Some Notes on What I Read This Week: Sunday 09.18.16

On Saturday I spent nearly the entire day reading essays and articles online. In fact, at 3:00 pm, I was still sitting on my sofa drinking coffee and reading, where I’d been since 8:00 am that morning.  It was only when a friend texted me to ask how my weekend was going that I realized what time it was.

What?!?! But what better way to while away the day, I say.

I’m astounded by how much great writing is available online, for free, that you can easily access with a computer and an Internet connection.  I still much prefer to read actual books and actual newspapers, because I’m old school like that, but much of the best writing around these days doesn’t exist in those forms.

I subscribe to many, many newsletters, most of which are related to my work as a copywriter/marketer/freelance writer for hire, but my favorite newsletters are those more literary/writing/books/publishing-minded.

For example, The Lenny Letter, the weekly Longreads article round-up, and LitHub, to name three of my favorites.

It’s an embarrassment of riches, I tell you, one that I fell down the rabbit hole of for 7 hours yesterday.

Here are some of the best things I read during that reading binge:

This beautiful essay by author and co-owner of Emily Books, Emily Gould, on the financial costs of writing her first book:

How Much My Novel Cost Me 

This essay in which writer Leslie Jamison talks about her work as a “medical actor.” The word fascinating was made to describe work like this. Mesmerizing and gorgeously written.

The Empathy Exams 

From the afore-mentioned Longreads, this essay by Susannah Felts on her hometown of Nashville, and her impressions of the city’s changes during the many years she was away.

Girlhood Gone: Notes from the New Nashville 

Pretty much everything on writer Mishka Shubaly’s blog, but especially this post on his anniversary of being five years sober, where he shares honestly what it’s like to be sober after a long drinking career, saying, “Yeah, I’m sober and I have a pretty decent handle on the whole ‘not drinking’ thing, but I’m still angry and depressed and resentful and irritable and insecure and self-loathing and anti-social and neurotic and detail-obsessed and high-strung.”

Five Years Sober 

And finally, this wonderful piece I came across on Medium, by comedian and author Sara Benincasa. Very relevant for us creative types who sometimes wish we could practice our art of choice as our full-time job.

Real Artists Have Day Jobs: Your job is just your side gig. 

Happy reading!




Some Notes on What I Read This Week: March 1 Edition

What’s the good reading stuff round-up for this week? Here are a couple of things that made an impression on me this week.

What’s Your Lucky Number?

The best email I got all week was the 02/25/15 edition of Hugh McLeod’s Gaping Void newsletter, a daily missive of his quirky and smile-inducing cartoons, in which he shared this inspiring fact:

Five thousand one hundred and twenty-six failed vacuum cleaners.  

That’s how many prototypes it took for James Dyson to get it right.  

5, 127 was his lucky number. He’s now worth over $4 billion.  

It’s not about being brilliant, or about always being right.  

It’s about not giving up before you have the chance to succeed.

If you’re interested in getting a daily cartoon that will make you happy, make you think, and possibly make you question the status quo, you can sign up for McLeod’s newsletter here:

Gaping Void Newsletter

(By the way, in the video on that page, McLeod shares a great way to think about “marketing” that makes it feel genuine and natural; if you’re a creative trying to find a way to sell your products and services without feeling icky or uncomfortable, be sure to watch it.)

Stay Weird, Stay Different

Screenwriter Graham Moore’s Oscar acceptance speech for best adapted screenplay for the film The Imitation Game brought tears to my eyes, and I’m not alone. It was magical.

Here’s part of what he shared:

“When I was 16 years old, I tried to kill myself because I felt weird and I felt different and I felt like I did not belong. And now I am standing here. So I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she’s weird or she’s different or she doesn’t fit in anywhere. Yes, you do. You do. Stay weird, stay different. And when it’s your turn to stand on this stage, pass the message along.”

I’m getting all teary again reading it now. What can I say? Despite my hard-candy outer shell, I’m an emotional softie on the inside.

Editing is a “Wifely Trade,” Marketing Plans in Book Proposals Are “Nonsense,” and Other Retro Reflections

I finished a book this week called, Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction – Stories and advice from a lifetime of writing and editing, by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder and his long-time editor, Richard Todd.

I loved reading about the years-long relationship between Todd and Kidder, as anything that delves into the realities of the writer’s life interests me, but there were a few passages in the book that left me scratching my head. And by “scratching my head,” I mean thinking, “you can’t be serious.”

Such as:

Editing is a wifely trade. This is a disquieting thought for editors, certainly for male editors, and in a different way for some female editors too, but editing does involve those skills that are stereotypically female: listening, supporting, intuiting. And, like wives, editors are given to irony and indirection. When male editors become bullies it may be because they resent their feminized role. (They shouldn’t take it out on writers. They need other avenues for their manly impulses, skydiving, Formula One racing, something.) However hesitant, timid, and self-doubting writers feel, they nonetheless remain the stereotypically male figures in the relationship, whatever their gender. Writers assert. Editors react.


There are even book proposal consultants and book proposal formulas. Authors are advised to create ‘marketing plans’ to include in their proposals, and some dutifully spend weeks on the chore. Most of this is nonsense, and bad advice.

I am not making this up. And this book was published in 2013. 2013!!

And that’s a few notes on some things I read/saw this week. Feel free to leave a comment below about what you’ve been reading, or share reading suggestions. Thanks!

Some Notes on What I Read This Week: February 22 Edition

One of my favorite places to visit each week for outstanding writing on quirky, interesting topics is The Bitter Southerner. This week I loved a piece called, “The Art of Rebellion,” about a company that builds “the most beautiful motorcycles in the world, literally one at a time,” linked up below.

When I went back to the site today to grab the link to the essay to share in today’s blog post, I noticed this: A Postscript to This Story from the Editor Regarding “The Art of Rebellion.”

Apparently a small minority of readers objected to The Bitter Southerner publishing a story about a company in Birmingham, AL, called Confederate Motorcycles, saying things like, “For a site that tries to combat tired Southern stereotypes, this just felt off.”

Here’s part of the editor’s response (which you can read in its entirety here):

The South is a complex place. We do not all think alike. But The Bitter Southerner made a promise to focus on “the South we live in today and the one we hope to create in the future.” And we have made it plain more than once in the past that we have little respect — make that no respect — for those who revel in a vision of an “Old South” that existed only through the labor of enslaved people.

I don’t have a dog in this fight, but I do know great writing when I see it, and “The Art of Rebellion” embodies it. And I love the story of “an artisanal manufacturing romantic who quit his career as a lawyer to build dream motorcycles,” because that’s what we’re all about around here.

Read The Art of Rebellion here.


As an introvert myself, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be an introvert and a creative when it comes to marketing and selling one’s products and services. (I wrote a blog post this week about the topic, called, not too creatively, Authentic Marketing and Selling for Introverted Creatives.)

So when I saw this article on Huffington Post this week, I had to smile:

Finally, Emoji That Show What It Really Feels Like To Be An Introvert


This post on Danielle LaPorte’s site, in which she talks about “ALLLL the times that someone said to me (and there were MANY), ‘Now, Danielle, don’t get ahead of yourself,’” made me wildly happy.

As she says, “you gotta move the way your soul likes to move.” Which resonated with me deeply, because I was in a work situation that, while so perfect in so many ways, was not allowing me to “move the way [my] soul likes to move.” And that was creating a lot of self-doubt, angst, and second-guessing around my creative projects and my work life that felt untenable.

But after reading Danielle’s post earlier this week, I felt a huge sense of relief. Liberated. You know, that it really is ok to want what you want and be yourself wanting it.

Check out the post here:

“Don’t get ahead of yourself”…can suck it.


And that’s all I got this week. Hope you enjoy these fine reads from around the Interwebz.  

Feel free to share in the comments section your favorite reads this week, would love to hear!

Some Notes on What I Read This Week: February 15 Edition

Lots of good reading finds this week.  

Fools Do Art

Two contemporary men. Famous paintings from years gone by. Found props. That’s all I’m going to say.

I’m not quite sure how to describe this website, but as I sit here on this sunny, frigid Sunday afternoon hunkered down in my cozy, warm apartment skipping through the Internet, scrolling through this site makes me ever so happy. I’m laughing as much as when I read The Onion. Which is to say, a lot.

Check out Fools Do Art here to get your silliness fix.

Being Smothered by a Gospel Pillow

And speaking of side-splittingly funny, the best recap I read of the 2015 Grammys came, shockingly enough, from MSN Entertainment.

In a wrap-up called, “Best and Worst of the 2015 Grammys,” there’s this gem:

Worst: Beyonce takes us to sleep  

Let’s be clear: If that Beyonce cover of “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” had come in the middle of the telecast, there’s a strong chance it would have been a “Best.” Queen Bey sounded great and she looked like an angel, but she looked like an angel who had lost nearly every award she was up for all night, was probably being kept up past her bedtime and had been delayed until 11:30 p.m. ET (only 8:30 in LA) by talk about copyright law and musicians we lost in the past year. Maybe it’s just that we’re used to Beyonce delivering show-stopping performances, full of energy and sometimes politics and this year she chose to cap a snoozy show with a spiritual performance? Dunno. Blame this one context. Watching the performance on youtube tomorrow, it’ll probably seem awesome. At the end of this show, it was just like being smothered with a gospel pillow. – Daniel Fienberg

Thought-provoking questions.

In Temporary discomfort. It’s worth it, Alexandra Franzen poses the question:

Are you willing to feel temporarily uncomfortable so that you can accomplish something that is permanently amazing?

Something that will always be part of your history? Something that will always be part of your body of work? Something that can never be taken away from you?

This resonates, because it reframes a decision I recently made to leave a solid, sure thing kind of gig to go out on my own completely as a freelance writer/copywriter/web marketing strategist. The reframe: from scary and uncertain to “best decision I’ve ever made.” Aaah, feels so right.

And reading Franzen’s post lead me to this site: A Life Less Bullshit, where I loved this post, called, “Close Your Escape Hatch.”

How Creative Geniuses Come Up with Great Ideas

And then there was this article by James Clear, in which he tells the story of Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief. Zusak rewrote the first part of the The Book Thief 150 to 200 times until it felt exactly right. 150 to 200 times. The book stayed on the New York Times best-seller list for over 230 weeks and sold eight million copies. It was translated into forty languages and made into a movie.

The lesson? “We all have some type of creative genius inside of us. The only way to release it is to work on it. No single act will uncover more creative powers than forcing yourself to create consistently.”

What else?

This week I bought Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable, by Seth Godin. 40 more pages and I’ll be done with it.

Still reading: Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir, by Frances Mayes.

And that’s a few notes on some things I read this week. Feel free to leave a comment below about what you’ve been reading, or share reading suggestions!

Some Notes on What I Read This Week: February 8 Edition

Call me crazy, but I love it when the Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer (full title: Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer: As Always, Free, and Worth Every Penny) lands in my mailbox each month. I read the thing from cover to cover, in fact. Yes, I shop at Trader Joe’s, and I’m happy to be informed about what’s on special, but mostly I love the Fearless Flyer for the copywriting.

It’s got personality and sass; it’s conversational and fun. I actually keep a few issues in my copywriting swipe file, studying them from time to time to remind myself what compelling, brand-appropriate copywriting looks like.

Here’s an excerpt from the February edition:

Keep That Perfect Beet. We Got the Beet! Just Beet It!: How many beet/beat puns can we make? Let’s just say it’s best that we stop now, before we spiral completely out of control. Much better that we speak of Trader Joe’s Organic Beets, which are both entirely edible (unlike our puns), and happen to utilize the correct spelling of the word.

Most inspirational thing I read about marketing, “remarkable ideas,” and doing things differently in business: An e-book by Seth Godin called 99 Cows, which highlights stories of businesses and people doing remarkable things.

From the introduction: “I wrote 99 Cows to help readers of Purple Cow see what I mean when I talk about ‘going to the edges.’ Every single story in this e-book is about the edges. These are companies (big and small) and individuals (successful and not-yet-successful) who made the scary choice to be remarkable. When I say remarkable, I mean just that. It’s worth talking about.” 

I would love to include a link here to where you can download your own copy, but a friend sent a copy of this e-book to me. You can, however, read an essay adapted from the book Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Becoming Remarkable on Fast Company here: 

In Praise of the Purple Cow: Remarkably honest ideas (and remarkably useful case studies) about making and marketing remarkable products.

I plan to buy a copy of the book this week.

Funniest thing read all week, about writers to “watch out for,” which I heard about through Esme Wang’s newsletter:

Ten writers to watch for. No, seriously, watch the hell out for these writers.

New book bought this week: Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir, by Frances Mayes of Under the Tuscan Sun fame, on Tuesday 02.03.15. Reading this book makes me feel proud – and lucky – to be from the South, the dirty South, y’all. 

Books I finished this week: Just one this week, the novel This Dark Road to Mercy, by New York Times bestselling author Wiley Cash, who just happens to live in the same town I do, Wilmington, NC.

And finally, most ridiculous comment overheard (at the local IRS office. Story for another day.): “Why does she keep having young’uns?! I woulda thought at this point they’d tie her tubes!” I am not making this up.

And there you have it, some notes on what I read this week. Feel free to leave a comment below about what you read this week, or share your own reading suggestions!

Some Notes on What I Read This Week: February 1 Edition

Like most writers, I love to read. L-O-V-E, love. I love reading the way my favorite writer, the late Nora Ephron, loved it: 

Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel I’ve accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit order medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.

 From the essay collection I Feel Bad About My Neck and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman

And because I read – a lot – I’m forever finding phrases and lines and quotes and whole paragraphs I want to savor, to pin down and save for all eternity, like a collection of butterflies.  

Instead, I do this: I keep a Word doc on my computer desktop where I “collect” the most skillful, funny, inspiring or beautifully written prose I come across each week. Things that move me, or make me laugh. Things that make me feel sad or envious, because I know I’ll never have the writing chops of someone like Elizabeth Gilbert or Nora Ephron or Sloane Crosley. Things that make me feel blessed beyond all reason, because I get to soak in this work of great writers, writers far more proficient than I at rendering beauty on the page, each and every day. 

Anyhoo, I named this Word doc file “Lit Ephemera,” and when I looked at it recently, I thought, “Hey, I’m gonna make a series of blog posts outta this!” (I think in contractions.) 

These posts are mainly for me, an outlet to “do something” with my collection of favorite passages, quotes, sentences and phrases. I don’t necessarily expect the regular readers of this blog, all ten of you, to follow along, but if you do, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Or suggestions from your own reading list. 

And so here it is, the first “official” edition of Some Notes on What I Read This Week.  

Best quote: “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” ~Rudyard Kipling

Damn skippy, Rudy. 

Best headline or ad I saw this week:Lose 175 pounds, FAST!! – Divorce Attorneys for Women,” under a black-and-white image of women working out on old-fashioned exercise equipment from years gone by. 

Now see, there is a business taking a stand for the kind of clients they specialize in, and with a simple, concise and tongue-in-cheek headline, setting themselves apart from their competition instantaneously, with personality and wit.  

The most bizarre and beautiful thing I saw all week, featuring my favorite actor of all time, Jeff Bridges (scroll down past “Jeff Bridges Sleeping Tapes” and click on “See How Jeff Made It”):

Dreaming with Jeff 


Most inspiring passage from an interview with a writer I admire, wherein Elizabeth Gilbert talks creativity: 

What if you feel unqualified, or if you never had the opportunity to learn certain skills that seem essential to the personal creativity you crave? Is it too late to start?

Yes. If you’re not a professionally trained artist, it’s definitely too late to start now. KIDDING! I’m totally kidding! Let me say it once more: Creativity belongs to everyone. I myself do not have a degree in writing, for instance; I learned my craft by practicing my craft every day — which is how people have always learned their crafts. You have every right in the world to express your creativity however you want to, whenever you want to, regardless of whether you are officially certified or not. Start tomorrow. Better yet, start today.

Read more of the interview with Gilbert here:

Elizabeth Gilbert Has a New Book (and We’ve Got the First Look at the Cover!)


Book I searched high and low for this week, but couldn’t find in any of my town’s bookstores: Publishing: A Writer’s Memoir, by Gail Godwin 

Books I finished this week: Never Can Say Goodbye: Writers on Their Unshakable Love for New York, edited by Sari Botton, and The Education of Millionaires: Everything You Won’t Learn in College About How to Be Successful, by Michael Ellsberg. 

And there you have it, some notes on what I read this week. Feel free to share in the comments below some notes on what you read this week, or share your own reading suggestions. Many thanks!