Tag Archives: Scripps College

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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

 

10 Books That Have Stuck with Me

17 Dec
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The other night I fell asleep thinking about the books that have stuck with me over the years. My friend had tagged me in a Facebook post about the ten books that have stuck with her—not necessarily the best books or her favorite books, but the ones that come to mind first. She then tagged me and nine other friends to do the same. I figured it would make for a fun blog post because some of the books may come as a surprise.
Without further ado…:
  1. Bread and Honey by Frank Asch
  2. Squiggly Wiggly’s Surprise by Arnold Shapiro
  3. Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
  4. Gypsy Summer by Wilma Yeo
  5. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
  6. Sins of the Father by Eileen Franklin
  7. The Dangling Man by Saul Bellow
  8. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  9. The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon
  10. Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller
I could probably write a blog post for each of these titles on why they stuck with me! I could also add so many more books to the list.
There are a few things I’ll point out about the books that actually made the list, though. The first half of the list are children’s books, or perhaps YA. The first two, in fact, are children’s storybooks, but even today their message remains with me. Adult books have a lot more “grey” in them when it comes to morality and message, as we come to understand the complexities and nuances of life, but I think there’s something to be said for the simple and beautiful messages of children’s picture books.
The other thing I’ll point out is that the second half of the list was all read more than ten years ago. Actually, number 6 on the list I read in middle school, and the only book post-undergrad on the list is number 10. It’s obviously not that I haven’t read since then or that I haven’t read good books since then. In fact, I took fantastic literature classes while working toward my MFA and was exposed to books that shaped the way I think about literature and writing. It’s just that when I think of books that have really stuck with me over the years, I was thinking of books that have stood the test of time.
I tag you! What 10 books have stuck with you? Leave them in the comments below.

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

Kalo Mina! October 2013!

1 Oct

 

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“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”

~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

Kalo mina! Happy October 1st! The first day of fall was September 22, but the weather today feels more like late spring. The sky is a bright, bright blue, the color of parakeet feathers. I walked down to Union Square at lunch today and was tempted to play hookey just so I could sit in the grass and look up at the sky and dream.

September brought routine back to the city, and it was a busy month. A few highlights:

  • Attending Greek American Fashion Week and seeing the latest collections by Tatiana Raftis, Angelo Lambrou, Nikki Poulos, and Stratton, with hair by Christo Curlisto
  • Seeing Jonathan Collins’ Beat Traveller art exhibit in Paterson with Larry Closs
  • Conducting a live interview with Tim Z. Hernandez about his book Manana Means Heaven at the Spanish Harlem bookstore La Casa Azul and getting to meet all the great people who work at the bookstore as well as Tim’s insightful agent
  • Reading one of my personal essays about road trips, homelessness, and God as Jason Harrod softly strummed guitar at his album release party
  • Retreating to Connecticut for the Scripps TriState alumni book club
  • Attending the Brooklyn Book Festival with friends whom I co-lead a monthly writing workshop with and getting to hear Justin Torres read from We the Animals again. He’s brilliant. I’m obsessed
  • Watching Into the Wild. I know I’m late to the game on this one, but at least I had read the book by Jon Krakauer before. The film devastated me. It was beautiful and painful and haunting and true, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days….
  • Brunching with author Isobella Jade
  • Hearing Davy Rothbart read from My Heart Is an Idiot. I once wrote that a story of his made me “wonder if Rothbart might be my generation’s Jack Kerouac.” Yep, he’s that good. I was too shy to talk to Davy, but I met his dad and, despite my efforts to become invisible at the mere mention of audience participation, Brett Loudermilk selected me out of the audience to pull a sword out of him. Yes, you read that right
  • Reading Kristiana Kahakauwila’s story collection This Is Paradise — this is Literature. I am savoring it
  • Discovering H&M Home — whoops! There went all my money!
  • Finally getting Internet set up at my new place
  • Talked to my sister for the first time since she moved out of New York City
  • Imbibing my first pumpkin spice latte of the fall
  • Attending A Global Conversation: Why the UN Must Focus on Women’s Leadership
  • Oh and launching the e-book edition of Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” with Paul Maher Jr!!!

So yeah, that was my September. What about you? Did you read any good books? See any movies that moved you?

Nikolopoulos Revives Homer’s Poetic Language

26 Aug

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The National Herald featured me! In the article, I talk about “dead” languages, that great Greek roadtripper Homer, and Scripps College.

Brunch with Artists & Entertainers at the Lotos Club

7 May

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Last month Scripps College invited me to attend a lovely brunch amongst friends and fellow alumni at The Lotos Club:

Alumnae Panel: The Arts and Entertainment Scene in NYC

Mitra Abbaspour ’99, Associate Curator, The Museum of Modern Art

Barbara Barna Abel ’84, Casting Director and Coach, ABEL intermedia

Elizabeth Robbins Turk ’83, Artist, 2010 MacArthur “Genius” Award Winner

Moderator: Veronica Gledhill ’06, Senior Fashion Market Editor, New York Magazine, Online and 2012 Outstanding Recent Alumna

with an update on the College
from President Lori Bettison-Varga

Oh, how I wish they’d do more of these. It was truly inspiring to hear these women tell their stories. They were so impressive yet so humble and honest in talking about their individual journeys as artists.

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Elizabeth had secured The Lotos Club for the event, and I could’ve sat in that sumptuous library all day long. But I guess that was the point:

The selection of the name The Lotos Club was to convey “an idea of rest and harmony.” The spelling of Lotos comes from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem, The Lotos Eaters, two lines of which were selected as the motto of the Club:

 In the afternoon they came unto a land
In which it seemed always afternoon

The endless afternoon setting provided the ideal atmosphere to indulge in creative and stimulating thought and conversation.

Of course, as a good Greek, I should point out that Tennyson’s poem was inspired by The Odyssey.

The circular staircase was breathtaking. I had to stop and take a photograph.

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The Lotos Club has an impressive history and has counted amongst its members President Taft, Mark Twain, and Oscar Wilde’s brother Willie.

 

My Festival of Faith & Writing Festival Circle: Holy Grounds — The Role of Place in Your Spiritual and Literary Life

9 Mar

As I mentioned a while back, I’ll be leading a Festival Circle this year at the Festival of Faith & Writing held at Calvin College.  It’s a tremendous honor to have been selected to facilitate a discussion group at this prestigious writing conference, where so many authors I admire will be speaking.

In case you’re unfamiliar with what Festival Circle is, here’s how FFW describes it:

This year, we are once again offering Festival Circles, small groups that will meet at least two times during the Festival to discuss a topic of common interest. Each circle, composed of approximately 12–15 attendees and led by a Festival participant, will meet during Thursday dinner and Saturday lunch. Because the circles are scheduled to meet at the same time, it’s possible for attendees to participate in only one.

They go on to explain its purpose:

We hope that Festival Circles will give you a place to connect with other attendees, and to deepen and extend your experience of the Festival.

I want to share with you the description of the Festival Circle that I’m hosting:

Holy Grounds: The Role of Place in Your Spiritual and Literary Life
By looking at what the Bible has to say about the setting of a story, this circle will encourage participants to carefully consider the role of place in their writing, and challenge them to see how different locations affect a story’s style and content.

Facilitator: Stephanie Nikolopoulos
Bio: Stephanie Nikolopoulos (www.StephanieNikolopoulos.com) has worked in book publishing in Manhattan for ten years, is the visual arts editor for Burnside Writers Collective, and is a co-leader of the Writers Group at the Center for Faith & Work at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York; her writing has appeared in magazines, newspapers, and books across the country.

I’m genuinely passionate about the multi-faceted subject of place.  I wrote about place for my undergrad thesis at Scripps College, my Burnside Writers Collective column Church Hopping talks about the architecture of unique and beautiful places, the travelogue I wrote an introduction to obviously has a strong emphasis on place, the nonfiction book Burning Furiously Beautiful I’m co-authoring describes how the landscape and history of place affected one of America’s greatest novels, and the memoir I’m writing deals very much with place. My resume aside, I love traveling.  I moved out to California for college without ever even visiting the state first.  I’m the child of an immigrant so place has always played an important role in my identity, in my understanding of who I am and where I come from.

Place isn’t always about a physical place, though.  Place can be a mood, a mental space, a spiritual space.  Place can be about a journey, whether that means hopping a train, opening a book and getting lost in the imagination of an author, being moved to tears, learning something about yourself, understanding the world better, or opening yourself up to a new relationship.  A journey from point A to point B isn’t always a single straight line.  This is true for a traveler (even Jack Kerouac had an infamous setback when he first set off on the road), for a writer (hello, thesis draft number 452), or for a person of faith (Paul went around killing Christians before he went on the road to Damascus and saw the light; as a boy David may have killed Goliath but as an adult he committed adultery … and had the woman’s husband killed; Peter adamantly denied even knowing Christ and then became a martyr).  As the old Paula Abdul song goes, two steps forward, two steps back….

With all that in mind, know that I am on a journey too.  I simply want to walk alongside other writers and talk about the meaning of place in all areas of our lives.  If you would like to join my Festival Circle or any of the others, you can find out how to do so here.

Lit Life: Catcher in the Rye

7 Oct

 

I went to undergrad in Los Angeles County and currently live in New York City, where we have an active alumnae book club to keep in touch with one another.  The New York branch of the Scripps alumnae book club has been selecting books on the theme of New York.  For August 2011, we decided on none other than J. D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye.

Oh, remember that teenage angst?!  The desire to be a grownup even though all adults seemed like “phonies.”  The distaste for classes.  The devastating crushes!  Holden Caufield, it gets better; I promise.

I hosted the book club at my apartment.  Well, I love to plan a good theme party!  Everyone was coming straight from work, but I made an extra effort to dress the part that day with a look that was prep-school chic — navy cardigan, red shirt, pleated skirt, and polished side part.
I served rye whiskey.  Get it?  Catcher-in-the-RYE whiskey?  I also put out colorful lollipops, reminiscent of the swirl of a carousel, like the one Phoebe rides in Central Park in the novel.  It was a pot luck and everyone brought such delicious foods!

So where do the ducks go in the winter?

Tasty Tuesday: Dinner at Souvlaki GR

6 Sep

My friend Laura, from college, came to Greece with me one summer, so when she and her husband visited me this summer in New York City, I knew just the spot to take them: Souvlaki GR.  My sister and I had passed it one day while wandering the Lower East Side, and I did a double take because it was as if I had seen a mirage of a taverna on a Greek island.  With a stone floor, white-washed walls with blue shutters, and beach umbrellas inside the restaurant, it perfectly captured the laid-back vibe of Greece.  It was perfect for reminiscing about our all-too-long-ago vacation in Crete.

As it turns out, Souvlaki GR started out as a food truck before opening its Lower East Side restaurant.  Those of you who follow me on Facebook know that no matter how trendy food trucks are, I just can’t get onboard with them.  My parents didn’t raise me to eat out of trucks.  That said, I can see why Souvlaki GR would be a popular food truck.  The food and its packaging are the perfect portable meal.  Their restaurant is so cute, though, that I wish they’d stepped it up with the food and offered larger portions more suitable for a sit-down restaurant.

What do you think: should a food truck-turned restaurant keep to its winning menu or should the restaurant offer something more than the truck?

Spring Break ’11 Recap: I Got Sick

7 Apr

It’s been go, go, go for the past few months.  When spring break came around, I was so excited for the opportunity relax and have some fun.  I imagined I’d read in the Egyptian room at the Met.  I’d buy fresh veggies at the Union Square greenmarket.  I’d invite friends over for dinner.

Instead, I got sick.  I guess my body knew it could finally take a rest from the manic pace I normally put it through.

Before I got sick, though, I did have some fun.

I went with my sister and my friends Rachel and Fred to the FXB Speed-Networking for a Good Cause event at Sidebar, where I met some really cool people.  FXB, which has been around for twenty years, works to support children affected by poverty and AIDS.  They organize a lot of fun fundraising events for young professionals.

Afterward we met up with our photographer friend Annie and Carly, who was visiting from out of town.  We went to an amazing Japanese restaurant.  I seriously could not get enough of the green beans and corn.

The next day I spring cleaned my apartment. Woot!  Then my friend came over and we ate pizza and chocolate and watched Paper Heart and The Virgin Suicides (which is of course based on the book by Greek-American author Jeffrey Eugenides).

That kick-off weekend I also hopped on the bus and headed over to New Jersey, to have lunch with a friend.  I hadn’t seen her for a few months so we had one of those really good, drawn-out lunches and talked about everything.  So therapeutic.

Monday I met up with a friend and fellow Scripps alumna who works at MoMA.  We had lunch and then she gave me a tour of the Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography exhibit.  I learned so much more from what she told me than if I had been there by myself.  It was such an inspiring and monumental exhibit.

Then I went to the New York Society for Ethical Culture to hear what all the hoopla was about over Rob Bell and his new book.

By Tuesday I was sick and spent the rest of the time watching films like The Runaways on Netflix and reading Lydia DavisThe End of the Story.

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?