<![CDATA[Welcome to All Things Stacey Longo - My Blog]]>Thu, 16 Nov 2017 16:20:43 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[NaNo Thanks]]>Fri, 17 Nov 2017 00:05:43 GMThttp://staceylongo.com/my-blog/nano-thanksNovember is National Novel-Writing Month, more commonly known as NANOWRIMO. Many aspiring writers participate in this, hoping to end the month with a 50,000-word novel. There are events and websites dedicated to the event, where you can post your daily word counts, compete and compare with other writers, and earn badges that quite honestly mean nothing in the real world, but maybe make people feel good.

I do not do NANOWRIMO. I think it’s a terrible construction promoting feelings of despair and failure, turns what should be the single most enjoyable thing in a writer’s life—writing—into a chore, and produces a lot of garbage manuscripts.

Here’s the thing: first off, on a personal level, I don’t like being told I should do anything. I’ve been writing my entire adult life, and I know the pace that works best for me and the schedule I can handle. Telling me I have to write 1,667 words a day for thirty days aligns not at all with a writing schedule I’ve carefully developed and managed successfully over the years. And every single writer in the world is different. A writer needs to figure out for themselves what pace and schedule works most beneficially for them to produce their best possible efforts. I don’t think NANOWRIMO helps them cultivate this at all, except maybe to show them writing close to 2k every day for thirty days straight doesn’t work for them.

But my issue with NANO is bigger than this. Listen: writers tend to be self-flagellating, my-work-is-garbage, zero self-esteem types. (Oh, sure, you’ll meet a few who think every word they produce is gold—and most of those types are so wrong it’s laughable—but as a whole, writers generally suspect they’re not very good.) And NANOWRIMO not only sets up writers to fail, but if they do happen to succeed, what they’ve produced is crap. Here’s what I see NANOWRIMO writers posting online during November:
  • Status updates lamenting because they didn’t hit their word count goal for the day.
  • Complaints that another writer produced 5,000 words Tuesday, and the person posting suspects that the 5k writer either cheated, lied, or wrote crap.
  • But what if they didn’t lie, cheat, or write crap? The status updater then declares themselves a hack and a failure, because they’re not the 5k writer.
  • Lengthy bemoaning (does that count toward your daily word count?) that the daily NANOWRIMO effort is a chore, and they now positively hate the novel they’re working on.
  • Writers giving up on NANO and beating themselves up for it.

Now, I’m not saying writing isn’t work. Of course it is. But if you truly want to be a writer, then you should love doing it, even the ugly work parts of it. Why on earth would you want to be part of something that completely strips all the enjoyment out of something you were once passionate about back in October?

And, as I mentioned, a good NANOWRIMO-produced novel is a rare gem. Sure, Water for Elephants is a solid NANO book. But that book is the exception, not the rule. Ninety-nine percent of novels written in November are unpublishable rubbish. Any submissions editor out there will tell you their least-favorite time of year is December through February, when the NANO sludge starts rolling in.

Here’s why it’s garbage: most NANO novels are written on the fly, under pressure, with the goal being produce, produce, produce, and not crafting a cohesive storyline, setting a believable and relatable stage, carefully thinking out plot points, or developing characters.

You know what probably works better? Following these simple rules:
  • Experiment with writing daily, five days a week, and every other day. What works best for you? Are you more creative early in the morning or late at night? Do you need silence, or music in the background? Where’s the coffee pot? The bathroom? Find a setting and schedule that works best for you, and stop worrying about what everyone else does. They are not you.
  • At what point do you feel what’s pouring out on the pages has taken a nosedive? Is it after 3,000 words, or 2,000, or 1,000? How long does it take you to hit that sweet spot of creativity—500 words in? A thousand? Try to gauge when it is your creative spark kicks in, and when it leaves, and set your word count goal accordingly. Find a daily/weekly goal that works best for you, and stop worrying about what everyone else does. They are not you.
  • Do you prefer to outline your stories, or take a “fly by the seat of my pants” approach with an end destination in mind? Figure out which writing approach works best for you, and stop worrying about what everyone else does. They are not you.
  • Most importantly, stop scrolling on social media to see what other writers are doing. Their success is not your failure, nor is your success their failure. Comparing yourself to your writer friends is a sure way to guarantee a bitter, miserable life. How about just doing your writing thing? Stop worrying about what everyone else does. They are not you.

​To my writer friends out there, I love you. Keep on doing what you’re doing. Of course you realize I think you’d be happier letting go of this NANO crap and going back to your regularly scheduled writing habits. Now, I would hate for you to participate in something that makes you miserable, but you are an adult, and can make your own choices. Participate. Don't. Do whatever you like.

Which is what I'm doing.  And I, for one, am enjoying the heck out of my NANO-free November.
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<![CDATA[Explanations]]>Fri, 10 Nov 2017 00:05:02 GMThttp://staceylongo.com/my-blog/explanationsLast week, I saw someone post a lovely photo on Facebook with this simple tag:

Seven days. Seven black-and-white photos of my life. No explanations.

Sounded like fun. I was in! Except, as it turns out, a lot of my photos . . . begged explanation. But explaining on Facebook was strictly against the rules. However, it sure would make a handy blog post!

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​DAY 1

This is my view every day of my desk, to the left of my computer. Why yes, that is Tom Petty in the photo, whose loss I'm still mourning and whose picture makes me smile when I feel down. (Turns out the best thing to help me shake the "Tom Petty's Dead Blues" is, in fact, Tom Petty.)

​Otherwise, you've got a desk top and a pen holder. Pretty standard stuff.


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DAY 2

Two of my favorite things: coffee, and a mug mocking other people's typos. I did have one Facebook friend who demanded to know where the mug came from (and wouldn't take "my totally awesome editing partner" for an answer), but mostly, I was worried about using this photo in this blog, because some, or more specifically my mother, might not find the mug amusing. One quick Google image search later for a censored tag, and I was good to go. Enjoy!

Side note: I posted this photo at about 8 a.m. on Day 2. Not one person questioned the time on the coffee pot. Guess they needed more coffee, too.

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DAY 3

By this point, I was getting bored with the whole "seven days of photos" thing. As were my Facebook friends, no doubt. If they were even watching, though I suspect nobody cared.

I woke up Sunday and took this shot of my breakfast. I'd become one of those people who posted photos of their food. I was ashamed. I ate my jellybeans and pondered if I wanted to even bother continuing.

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DAY 4

Yes, those are socks. Yes, I should probably throw them out, because there are toe-holes brewing there.

Yes, I was thoroughly bored with this project. But unfortunately, I'd made a commitment. Anyone who knows me knows that it is very difficult to get me to commit to anything. But they also know once I say I'll do something, by golly, I do it. 

​Only three days to go.

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DAY 5

I work near Lego. And they have the best pedestrian crossing signs ever in their parking lot.

I sure was struggling to finish this stupid seven days of photos thing. I even cheated a little on this one: that's a sepia-tone photo, not straight black-and-white.


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DAY 6

Here's the thing: my everyday life is pretty boring. I work, I drive home, I eat, I sleep. Rinse and repeat. If people really wanted a snapshot of what I see every day, well, they were gonna get it, warts and all.

This is the view of the right side of my desk. That's my zombie bobblehead, Gary. (I don't know why his name is Gary. He resembles no Gary I have ever known. All I know is he says his name is Gary.)


Gary likes to watch me edit on the computer, but he's never particularly helpful.

One day to go.


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DAY 7

I made it—hooray! Finally!

Except now I was at work, I needed one more stinking picture, and I'd already covered my desk, the coffee pot, and the Lego sign. What was left?

This. This was left. It's the interior of the top drawer of my desk. Nothing too exciting—scissors, paperclips, coffee, a severed nose. Pretty run of the mill, but I didn't care. I was done!

And so are you. Thanks for sticking with me on this. Hopefully, we'll never have to take this journey together again.


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<![CDATA[The Costumed Crusader]]>Thu, 02 Nov 2017 22:41:43 GMThttp://staceylongo.com/my-blog/the-costumed-crusaderAs you might imagine, Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. Eh, who am I kidding? It's the best holiday out there! I've found, though, that I'm not the costumer I used to be.

Back when I was really little, my Halloween costume of choice would often be whatever my sister was going to dress up as. When I got a little older and my sister threatened to beat me up if I didn't stop copying her, my mother foolishly chimed in that she could sew me a costume, and I could pick anything in the world to be. That sounded like a challenge, one I was willing to accept. My mom had to whip up some crazy costumes over the years, from a frog to Wonder Woman to Davy Crockett. (Admirably, Mom always came through.)

As a young adult, my main goal was to look good. But not cheap—there would be no stupid sexy nurse, or sexy vampire, or sexy schoolgirl outfits in my Halloween wardrobe. I was a Mouseketeer one year (the short skirt showed off my legs) and Monica Seles the next (tennis skirt). Eventually, though ... well, like I said, things changed as the years passed.

Once you no longer care what you look like as long as it's funny, I really started getting into the holiday. On Block Island, my friend Lisa and I went one year as Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley; another year, we were a no smoking sign and a pack of cigarettes. I even managed one October to rig up an elaborate bird's nest, complete with a beak and a flying #1 over my head—get it? One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest? ... Okay, yeah, it was a lot of work with very little payoff. And after I moved back to the mainland, I realized I was kind of tired of the work. I mean, my mother was a saint for sewing those costumes. But there had to be an easier way.

I've now entered what can only be called my Lazy Halloween years. I started looking for—gasp!—premade costumes. 

​Oh, it's not all that premade. I have a replica 1919 Chicago White Sox jersey in my closet, so I threw that on one year with store-bought slippers that looked like giant bare feet, and I was Shoeless Joe Jackson. Another time I found a sparkly silver dress at a consignment shop for ten bucks, so I peroxided my hair and went as Marilyn Monroe. Last year, I combed out my old Gene Simmons wig, bought a long black dress, and (confession time: I've turned into my mother) sewed a little Cousin Itt to become Morticia Addams. 

I found myself this year working in an office that perhaps might frown upon wearing costumes on Halloween. (I say this because when I asked my boss if it was okay to dress up, he frowned.) I was going to have to tone it down. I tried to keep it tasteful, and wore a skull-painted shirt, skull-and-crossbones leggings, and a sparkly spider necklace with matching earrings. There was no last-minute sewing to get Cousin Itt's hair just right, no frantic run to the store to get more peroxide because my hair wasn't quite bleached enough. I felt kind of ... normal. Understated. Like I'd given up on the best holiday in the world.

When I showed up to work on Halloween, everyone was in professional business attire. Sure, one coworker wore an orange scarf to go with her tailored black suit, but that was it. It was just me and the I.T. guy (he had a moving eyeball peeking out through a rip in his shirt, god bless him) looking like two freaks in a sea of grown-ups. There were many strange looks and finger-pointing.

That's right, I thought. Still got it. Because it turns out seriously toned down for me is still, well, pretty darn Halloweeny.

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Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of this year's getup. I offer you one surprisingly labor-intensive miniature Cousin Itt instead.
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<![CDATA[Sanitary Action]]>Fri, 27 Oct 2017 15:47:56 GMThttp://staceylongo.com/my-blog/sanitary-actionListen, guys, maybe you don’t want to read about this topic, but fully 49.558% of the population has to deal with it every month. Whether you give it a cutesy name like Aunt Flo or get all biblical and gripe about being in the red tent, the truth of it is, periods happen. Every month, for four decades of a woman’s life or so. You men make snarky remarks about how it makes us irrational or cranky, but I think fully 99.99% of women would say it is the men in our life, not our monthly visitor, that really makes us cranky.

See, here’s the thing: we’ve had a long, long time to figure out how to deal with our periods and adjust accordingly. Maybe if it’s a particularly crampy month, we pick up an extra bottle of Advil and continue on with our daily lives. It’s when you men do something completely illogical—like buy a boat or motorcycle when we’re making homemade laundry detergent from slivers of used soap in an effort to save a few bucks, for chrissake—that we go all head-spinning-Linda-Blair on you. It has nothing to do with our monthly cycles and everything to do with you.

But I digress. Because the whole point of my blog this week is this: I just discovered my current employer now provides sanitary supplies in the ladies’ room—for free. And this one simple decency has completely revolutionized the workplace.

That’s right, ladies: my company springs for tampons. I want you to take that in for a moment. Yes, jealousy is an appropriate reaction. I’m still pinching myself to see if I’ll wake up.

For those of you out there with a Y chromosome, let me explain: we women will spend more in six months on sanitary supplies than most of you will spend on condoms in your lifetime. We’ve ruined countless panties, white shorts, cute dresses, and bedsheets, because Mother Nature is not as regular as you might think, and she likes to surprise us from time to time to keep us on our toes. Women have an elaborate system we put into place as soon as we start a new job: we seek out women close to our own age, and quickly learn if they prefer tampons or pads. This will be our emergency support when accidents happen (and they do). In turn, we try to make sure we have a few extra Tampax tucked away to help out our sisters in kind. And there’s no bonding experience quite like discovering you’ve now grown so close to your female friend, you two are now on the same cycle. But it ain’t easy. And it gets expensive.

Of course, this new benefit wasn’t announced in a memo or anything at work—after all, we’re not allowed to speak of such things, are we? But the whispering last week among the women (one lady was spotted using a panty liner to dab away the tears) was enough to signal bold new advancements were happening in the workplace. Women were smiling. One was even singing. The men looked puzzled. Honestly, I’ve never been so excited about feminine products in my life. And I was feeling something else: enormous pride in the company I work for.

My only hope is that other organizations out there will get on board and start offering complementary sanitary supplies (and no, those stupid overpriced vending machines in the ladies’ rooms that charge a buck a tampon do not count). This one simple benefit turned me from a semi-engaged employee to the company’s biggest cheerleader.

It’s a whole new world, people, though I don’t understand why companies haven’t been doing this all along. After all, prejudice against menstruation should never be tolerated—period.
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<![CDATA[Karma Chameleon]]>Fri, 20 Oct 2017 12:39:15 GMThttp://staceylongo.com/my-blog/karma-chameleonPicture
The universe has a funny way of balancing things out, doesn’t it? And by “funny” I mean “not funny” and “kind of cruel.” Let me explain.

I had a pretty good day Wednesday—arguably it was spectacular. Definitely in my top five of satisfying days. My commute was lovely, work was fantastic, and that evening, I had an opportunity to watch Survivor in the presence of Joe Mena, one of the players currently on the show, which as you might imagine was freaking awesome. See? Don’t I look happy in this picture? Also, my apologies to Richard Hatch, but Joe is now my new favorite Survivor player ever. (Maybe if you'd invited me to a viewing party, Rich. Just sayin'.)


As Jason and I drove home that night, still gibbering about how totally cool our evening had been, and me suspecting I’d sounded like a big dork at the event but for once, not caring about my geekiness, I had the loveliest thought: Today was a good day. I haven’t had one of these in a while. Thank you, universe.

And the universe responded in a quiet, reptilian voice: Oh, don’t worry. You’ll pay. But I was laughing in delight over my perfect day when the universe said this, so I didn’t quite catch that last part.

Thursday was a little different.

The morning commute was riddled with school buses. When I finally made it in, my mug shattered when I went to get coffee, slicing my palm. I had three meetings in a row, and nobody bothered to tell me until lunchtime that my fly was down—and undoubtedly had been during my presentation during meeting #2. I also ran over my own big toe with my office chair.

When I left work, I spotted an accident to my left, and did what I thought any sensible person would do: turned right. After all, either way led home, and it looked like I’d be taking the highway.

I pulled onto the entrance ramp, merged over a lane, and wondered for a brief moment if I should be worried about the flames I saw up ahead.

“There is a traffic delay in 200 feet,” Google Maps announced. “You are on the fastest route. You will arrive at your destination at 8:12 P.M.”

It was 4:30.

There was indeed a delay: a flatbed had merged into a van, and the resulting crash set the vehicle on fire. I put my car in park, waiting for the emergency crews to arrive. Listened to a Hit Parade podcast about Elton John. Listened to a Survivor podcast, a true crime podcast, and the complete A side of James Taylor’s Greatest Hits. Balanced my checkbook, called a friend to catch up, and wiped down the interior of my car with a semi-damp Handi-Wipe I found in the glove compartment.

During this time, traffic moved forward exactly one eighth of an inch.

I tweeted about how if anyone said anything bad about Survivor Joe in my presence I’d junk-punch them. Posted a Facebook update reminding people I was still alive (though, sadly, even though I’d been parked on the highway for half a day at this point, nobody had contacted me to express concern). Started reading the urban dictionary online so I could learn all the words the young folks use these days.

Finally--finally—traffic started moving again. I puttered on down the road, calculating how much time I’d have to make dinner before it was bedtime (seventeen minutes, by my estimation) . . . and found another accident, half a mile before my exit.

When I did make it home (well after dark), I extricated myself from the car, and found I’d somehow twisted my knee during my commute, quite possibly during my Handi-Wipe cleaning frenzy. It’s pretty bad: I’m sitting at work today wearing a knee brace and using a cane. My breakfast consisted of 1600 mg of Tylenol, and something for my stomach, because Tylenol does not react well with my digestive tract. And of course, I’ll be at SuperMegafest this weekend, standing on hard concrete for two days. Because that’s how the universe rolls.

Hopefully I’ll see you there, if I can see through the pain-tears. You know, I'll bet if you ask me about meeting Joe, it might make me feel better . . .

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<![CDATA[Collaboration, Part 3 (6?): Is It a Book?]]>Fri, 13 Oct 2017 14:32:36 GMThttp://staceylongo.com/my-blog/collaboration-part-3-6-is-it-a-book
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Rob found this GIF. I stole it. I think it says it all!
So author Rob Smales and I have been collaborating on a book, and we’ve both been writing about the collaboration process. You might want to read through these posts before continuing on:

Collaboration, Part 1 (Rob)
Collaboration, Part 1 (Stacey)
Collaboration, Part 2 (Rob)
Collaboration, Part 2 (Stacey)
Collaboration, Part 3 (Rob)

We’d figured out how to handle the process, got into our groove, and wrote. We had a blast, started really enjoying playing with our characters, and cracked each other up with every new chapter. But when it was all said and done, was it a book?

More importantly, were we still speaking?

Since we’re editing partners too, Rob and I have a good sense of each other’s schedules. I was able to carve out time to start reading the completed novel first, mostly because I’d asked him to take the lead on a manuscript that had just come in for S & L Editing, while I ran away clutching the pages of our collaboration cackling like a madwoman. I huddled in a corner of my office cave, red pen in hand, and started reading.

The first few chapters I could see where were trying to find our footing—or, more specifically, where Rob was stepping with purpose, while I stuck a toe in the water—and I out-and-out winced at one chapter I’d helmed that brought the pacing to a screeching halt (and was kind of a downer). I shot Rob a message that the chapter would need a rewrite. I sulked for a moment at my inability to get what I’d meant to convey in that scene into words on paper.

Then turned the page and kept going.

The book was funny and clever and hit all the key plot points we’d wanted it to. I found myself making notes like We had her do this here so we could have her do this other thing later—did we remember to do that? Only to find myself crossing off the note a few pages later, because yeah, between the two of us, we’d remembered. As I read, I forgot who wrote which scenes, completely immersed in the story. When I finished, I sent Rob a text:
I know this is going to be hard to believe, because between the two of us we don’t have a shred of self-confidence.

Rob responded with a simple question mark.

The book, I typed. I think . . . . I think this is really good. Like, really good.

A full minute passed before he responded. Really? Then: :)


My biggest worry, throughout the ten to twelve months we took writing and revising this novel, that at some point in the process we’d reach an impasse that would threaten to ruin our friendship. Rob is not only my go-to person when I’m struggling with something I’m writing and need to brainstorm, he’s also the best partner an editor could ask for. We often discuss books we’re reading, authors we admire, and confer about and debate anomalies in grammar we encounter. I didn’t want to lose any of these things over a novel. But there are two traits we share that turned into a successful partnership during this process: neither one of us has much confidence in our own work—which translated into no ego when it came to revision time—and we both really like to make people laugh. Our biggest obstacle, on the other hand, was that lack of confidence: our exchanges of Here’s the latest chapter, it might suck or Next installment headed your way; suspect I’ve reached new levels of suckitude, became almost laughable. (Almost. Seriously, I’m pretty sure we both need professional therapy.) It was the most fun I’ve ever had writing. Probably because we were going through all the normally solitary doubts and struggles together.

When Rob started reading our manuscript to make his own notes, he sent me a text: I think you’re right. This really is good.

Exciting, right? All that work and angst paid off, I sent back. Now when can we sit down to hammer out the outline for the second one?
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Good news. We're still friends!
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<![CDATA[Winning Tom Petty]]>Tue, 03 Oct 2017 22:02:55 GMThttp://staceylongo.com/my-blog/winning-tom-pettyBack in August 1989, my sister was home for the summer from college. I was working at the local pharmacy for maybe $3.25 an hour, while Kim toiled away as the receptionist for a hair salon for something like $4 an hour (a fortune at the time). We were sitting in our non-air-conditioned living room one humid afternoon, listening to each other sweat, when the radio station in the background announced they were giving away tickets to see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers at Lake Compounce. Listeners had a chance to win every hour between 9 AM and 9 PM for the next three days.

I don’t know why we wanted to win those tickets. Neither one of us were huge Tom Petty fans, and his Alice in Wonderland video for “Don’t Come Around Here No More” quite frankly scared me a little. Perhaps it was dehydration from sweating so much. But in that moment, the Longo girls made it their mission to win those tickets.

You kids have no idea what it’s like to try and be the ninth caller in a home with one phone line and a rotary dial. We quickly devised a system in which, when we suspected they’d play the “Call in now!” jingle at any moment, we’d wait with all but the last number dialed, hovering over the rotary like two cats waiting to pounce on a hapless dust bunny. If they didn’t play the jingle, we had to hang up, wait a few minutes until the current song was about to end, and dial all but the last number again. I sat next to the phone, finger poised at the ready, when Kim had to work Saturday morning. She tagged me out Saturday afternoon so I could massage my severe finger cramp and head over to the pharmacy. Our mother, who had a strict rule about no TV or radio being on during meals, waived this commandment so we could listen in for that stupid jingle between bites of dinner. We called in every hour for thirty-six total hours over three days.

We did not win.

The concert was Thursday, August 31. Kim and I exchanged defeated glances—there may have been tears—and talked about maybe buying tickets, even though they were set at the astronomically high price of $27.50 each. Again, let me reiterate: neither one of us was an avid Tom Petty fan. And we hadn’t even heard of The Replacements, the band opening for him. But we’d wasted a lot of time dialing in for those tickets. Kim had sprained her index finger. I’d developed what would become a lifelong aversion to the telephone. We had to do something to justify wasting three days dialing, over and over, just to listen to a busy signal. So we bit the bullet and bought tickets.

And went to one of the best concerts of our lives.

The Replacements were quite possibly under the influence—I still remember the guitarist holding up a hand to ward off the stage lights and mumbling “I’m not feeling very pretty tonight” (incidentally, he died about five years later of an overdose, but at the time, we thought he was hilarious. Please remember we were pretty innocent, and someone being on, say, heroin, was absolutely foreign and unrecognizable to us). But their songs were catchy, we recognized at least one of them, and for all I’ve read of their reputation for atrocious stage antics in the years since, they were absolutely at peak performance levels that night.

Then Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers came on stage.

We knew all the songs, and he was so vibrant, larger-than-life, and high energy, it was impossible not to be elated—it’s the only word I can think of to describe how being at that concert felt, even twenty-eight years later—for the full seventy minutes he was on stage. I was no longer afraid of the scary Mad Hatter cartoon-looking man from “Don’t Come Around Here No More”—instead, we were watching a passionate, exuberant musician sing for us, and he clearly loved what he was doing.

Kim and I left that night—pausing to buy a concert tee before exiting—Tom Petty converts. The next day, we drove out to Record Breaker in Manchester to buy two cassettes: Don’t Tell a Soul by the Replacements, and Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever. (As our savings were recently depleted by concert tickets, Kim bought one cassette, I bought the other, and we made copies for each other.) Full Moon Fever became the soundtrack to my autumn of 1989, interspersed with the Replacements and the Traveling Wilburys.

Over the years, Tom Petty’s voice consistently reminds me of being young, happy, and in the presence of someone who loved what he did. He makes me think of rocking out with my big sister on the lawn of Lake Compounce, and how every dime of that $27.50 was worth the finger cramps of not winning.

To have all those wonderful feelings of elation conjured up by one arguably raspy voice has been a gift. When my sister texted me Monday night to ask if I’d heard the news, it was fitting she and I should share that Tom Petty moment, too. I pulled on my old concert tee, got under the blankets, and thumbed up Full Moon Fever in my iTunes library.

Hit play. Closed my eyes and let myself feel every emotion Tom Petty’s voice has ever conjured up for me.

And smiled.
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Of COURSE I still have the concert tee. Why would you even ask such a silly question?
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<![CDATA[The Five Greatest Actresses Working Today]]>Fri, 29 Sep 2017 00:43:24 GMThttp://staceylongo.com/my-blog/the-five-greatest-actresses-working-todayWhat makes a great actress? Is it talent, sass, timing, beauty . . . a mix of all of the above? For me, a great actress is one who, after I’ve sat through a true stinkbomb of a movie, makes me say, “Well, that was just terrible. The only good thing about it was Actress McActressy.”
This is why, coincidentally, you’ll not see one of my favorite actresses, Michelle Rodriguez, on the following list. I think she’s beautiful, and I love that she usually plays strong, kickass women. But she’s been in several stinkers whose stinkiness couldn’t be overcome by her beauty and muscle. (See, I love her, but I’m starting to suspect she’s not very good at acting.) This disclaimer aside (I love you, Michelle! Forgive me!), I present the five greatest actresses working today:
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5. Emma Watson

Emma is the youngest entry on our list, and sure, cynics might say she hasn’t really proven herself yet. But I’ll tell you something: this girl is remarkable already, and she’s only 27.

Besides being the perfect Hermione, and also winning over the cold, dead heart of a beast (that was me, when I heard they were remaking Beauty and the Beast as a live action film), she’s also a decent human being and a heck of a role model for young women. She speaks out against racism, gender inequality, and homophobia, started a feminist book club (Our Shared Shelf), and had not one crap to give when fashion magazines criticized her short haircut. Because seriously, people, she’s got more important things to fight for.

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4. Viola Davis

I like strong women. I like it even better when you don’t realize how butt kickin' they are until you're halfway through the show. And that, my friends, is Viola Davis.

Davis has been acting for over two decades, but she’s probably best known for her role as Aibileen Clark in The Help. (That pie. How could you forget that pie?) I’d read the book before knowing a movie was in the works, and when I heard Viola was cast in the main role, it all clicked perfectly: of course she’d play Aibileen. Nobody else possibly could.

Davis is also the only black woman to have ever won the triple crown of acting awards: an Oscar, an Emmy, and a Tony. Of course she has. She's Viola Davis.

Remember how I said a great actress can make a total turd of a movie (also kind of a pie reference again) memorable? Whenever I see Davis’s name in the opening credits, I relax. Because even with a stinkeroo like Suicide Squad, she made watching it bearable.

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3. Robin Wright

I’ll be honest: for a long time, I really didn’t like Robin Wright. As both Buttercup (The Princess Bride) and Jenny (Forrest Gump), I thought she wasn’t worth all the death-defying feats and chest-pounding and "not even death can keep me away" garbage these men were doing to be with her.

Then two things happened: I read The Princess Bride, and I watched House of Cards. The former opened my eyes to the fact that Buttercup wasn’t particularly likeable anyway, and the one scene that made her more relatable (when she embarrasses herself proclaiming her love to a stunned Wesley, who says nothing, and she’s mortified) was cut from the movie. This wasn’t Wright’s fault: Buttercup was written to be a simpering  snob. The latter, on the other hand, showcased a character who was cold, cruel, manipulative and . . . whose actions were completely understandable. Wright’s Claire Underwood is a nuanced portrayal of a terrible woman who has perfectly sensible reasons for doing what she does. I found myself admiring Robin Wright for the first time in my adult life.

Then came Wonder Woman. Wright’s General Antiope was magnificent. Powerful, fierce, brilliant and beautiful. And I now find myself in a position I wouldn’t have believed just a few years ago. Say one bad word about Robin Wright in my presence, and I’ll punch a hole through your throat faster than you can say “Antiope.” 

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2. Maggie Smith

My mother may never forgive me for saying this, but there was a time, around season four, when Downton Abbey got a little . . . boring. I was sick of Mr. and Mrs. Bates (seriously, could they ever get a break?) and hated all one hundred of Mary’s suitors. But there was no chance I was going to stop watching. Because Maggie Smith.

She’s elegant, refined, an honest-to-goodness dame (it’s British, look it up) and hilarious. Every role she takes on is gold in her hands. Her cast mates love her. Her country loves her. Our country loves her. We all love Maggie, because she’s amazing.

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1. Helen Mirren

Maggie Smith may be delightful and elegant and all that fancy stuff, but Helen Mirren is a real dame. (You know, in the colloquial sense, but again, also in the British title sense.) When I grow up, I want to be Helen Mirren.

She’s classy and funny and charming and sexy and smart. She speaks her mind and doesn’t give one ladylike fart if you agree or disagree: you asked her what she thought, and she told you, and sounded brilliant while doing it. She’s seventy-one and not afraid say she likes being naked. Atta girl.

Besides being a pretty fascinating person, she’s a fabulous actress, too. From Caligula to The Queen, she doesn’t shy away from any role, and forgive me Alma Hitchcock, but now when I read biographies about Hitch I picture you as Helen Mirren, because she made the role come alive in an otherwise somewhat depressing movie. She even popped up in The Fate of the Furious—the eighth installment in a franchise that should’ve ended years ago—and arguably made it the best one in the series.

So there you have it. Agree, disagree, it doesn’t matter. I’m going to take a page from Dame Mirren’s handbook—or really, any one of these amazing women—and not give one tiny, ladylike fart.

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<![CDATA[Confessions of a Former Bunny]]>Thu, 21 Sep 2017 23:55:10 GMThttp://staceylongo.com/my-blog/confessions-of-a-former-bunny9198936(It's another one of those "I'm not going to meet all my deadlines! AAAAIIIIIAAHHH!" weeks. So I'm rerunning this gem from 2012.)

It's true, gentle reader. In my former life, I worked as a bunny.

It's not something I like to brag about. I was young and I needed the money. I was eighteen years old, all blonde and curvy, and if there was ever a time when I was fit to wear a bunny suit, that was it.

Sure, my parents were a little embarrassed. They weren't telling anyone what I was doing for a living. But they also instilled in me a very strong work ethic, and they knew that no matter what I set my mind to do, I would do it to the best of my ability. And that's what I did, during my month as a bunny.

It wasn't easy. Most of my customers just wanted to look, so I never bothered to speak. Sometimes, I had to hop and shake my tail a little bit, and one time I pulled my hamstring and landed in some strange guy's lap. He just gave me a wink and a hug and offered me some candy. I can't tell you how many perverts I met in a day, practically undressing me with their eyes.

It was uncomfortable, I'll admit. The ears and cuffs were itchy. Nobody cared about my dreams of college or being a writer, or being one of those people with a shred of self dignity. All they cared about was my big blue eyes and whether or not I was willing to give them a little lap dance.

It was hot, and humiliating, but I won't lie—the money was sweet. And really, if I could make some lonely boy smile, no matter how degrading it might be, I suppose it was worth it.

My days as a bunny are long gone, but I still look back on that time with a wistful smile. I do miss the other girls who worked there alongside me. And let me tell you, my calves were never in better shape. But it was a job that couldn't last, and I had to move on to bigger and better things.

There's only one picture in existence of me in my bunny suit. It's a blurry shot of my sister and me, goofing off during my down time. It's time I make peace with that less-than-upstanding time in my life, I suppose. So fine. Here you go. Ogle away, you perverts.
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<![CDATA[Collaboration, Part II (IV?)]]>Fri, 15 Sep 2017 14:28:21 GMThttp://staceylongo.com/my-blog/collaboration-part-ii-ivLast month, I told you how Rob Smales and I collaborated on a book. He wrote his first blog entry about it here, then I wrote about it here. He just added a second entry this week, here, and now I’m naturally following suit. Because it’s more fun if you get both sides of the story.

So when I last left you, gentle reader, Rob had sent me his first chapter, I’d written the next one, and in doing so, had taken a left at Albuquerque away from the outline he’d so carefully prepared. I hit send and waited for his response.

If you just read his second entry, you’ll know his initial reaction: Hang about. What the hell is this?

Now, before we embarked on this project, Rob and I had already been quite familiar with each other’s writing styles. He tends to elaborate more than I, creating a slow burn that pays off with a final bonfire at the end. I tend to leapfrog past scenes that I don’t think are vital to the story, or, honestly, just less fun to write. We both knew this about each other. But this was the first time something we were both invested in was actually affected by our (now apparently significant) different approaches.

Our approaches to handling things we don’t agree on are also quite different. When Rob’s frustrated, he’ll sputter and shut down for a bit, then eventually try to talk it out. I, on the other hand, will cry.

Long story short: we hit one hiccup in those first few chapters, which came about mostly because we were both trying to learn how to work with someone in a profession largely known for its solitariness. One bout of sputtering and tears. We talked it out, agreed on how we’d handle the point in question, and went back to writing. More importantly, we realized we were capable of taking lefts at Albuquerque without our friendship imploding.

And then, the magic happened.

As I mentioned in my first collaboration blog post, Rob and I have similar senses of humor. We started shooting the chapters back and forth, and each time I’d get a new one from him, I’d find myself giggling in delight. These characters were fun, and funny. Then my challenge would be to figure out how to move the story forward from there—and how to make him laugh, too. I worried less about making a misstep—that’s what revisions are for—and more about if the action and punchlines were hitting their marks. We fell into sync, trying to end each chapter in a spot where the other might think, Where the heck am I supposed to go from here?

About ten chapters into the book, I sent Rob an email. This was awesome. But where the heck am I supposed to go from here? I could just hear him cackling like an evil madman on the other end of the inbox. Once he’d finished his chortle (which went on a little too long, I might add—it was a good twenty minutes before he responded) he came back with some suggestions. I looked them over, plucked a little bit from one proposition, meshed it with another thought he’d noted, and added a little bit of my own idea. Within minutes, my fingers were flying over the keyboard again. And yes, before I hit send, I let loose an evil cackle of my own.

It was the most fun I’ve ever had while writing, and taught me how important it is, if you’re embarking on something like this, to work with someone you know, whose writing you respect, and whom you trust.
But would it work as a book?

To be continued . . .
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Here we are, hard at work (on something completely different). Photo by T. Tremblay
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