Sleepless Emails and Julia Child

By John Winn

In case any of you haven’t been busy watching Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan movie marathons, you’re probably aware that novelist, screenwriter, and super cool aunt extraordinaire Nora Ephron has died.  As my colleague Alex Harris has noted, Ephron’s reach was wide-ranging, from novels, screenplays–to no surprise, film.  Her long, storied career also spanned multiple generations, from Boomers to the very first Milennials *cough cough me cough cough*. A full list of all the movies she’s made and careers she launched would do her no justice, so you’re going to have to settle with my extremely subjective opinions of her work–specifically, Sleepless in Seattle.

  1993 was a very special year for me.  In addition to being the year Sleepless came out, it was also the year I turned 10 years old.  Ages 11 and 12 kind of sucked, but I’ll spare you the soap opera drama for another day.  All you need to know about 1993 is that it is the first year I became aware of VHS–I mean, really, really became aware of it. Like many families around that time, our Friday nights (and Saturdays, and Sundays) revolved around movies.  One or several of us would run out to the local Blockbuster and rent two or three for the weekend, but to be honest they were all mostly a blur–except maybe Terminator 2, and of course Sleepless in Seattle.

In addition to being one of my earliest memories, Sleepless was also the first serious romantic comedy that I ever had the chance to see.  Tom and Meg previously been in Joe Versus the Volcano which my brother Pat liked, but their chemistry onscreen could not be understated. Sleepless in Seattle was a step above that.  The movie touched on the familiar themes of heartbreak and loss that are central to almost all romantic comedies going back to An Affair to Remember ( Which Sleepless is based on), but it had none of the sex and innuendo that lesser movies would entail. It also dealt with the thorny topic of death and being a single parent, which would become Hanks road to Oscar glory in Philadelphia and later, Forrest Gump.

Besides the very adult subject matter, the movie had two of the hottest stars of its day.  Tom Hanks was just starting to show the serious acting chops he displayed briefly in Joe, and Meg was basking in the success of another Nora Ephron film, When Harry Met Sally.  The onscreen chemistry between the two could not be underestimated.  For those of you under 30, imagine if Paul Rudd and Emma Roberts did a bunch of movies together.  I know it’s difficult to picture, but work with me here.

Movie stars aside, what Sleepless in Seattle had going for it was subtlety. It helped that Meg and Tom were much older, but also that Ephron knew how to weave a story about two compelling characters without making them overly quirky or resorting to gimmicks (It also happened to be the only movie I’ve watched where Rose O’Donnell was tolerable, but that’s a topic for another day). Ephron would try to duplicate the same experience with You’ve Got Mail, but for some reason it fell flat.  Julie and Julia rocked, and if anyone says otherwise I’m gonna cut a bitch.

I could go on and on, but my studio executive editor is telling me to shut it down.  In any case, Nora, we wish you Godspeed, and may your Heaven be filled with Nathan’s hot dogs.

  Social Media Coordinator (and managing editor) John Winn is Hennen’s Twitterer in Chief.  In addition to writing for Hennen’s, His work has been featured in A Twist of Noir, Lightning Flash, Racket Magazine, and plenty of other online magazines.  He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina.

To Be or Not To Be (Influential)

By Alexandria Harris

It’s a good time to ponder existence because this past week has been slightly morbid. Only we’re not going to look at our own mortality–that has a tendency to scare people and we’re just starting to become friends (I hope).

Today the window closes on how much people are willing to hear depressing news, so I thought I’d take my chance. (If you’re wondering about the window I’m referring to, it is as follows: Monday you’re either depressed or overly positive; Tuesday is usually the worst day of the week because you’ve either sunk lower or lost your delusions, Wednesday is the middle of the week so you’re starting to climb the mountain; Thursday you’re embracing positivity and can see the light at the end of the tunnel; and Friday = FREE AT LAST).

Yesterday was especially morbid because it was the anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death. If you didn’t notice it by how many times they played Man in the Mirror on the radio, you probably heard it on the news. Since PYT is my favorite song (of his) I had it on repeat. At a point where I had entirely too much time on my hands, I had an entire choreographed dance to PYT and my family and friends frequently got together to do the Thriller dance.

However Nora Ephron’s passing may be more relevant to you. I found it relevant and I’m embarrassed to say I had no idea who she was until today because you can’t get away from her name on the Internet and she’s trending on Twitter.

For those who might have been like me (the majority of you who aren’t, humor me) Ephron’s work includes Silkwood, Heartburn, When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, and Julie and Julia. She was a writer, director, novelist, producer, and obviously multi-talented. Her work was able to reach across gender lines to be enjoyed by all. It’s also inspiring how she set the bar for women directors like Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, The Virgin Suicides), and other directors.

Basically she set the bar high for future female directors and novelists. It’s always sad when someone this talented and influential passes away, but there’s always a semblance of hope that the legacy they leave inspires people to great things. Her passing jump started my curiosity not just in her work, but to see who were the most influential writers today. As good timing would have it, The Daily Beast featured a slideshow list from Newsweek of columnists, bloggers, and writers who they believe are the most influential. Some I haven’t read, some I’ve obviously read, and others I’m not sure why they’re on the list. For those of you not visiting the link and for my news oriented people who care, I’ll list the ten below:

1. Ezra Klein, Wonk, The Washington Post
2. Robert Wright, Co-founder,
3. Matt Yglesias, Blogger, Slate
4. Ross Douthat, Columnist, The New York Times
5. Arianna Huffington, Editor in Chief, The Huffington Post
6. Ed Morrissey, Blogger, Hot Air
7. Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo Blog
8. Glenn Greenwald, Writer, Salon
9. Jonathan Chait, Writer, New York Magazine
10. David Frum, Writer, The Daily Beast

And to continue my quest to be real, I’ve only been indirectly influenced by Arianna whose Huffington Post reach is a monolith threatening a world takeover. However, I’m young and pretty sure I’ll be forced to collide with the others’ work soon enough.

Jackson and Ephron left a powerful legacy. We are still being influenced by writers, bloggers, journalists today which shape how we view the world and the legacies we want to leave. Influence can be a powerful and dangerous thing.
It can also be life-changing.

Alexandria Harris is a writer and recent college graduate. When she isn’t writing, watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, or working in her father’s company, she tweets regularly on her account @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Movie Monday: Why Me Instead of Ebert and Roeper?

By Alexandra Harris

There is absolutely no reason why you should take my word over Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper. Or Wikipedia.

There, that was my reverse psychology for the day. I will say I enjoy movies and pledge to you my undying passion for writing with sarcastic wit, but that’s my final offer. Before we embark on this cinematic journey, I felt I should explain why I think it’s worth doing and assure you the movies are only confined to matters of writing or writers in order to value our time.

Reading books is better than movies. Usually. I make this claim with the utmost regard for our imaginations. Especially with books turned into movies, most of the time the book is mind blowingly better than the drivel the movie manages to portray. The exceptions to this rule are few and far between, but my favorite example is Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy which is cinematic gold that I am unashamedly obsessed with (seriously, I wear my Evenstar with each viewing).

But when we aren’t focusing on books turned into movies or my obsession, I find movies about writers particularly interesting. Did you know there are more than 236 movies about writing? I didn’t put together that list, but that is a lot of cinema devoted to writers block, creative processes, meltdowns, spurts of genius.

This is why on Mondays I’d like to start something new and review movies dedicated to our craft. Some you may have seen already, and on some points we may not agree, but my goal is to provide funny and interesting reviews.

I loved the Avengers (don’t worry, it’s not on our journey) and since I’m from Wisconsin I, by default, have to love the Packers. This is why the following meme brings them together in perfect harmony. If you are not familiar with what a meme is don’t worry, we’ll get to it later. For now, feast your eyes:

I realize I’m not writing to an enthusiastic crowd of Packer fans, but consider the meme as paying homage to one of the best delivered lines in the movie.

I’ll be reviewing the movies in no particular order. Some will be on the list I linked to, some won’t like our topic for next week *cough cough Anonymous cough cough*. Talking about Shakespeare’s authenticity should definitely start us off with a bang.

Also, if you aren’t sure about watching Becoming Jane (I recommend) or if you’ve seen It Happened One Night and Wonder Boys but you’d like another opinion just for curiosity’s sake, feel free to let me know. Or this can be mostly one-way like Twitter, I don’t mind and I’m looking forward to it.

Alexandria Harris is a writer and recent college graduate. When she isn’t writing, watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, or working in her father’s company, she tweets regularly on her account @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Creative Reactions for Bad Lemons

By Alexandra Harris

 Has something ever ticked you off so much you felt the need to react in a creatively strong way? You all know what I’m talking about–you got food poisoning at a Brazilian restaurant and you composed a limerick about it on a restaurant review site or the promotion at work slipped past you so you just plunked down at your piano and started jamming out soul wrenching notes. No moments like these? We’ll just say those experiences were from “a friend.”

As we pretend one of those experiences wasn’t something that should have been the end result of a scene in Bridesmaids, I came across something interesting the other day as I was going through my Twitter timeline.

Margaret Atwood may not have been ticked off, but you have to admit, the following excerpt from a recently written poem of hers is a genius way to answer incoming requests for book blurbs:

“You are well-known, Ms. Atwood,” the Editor said,
And we long for your quote on this book;
A few well-placed words wouldn’t bother your head,
And would help us to get in the hook!”

“In my youth,” said Ms. Atwood, “I blurbed with the best;
I practically worked with a stencil!
I strewed quotes about with the greatest largesse,
And the phrases flowed swift from my pencil.

For some reason as I read the poem, I had a mental picture of a girl with pigtails skipping to some lively tune out of Mary Poppins. Ms. Atwood probably receives hundreds if not thousands of requests to give her input on some new writer’s work. Which is all fine and good and she seems like a good sport about it. But when you’re a writer yourself and you have thousands of incoming requests to work on other people’s work, it probably would be a bit frustrating.  

Personally I find it difficult to remain calm and act with good manners when something beyond irritating happens. You know, when one of those moments happens and your mind draws a blank for five seconds because of the inconceivable stupidity that unfortunately, and for no reason that makes sense, happened to you.

Remaining calm is a life skill apparently and if you’ve learned it, good sir or madam I give you props! I should take notes so I can replace my “take a deep breath” method. Although when I get back to the comfort of my own room, my creative juices may congeal into something that faintly echoes this.

However, while I may not have a sick beat like Jay in Awkward Black Girl and I probably wouldn’t rap out my sestina or free verse because someone probably would come in and hear my deepest darkest, writing can be good therapy. Creating something can be soothing. A horrible situation is definitely fuel for your next story idea, poem, novel, or illustration.

So don’t get too ticked off before you remember to write everything down. You’ll definitely get glad after you’ve looked at your masterpiece later. 

Alexandria Harris is a writer and recent college graduate. When she isn’t writing, watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, or working in her father’s company, she tweets regularly on her account @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Erotica 2.0

Earlier this week, Alex profiled the novel Fifty Shades of Grey, and the literary revolution the steamy smut book’s having on booksellers, agents, libraries–and yes, writers.  But what few people know (or a lot of people know, but aren’t willing to bring up, at least in public) is that erotica is a booming industry within the literary world.  According to MSNBC, what was once the domain of perverts and sexaholics has been front and center in revitalizing what is already a struggling industry. The e-book niche has been particularly profitable, helped in no small part by the thousands of erotic tables available for download–many for a pittance of the price people would pay to walk red-faced into a Barnes and Noble and ask for the latest negligee-busting tome.

Speaking of sexaholics, the latest book to make waves is Sexoholics. Written by an author known only as Pynk (writers rarely use their real name, for fairly obvious reasons).  Centering around a group of female sex addicts, the book takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to the very real (and debatable) problem of sex addiction.  Led by caring psychiatrist Dr. Rachel Cummings *cue snorts*, the Cummings shephards the foursome as they reveal their tortured-and very raunchy–pasts one by one.  Imagine if Dr. Drew sat in on an Onanists Anonymous support group.

You get the idea.

Despite it’s taboo subject matter, Sexaholics and it’s author is extremely popular among recovering sex addicts as well as people looking for a little escape from the day to day.  Several discussion groups have started online around the book and others like it, and some have branched out into writing erotic fanfiction of their own, some of it very, very good (just take my word for it, or do a Google search).

Anyone who is familiar with Charlaine Harris or Susan Sizemore can testify to the boundary-pushing impact erotica has had on the paranormal and horror genre. One of the books I reviewed not long ago contained a steamy sex scene between a female police detective and a vampire, and it proved to be among the most popular (at least, among the commenters who RTFA).

Women continue to make up the majority of erotic authors, but men like Eric Jerome Dickey have made their mark as well.  Men also make up a small but growing  segment of the market as well. What was once the province of sex-starved housewives has spun out into several niches, from stories featuring Amazon women kicking tail to vampire squids on a sexual rampage. When it comes to erotica, there’s more than 52 flavor–and everyone knows what they like.

 Social Media Coordinator (and managing editor) John Winn is Hennen’s Twitterer in Chief.  In addition to writing for Hennen’s, His work has been featured in A Twist of Noir, Lightning Flash, Racket Magazine, and plenty of other online magazines.  He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina.

50 Shades of Controversy


By Alexandra Harris

 By now, you may have heard of Fifty Shades of Grey, a book based off the doe-eyed interactions of Stephenie Meyer’s Bella and Edward in the Twilight Series. Whether listening to Ellen attempt to record an audio for it or skirting around the buzz of celebrities attached to play the main character Christian Grey in a five million dollar budget movie, this book has prompted controversy and broken ground for changes to the publishing world as we know it.

 I’m not going to attempt to give a summary of the book or rate it, because you’ve probably already heard enough about it, but I wanted to highlight some major aspects.

1) The concept of fan fiction. 
 Some argue that individuals who don’t intend to make a profit from their fan fiction are participating in a wonderful writing exercise and paying the highest compliment to an author. Others argue that it is plagiarism because the ideas and basis for the stories already came from an author. There are some authors who are flattered by fan fiction (J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer) and others who are adamantly opposed (Anne Rice, George R.R. Martin). Meyer does weigh in on Fifty Shades  but the larger question of fan fiction remains murky among literary circles.
2) Opinions about Erotica/Mommy Porn
 Everyone has their own reading preferences and this is one of the aspects which makes the literary world so diverse. Many YA books cross over and become adult favorites as well, however Fifty Shades will not have the same effect because of its explicit content. No matter how many teenagers borrow their mom’s/aunt’s/sister’s copy, Fifty Shades will not be talked about much in the YA world.
3) Changing tides of books + merchandise
 Big YA book tiles like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games market jewelry, bed sheets, and toys based off the books and now Fifty Shades is doing it as well. It will be interesting to see how much revenue this will generate and exactly how many people are going to trot into the supermarket and pick up some Fifty Shades bed sheets or shamelessly wear t-shirts promoting the book.
4) Success with Self-Publishing
 This is a huge one. The publishing world has changed so much even in the past six months and Amazon is basically considered one of the big six publishing companies. As an aspiring author, I am especially interested in this. The author E.L. James published the book on her website and then through a virtual publisher in Australia before Fifty Shades became a hit in the United States. 
 So whether you hated the books, were freaked out by the books, or loved them so much you immediately ordered Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed online (unless you were bold and marched into your local bookstore) E.L. James has definitely provided food for thought for the literary community.
Alexandria Harris is a writer and recent college graduate. When she isn’t writing, watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, or working in her father’s company, she tweets regularly on her account @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

We Regret To Inform You…

As you might have noticed, The Week in Review has been on hiatus this past fall and winter, as our writers and editors (working stiffs, all) struggle to balance Working For the Man and Living The Dream(TM).  The juggling act has cost us one writer (Megan, we miss you!), but we’re fortunate enough to gain two new ones in the process.

Brennon Keys, a veteran sports reporter and collegiate journalist from Pine Bluff, Arkansas (by way of Missouri) has signed on to be one of our writers this year. To borrow a phrase from the sports world, Keys can play all positions–from straight-news, to op-ed, to humor. With a wry wit and an eye for the funny, he’ll be your guide to the bizarre and strange world of the Internet, replete with bird-women hybrids, plane crash fetishists, and other things people blog about at 9 AM in the morning.

Working alongside him will be Alex Harris. Harris, a news reporter for WSUM in Madison, Wisconsin been around the block more than a few times on the Internet–her thesis on Twitter and the Library of Congress got exactly…one hit, but that’s one hit more than us!

*cue forced laughter*

Seriously though, you all are in two of the most capable hands in the news business.  So sit back, relax and enjoy the show–because it’s going to be one wild ride.

CORRECTION: Alex tells me there is a much better website of her paper on Twitter and the Library of Congress here. Did we mention that she also has a blog?  

        Social Media Coordinator (and managing editor) John Winn is Hennen’s Twitterer in Chief.  In addition to writing for Hennen’s, His work has been featured in A Twist of Noir, Lightning Flash, Racket Magazine, and plenty of other online magazines.  He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina.