My Year In Journalism: Where I Published (And Appeared) In 2017

#DailyWings: “Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.”
–Robert Collier

Even though this blog post is abominably late…um, Happy New Year, everyone! January started off quite zen for me, but things quickly became a roller coaster as I took on more journalism and work projects than I’d planned to. (Already broke a New Year’s resolution, y’all.) This year, I hope to take better care of myself physically, mentally, and emotionally. That means reading novels for fun, eating lots of cheese, putting on more evening face masks, and not feeling guilty for spending an afternoon doing nothing — because sometimes, that’s exactly what we need.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

In all honesty, I have never been more eager to say goodbye to a year than the Dumpster Fire of 2017. Aside from the fact that we got a horrible new president, I struggled with a lot of anxiety and low self-confidence, but most of it was created in my own mind rather than created as a product of external circumstances. A mix of New York pacing, small failures, feelings of being an imposter, and unrealistic multitasking did it for me, and I spent a good portion of the year trying to over-compensate for what I believed about myself: Not Good Enough.

In the spring of 2017, I completed my lifestyle fellowship at Bustle and applied for a two-week journalism fellowship in Germany. I went through two rounds in the application process and became very excited about the idea of going overseas for a few weeks. Consequentially, I did what you’re never supposed to do during an application process: I emotionally put all of my eggs in one basket. When I found out that I ultimately didn’t get the fellowship, it didn’t hit me until almost the end of the year how much it had affected me. More on that in a moment.

From a journalism perspective, I had a great year. I learned how to write and pitch stories as an independent freelance journalist. I learned how to successfully negotiate pay rates without feeling guilty and with the knowledge that I deserved to get paid for good work. I gained a ton of experience in politics writing and editing. I started getting requests for public appearances at writing events. And I wrote a ton of stories that I’m really proud of:

Even though I am no longer at Bustle, I still continue to write stories as a freelance contributor. One of my best political stories was about the recent Down syndrome abortion ban in Ohio, signed into law by Gov. John Kasich. In the essay, I talk about how the law was designed to pit the reproductive rights and disability rights movements against each other in an effort to unconstitutionally ban abortion.

Shortly after my fellowship at Bustle ended, I wrote a Mother’s Day piece for Romper about how my mother taught me how to take care of myself. She liked her present.

About a month later, I spoke at a panel about “Literary Citizenship: The Writer’s Identity” at AmpLit Festival, an annual literary festival in Manhattan that brings together established and emerging writers. I spoke about the lack of visibility for disabled creators and the responsibility of writers to provide space and support for those whose voices are traditionally left out of creative conversations. I’m helping to co-produce this year’s festival.

A researcher contacted me at some point and said her client was publishing a new edition of his sociology textbook and wanted to use one of the photos from my first NYT feature story. I learned that republication requires a fee, so not only did I make a small profit, but now I can officially say that my work has been published in a textbook for college students.

In July, I published my second piece for The New York Times about the nurse who saved my life on her first day of working with me. Like my first NYT story, I’d written this piece at Columbia University, in my narrative writing class. It’s called “Drowning Without Water.”

I am so excited to share my first byline for Columbia Journalism Review, a story I’ve been working on for months about how #disability #journalism has changed over time and the consequences of #inspirationporn. CJR is the leading industry publication for #journos and #editors at @columbiajournalism, and I’m grateful that this story has finally found a home there. As journalists, editors and storytellers, it’s our responsibility to bring more disability voices into the #media, cover disability issues that go beyond “feel-good” features, and end disability #stigma once and for all. ✊🏼 Read the entire story at: #journalist #journolife #news #ableism #equality #identity #intersectionalfeminism

A post shared by Wendy Lu (@wendyluwrites) on

In the fall, shortly after the Harvey Weinstein allegations, I wrote about the connection between sexual violence and multi-marginalize identity at Teen Vogue. This story is complicated in many ways (both the subject and the writing process), but I’ll just say that I am incredibly grateful to all of the people who believed in me and my ability to share this perspective. I think this essay brought something to the “Me Too” conversation that had previously been lacking.

This year, I tapped into the dating and relationships beat even further, covering one-night stands that turn into long-term relationships for Men’s Health.

Arguably my proudest story to date is an analysis that I wrote about how reporters can do better to cover the disability beat for Columbia Journalism Review, an industry publication for journalists. I’ve never worked so hard to get a story exactly right, with all of its nuances and lessons. This story was the most-read piece on CJR’s site that day, and I’ve also received some amazing opportunities as a result of its publication. (Stay tuned.)

A friend from high school, Kelsey, invited me to be a guest on her wellness podcast, Enlightened-ish. My first podcast experience hadn’t gone as well as I’d hoped, probably because I was so anxious that I’d written a script out for myself so nothing sounded natural. I deliberately distracted myself from preparing too much for Enlightened-ish, and the episode turned out really well. I talk a lot about living and working as a disabled journalist, and I give tips for writers who want to get their stories out there.

I am very happy with how much I was able to accomplish in one year. The irony is that the fruit of all my hard work stemmed from intense anxiety, imposter feelings, and the belief that I had to make up for previous failures. Not getting the journalism fellowship in Germany was disappointing because I didn’t have any other “next steps” beyond Bustle, and that was scary to me. It was also disappointing because I’d worked so hard to write thoughtful essays for the application and obtain glowing reference letters, and it feels awkward to go back and say, “I didn’t get it.” But the reality is that nothing is ever guaranteed, and you should never feel bad for trying your best.

If I could go back and do something differently, I would have appreciated myself a little bit more. I’d pat myself on the back for  putting myself out there for opportunities. I’d tell myself to enjoy the process of publishing each new story. And I’d tell myself that it’s okay to take a few days off to recharge. It’s okay to do things that aren’t directly related to work all. the. time.

I’m still working on this, of course. Like everything else in life, self-care is a work in progress. I’m trying to get better at lifting up my own accomplishments and being unapologetic about who I am. What are your happiness practices? What do you do to make yourself feel more confident and appreciative of yourself? I’d love to know in the comments below.

Have a wonderful weekend xo

How To Survive Columbia Journalism School: A Non-Exhaustive Guide

#DailyWings: “I’m a story-teller. I tell stories. In some stories, I am the story. But the story transcends me. How? Hear my stories.” Guy at your J-school

Happy November! It’s taken me a while, but I’ve finally finished putting together this blog post about my experiences at Columbia Journalism School (as promised), along with several nuggets of advice for prospective students — brought to you by the Class of 2016. :)

For those of you who might be new to my blog, I’ve talked about my journey to New York City in previous posts. I often tell people that going to graduate school for journalism was one of the best things I’ve ever done, even though it was also one of the most difficult. I had already obtained a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which is considered an excellent program and taught me the fundamentals of professional writing, editing and reporting. Columbia Journalism School was on a whole other level — basically UNC’s j-school on steroids.

Why I Stopped Blogging For Two Years

#DailyWings: “Remember, you have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and seeing what happens.”
-Louise L. Hay

Hi everyone. It’s taken a long time for me to come back to this website and have the courage to hit “publish” on this blog post. I’ve missed writing here. A lot has happened since I last blogged in 2015, and I feel like I owe you all — my readers — an explanation for why I stopped blogging, which was once a sacred part of my life as a writer.

Those of you who’ve been around for a while know that I started a blog for the first time on Blogspot in January 2010. It was my safe haven for many years, with a short break in the middle so that I could migrate to a new location — this website. Back then, I didn’t know things like SEO existed that could drive or inform my editorial content. My blog was simply a creative outlet for me to share my writing journey and my hobbies outside of journalism with the outside world. That was it.

The Columbia Journo Diaries: Journalism Bootcamp, My First 2 Weeks in NYC

#DailyWings“One belongs to New York instantly. One belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.” -Tom Wolfe

The Columbia Journo Diaries is a series on my blog where I share my accounts of what it’s like to be a journalism master’s student at Columbia University in the City of New York during a time when the media landscape is relying on digital innovation to survive. 

It’s Friday night, and I’m raising a solo cup filled with red wine in my right hand. Someone sitting a few feet away whistles to get everyone’s attention.

“We made it through the first two weeks! Cheers!”

“Cheers!” I place the cup between my lips. The wine warms me from head to toe.

It’s the first night I’ve actually gone out with friends – mainly, other journalism students at Columbia who decided it would be a good idea to celebrate the end of our second week of reporting bootcamp. We have a picnic set up in Riverside Park right by the Henry Hudson Parkway, barely five minutes away from my apartment. I’ve been living here since the end of July, and not once did I notice before how beautiful the sun is when it sets over the skyline. I remind myself to do this more often. No matter how stressful journalism school gets or how many times you fail, I say to myself, never forget to appreciate what’s right in front of you.

Book Review: “Fakebook,” Memoir of a Social Media Prankster

#DailyWings: “Social media has given us this idea that we should all have a posse of friends when in reality, if we have one or two really good friends, we are lucky.” -Brene Brown

Some of you may know that I spent the better half of my senior year in college writing an honors thesis on social media personas. The idea of online personalities has always intrigued me, ever since I discovered Neopets and realized I could build character profiles not only for the virtual pets, but also for myself as an online user.

In this millennium, it’s easier than ever for people to customize an identity for themselves through blogs, Facebook, Twitter and other online social tools, even cloaking certain sides of who they are (which may or may not be a subconscious act). In this way, social media acts as a “veil.” My thesis was about the bridge between bloggers’ online social media personas, the way their readers (“followers”) perceive them to be and how they view themselves.

I’ve been asked before, “Where did you get the idea for this thesis?” While my majors/genuine interest in journalism and psychology kept me interested in the topic for nine months, the idea itself started cooking after I randomly met a young nomad on campus the spring before senior year and then, around the same time, learned of a memoir called “Fakebook.”

What It’s Like to Turn 23 When You Still Look 15

#DailyWings: “We lived our lives as if life was forever. To live one’s life without a sense of time is to squander it.” – Diana Trilling

Most of this blog post was written on June 22, the day of my birthday, but I haven’t been able to post it until today. As I wrap things up with my current marketing role, I will be able to blog more and more. Huge thanks to everyone who sent me well wishes after my career announcement!

It’s 12 o’clock in the morning, and even though I technically don’t turn 23 years old until 9:15 a.m, my birthday is officially here and I’m starting to feel nostalgic – which is pretty typical when you’re about to start a new year of living. I’m about to be 23, and yet I’m still very much happy, free, confused and lonely. Those feelings haven’t gone anywhere; if anything, they’ve intensified.

To be honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to my birthday this year. In fact, I was dreading it. As someone who grew up absolutely loving surprise parties and sheet cakes and party favors and the special meaning behind birthdays, I can tell you this isn’t normal. Everyone tells me that when you pass all the exciting ages (meaning ages 13, 16, 18 and 21), the magic behind birthdays disappears and you just feel, well, old. When birthdays lose their charm, it means you’ve “grown up.”

I’m Moving to New York City to Live (Not Chase) My Dreams

#DailyWings: “You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.” -William Faulkner

Happy June, writers and friends! Wow, has it really been a month (and some change) since my last blog post? A part of me is appalled that I took a month-long hiatus from writing, but the other part of me wants to remind myself that there is a very good reason why I haven’t been around.

Four days ago, I was finally able to make an announcement that I’ve been waiting to make for months. It’s the kind of announcement that is usually made right after a college graduation, when people are moving to new places, taking on summer internships and full-time jobs, and traveling to other countries. Honestly, it was hard for me to keep blogging without being able to share this announcement with you; I felt like keeping it inside was more difficult than not blogging at all.

Thankfully, I’m finally in a good place both emotionally and professionally now where I can share this publicly with you and my friends here on social media.

What I Learned From the April A to Z Blogging Challenge

#DailyWings: “Failure after long perseverance is much grander than never to have a striving good enough to be called a failure.” -George Eliot

…and with that, April is over.

If you’ve been following my “Blogging From A to Z” adventures, you probably noticed that I totally bombed the challenge after the letter “L” (“H” if you don’t count the “IJKL” catch-up post).

Once my mid-April trip to a wedding in the mountains rolled around, time for blogging just went *poof* Really, I come back after being on vacation for two days and it takes a week to catch up with everything in life! By then, I had no idea how to get back onto the “A to Z” train (what can you abbreviate using MNOPQRST?).

Even though I didn’t reach the end of the “A to Z Challenge,” I have a lot to be thankful for and want to share my gratitude with the following groups of people:

Thank you to everyone who followed my “A to Z” anecdotal posts. I had SO much fun writing about my childhood, and loved reading the comments you all left me each day.

April A to Z Blogging Challenge: IJKL is for I Just Knew Labels

#DailyWings: “We don’t need you to fit into the system. The system is full. We need you to escape it & then show us how it’s done.” -Jon Acuff

Blogging From A to Z is an annual month-long challenge in which bloggers around the world are invited to write a blog post every week day for the month of April, with each day corresponding to a letter in the alphabet (26 week days = 26 letters). For this year’s A to Z challenge, my theme is personal anecdotes, or “childhood memories.”

It finally happened, y’all. I was doing so well, blogging every day for April A to Z, and then it happened: I fell behind and missed a few days. Gah! Oh well…I suppose I shouldn’t be too hard on myself, seeing as this is my first year doing the challenge. Anywho, what counts isn’t that I tripped – it’s how I pick myself back up, right?

April A to Z Blogging Challenge: H is for Heroines from My Childhood

#DailyWings: “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” -Christopher Reeve

Blogging From A to Z is an annual month-long challenge in which bloggers around the world are invited to write a blog post every week day for the month of April, with each day corresponding to a letter in the alphabet (26 week days = 26 letters). For this year’s A to Z challenge, my theme is personal anecdotes, or “childhood memories.”

If there’s anything you should know about me, it’s that I’m obsessed with Superman. I collect the comics. When I was little, I stared at the television screen every day after school with a bowl of dumplings my grandmother made me as a snack, watching “Superman: The Animated Series.” I handmade two DC costumes: one Superwoman costume, one Zatanna costume.

I grew up watching “Smallville,” a show on CW that ran from 2001 to 2011, chronicling Clark Kent’s childhood and how he eventually became the superhero we all know and love. I followed that show religiously for all 10 years, and it’s safe to say that that show — and those characters on that show — helped make me the person I am.

But…I’m not here to talk about Superman today. Or Clark Kent. (Yes, there’s a difference.)