13 Oct 2018

what I’ve been reading lately

Disaster Preparedness by Heather Havrilesky: I just finished this wry, sharp, and smart memoir and YOU HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK. Whether you’re a kid of the 70s/80s aching for a deluge of cultural nostalgia or you want to feel connected to someone else who navigates the world without a first aid kit, you will find a story in Havrilesky’s book that will shift the ground beneath your feet. If you thought we were living in end times now (I certainly do), you will remember a time of alien invasions, plummeting airplanes, shuttle disasters, satanic cult rituals, and earthquakes that threatened to swallow us whole. Many of us Gen-Xers were reared in the wake of Boomer anxieties and paranoia and Havrilesky was no exception. What started as a childhood plan–her siblings decided to create their own elaborate escape and survival plans–grew into the blueprint for how they navigated the real earthquakes of their lives: parental discord and divorce, death, sadistic schoolteachers, men frightened of commitment, mothering a screaming two-year-old, and cheerleaders.

Havrilesky’s observations about life are acerbic and funny and always honest. She lays herself out to bear and I cleave to memoirs where the narrators aren’t afraid to parade out their imperfections. I found myself at turns laughing out loud and connecting to the minor and major hurts that shaped her life.

Transit by Rachel Cusk: It’s hard to describe Rachel Cusk’s marriage/divorce trilogy because on paper they’re about one thing (in this second installment, Faye’s unmoored feelings about her divorce as she relocates her two sons to a ramshackle home in London to start over), but then they’re about many other things–gentrification, rejection, acute loneliness, change, abandonment–all told through the lens of Faye’s interactions with other characters in the book. Akin to Outline, we’re eavesdropping on the interactions Cusk deliberately chooses to share and Faye serves as a conduit to understanding all the things going on in her life that she perhaps can’t explain. Or doesn’t know.

For me, the second part of her trilogy was about the importance and impermanence of connection. Relationships–familial, friends, neighbors, colleagues, strangers and lovers–are core to the story and central to Faye and how she navigates her life post-divorce.

You could say that this is a story about a woman rebuilding her life.

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson: I purchased this book a couple years ago and it sat on my bookshelf, half-read, ignored. However, over the past few months, I’ve been vigilant about keeping only what is useful, beloved, and functional in my home. So, I pulled out all the unread books and went to work. And I’m glad I did. Jansson’s tender novel, composed of 22 elegant vignettes, tells the story of a grandmother and her six-year-old granddaughter Sophie spending a summer on a small island off the Gulf of Finland, complete with ravaging storms, foreign interlopers, feral cats, and local bugs. The story takes place in the early 1970s after the granddaughter’s mother dies, leaving the remaining women of the house to meditate on love, death, God, and all of nature’s magic in between. The grandmother is acerbic and complacent. Sophie is curious, volatile, and passionate. They spar, squabble, and embark on adventures (from breaking into the house of a wealthy foreigner who has built what they consider a home that’s an obscene spectacle of wealth to weathering one of the island’s most ferocious storms). Their affection for one another is whole and complete, and while there isn’t a grand plot at play, you will come away with feeling that perhaps there’s still some magic left in the world–even if we’re forced to see it through the lens of a child.

Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran: This book couldn’t be more relevant to the nightmare that is our socio-political climate. In this devastating story, you’ll see the lengths that two women will go to in pursuit of the love and mothering of a small boy. Soli is a nineteen-year-old undocumented Mexican immigrant who leaves her small village on the outskirts of Oaxaca for the promise of the California landscape. After a harrowing journey across the border, she takes refuge with her cousin in Berkeley where she spends her days cleaning the homes of the monied and privileged. When she learns she’s pregnant, she keeps the child–much to the chagrin of her cousin–and you see Soli’s unwavering and intense devotion to her son. Soli’s story is juxtaposed with Kavya, an upper-middle-class Indian woman who is distraught over her inability to bear a child. Her desire is a constant, compounded by tradition, a demanding mother, and a frenemy best friend who seems to have it all. The two worlds converge when Soli is placed in immigrant detention, on the verge of deportation and her son, an American citizen, is handed over to foster care. Kavya has the son she’s always wanted and Soli aches his return and will stop at nothing to reunite with her son.

I’m not a mother and I’ve no intentions to have a child. I say this because I was surprised how parts of the novel made me feel…uncomfortable. Perhaps it’s because the concept of unconditional love and fierce familial attachment are foreign to me. Obviously, I could empathize with both women but sometimes they bordered on the verge of …annoying. I had to take a step back and realize that Soli is barely an adult and her ambition to make a new life for herself clashes with the reality of the perception of Mexicans, which is pronounced by how she’s treated by the wealthy Berkeley moms and most profoundly by law enforcement. Stereotypes abound. I also had to take a step back and understand that when someone is blocked from their one true want, their decisions and behavior isn’t always rational.

I say all of this because fiction should challenge you. It should wrench you out of your comfort zone. The best books are transformative, and while I sometimes wanted to punch both of the women, I had to ask myself WHY I was feeling this discomfort. And I felt better for having questioned my norms and values after having read this astonishing book.

 

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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