Pixelated is the digital, double-blind, lit-inclined conversation series.
In each episode we put two writers on a sort of blind-date, and have them interview each other. The result? Who the hell knows. All conversations are 'manuscript-first', meaning they were typed as you see them.
Andrew: Welcome to the sixth installment of PIXELATED. I’m here with Emily Gould (author, most recently, of FRIENDSHIP, FSG, 2014, co-owner of the ebook curator/purveyor Emily Books) and Meghan Daum (author, most recently, of THE UNSPEAKABLE, FSG, 2014).
Andrew: No author is great without a commitment to honesty; Emily and Meghan hound it, relentlessly. In FRIENDSHIP, we get the titular concept stripped of its warm and fuzzies. To borrow the metaphor caught by the book’s cover, she examines the tie with all of its blemishes, loose ends and codependence. THE UNSPEAKABLE, a group of essays, is by definition truth, but that doesn’t do its candor justice. I’ve read again and again the Daum-Didion comparison, though I doubt how well it serves. (Trigger warning) In Didion there’s sentiment it seems Daum doesn’t go for. I love Didion with all of my little bitty heart, but it’s true. Please no hate mail.
Andrew: On a more personal, irrelevant note: I once saw a comedian do (virtually) an entire set on his love for Emily (sans punchline). Also, like Meghan, I grew up in northern New Jersey, lived in New York City, and then moved to bumblefudge USA.
Andrew: First things first: would you each a) kindly describe where you are and what you see, and b) confirm whether you’ve met?
Emily: lol we have met. i'm so glad it's someone I know.
Meghan: Emily, you go first, since it's taken me 10 minutes to figure out how to sign on!
Emily: I was sort of thinking this morning that you might troll me by having it be someone who dislikes me!
Andrew: That would be rude.
Emily: Just normal paranoid shower thoughts.
Andrew: Are there any other type?
Meghan: Which is so perfect, given the gulf between us in terms of technological competence.
Andrew: This is the first episode where y'all know each other. Or at least have met.
Andrew: When & where?
Meghan: Emily and I had dinner last month, so maybe we should pick up where we left off. Not that I remember where that was.
Emily: Some ladies at the next table were lecturing us about labor and delivery?
Andrew: Where did you eat? Can you just, like, recreate that experience digitally?
Emily: Maybe that's too thorny to jump right into!
Meghan: Wait, I'm still reading Andrew's intros.
Emily: Actually we gossiped about a ton of awesome stuff that we should definitely not talk about here!
Andrew: Emily—how were you preparing yourself to interact withsomeone who dislikes you?
Andrew: That's a shame
Meghan: He said "titular." Hee hee.
Emily: Um, my patented charm? Idk
Andrew: OK—who set you two up?
Emily: Meghan and I met because Emily Books did an ebook of My Misspent Youth a while back, when it was briefly OOP
Emily: that is "out of print" in case you are not hip and down with publishing abbrevs
Andrew: Just googled it.
Meghan: Yes, but we met even before that! When NY mag profiled us together.
Emily: It was criminal that it ever was, it's not now obviously
Emily: oh! YES. We did a photo shoot. We met at the shoot
Andrew: Is the photo shoot public?
Meghan: OMG, didn't realize OOP meant out of print. How perf.
Emily: but we met virtually before that on the phone -- Curtis Sittenfelt indervied us together
Andrew: How many of the books on Emily Books are "OOP", as we all say
Emily: um "interviewed"
Meghan: We met at the shoot but we'd done the interview on the phone with Curtis Sittenfeld.
Andrew: Indervied should be a word.
Andrew: Someone please define it
Emily: it sounds german
Emily: Curtis edited that interview very kindly. I was uh, very younger then
Emily: I was like "it's normal to get a lot of money for writing books, and I deserve it! This is how my life's gonna be from now on!"
Emily: and Curtis and Meghan were both, in the nicest way, like, "Oh honey."
Andrew: Is younger a euphemism for un-sober?
Andrew: Oh, I got it
Emily: no, it is a non-euphemism for I was 28.
Meghan: I remember that it was hilarious because at one point I was rambing on and on about soemthing for several minutes. And you weren't saying anything and I thought "wow, I'm really holding the floor." And it turned out your phone had died.
Andrew: How long ago was this?
Meghan: Must have been 2010
Emily: During the shoot Meghan was writing a column about something ... she was filing her column while we were getting all glammed up
Andrew: I should have found this.
Meghan: I hate being photographed. I remember I told them to photoshop me into oblivion.
Andrew: How many authors do you think like being photographed?
Meghan: No, no. There's so much to find out there.
Emily: I was very in awe of meeting Meghan.
Emily: It was like how meeting Joan Didion would be for someone who is really into Joan Didion.
Meghan: Oh, please . . .
Emily: ha! it's true
Meghan: OH, PLEASE!
Emily: it's like how meeting Joni Mitchell was for you
Emily: or how like meeting Joni Mitchell would be for me!
Andrew: And like if Joni Mitchell was given the opportunity to meet...
Meghan: Ironically, when I met Joan Didion we also had to be photographed together.
Andrew: You met Joan Didion?
Emily: Oh my god.
Andrew: Is there a photo out there?
Meghan: There's like a 7 second delay in this convo. Is that how they all go?
Meghan: The whole time being photgraphed with Joan, I kept thinking "I'm going to look so fat next to her."
Meghan: It was in BlackBook magazine. Not sure it's online.
Andrew: What was she like?
Andrew: (I mean, you know, what you feel comfortable sharing)
Andrew: She is having a "moment"
Meghan: Intimidating, kind, very soft spoken.
Emily: So like, how you'd want her to be.
Emily: As opposed to Joni
Andrew: Was she as graceful as I hope and pray she is?
Emily: I love your essay about interviewing Joni so much.
Meghan: We had hair and makeup and the hair person trimmed my bangs and Joan got a broom and swept them off her kitchen floor.
Andrew: For those reading: http://articles.latimes.com/2006/dec/09/opinion/oe-daum9
Meghan: Are people reading this NOW?
Andrew: No, no, no
Andrew: If one of you says something like, irredeemably racist we can always edit it out
Meghan: That column is kind of lame, actually. Which I talk about in the Joni essay in The Unspeakable.
Emily: maybe she saved them to make a potion
Meghan: I was just about to.
Andrew: Say something irredeemably racist?
Andrew: By all means, please
Meghan: Let's talk about Emily, though!
Meghan: What are you wearing right now?
Emily: no, let's talk about gender, or rape!
Emily: A disfiguring Gap Maternity sweater and H&M pajama pants :(
Meghan: Me, too!
Meghan: So weird.
Emily: I usually get dressed to interact with people even virtually but I have a combo of daylight savings and jet lag.
Meghan: Have you been traveling? Where?
Emily: Ruth and I went on a "babymoon" last week to Santa Fe and then had a hard time getting home because of that plane that went off the runway
Emily: we weren't on it, they just shut down LaGuardia. It ended up taking me two days to get home.
Meghan: Oh, gosh.
Meghan: Wow, ugh. Sorry.
Emily: I don't really have jet lag, I am just using it as an excuse
Meghan: I have deadline lag. I've literally been on nonstop deadlines for the last two months.
Emily: it was ok, kind of an adventure, and an excuse to eat a lot of candy in airports. I ended up flying into Dulles and spending the night with my parents
Emily: they were thrilled
Emily: not I am trying to figure out how to visit them for only 12 hours more often
Emily: it's kind of ideal!
Emily: Meghan, why were you in LA? Because that is where you technically reside?
Meghan: Yes, I resdie there. But am in NYC right now.
Meghan: I RESDIE there.
Emily: I'm glad you have deadline lag! That must mean you've written a bunch of stuff!
Emily: hoo boy
Meghan: Well, this is a casulty of book publishing. You're under pressure to take every assignment offered to you.
Meghan: And I bigtime overcommitted myself.
Emily: oh, so you have had to do a lot of stuff around Shallow, Selfish and Self-Absorbed
Meghan: What I mean by that is when you publish a book you feel like not accepting every offer is tantamount to sabatoging your whole project.
Meghan: Plus, I've been teaching and still writing my column.
Emily: "Hello Meghan, this is the Tulsa Pamphlet. Will you answer these email interview questions that are tantamount to writing 3000 words for us, for free?"
Andrew: Haha—is that how I was able to get you two for this?
Meghan: ALready filed that.
Emily: And your column has been ruffling feathers even more than usual lately, but I get the sense that you are in a very IDGAF place with it, which is great!
Meghan: No comment
Meghan: Actually, have seen no feather ruffling myself. But then again I don't google myself.
Meghan: You're saying my column about the Westminster Dog Show was a button pusher?
Emily: I think I need to seriously cull the people I follow on twitter
Emily: the one about grievance culture vs. rape culture got some panties in some twists, for sure
Meghan: Actually it was. PETA went apeshit on me. SO to speak.
Emily: wait, seriously!?
Meghan: You know what? I've had next to no pushback on that.
Meghan: PETA hates dog shows.
Emily: How do you deal with it, though, when people are mad at you about stuff you've written? Yoga and meditation, right?
Meghan: More pushback on dog show column than rape culture column.
Meghan: I've been dealing with people being mad at me since I began publishing 20 years ago. Mostly I ignore it now. Though sometimes someone in particular sticks in my craw and I have a hard time shaking it.
Emily: Have you ever changed your mind, or apologized?
Meghan: Wrote about it here. In case anyone wants to pause and read a 6000 word piece. http://www.believermag.com/issues/201201/?read=article_daum
Emily: I was really disappointed recently when Kanye apologized to Beck.
Meghan: Changed my mind? Not about anything big. The thing is my columns aren't set up to Advance a Point. They're suggestions.
Meghan: I'm inviting readers to consider it this way or look at it that way. I'm not out to convert anyone.
Meghan: I think Andrew left.
Emily: What about apology? I've always felt like once you start, you are stuck apologizing forever.
Meghan: Ok, I wouldn't blame you!
Andrew: I just find the less I talk the better these things go.
Andrew: No you guys are killing it.
Andrew: Like, this is exactly what I hoped you'd be talking about.
Emily: Maybe we should have talked about something more unexpected :(
Emily: Also I still don't know what Meaghan is actually wearing
Meghan: I don't think I've ever said anything so definitive that it's called for an apology.
Meghan: A public one anyway.
Emily: Ah, what about private ones, like, to people? Oh hey, did you happen to read Amy Poehler's book?
Meghan: I am wearing a plaid flannel hoodie from REI, a tech skirt and leggings. And clogs.
Emily: There's an essay about how she apologized for one offensive SNL sketch
Meghan: Some pople will want me to apologize for saying that but I won't.
Andrew: Is #honorarydyke trending?
Meghan: I wish!
Emily: [that is the title of an essay in The Unspeakable, internet #themoreyouknow]
Emily: Anyway, I kind of liked Amy Poehler's take on apologizing. It wasn't about "I learned and grew," really
Meghan: Thank you, publicist.
Andrew: Does your publicist urge you to be more apologetic or less?
Emily: Speaking as Meaghan's publicist I would say "less"
Meghan: She urges me to say yes. That's it.
Emily: "Even less"
Emily: Book publicists are not, like, really like "your publicist"
Meghan: I didn't follow the Amy/SNL thing. Or the Kanye/Beck thing.
Emily: they are the book's publicist, unless you're, like, David Sedaris
Meghan: Have been too busy writing 800 word pieces for $300.
Emily: I feel like you could get a column out of a combo of both
Emily: $300! I'm jealous! I usually only get $250!
Meghan: Well, I've got 10 years experience on you.
Emily: Meghan remembers a better time, is the thing
Emily: I experienced like one year of having a writing career pre-global economic crisis
Meghan: WHat year? And what was it like?
Emily: 2007! It was also kind of like the year when I was graduating from high school, first in college (1999/2000)
Emily: when it seemed like all I would need to know how to do was google stuff and I would just be rich
Emily: (bc of the dot com boom)
Meghan: Oh, see, I missed that moment entirely. Was too old by then.
Emily: I had an internship that summer where I got paid $20/hour to google stuff
Emily: it was the most money I would make for ... hmm like 8 years?
Emily: but at the time it seemed like that was just how the world was going to be
Meghan: And then what happened?
Meghan: How do you chart the progress of the collapse?
Emily: idk stolen bush election, 9/11, I was distracted at the time by moving to New York
Meghan: I ask this question so I can get up for a minute and get a cup of coffee.
Emily: it took me a minute to realize that stuff had happened to the world and not just to me personally (because I was unusually self-absorbed even for a 19 year old)
Andrew: Is this what Bev was based on?
Emily: Anyway I don't know that "the world of letters and writing and how people are paid for their work has changed and is changing so much"
Emily: is a fun topic for this early in the AM
Emily: Bev has some temp jobs that I had circa 2011
Meghan: I had a temp job as recently as 2006. Writing catalog copy for Herbalife!
Meghan: I actually went to an office everyday.
Emily: oh you're back! black? sugar? milk?
Andrew: Did they know who they were getting?
Emily: Didn't you have one for some kind of feminine product website, too?
Meghan: And first they didn't give me the job because they had someone else more qualified.
Meghan: But that person ended up taking a mental health leave so they called me.
Meghan: Yes, I wrote copy for the Always Maxipad website.
Andrew: Fuck, that's a good sign
Emily: the 2014/15 equivalent of this kind of work is writing "sponsored content" which I actually dabbled in recently
Andrew: Emily did you ever do copywriting?
Andrew: What type of sponsored content?
Emily: kind of unsuccessfully. I was supposed to edit a blog that was sponsored by a fitness/lifestyle brand I shall not name
Emily: it seemed like it would be easy and a way to assign easy work to writers I like
Meghan: How does sponsored content writing work exactly? Is it particlarly lucrative?
Emily: but I had underestimated the amount of work that would go into the part of it that was *clears throat* client-facing
Emily: It is just like copywriting except with a sort of marketing component, like you have to work with or guess at a marketing strategy and then write around that
Andrew: BuzzFeed is all about it
Emily: or sometimes it's just ordinary reporting with a particular sanitized angle or agenda
Meghan: Does it pay a lot because you're working for a corporate client?
Emily: ie it is gross
Meghan: If I was starting out now, I'd probably be all over it.
Emily: it can pay a lot, especially if it's your full-time job. These days there are a lot of young people who don't aspire to do anything beyond it.
Meghan: I was so hungry and broke all the time I'd do any kind of writing that paid me.
Andrew: It pays a lot because you're dancing on top of the line b/w editorial and advert
Emily: Oh for sure. For like a year. But then you'd write an expose of it and get in trouble
Meghan: Solid plan.
Emily: I was disappointed to find that I wasn't good at it.
Emily: I had sort of thought, "Oh, this will finally be the thing that allows me to write and do my non-lucrative publishing project"
Emily: "Doesn't take much time, sends me regular paychecks"
Meghan: So how are you feeling about the future of publishing and all this today?
Emily: But then I was just so bad at it, and it took so much of my time (because I was bad at it), and ultimately the $ was like, what you'd get for writing one long reported article.
Meghan: I ask so I can go down the street and get a cup of coffee.
Emily: You still didn't get coffee??! Go get coffee!
Meghan: I was kidding.
Meghan: I'm asking you these broad, unanswerable questions.
Emily: Also you must have the means of coffee production in your house
Meghan: Yes, I got my coffee.
Emily: Well, you know, I think about your question every day
Andrew: Emily—did you ever consider Emily Books as a full income sort of situation?
Meghan: Snorted coffee through nose.
Emily: I still, gulp, believe that someday it will be, in some form.
Emily: I just think it might take a decade.
Meghan: Really? That's great.
Meghan: Didn't mean to diminish it with coffee snort.
Andrew: It was an honest reaction
Meghan: I know so little about these business models.
Emily: Well, I have no idea, but I think becoming a publisher -- publishing books -- is a step in the right direction. As is doing advances against royalties for the club picks instead of revenue-sharing.
Emily: No, I mean, it's a dumb business model. It's PUBLISHING!
Andrew: I saw the news about Coffee House—how long had that been in the works?
Meghan: What is that news?
Emily: But if we can get ourselves into the position where we have one huge hit and we are the exclusive seller of it, we'll be able to live off it for a while.
Emily: Like, look at Melville House right now with the torture report they rushed out.
Emily: That is going to float their company for like ... idk, a year? More?
Andrew: That's true
Andrew: (that was for Meghan)
Meghan: Oh, wow!
Emily: So that is a path to publishing books with our name on them, but really they are Coffee House books.
Emily: If one of them is a huge hit, we get a % of the hit. It was worth it to us in terms of minimizing risk
Meghan: What do you think about self-publishing? People sometimes ask me about it.
Emily: but it's not our direct path to this-is-our-job-ville
Andrew: Right, that road usually sucks
Andrew: This is another of Meghan's ploys to make herself a sandwich
Andrew: "What do you guys think about 1st person v. 3rd person narratives?"
Meghan: Okay, now Andrew's trying to go out for lunch.
Andrew: We have 3 minutes left
Emily: Did you guys read that controversial thing some guy wrote about MFA programs recently where he was like
Meghan: Oh, no!
Andrew: & then I am all over a caeser salad with tuna & tofu
Meghan: We will have to talk about Writing Process.
Andrew: Emily—is that a joke?
Emily: pro self-publishing
Emily: sadly no
Emily: tuna AND tofu?
Meghan: Yes, I read that MFA thing.
Andrew: Oh, I thought that was another ambiguous lead-in
Andrew: There were already like backlash to the blacklash to the backlash articles on that
Emily: I thought that part was especially toxic and misguided. Misguided and misguide-ing
Andrew: Did either of you do MFAs?
Emily: The idea that authors should "seize the means of production" or whatever dumb guise he put it in
Meghan: Yes! And am currently teaching in very same program.
Emily: Meghan did, I did not
Meghan: And, see, here we are.
Emily: but I'm not anti MFA, I'm just anti MFA for me
Emily: I wrote 12 blog posts a day for a year, that was kind of my MFA
Meghan: I'm not pro-MFA particularly. I loved doing it. But it put me scarily in debt for a long time.
Emily: they were workshopped by commenters. I think it's basically the same thing.
Meghan: Well, put.
Emily: I got into the same amt of debt I would have accrued in a program by taking a year off doing much else to finish a novel, though
Andrew: Meghan—for the readers, what program is that?
Emily: I mean you really can't win with this stuff. Bc capitalism?
Meghan: Except fellow students are not anonymous and are accountable for that they say.
Meghan: I meant "well put!" Not "well, put."
Meghan: Which would be something you said to a golfer.
Emily: They taught her correct comma usage in her MFA program.
Andrew: "Well, putt"*
Andrew: That's not good golf etiquette, as my dad's tried to teach me too many times.
Emily: You guys we really could talk about this stuff forever. Or at least all day today.
Andrew: Never rush someone putting.
Emily: But I guess Meghan I should do our important and lucrative work
Andrew: Well that's great, I have this exclusive booked until 9 pm
Andrew: exclusive chat room*
Emily: I thought you were rushing off to your tuna/tofu
Andrew: Yeah, I am.
Andrew: This is it guys.
Meghan: Yeah, I've got pictures of real estate to look at.
Andrew: You both killed it. Expectedly.
Emily: in new york I hope!!!
Meghan: No, just photos generally. Shelter porn.
Andrew: With that, we're off.
Meghan: Better than self-googling.
Meghan: Thanks, you guys!