Just before summer 2011 – a year after first writing for The Awl – I got the sudden desire again to write things that weren’t college papers (however much I loved doing that). In retrospect, it was probably a combination of summer anxiety (please, please give me an assignment to write!) and wanting to engage with a community that would talk back. Choire asked, and I wrote about how the Times covered women’s suffrage. It remains one of my most research-heavy posts, though it didn’t make much of a wave when it went live, nor did I expect it to, as my posts rarely did the summer before. I am not very funny, not what you’d call a “natural blogger.” 

Five days after the suffrage piece went up, however, I received an email with the subject line: “hello! from CAAF.” CAAF was Carrie Frye, the unbelievable thinker, editor, and friend who would come to edit, meticulously and with generosity, every piece I’ve written for The Awl since. Nearly two years after that email, I’m still unable to read anything I wrote that precedes (and includes) the suffrage piece. As Carrie has said to me, “I won’t let you go out in public feeling ‘ick,’” but it’s been more than that – she always let me go out feeling not just not-ick, but rewarded and, at the best of times, excited.

Today is Carrie Frye’s last day as managing editor of The Awl. Maria Bustillos has written a beautiful tribute to our dearest CAAF for the site, and her closing sentiment rings nothing but truth:

Carrie is leaving her post here to focus on making more words herself, so the only thing that tempers my great (my very great) sadness at losing her as an editor is the utter delight of knowing that the result will be more of her own writing.

In an email about Carrie’s leave-taking, Lili Loofbourow tells me, “there are no words for how much I admire her writing. she’s one of the greats.” I can’t wait for all the delightful sentences and thoughts (and asides) that will fill Carrie’s future book. Sometimes, I can already imagine the feeling of reading it just by remembering something like her Polidori piece. It will be bubbling and effervescent, and deeply wise, as all of Carrie’s thoughts are – some mix of the pathos of Charlotte Brontë, the wrenching absurdities of George Gordon and Dickens, and the cutting wit of Barbara Pym or Muriel Spark.

Personally, I’ve been quite the baby about Carrie’s departure, for obvious selfish reasons, for will there ever be as creative and generous an editor as her? Online editors seem for the most part experts at avoidance and passive aggression, but as Brent Cox reminds me, “She’s the best editor ever. (And the only one that actually returns my emails.)” Patient she is, warm and kind, encouraging and guiding. When we yakked about “House of Cards,” I jokingly told her that I wish I had an internal CAAF, because she could get me through any kind of day or slump, with verve! The Frye and Hu co-byline is something I’m intent on resurrecting, but it’s not just for selfish reasons – perhaps being around Carrie makes a person more generous oneself, which strikes me as especially Sedgwickian. Being around and beside Carrie makes one want to be kinder, better, brighter. 

In Carrie and Maud Newton’s reckoning with Thelma and Louise, she recalls:

I have an acute memory of going to a packed lecture that Eve K. Sedgwick was giving my junior year and springing out of my seat right before the lecture started and skulking out of the auditorium, because I’d realized my ex-boyfriend was in the row behind me and I couldn’t stand to sit there all night. That was my own conflicted feminist college self right there. I used the word “hegemony” a lot; I wore overalls; but I thought Victoria’s Secret had really pretty bras. But what was even considered feminist—or 'feminist enough,’ maybe—then was up for grabs and contentious (as it continues to be!).

Carrie is someone who can make anything feel as though it continues to be. She’s reparative, and so a goodbye, while sad (how I will miss pitching her, nudging her, seeing those bolded edits always returned in that signature Gill Sans font!) also feels like many kinds of hellos. Or, as Carrie first wrote to me “Hi, hi Jane!” – the double salutation that I’ve since adopted (she also taught me the wonder of changing it up, “Hello, hi!”). These are the little, but forever implanted, lessons I’ve learned from Carrie, and truly there are too many to count, or even register right now. “Just being chatty!” I write, to those that I feel I’ve prodded too much (Carrie used it, though she never, ever over-prodded).

Everyone who has worked with Carrie knows she’s a treasure, but perhaps I’ve childishly cathected so much to my experience working with her because, in ways, she helped me grow up not just as a writer, but as a person, these things being so related. Looking back at that initial email with Carrie, she comes off brilliant and subtle, while myself sounding a presumptuous dolt. I was about to graduate undergrad, and cringe now when reading these lines to her in that first exchange:

My one concern is for my academic obligations this summer (and how far I can wander from them!). I’m working on turning my thesis into an article, and also developing my MA project.

This, remember, is after I asked to be allowed to write for them again.

Guess what? I’m still developing my MA project, and guess what? I like it better when writing on different and unexpected topics. Carrie would suggest “a history of gerbilling” or an in-depth look at a Wikipedia page, and somehow, miraculously, we always found new and interesting things to say, even when I entered the topic utterly blank, even when I sometimes balked. This is what the best editors teach you about writing, and yourself as a writer. There is more there than you think, especially when you’re afraid or unsure – keep trying, return to things over and over again. Carrie has reread Our Mutual Friend eight times now. These days, I’m reading it for the first.

The Day of the Arts Festival

Today, the office has been in what could best be described as an orderly frenzy. Actually, who am I kidding? First, the office is always a bit of a whirlwind, but second, it’s probably been this way for about three weeks. That is because we are concluding our preparations for the first annual “Creative Activist Arts Festival.” Tonight is the kickoff for the two-day festival that will celebrate Dan Eldon’s art, premiere several new documentaries, and allow for festival-goers to dialogue with filmmakers and activists.

For the past few days we have been working out the final logistics for the event: panel speakers, stage cues, ticket sales, spatial logistics, etc. The final touches have come together and some of us are getting ready to head over to the Edgemar [where the documentaries will be shown tomorrow] to set up. Others of us are staying here to tidy the office for the “Chef’s Soiree” this evening.

Everyone has been working like crazy and it promises to be an incredible event! I literally cannot wait to see the documentaries [learn more here:]. I personally, am particularly excited for, for “After the Fall,” an intimate portrait of children and young adults in Romania, infected at a young with HIV/AIDS. I am not exceptionally well-informed about this problem in Eastern Europe—one generally hears more about the AIDS epidemic in Africa—so I am excited to gain some insight and see how I can get involved in helping to solve the problem.

The cool thing about this festival, is that so many current issues are represented through these documentaries. There are films about the environment, food, health, athletics, music, LGBT, poverty, and art. Whether you have been passionate about an issue for a while, or are just looking to gain some perspective on a subject, you will benefit so much through this festival. Besides raising awareness, the festival presents an opportunity for a diverse group of people to come together to catalyze positive change globally. Not only will you have hundreds of people to discuss issues with, but everyone will also have the opportunity to have Q&A with filmmakers and activists and to discuss how to bring about change. 

Can art change the world? We are about to find out.

To get your last minute tickets, follow this link:

I hope to see you there! Check back over the weekend for updates on the festivities!


Everyone finalizing last minute details! 


Somos lo que hacemos:

Hablar en Arte, Comunidad Artística Autofinanciada (CAAF)
Vídeo, 4:42’, 2011.

I love when I get in the car and automatically look to the backseat to see how we can ride laps if necessary on the way home.

I love when its three thirty in the morning and my phone is barely surviving, but it can handle one more video of us blasting Medicine on the drive back.

I love when I catch myself using our inside jokes to my family.

I love when I knew I was able to go knock on 121 or 305 just to sit down and talk.

I love when it was May third.

I love when it was “see you in a bit” and “come get ready in my room”

I love you, and you, and you, and you.