I Wrote a Piece of Fan Fiction for 10 Years and Here’s What Happened…

Fan fiction gets a bad rap, and that’s mostly because of some of the more…strange products that end up on the internet. While we often see cringeworthy, oftentimes hilarious outcomes that freak out celebrities like James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, or even have entire Twitter accounts devoted to some of the more outlandish musings (and let’s not forget “My Immortal”), “fan fiction” is generally used as a derogative term that denotes something exceedingly derivative or poorly written. Even I thought ill of fan fiction at first.

 

This was before I published some.

…and no surprise, it’s Pirates of the Caribbean related.

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Let’s start at the beginning:

I was twelve years old, visiting the Disneyland Resort. This was in the months immediately preceding the release of Pirates 3, which everyone thought at the time would be the final installment of the franchise (oh how wrong they were). I liked the movies quite a bit, and was enchanted by the new additions to the park including Jack Sparrow and Barbossa animatronics inside the Pirates attraction, as well as the complete revamp of Tom Sawyer Island to Pirate’s Lair.

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And you can bet that I will absolutely be recreating this photo when the island reopens, given that the bone cage is still there.

Inside the Pirate-themed Pieces of Eight store in New Orleans Square, I bought a book called, Bring Me That Horizon, a compendium of cast and crew bios, on set and behind-the-scenes details, and exclusive set photos from unit publicist Michael Singer. It covered the entire trilogy, and as I had been interested in film from a young age, I was proud to have bought the book with my own money that I had earned from chores.

I started rifling through the book as soon as it was mine. I can clearly remember sitting at a waterside table at the Hungry Bear restaurant with it as I waited for my parents to bring back lunch. It was also at this table that I started thinking about a story. I wanted to write about a new character who was always a part of the Pirates stories, but was never seen, and I wanted her connected to my two favorite characters from the movies, Jack Sparrow and Tia Dalma.

The summer began with me seeing the third Pirates movie (which quickly became my favorite), getting a cat I named Calypso (because I had no self-control), and then spending the remainder of the season writing my story. I wrote on pieces of brightly colored construction paper and stuck them in all possible pages of the Singer book and carried it with me everywhere I went. So loved is that book, there are pages currently falling out of it.

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Myself and said hero, Michael Singer, along with a satchel gifted to him by Mr. Depp himself.

I named my original character Rose Hexfury, a name randomly generated for my player from the short-lived World of Warcraft-esque virtual game Pirates of the Caribbean Online. She was to be Jack’s half-sister and Tia Dalma would be her mentor. I wanted her to be a gypsy from France, interact with all of the characters in the franchise, and somehow have mystical powers by the end.

…sounds pretty lame, doesn’t it? I was twelve. Shut up.

Well, I agreed with you. Life moved on, and within a year, I was over it. My love for the Pirates movies continued to grow, but I felt silly writing this story, which I had devised into filling FIVE books (an ambitious little one, I was!). I wasn’t Ted Elliot or Terry Rossio, I was a preteen from Nevada without any writing experience whatsoever. What was the point of writing this story? Anyone who would ever read it would find it ridiculous, I thought. So I stopped. I put it down and intended to never return, and I never told anyone what I had been working so hard on that summer.

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Aforementioned well-loved book. Don’t judge it by its cover–it’s most definitely falling apart on the inside.

Word about a fourth film began years later, and at the age of fifteen, I saw the finished product of On Stranger Tides. Even though it had been years since I had written a word of Rose Hexfury’s story, I found myself worried that the movie would interfere with the canon of what I had planned. I remember feeling relieved that it hadn’t, and I even started thinking about how I could add Penelope Cruz’s character Angelica to my story. This newfound interest in picking it up again failed, however, as now I was midway through high school and really considered it childish.

I was just about to graduate from my senior year in high school when I found myself on the then still-untitled Pirates of the Caribbean 5 IMDb page. I nearly fell to the ground when my eyes drifted to the rumored cast list, which included Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush (obviously), as well as Orlando Bloom as Will Turner and GASP!…JACK DAVENPORT AS NORRINGTON! “But how?” I thought. “Norrington (who by that point had grown to become another favorite character of mine) died in Pirates 3!”

In considering ways in which this could be possible, I felt once again the familiar stir of my story begin to resurface. Even though the iteration of the script featuring Norrington’s return to the story would ultimately be rejected, I started trying to find a way to bring him into mine.

That’s when I realized that Rose Hexfury’s voice was still inside me, and somewhere deep down, a twelve-year-old version of myself refused to shut up until I finished the story. So, that summer after I graduated, I got to work, vowing to finish it once and for all. Would I publish it? Never. Would I tell anyone? DEFINITELY not. I still found the whole thing rather embarrassing. I just wanted it done so that I could print out the final product, stick it in a drawer somewhere and forget about it completely.

Then I came to college, and I began to meet people just as impassioned by film and television as I was. I met writers, nerds, fans, and fellow minds who were incredibly witty and creative. Many of these friends had dabbled in fan fiction, and one of them convinced me to put my work online via fanfiction.net at the start of 2015.

I will say, were it not for the Dead Men Tell No Tales release date tomorrow, I would have had no impetus to finish the story. But I can clearly see that the film’s plot threatens to completely destroy the ending of my now ten-year-old story. So with a hard deadline of May 26, 2017, I have finally completed Rose Hexfury’s journey, and my, how far it’s come. I can’t believe a decade-long project has finally come to a close.

This process has been absolutely invaluable to me, and I would like to tell you why:
  • The discovery that I can write! Not only that, but I like it. It’s been so interesting to go back through the old pieces of construction paper and map how my vocabulary and syntax has grown far more dynamic in the passing years. I now feel so much more certain of my abilities.
  • Learning to write in another’s voice. I tell you what, it’s surprisingly hard. It’s been so much fun but also such a challenge to visualize the performers of these established characters saying the words that I am penning. I give credit where credit is due to fan fiction writers who can do this well. It’s no easy feat.
  • Learning to keep true to another canon. My story attempts to be 100% canonically correct to ten full hours of a movie franchise, something I put down in 2007 and have stood by throughout the process. This has also proved challenging. I’ve had to know what I’m talking about, and still haven’t totally succeeded. After the storm passes, I will launch into edits to fix a few missteps, rogue typos, and inconsistencies, as I really want the story as airtight as possible.
  • Feedback. I am usually scared to death of criticism, but feedback from users of fanfiction.net has been absolutely key to my work and has helped me grow significantly. I now better know what an audience responds to, as well as times when I’m being far too vague or not giving a character enough attention.
  • The people. Branching off of this thought, I have learned to be far more open-minded about this facet of the internet. Fan fiction isn’t embarrassing. It’s not worthless or lesser, as I originally thought. People from all over the world contribute, and how amazing is it that that many people are so inspired by someone else’s work to write a continuation or a spinoff or a crossover with some other work? Yes, it most definitely can get weird, but for the most part, these sites are an epicenter of creativity and passion, and I think that deserves to be supported and treasured.
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My fic’s cover image. Phone filters these days…

My story is based on the work of Ted Elliot, Terry Rossio, Stuart Beattie, Jay Wolpert, and Jeff Nathanson, the screenwriters who built such a wonderful world for me to play with, as well as everyone involved in the creative teams of the films and the Imagineers who designed the original 1967 Disneyland attraction. I further was inspired by the work of Robb Kidd, who did an amazing job with his Jack Sparrow and Brethren Court series, which I have also looped into my story several times.

I thank my friend for forcing me to put my work online for people to read, and the handful of people who ever knew it existed in the first place and the readers on fanfiction.net.

Ten years and 196,835 words later, I am finally embracing my work. I’m not ashamed anymore. In fact, I’m proud and relieved that it’s over. If you would like to read what I’ve done, below is the link. While you’re there, I encourage you to poke around the site find stories from your own favorite movies, books, television shows, games, and more. There’s so much out there, much of it very good.

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/11382703/1/The-Legend-of-Rose-Hexfury

All photos by author. Gifs from giphy.
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Another Day of Sun: A Tribute to 2016

Well, that’s a wrap on a pretty insane year all told. I want to look back at 2016, warts and all, the good and the bad.

I’m gonna do so in the only way I know how: through a movie reference. My favorite film of 2016 was undoubtedly La La Land (Chazelle, 2016), and my favorite song from the film was the exuberant, remarkably choreographed song “Another Day of Sun,” which serves as the opening number that takes place in gridlocked traffic (an experience LA inhabitants know all too well).

The song is the main supporting element to the title, “La La Land.” It depicts the stories of thousands of people who still come to Los Angeles based on a dream that began with the advent of Hollywood; to chase their dreams of fame and fortune in the Mecca of the entertainment industry. I’m one of these dreamers living in “La La Land.” The dream persists, despite an excess of competition, uncertainty, and adversity. I feel like this translates to what we all just went through in 2016:


Behind these hills, I’m reaching for the heights…

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“2016 is going to be SO much better than 2015!” we all said. Ah, what a simpler time December 31st, 2015 was!

2016 began with its typical new year’s surge of confidence, hope, and resolutions. 2015 in my mind at the time,  was a horrible year. The latter half of it included the death of a grandparent, the death of the family dog, three consecutive illnesses, a sprained ankle, and a smashed pinkie finger JUST as the year wrapped up.

2015 could burn in hell for all I cared. I was ignoring the good things, however: I got to see my favorite actor in person twice. I worked at an amazing production company. I went to The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon AND The Late Late Show with James Cordan. I survived 24 Hour Night at Disneyland and attended two red carpets. But it’s so easy to forget the good and focus on the bad, and that’s exactly what I did. 2015 was the worst, and 2016 would be full of new possibilities and new beginnings.

…And chasing all the lights that shine.

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This was the spring that I studied abroad for a semester in New Zealand. Things were going so incredibly well. I made a new group of international friends, learned my way around a new country and culture, and did things that, now looking back, I cannot believe I had the courage to do!

I went to Fiji and Australia entirely by myself! I completed the foremost item on my Bucket List; jumping off the Auckland Sky Tower-on LEAP DAY no less! I directed an original play in a theatre group I was entirely unfamiliar with. I learned the native Maori language. I threw all caution to the wind and chased experiences I never otherwise would have chased!

I even chased a deeply personal change. I told someone I had feelings for them that I had been repressing for years. Even though, unfortunately, nothing came of it or will ever come of it, for the first half of the year, this was just another bout of hope that was putting wind in my sails as I returned to back home and to Los Angeles to finish out the year.

When they let you down…

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Auckland Sky Tower illuminated in solidary with Belgium. Photo by author.

I’d like to say that upon returning, that’s when everything changed for the worse, but that would be a lie. Despite being surrounded by new and exciting experiences while abroad, the entire world was rattled by countless terrorist attacks. Throughout the year and especially within the past week, celebrity deaths seemed to follow one another endlessly.

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Alan Rickman, Anton Yelchin, and most recently Debbie Reynolds hit me particularly hard. There was a beautiful quote from Tiia Ohmen, one of the co-creators of the website Fangirl Quest, a photography and travel advise website that maps movie and television shooting locations. This quote offers a perspective about why celebrity deaths affect us so:

Could it be because they’ve given us something to laugh about? To cry about? Because they’ve inspired us to pursue some career ourselves, in acting or music or in whatever it is they did well? Or because they used their publicity to support those who are suffering, inspired us to do good, or told us fight for our rights? Or maybe because they just told us “it gets better”, or “always keep fighting”, and helped us through a rough patch in our lives?

Could it be that they made us feel, and by making us feel they actually made us feel more alive?

The mourning seemed without end: David Bowie, Prince, Gene Wilder, George Michael, Carrie Fischer… And then I lost another grandparent in the blink of an eye.

Loss led into heartbreak, heartbreak led into frustration, frustration led into fear. This fear was also felt universally. I was in a country under the British crown when the United Kingdom left the EU, and I was in the U.S. when voting in my first election; the election that will forever be known as the most divisive since the days of the Civil War. Fear is rampant right now and will continue to be if we let it get to us. But the responses to the adversity that have emerged gives me so much hope.

Get up off the ground…

Kind actions followed every tragedy. Hopeful words lifted everyone’s spirits. Charitable deeds restored hope in humanity.

It is human nature to seek constant improvement and to have hope for the future. I too tried to improve bad situations. Unfortunately, good intentions did not go unpunished, for all attempts to better myself were thwarted by more nonsense: A repeated attempt to join an important group fell short. A career changing competition resulted in disqualification beyond my team’s control. Fitness progress was halted by a contagious disease and then a sprained knee. Before I knew it, 2015 seemed like a blessed memory compared to the things 2016 was dishing out.

Morning rolls around…

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But, once again, we are at the end of another year and the start of another, and already there is much buzz about how much better 2017 will be than 2016:

As I stated before, the need for self-improvement seems wired in humans. That’s the reason why New Years resolutions exist in the first place: It’s a chance to start again and use a finite amount of time to spark a better change for oneself and one’s community.

…And it’s another day of sun.

But the fear remains in my mind: What if 2017 doesn’t deliver upon the promises we wanted 2016 to deliver? What if it’s just as full of grief, disappointment, and uncertainty…or worse?

But a best friend put it well when I voiced these concerns:

I think all we can really do is stay positive and keep sending out good vibes into the universe, and hope that others are doing the same.

And so morning will roll around tomorrow, and it shall be another day of sun in a new year. At the end of the day, 2015 didn’t do anything to us. Neither did 2016. In order to make sense of our situation, we as a people have characterized these years as having their own identities and wills to make our lives better or worse. When it comes down to it, we are the ones who control our fates. Terrible things happen, but so do the good.

2016 was the year I actually committed to increasing the quality and number of posts featured in this blog, which has been in existence since 2013. This was the year I made friends who live in over a dozen countries around the world. 2016 was the year I was brave. 2016 was the year I was one step closer to figuring out who I am.

So here’s to a better 2017 for everyone. I hope that every resolution is met (c’mon, self. The gym is not a punishment) and that problems that arise can be met with level-headedness and an easy resolution.

It’s another day of sun. 

Header image from StockSnap. All photos by author. All gifs from giphy.

30 Strange Things I’ve Learned About Myself from Studying Abroad

Well that’s it, folks! My semester abroad in New Zealand has come to an end, and as I reflect on my past few months and all of the amazing things I had the crazy opportunities to accomplish, I realized that I’ve learned quite a few things about myself and about New Zealand. Let’s discuss:

1. I can live in any space and make it home no matter how big or small.

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This was it! I’m gonna miss this place!

 

2. It doesn’t matter how bushed I am after a long day, if I come home and find a spider in my room, I will wage full on war against it.

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#Nope.

 

3. Airplanes hate me. 

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Cancelled, delayed, or always seated next to either the guy that has to pee every two seconds or the screaming infant.

 

4. Tim Tams and L&P are some of the best culinary delights to grace the world with their presence and the United States is SEVERELY missing out! 

 

5. I love to bake, but I hate to cook. 

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This caprese chicken is as fancy as I got. I’m too impatient (and hangry, most of the time) to cook!

 

6. Farmers markets give me a thrill that I can’t quite describe!

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7. I’m not a fish person.  I can’t handle it.

This video primarily features me snorkelling at Goat Island. It wasn’t until I was out of the water that I realized I had been hyperventilating the entire time. …I really don’t like swimming with fish.

 

8. I cannot keep a plant alive.

 

9. Getting movies a day ahead or a month behind the United States sucks. If you see it early (Civil War, X-Men: Apocalypse), you can’t discuss anything with friends back home, and if you see it late (Zootopia), no one cares anymore!

They played a classic in my movie theatre, so I responded accordingly. Judge me not, haters. 🐜🚶🏻

A post shared by Jessica Johnson (@jjj_jess_i_can) on

 

10. Internet spoilers are the worst. Looking at you, Oscars, The Walking Dead, Once Upon a Time, Bates Motel, and Game of Thrones!

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Me every time I would forgetfully log on Facebook on a Monday afternoon (which would be Sunday night in the States)

 

11. Books are beautiful creations that I have largely ignored in favor of their younger cousin, Netflix. 

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I got Me Before You, The Martian, and The Girl on the Train while I was here!

 

12. I am a faux-coffee drinker, meaning I like sugary nonsense that barely qualifies as coffee.

 

13. I am Murray from Flight of the Conchords. 

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It’s true. I’ve discovered that I am incredibly optimistic with little regard for logic. Oh, and I got to see Rhys Darby perform live standup, and I laughed so hard that I stopped breathing for a little bit!

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14. I will jump from any height without issue…

 

15. …unless my legs are bound together. 

That plastered on smile? The sunken shoulders? The awkward squat? Prime “I Don’t Like What’s Happening to Me” behavior!

 

16. Grace the Horse has an attitude problem and must be stopped.

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This is Grace. I rode atop her on a majestic beach. She hated me and was unafraid to show it.

 

17. Desert dwellers cannot expect to immediately be good surfers. …like I did.

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…pretty accurate, actually.

 

18. Hot air balloons are pretty much my favorite things, and I wil always find a way to locate them! 

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My last minute pilgrimage to the Hamilton Balloon Festival proved to be a success!

 

19. Rugby is SO much better than American football. 

 

20. I belong in a lake town!

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I mean look how beautiful this place is! That’s Queenstown, and I utterly fell in love with it.

 

21. KIWI BIRDS ARE MAGICAL CREATURES. 

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LOOK AT IT. IT’S AWKWARD AND FLUFFY AND MY SPIRIT ANIMAL. LOVE IT WITH ME!!

 

22. If I was being chased by a tiger in the wilderness…I’d just stop running and accept my fate. 

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I tried to play it as cool as I could, but this was an absolutely TERRIFYING moment for me at the Auckland Zoo!

 

23. I am claustrophobic in caves…

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That’s a lava cave on Rangitoto, and you could not pay me to go in there. Narp.

 

24. …unless they happen to contain magical glow worms! 

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Yarp! Look at how amazing these glow worms are! Being in the Waitomo Caves was one of the best experiences of my life.

 

And on a more serious note…

 

25. New Zealand has some of the most beautiful places I have ever witnessed. 

26. I have met some of the most amazing people on my travels that I am genuinely honored to have encountered. 

 

27. The Maori people have a beautiful culture that deserves respect and protection.

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28. This planet is full of wonders that need to be conserved. 

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29. Film and theatre has the ability to be a shared, international experience and should always be treated as such.

 

30. My life has been genuinely enriched by having lived for half a year in a foreign country! 

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All photos by author. Gifs from giphy.com

Never Trust a “Sold Out” Sign – Two Nights at the Auckland Writers Festival

Yesterday and today, I attended the 15th annual Auckland Writers Festival. Sadly, of the hundreds of lectures, signings, workshops and other events the Festival has going on, I could only attend two of the lectures, thanks in no small part to my student budget and crammed student schedule. But tonight, as I sit here thinking about the events I went to in retrospect, there was a pretty amazing lesson to be learned from both of them – comedy.

I am a professional procrastinator, and despite several gargantuan banners spread across the width of Queen Street, the busiest street in the Auckland CBD that I live one block away from, I still somehow managed to totally forget that it was going on. So the Monday before the Festival began, I hopped online to check out the events. To my delight, I found some awesome events that appealed to me!

…and were all sold out.

Begrudgingly, I moved along, digging further into the programming. BINGO. I came across the name “Paula Hawkins,” author of the massive bestselling murder-mystery thriller The Girl on the Train. A book like this was on my radar for several main reasons:

1) Psychological thrillers are my favorite genre. Give me a good Hitchcockian suspense, a “they were dead the whole time” twist ending, Johnny Depp in Secret Window, WHATEVER. I’ll take it all!

2) Written by woman, featuring three female protagonists. #feminism.

3) And the biggest reason of all, the fact that later this year, the film adaptation will be coming out, starring Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, and my main girl, Rebecca Ferguson.

I bought the book earlier this year back in the States, but it was hardcover and a bit bulky for my suitcase, so I sadly had to leave it behind when I made the trek over to Auckland. So I was a little hesitant when I realized that I was going to a book talk…about a book I hadn’t even cracked the cover of.

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A photo (albeit blurry) of Paula Hawkins at her talk at the Auckland Writers Festival. Photo by author.

However, all my apprehensions went out the window upon entering the beautiful ASB Theatre in the Aotea Centre (right off of Queen Street, where all those helpful banners that I ignore hang). For a very reasonable price, I got an amazing seat and got to listen to Hawkins detail the process of writing The Girl on the Train. Hawkins began her career as a journalist, and through her agent, was commissioned to write, “chick lit,” or romantic comedy novels. This was much to her own confusion. “I don’t find myself partiularly romantic or particularly funny,” Hawkins stated dryly. As she continued to write chick lit under the pseudonym Amy Silver, she noticed that the plot elements in these carefree stories began to get darker and darker. That’s when she took a turn in her writing, began using her own name to pen her novels, and ultimately landed at what would become The Girl on the Train, the story of a divorced alcoholic who has frequent blackouts and envisions lives of strangers she passes on her train commute every day. One day, she witnesses something on her commute that turns her into an amateur detective, but uncovers many more convuluted secrets the deeper into the mystery she gets.

To my disappointment, Hawkins had little to nothing to do with the film, and hasn’t even been able to see the finished product in its entirety. Rights to the film had already been sold by the time she had released the novel. Hawkins also was a bit surprised at the casting of Blunt as the main protagonist, Rachel, saying that Blunt’s sharp features were not what she had envisioned Rachel to be like at all.

After the lecture I bought another copy of The Girl on the Train, this time in paperback with some killer red pages (no pun intended)! I’ll have you know that I am already about a quarter of the way through, and it is absolutely living up to my expecatations. Let’s hope the movie can follow suit!

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My new copy of The Girl on the Train. …I really like red pages! Photo by author.

The second lecture I attended was Gloria Steinem, famous political and feminist activist and author of the book My Life on the Road. I am a bit ashamed to admit it, but the only reason why I had ever heard of Steinem was thanks to Emma Watson’s He For She movement and subsequent book club, “Our Shared Shelf.” Watson kicked off the monthly virtual book club in January with My Life on the Road. Once again…I…I got busy, okay?! To my credit, I read a great deal of the novel, but simply got away from it. But once I did begin to delve into the material, I was a bit shocked at our educational system that someone whose influence was so far-reaching and impactful seemed to be excluded from history, or at the very least, the history I was taught. Especially as a woman myself, I would have liked to have learned about a female entrepreneur, media leader and social rights activist. There was a bit of controversy earlier in the year regarding Steinem and former Secretary of the State Madeleine Albright that did rub me the wrong way when they spoke about feminism and how it should relate to voting for Hillary Clinton as President of the United States, although Steinem later retracted her statements. Despite this, I still retained interest in hearing from this influential and successful woman, particularly because of her resurgence with people even younger than me par Emma Watson’s suggestion.

This is where the title of my post comes into play: originally, there was large, bolded text across the webpage for Steinem’s talk that rather hostilly said, “THIS EVENT IS SOLD OUT.

BLAST! Foiled again! …unless…

I clicked on the Ticketmaster link to buy tickets, just as I had successfully done with Paula Hawkins not moments before. It let me through. …hmm… From then on out, I felt like I was carefully tinkering with a ticking bomb. Any move I made, I expected some angry red flashing text to yell at me:

“HEY DUMMY. ‘SOLD OUT’ MEANS ‘SOLD OUT.’ WE FIND IT HILARIOUS THAT YOU WANT TO ATTEND A WRITERS FESTIVAL, GIVEN THAT YOU OBVIOUSLY CAN’T READ!” 

But, as most hesitations I have in my life, my fears never came to fruition. Before I knew it, I had one balcony ticket all to myself! Even today, as I approached the theatre, I walked with mild trepidation. In moments of uncertainty in social situations, I always think of comedian Paul F. Tompkins’ stand up bit where he talks about his crippling “fear of getting yelled at.” 

“I am a grown man. I have a mustache! But any time I’m in any sort of a municipal building, a post office situation…I’ll be standing in line, a line I’ve stood in countless times. The whole time I’m in the line, my lizard brain is whispering to me, ‘You might be in the wrong line. And when you get up to the glass, the lady is going to yell at you.‘ Like, what I imagine is going to happen is I will get up there and state my needs, and the lady will go, ‘YOU’RE IN THE WRONG LINE. YOU RUINED IT FOR THE WHOLE POST OFFICE. GET TO THE BACK OF THE OTHER LINE! …OH. AND YOU’RE A BAD PERSON, JUST LIKE YOU KNEW YOU WERE.'”

– Paul F. Tompkins, “Laboring Under Delusions”

I have empathized with this bit for years, because it is basically the track which underscores my daily social interactions. So would there be someone tonight at the theatre waiting to yell at me? I held my breath as the usher scanned my ticket…

…no problem. Because of course there wouldn’t be a problem. Not ever when I expect it, that is.

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Gloria Steinem at her talk about My Life on the Road. Photo by author.

The theatre was absolutely packed for Gloria Steinem, and actually created a very interesting social discourse. During the Q&A session following her talk, deep, underlying issues in New Zealand politics came to the forefront. In a way, Steinem’s prescence alone created an open forum in the theatre about abortions, equal pay between the sexes, transgender rights, “feminism” vs. “equalism,” objectification of women, sex workers, prostitution, and (everyone’s favorite topic) American politics. It was so impressive to see how one memoir and one woman behind that memoir could inspire a room full of hundreds of very opinionated people to rise up and bring forward their thoughts, with Steinem serving as the moderator. There were tense moments, joyful moments, and ultimately it left me with a lot to think about regarding my own opinions on these controversial issues.

So if there’s one thing I’m taking out of my experience at the Auckland Writers Festival with these two awesome ladies who could not be more different at face value (be it in lifestyle or genre), that despite generally writing on topics that aren’t comedic in the slightest, they both are funny people and are capable of seeing and creating comedy in their lives and work. Something that I will forever hold in my heart was something Steinem said about laughter. She studied for a time in India, and recalled a lesson she learned while there about how “laughter is the only free emotion.” While humans can be made to feel fear that we are loved, no one can force you to laugh. Laughter arises organically, as it is a result of two ideas coming together and causing a physical response unique to only that individual.

That’s why I hold Charlie Chaplin’s “a day without laughter is a day wasted,” quote so dear. That’s why all of my creative material, and even this very blog, is branded with the name “Infinita Risus,” – limitless laughter. 

In final thought, we all need to read more books, be it fiction or non-fiction, never trust an angry, “SOLD OUT” icon, I will forever fear getting yelled at…

…and remember to laugh often and laugh always!