Some eight years ago, the Quaz began when—while watching an episode of The Wonder Years with my kids—I saw one of Kevin Arnold’s girlfriends and thought, “Hmh, I wonder what ever happened to her?”
Enter: Wandy Hagen.
Enter: The Internet’s most random Q&A series.
Over the ensuing 400 or so weeks, many of these interviews have been the byproducts of that sort of curiosity. What ever became of Phil Nevin? What ever became of Jenn Sterger? What ever became of the third guitarist from Styx? Or, in other words, I’m a big “What ever became of …” guy.
Maybe the biggest.
Hence, I’m happy to introduce the latest Quaz, Maggie Langrick, who is here because, not all that long ago, the kids and I were watching “Harry and the Hendersons” and I thought, “Hmm, what ever became of the two kids?” One, Joshua Rudoy, sort of vanished into the world’s abyss. The other, however, is Maggie, who spent a solid decade doing the Hollywood thing before becoming a (gasp!) journalist.
These days, Maggie is the CEO and publisher at LifeTree Media, a company that provides premiere editorial and publishing services to non-fiction authors. Her blog is awesome, her acting memories fantastic, her anti-Trump feelings raw and righteous.
Maggie Langrick, you are the Quaz …
JEFF PEARLMAN: So Maggie, I first learned of you about a week ago, when my kids and I watched “Harry and the Hendersons” on Netflix. Mainly because I have this disease where I always wonder what became of actors, singers athletes, etc. And I am fascinated by the film, because it was very quirky, very, very enjoyable. So—how’d you land that gig? And, looking back three decades, how do you feel about it?
MAGGIE LANGRICK: Harry and the Hendersons was such a fun gig. I got the part the usual way, by auditioning for the director and producers. I guess I was pretty good at sarcastically rolling my eyes as a teenager, and that’s exactly what they were looking for. The shoot was long – about three or four months, half of which was spent on location in Seattle, and the other half on the back lot at Universal Studios.
J.P.: So you’re the head of LifeTree Media, a company that “provides premiere editorial and publishing services to non-fiction authors.” And as we sit here in 2018, I wonder how you feel about the future of printed books. Will they exist in two decades? Has there been a revival? Do we all need to just embrace digital? Does it matter?
M.L.: I think we do all need to embrace digital media, as more and more aspects of our lives are conducted in the digital space. However, I also don’t believe that printed books are going away, at least not anytime soon. People have their preferences, and all three major formats—print, ebook and now audiobook—have their fans. Personally, I read both ebooks and print books and find that both have their place. The good news is that people are still buying and reading books. Ultimately, I don’t think the format matters at all. What’s important is the content, not the container.
J.P.: You’re the former life and arts editor of the Vancouver Sun, and I’m a former life and arts writer for The Tennessean. And I really, really miss the intensity of the newsroom, the smell of paper off press, etc. How do you feel about newspapers? And, like books, is there any hope?
M.L.: Journalism is in a very, very tough spot. I believe the economic challenges to the newspaper industry are much more serious than those that book publishers are facing because the bulk of their revenues come from ads, not from consumer sales. Those ad dollars have all but vanished with the rise of digital media, and the money earned from online subscriptions is nowhere near enough to replace what’s been lost. Print newspaper newsrooms, especially smaller metropolitan dailies, are dramatically shrinking their staffs or closing down altogether. It’s very worrying when you consider how important a free and robust press is to democracy. I do, however, feel encouraged by the rise of credible online-only news outlets. As with books, it’s news reporting that matters, not the paper it’s printed on.
J.P.: You identify on your site as a feminist. And, on Nov. 12, 2016, you began a blog post with “I woke up crying the morning after Donald Trump was elected president of the United States.” So I have to ask—how are you holding up in the era of Donald Trump? What are your survival techniques?
M.L.: I’m white-knuckling it and praying for a return to decency and democracy in 2020.
J.P.: You wrote a blog post titled, THREE MISTAKES NEW AUTHORS MAKE WHEN WRITING A NONFICTION BOOK. And, under one, you write, “How-to books, memoirs, “big idea” books and narrative non-fiction books all follow particular conventions, and must have certain qualities in order to be successful. Failure to understand or observe these norms is almost certain to lead to an unsatisfying book that feels “off” to readers.” I was wondering if you could elaborate, because I don’t quite get it.
M.L.: This is a great question with a fairly complex answer. I can’t go into detail here about the qualities and norms of every type of book, but as an example, a how-to book must feature clear instructions and solid information in order to be successful. Memoir requires exceptional creative writing talent and storytelling skills, while a big idea book must present a comprehensive and compelling argument from a bona fide expert. Novice writers often miss the mark, for example by using case studies ineffectively, or relying too heavily on their own opinions and conclusions at the expense of facts and evidence.
J.P.: I’m currently reading Justine Bateman’s book, “Fame.” And the premise is, really, “fame is bullshit.” You experienced a good run in Hollywood. Is fame bullshit? How did you feel about the spotlight? Red carpets? Being recognized? Etc?
M.L.: I guess it depends on what you mean by fame. Celebrity is bullshit, for sure. But being well known for doing excellent work in any field is not a bad thing. I think most people with big dreams or ambitions would like to make a mark on the world, and that usually brings with it some recognition. As an actor, I was recognized from time to time and it was almost always a pleasant or neutral experience – just a brief encounter with a fellow human being wanting to share their appreciation for my work. I never got famous enough for stalkers or harrassers to become a problem.
J.P.: Along those lines, why did you stop acting?
M.L.: Acting was tons of fun, but the work was so erratic. I never felt in control of my own career progression. After my daughter was born I studied fine art for a while, then pivoted into editing, which is something I’ve always enjoyed and am naturally good at.
J.P.: You refer to yourself as “an optimistic cheerleader for the human race.” And, Maggie, I’m having a shitload of trouble right now. Climate change, xenophobia, guns. Is there really a reason for optimism?
M.L.: Sigh. I know. It’s not an easy time to be an optimist. Humanity appears to be taking a pretty big step back at the moment. But here’s the thing. Humans have been doing vile and despicable things to each other throughout history, on both a grand and intimate scale. Yet even in the midst of the most horrific events or conditions, individuals will show each other kindness, feel and express love, and perform heroic acts of generosity. Relieving the suffering of another person, even just a little bit, feels good. We all commit acts of cruelty, selfishness and aggression too from time to time, but it feels bad to do it, even when it brings us some sort of advantage. That tells me that love, kindness and generosity must be our natural state. The impulse to intentionally inflict suffering on another person is an unnatural one that stems from suffering that we ourselves have experienced in the past. Underneath our dysfunction we are constantly trying, or at least longing, to return to that harmonious natural state so that we can feel peaceful and happy. There is in each of us an overwhelming desire to heal and repair. That is the basis of my optimism. That’s also why I decided that my company LifeTree Media would publish books that help, heal and inspire.
J.P.: What’s the most memorable assignment of your journalism career? And what do you remember about it?
M.L.: I was never a reporter, always an editor, so I haven’t had a lot of assignments of the sort I think you’re referring to. However, I was fortunate to be Arts and Life Editor for the Vancouver Sun during the 2010 Olympics. That was an electrifying moment for the city, for our newsroom, and for me personally.
J.P.: So I’ve had a bunch of my books optioned, and it’s always the same shit: This is amazing! This is gonna be a great movie! We know just the guy to star in it! Oh, this is happening! Then, one day inevitably—silence. You’ve experienced Hollywood. Serious question: Why is there so much bullshit?
M.L.: I think you’re referring to the insincere flattery and empty promises that Hollywood is known for. I sure don’t have the inside scoop on why that is or where it comes from, but if I suspect it’s due to a combination of laziness and opportunism. It’s easier to pay someone a hollow compliment than to tell them a difficult truth. And in a fickle town like Hollywood where you never know which dumb idea is about to become the next Big Thing, people tend to string each other along to keep their options open. And now that’s become part of the culture; everybody knows not to pop any champagne until the ink is dry on a deal.
QUAZ EXPRESS WITH MAGGIE LANGRICK:
• Rank in order (favorite to least): the BLT, Henry Burris, T.J. Scott, Law & Order, Washington Post, Bryce Harper, your left hand, big glasses of root beer, Elena Kagan: My left hand, BLT (assuming you mean the delicious sandwich), Washington Post, Elana Kagan, Root beer, Law & Order, T.J. Scott, Henry Burris and Bryce Harper are tied for last place because I had to Google them to find out who they were.
• The next president of the United States will be …: …very busy restoring faith in our public institutions.
• Five all-time favorite books: Oh, no, all-time faves are too hard! But here are five random books that I liked reading a lot.
- Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides
- The Crimson Petal and the White, by Michel Faber
- Good to Great, by Jim Collins
- The Wives of Bath, by Susan Swan
- The Maggie B, by Irene Haas
• Three memories from playing Dolores Lucas in “Cold Comfort”: 1. Maury Chaykin (who played my father) trying to crack me up during my closeups by feeding me goofy lines from off-camera; 2. Shooting the topless scene. I was super nervous, but only because I felt insecure about my body; 3. A poem that Maury made up, which made it into the birthday scene. It went: “My daughter, my daughter // Part of me, part of your mother // But mostly, part of me.” Man, that is just the best thing ever.
• Three reasons one should move to Vancouver: Mountains, ocean, BC bud.
• Would it have been theoretically possible for the Hendersons to just renovate the basement and have Harry move in?: Not really because the movie was shot in a sound stage at Universal Studios…
• What are your five most-overused writing words?: I have no idea. But I do know that I use way, way too many parenthetical clauses.
• I once had a book sitting at No. 13 on the NYT best-seller’s list. Snooki’s book was No. 1. Am I allowed to pull my hair out over this?: No. You are allowed to count yourself very, very lucky to have found a place on that list at all. And then you are allowed to brag about it as much as you want for the rest of your life! I sure would.
• Name seven people you’ve never met: Justin Trudeau, Oprah Winfrey, Tilda Swinton, Jane Goodall, Chris Ofili, my paternal grandmother
• I’m not feeling Kevin Knox as a Knick. You?: Who is Kevin Knox?