There's a document in my Google Drive that I wrote about nine or ten months ago, when I was trying to decide what to do with my website. I titled it "Website Thunder Brain" because I like to be different, and this sounded cooler to me than "Website Brainstorm." It's basically a list of ideas for my website, this light-gray masterpiece that is jordanjeffers.com. Here's a direct quote from part of it:
Blog content should be mostly non-topical, humorous work, in the following order of priority:
- Fiction - Along the lines of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.
- Nerd appreciation - Thoughts on wizards, books, making friends, and playing games.
- Christianity - Thoughts on religious life, scripture, and pop culture?
- Sports - Personal narratives, fun with baseball history, and shameless Cardinals rants
Let's focus on the first item on that list. When I said, "Along the lines of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency", what I really meant was, "Almost identical to McSweeney's Internet Tendency in every way." I basically intended to steal their model as much as possible, focusing on short pieces that smash genres together in different ways. (Stealing other people's ideas, of course, is a writerly tradition that dates back to Shakespeare.) The first two stories I ever wrote for this site -- Letter of recommendation for Ms. Amelia Bedelia and A series of letters to the boy who keeps cutting things off of the Giving Tree -- are pretty classic McSweeney's style stories, though longer than they normally publish.
I never really stopped copying McSweeney's, or "the Tendency" as I like to call it, though much of my work now is a bit less "conceptual," fiction that's closer to being a story than an idea. But I always felt like they had found a niche that was really worth exploring, little ideas that could have a big impact on the way we see little things, like lower back tattoos.
Anyway, this is all behind the scenes sort of stuff, and not particularly interesting. I really just quoted the passage above to show you how much I respect McSweeney's, how much I wanted to emulate them.
And that brings me to a few weeks ago, when the Tendency announced their 5th Annual Column Contest. They do this every year, as you probably picked up on from the word "annual," soliciting columns ideas from random people. The winners all receive a $500 prize and a chance to write for the Tendency for a year. This sounded like something I wanted to do/spend, so I decided to enter. I figured that, at the very least, I could use the opportunity to develop something new for my own site.
It took me about a week and a half to really come up with the topic and write something worth reading, eventually coming back to the third item on that list, "Thoughts on religious life, scripture, and pop culture?" The question mark should tell to you how confident I was about my ability to do this in a way that was both real and humorous at the same time. Writing about religion is dangerous work -- the ground is treacherous and thorny, peppered with land mines and banana peels. It's equally easy to blow yourself up and make yourself look like a fool. Often it's safer to circle around the long way, and try to come at God from an oblique angle.
Then Mr. Robin Thicke and Ms. Miley Cyrus decided to write humorists everywhere a blank check of comedy at the VMAs, and my new column came together around their particular insanity. I called it "Speaking for All Christians Exactly Like Me," and sent it off like a young child to their first day of school, with a tear, a prayer, and a few shoelaces untied.
A week or so later it came back to me, along with a nice little email from the Tendency informing me that I had not won. [emoticon sad face]
But...[dot dot dot]
I had been honorably mentioned! [emoticon happy face]
Look, you can see my name on the contest results page.
Though this mention comes with no prize money, it does come with much honor and, more importantly, the same chance to write my column for McSweeney's for the next year that the winners get. So starting sometime near the end of September, you'll start to see "Speaking for All Christians Exactly Like Me," on the Tendency. The columns will all be about pop culture in some way or another, and I'll post links to them on my own site, and tweet them, so you won't miss any.
I'm super excited about this, in a way that's really hard to describe. You know those times when something happens that you can't stop smiling about? This is one of those moments, for me.
Hope you are well and joyful, as I am. Can't wait to see the new baby niece again this weekend! She's going to be so proud of me.
With love always,
Your son Jordan
Jordan Jeffers writes letters to his mother on the Internet because stamps are a form of witchcraft. Feel free to give him electronic encouragement via the little Facebook and Twitter buttons below. It means more to him than you might think.