Patron of the Arts

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

photo: Joshua Franzos

My writer friend, Jessa, of Wavy Alabaster wrote to me. A quick email. Minimal explanation, one question.
You know the kind, where a germ of an idea floats into your head on the wind. It’s nebulous and full of potential, but there’s an inherent question that makes you squirm a little. It’s something you know you ultimately need to grapple with on your own, but in a moment of claustrophobic impulse you cast a line out into the Sargasso sea that is your writer’s block.
No small talk. No foreplay. Quick and dirty, with a hint of desperation.
It’s my most favorite kind of email.

Writing a blog post… when did you start calling yourself a writer?

You hope for a message in a bottle to float back to you. Answers and accounts of personal experience would be awesome, but really, at its core, it has more to do with the simple reassurance that you’re not alone.  

modern edwardian, Meryl Franzos
photo: Joshua Franzos
So, when had I started calling myself a writer? I self-reflected for a while. Then I answered her question as best I was able and chucked that bottle back as far as I could throw it, hoping that it would reach her and give her the confidence she needed to move forward.

edwardian, patron of the arts, Meryl Franzos
photo: Joshua Franzos

Some weeks later, Jessa posted a lovely piece on her writing journey. You can read her words and some of my "message in a bottle" quotes here.  I think it’s safe to say that journeys are just that, journeys and not destinations. I’m hardly an expert on writing, faaar from it. I haven’t even been published. But I’ve come to understand that the declaration point when writers start calling themselves writers is an important part of the journey. One that isn’t immediately clear. Fortunately there is no flagged island that you have to reach in order to call yourself a writer. The only thing you have to do is write, but speaking from experience, it takes longer for other people to come around and believe you.
greenhouse fashion, edwardian fashion
photo: Joshua Franzos

I’ve been letting my novel cool off in a drawer for three months, so I can attack it with fresh eyes and a red pen. So while I’ve started outlining a fun, new story in the meantime, I’ve also been reflecting on my own genesis as a writer. It is largely an incredibly solitary journey, but I in no way, shape, or form, ever do it alone. 
photo: Joshua Franzos

photo: Joshua Franzos
quilted chanel bag, ombre purse
photo: Joshua Franzos
photo: Joshua Franzos

In the beginning, I was eager to let everyone know what I was doing. I’d been writing in my notebook everyday for a few months. The cream of the story was rising to the surface and I was emotionally connecting with my characters. I was even looking into getting a word processor for my crappy netbook so I that could start getting serious about it.
It. Was. Exciting. It was also so challenging in ways I’d never challenged my brain before. But on some level, I knew to dance around the term "writer." In my early excitement, I made a post on facebook. I said, “writing is like method acting: intense, exhilarating and confusing.”
A bold statement from a newbie. I suppose if you're dancing around the term writer, this was the equivalent of twerking around it.
Someone saw through my eager hubris and wrote a really malicious response, 
“Oh, go read The Bell Jar, you poseur!”
I was crestfallen and (here's a classy word I learned recently) #butthurt
I really tried to brush it off, but instead I cried. I didn’t want to cry, so I tried to pretend I wasn’t crying or that the harsh words hadn’t pierced right through me. Josh was my boyfriend at the time.
“What is wrong?” he asked.
My face was red and puffy, my head was shaking side to side, and I was saying, “nothing’s wrong. I’m perfectly okay.”
Josh blinked.
I painted a psychotic grin on my tear-swollen face to prove how fine I was.
Josh didn’t buy it. Against my will, I burst into tears again. (the emotional regions of my brain butting grey matter with the logical regions of my brain = hot mess.)
“Okay, so I posted something on facebook about writing and someone said something kind of mean,” I blubbered, trying to snort my teary snot back up into my sinuses, “It’s nothing. I deserve it. I was stupid for posting it and I’m stupid for allowing my feelings to get hurt.”
Josh didn’t buy that either.
He got on facebook and found the post and the awful words beneath it. There was some facebook scuffling. I quickly demanded he stop defending my honor. I’m the alleged writer, after all. I needed to figure out how to do that for myself, or die crying.

I spent the next few hours scratching my head, wondering if I had skin thick enough to write a story and publish it. Maybe I should quit now, so that I would never embarrass myself and never have to face that kind of hatred again, I thought.
Then Josh handed me his 2 year old Macbook pro and said, “Fuck that guy. I mean. Don’t really fu…you know what I mean. Just don’t give up. You are a writer, but it’s time to stop scribbling in notebooks. Throw that crappy netbook away. Use this.This is yours now.”

My lover, my patron of the language arts, my hero. He gave me a two pronged gift that day: unconditional faith and a powerful tool that I never would’ve considered buying for myself. I was stunned and deeply, deeply touched. When the clouds part in the heavens like that, it’s impossible to dwell on hate. Instead, you get to work proving to yourself and your benefactor that the faith entrusted in you was merited. Or die trying.
photo: Joshua Franzos

I stopped writing in notebooks, recycled my crappy netbook, and started typing on Josh’s “old” laptop. But I’ll tell you what I didn’t type. I didn’t type anymore writing posts on facebook. Not for a year or so anyway. Only a small handful of my closest family and friends knew that I was still writing on the DL. I didn’t talk about it for fear that someone would roll their eyes and tell me to put my head in an oven again.

There’s an antagonistic streak in human nature regarding writers. People treat you like you’re a New Year’s Resolutioner at the gym. There are internal bets on when you’ll quit.  And if you don’t quit, bets on if you’ll find a publisher. If you find a publisher, then they’ll sneer at you based on whether you make a best seller list, or if you have a second book in you, and on and on. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. The world is a judgmental place and I just didn’t need it. So I put my head down and silently wrote until the story took on a life of its own. I wrote until I started regarding people differently, more kindly and empathetically than ever. I wrote until my elbows poked through my sleeves. I wrote until work lunch hours weren’t cutting it anymore. I wrote until the next four vacations Josh and I would take were for novel research. I wrote during any two minutes I could string together and cried because there was never enough time in the day. I wrote until I gave myself an existential crisis and had to see my therapist again. I wrote until I stopped caring what the world thought about me and writing. I silently wrote until I absolutely had to ask for help. (I should note that I hate asking for help. It might even be my most fatal character flaw.) The moment that I tearfully admitted to my husband and my workplace, that I couldn’t continue and needed help creating more room in my life for writing, was when I died and truly became something else... a writer.

I am so grateful that my workplace granted me this gift in January 2015: unpaid two-hour lunch periods. I am so grateful that Josh continues to encourage me (and doesn’t take it personal whenever I have to vanish for a few hours of literary bloodletting.) I am grateful that my dog patiently curls up on my lap while I type. I am grateful for the gentle encouragement and candid questions I am asked and allowed to ask in return. There are many more miles to go before I sleep with this project, and though I’m eager to get on with it, I’m grateful that I had a moment to reflect on the support it took to get to just this point. I am a changed and humbled person because of the love and generosity and patience that were shown me these many years. Thank you. A million times times infinity plus one. 
Thank you.

photo: Joshua Franzos
Since we were going for a gilded-age inspired, patron of the arts look this week, Joshua and I stopped in on our friends at The Frick Fine Art & Historical Center. They were gracious enough to let us take some pictures in the beautiful (and warm!) greenhouse. Afterwards we caught the latest exhibit, The Frick Collects: From Rubens to Monet, and a late lunch at the cafe- the city's best kept culinary secret. If you live in the Pittsburgh area, make sure you break up the winter doldrums by stopping in and patronizing some art, breathing in the warmth and beauty of the greenhouse, and grabbing a steaming cup of the soup du jour, (I had mushroom brandy!)

What I Wore:
Eyelet blouse: fall 2016, Gap
Black bra: Very Sexy push-up by Victoria's Secret
Zippered pencil skirt: past season, Express
Leather obi belt: ASOS, here!
Bag: pre-owned luxury Chanel from Trendlee
Heels: Jimmy Choo
Amethyst cocktail ring: inherited from my mother-in-law.

photo: Joshua Franzos

 Happy New Year from your Bosom Friend in Pittsburgh, 


  1. That Chanel bag though....INCREDIBLE. And I remember that January 2015 conversation in my office. And so happy that you are still writing!

    1. Thank you! That was a rough moment for me. Thank you much for your empathy and continued positive thoughts Rachel:)

  2. I love reading about your journey to writing your book...and I love your outfits too. You and your blog ROCK! xx

  3. God this is beautiful. I don't know where to begin so I will simply say, I cannot wait to read your first novel. It's going to be fucking brilliant.

    Also, I love the way your husband sees you. Tip to toe, you look stunning.

    1. Thank you so much for the kind words and faith my friend. I EAT this up when the creative patience wanes thin.

  4. I love the way you've styled this skirt to be equal parts sexy and classy. It is absolute perfection. And now, excuse me while I go try to order this belt.


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