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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15 Things I Learned as a Teaching/Editorial Intern in the Trumansburg School District

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When I was in middle/high school, I ran my own newsletter called Newsapalooza (click for link). It was for middle school students and I had a staff made up of some of my friends and my sister (who is 3 years younger) and some of her friends. I ran it from 7th-10th grade as the owner, editor and publisher, and tried to come out with a new issue every month. I remember that for the first couple of months I couldn’t think of a name so I just called it Newsletter, which didn’t really have much of a ring to it.

My student staffers wrote book reviews and short stories and fun fact lists and recipes and fake advice columns. We even came up with a sort of secret handshake, and at the end of every year I came out with a Newsapalooza yearbook that included pictures from our meetings and writer biographies. I formatted everything on Microsoft Publisher. Every month for the first two years, I made my dad go to Staples and print out 100 copies of Newsapalooza that I distributed in school. For the last year, I published them online.

To this day, as a junior in college, I am still so proud of Newsapalooza. Getting to work alongside my friends and my sister’s friends, who I was able to bond with over this little newsletter and do stuff that I really liked to do like writing, editing, teaching, and publishing on my own terms, was the greatest. I miss it all the time.

Last year, Barbara (or as Sam Brodsky & I lovingly refer to her, Barb) Adams of the IC Writing Department sent out an e-mail asking students to apply to be an intern in the Trumansburg School District (about 30 minutes outside of Ithaca). The job of the intern would be to organize and teach students in the district feature writing/journalism, as well as put together a community newsletter in Trumansburg called The Trumansburg Troubadour (click for link). Very excited about the prospect of this internship, which I thought sounded very similar to what I’d done with Newsapalooza with a more new-sy and public relation-y focus, I e-mailed back right away, interviewed, and got the job.

Since August 2015, I’ve been interning in the Trumansburg School District as a teaching/editorial intern for the Trumansburg Central School District Foundation. I teach a student staff of about 6-8 students every week, as well as guide students who can’t come to the meetings online in how best to write and revise their articles. The youngest student I teach is 9, and the oldest is 16. They write about a variety of topics, like the Chris Bond Run, the Hangar Theater Project, Localvore Club, the new food services director, Robotics Club, and advice that high school seniors would give to high school freshman, and a lot of other topics.

During our weekly meetings, we focus on brainstorming, what the necessary components of an article are, the who what when where why and how of a story, how to interpret edits and revisions, how to use Google Drive, the types of questions to ask during interviews, how to ask questions in general, and even the differences between AP Style and MLA style. We came out with the 5th issue of the Troubadour in January under my guidance, the leadership of Molly Buck who is my sponsor on the TCSD Foundation Board, and help of Hanna Hertzler, an 11th grader at the high school, who is head illustrator and student editor-in-chief.

I am lucky that I was able to continue developing my passion for publishing and gaining experience in editing in the real world by interning with the Troubadour these past few semesters. The students I taught really care about writing and learning, as well as the community of Trumansburg. Teaching students who actually want to be taught and who want to actively participate was incredibly rewarding. We came out with a great issue this past winter, which you can check out if you click on the above link (it’s issue V).

While we are still in the process of finishing up our most recent issue, I thought I would share some of what I’ve learned the past few semesters. Enjoy!


  1. Getting people to participate and outreach is HARD! Especially when you are not from the area and don’t know the people very well.
  2. It takes time to gain the trust of students you’ve never taught before and create a community around that trust.
  3. English teachers are your friends when you’re trying to find students to write for you!
  4. Research the magazine/newspaper/newsletter you are working for beforehand so you can understand what it’s all about and what you’re trying to produce.
  5. Make sure that everyone is on the same page about article topics/ideas from the very beginning.
    1. If someone decides to write about something that’s not conducive to what Trumansburg is all about, it won’t work. If someone decides to write about a topic that is too similar to another person’s topic– that won’t work either.
  6. Plan out what you are going to teach every week.
  7. Plan out DEADLINES at the very beginning of the semester. **THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT**
  8. Send out weekly e-mails so everyone is on the same page.
  9. Check your e-mail all the time. Link up your e-mail accounts to your phone so you can check your e-mail and be there when student writers and their parents need you.
  10. Keep track of everyone’s names/e-mails. That way, when you send out weekly e-mails, everyone is on the same page.
  11. Have patience while teaching stuff (like AP Style) that people (like 9 year olds) have never heard of or learned about before.
  12. **Editing the writing of children is different from editing the writing of adults and college age students.**
    1. Be nice in your edits and revisions!
    2. Maintaining the voices of student writers is essential to each article.
  13.  Be understanding and aware of situations for students that might arise that prevent them from making deadlines.
  14. Consistency is important. Weekly meetings or meetings every other week will remind people to get on track with their articles. They’ll also see you as a leader/mentor if you’re there for them consistently.
  15. Be comfortable and kind but maintain your status as a leader, a publisher, a teacher, and a professional in the classroom.

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Posted in Things I've Learned in College | 1 Comment

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

(This is a first draft of something that I’m going to workshop in one of my classes.)

Last year my friends and I decided to have a movie night and watch Castaway because it was on Netflix. I’d never seen it before, but I’d heard that there were some scary scenes. A classic Amanda move– I looked it up on Wikipedia and read the plot summary beforehand, scrolling through it on my phone as we watched and the plot of the movie progressed. (Yeah, whatever, why would I do that, that ruins the whole movie, blah blah blah, get over it) 

At one point (SPOILER ALERT) Tom Hanks has to cut out his rotten tooth with an ice skate, which I already knew and was anticipating because I’d read it on the Wikipedia page, so I covered my eyes in a very obvious and dramatic manner and warned everyone, “This part gets scary, I know it!” This was met with groans from my friends and a chorus of “Really, Amanda?s” (Fact: most people don’t like being told what’s going to happen in a movie before it happens.)

There’s a show on Netflix called Jessica Jones that I recently just finished watching, but I couldn’t watch it without looking up the play-by-play of each episode on the Internet beforehand. Same with every single show or movie that I watch. Sometimes if I’m going to see something in the movie theater I won’t look it up, but most of the time I will. If I start watching a new show with a friend and I have questions about something that they won’t answer unless I keep watching, I threaten to look it up on Wikipedia until they tell me.

Why do I do this?

Answer: I suck.

Real answer: I am afraid.

I am afraid of the violence, the blood and gore, being surprised by loud noises and murderers and long lost aunts. (I have a very low tolerance for violence and blood, and also surprises.) I am afraid of that scene in The Incredibles where Mr. Incredible is walking through the forest and that giant robot thing comes out of nowhere. I am afraid of literally every episode of Grey’s Anatomy. I am afraid of that part in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2 where Harry grabs Voldemort by the face and goes, “WE’LL GO DOWN TOGETHER!” and they both fall off the edge of a cliff and they’re grabbing at each other and screaming in some weird terrifying apparition sequence.

I am afraid of not knowing. I like knowing a lot better than not knowing. With knowing, you understand what to expect and what you’re going to get. You can prepare yourself for the worst. I knew beforehand that Tom Hanks was going to cut out his tooth with an ice skate. That was the whole point of looking it up– I didn’t have to experience it in full and watch it if I didn’t want to, because I already knew it was going to happen.

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Over winter break, my grandma, Barbara Livingston, passed away. She died on Christmas day. I was in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with my stepfamily and my dad when it happened. My dad had been on the phone with her that morning– she’d called Life Alert because she wasn’t feeling well, but sent the paramedics away because she figured it was just something bad she ate.

A couple of hours later, my dad got a bunch of phone calls from her nursing home and the hospital. She had had a heart attack.

20 minutes after that, my grandma had officially died. My dad and I quickly packed up our stuff in Pittsburgh and left.

Fact: Pittsburgh is a 7 hour car trip from where I live in New York.

Fact: My dad is an excellent multitasker.

For 7 straight hours, my dad was driving while on the phone with everyone that he was related to, was friends with, knew and probably ever existed. He explained what had happened, how the funeral was going to be on Sunday, which was her birthday, that the details of the funeral hadn’t been finalized yet, that he was on his way home, blah blah blah. Over and over and over.

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My dad did not cry. He teared up a little, but he did not cry. It was weird because my dad is a crier (Fact: he cried when he saw High School Musical), but he didn’t have time to cry– he was on the phone for 7 straight hours.

For 7 straight hours, I sat in silence. My dad’s babbling on the phone filled me up. It became every thought that passed through my brain. The same explanation over and over and over, about how my grandma had died and that we were okay and coming home and things were going to be figured out tomorrow.  I had texted my sister and a few of my close friends, but that’s it. My brain felt like radio static.

I did not cry. I didn’t make any noise at all. I had felt pressure behind my eyes like I was going to cry when we had first heard on the phone, but I didn’t cry on that 7 hour car ride. I didn’t have time.

Due to unfortunate circumstances, my sister and I didn’t get to see my grandma Barbie a lot growing up. (Or my dad’s side of the family, for that matter.) It was pretty unfair. We would have relatively short visits with her, and when we did visit my sister Carly and I rolled our eyes and gave short answers when she asked us questions about school and boys, and made comments about our hair. (She loved our hair. She would always try to brush Carly’s or play with it, which Carly hated, to be honest.)

It drove me up the wall when she made comments about my body, or about my hair, or about how I did my makeup. She always asked about my big high school boyfriend, and when we broke up, she continued to ask about him every time I came to visit. It made me want to die.

Like I said, these visits were short. And a lot of the time, they weren’t all that fun. Not getting to see my grandma Barbie a lot when we were younger kind of definitely absolutely took a toll on our relationship with her– visiting with her a lot of the time felt like an obligation, like something we had to do. But we did our best for our dad and for her, because we knew it made them happy, and answered her questions and let her play with our hair and ate the takeout food my dad always picked up pre-visit. And ultimately, we were lucky to have a grandma who loved us that much and was always smiling, even if she didn’t know what was going on.

One thing that I know my sister secretly loved but pretended to hate was singing for my grandma. My sister was the star of our middle school play Annie, as in, she was Annie in Annie, and she is probably the best singer/actress in the whole world, and probably the best person to ever play Annie in Annie. (As her sister, I’m biased. But I swear to god it’s true, she is the best singer/actress in the whole world) My grandma would ask her to sing songs from the play, and Carly would stand up and act like she didn’t want to, but she would sing anyway. I knew Carly did sort of want to sing, somewhere inside of her, because she always, always sang. She would sing The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow at the top of her lungs, just for my grandma.

When Carly would sing, my grandma’s face would light up. You know how when some people talk to you, they seem excited and interested but you can tell they’re acting like that just because they’re trying to be nice? My grandma Barbie was GENUINELY interested, captivated, mesmerized (all of these words are good and fit perfectly here, I couldn’t choose just one) by my sister’s singing. She wouldn’t–couldn’t take her eyes off of her when she sang. She was so excited and entranced and unbelievably p r o u d, and you could read it all over her face. It was so pure.

It was pretty shocking that my grandma died. I mean, she wasn’t all that healthy. She was overweight and diabetic and ordered out for every meal. She stayed in her room at the nursing home she lived in 99.99% of the time and didn’t really socialize except for when she called my dad on the phone 50 million times a day, more than I call my dad on the phone, which is a lot anyway.

So it might not sound like all that much of a surprise that she died (which sounds terrible, but it’s true. Even my dad admitted it), but I think that it counts as a surprise when someone is living and then all of a sudden they’re not. And you were so used to them living and existing, and now they’re not living or existing at all.

I’m writing about this because sometimes I think that if I was ever given the chance to, I’d like to read the Wikipedia page on my life. On Wikipedia profile pages, there’s usually (basically always) a section on aforementioned person’s personal life. Mine would maybe include/say these types of things:

Personal Life


Amanda starts Newsapalooza in 2007. Amanda’s grandma Fran dies in 2008. Amanda gets her first internship at Westchester Magazine in 2010. Amanda officially moves out of her mom’s house in June 2013. Amanda goes off to Ithaca College in August 2013.  Amanda interns at Random House in 2014. (There are lots of other important things in between, but you get the gist.) Amanda comes to terms with trying to get better re: mental illness in the fall of 2014. Amanda discovers Writopia in 2015. Amanda’s grandma Barbie dies in 2015. Amanda gets a job/internship at ________ at this point in time, Amanda’s sister ends up at  _______ for college, her dad moves to _______ after Amanda’s sister goes off to school,  Amanda goes to grad school at ________, Amanda’s sister moves to _______ after college, Amanda gets married (yikes) (to Ryan Gosling? Best Case Scenario: He leaves Eva Mendes for me. If that happened, I might take back the yikes), has kids (yikes), moves to ________,  and some things I don’t even want to think about right now that will inevitably happen that have to do with death, dying, and being dead.

Fact: It is not possible to read the Wikipedia page about your life unless you are a celebrity or a politician or an author or someone else famous/well known. And if you are alive, your Wikipedia page is still being written, so you’re not going to know anything that hasn’t happened yet, which is why this idea/concept would never work. (I mean, there are other reasons why it wouldn’t work, but I’m just saying.)

I think about this sometimes when bad things happen and when I’m really sad. How would I act differently if I saw it coming? How would I act differently if I had read the Wikipedia page on my life and could prepare for all of this stuff? Maybe if my Personal Life section went into detail, it would tell me about every time I would go into a depressive or anxiety-driven state, and maybe I could do something to change my circumstances and how I felt to alleviate those feelings.  If I knew that my grandma was going to die over break, maybe I could have taken the time to get to know her a little bit better and call her more often, which is something I’ve been feeling guilty about and thinking about a lot lately.

That is not a plausible thing to want or wish for. If you knew everything that was going to happen in your life before it happened, you wouldn’t be able to develop as a person or learn or grow from it. And you would just be kind of floating along out there, living a life you already knew. And that wouldn’t be interesting or exciting at all. I wouldn’t feel sad or happy or anxious or scared or depressed or content or anything. I would just kind of be.

The point of this blog is for me to take all of the things that have happened to me and write about them, how they affect my life and who I am as a person– how I grow and learn from my life experiences and how they shape me as a human being. I am Amanda Under Construction. That means my life is constantly changing, things are always happening, good or bad, and I have to take them in stride.

This post kind of took a different direction than I had actually intended, but I think that’s okay. At first, I wanted it to be a post about my grandma Barbie, and the type of person she was and the life she lived. But I don’t think I was ready to write that in its entirety yet, which is why this came out instead. One day I will, but not today.

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Posted in Life Lessons, Things I've Learned in College | 1 Comment

Amanda Can Drink Alcohol Legally!

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I am 20 going on 21

^ Those words were scary to type.

Turning 21 is something that I’ve looked forward to for a really long time. It’s like I’m a real adult now– I can finally drink (legally).

Is that it? Is that all I can do? I think that’s pretty much it. I can’t rent a car. But I don’t need to rent a car, so I don’t really have a problem with that.

Important things that are important that happened this year: I became more independent. I discovered the value and importance of female friendships. I put myself in more leadership roles at school. I immersed myself in Writopia. I networked. I got a passport. I got a tonsillectomy. I lost friends and I gained friends. I became closer with some and farther away from others. I taught and got paid for it. My grandma died. I cut a foot and a half of my hair off.

Earlier today I was thinking about where I was in my life this time last year. I had a bunch of great friends (and I still do, but our relationships have evolved and are very different, and I’m close with people I never thought I would be close with but glad I am). I was into this boy, and that didn’t work out. (lol) (anyway) I was sad about people I’d lost, in life and in friendships. I was writing a lot more. I was adjusting to change. I was still happier at home. I learned to value my own happiness over others, and learned to take care of myself a little better. I was a lot more secure in myself than I am at this point in my life. I loved my family and friends just as much as I do now, which is an overwhelming amount sometimes, but I have good intent so I think it’s okay.

Last year, I set goals for myself for each semester. I was determined not to be unhappy at school like I was freshman year. I was determined not to be alone. So my goal for Fall 2014 was “Amanda makes friends” (I weirdly referred to myself in the third person when I did this. I’m not crazy though, I swear). And I did! It worked out pretty well. I came out of that semester with a lot of really great friends here in Ithaca, and I am genuinely proud of myself for that.

Spring 2015 was a little more complicated. Steering myself in the direction of being happier at school, I made it my mission to be happy. The goal for Spring 2015 (official title) was “Amanda is happy/Amanda is a better version of herself.”

Sounds great, right?

Yes! It is a very good goal to have. You want to be happy. You want to be a better version of yourself. I want to be happy, I want to care and do all of the things I want to do, and I want to learn new things and meet new people and I want to WANT to learn new things and meet new people.

But saying that you’re gonna do it and feel that way is a lot different than actually doing it and actually feeling that way. And it’s not something that can be accomplished in a semester.

I’m not really sure what I was thinking in setting that goal. I tried to go to CAPS, and obviously that didn’t work out. My counselor was so sweet and thoughtful and understanding, but because of understaffing and time constraints he could only see me every 2 1/2 weeks, which just wasn’t enough. I won’t go into specifics because 1) it’s not anyone’s business 2) I don’t owe anyone an explanation about anything and 3) I can choose to share what I want about myself, which I will.

I will say that what this past year has taught me is patience in terms of self-growth. You can’t say “I’M GOING TO BE BETTER” and then expect yourself to be all better in 10 seconds. It takes time and it takes effort and it takes understanding and it takes love from yourself and from other people. And even then you’re not going to be better.

I’m here a year later and I’m still working on myself and on being happy. I’m still trying to figure myself out. It’s frustrating at times. But I think that I am worth figuring out, and that it’s worth trying.

As an (almost) 21 year old, I have a lot of things to do and a lot of people that I care about and a lot of things that I’m going to learn and people I’m going to meet and books that I’m going to read and movies that I’m going to watch and classes I’m going to take and places I’m going to go, and I am excited for all of it. But I am mostly excited for watching myself grow as a person as I do all of that great stuff. I am excited to grow into myself and be the best version of myself I can be.

Here’s to another year. Happy 21st birthday to me!

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If you want to read my past birthday posts, click here

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One Tree Hill ≠ Real Life

My name is Amanda Livingston, and One Tree Hill ruined my life.

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The most perfect and unrealistically beautiful cast you’ve ever seen in your whole life, probably.

Okay, so maybe it didn’t ruin my life. It just took over my life. I dedicated so much time to it that I finished the entire 187 episode, 9 season series in a matter of four months. (Thank you, Netflix.) Which I probably shouldn’t brag about because it’s not healthy to watch that much TV in such a short period of time, but with the way that I watch TV, it’s kind of normal.

One Tree Hill is a television series that was filmed from 2003-2012 about a bunch of beautiful teenagers who grow up in a town called Tree Hill, North Carolina. All of these beautiful teens all have at least one absentee parent, and live very dramatic lives. The plot of the TV show is based around their high school basketball team and how this kid (Chad Michael Murray) born out of wedlock, abandoned by his father, competes to be on the same team (and for the same love interest) as another kid with the same father (James Lafferty). Did that make sense? Hopefully? It’s a complicated show. (I thought too hard about how to write that sentence, and I kind of lost where I was going with it.)

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Dan Scott (center) and his kid that he likes, Nathan (left), and his kid that he hates, Lucas (right). DRAMA!

But based on that description, it sounds terrible. And yeah, it was a terrible show, but it was also heart breaking, and life ruining. I mean, have you seen Chad Michael Murray? He was at his peak in the early 2000s. Him and those beautiful, squinty eyes. Chad Michael Murray on that show ruined me.

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Ugh. Look at him.

I started to write this blog post as a list of reasons why I love One Tree Hill, but I’ve decided to take it in an entirely new direction.

One Tree Hill, and so many of the other dramas that I’ve watched on TV (Degrassi, Gossip Girl, to name a few) are great and they keep you on the edge of your seat with crazy drama. Which beautiful teen will this other beautiful teen fall in love with next? Who is pregnant now? Who shot who? Who is dying from a terminal illness? Who was in a car crash this week? Where the heck are all the parents? (I tried showing my friend Alexa the pilot episode and tried to explain what was going on and who everyone was and she just kept laughing and telling me how ridiculous the show sounded. And it is ridiculous.)

But are any of these situations realistic? Are any of them REAL? Do people really care that much about high school basketball?

The answer to those last three questions: Not really.

I’ve come up with a list of the ways the teen drama One Tree Hill does not reflect/can’t really compare to real life. Enjoy!

  • High school does not define you. This is VERY, VERY important. On One Tree Hill, the characters saw high school as the be all, end all. They referred to high school after they graduated basically every 5 minutes. This is not necessary! This is extremely misleading! There are so many other experiences to be had after you graduate! Like college. And traveling. And learning how to adult in the real world.
    • Also important– After high school your life is not over. You do not drop off the face of the planet! You can do important and impactful things! One Tree Hill tells us the opposite– their lives revolved around a tiny little town in North Carolina, but that usually isn’t how real life is.
  • You don’t have to continually refer to the people in your life as who they are in relation to you. This drove me nuts. Every time someone would come on screen, whether or not they had been a recurring character for six seasons, whoever was already there would identify them by their first and last name, as well as whoever the person was in relation to them. For example, Dan Scott and  Keith Scott were brothers. Every time they had a scene together, Dan would walk on screen saying, “Keith! Big brother, how are you doing?” or something like that, except maybe meaner because he was evil. Or Peyton would say, “Brooke Davis, you are my best friend.” Every time this happened I would shake my first at the screen. PEYTON, WE KNOW. THIS HAS BEEN ESTABLISHED. I think after 5 seasons, we know who everyone is. Everybody, calm down.
  • No one looks like this in high school (especially like Chad Michael Murray or Brooke Davis. Or any of them, really). This is a problem I have with a lot of teen drama shows. They’re all supposed to be 17 years old when the series starts out, but every single one of the actors that plays them (Nathan, Lucas, Peyton, Brooke, Haley, whoever else) is at least 21. How is that realistic? Imagine 17 year old boys wondering why they can’t lift as much as Nathan, and why they don’t look as toned as Lucas. Imagine 17 year old girls wondering why their bodies don’t look like Peyton and Brooke’s, and why their skin isn’t as perfect or their breasts not as perky. It’s because they’re NOT ACTUALLY 17. They are real adult scarily beautiful people pretending to be real scarily beautiful teenagers. Don’t be mislead by their developed beauty!

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  • Not everyone is super successful immediately after high school. Hi hello this is really important! Lucas publishes a novel like 10 seconds out of high school and becomes famous and rich. Nathan basically makes it to the NBA in 10 seconds. Brooke becomes a fashion designer and CEO of a company. I’m not saying that this can’t happen to you, but please be realistic. Also, maybe go to college because NO ONE SEEMS TO GO TO COLLEGE ON THIS SHOW. At least on Gossip Girl they tried it for a season. But you don’t have to have those expectations for yourself! Big things take time. You can write the Great American Novel, but it’s not gonna take you 5 minutes to write it. You can join the NBA, but you also have to be in college basketball and be really great and have a lot of practice. You can run your own company, but you need some experience first. You get the gist.
  • Not everyone stays in their hometown after high school. I mean, the only way the show could continue and still be called One Tree Hill is if everyone stayed in One Tree Hill. But people leave! People go off to college! People move and live their lives! Don’t think that everyone has to live in their hometown forever. That’s just how it happens on TV.
  • PEOPLE GO TO COLLEGE. The reason that this one had me so upset is because in Tree Hill almost NO ONE goes to college. Or if they do, they casually mention that they went to college like it was nothing, no effort, took no time at all. Which is so unlikely, especially if you look at the demographics of that town. !? College is important! Education is important! Don’t listen to this show! They’re dumb!
  • High school kids are not allowed to live without a parent and/or guardian. How the heck did these kids get away with living in houses with no parents? Peyton had a dad and Brooke had parents, but they were never there and basically didn’t live with them. No. That’s not allowed. Babies can’t take care of themselves. No wonder everyone on this show had so many problems.
  • Do not use alcohol to deal with your problems! Do not use violence to deal with your problems!  Very important! If you watch it closely, almost everyone on One Tree Hill was an alcoholic. Every time they had to do something they didn’t want to do, they took a shot or drank some wine or took a pill or something. Everyone was always drinking. It was terrible. Also, I don’t think that there was anyone on the show who hadn’t slapped or hit or punched or shot (yikes) someone. It was crazy. Please don’t take after these crazy beautiful actor people. This is not how you should deal with your issues in real life.
  • People’s relationships don’t develop that quickly! People don’t fall in love that fast! I’ve had this issue with so many television shows. People meet, they fall in love. There’s never any in between moments of getting to know each other, any awkwardness, any actual dating. There’s just falling in love, devastating love, and it’s terrible. For years I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just fall in love like Ted and Robin on How I Met Your Mother, or like Dan and Serena on Gossip Girl, or like Eli and Clare on Degrassi. That’s because their love isn’t real. No love is like that. Love takes time, which TV shows and their audiences don’t have or don’t have the patience for, so they just skip through all the boring stuff.
  • Not all relationships have to/do end in marriage/babies/happily ever after. Literally everyone on the show wanted this. But if you look at millennial demographics, the number of people the same age as Lucas, Nathan, Peyton, Brooke and Haley that don’t get married are increasing, because people’s values are changing. Which is fine! But the show does not reflect that at all. Everyone ends up married and with babies. The fact that they don’t show any other options for these beautiful actor “teens” as they go through their lives is inaccurate and depressing. What if Peyton doesn’t really want kids? Or what if Nathan never really wanted to get married? There are other options, people. Season_4_Lucas_and_Peyton_6.jpg
  • Your life does not end after you turn 40. Dan and Karen and Deb are young parents, because they had Nathan and Lucas when they were in high school/fresh out of high school. But every other older on the show kind of doesn’t exist. Once they graduate high school, Karen kind of disappears from the face of the earth, and Deb and Dan show up sparingly. What this tells us is that they’re too old to be seen on television, which just seems completely unfair. It devalues old people– it tells us that all people want to see is unrealistically beautiful “young” people living their lives.

And don’t get me wrong– I loved watching this show. I watched all 187 episodes of it, and I wouldn’t have done that if I didn’t love it. Sometimes I need those little reminders that these TV shows might be based off of real life, but take all the extremes and twists and turns and emotions and make them a million times bigger and more dramatic.

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Everything I Learned at NYWICI’s Student Communications Career Conference 2015

12195914_10207907732397278_162886318283068768_nThis past Saturday I attended New York Women in Communications’ 2015 Student Communications Career Conference (say that three times fast!). My Aunt Julie introduced NYWICI to me, and I’ve been a member since I was a junior in high school and been attending this conference since I was a senior in high school (right now, I’m a junior at Ithaca College). So this is my 4th time going to the conference, I believe.

When I was a senior in high school, I won a NYWICI scholarship, and I think that that’s when it really made me realize how important and necessary NYWICI is, as in, how beneficial it is for women in communications and professional fields, and how beneficial being a member of such a wonderful and supportive organization is. If you’d like to read more about what being a NYWICI scholarship winner means to me, click here.

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Winning a NYWICI scholarship in 2013 as a high school senior.

For the past three years, I’ve gotten to go to the conference with IC Women in Communications,  the professional development organization for women in communications fields at my school, Ithaca College. It was founded by Alyssa Frey and Alexis Dent, both of whom have since graduated but who are off doing amazing things in communications. I am currently the Vice President of WIC, and Katie Baldwin, a sophomore Television and Radio major is the President. We organized a trip this semester to take our e-board, as well as general body members, to the conference, as we’ve done for the past few years now.

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Attending the 2014 NYWICI SCCC with general body members and e-board.

What made this trip so special is that Katie and I (mostly Katie, that girl is so organized and so on her game) as well as the WIC e-board got to organize it ourselves, get the funds together, and pick which deserving members of WIC would get the special opportunity to come on the trip. Everyone who came wanted to be there, and wanted to learn and grow as professionals and as women, and it was great to be in that environment. Katie and I were the “real adult people,” as I like to say, and yeah, it was hard to act and think that way and be in charge of 15 other girls in New York City. But somehow, we managed to do it, and we had a great time.

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Attending the 2015 NYWICI SCCC with general body members and e-board.

Going on this trip made me proud to be a part of NYWICI, and proud to be the Vice President and member of WIC. Getting to go to the conference again for the 4th year in a row made me proud of myself as a professional young woman. I always learn so much at the NYWICI Student Communications Career Conference, and get to meet and network with a lot of cool women who are so passionate and motivated and goal oriented, just like me. I also almost always get to see past NYWICI scholarship winners and NYWICI board members and NYWICI members that I know and have met before, and it’s always nice to catch up. (Hi Cathy Carlozzi and Taylor Trudon and Marisch Perera and Taylor Sassman and Amanda Morris! <3)

Lucky for you guys, 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!


11260680_10207907733237299_5697752869397802125_nAmy Odell- Editor of Cosmopolitan.com and Author of Tales From the Back Row

What it’s all about: Amy Odell was our first keynote speaker, and is the current editor of Cosmopolitan.com, which is a HUGE deal. She wrote this book called Tales From the Back Row, which she was selling/signing copies of at the conference. My friend Allie and I went up to meet her/get a book signed, and I was so starstruck that all I could do was shake her hand and walk away regretting that I didn’t say anything else.

Personal and professional advice/information:

  • Check for facts. The last thing you want your boss to say is, “Let me Google that for you.”
  • Beg for work. Do not sit around and wait for people to ask you to do something.
  • Take the job you don’t want. Take the job you never thought you would get. Don’t turn your nose up at opportunities you don’t think are the perfect fit.
  • Try a lot of different things. Be open minded in your job search. Interview at places you never thought you would work. Ask yourself: Where will you get the most experience creating something? Find a job where you will learn a lot.
  • Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself, but don’t go around making enemies.
  • Don’t work for people who make you unhappy, because you don’t deserve to be miserable at work. But you do have to really work.
  • Never walk into an interview with plans to lie or bullshit your way through it. Never walk into an interview without learning everything you possibly can about the company first.
  • If you’re interviewing for a writing job, come up with a list of possible ideas.
  • Be well-read. If you want to work for media brands, read everything (that they do, and also read EVERYTHING.)
  • The best way to network is to work somewhere and make friends.

Conversations About Content (Print, Web & Social) Panel11254031_10207907733957317_2607247825964286824_n

What it’s all about: This panel explored what content really is, how best to get your content out there as well as many other things, through the personal experiences of Georgia Galanoudis, who is the Managing Director of Imprint, Jayde Lovell, who is a Co-Host and Producer of The Young Turks Network on YouTube, Taylor Trudon, who is the Life Lead at MTV News (shout out to my NYWICI scholarship mama hen, who is on panels at most conferences I go to and always rocks it), and Tiffany Winter, who is the Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships at Mindshare Entertainment. It was moderated by Lori Greene, who is the Senior Partner Director of Content for Maxus Global.12191722_10207907734117321_1811447813004514677_n

Personal and professional advice/information:

  • Content is an expression of a brand’s DNA.
  • It’s not what your brand is, it’s what your brand represents.
  • Always promote yourself. When you write something or do something cool, don’t be afraid to brag about it.
  • If you don’t apply for a job, you’re never going to get it.
  • The most important thing you can do is figure out how to manage your time, which is why it’s important to differentiate responsibilities from tasks.
  • Media content is based on the target audience’s interest.
  • You know much more than you think you know. People don’t want you to fail, so you should believe in yourself and your ability to do things.
  • Imposter syndrome- feeling like you don’t know what you’re doing and being afraid of being caught in not knowing what you’re doing
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.
  • Don’t pigeonhole yourself. (In terms of searching for jobs, asking for work to do, etc.)
  • Learn how to give and take constructive criticism. (So true, and very hard for me to do.)

Non-Profit & Social Good Panel12189080_10207907734437329_5104466484097654322_n

What it’s all about: This panel was definitely the most empowering panel I attended– the women on it were so inspiring and encouraging and understanding about community and women and what it means to be a woman in today’s society. Many of them were teachers or had taught before, which I liked and made a lot of sense to me. The panelists included Courtney Dubin, who is the Senior Youth Engagement and Digital Advisor at GENYOUth, Jennifer Lindenauer, who is the head of Marketing and Communications at Upworthy, Mary Pryor, who is the Digital and Content Development Lead at Samsung and Black Tech Week, and Saundra Thomas, who is the Vice President of Community Affairs at WABC-TV. The panel was moderated by Pam Hacker, who is director of Corporate Social Responsibility for Home Box Office, Inc. (She also used to work for Sesame Street as the publicity director, which is so cool.)

Personal and professional advice/information: 

  • You can’t be a complete person without giving back to the community.
  • The community aspect of a company says a lot about its culture.
  • Do what you want to do in life and live life fully. You are the one who can make things happen for yourself.
  • Tell people what you want and what you want to do because you never know who can help you.
  • If you’re asking people for anything for the right reasons, it’s worth asking.
  • Learn to say no.
  • People who work in non-profit wear a lot of different hats. You need to be able to do many good things, not just one good thing. Be a sponge and absorb everything you learn.
  • Talk to whoever is involved and understand what the problem is before you try and solve it.
  • Be open to things you haven’t done before.
  • Ask the questions you really want to know the answers to. (This resonated with me because I just had my first informational interview, and I tried to ask questions that I wanted to know the answers to about the company as well as what it’s like to work for the company.)
  • There is nothing wrong with having a myriad of interests and pursuing those interests. Never stop learning.
  • What is important is tapping into who you are and really consuming what you’re learning.
  • There’s nothing wrong with the truth.

Paula Rizzo- Emmy-award winning video producer, Senior Health Producer at Fox News Channel & Author of Listful Thinking1610993_10207907735037344_3079588973702559837_n

What it’s all about: Paula Rizzo was our second keynote speaker, and she was really cool. She lives an accelerated lifestyle and runs FoxNewsHealth.com, and is the senior producer for the website, as well as the founder of the productivity site ListProducer.com. She took us through her life journey and experiences. (Fun Fact: Her husband went to Cornell, so Ithaca sort of got a shout out!)

Personal and professional advice/information:

  • People have a right to know what’s going on in their world, which is why news is important!
  • Distractions happen, things pop up, which is why you want to make sure you achieve everything you intend to achieve.
  • There are always going to be ups and downs– but just because you don’t hit it out of the park immediately doesn’t mean what you want to achieve is not possible.
  • You become what you believe.
  • Make lists! They will help you be action oriented. (She was big on lists. See: her book, Listful Thinking.)
  • What everything really comes down to is good writing. (YES! ALWAYS!)
  • Never let failure stop you from moving forward.

12096132_10207907735277350_6001963771555870589_nBuilding Your Personal Brand Panel

What it’s all about: This panel was probably the most jam packed with information. It was also moderated by Brittany Hennessy, who is the Associate Director of Social Strategy and Influence at Horizon Media and who also interviewed me when I was going through the second round of phone interviews for my NYWICI scholarship. I finally got to meet her in person at the conference, and she was so nice and charismatic, and gave me a huge hug! The panel focused on a lot of different ways to personalize yourself and brand through social media and online, which is all stuff that’s so important. The panel featured Bianca Jade, who is the founder of Mizzfit.com, Dina Deleasa-Gonsar, who is the founder of DishItGirl.com and was on the E! show Married to Jonas, Kayleigh Harrington, who is the talent coordinator for Socialyte, and Jacqueline M. Peros, who is a personal branding strategist and founder of JMP branding.

Personal and professional advice/information:

  • BUY YOUR DOMAIN NAME. RESERVE YOUR NAME ON EVERY SOCIAL MEDIA SITE EVER.
  • The absence of a brand speaks louder than a bad brand.
  • Branding is about how you can communicate/articulate who you are in a coherent way. Ask yourself: What is your essence? What makes you different? The answer to those questions is your brand.
  • You are your own company, agent, PR person, content creator, first and foremost. So you have to know how to do a little bit of everything in order to show people who you are and what you’re capable of.
  • Respect everybody.
  • It doesn’t matter where you start, all that matters is that you know where you’re headed.
  • YouTube is how you leave your stamp on the social media world.
  • People read blogs a lot less than they used to. (This made me sad.)
  • Start blogging like it’s your job, not like it’s your hobby. (This reminds me of my friend at school Sabina, who runs her own blog.)
  • Act like everyone is watching you on social media.
  • Don’t be scared to voice your opinion. This is a part of your brand! People aren’t going to take a lot of time to figure you out and figure out what you stand for, so have a strong opinion that is your own to distinguish you from the rest.
  • Don’t be everywhere on social media unless you’re actively going to be participating on those platforms.
  • Understand who your target audience is and what they want.
  • People don’t meet you for the first time in person, they meet you for the first time online. (This is SO TRUE. My Facebook presence precedes me as a person.)
  • Be consistent in everything you do.
  • Think of the brands that you love. You love these brands because you’ve had a good experience with them. Project the brand you want people to see, and give them a good experience with you.

Spotlight on NYWICI Scholarship Winners Panel12191054_10207907735637359_7525795368707135130_n

What it’s all about: This panel was the last panel. It was basically all about how NYWICI and winning a NYWICI scholarship has helped women in the communications fields, specifically Bridget Jackson, who is a staff associate at Kellen Company, Alexandra Osten, who is an account manager at Nielsen, Marisch Perera, who is a news associate at Fox 5 News (shout out to Marisch, who won the scholarship the year that I won it and who I admire so much for being so wonderful, professional, and for going after her dreams so fearlessly), Lauren Hard, who is a news assistant at The New York Times, and Elisa Tang, who is a production associate at NBC’s Today Show. The panel was moderated by Megan Hess, who is an associate editor at Mashable.

Personal and professional advice/information:

  • Your network is your net worth. (This is repeated at every conference I go to, and I cannot stress it enough.)9936_10203158871358720_1485404682_n
  • Make genuine connections at every job you work at.
  • Mentorships don’t have to be formal. They can occur naturally, and you can have lots of different mentors for lots of different things.
  • Be persistent. Always follow up.
  • Own who you are.
  • Become a NYWICI member, because you have access to so many resources and cool events that can help you out personally and professionally. 

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Posted in Things I've Learned in College | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

My Bright Place

The summer of 2014 was an extremely… important and defining summer for me.

It was the summer I interned at Random House in their children’s division, for one thing. It was the summer I fully realized that book publishing and being a children’s book editor was what I really wanted to do (not that I didn’t already know, but I hadn’t worked at a real publishing company before). It was the summer that I became more independent, in more ways than one. I’m not sure if I’ll ever stop relishing that summer, and reflecting on it (result: this post).

At Random House, one of the editors that I worked with was in the process of publishing a book by a new Young Adult author, Nicola Yoon, called Everything, Everything. The editor was so excited about this book, because it was expected to rise to the popularity of The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor & Park, and because it was fresh, original, touching, and really well-written. The editor who had taken on this book entrusted me in reading it about 8 months before it was published, so that I could offer my opinion on it, and so they could see what a REAL TRENDY TEEN (aka me) thought about it. So I got to read Everything, Everything as an unpublished manuscript, binder clipped together, with side notes, highlighted sentences, dog-eared pages and all. It was almost finished, the editor had told me. She just had some final things to tie up.

The fact that the editor had given me this manuscript before it was finished was so cool. It was like a secret– I knew something the rest of the world didn’t, and I would get to see how great it was and know how great it was before everyone else would be able to. That, in itself, was very special to me.

I devoured Everything, Everything. I read that book on my own time, in less than a day.

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Because of my internship, I was also able to read All the Bright Places a few months before it was published. Reviews had also compared it to The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor & Park, and the author, Jennifer Niven, also new to the YA genre, is a social media superstar as well as a ridiculously talented writer. I got to keep and take home my own bound galley copy. I read it on the train to and from work, and I fell in love with Finch and Violet as characters and as people. I found my own bright place within All the Bright Places. That book gave me hope within myself, inspired me as a writer, a sister, and a friend, and gave me a new perspective on mental illness and how to deal with it.

And again, when I was reading this bound galley copy, I felt like I held a secret in my hands. I had in my possession books that would touch people, make them feel like someone out there understood them, that would help them when they were feeling just as isolated as Maddy, as depressed as Finn, and as hopeless as Violet. I had in my possession two things that were going to be great.

I’m a little late on this bandwagon, but I just received the hardcover, bound, Barnes & Noble versions of these two books in the mail. They’re not my secret anymore– they’re for the rest of the world to read and enjoy.

Finally owning Everything, Everything and All the Bright Places makes me so proud of these books, these authors and my experience interning at Random House. Taking something so raw and turning it into something real for other people to read is really cool. And getting to be a part of helping to make that happen, even if my contribution was minimal, is still an amazing feeling.

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25 Things I Learned as a Teaching/Editorial Intern at Writopia— As a Writer, a Teacher and in General

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This summer I had the privilege of working at Writopia, a non-profit that runs writing workshops for kids ages 6 to 18, in Katonah/Hartsdale, New York, and I wrote a list summarizing what I learned there.

I was a teaching and editorial intern– basically I got to assistant teach (and occasionally teach on my own!) workshops in creative writing, including poetry, fiction, etc. as well as essay writing. I spent a lot of time in workshop, editing and helping kids with their own work. I also was the editor-in-chief (and sort of managing editor) of their literary magazines, The Ellipsis… and The (Parenthetical), so I read and copy edited creative work that kids had submitted from all around the country.

It was a busy summer, but it was so much fun. I learned about writing as a craft in such a real way, not even close to how I’m learning about writing at college. I learned about teaching by watching and doing. I learned about myself as a writer, as an individual, as someone who is a part of a team.

My Writopia family taught me, inspired me, and supported me and I am so appreciative of that and for them. Thank you Lena, Rob, Gaby, Scott, Donna, Kristin, Alexa, Eden, Julia, Emeline, Dani, and all of the other Writopia interns and teachers– I am so grateful to all of you and I miss you all already!


  1. You get as much out of something as you put into it.
  2. We become better by opening up.
  3. Treat life like an adventure or you’ll never have any fun.
  4. The universal is in the specific. (This especially goes for essay writing.)
  5. When teaching (and with wifi) patience is key.
  6. If you think you type slow, it’s not that, it’s just that “your brain moves faster than you can type.”
  7. Hugs are important! Believe in the power of hugs!
  8. In order to write about something, you have to care about it in some way, shape or form.
  9. Always be open to suggestions. (Edits, revisions, subjects to write about, etc.)
  10. Ask questions rather than criticize.
  11. If someone is having a hard time concentrating, focus on their needs and try something different.
  12. Sometimes students won’t want to share or workshop their work. That’s okay– as long as they’re writing.
  13. Be as present as possible, and be as enthusiastic and encouraging as possible. Kids will be more into what they’re doing/writing if you are too.
  14. Creative writing can be a LOT harder than academic writing.
  15. There’s always a way to turn something around and make what you or someone else is working on into something that can be worked with.
  16. Parents are difficult to deal with sometimes, but they usually have their kids’ best interest at heart.
  17. Be as open minded as possible. (About story ideas, people, opinions.)
  18. People are allowed to have their own opinions! Let them think for themselves– don’t force your own beliefs on them.
  19. Everything a story needs (COW)— character, what the character wants, and an obstacle in their way.
  20. Sometimes kids just need someone to show that they support them, even just a little bit, in order for them to grow. (Me too.)
  21. Spelling/grammar isn’t writing. Spelling/grammar is spelling/grammar. (</3)
  22. You have to kind of grow up and learn how to be independent at some point. (Driving to work, leading a group workshop, making my own lunch, etc.)
  23. Knowing when to ask for help when you need it is really important.
  24. Even if it’s from the same prompt, a story can go a million different ways.
  25. It’s important for kids to feel like they matter and that their voices are being heard, understood and appreciated.

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Amanda Remembers Why She Loves to Read

For a long time, I forgot how much I loved to read.

Reading is supposed to be… recreational. It’s fun. It’s an escape. You can relax, disappear into other people’s stories, and learn about things you didn’t know before.

I used to read all the time on my own when I was a kid. I tore through series, hungrily read non fiction books, devoured literary magazines and fiction anthologies… I read at the dinner table, in the bathtub (this usually didn’t work out too well for the book), while walking to school, during lunch, while taking breaks when I was in dance class, literally whenever I could.

And then I got to high school, and all that changed.

In high school it’s necessary to read a lot, whether it’s literary fiction for English class or long chapters in history textbooks. Sometimes it’s stuff that we don’t necessarily want to read. Most of the time we are required to digest and reflect on what we read by writing academic papers or by outlining and taking notes or by doing projects or having intense class discussions about what we’ve read.

All of which are fine, and definitely helped further my understanding of what I read. But reading comprehension has never been my strong suit, which has made writing academic essays not all that fun for me. (I also kind of hate group projects, because I hate depending on other people for work and grades.)

I think that all of this made me kind of resent reading. I associated reading with the work that I had to do along with it at school, so I kind of stopped doing it on my own. It didn’t seem fun anymore, because the majority of reading I was doing went along with a lot of work.

I replaced reading with something that required much less effort– watching prerecorded television. I managed to get one of my friend’s Netflix account passwords (this was like 4 years ago and I’m still using her account… oops) and just mindlessly watched shows whenever I had a little bit of downtime. I downloaded the app on my phone so I could watch wherever I was, too. Instead of carrying a book or a magazine with me in my backpack or my dance bag, I just kept my phone with me and a pair of headphones. My first question when I went somewhere new was usually: “Do you have wifi?”

Even at college my recreational reading slowed to a halt. I was doing so much work for class and reading so much for school (usually anywhere from 50 pages to an entire book a night). Not only did it stress me out, it tired me out. Whatever small amount of energy and motivation I had to read on my own in the first place completely disappeared. Rather than read, I mindlessly watched Netflix to calm my brain down from whatever I’d done that day and take a step back from school work, clubs, and my social life.

Then, last summer I interned at Random House in a children’s imprint called Delacorte. I was handed manuscripts and told to go through them and see if they were any good, to compare them to other middle grade/young adult books I’d read, to evaluate character development and pacing, and to read fast. I read anywhere from one to four books a day. Because it was my job to read, I tried to get as much done as possible, and I was reading more than I’d read in years.

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This might sound terrible, and extremely similar to my academic reading experiences in high school and college, but it was unbelievably different.

Last summer helped me remember why I loved to read, because I actually had to sit down all day and just concentrate on reading. Rather than focus on symbolism and setting, I had to focus on what made a book good and enjoyable for myself and what might be enjoyable for other young readers. I was reading again, more than before, remembering books that I’d read in the past that I’d loved, disappearing into new stories. And it made me want to read more.

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This summer, I’ve read over 12 books, each of them for me and my own enjoyment. I read when I get home from work, or at my job at the library when things get slow. I rediscovered my love for literary fiction, for young adult romance novels, for psychologically-stimulating non-fiction. And I love it.

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Listen Children to a Story…

This summer, as a part of my internship, I advise and help teach kids creative writing. This summer has been one of the best summers of my life, not only because I’ve been able to get back to my writing roots, but also because I’ve been able to mentor and help young people tell their own stories and express themselves through my favorite medium, which has been extremely rewarding.

This is not the kid I wrote this post about, by the way. It's another Writopia workshopper who (as you can see) I'm helping with her long form piece.

This is not the kid I wrote this post about, by the way. It’s another young workshopper who (as you can see) I’m helping with her long form piece.

Some days at my job are better than others. The other day a concerned parent dropped her child off at a workshop a few minutes early and sat there in the office until the instructor arrived, even though I assured her I was in charge and perfectly capable and that everyone else would get there in 5 minutes. I suggested that her kid could work on writing her story from yesterday if she wanted to get started, and tried to be friendly and ask her kid a question. I asked, “Have you ever been in a writing workshop before?” to make her feel more comfortable and at ease because she was looking pretty nervous. This lady ANSWERED FOR HER KID, like her child started to answer and she cut her off. Her daughter went “N–” and this woman put her hand up and went, “No, she’s never done it before,” and in my head I was thinking …

I ASKED YOUR DAUGHTER A QUESTION, NOT YOU, LADY CHILL. LET YOUR DAUGHTER SPEAK OR SHE WILL NEVER LEARN TO SPEAK FOR HERSELF. But instead of saying that, I just kind of smiled faintly and nodded, and then handed her kid a computer to work on her story with.

She did it again a little while later in the workshop week. It was at the end of the workshop, and she came 5 minutes early to pick up her kid. I saw her peering through the window, kind of signaling that the workshop was nearing the end, and I stepped out of the office to check on the other group with older kids. I saw that they’d already been let out, because one of the students in that group was waiting for her parents in the foyer.

So this lady was standing there and so was this older kid in the downstairs group who kind of has a confidence problem and doesn’t like sharing her work, so I very nicely asked her (the older kid), “Did your group let out?” just to confirm and just to make sure so I could start putting everything away, and the older kid opened her mouth like she was gonna say something.

And then THE LADY RESPONDED FOR HER. She went, “Yes, they just were let out.”

I immediately tensed up, but tried to maintain my smiley demeanor. Inside I was thinking…

I DIDN’T EVEN ASK YOU AND THIS ISN’T YOUR KID WHY WOULD YOU EVEN THINK IT’S OKAY TO CUT HER OFF? HOW WOULD YOU FEEL IF SOMEONE DID THIS TO YOU? HOW WOULD YOU FEEL IF SOMEONE CUT YOU OFF WHILE YOU WERE TRYING TO TALK? THIS GIRL HAS A PROBLEM TALKING IN THE FIRST PLACE, SO LET HER TRY AND RESPOND TO ME BEFORE YOU OPEN YOUR MOUTH, BECAUSE YOU’RE SO MUCH MORE IMPORTANT, REALLY… LET HER TALK, MY GOD… HOW WOULD YOU EVEN KNOW ABOUT A WORKSHOP GROUP THAT NEITHER YOU OR YOUR CHILD IS IN?

*takes a deep breath*

I realize that this sounds stupid and not something that I should be angry about… But something that writing workshops do and that I fully believe in the importance of is they helps kids feel like they have a voice, whether they’re writing stories about themselves or about zombies taking over the world… Because writing and workshopping makes them feel like they matter as story tellers and as people. They can say whatever they want and talk about whatever they want, and they can expect us to be interested in what they write/them and find value within themselves where they (or others) don’t see it.

My reaction to this woman’s behavior, although kind of extreme, proved to me why kids so badly need this sort of thing… They need programs like this, they need mentors and teachers and support and encouragement. Parents and other adults so easily shut down and discourage kids from speaking and from feeling like what they have to say matters, even if they’re just asking questions to try and better themselves.

Kids are assumed to be naive, to not know how to do the right thing, or not know what they’re talking about half the time. What a lot of people don’t realize is that children have so much value. What they have to say matters. And dismissing them like this woman did teaches them and trains them to believe the exact opposite, because their minds are so malleable. They’ll grow up thinking that what they have to say doesn’t matter, and maybe even that they don’t matter. It makes me so sad.

When I showed the first draft of this blog post to my boss to make sure it was appropriate to post publicly on the Internet, she not only (surprisingly) approved it, but asked me to go deeper, and to think about why it really made me upset.

I think that a big part of why this woman treating her child and another student like what they had to say didn’t matter made me so angry is because I don’t like being made to feel like I don’t matter. (I mean, who does?) But I want to explain why.

I’ve made subtle and also fairly obvious hints on here about how I don’t get along with my mother. Just to clarify, I’m not on speaking terms with her anymore, and I don’t live in her house either. I’m fairly open with talking about my relationship with her, and this blog post is no exception.

My mom is one of the most aggressive and assertive people I have ever known. This can be a good thing sometimes, but most of the time it’s not. She undermines everyone she talks to. She manipulatively tries to make them feel small, and she tries to make them feel bad about themselves to make herself feel better.  If you try to have a conversation with her she cuts you off, because of course what she has to say is more important than anything you have to say, no matter what it is. I believe that it has to do with how she wants to have a sense of control, not only over herself but over everyone that she interacts with. But that’s just not a realistic expectation to have for relationships with other people.

What the mother at the workshop did was exactly what my mother used to do to me, to my dad, and to everyone she meets and knows, on a lesser level. This is a primary reason as to why my mom and I have never gotten along– because when I was growing up, she was mean, aggressive, and she treated me like I didn’t matter in comparison to her. When I was old enough to consciously understand that this is what she was doing, (among other things that were blatantly wrong) that’s when our relationship began to deteriorate, and everything went downhill from there.

For a lot of kids growing up with parents like this, it’s awful. It makes them feel small. They are made to feel like they don’t matter, which is how I felt for a really long time and how I still feel a lot of the time. How my mom treated me when I was a kid growing up shaped me into a really sensitive person. When I was younger, I was so self conscious about everything I said because I was afraid that I was going to be shot down that I would apologize in between every word I said, every time I spoke. I was so shy, that most of the time, I didn’t even speak. I nitpicked at myself and became a perfectionist. I figured that if I tried exceedingly hard to get people to like me, and did basically everything correctly to the best of my ability, then no one would yell at me and put me down.

And that is no way to live. I’m still working through these issues that I had/have with my mom, and honestly, it’s something I might never get over. How she treated me helped shape me as a person. She made me afraid of people. She made me not like myself, and it’s taken a while to find parts of me that I do like, and to realize that it’s okay to make mistakes sometimes.

When I sit in workshops at my job, helping kids work on their stories, I think to myself about how much I wish I had this sort of thing when I was younger. I see how the instructors help give these kids a voice, how these young kid writers look up to them and look to them for advice and reassurement. I see how it helps their writing abilities and their confidence grow. I think about how much I needed that when I was a kid.

I wanted to write this blog post to make a point, which is that kids’ voices matter, and adults (especially parental figures) shouldn’t make them feel like they don’t. Adults should listen and encourage and love, so that kids can learn to be confident in themselves and what they have to say.

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Posted in Life Lessons, Things I've Learned in College | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments