All posts tagged memories

The Medical Mystery Tour (writing from sense memory)

Published August 11, 2017 by admin

One of the things that I really want to do here on out is to explore not just where I get my ideas, but how I incorporate them into writing. In a lot of ways, I think all my acting classes have really helped me here, especially with getting under the skin of a character.

For those who haven’t heard the term sense memory, the short version is in acting, basically you’re using one of your senses to recall an emotional memory from a specific time to help flesh out the character you’re playing. For instance, I once played Anna in The King and I. During the letter scene where she learns the king is dying, I focused on the memory on the last letter that I’d received from my grandmother before she died from cancer – that I accidentally threw away, thinking it was a different letter. That feeling of loss, as well as focusing on the color and feel of the stationary, the memory of her writing, really helped with the mindset the director wanted from the scene. While they may not call it this, a lot of writers use this trick, as well. Granted, I would add the caveat that you want to make it work for you – you don’t have to go full blown method to make your writing believable, and anything that’s putting you through the wringer isn’t necessarily something that you should pursue just to say you’re adding to your craft. For me, personally, though (especially since it means I’m putting my degree to use), recalling specific bits of memories has helped me when I might be facing writer’s block on a particular situation or character. So off and on I’ll

So off and on I’ll proably touch on some of my own personal experiences and how I’ve used them. For instance, this thing right here. It’s a beaut that will leave you traumatized, but shows just how much mileage you can get from even awful times.

Some years back I was recovering from the flu and noticed that even months after, I still felt draggy. Not bad, just overly tired. I still did what I had to do, because that’s just how I live my life. At any rate, I had started back at seasonal main dayjob I had at the time, just gotten a promotion, and was dealing with some big transitions and a lot of work due to a lack of crew. I was preparing to see friends at Famous Monsters at the end of July, I think, and suddenly out of nowhere I started getting intense headaches. No prob, go to the doctor, sinus infection, get antibiotics, go on my way, just as I had times before because my allergies and sinuses like to work together to remind me who’s in charge from time to time.

Except this time, I didn’t go on my merry way. I reacted to the antibiotic, got a different one, okay, great, life goes on…except it didn’t. The pain pulsed out from the side of my nose and face to the back of my neck and down my back and sometimes the top of my head. It was like all my muscles were tightening and kept being tightened by some Inquisition-level torture device. While I was still exhausted and sinusy. I have no idea how I survived that convention other than one of my best friends kept an eye on me to keep me alive, except for the time I left a film screening early and nearly collapsed in a hall, which I never did tell her or others when asked how I was feeling, so people are just going to love me for this. Seriously, learn from my idiocy. At any rate, by time I got back from that adventure, I was subjected to lots of tests and lots of raised eyebrows. As in: Are you sure it’s not in your imagination? Have you thought about a neurologist? It may just be phantom pains, see if it goes away.

It took everything in me not to reply with how I was pretty sure I was in agony and couldn’t I just wait and see if they went away, instead? (Did I mention I’m not the biggest fan of doctors?)

By the time they decided it could be allergies and put me through that test and an attempt at weekly drops so hilarious it bordered on the sitcomy, I was also buzzing under my skin and it felt like an ice pick had been driven into the side of my nose all the time.  Diet changes, life changes, an extremely understanding boss, some fairly understanding side gigs, ten different doctors, loads of different prescriptions and otc meds, an offhanded comment that I should prepare that it could be cancer (right before Christmas and a month before I went to a new ENT), and finally maternal intervention so I didn’t lose my mind, took up my time. I’ve never been so wound up, so at the mercy of my body and everything I was putting into it in my life. I get why people lose hope because of a medical condition, because I was going nowhere fast, and in agony. My gp finally put me on the correct dose to kill the infection, and the ENT finally adjusted my allergy meds to reduce inflammation. And that’s when we found out what was really going on.

I’ll warn you, I won’t get detailed gory but you may want to scroll by the next paragraph if you’re squeamish.

So, I’d had jaw surgery when I was 16 or 17, and I’d even done a presentation on it in college, complete with illustrations of a line of screws that had been put in to hold my bones together until they healed. Apparently, though, that wasn’t quite right because I had some big honking brackets under my face, and by the way, they were coming lose and cutting through my nasal cavities. We won’t discuss how we found that out for certain, other than to say that if you’ve never felt anything rattle under your face, you’re missing out. So, that was fun. Add in a lot of phone calls to find a doctor who could deal with this, and like nearly a year after the initial exhaustion, I was getting de-borg-ed. It was a long, extended foray into pain, exhaustion, paranoia, the health care system, amazingly sensitive and insensitive reactions of others, and feeling utterly helpless. I still tense up every time I have a cold simply because I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.

However, the experience dropped a huge amount of sense memory in my lap (not to mention a great name for the experience, the better to keep myself from crying at those memories). Not just the obvious physical feelings, either, but the exhaustion and long-term helplessness, of just wanting things to go right for a change, was directly funneled into Paddlelump in Olde School. Poor guy goes through one thing after another after another without relief, while facing the subtle and unsubtle judgment of others. That was definitely something I could relate to.

The physical feeling of different meds interacting added with not sleeping very much at one point contributed a lot to Jermiah in In the Red. While I haven’t lived the rock star lifestyle, I definitely know the feeling of not feeling in your own skin, of being there but not being in your body or in control, of everything running away with you, or opening your mouth and some other thing coming out that just isn’t you. And you’d be amazed the feelings of worthlessness you feel when you’re seeing yet another professional and can’t get across what’s going on because you just don’t know and you’re at the end of the rope, and they ask if you’re sure that’s what you’re actually feeling. So it definitely fit for a guy who sees demonic hallucinations and feels the effect of magical memorabilia at one point.

At one point there was also an incredible feeling of release and submission, if that’s the right word for it (I’d been doing a lot of meditating to try to not lose my mind and really got into Wayne Dyer around that time), a sensation of being on my knees and having to trust that things could work out, which also feeds into Jeremiah’s resolution, and in a lot of ways, to Paddlelump’s as well. Both characters have to be broken before they can move on. That feeling of being out of control feeds into a lot of the kind of thing I write, so I’ve gotten a ton of mileage out of the experience. It’s even fueled my short fiction, because I really didn’t have a choice but to keep moving forward and to go through it, and many of my characters have that journey to take, specifically those like Hunter Mann in The Ruins of St. Louis, an anthology story I did years ago.

I don’t feel the need to focus myself and try to bring everything into uber clear focus, because it still causes a pretty big knee jerk, but it definitely has given me a lot to work with.

And one of these days it will definitely provide a direct horror story inspired by the subject matter, but I may need a paper bag to breathe into to do it.


In the Red isn’t in print at the moment (actually working on that, tbh), but you can get more information and some fun tidbits about Olde School here



Said You Took a Big Trip: David Bowie

Published January 12, 2016 by admin

I talk a lot off and on about influences, and there will be more of that to come this week – some sad, some not. But what do you do when you wake up and find out that THE influence, the major creative force that inspired you to do what you do, is gone?

David Bowie isn’t just a celebrity. People would still be mourning, but it’s more than that. He’s touched so many people who felt excluded, whether because of gender, sexuality, artistic identity, race, whatever…he made all us outsiders feel like there was a place to go. He had so much influence, not just in the music world, but in fashion, business, art, finance, literature…people wouldn’t be devastated just because he’s famous. It’s because somehow, he appealed to so many vastly different people and gave us a haven to interpret as we will. Something to strive for. Something to look up to.

I was aware of him as a little kid when he first introduced the animated short The Snowman (certain people are convinced I have a thing for blonds because of that), and was vaguely aware of him through my mom’s copy of Let’s Dance and then Labyrinth (which scared the crap out of me when I saw it because it just made me feel so much). It wasn’t until I was a senior in high school, though, that I needed him. I was in a situation where I was suddenly being told ‘yeah, okay, you try but you’re not good enough. You’re interested in strange stuff. You’re way too articulate. You’re just…” and on and on. I survived, but my confidence and spirit took a major blow. A dear friend of mine (we still talk to this day) introduced me to his music and I’ve never looked back. Let’s Dance and Earthling, then I spent money made gigging from classical music and local events to buy Ziggy and Station to Station. I bought part of the Berlin trilogy in Berlin while touring with a chamber choir in college, and had the unique experience of walking past the studio where a lot of it was recorded, seeing the places that inspired it during the day, then going back to the hostel and listening to the albums at night.

Suddenly in my life there was a person who was intelligent, interested in every aspect of theater, constantly changed to suit his whims and vision…and it worked. And kept working. I’m one of those people who honestly loves everything he’s put out. I have my preferences and I go back and forth at times, but what’s amazing is if you line everything up, it’s like an audio autobiography, truth under masks, emotion in music. You couldn’t have the things you like without everything in between. He evolved from his influences to his own genre and beyond.

It’s more than that, though. David Bowie taught me that I can have my influences but interpret them how I want. He taught me to be fearless – let’s be honest…he received major backlash for a lot of his choices and went about things anyway. I cannot even imagine…like thinking back on some of the balls it took to reinvent himself when things were going well with Ziggy, just because he felt like it? To move to Berlin and do music that no one wanted at the time? To come back from the eighties with Tin Machine then exquisite stuff like Buddha of Suburbia and on to Earthling and Next Day and Blackstar? (yes, I know I’m skipping) To progress in a way that made sense to him even though people were constantly judging, constantly holding everything up against stuff he did decades before? He taught me what it meant to be an artist. I’m still trying to find that courage.

He taught me to speak up for myself. That I can be multifaceted as a creative animal and it’s perfectly okay, that I don’t have to listen to those who try to pat me on the head or brush off my ideas. He made me realize that it’s possible to never stop learning, to be an artist but to have an eye for business, that it was okay to be stubborn and take myself in hand. That you don’t have to wave your beliefs on a banner to be heard, but you can be honest when asked. You can also change your mind after the fact and it’s no one’s business but yours.

He taught me to think outside the box, take a chance and try. To learn about every aspect of art and keep discovering other artists.  When people get flabbergasted at how assertive or broad-thinking I can be…guess who I learned that from. He taught me it was okay to make mistakes and to have no regrets. To keep evolving in my beliefs and how I felt about life and the world around me. He also taught me to be kind, to value those I collaborate with, no matter for how long. To try to go a little beyond with people, but also not be walked on. He taught me to laugh at myself, because let’s face it, the past can be pretty damn hilarious. He made me believe that everyone can find love in different places at different times…and just when you think that’s it, there can be something amazing and beautiful and permanent.

He’s now taught me what it truly means to be an artist, to have the courage to go through until the end, exploring, eyes open, using what you can until you can’t anymore.

He was a role model, a beacon for so many of us who up to the point of his discovery felt adrift. He was creating right up until the end…that kind of fearlessness is what people say they want, but very few can actualize. As a woman, I can’t tell you how important it is to have an example like that. I can only imagine how it’s like for others. It’s probably weird to some to say that this is the person that taught me how to become myself, but he wasn’t just a person. This is David Bowie we’re talking about.

He wasn’t just a crush, or a role model, an artist, an actor, or a celebrity, or the best show I’ve ever seen…when I say he was everything, I mean it. I’m devastated over someone I’ve never met and truly don’t know as a person. I’m very aware of that.

His family owns that part of him, and I offer them my most heartfelt condolences and support. It must be so hard to go through the loss of a loved one so publicly, especially when everyone has an opinion about them and also wants to be heard. I wish them nothing but love and healing and the privacy they request and deserve.

I’m also very aware that I’m not Bowie. No one is. No one will be. That legacy is all his own, but he’s also given this world an insane, beautiful, implausibly possible example.  Right now, it’s time to grieve, but then…then all of us left-behind oddities have a choice. Do we keep pushing forward past fear and complacency to do our thing and honor our mentor? Do we crawl back in our shells and let the world slip back as it was? All of us, no matter what level we’re at or what we’re doing, can push a little more, be a little more ourselves, create a little harder.

That’s Bowie’s real legacy. He gave us the possible. He left behind his work, his public persona, and all that possibility. What we do with it, that’s strictly up to us.

I don’t like good-byes, and really, a good part of him isn’t going anywhere. Misfit teens are still going to discover him, we’re still going to remember that he was here. He is here.

Right now, though, I’m heartbroken.





Guest Post Round Up

Published December 1, 2015 by admin

So I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving weekend who celebrates, and even if you don’t I hope you had a relaxing weekend full of things you like and hold dear.

So whilst I’m working on some more in-depth posts, I thought I’d share some guest posts I’ve gotten to do in the past few weeks. I know, I can’t believe other people want my input on anything, either! These are circa Halloween, so they’re horror related in some form or another.

Talking about my short Released on


Y’all know my feelings on the vampire genre, so I decided to condense them and do a post for about vampires. Sooner or later they’re going to stop asking me to guest, I’m sure…

I realize it’s kinda ironic that I don’t talk more about my sewing and design work, since that’s been the bulk of my artistic career, so in an attempt to start rectifying that, here’s a post about my experience making weird stuff. 

My friend Ellie had me on to talk about Halloween and how it impacted my future career making costumes. So more sewing talk here, too!





Cherished Blogfest

Published July 24, 2015 by admin

Today I’m taking part in the Cherished Blogfest – a really excellent way for bloggers to get to know each other and  to share memories and thoughts. We’re supposed to post about a meaningful object, and this couldn’t have come at a better time for me.


Last year, almost to the day, I lost a very close friend of mine. He was a friend, mentor, and someone who took belief in people just as they are to new levels. We worked together for years as puppeteers, in stage shows, and at events. I learned a lot from him, and he was always talking me up, especially when I found it hard to believe in myself or was self conscious about where I was at in life or about my own abilities.

When I got the contract for The Kingdom City Chronicles, he called me down to his office and gave me this necklace (as well as a corresponding ring, but it’s too big for my hand). He was so proud of his choices, expecting immediately that I’d know what they were from. After he had to tell me that this necklace was from The Vampire Diaries, I had the embarrassing situation of admitting that I’d never seen an episode of the show or read the books.

In typical Mark fashion, he just smiled and said something to the effect of “That’s fine. I’m giving it to you to wear as a trophy, because eventually your work is going to beat that series.”

No matter how I tried to protest that that was incredibly unlikely or explain how the business end of writing worked, he had complete confidence in me. Even in hospice, he was telling people about my books and the shows we’d done together. You know that song about the power of just one person believing in you? That was Mark all over, and he didn’t just do that with me. He did that with everyone he encountered.

It’s not the most expensive necklace in the world, and the color is starting to change along the back of it, but I love it. I wear it to a lot of conventions and events, especially if it’s something I’m nervous about doing. It not only carries his memory with me, but it reminds me that there are people out there that have utter faith in what I’m doing, so it’s worth it for me to keep moving forward, to keep doing all that I can, and to keep believing in myself, as well.

So, that’s my cherished object and the memory that goes with it! To check out other fantastic people, follow the list at the tour page!

Influences: Library Livin’

Published July 16, 2015 by admin

I’ve talked about it off and on in interviews and the like, but I cannot stress how big of an influence libraries have had on me. I still remember going into my first one as a kid. It was built into a former residence in a small Illinois town, the librarian still lived above it, and it was magic. Rooms chock full of shelves, a lovely, open front room with homey windows and dark wood, just the stuff of story books. The very first book I ever was allowed to take home was There’s a Nightmare in my Closet, and even though I already knew the plot, the thought of plucking it from a shelf (it was misplaced in the adult shelves so that made it even more important-seeming) and taking it home all by myself was a beautiful feeling. I went on to do the summer reading programs there, get vacation packets for long car trips there, I was even able to check out puppets there, something that I’m sure fed my love of the art form early on.

My mom made a point of taking me to the library any time I was interested in something, and I give her a lot of credit for my voracious love of reading today. After every Reading Rainbow episode we made a list of titles to go searching for. Anything that I wasn’t allowed to buy on the scholastic book forms we put on the library list. There were times during the summer when we were there every other day. I was encouraged to read anything that took my fancy, although she quickly had to put a cap on the number of titles i could get at one time (I may still have problems with limiting my TBR pile…).

That was also the library where I was accidentally locked in during the librarian’s lunch hour.The children’s room was in the very back of the place, time got away, and there I was with my mother, completely panicked that I’d never get home again…for the first five minutes, until I realized that I had All. The. Books. to myself (even if I had to share with my mother). I have a vague recollection of compiling a massive stack in the amount of time it took for her to fetch the librarian’s niece, convince her that we weren’t hiding downstairs on purpose, and get her to fetch her aunt so she could let us out.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to check out the half-room of books I’d frantically hoarded. I’m pretty sure I had to put most of them back, which ironically didn’t propel me into a career as a librarian, though it probably should have.

When I was approaching ten, we moved to a different state. One of the first things my Mom did was take us to the library, which was now in walking distance. It was bigger, more modern, and mind-blowing to me. If my first library had been homespun  magic, this was something straight from outer space. I quickly was encouraged to participate in different groups and programs. Some were awesome, like when a group of us as elementary-school kids made a giant, paper mache statue of Arthur (the Aardvark, before he became a PBS television star). Others, like a teen group that was supposed to discuss titles up for consideration for some title or another, quickly made me realize that I just wasn’t into the same type of books that others in my age group were. This was the age of problem literature and I wasn’t ready to spend my summer plowing through a stack of depressing titles. There was also an after school group that turned out to be mostly younger kids, but I found that I liked helping out and getting a younger perspective on things. While I never went into teaching, I’ve done workshops to kids and teens through the years about setting goals, getting creative, theatre, all sorts of things, and it’s something I really enjoy. I can’t help but think that was the precursor to that, the link between me being affected by books and the arts and me wanting to affect others, in turn.

I met authors at that library, too. Steven Kellogg, Nancy Carlson, Gary Paulson, plus storytelling groups, improv groups, symphony groups…I was exposed to an insane amount of art for a small town in that place, all sorts of people and opportunities that got my brain working, that got me wondering and interested in so many,  many things.

There’s more to a library than books and shelves and computers and the like, though. I think sometimes it’s really easy to neglect the people behind the counters, especially now that everything is pretty automated (I checked out a stack of books the other day and all I had to was sit them by a sensor and the computer automatically had logged the entire stack. It was mind-blowing and I somehow resisted the temptation to grab every single book in the library to play with this new toy).

I was incredibly lucky to have an amazing group of librarians around me through my pre-teen and teenage years. There was a reference librarian in particular, as well as the actual library director, who were just incredible. Both always seemed to make time to ask what I was reading, to discuss school projects that were frustrating me, to encourage my interests like music and puppetry. In a world where it’s not always easy for a kid to ask an adult for input, especially about off-the-cuff stuff, I was made to feel welcome, even important. I can’t even tell you how huge of a deal this was at the time. I was pointed to titles I may not have found on my own, and encouraged as I grew up and started making the transition from doing shows in high school to actually working in theatre and doing my own projects.

The reference librarian was right there when I needed material for a giant project on Dumas and pointed out titles I might be into when I really got into the classics in high school (Thank you, Wishbone. I shall never be ashamed of loving you). Where some of my relatives and friends looked down on my insane love of the Star Wars books (before it was officially known as the EU), in those walls, my obsessive devouring of sci-fi , epic fantasy, and space opera was encouraged – I was even introduced to the Archie Goodwin strips and graphic novels there, and I don’t know that I would have found them on my own. I’d always had a passing interest in comics, but the only people I knew who read them were dudes. That simple recommendation changed everything. Throughout the years, whether I was dealing with outright bullying or just the feeling of never fitting in, I was welcomed in those walls. I had a place I belonged to. I had whole worlds I belonged to within the millions of pages housed there.

The director was right there pointing out that theatres I’d gotten work at were amazing, even if I didn’t get the internship with Henson I’d applied for. He was right there giving me and my folks suggestions of places I could look at for work when I finally left the area.

And the thing was, I always felt like the staff there were honestly interested, even down to those leading the after school groups who didn’t always know what to make of my quirkiness. Real conversations were had, and I can’t even imagine how obnoxious I had the possibility to be at that age.

The director in question also had an interest in storytelling and had an insane gift for public speaking. On Marin Luther King Jr. Day he took part in a program by delivering the famous I Have a Dream speech, and it was incredible. He was instrumental in getting in a lot of various speakers and performers – a lot of the people who quietly inspired me to keep on the path I was walking.

There’s one incident in particular I remember. The library had gotten in a storyteller to visit the schools – I was a senior in high school at the time, I believe. We were gathered in the high school library/media center/place I crashed with friends before classes everyday, anyway. The speaker was running late,though, and my English class was neck-deep in a section of public speaking. I’d done a presentation of a kid’s book recently (The second of the Froggy books – I’d done Froggy Gets Dressed the year before and although my interpretation ripped a little off from PBS, it was still amusing, even if I do say so, myself). At some point those around me were bored enough to suggest I reprise my speech project, and even the teacher (She of the Germ of the Wild Class) didn’t seem to be against it. I wasn’t really sure if people were sincere enough, but I’ve always been a ham and it got to the point where the suggestions were loud enough that I couldn’t brush them off, so at some point I found myself plunked in front of the microphone reserved for the guest speaker.

It was going well enough for what it was, though mid-way through I happened to look over and there was a very confused guest speaker…and the library director. Mortification was tame compared to what I was feeling, and I was sure I was going to get reamed out/get a talking to from my parents/get banned from the library because of it. He was amused, though, and never said a word about it, afterward. In fact, he was even more helpful after the fact in mentioning different things I might want to look into.

Without that safe space, without that encouragement, I don’t know that I’d be the curious, strong-willed, shameless  person I am today. I still go to the library a lot, and I try to talk to the librarians, and other regular patrons. I still try to get involved in classes and events if I’m able to. Just because I’m older doesn’t mean I can’t take an interest in the world around me, especially in a community sense. Besides, it’s fun to watch the kids and teens bustle around me half the time, going through the stacks, complaining about homework, and all the rest. It makes me smile and remember how much of an effect such a magical institution has had on me. I mean, think about it. Where else can you go and operate on such a trust-based system? Where else can you legally just take things that are there only for your benefit, at no cost as long as you give them back on time? Where else can you have such a network of support, answers for the asking? Libraries are magic, and you’ll never, ever convince me otherwise.

Smart-Ass Universe: Let it Be

Published June 15, 2015 by admin

I’ve mentioned it before, but sometimes I get life affirmation in the weirdest ways, usually through music.

I get a lot of this is probably because I’m focused on certain things anyway, and some is probably coincidence. Still, some experiences are just weird, like the universe has had enough and is pointedly clearing it’s throat at me.

Years ago, my immediate family was going through some changes. People were out of work, people were finishing school and moving on, I was the unofficial go between for everyone. I was questioning where I was creatively and in the workplace. Everything was making me anxious and stressing me out. At one point I happened to hear Let it Be on the radio and that gave me a bit of a smile. I have mixed feelings about the Beatles and I’m not a huge McCartney fan, but I love that song.

Which is a good thing, because over the course of the next year-and-a-half or so I heard it ever time I started to stress and overthink something. Every. Single. Time. It would come on the radio, in elevators, in stores. I even walked into a Wal Mart and bumped right into a shirt display with the song title on it. It was as if the universe was sighing at me and telling me to chill out whenever I got particularly ping pong ball-ish.

Admittedly, this amused me and ticked me off a little bit, to the point that I may have growled under my breath and cursed Sir Paul out a little when I heard it for the five thousandth time. Yes, at the time the local classic rock station played a lot of Beatles, but it also showed up in weird, weird places. People didn’t believe me until one day at work it came on the radio and I grumbled about it, and it was pointed out that I couldn’t look at it as a cosmic smart-ass reply because hi, classic rock station. I opened the door to go to another building and the muzak came through the door: Let it Be.

As if this wasn’t enough, a cell phone that had been left in that particular room started going off around the same time. The ringtone? You got it: Let it Be.

I raised an eyebrow at my now-creeped out coworker and went to go do my thing.

It did give me a laugh at times, though, and admittedly it made me rethink my life strategy. It’s not that there wasn’t a lot to worry about per say, but worrying really wasn’t actually accomplishing anything, either. Sometimes, with the bigger stuff, like it or not, all I could really do was Let it Be. Eventually, things did turn around and work themselves out, either because of how life works or because I started working to move the things I could forward.

It also occurs to me now that it wasn’t just about chilling out and letting things sit. If you wanna get downright Dao about it, it’s also about letting things BE. I had to learn to let life live itself through me at times, trusting in something bigger than myself. I don’t like thinking of myself as a cog in the machine, honestly. Maybe it’s ego, maybe it’s fear, but it’s hard for me to realize that in the be-all and end-all, not much I say or do really matters in the history of humanity. I want to feel like I’m in control, but this also has the opposite effect: I take it very hard when things don’t work out and I feel like I should have been able to do more. I’ve gotten better, but sometimes I have to be reminded that it’s okay to take a breath and step back, that things do have a way of working themselves out. Sometimes you have to do what you can do, accept that, then just…let it all be. It is what it is, and it’s all in hands bigger than your own.

I bring all this up because after a long week of relatives, promotion, work, errands, a signing, and so much else, I was driving home last night and clicked on the radio. Three guesses what song was playing and the first two don’t count.

I suppose I still need a reminder to take a step back, sometimes, but at least if I’m going to be told to calm down, it’s done to a beautiful melody.

Fandom Friday: Welcome to Night Vale…Except For You.

Published June 12, 2015 by admin

So mid-May a friend and I saw the Welcome to Night Vale live show, and it was fabulous. Like so much in fandom, the actual act/product/thing was/is wonderful, but there are always other parts of the evening that round it out, and those can go either way.

The venue was nice enough, though the staff left a lot to be desired. It felt like they wanted to be anywhere else, to the point where some of them had their personal effects in hand by time the show was over. Most didn’t smile or even make a huge amount of eye contact, except when they told us we had to leave. Keep in mind, the show had been over for maybe twenty minutes. I’ve spent half a lifetime doing theatre and I’ve never been kicked out of a lobby so fast. This was also after we’d been back in the merch line and choose to hang out in the lobby on the chance that there was a meet and greet (this is apparently typical with Night Vale, at the cast’s discretion).

Without going into it, we led to believe by one usher in the lobby that the meet and greet would be happening at the theatre side door and we had to leave the building. So we did, only to find by looking in said door that the meet and greet had been going on in the merch room (whose doors had been shut after we’d exited). A group of about ten, fifteen of us had gathered, not a mob by any means. Not thinking anything of it, we went to enter and were promptly told by the usher at the door that we couldn’t enter.

I should mention that most of those gathered were young women, some people had driven for hours to meet their heroes, and no matter how great a downtown area is billed as, it’s probably not the best idea to be hanging around outside at night when there’s no one else around and they won’t let you back in a building for any reason.  A few of us produced our tickets and I tried to explain calmly that we’d been to the show, another usher (whom I tried to describe) had sent us here, we’d gladly go to the back of the line…I’d even buy more merch if that would smooth things over.

While I wasn’t physically grabbed, I was shouldered right back out the door, and the usher in question glowered at us for the rest of the evening.

I get some of us looked odd, dressed up as we were. I get the show probably wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I’ve worked shows that aren’t my favorite thing, but because I like working and money, I never really thought much about it. I even get that it looked like a group of teens or young women. I’m guessing I was the oldest there, but I could’ve been wrong. I look younger than I am, which can be a point of vanity, but it also helps me gauge a person’s true nature faster. And wow, despite our rational explanations, that staff wanted no part of us. It was obvious we weren’t liked or welcome.

The thing is,  you can’t judge a book by its cover. You may think we’re geeks, but you never know who’s going to be the RN you run into at an urgent care center, or the waiter at the diner you go to next week. You don’t know who those dressed-up, cheering, chattering seemingly annoying people really are.

One of those people that night, it turns out, had worked in theatre and live event work for seventeen years. They’d worked onstage, backstage, had helped handle and coordinate live events, and turn-key operations like this type of show. Their first job entertainment job ever, actually, was day managing a box office and working with the front of house manager staff, which included ushers.

That someone would be me.

What disappoints me the most is there was no excuse for that behavior. I don’t know what their after show policies were (they weren’t posted), but I do know that little, minor tweaks and some re-training could fix all of that. That would have never happened any place where I’ve worked. In fact, there would be some big consequences if that had happened any place I’ve worked. When you go to any type of show or event, it’s an experience and every staff member interaction counts. It saddened me to hear people around me say that they were trying so hard not to be bitter because it wasn’t the cast’s fault. Things like that should never happen – you’re losing potential customers for other events that way, you’re influencing people in a negative way, which in turn hurts their view of other things, like the show in question. It’s a huge, vicious circle that benefits no one. The usher in question was three feet from the cast – it would have taken no time to ask “Excuse me, but here’s the situation. What’s your preference in how I handle this? Should I let them in or what would you like me to tell them?” That’s all. I think we all would have understood if we were given apologies and turned away if we’d felt like we’d actually been listened to and treated like we mattered.

I don’t know if this was simply because of the staff involved or if it was because we were “geeky” and “fandomy” and viewed as “nerds” who didn’t know what to do.

Here’s the thing: all of us were there, giving the theatre our money because of Night Vale. I get people may not understand fandom, they may not love all the people it attracts, they may not get the cosplay, the over-excitement, the audience participation, and on and on and on. However, at no point did any of us resort to violence, cursing, or untoward behavior. The only thing we really did was discuss the issue amongst ourselves and wait to see what happened. I’m incredibly proud of everyone who was there by that door that night, shut out as we were.

I saw a lot of awesome things that night from my perspective: a girl who held the door open for people who had their arms full as they exited the meet and greet, even though the usher routinely snapped at her to stop bothering people. Not once did she try to slip inside or act out. I saw people exiting commiserate with us, though they weren’t sure what to do and they were still high on meeting people they’d seen on stage minutes before. A homeless man who had overheard our situation stopped what he was doing, left his area where he panhandled from, and attempted to enter and talk to the usher into changing his mind. It didn’t work, but it was a moving gesture. In return, I watched all of us who’d been shut out reach into our pockets and give what they could to this man, as well as include him in conversation. A lot of us turned it around into something so disappointing, it was funny.

The long and short of it, though, was that through no fault of our own, we were missing out. Sometimes those things happen. Sometimes you’re the interloper. Even if the guy didn’t press his face on the window and hiss it at us, it’s obvious that’s how he felt. And I get that, that’s his opinion, and that’s going to happen. You’re not guaranteed every picture-perfect moment that you want, no matter how much you love something. It didn’t escape my sense of irony that in a fandom for a show that promoted inclusiveness so hard, we’d somehow managed to get ourselves excluded. Not because of the cast, not because of the fandom, but just because that’s how life works sometimes.

This lasted until Cecil Baldwin got word of what was going on, ducked out, signed for as many people as he could, then ducked back in. The entire cast took turns doing the same, and they didn’t have to. It was obvious they were exhausted (except Dylan Merron who was adorable and bubbly and I’m still not sure that he’s human…) and they still had other shows to do that week. Still, Cecil, Dylan, Mara Wilson, and Symphony Sanders all took a few minutes to talk to those of us who’d waited. It definitely gave me a smile to see the kids around me get so excited (I’m old and those emotions don’t work anymore).  Truly, it moved me and reminded me that the Night Vale crowd is definitely something different, something special indeed. While sure, it’s just a smart move to keep people happy, I honestly believe they did what they did because they felt it was the good thing to do. And honestly, as snarky as I come off, yes, it was really, really cool. I’m extremely grateful to the cast for that gesture – not just for my own experience, but for all those around me who were losing their minds, whose evening had become a huge disappointment and then exploded into something awesome.

We were suddenly back in Night Vale’s city limits, so to speak, interlopers no more. It may seem like a small gesture, or time spent after an already ages-long day for them, but for a lot of reasons it meant something. All the little things that went on out there meant something and truly showed that no matter what’s thrown at you, no matter the “geek shaming” or whatever you want to call it (if it was actually that and not a badly trained staff or someone having a bad day), there are really good people in fandom circles, people who have each other’s backs, who look out for each other, who act classy even in the face of the not-so-classy. It all turned it into an evening that I won’t forget for a long time.