Who Is B. Frayn Masters?

B. Frayn Masters is reading at the Smalldoggies reading series tomorrow night at the Blue Monk. It’s been a while since she’s done a reading, what with all her time being occupied as producer of the super-popular live shows, Entertainment For People and Back Fence (which she also co-hosts), freelance writing, and getting married to me earlier this year. I told her that I wanted to interview her for my blog, to catch people up on what she’s doing, and to also excavate some of her personal secrets myself. Here’s what the smokin’ blonde bombshell had to say for herself.

What is it that you do all day while I’m at work?

It depends.

If I get really anxious about something I might suddenly watch three episodes of Project Runway in a row, making a deal with myself to work extra hard to get what is on my list done, quickly. Slowly I get up from the couch and have the show on in the background until I can fully engage in work. Then I mute the show. Then I turn it off. It is a form of weaning myself away from my anxiety. I usually do get it done. Also, I’m really embarrassed about this practice and often think of you and think, Shit, if he knew I did this…like I’m some kind of coke whore or something.

If I’m decently motivated I sit at my computer and work in my underwear with unwashed hair, maybe some food in my teeth. The tabs I have open while I work are various email accounts, Facebook, twitter, Gawker/CNN/Jezebel/Forever21/McSweeney’s/This American Life, and toggl.com. The latter because when I stop working on my scriptwriting/copywriting project I can easily stop counting my freelance writing time. It wouldn’t be fair to make my clients pay for my voracious surfing appetite. Usually in the middle of the day I open Photobooth and horrify myself with how I look. I pose several different ways and take pictures. Sometimes I let out little screams because I’m scared.

Then I put my hair in a bun and put a hydrating mask on my face. Whenever I work at home I make tons of lemonade. Juicing four lemons at a time, adding cayenne pepper or ginger and always stevia. I suck down glass after glass with a straw so as not to damage the enamel on my teeth. You know how much the dentist loves my teeth. I think, if he could, he might like to unload on them. That’s gross. I’m gross and dirty, but you knew that when you married me. You like it.

If I’m feeling really motivated (read: there is a deadline looming that I have procrastinated) I get up really early and go to a coffee shop to write. The coffee shop across the street—this comes in handy because I usually forget some very important document/research I need to complete my writing. I leave my purse and my laptop at the coffee shop and walk back to our place to retrieve whatever I’m missing. I leave them there, these valuable things, like a total bitch dumbass. I need to stop doing that. Recently I’ve adopted a strange workout behavior. I call it ‘cumulative bathroom exercise.’ I read some article in Glamour Magazine in like 2001 about some similar practice. It really stuck with me I guess. Though I guarantee you I’ve made it my own. When I go into the large unisex bathrooms at coffee shops around town, after I’ve done my business, I either do 25 wall push ups or 25 full-on squats. This has been great and I do feel stronger. I end up doing about 125 of each before the end of the day. Sometimes I do both exercises and typically more than 25…I *really* focus on form…I only do both if there is no one waiting. When I say both, I mean both exercises. Not both 1 and 2.

I also clean a lot to avoid work. And I try clothes on in hopes that they fit. I play with the cat a lot too, but that’s no surprise.

What are some other jobs you’ve had?

Ima try to think about stuff I’ve done I’ve never told you that much about.

I had a job for a half day where I was selling something like the Chinook Book over the phone. Most of the people who worked there were in their 30’s and 40’s, the place smelled like the fumes from people circling the cul-de-sac of their lives. I went to lunch and never came back.

I had a job at a juice bar for two days. I just couldn’t care less about memorizing what went into each drink, so I applied for and found a job at an art gallery.

The gallery was owned by a fucking crazy lady. She was married to a man who was 16 years her junior. He was 27 at the time and far more mature than her. They would scream at each other across the Chihuly glass sculptures. It was ridiculous and she was MEAN. They would actually drive customers (agog people actually herded their children) out of the store. I took notes thinking they made for good characters. I quit after three months. I had taken a study guide about the art home with me when I was hired. Totally forgot I had it. A week after I quit, the owner sent a notified letter to me from her attorney saying that if I didn’t return the notebook filled with Kinko’s-copied pages immediately she would file a notice with the police that I was in possession of stolen property. This was her first attempt to contact me about returning it. Her methodology worked: I returned it, in person, with a big smile, post-haste. I had that letter for a long time. Wish I still had it.

I worked at the reception desk at the hoity toity San Francisco Press club as a fill-in for two weeks. I was in town visiting friends and ran out of money. My friend found me the job. It was a fancy place with dark wood and the lilting fabrics of the Brat Pack. Rich, old people went there. I read Writing in Restaurants by David Mamet while I sat there doing very little, but getting paid a lot. There was an essay in that book that made me cry. I still think about it. It nailed a huge flaw I had/have so perfectly, so pointedly, I could no longer be in denial. I read it over and over and cried over and over.

What was the Mamet essay about?

It was about performance. The thing that stuck out was a passage about how if you get all pissy when you perceive yourself to have done a bad performance, or get a bad review and, conversely, soak up the glory when you perceive yourself to have done a good performance or get a review then you’re headed for a life of trouble. You have to, he says, take account of what you set out to improve on, like say, ‘did I hit my marks, not lose my British accent, and make my partner onstage/screen look good’? Whether you did or did not do those things is the only thing you need be concerned about. This is the only way, he suggests, for you to become a better artist—to look at the tangibles. Petulance will get you nowhere, you will build no character, and you’ll be unhappy.

I was a really petulant 21 yr old. Not surprising, I’m sure. I loved to sulk and to supplicate compliments. “I’m so bad. I suck. Bad. Did you *really* like my performance? Really? Can you sign this document saying you *liked* it? Blah, blah, blah.” I don’t react to that shit as much now, but those synapses still fire with little silencers on.

What are you working on, writing-wise?

These projects are in all states of progress.

1. A novel called, HUGE.
2. An untitled screenplay.
3. An untitled video short series.
4. 2 personal essays
5. A short screenplay based on a Mary Miller short story for Spork magazine. It is way more work and pages than I anticipated.
6. Stuff for different websites I’d like to get published on.
7. Pitches for a magazine I’d like write for.
8. A couple of animation scripts for corporations. They even have a little humor in them.
9. A pitch for a radio show I’d like to be on.
10. Other flotsam and jetsam.

Who are some of your biggest inspirations?

For various reasons…
1. You. And Zach.
Then, in no particular order…

  • 2. Jenny Lewis
  • 3. Wes Anderson
  • 4. Alexander Payne
  • 5. Jason Bateman
  • 6. Preston Sturges
  • 7. Ray Bradbury
  • 8. Dorothy Parker
  • 9. Drew Barrymore
  • 10. Lidia Yuknavitch
  • 11. Jack Black
  • 12. Nikoli Gogol
  • 13. Jim Thompson
  • 14. Katherine Dunn
  • 15. Dolly Parton
  • 16. Miranda July
  • 17. Cheryl Strayed
  • 18. Joel McHale
  • 19. Louis CK
  • 20. John Hodgman
  • 21. John Moe
  • 22. Arthur Bradford
  • 23. Chris Ballew
  • 24. Judy Blume
  • 25. Chris Ware
  • 26. Daniel Clowes
  • 27. Eric Spitznagel
  • 28. Charlize Theron
  • 29. The Guppy’s
  • 30. Dan Kennedy
  • 31. Rothko
  • 32. Sam Lipsyte
  • 33. Barbra Stanwyck

So many more…these are off the top of my head.

Who were your childhood heroes?

I really didn’t have any childhood heroes, I guess. If anyone was they’d be on the list above. Is that sad? It’s not sad to me.

Here’s a stab at it. STAB.

Ray Bradbury because he could see the future. Katherine Dunn because Geek Love showed me a kind of writing that absolutely marked my brain. And Nancy Drew because she had the cool job of detective.

What are five of your favorite things to do in Portland?

1. Go to Ringside Steakhouse happy hour. I especially like it when we order three orders of steak bites and they pile them all on one plate. Every time I’m surprised that we eat them all. Every time. (There are about six or eight small bites in each order. That didn’t help. It still seem glutenous.)

2. Read/write at a coffee shop with my feet touching yours.

3. Hang out with friends. Hiking, eating, drinking.

4. See friends kill on stage

5. Curate and co-host Back Fence. I meet really cool people who tell me intimate details about their lives. Also, Entertainment for People. I like doing things that I can bring my massively talented friends into.

What’s it like to live with me?

It is the absolute best. We can really let our indoor selves come out to play. Not to mention a hot cup of coffee is handed to me each morning with a smile. I like the running jokes and stories we weave out of the blue, we make up lots of stuff about our kitty, Boo. I like that we blame any spillage or dirt pile on him. Maybe we could shoot an episode of Hoarders where he has a bunch of humans running, sleeping in, and pooping around his house. Boo just takes them in off the street. It is hard for him to keep the place clean because paws just ain’t hands, you know? And he has a bit of a shopping problem. He buys clothes, but never wears them. They just sit in piles, piles that grow like the Matterhorn out of the carpet. What I like about you is that you would go along with the story and simply add to it.  I often think about how many people would  be perplexed by this sort of antics. But, you get it, baby. You get it. According to the ideology of hack stand-up comics I ‘ve got it real good when it comes to the “Men are like this….” stuff. You are super tidy and you are the opposite of an asshole. You are the whole ass baby, the whole ass that has no hole whatsoever. 

Tell me something that I don’t know about you?

I’m trying to think of something positive. I need to end this by painting a better picture of myself than I did with the answers to question one.

I have at least 50 items in various shopping carts all over the internet. Wait, that’s not positive.

When I was an ice skater I could skate perfect figure 8’s. I would skate them forwards and backwards over and over. I don’t know why but it filled me with immense joy to do this. It must have been my 7-year-old version of mediation. I still think about skating them. Whenever we’re in Lloyd Center I always want to go to the rink, rent skates and see if I can still do it. Maybe that’s just cheeseballs, but I don’t think you know that? Do you?

15 responses to “Who Is B. Frayn Masters?

  1. This went a bit long, maybe?

  2. Elana K. Arnold

    I loved it! I will look for your novel. Thanks to Cheryl Strayed, who recommended it!

  3. Shhhhh….I’m not done yet.

  4. I could read an entire book about the jobs you’ve had. Good interview.

  5. I like that you were coming up with things K didn’t know. You forgot to mention the part about how you are a very good friend to people. That should be included in here. Just a sentence — I am a very good friend to people.

  6. Loved this so much! What a treat to read!

  7. Thanks. I learned a lot about your dentist.

  8. Fantastic interview—you funny lady! The bit about Photobooth made me giggle like a little girl, and I loved your takeaway from the Mamet essay.

  9. This is lovely. Not too long at all. The mister and I also come up with ridiculous stories where one just adds on to what the other has said. This has also involved cats, in the past.

  10. This was inspiring somehow. You hit a nerve. And it was kind of romantic. I am excitedly awaiting your personal essays and HUGE. Also: Good idea on the bathroom exercises.

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  13. You are touching public restroom floors? With your hands?!

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