When Your Best is Not Good Enough

By John Winn

Sometimes, no matter how fast we run, how hard we push, or how graceful we dismount, the best isn’t good enough for some people. You could put your entire life on hold, sacrificing birthdays, Christmases, proms just to work towards a single dream–only for it to evaporate in a London minute. But you don’t have to be an Olympic gymnast to know how it feels.

Yes, Jordyn Wieber was done wrong, and even a clumsy, non-athletic aspiring writer could tell that the point system in gymnastics is messed up beyond all recognition, but what makes Weiber’s cut Sunday from the all-around competition semi-final so moving wasn’t how dramatic or unexpected it was–but it’s banality.

Wieber was (and is) the Hillary Clinton of the U.S. Gymnastic team in 2012–the front-runner, the odds on favorite, the girl who would be queen. This is a girl who consistently posted stats in the 59.5-60.0 range, who has won multiple gold medals in international competition, and is pretty much the reigning female world champion in her sport. So when she failed to advance, it was an upset, to say the least.

Wieber’s loss resonates beyond the world of sports. How many girls her age have applied to Harvard, Yale, Carolina or a bunch of other schools only to get turned down?  How many women have struggled to advance in their careers, only to see less competent men become CEOs, CFOs, and managers?  You could be the top of your class, have excellent employment histories, and still not Make It.

There are a lot of factors that led to Wieber’s loss.  Deductions, judging, the usual behind-the-scenes politics–take your pick.  But that doesn’t take away the pain. Wieber just got a knife in her heart, and believe me, those memories are going to stay.  It’s like Neil Armstrong being told he won’t be allowed to walk on the moon–you think you’d forget that sort of thing?

I agree with Bela–I think the rules system in Olympic gymnastics stinks, and is probably the biggest sham this side of The City. But I am not an athlete.  But pain and disappointment are universal regardless of what you play or what your nationality is.  Put me on Team Wieber.

[UPDATE: Looks like Wieber made good on her plan to net a gold for the Fab Five.  You can read the details here.]

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.

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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, Talkingheads.tv
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

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.