It’s Totally a Real Job: Geek Girl Brunch Founders

it's totally a real job...

I’m back with some more amazing, geeky girlbosses! Last week we talked with the fabulous, Geekie Award-winning fashion blogger, Melificent, and this week we’re talking with the founders of Geek Girl Brunch, Jamila, Rachel, and Yissel. GGB has completely exploded recently, with chapters opening up around the world for geeky women to come together, enjoy their shared love of all things fandom and geek, and enjoy some tasty breakfast food. After all, we all know how magical breakfast foods can be.

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More than a regular brunch date, Geek Girl Brunch has proven to be a tight-knit, supportive community that is not only working overtime to support its members, but it also working to help those in the communities surrounding GGB chapters. These women haven’t just started a brunch club, they’ve created a global community dedicated to loving and supporting one another and giving back to their communities. I’m incredibly honored to get to feature them in this series. So let’s get to the interview!

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l-r: Yissel, Rachel, Jamila

 

Kendall: How did you three meet?

Rachel: Shout out to The Way Station! We all met at this awesome bar.

Kendall: What gave you all the idea to launch Geek Girl Brunch?

Jamila: Almost 3 years ago I had brunch with fellow geek blogger Kristin and dubbed it Geek Girl Brunch. It was a blast! We figured the more the merrier, so we invited our other geek girl friends to the next brunch. After a few brunches we tossed around the idea that we wanted to start making Geek Girl Brunch a “bigger thing” and open it up to more geek girls. We didn’t want to keep all of this fun to just our group! We officially launched in NYC in May 2014, but soon enough geek girls all over wanted to be part of the Geek Girl Brunch. Less than a year later we were officially international!

Yissel: At that inaugural group brunch I knew I wanted to see it grow. Jamila was on the same page. Fast forward to our Doctor Who brunch, when Rachel joined us. We ended up being the only three there. By this time I’d already created a shared tumblr for the group, and Jamila had bought a domain. With Rachel onboard and just as eager, that brunch became our first planning meeting. Over the past year, GGB has really exploded. It’s all over the US and even all over the world.

Kendall: Did you all expect it to catch on like it has?

Rachel: No way!

Jamila: Not at all, I’m still blown away by how much it’s grown. But it goes to show that there was a need for an IRL space for geek girls!

Yissel: I think we’re still a little shocked at our growth. It’s a testament to how large a need we’ve been filling.

Kendall: What was the biggest hurdle you all faced with launching GGB? How did  you overcome it?

Rachel: I think we’re still working through our biggest hurdles. GGB got bigger than we ever thought it would, faster than we ever thought it would. We’re basically playing catch-up all the time. We also want to make sure that the decisions we make about GGB are the best decisions we can make, and that we are making all the GGB Brunchettes our priority. Sometimes we all disagree about certain directives or what we think is the most important current project. Communicating openly has really benefitted our decision-making processes..

Jamila: Ditto to everything Rachel said. This is all on a volunteer basis, so our work at HQ, our officers and other Brunchettes who help out all do it because they believe in GGB. Most of us are working or in school and have side projects on top of the Geek Girl Brunch work. Not to mention spending time with family, partners, children and friends! So finding the time to manage it all has been a learning experience for sure. We’re working on sharing the workload more. We have a wonderful community of women who are down to help which is beyond helpful.

Kendall: In founding GGB, what is a mistake or misstep that you made that you wish you could tell your past self (or others trying to create something similar) to avoid?

Rachel: One shared email! Yissel and Jamila can confirm that I have a history of struggle with the GGB emails. I can’t really check it throughout the day. I can get overwhelmed when I go into it in the evenings. I never thought we would deal with the volume of emails we get every day. And at least 75% of those emails are from people who don’t know that we’re just 3 geeks with day jobs. They think we employ whole departments of people!

Jamila: I would have probably recruited more help for GGB HQ sooner. Although we have over 2,000 members and over 60 chapters worldwide, we’re only now getting around to having more HQ positions. My advice would be to make sure as you grow, your workload stays manageable. If you more need help, ask! You’d be surprised at how many people would love to help.

Yissel: Just one?! PACE YOURSELF. Go one step at a time. Research, research, research. Go through all the legal stuff first. We are making-and have yet to make important decisions now, that we should’ve made at the start. GGB has in many ways, become bigger than us. Now we’re having to double back to find solutions to old problems. The thing about starting something like this, is that no one ever tells you how exactly to prepare for it. That’s why we’re still figuring things out. What we were offering, there was overwhelming demand for, so it often feels like we rushed into expansion, before we’d perfected it. I will say, it’s nice to have a growing community of people helping us to do just that.

Kendall: What is one of the most challenging parts of starting a website, business, or a blog?

Jamila: I feel like a broken record but make sure you have the time to dedicate to whatever you’re starting.

Yissel: Finding that niche. What is that you can offer that no one else does? How will you do that? When I started Fashion + Geekery for example, there was no one blogging about high end designers taking inspiration from geek culture, and the resulting collections. Like GGB, it was a simple concept that no one had yet approached.

Kendall: Where would you like to see GGB going over the next five to ten years?

Jamila: I hope to have chapters on all of the continents! Although Antarctica may be a bit difficult.

Yissel: GGB Tokyo. GGB Milan…. Yearly national meetups. #BrunchCon anyone? Brand partnerships would be amazing. Collaborating on capsule collections with fashion and beauty brands… that’s my hope.

Kendall: You guys have also co-founded several other projects. Jamila, you’ve started Straight Outta Gotham and Girl Gone Geek Blog. Yissel, you’ve founded Fashion + Geekery and Rachel you’ve co-founded FireandLunch. Can you all talk about some of the other projects you’ve founded, and how you manage to keep yourself sane when you’ve got so many different projects going at once?

Rachel: FireandLunch is a group that came together via a mutual love of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. We often found ourselves discussing the books over meals hence the name. We organize fan meetups (called Moots in the ASoIaF fandom) and we document all our adventures as fans of ASoIaF. We’ve met so many awesome fellow fans through FireandLunch. It has been very fun and has given us all a chance to really explore our shared fandom.. We also produce a podcast called The FireandLunch PieCast. There are 6 of us so scheduling is our biggest obstacle. We go to events, travel, blog, record and edit a podcast. We can get extremely busy, especially during the viewing seasons of HBO’s Game of Thrones series. We work mostly in email and shared google docs and we try to cycle responsibilities amongst ourselves.

Jamila: Girl Gone Geek Blog was launched in 2010 and it’s where I blog about my geeky obsessions and musings. It’s pretty much what birthed a lot of my other geeky endeavors. Straight Outta Gotham is a Tumblr blog where I curate geeky rap lyrics shared as gifs and memes. It’s a lot of fun, I have bigger plans for it as well. The good thing about Girl Gone Geek and Straight Outta Gotham is that they are my creations and I only answer to myself. So there isn’t pressure to make sure I blog or post frequently if life is hectic.

Yissel: Fashion + Geekery stemmed from a desire to remove the intimidation factor of high end fashion, by demonstrating that designers were geeks too. I suppose I wanted to do the same for the closet geeks among the fashion set, by showing them it’s okay to like this geeky thing.  There are many geek fashion sites out there, but they’re run by geek girls (some fabulous ones at that) that only covered budget to moderate level clothing, without much insight beyond price and availability. What I cover is mostly young designer and designer markets, from the perspective of someone with a background in fashion.  So I will go into detail about inspiration, brand history, fabrication and design development. I wish there was another me to focus on that blog. I’ve devoted so much more time to GGB lately, that I neglect F+G for long periods. Fortunately Jamila had written a post a while back about getting over bloggers guilt that helped me. I’ve learned to forgive myself for not posting often. Rachel has even contributed a post to my blog, offering her insights as an art history major.  I hope to enlist other knowledgeable contributors in the future.

Kendall: What inspired you to create so many different spaces for yourselves on the internet?

Jamila: My blog Girl Gone Geek (although it probably represents me the most) wasn’t the best platform to host some of my other interests. So I made new ones!

Yissel: I wanted to put my BFA in Fashion Design to good use. I saw a need and I wanted to fiil it!

Kendall: Have you dealt with any negativity from starting either GGB or any of your other projects? How have you dealt with it?

Rachel: Negativity comes in many forms. There’s the obvious – people saying things directly to you at an event or on social media or in an email. I try to learn from every experience and do something about whatever it was that made someone have a negative experience. At GGB we have a code of conduct that makes dealing with a lot of things pretty clear cut, but I also allow myself to dismiss feedback if it is obvious trolling or unhelpful. I can’t please everyone and sometimes people are just hateful. I really focus on positive comments. Doing more of what makes the people I’m reaching happy. I think the more insidious kind of negativity is being taken advantage of by other people. When you are starting something new many creators feel pressure to say “Yes” to anything. Any kind of partnership or acknowledgement. But many people out there are just farming you for content or trying to use you as free labor. If it doesn’t match up with your goals for the project, if there isn’t a mutual benefit – say “No”.

Jamila: Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Yissel: Ditto.

Kendall: What advice would you give to other women looking to follow in your footsteps?

Rachel: Starting up a project with your friends can be really hard but really rewarding. So absolutely go for it. Communicate, always! Tell each other when you disagree (I feel like a lot of young women have a hard time telling their friends that they disagree.). But tell each other when they are awesome too! It’s a give and take and it’s cliche but communication is key!

Jamila: Communication, delegation and organization are essential.

Yissel: Don’t underestimate the power of planning. I can’t stress enough that research is an integral part of any venture. It’s also possible to go it alone, but you’ll be grateful for a team. If you get overwhelmed and you need to step away, you’ll have people ready to step in, and the work continues.  Lastly, it so important to network as much as you can, and maintain healthy relationships, because along the way, you WILL be calling in favors! People like Leslie Stewart*, our pixel princess, and a co-founder in her own right  who helped us at the beginning by creating our logo and our website are a prime example of this. Make ALL the friends.

Kendall: Where can we find you all online?

Rachel: Twitter: @DarthRachel, Instagram: Darth_Rachel, and FireandLunch.

Jamila: Twitter & Instagram: @JamilaRowser, as well as  Girl Gone Geek and Straight Outta Gotham

Yissel: Twitter and Instagram: @TheDesignerGeek, Snapchat: TheDesignerGeek, and Fashion Plus Geekery

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Kendall: Anything parting thoughts?

Yissel: A couple times a year, Geek Girl Brunch will host events that the Geek GUYS can attend too! We also launched an initiative a while back called #GGBDoBetter in an effort to promote outreach, to highlight girls that give back to their communities. We also have a page on our site called “Help Beyond Brunch,” to raise awareness of more serious issues that you may feel uncomfortable talking about in a brunch setting. The page offers a list of resources, should you need to reach out for professional help beyond our capabilities.

*Leslie aka Stewie will also be featured in this series. So stay tuned!!!

Thanks so much to Jamila, Rachel, and Yissel for taking time to talk with me. If you haven’t already, check out the Geek Girl Brunch site to see if there is a brunch chapter near you–if there isn’t consider starting one in your area! All the info you’ll need is on the GGB site. Don’t forget to check out the other posts in the series as I continue to talk to amazing women creating a space for themselves, starting businesses, and pursuing creative careers. Be sure to use the hashtag #RealJob to follow along on Twitter!  

It’s Totally a Real Job: Melificent, Blogger

it's totally a real job...

I’ve gotten to meet some amazing women since I’ve started blogging, and one of the coolest women I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with is the lovely Meli from Melificent.com. Meli has managed to create a blog that celebrates her favorite forms of fandom and geekery, but she also brings her signature style in with some amazing and inspiring fashion posts and writes about her newest adventure: parenting (geeky parenting, of course). She’s created a brand and a true community with her readers, and it’s not only inspiring for someone like me who’s also trying to create a brand and community, but seeing her build something and truly succeed is inspiring to anyone who comes in contact with her. Even more awesome, her hard work paid off in October when she was given the Geekie Award for best website and blog. I’m so excited to start off my newest series, It’s Totally a Real Job with her. Meli has been a huge source of inspiration to me in my writing and blogging, and I know she’ll inspire you, too. So without further ado, let’s chat with her!

Melificent
What were your big dreams for Melificent.com when you first started your blog?

That someone would actually read it!
No, seriously – I didn’t know what I actually wanted when I started the blog other than to share. I had always had some sort of blog, whether it was a Livejournal account or a blogspot. At that point in time, I was just using blogs to chronicle my life so starting a “big girl blog” was a little daunting. I also started it without much of a focus, but I always knew I wanted to connect with others – something I had always loved about blogging and the Internet in general.

Did you always have an interest in fashion, or did that develop in time?

I had always loved fashion, playing with patterns and colors, and expressing myself through my wardrobe. I decided to start posting outfits as part of a 30-day challenge a few years ago, and I got such good feedback that I started incorporating them into my blog. Before I knew it, I had a fashion blog!

You recently won the Geekie for Best Website/Blog. Did you ever imagine getting an award like that? 

Not in my wildest dreams!!!! I’ve been blogging for so long, and have worked so hard to make my content original and special, that it was incredible to finally be recognized. When I got the news, I seriously thought I was dreaming (granted, I was on a couple of hours of sleep right after my daughter’s birth). 😉

One of the tough things about starting a blog and website, especially when fandom is involved, is finding your niche. It’s tempting to write about all the things and have a crazy, scattered site. Obviously being a geeky mom came from being pregnant, but even before Luna, how did you manage to settle on a theme and idea for your blog?

This was very tough for me. As I said, I’ve been blogging for a very long time, but I could not just focus on one topic. My blog was everywhere. The biggest criticism I received when asking for advice from other bloggers was that I needed a focus, but I didn’t believe them. Boy, were they right.
One day, I realized that I had ventured down a road that I was unfamiliar with. I felt disingenuous, which was the last thing I ever wanted to be. It was then that I sat down and thought of what I really love and who I really am. That’s when the Melificent you all know and love was born. I’m geeky. I like geeky things. I’m a fangirl. I love fashion. It’s incredible how easily posts are written when you are focusing on something you absolutely love.

Not only have you set yourself up as a reliable voice in “geek chic” and being a geeky mom, you’ve really created a Melificent.com community. What is the thing you want your readers to take away from your site? 

Aw, well thank you!
Most importantly to me, I want to be real. I want to help others, whether it be in superficial ways, like putting together a great outfit, or delving a little deeper, like sharing my experience of loss and growth. I don’t want to present a facade because I feel like that’s too prevalent in the blogging/social media culture. No, my life is not perfect. No, I’m not perfect, but that’s OK.

What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned since starting your site? 

That working hard pays off. No matter if it takes 2 days or 2 years. You will see the payoff.

You also work a “normal” 9-5 in addition to your work on your site, correct? How do you balance a job, a life, and a site? 

I get asked this constantly!
It really isn’t hard work for me, and I attribute that to being a little OCD and anal about scheduling. I have, and always have had, excellent time management skills. My 9-5 is also not necessarily 9-5, which makes it easier for me to keep up with writing posts. I’ve realized that if you love something, you truly will make time for it. I was worried about falling behind when I gave birth to my daughter, but I found it pretty natural to fall into a routine again (aka; blogging during my late night/early morning shifts). I’m sure the same will apply when I have to go back to work after maternity leave. If you want to make it happen, you will.

What mistake did you make in the formative years of Melificent.com that you’d like to help other aspiring creators avoid?

Write about whatever you love. Do not start a blog (or anything for the record) because it seems to be working for other people or is popular. Follow whatever you are passionate about. You will always speak and create from the heart.

If you could impart one piece of advice to others aspiring to follow in your footsteps, what would it be? 

Similar to the above, be yourself. You’ll never go wrong. 🙂

Where can we find you online? 

Facebook, Twitter: @somelificent, Instagram: @melificent, or Pinterest.

Thanks so much to Meli for taking the time to answer these questions. Be sure to check her out on her blog and follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. Her OOTD posts alone are worth the follow! Have questions for Meli or other geeky girlbosses I’ll be talking to in the future? Let me know in the comments, or ask me on Twitter with the #RealJob hashtag! I’ll be back next week with another awesome woman talking about her unique path that is totally a real job. 

Introducing “It’s Totally a Real Job”

When I was a kid, I had a dream of being an actor. When my obsession with the Mission Impossible franchise started, I was certain that I would be the first kid actor to be on the franchise…as the youngest villain the IMF had ever seen. It was going to be awesome. I was certain of it. I just knew that, after watching Tom Cruise get to do stuff like this onscreen:

tom cruise

…I just knew that I had to someday live a life where leaping from a mountain face to a precarious outcropping of rock was “just another day at the office”.

For lots of reasons, I didn’t end up becoming a professional actor. I acted in high school, a bit in college, and then I was done. Every now and then I have times where I wish I had really given my all into my pursuits of acting, I don’t think I would have been able to really hack it as a professional actor. Still, the desire to be creative, and to make a space for myself is one that I don’t think I’ll ever shake, which is why I cram ballet classes and writing into a pretty crammed schedule–I love creating.

With women like Sophia Amoruso and Sheryl Sandberg coming on the scene, encouraging women to lean in and become a #girlboss, it’s a pretty empowering time to be a woman making her way in the business world. Still, there are some of us who don’t count “success” as landing a corner office in an 8-5 corporate gig. Some do–and, to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with a traditional, corporate career if that’s your jam–but some want something a bit different. I’ve got more and more friends dropping out of their corporate gigs and starting their own businesses, freelancing, creating, and doing work that not only puts food on the table, but also fills their soul and creativity. That kind of bravery, vision, and creative energy inspires me to no end. Because of that, I decided to start a blog series called “It’s Totally a Real Job”.

it's totally a real job...

In this series, I’m going to be talking to women who have created their own place in the business world by creating their own business or embarking in a geeky/creative career. These women are brave, creative, bold, determined, and super inspiring. I hope that hearing their stories will inspire you to chase after your passions, whatever they may be, and create something beautiful.

I’ll hope you’ll head back here each week to see who I’m talking to and learn about some of the awesome women doing amazing things in the world of business and art.

What are some of your personal goals, and who are some of your biggest inspirations to achieve them? Let me know your thoughts in the comments, and keep the conversation going on Twitter with the hashtag #RealJob. 

Women in Geek: Catrina Dennis

Women in Geek CD

For the past month, I’ve been featuring women working in various geeky professions here on my blog. If you’ve missed any, you can find them all here. It’s been an awesome month, and I’ve loved getting to talk to so many amazing women doing cool things in their corner of geekery. Alas, I’m going to be giving the series a break. I’m probably not done with it forever, but I wanted to give it a rest for now. I couldn’t think of anyone better to close out our month of geeky ladies than Catrina Dennis (who gets extra credit points for sending me several pics and gifs of her).

catrina iron throne

I “Twitter-met” (that’s a thing, right?) Catrina back when she was working for Geek & Sundry. When I decided to start up this blog series, she was one of the first women I approached. I’m so excited to get to have her as a part of the series, so let’s get to it!

What do you do in geek culture (on your own time and professionally)?

I work as a geek culture journalist and host, primarily covering comics-related media. Outside of that, I’m a blogger, vlogger, a huge comic fan, and an angry gamer. I’m also a pretty outspoken activist for inclusiveness in geek culture, and every once in a while, I like to cosplay.

catrina khaleesi

 

Do you have a day job, or does this pay your bills?

I’m the Channel Manager of all things Superhero over at Moviepilot! It’s a great mix of managing editor and community manager, which is right up my alley. Before this, I worked with the team over at Geek & Sundry as their Social Media and Community Manager.

How did you get started in your geeky line of work, and what got you interested in it?

I honestly fell into this by accident: I answered a craigslist ad for an on-camera personality to conduct interviews at E3, then ended up staying with that outlet for a while. I eventually started writing for them and other gaming outlets, while holding a day job in social media. After a while, I ended up with Geek & Sundry, which gave me more of an opportunity to do journalism based around comics thanks to a new show that had launched (Amy Dallen’s Talkin’ Comics Weekly check out Amy here! She’s awesome). I met my bosses-to-be thanks to my work with Geek & Sundry, and now I’m at Moviepilot! 🙂

catrina movie pilot

Who are some of your female geek role models, and why?

Gail Simone is the first person that comes to mind thanks to her vocal and at the same time completely charming activism when it comes to making comics more inclusive. She’s also one of my favorite comic writers of all time and has an incredibly inspiring tenacity in her work that I hope to someday possess, as I’m currently working on my first title.  Other names that come to mind are (of course) Felicia Day (one of the most passionate creators I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing), Janelle Asselin, Amy Dallen, Kelly Sue DeConnick, G. Willow Wilson, comicbookgirl19, and Ashly Burch.

You work (and have worked) in some cool places like MoviePilot and Geek and Sundry. What is that like? Do you get sick of asking questions about working with people like Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton?

I love what I do because every new day is very different from the last: there are always new problems to solve, or new pieces of information to put out. Since the core of my work is within journalism, I essentially get paid to geek out over new bits of news that come out in regards to comics. In regards to getting questions about the people I’ve worked for/with, I actually don’t often get bombarded with them! When I do, it’s rarely too probing or weird. I get to work with some extremely inspiring people and I count my lucky stars every day because I’ve gotten to learn from many whom I consider the best in their fields.

Do you encounter any negativity based on your gender or your appearance, and do you find that your readers are more critical of your opinions because you’re a woman?

For me, luckily, the negativity I receive is the least painful and the easiest to combat: fact-checkers. Often, I’ll have commenters who doubt certain aspects of my articles, but a quick citation usually clears things up. What’s funny is that sources and facts are things i always make sure to include, but often end up repeating — because, you’ll find, most people who throw shade at you just skimmed your work before forming an educated opinion. On-camera, though, people can get a little vicious — I’ve been called fat, or boyish, ugly; sometimes, an actual threat to my life or body will make it’s way into the comments section. So, I’d definitely say that women and those of us who don’t fit the norm are given a much, much harder time when we out ourselves out there.

What is the best thing about your line of work?

Oh, this is a tough one. I think the coolest thing about what I do is that a chunk of my job just involves geeking out with other people like me. The sheer excitement you get when it comes to sharing a fandom with another person is one of the best feelings ever. I think my MOST favorite thing about what I do is when someone who’s seen my work decides to read a new comic that I had suggested. Their reactions are a total thrill for me to see.

What is the coolest/most meaningful thing you’ve experienced since working with G&S, Moviepilot, and starting your own vlog?

Really, it’s just that I’ve met so many people who are as passionate about their fandoms as I am. I’ve made some incredible friends, gotten advice from people I’ve looked up to since childhood, and have honestly had my career molded by the way geek culture is progressing. If you told me that I’d be doing what I’m doing years ago, I wouldn’t have believed you at all.

catrina mario

What do you find that is meaningful, special, and/or valuable about what you do?

Getting younger people into comics and crafting a world where everyone is welcome to geek out is my overall goal when it comes to what I do. Being a geek (for comics, video games, movies, and music) has not only provided me with the makings of a great career path, but also helped me lead a positive, goal-driven life working in a field I am so completely in love with. Everyone deserves to find joy in their hobbies and passions — especially if it means they can create something and lead a life that coincides with them — so that’s what I want to help provide for all geeks everywhere.

How do you handle, if you’ve encountered it at all, the negativity against women in geek?

I’m not a very confrontational person, nor am I nearly clever enough to come up with witty/hilarious Gail Simone-essque comebacks to trolls. A lot of times, my initial reaction is just to talk to the person that’s throwing shade my way, but more often than not people aren’t around for the sake of debate — they’re around to make you feel like crap for no reason outside of the fact that they don’t like to see someone that they don’t feel belongs. It’s mind-blowing that anyone would want to exclude another fan based on their gender, looks, skin color, or sexuality. I mean, why does it matter? But it happens often, and it can get scary. It’s ridiculous that I have to report people for physically threatening me just because of my gender or body type. It’s fandom, guys. Chill out.

There are lots of women out there who want to break into the geek industry, be it comics, gaming, writing, or fashion. What kind of advice do you have for them?

Be tenacious. Be open to advice and critique, but don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something — especially if they’re saying it because you’re a woman. Get every idea on paper or in some kind of physical form before you consider quitting it — seeing it comes to life in some form or another helps you make educated decisions and learn for the future. Put yourself out there and use the incredible tools we’ve been given as a generation to do it with. Most importantly, be supportive of your colleagues. It’s a huge challenge for women of all sorts to break this industry, so encourage other lady creators and help promote their work as well if you enjoy it.

catrina sdcc

 

What do you wish people knew about what you do? Are there common misconceptions about what it means to do what you do?

I’m honestly unsure of what could be a common misconception about my line of work, but what I do hope is that others know that this work isn’t just hanging out and reading comics all day: it’s being awake when a story breaks, cranking out content at 4 am, and having a deep-rooted knowledge of your passions. When you’re in a position like mine, your responsibility is to create content that fans like you want; entertaining, engaging and informative. You’re both the voice of your community and the central point of information for them, so being able to keep up and deliver your best to them can be both exciting and extremely tough. I love what I do, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world, because challenges like these are a thrill for me.

A big thank you to Catrina for talking with me, and thank you to the other amazing women that I’ve gotten to chat with: Sarah Rodriguez (who, incidentally does a podcast, the Rebel Base Podcast, with Catrina), Lindsay Cummings, Christina Janke, Megan Gotch, Kat Miller, Marissa Reynolds, Vicky Connolly, and Tiffany Wangerin. You can read the entire Women in Geek series here! 

Women in Geek: Kat Miller

Women in Geek KM

 

I’m talking with Kat Miller the Creative and Marketing Director at MuggleNet today! I’m so excited to feature her on the blog and give a glimpse into the life of someone who gets to actually have a paying job that is dedicated to Harry Potter. Ah-mazing. Remember to go here to check out the other Women in Geek interviews I’ve done with Sarah Rodriguez, Christina Janke, Megan Gotch, Vicky Connolly, Tiffany Wangerin, Lindsay Cummings, and Marissa Reynolds. Now let’s chat with Kat!

 

kat miller

What do you do with MuggleNet, and what does that mean?
I am the Creative & Marketing Director, which means, well, I do a lot! Basically, it comes down to publicity, giveaways, media, and staff. I handle the majority of giveaways on the site, from setting them up, securing the prizes, executing the giveaway, and contacting the winners. I am the media contact for all of the major outlets. So, when a press release comes through from Bloomsbury, Pottermore, the Studio Tour, etc., they come to me. It’s my job to make sure that they are acted upon in an appropriate manner (we have the BEST news team on this planet, BTW). This also means that if there is a major public event, I will most likely be the one to attend and represent the site. We do try to spread the love between our volunteer staff, but we also need to be sure there is someone there who knows the parties attending, for maximum benefit. Speaking of our awesome volunteer staff, more often than not, I am the one who handles and sorts out issues not only amongst them, but with any issue they have with their jobs. I’ve hired or recruited all except about six people that are on staff now (out of around 45) with our Managing Editor Keith. So, really, it’s a very varied job – but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Do you have a day job, or does this pay your bills?

I do have a day job, but this does help to pay the bills! I am a photographer, graphic designer, and soon to be publicist (just landed my first few clients!). It’s a very exciting time in my life, and if you ask me this question in another 3 months, the answer will be very different I imagine.

How did you get started at MuggleNet? Were you a part of starting MuggleNet, or did you join in after it had been created? 

I got started with MuggleNet back in October of 2006 as a gallery coder, 7 years into the site’s life. My job was to update the gallery to the latest and greatest software. That’s it. It took around 10 minutes once a month. Easiest job I have ever had! From there, I took over small jobs on the site, and eventually ended up taking over and revitalizing Fan of the Week. That’s how most of the staff has moved up, small, odd jobs, wherever needed. Being a self starter is a big deal in a volunteer organization like this!

 Who are some of your female geek role models, and why?

She’s not a geek, but my mother. She is the strongest, hardest working woman I have ever met, and I would not have the resolve, tenacity, or strength that I have today without her. Her struggles and bravery has taught me what is means to be a strong woman. I really respond to woman who are honest about who they are, what they like, and where they want to go. Life is WAY too short to be cagey, dishonest, or sheltered. I learned that young, and have my mother to thank for that. Also, Jennifer Lawrence because “Where’s the pizza?!”

 What is the best thing about working with MuggleNet?

There are so many amazing things, but I think my favorite is making people happy. We are in a unique position at MuggleNet. Having been around for so long and having a reputation as the World’s #1 Harry Potter Website allows us to do things that other sites don’t have the capacity to do. We recently gave away a package retailing over $1000, and that’s not even counting the intrinsic items like autographs. Nothing makes me happier than making someone else’s dream come true.

 What do you find that is meaningful, special, and/or valuable about what you do?

I am the co-creator of MuggleNet’s global re-read podcast, Alohomora!. We are reading one chapter of the series every week, and taking Potter fans around the world on the journey with us. It has been an unparalleled experience. I’ve always been lucky to have friends to chat Potter with, but not everyone has that. Hearing from listeners that we are their friends, the light of their week, or the only people they have to discuss Potter with is so inspiring. Discussing new theories and crazy ideas is a highlight of my week, and I’ve never been happier to be a part of this fandom!

 You are now a full-grown adult working on creating original content within a community based on a series of children’s books. Why? What made Harry Potter so impactful for you that you’ve continued to be so incredibly active in the fandom?

It’s hard for me to put my finger on why Potter has made such an impact on me. When I first started the series, back in 2000 (Goblet of Fire was my first midnight release), I had just graduated high school and was setting out on a new path. Most of my friends were going off to college, moving away, and I was staying at home to go to community college. I was perfectly happy with my decision, as back then, I wasn’t the independent person I am today. However, Harry allowed me to get out of my small world, to live a life that I didn’t yet know that I wanted. It sparked my imagination, presented ideas that were bolder and bigger than I could ever dream. I still find it funny that people continue to call them children’s books. The themes in Harry Potter aren’t children’s themes – they’re life themes. Bravery, Love, Friendship. These are traits that all people should strive to have and acquire. I’m thankful to have found Harry, and have grown into the loving, selfless, brave person that I am today, partially in thanks to him.

 Do you encounter any negativity in your fandom based on your gender?

None whatsoever. Potter fans, I’ve found, are among the most tolerant, caring, thoughtful individuals that I’ve ever met. Equality, FTW.

 There are lots of women out there who want to break into the geek industry, be it comics, gaming, podcasting, writing, or fashion. What kind of advice do you have for them? 

Don’t focus on your gender, or make it an excuse. When I started at MuggleNet, there was ONE other woman working for the site. The boys ran the show, but just I did my work, sent in my ideas, and kicked ass along the way. Gender isn’t what is going to get you recognized for being awesome – your work ethic, enthusiasm, and creativity will. So, do what you do, what you love, and never, ever stop. I have a card that was given to me at the college graduation. I never save cards, but I took the front of it and stuck it to my bulletin board. I’ve had it for 11 years now. It reads, “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.” – Maya Angelou. I look at that every. single. morning, and live my life by this philosophy.

 Have you gained friends since working with MuggleNet, or did you go into this already knowing the individuals you work with?

Some of my favorite people on this planet are friends that I have made through MuggleNet. They live all over the world, and I don’t get to see them often, but we make magic together quite literally every day. I’ve taken road trips with them, laughed (and cried) at all hours of the day, and danced the night away. These people are my family, and will always be a major part of my everyday. I’ve never felt more lucky to have people I care about so much in my life.

What do you wish people knew about what you do? Are there common misconceptions about what it means to do what you do?

I think that sometimes people don’t understand exactly how much hard work has gone into getting to where I am today. They see my tweets or my Instagram photos from some great place, at a special event, or with a cast member and say, “OMG. I am so jealous. I want your job!” – but really, those moments are few and far between. Usually, it’s phone calls at 2AM, around 300 emails every day (90% of them are legit, too), and working around 50 hours a week – and that’s just for MuggleNet. I also have a full time job PLUS am self employed, go to school, and at some point have to eat, sleep, and exercise. My job may be fun and sometimes glamorous, but it’s hard – in the best, most challenging, fulfilling ways possible, but still, it’s hard. Blood, sweat, and enough tears to fill a swimming pool have gone into my years thus far at MuggleNet, but I would happily live it all over again, to end up right where I am today.

Thanks so much to Kat for taking the time to talk with us! Remember to check out the other Women in Geek interviews, and be sure to check out MuggleNet and Alohomora!  

Women in Geek: Tiffany Wangerin

Women in Geek TW

I’ve not been shy around here about my desire to cosplay, and I’ve also not been shy about my complete inability to do so. So I am so incredibly excited to be able to bring an actual, real, amazing cosplayer here to the site for my Women in Geek series, since, apparently, obtaining a red dress for a shoddy attempt at cosplay is too much for yours truly (I am still bitter about this). I met Tiffany at Denver Comic Con. Like Vicky, Tiffany was also on the Women in the Geek Industry panel that inspired this series. Tiffany, or Evil Mech Meru, is an AMAZING cosplayer, and and you should absolutely check out her facebook page to get to know her better (and check out her steampunk fairy–the wings are AMAZING). You can also shoot her an email at em2cosplay@gmail.com. So, without further ado, let’s get to chatting with Tiffany.

tiffany tiffany cosplay

 

 

What do you do in geek culture?

 I am a Cosplayer under the name Evil Mech Meru Cosplay and I am also a host for the nerd themed podcast Anorak’s OASIS.

What does that mean?

Being a Cosplayer means that I design and create costumes based on works of pop culture, anime, video games, movies, etc. I attend conventions, so far based in Colorado only. I also love to teach others cosplay fabrication skills that I have learned and I often host crafting nights/workshops. Later this month I will be starting video tutorials cosplay projects people can do quickly and inexpensively. As far as the podcast goes, every week I sit on Skype with a few close nerdy friends and we discuss all things geek!

Do you have a day job, or does this pay your bills?

Cosplay does not currently pay my bills. I do commissions from time to time that help fund my cosplay passion. As far as my day job I am a part of the team that is working towards opening 8bit Video Game Bar & Grill here in Colorado Springs.

How did you get started in this?

 In 2011 I went to my first convention ever, Nan Desu Kan, and spent the entire time just in awe of all the costumes. I went home after that I decided I was going to make a cosplay of my own.

What got you interested in cosplay?

 I have always been artistic ever since I was young and loved to paint and do any kind of crafts. Once I found out about cosplay and people making their own costumes to go to conventions I was just completely hooked on the idea.

Who are some of your female geek role models, and why?

Felicia Day, Yaya Han and Svetlana Quindt are 3 geeky ladies that I really admire. They are so amazingly hard working and just create incredible works. They have turned passions into careers and I find that completely inspiring.

Do you encounter any negativity based on your gender or your appearance? How do you handle that?

 I don’t encounter very much negativity based on my gender in the cosplay world as it is currently populated largely by women but I have had people make mean comments on my appearance whether it be about my body size or the fact that I am cosplaying as a guy and some not liking that. I tend to not let it bother me too much. To be honest I have encountered way more positivity then anything else.

 What do you find that is meaningful, special, and/or valuable about what you do?

  I have always struggled with low self esteem and confidence issues so cosplay has really helped me feel better about myself and has allowed me a way to express myself and who I truly am. Through cosplay I have met some of the most amazing people and has opened the door to be a part of some great future projects.

There are lots of women out there who want to break into the geek industry, be it comics, gaming, writing, cosplay, or fashion. What kind of advice do you have for them?

 The best advice I can give anyone that wants to do anything is to just do it. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. When it comes to cosplay, your skin color, height, weight, age, gender should never, ever be a factor. You can cosplay whatever you want! Follow your dreams, follow your passions and have fun. Seek out like minded people and create a support system. People that lift you up, not tear you down. I will say to that if there is anyone out there that needs a boost or has a questions I am always willing to help however I can.

What do you wish people knew about what you do? Are there common misconceptions about what it means to do what you do?

  A big misconception I think with cosplay is that we are all just hungry for attention or we make costumes and know nothing about the character, i.e. we are fake geek girls/guys. That is just not true. Yes all cosplayers love to get recognized for our hard work and artistry but rarely do we put so much blood, sweat, time and tears into our costumes just because we want to be adored. We do it because we are passionate about the characters we portray. We are passionate about creating things and expressing ourselves through wearable works of art.

Thanks again to Tiffany, and remember, if you haven’t already, check out my other Women in Geek posts with Vicky Connolly, Megan Gotch, Sarah Rodriguez, Lindsay Cummings, Christina Janke, and Marissa Reynolds! 

Women in Geek: Vicky Connolly

Women in Geek VC

 

In today’s Women in Geek interview, I’m talking with Vicky Connolly! Vicky works at Escape Velocity Comics, and she’s actually one of the women on the Denver Comic Con panel that inspired this series. I’ve been interviewing women in a ton of different geeky lines of work, so if you’ve missed out on my interviews with Sarah Rodriguez, Lindsay Cummings, Megan Gotch, Christina Janke, or Marissa Reynolds go here to check them all out. Now here’s Vicky!

 vicky connolly

 

What do you do in geek culture?

I work at a comic book store, Escape Velocity Comics, and I’m also working on starting up a website called ComicShopChick.com

Do you have a day job, or does this pay your bills?

Working at Escape Velocity is my day job; the website is just something I’m doing for fun.

How did you get started in this?

I worked at a video game store first. The store had a comic book section, and I managed that. Working there didn’t really work out for me, so I quit. I ended up applying to Escape Velocity, and several  months after applying I got a call asking if I wanted to work for them.

What got you interested in this field?

I love sci-fi, so that’s always been something I’m drawn to. I also played lots of video games as a kid.

What is your ultimate goal with this? Go with the flow. start the blog, dream to work with Image Comics.

Who are some of your female geek role models, and why?  Bonnie Burton and Felicia Day, definitely. I also really love Gail Simone and how she’s always so in touch with people and issues.

Do you encounter any negativity based on your gender or your appearance?

A lot of times customers will ask me stuff like, “Do you actually read comics or do you just work here?” Sometimes customers will flat-out ignore me and go to my co-workers, even the guys who just started, simply because he’s a guy. Most people just genuinely don’t understand how sexist they’re being. I really have a ton of supportive customers that just like to hang. I’ve also found that the energy you put off can also be helpful. I try to not make people feel dumb, and put out positive energy. People usually respond pretty well to that. Ultimately, people will be people, but you have to find the good parts.

What is the best thing about your line of work?

The people and conversations I have. If I was working in any other retail job, I’d just be another peon, but here I really feel like I matter. If you’re not there, it’s noticed. Escape Velocity is really a welcome and loving community.

What’s a big misconception about comic book stores? One of the biggest misconception I encounter is that people assuming comics are only for kids, and while we love kids, 90% of stuff in my store is not meant for kids. It’s a lot of collectibles and valuables.

There are lots of women out there who want to break into the geek industry, be it comics, gaming, writing, or fashion. What kind of advice do you have for them?

People skills! You need to be able to not always fire back when people says something you disagree with, and learn to get along with people. It’s a close knit crowd, so it’s all about people getting to know you. At the end of the day, people to like you. Networking is important, so stuff like attending cons is a huge thing. You also can’t care what other people think about you. Some people just aren’t going to like you, no matter what you do, and you just have to move on.

Since entering in this line of geeky work, have you met friends or found any new communities to be a part of?

Absolutely. I’ve gotten to know 50+ local artists and I had the opportunity to do that Women in the Geek Industry panel at Denver Comic Con. Really, my  whole community is made up of nerds!

What do you wish people knew about what you do? Are there common misconceptions about what it means to do what you do?

I have interests outside of nerdy things. I love comics, ironic tees, and all that but I also love stuff like learning about history and western civilizations, gangster novels, and trail running. I’ve got a lot of interests outside of nerdy stuff.

Any parting thoughts?

Nerds need to stick together! There are a lot of changes out there with the cosplay community and stuff, but there’s a reason we go to cons. We love the same stuff. Let’s stick up for each other and not get caught in the drama.

Women in Geek: Megan Gotch

Women in Geek (2)

 

 

I’m a part of a great Google+ group called Female Geek Bloggers, and through that group I was able to meet the amazing Megan Gotch, aka The Nerdy Girlie. Megan’s a great geek blogger, and her top-notch SDCC coverage can almost make it better for those who couldn’t be there…almost.  Check out Megan’s interview, and if you’ve missed my interviews with Sarah Rodriguez, Lindsay Cummings, Christina Janke, and Marissa Reynolds, go here!

megan gotch

 

What do you do in geek culture?

I am a geek girl blogger. In 2012 I created The Nerdy Girlie blog!

Do you have a day job, or does this pay your bills?

I do have a day job. I would love for my blog to pay the bills, as of yet it does not. I guess that could be a good thing, because I do it out of LOVE not necessity!

How did you get started in this?

I began my blog The Nerdy Girlie after my 4th San Diego Comic Con in 2012. I started off as wanting to help fellow con-­goers and now have made some lasting relationships that I am so happy to have.

What got you interested in this field?

I have always loved writing, from an early age. It was SDCC that helped me figure out WHAT I wanted and loved to write about!

Do you have a big goal for The Nerdy Girlie?

I really don’t have any BIG goals for my site, other than to continue to help and bring people together. As long as I am happy doing it, I will keep doing it!

Who are some of your female geek role models, and why?

When I first started my blog some of my influences were Being Geek Chic and Girl Gone Geek. As I began to grow and develop my own site, I began to find MANY awesome geek girls out there and that is why I began the Female Geek Bloggers G+ Community. I wanted to bring all the lovely nerdy sites together in one place where we could grow and learn from each other!

Do you find that your readers are more critical of your opinions because you’re a woman? How do you handle, if you’ve encountered it at all, the negativity against women in geek?

I’ve been super lucky to have only support from the readers of my blog. I love what I’m doing and I am so happy that just one person would want to read it.

What is the best thing about working in your area of geekery?

The best thing of working in the world of geek is the relationships you make with other nerds. This past San Diego Comic Con I spent the majority of my time talking with friends and building our relationships. It is so fun to nerd out with people who understand!

What do you find that is meaningful, special, and/or valuable about what you do?

What I find meaningful about what I do is that people comment on my blog, come up to me at cons and tell me that some thing I wrote helped them. I love what I’m doing and am so happy to be of help to anyone!

There are lots of women out there who want to break into the geek industry, be it comics, gaming, writing, or fashion. What kind of advice do you have for them?

My advice would be just make sure that you love what you do. If you have a passion for it, it won’t feel like a job!

What is the coolest thing you’ve experienced since starting The Nerdy Girlie?

I’ve gotten to do a lot of neat things before and after the blog began. All involve discovering nerds who love the same things that I do. I have made a lot of lasting relationships that mean so much to me.

What do you wish people knew about what you do? Are there common misconceptions about what it means to do what you do?

Blogging is a lot of alone time! So when I go to conventions it is so nice to be able to TALK to people. I love it and if you ever see me at a con I am always happy to talk nerd with anyone!

Be sure to check out The Nerdy Girlie, as well as my other Women in Geek posts–and stay tuned here to see what woman in geek I feature next! 

Women in Geek: Marissa Reynolds

Women in Geek MR

 

In my latest Women in Geek interview, I’m going to be talking to Marissa Reynolds from Hogwart’s Radio, MuggleNet’s Entertainment Harry Potter Podcast. I’ve had the privilege of working with Marissa through the transcription team at Hogwart’s Radio, and I’m thrilled to have her here on the blog! If you haven’t seen my first three Women in Geek interviews with Sarah Rodriguez, Lindsay Cummings, and Christina Janke, you can find them all right here.

marissa reynolds

 

What do you do with Hogwart’s Radio, and what does that mean?

I am a host (which means I get to be part of the recorded discussion) and I run the transcribing team. Transcribers type out the shows into a readable format so that people who cannot listen to the show for one reason or the other have the option of reading it. I also do other odds and ends on the website like keep the shows page up to date, run The Chosen One page (our version of Fan of the Month), and help out with whatever else is needed. At one point Terrance (the webmaster) and I basically rebuilt the entire site and my job was uploading all of our content including over 120 episodes and a few transcripts.

Do you have a day job, or does this pay your bills?

I wish I was getting paid for this!! Only because I truly love working with something Harry Potter and would gladly go it as a career. However, I do not get paid anything except experience and happiness. I actually work at the University of Arkansas as a Teaching Assistant while I am working on my Ph.D. in chemistry.

How did you get started in this?

Social media to the rescue!! Jennifer Porsche is a host on the show and she used to run the transcript team. She tweeted about needing some transcribers for the team. I simply replied to the tweet with an email about wanting to help out. That was in 2011.

What got you interested in this?

I have been a fan of HP since 2000, however it took me a long time to realize there was an entire online fandom to connect with. I didn’t know may people who liked Harry Potter and actually didn’t know much about fandom websites or anything. I honestly didn’t spend a whole lot of time on the computer when I was younger (having dial-up was mostly to blame). When I was in high school (around 2007-2008) is when I really discovered MuggleNet. Shocking, I know. I was very late to the game, but I was there. I began listening to MuggleCast and that eventually led to listening to Hogwarts Radio and now here I am.

Who are some of your female geek role models, and why?

Would you call Evanna Lynch a geek? I love her for sure. She’s so free and open with herself and is so passionate about what she loves. I also look up to people like Melissa Anelli and Kat Miller. They have found a way to make what they love (Harry Potter interestingly enough) into a career. Turning your passion into a career instead of simply being passionate about your career are two different levels of incredible.

What is the best thing about working with Hogwart’s Radio?

The word opportunity sums up all the “best” things about HR. The opportunity to meet all the people I have met, to learn about how to run a website and how social media can be used, and to discuss something I love with others who are as passionate about it as I am. Before, I could count on one hand people who I could truly and deeply discuss HP with. My theories, my questions, my pet peeves. Now I have the forum to discuss these things with people from all over the world, except I actually get to be part of the live discussion.

What do you find that is meaningful, special, and/or valuable about what you do?

The People. I consider the other hosts to be my friends. Of course I talk to them during our recordings, but we have also been known to stay on Skype for a few hours just talking about random things. I talk to some of the other hosts on a daily basis about HP, other fandoms, work, and just life in general. I almost always have a text conversation open with Jeanna or Terrance. I’ve had great talks with Kat, Jennifer, Andy, Kristen, and other hosts though social media platforms and some through texts. And there is also the transcript team. I have met some truly fascinating people from all over the world that I would have never had the pleasure of meeting without the podcast. When I first started as a transcriber I got to be very good friends with four other girls who are literally from completely different places. We have helped each other through some tough times and have also been there for joyous moments in each others lives. We’ve celebrated graduations, birthdays, holidays, and I even got their warm wishes through text message on my wedding day. I would have never met any of these people without Hogwarts Radio and my life would be drastically different.

You are now a full-grown adult working on creating original content within a community based on a series of children’s books. Why? What made Harry Potter have such an impact on you that you’ve continued to be so incredibly active in the fandom?

They stories may be written for children, but the lessons and morals the stories teach are used every day of our entire lives. For me personally, I was the same age as Harry and everyone while I was reading them and seeing the movies. I was the same age as this scarred, messy-haired, bespectacled orphan who was fighting his entire life for the things he believed in. He was passionate about seeing good overcome evil, about making sure the people he loved were happy and safe, about doing the right thing. All this while trying to pass his potions class and win the Quidditch Cup. If Harry can get through school with all the worries and problems he faced, then why can’t I? His story was an inspiration then and still is now.

Another reason I think we all still find things to talk about is because J.K. Rowling is an inspiration herself. She struggled so much in her life before her success and happiness came with Harry. She was passionate about writing and that is obviously evident in her stories. She makes us think deeply about the world around us. She makes us question everything until we find either the answer or another question. We exercise our imaginations and our creativity by analyzing her work. There’s a lot to it, so it will take us years to sift through it all. Our different opinions will keep up going after that. Especially when there is no right answer which is normally the case.

Do you encounter any negativity in your fandom based on your gender?

With this fandom, no I don’t thing so. The Harry Potter fandom is so open and welcoming. They are sort of like the Backstreet Boys. We don’t care who you are, where you’re from, what you did, as long as you love Harry Potter. Now, from outsiders there is a little discrimination. When people hear that I podcast and work on a website, I get some condescending reactions. However, my gender still isn’t the man focus with loving Harry Potter. The place where I truly encounter sexism is in my job. When I was in college I always got the question (as everyone does) about what my major was. People expected me to say teacher or nurse or English or something along those lines. When they learned that I was a Chemistry major I got one of two general answers: 1) Oh! You must be a genius! (Not true. I just truly enjoy chemistry and I understand it because I am passionate about learning it and I really like math. If you made me be a history major, a political science major, or even a biology major, I wouldn’t have made it.) and 2) Oh! You don’t meet a lot of women in science. (That is ridiculous. Just look here for 10 major scientific achievements by women. People just expect women to gravitate to the more nurturing or house-wife type of career. Not that these aren’t great careers to follow as a woman, man, or monkey for that matter. It just wasn’t for me.)

There are lots of women out there who want to break into the geek industry, be it comics, gaming, podcasting, writing, or fashion. What kind of advice do you have for them?

Find your foothold. You don’t have to make it big your first time out like JKR did. Take whatever opportunity you can to get your foot into the door with something you love and keep looking for the next opportunity. HR doesn’t pay me any kind of money, but through it I have made connections I never would have without it. Experience is sometimes just as good (if not better) than a monetary compensation. A lot of life is who you know, not what you know. Try to meet as many people as possible and learn from them. Grow your network of people and your skill set to something you can compete with in the bigger world.

Have you gained friends since working with Hogwart’s Radio, or did you go into this already knowing the individuals you work with?

I knew NO ONE at first. I jumped into this completely blind and just went with it. It’s been 3 years now and I would have to take off my shoes and use my toes to count the number of friends I have gained. I may also need to borrow someone else’s fingers.

What do you wish people knew about what you do? Are there common misconceptions about what it means to do what you do?

Well first, it might be nice for people to actually know what a podcast is so I could stop explaining it! Haha! But, on a serious note, I wish people knew that I am just a lucky fan. Not quite lucky enough to have met any big name actors yet, but lucky enough to have the connection I do to the biggest Harry Potter fansite in the world. I used to have the misconception that you have to wait to be asked, wait to be noticed, to get involved with something like this. That is completely wrong. You have to ask. You may get a no at first (or maybe even a couple of no’s) but someone somewhere will give you a yes and you have to take it and run. I jumped at an open invitation for the transcriber team. Sometime Terrance would ask us to help with different things on the site. I took every opportunity I could. Eventually I became friends with Terrance. Because of that and because of my loyalty to the site I was there when he needed someone to help rebuild the site. After that I was asked to guest host and then eventually became a regular host. After that I was asking for the new assignments such as the transcript team, access to change things on the site, run The Chosen One. But, it all started with that foothold in the transcript team. Something simple, something humble, got me to where I am now.

Women in Geek: Christina Janke

Women in Geek Christina Janke

It’s my third post in the Women in Geek series. If you’ve missed my first two posts with Sarah Rodriguez and Lindsay Cummings, go here to check out their Women in Geek posts! Today I’m talking with the amazing Christina Janke; you might know her from places like Agents of Geek and Intro to Geek.

christina janke

What do you do in geek culture?

Currently I act as Editor in Chief and writer at Agents of Geek, an entertainment website (we branched out from Screen Invasion almost one year ago now) that highlights pretty much anything under the geek umbrella such as movies, tv shows, video games, books, cosplay, etc.

However, I first started creating my “geeky” presence 4 years ago as a regular member of a podcast my friends and I started called Shauncastic. It’s pretty much a bunch of friends getting together and talking about the things we love. A lot of the time it’s a love fest, but other times it a brutal barrage of disagreements…in a friendly way, of course. LOL.

From there, the founder of Shauncastic, Shaun Rosado, gave me my own segment titled Intro to Geek. Being the youngest and resident “new geek” in the cast, I was tasked with reviewing essential media in geek culture. This can be anywhere from movies like The Last Starfighter to 80’s arcade games like Tron. The goal of Intro to Geek is to “get myself learned” as well as convey to other new geeks whether or not it’s worth their time. Yes, there are stinkers that were once considered totally awesome and rad, but do not hold up at all.

Do you have a day job, or does this pay your bills?

I would totally love it if being a geek on the internet gave me some money to make a living! But for now, I work as an office manager at residential care facility for the mentally ill. My family owns it… Actually, they are the only people who would hire me after quitting the local movie theater. The job market isn’t fun, kiddies.

How did you get started in this?

I was always a little connected to the geek world growing up. I watched Star Trek: TNG every week with my dad, played video games whenever my head wasn’t stuck in a Harry Potter book or obsessing over Sailor Moon and Fushigi Yuugi, I read comic books off and on in college…but all of that was more or less a passing fancy. Excluding Sailor Moon, I never went any deeper than what I watched on TV or read in a book. My real plunge into “geekdom” didn’t start until 2010 while I was interning at a local newspaper.

I caught wind of a small comic book expo in my town. The paper wasn’t too interested in covering it, but I was curious enough to check it out anyway. There, I met people who would later become some of my closest friends — one of them being Shaun Rosado and his wife.

After that, I started hanging out at the local comic book shop on a weekly basis, and Shaun introduced me to Dungeons and Dragons, a level of nerdy I had once made fun of while I was in high school upon discovering that a friend of mine at the time played it. You can say Shaun was a gateway drug for pretty much everything I’m involved with now. I just love the community, freckles and all, that geekdom creates. Sure, we have our fair share of the occasional troll and butt-hurt fanatic, but that comes with any territory.

In college I studied English as a major with some emphasis in business writing and a bit of journalism. The two programs merged together after losing a couple key teachers and not enough interest from students, so I had to make due with what I had. I knew I love writing; I had a strong appreciation for the written word and the level of understanding one has to put herself through just to be able to convey a thought or emotion. However, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a writer even when I was already an English major, and an editor in school publications. It took a series of unfortunate events to make me realize that I, indeed, want to write for a living — I was homeless during my last semester in college, I could not find a job for a whole year after graduating, and one of my biggest mentors growing up, who supported my wanting to become a writer, died.

In 2012, Shaun had this bright idea to do a high quality calendar featuring geek women in cosplay. That whole story escalated pretty quickly as you’ll see in this documentary:

Soon I found myself hanging out with the likes of Satine Phoenix, Misti Dawn, Brooke “Dodger” Leigh, Jenna Busch, Sandy Bergeron, and Chloe Dykstra. Jenna in particular was/is a bit of an inspiration to me. She’s the kind of geek entertainment writer I aspire to be. She gets to interview celebrities face to face. Hell, she co-starred with Stan Lee on a YouTube channel at some point!

My getting started with Agents of Geek just sort of happened. My Intro to Geek blog caught the Jim Napier’s attention — he’s the founder and managing editor of AoG — and he offered me a writing position on Screen Invasion where AoG was housed at the time. I became Geek Editor the following month. After Jim and I broke off from Screen Invasion to start our own website, I took on the role as Editor in Chief. It all fell into my lap, in a way.

Do you have a goal you would like to achieve with Agents of Geek?

AoG kinda feels its like my baby now even though Jim is the one who started it all, who continues to handle the business side of things. Of course I want it to do well. We’ll never be on the same level as Polygon or IGN or The Mary Sue, because we’re barely a year old and we’re an independent company. My goal (right now) is to just have fun content people will want to read or watch, and to be one of those sites that people go to after they search through those other big sites. I’m working with some fantastic people, and I want as many people as we can get to notice the great work they do.

Who are some of your female geek role models, and why?

I already talked about Jenna Busch, she’s so fun and enthusiastic about what she does. She genuinely loves her job and it shows. I also like to think I channel Tina Fey as another great female writer who has made it in an industry of dominated by men. Most of the time, though, I think I’m emulating Liz Lemon more than anything else.

Do you encounter any negativity based on your gender or your appearance, or find that your readers are more critical of your opinions because you’re a woman? How do you handle, if you’ve encountered it at all, the negativity against women in geek?

So far I consider myself lucky that I don’t get as much vitriol as my other friends and peers. I attribute that mostly to the fact that I’m just not as known yet. That said, I’m not entirely without “criticism” from faceless trolls. A favorite story I like to tell people is when I played on the Mass Effect 3 multiplayer.

I don’t normally interact with other players in multiplayer; I already know what might be in store for me if the guys with microphones knew I was woman. One such gamer, however, found out I wasn’t born with a penis because he correctly translated my quirky yet feminine GamerTag. “Congrats, bro, you know a little German.” After that, he as his buddies ganged up against me, calling me names and making me feel like the most worthless female gamer ever. Never mind the fact I was sniping head shots left and right, making sure they didn’t get fragged. This went on non-stop for three waves. After that I had enough. I managed to attract a small horde of enemies over to where the douche bags holed themselves up. I stepped back and watched the carnage for a few seconds and then logged off. That how I handle things, LOL!

Another time, I had just got done talking about giving my five and six year old nieces their first comic books. Some troll on Twitter made it his mission to send death and rape threats directed at my nieces. That was probably the only time I lost it my mind on a troll. If words could be manifested into fists and then transported through the internet, I’d imagine that guy beaten to an unrecognizable pile of mush.

When I do see my friends come under fire for no particular reason other than the fact that she’s a woman with an opinion, I do get upset. Sometimes I take to Twitter and air out my frustrations, other times I get invited to join a podcast to talk about it.

What is the best thing about your line of geeky work?

My absolute favorite part is when I get to interview actors. I don’t get to do it often because a lot of the opportunities AoG gets are scheduled for the afternoon and I work during the day. But the ones I do get interview are so much fun. The highest profile celeb I interviewed is probably Jessica Chobot. Without meaning to, we talked for an hour. She’s so chatty, it was wonderful. My second favorite interview is with Steve Lund. He plays Nick Sorrentino on SyFy’s Bitten. We bonded over our love for Indiana Jones.

What would you say to someone who would look down on being a geek blogger/podcaster/vlogger? What do you find that is meaningful, special, and/or valuable about what you do?

This is where I become a hopeless romantic. Being a geek blogger/podcaster/vlogger is something I love doing. The community is so huge now, and a huge part of that is thanks to everyone’s willingness to share their passions with other people. Being a blogger, or whatever, gives us the opportunity to share our love of certain things with a lot of people all at once while trying to be as informative as we can. If I can make what I’m doing now into a paying career one day, then it’s definitely something worth fighting for. We geeks aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

There are lots of women out there who want to break into the geek industry, be it comics, gaming, writing, or fashion. What kind of advice do you have for them?

I’ll tell you what Jessica Chobot told me. It’s already so incredibly hard to get into any of these industries. You have to keep working, working, and working, improving yourself on where you think you’re lacking. Also network. you’ll have less of a chance making it anywhere if you don’t make yourself known to peers or higher. Putting yourself out there is a vulnerable feeling, but it’s necessary to get yourself out there and talk to people. Plus it doesn’t hurt to expand your horizons with other people in the same boat as you, trade little tips and the like.

There will be people trying to bring you down. You’ll just have to get thick skin and remember you’re doing what you love. And what do you do with things you love? Let it grow and expand.

What inspired you to start with Agents of Geek, and what is the coolest thing that you’ve experienced since you’ve started it?

AoG kind of fell on my lap thanks to Jim Napier noticing my enthusiasm online. It’s become a home to be myself and share all the cool things with the people I like and then some.

We’re only a year old now, so I think the coolest things are yet to come. So far, it’s getting to meet other bloggers and getting the confidence to converse with other writers and artists in the gaming and comic book industries.

Have you always felt at home being a part of and creating in the “geek culture” or “nerd culture”, or was it something you grew into?

I think because of Intro to Geek, I was kind of thrown into a part of nerd culture I never experienced before. I seemed to have taken a shine to it, obviously, and I suddenly find myself being invited to different podcasts, panels at conventions, etc. I don’t know when people started considering me a video game expert, but I like the sound of it. I’m going to hold on to that title for as long as I can. LOL.

What do you wish people knew about what you do? Are there common misconceptions about what it means to do what you do?

I face these types of questions all the time with just my uncle. He knows absolutely nothing about geek culture, science fiction, or fandoms in general. Come to think of it, my mom constantly wonders what I do even when she sees me doing it. I try to attribute my work as something they watch everyday. I’m equal parts the news, The Talk, Entertainment Tonight, and the E! Channel, but without all that boring celebrity gossip. I think they get it… LOL!

As for serious business types, well, I’m still learning. I’ve applied to a lot of firms, advertisers, papers, and publishers where I live. I even tried out for police academy at some point. They start turning up their noses once they find out I write about “kiddy stuff.” No joke, that’s a response I got from someone who rejected my application. It’s like no one in the “professional” world likes fun. Or imagination. I wouldn’t be surprised if all they read were inflated memoirs of a CEO or a former president.

Never mind that as JUST an editor and writer I organize and plan assignments and interviews, edit other people’s writing, make sure the website’s layout looks good and is in working order, cover major events, review movies/tv shows/books, network with people online, over the phone, face to face, learn some coding, consult, and work with advertisers. I know there’s more, but that’s all I can think of off the top of my head at the moment. The subject matter just happens to be something we’re passionate about, just like other writers and magazines like cooking, politics, and pretentious foreign art films.

Be sure to check out Agents of Geek and Intro to Geek if you haven’t done that yet. Stay tuned here for more amazing women in geek, and click on the pictures below to check out my interview with Sarah Rodriguez and Lindsay Cummings.

Women in Geek Lindsay Cummings Women in Geek  Sarah Rodriguez