6:15 pm - Fri, Jul 25, 2014
2 notes

Friday Writing Inspiration: The Ideas Keep Coming

Friday Writing Inspiration: The Ideas Keep Coming

Normally, I’d take this lovely writing Friday to share an inspiring quote or writing tip, but today, after reading a conversation among writers about doubt, and asking myself how exactly I do overcome the doubt during the inevitable writer low-points, I realized something:

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, but really in earnest since just after college. That’s going on 8 years. And…

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3:00 pm - Fri, Jun 27, 2014

Friday Writing Inspiration: Famous Writers on the Importance of Reading

Friday Writing Inspiration: Famous Writers on the Importance of Reading

There is nothing in the world I enjoy so much as reading. Even the highest moments of writing pale in comparison to being lost in a truly good book. But reading isn’t just a way to pass the time. As a writer, it’s absolutely essential. Read extensively, read diversely, and it’s like a free MFA program (MFAers might disagree with me, but it’s what I tell myself, anyway). Personally, I also think…

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5:24 pm - Thu, Jun 26, 2014

This idea will not be your last

This idea will not be your last

Writing Gif

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted (hi readers!), and a lot has changed in the past few months. Let’s start with the fact that I quit my job, and I’m now doing this writing thing full-time! (See above GIF.)

A lot of things have happened since I kissed the corporate world goodbye. I’ve gone to Hawaii, rocked out with two of my favorites at Coachella, and taken an amazing two-week trip to New…

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10:48 am - Tue, Mar 4, 2014
3 notes

xhelovesmenotx:

Leonardo DiCaprio should win an oscar for the best self control

2:38 pm - Mon, Feb 3, 2014
5,736 notes

whimsebox:

Gorgeous beaded necklaces created by Irregular Expressions

Need this NOW.

12:43 pm - Sun, Feb 2, 2014
8 notes
The Problem with Fast Writing, Fast Fashion and Fast Feminism (Or … Why Sites Like Jezebel and XOJane Often Do More Harm Than Good)

Fair warning: I’ve been a bit obsessive about the recent “skinny white girl” yoga post in XO Jane and the myriad amazing responses to it. I see no need to add too much here apart from to point readers to some thoughtful pieces in Flavorwireand Brooklyn Magazine about how “good intentions” and “honest writing,” citing the recent XOJane article and Jezebel’s picking apart of Lena Dunham’s unretouched photos, are not necessarily ingredients for good journalism. At least not the only ingredients.
I think one of the reasons I’ve come to find sites like Jezebel and XOJane so frustrating is because I do admire their good intentions–at least sometimes. I want writing–even pop culture writing–that is smart and feminist-slanting, tells me I should embrace my body, explores race relations in the U.S., and especially among women. And yet, the quickness of the writing, the near lack of editing, the click-baiting and living for pageviews, have all created spaces where a lot of anti-feminist stuff gets shared for the world to see. The managing editor of XOJane claims, in a pseudo-apology, “I don’t give a f**k about … pageviews” (a little hard to believe) but “the one thing that I give a huge f**k about is race, and the conversations surrounding race.” While I’m sure that’s true, and certainly the article did get people talking, we can’t get away from the fact that when a major publication posts something (unless they properly contextualize it or print something as an excerpt), they are in some way condoning it.
And worse, we are being distracted by it. Feminist women are spending time ranting and raving (myself included) about one person’s obvious self-absorption and tone-deaf writing. And we aren’t talking about things that really matter to women. And neither are these publications writing about them (and if they are, they aren’t getting traction). Because these issues take more research, more time, and are more difficult to stomach–they may also be unpleasant to read and to write.
One such issue for me is fashion and the sweatshops these clothes are made in. I typed “Bangladesh” into Jezebel. Certainly last year’s garment factory collapse in Bangladesh is a feminist issue? According to a report by the National Library of Australia, of the industry’s 3.6 million workers, 2.8 million are women. So if we assume the 1,127 who died in the collapse is a representative sample, that’s 868 WOMEN. There are other issues here, too. According to the report, “Women workers face physical abuse and sexual harassment inside as well as outside the factories, but management does not ensure the security of women workers.” You know what a great piece of honest journalism would be? A U.S. woman reconciling her shopping habits and her self-proclaimed feminism, given that Gap and H&M were among the brands working with this factory.
But you won’t find that kind of story on Jezebel. You will find a human interest piece about two women who work in the industry, as well as a news piece or two. You’ll also find a woefully out-of-touch headline: “You Might Have to Pay More at H&M So Workers Can Get Better Wages.” As well as this gem: “Hallelujah: Americans Will Finally Be Able to Shop at H&M Online,” published just TWO MONTHS after the factory collapse, which includes this super-dismissive last paragraph (dang it! the editor made me tone down my earnest praise of H&M–a bunch of women did die two months ago, I guess):
“It should be noted that while there’s been a lot of scrutiny of fast fashion’s problems, H&M is one of the retailers that signed the Bangladesh Factory Safety Deal. The company also has a conscious collection, which attempts to sell sustainable clothing. And since sometimes, in Manhattan, the wait for the fitting room at H&M can be ridiculous, this online shopping stuff is pretty exciting. I’m already on the site, hitting refresh.”

Two things: Signing a pledge is just that. Signing a pledge. Check out this piece for details on what H&M is actually doing (note that they aren’t pushing for higher wages in their other 750 factories until 2018). Oh, and just because you make something with organic cotton (that’s all a sustainable collection means) doesn’t mean you treat workers any better. To be fair, Jezebel did publish this piece, the closest I could find to any kind of call to action. It is better than the rest, but again, it could go so much further. It encourages us to put the pressure on Walmart, a store that I’m willing to bet many of Jezebel’s liberal readers don’t shop at anyway. To Jezebel, at least, signing a pledge in what some could see as mainly a PR move, is enough.
XOJane fares a little bit better with this piece, which actually uses the words “garment workers are dying.” But the problem here is again of distraction. The piece was tweeted 47 times and received 500 comments. The yoga piece? Tweeted nearly 1500 times, Stumbled 54 times and received 3315 comments. (And the managing editor says she doesn’t care about pageviews.) These kind of unedited knee-jerk pieces are not only adding noise but distracting from the worthwhile journalism that’s actually out there.
Side note: I want to make clear that I am not trying to shame anyone. I’ve shopped at these stores, too, and I have enjoyed the thrill of a cheap t-shirt. But just like I try to think about where meat comes from and avoid animal cruelty by paying a few extra bucks, I also try to think of where my clothes come from and avoid human cruelty. It costs a little more, but it is worth it. I am not perfect all the time, by any means, but I try.
All of this leads me to my final point (and if you’re still with me, bravo). Writing, journalism and otherwise, has simply gotten too fast. As a novelist and journalist, believe me that I know it is hard. And any writer has a box or a hard-drive full of pieces that are overly earnest and too self-involved and almost as cringe-worthy as Jen Polachek’s yoga piece. See my post on the bad writing party. I guess what I’m saying is: I yearn for a time where those pieces weren’t splashed around the Internet with a major name behind them. For an investment in the several rounds of edits it takes to make a good book or story. I have no doubt that with a good, dedicated editor (who doesn’t think everything honest is inherently publishable), Polachek could have delivered a much less nauseating piece and possibly even learned a few things about herself.
And I want to commend the people: novelists, journalists, playwrights, songwriters–whoever–who are still practicing the art of “slow writing.” There are no instant rewards, and you won’t necessarily gain Internet notoriety, but in going back to the drawing board time and time again, you are much more likely to contribute something that rises above the noise and gets closer to a kind of truth we all need to hear.
Happy writing–Leah

The Problem with Fast Writing, Fast Fashion and Fast Feminism (Or … Why Sites Like Jezebel and XOJane Often Do More Harm Than Good)

Fair warning: I’ve been a bit obsessive about the recent “skinny white girl” yoga post in XO Jane and the myriad amazing responses to it. I see no need to add too much here apart from to point readers to some thoughtful pieces in Flavorwireand Brooklyn Magazine about how “good intentions” and “honest writing,” citing the recent XOJane article and Jezebel’s picking apart of Lena Dunham’s unretouched photos, are not necessarily ingredients for good journalism. At least not the only ingredients.

I think one of the reasons I’ve come to find sites like Jezebel and XOJane so frustrating is because I do admire their good intentions–at least sometimes. I want writing–even pop culture writing–that is smart and feminist-slanting, tells me I should embrace my body, explores race relations in the U.S., and especially among women. And yet, the quickness of the writing, the near lack of editing, the click-baiting and living for pageviews, have all created spaces where a lot of anti-feminist stuff gets shared for the world to see. The managing editor of XOJane claims, in a pseudo-apology, “I don’t give a f**k about … pageviews” (a little hard to believe) but “the one thing that I give a huge f**k about is race, and the conversations surrounding race.” While I’m sure that’s true, and certainly the article did get people talking, we can’t get away from the fact that when a major publication posts something (unless they properly contextualize it or print something as an excerpt), they are in some way condoning it.

And worse, we are being distracted by it. Feminist women are spending time ranting and raving (myself included) about one person’s obvious self-absorption and tone-deaf writing. And we aren’t talking about things that really matter to women. And neither are these publications writing about them (and if they are, they aren’t getting traction). Because these issues take more research, more time, and are more difficult to stomach–they may also be unpleasant to read and to write.

One such issue for me is fashion and the sweatshops these clothes are made in. I typed “Bangladesh” into Jezebel. Certainly last year’s garment factory collapse in Bangladesh is a feminist issue? According to a report by the National Library of Australia, of the industry’s 3.6 million workers, 2.8 million are women. So if we assume the 1,127 who died in the collapse is a representative sample, that’s 868 WOMEN. There are other issues here, too. According to the report, “Women workers face physical abuse and sexual harassment inside as well as outside the factories, but management does not ensure the security of women workers.” You know what a great piece of honest journalism would be? A U.S. woman reconciling her shopping habits and her self-proclaimed feminism, given that Gap and H&M were among the brands working with this factory.

But you won’t find that kind of story on Jezebel. You will find a human interest piece about two women who work in the industry, as well as a news piece or two. You’ll also find a woefully out-of-touch headline: “You Might Have to Pay More at H&M So Workers Can Get Better Wages.” As well as this gem: “Hallelujah: Americans Will Finally Be Able to Shop at H&M Online,” published just TWO MONTHS after the factory collapse, which includes this super-dismissive last paragraph (dang it! the editor made me tone down my earnest praise of H&M–a bunch of women did die two months ago, I guess):

“It should be noted that while there’s been a lot of scrutiny of fast fashion’s problems, H&M is one of the retailers that signed the Bangladesh Factory Safety Deal. The company also has a conscious collection, which attempts to sell sustainable clothing. And since sometimes, in Manhattan, the wait for the fitting room at H&M can be ridiculous, this online shopping stuff is pretty exciting. I’m already on the site, hitting refresh.”

Two things: Signing a pledge is just that. Signing a pledge. Check out this piece for details on what H&M is actually doing (note that they aren’t pushing for higher wages in their other 750 factories until 2018). Oh, and just because you make something with organic cotton (that’s all a sustainable collection means) doesn’t mean you treat workers any better. To be fair, Jezebel did publish this piece, the closest I could find to any kind of call to action. It is better than the rest, but again, it could go so much further. It encourages us to put the pressure on Walmart, a store that I’m willing to bet many of Jezebel’s liberal readers don’t shop at anyway. To Jezebel, at least, signing a pledge in what some could see as mainly a PR move, is enough.

XOJane fares a little bit better with this piece, which actually uses the words “garment workers are dying.” But the problem here is again of distraction. The piece was tweeted 47 times and received 500 comments. The yoga piece? Tweeted nearly 1500 times, Stumbled 54 times and received 3315 comments. (And the managing editor says she doesn’t care about pageviews.) These kind of unedited knee-jerk pieces are not only adding noise but distracting from the worthwhile journalism that’s actually out there.

Side note: I want to make clear that I am not trying to shame anyone. I’ve shopped at these stores, too, and I have enjoyed the thrill of a cheap t-shirt. But just like I try to think about where meat comes from and avoid animal cruelty by paying a few extra bucks, I also try to think of where my clothes come from and avoid human cruelty. It costs a little more, but it is worth it. I am not perfect all the time, by any means, but I try.

All of this leads me to my final point (and if you’re still with me, bravo). Writing, journalism and otherwise, has simply gotten too fast. As a novelist and journalist, believe me that I know it is hard. And any writer has a box or a hard-drive full of pieces that are overly earnest and too self-involved and almost as cringe-worthy as Jen Polachek’s yoga piece. See my post on the bad writing party. I guess what I’m saying is: I yearn for a time where those pieces weren’t splashed around the Internet with a major name behind them. For an investment in the several rounds of edits it takes to make a good book or story. I have no doubt that with a good, dedicated editor (who doesn’t think everything honest is inherently publishable), Polachek could have delivered a much less nauseating piece and possibly even learned a few things about herself.

And I want to commend the people: novelists, journalists, playwrights, songwriters–whoever–who are still practicing the art of “slow writing.” There are no instant rewards, and you won’t necessarily gain Internet notoriety, but in going back to the drawing board time and time again, you are much more likely to contribute something that rises above the noise and gets closer to a kind of truth we all need to hear.

Happy writing–
Leah

9:50 pm - Fri, Jan 10, 2014
9 notes
Friday Writing Inspiration: George Orwell’s Six Rules for WritingBetter late than never, right? Happy Friday! I’ve been a tad remiss in doing my Friday inspiration…View Post

Friday Writing Inspiration: George Orwell’s Six Rules for Writing

Better late than never, right? Happy Friday! I’ve been a tad remiss in doing my Friday inspiration…

View Post

1:51 pm
46,431 notes

tedx:

Watch the whole talk here»

Almost 20 years ago, writer Andrew Solomon fell into a deep depression. In this talk from TEDxMet, he speaks eloquently and openly about his struggle with “the family secret we all share,” but that no one wants to talk about. If you are a human or know a human, you have to watch this talk, but — be warned — you might just find yourself in tears.

(via aemlai)

9:03 am - Tue, Jan 7, 2014
2 notes
My 2014 Writing Resolutions and Goals
I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions–if I’m going to gym it or diet, it’s not going to be tied to Jan 1 or any major holiday–but I do enjoy taking some time to reflect as an old year ends and a new one begins, and I’ve been thinking a lot about writing and how I can grow this year.
It’s funny because all my life, my main writing goal has been to publish a book. Well, 2013 was the year it happened. It’s hard to believe sometimes, but it did. Of course, I could say, I want to publish a better book, to a bigger audience, and have a huge marketing plan and a movie deal and on and on and on, but for the most part, those things are all out of my control. The cards will fall where they fall, and the only thing I can do is to be the best writer I can be. So that said, here are this year’s goals.
#1 Be less lazy.I don’t mean sitting on the couch, and I don’t mean not writing, but I mean allowing yourself to write below your level (first drafts don’t count). I mean those damn sentences you write and think, hmm, I could make this better, but it just seems like so much work or you really want to make a deadline or what have you, and you leave it. Or a plot move that feels just the tiniest bit convenient, even to you. Now, a good editor or agent will catch those things, but I figure the more of them you catch yourself, the more the agents and editors can spend catching other things, or making what’s already pretty good even better. So one goal this year is to stop myself when I have that tiny thought in the back of my head that I could do just a little bit better and move my cursor back a bit and actually DO BETTER.
#2 Read what scares me.I have a confession to make. I have never read John Green. It may come as a surprise, because I have a freaking quote up on my site of a blogger comparing me to the contemp master, and I am thrilled about that, but I have not actually read a single one of his books. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read passages, and I’ve thought they were just gorgeous, but every time I go to pick up one of his books, I have this thought in the back of my head. You know the kind. Something like … THIS IS THE YA CONTEMPORARY MASTER. YOU WILL NEVER BE HIM. BETTER JUST QUIT NOW. This is ridiculous. I will never be him, because I am not him, because my books are not his and nor is my writing. And just because someone else creates something heartbreakingly beautiful DOESN’T MEAN YOU CAN’T. There isn’t a limit on the amount of emotional beauty allowed in the world. I repeat, there is not a limit on the amount of emotional beauty in the world. And just because someone else is really skilled at creating it, doesn’t mean you can’t do so, as well. So mark my words. This year, I’m going to read more contemporary YA, and I am going to turn off the comparisons, and I am going to enjoy these wonderful books by my contemporaries. And it might just help me make my writing better.
#3 Write truthfully.My goal as a writer has always been to be honest, but this year, I want more moments of truth in my writing. You know what I’m talking about–the passages that make you put the book down and look up at the ceiling and just think for a second. That make you press highlight on your Kindle. That make you want to tear out the page and send it to everyone you love with words highlighted in bright pink and say, THIS IS WHO I AM. NOTHING EXPLAINS ME BETTER THAN THIS. I want that rawness and that honesty in every one of my characters and every one of my passages. I want even the most minor characters to be achingly real. And I want more of those moments, those stop-everything, this-is-how-the-world-really-works moments. I have no idea how to get them, but I’m hoping that the more I get to know my characters, the more of myself I pour into my writing, the more frequently they’ll come.
#4 Be more thankful.I am almost ashamed to say it, but publishing a book can be very stressful. It can make you doubt yourself and hassle your ever-patient agent with crazy questions. It can make you never want to write again. And when the occasional ultra-harsh review comes it, it can make you feel like the biggest failure. But on the very same day, you will be filled with so much joy that a story that was important to you is out in the world and PEOPLE ARE READING IT. You will do an event and look at the excitement and admiration on people’s faces and realize that they think you’ve got something kind of special. You will get your first fan mail and start crying. You will see sales rise and fall and rise and fall, and you will always have this crazy thought inside that people are paying money to read something you made up. It really is quite wild when you think about it. I have hit all of these highs and lows this year, but all I can say at the end of it is that I am so very lucky for the chance to share my writing with readers. And in 2014, more than anything, I want to cherish and recognize this gift, both of writing, and of being heard.
Happy belated New Year, and happy writing!xo,Leah

My 2014 Writing Resolutions and Goals

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions–if I’m going to gym it or diet, it’s not going to be tied to Jan 1 or any major holiday–but I do enjoy taking some time to reflect as an old year ends and a new one begins, and I’ve been thinking a lot about writing and how I can grow this year.

It’s funny because all my life, my main writing goal has been to publish a book. Well, 2013 was the year it happened. It’s hard to believe sometimes, but it did. Of course, I could say, I want to publish a better book, to a bigger audience, and have a huge marketing plan and a movie deal and on and on and on, but for the most part, those things are all out of my control. The cards will fall where they fall, and the only thing I can do is to be the best writer I can be. So that said, here are this year’s goals.

#1 Be less lazy.
I don’t mean sitting on the couch, and I don’t mean not writing, but I mean allowing yourself to write below your level (first drafts don’t count). I mean those damn sentences you write and think, hmm, I could make this better, but it just seems like so much work or you really want to make a deadline or what have you, and you leave it. Or a plot move that feels just the tiniest bit convenient, even to you. Now, a good editor or agent will catch those things, but I figure the more of them you catch yourself, the more the agents and editors can spend catching other things, or making what’s already pretty good even better. So one goal this year is to stop myself when I have that tiny thought in the back of my head that I could do just a little bit better and move my cursor back a bit and actually DO BETTER.

#2 Read what scares me.
I have a confession to make. I have never read John Green. It may come as a surprise, because I have a freaking quote up on my site of a blogger comparing me to the contemp master, and I am thrilled about that, but I have not actually read a single one of his books. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read passages, and I’ve thought they were just gorgeous, but every time I go to pick up one of his books, I have this thought in the back of my head. You know the kind. Something like … THIS IS THE YA CONTEMPORARY MASTER. YOU WILL NEVER BE HIM. BETTER JUST QUIT NOW. This is ridiculous. I will never be him, because I am not him, because my books are not his and nor is my writing. And just because someone else creates something heartbreakingly beautiful DOESN’T MEAN YOU CAN’T. There isn’t a limit on the amount of emotional beauty allowed in the world. I repeat, there is not a limit on the amount of emotional beauty in the world. And just because someone else is really skilled at creating it, doesn’t mean you can’t do so, as well. So mark my words. This year, I’m going to read more contemporary YA, and I am going to turn off the comparisons, and I am going to enjoy these wonderful books by my contemporaries. And it might just help me make my writing better.

#3 Write truthfully.
My goal as a writer has always been to be honest, but this year, I want more moments of truth in my writing. You know what I’m talking about–the passages that make you put the book down and look up at the ceiling and just think for a second. That make you press highlight on your Kindle. That make you want to tear out the page and send it to everyone you love with words highlighted in bright pink and say, THIS IS WHO I AM. NOTHING EXPLAINS ME BETTER THAN THIS. I want that rawness and that honesty in every one of my characters and every one of my passages. I want even the most minor characters to be achingly real. And I want more of those moments, those stop-everything, this-is-how-the-world-really-works moments. I have no idea how to get them, but I’m hoping that the more I get to know my characters, the more of myself I pour into my writing, the more frequently they’ll come.

#4 Be more thankful.
I am almost ashamed to say it, but publishing a book can be very stressful. It can make you doubt yourself and hassle your ever-patient agent with crazy questions. It can make you never want to write again. And when the occasional ultra-harsh review comes it, it can make you feel like the biggest failure. But on the very same day, you will be filled with so much joy that a story that was important to you is out in the world and PEOPLE ARE READING IT. You will do an event and look at the excitement and admiration on people’s faces and realize that they think you’ve got something kind of special. You will get your first fan mail and start crying. You will see sales rise and fall and rise and fall, and you will always have this crazy thought inside that people are paying money to read something you made up. It really is quite wild when you think about it. I have hit all of these highs and lows this year, but all I can say at the end of it is that I am so very lucky for the chance to share my writing with readers. And in 2014, more than anything, I want to cherish and recognize this gift, both of writing, and of being heard.

Happy belated New Year, and happy writing!
xo,
Leah

11:47 pm - Fri, Dec 27, 2013
12,177 notes

nezua:

incidentalcomics:

All I Need to Write

Or…to stop putzing around; To shut Tumblr down!

(via tayarijones)


“This is a sensitive look at the wake of a friend’s suicide, infused with genuine emotion, hope, and just enough well-placed romance.”~Booklist

"A stunning debut and an eerily good book."~Michael Northrop, author of Gentlemen

“The Writing King of Difficult Subjects has to be John Green. After reading The After Girls, I would definitely put Ms. Konen in his court.” ~Ink and Page

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