I had zero experience in a novelists’ room. Then I was offered my dream job in LA

How would I adapt to my own giant office, gummy bears on demand and daily microdosing?

” Do you want to come to California for a couple of months to work on the television show of your dreams ?” is honestly the most exciting non-food-related thing any other person has said to me. When the comedian and writer Lindy West sold the adaptation of her book Shrill to Hulu and it immediately got picked up to series( a dumb Hollywood term that basically means,” We will give you fund to attain several episodes of a show that we don’t know if anyone will actually watch “), she called me on the phone( a crime ), and we unintelligibly screamed high-pitched nonsense words at each other for a full minute and a half.

Lindy told me that she was allowed to pick one of several people who would join the Shrill writers’ room that summertime in Los Angeles, and she wanted that person to be me.

I had zero experience in a writers’ room and zero experience working on a television show, other than the soap opera running on a continuous loop in my head, starring myself. I was unbelievably flattered and 100% positive that I was grossly unqualified for this job that I was absolutely going to accept.

I love LA( dog birthday parties! spiritual healers on every corner !). You might not think so, because I’m a misanthropic depressed person with menopause acne, whose hips are too wide for every restaurant chair in this city, but you would be wrong. I’m a Fat Bitch from the midwest and I love accidentally running into minor celebrities with my cart in the wheatgrass aisle. I love witch doctor, and blond topknots, and designer sunglasses, and how everyone is friendly until they figure out that you can’t put them in a movie. I love frightening all of the miniskirted assistants at my Tv agent’s office by eating carbohydrates in public. I love going to a ritzy spa and suffering first-degree burns on my labia while getting my yoni steamed, a procedure I didn’t need that provided no benefits. I love when someone recommends their shaman to me in earnest. I love how many adorable ice-cream shops and bakeries there are all over a town where nobody feeds ice-cream or cooked goods. I love how, while sitting at a restaurant gazing out at the oceans and seas and casually mentioning that your back has been bugging you, people will offer a little no-big-deal nibble of shrooms, the route someone in, say, Milwaukee would go fishing through their pouch for a dusty Advil.

The first day of my new task as a lowly faculty writer on a US comedy television series, I was several minutes late and are covered under a thin sheen of musky flop sweat at 10 am, my palpable impostor disorder causing my belly to careen acid up the back of my throat. The perfect way to show up for your first day at a new job!” Nice to meet you, fellow comedy kids! Would you like to shake my damp and clammy hand? My body smells like a dog’s teeth !”

I approach most attempts with zero expectations- a skill I have sharpened after 40 years of fairly regular frustration. I learned early on that if you simply expect things to be bad , not even bad but the worst thing that could ever happen to anyone, then, unless someone gets murdered in front of you, whatever it is usually turns out to be fine. Bearable, at the worst. It’s a good skill to have, and it attains new things, for the most part, pleasantly exciting. I had no idea what was in store for me, so I packed a lunch and brought a refillable water bottle simply in case, because I was fully prepared to eat my room-temperature string cheeses while confidently saying dumb stuff like,” I’m just pitching here, but what if we sent that character to the moon ?”

Everyone else seemed borne and unimpressed so I tried to imitate their nonchalance as we were shown to our individual offices . A real office! With a desk, some chairs and a couple of windows plus a computer and a filing cabinet! No one else seemed fazed. Oh, sure, of course. They were bona fide showbiz professionals who’d probably had dozens of its term of office throughout their careers. I, meanwhile, wrote my last volume in the incapacitated bathroom at my old undertaking during lunch breaches. “ Be cool ,” I advised my inner tuna casserole. Nothing is more embarrassing than unbridled exuberance. I walked in and put down my backpack filled with shrink-wrapped portable snack cheese.” This’ll work, I guess ,” I said coolly, pretending to inspect a room that was bigger than my last apartment. I snuck a picture, my hands vibrating with hilarity, and send it to my friends in the heartland, who are all potatoes.

Samantha
Samantha Irby:’ Writing a Tv show is like hanging out with your friends’ Photograph: Eva Blue

Menus would magically appear in the middle of the conference room table at 10.30 every morning. Do you know that there is not a single Thai restaurant where I live? No need to cry for me, it’s not like larb is a basic human right. I’m just trying to illustrate why the fact that we could just, you know, have dishes delivered in the middle of the day was cause for celebration. I’m a rube, OK? I’m used to living that” packet of expired Swiss Miss cocoa in the violate room if you can find it” kind of life.

I’ve never had a shared assistant before. And, frankly, an deputy is a great deal of pressure, and I would never want to have access to one again. Every time someone young and eager( whose job it was to remember how much Stevia people like in their tea in the hopes that one day that would translate to a writing undertaking) offered to get me a drinking, I said here today,” Wait, can I get you a drink? What kind of kombucha do you like ?” and then I’d melt into a thick goo of inadequacy. I have never not had a job where I wasn’t the one whose chore it was to fetch things or clean up with a mop. I love a cold drinking and I detest strolling, so what a dream not to have to do that, but it felt weird not to give the person who committed to memory that I like that one weird soda a tip-off or the keys to my rental vehicle. You know, to make it feel even.

I frankly cannot tell you how to make a television programme, but I can tell you that we got to make a shopping list every week of things to have on hand in the kitchen. This is an unbelievably astonishing gift that immediately devolves into the most stressful decision you’ve ever had to stimulate in your life!

Someone would slide the notepad with’ groceries’ scrawled at the top over to me and I’d have a complete internal breakdown.

Should I write gummy bears? Is everyone going to know that I’m the one who requested a child’s candy ? What if I put down yogurt , and they get the unsweetened health kind? Is it more depressing or less depressing if I write down the specific brand and flavour that I want? Why do I always want the shit called low-fat chocolate cherry cupcake yogurt ?

Writing a television show is like hanging out with your friends in the same room every day, arguing about what should happen on a display you haven’t watched yet. After the first week, I waited for someone to show up and tell me,” OK, hoe, it’s cute that you thought we were just gonna let you sit in a chair and get paid to think about imaginary people. Here’s your scrubbing brush, you recollect where the lavatories are, right ?” And … I would do it. I would scrub those toilets. When I ran at a bakery, I had to mop the floor every night and scrub down pastry lawsuits, and once burned an entire layer of skin off my limb on a trayful of fresh millet bread. For that I was paid $ 7.25 an hour, and I gladly cashed those cheques. Every day, I drove to the Shrill writing room in my Toyota Camry and wondered if that would be the day someone would see through my ruse and order me to go pick up lunch or ask students if they could use my back as a table.

In the beginning, when we were coming up with the arc of the season, we all pitched ideas to build the narrative for the main character, Annie (” Really, though, should she go to outer space ?”). The basic premise of the series is this: Annie is a fat, single woman in a situationship with a loser, and she’s also unfulfilled at her job, where she is underappreciated. Our goal was to figure out a way, in only a handful of episodes, to evolve her from a whiny doormat( sorry !) to a bitch who owns her shit. While talking about a tangible style to shift Annie’s perspective from the beginning of the season( unhappily eating special weight-loss foods and putting up with shit from a shitty human) to where we wanted her to be at the end of it( fat and fine with it, or at the very least on the way to being fine with it, and dumping said fucking shit ), all of the writers were throwing out notions( we didn’t want to resort to a cheesy makeover montage or make her over the head with an exercise bike ). I said that maybe she could go to a fat-girl party, and maybe that party could be at a pond, and maybe seeing half-naked fat people enjoying themselves is likely to be the catalyst for this change in her attitude toward her body and herself.

‘Half-naked
‘ Half-naked fat people enjoying themselves’ in the scene Irby wrote for Shrill. Photograph: Everett Collection Inc/ Alamy Stock Photo

In Chicago, I would go to dance parties, and garb swaps, and exercise classes “thats been” made specifically for fat girls. I thought it would be cool to see Annie assure all different types of bodies unabashedly enjoying decadent party snacks while wearing crop tops and bikinis poolside.

You hear people talking about the importance of seeing” someone who looks like me ,” and it’s like,” OK, sure, who cares, shut up .” It has always been obvious in regards to race, but with sizing I guess I’d never truly thought about it that much because, well, that’s just the way things have always been. Sometimes, it isn’t always clear what you don’t have until model Tess Holliday is on the covering of a widely distributed magazine with her back fat out and then it’s: HELL YES, BITCH. SHE HAS THIGHS LIKE ME, OPEN UP MY LARGEST VEIN AND INJECT THESE IMAGES DIRECTLY INTO IT.

I wanted to write a moment like that for the demonstrate. Frankly, America needs more moments like that. More fat people doing normal stuff that isn’t “dieting” or” being sad “. As a consumer of popular culture you can’t help but be exposed to all the typical fat-girl stereotypes and tropes: she cries on the scale! She’s a great friend to skinny protagonists! She has a closet full of adorable cherry-printed skirts! For me, Shrill was an opportunity to set a bitch fat lady who can’t sing on TV, and it attained people so mad, and I love that.

We wrote the indicate over the course of two months. I ate more delicious free lunch than I could count; I went to many, many live demonstrates and left early; I watched Jeff Goldblum on the freeway and nearly drove my stupid overpriced automobile into oncoming traffic. I also 😛 TAGEND

* went to a psychic in Santa Monica who got some things so right that it scared me

* microdosed psilocybin mushrooms every day

* left a restaurant because it was too small and offered no parking, which constructed me feel like the mayor of the midwest

* ensure the dude who played Ryan on The Office( US) at a fried chicken spot

* went to Sephora in Pasadena and let the handsome salesman with very smooth skin dishonor me into buying six billion dollars’ worth of tiny bottles of oil

* slammed my hand in the door of the rental automobile and pissed my gasps from the blinding pain

* stocked up on powerful crystals

* tried fruitlessly to find a quality bagel

* sat in the car listening to Drake’s In My Feelings on repeat in a parking lot in Long Beach while watching other people frolic in the water

* ordered tacos a thousand times

* feigned I was starring in La La Land and constructed unironic jazz hands in public

After we writers turned our individual scripts in, we expended a week or so punching up one another’s jokes. I learned so many things on the job, entailing I faked knowing what people were talking about then looked it up on my phone when they turned their attention elsewhere. I get off the plane in LAX not knowing how to write” this scene happens in the house at breakfast” in a script, but now I know it’s” INT. HOUSE–MORNING “.” Punching up” basically means that other writers go through your script and try to come up with lines that are funnier than yours, and you get to do the same thing to theirs; then everyone submits them anonymously and individual producers, who get final script acceptance, picking the ones that they like best, and they’re probably not yours but whatever, bitch!

When the scripts were all punched up and edited, it was time to leave. I mostly spent my last week watching Sharp Objects in the air-conditioning at our rented home and avoiding all the Gila monsters prowling around outside. Then I went home, where I no longer had to talk about weed or pretend to understand fashion.

My life snapped right back to whatever it was before I left. I ran my usual errands, picked themed snacks for our monthly volume club, and let my muscle memory lead me right to the gastrointestinal distress aisle at my beloved local pharmacy. I didn’t have to learn the layout of a new store any more.

I don’t ever want to be the kind of person who is not fully blown away by the magnitude of getting to make a big, dumb, shiny thing that doesn’t cure disease or whatever, but brought people some elation. I never want to take for granted that a person in a big corporate office pulled out a giant cardboard cheque for millions of dollars to buy mini hotdogs and fake margaritas, only because I typed this scene up on my old, junky laptop. It still feels like a takeover, like:” Do they actually know that they let those individuals who regularly falls for fake news narratives write an entire episode of their television depict ?” I’ll never be too cool for all those coffees a kid with a master’s degree had to spend his summer running to get for me. I am a garbage person who has taken a shit in the street before! Did I ever imagine, 20 years later, I’d be wearing those flat headphones you only see around the necks of directors in behind-the-scenes DVD extras of your favourite movies, watching performers read terms that I wrote from a monitor? I DID NOT. I believed I would be living in a windowless apartment above a Jamaican restaurant, married to a small hairless dog. I may still end up there, fixing Mr Little Jeans his dinner as reggae heartbeats through our floor from the restaurant below, but I will always have my Hollywood Summer.

* Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby is published by Faber and Faber on 2 April. Shrill is on BBC iPlayer

If you would like your comment on this piece to be considered for Weekend magazine’s letters page, please email weekend @theguardian. com, including your name and address( not for publication ).

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Cokie Roberts, famed journalist and political commentator, dies at 75

Roberts expended decades at ABC News, wrote books and never became cynical, colleagues say: When I think of politics, I think of Cokie Roberts

Cokie Roberts, the daughter of politicians who grew up to cover the family business in Washington for ABC News and NPR over several decades, died on Tuesday in Washington of complications from breast cancer. She was 75.

ABC contravene into network programming to announce her demise and pay tribute.

Roberts was the daughter of Hale Boggs, a former House majority leader from Louisiana, and Lindy Boggs, who succeeded her husband in Congress. Roberts ran in radio and at CBS News and PBS before joining ABC News in 1988.

She was a congressional reporter and analyst who co-anchored the Sunday political show This Week with Sam Donaldson from 1996 to 2002.

Roberts, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002, kept running virtually to the end. She appeared on This Week in August, drawing enough concern about her evident weight loss that she released a statement saying ” I am doing fine” and was looking forward to covering next year’s election.

She co-wrote a political column for many years with her husband of 53 years, Steven, who survives her. They had two children.

Roberts wrote books, focusing on the role of women in history. She wrote two with her husband, one about interfaith households and From This Day Forward, an account of their marriage.

Current ABC News political reporter Jonathan Karl recalled being in awe of Roberts when he first started working at the network.

” When I think of politics, I think of Cokie Roberts ,” he said.

Her colleagues said she never became cynical or “losing ones” love for politics. She did force NPR to clarify her role as a commentator when she wrote a column in 2016 calling on” the rational wing” of the Republican party to reject Donald Trump as their presidential candidate.

Read more: www.theguardian.com