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'Awkward' Chicago Tumblr gets national attention

  • Claire Meyer, pictured right dressed as a picnic table, in her "awkward" photo on the Tumblr blog "The Awkward Phase."
Claire Meyer, pictured right dressed as a picnic table, in her "awkward"… (Handout. )
April 03, 2013|By Mick Swasko, @swasko | RedEye

It was just an awkward idea they came up with on a lunch break.

Now the creators of “The Awkward Phase,” a Tumblr blog dedicated to cringe-worthy childhood photos and the positive stories behind them, are in touch with a book publisher. Tyler Gillespie, 26, of Uptown and Claire Meyer, 23, of Albany Park, found out a few weeks ago that their blog was one of three finalists out of almost 200 submissions in Chronicle Book’s “Great Tumblr Book Search.” Sworn to a vow of secrecy, they were able to share the news Tuesday.

“We are over the moon,” Gillespie said. “This has been such an amazing and fun time.”

The blog is simple: Users submit a photo of their “awkward phase” – anything from a terrible outfit, obvious braces or freshman year homecoming photos – and tell the story behind them.

“It’s not about ‘I was kind of gangly and weird back in the day and I’m hot now,’” Meyer, also a stand up comic, said. “It’s more about ‘I’m owning that phase now, I’m owning it and loving it.’”

It was Meyer’s own Halloween photo from when she was 13, where she was dressed as a picnic table as her friends posed in their cat ears and skirts, that helped catch the attention of Chronicle. Meyer tells the story like this:

“Couldn’t I see that my friends were too cool for me? Why hadn’t I worked on my sexy hip pop pose? I was too busy giving a thumbs up and middle part salute to the costume I made. I respect you, 13 year old me. I respect you. Don’t worry baby, we made it out of 2002 ok,” she writes in the caption.

As one of three finalists, the pair receives $100 worth of Chronicle books, a written critique from editors and a feedback session with Rachel Fershleiser, Tumblr’s director of literary outreach. Gillespie said working with Chronicle has been a positive experience, and if the blog garners enough good content, it is possible they will be published.

“The main thing is that we’re looking for a lot of submissions, anyone can submit, they don’t have to be a writer or comedian,” Gillespie said.

Gillespie and Meyer also said they are in early talks with Tumblr to host a storytelling night in Chicago based on the blog.

“It’s a moment you thought you would never get past. It’s adorable now,” Meyer said of the blog. “Our goal was to make our 14 year old versions of ourselves proud.” 

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