Tag Archives: career

Clip: 5 Networking Event Tips for Introverts

7 Mar

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Create & Cultivate created an empowering online platform and offline conference to help women achieve dream-worthy careers, and I’m ecstatic that they’ve recently included my “5 Networking Event Tips for Introverts” on their blog!

Growing up, I was cripplingly shy. It took a lot of work—and a cross-country move—for me to come out of my shell. When I moved back to the East Coast, I began attending networking events in Manhattan. It was intimidating at first, but I learned a few tricks that helped me out. From these events, I’ve made amazing friends and clients that I’ve worked with for years.

I’d love to share my introvert networking tips with you. You can read them here.

What networking advice do you have? I’m always eager to learn more!

Want more business tips from me? You might like this blog post on speed networking or this one on alumni networking.  You can find my other writing clips here.

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Does Where You Live Determine Your Education?

22 Feb

Doesn’t it seem sometimes like life imitates art? That the same issues that were being written about — class, education, nationality — in the books of previous centuries can still be written about today?
Does where you grow up determine your education? Does it depend on coming from the “right” type of family who signed you up for extracurricular coursework? Or, is education self-determined? Can you embrace the autodidact tendencies of Massachusetts-raised Jack Kerouac, who skipped school to read voraciously in library?
Education was paramount in my family. My father especially believed that getting a good education was my job. It was his job to have a job, to have a career in which he could earn money to provide for his family. This would allow him to put me through the best and most expensive college so that one day I could have a reputable, well-paying job. Consequently, as a teenager, I could babysit occasionally, but I was not allowed to hold a regular after-school job when instead I should be studying. From what I observed growing up, that was common among the class of immigrant families in my hometown. Parents who had pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps worked tirelessly so that they could provide their children with a good education that would enable us to live better, easier, more fruitful lives.
Yahoo Real Estate recently came out with its annual list of most educated states in America. It didn’t surprise me at all to see my home states of New Jersey and New York on the list. I attended a Blue Ribbon high school in Bergen County, New Jersey, and my classmates and I went on to attend some of the highest-ranked colleges in the country. Not only that, almost every single friend from my childhood that I’ve kept in touch with went on to grad school as well—and that includes people that were in honors and AP classes and people who were never really into academics.
I mention friends first because I didn’t grow up with extended family nearby. My cousins—those from my father’s side, first generation; those from my mother’s side, here just a few generations longer—were in Maryland, Massachusetts, and Minnesota. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that these states as well were all in the top ten most educated states in America!
That’s not to claim that my family is the most well-educated or that we use our education to further traditional, high-paying careers. Some of us have master’s degrees, others of us just graduated high school. Some of us have careers, others of us are homemakers. Some of us read for pleasure, some of us play video games. Still, we have the foundations and the options to choose what we want to do. I’m reminded of the eighteenth-century British novels I read about women of a certain class, who were well educated even though they were never going to use their education outside the home. They would surely study French and Latin and learn to play the piano and paint frescos because it made them more interesting, more desirable, more well-rounded. They enjoyed learning for the sake of learning.
I think there’s something to be said for living in a state that values education. Even if one prefers to work with her hands or to be a stay-at-home father, both of which are noble, being well educated provides options and allows one to enjoy a rich interior life. One of my friends lived in a state that did not value education. Rather, when her daughter raised her hand to answer questions in class, her classmates mocked her for being interested in school. The girl began to shut down, to stop raising her hand, to stop caring about school. Fortunately, my friend recognized what was going on and was able to get her out of that situation. Now her daughter reads and writes even outside the classroom.
I go through phases where I get lazy and watch a lot of Netflix. Right now, though, I’ve been reading and writing a lot again—and it feels so good! I can’t believe I ever got so distracted and lazy to stop doing what I love. Suddenly my life feels richer. I feel like I’m doing what I’m called to do. And part of me has been thinking about furthering my education again. I’ve been missing the structure and challenge of academia. I’ve been wanting to be exposed to new ideas, to be challenged by books I’d never think to read on my own. I wonder if it’s worth it to get my PhD. University costs are so outrageously expensive, and when you work in the arts, where little money is the norm, it’s hard to justify going into debt. That’s why I’m glad I live in New York. New York is a university unto itself. There are so many great readings, lectures, and panels I can attend—and often for free. I can go to the library and check out books at random or I can do a little digging and find recommended reading lists like Allen Ginsberg’s Celestial Homework.
In descending order, the most educated states in America are:
  1. Minnesota
  2. New York
  3. Vermont
  4. New Hampshire
  5. Virginia
  6. New Jersey
  7. Connecticut
  8. Maryland
  9. Colorado
  10. Massachusetts
No matter where you’re from in America, though, you can educate yourself by seeking out mentors and reading good books. Even if one is illiterate, a lot of libraries and churches offer volunteers who can help.
You might also be interested in:::

So You Want to Be In Publishing

2 Jul

Intern

One of my former interns made this for me on her last day of the internship at the publishing house. Isn’t it so cute? I was really touched. I don’t know that I taught her everything about a career in book publishing, but hopefully I gave her a good foundation.

I thought I’d share a few tips on careers in book publishing and being a businessperson in a creative field:

What’s your favorite piece of advice?

Speed Networking with Eventsy

18 Mar

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Read any career advice book, and one thing is clear: getting the job of your dreams is all about who you know. The key to success, as you’ve heard countless times before, is networking, networking, networking.

But what if the mere mention of networking sends shivers down your spine as you conjure up memories of limp handshakes and boring conversations? What if the idea of trying to infiltrate a circle of insiders at a cocktail party sounds more difficult than actually giving the keynote speech at your company?

Then Eventsy’s Speed Networking events are for you! Eventsy is changing the way you look at networking. Through “interactive events with a purpose,” New York’s comprehensive social networking club is making it easy and fun to make worthwhile connections.

Last week I attended the first-ever Speed Networking event hosted by Eventsy, and I can honestly tell you that I walked away having made some of the most genuine connections I’ve ever made at a networking event. Let me say upfront that I was invited to cover the event. I therefore did not go into it all geared up to network and pitch myself and my writing, but rather to observe. The gonzo journalist side of me kicked in, though, and I pushed myself out of my comfort zone to try my hand at networking.

The first part of the night was open, free-form networking, and I felt like I often do at networking cocktail events: awkward. There’s nothing easy about walking up to strangers and trying to insert yourself into a conversation they’re already having. It feels like you’re interrupting a private, impassioned conversation for no good reason other than to have someone—anyone—to talk to so you’re not standing by yourself like an idiot. Fortunately, I overheard a woman nervously tell the event hosts that she was also attending solo, so I quickly introduced myself. It gave us both an immediate connection, and we worked the buddy system throughout the evening, occasionally checking in on each other even after we’d braved our way into other conversations. Even though this part of the evening was the most nerve-racking to my introverted self, it was actually the point where I made a valuable connection with someone I did not end up meeting during the more formal speed networking portion of the evening. Lessons learned:

  • Warm up to networking by reaching out to others who have come alone or are on the outskirts of a conversation. Networking ability does not necessarily indicate position at a company.
  • Use the buddy system. Once you’ve met one person, you can take turns introducing each other to new people. This makes introductions much more natural.
  • Fake it ’til you make it. Just because you don’t feel like a natural at networking doesn’t mean you can’t do it or that others will even notice.
  • Talk to everyone and really get to know them. The valuable connection I made was with someone whom I at first thought had no bearing at all on my career objectives, and it was only at the very tail end of our conversation that we both realized we could potentially meet each other’s needs for an aspect of our businesses that we weren’t there pitching.

The main course of the Eventsy networking event was the speed networking. I’d done speed networking three times before, and I joked with one of the other attendees that although it had never landed me a job before I had gotten a relationship out of it once. Hey, you can make all sorts of connections through speed networking! I really like the format of speed networking. If you’ve never done it before, let me quickly explain how it was done at Eventsy: Half of us lined up on one side and the other half lined up across from us so that each of us were facing one other person. Then we were given five minutes to talk to each other.

Most people use this time to give their “elevator pitch”—their spiel on what they do or their pitch for what they could do, told in the time it would take to ride with someone from the ground floor to the executive suite in an office building. We weren’t given any formal instructions on giving our elevator pitch or what we should say during these five minutes, so it was pretty informal but in a good way. It felt like a real conversation in which we talked about what we did, why we came to the Eventsy Networking Event, what we were hoping to achieve from it, and how we could help each other. Seriously, that last question was key because it got to the crux of how the event could benefit us much more than a summary of our work experience would. Lessons here:

  • Listen more than you talk. Ask questions to find out not just what someone does day-to-day but what they are hoping to do next and why they are networking. Maybe they can fill an opening at your company, which even if it’s not in your department is still an asset.
  • Keep the focus on the other person, but in the back of your mind think about yourself so that when it comes time to talk about yourself you can tailor your skills to their needs. It’s easier to get a job—whether it’s a full-time position or freelance work—if you do the hard work of establishing how you can help solve their needs through what you do.

Most of us were not even remotely in the same field. I met bankers, real-estate brokers, lawyers, photographers, fashion designers, and job hunters. If this sounds like it would result in a bunch of futile connections, think again:

  • If you’ve been following my blog for a while now, you know that I regularly attend publishing cocktail parties and readings. I love attending those events, but guess what? They’re saturated with people who have the same skill sets as me. At Eventsy Speed Networking event, I was the only writer and editor, which meant that if anyone there was looking for a writer or editor I might be the only one they now know, making me the top—okay, only—candidate.  Diversification is key.
  • As Maria Pardalis—Eventy’s founder—said, maybe the person you’re talking to has nothing to do with your industry, but maybe her roommate just so happens to be in your field. Your network is larger than your immediate circle.
  • Our lives are about more than just the minutiae of our daily jobs. We need all kinds of people in our lives to help us achieve our dreams. If we want to manage our income, we need to know financial advisers. If we want a roof over our head, it helps to know a good broker. If we give readings, we might need to hire a photographer to take photos of our events. And, of course we could all use a fashion designer in our lives to help us look our best, whether we’re headed to our next networking event, a job interview, or accepting the Pulitzer Prize.

Ready to try your hand at networking? Check out these upcoming Eventsy events:

Tomorrow (3/19/14): Monthly Young Professionals Networking Happy Hour Event

Come network and mingle at Eventsy’s Monthly Young Professionals Business Networking Happy Hour Events at NYC hotspot the Sky Room!

Meet other Young Professionals at the city’s highest rooftop lounge and get transported to a high energy oasis with amazing 360 degree views of Manhattan.

All guests will enjoy complimentary hors d’oeuvres and $5 drink specials all night long.  Bring your business cards for a chance to win several fabulous prizes.

DJ Erika Hamilton will also be onsite spinning the night away!

Event is FREE and open to all so if you have any friends who are interested invite them along.

Don’t forget to bring your business cards, as always, Eventsy will be giving away some fabulous prizes!

FMI and registration here.

March 31, 2014: New York City Job Fair

Eventsy Members looking for new employment opportunities are invited to attend the New York Job Fair.

Dozen’s of local hiring companies will be meeting with attendees one-on-one at the New York Job Fair on March 31st, 2014.  Please ensure you bring hard copies of your resumes, business cards and dress in professional attire.

REMEMBER – always dress for the job you wish to attain!

To receive the complete company list and register for the fair Click HERE

Meet face-to-face with local recruiters in your area. Attendance is FREE for all job seekers!

FMI and registration here.

April 17, 2014: Monthly NYC Professinals Networking Happy Hour Event

Come network, mingle and meet new people at Eventsy’s Monthly NYC Professionals Business Networking Happy Hour at NYC hotspot the Sky Room!

Meet other NYC Professionals at the city’s highest rooftop lounge and get transported to a high energy oasis with amazing 360 degree views of Manhattan.  All guests will enjoy complimentary hors d’oeuvres and Happy Hour pricing with $5 beers and $7 mixed drinks.

Bring your business cards for a chance to win several fabulous prizes.

DJ Erika Hamilton will also be onsite spinning the night away!
Event is FREE and open to all so if you have any friends who are interested invite them along.

Don’t forget your BUSINESS CARDS!

FMI and registration here.

April 29, 2014: Eventy’s Monthly Speed Networking Event

Join other NYC Professionals for our exciting and extremely beneficial Monthly Speed Networking Events!

In today’s fast-paced world, networking is critical whether you are an intern or a CEO. You will make over 30 new business connections during our fun Speed Networking session and during the unstructured networking happy hour time which will take place throughout the evening.

Tuesday, April 29
Public House NYC
140 East 41st Street – NYC

6pm to 6:30pm – Registration & Reception
6:30pm to 6:45pm – Introductions
6:45pm to 8:00pm – Speed Networking Sessions
8:00pm to 9:00pm – Follow-up Conversations & Cocktails (Optional)

Admission: $10.00

Complimentary Hors d’Oeuvres & Drink Specials

$4 Domestic Draft Beer: Budweiser, Bud Light, Shock Top, Brooklyn Lager
$5 House Wine: Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Cabernet, Merlot
$6 Well Mixed Drinks

Seating is Very Limited – Register Now to Guarantee Your Spot!
Business Cards are Essential!

Speed Networking is a new and fresh way to quickly build your business and contact list in a time efficient matter.

What is Speed Networking?

Speed Networking is a fun and highly effective mechanism for generating new business contacts in a small period of time. Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, young in your career or experienced – you will enjoy meeting people in this type of format. Eventsy is a firm believer in putting people face-to-face to facilitate direct conversation.

Each participant will have the opportunity for over 16 face-to-face sessions with other like-minded NYC professionals. After the end of each session, participants will quickly alternate their seating arrangements to pair up with their next networking opportunity. This process will continue until all participants have interacted with each other.

In just a few minutes, participants will share business cards, history and offer new contacts with valuable information about their business and/or profession. After the official Speed Networking sessions are over, participants are encouraged to continue networking throughout the evening.

FMI and registration here.

You can also find other fun social events organized through Eventsy here. As Pardalis said, bring your business cards everywhere. You never know who you’re going to meet!

6 Best Books of 2013, According to Me

26 Dec

It’s that time of year when everyone’s doing their Best of 2013 lists, so I figured I’d add mine!

I know most people pick 5 or 10, but I picked 6. Why 6, you ask? For arbitrary reasons. Yes, I read more than 6 books this year. No, they weren’t all from 2013. And no, not every book that I read that was published in 2013 made this list. These just happen to be the very best of the books that I read that were published in 2013.

This isn’t a ranking, but rather a listing in a way that one theme flows into the next.

 

paradise

This Is Paradise by Kristiana Kahakauwila

I saw this face-out on a shelf at Barnes & Noble, picked it up, and read the first few lines. The prose was exquisite. I’d nearly given up on fiction, frustrated at how it can be so overwritten yet simple at the same time. This was the type of writing I’d been missing in my life. The language is just gorgeous. I want to reread it already.

 

interestings

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

I had read Wolitzer’s The Wife in grad school and felt it was too heavy-handed, so I cautiously picked this one up after hearing the high praise for it, which almost always dooms a book for me. The Interestings deserves to be on every best of 2013 list. Not only are the story and the themes (the nature of love, the nature of friendships, family, jealousy, career, money, art, New York) thought-provoking on many levels, but the writing strikes that perfect balance of appearing both deliberate and breezy, literary yet conversationally authentic. It’s the type of book I want to now read reviews of and discuss with others, especially women artists.

 

LeanIn

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

I read this for my Scripps College book club, which is composed of alumni from a wide range of class years from the women’s college. We’re all at various stages of our careers, including stay-at-home moms, working moms with infants, moms whose children have flown the nest, recent grads who have just entered the workforce, and mid-career-level women in relationships and not. Some have Ph.D.s, others want to be yoga instructors. The resulting conversation we had about this book is that, in the end, you have to find out what works for you and that may change depending on where you are in your life.

I also happened to finally get around to reading a book a colleague had given to me a few years ago: Patty Azzarello’s Rise: How to be Really Successful at Work AND Like Your Life, which came out in 2010. While Sandberg’s book is chock-full of important statistics and food for thought, Azzarello’s, though perhaps not as carefully edited, offers tips that are actually practical for people in the workforce.

 

Print

A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett

This book, the true story about a Canadian journalist and her Australian ex-boyfriend photographer who are kidnapped in Somalia, gave me nightmares. Literally. I became obsessed with the story, reading articles,  watching interviews with the people involved, and following them on Twitter. It got me thinking a lot about perceptions of the West, feminism, and ambition.

 

Manana

Manana Means Heaven by Tim Z. Hernandez

The publisher sent me this book, and I was a bit leery going into it that it would come off as fan fiction, but Hernandez’s Manana Means Heaven is an incredibly important book to the Beat canon. Through poetic diction, this novel tells the moving story of one of the little-known people who crossed paths with Jack Kerouac. It gives voice to a woman who didn’t even know she’d been written about decades earlier in On the Road.

You can read my interview with Tim here.

 

heart

My Heart Is an Idiot by Davy Rothbart

I’ve written about Davy Rothbart before, having encountered one of the stories in this book in The Paris Review and comparing him to Jack Kerouac and then going to see him read in Brooklyn, where I met his dad and pulled a sword out of his cohort. This book technically came out last year, but the paperback came out this year, and it is brilliant. I had to stifle my laughter quite a few times on the subway to keep people from staring at me as I read this book. The thing is, though, there’s a lot of heart in this book too. It’s more than just a bunch of stories that make your eyes bug with incredulity over the antics Rothbart gets himself in. It shows the tenderness and beauty and wonder of humanity in all its forms, from an aspiring DJ to a con-artist.

 

Tell me your favorite books of 2013 below in the comments section. I’m looking for some new reads, and I figure if you read my blog we probably have similar taste! …And by similar taste, that probably means all over the board.

 

* * *

Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now available as an ebook and paperback!

 

Blame Parents for Millennials Acting Entitled: Helicopter Parents Have Trophy Kids Who End Up Boomerang Kids

12 Jun

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Remember my post from last July “Hipsters Hate Driving”? It was inspired by the Reuters report “America’s Generation Y Not Driven to Drive” that did not once use the word “hipster” but rather “millennials.” Well, apparently Ford—as in the car manufacturer—sponsored a panel discussion with my exact title on May 30, 2013.

Flavorwire’s Tom Hawking caught up with Hipsters Hate Driving keynote speaker and millennials expert Jason Dorsey  in the June 10, 2013, article “Flavorwire Interview: Millennials Expert Jason Dorsey Says Young People ‘Really Do Act Entitled.’” At the Ford panel, “The Gen Y Guy” had said: “[Millennials] don’t want commitment. They drop in and out of experiences. They can’t wear a shirt or blouse if it’s photographed. The worst fear of millennials is wearing the same dress twice on two different [social networks],” and Hawkings got to the bottom of whether Dorsey really did think millennials are that shallow.

Flavorwire’s title quote comes from one of Dorsey’s responses:

When you dig into it, you find that a lot of millennials really do act entitled. They really do show up and have these massive expectations and are not willing to work at [things].

The word “entitlement” has come up again and again in discussions about millennials, and Dorsey argues it’s important to delve into the “why.” Of the root causes, Dorsey mention aspects relating to higher education and employment. Valid points, but I want to highlight a few comments he made that may slip under the cracks. Dorsey says, he focuses on trends like when people of the current generation are “moving out [of parents’ homes]” and “the relationship you have with your parents” as well as “views about parenting, especially how they were raised.”

Now we’re getting somewhere! Think about it for a moment: who are the parents of Generation Y? The oldest of them are Baby Boomers, who are “the generation that received peak levels of income” and “are associated with a rejection or redefinition of traditional values,” as Wikipedia put it. The younger parents are of Generation X, often derided as the Slacker Generation, who, facing economic downfall, turned to entrepreneurship. In other words, the shift from Baby Boomers to Gen X itself set the stage for a new generation that would be less traditional in their career outlooks.

In terms of their parenting style, these Baby Boomer and Gen X parents of Millennials have been called “Helicopter parents.” Jennifer O’Donnell defines this phenomenon in her About.com article “What Are Helicopter Parents?”:

The term “Helicopter parents” is often used to define a group of parents who engage in the practice of over-parenting. Helicopter parents are accused of being obsessed with their children’s education, safety, extracurricular activities, and other aspects of their children’s lives. Critics have criticized helicopter parents for over protecting their children and for failing to instill them with a sense of independence and a can-do attitude. Helicopter parents are also accused of over programming their children, and for failing to allow them free time to play and explore on their own.

She goes on to explain the root causes:

But the practice of over-parenting came into its own sometime during the 1990s when parents were bombarded with news stories about child abductions, academic competition, and ultimately, competition in a global economy.

Wikipedia explained the definition further, giving light into how this parenting technique affected children’s habits:

[The term “helicopter parenting”] gained wide currency when American college administrators began using it in the early 2000s as the Millennial Generation began reaching college age. Their baby-boomer parents in turn earned notoriety for practices such as calling their children each morning to wake them up for class and complaining to their professors about grades the children had received. Summer camp officials have also reported similar behavior from parents.

The children of Helicopter parents became known as Trophy Kids. I very briefly touched on this concept in my post “Parallel Generations,” in which I discussed the commonalities between the Lost Generation, the Beat Generation, and Generation Y, when I said:

Since then we’ve seen Generation Y, also known as the Millennials or Generation Next, who are often thought of as privileged Trophy Kids.

Notice the word “privileged.” Ron Aslop wrote the book on the subject: The Trophy Kids Grow Up. As the book’s website explains:

The millennials are truly trophy kids, the pride and joy of their parents who remain closely connected even as their children head off to college and enter the work force.

As Aslop suggests, these helicopter parents have been extremely involved in their Millennial children’s careers. George’s Employment Blog writes:

Although the Millenials often seek out challenging work and high levels of responsibility, these applicants’ parents are highly involved in their kids’ job search.

In a story entitled “Helicopter Parents Hover in the Workplace” on NPR on February 6, 2012, Jennifer Ludden says parents are doing more than just sending their children wanted ads and helping them with their resumes:

With millennial children now in their 20s, more helicopter parents are showing up in the workplace, sometimes even phoning human resources managers to advocate on their child’s behalf.

She states the facts:

Michigan State University more than 700 employers seeking to hire recent college graduates. Nearly one-third said parents had submitted resumes on their child’s behalf, some without even informing the child. One-quarter reported hearing from parents urging the employer to hire their son or daughter for a position.

The result of helicopter parenting is that Generation Y is coming across as entitled whether it’s their fault—or their parents. The Wall Street Journal article “The ‘Trophy Kids’ Go to Work,” published in 2008, said:

More than 85% of hiring managers and human-resource executives said they feel that millennials have a stronger sense of entitlement than older workers, according to a survey by CareerBuilder.com.

But who’s to blame: the parents or the kids? In the September 12, 2012, BusinessNewsDaily article “What Gen Y Is Not Getting from Their Parents,” David Mielach, writes:

A new survey has found that 69 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 29 receive little financial support from their parents.

He goes on to say:

The research found that 75 percent of young adults would rather live independently of their parents even if it is a struggle to do so financially.

Oh really? Then what are we to make of the rise of the phrase “boomerang kid,” which refers to young adults moving back in with their parents? It’s a concept that had such resonance it got its own (ill-fated) sitcom: How to Live with Your Parents for the Rest of Your Life.  T. J. Wihera wrote in the 2009 Denver Post article “Gen Y: Returning to the Nest”:

The Census Bureau reports that 56 percent of 18- to 24-year-old men and 48 percent of women in the same age bracket were living at home with their parents in 2008, though it should be noted that these numbers also count college students living in the dorms as living at home.

A more recent 2010 article in The Atlantic summed it up in the title “1 in 10 Millennials Living With Parents Because of Recession.” This year, Bloomberg Businessweek launched a business to get boomerang kids out of their childhood bedrooms.

While millennials’ parents may have raised them to be confident, independent-thinkers, and may have done everything in their power to push their little Trophy Kids toward success from a young age, their helicopter parenting techniques may have backfired. Many millennials have become boomerang kids, relying on their over-protective, control-freak parents to continue giving them the direction they have always given them.

In my recent blog post “Shunning Cars … and Life” I touched on the cultural shift that took place around the time of the Beat Generation, saying that while Jack Kerouac went on the road, today’s Generation Y is living a virtual life. Could it be that part of the reason why so many millennials have turned to living life through a computer screen has something to do with helicopter parents who “fail[ed] to allow [their children] free time to play and explore on their own” because “the 1990s […] were bombarded with news stories about child abductions, academic competition, and ultimately, competition in a global economy,” as O’Donnell wrote? In other words, perhaps parents believed life behind the computer was safer and more educational than the alternative of playing carefree outdoors. Children were the gods of their computer worlds, they could control their domain, and they soon became celebrities of social media sites like MySpace [emphasis mine], which furthered the entitlement already instilled in them by their parents.

Of course, these are generalities. Even though he was from the so-called Beat Generation, Jack Kerouac, who used the term “hipster” in his writing, could fit the profile of a millennial. His mother, Gabrielle, hovered like a helicopter parent, and he was a boomerang kid, who was living with his mother even in his forties.

“My life is not a story,” Wrote the Memoirist

28 Feb

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After reading about how Benjamin Anastas describes his father as “a brooding Greek beatnik” who is “potbellied from lentils and with a beard down to his solar plexus chakra,” I knew I had to read his memoir Too Good to Be True. After all, I write about  Greeks and so-called beatniks. Too Good to Be True is the story of the breakup of his marriage and the dissolution of his writing career.

Its not told in an overtly emotional manner, yet its frankness is almost unsettling. These days we’re used to people baring all when it comes to relationships, but to tell the truth about money? To admit that even though he’d taught at an Ivy League and published in big-name magazines, he had to dig around in couch cushions to come up with money for his son’s dinner? That’s the type of honesty that’s hard to read because you worry he’s sabotaging his career by admitting his writing isn’t going all that well and putting it out there for editors and agents to read without the distance of time.

But isn’t that the struggle of the memoirist? While many critics claim that memoir writing is egocentric, a memoirist must lay down his ego. He must sacrifice self and present the truth. And while a memoirist may be introspective by nature, the beauty of memoir is discovering the truth along with the author.

This section from the chapter “Old Friends” is worth considering in terms of both memoir writing and living life:

How much of our lives do we write, and how much of them are written for us? I’ve been thinking about this problem lately, looking back over the trail that brought me to this place, and reading my progress at every step along the way—as adrift as I have been from the usual compass points, as unaware of my direction—for signs of an author, for the fingerprints left behind by some great invisible hand. My life is not a story. It has never been a story, not for me, not even while I’ve been taking great pains with this testament to tell it truthfully on the page. I am in too deep to call it a story. It hurts too much for me to understand it. But I am trying.

The contents of the book may center around infidelity and a mid-career slump, but the deeper story, the one that Anastas circles around to, is the relationship between parents and children, the relationship he had with his parents and the relationship he has with his son.

If I could request a follow up to Too Good to Be True, I would ask Benjamin Anastas to write a memoir about his childhood.

Military Tanks

22 Dec

It’s late in the morning, and I’m drinking a cup of black coffee that has turned cold because of how slowly I’ve been drinking it.  I’m sitting Indian style on my chair and editing a book on military tanks.

Normally, a weaponry book would get on my nerves.  I’d wonder what choices I’d made in my career that got me to the point that I’m editing books so far from my own gushy interests of literature and birds and art.

Today, though, I’m reminded of another morning.  I remember riding the bus into Manhattan with my dad, passing the Teaneck Armory, and my dad telling me about his days serving in the Greek army.  My dad’s rather private, a trait that runs deep in the family, and I had never really heard him talk about being in the army.  Even though it’s required of all Greek males to serve in the Greek army, the detail that my father served in the army never really cliqued in my mind.  It made me realize how some details in our lives slip away, forgotten until triggered by a source outside us.

Some stories we share over and over again, til the point our friends roll their eyes from having to hear it again.  Other stories we burrow away.  Maybe because they’re painful to remember.  Or maybe because they just seem insignificant.

Greek Journalists Strike against the War on Words

20 Oct

I believe in the power of words.  I believe words inform, enlighten.

I also believe in the power of silence.  Silence can sometimes be more powerful than words.

On Tuesday, October 17, about 2,000 Greek journalists went on strike.  The Greek journalists protested the layoffs resulting from Greece’s poor economy and the austerity bill stipulated by creditors.  Unemployment in Greece in general is up to 16%.  Unemployment in Greek media is up 25%.  The result of the strike was that internal Greek news coverage came to a halt.  (You can read more about the details here, where I obtained the statistics.)

The media professionals on strike in Greece sent a message about the critical role of news journalists in disseminating information.  Journalists are liaisons between the government and the general public, the protesters and the general public, the protesters and the government.  They go to the front lines of protests; they gain access to interviews with politicians; they give a voice to the villager whose pension has been cut to the point that he is having trouble making ends meet.  They are spokespeople.  They are advocates.

The 25% unemployment rate in the media sector of Greece is a war on words.  The pay cuts and layoffs indicate the devaluation of research and reporting.  We see similarities in the United States, as the media sector here has yet to find an effective way of monetizing content.  Try to find employment in journalism, and the majority of the ads you’ll read list “experience,” “exposure,” and “a byline” as your compensation.  If you’re lucky, you’ll find a job that pays 2 to 10 cents a word.  The result is that we read the work of bloggers who simply aggregate content, instead of conducting research and interviews, and spout opinions.  Those inclined toward professional journalism may see the low wages and long hours and redirect their editorial skills toward, say, writing advertising copy—because, you know, we live in a society that likes to consume and be entertained, not informed.

While I understand why the Greek journalists went on strike and shut down news, it is imperative that they find ways to report on the current events taking place in Greece.  The citizens in Greece need them.  Greece should not become like North Korea, where the government controls the distribution of “information.”

Biggest Advice for… English Majors

22 Mar

 

I’ve received a lot of emails lately from students at my alma mater, Scripps College, wanting to know how I got started in book publishing and what advice I have for them.  I’ve been responding to emails individually but I thought it might be helpful to do a series of career-advice posts in addition to my regular Writing Wednesday posts here on the blog.

As with all my posts, this is simply my opinion.  There are a lot of great books, articles, and career counselors who can set you on the path to choosing and establishing your career.  I’m offering my perspective because it’s been requested and because sometimes it’s helpful to hear personal experience, but it’s by no means the only advice and methods available.

First up in this series is my biggest advice for English majors.

 

Congratulations!  You’ve decided to become an English major.  An English degree is incredibly versatile.  It can be applied to such exciting fields such as book publishing, journalism, teaching, writing, law, and so much more.  You need to know how to write and comprehend the written word in practically every job, whether you’re writing your cover letter for an application or writing a compelling business proposal once you’ve gotten the job of your dreams.

Plus, English majors are just plain cool.  They’re always walking around with dog-eared paperbacks.  They scribble poetry in blue ink on hand-bound journals and think typewriters are still relevant.  They’re in touch with their emotions.  They’re in touch with the emotions of others around them.  They know big words.  They read the book before the movie comes out.  Okay, so maybe I’m stereotyping, but there’s just something so romantic about English majors as opposed to many of the other majors.  I should know.  I was one.

I knew going into college that I wanted to major in English.  I love working with words.  Reading them, writing them, painting them, savoring them.  Though I do wish I’d taken a few more “practical” courses, I don’t regret my decision to major in English.  It’s had a tremendous impact in my career choice as a writer and editor, and I just plain enjoy studying literature on a personal level.

Here are a few tips garnered from my personal experience as an English major that I hope will help those of you pursuing your degree.

  1. Select a wide variety of English courses.  Variety is the spice of life!  Instead of limiting yourself right away to a particular time period in English literature, load up on courses from different time periods and regions.  You’ll gain a more complete awareness of the full history of English literature and learn how they interact and respond to each other.  Remember that in order to fully understand postmodernism, you need to also study modernism.  Take a Southern Gothic class and an Elizabethan Shakespeare class.  Take a women writers course and an Asian American lit course.
  2. Be open-minded.  My undergrad program was heavy on British literature.  At the time I didn’t really appreciate reading books by Samuel Johnson and poetry by Edmund Spenser because I wanted to study the Beats.  Now, while my focus is still on Beat literature, I’m so thankful that I have a wider knowledge of English literature because it informs me of the history and progression of writing.  Plus, Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, published in 1759, could give postmodernists a run for their money any day!
  3. Research the authors you read.  A little trick I learned in grad school was to look up information on the author before I came to class.  Knowing the author’s biography and bibliography helps give context to their books.
  4. Take creative courses outside your major.  One of the courses that had the most impact on my writing was not an English literature class; it was Introduction to Film, taught at Pitzer College by Professor Alexandra Juhasz.  Through the jump cuts and camera angles, I learned about craft and point of view in a way I’d never thought about so clearly before then.
  5. Take digital art classes.  I studied digital art under Professor Nancy Macko at Scripps, and having that background opened up opportunities in web design, typesetting and page layout, branding and marketing, and production.  Even though I have a production manager now who deals with printer specifications of my books, it helps that I have an understanding of production issues.  Furthermore, I know how to create logos and manipulate images, which I can use on my personal blog to promote my own writing.
  6. Find a second subject that captivates you.  If you’re planning on becoming a writer of any sort or working at a publication, it will be useful to have specialized knowledge in a subject outside of literature.  Whether it’s classical music or psychology, the subject will inform your style and subject matter.  I took History of New York at CMC and continually find myself drawn back to what I learned in that class.  It gave me a broader scope of the New York lit scene I admire so much, and I’ve since gone on to study writing under one of the authors of the books we read in that class.
  7. Think outside the campus bubble.  While many college campuses lend themselves to picturesque academic landscapes, I have to brag that in 2010 Forbes ranked Scripps’ campus one of the most beautiful in the world.  The campus is so pretty and yet the academics so rigorous that I really didn’t think much beyond Elm Tree lawn while I was there.  Not only is there life after college, there’s life going on while you’re at college.  Try to picture where you want to be after college and look into what options are available.  Schoolwork is invaluable but so is eating, so try to remember that your schoolwork is only a means toward something greater: your career.  One lousy paper isn’t going to matter in the grand scheme of your career.  In fact, seeking help from your professor may foster a mentoring relationship that will help you in the long run.

All of this is what I learned from trial and error.  I’d love to hear from other English majors.  What advice would you give to undergrads?  What would you do differently?

I’d also love to hear why those of you who were or are English majors chose that major.  What career do you have or hope to have?