One year of Burn It Down (plus an LA event!)

Hello! First up, a couple of interviews (and an event) I’d like to draw your attention to. Then I’m going to share a few thoughts on one year of Burn It Down (now out in paperback!) existing in the world. 

A number of folks asked me during the past year when I’d have a book event in Los Angeles. The stars did not align to make that happen until this week — and it’s happening! 

The great people at Women In Film LA put together an event to celebrate the paperback publication of Burn It Down: Power, Complicity and a Call for Change in Hollywood. This free shindig will take place 7 p.m. Thursday, June 13, and it’ll consist of two things: a panel conversation and a book signing. 

I feel enormously fortunate to be sharing the stage at Groundfloor LA on Thursday with these industry folks:

Kether Donohue: Actor, producer, singer/songwriter, voice actor; You’re the Worst, Grease Live, B Positive, Star Trek: Lower Decks, among other credits. 

Melinda Hsu: Showrunner, creator, director, writer, producer; Nancy Drew, Tom Swift, Lost, Medium and The Vampire Diaries, among other credits; creator of the Lead With Kindness podcast and management training seminar.

Shernold Edwards: Former executive, creator, writer, producer; Station 19, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, All Rise, Anne with an E, Haven and Sleepy Hollow, among other credits. 

Maikiko James: Senior Director of Programs, Women In Film LA; Maikiko oversees WIF LA’s member programs including Fellowships, Emerging Careers, and the WIF/Black List Episodic Lab. She co-founded INSIGHT, a WIF community for women of color in entertainment, in 2018.

After the panel, I’ll sign books (books will be for sale on site, but if you want to bring a book you already own, I’ll sign those too). As noted, the event at Groundfloor LA in Downtown LA is free, and you can register to reserve your spot at this link

The interviews I’d like to draw your attention to: This long chat with Cole Haddon of the excellent newsletter 5AM StoryTalk, in which I talk about a lot of things related to the writing of and the reception to the book. I also lay out my Grand Unified Theory of the Art vs. the Artist — and this is one excerpt from that section of the talk (the type in green is me expanding on that part of the chat on my Instagram Stories):

I also recently did this fun podcast with Danielle Turchiano of Made Possible by Pop Culture. It’s available on all podcast platforms and on Youtube as well. (If you crave more conversations that feature me talking about entertainment industry issues and/or my book, there are lots more listed here.)

So! One year ago this month, my first book came out. I am the first person to discover that writing a book is hard. Probably you’ve never seen any author complain at any point in time ever, because writing a book is easy. 

Hahahaha nope. It’s hard. It’s like having a kid or getting hitched — whatever you think it’s gonna be, it’s gonna be different than that, in good ways and less good ways, in unpredictable and incredible ways. As in those other life situations, you can’t be prepared for a lot of the things that happen, but as you try your best, you usually learn a great deal along the way. 

Anyway, yeah, it wasn’t easy (though there were some high points, mainly involving getting to interview many, many badass humans, and there was also some surreal/weirdly funny shit that happened during those 2-3 years). But by the end of the process, I was in thousand-yard-stare mode, focused on pulling the dang thing over the finish line. By the end, these were the two hopes I had the energy left to carry: I wanted to not get sued, and I wanted to be proud of my first book. Anything else was gravy. 

Looking good on both of fronts. And also… my friends, in the past year, there has been So. Much. Gravy. 

Of course I did have other hopes: I wanted to have good discussions around the book, I wanted to meaningfully connect with readers and sources and writers and podcasters interested in the topics of the book. And yeah, despite the moments of bleak despair I’ve experienced while covering this industry for decades, I had reason to think real change was/is possible, and I wanted to convey that too. I wanted to help the folks who are (and have been) trying hard to alter the entertainment industry’s norms, codes, practices and workplaces. The book wasn’t just designed to be a useful (if sometimes tough) snapshot of an industry with exploitative foundational elements going through wrenching economic and cultural changes. It was also designed to highlight the voices and actions of those in the trenches actually changing shit. 

Post-strikes, things are hard in the industry right now. Really hard, if not grim (and fyi, the grimness is not the fault of the workers who went on strike; it’s the fault of the top industry bosses who drove the rank and file to strike while those same bosses drove the industry into a ditch). So please understand that I’m not trying to say Hollywood is fixed or thriving just now. But I have been enormously blessed by seeing my book baby, for the past year, have interesting and gratifying adventures out in the world. And with the help of so many of you, I got to see a lot of my hopes and aspirations fulfilled. And then some things happened that were wildly more gratifying than I’d had the courage to imagine.

A very fun thing that happened at ATX, which was wildly enjoyable again this year: Alan Sepinwall and I re-created an iconic TV image.

A lot of things in the past 12 months have helped me get to a place where I can say, “Yeah, I think I did what I set out to do. And the work is not done — by no means — but I’m glad I wrote the damn thing. Really glad.” 

In that interview with Cole Haddon, I compared writing, researching, vetting and launching the book to jumping off 3,000 cliffs at once. As a control freak, this was fun! I like wondering about many, many things that could go terribly wrong! Fun fun good times

All those control-freak tendencies around the book, they’re kinda gone now. Either those pathways in my brain broke from overuse or… maybe I’m just at peace with where I’ve arrived, a year later.  

One great thing is, Burn It Down is not mine anymore. Of course, it was never just mine — it has always belonged to the many, many people who helped me bring it into the world and who spoke to me within its pages. 

But now, even more than ever, it also belongs to the makeup artist who told an actor recently that she loved this book by this woman named Maureen Ryan (not realizing the actor was a source for one of my stories). It belongs to the industry person who told me at ATX TV Fest last week that it helped her deal with a person who’d treated her and others badly. It belongs to the all the readers, reporters, critics, industry people and artists who’ve come up to me at events, or who emailed or texted or DMed, or who posted interesting thoughts on social media.

It belongs to people across the country (and world) who wanted to share thoughtful, curious, insightful or kind input, reactions and coverage. It belongs to the WGA members who told me they listened to the audiobook while walking on picket lines last year. (Last year, according to my sources, the book was spotted more than once on picket lines and on New York City subway platforms, little grace notes I find continually delightful). 

I’ve had a year to process a lot of things. A year to understand that thousands of people were willing to take those 3,000 leaps with me. A year to know, even more clearly than I did before, that for decades, people doing good work in hundreds of industry trenches and people who love popular culture and want it to be made not just well but with respect for those who make it — they had all joined together to build a scaffold, a structure, a solid foundation, all of which ensured I didn’t fall.

I had a place to land. 

I’m enormously grateful. Thank you so fucking much