So It Appears That I’m Living the Dream

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A last hurrah in Binghamton, April 19, 2007

Binghamton, 2006.  I’m 23, living in a fire-trap basement apartment in the ghetto.  I’m that kind of art-poverty broke where I live on black coffee and scrambled eggs and dinner is paid on for on a rotating basis between whichever one of us got paid that week.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do with my life except that I know I want to write and listen to records.  Out of college just over a year, I’m kicking myself for not having spent more time in music classes because I’ve got a subscription to Spin and being a music journalist would have been a kick-ass career.

I started a blog, Kill Your Ipod and reviewed shitty CDs from indie bands that I solicited over email.  No one read it except a couple of stalkers.  I wasn’t even sure how to write about music.  I lacked the technical language; all I had was this intense passion, this gut feeling whenever I listened to Tom Waits or Warren Zevon or the patchwork of mix CDs that stood in for conversation with boys I liked.  I hung around the record store and worked at FYE like a model waiting tables, hoping the right person might notice me and ask me to move back to NYC to write for some new music magazine.

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Ahead By a Century

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I discovered the Tragically Hip in 2005, when I was working at a tiny sandwich shop in Cobleskill.  The owner, who’s name I have long forgotten, would put on In Between Evolution.  It was magic. It was like love.  I asked her to burn me a copy, because I was so poor from the lousy wages she paid that I could barely afford rent on the apartment I shared with my sister, let alone a CD.  She obliged, and that album became the soundtrack to one last hometown summer and of the strange year in New York that would eventually inspire The Big Rewind.

I still think of a late-night run along the promenade in Brooklyn when I hear “Goodnight Josephine.”  I played “It Can’t Be Nashville Every Night” on my honeymoon as we drove through Tennessee.  And “In View” was the first song I played for Jason when we got back together.

And last night, my love for The Hip was rekindled as they performed for three hours in their final concert, broadcast live on the CBC. And not final as in “We’ll get back together in five years and tour again and you’ll pay big money to see it, suckers.”  Final as in no more, the end, forever, because Gord Downie has terminal brain cancer at age 52.

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Tear Down To The Bones

scissors_PNG1When I was a teenager, I LOVED buying thrift-store clothes and altering them.  (Like everything I did, I did this before it was cool.  What can I say? I’m a trend-setter).  I was a teen in the age on JNCOs and pointy-toe stiletto boots, and a goth girl, to boot.  I had to make due with what I had, but as a result, I had some amazingly cool clothes.

And although my days of wearing cigarette-cut pants trimmed with neon purple boas are over, the ability to tear something down and salvage the good pieces again is really coming in handy on my Work in Progress.

I’ve written almost two full first drafts of a new novel, and both of them are going to be scrapped.  The first draft was like a pair of fancy cut-offs: Cut out the pieces with the holes worn through, but embellish what’s left.  The second draft, it seems, is going to be more like an old concert shirt, stretched and faded beyond use.  Cut out the best part and see if there’s something else you can sew it onto–a tank top, a tote bag, a throw pillow.  Make something useful out of scraps.

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New Notebook: Arche/SuperCola

Introducing Arche/SuperCola!

Introducing Arche/SuperCola!

Time for a new notebook!

I can’t believe how fast I went through Lucca.  This new WIP (working title: The Lords of Yesterday) has me scrawling scenes even more than I did in the early days of The Big Rewind.  It’s a much different book for me, so I’m letting myself play with POV and scene variation, as well as a TON of beautiful collage work.  I’ve really gone kinda crazy, and I regret nothing.

Lucca was experimental in paper usage and texture.  The map pages were pretty, but writing on them proved useless, so they ended up being collage pages.  The parchment was a nice surface and added color, but tended to smudge with the big fat gooey ink pen I use because my hands are basically claws now.  I don’t think I’d do the origami paper on the spine again.  It looked pretty, but took up valuable page space.

My original intent was to make a double-sided journal, like an old pulp novel–on one side, Crime Writing, flip it over, General Work.  But I’ve still got about half of Mona left, so the pages would end up being wasted.  I needed a new notebook, and I needed one fast, so I put what I had on hand to good use.

Arche/SuperCola is very basic in design, but represents the finest of all my techniques combined — multiple paper types, end pages, French stitch and metal accouterments.  I had bought the hinges for another project, but they proved to be merely decorative and basically non-functioning.

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True Confessions: Billy Joel Edition

I’ve had more than one person confront me on my deep loathing of Billy Joel since the publication of The Big Rewind and a series of tweets decrying the fact that “Only The Good Die Young” is a serious neg and terrible song in it’s own right.  But I value you, dear readers, and so I feel that it’s time to come clean with this black mark on my soul.

You want to know why I hate Billy Joel?  Because I used to fucking love Billy Joel.

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Mix Tape Monday: Worst Song On A Mix?

Billy Joel Sux

Welcome back to Mix Tape Monday, the blog series that doesn’t care that no one owns a boombox anymore.  Last week, while setting my radio alarm, I heard Billy Joel’s “Only The Good Die Young.”  And it suddenly occurred to me EXACTLY how much of a dick Billy Joel was being to this girl.  Virginia has clearly said no to the sex, (which, given that it’s Billy Joel, is probably a good plan) and instead of being like “well, okay, I respect your decision to do what you feel is right with your body,” he proceeds to insult her by shaming her faith.  “Don’t let me wait/you Catholic girls start much too late/sooner or later it comes down to fate/I might as well be the one.”

I seriously fucking hate this guy.

I seriously fucking hate this guy.

Translation: Your needs and values are meaningless because I want sex, and eventually you’re going to give it up to someone, so you might as well fuck me.  There’s no mention of love, or even that they’re dating.  He wants to bone her, she said no, and he’s negging on her.  This is not a romantic song, and Billy Joel has once again shown that he is a horndog douche.

I tweeted this, and my friend Emily replied that a boy had actually put this on a mix for her, despite her not even being Catholic.  He used a mix tape for evil!  That’s just wrong.

So I ask…what was the worst song anyone has ever put on a mix for you?  Bad in sound or intention or both?

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Pen in Hand

I carried two bags to school every day.  One was my backpack, which was adorned with keychains and patches because it was 2000 and that’s what we did back then, and the other was this awesome white leather messenger bag, the coolness factor of which can never be replicated.

In this messenger bag was everything I needed to write my novel–notebooks, printed pages, pens.  I wrote in math class, during study hall, lunch.  My whole world was consumed with my writing.

So when I was accepted to the Pen in Hand writer’s conference in Little Falls, I couldn’t believe how fucking lucky I was.  Finally, my writing was being taken seriously!  For 24 hours, I would be surrounded by other writers.  I would get to meet authors and they would talk to me!  It was everything I’d hoped for and more.  I made friends there that I still have today.  It’s where I first drank coffee.  It was better than my prom.

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Mix Tape Monday: The Apology Mix

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There’s a lot more to making a mix than just throwing a bunch of songs onto a Spotify playlist or a CD.  It’s about creating a mood or emphasizing an emotion, playing to a theme or singing what you can’t speak aloud.  You don’t make someone a mix unless they’re really important.

So I have a new feature here on the blog–MIX TAPE MONDAY.  I’ll dissect mixes I’ve made for other people, and maybe even a few people have made for me, to dissect what works.  A note before we begin: we’ll use the term “Mix Tape” as a general term here, because “Mix CD” or “Playlist” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

The Big Rewind CoverUp first, we have the APOLOGY MIX.  I’ve made a few of these in my day, but this one, titled The All Or Nothing Days (2014) is especially poignant because it was made for my friend Jason.  The epic fight we had, which lead to seven years of silence between us, was part of the inspiration for The Big Rewind, and the first thing we did when we reconnected (thanks to our awesome friend Corey, seriously, she rules and I owe her my whole life.) was make each other mixes.  I would be lying if I said I hadn’t planned a lot of this mix ahead of time, and I was glad I finally had a chance to use it.

A quick word about Jason: He was my mix tape protege, and has taken the art form to a new level.  He can pick songs and clips that are so precise, so devastatingly perfect, that it borders on sadistic.  He has made several of my all-time favorite mixes, including She Doesn’t Think My Tractor’s Sexy Anymore (2005) which should be in some sort of mix CD museum for it’s sheer brilliance.

The Apology Mix is meant to be listened to on headphones.  It’s a close, intimate type of mix, so make sure each of your messages comes through loud and clear.  You won’t around to explain the meaning of each song, so be precise in your choices.

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What The Heck Is #RecordSaturday?

I love sharing music with people.  It compliments both my generous and my bossy nature (“Seriously, you’ll like this Steely Dan song, I swear….”) and for years, it’s what propelled my love of making mix tapes.  To be able to give someone a song that reminds you of them is a profound gesture, a portable party, a way of saying “You Are Rad.”

So I created RecordSaturday as a group listening party, since my 900 friends on Twitter probably can’t fit in my apartment.  I live-tweet an album from my collection (@libbycudmore) every Saturday night at 8 p.m., with stories about my personal connection to the album, cool record facts and a theme — I shared pictures of my best girlfriends with Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual for Galentine’s Day, and a Star Wars theme alongside Men At Work’s Business As Usual.

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….And Introducing Valerie

Valerie with Book

Valerie is my good luck charm.  She has been at every reading I’ve ever given; either in my pocket or on the podium right next to me.  If I’m in a play, I carry her onstage in my purse.  She was with me when I walked across the stage to collect my MFA, tied into the sleeve of my graduation gown.  Nothing goes wrong when Valerie’s around.  I carried her on my wedding day and even brought her on my honeymoon!

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