Tag Archives: writing

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

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.
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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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What Makes You a Writer

#DailyWings: ““We are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living. We know how to sacrifice ten years for a diploma, and we are willing to work very hard to get a job, a car, a house, and so on. But we have difficulty remembering that we are alive in the present moment, the only moment there is for us to be alive.”-Thich Nhat Hanh

It’s been a while. With newspaper articles, magazine stories, research papers and midterm exams swinging at me like cherry bombs every few days, I’m beginning to understand how a juggler must feel. These days, I’m averaging four hours of sleep and barely have time to eat or take a mental breather. Occasionally, I’ll watch an episode of “My Mad Fat Diary” just to remind myself not to go, well, mad. 

I miss writing. To keep myself content, I have written some poetry. Short pieces, portholes for me to displace my strongest emotions.But I miss prose. I miss long-winded sentences that keep going and going until you aren’t quite sure how you got from Point A to Point B but you know you’re in a different place than you were before you started and it feels like a good thing.

It’s true that I crank out two to four stories every week for the town newspaper, and it’s been an incredible training experience so far. But last night, I cracked open my journal for the first time in a month. One month! I couldn’t believe that it had been that long since I actually sat down to write for myself without worrying about making the sentences perfect. I miss making mistakes and letting them be. I miss writing for the love of it.
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50,000 Is Just a Number: NaNoWriMo Wks 3-4

#DailyWings: “The question should be, is it worth trying to do, not can it be done.”
-Allard Lowenstein

Whew! National Novel Writing Month is finally over, my fingers are about to fall off and I can go back to having a real life again. Wonderful. 

The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of emotions and dragging plotlines and flying  candy bars. First and foremost, I want to give a very big congratulations to all the NaNoers in Chapel Hill, N.C., and around the country who met their personal goals, whether they were to 5k or 50k or simply write every day. We did it.

For those of you who are curious, I made it to 43,705 words by the stroke of midnight. Unfortunately, I did not reach my goal of 50,000 words, but I was so close! On Nov. 30, the very last day, I wrote more than I ever have before — about 10k in one day. That is crazy.  (The words weren’t exactly fine contributions to the novel, but quantity > quality is the essence of NaNo.) This year’s writing challenge taught me so much about myself and my writing. For one whole month, I showed that I love writing enough to put it above all else, even school work and health — this is no exaggeration, as I was sick during the last week. Still, it was worth every hour spent groveling over word vomit.
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What You See When Your Eyes Are Closed: Meditation and Writing

#DailyWings:“‘Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” -Stephen King

The funny thing about the end of summer school is that, after an intense three weeks of studying and fast learning and exam-taking, everything slows down and suddenly you have a wide space of time lying before you. 

Yesterday, I went to the interfaith chapel that is connected to the local hospital and spent five hours in one of the meditation rooms. I almost never see anyone in the chapel, even though it’s a beautiful and peaceful place to spend time alone, reflecting. The meditation rooms are low-lit and set at cool temperatures. 

Doesn’t this look lovely? 

Now, I don’t really affiliate myself with any religion. To me, religion is deeply personal and individualized because it makes up your entire belief system and spiritual views. No two people’s religions are alike, no matter what name you give it. And so even though I don’t go to church or attend religious activities regularly, I still try to find the time to meditate. 

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Character Profile #1

Question of the Day: What do you personally get out of taking your time to blog? To put simpler, why do you blog?
One of the most critical aspects of creating a novel or even just a short story is characterization, because the characters are what makes the story come alive. Their facial features, their actions, the way they view the world and the other characters they interact with, their thoughts and feelings, and their reactions to events all play major parts in determining who exactly the characters are.
Sadly, I do not fully developed my characters well enough at all. I get so excited with my SNI (Sexy New Idea, as Frankie Diane calls it) that I delve right into it and start writing my heart out. However, for all of the novels that I have begun in the past, there comes a time when I hit a total roadblock, a dead end if you will, and run out of things for my characters to say and do on a day-by-day basis. And I believe that I must attribute this to my lack of complete characterization. How can I write the audacious, romantic, inspiring story of my main character…if I myself do not fully know who exactly the main character is? How can I speak for my character when I have yet to know him or her through and through?

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The Joys of Writing

I actually wrote this list on Sunday, July 5, 2009 when I was bored and wanted to write something mainly for the sake of writing. I hope you find this inspirational, especially if you are a blogger with blogger’s block. ;]

Why Write?
#1: You can express yourself freely in whatever way you choose. No matter if you write a dramatic play, a tragic storyline of two lovers, a journal entry about your day, or a poem simply about Twinkies, every word that flows out from your mind is a part of you in some way. Expression, in every way, is powerful.
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