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.

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

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