30 Sep 2018

what I’ve been reading lately

VOX by Christina Dalcher: Imagine a world, a life, where you’ve been allotted 100 words a day. For context, humans average around 16,000 a day. A Fitbit-like tracker is affixed to your wrist and should you go over 100 words, you’re shocked. Surveillance cameras monitor for non-verbal communication. The voltage increases with every additional word. Imagine a 2.0 tracker that awards you “double damage” for cursing. In the 1980s, Margaret Atwood wrote a remarkable, possibly prescient book about the vision of far-right conservatives coming to pass–The Handmaids Tale. Christina Dalcher’s Vox is a worthy addition to the canon outlining our worst nightmare (or at least mine): a world dominated by the Christian right where women’s voices and rights–regardless of age–have been straight-jacketed.

Women don’t work, read, or write. Instead, they manage the home, keep up on their Stepford-like beauty routines, wear “Pure” pins declaring their support of the regime, and lay silently beneath their husbands during sex. Six-year-old girls compete for prizes on who can say the fewest words over the course of the day. And this society presses on until the president’s brother experiences a mysterious accident and Dr. Jean McClellan, a cognitive linguist specializing in Wernicke’s is given a reprieve to develop a cure. However, she soon learns the reality is far more insidious and horrifying than she could imagine, and she’ll do anything to save herself and her young daughter. I devoured this book in a matter of hours. The pacing is fantastic, the characters nuanced and complicated, and the ending is wholly satisfying. Check out this excellent WaPo review.

The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish: My friend Jenna posted on Instagram that she was giving away books and I quickly snatched up Haddish’s HILARIOUS memoir and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I am SO GLAD I did. In a collection of essays that range from her rough upbringing in L.A.’s South Central, including a mother who suffered from psychotic schizophrenia after a car accident, a father who maybe confessed to causing the accident, and a grandmother who tossed her out when she was 18 to her rise in comedy–and all the crazy jobs, relationships (including an abusive marriage) and bullshit misogyny she had to endure along the way.

Haddish has such a unique and arcane ability to find humor and light even in the darkest of places. I loved her voice (you can tell she wrote this, not some wack ghostwriter) and the fact that she lays her flaws out to bear because, like all of us, she’s a work-in-progress. If you’re looking for a great laugh and a lot of hope, definitely check out Haddish’s memoir. As the kids say, I STAN.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gaily Honeyman: Another gem of a find, Honeyman’s debut ranks as one of my top five favorite novels of the year and I have read A LOT of books (I’m up to 65, I think). Before I get into the plot, I was genuinely confused by the slew of reviews that called this book funny and breezy–including the jacket blurb from Reese Witherspoon. Maybe I’m getting soft at 42, but this book was not breezy.

While Eleanor Oliphant’s voice is wry, caustic, and funny–it’s mostly based on our perception of it. It’s sort of like someone who has Aspberger’s where there’s a disconnect between perceived and actual social behavior. They don’t know they’re being construed as socially awkward. While Oliphant hasn’t been diagnosed, per se, a history of severe abuse at the hands of a narcissistic sociopathic mother and being reared by the state as a result, combined with a reclusive life where her social interactions are limited to awkward work encounters and buying bottles of vodka from her Tesco cashier so she can binge-drink alone on the weekends, Eleanor isn’t like everyone else.

In a sense, Eleanor is uncomfortably comfortable, self-medicating her way through a lonely, isolated life until she meets Raymond, the bumbling unhygienic IT guy. After a random accident, the two–much to Eleanor’s chagrin–are thrust together, and soon she realizes that she’s worthy of love and a good life if she lets people in. I felt Eleanor’s loneliness so acutely, so painfully, and the journey from her very controlled world to one of freedom and self-actualization is a remarkable one. While I don’t consider this book funny by any stretch of the imagination, it’s incredibly hopeful.

The Banker’s Wife by Cristina Alger: My reading preferences have completely changed over the past three years. I used to love reading experimental fiction–now I can’t stand it. I hardly read thrillers and now I can’t get enough of them. And The Banker’s Wife was totally satisfying. Remember The Firm? Well, switch out lawyers for international financiers and you have a story of a powerful bank that has some shady dealings (think terrorists, bad guys, CEOs, etc.) and will stop at nothing to eliminate leaks and informers.

You have the dueling narratives of two women out of sorts–Annabelle Werner, ex-pat in Geneva, who’s just learned that her husband has died in a fatal plane crash in the Alps and Marina Tourneau, a former investigative journalist who’s marrying into one of New York’s elite political families. She’s giving up her taste for hot stories until her boss ends up dead, she receives a flash drive with some pretty incriminating information. Annabelle doesn’t buy the plane crash and starts digging. Marina is also on her own excavation and the two narratives weave their way to the truth. The book goes the way you’d expect with a few surprising moments, but it was still a terrific, fast read. I’ve also become oddly obsessed with Nordic countries and Switzerland so I loved diving into a world so far removed from the U.S.

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward: My god, this book was like holding black diamonds in your hand. Every word, scene, and image was pure magic and something of beauty. I’m in awe of how Jesmyn Ward invites you so intimately into the worlds she creates and you feel so connected to them even if their life is completely foreign to you. Her 2012 novel is a Katrina story, and we meet a close-knit family, who, over the course of a week, unravels in the wake of the coming storm. Fourteen-year-old Esch is pregnant and keeping it a secret, Skeetah is fighting to keep his prized pitbull and her puppies alive even at the risk of his own life, and Randall and Junior are trying to find where they fit in a home that is short on parenting and money but rich in love and the bonds that tie a family.

I read somewhere once that fiction has the ability to be the ultimate truth-teller. Imagine the irony in that–you can understand the depths of something so acutely, so intimately in a way that the news fails you. In the wake of the recent hurricanes, much has been written about why families stay behind, why they don’t evacuate their homes and it wasn’t until I read Ward’s book that I truly felt it in a way that was more powerful than logically understanding it. I loved Ward’s memoir, Men We Reaped, but this novel is my favorite.

Full Disclosure: I have included Amazon affiliate links, which means I make like $1/month when you buy one of these books. 

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  • As you guys know, I am BIG on education. My goal for this year is to share as much education and free resources on freelancing, marketing, and writing as possible. I'm even switching email list providers (moving to ConvertKit) so I can send you better emails related to what you're interested in. Don't care about the brand stuff, but want to know more about writing? I GOT YOU. When I sell resources, I want them to be relatively affordable. So, I'm starting small with a MONSTER guide on freelancing. I originally thought this was going to be 100 pages. Well, it's 150+ pages with 40% of NEW content I'm writing RIGHT NOW. Templates, how-tos, personal stories, resources, and everything you need to know about getting started, getting clients, onboarding them, managing them, and dealing with them when they drive you bonkers. .

You know me. I write long, comprehensive how-tos in ENGLISH, not jargon. .

So if you want to get started with freelancing (or are considering it), you're going to want to get this guide so you can avoid all the mistakes I made, get all the resources you need without spending $$$ and hours on the internet searching for competency. I'm selling this guide for $49. Pre-order link is in my bio. I'll be sending this out on 5/1, and then creating a fun course around it so the price will inch up a bit. .

And don't worry--I have guides in the works for people who want to write, market, and SO MUCH MORE. I'm on a tear, my friends. Pre-order #education2019tour
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  • In this era of competitiveness and self-serving "entrepreneurs," it's rare to come across a peer who is generous with their work and their heart. Rarely am I moved by people, but today I was on the receiving end of an act of kindness that I had to share. 
I contacted a peer in the marketing space, a woman whom I revere and admire. She's young, smart, passionate, hardworking, and knows more about marketing than most people I've encountered in my two-decade-long career. 
I wrote her wondering if she was selling educational materials she created a few years ago-- an education that helped me refine my acumen. She replied and sent me the materials FOR FREE. 
I gasped. 
Who does this? Who extends their work and kindness so generously? I came away inspired. Inspired to share my knowledge--as much as I can--for free.

So many people paint consultants, marketers, educators and course providers with a broad brush. Yes, there are hoards of incompetent hustlers. People who don't do what they teach. But there are those who are bright lights. And today I was reminded of that. 
There are good people out there and I can still be surprised by kindness.
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#freelance #freelancelife #risingtidesociety #karma #beastudent #beingboss
  • With the exception of the cruelty that is tax day, I’m toasting some professional wins. I’m creating a comprehensive ebook on freelancing—the ultimate guide before I go the course route. Hit the link in my bio to subscribe to my email list to get all the details! I’m excited about this one because I’m rocking the baby steps before marathon approach.
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Inspired by one of my professional heroes, @byreginatv, I removed 2,000 people from my email list and it felt glorious. Don't be tethered to a vanity metric. If people aren't connecting with you, the numbers are meaningless. I'd rather have a smaller, engaged audience of people who are into my vibe and work than the ability to shout out a high subscriber count. #foodforproverbialthought.
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I’ve got new book recommendations up on my personal blog: http://www.feliciacsullivan.com if you want to devour some excellent reads.

Finally, aided by a new friend, I’m going to my first Quilt chat this week. The Wing isn’t my vibe and it’s can’t rationalize spending the money and Quilt is my scene. I’ll likely be chatting about this in my newsletter as I’m FINALLY in a place where I can network in a non-smarmy setting.
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Here’s to an excellent start to the week!
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#freelance #freelancelife #crushingit #bosslady #goaldigger #fuckhustleculture #beingboss
  • This year is shaping up to be my best yet, and I’m happy to have made it out of the dark country. I’m writing work that means so much to me. I’m reading 2 books a week. I’m tackling challenging, but thrilling projects. I’m collaborating with brilliant, beautiful friends. And I’m calm, centered, and focused. It too a long while and a breakdown to get here, but I’m grateful for my small patchwork of a family who always checked in, hired me when I desperately needed it, and didn’t flee when things got tough. Sometimes you need to feel the weight of your sadness to unburden yourself of it. Here’s to yummy lunches and the best year yet!
  • Over the past two years, I’ve been toying with teaching. I’ve taught marketing to creatives at USC. I’ve taught creative writing in New York. I’ve mentored employees and friends. I love learning and sharing what I’ve learned, and forpeople I know and love I often do it for free. 
So, what’s stopped me? Honestly, the machine that’s become the online course industry irritates me. Webinars that waste time. Who wants to watch a 45-minute infomercial? Not me. Or how about the fake fan love and Instagram platforms that are transparently transactional? Courses that are a million dollars, taught by people who haven’t done the thing they’reteaching beyond their own privileged platform. And did I mention that everyone looks the same? The super stars are white, well educated, and bragging about their seven-figure incomes. 
I mean, COME ON. 
Listen. I’m half-white, privileged as fuck, well educated, but I definitely don’t make seven figures. And I’m frustrated. I’m frustrated with freelancers who call themselves brand strategists (aka, predators posing as house pets) making bank, yet they lack the experience, education, and discipline. But I’ve learned that complaining does nothing if you’re not creating, if you’re not putting out the thing you want to see in the world. I spent two months creating an 8-step tutorial on how to build a brand platform because I was tired of people not having access to education and opportunity because they couldn’t drop $1,500 on a brand-building course.

Then I thought about how I need to stop complaining about the shady machine that is the online course space and put out the education I want to see in the world, made accessible to people who don’t look like me or have the fancy-pants Ivy League degrees I have (which have driven me to paralyzing debt, but that’s a whole other bag of sad tricks). I’m planning two courses: one on getting into the freelancing game and another on building your brand and finding your customer. Interested? Sign up for my email list (link in bio), where I’ll keep everyone posted.
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#freelance #beingboss #freelancing #risingtidesociety #brandstrategy #lifeisgrand
  • It may only be 5:48am, but I woke to amazing news. I’m toasting with coffee and a scone this morning. I’m partnering with brilliant friends and marketers (eh-hem, @luciaioevans) on incredible projects, my pipeline is healthy, my mental health is aces since I got off all personal social media. Granted, I won’t be able to see humans for the next two months as I’m locked down with some major projects, but I am not complaining. I’m ELATED. It’s all happening!!!! Yay! Finally!!!
  • You guys. I’m having an incredible fucking year. I’ve published tutorials, thought leadership and essays I’m proud of, I’m working with incredible clients who are breaking ranks, I’m partnering with brilliant people on projects, my pipeline is healthy, my mental health is getting back on track, and I’m reorganizing my business so I can run it more efficiently. Sometimes you have to applaud the wins, especially when they’ve been earned.
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#fuckhustle #worksmarter #brandstrategist #freelancer #crushingit
  • What a day! Ive been floored and humbled by the tens of THOUSANDS who viewed my 8-part brand building series on medium (link in bio)! I’ve heard from four university professors who want to incorporate my work as assigned reading, the people who were grateful not to have to spend $2K on some wack course taught by an “expert” whose only success example is their personal brand.
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Today, I had a day of interviews that culminated in a presentation to the executive team. After it ended, several people asked if I’d considered teaching because I just delivered a master class on brand strategy.
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It feels good to know your stuff but still have the hunger and drive as a student!
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#brandstrategy #marketing #brand #freelancer #nofauxmarketer #therealdeal #beingboss

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