Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

Happy National Smith Day, Happy Birthday To SMITH

Sunday, January 6th, 2008

196466935_e060d088cc_m.jpgToday we are two.

SMITH Magazine launched exactly two years ago, on January 6, 2006, after we raced to launch timed to what I had learned was National Smith Day. National Smith Day has nothing to do with storytelling (until two years ago, at least), but is in fact a holiday cooked up to celebrate the birthday of one of the country’s original Smiths, Capt. John Smith, the English colonist who led the Jamestown settlers. Here’s what I wrote two years ago about the beginning of the beginning.

I want to thank everyone who has given this storytelling labor of love real legs—none more leggy than cofounder Tim Barkow and senior editor Rachel Fershleiser. We’ll soon* be unveiling a whole new look, feel, and in many ways function for SMITH, one we feel is the natural evolution of a people-powered storytelling site. Assuming lead relauncher Mr. Barkow doesn’t collapse or kill me, this next stage in SMITH’s young life is going to be one giant step. We’ll be celebrating two years of storytelling and the release of our book, NOT QUITE WHAT I WAS PLANNING: Six-Word Memoirs By Writers Famous and Obscure, with a big fete on February 9 in New York City, and some events around the country shortly thereafter. Details coming via your next SMITH Newsletter—stayed tuned.

That’s our story on year two. What’s yours?


*What can I say? We had hoped to push the button on the redesign on the exact day of our two-year anniversary. But it’s hard out here for a SMITH. And let’s face it, few of you would have remembered this was the anniversary date without reading the above post, so we figure why unleash this beast before its time. But it will be ready shortly: we’re dancing as fast as we can.

Birthday cupcake via Flickr user and self-described “mama, blogger and overachiever” gisarah, who coincidentally lives in Portland, Oregon, where Tim Barkow toils.

The Real Reason Obama Won

Friday, January 4th, 2008

Oh, sure, sure, the pundits will have plenty of explanations for why Barack Obama took the Iowa caucuses yesterday. And sure, there’ll be some of those “facts” and “polls” we’ve heard so much about, but I know the real reason. One day before the caucuses, the Internet phenomenon known as “Obama Girl” came back and, well, I guess everyone just figures maybe if he wins she’ll finally shut up and go away.

Anyway, here’s the video — I gotta hand it to the team behind it, the production values are getting better, and this is decently funny, even though this horse was glue months ago.

Shelley Winters, Dean Haspiel, Scott Dunbier, and a Wild Brush With Fame

Friday, January 4th, 2008

shelleywinters.jpgOne of my favorite sections of SMITH that I’ve always felt is poised for greatness is Brushes With Fame, the section of the site where we ask readers to recount a story in which a celebrity enters their life like an alien, landing. Typically, these are playful affairs: selling an air-conditioner to Dick Cheney and his daughter, getting a public shout-out from Jason Alexander, playing Jewish geography with David Eigenberg (who turns out is Steve from Sex in the City).

The through-line is this: our reader celebrity encounters aren’t what you’ll find in Page 6 or Gawker Stalker, but stories of an actual, personal interaction with the known or the famous. In other words, a story. Although they’re typically on the lighter side of life, there’s often quite a bit of meaning in a brush with fame. How did Jan Allen end up with Mick Jagger’s urine in her freezer? The scenario’s a scream. But the story works because Mick’s piss truly means the world to her.

SMITH contributing editor and ACT-I-VATE comics collective cofounder Dean Haspiel recently sent around a link to a blog post by Scott Dunbier—a former
executive editor at Wildstorm/DC comics—about Scott’s odd brush with fame. It’s a true tale from New York City in the ’80s about a then-19-year-old Scott was working in a comics shop. It seems a kid—13 or 14, maybe—would come in flashing fifties and buying art. One day the phone rang:


Resolved: To Confess in 2008

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008

2094126296_673434ecc1_m.jpgOur friends over at True Confessions—where moms, dads, office workers, and others anonymously spill their guts—are having a ConfessOLUTIONS contest. A ConfessOLUTION, of course, is a New Year’s resolution you plan to keep, but one you’d rather keep to yourself (you’ve got your reasons).

True Confessions high priestess Romi Lassally sent over some of our favorites so far:

Love my body, regardless of size. It created, grew and birthed two children. If I respect it, perhaps I’ll treat it better.

Love my husband better. Show it.

Stop buying things. Things are meaningless. Fill the void I don’t want to acknowledge. Read more. Listen to better music.

Love my children in ways they will remember. I only have one shot at this mothering thing.

What’s yours? Head over to True Confessions and let it all out for ‘08. We won’t tell.

Confession photo from Flickr >> Creative Commons >> jeanineanderson.

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…)

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!

SMITH Magazine

SMITH Magazine is a home for storytelling.
We believe everyone has a story, and everyone
should have a place to tell it.
We're the creators and home of the
Six-Word Memoir® project.