Archive for December, 2007

The Best of SMITH in 2007

Monday, December 31st, 2007

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Every story that comes in is special to me. Whether an assigned feature from one of the editors, an out-of-nowhere memoir-in-progress from a previously unpublished writer, a heavily scripted and designed chapter of our newest webcomic, A.D., or Mario Batali sending me a half dozen six-word memoirs in the middle of the night, each one is like a mini-birth. And this home for storytelling gets richer and richer with each contribution. As we get set for some very exciting changes in January—and celebrate two years of storytelling and the release our book, NOT QUITE WHAT I WAS PLANNING: Six-Word Memoirs By Writers Famous and Obscure—I wanted to look back at some of my favorite stories, and SMITH Mag moments, of 2007. What’s yours?

The 2007 SMITHies

Best Story Which Left the Writer Always on Top: Writing the Whip, the ongoing diary of Mistress Y, a working dominatrix in New York City.

Most Impressive Celebrity Six-Word Memoir Score: SMITH memoir guru Rachel Fershleiser meets Amy Sedaris at the Blogher conference in Chicago and returns home with her six.

Personal Confession That’ll Knock Your Socks Off: Cole Kazdin’s hilarious recounting of her experience posing nude.

Best Video: The six-word memoir video, created by SMITH cofounder Tim Barkow, and seriously some of the best three-minutes around. (more…)

A.D. On the Move

Friday, December 28th, 2007

It’s been an exciting year for our second webcomic, A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge. We launched it on January 1, 2007, and eight chapters later it’s been hailed as one of the best comics of 2007, from deep geek comic insiders to USA Today.

Chapter 8 came out in piece over these last few months, but the final third has just been posted, making it 20 panels strong. Newcomers will want to read A.D. from the very beginning.

A.D. will continue over the coming months until the stories of Leo, Michelle, Denise, the Doctor, Hamid, and Kevin have been told. As 2007 nears its end, I asked A.D. writer and illustrator Josh Neufeld to talk about what the A.D. community has meant to him as an artist. Here’s Josh.


As the year winds down, it seems appropriate to reflect back on a full 12 months of A.D.. I’ve immersed myself in this project in a way I never have before, and it’s been incredibly exciting and fulfilling to see that effort bearing fruit.

From January, when editor Larry Smith and I traveled down to New Orleans to interview our subjects, through the rest of year writing and drawing the actual story, it’s been a long journey to where we are now, the cusp of 2008. At times it can seem as if the story of six people who survived and escaped Katrina will go one forever (and, of course, in a sense it truly does). So if you think that the often slow pace can be agonizing on your end, believe me, I get just as frustrated crafting the story in my painstaking fashion!

But one thing keeps me constantly revitalized and determined to move forward: the response from the A.D. community. I’m not just talking about the story’s subjects themselves—Leo & Michelle, Denise, Hamid, the Doctor, and Kevin—nor even the amazing reaction we’ve gotten from the press and blogosphere. No, what means more to me than all that is the wonderful reader feedback we’ve received on the A.D. message boards. (more…)

The To-Do List Book

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

To-Do: Read Sasha Cagen’s To-Do List Book.

I need to start writing more, going to bed before 5 am, and making it to dance class. I need to stop biting my nails, procrastinating, and forgiving people who lie to me.

This time of year, almost everyone is composing a wish list. What I want from Santa gives way to what I want from myself, as yellow pads amass promises of diets begun and workout regimens adhered to.

But for most of us, all the time is list time. I’m a disorganized person, but I write groceries on my fridge, deadlines above my desk, and every man I’ve ever kissed in the same spiral notebook I began at 14.

Sasha Cagen, the author/blogger/magazine editor/pop culture genius who conceived Quirkyalone has turned her attention to the humble To-Do List. Her new book To-Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soul Mate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us is both sociologically illuminating and voyeuristically thrilling.

“Our lists reveal our secret selves,” she writes in the introduction. “They show us as the hilariously imperfect works-in-progress that we are every single day.”

Each list is reproduced on the original page in the original handwriting, and the effect is visceral enough to give a full image of the writer (or post-traumatic stress syndrome if one happens to be your old boss). Health lists, sex lists, things to do before you die…each is intimate and kind of inspiring. Read some below and then grab a post it to start your own—or post it in the comments. Need more inspiration? You know what to do. -Rachel Fershleiser
Listen to Sasha Cagen talking about to-do lists on NPR’s Talk of the Nation.

Click on photos to enlarge; mouseover for previous and next.

One Photo, One Story, Every Day

Wednesday, December 26th, 2007

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Back in April, we spied our own Rachel Kramer Bussel on Bill Wadman’s 365 Portrait Series, a project in which Wadman promised to shoot a person a day until December 31, 2007. As 2007 winds down, the shooter’s made good on his promise—and the bounty is big. His site features people of all ages and all walks of life, in different states of being: moonwalkers, pundits, authors, royalty, paper-pushers, dancers, educators, musicians, and one tied-up sexpert. Wadman tends to shoot his subjects up close and personal—and the results are a feast of expression, delight and intensity. He doesn’t offer captions or tell their stories, but rather leaves it to a lively community of commentators that has sprung up (and has plenty to say). It’s a fantastic example of one person’s personal media passion expertly executed, and made possible by using the simple technology right at all of our fingertips. I found the experience of viewing the 365 Portraits Series absolutely addicting.

Take a spin through Wadman’s amazing year here; join his Facebook group here.

Play it Again, Santa

Monday, December 24th, 2007

96597381_35a0950c92_m.jpgA few days ago, Kathy scoured Flickr for some hilarious shots of Saint Nick seemingly torturing the children—man, those kids could make faces. As I get ready to join America on its highways and byways to make my holiday getaway, I stumbled upon these glorious Christmas shots from Magnum Photos, published on Slate. Whether your holiday finds you on Santa or someone else’s lap, at home by the tree, or out and about pondering Kung Pao chicken, all of us at SMITH Mag hope you have a happy one full of friends, family, and funny faces.

Santa getting some fish, and leg, is not via Magnum, but from Flickr user Kuby!.

Perhaps This Whole “Technology” Thing Has Gone Too Far

Friday, December 21st, 2007

I was checking out Andrew Sullivan’s blog yesterday when a whole new world opened up for me. It seems that not only are people obsessed with today’s video game of choice, Guitar Hero, they’re documenting their obsessions. Like, compulsively. And then putting it on YouTube. (In their defense, I have played Guitar Hero once and It. Is. Awesome.)

So I went searching around YouTube today and found that there are quite a few of these things out there, though disappointingly quite a few assume your nerdness and only show the TV screen, never the gamers in the actual act of playing, which is a sight to behold if you’ve never witnessed it before. I picked out one I think is one of the best, if only for the sheer prodigy exhibited. Stare in awe, people, at a five-year-old GOD OF ROCK.

Bad Santa

Friday, December 21st, 2007

318261241_f2d63e20c0.jpgTis the season to be really mean. We allow ourselves to overindulge in everything from chocolate and candy to eggnog and Champagne (Screw it! Make a New Year’s resolution to work out more. Problem solved.). We spend entire paychecks on gifts like electric toothbrushes (who doesn’t want an electric toothbrush; hygiene is hot?)!

Above all, we love to point and laugh at little children who scream in horror while sitting on Santa’s lap. This is probably the only time when even parents can’t help but laugh out load and photograph their baby as they struggle to free themselves from Santa’s cruel grip. To prove this point, I went onto Flickr’s Creative Commons and found photographic evidence, past and present, of kids screaming while Santa forces them to reveal their wish list.

2126396405_8be210c64a_o.jpgMan, why don’t you just waterboard these kids—you might actually get something out of them. “I just (gasp, gasp) want a Dora the Explorer lunch box!!!! Mommmmmmmyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy”

You can check out some of the pics here. Consider this our gift to you. Happy Holidays SMITHs!

Moving on. Unemployed this holiday season? Looking for that dream job? Into finding out who’s been naughty and who’s been nice? Then becoming a professional Santa Claus might be the gig for you, once you pass the background check and grow out your beard. FYI:only men can apply. Although, an exception might be made if you’re a really hairy woman. A SMITH T-shirt to any female who tries!

From a story that appeared in Slate,

While would-be Santas can apply to smaller shopping centers directly, national staffing services farm out talent to the larger malls. Noerr Programs Corp. serves as the North Pole’s version of central casting: It supplies St. Nicks to 169 major malls across the country. At Noerr, aspiring Santas are carefully interrogated about their willingness to travel, experience with kids, and, if applicable, their own memorable moments playing Santa. One key question: What does Christmas mean to you? Preferred answer: It’s all about the children. Santas can be of any ethnicity—certain malls prefer African-American or bilingual Santas—but they must be male, in keeping with tradition. Having a natural beard is also a prerequisite.

If you don’t think you can handle screaming, clawing munchkins all day long, perhaps a job as Santa’s elf might be more up your alley. Think Will Ferrell. You can listen to David Sedaris (bro of my personal idol, Amy) talk about his experience as a Macy’s elf here.

Have a happy and healthy holiday and a fantastic New Year!

Better Know a Teen Girl: Read RED

Thursday, December 20th, 2007

RED_girls.jpgIn the last couple of weeks, I’ve been lucky to catch two readings of RED: The Next Generation of American Writers–Teenage Girls–On What Fires Up Their Lives Today, which is a remarkable collection of essays. At the first reading, my friend David—and author of two books himself—turned to me and said: “This is the best reading I’ve ever been to.” When I caught a second reading this past Tuesday at the Lower East Side Girls Club in Manhattan, RED editor Amy Goldwasser revealed that seed of the book was planted at that very spot, in a sense for what she called “selfish” reasons. Goldwasser realized that she much preferred lending a hand to the LESGC girls on their college essays by night to the paid work she was doing by day in NYC’s magazine jungle. “As opposed to professional adult writers,” she told me later, describing the process of editing 58 girls for the final incarnation of the book, “they really had no interest in pleasing me–which made for the very best, purest kind of editing. I never rewrote a word, I just got to ask a lot of questions then eagerly await (and cut-and-paste) their answers. These girls don’t follow conventions. Their writing is a lot more pure, honest, real.” I read personal essays each and every day, yet what I heard and what I’ve read have been nothing short of a revelation. That’s why at the second RED reading, I made sure I had plenty of SMITH cards to give to these young writers—writers who I suspect we’ll be hearing from a lot more in the coming years. And that’s why I hope you’ll read these three essays which we’re honored to publish here (and you can click through to three more on Salon), and then buy a copy of RED.

I’m out of here

Wednesday, December 19th, 2007

This week’s question:

With the stagehands back on and the writers holding out, we wondered—job, friend, or relationship, when did you walk out?

Next week’s question:
“Eight days of oil and the birth of our savior…meh. What’s the most miraculous thing that ever happened to you?”

Send your answer here: Rachel [at] smithmag [dot] net (in 100 words or less, please). We’ll post our favorites on the front page of SMITH.

Countdown: 1-2-3-4-5-SIX.

Monday, December 17th, 2007

testcolbert_1.jpgBooks are strange and beautiful beasts. How is it that a prison memoir, a dog memoir, and a book of six-word memoirs are all considered “memoirs”? Yet they are, even if they are completely different animals. And books move at such strange speeds. The time from conception of SMITH’s six-word memoir book to completion of the first and quite-close-to-final draft was just a few months. The time from that draft to publishing date is close to a year. In between, you mess with covers and have meetings about marketing and bite your nails and turn into a walking, talking hype machine (which, let’s face it, makes you somewhat insufferable to your nearest and dearest).

The fuzzy math of marketing dictates that we don’t want to push the book too early before its release, so my co-editor Rachel Fershleiser and I have been positively restrained (for us). However, a few daily newspapers who received advance copies of NOT QUITE WHAT I WAS PLANNING: Six-Word Memoirs By Writers Famous and Obscure decided to cover the book early—so here we go. Atlanta-Journal Constitution scribe Phil Kloer wrote that he “fell in love with this book” and offered his copy of it to a reader who sent in his or her own six-word memoir. Within days, six-word memoirs in response to his column broke the paper’s record for comments.

6WORDMEM_yellow_blue.JPGLast week, Toronto’s largest daily, The National Post, wrote a feature on the making of the book (with this image above of one of the book’s memoirists). Writer Ben Kaplan zeros in on the heart and soul of why we made this book, and why the six-word memoir has captured imaginations across America. And when you make a book, even a seemingly “small” book like this, it means a lot when people get it.

And we hope you pre-order your copy of NOT QUITE WHAT I WAS PLANNING: Six-Word Memoirs By Writers Famous and Obscure today and get it on February 5, 2008.

SMITH Magazine

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