Thursday, January 28, 2016

Passing Through: The Journal

I am honored and pleased to have been a doula in the birthing of this issue of a wonderful literary magazine. Jessica Hahn is a cool mom I met at the playground, and we've been hanging out for years; she's also a gifted writer who somehow finds the energy to perform at readings, to which she drags me along when I deign to leave my house exactly every blue moon.
She told me she was stressed out, working on the most recent issue of Passing Through, and asked if I wanted to read some of the submissions. While she and some other women drank wine and chased the kids back into the backyard and chatted, I repaired to a dark corner and sat happily with a red pen and her stack of poems. 
I've been editing poetry since I was twelve. My mom, Marjorie Keyishian, is an amazing poet. I would watch her compose on her Underwood typewriter; mostly it looked like staring, followed by frantic clickity-clackity, followed by more staring, and a whole lot of smoking. One day, she flapped a piece of paper at me and said, "Read this over and tell me what parts don't flow." As I looked at the page, it was as if I saw a grid or a structure, and the parts of the poem that were extraneous, and I trimmed and made circles and drew lines. It felt very familiar. I cannot write poetry, but I do know how to shepherd a poem from concept to completion. Mom thought I would be able to and made sure I did. Many times over the years. 
Somehow this never became part of my professional experience. I regret that. I work in magazines, not in literary publishing houses. But Jess reawakened that old habit in me, and I have enjoyed it so much.
Here it is.!amy-keyishian-maribeth-solomon/c1xa9
We are shooting for the next issue this summer, if any of you gifted writers and artists in my circle want to be included. We're looking for 400 word submissions - poetry, prose, whatever. We're going to make it an amazing event as well. Big plans afoot.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Back From Job Land: #KatieFisherDay

I've left the freelance world, but that means there's stuff I want to write about and can't hustle up an outlet. Here's one such story. Go make cookies.

Usually, when a web site asks you about cookies, it doesn't mean … cookies. But today, is literally (literally!) asking you for cookies, and it's all because a comedian got in a fight with an insurance company.

Two things about Matt Fisher: He's never, with the exception of a couple of McJobs, been anything but a comedian, mostly with the UCB Theater in New York (where I studied at the same time, though we didn't know each other there). And he'd always been super-close with his kid sister by 7 years, Katie.

“We grew up as real partners,” Fisher says. “Perhaps because of the age difference, there was no rivalry. We colluded. We did it all together.” Katie stayed with him the night before his wedding to calm his nerves. And during college, she baked a batch of cookies for him every week.

File that one away for later.

In 2010, at the age of 24, Katie was killed in a car accident. That was horrible enough, but through a series of weird corporate requirements and manipulations, her family was required to sue the driver who hit her in order to get a payout from her insurance. (It's complicated.) And then in 2012, Katie's insurer, Progressive, hired a lawyer to help the guy they were suing.

“I get kind of embarrassed when I see people living their emotional lives in public, especially via social media,” says Fisher. “I'm not the type to tweet about sad feelings.”

But anger? Anger was a different story.

“I was so offended that Progressive would line up against Katie and my folks in court that I wrote about it on Tumblr,” says Fisher. This “got the Internet's attention,” as Gawker put it, and a hashtag campaign was born: Fisher's friends, then friends-of-friends, then the wider Tweeterverse began hammering Progressive Auto Insurance (the company with the cute spokeswoman, Flo) with demands that they quit playing corporate games, tagged #KatieFisher; the response was the sort of marketing meltdown that serves as a cautionary tale for any company in any industry, as Progressive's feed became solely populated by seemingly automated individual replies to every tweet.

It was embarrassing. Progressive had to do a good amount of cleanup. And it was hailed as a triumph of grassroots social media when Progressive apologized and settled with the Fishers, with one news outlet declaring that “when it's Twitter vs. lawyers, take Twitter.

Life goes on. (Well, not Katie's, but … anyway.) Matt Fisher is back with another hashtag. And if the first one was borne of anger, this one is borne of affection.

“It was very gratifying when people were jumping on Progressive and hashtagging her tweets with her name,” Fisher says. “But what was being discussed wasn't Katie or her life. It was Progressive. I'm so glad people got behind my parents, but I thought: let's bring it around to Katie's life, what I loved about her, and what she did for me …. So one weekend I rattled off a bunch of tweets with her name hashtagged, and they were about her: things I admired about her, facts about her. And one of those was the cookie story.”

A friend came up with the idea to use the same hashtag to encourage people to celebrate Katie's birthday by baking (or buying!) cookies for a loved one. Just random cookies for random people. (Recipes are available at

“You shouldn't necessarily be telling Katie's story when you give out your cookies,” Fisher says. “You should be talking to the person you're giving the cookies to, about your feelings. If that's the sum total of the connection to Katie, that's great.” He admits that it fills his heart to see the hashtag used for positive feelings this time, that it assuages his grief and that the buildup around the holiday is a welcome distraction. But “I'm not crowdsourcing my therapy,” he says. “It's more about all of us acting a little more like Katie than just remembering her.”

So: Happy #KatieFisherDay. Go forth and deliver a cookie to someone you love. Because Twitter > lawyers

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Telephone Conundrum

In general, my quality of working life is as good as it can be. A couple of years ago, I made a decision out of total desperation to STOP working for less than a certain dollar amount per post. It's simply unrealistic for me to think "oh, I'll just write the posts faster." I don't write them faster. I write everything at the same rate, because my name is on them and it's not worth it to me to suck in public. This has worked out: after a few lean months, I fell into a great pattern with solid clients.

But when I stumble these days, it's because of a very specific aversion that perplexes me and, yes, has definitely cost me clients. I can't stand to talk on the phone anymore. Anytime I have to interview someone, I have to psych myself up. And I'm good at the interviews! I'm fast, friendly, perceptive! But the dread just drags me down, and I know I'm not the only one. A Facebook friend had to speak to me urgently - but only via chat. "Don't call me, I'm phone-phobic these days," she said. And I get it.

But guys, we all spent HOURS on the phone in high school, right? Like, not even talking, just watching TV "with" our friends. So. Much. Time. On the telephone.

Maybe I used up my phone time early.

I did get an old-school handset that turns my iphone into a Princess phone. Which has made a huge difference, actually. It's snazzy. Only trouble is I keep trying to "hang up" the receiver instead of pushing the button. Another activity I excelled in in high school.

Welp. Now you know. I'm off to -- **shudder** -- call someone now.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Let Me Be Your Front Door Woman

Thrilling! A couple months ago I hooked up with HGTV's to be their Bay Area reporter. After much hard work on the part of my editors, "my" end of the site has relaunched. I'll be doing 3 posts a week for them. Bookmark the home page:

and take a gander at my inaugural post:

So far, it's been a ton of my favorite style of reporting -- getting to be a nosy-noodle-looky-loo and obsess over real estate, decor, and Pinterest-type obsession. Yay. YAY!!

ANd this weekend I'm going to Maker Faire with two editors. Hooray!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Richie Havens RIP

I'm so sad to hear of the passing of Richie Havens. I had the distinct honor of interviewing him when I was an editor at Brooklyn Bridge Magazine. He was gracious and generous with his time. Talking to him on the phone was like leaning my ear against a huge purring cat, or like having a soothing hot liquid poured into my brain. As I remember it he mailed me a few pages of handwritten notes that were very easy to organize into this article -- it was just a matter of rearranging and shaping, not rewriting. All words were his. The pleasure was mine.

Richie Havens article in Brooklyn Bridge Magazine

Richie Havens in Brooklyn Bridge, Part 2

Thanks to editor extraordinaire and keeper of ephemera Joe Fodor. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Some Very Old (Very Entertaining) Clips

An old pal from my days at Cosmopolitan Magazine just hipped me to this archive of magazine articles at Villanova. Here, we see many of my Cosmo articles -- including the "American Pie Chart," "Men Unzipped: The Secret His Undies Reveal" (for which I interviewed, off the record, my crush at Esquire), and my expose on the Brazilian bikini wax.

But in addition, there are more recent gems I had forgotten about, such as "can you build a better PENIS?" from Redbook, 2004. I don't know why PENIS is so big, except that maybe PENIS got excited at the idea of a better PENIS.

Villanova Falvey Library

I'm going to get interesting page-views on this one, aren't I. Well, go click the ads, PENIS-lovers.

Anyway, it's nice to see there's a record of some of my more ridiculous articles, though I have no idea how to access it. I'd follow that rabbit hole down to its end, but I have to not procrastinate this morning, and that's pretty much a prime example of work avoidance by way of pretending something is tangentially related to work and therefore OK to spend the morning on.

Begone, temptation! If anyone else wants to research this, be my guest!

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Financial Lives of the Freelancers

I read a novel by Jess Walters called The Financial Lives of the Poets. In it, a hapless financial reporter finds himself laid off and unemployable and makes a stunning series of ill-thought-out mistakes in an effort to cling to his middle-class existence. The main character was a bit of a pud, but that probably only bothered me because he was my kind of pud -- his stunned disbelief at being in the position he's in and his utter lack of direction, now that he's adrift, were all too familiar to me. Laid-off, unemployable, scrabbling for freelance dimes that I swear used to be dollars -- yeah. It's hard to feel at a distance from that guy.

It was a still a good, funny, solid read though, and I appreciated this gem, in the acknowledgements at the end:

"...and all of my dismayed and displaced newspaper friends, whose talent and commitment deserve a better world."

I'll pretend he said "and magazine" and make myself part of the group. Blerg.