For weeks now, the dishwasher only worked for my husband.
“Did you try this?” my husband asked. Then he’d press the very same button that I had been pressing for the last ten minutes. The machine chirped on with the high-voiced enthusiasm of a fembot conspiring against me.
“You work for me!” I muttered under my breath when my husband left the kitchen. The dishwasher hissed back. Onomatopoeia of the aluminum bowl that it washed inside its walls.
“Whsh, wsh,” it whispered, mocking me.
Months of this stalemate war dragged on. I would unload and load the dishwasher. Then wait like an impotent housewife for my husband to come home from work to turn it on for me. He watched me push the START button to no avail. I threw up my hands in frustrated defeat.
“I guess she just likes your touch better,” I laughed cynically, desperate for some anthropomorphic narrative to explain my appliance conundrum.
“Try pressing it harder,” my husband suggested, Kaizenning my inconclusive troubleshooting.
“I have been pressing it hard. But fine.”
“Don’t hold it down this time.” The red cyclops light glared at me and the dishwasher beeped on. Had that really been the problem for all these months? I wasn’t pressing the button hard enough?
“It works!” my husband exclaimed. I was livid. It was a fitting metaphor for everything in my life right now. My job, frustration over my dead-end career, overwhelming student debt, waning friendships, my complicated relationship with my brother. I was not pressing any of life’s buttons hard enough. The Machine was pressing my buttons and I needed to file a warranty claim on all of it.
OMG! After 6 months of pitching and 12 rejection letters, I am getting an essay published!
(I don’t want to jinx anything, so I’ll link to it once it is out there in the world!)
The last time that I had anything published, it was a poem about dinosaurs in the 3rd grade. This piece won’t be about dinosaurs… it is about how cadavers taught me to overcome my workaholism. To be honest, I’m just very relieved to have written something that I don’t feel anxious about my mother-in-law reading. My memoir manuscript is all about child trafficking and homelessness and… it’s just not things that I’m ready to discuss with my mother-in-law yet. She’s so incredibly kind. I’m just not ready.
I’ll link the piece here as soon as it comes out! ✨
Last night I attended an amazing book proposal and pitch crafting workshop with the talented author Theo Nestor. Below is the expanded version of my pitch that I developed in class.
My memoir chronicles the tragicomic omen cast over my life when I was born on the set of the Coen Brothers’ film Raising Arizona. A modern western set against the backdrop of the film and television industry of L.A. and Phoenix in the 90s, this memoir is best described as The Glass Castle meets Educated meets Running with Scissors meets Mommy Dearest meets The Godfather with child sex trafficking.
I was the female Michael Corleone, determined to renounce her violent mafia family and run away on a horse at ten years old.
Peppered throughout with tragicomic relief and humor, this book details how I survived and ran away from my life as a child actor-child prostitute. Trafficked by my father to pedophiles, my dad also stole my identity to name me as his company’s 5-year-old CEO to commit fraud and tax evasion. Years later as a homeless teenager with ruined credit, I had to negotiate a payment plan with the IRS to pay my dad’s back taxes and fines.
Periodically flashing forward, the narrator reassures readers that the protagonist is now a healthy, happy adult in the present day. This book will counter pop culture’s romanticized notions about being born into a criminal mafia family, classically portrayed in works such as The Godfather. Having criminal parents is violent and dangerous, not romantic as fans of Goodfellas will insist. It is especially unsavory when you are an exploited child victim, caught in the fray of your parents’ criminality without the choice to leave. Children are only guaranteed the privileges and protections that their parents are willing to grant them because when we are born, we are unwittingly sealed into an eighteen year legally binding Power of Attorney contract with our parents. Some of us are just lucky enough to have been born to law-abiding Power of Attorney Parents (POAPs).
My book also explores the intersections of race, CPS and foster care reform, felon voting rights, socioeconomics, crime, domestic violence, affluence, poverty and trauma. The farcical parallels that my childhood had with the plot of the movie set that I was born on (my mother was the casting director for Raising Arizona) will buoy the heavy #MeToo and human trafficking segments of the book. Jovial Hollywood stories are included like the time that Gary Busey babysat me and I decided that he was the most fun grown up I had ever met! Declaring that I wanted to be just like Gary Busey when I grew up! Other humorous celebrity anecdotes include playing basketball with Charles Barkley on a commercial set when I was a very short (but aggressive!) 6 year old. And the time that the ex girlfriend of a ZZ Top bandmate gave me their shih-tzu puppy after a breakup because it looked too much like her ex boyfriend with his long grey beard.
The book ends on a hopeful note when the 10 year old protagonist runs away on her horse to California, determined to make it to the ocean. The ocean is the one place she feels safe. She packs apples for her horse and copies of her acting C.V. and headshots with a plan to audition and book jobs in L.A. so that she can buy an apartment where her younger siblings and mother will come live safely away from her violent, criminal father.
My memoir is prescient in a time when human trafficking, CSEC survivors and sex work in America is receiving more attention and coverage. Because the book’s antagonist also exploited and trafficked Latino migrant laborers, this book will be a powerful narrative to counter the US Border Patrol’s inhumane policies and shadows the crisis of undocumented immigrant children being detained in internment camps. Additionally, this book touches the zeitgeist of families, torn apart by political beliefs and Trump. In the #MeToo and #TimesUp era, I believe that my memoir will appeal to a wide array of readers and be commercially marketable and successful.
I never thought I would become friends with so many lawyers! I just left a meeting where we discussed a piece that I’m writing about the extreme disparity of tech hub cities and how this microcosm perpetuates the poverty of survival sex work and human trafficking. I’m really excited to jump into the research and pitch this op-ed!
A year before the Green River Killer was arrested, I was a thirteen-year-old girl determined not to become one of Raymond Carver’s sad Port Angeles waitresses like my mother. When the only thing encircled by Mom’s refrigerator padlock and chain were perspiring blush bottles of rosé and an expired jar of sauerkraut, I placed my Narnia Tales books in a cardboard box. I needed to sell something that might be valuable at the secondhand bookstore for grocery money. Mom said that food stamps were too humiliating. I read books on display, Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich and flipped through a book by Howard Zinn as I waited for the clerk wearing a tie-dyed T-shirt to decide how much Nag Champa and marijuana-scented bills he would give me to buy food for my mom and siblings.
A month earlier, we had spent out last money to move to the town where Twilight was set. An Olympic Peninsula paper mill town where people pronounce the silent R in Washington and the cycling culture is a line of bikes corralled outside the dive bar closest in proximity to The Mill. Old rusted Huffys with squealing brakes and pink tween bikes formerly belonging to the children of millworkers with too many DUIs to risk driving to work tomorrow morning. My mother told me that Port Angeles was only one of five places in the world where the mountains go straight into the sea. I looked at a map to see if she was right. But the aerial view looked less to me like mountains than a wash rag being wrung to squeeze out the Hoh Rainforest’s excess water. Our transience was an ongoing game of hide-and-seek with my father who had threatened to kidnap and/or kill us. Years later, when I would try to lead a normal life and work in a normal office, people would ask me where I grew up. “Oh, are you a military brat?” they would ask when I named all the states where I had “grown up.” I tried to dodge the question by explaining that my mom was a “gypsy spirit” instead of getting into the complicated truth of my father being a violent felon with a knack for human trafficking because restraining orders don’t do anything to protect you until the police arrive hours later.
I think drinking reminded Mom of what her life was like before she had children. Cocaine did that too.
Blue smoke poured from Mom’s nostrils and White Zin sloshed in her hand when my little brother announced that I was gay. Mom screamed from the front steps that my bad influence was no longer welcome in her house. As she screamed, I thought I could hear the click of door latches opening.
White window blinds bent into aluminum V-shapes. 135 degree slats for eyes to peer out at the commotion. Neighbors gathered to watch from their tiny porches, the sunset searing their silhouettes featureless.
I walked to the high school because I could not think of a better place to go than the place I needed to be tomorrow. The sky darkened and the neon crucifix on the hill above the football field lit up. I imagined the trees lowering their limbs as night fell to embrace me in a verdant hug.