2015 Year in Review

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Photo courtesy of Sam Matthews.

I ended it in a better state than I started it.

January: Told friends and family I was going to move to Portland, likely in the summer if not sooner. Started my intro level roller derby practices in Oak Park.

February: Started my Feminine Comique intro to stand-up comedy class. Took a sexual harasser to court. Hosted a fun Galentines Day brunch with 20+ women I like being around. Adele and I found out our apartment was being sold, so I had to find a new plan of where to live between April and July.

March: Did my stand-up class’s final show. Told my company I was moving and asked to keep my job remotely. Started the Addison Recorded podcast with Gina, a six-week project. Turned 29. Got rid of most of my belongings in preparation for the Portland move. Set a move date for July.

April: Started a video project in which I took two-second video clips of my last 100 days of living in Chicago. Visited Portland during the rainy season to make sure I wanted to live there, AND saw the Rose City Rollers play for the first time. Concluded the podcast. Started a personal email newsletter. Moved in with Christina and John, bookending my time in Chicago in the house where I began those five years.

May: Started an ASL class with Christina, who was interested in learning. Saw my first USARS bout. My brother visited Chicago for a work conference, and then came back with his whole family a couple weeks later. Did a radio interview with WGN about Shine Theory. Saw Jenny Lewis play. Went home to Ohio for Memorial Day.

June: I got to officially announce that my company was letting me keep my job, six weeks before my move date. Did two live lit shows. Threw myself literally five going away parties. Saw Best Coast play. Gave away and sold more of my stuff.

July: Spent most of 4th of July weekend with Stef, who was planning a move to Boston just weeks after my Portland move. Put most of my new remaining belongings on an Amtrak shipment with the help of the Beans. Went to a music festival with Liz. Picked my dad up from O’Hare and drove west for 2,400 miles. Bought a couch.

August: Made new friends at a coworking space. Wrote a bunch of my book. Started writing for The Billfold. Got an essay accepted for a print anthology. Hung out with Brianne in both Oregon and Washington. Saw Jenny Lewis play twice in one weekend. Went hiking a lot with Betsy, Christina, and Kiernan. Drove to Olympia to see Paul.

September: Saw Horse Feathers play with Sam. Went to Wreckers orientation so I could start skating for Portland. Wrote more of my book and had work published more frequently on HelloGiggles. Hosted the first of many girls nights with my new Portland lady friends.

October: Went to Chicago. Went to Salt Lake City. Went to Ohio. Attended three weddings in 10 days. Jeanne came up from San Francisco to stay with me for a week. On a plane between SLC and PDX, wrote an essay about the summer I worked as a hotel housekeeper. Laura came out to celebrate Halloween the Portland way.

November: Went to the Bookmark Ball with Sam. Attended a memoir writing workshop at Wordstock. Wrote a huge chunk of my book. Took a slightly-impromptu trip to Seattle to attend an investigative reporting seminar. Crashed with Evan, Blue Star donuts in hand. Got to interview the Gilmore Guys. Got walking pneumonia but didn’t figure it out for a while. Ran a Turkey Trot, kind of. Had Thanksgiving with Yeng.

December: Went to Chicago. Went to Boston. Went to Ohio. Went back to Boston. Got to interview Ann Friedman. Hung out with Eileen, Margaret, and Liz in New Bedford. Saw Death Cab for Cutie. Bought everyone on my Christmas list a book. Spent New Year’s with Stef.

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On Writing More, Blogging Less

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Thanks to Owen for making my sweet new banner art!

It’s crazy to me that I’ve lived in Portland for more than a month now. A lot has happened, and while the first couple weeks were a little slow, I’ve got a ton of stuff coming my way soon. Roller derby tryouts for the Rose City Wreckers are September 5, and I joined a writers group. I’ve made a handful of awesome lady friends who have been so great to include me in what they’re up to on weekends. I’ve traveled and seen so much of Washington and a little bit of Oregon — more to come, for sure.

However, regular readers may have noticed I haven’t been posting much on this site. I have good news and bad news on that front — the good news is, I am working on a book, getting more paid writing work, and curating a growing newsletter! The bad news is, that’s where I’ve been focusing my time and energy.

First, that damn book: I haven’t been writing about roller derby here because that’s what my book is about. (Let me know if you’re interested in being a test audience!) Second, those essays: It’s basically been my dream to get paid to write about myself because I am a narcissist, and now that dream is a (small) reality. Third, my newsletter: If you like what I post on this blog, you should by all means sign up for The Sleeper Hit TinyLetter. It’s where a lot of my thoughts and observations are going these days.

I’ll still be posting here — just less so. For example, I am working on a post about going to visit my cousin Paul, and I’m excited to share it here just like I normally would. It’s just that the articles I am getting paid to write had to take priority, and if I’m lucky, they’ll continue to in the future. I won’t go so far as to say blogging is dead, as others have been crying for a while, but I do feel my posts are going to become less frequent.

I started this blog almost eight years ago, and I’m not ready to stop writing for it. I’m so glad so many of you found me and my writing and kept with me through break ups and moves, break ups and moves. Thank you for reading and supporting me, always!

Transferring to the Rose City Wreckers

Logo for the Rose City Wreckers

(image via)

The moving countdown is at 19 days, and while I am sad and nostalgic for a lot of things, one thing I am seriously concerned about is the fact that I only have two more roller derby practices before I leave. My last practice is in Lombard on July 7, less than a week before my dad and I drive off. Once I knew our set dates, I visited the Rose City Wreckers page to see when their next orientation is. My heart sank when I saw I’ll be just missing one, being held July 11. The next one isn’t until Saturday, September 5. Given that I get to town July 17, I’ll have some time to kill.

There’s plenty of open skate times in the evenings at Oaks Park, the roller rink in Portland where the Wreckers (and the Rose City Rollers) skate. That means I can at least skate on my own and practice what I’ve learned since December. It’s just less fun alone, and one of my big motivators for transferring to Rose City is to meet folks at practice. The Wreckers hold practice three nights a week. Now, I could never, ever agree to that kind of time commitment here in Chicago — but starting out in Portland, it will be a godsend. Too bad I have to bide my time for a few weeks. I’ve just resigned myself to using that gap wisely and cross training as best as I can before orientation. To aid this, I bought a Groupon for a six week membership at a women-only gym in NE Portland, a 15-minute bike ride away from where I’ll be living. Those six weeks between my move and orientation had better be filled with me working out like crazy, having nothing better to do with my time in a city where I don’t know anyone yet.

Best laid plans, right?

I just hope the women in Portland are half as supportive, kind, and amazing as the ones I’ve been criminally spoiled by at Derby Lite.

I already know of a couple skaters in Portland, thanks to the internet, and the fact that both of them have written books centered around the world of roller derby. When I’m not working out and making myself leave my apartment, I’ll be working on my own book. For the last few months, I’ve been working on an outline for a memoir about skating and learning how to play derby. This plan may mean I’m writing less about the sport here for this site — but if you’re interested in being a volunteer chapter reader, I’ll love you forever.

I have a spreadsheet of things I need (not want, need) to do before I leave, and it makes me nervous, but mostly I am thrilled and exhilarated and anxious to get to Portland. I have a ton of things to be thankful for right now, and I keep reminding myself of those. I hate saying goodbye to people, but it’s also not as hard this time as it was when I left Columbus. I feel more connected to people now than I did then, and I worry less about our abilities to keep in touch with each other. It’ll just mean more Skype coffee dates and a little more time zone math than I currently have to think about.

Branching Out

Recently, with Stef’s help, I started a TinyLetter for the Addison Recorder. This was mostly done so we could try to get traffic to our posts that isn’t reliant on Facebook, which tends more and more toward a pay-to-play model we can’t keep up with as a free site without ad revenue. It was fun to lay out, and really easy. Then, after the first Tiny Addison Recorder went out, I read this article, which discusses the merits of freelance writers having their own email newsletters. It got me thinking, and I decided since TinyLetter is so quick and easy, it could be worth my time to put my own out on a bi-weekly basis. And so, may I introduce The Sleeper Hit TinyLetter.

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This new platform is not intended to replace this blog, but to supplement it. It will serve as a digest of things I write about here, on Hello Giggles, for other sites, what I post about on social media, and more. It will be a bi-weekly wrap-up, but it will also always include some new content I haven’t already posted elsewhere.

If that sounds interesting to you, sign up — the first edition goes out next week, in which I’ll be updating folks there about my life and upcoming move as well as my writing.

How Twitter Bridges Gaps Between Cities

I’ve written before about how much I love Twitter as a freelance writer, but it’s also served me very well so far as someone moving from one city to another. After my initial Portland foray last fall, I began following lots of news outlets, writers, and local businesses out there. I keep most of them tucked away in a list simply called “Portland Folks” but I check in on it with enough regularity to feel pretty well versed on what’s happening there. I feel much more informed about Portland than I did about Chicago when I moved here in 2010.

It’s also helped me network from afar. Shortly after I started following Portland accounts, I also started seeking out roller derby ones. That’s when I realized there’s a handful of women who:

  • are freelance writers
  • play roller derby
  • live in Portland

I nearly fell over. What are the odds? One might worry that this means Portland metro area may be over-saturated with smart lady writers who love roller derby but I don’t think of it like that. I see it instead as further indication that someone like me will be very happy somewhere like there. I had been following a couple of these women for a while, and was interested in their books. Both about roller derby, but each is very different — and both are still different enough from the book I’ve been working on.

I bought Frisky Sour’s first, a how-to guide for those starting out in derby. Her book got me to reluctantly try washing my gear in the top rack of my dishwasher! (It really does work — you just have to make sure your velcro is all sealed up.) And while I was aware of it, I didn’t actually buy Roller Girl, the new graphic novel by Victoria Jamieson, until I heard my hero Stephen Thompson plug it on my favorite podcast, Pop Culture Happy Hour. I recognized her name and the book title right away, and tweeted at her. She responded, at first, with:

But THEN, this made my day, when she replied to me separately:

I fully intend to transfer to their derby program the minute I move, and I can’t wait. I told her I’d even seen the Heartless Heathers play when I was in Portland last weekend!

Even before now, I’d “met” some Portland folks on Twitter and through Instagram. I even met met one guy, when Stacey and Shane and I went to the Portland Beer and Wine Fest. One of the organizers had messaged me on Twitter and told me to introduce myself at the event’s info booth, so I did. He’s a writer too, but also a radio host and active member of the Portland craft beer scene, so we had a lot to talk about.

It’s awesome that I’m slowly making connections in a new city I’m not actually living in yet, and it makes the whole thing feel a lot less daunting than it did five years ago when I moved to Chicago.

Writing & Twitter

Part of my job at my association is to offer social media assistance to businesses, and it’s an extremely rewarding aspect of the work I do. It did, however, mean that I had to start a Twitter account. I’d had accounts in the past, including one for my news site. I knew how to use it, and I posted to it for 60625, but try as I might, I couldn’t train myself to check it often enough to make it worthwhile as a social media tool.

But now, after three months of use, I am here to tell you that I get it now. First off, you have to allow for text or email notifications or else you’re never going to check that nonsense in the beginning. Also, don’t follow every single person/spam bot who follows you first because it will just clog up your feed.

Anyway. Don’t get me started. I now see the value of Twitter, in terms of networking, research, entertainment, and — lately — finding freelance work. I’ve been writing like crazy in recent weeks, and Twitter has a lot to do with this burst of creative productivity.

I’ve been blogging for my friends’ pop culture site, The Addison Recorder, since January. But it was pretty cool to get tweeted at by the author of a book I reviewed for that site:

Additionally, I connected with a friend’s new magazine about the Midwest and expanded on an idea I’d written on here previously about the oil and gas boom in my hometown. I saw on Twitter a call for submissions, so I pitched my idea and got it approved. I turned it in a couple weeks ago.

I later found on Twitter that a friend-of-a-friend’s web series was seeking script submissions for the next episode of their show, so I wrote something and sent it their way. I just heard yesterday that they want to produce what I wrote into an episode. It’s really exciting.

I also started following tons of live lit folks here in Chicago, and now I’m trying to get in on some of those events. Longtime readers may remember that performing at a live lit event has been on my bucket list for the last couple of years, so hopefully soon I’ll be able to finally make that happen. Meanwhile, I keep writing down ideas and outlines of essays that might be suited for that platform.

I stand before you a (years late) Twitter advocate and convert. It took a few half-hearted attempts, but I can’t go back now.