Sunday, February 1, 2015

15 Things to Do in 2015

Now that I've submitted my final paper and I have a week to relax before the next term begins, I figured I'd -finally- sit down and write out my "15 in 15" list.  Here we go!

1. Experience "dark dining."  This is one of those things I've been wanting to do for years, but no one has ever been interested in doing it with me.  Well, whatever. I'll go alone this year, if necessary! It is what it sounds like: you eat dinner in a completely pitch black restaurant.  Usually the waiters wear night vision goggles, but sometimes they're blind.  The idea is that by dining in the dark, your other senses become heightened.  It might make for a messy meal, but I'd love to try it just once.
2. Get a literary agent. Of course, I've been trying to reach this goal for a couple years now.  However, I'm scheduled to finish my MG novel this year, and I think it might make a better debut vehicle.  Perhaps my women's fiction novel will be published afterwards. Either way, I hope this year is the year! Which brings me to...
3. Finish my MG novel. Pretty straightforward!
4. Graduate with distinction in September. Again, pretty straightforward! Only five more classes stand between me and my master's degree!
5. Complete LASIK eye surgery. I got my right eye done in 2014, and I have my left eye scheduled for late this month.  Totally psyched to be able to toss out my contacts for good!
6. Lose 10 more pounds. I lost ten pounds on Atkins in 2014 and managed to keep it off.  I'd be totally happy to just lose an additional 10 this year.
7. Write -something- every day, no matter how insignificant it may seem. This was actually my New Years resolution; I'm trying to get in the habit of setting some time aside to write every day.  I was doing great for January, mostly doing a lot of journaling late at night.  Hopefully I can keep it up.
8. Hold a successful poetry/fiction reading at the bookstore.  This one is sort of out of my hands: the bookstore isn't open at night...and won't be, until someone installs a security gate.  I may have to look into other venues.
9. Attend the Juniper Institute. I was super excited to find out I had been accepted into the UMass Juniper Institute for the summer! It's my first ever writing conference (I don't really count AWP or Goddard, although they had similar elements) so I'm really pumped and can't wait to get started! And it starts on my birthday, too!
10. Publish AT LEAST one short story, one personal essay, and one poem. (I'm just now noticing that lot of my goals this year are writing related!)
11. Finish editing and posting Final Departure on Wattpad.  I'm up to chapter eleven, I believe...I have quite a way to go!  Once I'm finished with that, I want to have it bound by a vanity press.  I won't make it public, though, I just want to have a bound copy for myself!
12. Travel...somewhere! Ideally, I'd like to go to Scotland with Shaun this year, but I'm not sure if we'll be able to pull it off.  We'll see. If not, obviously I'd still like to get to Europe.  Maybe around Christmastime when I get a huge amount of time off from work!
13. Pay down all my credit cards so I'll be ready to (yuck) start paying toward my student loans after graduation. BLAH. Can we talk about things I'm not looking forward to? Yeah, student loans.  Gross.
14. Create something profitable.  I haven't really ironed out the kinks on this yet.  I started making an online course to sell, but I haven't finished it, so I guess my goal is to finish it and start marketing myself just a bit better.  Ideally I'd like to have at least two courses--or one course and a workbook--completed before the year is out.
15. Get some business cards. I got asked for my business card for the first time yesterday and had nothing to give the person! Time to make some! I just got some professional head shots taken yesterday, so once I get those, I'll get crackin'.

As you can see, these are mostly professional goals this year.  What are your goals for 2015?

Friday, January 23, 2015

5 Career Tips for New Grads

5 Career Tips for New Grads

You've worked hard for four years, or maybe even more than that.  (It took me eleven years to finally get my bachelors degree, so I'm certainly not judging you!) But now that you have that degree in your hand, you're ready to take the workforce by storm!

Here are some tips I've learned over the years that can help you on your quest for gainful employment.

1. Settle...at first. But don't stagnate.

Assuming that you need to support yourself, you are probably going to have to take monotonous, unfulfilling jobs.  If you've worked your way through college, you've probably already experienced this.  Sometimes you'll need to take two or three jobs at a time to make ends meet.  I've been there, and there's no sugar coating it: it sucks.  I'm 30 and I've worked 19 jobs...and that doesn't include unpaid internships or volunteer work.  Out of all those jobs, there's only one I can say with complete certainty didn't have majorly sucky elements: the one I'm in now.  Incidentally, it's also the only job I've had in my desired field.  (Don't be one of those folks who says "I'm holding out for a job in my field."  You will starve in the meantime.)


"[Cousin Eddie] is holding out for a management position."

There are some people who can get a great job in their desired field right out of college, but that's a rare occurrence, and in my experience, they seem to have very specific degrees: engineering, teaching, medicine.  If your degree is slightly more...abstract...you will probably need to put in your time at menial jobs.  Make the best of it.  Put it on your resume.  Employers want to see loyalty.  Sure, you may sweep floors or plunge toilets, but if you've been doing it consistently for a year--and have a great reference from your manager--that looks better than if you switch jobs every two months.  I'm paraphrasing an old saying I heard once: "If you have to sweep floors, be the best damn floor-sweeper they've ever seen."

The most important thing to remember about settling is to NOT allow yourself to become comfortable.  Before you know it, you'll open your eyes and realize that you've been slinging prescriptions at CVS for four years. Treat job searching like a second job: when you get home from work, search job boards and apply for multiple jobs.  Work to improve your resume, cover letter, and interview skills.  Which brings us to...

2. Never let yourself become superfluous. (ABL: Always Be Learning!)

Your college career might be over, but your learning is just beginning. Seriously.  This doesn't mean that you need to jump headfirst into grad school (although that would keep Sallie-Mae at bay for a bit longer), only that you need to keep yourself up to date with any skills relevant to the position you want.  Read relevant books, attend webinars and conferences, volunteer, snag an internship or enroll in a certificate course...whatever it takes to keep yourself relevant. Get comfortable with any software or technology you might be asked to use on the job, and list it on your resume.


In the same vein, always be on the lookout for needs that you can fulfill. I created my current position.  I was hired as a video editor, but when I noticed that our marketing copy kept being released despite grammatical errors, I spoke up.  I spoke up frequently, sending emails to my boss and supervisor that simply said "edits" and listed all the changes I would make.  After a while, they realized--and I realized, too--that I actually had a valuable skill.  They could hire someone else who knew how to use Premiere Pro, but finding someone with an eagle eye for spelling and grammar mistakes would be more difficult.

3. Don't leave a job until you have another one lined up.

I know the feeling of being so demeaned and undervalued that you really want to just throw your name badge in your boss' face and declare "I quit!" while stomping dramatically out the door.  (Preferably, on the busiest day of the year so that they finally understand how much they actually needed you.)


But, hang in there: In job interviews, you may be expected to explain--at least to a degree--why you left your previous jobs.  Not to mention, gaps in employment look terrible on a resume.  I know it's soul-crushing, but stick it out.  Use the bad experience as motivation to search and apply for other positions.  (For reference: I sent out ten job applications per night at my last job.  It took me seven months to find my current position.)


4. Use social media to your advantage.

On Twitter and LinkedIn, follow leaders in your chosen industry.  (Don't have a LinkedIn account? GET ONE!) Tweet and retweet things relevant to your dream job, and use appropriate hashtags. (I use #writerlife, #amwriting, and #copyeditorproblems frequently.)  Look out for AMAs (ask me anything) and submit your own questions. Do your best to be a mini-news source for topics relevant to your field--and if you blog, post links to your blog, too! But most importantly, don't tweet anything that you wouldn't want your boss (or future boss!) to see.


5. It's okay if you don't know what you want to do.

My college career was pretty aimless.  I focused on teaching at first, then cosmetology, then psychology, then communications & broadcasting...my degree? It's in creative writing. Job-wise, I've worked as a transcriptionist, a photographer, a pharmacy tech...you name it.  If you have multiple interests, that's fine, too.  You can have multiple resumes.  You can cover more than one topic on Twitter.  You might--like me--be hired for one job (video editing) and quickly find that your true calling is in copyediting.  If the workforce teaches us anything, it's that we're flexible people who can fit into more than one career-mold until we find the one that suits us best.  Don't worry, it's out there for you, too.



Thursday, January 1, 2015

14 things Accomplished in 2014!

It's the end of the year, and now is the time to make some new plans, resolutions, or what have you.  I'm making this a two part series, since I'm still busy coming up with 15 things I want to accomplish in 2015!

I'll start with a round up...

14 things I accomplished in 2014:

1. Went on vacation with my mom for the first time ever. (She hadn't been on a plane in 31 years!)
2. Went to Harry Potter World with Shaun (and Katie and Tom!) and Disney World with Ivy and her family.

3. Started a writing group.
4. Had essays published on HelloGiggles.com, xoJane.com, and three poems published in Meat for Tea: The Valley Review.
5. Did a 5K for the first time since high school. (With Sara, who had never done a 5K before!)

6. Maintained a 4.0 major GPA.
7. Found a diet that doesn't give me gallbladder attacks, and may even shrink my gallstones over time.
8. Subsequently lost ten pounds, and kept it off!
9. Read 31 books, not including textbooks & books I started but haven't quite finished.
10. Reunited with my father, aunt, and cousin after 20 years. (And met my little cousins for the first time.)
11. Started working at the Monte Cristo Bookshop Collective (now the New London Collective Bookshop) and VIMFIRE Magazine.
12. Got LASIK on my right eye. (Left eye, coming soon!)
13. Met Norton Juster (author of The Phantom Tollbooth).
14. And, one of the resolutions I made for myself at the end of 2013...I moved in with Shaun in February! (Pictured: our mini Thanksgiving dinner!)

There you have it...14 things I did in 2014! Stick around for 15 things I plan to do in 2015!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Stitch Fix Number...six? I think?

It's Stitch Fix time again!  This time, I requested some jeans, some Margaret M straight leg jeans in a yellowish color, a peplum top with a bedazzled collar by 41Hawthorne, and the same Market and Spruce top they sent last time, only in green.  They didn't have most of this stuff, but they did have some jeans, so there's that.

Well, here we go...let's take a look at December's Fix!
1. CREATIVE COMMUNE 

Tatiana Keyhole & Lace Detail Blouse: $38




As seems to be a pattern with me, this was yet another Stitch Fix top that I couldn't quite fit over my chest. *Sigh*  The good news is, despite having some interesting details, this top wasn't quite my style anyway, so it wasn't a devastating loss.

Also, upon closer inspection, the stitching was pretty cheap looking.  I feel like this is a top that would have fallen apart pretty quickly. Verdict? Sent back!


2. KUT FROM THE KLOTH

Denna Colored Skinny Jean: $78

I don't understand why Stitch Fix keeps sending "Diana" pants and calling them by different names.  Either way, I requested a green pair of these a few fixes ago (after receiving the burgundy pair) and now they've delivered.  Love 'em, of course.  Verdict? Kept!

3. 41HAWTHORN #3262-012

Teresa Colorblocked Short-Sleeve Blouse: $58


The 41Hawthorne brand DEFINITELY runs on the small side, although this top is not as drastically small as the last one I was sent!  This shirt looks okay in the photo, and it was pretty flattering in person, but again, it's too tight in the chest--and the color blocking just calls attention to that fact by getting pulled all lopsided when I move.  I love the look of this top - a classic cut, but the colors seem super chic to me and remind me a little of Audrey Hepburn - I really would have kept this if it had maybe a centimeter of more fabric.  If they sent me this again in an XL, I would definitely keep it. Verdict? Sent back!


KUT FROM THE KLOTH #2964-456

Denna Skinny Jean: $78


I specifically requested a pair of jeans in my Fix.  I have a handful of pairs at home, but I never wear them--they're either too big, too small, or otherwise ill-fitting and uncomfortable in some way.  I was dying for a pair of jeans that were actually comfortable! These are the exact same brand and cut of the other three pairs of pants I've bought from Stitch Fix, but they're dark denim (which I love) and they're definitely comfy. Verdict? Kept!

EVOLUTION BY CYRUS #3079-282

Deva Cap Sleeve Mini Peplum Pleated Dress: $68

 This one is a tough decision.  The color is great (it looks sort of periwinkle in the photo, but it's actually cobalt blue) and the dress fit perfectly.  The thing is, I had just ordered a peplum dress on Cyber Monday...in the same exact color.  It hasn't arrived yet, which makes me nervous about preemptively sending this dress back.  I'm trying to hold on to this dress until the other one arrives, but I'm not sure if it will work out.  Verdict? Pending!

As always, if you are interested in trying out Stitch Fix for yourself, please consider using my referral link!  

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

No Spend November: How's it going?

We're almost halfway through November, and all I have to say is...yikes!

I thought this would be a fairly easy experiment.  It would give me time to plan for Christmas buying,  and it wouldn't be too hard otherwise because I didn't "need" anything.

And them my mom came to visit and we went to Kohl's.  MAN OH MAN.  Talk about trial by fire! I can quite easily blow a ton of money in Kohl's (especially when they give you those great 30% off coupons) but I managed to behave myself.  I -almost- cracked and bought a purse (I'd really like a cross-body one) but I decided it wasn't big enough to fit my necessities and I put it back. Phew!

There have been some other challenges. A friend of mine released her debut novel this month, and even though I'm dying to read it, I'm going to wait until December.  I need to get a new pair of Spanx since my old ones tore.  I saw a really cute coat in an Old Navy commercial. I found a bunch of writing contests that I want to submit to, but they ALL charge submission fees.  It's been a little tough.

I did buy two items from my Stitch Fix, but that was allowed in my original rules.  Other than that, I bought a $1 sheet of to/from labels from Target as a Christmas-prep kinda thing.  So, so far, No Spend November hasn't broken me.  It's been trying, though! I hope I don't go spend crazy in December as a result. :-/

Stitch Fix #5: Pictures taken by Mom :)

Stitch Fix #5 is here!
I was super excited about this Fix, since it happened to get delivered on the same day my mother was visiting.  I was able to rope her in to help take my photos and also get her feedback on some of the pieces, which is great since I'm usually deciding on my own.  Here we go!

 Renee C Huebert Space Dye Open Cardigan: $58
This looks pretty good in the photo, but honestly, I think at last count I had something insane like TWENTY-SIX cardigans. I certainly do not need another one, especially not one as unremarkable as this. The only thing that might have swayed me was if it had been nice deep jewel tone.  As it was, it was gray and blah and...nope.  Verdict? Sent back!
Gilli Kamile Jersey Ruched Detail Dress, $64 
I have a confession to make.  I was a "goth girl" for many years, and I'm still struggling a bit to add color into my wardrobe...so at first, I was a little disappointed that Stitch Fix sent a black dress.  But, once I thought about it, I realized that my wardrobe was actually missing a classic little black dress that would work for both casual and dressier occasions.

You can't quite see it clearly here, but this has some pretty ruching around the waist.  Every girl needs a good little black dress, and this one is pretty versatile, really defines my waist, and doesn't show too much cleavage.  Win! Actually, Gilli is the same brand who made the dress I kept last month...I think I like this brand!  Verdict? Kept!

HAHAHAHA. Nice try, Stitch Fix.
41Hawthorne Moni Horseshoe Print Stud Detail Top - $58
Whoever labeled this shirt a size large has certainly not taken boobs into account.  I couldn't pull the shirt down any further than this, and it forced my shoulders into that permanent shrug you see.  Not to mention...I'm not into the busy, patterned fabric at all. You can't really see it, but it's tiny horseshoes. Not at all my style! My stylist wrote a note saying "...here's that shirt you liked!" but this is not even close to what I requested...it's by the same brand, but...yeah, no.  That's where similarities end. Verdict? Sent back!


Market and Spruce Corinna Striped Dolman Top: $48
 YAYYYY.  I had been bugging my stylists for this top for a while, but it was always sold out.  I read in some other Fixes that it was really comfy and oversized, great for just throwing on for a lazy weekend.  Well, I wore it today, and I have to agree! I can see this getting a lot of mileage on those days when I just need to throw something on and go, or just hang around the house doing some writing.  Verdict? Kept!
Kut From The Kloth Jonathan Corduroy Skinny Pant - $68
These red pants were way too similar to the maroon pants they sent me a few Fixes ago.  I think my mom wanted me to keep them, but I knew I wouldn't wear them. The tag said corduroy, but they were really more like velour, and for some reason, touching velour fabric makes me nauseated.  (Weird, right? I know!) Verdict? Sent back!

All in all, I'm pretty happy with this fix.  The cardigan and the shirt were no-nos (I specifically asked for NO cardigans in my second to last fix, but I'm not sure that the notes carry over!) but pants, top, and dress made it clear that they were working from my Pinterest style boards.

As always, if you want to try out Stitch Fix for yourself, please use my referral link!

Monday, November 3, 2014

FINALLY: The 30 by 30 Roundup: How did I do?

As some of you might remember, I had a list of 30 things I wanted to do before I turned 30.
Me on my birthday! With a lovely astral crown made by Sue of Giant Dwarf.

Well, I've been 30 for almost 6 months now, so it's time to see how well I did!

1. Graduate college: Done!
2. Eat in a fondue restaurant: Done!
3. Ride an elephant: Done!
4. Eat at the Cheesecake Factory: Done! (Twice!)

5. Get a pet: Done!
6. Go to a drive-in movie: Done! (Lots of times!)
7. Have tea at The Plaza Hotel: Done!
8. Buy something at Tiffany's: Done!

9. Christmas shop in NYC: Done!
10. Go to "The Real Bedford Falls": Done!
11. See Annie on Broadway: Done!
12. Get a latte with latte art: Done!

13. Publish a book (I've received two offers so far, but I turned them both down. So...almost!)
14. Get in shape (I went to the gym religiously for 6 months but nothing happened. I've been on Atkins for 3 weeks and I've lost 8 pounds...so...I'm getting there!)
15. Eat at a spinning restaurant 
16. Ice skate at Rockefeller Center (tried, but couldn't get in!)
17. Go inside the Statue of Liberty
18. Go to Harry Potter World: Done!
19: Get a tin foil swan "doggie bag" (I went to a place that usually makes them...but, sadly the didn't give me one.
20. Get a kick ass wardrobe
21. Experience "dark dining"
22. Create a minimalistic photobook
23. Purchase a designer handbag: Done! (Twice!)
24: Go fishing & boating: Done!
25. Go to the Moth: Done!
26. See Central Park
27. See Nick Cave in concert: Done! (Twice!)
28. See Leonard Cohen in concert: Done!
29. Go to Raines Law Room: Done!
30*: Swim with dolphins: I decided that I don't really want to do this, after all. Zoos and aquariums etc just make me sad for the creatures there.

----
So, all in all, I made pretty good work of the list, completing 19 out of 29 things, and at least trying four other things. Some of the things on the list I could still knock out easily with a day in NYC! (Statue of Liberty, Central Park, Ice skating at Rockefeller Center, Dark Dining, a spinning restaurant!) 

Out of all of everything here, I highly recommend visiting "The Real Bedford Falls" (if you're as into It's a Wonderful Life as I am!) and Harry Potter World.  Also, seeing Leonard Cohen in concert and having tea at the Plaza hotel were pretty awesome.  And The Moth was a real good time!

I definitely encourage you to make a list of your own.  In fact, I might make a smaller list each year!