Goodbye, Gotham, It’s Been Niiice…

Hope you find your paradiiise…

Well, here it is folks, the last day of the Summer interns.

We’ll keep it short and sweet, because I’m sure we won’t be gone for long (Write-In hosting, anyone?) but, it is the end of an era.

To cut to the chase: Gotham has been an incredible experience and we’re so lucky to have worked with the best humans in New York City, and possibly, the world. Yesterday, everyone in the office took a 40 minute break to watch the solar eclipse, and when we came back it dawned on me how cool it is to have an office where we take breaks to watch astronomical phenomena, have a yoga mat in our walk-in closet, take turns feeding the dog oyster crackers on slow days, and always have popsicles on hand.

xoxo

Gossip Girl (Paris & Maddy)

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Literary Would You Rather’s

Hey pals.

So a little while ago, LitHub posted a list of literary “would you rather’s” that I thought were so incredibly smart and funny that I was mad I hadn’t come up with them first. But, even so, I was going to come up with them. Over the course of several days and looking through several book titles, I’ve come up with a list of would you rather’s that I think force the reader to make some tough choices.

Would you rather have coffee with someone who thinks that Looking for Alaska is a subversion of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope or end every sentence with “it’s a metaphor, Hazel Grace”?

Would you rather fall in love with the murderer that you’re writing your book about or be remembered for a piece of pop fiction that white tweens quote on their tumblrs?

Would you rather get “to thine own self be true” tattooed on your foot or think that Romeo and Juliet is genuinely romantic?

Would you rather be tortured in Room 101, or have to explain to someone that Animal Farm is not just a “retelling of the Russian Revolution, but with pigs” ?

Would you rather be one of the Lisbon sisters, or one of the Karamazov brothers?

Would you rather be stuck in a car with Jack Kerouac, or stuck in the trenches with J. D. Salinger?

Would you rather have a small personal crisis every time you saw a green light at a traffic stop, or always have “something going on that night” whenever Jay Gatsby threw a party?

Would you rather be married to your 13 year old cousin who later dies of tuberculosis, or be having an affair with your sister who you accidentally bury alive?

Would you rather be married to Willy Loman, or be named Biff?

Would you rather be the Bronte brother or the fourth Schuylar sister?

Let us know your answers!

-Maddy

Goodbye, My Gypsy Gotham…

…All my revels here are over.

Alas, readers, today is my last day as a Gotham summer intern. Sadly, my fall internship calls earlier than expected, and the coming school year looms.

A few final words before I go:

Gotham has been the best internship that I’ve had, bar none. I’m only a rising junior, but so far, nothing compares. Gotham is a place of like-minded, accepting, kind people who want nothing more than to share their free-thinking, open environment as much as possible. And I’m not just typing this because it is on our intern blog. If you are even slightly interested in interning for Gotham, I could not recommend any place better. I have learned so much about writing, reading, and costumer service, but that is not the most important lesson I’ve learned in the Gotham Writers office. In what other company does the president pop out of his office to talk to an intern about her opinions on the Rocky franchise? At what other company would you be in the hands of a second-mom? Where else you could find such incredible book lovers with such varying opinions on Jane Eyre? Nowhere. As a full-time New York City resident, we often don’t feel we have time to just sit around and talk about, well, anything. But Gotham’s bullpen talks and shares their opinions openly. Nothing is off-limits, as long as it’s work-appropriate. Each member of our team really deserves their own post, but let me just say that I love them all, and they all have a place in my heart.

So, thank you, Gotham, for giving me a space where I can be my quirky, optimistic, book-obsessed self and show all of my colors.

I’ll remember you all in a manuscript someday.

— Erica

Summer is a Bummer (or is it…?)

I was born on August 26th 1998, making me a Virgo sun, Libra moon, Capricorn Rising, born in the year of the Tiger. It also makes me a summer baby, which is ironic, because I hate summer.

I haven’t always hated summer, but when you get too old to go to theatre camp anymore (I was a musical theatre kid, please don’t judge!) summer sucks. There, I said it, after you’re done with the whole “going to camp” thing, summer sucks. Like, yeah, you don’t have school, and that rules, but other than that, you’re bored all day, you’re sweaty, and you have to find stuff to entertain you for 8 hours a day. Mostly, you have to find a summer job.

You know what kinds of summer jobs hire underqualified teenagers? Ones that 1) pay less than minimum wage and 2) are the jobs that real adults don’t want to do. You can be a camp counselor for bratty kids (Summer 2015), work under the table at a sketchy pizzeria (Summer 2014), work out of a home office for an aging hippie (Summer 2016), or set up a lemonade stand (failed at this multiple times).

So, basically, my summers since 2014 have included working a terrible job, and sometimes going to rehearsal at night. Until last summer I didn’t even have a driver’s license (You have to be 17 in NJ), so I was just stuck inside all day. It’s always the same pattern: getting out of school thinking this summer is going to be amazing, loving the first week of getting to do nothing and sleep all day, and then quickly getting bored and falling into the summer slump of naps and netflix.

This summer, I was prepared for this to happen. I was prepared to fall into my annual summer slump and count down the days until I move back to college. But guess what happened? I didn’t.

This summer has been so kind to me, I’ve connected with friends from my hometown, but I’ve also gone and spent overnights up at school with friends, met up with pals in the city after work, gone to a bunch of amazing bookstores, went to San Francisco, and tons of other fun stuff. I’ve read some incredible literature and did more writing than I’ve done in a while, it’s been great. But mostly, I’ve been working 3 days a week at Gotham, one of the best places in the world. Basically, it’s been incredible. Taking the train into the greatest city on Earth 4 times a week (I take a class on Tuesdays) and getting to hang out with an office full of readers and writers from all walks of life is so rewarding.

I was so scared that this summer would be terrible, I’m not super close with most of my high school friends anymore, so staying in my hometown for the summer was terrifying. My sister was away in Prague for 6 weeks, so I was scared of just being alone all of the time, and this is the first summer since 2012 that I wasn’t with my high school boyfriend. The stars were aligned for something awful.

But, here we are, it’s summer and I’m not lying face down in my bed binge watching Netflix for 6 hours a day. I’m getting out, I’m taking care of myself, I’m being productive, and I’m actually pretty happy. Me? Happy? In the summer? Unheard of! But somehow, it’s true, and it’s awesome.

So, Summer, I’m giving you another chance. Maybe next year you’ll disappoint me again, but for now, you’re treating me well.

-Maddy

Summer Reading Adventures

Hey Gothamites.

I was incredibly inspired by a blog post a read not too long ago on the Gotham website written by our lovely Dean of Faculty, Kelly Caldwell. (Read that here) It was the NYPL’s reading list for the summer, and recommendations for the types of books that we should make an effort to read. Naturally, I was intrigued. As a bibliophile that gets easily overwhelmed by all of the literature out there, I am always looking for what to read next. So, I embarked on the challenge.

First up: A book about immigrants or refugees.

I knew this one was especially important, considering that we have a man in the White House whose attitudes towards those without an American passport as less than kind. For this one, I chose White Teeth by Zadie Smith, an author whom I absolutely adore. It’s a book following three generations of two different families around the world and around each other and the mastery of the storytelling is really incredible. It did get a little slow sometimes, and the ending wasn’t my favorite, but the prose was ingenious, and there are some gorgeous quotes.

Favorite quotes:

“The wicked lie, that the past is always tense and the future, perfect.”

“They cannot escape their history any more than you yourself can lose your shadow.”

 

Next: A book about unlikely friendship.

Now, originally for this book, I chose A Man Called Ove, a book about an elderly Swedish man whose suicide plot continues to be foiled by his nosy neighbors and scrappy stray cat. It was good, heartwarming, a quick read, and very entertaining. Perfect reading for when you want to turn off the news and remind yourself that there is indeed, some good in the world. So, yes, I recommend it.

But, in truth, right after I finished A Man Called Ove, I read a book about unlikely friendship that I think blows Ove out of the water (no offense, Ove.) That book is The Cider House Rules by John Irving. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely adore John Irving, I think he’s brilliant. He could write about what he had for breakfast today and I would pay the $7.99 plus shipping and handling to get that in my hands. The Cider House Rules is a story of an orphan boy, Homer Wells, and his friendships and relationships that could certainly be called unlikely, including with abortionist Wilbur Larch. The plot is a trip in and of itself, everything ties together is some sort of unexpected and remarkable way, and the ending is just incredible. It’s a brick, clocking in at about 600 pages, but on a 6 hour plane ride to California, this was the perfect choice.

So, if you’re in the mood for something light, go spend an evening with Ove, but if you are ready to have your heart ripped out and stomped on, go for a ride in the Opportunity Knocks. (Read the book to pick up that reference)

Favorite quotes:

“In Wally’s bedroom Homer marveled at how the world was simultaneously being invented and destroyed.”

“What is hardest to accept about the passage of time is that the people who once mattered the most to us wind up in parentheses.”

 

Last: A nonfiction book in a subject you’re passionate about.

This one was tricky for me, because I had no idea what to read. I had already read In Cold Blood, but I decided that since I wasn’t terribly passionate about the Midwest, brutal murder, or the 1950’s that that book didn’t count. I decided on Stacy Pershall’s Loud in the House of Myself: A Memoir of a Strange Girl. Now, I actually know Stacy, she’s a teacher here at Gotham, but I had never read her book, only her twitter. But, I thought, hey, I’m passionate about mental illness, Heck, I have a mental illness, so I guess this counts.

I’m so glad I did. I special ordered it from Word JC, and when it came in the mail, I tore through it. The story is beautiful and honest and heart wrenching, and so utterly human. There are lines in this book that I would legitimately get tattooed on my body, because they just speak to the human spirit and our quest to find meaning and love within a world that seems to be absent of both.

Favorite quotes:

“I will make my skin a place in which I can live.”

“I will write this story on my body, anyone can read it. I will dance around the room.”

 

So, overall, it was a good summer for reading, and it’s not over yet.

Until next time,

Maddy

A Lot Can Happen in a Little Bookstore

This summer, my goal has been to go to as many bookstores as possible, and I’ve really been doing it. Between my hometown in Jersey, New York, and my recent trip to California, I feel like I’ve been to dozens of bookstores in such a short amount of time, each one with something new and different to offer. Word Jersey City’s Poetry selection is absolutely superb, Montclair Bookseller’s records are cheap and super cool, The Strand is a must-see for anyone visiting New York, and Aardvark Books had a cat. ‘Nuf said.

But, my favorite interaction at a bookstore had to be a few weeks ago at Bookculture on the Upper West Side. Browsing through the poetry section, me and my dad noticed that it was wonderfully curated, but lacked one of my favorite poets: Ezra Pound. Now, granted, Ezra Pound was an awful guy, he was arrested for treason due to his anti-American and anti-Semitic radio broadcasts during WWII, but his poetry is absolutely incredible, particularly the Cantos, written near the end of his life.

When we were paying for our books, (I got A Man Called Ove and Blue Angel), my dad said, “So, I see you have no Ezra Pound in your poetry section.” to which the clerk responded, “Yeah, he’s an asshole.” and handed us our merchandise.

I think that’s about the best reaction I could have hoped for, for many reasons. One, the bookseller knew who Ezra Pound was, and clearly knew enough about his personal life to have an aversion to him, and two, it was clear that these booksellers cared about what books they were putting on their shelves and giving to the community.

And this is why I’ve made it a point to go to all of these bookstores. Every single time I’ve walked into a bookstore, I’ve been amazed at the unique style of curation and organization that each place adopts, but they have a few things in common. Of all the bookstores I’ve been to this summer, in each one of them, the staff has been the highlight. I used to be so scared about talking to store clerks when I was younger, but now I make it a point to talk to the staff to see what they recommend based on my taste, and what they like to read in general. And, truthfully, there is nothing better than watching someone who loves books talk about books.

So, what is the point of me writing this? To talk about how New York booksellers will unapologetically call a world renown poet an asshole? To advertise our upcoming events at Housing Works and McNally Jackson? (Which, no, but, you should still check them out because they’re A+ bookstores) To convince you to quit your job and spend all your remaining money on the latest Jonathan Franzen novel? Truthfully, no. I just found a story that I liked and decided to write it down, and I want to encourage you to do the same.

After all, there are stories. Everywhere.

-Maddy

West Coast Best Coast

Whaddup pals. I’m back.

For those who don’t know, I just spent the past week of my life in San Francisco, California. Now, for someone who was born and raised on the East Coast (#DirtyJerz) and has never been farther West than Chicago, this was a really cool experience.

There were a few things on my bucket list when I first heard tell that I was going (Backstory: my sister was invited to speak at the Feminist Theory and Music Conference in SF, so I tagged along with her as the tech monkey for the conference but also because I’ll take any chance to get a vacation) but the main thing I wanted to see: City Lights Bookstore.

As someone who has loved Allen Ginsberg since forever, I felt it my duty to make a pilgrimage to the place that he called home for so many years, and the people who published what might be one of my favorite poems of all time; Howl.

And I’m not the only one who feels this way. Judging from the amount of people buying “HOWL if you love City Lights bookstore” bumper stickers and paying the $8 admission to go to the Beat Museum across the street, Allen Ginsberg speaks to the soul of so many people.

But, getting back to the most important thing here (myself), Allen Ginsberg, to me, was everything a writer should be. Groundbreaking, intelligent, from New Jersey, and always willing to lend a hand to his fellow artists. Although over the years, I’ve found myself with an aversion of some of the other Beats due to their misogyny and general jerkiness (looking at you Kerouac…), Allen has always been the exception. Maybe this was because my dad worked with him at Brooklyn College right before I was born, and when I was little would tell me stories about how Allen would eat an egg salad sandwich for lunch everyday, when he had the status and money to go out to any restaurant in the city. Maybe it’s because he was a nerdy Jewish kid from Northern New Jersey who found solace in poetry and literature. Maybe because Howl was mentioned on Gilmore Girls and so in my efforts to become more like Lorelai Gilmore I’ve developed an affinity for it. Either way, I have a love for Allen Ginsberg and his writing that I think has only been matched by the city of San Francisco.

All this to say, City Lights might be my new favorite place on Earth, even though I still think the East coast is far superior than anything California could offer us, I mean, we have water.

-Maddy

On Movie Trends: Where Has Originality Gone?

Let me set up a hypothetical: your favorite book is being turned into a movie. You are so excited and scared. You hope for the best, but deeply fear the worst. You google all of the cast members and the creative team members, checking how well-chosen you think they are for this special project. You wait months and months for the movie to come out until the opening day finally arrives. You journey to the movie theater, buy your ticket, get your popcorn/candy/soda/snack of choice, pick the perfect seat, sit on down, and…

It’s okay. Not good, not bad, but okay.

Has this ever happened to you? My humble guess is that it has. We seem to be in the midst of an epidemic of passable movies these days. And that’s all they seem to be: passable. Not good, not great, not bad, not terrible, just maybe, I don’t know, fine I guess. Of course there are some exceptions, like Wonder Woman just this year, Moonlight last year, or Spotlight and Brooklyn the year before. Every trend has its outliers, but there is a certain feeling as of late that so many movies are, as said above, just okay.

Most movies to come out of the major studios these days can be sorted into a couple of categories. We have reboots, superhero flicks, and adaptations. Lets break each of those categories down a little further. A reboot is a re-telling of an already-made movie, telling the story in a slightly different way. Look no further than The Mummy (2017) which is a remake of The Mummy (1999) which is a remake of The Mummy (1932)! Superhero flicks seem to be backed by some of the big studios, hence their ability to go on and on forever. Disney bought Marvel in 2009, for example. In the eight years that the capital-M-Mouse has owned the comic company, Marvel has turned out big-budget movie after big-budget movie, creating its own cinematic universe. Even Disney’s direct properties are playing into these current trends, with their recent live-actions reboots of classic animated pictures like Cinderella, The Jungle Book, and Beauty and the Beast, with more on the way. Adaptations of books or other media into film has been around since film began, but it seems now that it’s all that’s being made. Where are our original stories told best cinematically? Where are the Amelie‘s or A New Hope‘s? Where are our Rocky‘s? Our Raiders of the Lost Ark‘s? Our Pulp Fiction‘s? Where has all of our originality gone, Hollywood?

Of course, this trend isn’t singular to Hollywood; Broadway is going through a similar phase of their own. Back in the Golden Era, musicals were fresh and new stories told best on stage. Now, most Broadway musicals are adapted from a well-known book or movie, like Waitress (based on the movie of the same name), Wicked (based on the book of the same name), The Lion King (based on the movie of the same name), Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 (based on about eighty pages of Tolstoy’s War & Peace), Fun Home (based on the book of the same name), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (based on the book AND movie of the same name)…you get the picture. This trend has its outliers too, however. Two of the four musicals nominated this year for the Best Musical Tony Award were original shows: Dear Evan Hansen (the Best Musical Tony Award winner this year) and Come From Away. Broadway has also fallen back lately on “jukebox musicals,” that is, a musical composed from music from an already-made album, sometimes based on the life or creative process of the album’s creators, like Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, or On Your Feet. Broadway lately has also dusted off their old revivals and 90’s Euro-musicals and placed them back into the bigger theaters, like the current revivals of Miss Saigon at the Broadway Theater and Hello, Dolly! at the Shubert Theatre. Broadway, however, gets more of a pass on this behavior. Even a life-changing musical like Fun Home or The Color Purple is considered a hit if it runs for a year (Fun Home ran for about two) because neither is a very commercialized product. Unless it’s one of those biggies, like Hamilton, Broadway, sadly, needs name-brands to sell tickets so that the theater companies can put out the money to make their more artistic pieces. It’s more their natural process now-a-days with theater tickets costing what they do than it has to do with passibility.

This does not excuse Hollywood’s behavior, however. Broadway only has very limited theater space: there are only, at most, about twelve musicals produced on Broadway each fall-to-spring theater season, as well as a handful of straight plays. Hollywood pumps out movie after movie to a countless number of movie theaters across the country and the world. Ticket sales and availability is not the issue here. So what is? The recent Beauty and the Beast remake made Disney hundreds of millions of dollars. Was it better than the original? Absolutely not. Was it terrible? No, not that, either. So what was it? Pretty good, I guess. That seems to be the case with most of the movies churned out from this trend. Even Pixar, a studio that was almost solely made of original movies, is now planning sequel after sequel.

Should we expect more of our screenwriters, our movie producers, and our film directors? I think so. You may know director Michael Bay from his recent Transformers movies. Bay is also the fifth highest paid director in the world. When asked about the quality of the Transformers movie series, Bay noted that whatever the quality of the movie, a certain large number people will come back. Do we want to be these lemmings that Bay described, supporting a subpar media simply because it is well-known? This writer certainly does not.

Have any thoughts on this topic? Feel free to comment!

— Erica

   

 

Readers Against Summer Reading

Summer homework. The two words that will strike fear into the heart of any high schooler, middle schooler, and even sometimes grade schoolers. Since enrolling in Sarah Lawrence, I have had to do no summer reading. That’s right, zero, zilch, none, and it’s been kind of awesome. Not because I haven’t read any books over the summer and have just been wasting my time on twitter and Netflix, (Although, I have been tweeting from the Gotham account like a madman and I’m already on Season 4 of Gilmore Girls, but that’s beside the point) but because I’ve read ~6 books this summer, which is something that I probably haven’t done since I was participating in my library’s summer reading program as a kid and I got little trinkets as rewards for every finished book I brought in.

Then, starting in seventh grade, we started getting summer homework every year. I would have to read a few chapters for math, do sets of problems and worksheets, probably take notes on a section for history, and then read 2-3 books for English class. Although it doesn’t sound like a lot, coming off of a whole school year where that was the workload every week or so, I desperately wanted a break from school.

Keep in mind, I didn’t want a break from working and being productive. With my summers, I would almost always be doing a theatre project or a writing project, or working at a food co-op in my town, but I wanted summer to be my time, to work on what I wanted to do, not what the public school system thought that I should be doing with my free time.

I understand that summer homework is here to keep kids’ minds sharp over the summer and to get them reading and writing and reminding them that life isn’t all summer vacation, but for me, it had almost the opposite effect. Summer reading got me reading less. Because I knew I had books that I had to read, I would feel terribly guilty picking up books that I just wanted to read, because if I was going to be reading anyway, I might as well read what was assigned to me. Plus, that got me thinking about all of the other work I had to do for the upcoming year, which got me thinking about the upcoming year and how little I was looking forward to it, rather than getting me excited to learn new subjects and new skills.

Maybe I would have been willing to read the summer reading books if they were something that got me excited about reading, but 9/10 times, they were the “classics,” books that 15 year olds are inevitably going to hate because they can’t truly grasp them, especially without the help of a teacher and a class guiding them through the complexities of the book. We were assigned books like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Beowulf, Sarem, The Mayflower, and a bunch of other books that, honestly, no one wanted to read or liked if they were part of the small minority of the class that didn’t just read the Sparknotes.

I understand the logic to assign kids books that will give them a good foundation going into the class, but no one wants to read Beowulf really ever, especially not over summer break. Assigning kids books that are hard to get excited about as the introduction to your course creates the opposite of what you want, a class full of kids who walk into class already deciding that they hate it.

I have enough faith in teachers to believe that they know what books kids respond to and don’t respond to, and I think by assigning books over the summer that they know seem uninteresting or are difficult for students to grasp, they’re doing themselves a disservice. I’ve read some amazing books for summer reading, and books that not only I but my peers absolutely loved, but they were almost never the “classics” that we were being forced to read. The Namesake, Let the Great World Spin, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, were all brilliant books that I read as summer assignments and absolutely loved, and actually got me reading more books when I finished them. If we started assigning kids more books like that, books that they could get excited about and really sink their teeth into, as opposed to the books that we feel like kids should be reading because they’re famous and well-respected, we’d get more kids reading and actually liking it, rather than just skimming the last chapter the night before class.

This summer I’ve probably done more reading than any other summer. With no one forcing me to read anything that I didn’t want to, I’ve been reading books that I truly enjoy and make me want to keep reading. Last summer was my first summer since 7th grade that I had no assignments that needed to be done or homework that needed to be double checked, and I read like a madman. Alice Walker, Junot Diaz, Jeffrey Eugenides, and Kurt Vonnegut were all on the table, and not because someone told me to, but because I wanted to.

The more that the school system ties reading and learning to books that don’t excite kids, the more we lose future readers and writers. Yes, the classics are important, but is the summer before 10th grade really the time to have your students read Les Miserables? Maybe have them pick up The Outsiders, because once you get them reading, they just won’t stop.

-Maddy 

“Anatole is Hot”?: How Our Celebrity Crushes Influence Our Writing or Reading of Romantic Leads

Lots of us have a celebrity that may or may not cause us to sink to our knees from their sheer beauty alone.

I certainly have one (though I won’t list who here). For me, it becomes easier to relate to characters with conflicts that derive from romance if I picture my celebrity crush as the love interest in question. When I first saw Great Comet, for example, I thought Natasha was just a young, flighty idiot for giving up everything to be with Anatole (spoiler alert: it doesn’t work out too well for our poor Countess Natalie Rostova). However, I pictured my celebrity crush, fictional true love, and other runner-up hotties instead of Anatole (no offense Lucas Steele, you’re just not my type) and found that I was a little more forgiving towards Natasha.

The audience is told “Anatole is hot” right off the bat in the opening, introductory song (by the way: if you haven’t listened to the Prologue from Great Comet, do so right now — it is genius) but what if we don’t think Anatole is hot? What if we don’t swoon over Edward Cullen’s sparkly skin or Jacob Black’s motorcycle and muscles? What if we love Mr. Darcy’s personality, but not so much his, um, Mr. Darcy-ness? 

Can our own crushes in reality change how we view romantic leads, when reading or writing? If we tend to fall for the broody boy in the back of the class, are we more lucky to root for Heathcliff? If we like the boy who wears his heart full of love on his sleeve, are we more likely to root for Marius and Cosette? Would we rather Jo be with Laurie, the 1800’s frat boy from next-door, or Mr. Bhaer, the foreign-accented, extremely intelligent professor?

Our own ideas of what we may find attractive can be a subconscious bias in our reading of romantic interests, or in the writing of our own. The next time you decide that you prefer Rory with Jess/Dean/Logan or anyone else, maybe ask yourself why. What values do you decide make Jess/Dean/Logan the better choice for Rory, or Jess/Dean/Logan the worse choice for Rory? And when we’re watching or reading something and find that you can’t relate to the romance at all, this could be why. It happens to me all the time, and I was completely unconscious of it until recently. This is an interesting phenomena that I have not fully deconstructed yet.

— Erica