Emails to a Young Writer

Illustration by Machado http://machado.portfoliobox.io/bloomylightstudio

Illustration by Machado

A while back, a former high school teacher of mine reached out and asked if a student of hers could send me some questions about being a writer. I felt like a hack since I haven’t really gotten too far in my writing career yet, but said yes anyway. I pretended to know a thing or two—and thought I’d share my answers publically in case there are any young writers out there who want some advice from a slightly less young writer. (more…)

Me with Spaghetti Hair

I’ve been meaning to post this one for a while. A few months back, my friend Lia Ryerson sent this drawing of me out of the blue, and I just love it.

I’ve always, always been fascinated by illustrations and caricatures of real people—and it’s still on my half-existent NYC bucket list to get one done in Central Park one summer. In the meantime, Lia’s interpretation of my hair as spaghetti wrapped around a fork and a spoon is exactly what I needed.

This image is part of a series of “Anatomical Deviant” drawings Lia has done as an amuse bouche for her novel-in-progress, Bear Left, which is about a man named Nancy Critter who wakes up one morning to find that his two front teeth have grown overnight to reach below his chin. The drawing series includes me and my “pasghetti” hair, but also someone with a mushroom for a nose, someone with a boat for a mouth, and someone with camels for ears. Lia is an MFA creative writing student at The New School and is always up to something really cool, both in her life and in her writing. Keep an eye out!

New Year, New Banner

stephblog_400x400_v2

Credit: Brian Chin

Thanks to the talents of Madison Square Garden graphic designer and up-and-coming musician Brian Chin (who is also my good friend and former roommate), I now have a new banner for my website! He literally sent it to me yesterday, just in time for the beginning of 2017.

The new banner combines everything I love—the printed word, the handwritten word, sketches, and water color. If you look closely, you’ll see that Brian hand-drew the font and sketched not only books, but also a laptop, a spiral notebook, a coffee cup, and even a pencil. And that text in the background? Yeah it’s the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, one of my all-time favorite books.

You’ll also see a new image on the right side of this page that lets you sign up for my newsletter. As one of my goals in 2017, I’m going to start using MailChimp to update my subscribers whenever I have a new post on my site or any news to report (which means you’ll get an email maybe once a month, tops, since I’m pretty lazy). If you’re interested, please sign up for my mailing list by clicking that shiny new image! (Or just click here.)

And as is customary for a new year’s blog post, I suppose I should comment on 2016. I have a lot of friends who had the worst year of their lives. I have a lot of friends who had the best year of their lives. And I have a lot of friends who, despite their shock at what has become of the U.S. political scene, their sorrow over the loss of so many childhood heroes, and their horror at the many calamities happening around the world, still somehow managed to have a pretty good year both personally and professionally. This gives me hope that there’s always a spectrum, that a year can’t necessarily be summed up by one feeling or one event.

I was among those who had a pretty good year both personally and professionally. The biggest things, of course, involved getting back on the horse and saying “giddy up” to my writing productivity. I’m still working on sticking with good habits, but luckily I’m at the point where if I go for more than two weeks without doing any form of writing I start getting really uncomfortable and existential, and I start to berate myself. That’s healthy, right?

In summary, here is my 2016 year in review by the numbers:

  • 60 submissions to literary and mainstream magazines and contests, which resulted in:
  • 1 story told at a Moth StorySLAM
  • 9 books read (though since three were over 600 pages long, including George R.R. Martin’s A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords, total pages read = 3,240)
  • 3 years with my boyfriend David
    • 1 move to a new apartment together
      • 5 rooms / 20 walls painted
  • 1 brother engaged  🙂
  • 1 political party changed (I am now officially a registered Democrat)
  • 8 vacations / new travel destinations
    • Palo Alto, California
    • Asheville, North Carolina
    • Chicago, Illinois
    • Richmond, Virginia
    • Chicago again
    • Camping in Staatsburg, New York
    • Dublin, Ireland
    • Boston, Massachusetts
  • 1 Harry Potter-themed LARP attended
  • 150 work out sessions (roughly 3 per week)
  • Countless (decaf) coffees drank
  • Countless moments of meditation and gratitude
  • Countless dreams to work toward in the new year

Happy New Year everyone!

What’s Your Biggest Regret?

Photo Credit: aplus.com

Photo Credit: A Plus

I want to share the below video with you—a video I found extremely touching and motivating.

In New York City, A Plus asked people to write their biggest regret on a chalkboard. Some of the regrets written were the type that couldn’t be changed—regrets like not spending time with a family member before they died. However, if you watch the video, you’ll see that so many of the answers were things that each person could have the chance to pursue or change now. Regrets like “not getting my MBA,” “not saying I love you,” and “not following my artistic passions,” can be reversed if you have enough motivation.

There have been a couple of studies done on deathbed regrets, and it’s striking how many people regret things they had the power to change when they were younger. The very regrets that the presumably young and healthy people in the video wrote on the chalkboard are the same types of regrets that people at the end of their lives share.

So what does this mean?

Well, it could mean that it’s just human nature to feel that way—to feel like we haven’t done enough even when we’ve tried our best. And while that’s definitely true, I also think that contemplating our regrets periodically can show us what we really need to make time for in our hectic 21st century lives.

And that brings me to 2016. What better time to focus on reversing our regrets than the onset of a new year?

I’ll share my biggest regret thus far: I regret not taking the opportunity to study abroad for a full semester while I was in college. I may not be able to change that one entirely, but I am going to try and make damn sure my next regret won’t ever be “not pursuing my writing and creative dreams.”

What’s your biggest regret?

Ten Quotes for 2015

Credit: Walker Art Center

Credit: Walker Art Center

Hi all! I know I haven’t gotten the chance to blog here in the last few months. It’s been quite a busy and crazy time for me, which I’m sure I’ll write about at some point. In the meantime, I really wanted to keep the tradition going where I lay out some quotes I want to live by in the new year.

Just as a recap, I began my New Year’s ritual last year. At the beginning of every year now, I plan to take a look at the quotes I have collected over the previous 12 months–not only to be reminded of the words that have touched me in the last year, but to also use these words as inspiration for my life in the new year.

Here are my ten favorite quotes I came across in 2014 that will serve as inspiration for my life in 2015:

1. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

2. “What makes night within us may leave stars.” – Victor Hugo

3. “Bran thought about it. ‘Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?’
‘That is the only time a man can be brave,’ his father told him.” – George R. R. Martin (from A Game of Thrones)

4. “I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes…you’re Doing Something.” – Neil Gaiman

5. “All art is autobiographical; the pearl is the oyster’s autobiography.” – Federico Fellini

6. “I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.” – Louisa May Alcott

7. “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” – Douglas Adams

8. “You couldn’t relive your life, skipping the awful parts, without losing what made it worthwhile. You had to accept it as a whole–like the world, or the person you loved.” – Stewart O’Nan

9. “Solitude is certainly a fine thing; but there is pleasure in having someone who can answer, from time to time, that it is a fine thing.” – Jean-Louis Guez de Balzac

10. “Accept who you are. Unless you’re a serial killer.” – Ellen DeGeneres

Happy New Year!

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