Evil Gal Productions

Mere Smith
is a recovering Southerner,
longtime TV writer,
author and blogger.

Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

March 10th, 2016 by Mere Smith

The Year of Blogging: 3-10-16

So I learned this visualization in yoga a few months ago.

When doing any kind of meditation – and in case you don’t get bendy, yoga is simply a form of moving meditation – we work towards a state called “mindfulness.” Mindfulness is perhaps more popularly known as “being in the moment” – and in order to be fully in the moment, fully present, fully mindful, we must release all thoughts about our past and future.

Yet it’s important to remember that “being in the moment” is a verb, not a noun. Mindfulness is not an achievement, but a process. A conscious and continuous process of letting go of past/future thoughts, whether those thoughts are plans, memories, daydreams, worries. All these we must let go of in order to truly be in the moment, to glimpse mindfulness however briefly.

I used to get very aggressive with myself about it (PSA: kinda counterproductive for meditating). I would think, STAY IN THE MOMENT, STAY IN THE MOMENT, STOP THINKING ABOUT THAT, NOW STOP THINKING ABOUT THAT, YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE CONCENTRATING, MAKE YOUR MIND GO BLANK, WHY CAN’T YOU DO THIS, HOW ARE YOU ARE A FAILURE AT YOGA NOBODY FAILS YOGA

Well, turns out it’s very difficult to aggressively let something go.

When I finally figured that out, I knew I needed a gentler way to dismiss my past/future thoughts, and this was the visualization that helped me:

Imagine every thought that crops up – I have the dentist on Friday, how am I going to solve this work problem, remember that time when I was mortified, I wonder if it’s too late for me to be a teen model – each of these thoughts is actually a large soap bubble. Slowly, slowly these bubbles rise into the air, but they can be easily popped by the touch of a feather. The feather is your conscious mind – light and unattached – instantly dissolving the thought and scattering it to the winds.

Do we have any milk at home? 

(feather–>POP!)

Will I still be doing yoga at 50? 

(feather–>POP! )

I wonder what happens on Penny Dreadful this season? 

(feather–>POP!)

Seeing it helps.

Now I’ve noticed while writing THE NOVEL that I need to do this same work – this process – in letting go of ideas. I mean, I have hundreds of ideas a day (who doesn’t?). Every sentence is an idea. Every variation on every sentence is an idea. Every description and action and line of dialogue are ideas. And too often I’ll find myself stuck on one, trying to work around it, trying to massage it, trying to get it to feel organic. I spend an inordinate of time doing this. A lot. Way more than is actually productive.

So I think I need to conceive of these ideas more as soap bubbles – knowing there will be hundreds of others floating up, unceasingly, there always are – and popping the ones that aren’t serving me, rather than trying to force them to serve me. (Ah, there’s that aggression again.)

Good talk, Dear Nonexistent Reader. Good talk.

February 8th, 2016 by Mere Smith

The Year of Blogging: 2-8-16

How’s the–

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February 7th, 2016 by Mere Smith

The Year of Blogging: 2-7-16

Almost forgot! Ha!

February 6th, 2016 by Mere Smith

The Year of Blogging: 2-6-16

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“Formation” dropped today. It’s goddamn fantastic – but now I’m hearing rumblings that Beyoncé might have used some indie footage without permission or compensation from its director/producers and I’m torn. I’d like to hear both sides, but I’ve seen the original footage and it is in the video. Hoping there’s some kind of mix-up, ’cause if not, that’s fucked.

July 15th, 2014 by Mere Smith

If You Want To See Me Puke Onstage

Evening (/morning/afternoon/6:02 p.m. GMT), ladies and gentletoads!

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A rare update from the whirlwind my life has become. All willingly and eager, fear not – but I can see Exhaustion from here, and she’s waving. So I’m trying to take care of myself, trying to walk slower while doing more faster. Two deadlines this weekend and a reading/signing on Saturday night, which is technically the reason I’ve called this board meeting, but it feels impolite to shill you without foreplay, so…

Répétez. Begin at the beginning.

As you may have noticed, the blog’s kinda taken a back seat at the mo’ – fabulous things are afoot, but there’s only so much writing you can do in a day without your brain dripping out your nose in grey splats. Things should calm down soon, though, and I plan to come back here and regale you with all my wacky adventures in… yeah okay I’m totally making this up. (The wackiest thing I’ve been doing lately is listening to Sia’s new album on repeat. Wild times.) At the very least, I’ll try to make future posts unsucky and not-boring. That is my A-1 Quality Writing Promise™ to you.

The great news is, I’ve started working with some sharp-ass producing partners who came to me with a very unusual idea – and now I’m getting to collaborate and elaborate on that idea in every direction. There’s no graphic novel or video game to adapt this time, just a premise, so I’m getting free rein to craft conflicted characters and indulge in world-building (oh hi favorite things ever) in a very specific – but still classified – “mode” that is challenging me like no other project I’ve done. So naturally I’ve fallen in love with the damn thing.

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More as it progresses. ‘Til then keep it under your hats, palookas. That’s why I posted it on the internet. It’s private-like.

Elsewise, in an effort to maintain my energy and sanity, I’ve been working out at the gym like a motherfucker. Getting up at 5 a.m. five days a week: cardio, weights, kickboxing, yoga. Basically I’m living on endorphins and espresso at this point – not an uncommon state for a writer – in addition to enough ibuprofen to do laps in. Anybody reading this in their 20s best be enjoying your youthful resilience or I swear to Christmas I will beat that shit out of you. For me, now, almost every day some body part or other starts whining: ooh, my shoulder, ooh, my calves, my back, my ass, my toes. Places that never used to hurt after I exercised, but surprise! you wake up and you’re a few months from 40 and you didn’t even think that thing back there was a muscle, much less that you could tweak it by sneezing on the elliptical machine.

It’s times like this – the morning times, when my feet hit the floor, the joints in my body cracking loud and continuously like microwave popcorn – I remember a TV clip I saw years and years ago, a sports reporter interviewing a decathlete, a guy who’d chosen to keep competing despite a strained hamstring.

The – clearly dim – reporter asked later, “But weren’t you in pain?”

The decathlete answered, “Well, we do ten sports. There’s always something’s gonna hurt. Soon as you accept that, you stop worrying about it.”

There’s always something’s gonna hurt.

Well I’ll swan, from the mouths of jocks…

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….Buddha speaks.

Meanwhile, between the soreness itself and the magma-hot Indonesian muscle rub I use to combat it, the searing pain reminds me I’m alive.

And holy shitsnacks am I really, really alive lately.

So alive, in fact, I’m doing something I never thought I’d do: standing up in a room full of people and reading my writing aloud.

(I’m ruining that slick segue to say, “Did you catch that slick segue?”)

MONSTER TRUCK VOICE:

THIS SATURDAY!

(SATURDAY!)

(SATURDAY!)

 

Under the aegis of Shades & Shadows, a dark fantasy, horror, and science fiction performance series, I’ll be reading an excerpt from my book…

 

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…at the California Institute of Abnormal Arts (honestly, who didn’t see that one coming?) (okay, maybe the reporter), located in North Hollywood:

 

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I, for one, feel very reassured to see John’s Lawn Mower & Saw right across the street. If ever a company name cried out for dark fantasy, “John’s Lawn Mower & Saw” ranks right up there for ominous titles. These Shades & Shadows folks know what they’re doing.

More specific details:

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I’m not sure why I’m billed last, but I’m pretty confident it’s a badge of honor. Either that, or someone paid them to put me on at the very end so I’d have the whole show to work up enough anxiety vomit to spew over the entire first row. And now that I think about it, that sounds way more plausible than the first explanation.

Here’s the deal: I have seven minutes to read, and a couple ideas for passages to use – but I know these stories so well, it’s hard to take a step back and decide which section might be best for people who aren’t familiar with my work. So in the Comments section below, or if you’d like to contact me through Twitter (@EvilGalProds), I would LOVE to hear suggestions from anyone and everyone who’s read Cowface And Other Hilarious Stories About Death. Maybe a favorite scene, favorite character, favorite moment – fact is, I’m begging for help in not putting a bunch of people to sleep with my yappity-yap. It’s either this, or show my boobs onstage, and frankly I think the boobs thing will only hold them for 30 seconds – which still leaves me six and a half minutes to fill. Nobody wants to see what comes after that.

I pre-appreciate and thank you for your advice, and I hope to see you Saturday*!

 

P.S. Cowface will be available for sale at the show (with free Evil Gal bookmarks inside!), and I’d be thrilled to sign anything you bring. Even body parts. Even severed body parts, because in California that’s only, what? A misdemeanor, tops? I WILL DO THAT SHIT FOR YOU, FRIEND.

 

 

 

* Those seated in the first row may want to bring plastic sheeting. There’s a possibility it could get very Millie Brown Does Gallagher.

April 10th, 2014 by Mere Smith

Unlike Scatman Crothers, I Made It Out Of The Overlook

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I learned how to do that – the whole inhale, exhale thing – while I was up in Washington the past few months.

It’s not always easy to breathe in L.A.

Sure, there’s the smog and the choking pretentiousness of your fellow man, but sometimes the city itself sits heavy on the chest. The deals, the traffic, the people. Makes it hard to get air in. You small-sip it, never noticing how each sip gets smaller – until suddenly you’re Giles Corey being pressed to death – SPLAT.

L.A. was SPLATting me.

So I went to stay in a small cabin on a small hill, 20 minutes outside a small town, in order to write a spec script, which I did… minus a couple unfinished scenes I’m still battling like some fucking Game Of Thrones character who won’t die: the Beric Dondarrion of scripts. (That one was for you, bro.) However, spec aside, I found a lot more than I expected in that cabin – a lot more than I expected in me – like how to finally

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Deeply. Fully.

I’ll write about my experiences soon. For now they’re still fermenting in the old brain juice – and as the ancient philosopher Orson Welles once said, “Ye shall blog no whine before its tyme.” He was a weird guy.

But other things press!

(If you hadn’t already noticed, this post’s gonna ramble. I am an out of practice blogger – which intellectually is, like, one step above coral – and I got a lot of ground to cover, so give a bitch a break.)

First let’s talk about this:

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That’s right, ladies and germos,

THIS WEEKEND
APRIL 12 – 13

I will be at

THE LA TIMES FESTIVAL OF BOOKS
ON THE USC CAMPUS
BOOTH 157 – BOOTH 157 – BOOTH 157

(I call that “cheap 3-D”: 3-Damn Times)

UCLA alums, I have already offered to lay down cover fire if shit gets real.

Naturally, I’ll be accompanied in this endeavor by my fellow author and co-founder of The Asylum Collective (unclench! I’ll get there!), Eric Sipple – also known as my webmaster-slash-bitch, aka W/B, aka Sippy Cup.

And yeah, I do call him Sippy Cup. He still answers my texts. Who’s got the low self-esteem now, YOU SIXTH-GRADE BITCHES?

Whoa. Middle-school flashback.

Point is, this weekend I’m gonna be in downtown Los Angeles shilling books, motherfuckers –

 

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like the one right up there

plus this one down here

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and this next one too, which I only wrote 2% of but

was edited by Leslie Marinelli, publishing mogul extraordinaire

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These are all really fun books – ones I swear you won’t regret reading unless you’re really trying to be an asshole – and if you’re nice – or even better, if you’re not – I’ll sign them for you! That’s right! Totally ruin a brand new book by scrawling my stupid name in it – I will DO that shit for you, man – because you’re my friend, faceless anonymous blog reader!

I can’t speak for Eric, though, who will be shamelessly flogging his own book like a sad old hooker with tits to her toes. Just don’t throw pennies at him this time, okay? It’s mean and it makes him cry. And being mean and making him cry is my job.

Speaking of which, earlier I mentioned The Asylum Collective, and you were like, “Whaaaat?” and I was like, “Unclench! I’ll get there!” and now we’re here.

So.

Eric and I have been kicking an idea back and forth for a little over a year, and in the next few paragraphs, I’m going to give you the smallest amount of information I can get away with without someone going, “Well why the fuck did you bring it up?”

The Asylum Collective really started coming together after I wrote this.

I hadn’t intended for that blog post to become some sort of art manifesto – actually, I’m pretty sure it’s still not a manifesto, since I don’t know how to write a manifesto; rather surprisingly, there was no Manifesto Writing course at Brown – but through the process of writing that post, a bunch of nebulous stuff I’d been turning around in my head suddenly clarified. Thoughts about art and social media, the nature of inspiration and collaboration between artists, the currently-shifting rubrics for cultural gatekeepers.

The Asylum Collective will be a website.

And yet it will be so much more than a website.

We’re months away from launch – hell, with our schedules, maybe several, several months – but we knew the project was a fucking behemoth from the jump, and we’re not going anywhere. We hope you stick around, too.

For those of you who don’t know, the very name, The Asylum Collective, comes from the imaginary “asylum” I run on my Twitter account (@EvilGalProds) – the joke being, of course, that you’d have to be crazy to follow me.  So the Asylum is already in existence in one platform – we’re just going to build an expansive new wing – where you can draw on the walls.

But if I told you any more, I’d have to lobotomize you.

January 18th, 2014 by Mere Smith

Recording The Shining

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January 18, 2014 – Day Fourteen 

I saw the sun today.

For six minutes.

Looked just like I remembered it.

Went back inside.

 

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January 17, 2014 – Day Thirteen 

Literally me today.

 

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January 16, 2014 – Day Twelve 

So that’s what it looked like when I got here.

This is what it looked like today:

fogggggg

Strangely, though, the fog seems to act like some kind of productivity blanket (I was about to type “or shroud,” but the fog’s spooky enough on its own) – making me feel like I’m all curled up away from the world…

…which, okay, yes, for all practical intents and purposes I was curled up already. But you know how there’s a difference between when you dance in front of other people, and when you dance by yourself? (Don’t pretend you don’t understand what I’m talking about, you lying dancing liarpantses.) The fog makes me feel like I’m dancing in a room with no windows, no prying eyes, no judgments.

See, I don’t know how other TV folk write specs, but me, I need full immersion in the show before I feel confident enough to recreate it. Like living in Spain to learn Spanish. The original story I bring to the spec is the easy part: it’s molding that story to someone else’s vision that takes work. This means watching episodes over and over and over until I can “hear” the characters’ voices without trying. It also means – same as I did for my “Sopranos” spec 200 years ago – logistically breaking down and diagramming a couple shows, as seen here in my oh-so-cryptic code:

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(That’s “Poison Pen”, by the way: S2E4, by Robert Doherty and Liz Friedman.)

This allows me to see the fundamental architecture of a script, like a reverse-engineered outline – as well as letting me track certain patterns inherent in the show, i.e.: on average, how many locations are they hitting per act? Over how many days does the story take place? How many interiors vs. how many exteriors? The number of amazing deductions Sherlock makes in a scene? The number Joan makes? (Answer: surprisingly, a LOT. To be honest, I didn’t realize how well the writers were balancing the deductive labor, since Sherlock usually makes the more outlandish leaps of reason, and those are the ones that stick with you.) What kind of space is given to the topics of addiction, or Moriarty, or the dynamics of working with the police? And on and blah and on. Like I said, total immersion.

(And if you’re not a writer, I apologize, because that entire previous paragraph probably bored the fuckstuffing out of you.)

All this shit is what you’d normally hash out in a writers’ room with a bunch of other people. Unfortunately with a spec, it’s 100% All On You, So Do Your Homework And Don’t Fuck It Up.

That’s what I mean by a productivity blanket. The fog erases the outside world and allows me to disappear into “Elementary”’s.

So don’t mind me, I’m just gonna keep practicing my little dance in here until I’m ready to hit the club.

 

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January 15, 2014 – Day Eleven 

 

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January 14, 2014 – Day Ten 

Act Two down.

Hello, Acts Three and Four.

 

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January 13, 2014 – Day Nine 

Sherlock’s bees.

I am one of them.

I have just placed the outline for the Teaser and Act One in the 14th honeycomb on the right.

Sure, it’s just masticated nectar at this point, but soon…

Soon it will be sweet bee vomit.

 

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January 12, 2014 – Day Eight 

Entering the deep waters.

It’s dangerous.

You guys stay here.

 

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January 11, 2014 – Day Seven 

[[WARNING: SPOILERS FOR ELEMENTARY SEASONS ONE AND TWO BELOW]]

Inside day.

Schizophrenic atmospheric conditions: foggy, cloudy, sunny, windy, rainy, wrath-of-god-rainy, Treenados. The weather needs some Haldol.

Tomorrow I start building the new architecture of my original story. Not as daunting as building something completely ex nihilo, but not not daunting, either. Obviously a lot’s changed on the show since I left off the spec last year (for example, it turns out Irene Adler and Moriarty are the same person, who is also Margaery Tyrell on Game of Thrones, thus officially making Natalie Dormer THE biggest badass on television, dragons or no motherfuckin’ dragons, khaleesi) — and so adjustments have to be made.

Definitely nervous, but the same way I imagine a guy feels in the batter’s box: yes, there’s anxiety, and a weird, very public, dread — Hey Rocky! Watch me pull a three-and-out of my hat! — but there’s also this burning desire to swing so hard you knock the cover off the goddamn ball, just like Chipper Jones did a couple years ago. An internal revving, a “bring it,” a “let’s do this.” (Note to aspiring screenwriters: never, never, ever actually put those phrases in a script. Trust me, I’m saving careers here.)

Am anxious to rise tomorrow, to do yoga, to get started.

 

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January 10, 2014 – Day Six 

Remember how I said I worked like a MONSTER yesterday?

Was reading Sherlock this afternoon on the couch, when suddenly the book got really close to my eyes, then eased back to a normal distance, then got really close again, then slowly back to normal… it was only when it happened the third time that I realized it wasn’t the book moving — it was my head. I was, quite literally, trying to read and sleep at the same time. And as the time-honored saying in my clan goes: Fuck that. I’m taking a nap.

So I did. Right there in the middle of the afternoon, on the couch, curled under a blanket, for two solid hours.

Let me tell you, they may’ve been two of the greatest hours of my life.

Not because of the sleep — though the sleep was fucking fantastic, seriously — but because I didn’t feel guilty about it.

Okay.

So if you do as much headshrinkery and yoga as I do, you get real familiar with the phrase, “Give yourself permission to… (whatever).”

Give yourself permission to feel anger.

Give yourself permission to relax your shoulder muscles.

It seems a little odd at first, the notion that there’s some other “you” you need to appeal to in order to get something done — some higher, more-authoritative “you” that apparently reigns over the rest of… well, you. (Freud would call it the superego — though for some reason, that’s always given me the mental image of a red capital E flying around in a cape.) If you wanna get all neurological about it, we’re talking about your frontal lobe, the area code in your brain that spans higher reasoning and judgment — the part of you that keeps you from doing insane and dangerous things, like speeding in the rain on a mountain road, or befriending a rabid lion, or trying to steal a sip off my mom’s margarita. All that shit will get you killed, son.

Even Bill Nye would agree — that’s how scientifically accurate this is; I’m not fucking around — there is technically a “you” that’s sorta in charge of the rest of you. (“Sorta” is a science word.)  And as I’ve learned from both the yoga and the headshrinkage, just being aware and conscious enough to ask that “you” for permission is usually enough for “you” to give it over. After all, it’s not as if your higher reasoning is gonna be like, No, I do not give you permission to relax your shoulder muscles! I like the way they’re feeling all pinchy and hurty and tight. I hope our whole neck cramps up tomorrow! 

(Man, superego, you’re a dick!)

(Or maybe that’s just Freud again.)

No, it seems “ask and ye shall receive” actually is the case — and like all excruciating cliches, it is only redeemed by the merit of being true.

That’s why this afternoon, when my head nearly crashed into the book a third time, I thought about all the work I’d done yesterday, and all the work I’d accomplished so far that day — and how this retreat, in its remoteness and quietude, is almost forcing me to be more mindful, more aware of what I want and what I need — and as so rarely happens in my regular, driven, ambitious life, I finally — and fully — gave myself permission to rest.

I slept like that dog up there.

 

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January 9, 2014 – Day Five 

What writer’s retreat is complete without a library?

At last, the Box O’Books arrived! Also included: my zombie slippers and yoga mat. Y’know, the important stuff.

Worked like a fucking MONSTER today; it felt fabulous.  Also I ate some bacon.

 

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January 8, 2014 – Day Four 

This is what happens when I have no TV at night.

Crafts. 

I’m practically almost fucking Amish now… if the Amish liked to knit their clothes out of obnoxiously bright, sequined, and silk-feathered yarn.

So I’m Amishpunk, which is just like steampunk, only without all the newfangled technology.

 

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January 7, 2014 – Day Three 

So here’s the Overlook Hotel at dusk. Don’t worry, you don’t have to tell me how amazingly incredibly perfect it is, I already know. So perfect in fact that I keep waiting for Someone In Authority to barge in, grab me by the neck, and growl, “Who said you deserve to be here?”

Sadly, I ask myself variations on that question more often than I’d like.

Only three days into the woods, and in the absolute drop off of bustle and hum, I find myself making casual realizations like this: that I often feel unworthy of the good things in my life. It’s as if I believe, deep in my bones (completely irrationally, I’m well aware) that at some point in the past I committed an unspeakable crime… only I can’t remember what it is, just that I owe for it. I owe for it. I’m on the red side of the moral balance sheets, and to wish for or receive anything beyond a basic survival amount of happiness is… I don’t know… flouting punishment? tempting fate? getting greedy?

Anyway, something horrible and indecorous that will inevitably lead to the end of the world. Not to be grandiose.

As I said, though, this particular irrational thought — that I am somehow unworthy of happiness — isn’t unique to my current situation. I carry it around with me every day. It’s simply that here in the Overlook, when 90% of the outside noise disappears, the echo of that thought sticks around a lot longer, clanging and re-clanging off the silent walls, off the inside of my head. And I am grateful for the quiet.

For in this moment, at least — and maybe it only takes a succession of these moments, staying mindful enough to create a succession of these moments, to make the feeling disappear permanently — instead of letting that sense of unworthiness slip back into my primordial angst soup like it always does, this time I’m grabbing it by the neck and growling, “Who said you deserve to be here?”

 

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January 6, 2014 – Day Two 

Went for my morning run — frost-covered fields, ice-encrusted hay crunching under my feet. Cold didn’t bother me at all — was layered as a wedding cake — but my lungs felt ready to explode. Pretty convinced there’s no air in the air here. EPA might wanna look into that. After the run, meditated. Like a boss.

Forgot how fast I read when I’m not distracted (i.e., with the TV on in the background, or constantly checking Twitter, email, Tumblr, phone games, etc.). Have already plowed through An Anthropologist On Mars by Oliver Sacks and You’d Better Not Cry by Augusten Burroughs, and just started Manic: A Memoir by Terri Cheney. Only one other “recreational” book until my Box O’Books arrives on Thursday — Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

Feel like I’m adjusting my mental to the slower pace. Have a horrifying suspicion that I may be forced into town to procure knitting material.

Yes, fuckers. I knit scarves. Only scarves, but I can fucking knit. Yuk it up.

Script-wise, been re-re-reading The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Vols. I & II and taking notes — pointedly now, knowing the basic elements of my story, searching out pertinent twists on classic Sherlockian devices.

Lovely here. But.

I miss the Finance.

 

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January 5, 2014 – Day One

Am somewhere beyond this mountain.  Cabin is amazing in that way where you say the “MAY” part a really long time. Unpacked all my shit – surprising, for me – while blasting music, singing at the top of my lungs, dancing. Hope my happiness eats away at @saalon like a cancer.

 

 

September 27th, 2013 by Mere Smith

WOTS You Missed…

So to be perfectly honest, after two solid months of working on books, I’m a little worded-out.

Instead, here are some pictures (1,000 words a pop, mind you — I may be tired, but I’m not cheap), to share our experience at…

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The night before, dinner at The Harlem Underground (excellent jambalaya!)…

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Left to right, @EvilGalProds, @saalon, @Lionnesss, @onikaze, his friend Carolyn, and @LWQuestie 

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Later that night, picking a GRAND PRIZE WINNER@OnOneCondition!

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The next day dawned cold and windy.  Pre-set-up…

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BAH-KOW! Post-set-up…

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Our lovely Toronto tour guide, @Lionnesss, in her limited edition EGP “Welcome To The Asylum” shirt…

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Next three pictures by @NYPinTA

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Lots of readers, and one Crazy Cthulubunny Guy…

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Now imagine this stretching on for over a mile…

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Our special You Have Lipstick On Your Teeth section, edited by @TheBeardedIris

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Me signing books, Eric decapitated… just the way I like it.

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Look, Ma! Groupies! (left to right, @Lionnesss, @NYPinTA, and @LWQuestie)

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Me ‘n’ Demoncow reppin’ the 310 in Moose Country…

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(photo by @Lionnesss)

 

After it was all over, the exhaustion set in…

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…until we got back to the Airbnb condo, grabbed some take-out, and started planning the next phase of our global media empire!

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Don’t be fooled by the smiles. We hate each other. No, seriously. (Is anyone still buying this?)

Last but definitely most, here’s a more personal video my dearest Finance put together of our Toronto trip. Yes, that is him, and yes, he is always that weird. Can you imagine anyone more perfect for me?

(Note the continuous Travel Bitchface I wear whenever I’m near/in an airport. Poor Finance.)

September 24th, 2013 by Mere Smith

IT’S BOOK LAUNCH DAY!

covers

 

The day you’ve all been waiting for! Or at least, the day I’ve been waiting for, since I’m ULTRASUPERSTOKED to share these stories with you!  Wherein “share” means “you give me a nominal amount of money and then I give you the books — do I look like I just fell off the turnip truck?”

How do you get them? Well, there are three — count ’em, THREE! — ways you can obtain these little motherfuckers.

.

OPTION ONE: SIGNED COPIES!

Want me to write some crazy shit in your book? Order signed copies and I’ll write anything you want! (Anything that doesn’t have to do with Nazis or the Klan, that is — unless it’s “Fuck Nazis!” or “Fuck the Klan!” Either of those, I’ll totally do, and I’ll even draw a little happy face next to it.) This is a limited time offer, as we’re running out of first editions (we had tremendous sales up at Toronto’s Word On The Street Festival, which was fantastic, but means there aren’t too many left), and also, I can’t be all nice and a good person and sign y’all’s stuff for twelve hours a day. Who do you think I am, Neil Gaiman?

SIGNED COPIES OF

 Cowface And Other Hilarious Stories About Death

(or as it was recently called on Twitter, COWFACE OHSAD, which I kind of love),

are available HERE

and

The Blood Room

are available HERE

Order a signed version, tweet me @EvilGalProds what you’d like to me to inscribe (or if it’s private/creepy/weird, let me know, and you can DM me, you freako), and maybe — just maybe — you’ll get a free Evil Gal Productions bookmark slipped inside!

(created by Karen J. Wellenkamp at RagtagDesign.com)

Ordering signed copies means a little additional shipping and handling (since it’s all in-house, as in, “I am mailing them from the actual house I live in”), and your books might take a little longer to get to you (1-2 weeks), but in the meantime, you can pursue…

OPTION TWO: PRISTINE COPIES!

Hit up The Amazon! Granted, they get a big chunk of my the money, unlike with the signed editions, where I clear the whole profit (of $2 – ’cause we roll dirty rich up in hyeah), but some folks like their books really fast and OCD spotless. I get this. And oh my friends, I have the solution: ORDER TWO COPIES FROM EACH OPTION! That way you get my amazing autograph — a really big M and S with a whole bunch of loops and swirls after ’em — to keep on your bookshelf and show off to friends who probably won’t care very much but that’s their loss — AND a copy you can have in your grubby little hands within a couple days!

AMAZON COPIES OF

 Cowface And Other Hilarious Stories About Death

are available HERE

and

The Blood Room

are available HERE

If you’re interested in e-books, you can also snap up the Kindle versions from Amazon while you’re there, OR…

OPTION THREE: PAY WHAT YOU WANT E-BOOKS!

Help an indie sister out!

Yes, just like Amanda Fucking Palmer, I truly believe people want to help other people, especially people who’re taking risks and chasing their dreams. Or rather, stalking, chasing, and then taking down their dreams like a tiger does a hippopotamus. I don’t know whether tigers really eat hippopotami — actually, I’m pretty sure they don’t even live on the same continent — but that’s what this is like. Just trust me.

So join the grand social experiment! Be part of the new media revolution! You tell me what you think my books are worth, set your own price, and within minutes you’ll have the electronic versions transferred to your favorite reading device, because BONUS:

If you order through our pay-what-you-want system, you get BOTH e-books in one bundle, instead of having to order them separately through Kindle!

Want to support the arts and lots of swearing?

Go HERE!

(available in Kindle and ePub formats)

AND LEST YE THINK I’VE FORGOTTEN:

OUR GRAND PRIZE #WOTS WINNER,

CHOSEN AT RANDOM FROM MY SUBSCRIBER LIST,

WHO GETS ALL THIS AWESOME STUFF:

is @OnOneCondition!

Congratulations, @OnOneCondition! I’ll be contacting you shortly for your address!

 

Coming Soon:
The Unabridged #WOTS Adventure!

 

September 20th, 2013 by Mere Smith

How Do You Art

As Eric and I close out #WOTSWEEK – our indie-publishing journey to the Toronto Word On The Street Festival this Sunday – we’d planned that the theme of today’s post would be, “This is how we got here.” 

Only how big is that topic?

Just in general, how did we become these particular versions of ourselves? How did we arrive at this specific place and time? How did we wind up at Taco Bell at four in the afternoon wearing sequined booty shorts and carrying a Glock 9? (Eric, not me.) What decisions were made? It’s an almost endless series of questions that eventually and inevitably leads back to your parents’ gonads, which, gross.

So I tried to narrow it down.

Two people started typing at each other on Twitter and ended up publishing books together and flying to Canada to hawk them at the country’s largest book fair. Oh, and they also have this weird dysfunctional relationship where she spends a large majority of the time threatening to torture and maim him and sometimes he dresses up like a Viking.

eviking

Only that’s fucking crazydoodles, right?

I could sit here and try to outline When It All Started and Then We Did This and Here’s What Happened After That, but what I really want to talk to you about, I think, is How Do You Art.

I know.

I know that for some people, referring to anything as “art” is considered simultaneously naïve and pretentious (kinda gets you comin’ and goin’, doesn’t it?), but fuck that. We don’t gotta get all twee about it – not around here, at least. Art doesn’t have to be schmancy, what with the leatherbound folios and million-dollar VanGoghs.

Art is just… itself. Whatever its self may look or sound or be like.

Whether you’re making something for you, your friends, your family, your work – a diary, a cake, a back deck, a presentation – far as I’m concerned, that’s art. You’re creating, making something that wasn’t there before. Create = art. That’s my philosophy. I’m a simple gal. Evil, but simple.

Though naturally, beyond one’s basic definition of “art,” there are folks who’ll try to define “great art,” or “mediocre art,” or “bad art.”

But if you’ve ever stuck a two year-old’s drawing to the fridge, you know that real art has nothing to do with a bunch of fusty old arbiters of “greatness”. Real art is the pride swelling in your chest when you look at your kid’s picture, that strange sublimation of emotion into physicality – a miracle in itself – the alchemy of mind into matter. You can feel art – whether it’s satisfaction in the accomplishment, joy in its interpretation, or sorrow in its finity.

The last few years, even when I had TV gigs, I think I was just stumbling around like a drunk in the dark, searching for How Do You Art.  It took a long time, and a lot of floundering, and experimenting time and again, in medium and voice, seeing what worked, what helped, what didn’t – and now, less than 24 hours away from venturing off to Canada to sell my indie books — I think I’ve finally landed on the five most important answers to How Do You Art, which I now humbly share with you.

Prepare to be... AMAZED!

Prepare to be… AMAZED!

 

Eric set a shitload of deadlines.

In a booth at the IHOP, typing on his laptop (wow, I just had to fight the urge to break out into some slam poetry), he built a calendar of days leading up to the Word On The Street Festival, sort of like one of those Advent Calendars leading up to Christmas – except on this one, instead of finding a piece of candy behind every little door, you got a flaming skull shrieking, “You’re going to miss this deadline, fail miserably in front of everyone, and never again have a healthy sense of self-esteem!” Thus the first and most important answer to

How Do You Art:

You have to say, “Fuck it.”

Yup.

Just fuck it right in its earhole. The fear, the dread, the seemingly insurmountable expectations and odds – fuck ‘em all in their earholes. If you’re not comfortable telling your fear to fuck itself in the earhole (fearhole?), maybe you could find a friend willing to do it for you. I’ll do it for you. I’m eminently qualified, as I’m fluent in Profanity and think fear should be told to fuck off more often.

Nine months ago, I called 2013 my Year Of Glorious Mistakes, after Neil Gaiman’s New Year’s Wish, specifically for these lines:

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things,

learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world.

That’s when I made the conscious and conscientious decision to take more creative risks this year – even if I failed, even if I failed super-spectacularly badly and in public – because that quote led me to realize the second answer to

How Do You Art:

You really gotta wanna change shit up.

And I wanted that change. I’d been doing TV for fifteen years, but now I was feeling this itch to do something… more.

Y’see, scripts’ strict outlines are useful, functional – but they leave something to be desired in the free jazz solo of the mind. I’d always written fiction on the side – stories I rarely showed anyone – most of them left unfinished whenever I went off to work on another show – but now I came back to the abandoned pieces and started completing them, slowly, steadily.

Then, for the first time since I started writing for TV, I finally admitted to myself that I also really wanted to write books – novels and short stories.  And I could’ve gone through the whole query-letter-manuscript-submission process – hell, I probably could’ve had my manager’s company do it for me – but more than I wanted the “legitimacy” conferred by a big-name publisher, I wanted my books.

My art.

I didn’t want to wait for someone to give me permission to make art, or to tell me what kind of art was required, or what kind of art would sell, or, as on some TV shows, for someone to literally re-art my art simply because it was their prerogative and they felt like it.

I wanted to trust my instincts and all the valuable lessons I’d learned over the last fifteen years. I wanted to write about what I wanted, how I wanted, and share it with people the way I wanted. Goddammit, I wanted to bet on myself, instead of just sitting around, hoping someone else would bet on me – because (as is the norm in Hollywood) I’d been doing the latter for the last decade and a half, and lemme tell you, that process instills a sense of learned helplessness that can be almost impossible to shake off.

At the most fundamental level, I wanted to do art the way I wanted to do art.

And y’all, that realization was pants-shittingly terrifying.

images

Because what the fuck did I know besides TV?  The fuck did I know from books, besides reading them? What gave me the idea that I could write books? That I possessed whatever special skill set you needed? Just because I knew how to write a script didn’t mean I knew how to write a book. (And truthfully, the two styles are so vastly different that switching between them is like switching between languages. You invariably find yourself mixing syntax.)

And what about all the Hollywood people I’d worked with or might work with? Would they sneer at my indie books and think, “Oh, she must just be doing this because she’s not on a show”?  “Oh, she must not be able to find a ‘real’ publisher”?  Would they discount me and/or my work because I chose a path that wasn’t the traditional “way things are done”?  Would they think I was ridiculous just for wanting to do something I called “art”?

Jesus Christ, Martha, what will the neighbors say?

And so we return to, “Fuck it in its fearhole.”

Actually, while you’re working on How Do You Art, you’ll be amazed how many times you’ll return to this little ditty: for instance, every single solitary goddamn day and sometimes several times in the space of a single minute.  You have to get really, really accustomed to telling the fear to fuck off, because it is a vicious and persistent bastard that doesn’t care that it’s 2 a.m. and you’re nestled snugly in your bed. The fear will find you. Especially when you’re just sorta meandering around full of philosophical ideals, like I was, with no concrete objective in mind.  Which brings us to the next answer to

How Do You Art:

Set a goal. Any goal.

Unknown-1

This is where the Word On The Street Festival came in for me. Eric invited me to Toronto to sell my own books… except… you know… at that point I didn’t have any fucking books.  He knew I wanted to publish them, but since I was still in the fumbling stages – being willing to take a risk, knowing I wanted something to change, but not yet knowing what project to pursue – Word On The Street gave me a definitive finish line. So I decided to make two books out of material I’d already written, publish them independently, and have them ready by September. It was a big goal (back then I had no idea how big), but we had lots of advance time, a growing partnership, and between us, enough Ativan to kill a small village. It felt doable.

Now, once you’ve established some sort of finish line – “I am going to run a 5K”; “I am going to grow roses in this plot of earth”; “I am going to eat this entire chocolate cake in one sitting” – I think your brain solidifies it as A Task.  Your brain is used to completing A Task. Read this blog. Take the garbage out. Pee when your bladder is full. Your brain sees a finish line and thinks, “Dude, cool, okay. I know how to do A Task.” We, as humans, are hardwired to finish Tasks – it’s why we have that nagging sensation when we’ve forgotten something – even our subconscious harbors an urge towards completion.

Of course, the harder the Task, the more we want to say, “Screw it. It’s too difficult. It’s too long. It’s too much work. It’s too complicated. It’s too big. It’s too weird. It’s too too too too too ad infinitum.” But in reality, that’s the fear talking again, and we’ve already discussed how to deal with that sumbitch. So if you’re willing to say “Fuck it,” if you’re willing to change, if you have a goal… what’s next?

How Do You Art:

angry_woman_lead_narrowweb__300x378,0(2)

 Don’t you fucking quit.

Just don’t.

Don’t quit.

Don’t give up, don’t give in, don’t lie down, don’t concede, don’t delay, don’t deny, don’t make excuses, don’t listen to doomsayers, don’t drown in mental bullshit.

Find the time, the resources, the answers, find support.

Find a way – any way – to not quit, and do that.

This step is probably the easiest to explain, but the hardest to carry out – because it is going to be hard, and you are going to want to quit.

You are going to want to quit eight googolplex times. You are going to think of a thousand other things you’d rather be doing. You’re going to resent all the time you spend not doing those other things. You’re going to want to sigh, “This piece isn’t coming out the way I planned, so I give up.”

Well, guess what? Sometimes your art doesn’t do what you think you want it to. Sometimes your genius intellectual brain has a fabulously intricate design, but the true inside you — the part of your soul where the art actually comes from – has its own ideas about what you’re really trying to do and say, and then you might as well just get your big fat head out of its way, jackass. Because that piece of your soul is a better artist than your big fat genius head could ever dream of being (not that the head can’t be useful in its own way). So if your art takes an unexpected left turn at Albuquerque? Open the throttle, see where the turn takes you, and follow it all the way to the end of the road. Don’t quit because you think you’re locked into an idea. You’re not. Ever. One of the most pleasurable things about creating art is listening to that true you, learning what it’s capable of, instead of demanding that it only do the tricks you’ve taught it.

Understand: you will create some crappy shit.

Leaving aside the fusty arbiters of “greatness,” I’ve written scripts I cannot bear to look at, blog entries that make me want to crawl in a hole, poetry that makes me want to gun down a room full of myselves, fiction that leaves a sour metal fug on my tongue like I’ve sucked on a mouthful of batteries. And ugh. After all your hard work, all your not quitting, that you might wind up with something you don’t like? Fuuuuuuck.

So start over again.

And don’t quit again.

Because eventually you will create something you’re happy with, and if you’re really lucky, you’ll create something you’re ecstatic with. And sometimes that can keep you from wanting to quit for a really long while, which is nice. But – and this is THE most important part of this step – you will never get to the point where you don’t want to quit…

…if you quit now.

So don’t you fucking quit.  Don’t you ever, ever fucking quit.

And this final tip can help with that:

How Do You Art:

Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate.

Maybe you’re an artist, maybe you’re a mother, maybe you’re a guy who installs those giant panes of glass on skyscrapers.

What do these people have in common?

TO DO THEIR JOBS WELL, THEY ALL NEED A LITTLE FUCKIN’ HELP, MAN.

biggest-burger

Imagine that this 700-lb. cheeseburger is your art.  It’s HUGE. You’ve got like, 500 lbs. of meat, 100 lbs. of cheese, 50 lbs. of tomatoes, 20 lbs. of pickles — and that’s not even counting the raising of the cows, the aging of the cheese, the harvesting of the tomatoes, the brining of the pickles. One person could not make this hamburger alone. Or possibly they could, but throw in the chopping and the frying and the baking (who has an oven big enough for those buns?) — that mono-sourced hamburger would be cold and rotting by the time it reached the hungry masses. However, because many people played their individual parts in concert — The Lettuce Guy, The Cheese Guy, The Bun In The Oven Guy — instead we have a delicious 700-lb. meal of Massive Myocardial Infarction.

But here’s the thing: a lot of artists I know — writers, painters, crafters — like to work alone. I like to work alone. I like to work alone for long, long, long stretches of time because I’m an exceedingly slow writer and I would literally rather pluck every hair off my head and eat it before I show my first drafts to anyone. But just because I like to work alone doesn’t mean I only work alone.

And “alone” is a wobbly concept when it comes to art, anyway. Anyone who seeks to create things is affected by people who create the same things.  A painter doesn’t become a painter by never looking at a painting. A writer doesn’t become a writer by never reading. Even bypassing the art angle, everyone is influenced by everyone else anyway, for better or worse. You pick shit up from your parents, your siblings, your teachers, your friends, your lovers, your heroes, your enemies. Aside from our factory settings, we are all a melange of people we’ve known, seen, and heard of — each of us a unique mosaic of influence.

But influence is not collaboration.

Collaboration implies active intent. It means admitting that this particular cheeseburger needs more than what you’re able to give it on your own. It means inviting someone into your art, into your thoughts, into your process — and then asking them for their help: their opinion, their advice, even their labor. Take it from me, this can make you feel extremely vulnerable — I hail from the Don’t Never Owe Nobody Nothin’ Clan — and is a major reason why it took me so fucking long to be willing to collaborate outside of a TV writers’ room. I mean, I knew I could hack it for television (so to speak), but when it came to the art I did for myself? I was too afraid of being told, “That’s terrible. Stop writing. I’m calling the police.” But once I’d picked up the first four steps of How Do You Art, that fear just seemed like wasted energy. I’d already said “fuck it,” I wanted change, I’d picked a goal, I wasn’t going to quit —

— only HOLY SHIT THERE WAS SO MUCH WORK TO DO!

But thankfully, I’d agreed to collaborate on this venture with Eric: I’d get the books together, he’d do the layout, we’d team up on design and marketing (which, when we realized we knew jack-shitall about design and marketing, meant we needed @quotergal to collaborate with us, too). Out of the probably 500 separate tasks we had to accomplish — note: not even an exaggeration — if we hadn’t split them up three ways, there would be no Word On The Street Festival for me. There would be no new books. There would be no 200 MB blog post that you’re almost to the end of, I promise. The art that exists now would never have existed. Not without collaboration. Never.

So find your people. Find people you trust and let them into your art, and allow them to help you. If you trust them enough to let them in, it’s a good bet they already want to help you. And they know things. Things you don’t know. Their own influence-mosaic may contain crucial tiles you need, talents you don’t possess. Even just a fresh pair of eyes to look at something you’ve been staring at for months, until you can’t see the trees for the forest. Let someone else take watch. Let people help you.

Let them make you better.

This is @quotergal, making my art better.

This is @quotergal, making my art better.

Some folks think they’re “collaborating” when all they’re really doing is looking for approbation. When they give someone a story they’ve written, and that someone says, “Your main character is great — but you may want to rethink that scene where he kicks a puppy to death,” all they hear — all they want to hear — is “Your main character is great — blah blah bloop gosh, you’re perfect already.” Needless to say, this is not collaboration.

Collaboration requires mutual respect between all parties, clear and honest communication, a willingness to try out other people’s ideas, an ability to eat humble pie, and sometimes the backbone to say, “I appreciate your take on this, but I am trying to accomplish something different.”  Collaboration requires a vision, passion, patience, fearlessness, and perseverance.

More than anything, though, it requires a commitment to art above ego.

 

And in my opinion, that is the ultimate lesson in

How You Do Art.