So happy to have this lovely guest post today from writer, artist and blogger Anja Notanja. Anja is not only talented, but exceedingly clever. Read on to find out how a simple Facebook post kicked off a chain of events that got Anja national media attention. After graduating with a degree in printmaking and creative writing, I spent a year as a puppet. When I say 'puppet,' I mean I worked at a puppet theater executing ideas that were not my own. When I say 'executing,' I mean consistently maiming my duties: carving too much foam off and getting malnourished horse legs, wasting yards of expensive theater tape, and failing to halt a riot of 5-year-olds before they knocked over the set during a production featuring a bath scene with real soap bubbles. My complete lack of competence and my repressed contrary opinions on what should be done made me miserable in spite of the exciting papier-mâché atmosphere and its many drawers jammed with eyeballs. I quit, moved back to my hometown and passed the next two years crocheting gnome hats and nose warmers while feeling as bland as a plain baked potato, cold from the fridge.
This time last year I was ready to toss all my yarn down the laundry chute and never visit the basement ever again. I had an urge to do solo improv in front of a live audience. So, like most troubled souls of this era I went to Facebook and composed a post: "Hire me to come to your birthday parties to write on-the-spot love letters, insult letters, letters of recommendation, stories, poetry and other requests from my typewriter." Somehow a local journalist came across it and asked me about my business. What business?! I swiftly invented a description and she published it online. I got a gig. I got a gig from a gig. I got a pig from another gig (no, I didn't really), and soon enough the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel slapped me on their front page.
This July I released an online store for my "prosettes," something I did not even know would exist half a year earlier, but for which I was getting an overwhelming amount of orders. Weeks ago, I appeared on live television and insulted the Minnesota Vikings on behalf of the Packers even though I don't give the slightest fig about football. The Associated Press released a video of what is now called "La Prosette" that made its way to the front page of MSN, Yahoo, AOL and USA Today. And my grandma even clipped a hardcopy of it from her small town's newspaper.
For years I've been making and promoting projects, so I've been wondering why people seem to especially dig this one. I've figured that I am doing a creative writing-based project and so journalists have an intrinsic interest in it. If you do something the press wishes they could be doing, they will likely cover you. In fact, the first journalist who covered me was so interested, that she's begun typing custom haikus for patrons from a typewriter. Another of these journalists has ordered a prosette from me four times in the past month.
This project is something I've had to invent from nothing but a wisp of my own desire. Yes, there are other "performing typists" out there, but none of them write "prosettes," or write exactly what I do. It's required equal persistence and foolishness to put myself out where strangers can find me and commission me to insult their ex-lover, or compose a letter from someone dear to them who's died. Serving the public as artist, spokesperson and therapist, it seems I'm constantly needed. Yesterday my grocer asked me to write a polite reminder for her neighbors to shovel their walks.
I am useful and I am peculiar; and I am at last fully employed as me.
Anja Notanja received her BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute in 2009. She is currently an artist-in-resident at In Tandem Theatre and a writer-in-residence at Renaissance Theaterworks, both in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. You can order a custom "prosette" from her on her website, La Prosette.