First thing’s first for those keeping up with my news-girl-about-town-ness: I did, in fact, go through with the alumni cheer routine and managed to succeed in not twisting anything in the process. I was the oldest participant, which my father proudly acknowledged by yelling out, “Go old girl!” like I was an aging Labrador Retriever. Only I wasn’t going after a chewed up frisbee, but rather some sort of “I still got it” recognition courtesy of a few tosses, jumps and twerks. I suppose I succeeded on both accounts because I came out on, er, bottom (I was a “base” for two of the stunts) and had my own cheering squad in the stands. My brother, sister, parents, grandmother and oldest school friend (with her husband and kid, in tow) all came to watch the 3-minute spectacle on a hot and humid day in June. While I refused to wear the ribbon hair piece made by one of the girls, consider this video (complete with awesome commentary from the peanut gallery) my way of succumbing to shamelessness. It’s sure to ensue equal hilarity.
As if that wasn’t enough endurance testing for one month, I also just completed my first ever mud run. I love a good physical challenge or obstacle course. (Double Dare anyone?) Plus, we all know I’m a fan of Survivor. So I decided to join my cousin Jon and his girlfriend who had signed up for a “Muck Fest” in support of Multiple Sclerosis. As you know, this cause is close to my family and I and we’ve walked, biked, climbed and danced our way to raising over $70,000 in seven years. In fact, I managed to convince my sister and our other cousin Hannah to do it too. We had a mucking blast.
Hopefully, I’ve managed to keep your attention because I haven’t even gotten to the real reason for today’s post:
Congratulations! You’ve clicked on a Blog Hop post!
What’s a Blog Hop, you ask? To be honest, I’m only just beginning to understand it myself. It seems to be a sort of virtual chain letter. Only, in this instance, there will be no superstitious juju for not passing it on. (Or, in today’s terms, “sharing” it.) Of course, that would be mighty lovely of you. But fear not: Your house will not burn down if all you do is read it and move on with the rest of your day. (Leave a candle burning while you fall asleep binge-watching Orange is the New Black, on the other hand, and that’s your problem.)
So, the jist is that I have to answer four questions about writing, followed by recommendations for writers/bloggers who will, in turn, answer the same Qs. The idea is to gain and share insight into the art, (and, hopefully, reassurance that I’m not the only one who spends a lot more time thinking and talking about writing than actually writing.) The pay off for you, my dear readers, might be discovering some new bloggers to check out and support. I was reluctant at first, because a writer I respect once said that writers should avoid writing about writing. Her argument was that the majority of those reading could give two you-know-whats about the “how.” They just want to be told a story. I tend to agree, but I also believe it could be beneficial for the lot of us. Plus, I hadn’t updated in a while and someone gave me an “assignment” and a deadline, which, as you’ll read below, I kind of need. So, here goes:
What am I working on/writing?
At the moment, this. (Too obvious?) In the literal, day-to-day sense, I am working on finding subjects for the September and October “Wear In” street style page of Hemispheres magazine. I’m also working on a piece about Slovenia for Fodor’s and researching an Oscar-winning actress who I’ll interview for Rhapsody. Since one of my goals for the year is to be published in the Times (New York, that is) I’m continually fine-tuning an essay that I wrote for Modern Love but am too chicken shit to submit. (I already submitted one and have just yesterday received a “thanks, but no thanks” response six weeks after the fact. At a 3% acceptance rate, the odds were forever not in my favor. Still, I will try again.)
I am also working on completing various other pitches and essays to submit to different publications. When it comes to personal, first-person narratives, most editors prefer completed pieces to a pitch as it’s hard to get a sense for the “payoff” in one short graph. That said, I have about 8 pitch and follow-up emails sitting in my Drafts folder and a color-coded Google Doc arranged by idea, editor name, date of first pitch and response (if there ever is one, but don’t get me started on that).
How does my work/writing differ from other works of its genre?
I’d like to think that I have a unique and conversational voice; that I write the things that many are afraid to say. (Myself included.) I hope to be funny and witty, while also substantial and meaningful. I think I’m good at providing detail, too, and always try to go beyond the obvious: It’s not just a cup of coffee, it’s a Stumptown cold brew Americano. To me, this is just good writing and not necessarily that “different” from other talented wordsmiths. In which case, who knows how or why some “succeed” (whatever that means—a post for another time!) and others just continue to exist in their own WordPress Wonderland. There have been various times I’ve read a piece that I thought about or even tried to write and publish, but for whatever reason couldn’t or didn’t. Living in New York City, it’s easy to feel the rush to pitch, pitch, pitch and write, write, write before someone else corners the idea, which will then inevitably put me into an ‘Am I Good Enough?’ or ‘Why Not Me?’ funk. But when that happens I recall something a writing teacher of mine once said: Ideas can be similar, but execution rarely is. My voice, my style, is uniquely mine. Plus, I wholeheartedly believe in quality over quantity; significance over speed. So I prescribe myself a chill pill, which on the cheap and easy comes in the form of a yoga class. On the ideal and perhaps more costly, comes in the form of a plane ticket to anywhere. What can I say? I gain perspective on life and myself when I’m lost in a place where no one speaks my language and I don’t have a regular WiFi signal. It’s then that I can remember the point to all this writing stuff anyway. Which brings me to…
Why do I write what I do?
I guess I’ve always been curious in nature. I’d hear sirens down the block and want to know what happened. I’d hear the ice cream truck and run after it. (Just kidding. That was for a strawberry shortcake bar.) But I like to learn things and then inform others. I like to poke around. In fact, you know how Forest Gump was all “you never know what you’re going to get” when it came to that box of chocolates? Not me. I stick my finger in each one before committing. I find immense satisfaction in helping answer questions other people might have—be it completely banal like “was it dark chocolate or milk?” and who’s the British girl on American “telly” asking people about their bums; or helpful like where to eat when in LA. I also think there’s connection and unity to be found in writing. There’s nothing like reading something and thinking ‘I feel the same way!’ or ‘I was wondering about that!’ As a writer, there’s total validation in providing that. Finally, I’m really just a lover of words. Despite the fact that I’ve always been a terrible speller and can’t complete a crossword puzzle like my Mom, I truly enjoy stringing words together, playing with meanings, and crafting my own unique isms and one-liners. I find it gratifying to describe feelings and sensations through language. To set a scene or tell a story, be it mine or someone else’s, through letters and how they’re strung together. Though, not in cursive. Oh no. Anyone who’s received a handwritten card from me lately can vouch for my terrible penmanship. Praise the almighty keyboard. ASDF JKL; yo!
How does my writing process work?
This is an easy one, though there are two difference scenarios. First, is if I have my own idea for a story that is not yet assigned. I’ll either type a note on my phone if I’m not near my computer, or open up a document and start composing if I am. I have dozens of notes on my phone and at least five untitled documents minimized on my desktop at all times. Those are best case scenarios, of course. I once tweeted this and it’s worth repeating because it pretty much explains my “process”—or lack thereof:
Sometimes I walk around writing in my head. Then when I go to actually write, my head goes walking.
The other case is if an editor has come to me with an assignment, or an idea I pitched has been accepted (hallelujah!) and I’ve been given a deadline. In this situation, I will ruminate on and jot down possible ledes (that’s an opening sentence) and kickers (that’s an ending sentence), send interview requests, complete any necessary research and avoid actually writing until a day or two before it’s due. I’ll check Instagram, Facebook and make moves on Words With Friends. I’ll shop for shoes on Piperlime and then decide to go buy, build and install a shoe rack for them in my closet. When the shoes arrive, I’ll return them. Then I’ll clean my rusty, sticky, dusty tea kettle that I never use. Essentially, I’ll do anything to avoid actually doing the very thing I claim to love to do and have made my life’s work. Of course, this is just silly not only because I do, in fact, love to write and once I actually sit down to do so (case in point: this very moment) all is write, er, right, with the world. But perhaps more logistically, I know that I need to sleep on whatever I’ve written before I submit it as I will always find a word to change or phrase (or three) to cut.
I wish I had some sort of magic switch that I could turn on to make the words flow on a more consistent basis, but alas, I do not. Rain helps. I find its patter soothing. Plus, it’s an excuse to stay put. (Perhaps I should consider a more permanent stay in London!) That said, sunny days also provide blissful blips of inspiration and if I could have a desk in front of a huge window overlooking the sea with a breeze to boot, well, that would just be the cherry. Instead, my desk area looks like this:
I told myself I’d buy myself a proper writer’s desk (one where my elbows don’t hang off the edge and there’s room to balance my checkbook without having to close my computer) when I get a book deal. Or that Times byline. Though, I wonder if it’s just a chicken or egg scenario. Like, maybe if I had a better desk that book deal or Times byline would come. I think my mother and father would say it’s a chicken or a paycheck scenario, and unfortunately the latter don’t come regularly enough so the above will have to do. Plus, who really needs a desk when you’ve got a passport and a Macbook Air?
As you can see, it’s not a real process at all. But so far, it works. And it’s mine.
Without further ado, here are three very different, but equally talented bloggers that I follow:Jenny Greenstein is a NYC based stylist and founder of the lifestyle blog, Your Soul Style. In April, 2013 she left her corporate styling and visual merchandising roles, working for companies like Ann Taylor, Cole Haan, Nautica, Alloy and H&M to pursue a dream of spreading her entrepreneurial wings. Fancying herself a stylemaker from the inside out, her goal is to bring you back to your core, your roots. The seed of which all confidence, self-worth and expression grow – your soul. Your Soul Style covers fashion, style tips, lifestyle, travel, emotional health and wellness, while always returning to the foundation that feeling your best lies in being true to yourself. She currently resides in New York City with her wife and is freelance styling, consulting, style coaching and building her brand and blog, Your Soul Style. She is eternally grateful to live what she loves, while aiming to inspire others along the way. Katie Devine is a writer who is leaving the corporate world behind to feed her wanderlust and travel the world. She anticipates many humbling life lessons along the way, which she will chronicle on her blog, Confessions of An Imperfect Life. Her work has appeared on sites including Thought Catalog, XOJane, The Manifest-Station, MindBodyGreen, Medium and Rebelle Society. Her first novel will be available at some point after she begins writing it. When she’s not on a plane, you can find Katie taking endless Instagram pictures of sunsets at home in Santa Monica, Calif. Connect with her on FB or Twitter. Katie MacLeod is a journalist and travel blogger currently based in Scotland. She loves nothing more than seeking out stories in far-flung destinations (indulging in coffee, chocolate, and books does come a close second though). You can keep up with her travels, which take her from the shores of the Scottish islands to the streets of New York City, on her blog Stories My Suitcase Could Tell, and connect with her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Marisa Bardach Ramel will come back in her next life as a comedian. ‘Til then, she writes about tearjerker topics like loss and grief on her blog, Sally’s Circle, with several posts published on . Digital content strategy is her daytime gig; previously she was a magazine editor ( , ) and an adjunct professor at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Marisa is currently working on a memoir, Sally’s Circle, which she co-wrote with her mother, Sally, before she passed away. She’d love for you to follow her on Tumblr, Twitter, or Facebook.