What Have Female Writers Died From? Answer: Everything (X-Posted)

This post was originally published on my new blog, Girl with a Gallery. Drunk Literature will be expiring in 2 weeks, so be sure to update your bookmarks!

 

Carolina, Eclipse by James Gortnter (via Fernando Luis Alvarez Gallery)

Carolina, Eclipse by James Gortnter (via Fernando Luis Alvarez Gallery)

The Toast put out a short list of the myriad of ways female characters in some of literature’s most well-known books have met their demise. From cold hands to flirting headaches to “The Unpleasantness,” the instruments of death run the gamut. And it made me think… haven’t female authors had a tough go of it as well?

I started to research some of my favorites, and learned both the devastating and mundane ways in which these beloved writers have met Their End. Happy October, folks, because this post is a morbid one.

Deaths of Female Writers

  • Sylvia Plath: suicide (stuck head in gas oven)
  • Anne Sexton: suicide (by carbon monoxide poisoning – car running in a garage)
  • Elizabeth Bowen: lung cancer
  • Kate Chopin: brain hemorrhage at the World’s Fair
  • Djuna Barnes: old age
  • Zelda Fitzgerald: fire at the sanatorium she was interned in, Zelda was locked in room awaiting electroshock therapy and couldn’t get out
  • Virginia Woolf: suicide (filled pockets with stones and drowned self)
  • Simone de Beauvoir: pneumonia
  • Louisa May Alcott: stroke
  • George Eliot: throat infection/kidney disease (not long after her much-younger husband tried, but failed, to kill himself during their honeymoon)
  • Helene Hanff: diabetes
  • Christine de Pizan: unknown

Each of these women lived fascinating, terrible, celebratory, and complicated lives. In death, they experienced much the same. Memorialize who I’ve left out in the comments!

This Blog is MOVING!

Hi folks, fans,  loyal readers, random internet browsers… mom. A little note: update your bookmarks, as in several weeks the Drunk Literature blog will be no more. INSTEAD, I’ll be blogging at Girl With A Gallery. I’ll still talk books, a bit more about the art industry, and updates on life in general.

Why, you may ask? After 6 years, I’m just not feeling the “Drunk Literature” name anymore. Now edging into my thirties with a babe on my arm, the idea of getting rip-roaring plastered and critiquing literature just doesn’t do it for me. Nor does focusing on writers who battled their demons with a bottle. It’s just not my scene.

I have, however, begun the exhausting process of transferring over all of my DL archives to the new blog – so that’s at least something!

It’s been a fun run, but, like my overalls, The Healing Garden body spray, and neon high tops, I’ve outgrown this. Hopefully another recent grad will pick up the URL and make silliness of themselves in the name of literature.

Onwards and upwards!

So, You Want to Work in the Arts?: Assuming an Identity

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Who are you?

I get it, you’re a multi-faceted person with a wide range of interests who just can’t be “typed.” You’re a puzzle wrapped in an enigma. You’ve read Barthes. Really, I get it.

However, when working in the art world (especially in the art market) it’s important to be someone. And I don’t mean that in the name-dropping sense. Rather, I mean it’s good to have a “personality” or you’re going to fall flat.

You need to develop a public self.

Now, before anyone bashes me for not championing “authenticity,” that’s not the goal here. I absolutely believe there should be authenticity in your persona. However, in just five years, I’ve realized that there is an incredible distinction between one’s private and public self, and it’s important for you, not others, to draw that line.

As a new member of this art world, to protect myself and our gallery brand, I needed to assume an identity. This identity is an extension of who I already am, but is used to both preserve my true self and promote my branded self. That’s a lot of selves to deal with. As a child of new technology, I see this as particularly important. One would assume that due to the prevalence of blogs/social media, the technological landscape of our present allows our public self and private self to converge. But that is so not the case. Hence the proliferation of articles on developing your “personal brand.” Though I initially rolled my eyes at these, I realize how important they are. Here’s a few goods ones to read: from Life After College and Camille Styles.

I came in to this business as an inexperienced 25 year-old. Kind and accommodating, I was a bit of a pushover. I didn’t have a true vision of who – or what – I wanted to be. And this made me feel a bit lost. I was easily passed over at openings and parties, no one was really interested in what I had to say. My partner, on the other hand, is a dynamic and engaging personality. Also, he’s a bit of an @$$hole (earmuffs!). He doesn’t let people dick him over, and he won’t stand for any sort of dismissal and attack on his brand. He wants to – and has – become an important person in this world. And to do so, he has to protect the side of himself that is sensitive and silly and kind. The side that I get to see every day. Because, in this high-energy industry, the “nice guys” do tend to finish last.

So, if you want to work in the Arts, I suggest taking a self-prescribed personality test. Look at yourself and the attributes that make you an asset. Your creativity, your confidence, your curatorial eye, your way with words. Eek out those things that make you feel the most you, and amplify them. I started as an introverted writer who just wants to make everyone happy. What I’ve tried to transition this into, professionally, is a listener who can take an artist’s story and transform it into something great and engaging. I’ve retained my kindness, but with an edge. I balance out my partner who is all about the bottom line. You can confide in me, but you also understand that I work in the best interest of our gallery and that I’m loyal to his decisions.

It’s a persona I cloak over myself at the gallery, at events, at dinners, and can quickly loosen as soon as I’m home around my loves and my cat videos. So, I’ll ask again, who are you?

Disclaimer: I write the “So, You Want to Work in the Arts?” series based on my own personal experiences. Which may or may not be your experience. And that’s just as wonderful as a unicorn lollipop. You can agree or disagree with me, but I think we can all agree to disagree. Agree?

So, You Want to Work in the Arts?: The Art Business is a Business

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This short post is both a reminder for myself and others. I think there is this misconception that, because I work at a gallery, I don’t really “work.” People seem consistently surprised when I mention that I spent and afternoon entering costs into Quickbooks or creating spreadsheets to measure the efficacy of marketing campaigns. They look at me with wonderment, as if the idea that I don’t sit around in studios all day sipping Chardonnay with posh artists is such a wild deviation from their vision of the gallery business.

And I’ve encountered this bias at many levels: from parents who say, “Well, your brother work works,” to interns who don’t take the job seriously, to accountants who don’t take me seriously, to friendly neighbors who ponder from their stoops what I could possibly be doing all day!

Art is a business. That business is art. Art, like any other business, has a lot of day-to-day muck that is boring and tedious and not all that exciting. We, the galleries, do the business so that our artists don’t have to. We sell and pitch and market and mend so that the artists can create and network and develop meaningful, creative relationships. We have regulations and laws and taxes just like any other business. We have commitments to landlords and open hours and staff to pay. It takes long hours of hard, competitive work. It’s a tough business to be in. But when done well and with passion, it is glorious.

If you’re just getting into the business (or thinking about it), you need to think like an MBA not an MFA. Just a little PSA from me to you.

Cleaning Life’s Nooks and Crannies: Old Emails

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I am a hoarder by nature. I keep things “just in case.” I have 12 half used toothpaste tubes (because you never know when you might need them!), ticket stubs from the first movie I saw on my own after a major post-college breakup, every scrap of paper Chloe has scribbled on in the first 2 years of her life, and that ugly white purse I will never, ever, ever use but kept because it was the second-to-last thing my Nana gave me.

I can attach sentimental meaning to virtually anything. Especially emails.

I have saved almost every single email ever sent to me in the last 10 years. This has led to a Gmail Inbox full-to-bursting with quarter-life-crises and mundane debates on the subject of bangs. But it’s also encapsulated the moments when my best friends *knew* they’d found their soul mate. Or when my own relationship turned from a casual “ya know, we’re seeing each other” to “I love you.”

For a digital generation, email has become our hope chest (Tweet this!). Our collection of memories, anguishes, feelings, thoughts. It has the added benefit of preserving other’s commentary and quirks. But, like our mothers’ wooden versions that hold their wedding dresses and locks of children’s hair, sometimes that hope chest needs a good, old-fashioned clean out.

I started the process by reading Jillee’s “10 Tips for Decluttering Your Digital Life,” a useful basic guide that goes over every part of your computer and streamlines your organization (though not 100% sure I’m ready to jump on her “don’t organize your documents” train). The idea of labeling was lost on me, but in order to better start organizing there was a lot to get rid of first.

This is what I deleted and what I kept:

Deleted:

  • Saved tips from training blogs and fitness sites, back from when I was a “runner” for a year
  • Recipes that I never cooked
  • Vague and flirty conversations with pseudo-boyfriends long since moved on and with boys who fell in that perplexing “other” category
  • Gossipy exchanges with friends over celebrity culture and that girl we couldn’t stand (*cringe*)
  • Photos from ski weekends I missed out on
  • Random science facts (because… why?)
  • Old roommate emails detailing bills due and shared purchases
  • Work emails with details of aborted projects or long-since finished presentation edits/design ideas/communication plans
  • Anything that documents a “dark” period of my life (no more bad juju)

Kept:

  • Email chains with my best friends that detail the minutiae of our lives, but also shows how we’ve grown together
  • Mom’s words of wisdom (you never know when you’ll need them)
  • Book, restaurant, and music recommendations
  • Donation, ATM, and credit card payment confirmations (hello, taxes)
  • All other work emails

It was a total catharsis. And an energy shift. There was a lot of baggage I was holding onto in that Inbox. Even if I hadn’t read the emails in years, they were still in there, taking up space. Ex-boyfriends, jobs not granted, Recession-era lamentations about money… they all went in the Trash. Because as much as I want to believe that in a few years I’ll laugh as I read that rambling email I wrote to a love interest at 3AM in 2009 (trying to sound totally casual… nice, Becca), it really is just a reminder of how awkward and unprepared I was at that age. Now that I’ve entered my 30’s, it’s time for a clean slate, both emotionally and virtually.

Have any tips or stories about decluttering your digital life? Please share!

So, You Want to Work in the Arts: The Internship Do’s and Don’ts

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We are about a third of the way through our summer interns, and it’s already been a wild ride this year. Interning can be an exhilarating, boring, confusing, fun, motivating, and discouraging experience. Your experience as an intern is reliant on about 50% your environment and 50% your attitude. However, you need to make the most of that last 50%. So, here are the do’s and don’ts of interning in the Arts (probably a partial list).

But first: the art world has come under fire because of how loosely it uses the term “internship” (see that whole debacle over multi-million-dollar Marina Abramovic Institute looking for extremely qualified “volunteers”… and every episode of Gallery Girls). Some galleries take advantage, some stick to the boring basics (get me coffee, file this for the next 5 hours), and others give you an opportunity to grow. We’re in the latter category. So, like all things, understand that my tips below have a bit of a bias based on the idea that our interns are here to learn, to gain valuable skills, and to contribute to a project in some way.

Do: Ask questions (about the art, about how the gallery works, about upcoming projects).

Don’t: Ask a group of questions without first saying, “Hey, Becca. I’d love to ask you a few questions about *insert topic here*. Please let me know when you have a few minutes to go over them, or I can email them if you prefer.” If you have a question about the project you’re working on or need clarity about something I’m telling you, fine, absolutely ask right away. However, if you find yourself curious just to learn more about something regarding the business, and you know it’s going to be a bit of a conversation, have the courtesy to realize that while I love talking about our business, I have a million things to get done on any given day, and a 30-minute conversation on why we do what we do needs to be scheduled, not just launched. If I have the time right then, I’ll say I do.

Do: Take the first few weeks to really learn.

Don’t: Assume you know already the business, how it operates, and what we need to do. We had this great intern. Motivated, a real thinker, very sweet. But he/she thought he/she knew it all because of what his/her college classes taught him/her (okay, this is getting too much, let’s just go with “her”). College isn’t the real world, baby. She would present ideas on a regular basis totally unannounced and usually when I really needed to concentrate (see Don’t #1). When I or my partner would tell her, “interesting idea, but it’s really not going to work because of this and this and this,” or “we actually already tried that and it wasn’t a good fit for our business,” she would argue with us. That inability to accept criticism and/or learn was a total put-off. Needless to say, we didn’t keep her on. With that in mind…

Do: Express your ideas (about potential projects, new ways of running day-to-day operations, a better way to organize contacts).

Don’t: Express ideas without taking the time to first learn how we operate or having the ability to execute. Ideas are what fuel a business, we love it when even our interns come up with something new for us. However, in order for your ideas to have any weight or staying power, you really need to learn how our gallery works, what we’d like to accomplish in the next year, and what our main focus is. On the flip side of that, if you suggest something like “why don’t you arrange your artist image folder alphabetically?” and we say, “great! why don’t you work on that!” and you don’t have the time or know-how to execute, then basically you’re leaving us with another thing on our to-do list that we’re going to have to get done. And no one likes that. So, be prepared to execute on what you’re suggesting (don’t worry, we won’t have you do something you’re not prepared to do).

Do: Take “no” for an answer. I know, that goes against every self-help/business-of-life book, but as an intern, if I say “no” or “that won’t work for us,” this is not your opportunity to convince me otherwise. I know my business, I’ve been living and breathing and eating and sleeping it every day for five years. You just got here.

Don’t: Leave the “no” lying there or feel demoralized by it. Feel free to say, “ok. Do you think you can explain to me why it won’t work so that I can better understand how you operate?” That let’s me know you’re looking to learn and improve. Also, you need to be able to accept rejection. If it truly is an amazing idea, and your employer is just been stubborn, wait for an opportunity where you idea would be the solution to a problem he is having and mention it again then. If it’s still “no,” then make like Elsa and let it go.

Do: Occasionally stay late. The interns that impressed us the most (and that we hired/gave opportunities to/recommended for jobs) were the ones that, when we had a really big project or exhibition, stayed with us to see it through. I actually like having to tell someone, “please go home now, it’s past 5!”

Don’t: Be taken advantage of. The above said, if it’s your employer that is demanding you stay late on the regular, then speak up. As an intern, you’re presumably unpaid (especially in the Arts), and there are rules and regulations to how employers use their interns. Staying late on the night of an exhibition is one thing (and should be done – if you want to be a part of this business, you have to learn how it runs its events), but being asked on a daily basis to stay extra hours, or anything that just feels slimey, is a no-go.

Do: Get to know the artists. Ask them questions about their work, their story. Engage them in conversation at openings, ask what inspires them.

Don’t: Get to know the artists. *Ahem* It’s happened… and it’s gotten a bit gross and really awkward for everyone involved (or not involved). While I know the allure of the bohemian-artist-type, restrain yourself. Having your boss watch you stick your tongue down an artist’s throat in the corner at one of our openings does not instill the utmost confidence in your ability as a future professional. Just, let’s all keep it in our pants, shall we?

I’m sure there will be a Part 2 to this – so be sure to ask any questions in the comments!

Hey.

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Just popping in to say “hi.” I am through with Week 1 of our vacation, embarking on Week 2 which I hope will wind along as slowly as possible.

So far, I’ve been able to complete two books: Great House (review to follow) and Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects. I’ve now read all of Flynn’s books, and this one is by far the most disturbing. In fact, of all three, I feel pretty confident stating that Gone Girl was her most tame. Flynn has a dark, dark mind and it’s a wonderful thing to be trapped in for a while (but just for a while).  Sharp Objects follows Camille, a reporter, who returns to her hometown in Missouri to cover the gruesome murders of two pre-adolescent girls. Not exactly the sunshine-y book I was planning to read while basking in Florida sun, but definitely one I recommend.

Drunk Literature will be back after April 1st– no foolin’!