The Reason For The Leavin’

A few months back, I had been spending a sunny afternoon on the back deck of the Hayward house I shared with my friend Jen, reading a People Magazine article about Lynn-Holly Johnson, the star of the 1978 hit Ice Castles, a movie I had seen maybe a billion times. It got me thinking about the film’s other star, Robby Benson, the blue-eyed star of a number of movies that I had also devoured via cable television during weekend afternoons and long summers. First I Wikipedia’ed him, then I started combing YouTube for trailers and clips of his movies, then I began tracking down DVDs on Amazon and Ebay. Finally, wild-eyed with Robby Benson fever, I wrote on my friend Jen Paulson‘s page that we needed to do a podcast together, mainly because she was the only one I knew who would understand these sort of crack-pipe pop culture obsessions.

She responded enthusiastically to the idea, and we started talking about how we could do it…should we do it remotely, the way Remakers Mark does? Should she come up to the Northwoods every other week, and then I go down to Minneapolis? “You know,” she typed, during a Gchat a couple days later. “I do have a room for rent in my house.”

20 minutes later, it was official – I was moving back down to Minneapolis.

It wasn’t just the podcast that prompted the move. I kind of ran away to the Northwoods a few years ago, after ending what had become a disastrous relationship. “I don’t think I can stay here,” I remember telling Katy, a few nights after I had left him. We were on the shuttle bus that was taking us back to our car after attending The Minnesota State Fair. It was Friday night, and I had wanted to do something that would take my mind off of what had happened…I wanted to be out, in a crowd, with lots of distractions. But it didn’t work, and riding on that bus, I watched as we passed familiar buildings and neighborhoods and realized that everything about Minneapolis and St. Paul reminded me of him, now. Of the hopes I had for us, when I had moved from the Northwoods back to the Twin Cities half a year before, to be with him. I needed to be away from all of that for a while.

So I went to L.A. for a couple of weeks, and then I moved back up north. I signed a three-year lease with my pal Adam for this amazing apartment on Main Street. We had plans to turn half of the space into a collaborative space for writers, photographers, small business owners, and professionals who might need to work for a couple of quiet hours while their family was at the cabin. I began working with a world-record-holding professional musky fly fisherman, managing his social media, content strategy, and PR. I met Meg Marie Thue and, with her help, created a team of talented people to help me in producing The Dapper Dozen, a calendar that objectified local men for charity. I started Girl from the Northwoods with Meg. I did content strategy and copywriting. I loved where I lived, loved what I was doing, and became determined to try and make a life there. I parted ways with the musky fly fisherman. I (finally) published all the things you never knew // certain things you ought to know. I made friends, went out on dates, became an active part of the local community, and volunteered my social media/copywriting know-how to local charity organizations. Adam moved to Austin permanently, our dream of starting a collaborative space together now dust on his south-bound wind. Girl from the Northwoods started getting hired for commissioned pieces. Meg and I started Tipsy Trivia, a trivia evening at The Wine Cave & Diablo Den. We started production of another Dapper Dozen calendar, but it fell through due to lack of monetary support. Meg and I also killed Tipsy Trivia later that spring. I started to feel tired and a little bitter…everyone seemed to want their say in what thing should happen and how, but when it came time to support that thing, none of those people could be found.

I went to L.A. for a week that spring and came back with a different perspective. The Northwoods has always been a sort of spiritual place for me. It’s my safe haven, the place that I would run back to in my 20s and early 30s. Those woods and those lakes…they’ve helped me find and hone my voice, become more of who I am. That place became the inspiration for my first book, played a huge part of my second/third books, and brought some of the most amazing people I had ever known into my life. Standing solidly at the forefront of that group were Meg and Erik, two of the most talented, creative, and hilarious people I’ve ever known. Collaborating with Meg on Girl from the Northwoods and working with both of them on The Dapper Dozen made me realize that there were things I loved and actually had a talent for, but never thought I could do until I met them. And I wanted to do more of it. I wanted to immerse myself in a community of writing and comedy, make stupidly fun creative projects, try my hand at podcasting and video and anything else that made me giddy and excited at the thought of creating. But I somehow knew, coming back from L.A., that it was going to be really hard, to do all of that where I was. I began to see the truth to my friend (and idol) Molly’s words, who once told me that Hayward is tough on its talent, and that it “doesn’t necessarily reward those who stick it out.” It was just a really hard place to try something new, and I was in a phase in my life where all I wanted to do was try something new. “You need to be somewhere bigger,” my friend Jennifer said to me, out of the blue one morning. Standing in our favorite coffeeshop, she handed me my coffee and explained, “We’re not ready for you, here. You wanna do all this really great, awesome new stuff, but this community just isn’t ready for it, you know?” I nodded, thinking of how strange it was when someone you didn’t think you knew that well could completely hit the nail on the head like that.

It was a hard battle, going back and forth between being grateful for what the Northwoods had brought into my life and being eager to leave that place behind, and soon. The Summer of Suck hammered nails into the coffin…with a friend of mine, Kari, I finally made the connection that, whenever I stay too long in the Northwoods, it became a really heavy place for me. Stifling. An active contributor to depression, a catalyst to self-destructive behaviors. More than ever, I knew I needed to get out, be someplace new.

So when the opportunity arose to create something new with Jen and be back in one of my favorite cities, I jumped at it.

So what am I going to do here? This question has come up a lot since I’ve been back. For a while now, I’ve played with the idea of spending a stretch here before heading out west. Why not hang out with my friends and enjoy the city of my heart for a while before I move to an entirely new place where I hardly know anyone, yeah? And there’s some stuff that I want to create, here, before I go. Both the Making Good Choices and Pizza Rainbow! podcasts have been picked up by Math Is, which is a long-held dream come true. I’m working on two books simultaneously this month for NaNoWriMo. I’m submitting pieces to various publications. My oil business is growing by the day, and I’m planning on adding some people to my team soon. I’ve been working as a freelance Production Assistant, which I love, but also, for the first time in five years, I’m kind of jazzed at the possibility of going back to the 9-5 world if an interesting opportunity presents itself. In short, I’m in this really radical, fun space where the possibilities are endless. I’ve still got my eyes set on the West Coast, and I have some ideas of how and when that will become a part of my life, but for now…I’m enjoying this part.

And on that end, I wanted to introduce you guys to the thing that brought me here:


Our first episode of Pizza Rainbow! came out today, and Jen and I are super, duper, über jazzed about it. We’ve learned a ton since recording this – we’re about four or five episodes in, to date – but I love this episode so much because it is so incredibly, inherently Us. My favorite thing about my friendship with Jen is the self-deprecating, slightly spazzy, hilariously candid vibe that we bring to each other’s lives, and I love how much that comes through on this podcast. Recorded only a couple days after I moved back to MPLS, we literally just sat down and started talking…and (as you might be able to tell by the length of this episode…look at it as a king-sized candy bar that you can either choose to break up into snack-sized bits or devour all in one sitting!) once we start doing that, it’s always tough for us to stop.

The Making Good Choices With Amber L. Carter podcast premiered last Friday, too, which I am also super excited about. Inspired by a Twitter joke/hashtag that I used a lot whilst making poor choices, I wanted to create a podcast where, for each episode, a new guest could share stories of the choices they’ve made…the good, the bad, and the hilarious. Published every other Monday, the episodes run the gamut when it comes to topics…dating and relationships; life purpose and careers; money and values; marriage and parenting; spirituality and religion; and my personal favorite, stories about the formative choices made during our adolescence that still inform (read: haunt) who we are today.

You can listen to both podcasts here, or follow the link(s) on the main page of each podcast to listen and subscribe on iTunes.

I’m pretty damn psyched to be here, you guys. Back in the city with my best friends, creating with my favorite people, being wrapped up and immersed in marathon writing again, so many possibilities on the horizon…it all feels just so damn great.

Can’t wait to see what happens next.

Thanks for coming along for the ride.

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About Amber L.

Hi! I'm Amber. I've been telling stories with books and blogs since 2004. I also spent 10 years working as a behavior therapist, which I now put to proper use by publishing thought pieces and dissertations on '80s pop music and the defining TV shows of our current times ('The Bachelor', 'Vanderpump Rules', etc). I can also be credited with single-handedly ruining the city of Portland, OR just by moving here.

1 comment on “The Reason For The Leavin’

  1. PS: If you listen to the podcasts and like ’em, I would LOVE YOU LIKE A BILLION DOLLARS if you would go to iTunes and SUBSCRIBE, RATE, REVIEW and then SHARE these sweet little audio convos with others.

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