Category Archives: TV time

why would you enrage a pregnant woman?, part one

sometimes i think that if jared & i hadn’t been trying to get pregnant, & i didn’t obsessively test & then run off to my ob-gyn at the first opportunity for confirmation, i could have wound up on a TV show like “i didn’t know i was pregnant”. allow me to add that i have never seen an entire episode of “i didn’t know i was pregnant,” but for those of you who haven’t seen it at all: it features talking head interviews with real people who didn’t know they were pregnant, interspersed with dramatic black & white re-enactments of the ladies giving birth on toilets (always on toilets…maybe occasionally a favorite barcalounger). in my limited viewing, it was unclear to me if the re-enactments featured actors or the actual surprise-pregnant ladies themselves. i think either option is hilarious in a different way.

i do have pregnancy symptoms. but they’re so mild that i could probably chalk them up to the heat or a bad mood or something if i didn’t know better. i had much stronger, more obvious pregnancy symptoms the last time i was pregnant (when i wasn’t trying).

i went in for a second sonogram last week, because i am bound & determined to turn this little baby inside out before it gets born. actually it was just to make sure there’s a heartbeat & that it’s growing at a decent rate & looking viable & everything. & everything looked good. heart rate was 128 beats per minute. we didn’t get to hear it, but we could see it flickering. or, i could, anyway. i asked jared & he admitted he didn’t see anything. i’m about seven & a half weeks at this point, give or take a few days.

when we left the sonogram, i told jared that it still doesn’t seem real to me. like, at all. i have stopped flipping out about needing baby supplies because i feel like it’s inconceivable that i am actually pregnant & going to have a baby. it’s kind of cool to see the little gray lump that is supposedly the baby & have some photographic evidence of its existence…but it looks so much like the “photographic evidence” of the loch ness monster that i am still kind of reserving judgment. i just can’t wrap my head around the fact that we are going to have a new roommate next year, & it’s someone we know nothing about. we have no idea what its personality will be like, how it will sleep, what it will like to do in its leisure time…

jared told me that it seems very, very real to him. i asked him to tell me his secret because its supposedly living in me & i feel zero connection. but of course it’s not really the kind of thing you can put into words & convince another person of.

the one aspect of my pregnancy symptoms that is pretty pronounced is my afore-mentioned pregnancy rage. it lies dormant from time to time, only to be riled by the most absurd, inconsequential bullshit. & no matter how aware i am that i am getting seriously pissed about something completely meaningless, i can’t stop myself. case in point: on sunday night, i gave facebook a quick scroll before going to bed, & one of my assbasket facebook friends spoiled that night’s episode of “mad men”. jared & i don’t have cable (we don’t even have a TV), so we subscribe to the “mad men” season pass feature on itunes & usually watch the new episodes on monday night. in this modern world of tivo & internet TV, i think that’s pretty common. even people that do have TVs don’t necessarily watch the shows they like as they air.

i went into the bedroom & told jared, “some asshole on facebook just spoiled the most recent episode of ‘mad men’ for me. what the fuck?” he said, “we better nip this in the bud quickly, before it trickles down to me.” which made me laugh & i kind of forgot about it.

until i went on facebook yesterday & saw the comments on the spoiler. most people were like, “whoa! uncool, bro!” but one friend of the asshole in question (or maybe a relative? they have the same last name) was all, “maybe this will teach you all not to use social media if you don’t want to be spoiled.” there were some other comments about how we should all get cable if we want our favorite TV shows to be fresh & new when we watch them.

the rage that filled me was rather like what i imagine the big macy’s thanksgiving day parade charlie brown float feels as he is inflated with helium. this was about more than TV. it was about the fact that we live in 2012 & apparently some morons still haven’t wrapped their heads around the fact that spoiling new books/TV/movies on social networking websites literally within an hour of their release is generally frowned upon. the #1 jerk in the situation, rather than saying something like, “oops! sorry, guys!” instead wrote, “you shouldn’t have read it if you didn’t want to be spoiled,” even though there was no indication that she was going to write a spoiler. she also said, “how was i supposed to know that none of my FB friends watch this show until monday?” i don’t know. maybe that’s where you err on the side of caution so as to not be a prize asshole?

SPOILERS AHEAD! STOP READING NOW IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOST RECENT EPISODE & REALLY WANT TO BE SURPRISED! the thing that REALLY pissed me off once i watched the episode, though, was that what she wrote was both a spoiler & a complete idiot’s guide to misapprehending the nature of the event. she wrote, “don draper is such an asshole. i can’t believe he made lane kill himself.” then, in defense to all the people that were like, “whoa, dude, uncool!” she claimed that she just posted it because she wanted to discuss this development with other people who had seen the show. when someone who had seen it did initiate a conversation, all she had to add was, “i liked lane.” wow, that’s some scintillating analysis! tell me more about your deep thirst for intellectual conversation about this fucking TV show.

but even more annoying than that is that obviously don didn’t “make” anyone hang themselves. lane embezzled from the company & was already suffering from a lot of personal stress, including a rocky relationship with his wife. he got busted for the embezzling & don very politely requested that lane resign from the company. he didn’t get the authorities involved, he didn’t publicly fire him, he didn’t even tell the other partners what lane had done. he didn’t let lane get away with stealing from the company…but lane was apparently so stressed out about his money woes & the terror of having to start over at a new job somewhere else that he killed himself. it had fuck-all to do with don. i hate this notion that people kill themselves because someone was mean to them, or someone didn’t enable them to be assholes or criminals or whatever. when don asked for his resignation, lane was all, “i’ve been operating at a loss for three years!…how will i afford tuition for my son’s posh boarding school?” i don’t know, brother. that’s on you. when you find out you’re not making enough money to cover your outgoing, you find ways to cut back. you don’t steal from your place of business. i’m especially unsympathetic because lane was undoubtedly making a fucking fortune by 1967 standards; he just wasn’t willing to compromise on his chosen lifestyle. so he killed himself instead. whatever.


so, yeah, this is about hollaback

last night jared & i watched a couple more episode of “treme”. it just seems like the thing to watch when it’s 93 degrees out & wicked humid. i read a TV review of something recently that said something like, “why do we watch TV that we feel is good for us, like ‘treme,’ instead of TV we actually like?” it made me laugh. “treme” is by the same dude who did “the wire” & i loved “the wire”. i guess it would count as both TV that is good for me & TV i sincerely liked. but “treme” (thus far–we are three episodes in) lacks some of the characters i found so compelling on “the wire”. everyone who has watched “the wire” loves omar, but i also found stringer bell super fascinating. i loved it when he started taking economics classes so as to better run his drug business, & when he made the baltimore druglords attend meetings run according to “robert’s rules of order”. i was legit sad when (SPOILER) he died. there were also plenty of characters that i disliked or found boring (ziggy was at the top of both those lists), but so far, pretty much every character on “treme” is kind of boring. maybe it gets better?

today was not my best day ever. i was feeling pretty strong because i hadn’t had a cigarette in almost a week. i have been speculating that part of my current struggle with depression is because i have a finite amount of willpower, & i usually use a lot of mental tricks to keep my tendency toward depression in check, but right now all my willpower is being devoted to giving up smoking. it doesn’t help that the whole reason i started smoking in the first place was because it served as a dysfunctional self-destructive coping mechanism to sublimate my depression. when i started smoking in 2006, i was going through a really severe depression with shit tons of suicidal ideation. i think most people would agree that cigarettes are the lesser of two evils when the other option is suicide. cigarettes evolved into another mental health trick for me. it’s always obvious that i am having a lot of anxiety because i tend to chainsmoke like crazy.

anyway, i have been feeling less of an urge to smoke with every passing day, which has freed up some mental space to do a little more caretaking around depression issues. but i submitted to temptation like an hour ago & bought a pack of smokes. i only had about five drags before i snuffed out the first cigarette. that’s good–i guess i really don’t have much interest in smoking anymore. i think that shows that i really do want to quit. maybe i had to stumble in order to show myself what i really wanted. preach it!

my friend jaimie has been talking about starting a hollaback group in lawrence for a few months. when she first brought it up, i was like, “oh, another feminist activist thing? yeah, dude, sign me up!” but then i looked into what it really was & started to feel conflicted. hollaback is indeed a feminist activist thing, with an emphasis on fighting back against street harassment in a variety of ways. local groups structure their groups in their own ways & organize their own activities to achieve various goals, but the main goal is ending street harassment. i have to admit, i am not that interested in making street harassment my number one activist goal. plus, the language on the main hollaback website makes it pretty obvious that a big hollaback value is to conceive of street harassment as a manifestation of system patriarchal violence against women. i totally am on board with that. but obviously that is the same problem that also causes sexual assault, domestic violence, etc etc. & there is also the fact that not all things that i would consider street harassment are just dudes yelling sexual things at ladies. i think any street level verbal abuse is street harassment, & it might be sexual, homophobic, fatphobic, transphobic, racist, etc. the victims can be of any gender, as can the perpetrators. (though i agree with the hollaback values statement indicating that because of patriarchal power dynamics, most sexual street harassment is directed against people perceived as female & usually comes from cisgendered dudes.)

but i was like, well, maybe street harassment is not, like, THE issue i am the most passionate about, but it’s not like i’m okay with it, so…sure. i can do this hollaback thing & see what happens. so jaimie was like, “awesome! okay. we have to do these mandatory webinars. someone will have to take notes & report back to the rest of the group & then we can be part of the next website launch cycle,” etc etc etc. & i was like, “…what?” i mean, pretty much the one upside to being disabled & not being able to work is that i was pretty confident that i would never have to attend a webinar. so i talked to jaimie about & read through the literature about the process of starting a local hollaback group. there are mandatory webinars which “give you access to hollaback’s international resources”. sounds pretty awesome until you realize that there is little concrete info about what those “international resources” actually are. i finally talked to someone who was actually involved in starting a hollaback group from the ground up & she explained that the mandatory webinars function to let new groups know that having a hollaback group is a significant output of time & energy. apparently a lot of people were getting pumped about the idea, starting groups, & then running out of steam. anyone who has done activism is familiar with this dynamic. keeping a collective group going definitely takes some effort. so now the main group makes new groups do webinars to get a sense of their commitment.

so…basically they are protecting their brand? i mean, i understand that they don’t want people using their name all willy nilly & being irresponsible & making hollaback look flaky. i think the fact that i was a hardcore anarchist activist for so many years has affected me more than i thought it had, in that i chafe big time at anything that smacks of centralized decision-making or hoop-jumping. i just kind of take it for granted that a lot of people are flaky & aren’t gonna do the shit they say they’re gonna do. it bothers me, for sure, but i can’t pretend to be totally pumped about the idea of pledging my allegiance to the hollaback name before i am even allowed to start a local group. there’s also a conceit to this, like people couldn’t work just as effectively against street harassment (& possibly MORE effectively around other issues) without the hollaback name?

i don’t know. in an attempt to gather more opinions on the issue & try to make a decision about how much to commit to the local group, i wound up having a weird argument with some hollaback supporters. i don’t even know how it happened. it seemed to boil down to them not liking the fact that i am sarcastic. hey dudes? i am wicked sarcastic. if i can’t be sarcastic, it’s not my revolution! i talked to jaimie again afterward & she was like, “basically, i just want to do awesome feminist activism with women in lawrence. i am passionate about street harassment so hollaback seemed like a good fit. but i just want to do feminist activism & i don’t care if we use the hollaback name or not. also, we are way snarkier than people can really handle & that is why i’m glad we’re friends.” & since that sums up my feelings on the issue pretty much exactly, i am happy. & still totally willing to check out this hollaback thing firsthand & see if it interests me or not. i am just disturbed on a certain level that other feminist activists seem to be seeing this group as above critique. NOTHING IS ABOVE CRITIQUE, GUYS. also: CRITIQUE IS NOT A BAD THING. critique is not criticism, critique is not an act of tearing something down. critique doesn’t even mean you have to change. i am totally willing to accept that many of the things i am critiquing about hollaback are what makes it work for the people for whom it works. my critiques could be evidence that i am in fact not the right fit for hollaback. i think the only way to create real, lasting change is through a diversity of approaches, tactics, & personalities. but that means we have to dialogue with one another & talk about what’s working for different people & why & what’s not working & why, & then refine & retool. that’s what critique is, dude.

vintage management: slumlords

i think that looking for apartments is ruining my life. jared & i arranged to do another walk-through over at Tiny House the other day. Tiny House is a tiny house in east lawrence that we kind of liked. it has that old-house charm, wood floord, big yard, etc etc, but it’s only one bedroom. i liked it quite a bit, despite acknowledging its Tininess. jared thought it was cute, but was really too Tiny. for whatever reason, he conceded to me & agreed to fill out an application for it. when i dropped our applications off, the property manager told me that another couple had beaten us to applying for Tiny House by about twenty minutes. if there’s nothing wrong with their applications, they’ll get Tiny House. if there’s some kind of hitch, we can swoop it & take it.

i rather surprised myself by crying about the idea of someone else living in Tiny House. it’s not that i was in love with it & thought it was perfect. honestly, i found it merely adequate. there are undoubtedly other rental properties in lawrence that are more suitable to our needs. maybe it was just the frustration of having seen it first, having dragged our feet a little with the applications (not having them ready to go as soon as we finished the second walk-through), having stopped to get ice cream & pre-natal vitamins before dropping off the applications…

anyway, jared gave me a little pep talk to make me feel better. it turns out that he was far less excited about Tiny House than he let on. he found it patently too Tiny, despite everything he said about how, “we could make this work. we can use smart storage solutions & be really happy in Tiny House.” suddenly the truth came out. Tiny House’s main identifying characteristic was also its primary failing. so i took some deep breaths & was like, “okay, this is early days yet. a lot of the most interesting properties in town aren’t even on the market yet. we’ll find something. & if we don’t…there’s nothing wrong with our current apartment. we don’t HAVE to move.”

well, scratch that. we DO have to move. i called my landlord this morning to inquire about the fact that everyone else in our building has received their letters asking if they want to renew their leases for august or not. i was just checking in because the renewal letters include the rent increases, & the rent increase would decide whether or not we really need to commit to finding a new place to live. my landlord informed me, “you didn’t get a letter because i didn’t send you one. i’m not renewing your lease.”

i said, “may i ask why not?”

he said, “because you called the city on me. i don’t renew leases for tenants who call the city on me.” (readers may recall that i was forced to call the city on him last fall after he flat out refused to install a bathroom door in our apartment, in violation of the city housing code. the housing inspector called him & threatened legal action if he did not install a bathroom door. he installed a bathroom door within days & we haven’t had any problems with him or the apartment since.)

i said, “refusing to renew our lease for that reason is retaliatory & retaliating against tenants who call the city to have their rights enforced is illegal.”

he said, “so it is.” & hung up on me.

so i called the city AGAIN & made an appointment to file a formal complaint about his retaliation. not that it really changes anything. i don’t know that the city has the power to FORCE him to renew our lease, & i don’t think we would be especially interested in renewing a lease with a landlord who straight up engages in that kind of illegal behavior. i don’t really know what, if anything, there is to be done about this, especially because the laws in kansas are so skewed in favor of protecting landlords. tenants in kansas have almost no rights. & clearly, when we do pursue the few rights we have, our landlords just violate some more of our rights. lawrence really needs a tenants union.

anyway, this means that we really do need to find a new place to live for august. i just talked to a landlord who owns a lot of the apartments above businesses downtown. she sold me on a historic two-bedroom apartment right on massachusetts st., right in our price range. living on massachusetts st. may be just as noisy as living on tennessee st., but since living on tennessee st. is no longer an option, i don’t know that i care. it’s walkable to the university, obviously walkable to downtown because it’s IN downtown, hardwood floors, etc. i’m in love with it already, but i think that all of this fucked up apartment searching/landlord asshole behavior bullshit has just given me stockholm syndrome. i feel like i would rent a cardboard box if it had some wood laminate & an east lawrence address.

i told jared the other day that i really don’t think he understands how stressful it is to look for apartments. we more or less collaborated on finding our first apartment in lawrence, &…well…look how that turned out. that was the one we had to actually have condemned by the city. jared loved the place, i hated it, but i bit my tongue because jared was so lukewarm about all the other places we’d seen (which were all with the same evil landlord that rented us an uninhabitable apartment, so i’m certainly not arguing that any of them would have been any better). i learned that i really shouldn’t stay quiet when i’m looking at an apartment i don’t feel great about. i have put my head down & done most of the heavy lifting with every apartment since then (in terms of looking, not in terms of moving) & it really sucks. it’s a process of sending dozens of e-mails into the ether to landlords who never get back to you. spending hours on the phone trying to schedule showings & sort out applicant rules. going to showings all over town, standing around waiting when landlords & property managers are late, trying to remember to look at appliances & water pressure & heating vents & stair railings & every little thing.

& now my one little sanity-preserving silver lining–that moving in august is completely optional–has been snatched away by mark e. lehmann, evil landlord extraordinaire. if anyone reading this lives in lawrence or is thinking about moving here, do yourself a favor & do not rent from vintage management. i hope he googles this.

but hey! in other news, how hilarious was the “top model” premiere? i loved that they made the girls do a runway show in giant hamster balls, & that every time someone fell down, the cameras cut away to show the audience smiling gleefully & openly laughing. that was even better than when cycle 14 alexandra got knocked off the runway by a giant pendulum.

the kids’ book that could save the industry

someone reminded me the other day of one of my favorite novels, geek love, by katherine dunn. it’s a touching tale about a couple that runs a failing circus. to boost attendance, they decide to create a circus freak sideshow by indulging in some serious pre-natal mismanagement. the story is told from the perspective of the eldest daughter, who was a disappointing freak for the family coffers. she’s a blind, bald, albino dwarf. more exciting are her younger sisters, beautiful conjoined twins who play the piano. but the real draw is their older brother, who has flippers for limbs. as a child, he wows the crowd with amazing aquatic tricks, but he become cynical as her gets older, & eventually develops himself a cult of followers who trail behind the circus from town to town, willingly submitting to amputations in order to emulate their hero. the youngest brother isn’t much to look at–he just looks like an everyday regular kid. but he has telekinetic powers, which the father puts to good use pickpocketing high stakes gamblers.

it’s an excellent book & i recommend it.

but i can never think about this book without thinking about the time i was watching “john stamos: true hollywood story”. this was a couple of years after i read the book for the first time, back when john stamos was still happily married to rebecca romijn. the crew interviewed him about their relationship, & he started gushing about how they were so in love, it was almost embarrassing. he said, “we’re just two geeks that found each other & fell in love. you know that book geek love? that’s like us: two geeks in love.”

uh, dude? that book is not about what you think it’s about. i guess it’s probably a positive development for the limbs of hardcore “full house” fans that those two never had a baby together. let this be a lesson to us all: never compare yourself to a book if you haven’t actually read the book in question.

speaking of books, jared had a great idea for a children’s book. the audience would specifically be the children of queer parents, or i suppose the children of non-queer parents that hope to raise their children to be accepting of queer people. it would be about a gay ram & it would be called he’s just not that into ewes. i developed a whole story for it. basically, there would be this gentleman sheep farmer. (this is important because a sheep farmer who is actually trying to turn a family-supporting buck off his sheep farm would probably be a lot more likely to sell his gay non-lamb-producing ram to the local halal butcher.) he has a bunch of ewes & he needs a stud ram to help his flock grow. so he buys this ram & introduces it to the lady sheep, but the ram is remarkably uninterested in getting into the bone zone with the lady sheep. the farmer is like, “WTF?” so he gives up & gets another ram. but this ram is also “just not that into ewes,” as it were. but then the farmer & his wife & the sheep notice that the rams like to disappear together behind the trough, & they’re always frolicking in the clover together. when the rams start offering the farmer’s wife some helpful insights into her knitting projects, the pieces start falling into place. so the farmer gets a third ram, & this ram is really butch & pretty into his job. however, he seems somewhat threatened by the close personal relationship the other two rams share. he’s all like, “dude, were they checking out my horns? i am not okay with that.” but eventually, he gets over himself & comes to accept the gay rams, & the ewes are like, “those rams in love are great. they’re such good listeners, & so gentle with the lambs.” & everyone learns a valuable lesson about accepting homosexuality.

i asked jared yesterday, “what if we are browsing in a bookstore in san francisco & we find a kids’ book called he’s just not that into ewes?” jared replied, “fortunes won & lost.” there’s been a lot of hubbub in certain circles over a recent “new york times” article forecasting the death of the children’s picture book, but i think he’s just not that into ewes could revitalize the industry. publishers need to remember this important advice: it’s the parents that buy the picture books, & parents can’t pass up a good pun. or at least jared & i will be unable to whenever we become parents. & this is why our children will be incredibly nerdy & constantly subject to swirlies, not to mention the dreaded rear admiral.

we argue sometimes over whose last name our kid will get. i vote for my own, because i am the only xyerra in existence (because it’s just a name i invented) & it would be nice to start a new line. plus i’m the one giving birth, so i deserve a little something for my trouble. but jared wants to use his name, because it’s not just a made-up name that no one can spell or pronounce, & because name lineage seems to be pretty big in his family (his brother is david taber the fifth). so then we joked that we’ll have two kids: one with my name & one with his name, & we’ll have a contest to see which one gets into swarthmore. i think reading them hilarious picture books about gay rams will ground them in the early literacy they will need for success. i also think it would be funny if we each got one kid that we could name without any veto power from the other. mine would probably be something like ohia emeline xyerra & jared’s would be, like, sarah spencer taber. those are real names we have both put on the table. my suggestion is just a name that i think is awesome, & plus i am from ohio, & plus jared’s mom is from ohio, so there’s some family recognition there. jared’s name is after his mom, & while there is nothing wrong with that name, i think having a sarah & a ciara in the same family would get really confusing. my sister is named dani (well, danielle) & my dad was named don, & trust me, it got confusing every now & again.

since everything we put on the internet these days is cached for eternity, i wonder if someday my future child is going to stumble across this blog entry & be like, “oh my god, mom, you are such an embarrassment. i hate you!” probably.

a writer’s guide to basic etiquette

been out of commission for a little while with a bad cold. i spent most of the last week sick in bed. i used the time to watch season four of “big love,” which was hilariously terrible. only nine episodes, & they managed to pack about seven thousand ridiculous storylines in there. i won’t spoil it for anyone, because there may still be people feverishly awaiting the DVD release, but my advice? if you were feeling iffy on the show after the third season, just cut your losses & skip the fourth. unless maybe you’re sick in bed or something. but you’ll probably feel more relaxed tracking down some old episodes of “the golden girls” or “roseanne” on youtube.

yesterday i got an e-mail notification from the flash fiction contest to which i submitted over the summer. submissions closed at the end of august & the first round of judging took place in september. & i made the first cut! they capped submissions at three hundred entries, & the top hundred have been passed on to the official guest judge. there are 25 potential placements (first, second, & third places, seven runners-up, & 15 honorable mentions). so i have a one-in-four chance of placing, but…honestly, i’m ecstatic just to have made it through the first round. this was my first experience submitting to a writing contest as an adult, & for me, it was mainly an exercise in meeting a deadline, following submission guidelines, & putting myself at risk for rejection. the contest i entered allows contestants to pay a little extra for a critique, which they will receive once judging is complete & winners have been announced. i went ahead & sprang for the critique. serious fiction writing is something that is still very new to me, & i want to know where my strengths & weaknesses lie. i don’t expect any big prizes.

i did a little digging around on the internet to see if anyone else who made it through first round judging is also gushing about it on their blog. & i found one. but there was no gushing. instead, the author was complaining about how she made it through first round judging in the last contest too (it’s a quarterly thing), but did not place. she said it was all just a big tease & that she must be a terrible writer if she can’t stand out enough to place in a pool of one hundred stories. she seemed almost pissed off to receive notification of making it through first round judging–it was weird. she said something like, “if i can’t place in a group of one hundred stories, what chance do i have of being plucked out of an editor’s slush pile?” well…none, if you’re going to be so defeatist about it that you don’t even try anymore.

it’s important to remember that the judgment of any sort of writing is very subjective. once you get past the big hurdles (is it coherent? does it meet basic grammatical standards?), so much of what’s good & what’s bad is a matter of taste & preference. no writer can please all of the people all of the time, & it’s pointless to even try. but being a writer, & especially being a writer that strives for mainstream publishing credits, is all about facing rejection & criticism. plenty of people have criticized my writing. sometimes the critiques are legitimate–i meandered away from my original point, or i didn’t have a point to begin with, or my writing was brittle & unpersuasive, or my plot was boring & unrealistic. & sometimes the critiques were just an issue of personal preference–my sentences were too long, i used too many fifty-cent words, they didn’t care for my topic. & sometimes the critique was straight up bogus. if i were to get too bogged down in trying to make everyone happy, it would be impossible for me to write anything authentic.

i’m really pleased to have gotten this far in the contest, even if i don’t make it any further. i look forward to receiving my critique & seeing what the judges liked & didn’t like. it will give me some baseline from which to examine my writing & strengthen it. even if they dislike aspects that i am really invested in, i can still use the critique to sharpen my focus in terms of audience, or find a new way to craft an aspect of my writing that i don’t want to lose altogether. this is what makes writing a craft, as opposed to an art. there’s always a different angle to consider. writing is self-expression, but i think it’s very important for writer to consider their goals, intended audiences, & abilities, & to play to those things. pure self-expression is for my diary. writing that others will see is crafted, to some extent.

kind of related to this topic…in writing about why i closed my zine distro in “love letters to monsters” #3, i critiqued a zine i received for distro consideration about a year & a half ago. i said that the author’s execution, in terms of writing & layout, wasn’t as good as her premise, & that’s why i chose not to carry her zine. this zinester later made a huge stink about distros rejecting her zines & publicly suggested that all the zine distros that had rejected her were perhaps engaged in some sort of elaborate conspiracy to “censor” her…by not carrying her stuff. like distros are the only way to get your zines sold. i think everyone who runs a distro gets accused of something like this sooner or later. it wasn’t the first time i’d experienced it, but after running the distro for six years, it was kind of the last straw. this is all in the zine, you can read more about it if you want. the point is that i mentioned this incident as an instigating factor in why i finally decided to shut down the distro (one factor among several).

i was really surprised when the zinester in question then ordered my zine! she’d been so critical of my submission guidelines & decision not to carry her zine, i figured she had written me off & was disinterested in my zines. but i sent it to her, with a nice little note. she wrote me today to let me know that she had positively IDed herself in my zine, & she was very angry about it. honestly, her e-mail didn’t make a whole lot of sense. she took umbrage with my criticism because she said she’d never personally attacked me. well, i never personally attacked her either. i merely critiqued the quality of her writing & encouraged her to edit more. & i actually do think some of the things she wrote about distros censoring her (in which she named my distro specifically) could be construed as attacks. but perhaps that’s a matter of opinion. she also said that the next time i want to criticize her i should use her name because “all publicity is good publicity”. i wouldn’t call what i wrote “publicity” by any stretch of the imagination, but hey. she also said that she has always supported my distro (she ordered from me once, around the same time she submitted a zine for consideration), & had done so again by ordering my most recent zine. which she ordered from me. not the distro. because the distro is closed. reading comprehension? very confusing. i considered writing her back & offering to refund her $3, but she specifically said not to write her back, so…i guess i’ll keep that $3 then.

i was definitely expecting some kind of fallout when she ordered the zine, but it wasn’t so bad. just non-sensical enough to make me laugh, without really stressing me out. so i’ll consider it a win. but it just highlights, again, the way that people in the zine community seem to be so completely uninterested in constructive criticism nowadays. i think that’s fine–different strokes for different folks. a lot of people making zines are doing it purely for the purposes of having a therapeutic outlet for self-expression. they’re not trying to lay the groundwork for some fantastic writing career (& thank goodness, because zines may not be the way to make that happen). but this woman…IS. she has written explicitly in her zines about how she is self-publishing in the zine format in order to launch herself as a legitimate published author in a mainstream context. & as such, i expected a lot more from her writing than the usual self-involved never-made-a-zine-before screeds. & once she got a few issues in, i definitely anticipated a little polish…but it doesn’t seem to be happening.

i like seeing people pursuing their ambitions. but i like to see the pursuit augmented by a little self-awareness & respect for the people that will be assisting them on their path to greatness. my ambition doesn’t go much further than, “i would like to finish writing a novel & shop it around to some agents,” but that doesn’t mean i’m going to just vomit forth 50,000 words & write a cover letter about how i’m the next margaret atwood & anyone who doesn’t want to represent me can kiss my rosy ass. & it doesn’t mean i’m going to throw myself a pity party if an agent requests a full manuscript & then passes. baby steps, people.

zine housekeeping

i did an interview with things you say distro for the new “featured zine” element erin has added to the website. the featured zine this month is “love letters to monsters” #2. i’m out of copies for good, but things you say & maybe a few other distros still have it. erin is also doing a sale right now–check it out! i am copying & pasting the text of the interview below because i am pretty into a lot of what i said.

a few people have left comments about getting the new “love letters to monsters” #3/”alabama grrrl” #9 split zine too. i have been holding back on publicizing because i sold or gave away or traded my first batch of copies at the portland zine symposium, & ailecia & i have yet to get ourselves to the copy shop to make more. i wanted to re-write my introduction, & then we were going to make copies on sunday, but…life intervened. we have tentative plans to take care of it tomorrow. but if you want to make sure you’re among the first to get a copy, you can paypal $3 to me at learningtoleaveapapertrail@hotmail, or send $3 cash to the address at the end of the interview. i will also consider trades. e-mail or leave a comment to set something up. distros are also welcome to pick up some copies. the wholesale price is $1.50 each, which includes postage (though if you want to kick down some extra, i won’t say no). these prices are good for anywhere in the world. i prefer distro payment upfront. consignment has done me wrong too many times.

in other “order stuff from me” news, i am selling off my near-complete collection of “sassy” magazines on ebay. i struggled with this decision, because i love them, but…they’ve just been sitting on shelves/in a box for over a year now, & my finances are looking dire after my whirlwind philly/portland summer travels. so i’m listing them one by one, five per week, on ebay. the starting bid is $5 per issue. my user name there is “ciaramiaow,” if you want to check it out. yes, i have the kurt & courtney issue, but i’ll probably save it until the end & go out with a bang. it tends to fetch a far higher price than any of the others.

i haven’t been writing here much–sorry. i am saving up my creative energy for a new writing project…& i haven’t had a lot of creative energy lately anyway. less than a week after coming home from portland, a crew of lawrence kids loaded up in ailecia’s car & drove to columbia, missouri for a show/hang-out. we played an epic game of loaded questions & didn’t get back to lawrence until 4am. the night before, we went to a party & danced until the cops showed up. two days later, we hit karaoke night, where jared & i showed off our synchronized dance moves during our “total eclipse of the heart” duet. a few days after that, i attended a fancy history department dinner party out in the country with jared. we ate lamb & yes–it was a sheep farm. a huge storm blew through & knocked out the power, but kansas history professors who live on country sheep farms don’t mess around. they had a back-up generator so we could hang out comfortably, drinking wine & discussing authors until the biblical rains tapered off. then it was just a matter of dodging downed trees on the drive back into town.

plus, the new cycle of “america’s next top model” started & i am loving it. tyra somehow convinced italian “vogue” to feature the winner in a six-page spread, along with the cover of “beauty in action” (“vogue” italia’s internal beauty supplement–it is not the cover of “vogue,” so don’t get too excited). i suspect andre leon talley was being laughed out of his salon & called in a few favors within the reputable editorial fashion world. so now tyra is making a huge fuss about how reputations are on the line & “top model” needs to turn out a serious high fashion model this cycle. to that end, she has gathered together some of the most busted girls i’ve ever laid eyes on. we always knew that “editorial” was a euphemism for “should consider living under a bridge,” but they’re really not playing with this group. i am hoping that liz takes it all. she’s edgy, she’s gorgeous, & she’s a mama!

so, you know, i’ve been busy watching & thinking about that. & “project runway”. how much do i love valerie’s hair & her adorable extra-from-“laverne & shirley” wardrobe? her designs aren’t wowing me, but she’s just precious. i also love everything about mondo, from his hair to his glasses to his fake mustaches to his design ideas. but based on the photos of the big “project runway” show at fashion week, i think my money’s on andy to take it all. he made these gorgeous metal hair pieces that knocked my socks off.

okay, interview:

How did you become involved with zines?
When I was in junior high, my parents had a lot of friends who were involved with the Midwestern underground rock music scene. They were really into reading local music zines & finding out about new bands, indie labels, etc. They noticed that I was interested in writing, & they gave me copies of those zines. I found the amateur, homegrown aspect appealing & accessible, but being a 12-year-old, I obviously didn’t think I could make a zine. I mean, I wasn’t allowed to go to shows by myself yet, I didn’t have a lot of money to spend on records, etc, & I didn’t realize that zines extended beyond music coverage.

A lot of these music zines & magazines had pen pal listings in the back, & I started writing to people. One of my new correspondents was a girl even younger than me, who wrote her very own personal riot grrrl zine. We knew about riot grrrl from coverage in “Sassy” magazine (this was like 1993-ish), but again, it hadn’t occurred to me that I could make a riot grrrl zine at such a young age. Most zinesters “Sassy” covered were college-aged. Reading a personal riot grrrl zine by an 11-year-old made me realize that a zine could be whatever you wanted to write, that there weren’t rules about being an adult or including show listings or record reviews. So I started writing my own riot grrrl-inspired personal zine…& let’s never speak of that zine again, because it was DREADFUL.

Besides Love Letters to Monsters, what other zines or projects have you created?

There was the afore-mentioned riot grrrl zine that I wrote as a teenager. That lasted for four issues, eventually growing to over 80 half-sized pages thanks to the traditions of publishing exhaustive zine reviews & ads for other zines.

I started a ladies-only project-publicizing comp called “Cherry Cherry Red” (the first issue had a different name we shan’t speak of) that lasted for maybe four issues. Girls made full-sized pages describing the various zines, comps, record labels, zine distros, etc, that they were involved with, to spread the word to other girls. This was in the late 90s. When the internet became more prevalent, this project seemed a lot less necessary.

I edited the first zinesters list comp zine. The zinesters list was an early yahoogroup chat thing started by one of my old teenage riot grrrl pen pals. For the first few years, it was mostly all former riot grrrls I’d traded with in the mid-90s, & we all navigated the transition into adulthood & the evolution of our zines together. We did a comp in 1998 or 1999 on craft-making. This e-mail list is still around, but it has been taken over by awful dude-bro zinesters who make sexist jokes & think feminists are “PC thugs”. I unsubscribed years ago. I guess you could say it was kind of a pre-cursor to the horror that is the We Make Zines messageboard.

In 1999, I organized the first Bowling Green Zine Conference (now the Allied Media Conference). It was a completely free event (for tablers & attendees) with about thirty workshops, mainly attended by former riot grrrl zinesters & peace punk kids. I worked at the bowling alley on the BGSU campus at the time, & used my keys to let everyone in for midnight bowling, which has since become a tradition of the event.

I started “A Renegade’s Handbook to Love & Sabotage” in early 2000, & it ran for five issues. It’s probably the most well-known & popular zine I have written. I still get e-mails & letters about it, & the last issue came out in 2002.

In 2003, during a dry spell for writing my own zines, I launched Learning to Leave a Paper Trail zine distro, which specialized in politically-tinged personal zines. The catalogue eventually expanded to about 150 zines & I was doing around $2000 worth of business a month. I closed it down in early 2010 to make more time for writing projects.

In 2006, I wrote a one-off personal zine called “You Live for the Fight When That’s All That You’ve Got,” & in 2007, I did a residency at the Roberts Street Social Center in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where I started my zine/punk/anarchist-themed logic puzzle zine, “Up the Logic Punks!”. I’ve made two issues of that so far. Later that summer, I started a new personal zine series called “Love Letters to Monsters,” & just published the third issue in August 2010. It’s a split with my next-door neighbor, who has also been making feminist personal zines off & on for fifteen years.

Aside from zine stuff, I started to Boston Skillshare conference, which has happened every year since 2002. I was a member of the organizing collective for six years. I also started the Radical Art Girl feminist art collective in Portland in 2000, joined Radical Cheerleading squads in Portland & Boston, was involved in a d.i.y. reproductive health collective for several years in Boston, curated an anarcha-feminist book club for about a year, & volunteered with both the Papercut Zine Library & the Lucy Parsons Center (anarchist infoshop in Boston).

Do you have any zines/projects planned for the future?
I just published “Love Letters to Monsters” #3, but I’m already gathering ideas & material for “Love Letters to Monsters” #4, which I am currently conceiving as something of a scrapbook-style zine. I am also thinking of putting it out on a seasonal basis (four times a year) now that the distro is closed & I have more time for writing.

I also have enough new logic puzzles written to release “Up the Logic Punks!” #3. It’s just a matter of sitting down & hammering out the layout.

I live in Lawrence, Kansas now, & have been kicking around the idea with some ladies here or launching a Lawrence ladies craft group. We would collaborate on an Etsy page together & sell embroideries, artwork, buttons, zines, whatever we end up making—perhaps in conjunction with a weekly ladies/gender minorities crafternoon/feminist potluck. This is still in the embryonic stages.

I have also been toying with the idea or organizing a series of feminist-related workshops & discussions at a local community center in town. Our local punk scene was recently torn asunder due to some pretty egregious misogyny, & I am trying to look at it as a transformative moment from which a powerful & positive new anarcha-feminist community can grow. So the workshops (& maybe a book club?) would be part of that.

I’m also working on a novel, I cook a lot, I’m hoping to take up knitting this winter, I read a lot (& write book reviews), & I’m trying to pull together a chubby girls’ yoga/water aerobics club.

Describe the process you go through to create a zine.
It has changed & shifted over the years, but at this point, I guess it’s pretty basic. I write about whatever I want to write about—things that interest me, or things that I think need to be addressed in zine form. When I am writing for a zine, I write FOR the zine. I generally don’t cull zine content from other sources (ie, my journal, blogs, etc). I typically let the writing sit for at least a week, & then I edit it really carefully—for content, for passive voice, for potential to be misinterpreted, for interest, for grammar & spelling. Once I’m reasonably happy with it, I get out my typewriter & start typing. I’m just not crazy about the idea of a computer layout for my zines, though I do acknowledge that using the typewriter makes the process more labor-intensive. As I type out my content, I try to come up with ideas for images & graphics. Sometimes I draw stuff, sometimes I use found images. For “Love Letters to Monsters” #3, I cut pertinent images out of an old French textbook left over from college 12 years ago.

If I pursue the scrapbook zine idea for future issues of “Love Letters to Monsters,” I suspect this system to change a little. I hope it will become a little more casual.

If you could create a split zine with anyone, alive or dead, famous or not, who would it be? What would the zine be called?
I have already done a couple of splits. The last issue of “A Renegade’s Hanbook” was a split with my husband (at the time). Each zine retained its own name (his was called “Make Waves”), but they were presented together in an envelope, & the split was called “Bone Dancers”. In 2007, I released the first issues of “Up the Logic Punks!” & “Love Letters to Monsters” as a split—a split with myself. & the most recent “Love Letters to Monsters” was a split with my neighbor & friend Ailecia.

I loved doing the split with Ailecia (even though she almost didn’t make our deadline, which caused me unending anxiety) because our friendship is predicated on sitting on her porch, having awesome talks about zines, feminism, punk rock, friendships, mental health, et al. So making the split was kind of like condensing those talks into a printed form that I could hand out to other people. We didn’t read each other’s sides before we published, but the content was surprisingly complementary, while still being unique.

My friend Jessika Rae (who is best known for her zine “Do Not File Under Manifesto”) have been talking about writing a split together for years. My favorite zine of all time is “Doris,” & sometimes I think it would be amazing to do a split with the woman who writes it (her name is Cindy), but if we’re being frank, I’m not sure our writing style would complement each other. Maybe it’s better to just enjoy it from afar.

A lot of zinesters sort of drift out of the scene for a while, and then come back. Has this happened to you? Why do you think this happens?
I didn’t write a zine between 2002 & 2006, which is a pretty big gap. But I was running a zine distro for that entire time, so I was definitely still involved & active in the zine community, as a reader & supporter.

My friend Ailecia wrote her first zine in nine years last month.

Who knows why this happens? Everyone probably has their own reasons. For me, I was going through a pretty rough patch. My dad had died unexpectedly, my mental health was pretty fragile, I was becoming interested in writing that didn’t seem appropriate for the zine medium (ie, fiction—sorry, I just really hate reading fiction in zines!), & the idea of making a zine seemed like more work & less privacy than I could handle for a little while. More recently, I closed down my zine distro & told people I was “retired” from zines, I guess because I’m in my 30s now & sometimes I wonder if my boring drama-free life in Kansas would really appeal to any zine readers. Sometimes I feel like I am too old &/or too boring for zines. Many zinesters seem to write zines as a form of self-expression, & a way to connect with other folks going through similar life experiences. A LOT of zinesters admit that writing zines is “therapeutic”. I think that’s something I related to when I was like 17, but it doesn’t resonate with me anymore, & so that begs the question—why should I make a zine? If it’s just because I like to write…well, still. Why make a zine, instead of keeping a journal or writing for more mainstream publications?

This is a question I struggle with all the time. I still like to read zines, & sometimes the casual format of zine writing appeals to my lazy side. I don’t have to be completely professional & waste valuable creative time writing query letters & paging through “Writer’s Market”. I can just make something. The visual component also appeals to me, because I like to draw & put images together. So maybe this is why I haven’t abandoned zines yet. I also draw inspiration from zinesters that are still going strong, even though they’re older than me. Like I said, “Doris” is my favorite zine, & Cindy is ten years older than me. If she can still publish a zine on a regular basis that appeals to so many different people of various ages & genders & political perspectives…maybe I can too.

Who or what is your zine-related inspiration? What makes you want to write?
I have always been a writer, & I have always wanted to be published—in the context of being able to hold something that I wrote. When I was two years old, I used to write down little stories & put pictures out of magazines to illustrate them & help my mom bind them together with yarn, so I had a “book” I had written. When I was in elementary school, I regularly banged out manuscripts of young adult serial novels on my mom’s manual typewriter & sent them to publishing houses. So when I discovered zines in junior high, it was just the right match for my predilections.

I still make zines because I really enjoy the feeling of holding something all bound & “published” (ie, photocopied) that I wrote. I like to give my zines to people & be able to say, “This is my writing.” I become motivated to write now when something is happening that I feel I have some semi-unique insight into, like a fucked up political situation that is stirring my passions, or an intense personal experience I want to relate to people. I have also gotten into trying to write down funny things that happen, because at the end of the day, mostly I just like to laugh & goof off, which has not historically come through in my zines.

I am also really interested in the idea of creating a personal mythology. I love reading zines that seem to evoke an image of the author & the perhaps mundane details of her life—but those small details are the icing on the cake to me. I love to imagine how people dress, how much they fuss over their hair, what they eat for breakfast, how they decorate their rooms. So I like to write & make zines because it’s a chance to slowly cobble together a mythology for myself, which then helps me make sense of the trajectory & narrative of my own life. I use that personal writing to better understand where & who I am, so I can decide where I want to go & who I want to be. If that makes sense.

Any final comments/thoughts?
Feel free to write to me:
Ciara Xyerra
1126 Tennessee St. #5
Lawrence KS 66044

Support smaller distros, especially distros run by ladies, queers, people of color, & disabled folks! Write to zinesters & don’t be shy. Even the most intimate of zine readers will still be pleased to know what you thought of her work. Take time with your writing & craft it carefully, because it’s going to be kicking around in a zine library or digital archive for God knows how long. Consider enlisting a friend as an editor. But make sure to strike a balance between craft & fun—don’t let your zine-making become a chore. Expand your expectations of yourself & expose yourself to ideas, people, & experiences that are new & different. Your writing can only be improved by going beyond what is familiar & ordinary to you.

babysitters island adventure…on the island from “lost”

this book is hilariously ridiculous. it’s amazing that the plots of the super specials went off the rails so early. the premise is that stoneybrook is suddenly right on the water, complete with a community center where people can take boating lessons. dawn & claudia have both completed sailing training, & they decide to have a race to a nearby island & back again. during their first race, with instructors, claudia’s billowing button-down gets tangled around her face & one of her ludicrously over …more this book is hilariously ridiculous. it’s amazing that the plots of the super specials went off the rails so early. the premise is that stoneybrook is suddenly right on the water, complete with a community center where people can take boating lessons. dawn & claudia have both completed sailing training, & they decide to have a race to a nearby island & back again. during their first race, with instructors, claudia’s billowing button-down gets tangled around her face & one of her ludicrously over-sized earrings gets caught in the rigging. so dawn pulls ahead, but once claudia frees herself & her accessories from the boat’s hydraulics, she makes up the distance & the race ends in a tie. so they decide to re-match.

dawn’s brother jeff will be visiting from california during the re-match, & he likes to sail as well (must be a california thing, amirite?), so she invites him to come along. the girls won’t need instructors this time, & dawn thinks it will be useful to have another hand on deck. but this makes things somewhat unfair, so claudia decides to invite becca ramsey to accompany her. even though becca has never been on a boat before & could not possibly be as helpful as jeff. becca is psyched & calls her friends, including haley braddock. apparently haley is bummed about always being in the shadow of her deaf brother, & she wants something special for herself, such as stealing becca’s thunder by wanting to go on the boat as well. claudia generously acquiesces. but now claudia has two deckhands & dawn just has jeff. so dawn does the obvious thing & invites along four-year-old jamie newton. way to handicap yourself, there, dawn. the newtons bizarrely think this is a great idea. but dawn & claudia realize that jamie might prefer to be on claudia’s boat (jamie is claudia’s special babysitting charge), so they swap haley & jamie. it really seems like dawn has the stronger crew, but…whatever.

in the lead up to the race, dawn decides to get an edge by carb loading & working out. during one of her work-outs, logan calls to let mary anne know that he’s been drafted into some last second babysitting & won’t be able to meet her for their hot study date at the library. dawn takes the message, but forgets to pass it on to mary anne because she’s so into her exercising. when mary anne comes home later, she’s pissed at logan for tanding her up. dawn realizes the miscommunication is her fault & tries to let mary anne know, but mary anne just shushes her so she can call logan & yell at him. he explains that he left the message with dawn, but he’s still really mad at mary anne for thinking he’d stand her up. so logan is mad at mary anne, & mary anne is mad at dawn for causing this problem. mary anne goes so far as to tell dawn that she never wants to see her again. mary anne is supposed to be so sweet & innocent, but she she gets angry, she really doesn’t pussyfoot around.

so the girls & their motley crews head down to the dock for their race. a good portion of stoneybrook turns out to see them off, but mary anne & logan skip it. the newtons tell the girls to make sure jamie wears a jacket because he’s getting over a cold. so he’s not just a four-year-old on a sailing race–he’s a sickly four-year-old on a sailing race. the girls decide it might be fun for the kids to have a picnic, so they decide to just race to the island & then stop there for some snacks & playing, before a leisurely sail back to stoneybrook. accordingly, they have packed coolers with sandwiches, fruit, candy bars, & juice boxes.

& they’re off! now, supposedly, this island is about three miles off the coast of connecticut, but the girls are already at sea for an hour when a big storm kicks up. a few questions: 1) couldn’t a sailboat probably make it three miles to an island within an hour? 2) especially if there’s wind, due to an incoming storm? 3) did no one think to check on the weather for the day before sending two 13-year-olds off in charge of a bunch of children on some sailboats in the atlantic ocean?

of course, if people were thinking clearly, we wouldn’t have a story. the boats get caught in the storm. jeff is very helpful, securing the food under plastic tarps & such forth, but the boats begin to drift away from each other. & then a wave overpowers dawn’s boat & it starts to sink. she manages to steer close enough to claudia’s boat for jeff to throw their food in, but then dawn, jeff, & haley have to swim for it. if you stop & think about it, this is actually really scary. there’s a raging storm, with waves serious enough to take out a sailboat, & three children have to swim in the open ocean for another small sailboat piloted by another crew of children. i’m 31 & i wouldn’t want to be anywhere in this mixed up situation. they all make it safely to claudia’s boat, but there’s not enough room on board for three more people, so they just have to hang on to the side & dangle in the ocean, like leonardo dicaprio clinging to the lifeboat at the end of “titanic”. cray-cray.

the storm starts to lift & someone sees land. they don’t know if it’s the island they were trying to get to, but it beats the ocean, so that’s where they go. they unload their supplies & find a fairly dry cave. claudia & dawn begin to realize that this is not the island they were aiming for, but they opt to keep it from the kids. jeff heads out to scavenge dry twigs for a fire…& here’s where i have another question: wouldn’t starting a fire in a cave be a little dangerous? without proper ventilation, they could all die of smoke inhalation, Y/Y?

this is where our castaways start to display their similarities to various characters on “lost”. dawn thinks she’s going to be the fearless leader, but instead she’s kind of bumbling & over-emotional & ends up being jamie’s nursemaid when he gets sick again. so she’s jack. claudia proves herself surprisingly inventive & capable, & is really the only one on this godforsaken rock that has any ability to ensure anyone’s survival, so let’s call her sayid. haley wants to gather rocks & make a big “HELP” sign in the sand, so obviously she’s bernard the dentist, complete with the fascist overtones (haley panics & screams when she discovers that the boat is missing). becca just kind of amiably goes along to get along, never really distinguishing herself in any meaningful way, so…maybe she’s boone. someone surely could have convinced her to scale a cliffside & die a tragic death if they’d stayed on the island long enough. jamie is useless & sick, so i guess he’s claire. jeff is a crackerjack fisherman, so he’s jin.

meanwhile, on the mainland, we discover that the pikes are big on sailing, & they’re out on a boat in the ocean looking for the castaways all day everyday. so…convenient boating & navigational abilities combined with relentless desire to search despite all signs of futility? must be penny. mary anne cries & feels guilty about having said she never wanted to see dawn again. she’s just about useless enough to be the charlie of the group. stacey is trapped in new york city with her father, who refuses to let her go home & help search. controlled by a dominating patriarch & determined to rise up in independence? must be sun. kristy just kind of lingers in the background. at one point, she joins the pikes on their boat. contributes pretty much nothing, despite being a bossy britches who talks a big game? kristy is john locke. she certainly fancies herself as possessing the omnipotence of a smoke monster. jessi is extremely concerned about becca’s disappearance, & it’s worth noting that she was in charge of her younger siblings for the weekend. when her aunt cecelia hears about what happened, she comes straight to stoneybrook & takes over, blaming jessi for becca’s involvement in the accident. jessi bristles at this injustice. so…blamed for something over which she has no control & oppressed by authority? maybe she’s the man in black. & we’ll say logan is jacob, & that he & jessi together are the puppetmasters behind this entire tragedy, just because i think that’s a hilarious concept. i like the idea of them back in stoneybrook, watching all their friends freak out, idly playing a little backgammon & having murderous philosophical debates.

our castaways spend two days on the island & then they find another group of survivors, one of whom shoots jamie newton in the gut. wait, no. they spend two days on the island & then a polar bear kills them all. wait, that doesn’t happen either. they spend two days on the island & then haley is kidnapped by a technologically advanced tribe & is forced to perform surgery on their bug-eyed leader. wait, that doesn’t sound right…they spend two days on the island & then claudia builds a raft that results in becca being kidnapped. no? maybe they find a nuclear warhead? or maybe wes ellenburg, student math teacher extraordinaire, parachutes to the island to tell them that they’re flashing through time? or maybe they find a mysterious hatch & ben hobart is inside, armed to the teeth & rocking out to the mamas & the papas? or maybe they are lured to a temple guarded by peaches & russ, where they are informed that dawn is pure evil & must be tricked into eating a poison capsule encased in bulgar wheat?

what really happens is that they survive by rationing their picnic supplies & collecting rainwater, & then claudia finds a piece of mirror in the woods & uses it to signal a search plane flying over the island (no word on the pilot, but i’m going to go ahead & assume it’s cary retlin wearing a badass hawaiian shirt–& cokie mason is lurking in the cargo hold with a remote incendiary device strapped to his arm just in case dawn says anything about peak oil). the plane gets the coordinates (from gabbie perkins in the lamp post?) & they send a rescue ship, which is in fact a normal rescue ship & not some kind of crazy freighter loaded up with explosives. though that would have been a great way to end the book. everyone is rescued, dawn & mary anne make up, jamie comes to terms with his bad wig & decides he can be a good mother after all, &…scene.