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I'm Jenn. I live in California.

I'm 31 gosh-damned years old.

P.S. I have many hobbies (on Tumblr). I maintain pppizza and Michael Shannon Flips out. Fuck Yeah GBA is over here, JENN FRANK'S FAVORITE BOOKS FOR KIDS is here, Stop Looking at Me is here, and We Hate Your Childhood is here. Least of all, I built and edit this and also this. OK, catch you later.


jennatar - XBL; PSN; steam; nethernet; words with friends; KoL
7533 7668 4827 8475 - Wii

I have a lot of respect for and have gotten a lot out of how vulnerable you can be in your writing. It’s been a strong influence on me even in my own non-writing fields. Can you talk a bit about where that comes from and how you think about how much of yourself you put out there in a piece?

This is such a lovely question, I feel like crying.

No, “creative nonfiction” doesn’t need to be a perpetually oozing sore. I often worry that’s what I’m doing. I also worry that, without my parents’ interminable march toward death, I now have nothing left to write about. And I don’t mean I’ve run out of “material”; I mean, I worry that everything I loved is gone. I worry about that a lot.

Ugh, that’s some emo crap. Let me actually step back several years.

When I first began a new job in 2006 — a very visible, “full-frontal” job as a CM — I quickly learned the score. People online wanted to figure out everything I’d ever done prior to the age of 23, and violate that. (Now we call that process “doxxing.”) And I reacted! I reacted by burying my Internet presence, which had begun in 1995: I concealed all my writing, all my essays, plus my decade-old journal; I erased the Chicago plays I’d been in; I hid my old songs and my old band. And when that CM career ended, people — not the same group of people, a broader swath this time — felt really bizarrely entitled to discovering what had “happened to me.”

At this stage, and convinced I’d never work again, I went into further seclusion with my parents. My father had descended deeply into Alzheimer’s by now; a year later my mother would experience septic shock and organ failure for only the first time. It wasn’t until her sepsis that I realized *I wanted to talk about that*. And in 2010, writing for the first time about his Alzheimer’s and her sepsis for Kill Screen Magazine, I gnashed my teeth a little: “I’m finally writing about what everyone is DYING TO KNOW, but this isn’t anybody’s fucking business.”

But I liked writing about it. I felt really bolstered by the idea of writing a 10,000-word piece in a print magazine — how could anybody ever even read it? If no one ever reads it, I figured, I can write down whatever I want.

So that was the first time I ever wrote exactly what was on my mind, and I really credit my editor, Chris Dahlen, with that. Afterward I kept thinking about how invigorating that two-month writing exercise was. My next big piece, for Unwinnable, was maybe a third of the length, and a third of the intricacy, of that Kill Screen thing I’d written. I realized I could make “easier” versions of that piece of writing for a web audience, make the same type of writing faster, more relatable, more consumable.

And there was a huge benefit to that: Instead of deliberately concealing my life, my history, and my family’s life, I could *write my own origin story*. I could finally take ownership of all those old horrors that popped up when you google my byline. I could change them into something, not positive exactly, but human.

I’ve never really become “at ease” about writing about myself, but I understand some people do want to “know” and, rather than hiding myself, I put it down onto paper or screen. It’s actually a way of taking control of my own identity, of “protecting myself.”

Mind you, I don’t want to make myself look “good.” I realize the worst thing about creative nonfiction essay writing is the author’s dying need to absolve herself over this or that or the other. Rather, I paint myself in as ugly colors as possible. If the author doesn’t have a religious experience — if she doesn’t completely eviscerate herself in search of her point — what does it matter? What does it all mean?

If I include other people in my nonfiction writing, I usually (but, admittedly, not always) run the piece past them for fact-checking. If it passes my friends’ and acquaintances’ “veracity” tests, I publish. If not, I revise until my version of reality matches my friends’.

If I were to start over right now — if I were to become 23 again, and become my old precocious self — I hope I would not hide. I hope, when people prodded at my accomplishments and my history, instead of hiding those, I would write a nice big full essay about being happy and fulfilled. If people were to wonder about my lack of productivity at work, I hope, instead of hiding beneath my desk, I’d describe my father, that great old man with his great big hands and his gravelly voice, and explain what that loss feels like.

What I’m saying is, there’s nothing to be lost via openness and receptivity, and everything to gain. I’ve never actually hurt people by being open; I’ve only hurt others by closing myself off.

And I DO think there’s lots to be gained from those realizations: Writers, creators, makers of all ilks, would do well to practice authenticity. Because the reality is, people CAN tell when you’re lying! No, being a festering wound of truthfulness isn’t “cool” by any stretch, but at least you’re trustworthy and reliable. And those count for a lot more than being “cool.”

So thank you, anonymous querent. No, you don’t have to divulge every life detail when meeting a new person, but I do think imbuing your interactions with authentic anecdotes — coloring moments where you have to do PR, introduce new people, introduce yourself — makes you much more reliable. Just make sure you aren’t fibbing. If you have to, make sure you’re uglier than usual. Just make sure it’s the truth, or at least that it sounds like it. People can tell.

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killing time instead of doing work 

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Some boring fanart 
at first I was like EH about Steven universe but now I really like it…

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My mother

(It’s International Women’s Day, so I wrote a quick thing about my adoptive mother, who was also my great-aunt, who was also a woman.)

My mother was, at the end of her life, a soft, squat woman with almost no wrinkles except around her eyes, which were small and bright, and clear, gold irises rimmed in a deep blue-green. She died just before her 80th birthday, would have been 81 this January. She was too old and too plump for anyone to think of her as keen, too gentle and selfless to seem shrewd. But even in stalwart old age she looked younger than 60, and felt it; she shamelessly flirted with men many decades her junior, who let her.

The generations of women in my family were given to fits of “the blues,” as my mother used to say — not until my 20s did I understand she meant depression.

It would have astonished anyone who knew my mother, to know how deep and unshakable her grief moved, or the ways it moved her. They would have been shocked by the way color could drain from her round, red cheeks, at how angry she could become.

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Ted: “I love that he’s standing there eating a sandwich.”

Me: “Ted, that’s a baby.”

(Source: mistyslay, via billydourif)

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Whether as victim, demon, or hero, the industrial worker of the past century filled the public imagination in books, movies, news stories, and even popular songs, putting a grimy human face on capitalism while dramatizing the social changes and conflicts it brought. … With work increasingly invisible, it’s much harder to grasp the human effects, the social contours, of the Internet economy. George Packer on the invisibility of work and workers in the digital age: (via newyorker)

(Source:, via newyorker)

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Writer’s Block

"This stupid fucking horse," Daphny said, punching the buttons on the Xbox controller.

I opened a blank document on my laptop.

"Oh, did that hurt?" Daphny said. I looked up at her. "Talking to my horse," she explained.

"Your horse is a Shit Horse," Ted said thoughtfully.

"I hate Horse," Daphny replied.

My writer’s block is terrible.

"Did you get to the part where the moose is a forest god?" Ted asked me. "That was a pretty important part, I thought."

I typed that part, too. “This is the worst open document in the history of laptops,” I announced.

Ted and Daphny continued to narrate Skyrim out loud. Meanwhile, Ted’s cat landed on the coffee table in a single fluid leap. She pressed her feline nose daintily against an empty bottle of cider, then against the lip of my beer bottle.

"Jen, look at this butt," Daphny commanded me.

Ted told me to move the laundry from the washer to the dryer.

"Oh! It worked!" Daphny exclaimed, cutting off Ted mid-instruction. "I shot an arrow into the butt!"

"Good lord," Ted said from over my shoulder. "I can’t believe I said that," he added, acknowledging Shit Horse. "That seems so out of character." It did seem out of character, but Ted had really said it.

"I can’t believe how blocked I am," I sighed.

"How can you have writer’s block?" Ted said. "You’re writing right now. You’re a writer. How can you be a writer and have writer’s block?"

"Well," I said. "I think you’ve answered your own question."

"Just don’t start typing things before we actually say them," Ted warned me.

On the television screen, Daphny’s hands were illuminated. Somehow she was driving tiny motes of light out of her fingertips and palms.

"Did you go to the Mage College yet," Ted asked her.

Now Ted and Daphny were arguing over whether Ted had said “Mage School” or “Mage College,” and also whether it were even called “Mage College.”

"It’s the Mage College at Winterhold," Ted huffed.

"Winterhold?" I asked.

"Winterhold," Ted agreed.

"Is that one word?"

"Yes," Ted told me. He frowned and circled my laptop. "Well," he said, "that looks ready to publish."

"Yes," I agreed, "I think I’ll call it ‘Writer’s Block’."

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blog comment to Laura

This is supposed to be a comment on a blog. I’m posting it — ugh — over here on my Tumblr instead, just because I ended up going way outside the bounds of whatever is permissible as a blog comment.

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To hell with good intentions

[This is a wordy-assed, slightly out-of-date, video-games-industry-related Tumblr post. For many of you, this isn’t gonna make a lick of sense. Scroll on and tally-ho!]

Somebody used Twitter, just now or near-about, to announce his unceremonious, self-imposed exit from the games industry. I was really startled by this, and I hope he doesn’t stick to it.

What astonished me moreso, though, was why.

He had witnessed some of the backlash against Indie Custom Cube, a (really very clever, and playable) deck of Magic: the Gathering cards that employs the identities, and photographic images, of some of the better-known personalities from what we call the “indie video games” scene. (I think the deck itself is probably intended as a send-up of that very moniker, but.)

I became extremely alarmed because this person’s takeaway from the backlash was—and I hope I can borrow and paraphrase and filch, all in good faith—there’s an “old guard” of game designers and developers, and then there is this “new guard,” which seeks to displace the Old Boys’ Club because that Club is racist, sexist, and -phobic, or whatever. To his mind, this incoming “new guard” thinks the voice of the “cisgender white male” is without value: “They can’t accept me for who I am,” this person worried. He feels underestimated and undervalued by, very specifically, my group of friends. He feels pushed out of his own chosen industry and livelihood. He is really hurt. (This is sad but also a little bit funny, because of course this is anybody’s complaint. Nobody wants to feel voiceless, valueless, useless, wasted.)

I tried to mansplain the backlash to him (which is “a little bit funny” in exactly the same way) and, maybe understandably, he wasn’t interested. But while I typed it, some of my own problems with the Indie Custom Cube kind of crystallized for me. And although they arrive belatedly—I admit I tuned out of the backlash about six hours ago—I wanted to repeat those same exact thoughts I typed to him over here, too:

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