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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Multimodal Writing: A Technology Literacy Narrative

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What is multimodal writing?

Multimodal writing is writing that involves many different modes, whether that means text, visuals, video, audio, etc. Selfe says that “multimodal” itself means “exceeding the alphabetic and may include images, animations, color, words, music, and sound” (Selfe, 2007) (See references below). So multimodal writing is writing composition that might include images, animations, color, words, music, and sound, not just text.

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What types of multimodal writing do we learn in school?

In school we’ve learned through various modes, however, we don’t necessarily learn to utilize them ourselves. An example that comes to mind would be when I took Shakespeare in high school. We read Shakespeare texts and plays, acted out the scripts, as well as watched the movies based on the plays to help us better visualize what was going on in the scene and help us create meaning from the text through transduction. Transduction is converting something into another form.

Another example would be in my Intro to the Essay class with Katie Marks. Katie taught us various forms of writing, including writing a book using the mode of tweeting (click for link). The book is written from a timeline– as in, each tweet is read in order of publication, rather than in the order that it is on the Twitter profile. Although we didn’t necessarily get to practice it ourselves, we were aware that tweeting our writing was an option for us to try.

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The English Language Arts exam uses various modalities to test students in grades 3-8.

There was even an effort to help students learn through different modes by testing us on our listening skills. The state English exam that we have to take in New York State from grades 3-8 involved a listening portion, where you would have to listen to someone read aloud a text and answer questions about the text. This helped us develop our aural learning skills, however minimally.

It’s interesting that teaching and learning in multiple modalities stops after 8th grade. Perhaps it is because after 8th grade, it is assumed that we as students have learned all of the basic fundamentals of utilizing and engaging with various modes as our brains are still in early development. However, this is not the case, and we should continue to use and engage in various modes within the classroom after 8th grade, such as continuing to test our listening skills as well as our image/video-text analysis skills.

How is multimodal learning beneficial?

I think that multimodal learning is extremely beneficial, especially to the modern-day student. Palmeri tells us that there are “crucial interconnections between compositing with words and composing with images,” or other modes, emphasizing how using various modes to teach and write helps us close the gap of understanding for students.

Although Bezemer and Kress identify some issues with recontextualizing in various modes such as a “loss of specificity,” there is a “gain in generality,” as in, people can make assumptions, generalizations, and various interpretations from the use of various modes where with just text there may only be one way of understanding something. This makes us look at composition differently, including the differences and similarities between a text and a related image or picture or sound, and help us develop our critical analysis, interpretation, and thinking skills. I believe using various modes to be beneficial because it widens the gap of understanding by helping us engage, see, and learn with various materials/modes in different ways, and developing our critical analysis and thinking skills.


Should multimodal writing be integrated into the writing major? 

Yancey says that “the screen is the language of the vernacular, that if we do not include it in the school curriculum, we will become as irrelevant as faculty professing in Latin… The ability to negotiate through life by combining words with pictures and audio and video to express thoughts will be the mark of the educated student” (305). It should be integrated into the writing major because otherwise writing may become irrelevant, and the skills of the writing major will fade into the background, according to Yancey.

Like I said before, I think it should be integrated before college even, in primary school, middle school, high school, etc. It should be an option on all if any tests, essays, projects, etc. We should be learning technology and graphic design a lot earlier on. And it is integrated before college, like during the national English Language Arts exam, but not to the extent that text learning/composition is, and since it’s not extended past 8th grade, our skills aren’t as developed as they could be.

Not only does learning various forms help us think critically, but it also helps other learners learn better and more productively, make our content more engaging, as well as keep up with the ever changing ways of composition. A rudimentary example of this is Sesame Street (click for link). Children learning the alphabet see the alphabet text as well as images up on the screen that are representative of the letters, as well as listening to it being said aloud. They can understand the information in more than one way.

Some ways that we could do this in the writing program here at Ithaca College is by adding as an option various forms/mediums in which to produce work other than just writing, or even incorporate various forms like image and video into our text. Although text will always be predominant in the writing major, it would be good to at least have the option of using other mediums to communicate what we’re trying to say.


How does the Writing department define writing? How do our sources in class define writing? How do you define writing?

Within academic settings, and especially within the Writing department, composition and writing primarily has to do with text. This is because text has become the predominant way of learning in the past rather than visuals. Writing is a way of communicating that primarily involves textual composition.

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Bezemer and Kress generally define writing and text as what is originally composition, and then go on to explain that writing/composition can incorporate a lot of different elements such as auditory, visual, and aural. Writing is multimodal in their eyes, whereas in our trained brains writing is primarily composed from one mode. Writing is a way of communicating that can involve various modes and mediums.

Bezemer and Kress, Yancey, Selfe and Palmeri have definitely opened my mind to the possibilities that exist out there for composition. In my mind, writing is composing and synthesizing different modes to communicate and make a point.


What changes would you recommend and why? What would you anticipate to be the gains and losses of changing our major?

Palmeri says that integrating multimodal composition teaching into the classroom helps students “expand the perspectives from which they visually see the world… finding a productive space of creative tension… develop a capacious understanding of rhetoric… and advocate social change” (116-149). I would first recommend integrating various learning and teaching techniques into the classroom way early on, perhaps even before 3rd grade, and then continuing to do so beyond 8th grade.

Specific techniques that I would recommend to use early on would be encouraging students to incorporate images into text composition and academic essays, teaching video and recording skills in multimedia classes, but in English classes, where the production of composition is especially prominent and various modes can be utilized.

In Writing classes in college, the option to include various modes and the skills learned in primary, middle, and high school to use various modes should be encouraged in every type of composition and class.

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If we incorporate multimodal composition into our classrooms now, the only loss I can think of would be loss of time explaining what to do and how to do it. There would be a lot of communication gaps that would have people confused, because we haven’t been learning with various modes throughout all of our educational experiences. Also, Bezemer and Kress say that “the increasing use of images [and other modes] will inevitably lead to the ‘dumbing down’ not just of textbooks but of all of culture” (167). Also, multimodal composition requires certain technology like computers, smart boards, etc., that not everyone has access to. Everyone learns at their own pace, and this may hold people back, especially since we’ve been trained in text composition learning our whole lives and not other styles of learning.

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Author’s Note:

This blog post is a project for my senior seminar, Multimodal Literacy. I chose to answer the 3rd prompt we received in the form of a blog post, which I posted here, on Amanda Under Construction. The blog post is in a conventional blog post format. It includes headers, text, photos with captions, a photo slide show, and various hyperlinks. It is accessible through the category “Things I’ve Learned In College,” as it relates primarily to what I’ve learned in college and is a project for my writing senior seminar that I have almost completed.

I chose a blog format because not only was it a site of display I was familiar with because I consistently post on this website, but because I felt comfortable incorporating other modes into the blog post like image and other hypermedia, like the link to the book written in tweets and the link to a Sesame Street video. Making a blog post also allowed me to answer the questions in the mode of text and writing, which is the mode I have used the most in my educational experience and find to be the easiest when answering questions that require specific answers and examples.

This may be considered hypocritical to the points that I make in my project, for example when I say that other modes should be utilized when composing. However, like I said before, I did incorporate other modes such as image, image slideshow, and hyperlinks to videos.  These other modes helped me to answer and represent the questions presented.

The pictures that I chose to include in my project were representative of my answers to the questions. For example, the first image that I included in my project was an image of a sunset that says “Multimodal… Text. Image. Video. Audio.” This image comes right after the title of my blog post, which is “Multimodal Writing: A Technology Literacy Narrative.” This may be considered repetitive, however, I made this modal choice to reinforce and draw attention to my subject matter and help my audience better engage with what I was talking about. People are more likely to engage with image rather than text, especially on websites and blogs, so I thought this would help bridge the gap between the two.

The slideshow I chose to include in my project represented the different and varying modes that exist for students to compose with. The slideshow does switch pictures on its own, which may draw attention away from the actual text answers. Each slideshow is a symbolic picture of a different mode, with a text caption that explains what each mode is. While this may also be considered repetitive, I made this choice to show that it is possible to use different modes other than text to explain what each mode is.

I included hyperlinks to the book written in tweets to display various modes that people can compose with, as well as a Sesame Street video to display how young children use various modes to engage in learning about topics like the alphabet. I wrote in parenthesis “Click for link” after to clarify what I wanted readers to do. I thought that these would be good examples of using various modes to learn and compose, which is why I included them in my project.

The last picture I included is a cartoon that displays point of view. I thought that this illustrated the Palmeri quote at the beginning of that section pretty well while also incorporating humor that would engage my audience, especially when he talks about expanding perspectives.

Each question is written in bold at the top, and each answer is written in plain text. I made this choice to distinguish and separate the question from the topic presented. This is another conventional blog format technique.

I believe that my technology literacy narrative not only answers the questions, but helps readers engage in various modes in order to better understand the answers to my questions.


Sources: 

Bezemer, J., & Kress, G. (2008). Writing in multimodal texts a social semiotic account of designs for learning. Written communication. 25(2), 166-195.

Palmeri, Jason. (2012). Remixing Composition: A History of Multimodal Writing Pedagogy. Southern Illinois University Press. 116-148.

Selfe, Cynthia L. “The Movement of Air, the Breath of Meaning, Aurality and Multimodal Composing.” College Composition and Communication, June 2009, pp. 616-663.

Yancey, K.B. (2004) Made not only in words: Composition is a new key. College Composition and Communication, 56(2), 297-328.

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Obvious Child, 12:17 am

**OBVIOUS CHILD SPOILER ALERT**

It is 12:17 am on a Monday night (I guess a Tuesday morning?) and there are a lot of things I could be doing.

I could be sleeping, for one. I probably should be sleeping, to be honest, considering the amount of sleep I’ve gotten in the past week, which is not all that much. (Contrary to popular belief, anxiety is not fun! At all!)

I could be responding to e-mails or writing the draft of this multimodal literacy narrative due tomorrow that I haven’t blinked an eye at (sorry @ my professor, if you’re reading this. It’s been a rough couple of days) (also sorry @ dad who I know is definitely reading this, I’m keeping up in school, I swear, I’m just tired right now)

I could be reassessing my life choices, or just assessing them in general. I could be wallowing in a pool of guilt right now, or even self pity, but am choosing to put that aside for a moment and think about other things.

I could be reading Invisible Man or American Gods or Ragged Dick or Plato’s Republic or Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life, all of which I’ve been assigned to read this week and have made little progress on. But it’s only Monday, right? I have time.

Instead, I’m in bed, relaxing in the afterglow of that disastrous and almost embarrassing presidential debate, my stomach full of penne capri and hard cider, just having finished watching the movie Obvious Child for the second time (the first time was with one of my best friends Catherine on her 22nd birthday). And it might be the hard cider talking, but Obvious Child is one of my favorite movies of all time as of right this very second (move over, Princess Bride).

For those of you who don’t know, Obvious Child stars Jenny Slate, a young Jewish woman in her 20’s who lives in Brooklyn and experiences a difficult break up, the loss of her job, a one night stand, and (**SPOILER ALERT**) an unplanned pregnancy. Yeah, Jenny Slate has a one night stand in this movie with Jake Lacy of The Office fame, who is unforgettably adorable. (He has great dimples, look him up.) Basically, he and his perfect dimples get her pregnant.  And she decides to get an abortion. And her life falls apart more than it was already falling apart before, but it also falls back together by the end of the movie in a way that made me feel whole.

Now that I’ve given you a vague summary (*YOU’RE WELCOME*), let’s talk about what makes this movie one of my favorites.

This movie was amazing for a lot of reasons. It was a gentle story about a woman who has an abortion. It was a movie about a woman who has choices and who tries to feel fully despite being emotionally stunted. It was a movie about the experience of a real woman, a woman with confidence and insecurities, who has sex, who struggles with taking care of herself, who leans on her friends, who is sad and happy and every emotion in between. And even though she had a happy ending whereas a lot of women might not, it was still real.

Jenny Slate’s “thing” in Obvious Child, aka what she does that makes her so inherently herself, is stand up comedy. I mean, what else would you expect from a comedian/actress extraordinaire? She gets up on stage at this little club in Brooklyn and talks about her life. And because she’s funny and her life is interesting, people listen and they laugh and she gets to talk about how she feels and what’s actually going on, if you know what I mean.

What makes Jenny Slate so great in this movie when she does her stand up comedy is that it’s honest. She tells toilet jokes and sex jokes, but towards the end of the movie she gets up on stage and announces to the audience that, yes, she is pregnant, and YES, SHE IS GETTING AN ABORTION. RIGHT IN FRONT OF MAN CANDY CUTIE PIE STUD MUFFIN JAKE LACY, THE GUY WHO GOT HER PREGNANT, WHO HAS ABSO-FUCKING-LUTELY NO IDEA.

Which is crazy. Can you imagine getting up on stage and announcing something so personal, something that not everyone agrees with, and something that might make people HATE YOU? Can you imagine announcing that to an audience of mostly completely strangers? Can you imagine getting up and announcing that you’re pregnant and you’re planning on terminating the pregnancy for the very first time (I guess that “announce” suggests that it’s for the very first time she’s telling him, so that wording was redundant, sorry) to the guy that impregnated you?

It was incredibly admirable.

This week I read a personal essay by one of my best friends. She wrote about her ex-boyfriend, and how transformative that relationship was for her, and all of the things that she realized after it was over. A lot of it was not nice. But it was extremely well written. She e-mailed me this 22-page essay and I sat and read it on my phone with a plate of mozzarella sticks at Wegmans, and pretty soon I was sitting and reading and crying over a plate of mozzarella sticks at Wegmans. (What else is new?)

What my friend wrote was emotional and real. But most importantly, it was honest. It was raw. And it made me remember myself a little bit and who I was before all this happened, and I think that’s why I cried.

I miss writing. I miss writing so much. I haven’t written anything that I consider to be real and raw and emotional since December/January, when my grandma died. And it’s September, and it’s been so long, and I miss it.

I haven’t written because I’ve been afraid. I didn’t write a college junior year reflection because I was afraid. I was afraid of writing something that people would read and make fun of me for. I was afraid of writing something that people would read and say that it was clichéd for me to write it. I was afraid of other people and what they would think of me. And I don’t want to be afraid anymore.

Amanda Under Construction is my space. I’ve had a lot of space taken away from me this year. I’ve backed away. And part of that meant I had to stop writing. But I want to take my writing back, and I want to take myself back.

This week I wrote an angry poem, and I am no poet. This week I wrote a story about my mother, who I haven’t written about in a long time. This week I cried so hard that I felt hungover the next day (which I didn’t even know was possible). But it’s a start.

Watching Obvious Child and seeing how brave Jenny Slate was reminded me that it’s okay to be myself, and reminded me that my feelings are valid, too. It reminded me what it’s like to be brave, and what it’s like to be me. And it reminded me why I need to write, and why I need to try and write again.

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25 Things I Learned as an Intern at William Clark Associates Literary Agency

The Great Unwashed.

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For those who are just joining us, I’ve wanted to be a children’s book editor since I was 7 years old. (At this point I almost feel like it’s my mantra, my go-to, the thing that I say to help people figure out who I am and what I’m all about. So if you haven’t heard me say it often enough, here it is again.)

I’ve worked at and for and in places that have given me invaluable editorial (and teaching) experience, like Westchester Magazine and Writopia Lab and Random House and The Miss Information and for the TCSD Foundation. I’ve gotten to see first hand what it takes to revise and edit and complete a manuscript or an article, make it into a book or put it online or in a newsletter, and see the tangible finished product that is the writer’s work.

What all of these experiences have given me a limited look into was the world of agenting– the pre-book, pre-published article, pre-finished work world. I had a general sense of what acquisitions were, and what the role of an agent was, but didn’t really have a full understanding of what it all really meant until this summer.

This summer I had the honor of interning at William Clark Associates Literary Agency, a small literary agency in the Flatiron District in New York City. The office I worked in was beautiful. The people were so kind. The area of NYC I worked in was the center of it all. (There was a great Mexican food place and a Starbucks right around the corner, so I was pretty much set.) (Just kidding, I went to other places too, ya know, got dinner and drinks with friends in the city.) (But I did figure out where Union Square was in relation to the office by typing “nearest Forever 21″into Google Maps, so there you go.) (I almost wish I was kidding about that.)

I worked for William Clark himself, who proved himself a kind, adept, and wise mentor. He encouraged me to listen in on his phone calls, ask questions whenever I had any, and to test my boundaries and explore the city. (If the #1 thing about me is that I want to be a children’s book editor, the #2 thing is that I have no sense of direction. I got lost. A lot.) He told me when I did something wrong and was very understanding. I even got to meet his daughter and give her a list of children’s books to read, which I had a lot of fun putting together. (We bonded over Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon.)

At the agency, I not only got to learn about the business of agenting, but I also got to read book proposals and contracts and agreements, which is something I’ve never gotten to do before. I read adult narrative nonfiction and fiction books, some of which were interesting, some of which were not, some of which were good, some of which were not. (A lot of people write about the Holocaust and 9/11, I’ve noticed.) I liked that I got to read work that wasn’t meant for children, because I was able to expand my repertoire and find other genres and categories I might be interested in for my future career path.

I evaluated each proposal thoroughly and to the best of my ability, summarizing my thoughts into a few paragraphs and sending them to William Clark. He trusted my judgement, which made me feel more confident in my own opinions and ideas. He sent me on errands to mail things and deliver packages. I took inventory of his stock of books. I got to go to a summer literary agent intern toolbox session at the CUNY Graduate Center and meet publishing professionals as well as other summer literary agency interns. I was able to copy edit a few manuscripts and proposals and make sure everything looked put together, which was probably my favorite part of the job.

This summer was a really wonderful experience, and one that I don’t think I would be able to find elsewhere, especially with someone who was as encouraging, knowledgeable, and supportive of a mentor as William Clark. Interning at William Clark Associates Literary Agency showed me another side to a world that I can’t wait to be a part of.

Over the course of the summer, I took general notes on what I learned, which can mostly be summarized below. (Also– a .PDF of an abridged version of a speech William Clark gave about the role of a literary agent can be found here. It helped me a lot when I started out this summer.)

Enjoy!


  1. Publishing and agenting are businesses built on relationships.
  2. Agents find writers, get their manuscripts in shape, and then find editors to make an offer.
  3. Agents are problem solvers. They solve problems between authors and publishers.
  4. The agent manages the integrity of the author’s work in relation to the publisher.
  5. Proposals are supposed to talk about what makes a manuscript unique, show whether or not the author knows what he/she is talking about, identify potential readers and competing/comparative works, and have a specific goal/focus. They also have to hit all of these important points in an engaging way, to capture the interest of the agent, and ultimately the editor.
  6. The author brand resides with the author and not the publisher! The agent helps the author expand on his/her brand.
  7. The revision process is what the editor wants to do with the manuscript and how the author chooses to make those changes.
  8. A royalty statement is how publishers account for the number of book sales. A percentage of book sales go to the publisher, author, and agent.
  9. When reading a manuscript or a proposal, it’s important to try and read it with a broader perspective than your own. If you’re reading it with only your interests in mind, you might miss out on something worth looking at. So keep an open mind.
  10. A platform business model is one that “creates value by facilitating exchanges between two or more groups,” i.e. authors/agents and publishers/editors.
  11. The IPR Database is a database meant to sort of replace the agent’s role in the publishing process. IPR stands for Intellectual Property Rights, i.e., copyright of the work that’s going to be published.
  12. A memoir is about a person’s personal experience(s) while an autobiography is more about a person’s life as a whole. (Sometimes the two words are used interchangeably, so everyone calm down.)
  13. As much as the author chooses the agent, the agent chooses the author.
  14. As the world of publishing changes (as it has and is, constantly) it’s important to be aware of how these changes affect the relationship between the author and the agent!
  15. Representations (accuracies on the date a contract is made) and warranties (guarantees that statements will remain in the future) are assurances by the agent/author that certain statements in a contract are true.
  16. Indemnification is when the author has to reimburse the publisher for its losses and expenses if a representation or warranty made by the agent is wrong and the publisher loses money as a result.
  17. Agents have to try and work with/understand the stresses an editor is under from their publishers.
  18. A book scout works for foreign publishers, find what sells in America, and figures out what might sell in other places.
  19. The lifespan of a copyright is the author’s death + 70 years.
  20. Underlying work is the original work of an author (book, a manuscript, etc.) and derivative work is a movie that might come out based on the book, or musical arrangements, or a theatrical adaptation, etc.
  21. Publishers always have their best interest at heart! They don’t always have the author’s best interest. Agents deal with ~outsized expectations~ from both the author and publisher.
  22. It’s easier to get a job as an agent, and there’s also a lot more job mobility than there might be as an editor (*single tear falls down my cheek*).
  23. Economic interest is the author’s right to be paid for their work. Moral interest is the author’s right to the work’s integrity and attribution.
  24. It costs considerably less to mail something at the post office than with UPS. (oops)
  25. If you are genuine and go about your business without the intention of hurting others you will be just fine.

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Likes and Dislikes

Let’s try this again.

Things I Like:

  • Recommending books to people.
  • Granny panties.
  • When people think the things I say are funny.
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches (on rye, with American cheese) from the diner.
  • Firm pillows.
  • Going to the movies with Catherine.
  • Knowing where I’m going.
  • Buying gifts for people that I know they’ll really like.
  • Recognizing actors/actresses I know on TV shows.
  • Rooms with lots of windows.
  • Finding people’s books at book sales/garage sales, smelling the binding, and being able to recognize whether it was glued or sewn together.

Things I Dislike:

  • Humidity.
  • My legs sticking to car seats because of the humidity.
  • How I care too much about what other people think.
  • My phone being below 50% battery.
  • Being put in the middle of situations I have no control over.
  • Feeling small, feeling like I don’t matter, feeling like what I have to say doesn’t matter, feeling oppressed in general.
  • Going to sleep without socks on.
  • Getting lost.
  • Days where it’s impossible to get out of bed or even open my computer or change out of my pajamas or brush my teeth or move.
  • Train delays.
  • Not being able to check things in my planner off.
  • Social media, a lot of the time.

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Scary things that are scary:

My little sister Carly is graduating high school next week.IMG_9542

I’ve been talking about it with a lot of people. As in, every time I have a conversation with a person it is one of those designated conversation topics that I bring up. People always know to ask about her, too, because they see me post about her so often on Instagram and Facebook, and in person I’ll talk about her every 10 seconds. So even if they’ve never met her, they know to ask.

My little sister Carly is graduating high school next week. But she’s not, really, because she’s 9 and she doesn’t have to worry about it for a couple more years. (This is me in denial.) So she’s not really graduating, is she? We’re going to sit in the basement at my mom’s house and have an Amanda School lesson. We’re gonna draw with chalk in the driveway and go scootering (?) on Beekman. I’m going hang out in the main office at PVC with her and a bunch of her friends and a bunch of my friends and not concentrate on Newsapalooza for an hour next Wednesday. I’m gonna call her a brat and accuse her of stealing my clothes (not the other way around). We’re gonna watch High School Musical and relish in Zac Efron’s adolescent beauty together. I’m going to be the loudest person in the audience at her school plays. We’re going to go on a road trip to New Hampshire with my dad for a couple of days and listen to Harry Potter on audiobook in the car and maybe she won’t throw up. And it’ll be fine.

My little sister Carly is graduating high school next week. And going to senior prom tomorrow. And she’s going to look like a princess– I’ve already seen pictures of her in her dress, and she looks like an actual princess, I’m not exaggerating. Her dress is long and flowy and makes her look very grown up. Carly is one of the most beautiful people I know. As much as I hate to admit it, she is not 9-years-old– she is a mature 18-year-old going to her senior prom. And that is scary, but also it makes me proud.

My little sister Carly is graduating high school next week. I’ve written about it before, but after I moved out of my mom’s house and left for college, we became a lot closer. I guess that’s what happens when you have to spend a lot of time apart from your sister– you learn to appreciate the time that you do get together. Carly became one of my best friends when I left for school. We text all the time, and videochat. We talk about boys and bodies (not dead ones, our own. Sorry, I’ve been watching too much How to Get Away with Murder) and whether or not my Instagram picture fits my theme and friends and college, especially when she started to have to worry about the SATs and where to apply to last year. And I’m graduating next year (yikes), so next summer is sort of up in the air for where I’ll be. Carly was a reason for me to come home every break, and now what will I do if she’s not here?

My little sister Carly is graduating high school next week. It makes me think about how different my life was when I graduated– not just in terms of high school vs. now, but from my sister’s. Carly is different than I was in high school. She is good at being responsible and is a very social person– she has older child syndrome without being the older child. (I never understood that.) When she can’t do something she has the gall to try, rather than shut down. She takes things in stride and is very rational. She knows what she values and who she is and her worth, and stands by that. I admire her so much for who she’s grown into, and I love her (if you can’t tell).

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Before this gets too sappy, which, after re-reading, just kidding it’s too late it’s already sappy…

My little sister Carly is graduating high school next week, and I couldn’t be prouder.

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