Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My Debut Performance at The Moth

Remember when I said I didn’t have any good stories to tell? That wasn’t true. I have one good story. About the time I went to Area 51 with a bunch of X-Files fan friends and ended up stranded in the Nevada desert by myself. I’ve always considered it my only Moth-worthy story.

So when I looked at The Moth StorySLAM schedule and noticed the theme on my birthday was “Ditched,” I knew it was time to lose my Moth virginity.

I began by inviting friends to witness my debut, partly for the support and partly so I wouldn’t chicken out. The die had been cast.

I practiced telling my story out loud several times, timing it, streamlining the details to get it down to the five minute limit. I probably should have typed it up, but life was in the way of such detailed preparation. I did a few dry runs while driving in the car and hoped for the best.

On the night, most of my friends were surprised to hear that names would be pulled out of a hat. There was a chance I wouldn’t get to tell my story at all. I smiled and shrugged my shoulders. Whatever happened would happen.

The evening began with a lukewarm bang. The early stories were random at best. One seemingly crazy man ripped his shirt off during his story, leaving my friends cringing with unease. Was this going to be the trend all night?

But eventually the stories got better. One woman told a heartbreaking story about getting ditched at a hotel in Salt Lake City by her boyfriend. Another guy told a fascinating story about offering a ride to a nurse sitting at a bus station, only to realize she was a crazy homeless person. The long process of trying to ditch her was edge-of-the-seat compelling.

Still, my name hadn’t been picked. Then one of my friends, who’d also put his name in the hat, got called to tell his story. Then a second friend in my group got to tell her story. My friends started to cross their fingers in the air each time the host picked from the hat, only to let out an audible “Aww!” when it wasn’t my name. They looked at me each time, checking for the disappointment they expected must be creeping in.

Finally, it was time for the last storyteller of the night. The crossed fingers raised high in the air. My friends closed their eyes and mumble-chanted, “Teresa, Teresa, Teresa…”

The host read the name into the mic. “Teresa Huang.”

I’ll never forget the sound of my friends screaming for joy in unison. Everyone else in the place must have thought we were crazy. I explained when I got on stage that it was my birthday. And then I told my story.

My time on stage went by quickly. The lights were so bright, I could barely see anyone in the audience, let alone my cluster of friends near the back. I felt confident while telling my story, grateful for all my preparation and able to let go and just have fun.

After my story ended, the judges gave their scores. And while the Taiwanese part of me remains ever humble to a fault, I’m happy to report that I received the second highest score of the night! (The winner was the guy who told the story about ditching the homeless woman from his car.)

All in all, a thrilling night and the most perfect birthday I could have hoped for. Thanks to my beautiful friends who came out to support me. And thanks to the #xf-romantics for inspiring the story in the first place!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My Zine Dream Revisited

It would not be an exaggeration to say that in high school, my life revolved around the pages of Sassy Magazine. My best friend and I devoured every inch of Jane Pratt’s grrl power meets teen fashion publication each month. The magazine’s voice was fresh and unique. They criticized vapid celebs! They featured models with braces! They did stories about oppression of women in Iraq and animal testing! Sassy was beyond cool.

One of my favorite regular features was Zine of the Month, in which the mag would gush about an oh-so-cool zine they’d discovered and give instructions for how to get a copy. I sent away for a few that sounded interesting, marveling at the random, Xeroxed booklets I received that had somehow captured Sassy’s adoration. I didn’t really understand what zines were back then. This was before Urban Outfitters and American Apparel made hipster culture mainstream. Zines were from the true underground and I loved the idea of them.

My best friend and I spent many a day planning our own zine. It was going to be filled with our scintillating wit and unique perspective on the world. I would write pieces about recycling haters & the useless nature of 7th grade boys, emulating Sassy’s intelligently flippant tone, then share them with her during lunchtime editing sessions. I pictured us publishing the zine, getting chosen as Sassy’s Zine of the Month, and becoming instantly and irrevocably cool.

We never did publish our zine. I never became cool. But the dream lives on.

While taking a break from writing last night (procrastinating), I was surfing etsy and was surprised when I noticed a Zines section. People are still making these things! Quirky, low-frills, self-produced pages filled with original writing, art, or ramblings, copied and stapled together by hand. Some zines were fancy comic/art books, like the trendy cute Kewpie the Super Hero or the gorgeous White Rice Fish. Others were traditional word collage creations like Blank the Plague or independent music zines like Burnout.

Instantly my desire to publish my own zine came back in full force. The panic of “why would anyone want to read what I have to say?” has significantly subsided since high school, so this time around it might actually happen.

I brainstormed provocative, compelling topics that would inspire etsy buyers to pick me instead of a cool title like I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night. Here’s my short list for now – which one do you want to read?
  • What I Hate About My Friend Abigail* (*Her name has been changed, but this shit is real.)

  • Things I Didn't Understand About 80's TV

  • Diet Tips For The Lazy And Uncommitted

  • Snap Judgments About Guys Named James (Based On Experience)

  • Nerd Shame – Confessions of a Half-Way Geek

  • Freakishly Long Toes and Other Stories from my Childhood
Place your vote in the comments below and get ready to place your order!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Ira Glass is My Creative Hero

Just when I thought nothing could make me love Ira Glass more:

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners.  I wish someone had told me.  All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste.  But there is this gap.  For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good.  It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not.  But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer.  And your taste is why your work disappoints you.  A lot of people never get past this phase;  they quit.  Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this.  We know our work doesn’t have this special thing we want it to have.  We all go through this.  And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know that it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work.  Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you finish one piece.  It’s only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions.  And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met.  It’s gonna take a while.  It’s normal to take awhile.  You just gotta fight your way through.

Life-altering advice for me, considering I’m in the throes of gap dwelling right now, looking at all the prolific writers around me thinking, “How do they do it?”

Thanks to Ira, I know that the “how” is kind of irrelevant. Knowing “how” isn’t going to give me any peace. All I need to know is that they do it. They fight their way through the awfulness of the gap and get better. And so shall I.

Easier said than done, of course. The inner critic/fire-breathing monster that lives in the gap is powerful and devastating. It feeds greedily on doubt and judgment, gorging itself, knowing that food is abundant. It will never go hungry.

But Ira Glass comes to my rescue, handing me the mighty sword of self-forgiveness. My taste-ful eyes close and I focus on the task at hand. And I start across the divide, swinging as I go, tripping over rocks and blocks along the way, knowing that each painful step brings me closer to home.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

My Wish List Revealed

My birthday is this month. Yes, I’m a Taurus. Stubborn as bulls, we are!

Another trait that may or may not be related to being a Taurus – I have troble asking for what I want. For nearly all my birthday parties in the past, I’ve asked guests to bring various donations for charity instead of bringing me a gift. But as a dear friend recently told me, this was often perceived as tacky and made people not want to be around me because there’s nothing festive about feeling guilty. Sigh…and I thought I was creating good karma for myself.

So this year, since I’m not buying anything as a rule, I figure I might as well try asking for what I want. Check out my Amazon.com Wish List for all the things I would love to receive for my birthday, if you feel moved to get me a gift.

While none of these are true necessities, they’re not terribly extravagant desires either. I’m blessed with an abundant life – there’s nothing I really need. These are just a few things I’d love to have.

And most of them don’t need to be brand new – I’d prefer hand-me-downs where applicable. Let’s keep the carbon footprints down, people!

But the best gift I could receive in honor of my birthday is for you to follow, share, and comment on my blog. I love writing it and it makes me happy when I feel like someone’s actually reading it. It’s the simple things in life, really.

Thanks and happy birthday to me!