Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Interview with Girl Warrior Jo Dworschak.

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There’s no age limit to being a Girl Warrior. She doesn’t look a particular way. She comes in all ages, sizes, shapes and colors. She’s out there. And inside every girl who enters the world. She’s the face of hope at the bottom of Pandora’s Box.

She is not afraid of her fierce magical powers. It is here that we have come to celebrate. Honor. Appreciate. And applaud.

Today we raise our fists high and put our hands together in celebration of our first Feature Girl Warrior, the extraordinary and inspiring Jo Dworschak. Comedian, broadcaster and writer and best known for her hit game show Story Story Lie and co-hosting of the LGBT show Fruit Salad on Coop Radio.

What makes you a Girl Warrior?

That’s a hard question. I feel like the wins I’ve had came from struggles and they tend to remain a struggle. I guess that’s part of being a warrior? I keep doing it. Even when trying is hard and I really want to just take a nap…well I take a nap but then I wake up and get shit done.

We love Story Story Lie. How did that come about?

I was on a train ride from Brighton to London, actually on the wrong train cause I wanted to get moving and thought it would be an adventure to get on a different train and see what happened. Luckily the train went to London, but the opposite side of London and it was so late at night it took me two hours on buses with drunks to get back to my room. Everything that happened that night was unbelievable. Truth is so much stranger then fiction, that’s how the show came to be. Two true stories and one lie, can you tell them apart? I know who the liar is and I still get confused! Also I wanted a show that gave the audience a voice, made people feel clever for being able to interrogate the performers. I’m so lucky everyone has loved it!

What has been your biggest challenge?

Biggest challenge has been asking. Asking for the venue to host the show. Asking performers to join as contestants. Asking media to cover the show and asking CBC Radio to add the show to its line up (I’m still waiting to hear back). Asking invites the potential to get what I want, but also to not get it. That waiting time is still hard for me. There are times I’m rejected, but people are usually quite nice about it.

What obstacles have you overcome and walls have you broken down?

I’m a single parent. I’m lucky to have a son that is supportive of my dreams. It is hard to leave at night and perform when I can’t bring him with me. Though I realize he’s a teenager now and fine being at home with snacks and WiFi. I’ve suffered for years on and off with clinical depression. Some days getting out of bed, and on a stage, is very hard. Some days I have no clue why I still do it. But finding that story or that joke that connects with the audience, that helps them forget about their own problems or think differently about the problems of others make it worth it.

What would you say to your younger Girl Warrior? 

You’re voice is important! Anyone who tells you that your voice isn’t important, know just how important your voice really is.

What would you say to future Girl Warriors looking for inspiration?

Living a life without failure isn’t a life I’d want to live. We need to ask for what we want. We get a lot of yeses! And often the no’s tend to be for the best.

Who is/are your Girl Warrior hero(s)?

Frida Khalo, she was a cross-dressing bisexual who overcame a lot of pain and brought beauty into the world when she saw none. Also she had a lot of pets! That’s so cool!

What’s next?

This summer I’m flying my son and I to St. John’s Newfoundland. We are on a tight budget to buy a crappy car and drive back. The goal is to meet as many diverse families as possible and interview them for an audio doc project I’m calling Families Across Canada. We want to find the things we all have in common and the things we can learn from each other. I truly believe sharing each others stories breaks down walls and builds strong bridges.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

On stage, on air and writing! I want to be able to live as a Creative. I would love for Story Story Lie to be bigger! To be traveling with that show and bringing diverse voices to the stage. I’d love to work on CBC Radio! Entertaining the masses and making people laugh. And having a hit show on CBC Radio.

Follow Jo on Twitter and Instagram @storystorylie. If you’re in the Victoria area on April 1, be sure to catch Story Story Lie at The Mint Victoria and see if you can spot the liar!

Get tickets to the show here: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/story-story-lie-victoria-edition-tickets-31672884450

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: We All Want to be Liked.

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Last week I watched an episode of Frontline called Generation Like. It was an enormously compelling, at times inspirational, but ultimately for me, a disturbing look into the desire by teens to be “liked” on social media platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

On the one hand it was inspiring to see the accomplishments of some of these young social media “stars”, especially the ones with real talent. As the show illustrated, it’s a whole different world of connectivity, where a poor kid with buckets of personality, who also happens to be a crazy-ass gifted skateboarder, can achieve fame on YouTube, and maybe, just maybe, a fortune as well. This kid is a head-to-toe living-breathing billboard for Big Brands, all featured brightly on his YouTube videos. I say, good for him and all the others like him, who are using Social Media and these Big Brands to promote themselves and possibly transform their lives for the better. Of course, the darker side of all of this is that these kids are also being used and perhaps exploited. But that’s a whole other story, for another day, another blog post.

What really resonated with me in this documentary was the insatiable desire by all these kids to acquire the coveted LIKES, the currency of self-worth. There’s a wellspring of elation and euphoria if the LIKES are high for a particular post, but should the LIKE count dip, distress and despair follow. This is the tragic roller-coaster rise and fall of self-esteem and value in Social Media Land.

But here’s the rub. It’s not just teenagers who feel this way. I’m a fully-formed adult with a lifetime of experience in my rear view mirror, and at the risk of full disclosure, I understand how these kids feel. I get it. I was a teenager who was tailored made for Social Media, had it been around back then in the prehistoric days of dinosaurs and diskettes.

Truth is I wish I didn’t get it, that none of this made sense. Like the weirdness of Alice in Wonderland or Ozzy Osbourne. All this exhausting vying for attention, the begging and pleading to be noticed, acknowledged, complimented, desired and admired. The persistent popularity contest. The trendy or trending. The endless sharing. The viral. The cool. Fashionable. Commercial. And ultimately the marketable. It’s all so consuming.

As a writer, storyteller and blogger I’d be lying if I said that none of this mattered to me, that I was completely oblivious and above the fray. Yet every time I post one of my stories on Facebook, Twitter, Cowbird or Tumblr I say a small silent prayer that it will resonate with at least one person in cyberspace. And because I’m not a complete narcissistic ass, I also pray that my words will do some good. Serve humanity. Push the conversation towards optimistic, positive, hopeful, encouraging and promising places in the hearts of others.

But there are times, many times, when nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, happens. It’s like no one is out there. There’s a moment afterwards when I feel disappointed. Discouraged. Disheartened. Dispirited. Depressed.

I feel UN-LIKED.

When this happens, I’m plagued with self-doubt and insecurity. My Nasty Nelly inside-voice shouts, “You are not now, and never will be, among the great writers of your time. You are invisible and no one gives a shit what you have to say. So shut the fuck up. Quit.”

Then I brush it off. Like the dandruff on my shoulders. Or the dog fur on my pants.

Because I can. Because I won’t quit. And because I know better. None of this has anything to do with my self-worth. Or my ability to tell a story, for that matter. I gently and kindly remind myself, that I write because this is what I love to do. This is my big fat stupendous and spectacular passion. My magnificent obsession. I remind myself that this is one of the reasons I was put on earth, at this unique and particular time in history.

So I give it another shot. I kick the can down the road one more time. I write another story. Because in the end, when I drill down to the core of what motivates me. I write because I love the art and the process and the doing of it.

These days, I’m working on not giving a shit about the outcome, or how my stuff will be received. Good bad or otherwise.

The LIKES or HEARTS or THUMBS-UP are like the extra toppings on the Sundae. Nice. But not necessary.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/generation-like/?fb_action_ids=10152966835316644&fb_action_types=og.recommends

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Don’t be a Hater.

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I hate haters.  If that’s you, then please leave.  Now.  I mean it.  Get out of here.  Get off my cloud.  Off my blog.  Off my Facebook, twitter and tumblr.  Get lost.  You’re not wanted here.

That liberating mini-rant was inspired by a Facebook post by Cheryl Strayed, who wrote a book called WILD and a column in The Rumpus called Dear Sugar. Here’s the post in its entirety because Cheryl’s a much more effective and brilliant ranter than I.

“Sometimes I’m asked how I deal with the haters. I don’t deal with them. I pity them. I don’t expect everyone to love my books. In fact, I frankly expect the opposite. (In the history of books, there isn’t one everyone loves.) But I must say I marvel at the ugliness it takes to gather one’s forces in the direction of what one loathes rather than loves–to go out of one’s way to say to a writer: YOU SUCK. So I send out a little silent non-God-connected prayer to the jackass who felt the need to share his or her jack-assed-ness with me. And then, without comment, I zap them forever from this page.”

I understand how she feels.  I’ve been lucky. Most of the reviews of my novel and the comments left on my blog have been kind.  Perplexing at times.  But generally magnanimous and insightful. Then again they’re mostly from friends, family and nice strangers.  I haven’t sold millions of books, nor do I have thousands of Facebook fans and I don’t write a column, do public speaking or author readings, like Cheryl.  Essentially I’m an invisible writer so I’m safe.  So far.  But I fear the haters are out there.

I’ve been writing since I was a kid.  It started with diaries.  If you’re a girl from my generation then you know the kind I’m talking about.  Pocket-sized, with a leatherette cover, and a tiny gold lock and key to keep a young girl’s private thoughts secure and safe. The pages were ruled and had shiny gold leaf edges. I had to write very small and neatly because the spaces between the lines were narrow and the pages no bigger than a 5×7 photograph. The diary’s compact size, however, didn’t diminish the size of my ideas, thoughts and dreams. To this day, I keep a diary.  No longer under lock and key.  Simple utilitarian Hilroy notebooks filled with some of my best writing.

Then there’s this blog. One big mother of a diary.  Out there in cyber space for the world to read.  To love.  And to hate.

The last two years spent writing this very public diary have been an interesting ride. Big eye opener. A revelation on intent, perception and interpretation.  Here’s the thing.  I’ve been sitting at my computer every Saturday thinking I’m writing sweet straightforward stories about my life, past and present.  Nothing edgy, not at all controversial.  But every now and then I read a comment left on a post and I think, what the fuck?  What’s really going on here?  What did I say that offended you so?

Take my post last year on Halloween for instance.  I thought it was just an amusing tale about how I hate that particular holiday and all the reasons why.  For anyone who has been to Northwestern Ontario at the end of October, you know what I mean.  Think of the early sixties, sad costumes cut from sheets, snow, slush, snowsuits, parkas, molasses kisses, snot streaking across your feverish face and you get the picture.  But some readers didn’t get it. Nor were they amused by my satirical tongue planted firmly in my facetious cheek.  For them, I had violated everything that was sacred about playing dress-up once a year. I was the Halloween version of Ebenezer Scrooge.  An angry fun-spoiler.

Even when I thought I was writing an deeply empathic story about the tragic death of a young boy riding his bike for charity, and how my heart broke for his mother, one person read something completely different. I had somehow insulted her.  She sent me a private message (thank God) to chastise me for not writing about her suffering. “What about me?” she essentially asked.  I was gobsmacked, and like Cheryl I zapped her from my Facebook page.

My all-time favorite head-shaker came when I read the comments to my post on “Regrets.”  Some people couldn’t handle that notion at all.  It made them squirm with discomfort. Complete strangers left their sage advice on how I shouldn’t regret anything in life. Little mini pep talks were posted to inspire me to rise from my funk of regret.  Nuggets of homespun wisdom on the virtues of living a life free of regret flooded my inbox. “You did the best with what you knew at the time,” brand of pop psychology was offered up like manna from heaven.  What I found most disconcerting about all this inspirational well-meaning advice was the judgmental and admonishing overtones.  But their comments also made me smile.  Like Yoda.  I know all that shit.  I know it and I still have regrets. I’m okay with that. So there.

The act of authentic writing is like performing open heart surgery on yourself.  Without anesthetic. You slice open your chest, rip apart your flesh, hack into your bones and pull it all out.  You have to be willing to be vulnerable.  Fragile.  Breakable.  Frightened at times. Scared out of your wits.  Where did this come from?  Where is it going?  But to write this way you also have to be courageous. Fierce.  Raw.  Genuine.  Willing to take big emotional risks.  Go to the dark and scary places of your soul. Tell the truth.

I not only write from the heart.  I give you my heart.

Don’t trash or break it.  Just because you can.  Like Cheryl said, what we write isn’t for everyone.  I don’t like every writer, story, blog, book, novel, essay, email.  How could I?  I respectfully put what I don’t like aside and seek other things to read.  This doesn’t mean that something I don’t fancy isn’t well-written or worthwhile either.  It just means it’s not my cup of tea.

One of the big reasons I pass on a lot great literature is because it’s beyond me.  It’s either written in a style I’m incapable of comprehending or I find laborious and tedious. Like reading the Bible from cover to cover as my husband did one year.  That was sheer madness to me but he found it engrossing and meaningful.  Often it’s a genre that doesn’t fascinate me.  My son loves Tolkien, for example.  I can’t get past the first page, although I do love the movies.  We both agree on Harry Potter.  I love Anne Tyler.  I don’t think he knows who she is.

Just so we’re clear here, I have many different opinions and contrary thoughts on writers and their words. And if asked, I’ll offer them. (Sometimes even without being asked.)  But a carefully considered and thoughtfully crafted perspective on any given piece is far different from a reckless and careless comment spit out like stale bubble gum.

How does saying, YOU SUCK advance humanity?  How does that make us better?  How is that comment meaningful to anyone? What does it have to do with anything?  Does it encourage dialogue and advance the conversation? Does it connect us with compassion and empathy? Of course not.  It serves no purpose.  So the only intelligent thing to do is to zap it like Cheryl does.

I’m not a super genius.  I’m not even all that smart, frankly. Perhaps wise on occasion.  I’m a work in progress for sure.  So is my writing.  I like to think it gets a bit better every day.  Just like me.

Who knows? Maybe I SUCK.  But let me be the first to say it.

Link to Cheryl’s website to learn more about her: http://www.cherylstrayed.com/