me, not posing at all, while hard at work

Sometimes someone I know will read something I’ve written and ask me if so-and-so (in my book, my script, my narrative haiku, whatever) is so-and-so that we know in real life.

This irks me, though I pretend it doesn’t. The fact that my reader/friend’s first comment is to try to connect one of my rich finely-drawn characters sprung from my brilliant writerly mind with some mouth-breather in our real life always feels vaguely accusatory. Like I plagiarized from life and got caught. …


A short story by the author of the collection “The Cult In My Garage”

Photo: arturbo / Getty Images

Where are his eyebrows? I had prepared myself for gaunt and pale, sure. Maybe with a bandana like Campbell Scott in that 80’s movie with Julia Roberts. But, no. His face is puffy and pink, his shaved head shiny and unadorned and his eyebrows are totally AWOL. I wish I’d Googled the kind of cancer he has. I wish I remembered the name he told me — it was hard to pronounce and maybe began with a D. I wish I wasn’t so hungover.

The next curveball comes in the form of long sunburnt legs exiting the passenger side of…

Whether it’s a blog post or a book, you can’t please every reader every time

Your writing should be as unique as you are. Photo: kohei_hara / Getty Images.

Sometimes people feel the need to reach out and tell me how much they hate something I’ve written. A friend I haven’t seen since high school texted me right after the premiere of a new show I was writing on just to let me know it “wasn’t my best work.” At a funeral, my aunt asked if I was still writing on “that disgusting show.” As I tried to defend myself, another aunt came over to ask what we were talking about.

Aunt One: We’re talking about his disgusting show.

Aunt Two: Oh yeah. I tried to watch that. …

Beyond Small Talk

Because when you think about it, we’re all somebody’s rando

Illustration: Dan Woodger

This story is part of How to Talk to Anyone, Forge’s guide to moving past the chitchat and truly connecting.

There’s something uniquely comforting about stepping into someone else’s warm home, full of familiar faces and delicious smells, and sitting down to a bountiful meal with the kind of friends and family you don’t think twice about unbuttoning the top of your pants in front of.

Which is why it can be such a drag to approach the Instagram-perfect table, dinner plate shot-put heavy in one hand, hot brandy eggnog warming the other, to find you’re seated (by decree of…

“I’m just saying chicken and eggs are not that commonly served together for an obvious reason,” Veal Parmstrong is addressing the table with his theory about the dish we’re preparing to eat. Seven of us are packed in at a corner table in the loud, smokey patio of Cafe Artist — a strip mall restaurant located in the Little Saigon district of Garden Grove, CA.

“Because,” Veal continued, eager to get to his theory’s money-shot. “It’s disturbing to have the mother and child on the same plate.”

I’d never thought of that and would have preferred to keep it that…

Duncan Birmingham

Duncan has written on tv shows like Maron and Blunt Talk. Find him on twitter @duncanbirm and order his upcoming first book here:

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