Michelle Freed Leads Indy WordLab 9/9
Some backstory: Part of my work at Metonymy Media involves running WordLab, part reading series, part writing workshop. Writers from Indy or nearby or whoever we can find that’s visiting and is cool come to Indy Reads Books on the first Monday of each month, read a little of their work, and offer up a writing prompt. WordLab is open to anyone who wants to come, regardless of writing experience. After the prompt is given out, all assembled take about 30-40 minutes to write, then they break into smaller groups to read their work and get feedback. It’s always fun!
So, next Monday, September 9,at 7:00PM, humorist/blogger/playwright Michelle Freed leads WordLab and because Metonymy’s new website has yet to launch, I thought I’d post the brief interview I did with her here. Enjoy, and we hope to see you at WordLab!
1. You just closed your one-woman show Come Dance with Me (but first can I borrow your pants?), which you performed during IndyFringe
‘13. Tell me what prompted you to write this. Did you have a favorite moment of the piece—a scene you thought came together well, or a specific moment you loved performing?
I attended one of IndyFringe’s monthly Jabberwocky events with a friend, who was a guest speaker. At the end, they asked for impromptu stories from the audience and no one else stood up, so I sauntered up to the microphone and talked about New Year’s Resolutions (I hate them). I honestly don’t remember what I said, but afterwards, the Executive Director of IndyFringe, Pauline Moffet, came up to me and said, “You’re a funny woman! You should do a one-woman show at the Festival this year!” I thought she was crazy, but it must have sparked something because I couldn’t get it out of my head. So the very day before submissions closed, I submitted “Come Dance With Me,” and it was accepted!
It was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done - emotionally, mentally and physically. And there were so many wonderful, unbelievable moments throughout my six performances … including when my brother surprised me in the audience when the lights came up. I screamed, and we were all crying right there in the theatre, including strangers in the audience. He secretly flew in from Santa Fe for my final two performances, and since I talk about him in my monologue, it was incredibly moving. I also think the final show was extraordinary, because I wasn’t worried about reviewers, the flow was smooth, I was extremely comfortable with the content, and the only thing I wanted to do was have fun and make sure the audience enjoyed it. It was a good way to end the run.
2. What originally drew you to writing?
Although every writer knows how challenging it is to write well - and sometimes you feel like you’re a little crazy - it has always come naturally to me, and has served as a way to clear my head. In middle school, the writing assignments were just so easy for me to do, and one teacher in particular said, “You are a good writer. Don’t ever stop.” This was the first time I realized that it wasn’t something everyone else could do.
It was in high school when I developed this running monologue in my head - a constant feed of observations with usually funny or whimsical commentaries thrown in - just hovering in my brain until I wrote them down, and I assumed everyone processed information this way. It wasn’t until much later that I realized this wasn’t the case. In college, I used to write these funny letters for my friends before they boarded a plane or went on a trip, like, “How To Kill Time On Your Flight To California,” just because I HAD to. I just couldn’t help it. So I guess writing was the only way I could clear my head and move on to others things.
3. Where do you see the field of journalism going?
This is the million dollar question that you’ll get a million different answers to, and those answers probably change on a daily basis. Ultimately, newspapers and news organizations are businesses, and they’ve had to change their business models to keep up with technology and the overwhelming accessibility of news and information. Journalistic standards are still there, but consumers really have to be careful because not everyone out there follows them. Journalism is crucial for a free society, and I think that that concept has gotten lost among younger generations. They don’t remember the way the news used to be … without the sensationalism and “fluff stories” that only serve to improve ratings. I think the organizations that survive will maintain the integrity and standards crucial to reporting, while embracing new approaches … sort of a hybrid journalism that will continue to evolve.
4. Your blog is really fun! You manage to make everyday annoyances like broken washing machines and confusion over the VMAs into solid, perfectly bite-size pieces of writing and entertainment. What advice do you have for aspiring bloggers?
Well, it’s funny because I still have a hard time using the word, “blogger,” to describe what I do. This is probably a hangup I need to get over, but there are so many “mommy bloggers” out there who throw a few paragraphs together, tell a cute story about their kids and call it a day. That’s just not what I do. But to answer your question - I think it’s really tempting to compromise who you are (or your “voice,” or point of view), to try to get more readers or appeal to a certain audience, and if you get caught up in that wheel you’ll be hanging out with the rats all day. Make a conscience decision who and what your site will represent. There are some lines that I just won’t cross, and I defined them early on. For instance, will you discuss religion? Will you curse? Will you reveal personal information about your children or significant others? You really just have to stick to what you know, what you believe or feel, and have faith that your audience will find you.
5. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given/read?
I know it sounds so cliche, but the two pieces of advice that I always come back to are:
1. Trust your instincts
2. Believe in your abilities
Overall, my instincts - those little inklings I feel in the pit of my stomach - are usually right on. I’m getting better at listening to them. And in terms of believing in my own abilities, I truly believe that women have a harder time with this than men - especially when it comes to writing. In my experience, men are much more competitive, territorial and confident, while women tend to be more collaborative, and we are really great at self-editing and self-doubt … both of which can just kill you.
6. Writers have a reputation for drinking. So, we have to ask: if you have one, what’s your favorite drink?
I’m proud to carry on this tradition, believe me, although truth be told I’m somewhat of a lightweight. I go through phases with drink preferences, according to seasons and moods. But right now, if I’m at a bar I’ll go for a fruity martini, like a Flirtini. At home, my favorite indulgence is a French vodka called Pinnacle, in the Cake flavor. A little on the rocks at the end of the day is like a sweet slice of heaven.
7. Anything you’d like to add?
I am thrilled to be a part of your WordLab experience, because writing can be such a solitary profession, and it’s difficult for non-writers to understand that. So anytime I have the opportunity to be in a room full of other writers, especially in a safe, non-competitive environment, I take it. Thanks for inviting me!