Saturday, February 6, 2010

Postcards from the Bottom Rung

Can you believe it? I've been awarded again! I feel like Miss America!! This time, it's the "Circle of Friends" Award, bestowed to me by my new friend Kelly, who pens a terrific, beautiful blog, titled Kellyansapansa.

This means a lot to me, coming from Kelly, because she's actually been a great inspiration to me. Kelly is the epitome of the thoughtful blogger, one of many I have discovered since joining this awesome community. You'll notice that her comments appear after many of my posts, always delightful and encouraging. As I visit other blogs in the cyberworld, I notice she has done the same for them as well. Because of her faithfulness, we are happy to visit her blog and offer encouragement with her upcoming wedding plans, her new family, and her busy school schedule. That's just how it works in this blog world, I've learned, and I must say I truly adore it. I think that's why I love Kelly's award so much -- because it's titled "Circle of Friends," which is what I most certainly have found. Thanks, Kelly, you ROCK!!

Kelly's award, actually, couldn't have come at a better time, because it ties-in perfectly with what I was planning on writing about today. Here's the story I had in mind:

When you're a performer in a theme park as I was for over sixteen years, you soon learn that there is a definite "pecking order" in the show biz community. High at the top of the list, of course, would be the A-list movie stars; your Deniros and Streeps, Pitts and Jolies. Next would probably include all Broadway performers, maybe your B-listers, followed by sit-com actors, then reality TV cast members. Then way, WAY down at the very bottom of the order, we lowly theme park entertainers would rest.

After all, it was decided by some unseen "powers-that-be," what we were performing wasn't exactly Shakespeare, right? We were appearing on colorful, cartoon-like stages, sometimes out-of-doors, alongside Mickey Mouse and Woody Woodpecker. Surely, no one would consider this "acting." We "theme parkies" learned to accept our position and dealt with the silent but ever-present disdain held by our colleagues who chose more reputable positions in the show biz community.

Truth is, we "Parkies" were crying all the way to the bank! While our more cultured colleagues were struggling to pay the bills, waiting on tables to fill the monetary void in between gigs, we weekly collected above-decent paychecks, complete with 401k plans and health benefits. While our artsy friends were huddled alongside seven roommates in overpriced, tiny apartments located in Hells Kitchen, NYC, we lounged poolside, sipping pina coladas, in the backyards of the homes we'd purchased ourselves. We performed lavish, well-written shows everyday before crowds numbering in the thousands. Some of the shows included audience participation, which not only sharpened our improvisational skills, but also meant that each show was completely different from the last.

I can honestly state that some of the most talented singers, dancers, comedians, actors and writers I've ever known, I've met working in a theme park. We all knew we weren't going to win any Tonys or Oscars, but we loved our work and we were pretty damn good at it, so we didn't care. But since I've left performing behind me and have dipped my toe into this new literary world, I'm finding that show biz is not the only community with a dreaded pecking order.

I first became aware of this fact when I attended a Penn-Writers meeting at our local Borders bookstore. Their flier promised that all authors were welcome and everyone's work would be shared and discussed. I was nervous, but I printed out a few of my favorite blog entries and joined my fellow writers at a table set up near the back of the bookstore.

Since I was new, the group leader, Mary, asked me to introduce myself and tell the others on what I was working. I smiled at these members of my new community and said, "I'm Joan. I'm very new to this, but I've been doing a lot of work writing in my blog." Complete. Silence. Seriously, you'd have thought I'd just proclaimed, "I'm Joan. I like Nazis and kicking babies." Everyone stared in horrified shock. I think one woman placed her hand over her mouth, stifling a scream. Finally, Mary quipped in a condescending tone, "A blog. Yes. I'm going to have to figure out how to do that someday." I sheepishly placed my manuscripts back in my bag, message received.

I then sat quietly while they each produced their work, passing it out for all to read. None of it was great, but I understood this was work in progress, so when it was my turn to offer an opinion, I tried to be encouraging. "I like the nurse character, you've really done a great job describing her in detail." Then the guy next to me had his turn. He began, "Um, yeah. I noticed in paragraph two that you used the word 'cheerily.' Shouldn't that be 'cheerFULLY?'" The author, feathers clearly ruffled, shot back, "Actually, both are acceptable. I chose 'CHEERILY.'" The man shrugged his shoulders, palms upward and performed one of those "Ok, if THAT'S what you WANT, even though it SUCKS..." expressions. That's pretty much how the rest of the evening went. Man, I had no idea writers could be so CATTY!

Skip ahead to my writing class I've been attending over the last couple of weeks. I should say in advance that I genuinely like my professor. He's a published author, a thorough teacher, and he's been infinitely helpful to those of us just starting out.

To his credit, he only twitched ONCE on that first day when he went around the room and asked us each on what, if anything, we were currently working. I told him, "I write a blog." He paused, gained his composure, then said, "That's actually a great way to practice writing everyday." Then he turned to the class and asked, "Who here has written something in the last two days?" Guess who was the ONLY one to raise her hand? You got it -- ME, Lowly Blogger Girl!! Yay!! Someone in the literary world didn't snub their nose at my chosen medium -- excellent!! Maybe there was hope for this community yet!

I was so encouraged by my prof's response that at the end of class I gave him my card on which was written the link and title of my blog. "I'd love for you to read a few of my posts and tell me what you think," I said. He looked down at the card in his hand. "Whoa!! 'NAKED man?!!' What kind of blog is this?" I explained that my title was in homage to an expression my dad used to always say. He seemed unconvinced. "Yeah, but...'NAKED?!!' That's pretty crazy!" Wow. Really? What are you, seven? Ok, he was allowed to hate the title, to each his own, after all.

All week long I imagined him reading my blog. I kicked myself for not having directed him to my favorite posts, but hoped that he would take the time to peruse at least a few of them. When I arrived in class the next week, I tried to appear nonchalant and resisted the urge to pounce on him immediately and ask if he'd visited my site. After an eternity, he turned to me and said,

"Hey I read some of your 'Naked' blog." (Geez.)
"You did?! Wow, thanks! What did you think?"
Long pause.
" really jump around a lot on topics don't you?"
"Um, yeah. That's kind of the whole idea of a blog. You pick a topic, then you write about it."

That's IT??!! Actually, yes, that was it. The subject was immediately dropped and I tried to hide my disappointment. Apparently, the case was closed and I was to now take my place down at the bottom of the literary pecking order.

So my dear new blogger friends, I'm afraid I've discovered that this is our reality. They are champagne and caviar, we are pizza and beer. They are Streep and Redford, we are Mickey and Goofy. But just like my awesome theme park friends, we know differently, don't we? We know we are thoughtful, talented, hard-working writers who support each other with encouraging words and constructive criticism. There are no Nobel Prizes for Literature in our world, but there are Beautiful Blogger and Circle of Friends Awards that, quite frankly, are FAR sweeter, as far as I'm concerned. In short, I'm proud to share this "bottom rung" with such lovely, inspirational souls like you!

Think I'll CHEERILY go visit a few of you right now...

Thanks for Reading!!


Anonymous said...

Yes but remember your are infinately higher on the "food chain" then those of us who write nothing but notes to teachers and grocery lists. You soar above those of us who did one play in high school and never bothered to try it again but spend our time presenting staff meetings and inservice trainings. There is always someone who can get pecked in the old pecking order. At least you are in the middle and not at the bottom with those without talent or worse, afraid of using thier talent. Keep on going, I love to read you.

Unknown said...

Seriously, you could never be in the bottom of the literary world, Joan! When you bring joy and thoughtfulness to your readers, you can't even begin to think of yourself as anywhere but soaring high indeed. Love your writing! Keep it up. :)

Bossy Betty said...

Thanks for the great post. I must admit I am always a bit dismissive when I mumble about my blog to people. I shall hold my head up high from now on!

Thanks for stopping by!

Anonymous said...

Well, 'they' can kiss my ass. Yours too.
You're way ahead of them. You've lived and experienced, are talented and eager. What are 'they'? pllphlllbbttt.

I had no idea about how well you parkies did.
I've enjoyed the shows I've seen. good for you.

Thanks for your comments on my blog. I don't really think that thing is serious. When I clicked on it at Travis's it took me to some add and I had to click again to get to it. I didn't even notice who if anyone 'sponsors' it.
I don't take it seriously.

Anonymous said...

You look great in the photos. Like you're having fun.

Anything Fits A Naked Man said...

Thanks, everybody, for your kind words! Gregory, these photos are actually just stock photos I pulled off the internet, not of me. I think they may be from the Toy Story parade at Disney, though. I performed in the Terminator 2/3D attraction at Universal Studios, The GE Technolab at Epcot Center, and at the Superstar Television and Monster Sound Show attractions at Disney. All were a blast!

Liz Mays said...

I don't know.....I'm not so sure there isn't more than pizza and beer on your blog! ;)

Anonymous said...

And you did visit - and it was good to see you, as always. :)

Congratulations on the award.

Kellyansapansa said...

I think your writing is absolutely amazing. I wish I had half of your eloquence.

It astounds me that people would judge you on the medium of your writing, rather than what you write. Isn't that judging a book by its cover (pun intended)?

You have been so supportive and encouraging of my blog, and your response to the award is just beautiful. Thank you so much for your lovely words - you rock too!

allison said...

You're really a good writer. I enjoyed reading your blog post. :) I never thought about the theme park entertainers. Do you read Postcards from Far Away? She works at Disney.

Heatherlyn said...

I've noticed that there are writers who are published who have blogs about publishing. They are pretty snobby. I don't think they intend to be. They just. are.

Personally, I believe that blogs are fantastic practice AND because more and more people read things online blog-writing will become more influential and hopefully more well-respected in the future.

You write well enough that I actually read all of your posts, no matter how long they are. You hold my interest. And even if your topics jump all over the place, your individual pieces flow very nicely; you keep a consistent theme; you transition into different aspects of your theme very well.

Erin said...

Your writing is beautiful regardless of whether it's in your blog or not. It brings a smile to my face, tears to my eyes and inspiration. I feel like if I can make at least one person feel that way about my blog then that's worth it :) Don't stop writing!

Dana said...

Joan, I (like all the others in your ever-growing fan base) LOVE your writing. The flow is wonderful, it keeps the attention of my ADD mind, you're very entertaining, and you follow through on "promises" made to your readers (literary, not literal, reference).

Joan, you are your own ladder!! (This is something I will remind myself of in my running.)

You are not "just" a are a writer and you write exceedingly well. You choose to write a blog...and your readers thank you because if you were writing a book, we'd have to wait months to read your work every day!!

Keep those posts coming...we love every word of every blog post!

Anonymous said...

I have happy for you at my blog. Come and get it.
livin my life,whatever

Anonymous said...

I think writing is an art, no matter where or when or why!

I also think it is mega cool to have been a street performer!!

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...


I may not be a writer or a professor but I enjoy your blog. Won't it be fun when you are published and he's still teaching?

Banjoan said...

I write a blog, play bluegrass music in small, sometimes sparsely attended venues, and I generally keep myself amused on a daily basis. Your post explored territory that is all too familiar to me. My interests haven't generated a lucrative career, but the positive feedback I receive from listeners and readers inspires me to keep putting it out there. You do the same- it's good stuff. Thanks for your support of my blog. Go, Naked!

Anti-Supermom said...

I like how you get to stick it to those so-called higher rung actors with your paid for houses, 401Ks and health insurance, that always makes me feel better too ;)

You are hilarious, fabulous writer - keep that chin up.

Daisymum said...

Well, Joan since you've been gone, I finally made it to the pool,yep I was kicked around again, but that's alright I have my new job at AT&T. Acting is tough, writing is tough, how it all makes me feel afterward is amazing. I find that when you get kicked around you actually end up finding something wonderful you never expected. Amazing. I love your Blog! You are right you don't have a bad side :)

JenJen said...

Good for you!!

Unknown said...

*looks around*

I'd say the company is pretty damned good down here on the bottom rung. No complaints from my end. :o)

B.J. Thompson said...

Grrrreat site, great writing, very upbeat and VERY different to my murder blog...oh well, not everyone can be upbeat, right? (wink, wink)

If you're ever inclined for Murder, Manson-style (TLB2)or for a virtual cocktail at my Social Commentary blog (B3), stop by my blogs any old time. I can't promise upbeat but I might serve as the Ying to your Yang!!!

Cordially, (If Not Entirely Sober!)

High Chief Mucky-Muck of

Burb's Buck & Buntline Inn (B3)

2nd Official Tate-LaBianca Murders Blog (TLB2)

eventer79 said...

Meh, but we have more fun!

Shannon of HAPPINESS IS said...

I loved discovering you were a performer at a theme park! I have a few friends who did that at Disneyland :) Love your writing! xo

The Dogged Pursuit said...

I have to confess Joan, I feel as if I am destined to be the 24 to your 40 forever. (For those of you who've worked in the theme park contracted-talent world, you know what that means). If you ever break into a rousing duet of "Anything you can do, I can do better" I'll simply change my lyrics to "yeah, you're right" and STFU.

You are a marvel, lady; an absolute marvel of talent, personality, perserverance, and panache.

Oh, and I remember when I told the lady who ran the writing workshop I attended about starting my blog. She was soooo disappointed. But back then 6 other writers and I would write about 700 words a week and read to each other. Now, I write a few thousand per week and I think at least a FEW more people read them. LOL

BonBon Rose Girls Kristin said...

Well said and fabulously written lady. VIVA la bloggers!

Dena Rooney-Berg (SugarShop) said...

Hah! That was a beautifully written post! I just stopped by since you were so kind to take the time and leave me some kind words on my blog and got lost in your post. So first of all there are only a hand full of big actors that we all have heard of or remember but I will never forget the Ariel (little mermaid) that rendered my 6 year old nephew speechless with her sweet voice or Chip (Chip & Dale) who got on the ground on all fours and followed my giggling niece (who was just learning to walk) around to a crowd that was cheering them on. I also will not forget the wonderful actor that played Jack Sparrow at Disney World 2 years ago and called on my son (calling him Jumpy fellow) to teach him how to wield a sword. I'm glad to hear these wonderful actors are payed well! Also, I wonder how many of the "other" writers have regular readers! Thanks for such a great post!

Anything Fits A Naked Man said...

I'm so blown away by your comments, I can't think of a thing to say (shocking, I know.). Thank you, my dear friends. So very, very glad I found you all! (And Stasha, I'm not even worthy enough to polish your LAPTOP, genius girl!!) Have a great week, everybody!!

Anonymous said...

You've added a lot of new followers since I last visited your blog and I can see why, you are a very good writer.

God bless you and keep up the good work, Ron

-blessed holy socks, the non-perishable-zealot said...

Won’t you join me for a BIG-OL party celebrating our resurrection Upstairs on my drawbridge? God bless.

Wisconsin Parent said...

Oh! I found you through Bossy Betty! I'm following...loved the part about the professor saying you jumped around a bit. Bringing back an 80s word here - DOY!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, what do they know, Mike and I check daily for the new post, and we've been here from the begining....I love that you make me laugh and cry, I love your blog!

Cheryl said...

Oh sweety, you have an AWESOME blog and I can't really add anymore - you're followers have said it all.

I've only been reading you for a very short time, and I'm already addicted - I wish that I could have a fraction of your style x

lifeshighway said...

Congrats on the award, and I too think you have a very entertaining and keep jumping around... I have a short attention span.

I'm working on it.

Kellyansapansa said...

Hey - nice new layout! I just popped over to say there's a little something for you (again!) over at my blog.

Quixotic said...

Well, I'm a fellow bottom-runger too!! (Why does that sound dirty???) Think about it - it's not too hard to keep someone reading a book they spent good money on, but to keep someone coming back every day to read your stuff? That takes writing ability my friend, and you have it in spades!! And... you also have a brand new follower :o)

[Rhiannon][Wretchdz] said...

Hahahaha awesome.

Your blog is very interesting.

I wish that I had the time to attend writing classes :-(

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