writing a book

Titles of books I’ve yet to write (& probably never will)

  1. Watching Dr. Phil in Sweden: Homesickness & the Power It Holds
  2. Texting back & other ways my lack of self control has failed me
  3. Being Single with Shingles
  4. Cry Baby: My First Three Years in School
  5. So Your Mom Has Brain Tumor…
  6. ‘Why Are You Here’ & other questions you’re asked while abroad
  7. Crying on the Ubahn: A Guide for Twenty-Somethings Living Abroad
  8. Carbs on Carbs on Carbs: A Cookbook
  9. Me, Myself, & Ice Cream: On having IBS in a Ice Cream -Crazed Society
  10. Imposter Syndrome: I SURVIVED
  11. Opinions About Pop Culture: I Have Them & Think You Should Agree
  12. When You Are Too Invested: A Royal Fan’s Confession
  13. From Tampons to Chocolate & Beyond: The Glamorous Life of a Copywriter
  14. I Know. I Speak Funny in German.
  15. Freedom, Free Refills, & Free Wifi: Why I love America
  16. 101 Ways to Ruin A Date
  17. Say It Like You Meme It. The Sixth Love Language: Memes
  18. Just Kick It: How to fix your appliances when you’re too lazy to call someone
  19. Why Worry? Because that’s how my brain was wired: A Memoir
  20. I Use My Fork As A Knife, & other ways I have offended people unknowingly
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breaking the glass ceiling, career, June 2017, life lessons, my life

Career advice: “Chill the f*** out.”

My sister sent me this with the simple comment of “This is so spot on.” And as an ”up & coming career woman,” I couldn’t agree more. 

Reposted from Huffington Post.

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Below is an excerpt from Weird in a World That’s Not: A Career Guide for Misfits, F*ckups, and Failures by Jennifer Romolini, Chief Content Officer at Shondaland.com.

You’ll Suck at Everything the First Time You Do It

That thing you did sucks, but it doesn’t matter: with effort, you can become great at almost anything except maybe (at this point) professional sports. Accept this as reality, stop getting so mad, stop being so mean to yourself, and start working to make it good.

There Will Never Be a Positive Consensus about You

Sometimes people just won’t like the cut of your jib. Sometimes you will say or do the wrong thing, put your foot in your mouth, and cause irreparable harm. You’re human, you fuck up. Don’t fixate on this. Don’t clap back. Learn from the situation and move on.

Stop Vacillating between “I Am Garbage” and “I Am God”

Ground yourself so you don’t crave constant validation, so that every accomplishment or positive reinforcement, every negative comment or rejection, doesn’t redefine who you are. Call your grandma. Do something kind. Think about someone else for a while. That will help.

Chill the Fuck Out

You’re taking work too personally and too seriously, you’re confronting people too much with too much hostility, you’re letting every tiny facet of work get under your skin, and you’re freaking people out.

Stop Treating Your Career Like a Race to the Death Sprint

When all else fails, do a face mask. It’s going to be OK. You’re weird, sure, but you’re better than you think. Sometimes you’re even great.

 

Preach!

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dear sugar, life lessons, words for the heart

Dear Sugar: We are all savages inside

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Dear Sugar,

I’m jealous. I’m jealous of people who succeed at what I do (write literary fiction). I’m jealous of them even if I love them or like them or respect them. Even when I pretend to be happy when my writer friends get good news, the truth is I feel like I swallowed a spoonful of battery acid. For days afterwards I go around feeling queasy and sad, silently thinking why not me?

So why not, Sugar? I’m 31. I’ve written a novel that I’m currently revising while searching for an agent (which is turning out to be more difficult than I imagined). I received a first-rate education, holding a BA from a prestigious college and an MFA from another prestigious college. Several people in my social and literary orbit have gotten the sort of five and six-figure book deals that I dream of getting. A couple of these people are jerks, so I don’t feel guilty for resenting their good fortune, but a few of them are good people whom I like and respect and, worst of all, one is a woman I count among my very best friends.

It makes me sick that I don’t feel happy for them, especially when it comes to my close friend, but there it is. When I think of their successes, it only reminds me of what I don’t have. I want what they have, but it’s more than that: them having what I want pains me. When other writer friends are met with failure (rejections from agents or publishing houses, for example), I admit I feel a tiny lift inside. The feeling is more relief than glee—you know that old saying about misery enjoying company? I don’t truly wish others bad. But neither do I honestly wish them well.

I know this makes me a shallow, awful person. I know I should be grateful that I have a decent job that allows me time to write, good friends, wonderful parents who are supportive of me both emotionally and financially (they paid my tuition for the above mentioned colleges and have helped me in countless other ways), and a generally great life. But I find it impossible to focus on these things when I hear the news that another friend or acquaintance or former grad school peer has sold a book for X amount of dollars.

How do I deal with this, Sugar? Is jealousy simply part of a writer’s life? Are my feelings what everyone is feeling, even when they pretend otherwise? Is it possible to purge these negative feelings and feel other, positive things when I hear someone else’s fabulous news?

Talk to me about jealousy please. I don’t want it to rule my life, or at least if it’s going to rule my life I want to be reassured that it’s ruling everyone else’s life (secretly) too.

Signed,
Awful Jealous Person

……..

Dear Awful Jealous Person,

We are all savages inside. We all want to be the chosen, the beloved, the esteemed. There isn’t a person reading this who hasn’t at one point or another had that why not me? voice pop into the interior mix when something good has happened to someone else. But that doesn’t mean you should allow it to rule your life, sweet pea. It means you have work to do.

Before we get into it, I want to talk about what we’re talking about. We are not talking about books. We’re talking about book deals. You know they are not the same thing, right? One is the art you create by writing like a motherfucker for a long time. The other is the thing the marketplace decides to do with your creation. A writer gets a book deal when he or she has written a book that: a) an editor loves and b) a publisher believes readers will purchase. The number of copies a publisher believes people will purchase varies widely. It could be ten million or seven hundred and twelve. This number has pretty much nothing to do with the quality of the book, but rather is dictated by literary style, subject matter, and genre. This number has everything to do with the amount of your book deal, which is also related to the resources available to the publishing house that wants to publish your book. The big presses can give authors six figure advances for books they believe will sell in significant numbers. The small ones cannot. Again, this has no relationship whatsoever to the quality of the books they publish.

I feel compelled to note these facts at the outset because my gut sense of your letter is that you’ve conflated the book with the book deal. They are two separate things. The one you are in charge of is the book. The one that happens based on forces that are mostly outside of your control is the book deal. You could write the world’s most devastatingly gorgeous book of poems and nobody would give you $200,000 to publish it. You could write the world’s most devastatingly gorgeous novel and maybe get that. Or not.

My point is, the first thing you need to do is get over yourself, Awful Jealous Person. If you are a writer, it’s the writing that matters and no amount of battery acid in your stomach over who got what for what book they wrote is going to help you in your cause. Your cause is to write a great book and then to write another great book and to keep writing them for as long as you can. That is your only cause. It is not to get a six figure book deal. I’m talking about the difference between art and money; creation and commerce. It’s a beautiful and important thing to be paid to make art. Publishers who deliver our books to readers are a vital part of what we do. But what we do—you and I—is write books. Which may garner six figure book deals for the reasons I outlined above. Or not.

You know what I do when I feel jealous? I tell myself to not feel jealous. I shut down the why not me? voice and replace it with one that says don’t be silly instead. It really is that easy. You actually do stop being an awful jealous person by stopping being an awful jealous person. When you feel like crap because someone has gotten something you want you force yourself to remember how very much you have been given. You remember that there is plenty for all of us. You remember that someone else’s success has absolutely no bearing on your own. You remember that a wonderful thing has happened to one of your literary peers and maybe, if you keep working and if you get lucky, something wonderful may also someday happen to you.

And if you can’t muster that, you just stop. You truly do. You do not let yourself think about it. There isn’t a thing to eat down there in the rabbit hole of your bitterness except your own desperate heart. If you let it, your jealousy will devour you. Your letter is evidence that it has already begun to do so. It has depleted your happiness, distracted you from your real work, and turned you into a crappy friend.

You know that woman you mentioned who recently got the book deal—the one you describe as among your best friends? She knows you’re not truly happy for her. She knows it even if she’s convinced herself that she doesn’t know it; even if she’s tried to explain away whatever weird vibe you emitted when you pretended to be happy for her about her good news. She knows because you can’t fake love and generosity of spirit. It’s either there or it isn’t. The fact that when someone you profess to care deeply about shared with you something excellent that happened to her you had to fake your joy sucks way more than the fact that you haven’t yet gotten the five or six figure book deal you’re so convinced you deserve. And if you want to have a real, true, deep, authentic, satisfying, kickass, righteous life, I advise you to get that shit straightened out first.

I know it’s not easy being an artist. I know the gulf between creation and commerce is so tremendously wide that it’s sometimes impossible not to feel annihilated by it. A lot of artists give up because it’s just too damn hard to go on making art in a culture that by and large does not support its artists. But the people who don’t give up are the people who find a way to believe in abundance rather than scarcity. They’ve taken into their hearts the idea that there is enough for all of us, that success will manifest itself in different ways for different sorts of artists, that keeping the faith is more important than cashing the check, that being genuinely happy for someone else who got something you hope to get makes you genuinely happier too.

Most of those people did not come to this perspective naturally. And so, Awful Jealous Person, there is hope for you. You, too, can be a person who didn’t give up. Most of the people who didn’t give up realized that in order to thrive they had to dismantle the ugly jealous god in their heads so they could instead serve something greater: their own work. For some of them, it meant simply shutting out the why not me voice and moving on. For others, it meant going deeper and exploring why exactly it pained them so much that someone else got good news.

I hate to tell you, but my guess is that you’re in the latter group. A large part of your jealousy probably rises out of your outsized sense of entitlement. Privilege has a way of fucking with our heads the same way a lack of it does. There are a lot of people who’d never dream they could be a writer, let alone land, at the age of 31, a six figure book deal. You are not one of them. And you are not one of them because you’ve been given a tremendous amount of things that you did not earn or deserve, but rather that you received for the sole reason that you happen to be born into a family who had the money and wherewithal to fund your education at two colleges to which you feel compelled to attach the word “prestigious.”

What is a prestigious college? What did attending such a school allow you to believe about yourself? What assumptions do you have about the colleges that you would not describe as prestigious? What sorts of people go to prestigious colleges and not prestigious colleges? Do you believe that you had a right to a free “first-rate” education? What do you make of the people who received educations that you would not characterize as first-rate? These are not rhetorical questions. I really do want you to take out a piece of paper and write those questions down and then answer them. I believe your answers will deeply inform your current struggle with jealousy. I am not asking you these questions in order to condemn or judge you. I would ask a similar series of questions to anyone from any sort of background because I believe our early experiences and beliefs about our place in the world inform who we think we are and what we deserve and by what means it should be given to us.

It is a way of going back to the roots of the problem, as it were. And I imagine you know I’m a big fan of roots.

You might, for example, be interested to know that the word prestigious is derived from the Latin praestigiae, which means conjuror’s tricks. Isn’t that interesting? This word that we use to mean honorable and esteemed has its beginnings in a word that has everything to do with illusion and deception and trickery. Does that mean anything to you, Awful Jealous Person? Because when I found that out, every tuning fork inside of me went hum. Could it be possible that the reason you feel like you swallowed a spoonful of battery acid every time someone else gets what you want is because a long time ago—way back in your own very beginnings—you were sold a bill of goods about the relationship between money and success, fame and authenticity, legitimacy and adulation?

I think it’s worth investigating, sweet pea. Doing so will make you a happier person and also a better writer, I know without a doubt.

Good luck selling your novel. I hope you get six figures for it. When you do, write to me and share the wonderful news. I promise to be over the moon for you.

Yours,
Sugar

***

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college friends, dating, friends, read it love it, Short Story Love, tales from the dating trenches

Elevators, Stairwells and Stalking: A short-lived love story by Helen

I received this in an email Friday afternoon from my dear friend Helen. I haven’t stopped laughing since, nor have I stopped thinking about her brilliant perspective on the topic. 

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(Alternative title: Why I’m Single)

Preface

Even though this story has a disappointing ending, I take pride in what it says about the kind of girl I am. The following is a tale of perseverance in the face of adversity.

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Ever since I started working at the Avenue*, I’ve noticed a guy who works on my floor. He looks quite ordinary actually, but has a kind face. Of course, I’ve had boyfriends, prospects and fuckboys crop up throughout the past four years, so I’d never taken my interest past a polite smile in the hallway. Having been single (as fuck) for nearly a year and a half now, however; I hatched a plan to satisfy my curiosity. I vowed to ask his name and then use this information to ascertain his relationship status.

One day, I chanced upon him in the elevator. After exchanging a few comments about the weather, I mustered up the courage to inquire further. His name was John*. We shook hands. Discovering his last name was easy because I knew where he worked and, like most professionals, he had a LinkedIn profile. He was an analyst, had a master’s degree and, based on his undergraduate graduation date, seemed to be 37 years old. What proved more difficult was the utter banality of his full name: John Smith. Neither Facebook nor Google yielded clues. I told myself to be patient.

Some time later, after lunch with colleagues, I stepped off the elevator and practically walked right into him. A colleague, Reba*, mentioned that he seemed to be interested in me. Emboldened by her encouragement, I decided to renew my efforts. Another colleague, Ericka*, contributed her online sleuthing skills to the task, but alas: no immediate answers to the question of his marital status. I decided to go about the task the old-fashioned way — looking for a wedding ring. I thought I’d seen a wedding ring in the past (remember that I’d had an eye on him for quite some time) but according to Bridget Jones’ Diary, one in three marriages now end in divorce. Plus, it was clear that he totally had a crush on me.

The restrooms on our floor had been under construction for almost a month, forcing us to use the restrooms one floor down. As a result, we’d all been wandering the hallways more than usual. On one such occasion, I swung open the stairwell door and there he was. Taken by surprise, I forgot all about the mission, but managed to blurt out: Hey! How’s it going? To which he responded: I’m good, how are you? To which I responded: I’m good! Immediately after this strained exchange, I remembered my mission and lamented the missed opportunity.

A week passed without running into him and, knowing the restrooms would only be under construction for so long, I decided I could not leave our next meeting to chance. I began drinking a healthy amount of water, which forced me to roam the hallways at least three times more than usual. Finally, I saw the back of his head disappear into the stairwell. I calculated the amount of time it would take him to walk back up and then I waited. As soon as he turned the corner, there I was. I scanned the hand — no ring! I made my small talk and went on my way. Thinking about it later, I realized that I’d looked at his mirror-image left hand, which is to say, I looked at his right hand. This is exactly the type of thing I would expect myself to do at this stage of such a critical mission.

Back to the Internet. I began googling his name with the few facts I knew about him. John Smith Commerce Bank*. John Smith Redbranch Los Angeles California. I learned his middle name. I learned where he lived. I learned his home phone number. I stumbled upon a wedding registry for John and Jane Smith from 2015. Now I began googling Jane Smith. That led me to Facebook. I looked at all the Jane or Jane Smith profiles associated with the correct village. And then I found what I did not want to find. She was indeed married to him. She had updated her profile picture only two months ago with an image of their wedding. The jig was up.

In the end, I discovered what I think always knew. He was unavailable. Shame on him for having a crush on me, though.

Afterword

As I said, this story has a somewhat disappointing ending. But although I could not make John Smith love me, I must say that I’ve come to love myself even more. So dedicated am I to achieving excellence in everything I do that, if lack of chill were a sport, I’d make it to the Olympics no question. Does John Smith deserve a woman on that level? Does any man?

*Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.

 

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design, heard it loved it, saw it loved it, three things

Three things.

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Do you catch yourself at times actively avoiding the news knowing it will inevitably cause your head to spin into a thousand different directions? Me too! (Important note: In writing this, I know I am beyond privileged that I have the chance to even live in my little bubble when I choose. And for that I am thankful and ashamed and have really no good way to acknowledge this fact.)

What if there was nothing new to report? “Nothing new in the news”

“living in a world of constant sensory overload, sideline collective offers us a little respite with their project titled ‘nothing in the news’. 24 hours a day, people are bombarded with real-time information by every media outlet and platform competing for their attention through one pop-up notification at a time. so, what would it feel like to go just one day with absolutely no news, no massive data intake?

even though the world is living in particularly sensitive times — when truth really matters and newspapers play an integral role in democracy — societies are becoming frighteningly addicted to breaking news, gossips, top tens, conspiracies, internet videos and porn. therefore, for this cultural precipice, the team offers the one thing people need more than ever: nothing to read about. absolutely nothing. today, and today only, there is nothing in the news. enjoy it whilst you can.’”

From the concept to the design, I love everything about this.

lorde

You’ve most definitely heard Lorde’s newest banger, Green Light, right? So stoked she’s back with more gems. (She is incredible.) But have you heard her new ballad, Liability? (Listen here.) It’s my new anthem. Because holy shit could the message behind this song have been plucked right of my brain. I mean the lyrics include

They say, “You’re a little much for me / You’re a liability / You’re a little much for me” / … I’m a little much for everyone

As someone who has literally been told “you’re just… a lot” of course this song hit me right in the honey nut feelios.  Bustle has a great write up on it, too.

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Joanna at Cup of Jo asked about “First Period Stories” and the comments are a great read. I even included my own story which she posted about later in the week which made me lol. Hooray for the internet now having my first period story! Might as well share it here, too. 😉

PERIOD

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inspiration, read it love it, words for the heart, writers

Madame Clairevoyant: the only “horoscope” I read

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As mentioned in last week’s Three Things (which will return to its regular scheduled time next week!), I dabble a wee bit in checking my horoscope out. But really, the one I have loved most, for years now, is Madame Clairevoyant. She used to write for The Rumplr, The Rumpus’s tumblr, then The Toast, and I’m so stoked she found a weekly spot on The Cut.

Maybe I love them the most because they’re not rooted in real astrology. But I definitely love them because they are beautifully written and always provide words of wisdom — whether they’re brought from the state of the planets or not — they’re words that help me stay rooted in the week ahead. And they’re words that are often eerily spot on.

Madame C. once wrote:

I am not a real astrologer or a real writer, and so it’s strange and great that people actually read these, that people are connecting with a thing that I work on. At first, when Molly asked me if I’d write horoscopes for the Rumpus, they were so silly—I really wish I were still as funny as this—but then before I even really realized it, they got serious

What I love the most about astrology, what I love most about really any field of knowledge, but especially the ones that lots of Serious People dismiss (astrology, magic, ghost stories, even religion), is the specific structures and vocabularies they give us for understanding our realities outside of common sense or linear time or the rules of science or whatever, the tools they give us for understanding the actual weirdness of our lives.

It is comforting and even fun, sometimes, to blame bad things on Mercury going retrograde; it’s comforting and fun to use astrology to understand the terrible parts of your own personality or your mom’s personality or your friends’ personalities. One of the homeless youths I work with likes to talk to me about how tarot is the only way of looking at the world that makes any sense to him. Everyone rolls their eyes at this, but it’s so real.

I still know hardly anything about actual astrology, though. A lot of people have really put in the time time to learn about the nuances, the complicated parts, the houses and trines and decanates and all of it. I am not there. I am better (I hope?) at paying attention to the people around me, the weird bendy logic of our lives, the emotional textures of the world. My roommate and my sister are both Leos, and they’re utterly different, but there are all these eerie coincidences and resonances in their lives. All the Tauruses I know are totally different except that they aren’t totally different, and I can’t put my finger on what exactly makes up that strange little core of sameness, but that’s where I try to locate these horoscopes.

 

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What ultimately led me to write this post in particular, was this week’s horoscope in particular. For me, it struck me right in the heart. So, without further adieu, one of my favorites to date.

Taurus: Your wildness isn’t too much: Even as it loves, a person’s heart can buck and bristle. It’s possible for loyalty to mean something other than a quashing of your own emotions, your own strangeness, your own rebellion. It’s possible for faith to be critical, and for love to challenge and protest. It’s a week to be true to your people, and a week to stand boldly on your own side, too.

 

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So, go on now, find yours here.

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#AnnaReadsThis, brilliant reads, poetry, read it love it, recommended reading

National Poetry Month // 2017

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When I’ve found myself in moments of pure heartbreak — which is to say there have been many moments in my 27 years of existence — I have so often found solace in poetry. Last year, in the throes of a wee heartbreak, I loved this poem by Andrea Gibson.

Heck, I have even found myself brought to prose as a result of particular heartache — (see this poem) — I genuinely don’t even remember putting the words down. I just remember feeling utterly numb but in dire need to write. To put the feelings I wasn’t feeling down in words.

What I’m getting at, ironically, not so eloquently, is that poetry is powerful. It’s no secret that I’m a bonafide word-lover, so this too should come as no surprise. But even for those not so “into poetry”, I’d argue there’s a poem, poet, or poetry style for them. That’s the beautiful thing about poetry.

So, when I saw this list from The Strand Book Store of “11 Writers Bringing Poetry to Life,” you best believe my bank account took a hit.

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But I need even more! What are your favorite poets, poems, etc.? Let me know! I love it alllll. 

 

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