New Erotica for Feminists with Brooke Preston, Carrie Wittmer, and Fiona Taylor

New Erotica for Feminists with Brooke Preston, Carrie Wittmer, and Fiona Taylor

 
 
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What if Tom Hardy drove up to your house to deliver loads of LaCroix and cash? That’s the premise of just one of the stories in New Erotica for Feminists, a book of “satirical fantasies of love, lust, and equal pay.” And we were lucky enough to talk to its authors!

We got three out of the four—yes, four—authors on the line to talk about writing the book, how they collaborate with so many different schedules and voices in the mix, what it’s like to build a women-run comedy site on a shoestring, and why all of us could use a group of badass creative partners in our lives.

We all have a lot of rage at society…and this partnership helps us sort of channel it into a constructive way where it’s at least cathartic and we can feel like we’re helping other people laugh. I mean, that’s one of the things that came out of this book—we would love for it to change the world. It’s probably not going to do that, but at least it entertains people and makes them feel like they are not so alone.
—Fiona Taylor, co-author, New Erotica for Feminists

Links on links on links

Pick up New Erotica for Feminists pretty much everywhere
Bookmark The Belladonna, our guests’ hilarious comedy site
Follow the authors: Caitlin Kunkel, Brooke Preston, Carrie Wittmer, and Fiona Taylor
Read the McSweeney’s piece that started it all

Also on the agenda

  • We talk about writing with coauthors: what works, what doesn’t, and how to make sure no one loses their shit in the process
  • Katel talks about finding her own voice, distinct from her company’s
  • Sara wonders if her freewheelin’ podcastin’ lifestyle is bad for business (and whether she cares)
  • (Spoiler: her bank account cares)
  • We say farewell to our co-host Jenn, who’s sadly not coming back to the show next season (but whose hilarious takes on balancing parenting and professional badassery we miss every day)

Sponsors

This episode of NYG is brought to you by:

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Shopify, a leading global commerce platform that’s building a world-class team to define the future of entrepreneurship. Visit shopify.com/careers for more.

Harvest logoHarvest, makers of awesome software to help you track your time, manage your projects, and get paid. Try it free, then use code NOYOUGO to get 50% off your first paid month.

Transcript

Sara Wachter-Boettcher Thanks to Harvest for supporting today’s show. Harvest makes project planning software that you can use for all kinds of crucial stuff like tracking time, managing deadlines, and my personal favorite—getting paid. They’ve even got all kinds of reports you can run to gain insight and shine a light on the health of your projects. Try it free at getharvest.com and when you upgrade to a paid account, make sure you use the code “noyougo” for fifty percent off your first paid month. That’s getharvest.com, offer code “noyougo.” [intro music plays for 12 seconds]

SWB Hey everyone, I’m Sara!

Katel LeDû And I’m Katel.

SWB And you’re listening to No, You Go, the show about building satisfying careers and businesses

KL getting free of toxic bullshit

SWB and living your best, feminist life at work.

KL Today we are talking to Brooke Preston, Carrie Wittmer, and Fiona Taylor, three of the four—yes, four—authors of New Erotica for Feminists, a collection of “Satirical Fantasies of Love, Lust, and Equal Pay.” It came out last month, after the authors wrote a post of the same name on McSweeney’s earlier this year. We talk with them about the book, why they wrote it, and what it was like to collaborate with four co-authors, as well as how they all came to be writing partners, and what it’s like to write satirical erotica—or erotic satire??—about women getting promotions and men doing housework. It was awesome.

SWB Yes, it was a super fun interview to do, but I actually want to start with something a little bit serious—creative collaboration! It’s such a big theme for us, I feel like it comes back around to that over and over again. And obviously, that’s important for me and you, but also it got me thinking about cowriting. I also co-authored a book with Eric Meyer, it’s called Design for Real Life, you may have heard of it.

KL Uh, yeah I have. And I remember when you came to us, that’s actually the first and only book so far that we’ve published by two authors at A Book Apart. And when you pitched it, I was kind of not worried, but—and less worried that it would be hard for us to publish, but more about what the process was going to be like because I’d never done that with two authors and I wasn’t sure if you all had an approach or how you would do it. And I don’t think I ever really asked you about how that went. What was it like?

SWB You know, you’re asking a little late. The book’s already been out for like [KL laughs] two years! [laughs]

KL I know! [laughing] I’m like, “by the way…”

SWB Okay! So, at first, I had this moment where I thought that maybe it would be easier than writing a book by myself because I’d actually just written my first book alone before that. And, you know, I thought it’s fewer words per person, right?

KL [laughing] Yeah. That totally sounds like good math.

SWB Yeah. [laughs] It wasn’t really easier. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. This is not negative in any way, it just wasn’t for me. And I think Eric would probably agree, it wasn’t necessarily an easier process than writing alone because me and Eric, we had never worked together before. So, we didn’t really have a shared history or a shared voice. It wasn’t like this came out of all these other projects, it came out of just sort of—we had some overlapping interests and we had recently become very driven to help designers sort of understand how their work could impact people or hurt people. And so we came at it with a lot of shared passion and sort of some shared values, but we just—we didn’t have a body of work or a history together to build on. So, it was like starting from scratch in a lot of ways. And I think one of the things that we tried to do was just communicate really clearly and really kind of concretely about who was doing what and how we wanted to do things. And it’s not like every decision we made at the beginning about how to break up the work stuck, things morphed over time. But I think it sort of set us up to talk to each other about it and not make assumptions about it, which was good.

KL Yeah. And I can imagine. I mean, you’re two different people and it’s two different perspectives, and even though you’re both really great writers, I just want to say that at least from my perspective, it felt very smooth. And I think you’re a natural lead taker on projects, so I’m sure it helped having someone sort of steering the ship. Were your conversations with Eric productive?

SWB Yeah, I think that one of the things you mentioned that it felt very smooth, I think one of the reasons it felt very smooth was that we talked a lot about how to fit things together. And, like you said, we’re both strong writers, but I think my experience is a little bit more editorial, meaning I have a lot more experience editing other people’s work. And so, for me, it would be painfully obvious where he had written something and where I had written something. And so for me—

KL [laughing] Right.

SWB —I spent more of that time smoothing things out before you ever saw it.

KL Right.

SWB And I worried a little bit—I was nervous about doing too much of it because I didn’t want to make him feel like I was changing all of his stuff or his voice, but I think that we had a good conversation about that. And fundamentally, he trusted me from that perspective and also wasn’t precious about it. And I’m glad that we had that because it did allow me to take something I was already strong at—I’m quick at doing that kind of smoothing editorial from editing other people’s work for years, that it ended up feeling pretty good. I think it made me—I think, I hope—a better writer or a better partner in projects and it also I think just made me better or more confident in collaborating with people, which is good because now I collaborate with you all the time and I don’t know, I feel like it’s going okay. [laughs]

[5:35]

KL Uh, definitely. I think about this a lot over the years of running A Book Apart because everyone I work with is freelance. So, there’s a lot of collaboration that has to happen in all sorts of different degrees of intensity. Even though we’ve developed a network of editors, for example, I work mainly with Lisa Maria Martin, who is our managing editor.

SWB I love Lisa Maria! You know, I have gotten to collaborate with her too. I think the first time was actually way back in 2012.

KL Wow!

SWB I knew she wanted to quit her job, and a project came up where I was putting together a team for it—it was a really big project—and I was like, “hey, if you are ready to get out of there, I can get you on to this project with me. It’ll go for three months.” She wanted to move and so the timing was perfect. The project was not perfect, [both laugh] but the timing was good and it was the right moment for me to be able to be like, “hey, I think you’d be a really great fit for this.” And from there we’ve gotten to be able to work together a bunch of different times. And it’s just awesome when you have somebody that you can kind of sync with and that you can really trust. And so I’m really glad that you get to work with her!

KL I know, me too. And I love working with her. It’s funny because I think about sort of the trajectory of how we’ve built out processes and stuff. And for a long time, I thought having several editors working across projects was the best approach, but then working more and more closely with Lisa Maria, I realized that it was more effective to have a lead on everything and then bring others in as needed. And I think we both actually realized that. Plus I think we both really love having what we consider a quote on quote “real colleague” in our day to day ABA work. I mean, I know I do and I think it’s just been really important to both of us. But I don’t think I’ve collaborated with someone on a really big project in a long time. The podcast and the other work you and I are doing are definitely the biggest outside of my daily gig. And I’m going to say it, it’s been an incredible journey. You know how I like to talk about journeys. [laughing] I have learned so—

SWB [laughing] I do, I do know this about you. [both laugh]

KL [laughing] I am looking at my crystals on my windowsill. I have learned so much about myself. One thing I did not realize until we started doing more together was that I was really hungry for new challenges. And then we started the podcast and I was like, “wow, here are all these things I do not know how to do.” Like developing a good interview, or crafting articulate ways to tell the stories I want to tell. And I learned so much from you, you’ve helped me get a lot more comfortable with that articulation and you just really make me feel like I am capable of anything.

SWB That’s so great to hear because I also—I feel like it’s been really exciting for me over the course of the past year to hear you sort of get more comfortable in interviews, get more comfortable in our conversations and open up more. We’ve talked about this.

KL Yeah.

SWB I came into this doing a lot of public speaking and it doesn’t mean I knew shit about podcasting [KL laughs] because I did not. I did not. But it did mean that I was a little bit more confident putting sentences together on the fly.

KL Totally.

SWB And that’s just something you have to get used to. And so, I don’t know, I feel like over the course of us working on this, I’ve been like, “oh my gosh, it’s so great to hear more of your voice shining through on things.”

KL I love it.

SWB Okay, so something else I’ve been thinking about after we did this interview was what do you do when you have a creative project or a side project or whatever it is, and it doesn’t necessarily align with the rest of your professional identity? So, I asked our interviewees about how this fits in with the jobs that they have because they have jobs in journalism or digital strategy. And I wondered, “are you ever worried about not being taken seriously in those spheres because you’re writing feminist erotica in this other sphere?” And I asked that question for me because [laughs] I’ve wondered about that for this show. We are really open here, I talk about a lot of personal stuff, we interview people who talk about periods and sex tech or just subjects that I think a lot of corporate culture is really uncomfortable with, right? Like talking about race and racism directly. And so I’ve worried and wondered and worried and wondered over and over again—what does that do to my consulting business? And, you know, it actually hasn’t [laughs] necessarily been great for it!

KL [laughs] Yeah, I mean, it’s so interesting to hear you talk about that because I think my work is associated with A Book Apart as a company, it’s so different for me. I’m not selling myself directly in the way that you are. And I feel like I do have a certain amount of flexibility and sort of safety to branch out and expand my professional persona. And obviously, I also want to stay mindful of how I present myself on behalf of A Book Apart, but it’s so interesting to kind of look at those two things side by side.

[10:15]

SWB Yeah and I guess as I think about it and as I talk through it out loud, I think in my head I think, “oh, maybe this podcast is at odds with my consulting.” But I actually am not sure that’s what it is. It’s more maybe, I don’t know, I guess over the past year, I feel like I’ve invested a ton of time in getting this off the ground and really wanting to make it good. And that isn’t tied directly to my consulting and as a result of that, I haven’t done a lot of work to publicly talk about practical issues within design, content strategy, user experience. And I do still have opinions on that stuff, it’s not like I don’t. But I feel like I’ve been less interested in writing and speaking about it, except for talking about sort of bias and harm in tech culture, which isn’t really the kind of thing you get hired for as a consultant.

KL Yeah.

SWB So, I guess maybe it’s more that. It’s like, where am I spending my time and my focus and my energy? And then thinking, “well what is the right balance?” I might give a talk about something like bias and inclusion in tech products and that might be great for a conference, but do I need that to be able to turn into a longer-term project? Do I need to build clients out of that? Do I need to focus specifically on building that side of things? Or am I okay if people don’t call me as much? [KL laughs] Am I going to be okay with that?

KL Yeah.

SWB And what does that look like? And so I don’t know that I have the exact answer to that yet, but it’s something I’m really thinking about. And it’s funny, it’s been seven years that I’ve worked for myself and I think this is the very first time that I’ve felt a little bit like, not just that I’m making evolutionary change or iterative change, but more like, “oh, you might be reaching a crossroads.”

KL [laughing] Oh my gosh, yes! I was just realizing that. I have been with A Book Apart for—it will be six years in March, which just—I can’t believe it. And it’s amazing and it really feels like a big accomplishment, but I also think about how that’s a long time and only in the last year have I really branched out and developed a bit more of myself that isn’t strictly associated with A Book Apart.

SWB I think that’s awesome. I think six years is a long time and I think it is something to celebrate, but I think it’s also a huge thing to celebrate that in the past year, you have been like, “oh wait, I’m not just this business, I am also a person with an individual identity” and wanting to kind of tease that out a bit. And, I don’t know, maybe we’re at the crossroads together. Maybe we can do a remake of that Britney Spears movie.

KL Uhh, you know I’m down for that. [both laugh]

SWB So, okay. So as much as I want to resolve all of our career questions in the next ten minutes, I don’t think it’s going to happen.

KL I mean, that would be great. [laughs]

SWB But I will say this. I felt really inspired when I heard the New Erotica authors talk about how they worked together and how they think of their collaboration and how they trust each other because it’s—I don’t know, I feel like that’s more how we work together.

KL Yeah, it totally is.

SWB They’re funnier, but that’s okay [KL laughs] because it made me really confident that however things shake out and whatever it is that I decide to do with my life and however we decide to work together in the future, I guess I feel like you’re going to be at the center of all of it, which is great. [music fades in, plays for five seconds, and fades out]

[13:21]

Interview: the authors of New Erotica for Feminists

KL Today’s show is real special because we’ve got multiple guests joining us. They are three of the four authors who wrote one of our new favorite books—I’m going to give it to all the feminists in my life for the holidays. It’s called New Erotica for Feminists: Satirical Fantasies of Love, Lust and Equal Pay and we are so very here for it. Brooke, Fiona, and Carrie, welcome to No, You Go.

Carrie Wittmer Thank you for having us.

KL So, your fourth co-author, Caitlin, couldn’t make it today, but we are really excited to talk with the four of you. How did you all start working together?

CW So, we all met on the internet on Facebook about two—almost exactly two years ago. I was a member along with Caitlin, Brooke and Fiona of a private Facebook group for female comedy writers. And I was feeling very frustrated because I couldn’t get any of my work published. I didn’t feel like any of the sites that existed, while great, didn’t really fit my voice. And so one day I just posted, “hey, does anyone want to start a female satire site with me?” and Caitlin and Fiona responded, we started emailing. And Brooke and Caitlin knew each other because they did comedy together in Portland, Oregon. And so Caitlin added Brooke and for a couple of months, we just started planning a website that became The Belladonna Comedy. And so we literally met on Facebook.

KL That’s so cool. And we definitely want to ask about The Belladonna a little later on, but since we are talking about the book, let’s dive into that. Tell us what it’s all about and how it came to be.

Fiona Taylor So, one day we were on GChat and we were talking about our dream of having The Belladonna get a sponsorship from LaCroix sparkling water. And Brooke said, “I’m not really sure how sponsorships work, but I think Tom Hardy drives up to your house in a box truck full of LaCroix and cash and just [KL laughs] backs up to your garage and unloads it and plays with your rescue dog.” And we were like, “yeah, that sounds scientific.” [SWB & KL laugh] So, then I said, “well, actually, that sounds like porn for Brooklyn women.” And I think Caitlyn may have said, “oh, that’s a premise. Let’s throw that into a Google Doc and start going with it.” And of course, we all had ideas from there and it morphed into the McSweeney’s piece—“New Erotica for Feminists”—that quickly went viral once it was published. And about a week later, we got an email from a book editor in the UK saying, “do you want to write a book?” And we ended up writing the book in three months and then editing it in two, so it was on a really accelerated schedule.

KL That’s incredible. So, you mentioned the McSweeney’s piece went viral. Was it weird to have an article become something much larger?

[16:11]

CW I think it was—I’m speaking for myself—for a comedy article to get that wild, for lack of a better word, was really new and shocking to me. For my full time job I’m a reporter at Business Insider, so I’m quite used to some pieces taking off and having a huge audience. But for my comedy, which is what I’m truly passionate about, I was like, “wait, people actually want to read this.”

KL [laughing] Yeah. So, there are lots of things we love about the book and in the beginning, you note that you “intentionally removed many identifiers to allow a diverse array of readers to superimpose themselves onto the page.” I personally think this makes the book very sexy. Why was that so important to do that?

Brooke Preston I think these were conversations we were having throughout the process. We wanted to be very aware of the fact that we happened to be four, white, straight, cis women and making sure that were were understanding our privilege there, but also that were were writing in a way that made every reader truly feel welcome. At first, we tried to write a lot of diverse vignettes and reps that were maybe about a woman in a headscarf or about not touching someone’s hair, but it didn’t feel right to speak as someone else’s experience that we didn’t live. And so we decided to kind of go the opposite direction with it and remove a lot of the identifiers unless we were talking about a specific famous person because then everyone can sort of superimpose themselves, as they do in real erotica, and become the sexy star and feel included.

CW Yeah, I think another thing we wanted to do with the book was we were trying to kind of embrace good erotica because a lot of great writers have written good erotica. Most of it on the internet is bad, but there are some great writers who have written good erotica and the best erotica is not specific because it invites you to imagine yourself. I think I said at another talk a couple of days ago how erotica is more specific to women and more popular to women because they’re not seeing some guy rail a woman in a kind of gross, upsetting way. They’re imagining themselves, not seeing someone else do it. So, I think it was important to us to also stay true to the good erotica that we’ve seen.

KL Yeah. Things start out super strong with the opening vignette and I will read it, if I may. [laughs] “The cop asks if I know why he pulled me over. ‘Because my taillight is out?’ ‘Yes ma’am, it’s not a huge deal, but it could be a potential safety issue. I’m happy to escort you to a busy and well-lit garage a few blocks up run entirely by female mechanics. I won’t give you a ticket if you can take care of it now.’ ‘That’s fair,’ I say, my eyes lingering over his clearly visible badge and identification.” So, [laughs] A) that’s hot. [FT laughs] B) I know this is satire, but legitimately it turns me on too, which makes me think about how sad I am that literal fairness, equality, and not being treated terribly is so scintillating. [laughs] Can you tell us more about how you explored the play between satire and erotica and maybe what kind of boundaries you came up against, if any?

[19:26]

FT I think one of the things that we discovered while we were writing this is we read our joke and we were like, “haha, that’s so funny.” And then we were like, “but is it really funny? Because that’s how the world should be.” And then there was sort of a mixture of sadness and rage in there as well. So, I think that’s what we tried to do with the satire is just sort of create—it’s funny, but it really shouldn’t be funny because this is really how the world should be.

BP And our UK team, as part of the promotion of the book, created a “My Feminist Fantasy” hashtag and had readers kind of write their own vignettes about what their feminist fantasies would be. And it was—they were very funny and very good, but also it was striking that so many of them just centered around safety—just basic safety. Someone wrote in and the gist of the vignette was that they were waiting at a bus stop and a man comes up next to them and takes off his headphones and says, “I can tell that it’s making you uncomfortable that I’m here and you don’t know me, so I’m just going to wait at a different bus stop.” [laughs] And that’s the whole vignette. And that so many of these are just like you realize that we’re not at a place societally on either side of the pond where we can just take our safety for granted. And so even though we’ve come so far in the last year or so in the national conversation, this was sort of also chance to say, “yes, but big and small, there are still so many inequalities that we still have to address and that are still so far from being our erotic ideal [laughs] or reality.”

CW Yeah. I’ll also say my approach to writing this book was a little different than my co-authors in that I just read a lot of erotica. This is also how I approach a lot of my satirical writing and comedy. I just go deep into the thing that I’m trying to satirize. So, I just read a lot of erotica and I thought, “okay, I just read a really upsetting master and dom thing with a buttplug and they were coworkers, how can I make this into—spin the feminist issue on this?” So, instead of thinking of what are the issues I want to address, I did what are the erotica things I want to put in the book and then how can I spin them? So, it was really eye opening.

KL Yeah, I can imagine. That’s super interesting. And in another set of vignettes in the New Erotica for Feminists Who Are Parents chapter—that chapter is perfection. One of our faves from that, [laughs] again if I may. “I open my blouse, my naked breasts peeking through for a fleeting moment. I breastfeed my child in public. It is extremely uneventful and everyone is chill about it.” So racy! [laughs] I mean, we know from friends with babies that this is quite literally a fantasy. You’re never far from a judgey person or a creep. Why do you think it’s important to call this out and why was it important to include these in the book?

BP Fiona and I are both parents. But obviously even though Carrie and Caitlin are not currently parents, they are very supportive of women who choose to be parents. And so the four of us really felt like parents are really just an overworked and under-appreciated part of the population. And feminists who are parents are facing a lot of really real challenges and a lot of the most egregious examples of this inequality—the lack of paid maternity leave being a great one. Or talking about a less than perfect split of emotional labour in the household. And so, I think we have a joke in the table of contents that says something like, “we’ll explore the fantasies of these parents, even if it’s really just naps.” And I think we wanted to make sure there was a parent chapter, even though I think it was the hardest to write because obviously, you don’t want there to be any whiff of that you’re trying to eroticize children. [laughs] And so it was the hardest entry point to try and crack, but it was important for us to include.

KL So, talking a little bit more about the process, what was the book writing process like for the four of you?

FT I think it was less challenging because there were four of us, which made it a lot easier. Someone always has an idea, even if someone else is like, “I am totally braindead at this moment.” So, what we did is we opened a Google Doc. First, in our book proposal we worked out the sections. So, everyone just started throwing ideas in there and I think our work on The Belladonna—we edit together, we write pieces together, we’re just so used to working with each other now that I don’t think there’s ever been an issue where someone has edited or added to someone else’s work and anyone has had an issue with that because we all make each other’s work stronger and better I think. So, people would have an idea, sort of throw it in there, get it as far as they could, then everyone else would sort of come in and go at it and make it stronger and I think that we’re just really lucky that we collaborate well together.

CW Yeah. I think another thing we did really well was communicate on when we were going to work a bunch on the book. So, I would send a GChat to the group like, “hey, I’m getting up early on Saturday morning and I’m planning on spending the entire day writing.” And we were just really good about communicating when we could, and so I think our contributions to the book were all very equal. I mean, we’re—like Fiona said, because we do edit each other and add jokes to some that maybe we—I originally wrote, we all have an imprint on every single part of the book. A lot of people have been asking, “oh, so which chapters did you write, Carrie?” And I’m like, “I wrote the whole book. We all wrote the whole book.” [KL laughs]

[25:30]

BP I would just say the other piece of that to tack on—we all bring a sort of different sensibility to our writing, so Fiona has a lot of literary depth, as does Caitlin. Caitlin has a strong knowledge of mythology. Carrie, being an entertainment reporter, has a ton of science fiction and TV and referential knowledge. So, everyone just brings something different to the table and has a slightly different voice. And so they meld really well together and so it was a good check on ourselves because there were a few times where we would go back and edit and then in the early stages—the original person that had started the draft of that vignette and would say, “oh, that wasn’t actually the joke that I was originally going for.” But then if we weren’t getting it, maybe the audience wouldn’t have gotten it.

KL That’s so cool. It really sounds like you all do really work very well together. You also all co-founded The Belladonna together, which is a satire site by women and other marginalized genders for everyone. We love this. How did you decide to found the site and what are your goals for it?

BP I think one of the pieces that was really important to us was that what we didn’t want to do was create a site that the byline wasn’t really of value. The tricky part when you’re a new site and you don’t have any cache or followers yet [laughs] is that we wanted to make it really clear that we wanted to make this a high quality writing site that was selective. Not so selective that women felt they could never be part of it or develop their voice on it, but also not something where you could just send anything in and we would just put it on the site. Because I think those sites exist and they serve their purpose, but they’re not as valuable of a professional byline because they’re not a selective site. So, we wanted there to be an editorial process that was really focused on A) showing women’s voices—developing their own voice, rather than having them fit into a specific style that way that say _The Onion_—

FT Yeah, because we want to really help writers and at the moment, unfortunately, we can’t pay because we’re not making any money from the site. One day we hope to have that change, that is a goal. So, in terms of—we can’t pay people, so we are trying to make sure that we give them valuable feedback that will help them get published on our site, help them get published on other sites. And sometimes when we read a piece and it’s good, but it’s not quite right for us, we’ll make suggestions about where they should submit it in order to get another byline. So, we really just want to be a place where voices that wouldn’t be heard that frequently are sort of amplified and we do want to be able to monetize and we do want to be able to pay writers and I’m sure we have other goals too.

BP Yeah, I think just the biggest thing is just building that community and widening that pipeline.

SWB So, you mentioned that you’re not yet making money off of the site and that you’d like to, and I wanted to ask a little about just sort of where you see the site going and how you kind of keep it in perspective. Because I know that running an indie editorial site is famous for being hard, right? We all miss—well, maybe I won’t speak for all of you—but I know me and Katel definitely miss The Toast, I miss The Awl, and I’m curious—as you’re thinking about what you want to do with The Belladonna, how do you kind of make it work, despite the fact that it is hard to run an editorial site on the internet without necessarily having a big influx of cash?

CW Yeah, it’s not easy. You’re very right that it’s very hard. All of us have made sacrifices in our personal life I think to devote to the site. I think we each spend about ten hours maybe per week, give or take depending on how many submissions we get, on our work for the site. And we all work full-time, so it’s mostly our nights and weekends, our days off. And I think that we keep doing it even though we don’t get paid for it yet because we’re all so passionate about it. I know that sounds very cheesy, but it’s true. We really believe in ourselves, we really believe in our writers and we all want to get ahead—we want big TV writing jobs and we want that. So, we’re going to keep doing this because we believe in ourselves and our community and we know that this is a great way to get ourselves out there.

[30:04]

BP And honestly, we’ve gotten so many great emails and some of the most moving are when someone writes and says, “you know, I was going to give up on comedy and I just didn’t feel heard or appreciated in this community at all, and now I’m going to keep going.” Or a lot of people will write to us and say, “that was the nicest rejection letter I’ve ever gotten and that makes me want to submit to you again.” To me, those are real people that are experiencing maybe a lasting career shift, or maybe they’ll say, “I found sort of my own writing partners or my own people through this site and through this community and now we’re off writing together for other sites.” That is a real, tangible effect that you had on someone’s life. And so to us, that’s well worth the small time sacrifices and financial sacrifices that we’re currently putting in this site to just see this vision that we’d had actually coming to fruition and happening.

SWB Yeah, that’s really interesting. It sounds like it’s not just, “we want to run an editorial site to run an editorial site,” but that there’s all these other potential outcomes that you’re looking at like are there screenwriting or TV writing gigs out there? What kind of community does this create? And that sort of changes some of the incentives, which I love hearing about that.

BP And we also have really great interns. We hire a pair of interns every—it was designed to be quarterly, but in the last few rounds they have been so great that they have offered and we have begged them to stay on for longer, so it’s been more like six month cycles. And they contribute pieces to the site, they help us on the editorial side just making sure, you know, all the trains run on time. They also sometimes have their own special projects of something they’re really passionate about. Whether it’s how can we bring more diversity to the site and curating some initiatives around that, to merch—we’ve been in process talking about how do we maybe do that. So, it’s been so beneficial to have these young women, who are hungry to start their careers and so talented.

SWB And so I want to pick up on something that has come up a little bit here and there as we’ve been chatting and that’s that you all are also doing other jobs. So, for those kinds of jobs, is it ever weird to navigate the different parts of your professional identity? Do you ever get worried that commercial clients or, Carrie, for you, journalists or editors will think you’re, I don’t know, not serious about that work or look at what you’re doing with erotic feminist satire [laughs] as being at odds with the other part of your identity? [BP laughs]

CW I don’t really care. [laughs & SWB laughs] And if they have a problem with it, I’ll go somewhere else. That’s what I have to say because this is what I care about. [laughs] Honestly!

FT Yeah, I haven’t really run into that issue. My boss, I have to say, is really excited that I published a book. He’s going to publish his own book. And he doesn’t necessarily tell clients what the name of my book is, but he’ll be like, “oh, she wrote a book.” You know, which—he’s like, “this helps me too.” So, so far it’s working out.

KL So, Brooke, you and Caitlin are both involved in Second City, right? Can you tell us a little bit about that?

BP Yeah! So, Caitlin is the person that created the online satire writing program and curriculum for Second City. And she’s taught that as part of their faculty for seven years. And then she brought me on just about a year ago, and now I teach her curriculum and I’ve added sort of my own notes and experiences to that as well for about a year.

KL That’s so cool. I would never have ever dreamed there would be an online satire writing program. How did that start and how has it sort of evolved?

BP I mean, I think Caitlin could speak to the origins of it more. But I know that the demand is really high, it’s one of the top enrolled programs perennially in the online pantheon of classes at Second City. And first of all, kudos to Second City for having online classes because I’m the only one of the four of us that doesn’t live in New York. I live in Columbus, Ohio, but that doesn’t make me any less serious about comedy writing. And we’re finding that that’s true with a lot of people and especially women, either because they have a job obligation or family obligation, that not everyone can or wants to live in New York or LA, but that that has been prohibitive for people to have professional comedy careers. So, The Second City really saw that and helped open this new channel that has raised so much talent from across the country and across the world because you can really take classes from anywhere. And it was instrumental to my development. I took Caitlin’s first iteration of classes when she developed the class, I took the first round as a student. And that really helped me polish up work and polish up my skills and find a group of people to write with and earn a lot of bylines that have led to other opportunities.

[35:02]

KL I love that it sort of morphed into that for you. So, we’re really interested in how you all work together, obviously. And not just logistics of making work happen, creative or otherwise, but also just how it is to work with people who are also your friends. What drives you to keep making things together?

BP I think we just really enjoy each other. We are friends and we like being around each other and we really are also true admirers of one another personally and professionally—of our work and our voices. And so it just makes it fun. I wish that I had more time to devote to the things that we’re working on together because it’s much more fulfilling for me—sort of in the vein of what Carrie said—it’s much more fulfilling to me to do this work than it is to necessarily work on a white paper about something. Whereas I’m good at that and I can do it, but it’s not bringing out my passion. [laughs]

CW I think it also has a lot to do with the fact that we like each other like Brooke said and we work very well together, but we also know that one day, we can probably help each other do something great or do something great together. We could maybe one day create a show together, or one of us could get hired on a show and try to help us get in too. So, I think it’s just the fact that we have that passion that Brooke is talking about that’s never going to go away. It also helps us just always want to work together because we know that this is something really special that will turn into something big. And it did! [laughs] Our relationship already has benefitted all of our comedy careers, so it can only hopefully go up from here!

FT Yeah, and I’m just going to add that I think we all have a lot of rage at society [laughs] in the path to here. And this partnership helps us sort of channel it into a constructive way where it’s at least cathartic and we can feel like we’re helping other people laugh. I mean, that’s one of the things that came out of this book—we would love for it to change the world. It’s probably not going to do that, but at least it entertains people and makes them feel like they are not so alone. And we also have a resource section at the end where people can decide what they can handle and take on and sort of try to change things. And so hopefully our book will make people laugh and then they can sort of go do something constructive as well.

KL Sara and I feel this so much. We sort of back each other up and we keep each other going and we’re kind of these—we’re rocks for each other in all of this [laughs] hellscape that’s happening! [BP laughs] And we keep inspiring each other, so I think that’s so important. [FT laughs] And it’s really been important for us to figure out what the boundaries are around and between how we work together and what our friendships looks like. Is there ever any need to adjust or readjust the working relationship in order to kind of keep nurturing the friendships?

BP Probably on smaller levels. I mean, I think we all communicate so often and pretty honestly that there aren’t needs for major adjustments too much. One example that’s funny now in retrospect—everyone always tells you how hard the writing process is and that you’re going to get exhausted and that you’re going to have these breakdowns sort of in the middle of it. And I was thinking, “you know, I think we’ve done pretty well, we haven’t had any major breakdowns.” [laughs] And then we were on a call talking about the past—someone had sort of mentioned that they were interested in potentially talking to us about in the future doing a pilot around this idea. And we had tried to start in the process of also doing the book—the book wasn’t out yet—thinking about how could we spin this off into a pilot idea. And I’d had a particularly hard week, I was very exhausted. And I don’t know if you’ve ever reached the creative place where you’re just like, “I don’t have ideas any more!” [laughs] “I don’t have any of any kind!” So, I was just sort of at that point. But I had grown up as a comedy and TV junkie, I’d really, really—what an opportunity when someone brings you to that. So, you’re thinking, “I don’t want to miss this.” And so I was so just sort of beside myself that I didn’t have any ideas [laughs] that were very good for this that Caitlin very gently on an internal call with the four of us said, “do you have any ideas, Brooke?” And I was sort of quiet for ten seconds and then I just burst into tears [laughs] on the call! And I’m like, [wailing] “I don’t have any ideas!” [laughs] It’s only funny now in retrospect, but they were so taken aback and like, “oh, are you crying?” And I’m like, [wailing] “I think so!” But they were so sweet about it and were just like, “well, maybe we should just back up [laughing] and do this after the book comes out. Maybe this is a sign that this is too much to have on our plates right now at one time.” So, that’s sort of a more extreme example of—you know, I should have been more self aware of just like, “nope, that’s too much for me!” and just been more aware of it. But I was just so exhausted that it just manifested in this sudden breakdown that they were very sweet about.

[40:20]

SWB I love that story because I think it would be great if we were all so self-aware [CW laughs] that we were going to prevent ourselves from going into meltdown mode. [BP laughs] But you need the friends who can help you even when you do go to meltdown mode, so I love that you all found that in each other. I feel like that’s a theme that me and Katel come around to all the time on the show. So, we are just about out of time though and while we could talk with you all day, we’re going to have to let you go. And so before we do, I want to make sure we ask, where can everybody keep up with more of the awesome stuff you’re working on and very importantly, buy your book?

BP So, you can buy our book anywhere that fine books are sold. If your local store doesn’t have it, it would be super great if you could ask them to carry it. Our website is thebelladonnacomedy.com. And we have a lot more ideas in the works that we hope to bring more books and more projects to you in the future if you someone will let us do that. So, that would be great.

SWB Well, I certainly hope that they do. And thank you all so much for being on the show! [music fades in, plays for five seconds, and fades out]

Career Chat with Shopify

KL Hey friends, it’s time for our weekly career chat with Shopify. You know, I manage a small business and an online storefront and using Shopify to help us do that is a no-brainer. But what about all those big businesses? That’s where Shopify Plus comes in because they believe large merchants should love their commerce platform too. I really dig that. And the best part? They’re hiring an Enterprise Sales Rep to show high-growth, high-volume merchants like Tesla, RedBull, GE, and L’Oréal all the reliability and flexibility Shopify Plus has to offer. This isn’t just any sales position either. The job description says you’ll need to have a sense of adventure and an entrepreneurial spirit. That means you’ll be taking the reins and growing fast in the role. And get this, you’ll rack up experience equivalent to a real-world MBA. That’s really cool. I also just really love that Shopify values hiring diversity for all their positions. They say, “we know that diversity makes for the best problem solving and creative thinking, which is why we’re dedicated to adding new perspectives to the team and encourage everyone to apply.” So, if that sounds good to you, learn more about the Enterprise Sales Rep position and dozens more at shopify.com/careers. [music fades in, plays for five seconds, and fades out]

Fuck Yeah of the Week

KL Okay, okay. Let’s get to our fuck yeah. Sara, it’s pretty important this week.

SWB Yes, it is. So, you all remember our third co-host, Jenn Lukas. So, back in October, we told you she was out for the season. And, well, she’s decided that she’s not going to be able to come back to the show. And we are really bummed out that we couldn’t figure out a way to make it work, but me and Katel decided we’re going to keep the show going. We actually have a lot more on that next week because we actually have some big news to share about the show! But this week, we wanted to first make sure we took a moment and give a fuck yeah sendoff to Jenn! So, what we want to do is listen to some favorite clips.

KL Oh my gosh, yes. This is such a great idea. You know, I have really been missing her voice on parenting and figuring out how to be a mom—and any day now, a mom of two kids—while being awesome at work. And it was so helpful to have her open up about stuff like family leave.

JL Maybe two months into my leave, I started watching conference talks [laughing] while I breast-fed because I missed it! I missed being in the know and being still connected to that part of me that is my career. And being like, “how do I stay ambitious while I’m physically acting as food for my child?” [laughs]

SWB You know, it was so funny. I remember she actually texted me during that time to ask me, “hey, are any of the talks you’ve given recently online? Are there videos of them?” And I was like, [KL laughs] “yes, but why would you be watching them?” And I just didn’t get! So, that conversation totally helped me get, right? I was like, “oh, because she wanted to feel more connected to the stuff that she felt like she was missing.” And so that made me also remember we need to make sure as we go forward that we talk about parenting-related issues. And we definitely need to bring on more badass moms because otherwise I’m not going to realize all that stuff!

KL Yes!

SWB You know what I also miss though? I miss Jenn’s sense of humor a lot. She was always bringing so much energy to the show. Like when we all talked about periods?

JL You know, they have the Myers-Briggs test and these color tests and I just want you to know that my personality right now is period!

KL I know, [laughs] I could not stop laughing. Something Jenn always did was bring a lot of energy to the show, like you said. And also no one—no one—loves Jeopardy as much as Jenn.

[45:05]

JL At one point during labour, I think I definitely said to my husband and doula, “I wonder who won College Jeopardy.” [SWB & KL laugh]

SWB Yeah, so when Lilly Chin, who was the winner of that College Jeopardy tournament that she mentioned, when she agreed to be on the show, I thought Jenn was going to lose it. [KL laughs] Not quite like Ke$ha level of lose it, but still, she was going to lose it!

KL Yeah.

SWB So fuck yeah, Jenn, we miss you. And we are sending you all of our best vibes as you prep for baby number two!

KL Fuck yeah! That’s it for this week’s episode of No, You Go. NYG is recorded in our home city of Philadelphia and produced by Steph Colbourn. Our theme music is by The Diaphone. Thanks to Brooke Preston, Carrie Wittmer, and Fiona Taylor for being our guests today. And if you loved today’s show as much as we did, don’t forget to subscribe and rate us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to your favorite shows. Your support helps us do what we do and we love that! See you again next week for our season finale!

SWB And big news! Bye!

KL Bye! [music fades in, plays alone for 32 seconds, and fades out]


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Welcome to Strong Feelings

Best friends and business partners Katel and Sara let it all out in a weekly show about work, friendship, and feminism. Because life’s too short to bottle things up.
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