Amanda Graduates College

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Well… It’s over. I graduated college. And yeah, I’m not done with school forever (I’m heading to NYU in the fall to get my masters in Publishing: Digital and Print Media), but no more taking classes at IC for me (and no more ICC for me either!!!!)! Hooray! I’m not going to see the same people every day– the fellow students and friends and faculty in the community that I’ve come to love (and tolerate and deal with), and that’s both okay and not okay.

The past few weeks have been a blur. I’ve tried to get in quality time with the people that matter to me, but it’s been hard with graduation inching closer and closer. My friend Marisa, whether she realizes it or not, kept saying “This is the last time we…” at the beginning of a lot of her sentences, and I refused to accept that fact. I still refuse to accept it. I knew that all of this was going to end eventually.

What does it mean for all of this to end, anyway? I’m glad that there are some people I won’t have to see or deal with, maybe ever again (except on social media). So that’ll be the end of that, I guess. Regarding people who you don’t have great relationships with, my dad always says that you have to make them matter less. So they’ll matter less because I won’t have to see them ever again at all. (!)

On a somewhat different note, they say that you need at least one Ithaca summer. So I’m here til August, working at The Ithaca Times. And maybe that’s part of the reason why I haven’t accepted that I graduated from IC. I’m still here, even if a lot of people aren’t. It just doesn’t feel like it ended. There are people I know who are also staying for the summer. People will still be coming back in the fall, even if I’m leaving. Kids just keep cycling through. College is still happening, even if I don’t go here.

There are a lot of people that graduated with a lot of ????????? feelings, meaning they don’t know what they’re doing next, whether that means getting a job or going to grad school or what. And that’s fine! It’s okay to not know! It’s okay to still be figuring things out!

I’m graduating with more !!!!!!!!!!!!!! feelings. I’m lucky to have a plan and set things for me to figure out in the coming months, and to have people to support and help me through it. But it’s still scary that I won’t be coming back to school here in the fall. It’s scary that things are a little uncertain, even if I have a plan.

I remember how much I used to hate it here. I’ve been looking back at my reflections from when I was a freshman and from when I was a sophomore. Freshman year I was sad and alone. I had a boyfriend who lived in Buffalo, and I thought that was all I needed. But it turned out to not be enough. I had 3 great friends, and then I didn’t (my own fault). (We’re all on good terms now, which I am grateful for.) I left Ithaca without really anybody. I forced myself to figure out who I was without my boyfriend and without anyone else. I was not excited to come back in the fall, I was on the verge of transferring…

But I came back to give it a second chance. My dad always says that people need second chances, and so did Ithaca. I remember going to the A&E Center to pick up my keys to my new dorm room in August of 2014 and running into Sam Brodsky, who I knew from Intro to Poetry. She was a person I greeted with a hug and a smile, and someone who was actually happy to see me. She was a friend. And that’s why I decided to stay. That’s why I made my goal for sophomore year Amanda makes friends.

Thank you Sam, for being my friend all four years. Thank you for listening to me cry and for reading my writing and for being my person. Thank you for being a deciding factor in me staying.

That year I met and became friends with a lot of people, who I almost named here but decided against. All of these people who– some who aren’t in my life anymore, some who still are, some who I’m close with and some who I’m not, some who I can wave at in the hallway and smile at, are the reasons I stayed. My sophomore year was probably the best year of my college experience. I made friends, I lost friends, but I found a place where I belonged, more or less. Sophomore year is when Ithaca became home.

I didn’t write a reflection post-junior year because I was afraid. This is the hardest thing for me to write about because I’m still kind of afraid– of people brushing off my feelings and what I write about because they don’t like me. I’m afraid of people making judgments about what I have to say and about me because they don’t like me. But honestly– that’s dumb. I shouldn’t care about what people think of me. And this is my space to say what I think.

Last year I was in a not-so-great relationship with a boy, and that boy came with a lot of baggage. I lost a lot of friends because I made the decision to be with him. I received mean, anonymous messages on Tumblr– I even got a death threat. I was ostracized from a lot of people. I felt uncomfortable in Ithaca. I felt like I didn’t matter. I made myself small and take up less space in the world so I couldn’t hurt or bother anybody that I had hurt by being in a relationship with him. I stopped writing. And no matter how much I tried to convince myself that I wasn’t, I was really unhappy in that relationship and with myself. The only people that could see it were my friends who tried to warn me. Sabina tried to do something about it, but I wouldn’t listen to her.

The summer after junior year I had so much anxiety about my relationship with this boy and maintaining my relationship with this boy that I developed a sort of eating disorder. I was playing a hunger game with myself. I lost so much weight that my clothes didn’t fit. I was so hungry all the time I could barely concentrate. I stopped brushing my teeth. I stopped taking my medication. My trichotillomania started acting up again, and my obsessive compulsive disorder became harder and harder to handle. I didn’t put on makeup for work. I stopped hanging out with my friends. I didn’t care about myself, and this boy didn’t really act like he did either.

Eventually we broke up, but enough damage had been caused by my relationship with him that it affected my relationships and friendships with other people in Ithaca. And that is what hurt the most. It made Ithaca less of a home for me. Sabina said to me on the last night I saw her (she’s going to Europe for a while post-grad) that our friendship hasn’t been easy, but it’s been worth it, which meant so much to me that I cried in the middle of Moonie’s.

Coming into senior year trying to deal with the repercussions of my relationship with this boy was really hard. People still don’t like me because I dated him. I hurt people because I dated him. And for that I am genuinely sorry. It was selfish of me, but I got hurt in my relationship with him too. This is something that I’ve wanted to write for a very long time, and now I feel like I can put it out there. I’m saying this because I want people to understand it was hard for me, and that I’m sorry.

Senior year was a year of recovery. It was a year of growing and moving on. It was a year of finding somewhere that I belonged. It was a year of not giving a shit about what other people think of me, or at least to a lesser degree. It was about doing my best and living my life for myself and my future, not anyone else.

I’ve always struggled with the concept of home. I didn’t feel like my mom’s house was home when I lived there. I don’t feel like my dad’s house is home anymore, not that I ever really did. My freshman year I lived alone in a single room and I hated it. My sophomore year my roommate and I didn’t get along. My junior year roommates and I struggled with keeping the status quo in our apartment.

This year, in my house on Hudson Street, I found a group of people that I could have fun with and be myself with– a group of people who were truly supportive and kind and who gave me a place that was mine. They made Ithaca feel like home for me, and for that I am grateful too. Thank you, Alexa, Kaitlin, Dom, Evan, Luke Waldner. Thank you thank you thank you.

I found a home in IC Women in Communications– this semester I had the honor and privilege of being president of a group that I’ve been a part of for all four years of school. WIC has always meant so much to me (how many times have I written about it on this blog?). My e-board and general body members have always been so supportive– WIC is a club dedicated to professionalism and women in communications, but we were also friends, and we became really close. WIC helped me find a sense of belonging here, and for that I am also grateful. Thank you to my Spring 2017 e-board– Lexy, Allie, Natalie, Kiersten, Madi, Emma– for lending an ear and a hug when I needed it this semester.

I think that what I’ve looked for all four years of college is a place where I belonged. I wanted people to like me and want to spend time with me. I wanted friends. I wanted people who would listen to me and who I could trust with myself. I wanted a place that felt like I was supposed to be there. It took me a really long time to find all that and figure myself out in terms of that, but I found it here in Ithaca and I’m not ready for it to be over.

In August I move to New York with Siena to attend NYU and I have to figure out where I belong all over again. That is what these !!!!!!!!!!! feelings are. They’re about finding a place and finding people and finding what I’m all about somewhere else. I will be under construction in New York instead of Ithaca, and I’m scared.

Right now I am lucky to have found my voice again. I’m happy I can be honest with myself and with everyone else on here. I graduated college. We’ll see how everything else goes.

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Working for Hire in the Educational Market

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In last week’s shoptalk meeting of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, we talked about the educational market and working for hire. Members collectively asked and answered questions about these topics, which I’ve outlined below if you’re interested in working fore hire as a writer.

What materials are published in the educational market? 

There are many opportunities to get your writing out there and get published in the educational market. You can write lesson plans, manuals, test passages, text books, test questions, biographies, and all different types of nonfiction educational material. Most educational writing is work for hire. 5386189.jpg

What does it mean to work for hire

When you work for hire in the book publishing industry,  you, as a writer, can propose an idea, but it’s more likely that a publisher/packager will assign you something to write that you will be compensated for upon completion.

It’s great to work for hire because it gives you a guaranteed income and publication credits. You also don’t have to worry about formatting your book, or artwork and photos that will accompany your text. (Keep in mind that you don’t receive book royalties and you don’t own the copyright on your own material, which you might have issue with as a producer of content.)

What is a book packaging company?

A book packaging company is a company that is hired by publishers to get specific books/topics produced by writers. They work as the middle man between you and the book publisher. They’re more likely to hire work for hire writers than publishers because they pay writers less so they can profit more off of publishers.

How do I find a work for hire company to send my work to?

Check out these websites/books for market lists:

  • evelynchristensen.com/markets.html (Children’s author Evelyn Christensen has a page of links to publishers of educational material.)
  • the-efa.org (The Editorial Freelancers Association)
  • apbaonline.org (a trade group for book packagers)
  • mollyblaisdell.com/wfh.html (
  • aepweb.org (Association of Educational Publishers)
  • NFforKids Yahoo Group (a listserv for the discussion of writing, marketing, and publishing nonfiction books for children)
  • Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career by Nancy I. Sanders

Some more fun stuff about working for hire and the educational market:

  • The biggest employers of work for hire writers are educational publishers and book packaging companies.
  • Book packagers and publishers determine how the book will be formatted– meaning, chapters, word count, side bars, even the targeted reading level, will be decided beforehand.
  • You don’t have to fact check when you write educational materials, but you do have to cite your sources when you submit.
  • Writing for the educational market doesn’t pay very much, but adds to your writing experience as well as publishing experience, and can open doors to other publishing opportunities.

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The Value of Stories and Storytelling

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This week’s meeting of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators offered a presentation by storytelling experts, Mitch Weiss and Martha Hamilton. Mitch and Martha have dedicated their lives to storytelling. Starting to collaborate in storytelling in Ithaca, New York, Mitch and Martha have been writing children’s stories together for over 36 years (just as long as they’ve been married!). Check out their website here, and the clip below to see a sample of their performance from the meeting.

Mitch and Martha specialize in telling stories based off of other stories, like fables and folktales. Retelling these short and simple fundamental stories help children tell stories of their own. Many famous authors have taken old stories and their ideas and recreated them. For example, The Rough Faced Girl by Rafe Martin, Cinder Edna by Ellen Jackson, and Adelita: A Mexican Cinderella Story by Tomie dePaola are all retellings of the classic fairytale Cinderella.

In retelling stories, Mitch and Martha emphasize that you must change the title and tell the story in your own words while still respecting the general outline/plot of the original story. You also have to give credit where credit is due.

Mitch and Martha’s first collection of stories was called Stories in my Pocket. It was published by a small publishing house called August House that specializes in storytelling, and they continued to publish books there, along with their collaborative work with Ted Arnold at other houses.

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Fly Guy books written & illustrated by Ted Arnold

Ted Arnold is a famous children’s book illustrator, of Fly Guy and Parts fame. Mitch and Martha pitched an idea to Ted Arnold about illustrating stories with noodlehead characters (pictured below), and he loved it. They ended up sending their idea to Scholastic and then to Holiday House, a smaller book publishing company in New York City.

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Hey, who are you calling a noodlehead?

On their website, Mitch and Martha talk about the importance of teaching students the craft of storytelling:

It’s difficult to be successful if you’re not a good communicator and communication is, at its most basic level, the ability to tell a story well, whether to one person or to a group. Most of us will use reading and writing in our chosen professions, but all of us will use speaking and listening. Yet in the past, these two literacy skills have received little attention compared to reading and writing. There is growing recognition among educators that literacy is more effectively taught when reading, writing, speaking, and listening are seen as connected and equally important.

In my Multimodal Literacy class, I’ve learned that this is definitely true. Learning to actively listen as well as speak are two skills that have been undervalued in most education systems. Learning how to tell stories increases self-esteem, it’s inclusive, improves kid’s listening skills…Storytelling is how we pass down values and beliefs. Rather than memorize facts, we remember the essential information and how it makes us feel. It helps kids be more articulate when speaking. Learning a story rather than memorizing a story essentially ensures a better understanding of its meaning and craft. It also encourages critical thinking and creative writing, as well as a love and appreciation for other cultures and places.

This also brings me back to what working at Writopia has taught me and preaches– writing stories and giving students the space they need to write and think critically and creatively is so important in their personal development. Writing and storytelling helps kids communicate and understand themselves and the world a little better, and that is incredibly valuable. I think that Mitch and Martha understand that value, and it was really heartwarming to see them work together, talk about their books and stories, and perform for us.

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Bold Beginnings: How to Hone Your Opening

Read the following:

  • “My alarm went off at 7:30 a.m. I yawned, got out of bed, walked to the bathroom, and started to brush my teeth. I was so excited to see Taylor Swift in concert tonight!’Jess, come downstairs! I have something important to tell you,’ I heard Mama shout from the kitchen.”
  • “The night Taylor Swift fell from the stage was the same night Mama told me I was adopted, and I’m not sure what broke my heart more.”

If you picked up a book in a bookstore and it had one of these bullet points as a first sentence/paragraph, which would you be more inclined to buy and read? Which would you be more interested in?

I, for one, would definitely be more interested in the book that starts off with the second bullet point. It catches my attention, it starts off with rising action, and it makes me want to read more.

The second shoptalk meeting of the Society of Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators I attended at my local Barnes & Noble was hosted by Rob Costello, a representative from the Highlights Foundation (an organization that holds workshops for children’s book authors and illustrators — check out their website to learn more!) and a young adult fiction writer. He focused the shoptalk specifically on the importance of a good novel opening, and on the dos and don’ts of how to write one.

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Good openings to novels help make what you’re writing appeal to readers. Generally speaking, if the first page/line doesn’t grab the reader’s attention, you’ve lost 50% of your potential audience. Former literary agent Leslie Daniels says that if the first line doesn’t grab her, the manuscript goes back in the pile (which is kind of depressing, if you ask me).

That being said, the main job of a book’s opening is to hook the reader. And openings are really hard to get right! You have to include information about background and characters that seem critically relevant and necessary to explain, all the while maintaining the reader’s interest.

There are two types of openings that Mr. Costello warned us not to start with:

  1. Data Dump Opening— when you overwhelm the reader with facts about your protagonist that don’t really matter. Example: Describing the physicality of your main character right off the bat isn’t all that interesting.
  2. Steady State Opening— when you provide background information/set up the scene before inciting an incident. Normal life isn’t interesting! And it’s no way to hook a reader.

Mr. Costello also warned us not to begin with dialogue or backstory or a dream or a prologue.

He also warned us that many people (including him) will tell you not to begin with dialogue or backstory or a dream or a prologue, but that these rules don’t apply to everything. If you demonstrate sufficient skills as a writer and hook the reader, anything you write can work.

Something that always works is dissonance.

In the music world, dissonance means “a lack of harmony among musical notes.” In the literary world (and otherwise), dissonance means “a tension or clash resulting from the combination of two disharmonious or unsuitable elements.” It can be anything that’s counterintuitive, unsettling, contradictory– elements that grab the reader’s attention and force them to engage and ask questions

Dissonance works in novel openings because it disrupts the flow of the reader’s expectations in shocking ways. Taylor Swift fell off the stage at a concert and a protagonist’s mother telling her she’s adopted are two dissonant plot elements that clash and catch the reader’s attention, making them want to read more.

The easiest way to create dissonance in your opening is to begin with action. If you have action, there’s conflict. You can also create dissonance through setting, mood, and voice/tone. Anything that contradicts itself and grabs your reader’s attention works, and once you’ve grabbed your reader’s attention, you can test their patience by providing more expository information.

I’ve always found beginnings to be one of the hardest things to write. I never know where to start or how to start or how to start in a way that will make what I’m trying to say matter. I think, ultimately, that two things you have to keep in mind are your story and your reader. How can you make what you’re trying to say matter to the person that you want to read it and engage with it?

Just some things to keep in mind.

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Everything I Learned at NYWICI’s 2016 Student Communications Career Conference

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Ithaca College Women in Communications e-board and general body members attend NYWICIscc16.

This past Saturday, November 5th I attended New York Women in Communications’ 2016 Student Communications Career Conference as Vice President of Ithaca College Women in Communications with the fabulous, motivated, and accomplished e-board and general body members of WIC. This was my fifth time attending the conference– the first time I went I was 17, in 2011. (Shoutout to our amazing president Katie Baldwin for all her hard work planning and budgeting and leading. The trip wouldn’t have happened without her!)

What made this year so special for me was that it was my last time attending a NYWICI conference as a student at Ithaca College, since I’m a senior. In honor of that, I wore the dress that I wore when I won a NYWICI scholarship as a senior in high school (luckily it still fit!).

Since it’s my last year, I’ve been thinking about the conference and its implications with a new perspective. I was 17 when I first attended. I knew what I wanted to do with my career at the time (it’s always been children’s book editing, for those who don’t know) but was too young to understand how I was going to get there. Going to the conference when I was 17 helped me focus my goals, without having to put them into action just yet.

As a senior in college and someone currently applying to graduate school, all of the amazing women panelists and speakers that I’ve encountered and listened to, all of the career and life advice that I’ve received, all of the eager and motivated college students I’ve met at the past five conferences, came into play. I’m about to enter the real world. It’s time to take everything I’ve learned and apply it. Thanks to NYWICI, thanks to WIC, I couldn’t be more prepared (still scared, but significantly more prepared) and excited about my future as a young professional woman.

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Taylor Trudon and Stephanie Guzman, my scholarship mother hens, and Ashley Schwartz-Lavares, a fellow scholarship winner, at NYWICIscc16.

Like last year, I took a lot of notes at the conference and compiled a list of it all, which you’ll find below! I summarized each panel I attended/speaker I listened to, as well as wrote down the big picture/specific lessons and advice that I learned. I also italicized the lessons that especially hit home for me.

Enjoy!


screen-shot-2016-11-06-at-8-44-49-pmLiz Perle– Digital Strategy & Consulting, Teen Trends & Tech 

What it’s all about: Liz Perle was our first keynote speaker. She works at Instagram and used to work at HuffPost Teen– her whole deal is figuring out what teens like and teen trends in social media, technology, and culture. She is extremely connected within NYWICI and seemed like a down-to-earth, passionate person who really knew what she was talking about.

Personal and professional advice/information: 

  • Don’t go after an important sounding job. Go after an important job.
  • Remember that there’s no difference between online life and offline life.
  • Be honest in your work and be human.
    • Being transparent about the work you do/where you are will make a difference in how credible you are as a worker/person.
  • Always be looking at what younger people are doing.
    • Young people understand authenticity better than anyone else.
  • Communications jobs might someday exist in spaces that aren’t communication spaces right now.
  • Be obsessive about things.
  • Understanding computers/how to sort through data is an extremely useful skill in today’s day and age.
  • Figure out how to back up what you’re saying with facts/data.
  • The best way to succeed in a job is to be bold in what you’re doing.
  • Frame your elevator pitches with a problem. Identify the problem you’re solving and the space you’re filling and they will see why you are necessary and important.
  • Social media is not a distraction. It’s a tool.
  • Ruthlessly prioritize what you’re working on.
    • To focus better and be less distracted, do fewer things.

14900380_10210821519240128_7624353726365273031_nDigital & Social Media Platforms Panel 

What it’s all about: The first panel I attended explored how online platforms can help expand your audience, repertoire, and experience through the point of views of Liz Gumbinner, who is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Cool Mom Picks, Roxanne Emadi, who is an editor and curator at Buzzfeed News, Kari Hodes, who is the Head of Audience Development and Analytics at Time Inc., and Lauren Rabaino, who is the Director of Storytelling and Brand Development at Vox. The panel was moderated by Melissa Finney, who is in advertising partnerships at Flipboard, Inc.

Personal and professional advice/information: 

  • Everyone you meet is going to come back in your life in ways you never expected, so be nice and know that everyone is a potential ally/a potential mentor/a potential contact.
  • Be okay with being highly qualified.
  • You don’t get a seat at the table– you earn one. Keep kicking ass at what you’re doing and you’ll be at that table.
  • If you work really hard you won’t just get there– you’ll be there.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask people for things, whether that’s a job, a raise or a collaboration.
  • You don’t have to have it all figured out from your first job.
  • A job is a job is a job.
  • Take computer classes/data analysis classes. Knowing/understanding data is the new literacy.
  • Ask about salary. You will find yourself working at a substandard salary for years if you don’t ask to get the money you deserve.
    • Negotiate the base of your salary first.
    • Believe in yourself and ask for a raise.
  • Don’t ever take a job just for the money.
  • The worst thing that can happen is that someone will say no. But you should always ask.
  • People will not share information with you if you don’t share information with them.
  • Have a personality online. Follow people, respond to them, show them you care about the industry.
  • Always be involved in your field. Any opportunity doing anything remotely related to what you want to do is always worth it.
  • Don’t be so precious with your work. Put your work out there even if it’s not perfect. That’s how you learn from your mistakes and scale quickly.
  • Give yourself as many opportunities as you can.
  • When you’re using social media to network, learn about how the person/organization you’re trying to network with uses social media and determine whether or not that’s the best way to connect with them.
  • The average amount of times for you to reach out to someone if they don’t respond is seven.

14956028_10210821520760166_6194705464505938272_nDigital Creators Panel

What it’s all about: The second panel I attended was primarily about creating online content and how to be a successful online content creator/professional through the experiences of Beca Alexander, who is the President of Socialyte Collective, Drea Bernardi, the Creative Executive of the AOL/HuffPost Partner Studio, Alyssa Bossio, who is a Social Media Influencer at Fitlyss, and Jessica Franklin, who founded heygorjess.com. The panel was moderated by Amy Emmerich, who is the Chief Content Officer at Refinery29.

Personal and professional advice/information: 

  • Networking is so important! Get out of your comfort zone and talk to people. It really makes a difference.
  • Getting a job is a mix of who you know and what you know.
  • Fashion is a great way to start a conversation with someone. Always use a fashion item to start a conversation. (Example: I like your necklace, where did you get it?)
  • It’s what you know that gets you to the who you know.
  • Everyone reads their direct messages no matter how large their following is on Twitter. It never hurts to reach out that way because it shows that you’re engaged in what a brand/a person is doing.
  • Social media is an easy way to network. It’s so easy to connect over common interests on social media.
  • The more persistent you are with contacting someone the more likely you are to get a message back.
  • It’s never too late to change what you’re doing/what your career path is. You could wake up tomorrow and be interested in something else and that’s totally okay.
  • In order to stand out, you have to have an understanding of what everyone else is doing too.
  • You have to maintain authenticity when creating content for any social media platform and be mindful of the different audiences that will consume your content on various social media platforms.
  • Observe different trends that occur on various social media platforms to keep up with the times.
  • If you want to remain authentic, you always have the option to say no. And if you can’t say no, negotiate.

14962542_10210821521240178_1906655113652360308_nBrittany Masalosalo– Special Assistant to Vice President Joe Biden in the National Security Affairs Office at the White House

What it’s all about: Brittany Masalosalo was our lunch keynote speaker, and she has a super cool job working as an assistant to vice president Joe Biden. She was a lieutenant in the Iraq War, is trusted with big government secrets, and is also a single mom.  She’s survived so much adversity and was an incredibly inspirational speaker.

Personal and professional advice/information: 

  • Mind your example. Remember that someone is always watching what you do.
    • You are an ambassador for your values.
  • Trust your relationships.
    • No one can attribute their successes to just themselves. If you want to change the world you need help doing it.
    • The relationships you develop over the course of your professional career are owed to your successes.
  • Manage your time through balance.
    • Set personal deadlines that establish habits.
    • Managing time is about figuring out your priorities and making yourself a priority sometimes.
  • Know how to work hard. Nothing will sharpen you for the rigors of a difficult world than facing your challenges.
    • Invest your energy into things you care about.
    • If you can learn how to stomach a failure as well as learn from it, you will fail well.
  • Don’t do anything if it’s not in line with who you are.
  • Have a knowledge of the political world no matter what line of work you’re in.

14908205_10210821521160176_3994837123829797064_nCollege 101 Panel

What it’s all about: I attended this panel because one of my best friends who I actually met when I won a NYWICI scholarship in 2013, Vivian Nunez, founder of Too Damn Young, writer and content creator and all around awesome person, was speaking on it! This panel was for high school students looking for advice about college and their futures. Other amazing ladies on this panel include: Naomi Ducat, an intern for the U.S. Department of Defense, Nicole Howe, an academic advisor for the New York University School of Professional Studies, and Alanna McCatty, a Creative Service Intern at the MedShadow Foundation. The panel was moderated by my NYWICI scholarship mother hen, Taylor Trudon, who is the Youth Special Projects Editor at MTV.

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Me and Vivian Nunez, founder of Too Damn Young and one of my very best friends.

Personal and professional advice/information: 

  • Your major doesn’t necessarily impact what field you go into, but taking away certain skills from your field of study is important.
  • You have to be smart and intentional when crafting your own story.
  • Writing skills are essential everywhere. Learn how to write.
  • Planning out your schedule is pivotal.
    • When you’re passionate about something, you’ll make the time for it.
  • Sit down and have coffee with as many people as you can. Learn about people and how they got to where they are and take what you can and apply it to yourself.
  • Maintain connections with people you intern with.
  • If you apply for an internship at your dream company and you don’t get it, don’t give up. Keep applying.
  • Don’t set one future job as your goal. Be open minded.
  • People remember people. They don’t remember resumes.
  • Speak with intent and own your quirks.
  • Mentors don’t have to just offer you career advice– they can also offer you emotional support!

screen-shot-2016-11-06-at-8-44-14-pmNYWICI Leaders Panel

What it’s all about: The last panel, moderated by Saundra Thomas (the Vice President of Community Affairs at WABC), presented career and life advice from current and past presidents of NYWICI. Panelists included Liz Kaplow, founder and CEO of Kaplow Communications, Kim Kelleher, Chief Revenue Officer & Publisher at WIRED Media, Jacki Kelley, COO at Bloomberg Media, and Nancy Weber, Chief Marketing Officer at Meredith Corporation.

Personal and professional advice/information: 

  • Do something you’re really passionate about so it doesn’t feel like work.
  • Make sure your career ladder is up against the right wall.
  • When you graduate, think about internships you’ve had that you liked and check back in with those companies.
  • Know why you’re using each social media platform you use.
  • When applying for jobs/internships, consider the people who you might work for at the companies you’re applying to, because that’s who you’re going to learn from.
  • When you go to a job interview, ask the question: “Can you give me an example of someone that’s worked for you and how you’ve advocated for their growth?” And if you like their answer, that company is for you.
  • LinkedIn is helpful, but it’s not real networking.All the major decisions about your career will be made in a room you’re not in.

#NYWICIscc16

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How I Live Now — The Lost Chapters

Right now I’m in a Honors Capstone class where we talk about our college experiences and what it’s like being in the honors program at Ithaca College and about society and the education system as a whole. Overall, it involves a lot of complaining and yelling at each other about the lack of places to park at school, but it’s a beneficial class.

We were going over pieces we submitted to our honors portfolio for academic challenge courses, and one of the pieces I submitted was a collection of chapters I’d written for a book by Meg Rosoff called How I Live Now. (How I Live Now is a dystopian young adult novel published in 2004 about a girl named Daisy who is sent to live in England and then *SPOILER ALERT* the world kind of ends.) They’re basically additional chapters to the book that I wrote in Rosoff’s writing style. (That sentence may have been redundant.)

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I wrote it for my freshman honors seminar class Teenage Wastelands, where we read a bunch of dystopian novels and were graded primarily on class participation. Little baby freshman Amanda was shy and didn’t really participate, but I did get to read a lot of important books in that class.

I was rereading what I’d written and I’m not gonna lie, it’s pretty good. It was one of the first big writing pieces I handed in at school, even if it wasn’t for a writing class.

Rereading it made me think about how I’ve changed as a writer here at IC. I’ve learned about so many different styles of writing, how to write fiction and creative nonfiction and personal essays and children’s books, and how to do research and how to interview people, and about the different types of essays there are, and how to write short pieces and long pieces, and how to revise and edit and workshop and interact with other writers, and how to be a professional in many different environments.

It was cool to read something that I’d started off college with. Now, as a senior at college, I’m getting ready to write my senior writing project. It’s my last big writing project as a student at Ithaca College, and that’s scary to think about.

These lost chapters I wrote were just the beginning.

I posted them below– please enjoy!


The Lost Chapters of How I Live Now: An Addition to Chapter 29, and Chapters 30 and 31

Ÿ      29 (CONTINUED)                Ÿ

There was a pause.

Daisy? the voice said. It sounded so far away. Miles, oceans, years, months away.

There was a muffled noise and I heard some whispered arguing, a woman’s voice. Then: Are you okay? the first voice said on the other end of the line. It was desperate, still pleading.

I was not quite sure how to answer that question. It almost made me angry to hear it. Was I okay?

No, I wasn’t. I was alone except for Piper. I was a ghost who was living through memories in this old house. I was living in fear of death and in hope of Edmond and in hope of my lost family.

I looked to Piper, who had moved from her position at the kitchen table to my side, her tiny, grubby hand entwined in mine. She looked up at me again and she was still wide-eyed and scared. Piper had grown over the past few months, I had noticed. She had grown up. Her angelic features were still so, but her face was gaunt and she looked tired. Tired of this war and tired of sleeping in the barn without Edmond and Isaac and tired of the violence and the cold and the lack of real food.

We were both tired.

I wrapped the old sweater of Edmond’s around me and opened my mouth slightly.

I’m alive, I said. I knew the voice on the phone.

It was my father, with who I was guessing was Davina listening in. He heaved a dry sob.

You’re coming home, he said. You’re coming home.

Ÿ      30                    Ÿ

When I hung up Piper was still looking at me with that watchful stillness she and her brothers have. She stared right into my face with no shame at all. I wanted her to look away and let go of my hand so I could be off by myself for a little while but what are you supposed to do when a little kid is hanging onto you like that? I took a deep breath and led her over to the kitchen table and we sat down.

Piper asked me what was going to happen. Her round face looked so serious. Even though we’d been together for months she still scared me sometimes with how serious she could be. I never understood it.

I decided to play dumb. It was better than telling her what I thought was going to happen even if the details were a little fuzzy for me too. I told her that I didn’t know and she nodded and let go of my hand. I knew Piper well enough and I could read her face and I just knew that she didn’t believe me.

Of course she didn’t believe me. I can put on a brave face for her and I’ve done it plenty of times before but she had heard my half of that phone conversation. And she knew some things, and even though she was a perceptive kid I didn’t expect her to understand. I was just a kid too and I was stuck in this war and I had to go home. I had to go home to be with my family.

But she was my family. And Edmond and Isaac and Osbert were my family and Aunt Penn and even Jet I guess even though I didn’t know where most of them were or had been for the past few months. I squeezed Piper’s hand and she took that as a sign to leave me for a while. She whistled for Jet and ran back through the big empty house with him at her heels.

I reached for the book that I had been reading before the phone went off and pretended to read it to give myself a sense of normalcy.

Now everything was going to change even though I didn’t know when they were coming to get me or what was going to happen to Piper or how I was supposed to deal with not knowing about Isaac or Osbert or Aunt Penn or even Baz, how could I forget about Baz? What would happen to the barn or the big house? If everyone was dead and gone where would Piper go? My mind was whirling.

I shut my eyes and tried to focus and tried not to cry. I had held it together for Piper for all of these months but just then I forgot how to hold it together for myself. I tried to sit very still and feel Edmond thinking about me wherever he was and tried to smell his smell of tobacco and earth that accompanied him and feel his soft skin with my fingertips but all those times where I thought he was there felt pointless and I couldn’t make myself feel anything.

Maybe he was dead. Maybe they were all dead.

I shuddered. No. I kept having to remind myself that I had looked at every single face to make sure it wasn’t them. They weren’t among the dead. Those dead, anyway.

But I wanted to feel that they were alive mostly because I wanted Edmond to be alive with every fiber of my being. Without that hope I wouldn’t have made it here with Piper. What was the point now that I was being forced to go back home?

I would just submit because I had to. I would surrender. There was no hope.

Ÿ      31                    Ÿ

If I was going to give up on this place I figured I might as well give in completely and throw away my old self. I wanted to get rid of the Daisy that I was before. I wanted to gorge myself and eat myself sick. I wanted to eat because food was there and I could.

I would never have done it at home anyway.

I went through the big house and shouted for Piper and she appeared right around the corner with Jett panting right beside her like she had been waiting there the whole time. C’mon, I said. Let’s make some food. Let’s have a feast. She gave me this look and her face was glowing again and all of the tiredness had gone out of her face and she was the kid that I had met a few months ago that was pure and beautiful and innocent and it made me feel better.

We ran out together to the barn and attacked the feed bins that we had so carefully stocked. Jett was barking and lapping at our heels and we were giggling and I almost forgot that I was supposed to be worrying about all of these other things like my family and going home and what was going to happen to Piper.

I had this huge armful of potatoes and sweet corn and cabbages and Piper stuffed her shirt with a good amount of nuts and watercress and garlic and onions and mint leaves and honey that we had saved. We didn’t even really make a dent in the feed bins because there was so much food crammed in there. We set up the fire and I got the pan down from the loft and the extra leek soup and started cooking. Even though we’d basically been eating the same things for weeks and I’d honestly started to get sick of them, the smell of the food cooking under my nose was making my stomach growl.

Piper put some chestnuts at the bottom of the fire and started roasting the vegetables in the pan with some garlic and I was peeling and slicing potatoes with a knife that I’d brought back from the house and adding them to the pan when I was finished. Since Piper was really the expert here I let her do all of the major stuff but I got to boil some cabbage with onions which looks and sounds gross but tastes really delicious I swear.

Piper was humming again, a tune I didn’t know. I was trying to forget everything that had happened that afternoon. We were both busy. Jett paced next to us with his tongue out and wagging.

After about an hour of busy work we found ourselves with this gigantic meal that could have fed maybe twelve people but all there was were the two of us. Okay maybe I’m exaggerating but it was a lot of food. There were roasted potatoes and vegetables, leek soup, boiled cabbage and onions and roasted chestnuts. All of the same food that we had been eating for weeks.

Piper had the idea to make it a real spectacle, like a real fancy dinner that we would have had back at home or if everything had been normal here. We brought everything back to the big house to the living room, careful to stay out of the kitchen and away from the phone. Piper set everything out just for the two of us and then we went and washed our hands and our faces and settled down to eat. Even though it was a little bland and the potatoes were sort of dry and I wished I could heap on a mountain of butter on my plate it was one of the best meals I’ve ever had.

It was nice to imagine that everything was okay even though it wasn’t. It was nice to pretend that everything was normal again.

And that was the second Perfect Day that wasn’t so Perfect.

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The Joys, Trials, and Tribulations of Publishing Your Own Picture Book

fullsizerender-4-2This week I attended a “shoptalk” meeting of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators at my local Barnes & Noble in Ithaca, New York. To my understanding, they meet once a month at this Barnes & Noble and talk about various topics that have to do with writing and illustrating and publishing children’s books. The SCBWI has a bunch of chapters across the country. According to their website, they are”the only professional organization specifically for those individuals writing and illustrating for children and young adults in the fields of children’s literature, magazines, film, television and multimedia,” which is pretty cool. Some famous people on their board of advisors include Pat Cummings, Judy Blume (!), Laurie Halse Anderson (!), Matt de la Peña, Jerry Pinkney (!), and Jane Yolen, just to name a few (that I recognized, and my favorites).

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Like I said, the meeting was held at Barnes & Noble. Barnes & Noble, of course, isn’t an independent bookstore. It’s a chain, the biggest chain, actually, of bookstores, with 640 retail stores across the country (thanks, Wikipedia). Which is why I was kind of surprised that they were hosting an event like this at one of their retail locations. I always associated chain stores with business and sales, not community and people. The last time that I went to an event at a Barnes & Noble to be honest was probably the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince release party.

But after attending the meeting this week, it’s clear that there’s definitely a community– of readers, of writers, of fanatics, of coffee drinkers, of people that like to sit and talk about things that matter, and there’s even one at the Barnes & Noble near me! Which is AWESOME.  🙂

Anyway, the meeting started off with all of us going around in a circle and introducing ourselves. Name, publishing experience, what we’re currently working on. All were YA and middle grade and picture work authors and illustrators, and they were really encouraging when I told them about my future career goals. I felt like I was with my people. I was honored to be a part of such an esteemed group of artists.

The theme of the meeting was self-publishing. (for those of you who don’t know what that is, please see the definition below. Thanks Google!)

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Self-publishing isn’t something I’m completely familiar with so this was a good opportunity to learn about it. Author of The Golden Cap Sally N. Kammerling and illustrator of The Golden Cap Marie Sanderson talked about their experiences with self-publishing.

These are their stories. *dun dun dun*

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Sally N. Kammerling (blue shirt, speaking) and Marie Sanderson (white shirt, to the far right), author/illustrator duo.

Sally N. Kammerling, author of The Golden CapKammerling wanted to tell her grandmother’s story about immigrating from the Netherlands to the United States in the early 1900s. She’d heard about her grandmother growing up, and had it in the back of her mind for a while. She spent much of her life writing articles for children’s magazines, and after she retired she finally decided to write this book that had been in the back of her mind for years.

Kammerling traveled to Holland with her husband to do research on how to go about writing the book. Upon completion, she submitted it to a bunch of publishers but wasn’t getting any responses she wanted. As in, they said that the book was great, but it wasn’t for them.

So she decided to self-publish. And once she made the decision to self-publish, she figured she needed an illustrator. Marie Sanderson was recommended to her by a mutual friend, so they got in contact with one another and started talking, and Sanderson started illustrating. Meanwhile, Kammerling had the text of the book professionally edited not once, but twice.

Once the book was getting close to being finished (designing and writing and editing) Kammerling needed to find a place to print it. She found a small press in Vermont, but the cost to print was too much per book. So she did a little research and discovered Create Space, a website owned by Amazon that allows you to print and distribute media (like picture books!) at low costs.

According to Kammerling, the most difficult part of self-publishing is marketing, especially if you aren’t accustomed to using social media. She decided she was going to target Dutch families, Dutch stores, and Dutch festivals, and is currently creating a Facebook page to promote her book.

The Golden Cap has now been out for about a year, and she’s been selling the book on consignment in Ithaca and Cortlandt, as well as on Amazon and Create Space. (click for links to buy the book if you’re so inclined)

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The finished product.

Marie Sanderson, illustrator of The Golden CapSo Marie Sanderson connected with Sally Kammerling. It was good timing because she’d just recently read a book about immigrants coming to the United States, so she had a lot of background context and a lot of ideas.

She read Kammerling’s manuscript, and saw a lot of opportunity for images of landscapes, villages, and children, just to name a few. Because of Create Space’s specific formatting structure, she did have a few issues with illustrating that she had to adjust but ultimately was able to complete the book.

She started working on the illustrations. They were full sized paintings, originally, that were photographed and uploaded. They wanted the text to be integrated into the illustrations at first, but that was too complicated seeing as Kammerling wasn’t using Photoshop or InDesign, so they ended up putting the text underneath the images.

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A dummy copy of The Golden Cap.

Neither she nor Kammerling had experience in self-publishing, but they conveniently found a book contract online for authors and illustrators and tweaked it. The book contract they found helped provide a basic structure to their agreement. They both suggest reading The Fine Print of Self-Publishing by Mark Levine for more information on self-publishing.


Extra Fun Facts About Self-Publishing:

  • In 2010, about 152,000 titles were self-published. In 2015, about 727,000 titles were self-published.
  • There has been a 21% growth in ISBN registration of self-published books in the last 3 years.
  • Print-on-demand is when an organization (like Create Space) doesn’t set a certain number of books for you to buy and sell on your own, but they print and sell directly to people in the quantity that they want/need.

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