She would govern one of the most diverse populations on the earth.

Sarah believes in guns. She has her own custom Austrian hunting rifle. She has been known to kill 40 caribou at a clip. She has shot hundreds of wolves from the air.

Sarah believes in God. That is of course her right, her private right. But when God and Guns come together in the public sector, when war is declared in God's name, when the rights of women are denied in his name, that is the end of separation of church and state and the undoing of everything America has ever tried to be.

I write to my sisters. I write because I believe we hold this election in our hands. This vote is a vote that will determine the future not just of the U.S., but of the planet. It will determine whether we create policies to save the earth or make it forever uninhabitable for humans. It will determine whether we move towards dialogue and diplomacy in the world or whether we escalate violence through invasion, undermining and attack. It will determine whether we go for oil, strip mining, coal burning or invest our money in alternatives that will free us from dependency and destruction. It will determine if money gets spent on education and healthcare or whether we build more and more methods of killing. It will determine whether America is a free open tolerant society or a closed place of fear, fundamentalism and aggression.

If the Polar Bears don't move you to go and do everything in your power to get Obama elected then consider the chant that filled the hall after Palin spoke at the RNC, "Drill Drill Drill." I think of teeth when I think of drills. I think of rape. I think of destruction. I think of domination. I think of military exercises that force mindless repetition, emptying the brain of analysis, doubt, ambiguity or dissent. I think of pain.

Do we want a future of drilling? More holes in the ozone, in the floor of the sea, more holes in our thinking, in the trust between nations and peoples, more holes in the fabric of this precious thing we call life?

Okay, I will get off my soapbox for now and go listen to more Civet since this is clearly a time for real girl power!!!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Women Who Rock Wednesday: A Tribute to Mia Zapata and The Gits

Welcome to Women Who Rock Wednesday where I shine the spotlight on a female who I think rocks and who is doing something I think you should know about. Last week, I introduced you all the the fabulous up-and-coming fashion designer Alyse Frank of DeCatoure Clothing and Alyse generously put up a red polka-dot corset that she designed as a prize. The winner of this totally unique garment is... B from MySpace!!! ( ) So B, send me a myspace message with your address and I will forward it along to Alyse!!!

Well, I'd planned to feature one of my new favorite bands, Civet, today, but since their album Hell Hath No Fury just came out yesterday, they are swamped with press so we're gonna have to push that back to next week.

So instead, I am going do a tribute to one of my all time favorite female musicians, Mia Zapata, and her band the Gits. The Gits were one of the bands that got me through high school. I loved them so much that I ended up going to college at Antioch College in Ohio partly because that was where they'd formed. Mia Zapata seemed to speak directly to my soul. She knew my pain, my passion, my joy. I can't count how many hard times songs like "Another Shot of Whiskey," "Second Skin," and "Seaweed" have gotten me through. And if anyone is wondering what my character Emily Black's singing voice sounds like in my head? It's the blues-infused wail of Mia Zapata.

Unfortunately, Mia Zapata was murdered 15 years ago, so I can't have her here today to tell you about herself and her band and probably make you laugh and totally fall in love with her music. But her bandmate Steve Moriarty has written an absolutely beautiful tribute to Mia that tells the story of their band the Gits. Steve has also agreed to send one lucky person a copy of my favorite Gits album, Frenching the Bully, and I think he'll probably even sign it for ya. As usual that winner will be chosen at random from the comments, so please comment away about anything you like after reading Steve's story:

Zapata and THE GITS

My name is Steve... and I am a Sniveling Little Rat Faced Git. I played drums in THE GITS among other bands for a long ass time. Not all the bands were that great but THE GITS were. We formed THE GITS in 1986. The Sniveling Little Rat Faced Gits, stolen from a Monty Python episode, this was the only name which could describe our dorkiness and general lack of social grace. We shortened it to THE GITS to fit on our demo tape, which eventually became the Kings and Queens CD.

We wrote songs and played shows. Mia and Andy wrote most of the songs but I was always there to help with rhythms and arrangements. Mia and I could sync up effortlessly and that became true of all of us as a group. In the summer of '89 we moved to Seattle for no particularly good reason. We played the clubs up and down the West Coast relentlessly. During that time we played the scene with small up-and-coming bands like: Nirvana, Beck, Sublime, No Doubt and Green Day. THE GITS were never as financially successful as any of those bands. All the money we made went into maintenance and gas for our 1976 GMC tour van. It ran on (very green) leaded gasoline. We lived out of that van on tour. We just wanted to play and tour. We were purists and we loved what we were doing.

In 1991 we booked a tour of punk squats and community centers across Western Europe and Scandinavia. We loved playing in Europe and the people we played for loved us too. Energized by the tour, we came back to the states and played with a mission and rage like no other band out there. And there were a lot of bands in Seattle at the time. We recorded our first album, "Frenching the Bully", which ended with the song that seemed to have something special. That song was Second Skin. It was our fan's version of a hit. Not in the top 40 sense, but in the realm of human connection and universality. I have been told more than once that "Second Skin" saved some one's life. "Frenching the Bully" was very well received in the press and got widely reviewed around the world. The album got unprecedented reviews for such a relatively unknown small band. Even the snobby English press like N.M.E. and Melody Maker gave it great write-ups.

We continued to play live as much as possible, and went into the studio to record a second album. We had finished most of the music tracks and decided to do a tour before putting on the finishing touches. On that tour we played flawlessly.

After a pair of well attended shows in L.A. record companies took notice of our band. An A&R dude at Atlantic Records drew up a contract to offer to us. We never got the offer because on July 7, 1993 our friend and singer Mia was brutally raped and murdered by a stranger on the street in Seattle.

That’s the short story of THE GITS. But Stephanie has asked me to write about my friend and our singer Mia Zapata. John Lydon (Aka Johnny Rotton of the Sex Pistols) was asked to comment about the death of Pistol’s bass player Sid Vicious he said, “He was my friend, he died and I miss him.”

That is what I’d like to say about Mia. She was my friend, I loved her, she died and I miss her terribly. I think perhaps the best way to describe her as a musician and a band member is to allow the people who have been touched by her voice and lyrics to tell you how they feel.
I thought I would present some quotes for you to get an idea of how Mia affected people who knew her and people who just heard the music or saw us play live. All that is left is for you to listen to the records and interpret the music in your own way, how it best suits you. Enjoy.

Mia i never knew you but i've seen you sing your heart out many times. thanks for being who you were. i know you are one bad ass angel.
i miss you.

To Mia's family I send my thanks for bringing her in to this world. I hope that this resolution can bring you a small bit of peace. Her energy and spirit touched everyone who knew her. I'm thankful for the time that she was my friend and the fun times we had together. I miss you every day Mia.

I thought that by them bringing Mia's killer to "justice", I'd magically feel better and think pretty, happy thoughts about the beauty that was robbed from us. I find the only thing that has happening is the blunt realization that there is no "justice" to make everything change back to the way things were before. We miss you Mia. My hope is you find everlasting peace.

very good verse from bhagavad gita I pray for liberation and eternal joy for mia . thankyou that the demon is caught

I'll never forget the first time I heard the Gits and Mia's voice. I can't tell you how many times I've played the records, I had to buy an extra copy of the Second Skin single because I was afraid of wearing it out.Thank you for this website, for keeping that music alive, and for making people in that court feel how great a loss her murder was to so many people.

Thank you Mia for continuing to give me strength and inspiration. With every photo I print of you, I learn a little bit more about your spirit. With every word I read/hear about or from you, more of your spirit lives on. Peace Mia. Viva Zapata!

Hello from all the way down in Queensland Australia. Even for an extremely long distance, but still immensely passionate,fan like myself it is great to finally get some type of closure in the resultant prosecution. GITS music will always have a secure place in my heart. THANKS ETERNALLY TO MIA & ALL THE GITS.

I still get goosebumps when I hear Mia's voice...thank you for keeping the music and her spirit alive.
Take care.

Some Gits music:

If reading about the Gits has inspired you to learn more about them and their music, you can check out to find out more about the brilliant recent documentary about them and also visit to order their music. Of course you can also enter to win a copy of Frenching the Bully by leaving a comment. You can speak to Steve's moving tribute, tell how The Gits make you feel if you are familiar with their music, or just say whatever is on your mind. The winner will be chosen at random and announced next Wednesday when I bring you Civet!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

IWBYJR nominated for Best Book of 2008 by Venus Zine!!!

I got the most thrilling news yesterday! Venus Zine, one of my all time favorite magazines released their nominations for the 2008 Hottt List and I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE has been nominated for Best Book of 2008!!! My little book about a punk rock girl is up there with books by the likes of David Sedaris, Chelsea Handler, Michael Chabon, and Curits Sittenfield among others! I'm so totally honored to be on this list though I have my doubts about actually winning because um, those guys are all bestsellers and I'm totally not. But hopefully a lot of people will want to root for the underdog and will vote for IWBYJR. If it does manage to win, it will be featured in the Winter Issue of Venus, which is just huge for me! So if you wanna help the cause, go here to vote for IWBYJR:

Man, that is kinda weird asking people to vote for me. I never ran for anything in my life! Since I feel a little bit awkward about blogging totally to self promote, I'm going to do a meme I got from the fabulous Tara Kelly's blog.

The 20 questions meme:

A) People who are tagged must answer on their blogs and replace any horrid question with questions of their own design.

B) Tag 8 people to do this quiz. These people must state who they were tagged by & cannot tag the person whom they were tagged by. Continue this game by sending it to other people.

1. How many songs are on your iPod?

2. Last book I really enjoyed?
Beige by Cecil Castellucci. It's on the best books of all time list. I love a lot of books, but this one really does get top honors

3. What magazines do you have subscriptions to? Bleh. New question: Do you have a secret you'd like to share? No secrets. New question: Are you going to any concerts soon?
I just got tickets for Rise Against last night when I realized that because my work schedule had changed I could go to a show on Thursday night. I've never seen them live so I am sooooooooo psyched.

4. What is your favorite scent?
Rain, my boy, orchids, my garden

5. If you had a million dollars that you could only spend on yourself, what would you do with it?
I'd pay off my debts, maybe upgrade to house with a backyard and then invest what was left so I don't have to work and can write full-time. that would be the best gift I could give myself.

6. What is your theme song?
My theme song depends on the moment, but one of them is I Am A Revenant by the Distillers just because it is about surviving your worst moments and drawing strength from them and that pretty much sums up my past.

7. Do you trust easily?

8. Do you generally think before you act, or act before you think?
A bit of both. I tend to be an overthinker which can be horrible at times, but when I act before I think, I tend to regret things. I need to learn how to think without over thinking.

9. Is there anything that has made you unhappy these days? No negativity! New question: What are you most looking forward to right now?
Civet's album Hell Hath No Fury, which came out today. I'm waiting for my record store to get it in, but I'm dying I've been wanting to listen to this for like 5 months now.

10. Do you have a good body image?
I try to. I still beat myself up over certain things though and I'm trying to get over that. It's really a matter of having the right fitness routine. When I had that a year or so ago, I was happier with myself than I'd ever been.

11. Is being tagged fun? New question: What's one thing you love to do that you really suck at?
Play guitar. *Huge sigh*

12. What websites do you visit daily?
Google, Gmail, MySpace, Facebook, Blogger, LiveJournal

13. What have you been seriously addicted to lately?
Popcorn. I think the thing I missed most about working at the Beacon was that I have an endless supply of fresh-popped popcorn when I'm working. I eat at least two baskets per shift.

14. What kind of person do you think the person who tagged you is?

Tara is a kick ass girl, a talented writer and musician, and just the kind of girl I want to hang out with all the time, but we live across the country from each other so LiveJournal friends it is.

15. What's the last song that got stuck in your head?
Son of a Bitch by Civet

16. What's your favorite item of [clothing]jewelry?
I have two very special rings that I wear everyday. One is the promise ring Scott gave me. The other I wear on a chain, it was my friend Marcel's ring. When his family found out how much it meant to me, they insisted that I be the one to keep it. It was one of the best gifts I have ever been given.

17. Do you think Rice Crispies are yummy?
I like them in Rice Crispie treats when they are made vegan.

18. What would you do if you saw $100 lying on the ground?
Take my boyfriend out to dinner.

19. What [item] could you not go without during the day?
My Blackberry. Yeah it is crack.

20. What should you be doing right now?
Writing. Gonna go do that now.

As for tagging, I'm not much with the tagging. Whoever is looking for something fun to do, should play.

Monday, September 8, 2008

"Without opposition there is no growth."

"Without opposition there is no growth. It is hard to argue with that logic. A state in which we are free from problems or constraints is not happiness. Happiness is transcending all opposition and obstacles and continuing to grow."

This is today's quote from "For Today and Tomorrow Daily Encouragement" by Daisaku Ikeda. A Buddhist friend of mine gave this book to me a few weeks ago along with some other materials. I read from the book each morning and I've begun chanting. I've never been a religious person. This isn't a blog about religion, I promise you, but I just need to explain how I ended up chanting briefly. Feel free to skim over the following and skip to my point, which I've bolded below for your convenience.

My dad was raised Lutheran, was Atheist at the time he had me (now he's converted to Judiasm because his new wife is Jewish...) and my mom was raised Catholic, but due to her marriage stopped practicing, so my brother and I were raised with no religious upbringing except for a brief bout in the Mennonite church because we were friends with a family across the street from us and the dad was a Mennonite pastor. I've never connected with Christianity though. I considered myself Wiccan and practiced Wicca in my late teens/early twenties, but never with much regularity. By my mid-twenties, I basically considered myself Atheist. Then, as you know, three of my friends died all within nine months. Marcel's death in June particularly rocked me. I didn't need "something to believe in" so to speak, but I needed something to ground me, to focus me, to make me feel like I am in control of my own life even though loved ones can be taken from us in an instant and there is nothing that I can do about that; I can't and haven't been able to control when I am able to fall asleep for 16 years now; and I can write a book, pour my whole soul into it, and not control if people will like it or how well it does, etc. I vented about all of this to my friend and she told me about chanting, how it is not about asking some higher power for help, a concept which I have never been able to grasp, but it is about focusing your own energy and inner resources on what you need and want. Plus it forces you to slow down and meditate basically, which I really need. So I've been trying to get into the routine of chanting. Anyway, on to my point.

My point is that it's Monday morning and I really need to believe in the quote at the beginning of the blog. I had a shitty weekend. A really shitty weekend. I believe on Friday I mentioned that my roof was leaking? Well, I spent each day just hoping that Scott's dad's friend would have time to come over and look at it and that it wouldn't rain in the meantime. Stressed beyond belief because if it did leak, it was leaking into my office, which is my sacred space on so many levels. Stressed because I had no idea how much it would cost and I've quit the job with the stable income. Stressed because it has been really slow at the bar all week. Angry for about the thirtieth time at the jerk who owned the house before me and lied about and covered up numerous problems with the house (I may not be religious, but I've always believed in Karma and I hope his is coming...), not to mention all the repairs he did do on the house have turned out to be cheap, such as this roof which was supposed to be good for 10 years, but lo and behold it's been 5 and the flashing (don't ask me what that is, I am just repeating back terms said to me) is coming up or something and it is going to have to be resealed. Anyway so I spent the whole weekend stressed and when I'm stressed my sleep is even worse than usual. The roof didn't get fixed until this morning and while I cannot really complain because Scott's dad and his friend did me a HUGE favor and though I'm still not sure what it's gonna cost me, I know it's gonna cost much less than anyone else would charge, but the thing that sucked was that I got home from work around 2:30 am last night, due to my sleeping issues, I didn't fall asleep until 3:30 or 4. The roof work started at 7. I tried to sleep with ear plugs and a pillow over my head til about 9 with little success and finally got up with a throbbing headache.

I'm telling myself that this is the end of the bad though. I am reciting the quote from the beginning of the blog over and over and telling myself this will be a good week. I will finally adjust to my new routine. I will finally catch up on all the email and interview questions and such and this week I will finally write. I will write through the opposition. When I am stressed I feel the worst about my writing. And dude, after this weekend, I am so done going on Goodreads. The negative shit about the book on there totally overpowers the positive stuff and yesterday in the midst of my stress, I went on there just to approve a friend request, thought oh, I'll see if the requestor said anything about the book and then bam, I find the following one star review from some guy (not the requestor) named Jay, "probably the worst book written in the 21st century. that includes all books yet to be written in the coming 92 years." Wow, thanks for making me cry in the shower, Jay. Seriously, I hope it makes you feel good to be that full of bile and just shit all over someone's hard work like that. I had a mini-breakdown about being totally worthless as a writer. I thought maybe I'm having a hard time focusing and pouring myself into my next two projects because I just suck and I should give up and go back to being an office slave. Then I got a very sweet email from my friend Amber telling me I'm her idol and one from my friend Jenny reminding me never to give up on my dreams and what I love about life. This morning I got a message from a dear named Andrea on myspace, who sent me a link to her review of my book and she obviously totally completely got the book and is the kind of person I cared about connecting with it.

It's still hard to shake that scathing review, but "without opposition there is no growth." I will fight for my happiness. I had to fight to become the person who could write and publish a book to begin with, who could follow her dreams like Emily in IWBYJR as opposed to stagnate because of her pain like Louisa. So I'll keep fighting. And I strive to someday handle bad reviews as well as Brad Meltzer:

And you know why else I want to be like Brad? Because they released a companion soundtrack to his latest book, Book of Lies! I got a press release about the soundtrack a couple weeks ago and had been meaning to blog about how jealous I was that his publisher did this, but I got bogged down. Here is what Meltzer said about why he did a soundtrack to the book:
"Music is manipulative, it helps evoke an emotion. Every time I write a book I write in complete silence but there is always as soundtrack in my head as I write....What you hear [in the soundtrack] is as close as I can give you to what I'm feeling as I'm writing.”

I thought that was pretty cool and basically how I feel about books and music, too. Maybe if I become a bestseller like him one day I can convince my publisher that my book needs a soundtrack! The Book of Lies Soundtrack has a wide range of stuff on it from an REM song to a song composed about the book. And that's what I think would be really cool is to someday write a book and work with a musician friend (like my friend Jenny who records under the name Heilige and writes totally amazing stuff that you can hear on her myspace, the first few songs are covers, but scroll down to the last two "In Pieces" and "Get Rid of Me" which I have been listening to a ton) to create an original soundtrack to it. What do you guys think? Would you be interested in buying soundtracks for books? (If you are, and you are planning to read Book of Lies, you should pick up the soundtrack too to show publishers you like this kind of thing!) Which of your favorite books do you wish had a soundtrack?

Okay, I'm feeling better now, focusing on that quote and listening to Jenny's music. If you had a bad weekend or a rotten Monday, I hope sharing that quote helped you too. Also, if you are in the Chicago area, please come hang with me tonight at Thomas Ford Memorial Library in Western Springs at 7 pm tonight. I'll read and answer questions and talking to interested readers always reinvigorates me!