02 Jun 2018

what I’ve been reading

Photo by Alex Sawyer on Unsplash

One of my more indulgent fantasies features a room filled with books. Floor to ceiling books. Books spilling out of shelves. A ladder that allows me to climb to places where I can’t reach. I secretly hold onto this fantasy, especially when life brings me more than I think I can bear. But I manage because this is what one does–bear the dark spaces knowing that they will always, invariably, lead you to light. Books have always been my companion through this journey. When I’m jubilant, I read. When I’m feeling broken, I read. The only difference, really, is the types of books I cleave to in these moments of sadness and joy. When I’m on my game I read literary fiction and heady non-fiction. When I’m pulling the covers over my face, I go for the best of the genres–thriller, horror, historical fiction, YA, etc. Sometimes, when you reside too much in your own head, it’s nice to get lost somewhere else. In someone else’s world, one so artfully created. Push me back, pull me forward, or take me somewhere I’ve never been.

I’m excited to share what I’ve been reading over the past few weeks!!!

Tigers in Red Weather by Lisa Klaussman: I’m endlessly fascinated by the 1950s and 60s and the tension women faced between ambition and societal norms. When I was young, I devoured all the books about families come undone–families with lofty bank accounts and cocktail mixers–and Klaussman’s novel does not disappoint. I got glimpses of the Wheelers in Revolutionary Road and all things Cheever while reading this story of a family coming apart at very delicate seams.

Nick and her cousin Helena grew up in the privilege of gin parties and summering as a verb in a beautiful home in Martha’s Vineyard. They’ve got their men and their dreams and after WWII, they realize that the world they so assiduously built is far from their reality. Nick’s husband Hughes is withdrawn, no longer resembling the man she married before the War. Avery, Helena’s smooth-talking Hollywood charlatan, is hungry for fame, dollars, and all the trimmings Helena’s world provides. Both women are stuck with men who are pale facsimiles of their former selves and by societal norms. Who leaves their husband, especially after having children? You stay and endure the steady march of the years that follow. One summer, their teenaged children, Ed and Daisy, find a mangled body in the Vineyard and their family embarks on a decade-long downward spiral. This book is DARK, darker than I actually anticipated, and I loved it for all its bleakness. Why? Because sometimes life isn’t as tidy as you want it to be. It’s messy, unsatisfying, heartbreaking, and I find that SO MANY people want to be anesthetized. They want their shiny, happy ending, and I get it. I do. But that doesn’t stop me from going after that which is honest and real. There’s also a psychopath thrown into the story for good measure, and you guys know how I feel about THAT.

The Widow by Fiona Barton: Don’t you hate when publishers compare one book to bestsellers, even if the plot isn’t even remotely related? Yeah, me too. Everyone and their pony compared Barton’s first thriller to Gone Girl (I hated this book so much I actually through the film saved it) and Girl On the Train, but aside from an unhinged wife married to a douchebag husband, the similarities end there. Barton’s first book opens with Jeanie, a woman married young to a controlling husband, who loses said husband during a freak accident. We soon learn of the stench on them–Jeanie’s husband was a lead suspect in the abduction and murder of two-year-old Bella, four years ago.

The story is told through alternating POVs–you hear from the lead detective on the case, the ambitious reporter, the mother of Bella, and Jeanie, the widow. Over the course of the novel, we learn more about the insular couple, what binds them, and what tears them apart over the course of the trial. The question hovers around how much the widow knew? Did she know about her husband’s pedophile tendencies? Did she know about Bella? More importantly, when did she know? The pacing was on point (the book is literally a page-turner) and the inner workings between the police and the media were fascinating and well played out–no doubt to Barton being a well-regarded journalist in the UK. My only beef is that the story went exactly where you expected it to go. There’s no twist or red herrings. Rather, it’s a slow burn to uncover who knew what and when. Aside from the ending, which was less than satisfying (I like my twist), I finished this book in under a day and it’s definitely worth renting from the library.

Being Boss by Kathleen Shannon and Emily Thompson: I’m not a snob about career books, but many of them are just SO BAD. They’re either dry and redundant or too woo for words. However, Being Boss manages to straddle pragmatism and personal velocity in a way that’s practical, inspiring, and motivating. I also purchased their CEO Day kit and in one day I got complete clarity when it came to my career and its direction. Shanon and Thompson are small business owners who also produce the wildly popular Being Boss podcast. I love the podcast because it constantly reminds you of the difference between working in your business (knee-deep in the weeds) and on your business (establishing that bad-ass vision).

You don’t need to be a creative entrepreneur to find value in the book, which takes you through practical advice on how to manage and build your brand and career. You’ll learn everything from how to combat imposter syndrome to how to build your offering (and why you’re so awesome and unique, i.e. value proposition) as well as building real, actionable goals to jettison your career. Their voices and real stories from the trenches were infectious, and they’ve also brought in quotes and insights from people at the top of their career game. You also get worksheets and checklists! I found that this book, combined with their CEO Day course, really helped me gain clarity and focus when it comes to my career. This book is absolutely worth your $$$. And yes, this book is also helpful for the guys in the house.

Articles I’ve LOVED this week:

  • I had a blast on The Hartford’s Small Business Ahead podcast where I talk about firing wack clients.
  • The double-edged sword (and reality) of remote work.
  • How your email list can do some of the heavy-lifting when it comes to sales.
  • “It’s a very slippery slope from admiration to jealousy, especially as social media has become so prominent, giving us the ability to follow anyone’s carefully curated image of success and glamour.” This piece on online jealousy and hate-reading is excellent.
  • Five ways of looking at a serial killer.
  • As a small business owner, you need to be working on your business, not in your business. Making calculated moves is the key to success and you’re not able to do that if you’re knee-deep in handling the day-to-day details. I write often for The Hartford’s Small Business Ahead blog and here’s my latest on the power of delegation.
  • “We cannot manage time, we can only manage ourselves and our workflows. Time doesn’t change, it isn’t flexible and can’t be manipulated to fit our needs.” Some real truth on time management.
  • You can’t be well-read without reading women. AMEN, people. AMEN.

 

Full Disclosure: There are Amazon affiliate links in this post, which means if you purchase any of these books, I make a little cash to pay for my site’s hosting fees. 

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  • My freelance career is nearing its best-by date. This realization didn’t come from some climactic third act. Instead, it was an acknowledgment of a simple truth: everything expires. The shiny and new loses its sheen and pallor. What once made you bolt out of bed becomes the thing you run from screaming. You tally the things you keep losing, which loom large and incalculable. You’re bombarded by seemingly motivational Instagram quotes that tell you to keep working, keep hustling, keep pushing through it. What the platitudes neglect to add is that some battles should be abandoned. Sometimes it’s okay not to play your hand and to walk away from the table. There is a difference, albeit subtle, between what’s hard and what’s Sisyphean.
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Yes, I want to go back to full-time. Yes, I have no idea how I’ll pay rent this week but I’m surprisingly calm because there are some things out of my control.
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I do have a whole slate of morning interviews for a role back east later in the week so I’m pumped about that. Check out my new medium post (link in bio).
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Image: cosmaa / Getty Images
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  • I’m honestly crying tears of gratitude. I should tell you that I’m not a cryer. Unless it’s those Sarah McLachlan animal shelter commercials and then I’m a puddle. But I’m getting really excited about how this @medium series is coming together. I’ll probably top 50K words including the downloadable resources. And I’m even more humbled that my friend @lorissas (we’ve known one another since 2002 and we’ve worked together since my book publishing days) created these gorgeous custom graphics. I really want my collection branded in the blues and to reflect my vibe as much as possible. I’m spending my own $ to license photography and illustrations.
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All because I’m really fucking tired of faux marketers who don’t know of what they teach. Or they teach what has worked for them, their blog or IG, which doesn’t necessarily translate to big brands. Then you have scammers who make it hard for the legit marketers who have to go through hoops because companies have gotten burned by incompetence.
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I also want to make use of my educational privilege. I went to an excellent private college and Ivy League graduate school. I had the privilege of working for brilliant marketers, from whom I learned everything I know. And I want to share that as much as possible. For free. This is my goal in 2019–create and share tons of pedagogical content. For free.
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I’m so excited!!!!! Shout out to @omgstephlol for believing in my vision and putting up with my craziness.
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#fuckfauxmarketers #makinguseofmyprivilege, #brandstrategy #marketing #marketingtips #strategy #thehustle #freelance
  • THIS WEEK. Well, let’s see... I wrote a total of 32K words, accepted an offer to be one of a few operating owners of a funded content start-up (no $ now but I think this will blow up), I had another interview with an agency in Philly and we talked money, balance, neuroscience and I like their vibe. I’m not moving cross country just yet so let’s all take a pause. I finished a good book, started another. Got my mammogram results back—no cancer! I got angry with my health insurance company like the rest of America. Part of me hopes I can get a full-time job so I can enjoy a consistent paycheck for a hot second. Celebrated a month off the sauce (let’s not get telenovela about this). I cleaned my house and burst into tears talking to my bankruptcy attorney because apparently no one cares that you’ve been making on-time payments for over a year and you’re going through a rough patch. It stormed and I loved it and prayed for more rain. It’s sunny now. I have a first line for a new chapter but I can’t write because all I’m thinking about is work and how I’ll make rent. But here it is: “Love in their home had become its own form of violence.”
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I met up with @bhatmon who always makes me smile and if I move back east she’ll be the one true thing I’ll miss. I listened to podcasts, read science articles, and wished that I could get a neuroscience degree but a kind reader pointed me in the direction of MIT’s free classes so I’m jazzed. I emailed a rescue service and filled out an adoption application but no one ever wrote my back so that made me sad.
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I have no idea how I’ll at for anything but I can’t freak out over that which I can’t control and like that. And love is kind of violent if you really get to thinking about it.
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I’m annoyed that I’ve lived get for over three years and I haven’t seen nearly enough. And on it goes.
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#weekendvibes #weeklyrecap #realtalk #instayum #thehustle #amwriting but am I?
  • Love can sometimes create its own form of emotional violence.
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I used to rummage through photos as a means of being cruel to myself. You used to be thin! You used to be slightly fashionable! You used to be disciplined! And as the edges softened, as your wont to do as you get older and let a lot of the hardness within you go, it occurred to me that the things I used to want and love were violent. I was ruthless to my body to get it to a certain shape instead of eating to sustain myself and moving to feel. I went at everything so hard! Then I worked all hours of the day and night until it made me literally sick. My hardness, my love and desire to look and be a certain way, was hurting me.
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Now. I’ve softened in all senses of the word. I’m calmer. I have a different (and healthier) view of my body and what it means to be beautiful, and I have strong boundaries that guard against the people with whom I work and the projects I’ve taken on. I’ve fired abusive clients. I make clear when and how I work. And I put me first. I have a lot of writing to do to make $ to pay rent this month but I rested yesterday because I need it. I didn’t realize how tiring writing could be when you’re doing it for 10-12 hours a day. Sometimes you need rest.
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Now, I look for pictures like this when I’m happy. When I’m laughing as feeling joyful and hopeful. Because I’m trying to be kinder to myself.
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#tuesdaymotivation #bekind #beingboss #boss #thehustle #amwriting
  • Writing exhausts you. So much so that, come evening, all you can do is stare blankly at a television screen. You can’t read because you can’t bear to see another word.
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I’ve been on a heater, writing for 10-12 hours for the past two days. I wake at four and start working at 4:30. It’s my best time. I’ve finished 3 of my 9 medium pieces and believe me when I say that teaching something, especially solely in written form, is a lot harder than I anticipated. But it’s work that gives me pride. Plus it’s a little money that goes towards paying my bills.
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Tomorrow is a call for a freelance strategy gig with a philly healthcare agency, more work, and possibly a delivery of fried chicken. Here’s hoping.
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#thehustle #amwriting #f52grams #clementinedaily #beingboss #thefreelancelife #freelancewriter #faceplant
  • #tbt of me sweating my ass off in S. Africa, wrinkles et all.
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In the midst of me having a two-day long rage blackout over my garbage $600/month healthcare that won’t even cover my MRI, I learned two exciting pieces of news.
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The medium series is a GO, you guys! I’m shaking with excitement because faux-marketer scam artists and their wack courses are a pandemic. They don’t have experience in what they’re selling. They haven’t achieved for others what they’re selling beyond their own channels. And they don’t actually understand what they’re selling. I can’t tell you how many lead magnets and PDFs I’ve downloaded and webinars I barely lived through where people didn’t even understand the basic principles of brand platform development. They got the terminology wrong. They got the process wrong. Data was non-existent. I was APPALLED at the AUDACITY of these dumb chumps. So I decided to create a FREE mini course that takes you through the full brand platform process. I’m publishing one overview (9K words), and 8 follow ups that flesh out the overview. You’ll get information in layman’s terms, complete with exercises and real-world examples. I’ll also be sharing a link when all of this is up where you can view all articles FOR FREE, bypassing the paywall. I’ll keep you posted on my progress. I didn’t realize how hard this would be, creating lessons that were instructive and easy to understand. I’m setting aside time to finish this while I do client work that pays the bills. I am happy medium is paying me, which is pretty awesome.
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This is the first in a series.
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The OTHER news is that I was offered operating ownership (not equity) in a content start-up that I truly believe will blow up like nitro, to quote Biggie. I love the company. I’d be working with hella smart people and my work would be advising on the brand, marketing and editorial. The offer took me by surprise and I was humbled and honored. While there’s no $ up front, the ownership really piques my interest. I can’t give any more details than that, but this is pretty cool.
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Now I will lie down. .
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#selfie #bignews #bignewscomingsoon #amwriting
  • Get ready for the magic, people. I’ll be back to sharing food posts in 2019!!! I just came back from an awesome party and I’m inspired and filled with so much energy.
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I’m planning a monster tutorial series (with graphics) on marketing strategy, brand development, and audience segmentation and I’m publishing this FREE on @medium. Don’t buy courses from scam artists who’ve never worked on real brands. I’ve got 20 years and I know what I’m talking about. I’m also considering in-person trainings at the corporate or individual level (not free). I don’t want to do courses as I teach best in front of people.
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I’m going to finish this book. I’m going to try to leave my house and network a little more with people I dig. And I’m trying to get to the East coast before March to see my peeps.
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And I’m going to fight for financial stability and be kind to myself!!
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Let’s do this!!! Tell me what you’re doing. And hey, if it’s surviving know that is an achievement in and of itself.
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#bigenergy #bigmagic #tuesdaymotivation #newyear #instayum #cannoli #bigplans #realshit #letsdothis
  • Instead I wrote SIXTY pieces, of which I’m so proud. I wrote over 200K words, which is like 3 books considering my last novel clicked in at 70K words. I feel good having written my way through some of my most darkest moments. Haven’t read my stuff? That’s sad for you, my friend. Resolve that by hitting the link in my profile. Also, big love to @omgstephlol. .
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#amwriting #weekendvibes #authorsofinstagram #medium #icantgoonillgoon #beckettquoteibviously

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