So far I’ve been having a beautiful time in Lancaster city. The wild Autumn breezes whip the leaves along the sidewalk as I walk to the nearest coffee shop. I admire the houses I pass—cozy brick structures, but instead of identical row houses, they all have interesting unique designs.
But I’ve had my stressful moments too.
The (Very Minor but Very Weird) Car Accident
Last week as I was driving right through the heart of the city, some crazy lady hit my car.
I was stopped at a stoplight, in the middle lane, when whomp! Someone merged right into me from the left turn lane. I don’t know how she didn’t see me. I wasn’t even in her blind spot—I was in front of her.
The light turned green but I couldn’t move because her car was stuck on my mirror. And when she finally dislodged herself I still wasn’t sure what to do because there was no place to pull over. But I didn’t want to block the street, so I pulled forward to the stoplight, which was red again.
She drove behind me and pulled up beside me in the right lane. We rolled our windows down. “Get out and see if there’s any damage,” said the woman behind the wheel.
So I got out to check, but I didn’t look too closely. I didn’t want to hold up traffic again. “It looks fine,” I told her. “Are you okay?” I added, just to be nice.
“I’ll check,” said the woman. But I didn’t care about her car, so I drove off when the light turned green again and decided that that was the end of that.
Well what do you know, a few blocks later she pulled up next to me again, motioning me to stop. I pulled off on a side street. She pulled up next to me, double parked, and got out. “My car is damaged,” she said, pointing to the long black scrape where her car had gotten stuck on my mirror.
“I mean, you hit me,” I said.
“Do you have good insurance?”
“Sure, we can exchange insurance information if you want to,” I said. As I got out of my car I noticed that my door scraped a bit from a small dent. “I guess it would be good to have your insurance information just in case this dent ends up being costly to fix.”
But as soon as I started asking for her insurance information, she said “no, it’s okay, it’s okay,” and refused to give it to me.
So yeah…very sketchy.
I don’t mind about the dent—my car is already dented—but it certainly doesn’t help my driving anxiety. I flinch now when I see people merging. It feels like anyone could just plow into me for no reason.
The Onions that Locked Me Out of the House
Later that day I went grocery shopping at Strasburg Marketplace, where I found pre-chopped onions. I like onions but I don’t like chopping them, so I thought this was wonderful and bought some.
Spoiler alert: it wasn’t wonderful.
These onions had the strongest onion smell I’ve ever smelled. Every time I cooked with them, the smell pervaded the whole house. I opened doors. I ran the stove fan. But onion smells still dominated.
Not wanting to throw them out completely, I decided to make a rice and bean bowl and toss some raw onions on top. But I ate on the back porch, and I didn’t even open the container of onions until I was completely outside with the door shut.
Now the onion smell would never get into the house.
And, as it unfortunately turned out, neither would I.
Yes, the doorknob was locked, able to be twisted from the inside but not the outside, and I hadn’t realized it.
I had no keys and no shoes—just my cellphone, a pair of socks, dirty dishes, and a container of onions.
My roommate was at work and not answering her phone. I had a vague memory of her telling me how to find the spare key, but I searched through the yard and didn’t find it.
And then I was attacked by mosquitos. In half a minute I had eight giant, dime-sized bites up and down my arms and legs. I fled the yard, out onto the front sidewalk where there were no more mosquitos, and there called my friend Esta asking if I could come hang out at her place.
She picked me up, and there I hung out until my roommate came home.
More About the TV Show
Well, on Tuesday, all the semi-finalists were invited to a live Q and A. Now that that’s happened, I have a bit more information to share.
The difference between the pilot and the TV show
If America’s Next Great Author ever gets picked up as a reality TV show, this is how it will go:
In cities across America, writers will be invited to participate in “pitchapaloozas,” where they stand onstage and “pitch” their book idea to a live audience. Similar to something like American Idol, only instead of singing, writers have one minute to make you care about their book.
Each “pitchapalooza” will have a winner, and six winners will then live together in a house for a month. Most of the show will be about the winners as they each try to write a book during that month, and also do various interesting/creative writing exercises. If they successfully write a book in a month, they will get their book published!
They’re aiming for a fun/kind/creative/supportive vibe, like The Great British Baking Show.
For the pilot, they’re doing a mini version of this. 100 semifinalists (including me) are participating in a pitchapalooza. The winner will receive $2,500 and stay for a second day of shooting. I’m not exactly sure what will happen that second day, but they’re trying to do some things to replicate how things might be in the TV show when the winners are all in a house together.
With this footage, they’ll make a pilot, which will give networks an idea of what a full TV show could look like.
We found out that being in the pilot offers no guarantee that we’ll be in the TV show. If the show gets picked up, we’ll all have to completely re-apply and re-pitch our books if we want to be on it.
They initially told us that whoever wins this pilot pitchapalooza would be “featured” in the TV show if it gets picked up. A lot of us thought “featured” meant “be one of the six writers in the house.” But no…turns out it just means…some of your footage will be in the show? I’m not sure.
I could tell a number of people were disappointed about that.
How the Pitchapalooza will work
Even though there are 100 semi-finalists, only 20 people will get to pitch their book.
They invited more people than they needed, just in case some people wouldn’t be able to show up. Also, part of the tension that will make the show interesting is the way that all of us semi-finalists in the audience will be on the edge of our seats, wondering if we’ll get called to pitch next.
At this point no one, not even the show producers, knows who will be pitching. The names will be chosen randomly while we all sit in the audience hoping to hear our name.
The judges will choose a winner from the 20 pitches, based entirely on the strength of the pitch.
What Not to Wear
We also went over what we should and shouldn’t wear. Basically, we can’t wear logos or mascots because of licensing issues. And some prints, like polka dots and stripes, show up weirdly on camera, so we were advised to avoid them.
Which is cool except I was 100% planning to wear my favorite blue dress, and it has polka dots.
This blue dress has been my go-to dress for over 10 years. It’s comfortable—no tags, buttons, or zippers. It’s also “my color” and looks good on me. Perfect. Case closed.
But it has polka dots!
And I really didn’t have a plan B. Most of my interesting clothes are skirts that I pair with black shirts, and black just seems so boring if I’m gonna be on camera. I also have limited options since I left some of my clothes in Oregon.
I’m nervous about buying something new because I’m so picky about how clothes feel. Being on camera, and the pressure of pitching my book, is just too stressful of a thing to do in uncomfortable clothes.
But then I had an idea:
My poor blue dress is struggling these days. It still looks great from a distance, but up close it’s covered in snags, some of the dots are wearing off, the interfacing has dissolved, and the facing tends to flop out the back.
I’d already been thinking of trying to clone it—I just didn’t have the “push” to get it done.
Well, now I did.
Making My Dress for the Big City
My friends Esta and Janessa are really into color analysis right now. You know how back in the day that book Color Me Beautiful was all the rage, and people would talk about how they can’t wear this particular shirt because they’re an Autumn, not a Spring?
Well apparently color analysis is coming back in style, and I’m not mad about it.
So I asked the two of them if they could help me find fabric that’s my color, and they agreed! Saturday morning we set out for Zinck’s Fabric Outlet.
Essentially they draped me in lots of fabrics, and we set aside the ones that looked especially nice. The lighting was not ideal—harsh and florescent—but they were still able to pinpoint a selection of colors that looked nice on me.
Here are some of the best ones:
Janessa mostly took reference photos of the colors that looked nice, not the ones that looked bad, but here’s one photo where you can see the contrast. The green below was not my color.
Ultimately my favorites were the royal blue, the royal purple, the mint green/light aqua, and the deeper green. After that I narrowed it down by fabric type. The royal blue had the most similar weight and stretch to the original dress, so that’s what I bought, as well as thread and elastic.
You can’t see it in the picture because I’m showing the wrong side, but the deeper green is actually covered in sequins. Not only would a full dress of that fabric be quite “extra,” but I’m afraid I’d find it uncomfortable.
However, I was fascinated by it and decided to get a couple yards as backup. My plan is to make a t-shirt-like blouse and pair it with my pleated black skirt. If it is comfortable and looks better than the blue dress, or if I don’t get the blue dress done, I’ll wear the green shirt instead. Otherwise, I’ll take it along in the off chance that I win the whole thing and need an outfit for Day 2.
Here’s what the sparkly side looks like.
Doing It for the Plot and Content
The other day Jenny was telling me about her life, and said she was doing something “for the plot and content.”
“I don’t know what that means!” I said. “Is that Gen Z slang?”
“It’s part Gen Z slang, part inside joke with Kathrine and I,” said Jenny. She explained that if you “do something for the plot” it’s something you do because you imagine your life as a story that needs a better plot, and “doing something for the content” means you’re doing it to have interesting things to tell your long-distance friends when they call.
I kinda feel like I’m doing this TV pilot for the plot and content.
It’s marketed with a “we can make your dreams come true!” energy similar to, say, American Idol, like you’re supposed to come on the show desperate for the publishing deal that could change your life.
And I love that for people who thrive on that sort of thing, but that’s way too much stress and pressure for me. I want to have fun and make connections, but most of all I think I just want to know what it’s like to film a TV pilot.
I still really want to be one of the twenty people who gets to pitch. What an incredible experience! I really enjoy performance and public speaking so the thought of pitching makes me really excited, as well as nervous of course.
Unless I have to sign some funky nondisclosure agreement or something, I’ll tell you all about it later.
Meanwhile, I’ll plan to post about it on Instagram while I’m there, and also provide updates on clothing preparation and such. I’ve never cloned a dress before so…yeah who knows how this will go.
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