2012: A Year In Review (Or at Least a Self-Reflection).

It’s another year, and although generally I don’t write blog posts about shit like this I think in the case of the 2012-2013 year, I have to make an exception.

So much has happened in the past year. I rang in 2012 in New Jersey, spent the vast majority of it in Boston, and exited the year in Auckland. I’ve held a bunch of jobs — my article at the Suburban News (yes, still), an internship at a literary agency, two telecommuted social media jobs, and a sales assistant position at Lush — and have done a lot of things that I’m proud of, and a lot of things that I’m less than proud of. Because this year was an enormous (if not cliché) rollercoaster of a year, I want to similarly structure this post: ups, downs, ups, downs. And a little bit of waffling in between. 

I’ve discovered a lot about myself, especially in the last few months. It was probably brought on by the big move to New Zealand, but it had nothing to do with New Zealand itself. I’ve discovered that if I’m not surrounded by people who make me happy, I’m not happy. And I’ve also discovered that I’m totally unable to stick up for myself, and that it doesn’t matter how unhappy some people make me — I’ll still try to make them happy until I self-destruct into a flaming ball of despair. I’ve gone back on decisions I thought I already had in the bag, such as moving to New York, and working within the publishing industry. I don’t know exactly what I want to do anymore. I haven’t been writing and I’ve felt very unproductive and insecure recently, and I’m not sure why that is. Probably because I’m so fixated on the problems in my life that need fixing. I’ve realised how much of an overthinker I am, and how painful it is to see possibility after possibility crumble apart before my very eyes. But I’ve also realised that even if some people in my life have been totally undependable and make me unhappy enough that I spend whole days crying or miserable, I also have plenty of wonderful and amazing people — friends and family alike — who are always there for me if I need anything, at any time of day or night. 

I work really hard to keep friendships. This past year I did whatever I could to make sure people knew I would always be there no matter what. I’d make time for people even if it meant pushing things back that I needed or wanted to do. I’d bring them things if they were sick, talk to them about their problems, and edit their papers — and whenever I had problems, I felt I could go to them without question. And I came out of Boston wondering if after I left, after I moved so many thousands of miles away, I would still have these people and the relationships would last. And they have. I talk to a lot of my friends from Boston and New Jersey here. And they’re there when I’m panicking or unhappy or even if I want to tell them something exciting about my life. And I couldn’t be more grateful for those people. And when I’m feeling really lonely or sad here, I know that I have enough people who care about me that whatever I’m feeling will be okay eventually, if not right away. There is no actual level of love or gratitude that I can express better that I am right now. I love you all so dearly and I can’t wait to see you again (except Ali who I’ll see in like six hours).

I’ve made some fantastic new friends since I’ve been here; I’ve met a lot of people, and some of them have turned out better than others. I’ve ignored a lot of warning signs in favour of stupidly believing that people will change. Instead of saving myself a lot of heartache, I doggedly keep at it, defending them even when all my friends have nothing nice to say. On the other hand, there have been some amazing people who have just waltzed right into my life over the past few months. People who make me perpetually very happy, and who I don’t want to leave behind in nine months time. 

I’ve accomplished a lot of things this year. I wrote a lot of stories, I made a lot of difficult decisions, I moved all the way to New Zealand, I worked hard in every job I held and was good at what I did. Even in New Zealand I managed to do a lot. In fact, I’ve managed a lot of things I never thought I would. My goal for the first month of living in Auckland was to have an apartment, have friends, and find a job. And we did that — both Ali and me. We had a fantastic turnout at Thanksgiving, a pretty good Christmas, and even a decent birthday for me. I feel like for most of this year I’ve felt … well, more or less good about myself. We’ll be doing some traveling soon, and have done teensy day trips, and I feel like this is a step in the right direction towards the last goal of the trip — which is traveling. But for me, NZ has always been about meeting people and living here, and that’s what I’ve been doing. And maybe some of it hasn’t worked out, but the attempts I’ve made have been really impressive. At least I think so.

Of course, there are also the things I didn’t accomplish that I said I would. I haven’t made things totally right in a few respects. I’ve lost a bit of my direction in life. I haven’t finished — or even come close to finishing — my novel, and I’ve not written as much as I should have, and I haven’t had as much of a drive to do so. I’ve spent so much of my time drowning in the negatives of my life that I am distracted from things that should make me happy. I want to go back to trying to think positively. Because for a while, that worked. Maybe I didn’t get what I wanted out of it, but at least I was trying to change my outlook on life — or at least trying to stop overthinking every little thing and focusing on all of the negative things happening. 

I’m not sure if I want to make any official resolutions — I always do it and it never works out — but what I will say is this: I’ve found out more about myself this year than any other, and I’m going to try to fix the things that aren’t working. I’m going to work on thinking more positively; I’m going to work on saving my energy and time for the people who think I matter, not just the people who matter to me. And maybe I’ll be able to write more and read more and do other things that could just be the deep breaths I need between my daily moments of anxiety and excitement. I don’t know if it’ll work. I may look back on this post in three weeks and laugh and say, “Jesus, what the fuck was I thinking?” But … here’s to hoping that I won’t.

Happy New Year’s, kids kids. 

 

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050. How to Use Twitter & Not Alienate People (Or: The Things I’ve Learned on Twitter).

In late February, I had the privilege of being hired as a social media intern for two separate authors.  Intern is a relative term; I get paid approximately $12 an hour to tweet, which I find somehow ridiculous but amazing all at once.

I won’t really go into my responsibilities, but suffice to say, I’m in charge of both writers’ Twitter accounts. I also take care of other social media platforms for Author #1 and supply my input on various marketing ideas, but the point is, I’ve been exposed to many a Twitter faux pas since I’ve been working here.

I’ve seen the Follow Friday meme (#FF) blow up from its purpose as a thoughtful recommendation of people you want to promote for their inspiring or funny or interesting posts, into a willy-nilly recommendation of half the people you follow without explanation. They post not once,  suggesting one or two tweeters, but seven or more times, suggesting ten or so tweeters — however many they can fit in the strict 140 character limit — in each post. And it has almost lost its meaning.

I’ve seen self-published writers (and others, but these are the biggest culprits) tooting their own horns, spamming incessantly instead of using Twitter the way it’s supposed to be used. Twitter is social media, not marketing media, and to use it accurately as a promotional tool, you must pretend it is not a promotional tool at all. I’ve seen people try to get retweets by saying “Please RT,” which, of course, makes people want to retweet you even less. The only reason to ever do this is if you are raising money for a dying child, because then and only then is it so important, and people will actually want to spread the word. This is especially bad if it’s said in conjunction with everything you post. As if unconcsiously trying to back me up, FakeEditor (@fakeeditor) just tweeted, “When I see a self-promotional tweet that starts with ‘Please RT,’ I assume the person meant to type ‘Please unfollow me,’ and I do.”

Nobody likes a self-promotional beggar. I repeat: Nobody.

The most successful Tweeters use Twitter as a social tool, not a promotional tool. The promo comes after the social. It’s the subtext, and shouldn’t be advertised in blinking neon lights. Let’s take Neil Gaiman, for instance, one of the most successful author tweeters around. He will talk about his own work. He’ll certainly tell followers when a new book is coming out, or when he’s having a reading, but he won’t post it 5+ a day (in fact, he’ll only do it once), and most of his Tweets are personal in nature. He shares links he finds useful, interesting, or important; he responds warmly to fans; he engages in adorable conversations with his friends and wife (Amanda Palmer, another A+ Tweeter); and he feeds the ether personal tidbits that are, more often than not, funny and interesting.

Of course, not all your Tweets can appeal to everyone. Twitter has that annoying reputation of being “overinformative,” but for celebrities, authors, chefs, musicians, etcetera, it has the unique ability to connect these people with the fans who look up to them. It offers a glimpse into these people’s lives, into their personalities. You feel you know them. And this personal connection, this personal investment, makes you more interested in learning about them and what they do and purchasing whatever product they may be selling — a book, a film, a fancy five course dinner, an mp3.

It is inevitable that people will misuse Twitter, and these are the people that give this platform a bad reputation. The people who lack a personal connection with their followers won’t do as well as the people who do make and foster this connection. The people who tweet twenty times a day talking about how wonderful their self-published novel or brand new album is comes across as what my roommate so deftly labeled “cacophonous noise.” And then, conversely, there are the people who spend every waking moment on Twitter, updating with dull, insignificant details: “I am drinking coffee,” or “Today, I’m going shopping with my sister.”

For your tweets to be interesting, you have to be you. What defines a good tweeter is not what he or she says, but how he or she says it. At the exact same moment in time, Nathan Fillion and fifty other people in the world could have left their coffee on their cars and driven to work. But the way he wrote this experience made it him and made it special, and as of now, this tweet has over 850 straight-up retweets — and that’s not including favourites, retweets with comments, or replies: “Dear Morning Coffee, how was your ride to work on the top of my car? Glad you made it. But now you’re iced coffee. Nathan.”

Moral of the story: Twitter is a social tool. Use it to be social, not as a marketing tool. Be you first, and then if people like you, they’ll be more likely to be interested in whatever you’re selling. If you aggressively self-promote, no matter how great your book or movie or charity OR WHATEVER ELSE is, you’re more likely than not going to alienate people. You’ll get followers, sure, but the number of followers you have does not (shock and surprise!) directly correlate to the number of people who are interested in what you have to offer — and most of these won’t give a flying fuck about whatever you’re promoting.

And, hey, if you’re not sure of the best way to use Twitter, look at the tweeters you watch the most, and see what the hell they do that makes you love them so damn much*.

Next week: The strangest people I’ve ever found on Twitter. Seriously, I don’t know how these people exist or have followers…

 

*In case you’re wondering, my top tweeters are Rob Swire (@rob_swire), Nathan Fillion (@NathanFillion), Gareth McGrillen (GarethPendulum), Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself), and Laura Vincent (@hungryandfrozen).

044. Shameless Self Promotion.

As I’ve probably mentioned a couple of times here, I am the proud holder of two internships and one paying job. My first internship, with literary agent Ann Collette, is going spectacularly. Originally, I was supposed to stop working there in September. And then that moved back to December. And now I’m staying for another indeterminable stretch, which is totally fine with me. I’ve proven my editorial skills and have now been editing manuscripts — some good, some great, some utterly and undeniably heinous. It’s proving to be a point of pride and of enjoyment for me, and I’m currently working through one right now, developmentally editing a book that I really do quite like. 

My other internship’s also going well — so far, I’ve written four blogposts, which I’ve failed to crosspost here. I’ll link the most recent one here: it’s a list of the “best of the best” books of 2011. 

This is not your typical “best of” list — nothing about it has my opinion in it. Instead, I checked all the published “best of” lists I could find online — such as the ones from the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and Barnes & Noble — and tallied all the books that made it onto multiple list. The results are documented in the above post, so if you really want to see which books (divided into fiction, nonfiction, and young adult) got the best response this year, check out the post!

043. In Which I Return to WordPress After Being Dormant for an Unthinkably Long Time.

I haven’t updated in a very, very long time. This is somewhat unacceptable, because unlike some of the other times I neglected my posting duties, things actually happened in my life.

There are many things I need to post about: my job, my social life, my early Christmas gifts, and, of course, my National Novel Writing Month experience and novel.

I think I’ll stagger posts about these topics, because I’m absolutely certain that if I tried to write a single post encompassing all these things, it would take thirty minutes to read, and nobody wants to spend that much time reading a blog post.

So let’s start with the most ultimately fun (and topical) item on the menu: Christmas presents.

It should be mentioned that I really enjoy getting gifts for people; not quite as much as I enjoy receiving them, but I absolutely love that moment when you think of something or see something, and that lightbulb goes off in your head: “This would be perfect for ___.”

I take great pride in my gift giving ability, and spend perhaps an inordinate amount of time picking out good presents for people. For my roommate who is extremely into Doctor Who, a disappearing TARDIS mug. For my friend Sarah who likes all things geeky, a Princess Leia print; For my friend Ali who has recently become obsessed with cooking, a chef’s knife and that elusive ice cream scooper she somehow has never had in her house. And so on and so forth. I had a hard time finding things for my mom and my sister, but eventually, I had those “aha” moments for them, too.

Of course, not everything was all well and good on the gift giving front. I hit a snag when shipping costs ran rather high and then the gift did not arrive in the time it was supposed to, and in fact still has not arrived. There was another problem in which I thought I’d gotten a terrific gift for somebody, and it turned out she didn’t want it — and I had to get her something else.

But it all came out well, because my Boston friends and I had our gift exchange last night. Everyone was pleased with what they got — especially me. My gift haul, so far, goes as such:

From my boss Ann: $100. That’s pretty awesome, considering I’m an unpaid intern. Think about that for a second, then think about how ecstatic I was when I realised I wouldn’t be losing quite as much money as I thought I’d be this holiday season.

From Zoë: Gourmet hazelnut hot chocolate. There are really no words to express how incredible this hot chocolate is — and you can still make it with water, which for me is always a huge plus!

From Sara: A mortar and pestle. It’s marble, it’s neat, and I crushed up nuts in it today because even though I didn’t need to, I really wanted to use it. It’s very pretty and I shall add it to my collection of amazing kitchen items I have in my apartment.

From Sarah: A tiny notebook that is only slightly larger than my tinyphone. Which is a feat in itself. It’s blank, has lovely paper, a butterfly print on the cover, and is held together by string. It’s very pretty; so much so, I’m afraid to randomly start writing in it without a purpose. It needs to be designated a purpose!

From Ali: Seasons two, three, and four of Dexter. You heard me. THREE SEASONS OF DEXTER. I don’t think I need to say anything more about that because I’ll get so excited that my grammar will deteriorate faster than a rotting corpse.

From Keri: It hasn’t yet arrived, and I forget which brand it actually is, but this one is so insanely neat that I can barely sit still and write about it.

My friends — mostly the people listed above — have made it a tradition to steal my phone. Perhaps it is because my phone is basically a novelty, as it’s five years old and a Samsung Juke. Look it up. It’s pretty crazy. Regardless of the reason, they take my phone and they hide it or change my contacts or both. This is alternately hilarious and frustrating depending on my mood, their timing, or how drunk we are.

Keri has provided a solution to all of this, because for Christmas, Keri is giving me a phone/key locator. Yes, that’s right. It’s the thing where you put something on your phone or your keys, you have a remote, and you can locate your shit. Never again will tinyphone be unfindable, whether it’s in the depths of my bed, on my floor, or in Sara’s pocket. Never again will I need to run out the door and forget where I put my keys. NEVER AGAIN.

I think you can tell that I am waiting with much anticipation for this gift to arrive.

So as of now, these are the gifts I have received. I’ve bought others that I’d love to write about here, but unfortunately, some people read this blog who have not yet received their presents, and I don’t wish to spoil the surprise.

In a few days I’ll post about my work life. For now, though, it’s back to cooking (without, sadly, the mortar & pestle … there’s just nothing to crush and my life is a dark abyss.)

040. Book Review of Vampire Empire #2: The Rift Walker by Clay and Susan Griffith.

WARNING: SPOILERS.

The Rift Walker is a very good follow-up to the first novel in the Vampire Empire trilogy.

At the beginning, it’s a bit mopey and moves far too slowly. Adele is longing for her love (although, granted, I still think their love came about really instantaneously in the last book, and I would have liked a little more development of HOW they came to be that into each other; Adele really didn’t have as many struggles with the fact that the beloved Greyfriar was a vampire as she should have, and it all seemed a bit too easy). She is waiting to be married, and dreading her union with the boisterous Senator Clark. She starts learning about the powers she’d discovered in book one, and it becomes clear that Adele is way more powerful than anyone could have ever imagined.

However, the book really picks up about a hundred pages in when on her wedding day, Greyfriar saves the day, pulling her out just before the wedding is truly finalized because his evil brother, Cesare, is planning to kill her. They escape Alexandria, eventually joined by Adele’s loyal guard Colonel Anhalt, and exciting adventures ensue! Murders, magic, political uprisings, secret identities revealed, and lots and lots of violent battles.

Like the last book, The Rift Walker has a great balance of romance, adventure, darkness, fantasy, steampunk, and just a little bit of humour. Unlike the last book, the pacing was a little off; the beginning was very, very slow, and could have used some whittling down, while the last half was completely action-packed; there were no dull moments, and the writers really know how to keep readers turning the pages.

The magic touched upon in the prequel gets a bigger part in this book. The concept of geomancy was much better explained, and I felt it was extremely creative and unique. I loved the idea of rifts, and the way the writers described the magic in itself. I do hope there’s going to be more of an explanation in the third book as to why Adele is so insanely powerful, though.

Which leads me into some problems I had. Some of them cross over from book one, while some of them are only issues that I really considered after beginning book two.

First: Adele is a little too powerful. She’s a brilliant Empress, and that’s what I like best about her character. She is charismatic, commanding, strategic, and knows exactly what she needs to do to motivate people and rally them. But the problem is that aside from being a genius at politics and also being the surprisingly powerful geomancer who puts all other geomancers to shame, she is somehow an extremely fantastic warrior woman who somehow has learned to do battle better than many other people. She knows how to fence absurdly well, and is a master of hand-to-hand combat. There’s no real reason as to why Adele is so great at everything; I cannot imagine that her upbringing, which seems exceedingly typical of female royalty, would allow for her to train her skills in battle.

Second: I absolutely adore the idea of vampires being a completely different species. But that poses a couple of problems. These problems are typical things that arise from vampire books, but in most vampire books they AREN’T problems, because in most mythologies, vampires have once been human and have died. One thing that almost always happens in these books and movies and TV shows is that the lead romantic vampire often identifies with humanity in some way; in Twilight, which I hate but still provides a pretty good example, the Cullen family becomes “vegetarian” because they seem to prefer humanity over other vampires. That makes sense, in a strange way; even though they are themselves vampires, they were once human, and identify more with that part of themselves than the monstrous part.

In Vampire Empire, vampires are a completely separate species from humans, like tigers are completely different than house cats. Same genus, different species. House cats don’t sit around wondering why they’re not like tigers. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense why Gareth wants SO BADLY to be human. Because … he never was a human. He never will be human. While I do understand why he might be fascinated by human culture, I cannot possibly understand how he could hope to be a human; how he could side with humans over vampires. I need a good reason as to why this is happening, why he’s fighting his kind secretly.

Third: I don’t like how quickly the whole situation between Gareth and Adele was resolved. I’m not talking about just the relationship; I’m talking about the fact that when Adele finds out that her growing powers can actually seriously hurt Gareth, even when she’s not intentionally using them, she just ups and says “Oh, okay guys, I guess I’ll never deal with my powers again, I’m just going to live with you forever and ever and ever,” and it literally lasts one paragraph or two. I cannot imagine that situation could even possibly have a solution in that short amount of time. I needed more depth there.

I loved a lot about this book, too; there are a lot of twists and turns in this installment; lots of betrayals, some unexpected deaths, and some forays into the more exotic aspects of the world the Griffiths have so deftly created. I especially enjoyed the fact that several other characters find out Greyfriar’s true identity in this one; it upped the drama and the stakes quite a bit. But it is also important to note that while the books so far are fun, well-written, and very compelling, some important aspects, like the motives or the whys, are somehow absent.

I’m looking forward to reading book number three!

034. Strugs, Or the Longest Day Ever.

These past few days have been very busy and exhausting. There was a July Fourth party, which was lovely. I met some interesting people, got to know other interesting people more, and honestly, I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out. I now have tentative plans for drinking up a storm on Saturday night, which is also fun and doesn’t happen all that often.

But yesterday, I was home for a grand total of an hour and fifteen minutes until I crashed and went to sleep. I got back to my apartment around 2:30 or so, left for dinner and class at around 4, and then didn’t really come home until 11:45. Because as I was leaving Emerson, I got to the red line, went to Kendall/MIT, and then realised, with great panic, that my phone was nowhere to be found. I got off the train, searched frantically, and then headed back to campus. Thankfully, I found tinyphone, but when I did, there was a message from my roommate — aaaand she was at the hospital. Which was rather terrifying and I felt like crap because she wanted me to bring some things for her, but I was so, so far away. It took me almost an hour to get home, because not only did I have to wait for the train, but then the bus was taking forever, and then it got delayed. So I got off the 66, rushed home, changed out of my shoes, grabbed the things Zoë needed, and headed to the hospital.

Now, the only problem with this is that I had never been to this hospital before. So I looked it up, realised I could get there by 86 or 66 to 57, but even though I knew the latter route better, it would have taken much longer due to transfer time. At this point, it was already 10:30, about an hour and a quarter after I’d gotten her call. So I took the 86, but the bus wasn’t announcing stops and I’d no idea where I was or where my stop actually was. So I got off super early, called my mom, and she gave me directions as I walked and my phone was about to die. I walked for about twenty-five minutes, got to the emergency room, felt like I was about to fall over, but then it turned out Zoë was actually much better and was about to be discharged (yay).

So we left, taking the 57 to the 66, but then the 66 wasn’t coming forever, so we walked the rest of the way home. So now my feet hurt immensely, I am sore everywhere, and I’m very tired and am in dire need of more sleep but there is some dumb construction outside. So I remain awake, hold up in my air conditioning. The end.

014. Things That Don’t Actually Matter.

I’m supposed to be doing homework, but I haven’t updated this blog for a while, so here we go:

Last night I went to a party. It was fun. I liked it. I met someone new and we bonded over our hatred for a particular person who Shall Not Be Named. I saw Seamus again. I missed him a lot. Also Ryan. It felt like a hundred or so years since that Zombie movie way back when, and I wish I saw them more.

In other news, my sister apparently got two kittens. That’s great and all, but I feel a little … oddly betrayed. Which may sound stupid, but it’s like she’s forsaken our two cats at home, along with everything else. She texted me about it today, and gave them literary names: Raoul Duke and Mersault. I didn’t even know she liked l’Étranger very much but hey, whatever.

I’m a little worried about the fact that she adopted these kittens because I don’t know how on earth she thinks she’s going to be able to support two kittens. Vet bills? Eep. We’ll see what happens.

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