How to Have a Day Job

How Cat Mihos Has a Day Job

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Good evening! Hope everyone is feeling awesome. I am very, very excited to introduce a new segment to How to Have a Day Job, in which I interview people who have tread the line between living passionately and paying the bills.

My first virtual guest today is Cat Mihos. I had the extremely amazing honor of meeting Cat when she visited Pittsburgh in January for Tatter East/Glitter West, an event held at my favorite local bookstore, Rickert & Beagle. She and the bookstore’s owner, Chris Rickert, sold prints, crochet dolls, jewelry and much, much more.

Even if you don’t know Cat personally (your loss, she rocks), you have probably seen images from a website she runs over on Neverwear.net — a home to many pieces of art bearing the writing of Neil Gaiman. Did I mention that he’s part of her day job?

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What is your current career? This what you love doing that, if asked, you would say, “Oh, I am a ____.” Do you have a day job that supports your career?

I am, first and foremost, a writer. In my “day jobs”, I work with author Neil Gaiman, and he has shone a light on much of the writer’s life for me. I am very lucky.

My other “day job” is a touring production coordinator, where I am paid to travel with different bands and get paid to see the world while listening to great live music. Lucky stars on repeat.

What is the worst job you ever had? How did you get through it?

The absolute lowest low of my touring career was working the Woodstock ’99 festival.

It was my first experience at touring on that level, and things went very wrong at a top organization level. The crowd set several trailers on fire. Some of the protesting was brought about because of the high price of basic needs, such as water, among other things. You really shouldn’t put a huge number of people into a space and tell them they can’t bring their own water, but over-charge etc. The lines at the pop-up ATMs were horrendous. The amount of waste in catering struck my heart; they would throw the food away rather than give it out. I saw this giant catering company turn away a group of Tibetan monks, while throwing away food as they watched. Witnessing that level of karmic disservice dropped my spirits to their lowest.

The silver lining was that I feel I can do any job now with a strong spirit and now would challenge that in attempt to make changes. I was just a dumb kitten then.

If you could go back in time and give yourself some advice when you first started working, what would it be?

Good question! I would be less hesitant in my actions, less fearful of doing the wrong thing. “Fortune favors the bold” is a true statement. As Neil says, “Make beautiful mistakes.” Also I would have counseled my younger self to be less worried about asking for help. People inherently want to help one another. Speak up!

What would you say has been your master tool for getting through difficult times when working? Is there something that is your go-to tactic for dealing with best-of-times-worst-of-times scenarios?

There is something about a certain level of self confidence that gets me through anything. Hold your head up when you walk into a new situation and remember that everyone started somewhere, even the masters. Don’t let fear hold you back. Be interesting and engaging. Stay in the present. I used to hide in books (ok, still can do) and now I try to interact with my surroundings as much as possible. “Be where you are” is one of my main mottoes.

With where you are now and what you are doing with your life presently, what is the greatest lesson you’ve learned from working day jobs? Is there a skill that you’ve picked up from a work environment that you would not have otherwise?

Hmmmm. A little synopsis of my touring day, we roll into a new city and set up a show, do the show and then pack up and head to the next town. The days can be 20+ hours long, you need the local team of whichever venue you are in to want to help you, so you have to be patient. It is important to be clear and direct with your needs. After a long load out and a shower in the venue dressing rooms, which are usually locker rooms of some sort,  you are on a bus with your co-workers, so you are in close quarters with the people you have just spent those long man hours with.

Live kindly, be thoughtful, let anger be your last resort. My skill is survival in all things, but with kindness.

Are you interested in being interviewed for How to Have a Day Job? Comment below or shoot me an email with a brief description of what you love to do and what you do in the off hours!

5 Things, Writing, Writing Tips

Dum Dum! or the Mystery of SVU

I look up. 5 hours have passed. I told myself I would just lie down on the couch, turn on something mindless, and fall asleep while my blood slowly turned neon orange from industrial-grade Dayquil. But there’s been no sleeping, other than maybe a wink or two during commercials.

Why, you ask?

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Because each time, I’ve turned on Law and Order: SVU. And down I’ve fallen into an endless spiral of crime and punishment, Elliot and Olivia, the magnetic charisma that is Ice T. And even when Husbando has come in to check on me, sometimes he’s found himself sitting down and becoming tangled in the web of justice that is the Special Victim’s Unit.

But why?

What is it about this show that commands endless attention?

So, as I watched this evening (because what else are you going to watch before the season premiere of GAME OF THRONES?), I started taking some notes.

– Immediate emotional engagement: Law and Order reigns over the court of television shows as King of the Cold Opening. But there’s something about those first five minutes of SVU that grips me like no other crime drama. Perhaps it’s the fact that so often we are thrown into an aftermath of a crime that isn’t just a body in a dumpster. There is something very human about what we’re heading into from the get-go.

– The unexpected twist: this can be considered a staple of the genre – the good ol’ butler-did-it – but SVU again makes this bit its own. We get not only the wrong suspects, but we watch the horrible process of their being dragged out with their own personal demons clinging to their ankles. We get to see how it could have easily been a story about them, whether they are the victim or the villain.

– A persistent rise and fall between action and drama: this. Show. Isn’t. Boring. Each scene and exchange is no longer than about 5 minutes. Then…BAM. Shit gets real. BAM. We’re seeing the fallout. BAM. More. BAM. BAM. BAM. There’s never really a recovery period. We’re on this ride from the start to the end. You can catch your breath during the commercials.

– Unique voices: I think my biggest problem with a lot of other television dramas is that the characters begin to run together. If I lose focus, voices and expressions and reactions all blend into this one Good Guy or Character Representing the Faction of ____. But in SVU, every one is a little different. Victims react to things in different ways. Not everything is so cut and dry.

– Solid satisfying resolution…well, mostly: at the end of every 50-some minute episode, there’s an ending. We know what has happened, we know where everyone is at the end, we know that whatever has happened with this case is what will happen. And yet…not entirely. We are left at times wondering what is happening in the minds of the heroes and the evildoers alike. We wonder what lasting damage this has left on the NYPD, the citizens, and the justice system itself.

If I ever write a television show, I hope it works as well as SVU.

Okay, scratch that. When I write anything.

5 Things, Creative Advice, Writing, Writing Tips

You Might Think It’s Easy, But It’s Snot

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Since I got back on Sunday, I have been sick.

Husbando had had a head cold a few weeks previously, and I felt like I had somehow sneaked past without getting its attention. As if the cold were a Tyrannosaurus Rex, and I was Sam Neill with the flare. Little did I realize that in no time I would end up a bit more like…Jeff Goldblum. You know, where he spazzes out and people start dying.

As a result, I’ve been floundering trying to be productive. And you’d think, “Oh, you can just blog while you’re lying in bed.” But it’s not so easy. Because that requires thinking, and that’s no simple feat when your brain is drowning in mucus.

Ew.

Here are a few things you can do if you, like me, get sick and feel like a worthless sack:

1. Catch up on some research — Take a look at some of those places you’re going to feature in your next book. Or search for inspiring images on Pinterest to motivate you to get a better sense of your characters.

2. Write some poetry — Don’t think too hard on it. Just let it flow out onto the paper.

3. Make a list — I love lists, if you couldn’t tell that from March’s 30 Lists. But they really are a good way to collect your thoughts in a short, sweet way. Think about what you’re going to blog about, what topics you want to write about, what books have inspired you.

4. Go easy on yourself — If you push too hard, you’re going to wind up sicker for a longer amount of time. Take frequent breaks. Keep hydrated. Get plenty of sleep.

5. Catch up on other writers’ blogs — We’re always telling ourselves not to fall down the blog rabbit hole, but in truth, when you’re having a hard time getting anything done, you can draw strength from awesome writers around you. Indulge and take a look at, say, Terrible Minds. Or The Cult.

Now you’re all set to feel better about not doing anything because life is currently a snotty mountain of tissues. Huzzah!

Art, Personal, Writing

Freakin’ Weekend

This weekend I drove from Pittsburgh to Annandale-on-Hudson to Maryland and back to Pittsburgh.

In Northern PA, I passed alternating signs for rabies clinics and llama farms.

I stopped in Scranton to go to the Mall in Steamtown, hoping for an interesting small-town experience that would make me think of one of my favorite shows. Not so much. But it’s a story, and that is what counts.

I saw Neil Gaiman talk to Laurie Anderson about art and personal experience and creativity. I talked to people from Bard College, and I was struck by their kindness and their welcoming campus. The talk ended with a question I had submitted for Q&A; I had asked for Neil and Laurie to talk about their creative processes. I was expecting something about their day-to-day creativity, but instead listened as Laurie talked about her next project, how it was born out of tragedy, and how she was trying to push for legislation that would help soldiers decompress after active service. It was amazing and moving and very, very real.

In DC, I saw Amanda Palmer laugh and cry and sing about how fucking scary it is to face life. I didn’t get a chance to tell her how much I get scared of becoming boring, too. I didn’t get to tell her how much it meant for me to hear her admit that she was terrified of what lay ahead. I didn’t get to tell her how grateful I was for her music, for her experience, for her strength. I just told her that she was going to be an amazing mother. And she smiled tiredly and said, “I’m going to try.”

I stayed with my amazing aunt who I feel closer and closer to every time I see her. I drove home in beautiful, glorious spring.

It was amazing. I’m so happily exhausted.