Don't Be Fakewith Elizabeth Gramm, Jenifer Daniels, Jess Lybeck, and Erin Hopmann Keck
Hey, are you crushing it? It seems like everyone is constantly crushing it in the business world. But maybe it would be better if we were honest about our flaws, talked like ourselves, and aimed to be genuine instead of super polished. In this episode: A Basecamp customer support representative shares tips on writing emails like a real human being; an inherently artificial industry gets a dose of reality; and two startup founders try an experiment in radical transparency to save their business.
- Basecamp's customer support team - 2:47
- Cartoon by Julie Houts on getting an email that says "Thanks." - 5:45
- Ha ha! Business! - 10:40
- Colorstock's website/Twitter/Jenifer Daniels's Twitter - 11:27
- "Man looking at another woman" meme, explained - 14:15
- "Business woman arms folded" stock images - 14:24
- Susan Cain interviews Amy Cuddy on power posing - 14:34
- Social justice photos on Colorstock - 16:54
- Jenifer Daniels's post on changing Colorstock's photo captions - 17:32
- Yoga photos on Colorstock - 19:07
- Dabble's website - 21:20
- Thirty Days of Honesty - 21:46
- Forty Days of Dating - 23:45
- Ick Worms by Elizabeth Gramm (Guernica) - 33:17
The Full Transcript:
[00:00:00] Broken By Design by Clip Art plays.
Wailin: [00:00:00] Welcome to Rework, a podcast by Basecamp about the better way to work and run your business. I’m Wailin Wong.
Shaun: [00:00:08] And I’m Shaun Hildner.
Wailin: [00:00:10] I’m going to kick things off with a confession, which is that usually Shaun and I take at least a week to edit our episodes and figure out what we’re going to say in our intros, and everything like that. But, for this episode, we got a little behind coming out of the holidays so we ended up putting everything together in a day. Like, the day before we were putting out the episode. I literally said to you, we have so much work to do to today, I could cry.
Shaun: [00:00:34] But, we made it!
Wailin: [00:00:36] Yay!
Shaun: [00:00:37] Hopefully a lot of you can relate to this: getting something done just in the nick of time and we’re confessing this to you because today’s episode is all about embracing your imperfections and not being afraid to share them with the world.
Wailin: [00:00:50] Imperfections are real and people respond to real. Sometimes being genuine can count for a lot more than looking perfect. In that spirit, today we have three stories about being real. You’ll hear from Elizabeth Gramm about sounding like a real human being in emails.
Shaun: [00:01:08] Then, we have a conversation with the founder of a company that injects reality into an industry that’s known for almost exactly the opposite.
Wailin: [00:01:17] And we talked to two startup founders who tried an experiment in radical transparency to save their family company. But, first up, my conversation with Elizabeth Gramm from Basecamp customer support.
Elizabeth: [00:01:35] I’m a poet, and I taught writing for a long time. It felt like a sort of natural fit in terms of the way we try to communicate and help ppl; and the fact that there is just a lot of writing that comes with the job.
Wailin: [00:01:54] When you take a step back and look at customer support more broadly, whether it’s looking at other companies and how they do it or just in your own experience as a consumer, what are some common issues that raise your hackles, especially on the communication and writing side.
Elizabeth: [00:02:13] We’ve probably all had that experience when we feel like we aren’t really being heard. When we’re on the customer side of the customer support dynamic. Any time there’s a really overly scripted response, that can feel like it creates extra distance and makes it harder to kind of meet in the middle and solve a problem.
Wailin: [00:02:31] At Basecamp is there such a thing as a house style or a house tone?
Elizabeth: [00:02:39] The most important aspect of it is that we sound like ourselves. So, of course, that means we’re all going to sound a little different from one another, but as long as we’re genuine, I think that comes across, no matter what type of question it is. And also in training because often when people come in, and this was certainly true for me, because I was so focused on trying to get the right information and make sure my answers were correct—which is a good thing—sometimes I was still a little bit more stilted. So, sometimes it actually takes more time for some of that more formal language to fall away. So we can really feel like we’re communicating as ourselves.
Wailin: [00:03:28] Are there certain phrases you try to avoid or that you coach new team members to avoid?
Elizabeth: [00:03:35] We try not to say things like “sorry for the inconvenience” or “apologies for the inconvenience,” mostly because a phrase like that is so overused that it doesn’t really sound like anything. And I think a lot of times the way people feel about problems or confusions or whatever is not just as flat as an inconvenience. We try to say something that’s a little more direct or genuine or more related to what that problem is. Something else that strikes me that I learned early on. Our team member Chase told me this. To try to avoid saying actually, because we don’t want to make it seem like it was obvious and you know that person just missed it or didn’t understand something that was so easy.
[00:04:31] Actually, you’re wrong. Even if the “you’re wrong” isn’t there, I think it can feel implied and we want to avoid that for sure.
Wailin: [00:04:39] What’s the guidance on things like emoji or exclamation points, that kind of thing.
Elizabeth: [00:04:46] Well, we don’t want to go too overboard and we also don’t really lean super heavily on emoji in part because we don’t always know what people will be reading these responses on and sometimes they look different or strange. So, we actually are more likely to go with the old-school colon closing parentheses to make a smiley face. We probably use more exclamation points than I was strictly used to when I started.
[00:05:18] I and probably most of the team are of the school that it’s much better to overdo it with exclamation points than underdo it just because there’s such a possibility for tone to go awry so, if we err on the side of being maybe extra chipper I think that’s probably a decent trade off for sounding a little too curt.
[00:05:43] There’s a little cartoon I saw recently of a woman, I think calling the FBI or something and saying, I just got an email that said thanks, period, so I’m pretty sure I’m about to be killed. Is there someplace I should report this. And I was like, wow, I can really relate to that.
Wailin: [00:06:04] Yeah, I’ve been that person typing thanks, and then period and then deleting it and doing the exclamation point and then deleting it and putting the period. Just like, five minutes later, still doing that same thing, yeah.
Elizabeth: [00:06:20] You know, it’s a dance.
Wailin: [00:06:21] Because it’s like, you have to read the letter writer’s tone as well. If they seem stressed out or they’re already kind of angry, you have to make a judgment call whether the exclamation point or emoticon will disarm them or enrage them further.
Elizabeth: [00:06:38] Oh, certainly. And mirroring is a big part of it. Sometimes people really do just want to get right to it and if we’re overly ebullient, that’s super annoying to people. So, we try to really hear where they are and sort of what type of frustration it is so that our response can be in line with that.
Wailin: [00:07:01] How do you approach being real and human when the interaction is negative or becomes really negative?
Elizabeth: [00:07:13] I think that’s actually a time when my own humanity feels especially present because we really do feel it and because we’re trying to be real and human with customers already, when something’s really negative, there isn’t that type of buffer, so you do sort of feel it emotionally.
[00:07:38] When something goes like that, it’s often because someone is so frustrated that they are kind of forgetting that they’re talking to a person as well, and especially because a lot of people don’t have the experience of looking for support and finding that there’s a real person there who’s reading them carefully and thinking about them. So, I think sometimes people will feel like the only way to get what they need is to go really big or forget about that human connection. So, I think the way to kind of bring it back down is to really show that we’re hearing the person.
Wailin: [00:08:18] And then, when you are hiring new customer support team members, what do you look for in terms of hiring and especially asking for writing samples, and stuff like that.
Elizabeth: [00:08:28] With a writing sample, frequently, and I’m sure this was the case for me, too. It definitely starts out a bit more formal just because when you’re applying for something you don’t want to sound like a middle schooler using a cell phone to text somebody. But, we can see if there’s a sort of genuine tone underlying it that shows that even in this made-up scenario of answering hypothetical questions, they’re looking for the person on the other end of that question.
[00:09:01] The nuts and bolts part of the writing sample in terms of is this the correct answer is a lot less important than the tone and the kind of personal style we see through their answers.
Wailin: [00:09:15] What do you think is the connection between poetry and writing customer support emails, at least the way it’s done at Basecamp.
Elizabeth: [00:09:23] I love that question. One thing about poetry, or at least the way I write it, or the way I think about it is that I’m looking for ways to be concise while also getting at something bigger. So, with the emails, I think we’re certainly trying to be very clear and direct. And so that’s a nice kind of challenge that I do think is similar to the way I think about poetry. How to be clear and engaging while also thinking about a larger problem. Not every customer support email has this sort of grand ambition like that. And certainly not every poem does, either. But I think in both cases because I’m able to use a more authentic style that it does translate.
[00:10:23] Broken By Design by Clip Art plays.
Shaun: [00:10:25] If you stay until the end of the episode, we have a little treat for you. We have some recording of Elizabeth reading one of her poems.
[00:10:37] We have this kind of inside joke at Basecamp. It’s a stock photo of a man in a business suit that we pass around. He’s talking on a cell phone, he’s super smiley, and the caption just says, “Ha ha, business.”
Wailin: [00:10:48] Yeah, he’s like leaning back and he’s pumping a fist in the air. This image comes up when we’re mocking the corporate world. Whether it’s jargon or meetings, or my personal bugaboo, poorly reported stories in Business Insider.
Shaun: [00:11:03] So, these cheesy stock photos are really easy and fun to mock but they do shape our reality in ways that we may not realize. They’re storytelling devices. We get used to seeing businessmen depicted as white guys with suits. Or a working mom being depicted as a frazzled woman on her laptop holding a crying baby. That’s where our next interview comes in.
Wailin: [00:11:22] I talked to Jenifer Daniels. She founded a stock photo agency called Colorstock that features people of color in scenarios that portray a fuller view of reality. Everything about what her company does, from its images to its captions, reflects a sense of authenticity that Jenifer felt was missing from the stock photo industry.
Jenifer: [00:11:47] My name is Jenifer Daniels and I am the founder and managing director of Colorstock. Colorstock is a culturally intelligent stock photo marketplace.
Wailin: [00:11:56] What does it mean to be culturally intelligent in this context?
Jenifer: [00:12:00] We don’t use people to fill quotas, we go beyond the mere appearance of diversity and we’re actually telling the authentic stories of people and their cultures.
Wailin: [00:12:10] Can you tell me what your background is and how you used stock images in the career that you had before founding the company?
Jenifer: [00:12:16] My mother was one of the first coders learning FORTRAN and COBOL back in the mid-‘80s, and so I always had tech as a thread in my life. But my profession always was centered around people and community. And so, my degrees are in public relations and organizational communication and that’s the type of work that I did.
Wailin: [00:12:40] Before founding Colorstock, Jenifer worked in public relations and marketing.
Jenifer: [00:12:45] One of the problems that I had when I was doing my work is we could never tell authentic stories visually. We just couldn’t find people who looked like the customer. Who looked like the people in the stories that we wanted to tell. So, I started to fix this problem myself, doing my work. I would either employ a photographer to come in and do special shoots for me and try to build my own internal library. Or, literally spend hours looking for photos. I just got to the point where I just started doing selfies. I was just like, this is ridiculous, I’m really going to have to just take my own pictures. So, I decided to learn how to code, and I decided to learn how to shoot photography, and learn as much as I could about this industry before launching Colorstock. So, that is a long answer to get to, I had a paying point, and I decided to fill it.
Wailin: [00:13:35] When you were in these jobs and you’re trying to find a photo, whether it’s of kids reading at the library or whatever it was. Would you just go through lots of and lots of search terms? Like, what would you type in to look for what you wanted?
Jenifer: [00:13:49] So, you just start with that old Boolean search, and you’re like, books. Okay, kids and books. Okay, kids, libraries, and books. And you just keep going down this funnel and then you’re finally like, give me a Latina kid reading a book at the library. And then you just wouldn’t get it.
Wailin: [00:14:06] Do you have any favorite stock image memes?
Jenifer: [00:14:10] Oh my gosh, yeah. Well the one that’s floating around now, we’re in late August.The one with the guy looking at the girl with the boyfriend. Those are hilarious to me. I also love powerful woman folding her arms in the boardroom. Those are hilarious because that’s not even like, realistic. I think someone listened to the Susan Cain TED talk and then they were like, yes, power poses.
Wailin: [00:14:37] Get me 100 of those!
Jenifer: [00:14:39] Yes, exactly. Get me—someone even asked for it. They were like, do you have one with a black lady, and I’m like, no, I don’t have one, because that’s just not… Listen, if I go to a meeting and I’m standing there with my arms folded at the front, I’m not smiling.
Wailin: [00:14:51] And then the serious side of that question, then, to flip it and be like, okay, going beyond the humor you can extract from it if you interrogate what the current roster of stock images looks like. I mean, it seems like it really tells you something about the media landscape in a kind of visual language that we take for granted that you’re now trying to break down, right?
Jenifer: [00:15:12] Yes. One of the theories that we learned in grad school was agenda-setting theory and something as forgettable and nondescript as stock photography actually does set an agenda. And so, when you have images that—of the business woman with her arms folded that reflects women consistently over and over again looking angry at work, it actually feeds into the stereotype that one, to be successful at work, women have to be male-like, or two, when we’re at work, we’re mean and we don’t want to help each other as women. That’s why some of the images that are chosen for the catalogue for Colorstock go beyond that, so someone can see their full self at work, not a caricature of what someone thinks they would look like at work.
Wailin: [00:16:05] Yeah, so, what kind of guidelines do you give your photographers to create more realistic scenarios?
Jenifer: [00:16:13] One of the biggest thing is don’t seek out models per se, try to shoot your friends. Try to shoot people you know in their natural environment. So, that’s the framework, and then the actual asks for certain types of images come from the customers. Hey, do you have an image of a mixed couple or a brown couple searching for a home?
Wailin: [00:16:36] Then, beyond the visuals, can you tell me a little bit about the language of captions and descriptors? How much thought goes into that language, because I was browsing your social justice section, and I noticed that they say things like, “woman holding sign at peaceful demonstration” and I was like, yes, that is literally what this picture—
Jenifer: [00:17:00] What’s happening…
Wailin: [00:16:59] —but I was like, it feels political to say “peaceful demonstration.”
Jenifer: [00:17:04] And not protest. No negative language. So, I’m so glad you asked me that, because for a good—the first six months of Colorstock, this was something that I struggled with with my former co-founder at the time and some of the contracts as people were coming on board to helping us. And just even the photographers in on-boarding. The first batch of photos that went up, terms like, “black”, “black woman sitting at the table”, were used a lot. I even wrote a blog post about this, where one of them said, “professional black people having a meeting” and I talked about how, yeah, that’s how the catalogue was described at first but it just did not sit well with me. It did not. And I could even see that people were searching the catalogue that way when we first launched. And it just didn’t sit well to me because I was so intentional about creating this platform that I forgot to—I forgot how impactful it would be and how we could take a stand and not continue to “other” people.
[00:18:10] So, you already know you’re coming to Colorstock to see people of color, right? So, we don’t have to say “Asian lady”, it was intentional to remove those descriptors. To remove those things that othered people and then to speak about people in the way that was the most positive and the most reflective. What was happening, the story that was being told in that image.
[00:18:33] And that was a business decision that I’m sure hurt us at first because again, I track this data. I tracked how people were searching the images. And they were searching for “black man” or “Asian woman” or “Latina woman” so I knew that we would lose sales if people couldn’t find, per se, what they were looking for with those othering terms. But it was more important to me that we took a stand in that regard as opposed to lose a sale or two.
Wailin: [00:18:59] I was looking at your catalogue, and I happened upon a series of photos of these really adorable African-American girls with yoga mats who were all doing yoga and going to and from a yoga class and it occurred to me what an absence of those kinds of images I’ve seen. And, you know, the fact that an image kind of stopped me in my tracks, almost, because I’m like, I’ve never seen that before.
Jenifer: [00:19:27] The work is necessary, so that’s what gets me up in the morning, that I know there is systemic change happening, when someone uses an image, right? But just like you said, to think that that would even be an image or a set of images that we would have to portray because society tells you that young black girls don’t do yoga or they’re not concerned about their bodies. That’s not necessarily the world that I live in. My children do yoga. I do yoga, so I’m glad the image helped stop you in your tracks because actually when I saw it from that particular photographer, I was like, yes, yes, yes, this is exactly what I was talking about
[00:20:09] I actually have a series of just my daughter and her friend at coding class that was very necessary and when they were launched because two summers ago, a lot of coding classes and non-profit organizations were having coding classes for children of color began to utilize those photos. And one actually got back to me and said, we sold out of our seats, and we had so much clamoring. People were clamoring for the classes that we had enough to go back and ask for another grant to do it again in the fall.
[00:20:40] So, that’s when you see how something as simple as an image can actually turn into some systemic change for people, and how it really can affect the bottom line of business. So, inclusivity is smart because it does affect business. It’s more than just a nice to have. It’s necessary.
[00:21:01] Broken By Design by Clip Art plays.
Wailin: [00:21:03] Appearances are important in business. You want to project that “ha ha business” image so that your customers, coworkers, or investors think you’re in control and doing great. But the reality is that sometimes things are not great.
Shaun: [00:21:16] And that brings us to our final story, about Dabble, an online platform where you can find classes in your city for everything from glass blowing to salsa dance, to foraging for wild plants.
Wailin: [00:21:26] Dabble was founded in 2011 and two years later, 2013, Dabble was grappling with layoffs and a dwindling bank account. The founders decided to try something radical. They set up a website where every day for a month, they would write a diary entry about what was happening in the business and how they were feeling. They called it 30 Days of Honesty.
Jess: [00:21:57] My name is Jess Lybeck and I was a co-founder of Dabble.
Erin: [00:22:00] And my name is Erin Hopmann Keck, and I was also a co-founder of Dabble with Jess.
Wailin: [00:22:06] Can you kind of lay the scene for where you were with the company when you decided to launch the honesty project?
Erin: [00:22:14] It was August of 2013, just over two years post launching Dabble. And just six months prior I felt like we had been at a high. We had just left a startup in residence program with IDEO in Chicago. And we had a team of close to seven people. And that summer we knew we were reaching the end of our runway and we weren’t successful at raising additional capital for sustaining the team, so we had just gone through layoffs. So we were smaller than ever. We had, I think, from a morale perspective we and the two people remaining were at a low point.
Jess: [00:22:53] We had tried a lot of different things and a lot of different initiatives to right the ship, find the right business model. We kind of got to the point where we were in some ways stalled and meanwhile, we were asking for help but it’s really difficult in the startup community to really ask for help because everybody’s always talking about how much they’re killing it and how everything’s going great, and it truly was not going great for us and so we were at a point where we needed support and I guess thought of a very public way in order to garner that support and really rally around trying to figure things out for our business.
Wailin: [00:23:31] How did you come up with the idea. I have read on the website that there might have been a few different inspirations. Can you talk about what some of those were?
Erin: [00:23:41] It was 40 Days of Dating was a blog that had gotten a decent amount of press at that point in time. It was two friends, I think, out of New York, who were single, eternally single, and thought, what if we dated each other and blogged about it? They had design backgrounds and they made it really cool and they were brutally honest. And we knew about it and I think it was Jess, wasn’t it Jess? Who was like, what if we—
Jess: [00:24:09] It was a while ago, now.
Erin: [00:24:09] —what if we did something similar with our business?
Wailin: [00:24:13] Did anyone say, oh god, don’t do it, this is a bad idea
Erin: [00:24:17] I certainly told family, friends, close colleagues as well as just people we knew in the business world. I think, you know, when you’re excited about something and maybe the look in my eyes, it was like hey, we’re going to do this hell or high water. We didn’t receive too much feedback, but of course, there’s always—my parents when I told them, I remember, my dad was a small investor in Dabble as well, was sort of like. Ooh, you’re really going to do this.
Wailin: [00:24:46] What did your advisors, your investors think? You mentioned your father but you had some outside advisors and investors who were not friends and family. Did you get any feedback from them before you launched?
Erin: [00:24:57] You know, we intentionally did not ask permission to launch it because I think we realized, this is our company, we can do what we want and we feel strongly about doing this. We sent out an email the day that we launched it, to investors. So, we didn’t ask for permission, we just let them know it was happening the day it launched and pointed them to it. And we got some positive feedback from a handful of investors, that was right off the bat as I remember correctly. But one, it was a very memorable day. I don’t know what you would say, Jess. Like, two weeks into the month where I got a call, a pretty angry call from one investor in particular. He was not happy. I think he wanted to have it be more of a, oh, everything’s going well! And that’s the way to invite more investment if that was what we were looking for, as opposed to showing our cards.
Wailin: [00:25:50] What was it like to actually get the thing going and see what the responses were like? Because I’m sure a lot of people came out of the woodwork. Can you talk a little bit about what it was like in your inbox during this time?
Erin: [00:26:04] Some of the more powerful responses that we received were from other business owners, who had, themselves, sort of ridden the roller coaster of the ups and downs of entrepreneurship and were just thankful that they could see a little bit of themselves in what we were blogging about and talking about every day. Honestly, it reminds me a little bit about the tweets that Elon Musk has put out into the world recently about the ups and downs. It’s really easy to look at another company, or in Elon Musk’s case, a titan of an industry and just assume that they’ve got everything all together. As an entrepreneur, that you’re experiencing these ups and downs and you think everybody else has their shit together and you don’t. And then it’s a conflicting feeling, so I think on the emotional aspect of things, some of the most rewarding comments came floating in from folks who had a business and had experienced similar thoughts and were just appreciative of us putting that out there.
Wailin: [00:27:05] Were there things that happened that you decided not to write about for whatever reason? Whether it was because you needed to protect the privacy of some people involved in discussion or whatever the case might have been. Were there limits to how honest you could be or wanted to be in that format?
Erin: [00:27:22] I think at the beginning we sort of struggled with that. How do we phrase this so that it’s perceived in a certain way by investors and by our teachers and by our students. By our champions within the tech community. And I think what we realized is we did kind of need one story, and we needed to just be ourselves and lay it out on the line and so, there certainly were some things that we were brainstorming about, maybe day seven that hadn’t quite crystalized into a real idea that we weren’t just sharing everything, if that makes sense. Because if things were solid yet, it doesn’t make sense to share, but I think we were fairly transparent about the ups and downs and when you start a project called 30 Days of Honesty, I think we kind of kept ourselves to that. And certainly the emotional aspects of things, which we highlighted the most on the blog, were fairly raw throughout the process. I know at least for myself, I did my best not to filter.
Wailin: [00:28:30] It seems like the big narrative from the business side of 30 Days of Honesty is the story of you tweaking your fee structure. Making a decision about it. Talking to teachers, getting feedback from your teachers and then still changing the fee structure but doing it in a different way than you had originally planned. And, do you think that the way you decided on the fee structure and ultimately rolled that out, do you think that it would have happened in more or less the same way without the project? Or was there some feedback you got as a result of the project that ended up shaping that business idea?
Erin: [00:29:09] One thing that was surprising was how many teachers recommended that we increase the cut that we took from what they got. We were hesitant to do that and I think it allowed us—it was something we had discussed, but I think putting the project out there and getting that feedback was the vote of confidence we needed to move forward with it. I don’t know that we would have done it without the feedback, and I think the feedback might have been different if we hadn’t had gotten it through a vehicle like 30 Days of Honesty. We sent an email and just announced, hey, teachers! We’re now taking X% more, I’m guessing the response would have been more negative.
Wailin: [00:29:47] When you look back, for you, are the biggest impacts or benefits of that project, four years later, do they feel more personal what this project did for you personally? The emotional catharsis you had mentioned earlier or do they feel more business related.
Jess: [00:30:08] I think the emotional is probably what’s stuck with us the longest. But the business aspects of helping us move forward with a big change in our business within a very short period of time was the short-term benefit that we saw four years ago. Yeah, I think it really lives on, on the emotional side, at least for myself. But, certainly it was a huge help to catalyze a lot of action within a very short period of time.
[00:30:36] I was reading it on my way to work this morning—I take the bus, so definitely not in the car, but I talked to Erin immediately, and there was so much nostalgia, and sort of, I think, a cool project that I’m certainly proud of. We still pay the hosting fees for it to keep out in the world.
Erin: [00:30:53] I did start a journal about six months after this project ended. I don’t know that it was directly a result of it. I think Jess and I are, we can be private people but this helped to force us to be a little bit more—when you do something like this, it felt really good. Those 30 days, despite the fact that we were—you know, it’s not like the business turned around in a day. I think we felt better about things than we had in months.
[00:31:19] Broken By Design by Clip Art plays.
Wailin: [00:31:22] In 2014, Dabble relocated from Chicago to St. Louis and got a grant from a non-profit that supports early stage businesses. Jess and Erin eventually left Dabble to do other things. The company continued on under a new CEO and moved back to Chicago. It’s still around today and you can take a knife-throwing class, like Shaun did once.
Shaun: [00:31:41] Darn right. Rework is produced by Wailin Wong and me, Shaun Hildner. Our theme music is Broken By Design by Clip Art.
Wailin: [00:31:49] You can find Colorstock at getcolorstock.com and Dabble at dabble.co. Jess and Erin’s diary can be found at 30DaysofHonesty.com. I’ll post links to these things in the show notes for this episode at rework.fm.
[00:32:05] Thanks to Meredith Turk, Amy Brady, Katherine Rowland, and Jonathan TranPham.
Shaun: [00:32:09] And remember, if you stick around in just a few seconds, we have our very own Elizabeth Gramm reading one of her poems that was originally published in Guernica magazine.
Wailin: [00:32:17] If you’re enjoying the show, please leave us a review in iambic pentameter on Apple Podcasts. You can also find Rework on the Breaker app, and if you like us on Breaker, it’ll help other people discover our show.
Shaun: [00:32:30] Oh, and remember, if you want one of your questions answered on the air by Jason, David, or someone else here at Basecamp or on the Rework podcast, give us a call at (708) 628-7850.
Wailin: [00:32:43] Thanks for listening and see you in two weeks.
Elizabeth: [00:33:16] i.
Wet pets lounge out in the trees, all the abandoned bits children leave, beyond what the self wants (to be bigger, less attached). We say: We came here because we love it and want to know it more, and: Golly you’re not my niece you’re my granddaughter! (life consists of these little touches of solitude) As in a postcard photograph titled “Where I Roost” and everyone else is captivated by the glint off the phonograph horn but you’re enraptured by the pillowcase’s embroidered ice skaters.
Entirely of Possibility is the name of a bench in Grand Central. No, in a park, a very big one, and the bench is by a pond where you might go to eat an old sandwich one day. The park’s capped by a castle and despite picturing the entire scene perfectly and even with a memory of mincing up the steps to the opera in a new black dress you will never know it. Entirely of Possibility is the name of the ship that sailed Lake Superior and many years later they found all the doorknobs planted in the cold lake bottom—knob-bulbs, sprouted gold too heavy to surface. Entirely of Possibility in gilt stenciled on the ship’s model housed in a Plexiglass box mounted over the dinner table. One day the box is inexplicably filled with minnows. Minnows, they are so stupid! They thought a ship meant water.
A man says, “I have learned people say things with their faces. Eyes, and mouths, and even their hands!” He watches Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? A camera watches his eyes— as eyes are of and separate from—so, facts: the eye sees the blonde’s big teeth not her blondeness; not the bulb but the small bead swaying at the end of the string. Neither hollers nor umbrella-revolver. Darts instead to the edges of things. The actor’s selves are spokes spun outward— and the eye avoids the hub.
Torsades de pointes is the most beautiful expression of twisted waves on an electrocardiogram, which is a garment of shocking loveliness, long-sleeved with polished buttons, two empty pockets to mimic the lower chambers, how they shake. It is lovely, isn’t it, entirely of possibility, and the sidewalks are lively with meaning. We agree a blue jay is the kind of bird who would don a bobby hat and wield a nightstick. The crows know faces, caw back. After rain a worm just wants to get out a little, see a little beyond the dirt den, but the shame of it is a worm is easily flattened, and a worm at night on a wet sidewalk is simple to confuse for no more than a snapped stick.
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