Two tGGtH O.C. Library Readings

Image credit:  Tustin Public Library; ocsd.org

Image credit: Tustin Public Library; ocsd.org

If you’re in O.C., I would love to meet you at today’s signing/reading/Q&A at the Tustin Public Library, 345 East Main Street, Tustin, CA 92780, from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

And if you can’t make it today, you’ll get another chance on Sunday, October 16, at the Katie Wheeler Public Library in Irvine, 13109 Old Myford Road, Irvine, CA  92602, from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.!

If you’re too far South in Cali to make it to either of these, I will also be at the Girls Think Tank 2011 Community Picnic at Balboa Park in San Diego on October 15 from noon to 4:00 p.m.

I will also be in Clearwater, FL at the end of October.  More details to come.

 

* * * * *

 

Now for the disappointing news:  The TEDx event I was to speak at has been indefinitely postponed.  I’ve been recommended to a new one, but I’m not sure yet if/when that will happen, so I’ll update when I know.

Was also to speak in Cortland, NY this weekend for World Homeless Day/Poverty Awareness Week, but that also has been postponed and I’m not sure if/when it will be rescheduled.  So, I am now open and willing for WHD bookings – it’s on October 10th!  Second year running.  Really proud of what we’ve accomplished so far. I hear that the Occupy Wall Street movement may do something in recognition of that day, as well, so that’s really exciting.  I’m following that news story very carefully and I support the demonstrators and their right to peacefully assemble and protest.  I kinda wish I was there in NYC so I could see how it all pans out, but I’m reading that similar Occupy movements are springing up around the country and the world, so who knows, I may get to watch it from my own backyard.

A Happy Surprise. And A Bit of Groveling.

A Happy Surprise.  And A Bit of Groveling.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Becker; www.jbeckerphoto.com

I know.  I know.  I know, I know, I know.  I have been terribly remiss in my posting duties. I feel awful. There’s no excuse. (But I’m gonna make excuses anyway.)

There was lots of travelling and speaking and signing with libraries and homeless organizations and literary conferences and stuff. (And there’s quite a few more this month, but I’ll post those under upcoming events for you guys). On the bright side, I got to see some amazing places and have crazy awesome experiences that I never could have afforded myself, all thanks to my publisher sending me out to these events. I’ve now been to New Orleans (ate alligator!), San Francisco (hung out with one of their literary treasures, Tony DuShane, who was kind enough to put me up on his couch), New York (saw a taping of The Colbert Report, which was up there on my list of top 10 greatest experiences ever, so special thanks to the Audience Coordinator Stewart Nurick, who read my book and offered me front-and-center VIP seats…and congrats to Stewart and his lovely wife Alison on their beautiful newborn son Gregory), and Alexandria (met some brilliant young homeless advocate who are working hard to change the world).

In addition, South Coast Repertory’s new season just started, so it’s been madness for weeks at my 9-5 job, running around getting prepared.

And last, but certainly not least, I just became rehoused.

That’s right, I’m writing this to you now as a fully rehoused, not-even-technically-homeless woman in a legal residence. No more code enforcement saga. No more 80+ mile round-trip commute per day. Fez and I just moved into a very tiny, but perfectly respectable, little studio guesthouse/backhouse in Santa Ana, only three miles from my job. This was made possible by my publisher purchasing the rights to publish The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness in two foreign countries (so keep an eye out; the book is coming to an Australia and a Germany near you). It wasn’t a large advance, but it was enough for first month’s rent and deposit.

So I’ve spent the past month-and-a-half preparing to move out of Riverside, and then the past two weeks moving, unpacking, finding Craigslist/thrift store furniture, lifting heavy things, and generally buckling under the mass of about ten jillion conflicting emotions, as you might imagine.

I love the new place. I love being close to work. I love having more time to spend with my dog. I love that it’s about 30 degrees cooler here than in the desert. I am, of course, so grateful to those who put me up in Riverside for a low price and were kind to me, but there’s an overwhelming sense of relief to not be spending four hours per day in a car.

There’s also survivor’s guilt, and a readjustment period – I was warned there would be and prepared, of course, but it’s still not fun. My moods cycle up and down a little more than usual; I’ve been stressing a lot, sometimes over things that would normally seem petty to me. There’s the fear that homelessness could happen again, that something could still always happen – maybe I could lose my job again and not be able to pay rent. Maybe this will happen or that will happen. Maybe maybe maybe. So it’s been a little exhausting, and of course I’ve felt guilty every time I’ve almost picked up my laptop to write a blog post and then went…nah. I’m just too drained. I can’t face it right now. I’ll deal with it later.

But overall, I’m trying to soak in the joy of it. This place feels like it could be a home. It’s very private and feels like my own little niche, and I’m doing what I can to kind of nest and make it my own. Fez seems to be loving it as well; he gets to hang out with me for an extra several hours per day and while I’m at work, the people in the main house have a little dog that likes playing with him. The people in the main house seem very kind so far and they pretty much let me be so again, it all feels very private. And they clearly adore Fez, also.

So now, obviously, it’s time for me to get up off my arse and get back to blogging. I want to keep this blog going and focus on homelessness/poverty issues in the media – I’ve been following several stories very closely, particularly the Kelly Thomas beating/murder, which is particularly significant to me because I grew up in Fullerton, and it makes me extra angry…That’s my hometown, things like that aren’t supposed to happen there, etc. I’ll post more in-depth about it later, but the one small silver lining to it is seeing that it has finally begun to receive national coverage, and that the people in my hometown, who are normally very quiet and content, have really risen to the occasion. They’re angry, and rightfully so, about what happened to Kelly Thomas, and they’ve been protesting about it constantly, and I find it heartening that very few of them have been spouting the vitriol towards the homeless and mentally ill that you normally see in news comments sections.

Anyway, right now I’m in Tucson, about to speak at the Wings of Hope gala tonight, and next week I’ll be opening the TEDxSA-Artists Villiage event at the Yost Theatre in Santa Ana.  So obviously I’m really excited and honored and terrified. Over the coming weeks I’ll probably be doing events in Cortland, NYC, Florida, Irvine, Tustin, and San Diego. I’ll post more detailed info over the next couple days in the “Upcoming Events” section and on Facebook, as soon as I have more concrete details.

I’m sorry I’ve been AWOL. I was a little burnt out and needed to get it all out of my system. I’m gonna try to be less of an absentee blogger from here on out.

Love you guys,
~Bri

Homeless News – and San Francisco Bound!

 

Homeless News - and San Francisco Bound!

Image credit: Examiner.com

Hey, Bay Area readers! I’m packing right this moment for a whirlwind tour of San Francisco (I’ll be there for about a day and a half crashing with the inimitable Tony Dushane – a fellow ex-JW author – and his lovely lady friend, who have been kind enough to put me up for an evening). I’ve never been to SF before; I’m stoked! And I’ve gotten a little advance lovin’ from SF Weekly, for which I’m most appreciative.

If you’d like to see me, get your book signed, or have any questions for me, I’d love to see you at Book Passage this Wednesday night from 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. I’ll be doing a Q&A with Tony, we’ll be signing copies of our books, and you’ll be able to say that you were at my very first signing ever (OK, I’m *really* nervous about this. Please don’t tomato me. My hair is red enough.)

Book Passage is at 1 Ferry Building, San Francisco, CA 94111. See you there!

* * * * *

I’ve been jonesing to post the following recent news articles that I found topically relevant recently:

5 Things Nobody Tells You About Being Poor – blue language alert; don’t read this one if you’re sensitive to various euphemisms for anal rape. The author vividly describes the feeling of being effed over by the system…that oh-so-familiar feeling of paying more just to be poor. I have personally experienced all 5 of the items on this list. The article would be hilarious if it didn’t ring so uncomfortably true and describe the vicious Catch-22 of the poverty circle a tad too well, via the typical sardonic excellence we’ve come to expect from Cracked.

San Francisco: New Homeless On Street as Others Find Housing – Despite claims that the recession is ending/has ended, hundreds of “mobile homeless” (like I was) are turning up in San Francisco alone. As fast as longer-term homeless can be rehoused, more are filling the void.

The Silent Jobless – The L.A. Times touches (again) on the vicious poverty cycle that the American economy is stuck in, who is still unemployed despite claims of economic improvement, and why.

* * * * *

Additionally, I want to thank Elaine Ash for her kind words about my book on her blog, and for sharing her own story. Elaine touches on a very important point I’ve alluded to in the past – sure; younger homeless people like me, despite how crappy it is to be homeless, and how difficult it is to dig yourself out of it at any age…still have a pretty fighting chance. We’re young and, in a competitive job market, we often have an edge.

But what about the 40, 50, and 60 year olds who thought they had it made, who have worked hard their entire lives and are now finding themselves without jobs, income, or homes? What about those who should be spending their golden retirement years gardening or playing racquetball or sleeping in after a good 40 years or so of hard work? Haven’t they earned the right to be cared for instead of spending those golden years living out of a car? They’re at a disadvantage when it comes to finding work, despite having a good deal of accrued experience over us young’uns.

Stories like Elaine’s and those of countless other people I’ve heard from need to be publicized. My story is only one perspective, but there are so, so many more to be told. Please check out her blog, hear her story, and lend her a little moral support, at the very least, if you have a couple minutes :) Thank you again, Elaine, for putting your voice out there.

Why I Don’t Have a ‘Donate’ Button

Why I Don't Have a Donate Button

image credit: Green Grid

So, whenever the blog gets in the news (as it has a couple times over the past couple weeks, due to the book publicity), I get a lot of emails from people offering to send me money, or asking why I don’t have a “donate” button.

So here’s the thing:  I’m not an e-panhandler.  I’ve never had a donation button and never will.  I don’t judge those who do panhandle or feel like they need to ask for money.  There are a lot of people worse off than me, as I have always said, and they need help more.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s a personal decision.  But I’m doing OK.  Not completely where I want to be yet, but things are looking up and have been for some time and getting steadily better.  I have a job I love and a place to stay (which I am grateful for) that is, if somewhat legally tenuous, accommodating and far better than a homeless person staying on the streets or in a vehicle.

I’ve always said, while I and several other “mobile homeless” might be able to bootstrap it, many can’t.  They should be first in line for aid.

So please, if you feel compelled to give, give to your favorite homeless charity.  Or donate your time as a volunteer to a soup kitchen or shelter.  Donate your old clothes, or diapers, or food, or any other number of things which programs for the homeless and poverty-stricken are in desperate need of.  If you need a list of homeless organizations, I can let you know some of my favorites – you need only ask.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m one of the co-founders of World Homeless Action Day, which launched last year and had participants and events in over 100 countries.  My co-founder Jon Glackin and I do not get paid for this, nor do we request donations made out to the World Homeless Action Movement.  Dealing with money makes us both uncomfortable; we prefer to remain transparent and not be able to be accused of misappropriating any funds or using them for ourselves.  We’ve both agreed that refusing to accept/handle funds minimizes the likelihood of being falsely accused of fraud, manipulation, or deceit.  We’d rather money go directly to those on the street, who need it most.

So there you are; if you want to give, please give directly to the organization/charity of your choice (and I would definitely say to research their business practices and reputation to make sure that you feel you are giving to an organization whose tactics, ethics, and goals you are comfortable with).  Or even just buy a homeless person a sandwich if you’re moved to.  Every little bit helps.  WHAM’s job is to raise awareness and get participants involved all over the globe, to get you thinking of homeless people as REAL PEOPLE, and interested in their faces and stories, which vary with each homeless person.

If you *really really really* feel like you want to “donate” to me, buy a copy of the book or hire me for a public speaking engagement or something, if you’d like.  At least then I’ll feel like I’ve given you something in exchange – I’ve put nearly two years of hard work into that book, besides working temp and my 9-5 job.  So that way I can feel like I’ve at least earned your generosity.  I do NOT want any money or other compensation sent directly to me.  Some people think that’s cool, some people call me a dumbass for it and say I should take the money because it could help me, but it’s my own personal feelings about e-panhandling, and has been since the beginning, when I was anonymous.  I’m a huge fan of earning my keep.

Thanks for being awesome people and wanting to make a difference.  I hope you’re all enjoying your Memorial Day weekend!!!  :)

~Bri

Front Page of Yahoo, Oh My Gosh!

Front Page of Yahoo, Oh My Gosh!Hi, all!  Well, just found out that I’ve been on the front page of Yahoo! for about 30 minutes (my inbox started rapidly expanding with Facebook/Twitter requests).

I’m at my 9-5 job right now trying to keep up at least a veneer of ethical and diligent hardworkingness, so I’m taking my lunch break to say hello to the newcomers *waves* and I’ll spend the next few days trying to get everybody responded to, followed back on Twitter, etc.

In response to the most common questions I’m being emailed:

1)  Yes, I’m OK and things are looking up!  I’m still in a limbo stage, but obviously right now I have it better than I used to and better than a lot of homeless people do – I’m very lucky that I now have a job and that things have been slowly improving.

2)  Yes, Fezzik the mastiff is still with me and he’s doing great!

3)  To those asking if I still do homeless advocacy work, yes!  I am the co-founder of World Homeless Day, which launched last year and boasted participants and events in over 100 countries, and we’re hoping to increase participation even more this year!  I’m involved behind-the-scenes in the World Homeless Action Movement and it’s very important to me to bat around solutions for all homeless people of all backgrounds and circumstances.  I also take a huge interest in various other social issues that have touched my life and the lives of those close to me.  The amount I’m able to post on the blog has taken a beating (I’m sorry!!!) because I’m not only doing a 9-5 job that’s helping me pay the bills and promoting a book, but also doing work for WHAM that keeps me hopping.  I’m trying to improve my posting rates, though…please bear with me  *frazzled*  :-\

4)  To everybody asking “how could you be homeless and travel to Scotland”, there’s a long, convoluted backstory there.  It’s in the book, towards the end when things had started to improve for me a bit, and can’t be summed up in two sentences.  No, I was not/am not rich, no, I was not/am not “homeless by choice”, no, I did not just “decide” to pick up and go to Scotland, and no, I am not a “fake” homeless person and this is not/was never a publicity stunt (actually, I remained anonymous by choice for a very long time).  I don’t want to give away the end of the book, so I’ll refrain from saying more.  But a single article/interview doesn’t cover the entire story, not by far.  You sort of have to pack everything into a small space, so details get left out.  Sorry!  Once you know the story, however, by all means feel free to judge me accordingly  ;)

5)  I moderate everybody’s first comment (once you’re approved you don’t have to be again), mainly because I’ve managed to acquire the occasional psychostalker or two.  If I’m not approving your comments here it’s because you’ve probably said something jerky or classless or made assumptions based on stereotypes or called homeless people slurs or gone on a rant calling me a fakey fake McFakerson, and I don’t publish those comments because this is my blog.  You’ve got the entire rest of the internet to have a field day screaming “I think this is a fake story real homeless people don’t have cell phones OMGWTFBBQ!!!” but this right here is my own little two-foot-square space of internet, and while I welcome polite and respectful dissent, or am happy to answer questions if you email me or comment politely, I don’t bother with trolls and angry people.  I’m all about keeping it positive and proactive.  Hope that makes sense.

6)  The book is a great place to start if you’re curious about my backstory or sequences of events not covered on the blog or in interviews.  Most of the stuff in the book is NOT stuff you will find here on the blog (I didn’t want the book to just be a rehash of what’s already available publicly; I felt that wouldn’t be right or fair.)

Thanks!  Hope this helps and I’m happy to see so many new visitors!  I need to get back to work now before they skin me  :-P

My Head – It ASPLODES!

 

My Head - It ASPLODES!

Dramatic photo is dramatic! OMGWTFBBQ! Also, holy damn, I just realized my hair has gotten really long. Thumbs up for long hair!

Dropping in with a reeeeeeeeally quick line – usually I at least make an attempt to be a little more witty and engaging, but let’s face it, I’ve got a 9-5 job I gotta be at in…*checks wrist*…26 minutes. So I’m taking the prosaic route.

There’s two articles that hit the net today about me.  Reuters and O.C. Register (for which I’m on the front page.  Hi, Mom.)

If you found me through those articles, welcome!  If you’re a returning reader, feel free to like/share/Tweet/etc. either of those articles!

Things are crazy busy.  I read something from one (otherwise positive) reviewer who seemed sad that I don’t post as much lately, and I swear it’s on my “improve” list.  But I’m sort of working what feels like 3 jobs at the moment…my regular job, promoting the book, and I’m also involved with the World Homeless Action Movement and World Homeless Action Day, so you can imagine that’s keeping me hopping.  As well as the email inbox/Twitter feed/Facebook news feed crammed full of kind words and well-wishes that I still need to respond to (oh, it’s coming.  And it will be EPIC!  OK, not really, it’ll probably be me just dropping you an email and saying “thank you so much”, but for some reason I felt the need to really build that up).

Plus, I’m gonna be doing some book promotion in NYC next week (I’m always so excited to get to go back there!) so look for me on the Leonard Lopate Show, New York Nightly News, various radio programs across the U.S. on May 16th, and on the Colbert Report (OK, in the audience of the Colbert Report as the camera pans really quickly over the audience in the beginning…thank you so much for the tix from Stewart Nurick, who works on the show and read The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness and enjoyed it!)  Now, Stephen, on the slimmest chance that you’re reading this…you should definitely have me on as a guest.  Or, you know, I’d take Jon Stewart, too.  I have a massive fangirl crush (not the creepy kind, just the admiring-of-your-brilliance kind) on both of you.  And I promise to set aside my shyness and throw my all into charming and witty banter/repartee.  (Which will be not at all like this hastily cobbled blog post, but at least a gazillion times more dazzling).

So, to recap:  Running in circles.  Sorry for lack of post-age.  Working on it!!!  You readers are the awesomest!!!  EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!  Not reveling in Z-list celebrity status or anything, just head exploding from overwork.  But having fun, of course, or trying to, when I’m not stressing and being neurotic  ;)

*Deep Breath* Here We Go. (And the Day Margaret Atwood Tweeted Me)

 

*Deep Breath* Here We Go. (And the Day Margaret Atwood Tweeted Me)Today is the launch of the radio tour for The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness (if you found your way here from one of the radio interviews or other promotions for the book, by the way, welcome!)

My publisher has ensconced me in a Holiday Inn Express for a couple of days, so that I have a landline to do radio from (cell phones do not fly, apparently! Too unpredictable.) On the other hand, I’ve still got a 9-5 job, so I’m doing radio for half-days and then working the rest of the day at the theatre (if my bosses stop by and read this – thank you!!!)

None of it has really sunk in yet. Oh, it’s starting to make a slight dent in my consciousness, but I’m sort of this ball of excited/nervous/terrified/exhausted and in the end all of those competing emotions seem to be cancelling one another out in a way, until I just feel numb and a little shell-shocked. And I want to do a good job, of course :-P

Something happened a little over a week ago that just sort of made my life, and I’m still working to process it. Margaret Atwood tweeted (positively!) about my book. Of her own volition. And then had a brief Twitter conversation with me. my mind is just sort of blown and everything after that seems like it’s a bonus. Like that was the pinnacle of my life and everything afterwards is just gravy.

It’s hard to communicate how it feels having one of your heroes mention you. Authors are like my rock stars. Margaret Atwood, in particular, and this is why:

OK, if you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know I was raised in a hardcore fundamentalist sect. It was a pretty claustrophobic, insular, and high-control group, to say the least.

My stepdad gave me several of his childhood books when he married my mother. I was 6. One of these books was 1984, by George Orwell.  I’m not sure he remembered the book specifically or what it was about, because that’s pretty heavy reading material for a kid, and especially a Jehovah’s Witness kid (who is supposed to stick to “Watchtower Society” literature and avoid “worldly” reading materials, particularly ones about totalitarianism and free thinking, revolution, etc.)

I began the book.  Fairly early on I realized I probably shouldn’t be reading it.  So I hid it and read it anyway.  Plus, I was 6 and it had some sex in it, so let’s be honest, that was kinda fascinating and taboo for me.  Even though I was so little and didn’t necessarily get the entire meaning the first time, I re-read it several more times over the next couple years, and as I matured I started making vague connections with the way I had been raised.  Similar logic patterns, doublespeak, control tactics, etc.

When I was 12 or 13, I spent a winter vacation from school in Toronto with my great-aunt.  She was a wonderful woman who took me to used bookstores, where I would load up on whatever I could carry and more.

It was in one of these used bookstores that I came across Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

I made the connection with 1984 very quickly – both books about a dystopian, totalitarian society in which freethinking is forbidden and underground.  But The Handmaid’s Tale, I felt, was even more specific to my situation – the “negative utopia” in which it was set was run by Biblical fundamentalists, and the main theme was women in particular being repressed by religion taken to the highest, most literal, possible extreme.  I understood what it meant, even then, to be a girl forbidden higher education, and taught to be very literally “in subjection” to men.  ”A weaker vessel”.

These two books were responsible for planting seeds in my mind that would later help shape my beliefs.  They changed my life and my outlook.  They made me consider points of view I wasn’t “supposed” to think about.

So last Friday, I received an email from my editor:  ”Margaret Atwood tweeted that she’s reading your book!”

I couldn’t believe, though, that it was the Margaret Atwood.  I stared at the screen and thought about this for a moment.  Could there be another Margaret Atwood somewhere?  Surely not The Handmaid’s Tale Margaret Atwood?

I clicked on the Twitter account that my editor linked to, and stared at the postage-stamp-sized profile pic.  It did kind of look like Margaret Atwood.

So I stood up, walked away from my desk, got a drink at the water fountain to clear my head, and came back to my cubicle.  I looked again.

Holy shyte, that was definitely THE Margaret Atwood!

Thusly was my brain short-circuited and I’ve been a little numb and in disbelief ever since.  I tweeted her a thank you, and she actually responded to me (twice!), and said very kind things about the book – that it was “gripping” and “funny” and had her “chewing the ends of her fingers”.  I do not even know what to do with that.  I just don’t.  The waves of happy and awesomeneness and “wtf?!  Margaret Atwood?!?!” just keep washing over me.

On the same day, the book received a starred review from Kirkus, which I’m told is a prize not to be taken lightly, and for which I am super grateful (and again, a little shell-shocked).  A few days later, Rosie O’Donnell mentioned on her Sirius radio show that she was reading my book and found it “fascinating”.  It’s such a weird feeling; I can’t even explain it, to think that public figures, people you’ve heard of and know because they’re authors or media personalities…have somehow heard about your book, picked it up and read it.  I feel so humbled; obviously I could never consider myself in the same league as these people, but all the same they’ve shown me such kindness by not only reading, but sharing their reactions to the book.

I’m still having trouble coming to terms with the fact that a bona-fide hero, an author and an activist like Margaret Atwood knows who I am and likes my story.  It makes me feel, just for a few fleeting minutes that perhaps I’m not a “Snooki”.  Maybe I really could be – am? – a writer.  A fledgling one with a looooong way to go, of course, but…a writer?  That terrifies me.  It excites me.  It exhausts me.  I also know that even if nothing this amazing ever happens in my life again, it’s already been so much more than I could ever expect.

Early this morning the radio tour began (hello, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Texas and Tennessee!  *waves*) Tomorrow the book hits shelves.  I’m just bracing and trying to take it all in.  Please keep your fingers crossed for me and let’s rock ‘n roll.  I have a feeling this might be one hell of a ride.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes!

If you’re a regular reader, you may have noticed over the past few days a few tweaks to the site.

For instance, I now have a nifty little calendar in the sidebar counting down the weeks (two) to book launch. Social media buttons have randomly and handily manifested from thin air at the bottom of each post for your sharing convenience. There are two new tabs at the top of the site, one listing info and reviews for the Girl’s Guide to Homelessness book and one boasting a stunning feat of magnificence that I like to call a “tour schedule with interactive map” (note:  both of these items are powered by insanely self-explanatory widgets and it still took me a few days to figure out how to set them up.)

You might be forgiven for assuming that my site is undergoing a facelift for the book tour.  Because I am a very forgiving and benevolent person.  And also because that assumption is a completely correct one. But mostly the forgiving and benevolent part.

The changes you see on the site currently are as far as I was able to figure out with my sluggishly-moving and not-very-technically-oriented brain.  However, there will also be a few more noticeable layout changes this week, and the site may have short periods of downtime for scheduled maintenance. Sorry; but I assure you it’s all for a good cause and the final result will ostensibly be quite awesome and all worth it.

I have entrusted the very kind and brilliant Adam Warner with the switching over of the layout.  Adam runs wpprobusiness.com, and he stumbled across me when I was just a little barebones bloglet running not on WordPress, but on that other platform-which-shall-not-be-named.  He purchased me a free domain (this one) and helped me get a much less hideous and more professional blog (this one) off the ground.  If you’re looking to start a website and are as technically inept as I, know that he comes highly recommended from me for all of your website-building and WordPress needs.  Because of Adam, I know what a widget is.  (Also because of Adam, I also don’t even need to know what a widget is because he’s a genius at fixing things when I paint myself into a corner and freak out because I’ve been staring at the laptop screen for three hours and it refuses to conform itself to my will.)  You can hear me interview with Adam about WordPress and the importance of social media in blogging here.

So yeah; point is, with all of the exciting changes and the upcoming tour, it’s time for some updates to the site.  Since tweeting about the tour schedule today, I have been inundated with requests to know whether I will be appearing in L.A. / Seattle / Chicago / Phoenix / New Mexico / Canada / Europe / NYC / Portland / etc. etc. etc.  The answer to that is:  Probably / Maybe / Possibly / Hopefully / OK, So I Don’t Really Know Yet / etc. etc.

Please know that the tour has only just started being scheduled, so what you see right now on the map is by no means the extent of it.  I’ll be updating the map constantly every time I find out about a new radio/TV/reading/book signing event.  I do know that it’s likely I’ll be doing readings and events in many of the major cities throughout the U.S. and possibly Canada, but I have no way of predicting for sure which ones until they’re scheduled.  So for anybody in the U.S. who wants to know, “are you coming to [insert city here]???”, the only 100% accurate response I can give is “I sure as hell hope so.”  As for Europe and such, right now, the book is only available in North America, though eventually the goal is definitely to make it available internationally. Don’t worry; I swear I’m working on it.  Patience, beloved Euro-followers!

In the meantime, you guys can do one thing if you’d like to meet me in your city (well, besides create a huge demand for the book, obviously!)  If you have a book club, class, or other group for which you’d like to book a discussion or speaking engagement…I’d love to hear from you!  I’m available to do in-person meetups, Skype calls, online chats, Q&A sessions, and the like. It’s really important to me to reach out to as many people as possible, talk about homelessness, and get your feedback on the book. So by all means, drop me a line if that’s something you’d be interested in, and we’ll find a way to schedule it and make it happen.

Talk soon, guys and gals.  Love ya, as always!

Guest Post: YOUR Voice Can Change Lives

 

Today (as promised), a guest post by Cynthia Eastman, formerly homeless writer, activist, and founder of Common Ground Worldwide as well as Earth Angel Volunteers, a knitting and crochet group who make caps, hats, scarves, gloves and mittens for homeless/abused men, women and children.

Cynthia is one of the hardest-working, most supportive, non-judgmental people I have ever met; a true peacemaker and a kind heart, and it is a privilege to call her my friend.

 

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YOUR Voice Can Change Lives

By Reverend Cynthia Rae Eastman

 

Brianna and I met a couple of years ago as authors writing for a blog on homelessness. Just like many of you reading “The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness” blog, I too have been reading and watching her journey unfolding and morphing into what is now a book of the same title.

One thing that I have found to be extremely inspirational is the fact that in the midst of experiencing homelessness, Bri was always concerned about all of the others, who were suffering as a result of not being able to afford housing. From the very beginning, she was helping to serve as a voice for those who are homeless.

Clearly, she was thrust into positions of being interviewed on national television, which most of us will never experience. We could all tell that this was a bit scary for her, yet when opportunity knocked, despite the fear and unavoidable stigma associated with being homeless, Bri courageously told her story and made sure that she did what she could to debunk the stereotypes.

Even though we may never personally be under that sort of spotlight, I would like to suggest that we have other smaller, yet powerful ways to have our voices heard. For example, recently, I was invited to speak at our local Homeless Services Oversight Council concerning giving a report on the National Conference on Ending Family Homelessness, which I attended in February. Following my presentation, I decided to remain for the rest of the meeting. During that time, the topic of creating a “Safe Parking” project came up.

As I listened, I could hear various members voicing concerns and the time came when, rather than voting on and passing their endorsement of this project, it looked like the item was going to be tabled in favor of more research. When the chairman of the council asked for “Citizen Comments,” despite not planning to speak or having prepared anything to say, the sound of my tear-filled voice shocked even me.

“I was a divorced, single parent of a 13 year old, when I found myself between jobs,” I said. Then continued with, “My son and I ended up sleeping in our car. It was terrifyingly dangerous. All night long the police kept telling us to move. In this county alone, there are over 3,800 men, women, and children, who are homeless and only 200 shelter beds. People MUST sleep somewhere! I just want to thank all of you for taking the steps necessary to help the people in our community, who are experiencing homelessness.”

Much to my surprise, following these heartfelt impromptu words, a vote was again called and this time, it passed unanimously! It was the first time in my life that I realized my voice could have such a powerful impact and potentially make a positive change in the lives of others, who are struggling. After the meeting, the woman, who was most opposed to moving forward with the vote, came up to me and thanked me for putting a face to homelessness.

Tips for Having Your Voice Heard

Story of a Homeless Veteran, who is speaking out:

 

Most of all, I encourage you to remember this quote by Marianne Williamson:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” (A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”, Harper Collins, 1992. From Chapter 7, Section 3])

It is critical for all of us to speak out in our communities concerning our experiences with homelessness. Our voices can be powerful tools for positive change. Let your light shine and your voice be heard, because one person truly can make a difference and that person is YOU!

 

Oh, Yeah, I Forgot…Oops!

Photo credit: Kyria Abrahams

So with all the whirlwindy dervish stuff going on at the moment, it absolutely failed to attract my notice that both my blog’s birthday and my own have whizzed on by without commemoration.

So, to recap: February 23rd, my blog turned two years old. February 26th, two years homeless/in accommodation limbo. March 6th, turned 26 years old. Eep. I think I just rolled into “over the hill” status.

By a funny coincidence, I ended up spending my birthday in NYC.  My editor flew me out to New York for a couple of business meetings regarding the book release on April 27th.  It was the first time I’d ever met my editor and publicist in person (they are the kindest, sweetest women ever!) and the first time I’d seen my agent since meeting him while I was in NYC a year and a half ago for the Today Show.

They were super sweet and not only flew me out and put me up in a hotel (which was like luxurious nirvana…a real, soft, fluffy bed!!!) but pulled out all the stops to give me a great birthday by introducing me to some of the most fashionable cafés in town.  And my “adopted mom” in London, Vicki Day, called the hotel and had them order me a chocolate cake from the Amish Market up the street, and put it in the fridge for me.  When the concierges heard it was my birthday, they upgraded my room for free.

It was kind of amazing.  I was, predictably, depressed to have to get back on the plane home.  But that’s life; back to reality, nose to the grindstone, etc.  I’m so lucky and grateful that I got to have an experience like that, though!  Thank you so much to Deb, Shara, Chris, Vicki, and Alice!

 

Socrates Sculpture Park in the rain. Photo credit: Kyria Abrahams.

While in the city, I also hung out with my friend and fellow author (of I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed) Kyria Abrahams, who lives there.  I got lost in Grand Central Station, saw the Noguchi Museum, Socrates Sculpture Park, Build It Green!, and was treated to wine and cheese at some adorable little hole-in-the-wall Italian bistro.  Kyria, a photographer, is building her portfolio, so she insisted on taking a bajillion photos of me, which generally tends to make me really really really uncomfortable, but she’s a pro at what she does and isn’t above sometimes being sneaky to get a great shot (she’ll totally dart in and snap one when you’re just strolling along, talking, and not expecting it.  Or drying your hair in the hotel bathroom.  Yeah.)  She also drove me to dinner with my agent, which makes her a braver woman than I.  I could never drive in NYC traffic.  Thank you for the great time, Kyria!  (Read her book, people. Seriously.)

It was raining in New York.  I love the rain.  I love New York City.  Together it was all sort of perfect.

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So now I’m back on the lot and such, still loving the theatre, etc.  The company sent me to work a festival today in Fullerton.  I love Fullerton as a city, but I hate going there now.  It’s where I grew up and my mom lives about a mile and a half from the college where the festival was.  It’s paranoia-inducing any time I go into Fullerton now, especially after the close call last time.  My car is too distinctive and my mom is not above keying a paint job or even getting a little stabby-stab happy with tires.  I’ve seen some things, people.

But the festival was lots of fun and it was the first theatre festival I’ve ever been to in my life; enjoyed it immensely.  I did see one of my high school teachers there, which was kind of weird.  I feel so old.  All the little high school and college kids were adorable and sooooo innocent and pumped up and silly and sweet.  I wonder if I was that cute when I was young (probably not.  I was pretty sullen/angsty/awkward, if I recall correctly).

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Photo credit: Kyria Abrahams

Publishers Weekly reviewed The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness this week and the review was pretty glowing for PW.  They called it a “candid and wickedly humorous memoir…Karp’s voice is instantly appealing and her message that basic respect shouldn’t disappear when you lose your home is a vital one.”

I waited for the “…but”.  It never came.  There was nothing negative in their review.  I thought this was very cool, but didn’t quite understand the magnitude of it (not knowing the ins and outs of the industry).  It turns out that PW is like the Coca Cola of the trade papers and it’s the one review that gets posted smack dab in the middle of your Amazon page and some other retailers’ pages.  It’s the first review of the book that you see, and the most important.  And I guess PW has a reputation for occasionally being kinda harsh/snarky/tough on books.  Especially by new authors.

Now that I know all this, I am very, very thrilled.  And scared.  Mostly thrilled.

Guess what makes me even happier?  The following quote from Augusten freaking Burroughs appears on the back cover:

“Brianna Karp is the perfect example of how a person can triumph not in spite of adversity but as a direct result of it. This smart, pragmatic young woman takes us inside the new face of homelessness in America and her dramatic memoir guides us through our assumptions, fears and judgement into a place of understanding, compassion and respect. Truly essential reading.”

Augusten Burroughs has read my book.  Augusten Burroughs, the author of Running With Scissors, You Better Not Cry, A Wolf at the Table, and Dry…liked my book enough to say super-kind things about it. *brain short circuits*

ZOMG ZOMG ZOMG ZOMG ZOMG.

Yes, I am a fangirl.  I can’t help it.  Authors are my rockstars.

If Jeannette Walls liked it also, my heart would stop and my head would explode and I would die the happiest person on earth.  (Hint, hint, universe.)

So I think I’m going to list some of the advance reviews I’ve gotten on the Read the Book page over the next couple of days, including from ARC galley readers who work at bookstores and such and have reached out to me (don’t worry; if you’re one of those people, I won’t use your name if you emailed me privately, just what state you’re in.  If your review was public though, on a blog or in the media, then I will properly attribute and link it).  I also promise only to quote professional reviews or reviews from strangers who have reached out to me; nothing from friends, because that would be cheating – they’re sort of obliged to tell me they like it, even if it’s a lie!

Exciting, exciting things happening.  Picking up speed.  The next two months are set to be the craziest in my entire life.  I’m game.  Let’s do it.

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(Note:  I’ve got a moving story from Rev. Cynthia Eastman of Common Ground Worldwide, about altering perceptions of homelessness, that I’d like to make into a guest post this week.  Cynthia has agreed to this; so stay tuned!)