Updated: Aug 27, 2019
The caption to the image to your left is brought to you by: my unused outfit from my appearance as an extra in Bradley Hawkins’ Calf Rope a couple weeks ago, which looks a lot more Jonathan Byers going off to fight the Demogorgon than anything else.
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First of all, a bit of housekeeping – I will profusely apologize for ghosting this blog for the past two and a half months. It hasn’t been that my writing has grinded to a halt – in fact, it’s been the exact opposite of that! Somehow, when you’re being paid to write bloggish posts for other people, the writing on your unpaid (to date anyway), writing-muscle-flexing blog becomes an easy thing to go “eh” about. So, to the three avid readers who anxiously await my next post – I’m sorry!
But anyway – today is my 24th birthday! We made it. I’ve now officially been a writer for ten years, since I finished the first draft of Good Knight and Goodbye (later published as Knights of the Square Table) in July 2009. If you follow me on Instagram and/or Twitter or if you’re my friend on Facebook, you’ll probably know what I’ve been up to this summer. I completed my apprenticeship at Walnut Street Theatre at the beginning of July and immediately started working a few odd jobs to cover my rent while I work my main hustle in writing. I have three scripts to juggle right now and I’ve gotten connected with a post-evangelical Christian publisher here in Philadelphia and written a couple articles for them.
I’m really enjoying the freedom and flexibility I have now that I’m no longer working evenings full-time. I work for guaranteed money as often as I need to and have tons of time to write and then also make new friends and rekindle embodied relationships with friends and family – the relational aspect has been so needed after a year feeling kind of pretty isolated working about 6 nights a week.
It’s not really news to say 23 was a pretty difficult and amazing year for me in a ways that my life had yet to be difficult or amazing. I moved in with strangers and lived in a big city for the first time in my life. I was firmly outside the evangelical bubble for the first time since I lived in Bethesda, Maryland (and I was only 7 when we moved to Lancaster). The year was going to challenge and refine me no matter what happened.
So with that being said, I have made up a list of a few things that have become part of my life over the past year that I feel particularly grateful for today. In no particular order:
1. The Good Place: It’s crazy to think there was a time in my life before I started watching this show, but it’s only been since last September. It’s so good – it’s a plot heavy sitcom exploring what it means to be a good person and the characters are violently delightful. I’ve been motivated to become a better person every time I watch this show. Season 3 gets uploaded to Netflix literally tomorrow and I’m so pumped to binge it!
2. Heuer Publishing: While we began this journey in November 2017, we finally reached the formal publication of my first two plays. It means so much that Knights and The Thousand-Year Rose are now in their final forms. I can forever let go of tweaking them and stand by what I’ve written and let other groups perform these stories I’ve created.
3. Beacon Church: Beacon is a wonderful community in a little sanctuary in Kensington that I found on the ChurchClarity.org database. You look up your city on ChurchClarity and you can find churches in your area that align with your beliefs on the issues that divide our churches (specifically, issues of LGBTQ affirmation and women in ministry). Beacon is a Presbyterian Church USA plant where, for the first time in my life, I sought out a church because I wanted to get involved with a church. There was no pressure from family or friends or employment – I just went to church because I wanted to go to church. Beacon embraced me right away for all of me and I feel very at home in my new church home.
4. The Fenton Family Group Chat: My parents, brother, and sister have been wonderful sounding boards all my life, but I think especially in the past year and a half, I’ve actually taken this to heart and I’m so grateful for their affirmation and the patience they have with me as new situations develop.
5. Monday Nights with Addison et al: Addison was one of my coworkers (and later supervisor) at Black Rock Retreat in 2012 and 2013. We now live three blocks away from each other in Powelton Village. Over the course of my apprenticeship, Monday was the only night I would ever have off and it worked out that most Mondays, I would go over to Addison’s apartment and we would have dinner, sometimes play video games, sometimes just talk about what’s on our mind. It’s been wonderful to reconnect with a friend from my past and get to know his wife, Leah, and other friends they have!
6. OurBible App: Not only have I found paid writing work with OBA (and will certainly be doing more!), it’s afforded me a chance to articulate my complicated, but honest, relationship with the Christian faith and get it out on the page to help others. OBA isn’t afraid to exist in doubt and mystery like a lot of Christian platforms are. Also – the OBA offices are here in Philly and I’ve gotten to develop a great friendship with the founder, Crystal Cheatham! I’m really glad OBA reached out to me.
7. Brendan, Stauber, and Steggerda Staying My Best Friends: My three roommates from college are my best friends, full stop. I think I’m able to say that because we put in regular effort to keep in touch even though we live in four different states. We have a very active group Snapchat and group text and we meet up on Google Hangouts every so often. Especially in the lonelier stretches of this year, this has been a lifesaver for me. I’ve gotten to see each of them individually in Philly in this year, too! Maybe someday we’ll all get back together in person (which hasn’t happened since April 2017)
8. Q Christian Fellowship: There is a network of Christians like me, who feel uncomfortable in many if not most Christian spaces and just need a space to be who we are and be healed from toxic experiences in and out of the church and be challenged as we continue to go through life. I'm grateful to have gotten connected with the Q Christian community through Twitter and in person, it's really helped make sense of my faith and helped me to reclaim it.
9. See Amid the Winter Snow: It’s happening! It’s actually happening!! My third world premiere is less than a month away and I’m really grateful Amanda Pasquini reached out to me and said she wanted to do a show in the Philly Fringe festival and asked if I had any scripts she could direct. I’m really excited for this to come together. Please come see the show, tickets are available here :)
10. Walnut Street Theatre: I’ve met so many people over the past year directly or tangentially through Walnut Street Theatre. Kelly, Kiesha, Greg, Sniya, Kris, Dan, Tori, Kaitlin, MaryKate, Jenna, Rebecca, Claudia, Jean, Nancy, Dinah, Jeannine, Rhonda, Jim, Barb, Ken, Joyce, Marsha, Karl, Kevin, Emily, Matt, Adam, Damon, Anna, Ali, Dana, Paul, Peter, Cait, Ryan, Siobhan, Rita, Jacob, Alanna, Mark, Judy, Nick, Jasmine, Tom, Amanda, Chelsea, the list goes on and on and on. I’ve learned entertainment is a viable career space and I’m grateful to have been part of the apprenticeship. I’ve built a nice professional network and made a few friends, too.
11. Good Christian Fun Podcast: This podcast is incredible. I’ve only gotten into it the past couple months. The hosts are two jaded Christians and each episode, they look at a piece of the strange world of Christian pop culture items, often with an atheist or agnostic guest. It’s just delightful. I love it.
12. My Post-Walnut Life: I’m really grateful I found a survival job that two months in, I don’t mind doing. I have a couple part-time gigs, washing dishes here and waiting tables there – but what I love is I only have to work as frequently as I need to and the rest of the time, I have lots of time to write and also have a social life. I’m not making a lot of money, but I’m fulfilled.
I’m really feeling good about my life today. I’m looking forward to what the next year will hold and I’m so grateful for what the past year became. There are certainly a few things I’m looking forward to while I’m 24, but some of the most exciting things that happen in the course of a year are the things you have no idea will come to fruition.
So – happy birthday to me, I’m going to go have a couple margaritas with my parents! Enjoy your August 26th, I know I will enjoy mine. :)