15 Apr 2019

what I’m reading right now (this list is epic)


I’ve been on a tear lately, and I can’t wait to tell you all about the amazing books I’ve read. I’ve made it my mission to mix it up this year–books in translation, non-fiction, new voices–the lot–and to say I’ve found some gems would be an understatement. Let’s get into it, shall we?

Imagine your husband leaves you for no reason at all other than you are someone to be left. In Yuko Tsushima’s spare, bleak, and remarkable novel, Territory of Light, a young mother grapples with abandonment and comes undone over the course of a year. She moves with her small daughter into a cheap apartment in Tokyo and as she realizes she has few friends, no loves, and a frightened and confused child, she slowly becomes untethered and unhinged. Everyone with a pulse is a potential lifeline, a thing to which she could barnacle herself.

She drinks, she drifts, she lashes out at her daughter and tries to find some semblance of normalcy. And when she tries to divorce her husband, the patriarchy swoon in to remind her that a divorced woman is an untouchable, cold product. Better to remain married and take what scraps she can get.

Granted, this is far from a happy book but it’s a beautiful one. I’ve read so many fast-paced thrillers and corporate business books that it felt good to just settle into a story that had no plot–where the wandering, the coming undone is the story.

Over the course of a few months, Nora McInerny loses her father, her unborn child, and her husband to brain cancer. I know loss all too well, but I can never imagine so many lives lost in succession. But Nora has a young son to take care of, a legacy to tend to and a life to assemble back together.

A few months after her husband dies, she meets someone who reminds her of what it feels like to laugh and love. Their families combine like some sort of mythical Brady Bunch and all is well but is it because Nora still loves her dead husband and should she love someone so quickly? Is she trashing what she had with her husband or diminishing it? She examines old and new loves and loss in No Happy Endings.

I love the way Nora McInerny navigates the terrain of loss, shame, performative culture, and being a hot mess trying to wade her way to normal. This memoir was funny, poignant, smart, and beautifully written. It’s the salve you need to remind you that there is life after devastating loss.

I have loved Amy Hempel’s minimalist writing for over fifteen years. Even now I remember the opening line from one of my favorite stories of all time, “The Harvest”: The year I began to say vahz instead of vase, a man I barely knew nearly accidentally killed me. Everyone can fawn over Raymond Carver and the Gordon Lish school, but I think Amy Hempel is the star of the lot. She has a way of being economic, almost surgical, with language. Wielding words like a scalpel, pressure-cooking stories to the point of combustion, and her latest collection, Sing to It, is extraordinary. “A Full-Service Shelter” is a searing critique about how we discard our animals told through a woman intent on loving them down to the bone–even when they’re on the verge of death.

In “Cloudland,” a woman lives an adrift existence, forever wondering about the daughter she gave up for adoption when she was 18 and shuttled away to a home in Maine with other unwed, pregnant young mothers. The story is a classic Amy Hempel story as it centers on the disconnection between mothers and daughters and the tremendous want they can’t communicate. Towards the end of the story, she learns that the home she temporarily lived in, the people to whom she entrusted her just-born child, was killing children who weren’t adopted. While this minor detail is certainly chilling, the story has a water-like, ethereal quality to it. If you love beautiful writing, you will love Amy Hempel.

I have no shame in saying that I’ve read all of Fiona Barton’s books and they are AMAZING. The players weave in and out of unsolved cases–mainly a police detective and a sharp journalist, Kate Waters, who’s always after the breaking story.

In The Child, the remains of a baby are discovered, decades later, in an abandoned construction site. Could they be of the baby who was kidnapped from a couple who still mourns the loss of their child stolen from them after the mother just gave birth? Could it be the baby a teenager buried after having been raped by the man dating her mother?

Barton is masterful at pacing and weaving disparate narratives. And the payoff is always satisfying. While I loved The Child least of her trilogy, it was still completely worth the read.

If you love thrillers, get involved with Fiona Barton.


OMG. Why wasn’t my book published in 2019 where everyone wants to read about the woman serial killer? I don’t believe in psychics (I’m a New Yorker, after all), but one told me that the timing of my second book wasn’t fortuitous. It’s “not ready,” the psychic said and was she right.

My Lovely Wife is possibly one of the finest books I’ve read this year apart from The Water Cure. It centers on the story of a suburban married couple who have maybe fallen into a state of complacent domesticity. What started as an accidental murder turns into a full-on addiction. During the day, the couple parents their two children while at night they plot their latest victim in excruciating detail. Their “date nights” are whispered conversations in the garage about their next victim…until the wife decides to up the stakes and re-creates the murders of an infamous local serial killer who’s never been caught.

However, best-laid plans fall apart as their wont to do, and you’re suddenly wondering who is the true psychopath in the family? Who is unhinged, who is truly evil, and is there a space one could occupy between the two? You will NOT expect in this smart thriller. I loved, loved, loved this book!


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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
#freelancewriter #freelancetips #freelancer #risingtidesociety #beingboss #sharetheknowledge #brandstrategist #marketingtips #marketingstrategy #bosslady
  • 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.
#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.
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.
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.
Here’s to an excellent start to the week!
#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.
#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.
#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.
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.
It feels good to know your stuff but still have the hunger and drive as a student!
#brandstrategy #marketing #brand #freelancer #nofauxmarketer #therealdeal #beingboss

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