Book Recs for Your Summer Holiday

One of my favorite parts of packing for any trip is the books. I am the definition of a book overpacker. For six day trip to Montauk, three books seemed in order. But then I bought three more books while there and had to lug them all home. For my upcoming two week trip to California, is six books too much? It’s the longest part of my packing process as I like to weigh how the subject matter will fit into the mood of my trip. For Montauk, I was feeling particularly creatively drained and so loved taking along books like “Big Magic” and the “Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck” as a little pick me up. And after the enormous amount of birthday book generosity my family sent my way, this upcoming trip to California, I’ve got A LOT of choices to choose from.

But should you be scavenging to figure out what to take as your carry-on companion, here are a few I recently finished that might just be up your alley.

All We Shall Know by Donal Ryan – If you’re a fan of unique narrative structures, this book is one for your bedside table. Not wanting to give a lot away, “All We Shall Know” is set from the perspective of a woman whose life completely changes after getting pregnant from a secret, and illegal, affair. What makes this novel great is the realistic, flawed character of the narrator, whose past secrets and present actions collide as she attempts to become a better person. I ordered it after hearing one of my favorite Booktubers Ariel Bissett rave about this tiny novel for months and after starting it, I couldn’t put it down.

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How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran – A famed journalist in the UK, Caitlin Moran’s feminist memoir is chalk full of advice on how to grow into yourself, understand and embrace your body, and make decisions that aren’t easy but right for you. Moran uses her tell-tale wit and humor to discuss topics of obesity, love, marriage at a young age, periods, birth, abortion, and the experience of being the only woman at the table. If this seems up your alley, “Eat Sweat Play,” “Dear Sugar,” and “What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding” are also great feminist pep talks.

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“The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck” by Sarah Knight – If you feel like your life could use a little bit of a tune up and a hint of emotional decluttering, this book is a fun and super helpful guide for discovering where and who you want to give energy towards. It’s worth it for the worksheets alone. I’m also excited to read Knight’s other little book “How to Get Your Sh*t Together.”

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Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert – This book was the pep talk I needed at the exact moment I read it. A must for anyone pursuing a creative endeavor, “Big Magic” is Gilbert’s musings on motivation, passion and how to stay open to inspiration. Gilbert uses her own life as a canvas to show that it’s only when you’re taking care of yourself, pursing curiosity, and enjoying a project that great things will happen. Also mentioned in this book, which I read after, was Ann Patchett’s “State of Wonder.” Set in the Amazon rainforest, an Indian American doctor from Missouri goes on the hunt for her lost coworker and a famed doctor working on a game changing fertility drug. The book is like a well-tuned clock, moving beautifully between the action and the interior life of the narrator. But in true Patchett fashion, what shines most in this novel is the complexity and depth of the many characters whose actions cause the reader to ask: What would I have done in this situation?

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Any book recommendations you have in mind? I have a couple more here if needed and am almost done with “Lincoln in the Bardo” which everyone has been raving about. Will return with a full review soon!

Happy reading,

C

 

27 Hopes for 27

Whenever I tell people I was born on May 24, the inevitable question of signs come up. “I’m a Gemini”,” I reply, always proud to be the twins. But without a doubt, the next thing out of everyone’s mouth is, “So you’re two-faced then?” Gemini’s just can’t escape the reputation some charming horse theft gave us millions of years ago (*I’m guessing here) and now, much like Scorpios, people are a little cautious of us late May and June babies.

But the other day, my yoga teacher started talking about yoga being a balance of opposites. In each pose we’re drawing forward and backward to find balance, pushing and pulling to stay steady. Much like life, yoga is a blend of relaxation and strength.  This really struck me as I started to see all the ways contrasts and opposites play out in my daily life: Routine vs. spontaneity, Staying driven vs. taking time to relax, Needing to be alone vs. loving being around people. It’s not that Gemini’s are two-faced, I think instead we’re are a strong collision of opposites trying to find a balance. As a Gemini, I can be anxious and then unusually relaxed; calm and then stressed; curious and open, then immediately decide something isn’t for me; loving until a button has been pushed to far and then not into it. In a way, I like to think we all have a little Gemini inside of us as we attempt to carve our own little niches in the world.

So today is this Gemini’s official 27th turn around the sun. My family helped me celebrate over the weekend with a trip to the Brooklyn Street Fair on 5th, empanadas, delicious beer, book browsing, and movies. We also sat around my TV and yelled at a British house hunting show. It was my perfect birthday celebration so today is really just icing on top of an already delicious cake.

Last year, in the wake of turning 26, I wrote a letter about the 26 life lessons I’d learned for 26 years. The act of documenting birthdays has come to mean a lot to me on this blog. It’s shown me how I’ve grown and come into my own. It’s provided me portals into past moments with my loved ones and has given me time to reflect on what I hope the next year will entail. This morning I spent my third birthday in a row with Alfred my yoga mat and together, we created this list of 27 hopes for 27 because no birthday is complete without a good list.

27 Hopes for 27

Land my first yoga handstand.

Take more meandering walks and dessert breaks throughout the city.

Build an herb garden on my fire escape and plant succulents in my pottery pots.

Learn a song on ukelele so I can finally stop writing this in every post.

Be able to make and share pottery presents (vases!) with loved ones.

Laugh until my crinkly-eyed smile might burst.

I deeply hope I will always be confident and enjoy the person that I am. Compassion, it turns out, is much better than comparison with others.

Pitch and publish two more articles from my writing wishlist.  (And hopefully many others in-between!)

Send more just-because mail, drop off more just-because baked goods, and plan more just-because moments for friends and family.

Hike the trail to June Mountain ski lodge.

Spend long afternoons reading in different cafes around the city.

Learn how to make scones and invite people over for tea.

Continue to be an attentive and present cat mum.

Travel outside of the country and take another solo trip somewhere in the U.S.

Allow myself to enjoy downtime.

Respect but don’t surrender my time to writer’s block. Keep focused and keep writing.

Visit Governor’s Island and the Cloisters.

Enjoy a day at Disneyland.

Take the time to understand and care for Voices.

After being on this listserv for close to a year, it’s time I actually went to the Graphic Novel bookclub in Brooklyn.

I can only hope my community continues to deeper and expand in New York.

I become better at calling people back. This might take a miracle but hey, this could be the year!

Continue be open to new people and not overthink interactions.

See two new Broadway musicals and a new play.

Begin volunteering at a local shelter or animal rescue.

Become a morning yogi.

Stop worrying I’ll forget or miss the little moment that would chance my life either professionally or personally. Like the red string of fate, I like to believe that the things that are meant to be will happen. No matter which direction I sail, or the side trips I take in between, I will eventually land where I need to be. I won’t forget and neither will Time.

^^ 27, I’m already feeling like you’re going to be a good one. ^^

My First Printed Article

^^ Taken in the toy aisle of Montauk’s only drugstore after I finally stopped crying. Please excuse my bangs, it was really windy next to the beach. ^^

Okay, this blog’s title is technically a lie. My actual first published article was for a limo and bus magazine in 2010. I wrote about a company’s new inclusion of LED lights in their party buses and while I don’t doubt the piece rocked 15-35 peoples’ lives, there is a high chance it was enjoyed mostly by bunnies whose owners used it to line their cages.

I’ll be the first to admit, this post is a bit self-indulgent. I just didn’t want to lose any of the photos and notes people sent me after seeing my article.

I originally started pitching this piece about a year ago. It was rejected by eight other magazines before my cold call to Psychology Today caught an editor’s notice and after a few up and downs, I got assigned the piece (Huzzah!) … to have filed in two weeks (*begins chugging wine directly from the bottle*). Thus began one of the most stressful, frazzled weeks of my life that eventually ended in what is now on newsstands. I didn’t expect to run into the magazine in Montauk. I had walked in to buy sunscreen because, well, just take a good look at me, and spied a corner of Psych Today tucked behind an avalanche of bridal magazines.

Seeing the artwork for the first time, my little photograph under the author introductions and dedication to my dad, I pretty much spent the first couple hours of my Montauk vacation crying in their town square. I’m so proud of this piece. Every time I see it out in the world I get a little choked up, both because of this specific piece and the five years of work it represents.

I used to fearfully think, what if I had never randomly signed up for that introductory journalism class? It was such a whim choosing that class, it wasn’t in my major and I’d never written any type of journalism before. But I’ve come to believe, like all great love stories, writing and I were always meant to find each other. Pulled along by the red string of fate, that class then lead me into a double major and later, my first job at a magazine in Orange County that coincidentally wrote about YouTube. The last piece I wrote before they were shut down, a piece I wasn’t even supposed to publish, was the piece Earnest found and propelled him to hire me on YouTube Nation. That lead to New York and YouTube, but along the way, I just kept writing. And writing and growing and writing and somehow here we are.

^^ My former journalism teacher shared my article on her social media and my heart pretty much exploded. She’s the most badass lady writer I know so to get this little notification was pretty surreal. ^^

The thing is, when I first started out, I was NOT a good writer. Hell, I read stuff from last year and cringe. In the beginning, the process of starting a story often felt clunky. My classmates would blow me away with their vivid descriptions and metaphors, and I was still trying to figure out what to report on. For a long time I felt like an imposter. There were the real journalists and then there was me, just kind of chugging along with no idea of what I was doing. But in the end, I loved talking to people so much. Like my favorite lady detectives, journalism allowed me to dig into the motives and stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things (or extraordinary people doing ordinary things!). Who isn’t curious to sit inside someone’s brain and heart for a day? Or a week? Or a year!

As my teacher Erika Hayasaki once told our class, writing is 90 percent hard work and 10 percent talent. You know what? She was so right. She was a thousand percent right! I want to go back and tell my younger self, “IT WILL ALL WORK OUT, THIS ADVICE REALLY WORKS! STOP BEING SO STRESSED!”

(Though yelling at a stressed person rarely works.)

The only reason I’ve continued growing as a writer is because I’m too curious to mind my own business and too stubborn to stop pitching. That’s the big secret. That’s my Big Magic.

This post is a big thank you to all of you for reading and sending so much love these last couple weeks. But mostly this post is my way of saying that it’s entirely possible to accomplish your biggest, wildest dreams. It’s a ton of hard work, gumption, and some thick skin, but all great love stories started with one tiny step.

Hell, if a kid who can’t do phonic can write an article for a major magazine, you better believe your dreams are possible.

Montauk: Part I

^^ Navy Beach. ^^

This weekend I packed up as many books as I could carry in my duffle bag and put Brooklyn in the rearview mirror as I set my sights on Montauk. I’ll be honest, I knew nothing about Montauk until about a month ago. If someone had asked me how I thought one gets to Montauk, I would probably replied, “Is that in upstate New York? Train? Flying on the back of a large bird?” So after a bit of research (thank you Bonnie!) and an actual sit down with a map, I’m now perched on the tip of Long Island traipsing around with my raspberry backpack and letting my Nikes take me from one bakery to the next.

With the summer crowds yet to descend on the island, Montauk is quiet. So quiet in fact that I’ve been here four days and already run into a handful of the same people numerous times. It helps walking everywhere, though after covering 10.2 miles yesterday I parked myself in front of “When Harry Met Sally” and didn’t move again for two hours. The Main Street is small, with restaurant gems such as John’s Pancake House, Naturally Good Foods, Montauk Bakery, and Left Hand Coffee. But with the beach just a few streets away, I’ve loved just being able to walk for miles on the sand enjoying the positive ions rolling in. Sure, I’ve had some life revelations but mostly, I’ve just spent the days giving my brain a rest and thinking about nothing in particular at all.

My bucket list still includes a bike ride to the lighthouse, eating at Joni’s, a candlelight yoga class at Yoga Lila on Wednesday, a hike within on of Montauk’s many state parks, and a final visit to Montauk Bakery for more jelly-filled crescents.

^^ One of my favorite places in Montauk. ^^

^^ The neighborhood walk between my hotel and town, Ditch Planes beach, and a look on top of Millionare’s Row overlooking Navy Beach. ^^

It’s been easy to fall into a routine here. Walking on the beach or within the sprawling neighborhoods around my hotel, hiking to delicious restaurants (Navy Beach, you were a stupidly long trek until I discovered a shortcut coming back), and reading within the one coffee shop I’ve found open. At night, the allure of curling up with a glass of wine and books (which yes, I bought more of at the local bookstore) is like a Siren call I can’t deny.

Before traveling up here, I couldn’t shake the nagging fear that I would get lonely. Or if I didn’t get lonely, that made me a “funny girl” as they say in “Beauty and the Beast.” It’s no secret that I enjoy A LOT of alone time. It’s how I recharge — especially in a city like The Big Apple. But what I’m learning overtime is that loneliness is a natural emotion, it happens to everyone. It’s okay to let the wave hit you and then to let it go by calling a friend, reading, or doing something active. No, I’ve yet to be lonely in Montauk. I’ve spent my days making my own adventures, on my own time schedule; shedding the dead skin of winter and not setting a time limit on things. I’ve made an effort to stop rushing myself as well and man, I am enjoying it. I spent an hour reading book covers in Two Sisters Bookstore before selecting exactly what I wanted. This little action then lead me to sit down and fully finish articles I’d bookmarked for months and enjoy Hasan Minhaj’s White House Correspondent Dinner Speech. It’s funny but by giving myself permission to fully enjoy my time, suddenly I seem to have so much of it.

Well, I’m off to find Joni’s Wraps and maybe a beer at the Montauk Brewing Company. Then a day of writing and edits — cheers!

Hey Man, Nice Shoes

^^ This photo has nothing to do with my below story but still somehow felt like the right accompaniment. ^^

Do you ever have those days where you’re standing on a street corner and look over and the guy next to you is wearing the same outfit? At this point I like to imagine you’re nodding enthusiastically at the screen and saying things like “More times than I can count on my fingers and toes!” and “Everyday. Every. Damn. Day.” But for those of you who have yet to have this pleasure, here are a couple of the thoughts that will initially race through your head when it dawns on you that no, you’re not looking in a street mirror.

Where did I get this outfit?! Starring at this man’s identical black boots, I tried to retrace my journey to owning this particular shoes. Looking down at my own size 8s starring back at me, I couldn’t help but notice these black ankle boots looked much better on him. In general, as someone with a limited bust, I have the privilege of flip flopping between the men and women’s section of stores. This leads to many compliments being responded to with, “Thanks! Target men’s section, who would have thought?” It’s great but when I have a fashion run-in, it can cause a minute of confusion.

Who wore it best? Alas, in this 9th Avenue fashion face off it was not me. I mean in my defense, winter jackets look good on no one. At this stage of early spring when the weather is yo yo-ing between sunshine and chilly wind, I tend to be a sweaty mess walking to and from the subway. But even my plaid Madewell shirt couldn’t win me extra points today as I soon realized it was hidden well under my teal snow jacket that currently smells a bit like dryer sheets and human.

And finally, how do I walk away from this situation in the most casual, yet quickest way possible? I pretty much prayed that I wouldn’t trip off the curb, break my ankle, and have to be carried (or more likely dragged/heaved) to the ER by a guy wearing my same outfit. But as the light turned green and I gracefully sprinted to the office, I breathed a sigh of relief as my outfit doppleganger grew into a distant memory. That was until I started walking home and once again, found myself standing next to a dude in my exact teal snow jacket and jeans. Le sigh.

Okay Wednesdays, you win this round, but next week, I’m looking for a rematch.

 

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P.S. Apologies but this is a plug but every Wednesday I write a column for the Daily Dot profiling the brightest and boldest female influencers on YouTube. I’ve interviewed scientists, vloggers, beauty gurus, body builders, and bookworms, all of whom are using digital media to empower women around the world. If this is something that tickles your fancy, take a look here or check in on Twitter every Wednesday to see what is coming down the pipeline.