Happy 10 Years! 🎉 The Grand Newsletterversary Extravaganza 🥳

Answering all your questions about fame, the entertainment industry, and Del Taco.

Friends!!!

How are you?? I hope you are having an absolutely spectacular day (which I know is asking a lot, considering it’s a Monday), because today is the 10 year anniversary of when I sent out my very first email newsletter!! WOWZAS!!

I recorded a little video message for you in my old apartment (with my old wallpaper–rip 😢) to celebrate 10 years, and thank you all for being along for this journey. And yes, sweet Zadie the cat does make a special guest appearance:

The first email went out to a whopping 15 people via TinyLetter, mostly personal friends and a few kind people who followed me over from Twitter. Back then, my newsletter was called Weird Personal Emails. The idea was that it would be a quirky, oversharing, too long email you’re getting from your weird friend. I was partially inspired by Miranda July’s newsletter project We Think Alone, in which you kind of got a peek into different artists’ and writers’ inboxes, and I loved the intimacy of email as a writing format. Despite multiple platform shifts and rebrands over the years, I’ve never wanted to lose that.

Here is how that first email opened:

The first newsletter

I hope that remains true to this day, that this newsletter is not a chore to read, and ultimately a bright spot in your week to look forward to.

By the way, if you’re curious about what was in that first email? Two years ago I shared a rather lengthy excerpt from it which you can read here. It was about the worst commencement speech I’ve ever heard, which happened to be at my own college graduation. The speaker was from Doctors Without Borders–great org! Love them, support them!—but he got really graphic and, well, gross.

I talk a little bit about this in the video message, but when I started writing this newsletter, I was 27 years old, living in a one-bedroom apartment in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn with my then-boyfriend now-husband, Ross, and our cat Zadie. I was working in an organic ice cream shop in Cobble Hill that was open early in the morning for some reason, and when it was slow and I was working by myself, I would pull out my laptop behind the counter and write. Some of the first newsletters I ever sent out were written behind that counter, while vibrating from ice cream samples and “practice” cappuccinos (I had to learn the products, didn’t I?). At that point, I had had a couple of freelance humor pieces published on The Hairpin (RIP) and other places, but honestly, I was kind of flailing.

It sounds strange now, but this newsletter was really the first time I’d ever simply written in my own voice about my life and what was going on in my head. Previously, I had written satire, parody, and fictional comedic characters in outrageous situations. But I never wrote about funny things that actually happened to me.

I’ll be honest, at first, I was terrified how people would react. When you write about your own life, you are putting yourself out there in a different way than writing fictional characters. But it was also really empowering at the same time, and I’m so glad I kept doing it, because I think it’s been instrumental in developing my voice as a writer.

If I could travel back in time and give some advice to my 27 year-old self, I think it would be:

- Be patient. Nothing is permanent in this life except for death and children. You might feel stuck, but it won’t be forever.

- Treat your depression and anxiety.

- Invest in relationships with the people who are there for you unconditionally.

- You have your whole life to be married, don’t be so impatient to get engaged.

- Put a piece of yourself into everything you write. That’s the way to give it real value.

- The world is going to get worse, but you’re going to be happier.

A barista self-portrait from my ice cream shop days, 2014

Now, let’s get into some of your questions!

AMA (Ask Me Anything)

What is your advice to someone about moving to NY?

Great question! I’m assuming you mean New York City, and not the state of New York. For reference for newer readers, I lived in Brooklyn in my twenties, from 2010-2015. My biggest piece of advice is to be gentle with yourself at first and give yourself time to adjust. The pace of New York City can be really overwhelming at first. It’s not the easiest, cushiest city to live in, but it is one of the greatest, in my super biased opinion. 

The rest of my advice pretty much applies to moving to any new city. It might take some time to find your ideal neighborhood. Don’t put a lot of pressure on your first apartment to meet all your needs, because it probably won’t. I do think that in large cities, finding a neighborhood you love to live in that is reasonably close to your friends and not a heinous commute to your job is key. Once you get settled into the right neighborhood, it all kind of clicks, but that takes time.

I just realized the way your question is phrased, you might actually be asking whether or not to move to New York City? I know I should say “I can’t answer that for you,” but honestly? I wouldn’t give up the experience of living there for anything. It was a dream of mine since I was a kid, and it was an amazing time in my life. I have multiple friends now who are settled in other cities who always wanted to live in New York, but it never happened, and they have regrets. Not, like, life-destroying regrets, but still. As time goes on and you stay in one place, you tend to put down roots which get harder and harder to pull up. If you have the chance to live in New York, and you’ve always wanted to, I say leap.

Surveillance “selfie” in the Duane Reade by my old apartment in Brooklyn, 2014

Would you ever want to be famous?

How famous would you like to be and why?

Fantastic questions! When I was younger, I thought that fame = success, so yeah, I did kind of want to be famous at one point. I wanted to be the next Amy Poehler or Tina Fey! My career goals and view of success have changed considerably as I’ve gotten older, though (as has my view of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, frankly, but that’s for another newsletter). I would like an audience, and a steady stream of opportunities, and a stable flow of money, but no, I don’t want the absolute loss of privacy that comes with fame. As someone who suffers from anxiety, including sometimes social anxiety, I think that would be hell.

But also? When I started out writing and doing comedy, I thought that having a mass of adoring fans would make me feel warm and loved and supported and never sad or insecure or lonely. But whenever someone I don’t know tells me they like a piece or script I wrote or tells me I’m talented, well… It's nice, don’t get me wrong! Please keep doing that! But it doesn’t feed me the way that I used to think it would. It cheers me up for a moment, or maybe even a day, but then it’s back to my real life where I’m worried about my parents getting older and my cat is throwing up and I’m overdue for a dental cleaning.

Sorry, that came off very depressing! The upside of that is that I now know I write because I find the work fulfilling in itself, not for outside praise and accolades. That makes it easier to keep going.

Ultimately, I think the highest level of fame I’d be comfortable with is somewhere between “beloved podcast host” and “best selling author.” Something where I’d have a sizable audience, but not be instantly recognizable on the street to many. I don’t need randos coming up to me at the gas station, ya know? Who wants that?

Would you ever go on a reality show? Which one?

Stellar question! I have thought about this a lot! I know I would absolutely not go on any kind of show with physical challenges, like Survivor. You couldn’t catch me sleeping in the woods and eating bugs, honey!! Dating shows are out because I’m married. I’ve thought about if there was a show like Project Runway or Drag Race, but for comedy, would I do that? But I don’t think I’m that great at writing/creating under sleep deprivation and stress. Also, sometimes my first drafts suck! And if I sucked on TV, bye-bye career!

The one show I would actually consider going on? The Circle. I think it would be so fun! And I think my experience as a writer, particularly one who is regularly pretty open and vulnerable with people about myself, could make me a serious contender. Whether I went in as a catfish or myself, I would just try to make authentic connections with people. I would also love to go in as a team with my husband. He is great at strategy games, but I think I could soften his strategic approach. If you had to go on a reality show, which one would you go on?

For the ‘gram, 2014

What do you think contributed to your success of keeping a newsletter going for ten whole years?

Gorgeous question! I think the key, for me, is that this newsletter has been one project over which I’ve always had complete creative control and could write about whatever I wanted. I never boxed myself in with a particular format or specific subject, which makes it a little harder to market, but so much fun to write. Because of the casual tone, it is also the easiest thing I write on a regular basis. It really does still feel like I’m writing to my best friends (which I am, many of them anyway! lol).

This is a giant question and maybe more than you want to dive into but I would love to hear you talk about the entertainment/tv industry and how it feels like it's doing to someone working within it? Or maybe if there is anything positive that you see in the future? From the outside it looks incredibly precarious (my favorite show got cancelled in Jan and I'm never going to get over it unless someone picks it up someday) and I honestly don't know how anyone keeps doing it, but that depresses the hell out of me because I think it matters a lot, in a big existential "humans are creative and love to play and make things" kind of way.

Tremendous question! I’m so sorry about your favorite show, that really sucks. I hope someone picks it up.

I’ll be real with you. I got laid off last August, and the reason given was because of the slowdown of business due to the writers’ and SAG strikes, and I have still not found full-time work despite rigorously searching, applying, and interviewing with 15 years of experience. I know that a lot of people do not feel optimistic about the film & TV industry at this moment, that the work is just not picking back up, and I have had a number of writer friends recently express to me that they’re just done with the industry completely. That is sad to me, because I think they’re talented, but I can’t deny I get where they’re coming from.

I also can’t deny that this year, I have spent a lot more of my time working on my book of essays/memoir thingy than writing scripts. It feels harder than ever to break into this industry, especially when even established writers are looking for second jobs. The rich at the top keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer, just like in so many other places. It’s really easy to get disillusioned about how bleak everything seems, and that’s not even getting into the looming threat of AI.

First trip to L.A., 2015

I was thinking recently about a kid graduating college today, and what I would tell them if they wanted to work in the entertainment industry. I know that if that were me, nothing you could say would discourage me. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. That kid should have their chance to try. So many people don’t go after their big dreams. So many people can’t. I still think there is something so beautiful about fighting for a dream, even if it breaks your heart.

Sometimes you can’t even see all the forces working against you until years later. You think you are pushing a 100-lb rock and it turns out it was a 1000-lb boulder. That’s what it felt like when I left NYC for LA. Like, oh, I wasn’t doing anything wrong, the opportunities just weren’t there.

There has always been darkness around this industry, right? There have always been closed doors, and evil people preying on others’ desperation to pry those doors open. But there also have always been those few, special, truly unique artists who slip through those doors somehow, and we’re all better for it. Right now, it feels like fewer and fewer people are making it through those doors. But I think we will always have great art amongst the Unfrosteds of this world, and we just have to look for those artists and lift them up.

I would probably tell a recent grad wanting to pursue film/TV writing to consider not tying their day job to this industry, to choose something more stable. But sometimes you don’t always get that choice. 

So, TL;DR? I think the industry is in a pretty bleak place right now, but that’s not sustainable. Something’s gotta give. It might take years to change, though, and not all of us have those years or are willing to wait. In the meantime, though, some great artists will still break through. I look forward to celebrating them.

Zadie has gotten tremendously better about being picked up in the past 10 years

How has the record review business changed over the past 15-20 yrs?

Fantastic question! I don’t know if I am the best person to answer this, since I actually haven’t written an album review since 2017 (for newbies, I was the Music Editor at BUST Magazine from 2014-2017, and was a contributor to the All Things Go blog before that). I think the biggest change of the past 10 years or so with record reviews is there just aren’t as many outlets still around who are paying writers for them, and especially not keeping writers on staff full-time. It feels like every time I turn around, another publication that provides criticism is getting gutted with layoffs: Vice, Pitchfork, A.V. Club. It’s sad! And that means it’s that much harder for emerging artists to gain traction through the press. I don’t know, man, the music industry certainly seems to have its own set of problems, from friends of mine who are in it.

What’s the deal with Del Taco?

Beautiful question! This is not common for me at all, but I actually just had some Del Taco yesterday. We were moving, and grabbed some eight-layer veggie burritos on a quick lunch break. Honestly? They were pretty good!

For those outside the US or who don’t know, Del Taco is an American Mexican fast food chain that operates primarily on the west coast of the U.S., although with a few other locations sprinkled around the country. Here is a map of Del Taco locations in the United States as of January 2023:

I think Del Taco is okay. I’ve had it on road trips, and one time when trivia night ran kind of late and we hadn’t had dinner yet and just needed to grab something. I wouldn’t go out of my way for it. It’s no Taco Bell, or even Chipotle. Those both hit specific cravings for me, whereas there’s nothing on the Del Taco menu that I really crave. Also, I think Taco Bell’s hot sauce is far superior.

By the way, please tell me that right now, you’re not being one of those people who are like, “With so much good, affordable real Mexican food in L.A., why do people even eat at fast food Mexican places?” Fast food Mexican hits a completely different craving than authentic Mexican. I can’t go to a serious taco stand in L.A. and order a chicken chalupa combo with creamy jalapeno sauce. Be for real.

Where do you want to be on your 40th birthday? It can be a specific geographic location(back in Tokyo?) or a state of mind, a career accomplishment, housing situation? My 40th is next May so my question is more like where do I want to be on my 45th bday, LOL-it's too late to plan something really wild haha!-although I am hoping for some big life changes in the next year. Is freaking out about your 40th birthday more of a gen X thing and elder millenials need to just get over ourselves-age is just a number? I'm not freaking out about being 40 (soon!) but I can go into an existential mind spiral if I let myself think about it too much.

Amazing question! I’m 37, and I think I was more freaked out about turning 30 than I am freaking out about turning 40. I’m already thinking of myself as “basically 40.” As I’ve gotten older and known more friends in their 40s, it just really doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. Maybe freaking out about getting older is a young person’s game.

In my fantasies, I used to imagine I would be a wealthy screenwriter by age 40, and could take all my friends on a trip to Hawaii for my 40th. But I can’t afford to take MYSELF to Hawaii right now, and native Hawaiians don’t want tourists there anyway. Plus, like 70% of my friends will also be turning 40 that year, so it seems a little much to be all “ME ME ME I’M THE BIRTHDAY KING!” (Not that I’m above that.) I think it would be fun to celebrate my birthday with friends in NYC, or maybe just have a stupid weekend in Vegas or Palm Springs. 

Ross and I at the premiere of the short film No Bones About It, 2015

In many ways, when I picture turning 40, I hope a lot of things have stayed the same as the way they are now. When I turn 40 in October 2026, I hope my husband and I will have just celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary, I hope our cat Zadie is still with us, and I hope our parents are all still with us and healthy and doing well. I hope we’re still in the apartment we just moved into this weekend, because moving sucks, unless we somehow got a house. I hope we are still friends with the people we call friends now. And I hope I’m still writing furiously.

Things that I hope are different: I hope I have a more stable source of income, and it would be nice to have sold a book or a script and have an agent or manager. But I’m not going to put a harsh timeline on that, because it’s ultimately out of my control. I’ve also been feeling a little adrift in L.A. lately as far as community and not really having a constant group of local friends–my friends here are people I know in all different ways and they don’t often intersect, and that can get lonely. So, maybe more community for my forties. We’ll see!

***

Alright my dears and darlings, I think we’ll leave it here! I have some more content from the survey I want to discuss, but this is getting quite long. Maybe we’ll have an afterparty? I’ll leave the survey open for now, so feel free to hit it up if you missed it, and we can talk more soon.

Thank you so much again for joining me in this silly little newsletter!

If you have a second, I’d love it if you’d like or comment on this post–just click this link to go to the post page. Or just hit reply and say hi! I love hearing from you. :)

Until next time—cheers to 10 years of weird personal emails! 🥂

Love,

Liz

XOXO

Join the conversation

or to participate.