Category Archives: Writing about Writing blah blah blah
I’m honored to say I was announced this week as winner of a gold Milwaukee Press Club Excellence in Journalism Award in the “Best Short Hard News Feature” category. MPC is the oldest operating press club in North America (e. 1885). The entrants were judged by my peers at other press clubs around the country.
I think some people just have a vague idea that I write about “weird stuff,” but I take what I do seriously. I’ve freelanced on a wide range of topics– food/drink, art, music, independent businesses, interesting personalities, reviews, everything from short blurbs to longform pieces. I think that the more experience you have writing, the more you recognize what you’re good at.
The award was for an article I wrote last year for Milwaukee Magazine titled “Reporting Live from the Street” (the online version has the different title “How Citizen Journalists Captured the Chaos in Kenosha” and is a bit longer than the print version.)
I started piecing together the story the day after the shootings by 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha last August, where Rittenhouse killed two people and injured a third. I was watching the news the next day (I watched more cable news this year and last than I have my entire prior life x 3, easily) glued to the reports. I noticed that all of the footage from that night had watermarks on it from “The Rundown Live” and “BG on the Scene.” I happened to know Kristan T. Harris of The Rundown Live, as he participated in some past events I had done, and I wrote an article about him for Milwaukee Record about his bid to be presidential nominee for the Transhumanist Party– he’s an interesting guy.
I learned that Harris, Brandon Guteschwager (BG on the Scene), and others like them were people that are sometimes called “citizen journalists,” independent reporters who livestream from protests and other events to share footage of what’s going on at street level. It is because of the footage of Harris, Gutenschwager, CJ Halliburton (CJTV), and Andrew Mercado (Mercado Media) that we know what happened that night in Kenosha. If they had not captured it, I think it’s entirely possible that Rittenhouse would have walked away from the scene and disappeared into the night unidentified.
That night was far from the end of the story. Rittenhouse was released on a $2 million bail, paid by his admirers (including Silver Spoons actor Ricky Schroder and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell). After making bail, he was spotted at a bar in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin hanging out and singing karaoke with the Proud Boys. And I’m sure people will take to the streets again when Rittenhouse goes on trial (which was pushed back to November).
As for the citizen journalists, they have continued to travel across the country covering events and they’ve shot footage that you’ve probably seen of protests in Minneapolis, the January 6 Insurrection, and other locations. I’d like to thank Kristan T. Harris, Brandon Gutenschwager, and CJ Halliburton for the interviews for the article– their candid accounts of what happened that terrifying night really made the story. I’d also like to thank Kate for her feedback on the article, my editor Chris Drosner at Milwaukee Magazine for his help and supportive words, and everyone else on staff there that I’ve had the opportunity to work with.
You can read the article here: “How Citizen Journalists Captured the Chaos in Kenosha,” Milwaukee Magazine.
I also uploaded an audio file of myself reading the article via the Tea’s Weird Week podcast channels. You can listen here: TWW Singles: Tea Reads his Award-winning Article About Citizen Journalists (podbean.com)
Thanks you all for your support. Being a freelance journalist and an author working with indie book publishers is awesome and thrilling, but not particularly lucrative. If you want to support me as a writer, one of the best ways is to buy one of my books, buy one for a friend, leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads, or share on social media. Here are links to all my books via the best places to buy them:
American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness (2020, Feral House)
Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America’s Doomsday Preppers (2019, Chicago Review Press)
Wisconsin Legends & Lore (2020, History Press)
Monster Hunters (2015, Chicago Review Press)
Heroes in the Night (2013, Chicago Review Press)
Tea’s Weird Week: 2020 Review (e-book collection of my columns from last year)
There was no Tea’s Weird Week column last week and it’s because I hit a wall and just could not write at all. Not in the least bit. It was the first time there was an unplanned skip in this weekly column.
It’s strange cause the week started off great– my friend’s at Lion’s Tooth, a wonderful new bookstore in Milwaukee, had me in to sign more copies of my book American Madness. They told me it’s selling pretty well there, so I was happy to visit, sign their stock, and pick up a few books and a t-shirt for myself. (Keep it rolling, order from them here: https://www.lionstoothmke.com/american_madness.html#/ ) Good stuff.
But the next day, Monday, I had a deadline for two short articles. If you don’t know me outside of my “weird” work, I freelance for some local publications here in Milwaukee on a wide range of topics, including (but not limited to) art, music, food/drink, local businesses, performance art, comedy, interviews with local people doing interesting things. Freelancing, like anything, has advantages and disadvantages. I really enjoy getting out to meet new creative people, learn about new things, and see some behind the scenes stuff. I’ve never had to write a story that I didn’t want to work on. That said, freelancing is often a roll of the dice and sometimes stressful and frustrating.
Anyway, two short articles– super easy! I could open up two laptops and type both these suckers out at the same time! But for some unknown reason, it really burned me out. A couple other small things happened– nothing terrible, nothing earth shattering, but the combination of a few irritations and failures made me incredibly bitter, mentally exhausted, and in serious doubt that I have any legit skill or talent by Tuesday evening. I looked at my writing projects in development– there’s about 5– and I just saw wheels spinning, kicking up dirt. What a long week…wait, it’s Tuesday?…ah shit. Non-fiction writer’s block is different than the fiction version, but it is a thing.
I didn’t have any other deadlines on the horizon, so I decided to choose the best possible option for that particular time and place I was in, which was to fuck off for the rest of the week. This is not something I do often, but I got to tell you, sometimes you need to use a well placed FUCK IT.
Writing is a tough business. There’s quite a few people I’ve met who have given up on the writing thing because of the painful, intimidating gauntlet of rejection– the cold, uncaring void that will drain the pages right out of you, the struggle to find the right words. My experience has been that writing is a practice of love, pain, humility, patience, fun, grief, the highs of accomplishment, the lows of self-doubt, and much more.
I make a lot lists to keep my writing on track, but I threw them all out last week. I sure as hell didn’t do any writing. I cleaned my office, I planted some seedlings, I went for walks and thought about life, I did the dishes, I had some drinks and watched some TV. On Monday, I got moving again– slowly. It was time to get back into the game. I guess, for better or worse, I’m a writer.
Here is my 2 cent writing advice– you will want to quit, you will think you suck, you will want to burn it. Don’t. When you hit a wall, take a break if you need to, but don’t give up– dig under it, climb over it, bounce off of it, crash through it like the Kool-Aid Man. Oh yeaaaah!
Looking forward to future projects/ events really helps me not give up. Here’s some positive things coming up for me:
–Tea’s Weird Week podcast, season 2– soon, working on it. Should be back in a couple weeks. Check out the podcast page for links to season 1 on your favorite podcast platforms: https://teakrulos.com/teas-weird-week-podcast-4/
-Milwaukee Press Club Awards– I’m one of the finalists in the “short hard news” category, they’ll be announcing in a virtual event May 19 whether I got the gold, silver, or bronze. I’m honored to be nominated.
–Brady Street Pharmacy: Stories & Sketches is a collection of short stories I wrote about a greasy spoon/drugstore I worked at in my youth. It’ll be out next year from Vegetarian Alcoholic Press.
-Like I said, I got several writing projects in development, though nothing sold or on deadline yet. We’ll see what happens with all that.
With that, I’m going to move on to some hopefully wall-free writing while I’m still “on.”
Check out my books: