The Final Countdown and/or Post

Ryan

As followers of my work here know, I try to avoid writing anything remotely personal so that I can retain an aura of mystery and/or bacon around my “brand.” I’m going to make a slight exception to that here since, well, it’s the end of a Mr. Toad-esque 4-year wild ride.

So when my Dear Edtrix and I started up this thing in 2012, both of us were “between jobs,” and by complete happenstance realized we both liked writing (and were pretty damn decent at it too), and thought, you know what, let’s try this group blog thing all the kids are talking about. Maybe it would take off and we could make some sort of income (however measly) off of it, maybe no one except our respective family members and cyber-stalkers would read it, and maybe, in my dream scenario, it would become a huge internet sensation, we’d go on speaking tours and radio shows, I’d start dating a conceptual artist who would convince me everyone else was holding me back, and I’d change my name to something cool like “Chet Manly,” go solo, and get my own reality show.

What ended up happening was both all and none of the above, which makes sense if you don’t think about it (words to live by, people). To my surprise a lot of people actually read our stuff. Not just friends and family I’d bullied into reading it, but random people I’d bump into at parties who know one of the writers (mostly Juliet) or the type of friends you have on Facebook that you completely lost touch with (belated HBD to you!). Not that I was inundated with sweet, glorious praise, but it was definitely more people than I expected, and frankly, flattering since I envisioned our audience to be basically equivalent to a “tree falling in the forest with half a dozen burly lumberjacks around.” So for all who clicked on any of mine or other authors’ articles, thanks! Especially if you read through some of my early stuff when my dear edtrix tried to edit my five-page tomes to a more readable two-page blog post.

So what did I learn on my trip to TWR summer camp? I learned that I like to mix absurdism and nerdism into humor, and can write a decent dialog thanks to the voices in my head (shut it, Carl). I also learned that writing is, um, hard. When you first start out you have all these ideas built up over the years, and then once you churn them out you need to find new inspiration in new places and the occasional dark alley. Especially when you’re no longer between jobs and have to do actual adult-type work instead of think of topics for haikus. Most importantly though, I learned how to write in a style I like. I found my writing “voice,” and even wrote a not-so-short-story in said voice. Oh, I also learned the true meaning of Christmas, but that was unrelated to my writing. Just wanted you all to know.

So enough navel-gazing. As my dad used to never say, “it’s been real, homies.” Thanks for reading, thanks for the comments, likes, and shares, and thanks in advance for buying me a drink to celebrate our blog-tirement.

Kisses,

-R

Juliet

I feel as though I’ve written so much already about what working on The Wheelhouse Review has meant to me. It changed my life, putting me on a different career trajectory, forging deeper friendships, forming new ones. It gave me the space to experiment and find my voice.

It was just supposed to be something to do while looking for a job.

It has meant a lot to me to know that people have read my work and not only enjoyed it, but found that it resonated with them. That’s a huge gift, to know that someone thinks you are saying something worth hearing/reading. To every person who has told me that–thank you. It kept me going when I wasn’t sure if I should keep bothering.

It’s meant a lot to collaborate with fantastic writers and wonderful people. I knew Ryan from grad school and apart from making jokes about Arrested Development, we weren’t that close. That’s changed–he’s now like a brother to me, one of my all-time favorite people. His laid-back work style sometimes drove me crazy, but it also softened my edges, because I never, ever wanted to be a bitch to him. Working with Ryan has made me a better writer, but also a better person. And I would never have met Stephanie had we not been introduced by a mutual friend because we are both writers. A few weeks ago, I found myself attending the Mockingbird Conference in New York to hear Stephanie speak.The last time I had attended was four years ago and I was in the process of launching TWR. I could never have imagined then that I’d plan a whole trip to New York around seeing this person–who I hadn’t known would become a dear friend. I could never have imagined the way that she’d also soften my edges (politically) and how knowing and loving her has made me a more loving person. Thank you both. I treasure your friendship.

That’s not to say that it wasn’t amazing to write with Sarah or Alison or collaborate with Faith or Amanda. It’s just that I knew those women beforehand. Ryan and Stephanie were beautiful, wonderful, surprises.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for these past four years. You’ve helped change my life.

Lonely in Vietnam

Loneliness

A sadness lies in the core of every person.
You distract yourself, perhaps, and you believe it is no longer there.
But, still, it is there and it drives you on.

Or a man may feel the sadness; he treasures it; and he calls it solitude.
And, if it troubles him, the place is called loneliness.

But there is another case:
someone comes, knows your sadness and shares it
and you have a companion.

I arrived in Hanoi very early Saturday and walked around.
Dazed. In the rain. Waiting for the coffee shops to open.

On the train I had shared a sleeper closet
with three red-eyed men who smacked their noodles
and did not acknowledge me as a fourth.

Companionship

But then the men were gone. I sat cross-legged on my bed and chatted with an Austrian couple who’d joined me. They needed to talk and I needed to listen. They laughed. They interrupted each other. A few months into their trip the guy had become inexplicably hysterical on a Thai minibus. Someone stole “something valuable” from his bag, he said. But what could be so valuable? And then she grew hysterical too. Was she happy? Or angry? Yes, and with such force that she convinced the driver to turn back the bus. They returned and confronted the stationmaster who’d “guarded” their bag. “Ah,” he said, “it seems you left a ring behind. I had no way to contact you but I’m glad you have returned for it. Your ring is safe and my wife will find it for you now.”

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You Have to Start Somewhere

About six years ago I was into biographies. Well, kind of. I had read a fantastic biography called Jack: A Life of C.S. Lewis for a class and it flipped a switch in me. See, before that time I was all about the fiction. Science Fiction, fantasy, novels, short stories, it was all fiction all the time. Give me a hero to save the day or a tragedy to lament, but make them creative and multi-faceted, entertain, and excite me! Then I read the aforementioned biography. I read about this ACTUAL person, that ACTUALLY existed, who had ACTUALLY made a difference in what we know of our universe. It didn’t take away my love for fiction, but it intensified my desire to know more about the people in our world who have done interesting things with their lives.

It was nearing Christmas time and my mother-in-law asked me what I wanted for Christmas and so, I requested a few biographies. Who were some interesting folks that I could learn about and in the process, perhaps learn from? How about Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr? They seem neat.

Christmas day comes and I get autobiographies of both! Woo hoo! Score! I start reading Gandhi’s story that very day. Over the course of the next few weeks, when I had time, I would pop my head into the life and times of Gandhi. I made it about three-quarters of the way through the book before something happened. Something that I think every reader hates. I got bogged down with things that I HAD to read. School work, work-work, I had books upon books that needed to be read, so that when I had free time to read things I WANTED to read, I didn’t want to read at all! I escaped instead to Netflix, Hulu or online gaming. Anything to get my nose out of a book.

 

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Favorite Things

This weekend marked the official start of the Great Holiday Shopping Frenzy (although I did notice that some stores began serenading customers with Christmas music around Halloween). Le sigh.

However, for those looking for gifts, below is a list of some of my favorite things, based on our five senses.
 
1) Touch. Cashmere fingerless gloves made from post-consumer recycled textiles from British company Turtle Doves:
 
2) Smell. Jo Malone perfumes, also British (notice a theme here?). Recently, my favorite combinations are Blackberry and Bay combined with Grapefruit colognes.
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3) Taste. Vosges chocolate bars: You can buy most of these (pricey but worth it!) bars at Whole Foods… though, I think they discontinued my favorite, the Naga bar, which combines curry and milk chocolate.
 
4) See. Caryn Cramer textiles: Whimsical and colorful, this textile delightress just released her new Egizio pillows collection and has created a stylish scarf collection, called Remarc, made with materials to keep you highly visible to, and safe from, vehicular traffic at night.

5) Hear. Wild Child. I recently learned about this band that creates a folk, indie, dance-inducing, infectious sounding music. They recently released a new album.

Finally, as you gear up, with either glee or trepidation, for the month-long office-party carb and sugar overload that follows from the Thanksgiving food coma, another path you can take during (ok, probably after) this holiday season is to embark on fitness pro Cheryl Davis’ Commit to Fit 12 week program. I can attest. It works. It really works. And there is joy in the transformation too boot. Commit To Fit