Everything about South by Southwest is in opposition to my personality. For the most part, I referred to it as South by South Struggle, but it wasn’t really. I held my own despite raging crowds a massive influx of Twitter followers and long, long nights.
I hadn’t spent a night on sixth street since I moved to Austin in the fall of 2010, but last week I spent 6. It has been two Saturday’s since my South By Southwest activities began, and I am just starting to feel refreshed and renewed. While the rest of the University relaxed and caught up on school work, I traipsed around downtown, ate too many grilled cheeses, and ended the week with a sleep-deprivation hangover.
The biggest surprise for me was not Justin Timberlake, or Prince, or even Selena Gomez singing Britney Spears; it was my overnight Twitter psuedo-fame.
SXSW is a social place. People chat merrily in line before movie screenings, and grab each other another round of drinks. Complete strangers make snide comments about panels and say excuse me at concerts. As a side note, I can promise you that it’s not always a ”Texas thing” since everyone at SXSW is from outside of the state. By Wednesday, though, one of these New Yorkers or California kids would ask me a question and stop midway through.
“Oh my god. I think I follow you on twitter.”
The most awkward part of SXSW is the lanyard that hangs around your neck. Having one in general makes you pretentious, and then you are judged based on the color. SXSW was generous enough to give me a platinum band for The Daily Texan and I received my fair share of judgment. But the tags are also awkward because they have your name and your company on them.
I’ve never been the kind of person who relishes or desires fame. Generally I want to work all the time and be allowed to work alone. But I’d be in line to chat with a publicist, and suddenly I’d be chatting with a blogger about the rumors for the Perez Hilton show, the myspace ticket release times, or other nonsense.
I knew the secrets because I became a part of this mystical SXSW community and people started tipping me off. I have no idea why it happened or how. Maybe it’s just because I tweet to much, or maybe it’s because I’m blonde and non-threatening.
Either way, when Justin Timberlake’s publicist called me out by name to enter the venue early from between two Rolling Stone writers and a Pitchfork writer, I knew I had South By SouthMadeIt.
Which is really only saying that I lost most of my followers after they all returned to their bigger cities, and took their Twitter attention with them.
Thanks to a tip from a friend, I ended up on a google hangout–after hours of troubleshooting with google tech support–with Nobel Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winning author Toni Morrison.
The event was nothing monumental, and will probably not make any history books. Sitting in my room now though, I feel high on literary wisdom and famous-person interaction. I filled out a google form a few days ago saying that I’d like to join the first-ever digital book signing with Toni Morrison. My question was good enough, and I was selected as a participant. We each got to ask Morrison one question, pre-screened by a moderator of course. If you watch the video, you’ll see how nervous I am.
Toni Morrison, as I stated in my previous post, is my favorite author. What I have never stated on this blog before, though, is that I have no idea how to interact with famous authors. Maybe it is something about how much I love fiction, or how much emotion fiction draws out of me that makes it impossible for me to speak around them. Put me in a room with politicians, sure, but put me on a screen with a tiny profile image with Toni Morrison, and I feel like my tongue gets glued to the top of my mouth with honey.
The event was the first digital book-signing Google has had, and it brought something to the reading community that has been missing: live interviews with the best minds of our time that anyone can watch. Though I spent most of my time trying to keep my stupid-grin under control, I hung on every word of Morrison’s. And she made a couple of important claims during her interview.
She spoke of her mistakes with The Bluest Eye, the endurance required to become a writer, and the accessibility of her writing to all ages, races, and genders. Most importantly, she alluded to a work in progress.
Though many claimed that Home would be her last, Morrison made it clear during the google hangout that she is in the process of another novel. She called it beautiful, and lyrical.
I would analyze and say more, but I can barely keep myself in this seat and my thoughts in my head. So a big thank you to Google Play, and Toni Morrison for transforming a normal Wednesday afternoon into something I won’t forget.
I always make a distinction when someone asks me about my favorite books between my favorite books and my favorite writer.
For the past few years, I’ve been picking Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson as my favorite book, but I am not sure there will ever be a time when I do not pick Toni Morrison as my favorite writer. Morrison taught me how much a book can wound and hurt and scar. Her books linger even when you don’t want them to. They sit heavy in the bottom of your stomach until you can’t stand, or sit, but instead lie on the floor and try to digest everything that she means.
Her books aren’t light, and they certainly aren’t easy. Morrison tackles incest, slavery, racism, sexism, childhood, sexual abuse, imperialism, suicide, and heartache. Morrison punches with such grace and lyricism that only months later, when you realize your arm is still bruised and throbbing, do you realize how hard she really hit.
Last Spring, I read Morrison’s cannon from beginning to end. When my class ended in May, Home arrived on shelves. I found a signed copy at Book People and it is probably my most prized possession. Today, Morrison turns 82 years old.
In her honor, I bring you this inspiration:
I envy them their public love. I myself have only known it in secret, shared it in secret and longed, aw longed to show it–to be able to say out loud what they have no need to say at all: That I have loved only you, surrendered my whole self reckless to you and nobody else. That I want you to love me back and show it to me. That I love the way you hold me, how close you let me be to you. I like your fingers on and on, lifting, turning. I have watched your face for a long time now, and missed your eyes when you went away from me. Talking to you and hearing you answer–that’s the kick.
But I can’t say that aloud; I can’t tell anyone that I have been waiting for this all my life and that being chosen to wait is the reason I can. If I were able I’d say it. Say make me, remake me. You are free to do it and I am free to let you because look, look. Look where your hands are. Now.
This quote is from the conclusion to Jazz, but there are dozens in each of her books. All of them are worth your time.
There are not enough pictures of me holding red cups to sufficiently prove that I have had a college experience. I have not pulled an all-nighter, forgotten to turn in a paper, or played frisbee on the South Lawn. I’ve missed several football games, and every basketball game, and I do not own a piece of neon clothing. The closest I’ve come to stupid college decisions is dropping my phone in the toilet on election night.
In many ways I’m not doing college the “right way,” whatever that may mean. I do not identify with the normal actions of my generation in many respects, but I do align with their feelings. Just like so many others, I am lost, confused, and uncertain.
The future is a scary place. Unemployment is real, and we are reminded of it almost constantly. I possess a constant fear that my liberal arts degree may not place me in a position where I can make enough money to live anywhere outside of Iowa. But what’s scarier to me than the jobless future and inflation of the U.S. currency is my own lack of certainty.
I came into college certain that I would never write for a newspaper again. My junior year of high school I wanted to be a journalist to tell stories and bring them to the people, and at freshmen orientation I decided that I had been wrong. I dropped my journalism degree only to arrive at The Daily Texan three years later.
The path I will take to the rest of my life is still shrouded to me in a forrest of indecision, opportunity, and time. I was told that college was the place where I would find myself, which has certainly been true. I have learned to act like myself, and think like myself, and ignore others when they contradict that. But no one told me that learning to find myself would not necessarily mean finding my future.
With only three more semesters left in my undergraduate education (including this one), I know the same things I knew when I arrived: that I love words, and stories that move people, and productivity, and fast paced work. I know that there are so many things I want to learn that I have tried to convince myself to pursue doctorate degrees in at least six different fields. And knowing all of these things helps me know just how confused I am.
I know that these decisions need time: that careers are transient, and that most jobs aren’t dream jobs but they pay the bills. In the meantime, I’ll keep hoping that all of this self-discovery will manifest itself in a job in about 16 months. In the meantime, I’ll keep taking poorly paid jobs and reading books on everything from Russian history to biographies of Winston Churchill.
I guess this is why they call it the old college try instead of the old college negligence. We have to wrestle with it to get there.
2013 is getting off to a pretty good start. The new year began with thirty people yelling happy new year in my living room, a job promotion, and a lot of good laughs. I expected this to be a pretty good year since I don’t have to graduate yet and GIRLS is returning for it’s second season on Sunday.
I spent the second half of 2012 listening to Taylor Swift’s RED and the universe must have thought, “hmmm. Taylor Swift is not quite what Kelsey would like to dance to this year in her underwear alone.”
So in the span of a few days America has been blessed with the above video recently released on Justin Timberlake’s website, a rumor of a new Britney Spears album (and tour), and the announcement of the Destiny’s Child greatest hits.
Remember ten years ago? 2003 was great wasn’t it? Britney Spears kissed Madonna at the VMA’s RIGHT after Beyonce danced with Jay-Z? America elected Arnold Schwarzenegger , Apple launched iTunes, and both Cry Me a River and Seven Nation Army were released.
Hell, we even captured Saddaam Hussein in 2003.
All of this to say, if this is the direction 2013 is heading, it is going to be a helluva year for popular culture.
There is a rumor that Taylor Swift is back in the writing/recording saddle after her recent breakup from Harry Styles–and though she wasn’t around in 2003–I’ll be happy about her releasing a new album too.
Just like Justin, I’m ready.
We rang in the new year at my little green house with a myriad of friends, liquors, and Beyonce songs. What began as a hopeful pre-party became a pretty good little shindig with the addition of my sister and several people I have never met.
Learning to write the new year is always my biggest struggle. As someone who scribbles on almost everything, I end up dating dozens of papers a day. Normally I get the hang of the new year around April once everyone has sufficiently made fun of me enough for the shame I feel to force consciousness.
2012 was a good year for me. Like many years, the Spring was a time of frustration and hardship followed by a beautiful summer and a rewarding fall. Like few years before it though, 2012 was a year where I learned more about myself, my future, and those I love than ever before. I guess that’s what a good dose of Plan II Physics and studying abroad can do.
Be satisfied: Though the past few days I’ve spent watching the West Wing aren’t really an indicator, 2013 is a year full of promise. In any promise there is the opportunity for disappointment, and this year I want to remain content and confident that the way things play out are divinely forecast. This also involves learning not to be so whiney about never getting a job.
Learn to be active: Sitting at a desk for almost all of 2012 was the manifestation of completing my 2012 “Write with Passion” resolution. Being stationary and refusing to exercise has made my chiropractor call me weak and my shoulder grind by doing nothing. So I guess I’ll try to do more than 7 pushups in 2013.
Write Intentionally: I accidentally abandoned a good amount of free writing in 2012. I wrote plenty of articles and blog posts for work, but very little for myself and the result was writing that I was often unsatisfied with and disappointed in. In 2013 I will hopefully find a summer internship and have to begin work on a senior thesis. A good amount of intentionality couldn’t hurt.
Work Hard, Play Hard, Be Nice.
Every Twenty-Something is supposed to love New York City. Right?
As an aspiring writer and a lover of art and history, my hopes for New York City were high.
Hell, I’m a blonde girl with as broad of a liberal arts degree available and a decent amount of self-deprecation. If Lena Dunham’s GIRLS has taught me anything its that those qualifications are a recipe for New York residency.
I did not love New York when I visited the first time. But, to be fair, the last time I visited New York I was on my first set of braces and the twin towers were still standing. So it had been a while to say the least.
This time I tried; really, I did.
The boy and I went on vacation last week to visit his grandmother who lives in a New Jersey suburb and relax a bit with good books and some sightseeing. We spent three days in “the city.” We visited Washington Square, the Twin Tower Memorial, the MOMA, Rockafeller Center (Christmas tree and all), Times Square (twice), and we ate at Bobby Flay’s Restaurant. We found a local coffee shop and a local craft beer bar. We saw a brilliant musical on broadway. We ate a lot of M&M’s from the M&M store.
Overall, it was a really good trip. I came home with three read books and a lot of good memories. But I did not manage to acquire the New York Itch that causes so many people to arrive at their final destinations desperate to return to Chelsea, or Greenwich, or the Upper East Side, or Downtown or Uptown.
I never have been a very good twenty-something though.
first photo courtesy of LukeDaDuke via Flickr Creative Commons