Illustration by Isha Khanzode.

Illustration by Isha Khanzode.

Podcast: The Narrative Breakdown

Even though I have been publishing my writing for years, I was recently PARALYZED by the feeling that I didn’t know/wasn’t good enough to write the story I wanted to tell. The cure for my imposter syndrome came in the form of this fabulous, FREE podcast, which is like a master class in all things writing. The hosts are Cheryl Klein, a YA editor at Scholastic, and James Monohan, who has worked in film, TV, and more. They interview an array of awesome writers, including Rainbow Rowell and E. Lockhart, and they talk about EVERYTHING story-related. If you are interested in writing a novel, a screenplay, a play, nonfiction, or a great critical review, they’ve got you covered. Using popular books and movies as examples, they dissect issues like how to craft characters and page-turning plots. It’s easy to hop around and cherry pick the episodes that apply to whatever you are working on or want to know about. I’ve taken copious notes while listening to this podcast. It has made me excited to write, and best of all, CONFIDENT that I have the tools to tell a great story. —Stephanie Kuehnert

Short Film: Darby Forever

This is the trailer for Darby Forever, a short film by Saturday Night Live cast member/expert cake decorator Aidy Bryant. It premieres next next week on Vimeo. Aidy stars as Darby, an employee at a gray, fluorescent-lit fabric and craft store. Her boss (played by Retta) doesn’t let her touch the cash register or eat her meatball sub between sales. Darby still manages to squeeze li’l nuggets of joy out of her otherwise grim week by gluing sequins to her sneakers, embroidering old photographs, waiting for visits from the cute water delivery guy, and—most important—escaping into elaborate and adorable daydreams. When Darby meets a group of bad girls in a band (featuring Natasha Lyonne, Katy Goodman of La Sera, and Ali Koehler of Upset), she imagines that she’s their tough, cigarette-smoking lead singer. “My whole life is black boots and throwin’ eggs,” “Bad Darby” tells them at a party she was definitely invited to.

As someone who has concocted elaborate ways to give my phone number to the guy who makes my bagels, and cannot see girls perform in a band without deciding that I, too, could and should become a musician, there was so much of Darby Forever that gave me Oprah-style “Me too!” moments. But what I love about it, more than anything, is the fact that Darby is a leading lady who looks a lot like I do, and that her not-thin body does not factor into her feelings, who she is, or what she wants. It’s a political act to put bodies like Darby’s or mine on screen—especially when they can just be as they are, and not a punchline, plot point, tool for self-improvement, or catalyst for change. Darby’s just a sweet, creative dreamer who is thirsty for the water guy and does not want to jog around a baseball diamond, thank you very much. —Brodie Lancaster

Web Series: Got 2B Real

This hilarious parody reality show by Patti LaHelle has been my mood improver since 2012. It “documents” the age-old (mythical, I think?) rivalry between music icons Patti LaBelle and Aretha Franklin, and brings fictional versions of Dionne Warwick, Chaka Khan, Whitney Houston, Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, and many more soul and R&B divas into the mix. LaHelle really managed to assemble a talented cast for this show—I love it for its overdubbed video and accurate, technically impressive vocal impersonations. It interprets some really big moments in music history and popular culture, and it’s interesting to see how these characters, who are real people in the world, relate to one another in this parody. The only unfortunate bit is that its run is technically over, buuuut LaHelle drops new episodes every now and then. There’s a reason I keep revisiting it, though: The whole point of this show is the subtle art of shade, and I just loooooove to take notes, honey! —Lebohang Masango

Video: “ILYSB (Live in Los Angeles)” by LANY

I first started listening to LANY (pronounced Lay-nee) around the holidays, and since then I’ve been hooked. This is their first music video, which they released a couple weeks ago. The group is composed of Paul, Les, and Jake, who met while studying in Nashville. They write and produce their music on a laptop, even though they’re now signed professionally and have toured with big names like Ellie Goulding and Zella Day. (They’re also opening for Troye Sivan during the North American leg of his tour, yay!) My favorite thing about LANY is how serendipitous and real their music is—it’s similar to ’90s pop, but with a modern flair. There’s also just something about the seemingly effortless way they perform, and how they immediately connect with fans like me. ILY LANY. —Lauren Tepfer ♦