Fangirl Thursday: Coming Home

American_Idol_logo

When a television show you love ends, it can feel like leaving home. But when a television show ends years after you stopped really loving it, it can feel like hearing that the house you grew up in—but have since moved far away from—is going to be torn down. You might not have the same connection to that place anymore, but you still feel that loss, and that loss makes you think about who you were when you lived there and how much has changed since then.

I haven’t watched American Idol in years, but for a brief time, that show and its fandom were my home. So before it ends tonight, I wanted to look back—not so much at the show itself (because people far more talented than I am have done that already) but at its impact on my own life as a fangirl.

I was an Idol devotee for its first two seasons. I had a picture of Justin Guarini in my high school locker and worshipped Kelly Clarkson. (Let’s be honest: I still worship Kelly Clarkson.) I saw the Season Two contestants on tour, and, yes, I will admit to casting more than one vote for Clay Aiken. That show was something my family—even my extended family—wanted to watch and talk about together, which was rare at the time.

But as time passed, I drifted away from Idol, only returning for occasional episodes and each season’s finale. In fact, it was during the Season Eight finale that I saw Kris Allen and Adam Lambert perform “We Are the Champions,” and I knew right away that I was in trouble. Allen had the cute, singer-songwriter vibe I always adore, and you had to be crazy not to be drawn to Lambert’s incredible voice and magnetic stage presence. When coupled with the genuine friendship I saw on display when Kris was named the winner, I knew it was only a matter of time before I fell down an Internet rabbit hole, trying to catch up on everything I missed during the season.

During my trip down that rabbit hole early in the summer of 2009, I encountered a LiveJournal community about American Idol, and it felt like finding a home. The people there were smart, funny, and just as obsessed with the show and its contestants as I was. It was the same magical feeling I got when I discovered my first Star Wars fan site and visited MuggleNet for the first time. I didn’t feel alone anymore. But I didn’t have much experience with actual fandom participation. Sure, I’d posted on message boards about So You Think You Can Dance and even had my own blog about my hometown hockey team, but this was bigger and crazier than a message board and much wider in scope than the Buffalo Sabres fandom. I was scared to make that jump from lurker to participant in the discussions.

But then it hit me: I wanted to be a part of this. I didn’t want to watch everyone else having fun and making friends like I did in the Alias fandom back when I was in high school. I wanted to have fun and make friends myself. So the night of the first stop on the Season Eight tour, I stopped lurking and started commenting, and I never looked back.

Continue reading

Four Years of Fun and Feelings

Today, Nerdy Girl Notes turns four years old. In my first post on this site, I wrote a sentence that I still believe with every fiber of my being:

I can’t imagine a better, more fulfilling life than the life of a nerdy girl.

A lot of things can change in four years. And a lot of things have changed over the last four years—not just for NGN as a site but for me as a person. But my goal from the start has always been to keep NGN moving forward, and I’d like to think I’ve done that—moving forward in the process of becoming not just a better writer but a better version of myself through running this site.

When I look back on some of my oldest NGN posts, I’m struck by how much distance I kept between myself and what I was writing about. I was afraid to get too personal—and the secret is, sometimes I still am. It’s scary to be vulnerable, it’s scary to talk about how much something means to you, and it’s scary to talk about yourself through a medium that makes that writing available to anyone who wants to read it and comment on it. In my quest to be as open as I can be in my writing, I’ve discovered that emotional honesty is a double-edged sword. It allows you to form genuine connections with people through your writing, but it also allows people who don’t like a particular thing you’ve written or an opinion you’ve shared to believe they can judge you as a person because of it. There have been plenty of occasions—this year perhaps more than any other—where it’s felt easier to just hide behind a more impersonal approach to writing or to just stop writing altogether. Because writing with honesty and vulnerability is hard.

But to quote one of my favorite movies, A League of Their Own: “It’s supposed to be hard…The hard is what makes it great.” And it is great. And part of the reason it’s so great is because it’s scary. Running this site and sharing my writing with all of you has made me feel braver than I could ever have hoped to feel. And this year I’ve felt braver than ever before.

Continue reading

Fangirl Thursday: The Best Seat in the House

When you love television as much as I do, where you watch matters almost as much as what you’re watching. Everyone has their favorite place to watch their favorite shows. It can be an oversized chair in a room where friends and family gather to watch things together or a darkened bedroom where you escape with your laptop and Netflix.

Sometimes it’s a cozy couch with room for the people you love to share the shows you love. My couch has quite the reputation as a great TV-watching couch. It was where I cried when Castle walked away from Beckett to end Castle’s second season. It was where I spent a glorious few days hosting mini marathons of Parks and Recreation episodes when Heather came to Buffalo a couple of years ago. And it’s where I watch every episode of Once Upon a Time with my sister and my mom on Sunday nights.

My couch is an ideal place to watch television—it’s huge and comfortable and right in front of a big HD screen. However, it’s not my favorite place to watch television. That honor belongs to a corner of my kitchen where a small television stands next to a coffee pot and a bowl of fresh fruit.

Continue reading

Fangirl Thursday: The Case for Crying

do you cry

Hi, my name is Katie, and I’m a crier.

I cry all the time. I cry when I’m sad, when I’m happy, and sometimes when I’m really angry. I cry when I’m overwhelmed, when I’m scared, and sometimes when I’m really proud of myself or someone I love—or even someone I don’t know. And I cry all the time when I watch TV, go to the movies or theater, or read a book.

I think I’m supposed to be ashamed of that. I’m supposed to think that makes me weak and that I need to try harder to keep my emotions below the surface. But that’s never been who I am. And I’m done feeling bad about that.

I was only nine when a movie made me cry for the first time not because I was scared, but because I felt so deeply. It was an animated movie about cats in Old Hollywood called Cats Don’t Dance, and I cried so hard when it looked like the main cat was going to have to give up his dancing dreams to move back to his hometown that my mother had to turn the movie off and tell me things were going to be okay.

I feel things deeply; I always have. However, we’re taught from an early age that it’s dangerous to feel things deeply. We’re taught to be afraid of intense emotions. But the intensity with which we feel things and the ways we express how we feel are some of the most important parts of our collective humanity. Our emotions—even when they’re strong and sometimes overwhelming—are part of us. And that’s not something to be afraid or ashamed of. Instead, it’s something to understand.

Continue reading

Fangirl Thursday: Fan Mail Feelings

This past Monday was the deadline for letters for The Fan Mail Project, but it wasn’t the end of this project. If you still have letters you’d like to send to female characters who’ve inspired you or impacted your life in some way, you send still send them to me at nerdygirlnotes@gmail.com. I’ll still accept them for at least another few weeks as I work on the next phase of the project, so if you see this post and are wondering if you can still submit a letter, it wouldn’t hurt to send me an email and ask—chances are I’ll say yes!

Also, if at any point you decide you need to add something to or change something about your letter—maybe to reflect a change in that character’s story or your own story—please don’t hesitate to ask if you can. The editing process for books is quite long, so I’m certain there will be plenty of time for you to edit your own letters if you need to.

The next part of this process is in my hands. I’ll be putting the letters in an order that I feel ties the project together in the most cohesive way and writing some connecting essays to further explain the importance of not just the characters these letters were written to but the importance of the fans that wrote them. I want this book to be a celebration of what I believe fandom is at its very best—an uplifting marriage of the deeply personal and the inherently communal that helps those looking for a place to belong feel less alone—and I’m working on additional material for this book that honors that belief.

I promise to keep you all updated as I continue along in this process, and I ask for your patience as things continue to move along at an uncertain speed. I’m not sure how long it will take to turn your beautiful letters into a book you’ll actually be able to read and show off to the world, but I pledge to work as hard as I can to make it a reality and to keep you informed every step of the way. This summer will be spent shopping the manuscript around to potential publishers and agents, and it’s my most sincere hope that someone connects with and believes in this project the way so many of you have and takes a chance on publishing it.

Monday was a special day. It was a day filled with overwhelming gratitude and a deep sense of purpose. To all who’ve participated in this project so far and to all who are still working to finish your letters, thank you—from the bottom of my heart. The way you embraced this project with not just enthusiasm but open hearts, powerful vulnerability, and total honesty touched my heart in a way even I—with the high expectations I have for everything—didn’t see coming. Your bravery and passion are every bit as inspiring as any of the traits in any of the women you wrote about. You are shining examples of the brilliant, beautiful, and wonderfully unique people that are brought together by fandom. And I will do everything in my power to honor your trust, your belief in this project, and your incredible words by making The Fan Mail Project a reflection not just of me but of all of you who shared so much of yourself with me through your letters.

I knew when I started this project that I couldn’t do it alone—because the whole point of fandom is to connect with others and discover that we’re not alone. And while I’m about to start a part of this process that’s on my shoulders and only mine, it’s nice to know I’m still not alone.

Stronger Than She Knows: A Letter to Rey

TFA poster

In honor of today’s deadline for submissions for The Fan Mail Project, I wanted to share my latest letter for this project with all of you!

Dear Rey,

I’ve written a lot of letters for this project. I’ve written to characters who shaped my past and to characters who are helping me be my best self in the present. But you represent the future. So, while I have certainly discovered things about you while watching The Force Awakens that have inspired me personally, I’m not writing this letter for me.

I’m writing this letter for the little girls I saw in the movie theater around me all four times I saw The Force Awakens. I’m writing this for the girls too young to write you a letter of their own. I’m writing this for the girls too young to even write at all. And I’m writing this for the girls who aren’t even born yet but will someday be introduced to your story the way I was introduced to the original Star Wars trilogy as a child of only five or six.

When I was a little girl, I used to play Star Wars with my cousins on the playground near my grandparents’ house. While I always had fun pretending to be Princess Leia, so many of our games involved the boys “rescuing” me from the jungle gym that we imagined was the Death Star. There were times—even when pretending to be one of the strongest women in sci-fi—that I felt like I was just playing a small part in their imaginary adventures.

When I saw The Force Awakens for the first time, my initial reaction was to think of the little girl who would one day be playing this version of Star Wars on a playground with her cousins. And I was overwhelmed with gratitude on behalf of that little girl—whoever she may be. Because when that little girl pretends to be you, she’ll be the hero of her own story, and it’ll be the boys who are part of her adventures—not the other way around. That little girl will pretend she’s flying the Millennium Falcon. She’ll pretend she’s breaking out of her holding cell on her own. She’ll pretend to hold a lightsaber and use the Force. And none of those imaginary adventures will seem crazy to her, because she’ll have seen you do all those things. And when you see someone like you doing amazing things—no matter if it’s real or fictional—you begin to believe that you, too, can do amazing things.

Continue reading

New Year, New Notes

Happy Belated New Year, fellow nerds! Thanks for your patience as NGN has experienced a brief, unplanned hiatus to kick off 2016. Hopefully the content I have planned for the next few months will be worth the wait!

Because NGN essentially started as the fulfillment of a New Year’s resolution, I like to use the New Year’s holiday each year to take stock of this site and think about how I can improve the experience for all of you who visit it. With that in mind, there are some fun things I want to set in motion for the coming year, as well as some information about returning features and—of course—my book!

Let’s start with the book, shall we? I’ve thought long and hard about my proposed February 1 deadline for letters, and I’ve decided to extend it to give us all just a little more time to finish (or start!) writing. Therefore, the official deadline for letters for The Fan Mail Project will now be February 29, 2016, at 11 p.m. EST. As you might have noticed, I’ve also tweaked the book’s tentative title because “Fan Mail” on its own was starting to feel a little too generic. As always, if you have any questions at all about this project or need any kind of encouragement, don’t hesitate to comment here, tweet me (@nerdygirlnotes), or send me an email. And finished letters can be emailed to nerdygirlnotes@gmail.com.

There are plenty of awesome female characters still waiting to have letters written about them: any of the Gilmore Girls, Dana Scully, Peggy Carter, etc. And in case anyone was wondering, you can write to a group of female characters, too. I’ve already received letters to the women of Jane the Virgin, Once Upon a Time, and Call the Midwife, and I’m planning to write my own group letter to share with you soon.

The Fan Mail Project is developing into something special, and I’d love for anyone who wants to be a part of it to be represented in this book. So please don’t forget to share information about this project with your friends and fellow fangirls/fanboys. Even if you don’t feel you’re able to contribute, one tweet or Tumblr post about it can go a long way!

Now, let’s get back to the business of NGN. I’m hoping to have both Fangirl Thursdays and my weekly Best Thing on TV posts back in their regular rotation starting next week. I’m also pleased to announce that I’ll be writing weekly posts about Agent Carter! Starting Wednesday 1/20, be on the lookout for my Agent Carter Moment of the Week posts here at NGN.

Of course, my Once Upon a Time posts will also be returning when the show starts up again in March, and those will be joined by my weekly posts about The Americans (which also returns in March). All of this content will be supplemented by additional posts in the form of my own letters for The Fan Mail Project, posts celebrating Once Upon a Time‘s 100th episode, and a few more surprises. It’s shaping up to be another fun year here at NGN, and I hope you join us for all of it!

They Have a Choice Now: Thoughts on The Force Awakens

TFA poster

Source: starwars.com

Warning: This post contains MAJOR spoilers for The Force Awakens

I can’t write a review of The Force Awakens. To me, a review implies being able to see things at least somewhat objectively, being able to critically evaluate a piece of media. And there is no way I can be objective about this movie. Maybe after further viewings I’ll be able talk about things like cinematography and scoring and pacing and whether it borrowed too much of its structure from A New Hope or just enough to make it resonate with fans. But I’ve only seen it once so far, and after seeing it, there was only one thing I really wanted to write about—and that’s what this movie is going to mean for little girls and their playground adventures.

When I was a little girl, I used to play Star Wars on a playground near my grandparents’ house with my two older cousins, both of whom were boys, and my little sister (who—being the adorable toddler she was—always played an Ewok). My cousins had a choice: They could be Han or Luke or Darth Vader or any X-Wing pilot or any Stormtrooper. I could be Princess Leia. I’m not saying that was a bad thing or that I even wanted a choice back then. I think even now—if given a choice to pretend to be any female character ever created—I’d still choose Princess Leia. But maybe other little girls playing on playgrounds wanted a choice. And the only other choice they really had (besides being a dancer in Jabba’s palace—and no one wanted to choose that) was Luke’s Aunt Beru—who dies at the beginning of A New Hope—or Mon Mothma—who gets one exposition-heavy monologue that lasts about a minute and is never really seen again.

Even after the prequel trilogy came out, choices were limited for little girls who wanted to pretend to be Star Wars characters. Padme was a strong leader, but she wasn’t the main focal point of the story. There were some female bounty hunters and politicians, and even some female Jedi—but they never received the kind of focus that made kids really take notice of them in a way that became part of their imaginations and aspirations.

After The Force Awakens, things are different. Little girls have a choice now. They can be General Organa if they want to be a fierce leader of the Resistance, they can be Captain Phasma if they want to play the villain for a little while, they can be Maz Kanata if they want to be a wise alien creature, they can be any of the many female military leaders (on both sides of the conflict) and X-Wing pilots shown throughout the film, or they can be Rey if they want to go on their own hero’s journey.

As I watched Daisy Ridley own every bit of her screen time as Rey, I kept thinking about all the little girls who will see this movie in the coming weeks, months, and years. I thought about the little girl who one day—years after this trilogy ends—will be introduced to these movies by her older cousins and will play out Rey’s story on the playground with them by her side. And when she plays out this story, she will be the hero, and it will be the boys who are part of her story—not the other way around.

Continue reading

Fangirl Thursday: A Thankful Heart

I know Thanksgiving isn’t until next week for those of us living in the U.S., but posting on the holiday itself is never very convenient—even if it does always fall on a Fangirl Thursday. Besides, you shouldn’t have to limit your expressions of gratitude to one turkey-stuffed day each year. And I have far more than a week’s worth of things to be thankful for anyway.

I write the words “thank you” a lot. I write them so much that—to some—they might seem like meaningless filler or something I just say to say something. But I hope you know those words have never lost their weight for me—no matter how many times I write them. I write them so much because hardly a day goes by (and sometimes hardly a minutes goes by) without me experiencing a rush of gratitude. I mean those words with all my heart every single time I write them. Thank you.

I’ve always said that running NGN is a labor of love, and I’m thankful for both the labor and the love. I’m thankful that it is challenging and scary and exhausting sometimes to run this site. Because that’s when I know it matters—when it’s more than just some writing I do for fun. And it’s those moments that remind me to always look for the love, to look for the reasons I started NGN in the first place. And I always find those reasons. I always find that love. And I am so grateful that something I love so much and care so deeply about has become something other people love and care about, too. My writing goal is always to make people feel less alone in their intense love for the things they care about. And it turns out that’s exactly what all of you who visit NGN are doing for me.

Continue reading

Fangirl Thursday: Shared Joy Is the Best Joy

Today is the kind of day that reminds me why I love being a fangirl.

If you haven’t seen my next-level fangirling on Twitter, a new Once Upon a Time sneak peek was released today that sent a good portion of the fandom into the best kind of hysterics: gif-using, all caps Tweeting, I CANNOT HANDLE THE FEELS hysterics. In a not-so-shocking development, it turns out that Killian Jones loves Emma Swan. And he wants to give up the thing that’s protected him for 300 years in order to protect her now as she fights to defeat the darkness inside her.

Cue the happy “shipper” sobs (including my own).

Continue reading