Category Archives: Writing Remarks

Writing Remarks

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

AmpLit Fest, writing festival, panel, journalism

#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: http://bit.ly/2eCfXtQ #journalist #journolife #news #ableism #equality #identity #intersectionalfeminism

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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

Wendy

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

Fakebook

#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.”
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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.
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April A to Z Blogging Challenge: F is For Fangirl

#DailyWings: “There are too many books I haven’t read, too many places I haven’t seen, too many memories I haven’t kept long enough.” -Irwin Shaw

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.”

In my last blog post, “E is for Eyes,” I mentioned that my sub-par vision as a kid was due to my tendency to stay up late and read books under the covers. Those adventures I embarked on with characters like Harry and Ron, Meg and Calvin and the worlds I discovered with them were sooo worth getting glasses (and even worth getting caught once in a while!). You know I just had to dedicate an “April A to Z” post to all of the books I loved to read as a child and made me fall in love for reading, writing and everything related to words.
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April A to Z Challenge Theme Release: Childhood Anecdotes as Literary Prose

#DailyWings: “The days are long, but the years are short.”
-Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you know that I haven’t been blogging as much this month because I’ve signed up to participate in April’s A to Z Blogging Challenge! For this month-long blog event, “A to Z” bloggers are challenged to write a blog post every week day for the month of April, with each day focusing on a letter in the alphabet (there are 26 weekdays in April and 26 letters…get it?). This particular blog challenge, founded by, typically garners more than 1,000 participants. I’ve been following “A to Z” for quite a few years, but I haven’t had the courage to sign up until now.

For my own sanity, each “A to Z” blog post won’t exceed 500 words. My main goals for participating in this challenge is to 1) interact more with you all and the rest of the blogging community, and to 2) simply have fun writing.
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One Lovely Blog Hop: 7 Interesting Facts About Me

Blog hop, blogging, travel

#DailyWings: “Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing.” -Kenneth Grahame

For those of you who are finally getting warmer weather, welcome to spring! I live in North Carolina and it’s been absolutely lovely the past couple days. At one point, the temperature dared to reach 71 degrees, with the sun’s rays peeking out from in between the clouds as if to ask permission. I took a walk.

If the area where you’re located is still trapped in cold winter, hang in there! I read that even the snow in Boston is starting to melt (finally). The good news is that Daylight Savings set our clocks forward on Sunday morning, which means many of us get to come home from work while it’s still bright outside.The time change has also seemed to (hopefully) kick me back into regular blog scheduling mode; the loss of a single hour’s worth of sleep this morning has reminded me of all the time that’s passed by since my last blog post.

What with the snow days, UNC’s spring break and the NC Fellows Final Interview Day, I’ve had to put my site updates on hold. I’m hoping to become more consistent with my blogging in the future, even if that means fewer blog posts per week (as opposed to week-long hiatuses). Thank you all for sticking with me during this weird transition between seasons!

I’ve got a fun blog hop for you all today. My good friend Sara Letourneau, who blogs regularly and writes fantasy, tagged me for the One Lovely Blog Hop. Here are the details for this hop:
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Want to Join an Online Writing Community or Initiative? Here Are 5 Opportunities to Check Out!

#1000speak, blogging, community, writing, blog, compassion, social justice, human connectivity

#DailyWings: “What is so marvelous about living today is that it is possible to extend, like a flower, spreading petals in all directions.” -Carolyn Kizer

One of my main goals for the year is to branch out as a blogger and participate in multiple writing initiatives within the blogging community. This month, I’ve extended my Internet “feelers” out and, after mustering up quite a bit of courage and swallowing my anxiety, joined a few blogfests and social media writing groups.

A couple of these writing communities are widely known among hundreds of bloggers, while others are newer or comprise a close-knit group of people who know each other very well. Joining them has been a little nerve-wracking. It’s like you’re back in high school and approaching the different social groups during lunch for the first time; you introduce yourself and wait for a response, unsure of whether or not you’ll be welcomed.

The difference between high school and these online writing communities, though, is that you will almost never be met with rejection from the writers (unless, of course, you’re a troll who just shares personal promotions everywhere). I’m incredibly excited – not just because I get to make new writer friends, but also because this is a chance for my blog to be a part of something that’s bigger than itself.
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Guest Post by Sara Letourneau: A Pep Talk for Slow Writers

snails, slow writing, writers

Are you a writer who needs more time to put words on the page? Does your heart sink when you see tweets or Facebook statuses like “Squeezed in 600 words during my lunch break” or “Added 1000+ more words to my MS in 1 hour,” because it takes you longer to reach either milestone?

If you are, you’re not alone. I’ve run into the same situation many times. Belittling ourselves, however, doesn’t make us feel better about our “lack of speed.” What will is embracing our unique writing methods while recognizing what needs fine-tuning.

Below are various bits of advice about balancing productivity with individuality that I’ve collected over time. Some are suggestions from fellow writers. Others are lessons I’ve learned on my own. Regardless, I hope you find them as helpful or reassuring as I have.
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Blog Update: Email Newsletter, Bloglovin & Exclusive Content!

#DailyWings: ʺBooks are the carriers of civilization…They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind. Books are humanity in print.ʺ -Barbara W. Tuchman

I want to say “Welcome back, dears!,” but it’s really me who’s been gone since late January. A lot of both personal and work-related deadlines piled up on me at the last minute, so I had to take care of those. I’ve missed blogging, but I have planned out a busy editorial calendar this month so you can expect lots of great content coming soon! Thanks so much for your patience.

Believe it or not, even though I haven’t posted in a while, there have been several behind-the-scenes changes to the blog over the past couple of weeks. As the blog continues to grow, one of my main goals is to foster a community where we – you and I – can interact and keep in touch with each other in a myriad of ways. In addition to my contact form and social media networks, I’ve set up a few additional services to help you to stay up-to-date with the blog, with just a few easy action items:
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