January Book Round-Up

Hey everyone! I have always wanted to share book reviews on here but I never really felt like I had place or voice to do so. Then I realized that’s all bullshit and any of us can do whatever we want as long as what we’re putting out in the world is honest, coming from a place of love, and the best work we can possibly do.

Yes! I am finally starting to embrace what this blog is all about. Only took me like 3 years.

So starting now I’ll be sharing brief reviews and synopses from the books I read every month. I am warning you now– I never stick to one genre, author, or theme. I read all over the place, all the time. There MAY be an uptick of Western stuff in the coming months as I research a project of mine, but that’s about it.

BNBlue Nights – Joan Didion

Blue Nights picks up where The Year of Magical Thinking left off. Both are memoirs of grief that Didion captures with heartfelt honesty and clarity. In Blue Nights Didion floods light into every dark memory and turns over each happy memory again and again like a stone. We are very much in her mind, rattling through her thoughts with her, no matter how repetitive or meditative. Personally, I love The Year of Magical Thinking more because of its depth and narrative, but it is easy to do that. To enjoy Blue Nights you must be willing to do the work alongside her. It’s tough but rewarding.


bedWomen in Bed: Nine Stories – Jessica Keener

Lately I’ve been giving short stories a whirl. After buying Roxanne Gay’s recent collection, I remembered the things I loved about the form and have decided to return. (I left because they reminded me of poorly structured school assignments…) Jessica Keener’s collection of stories follows women of all walks facing changes both in their control and not. The first of my favorite stories, “Boarders”, tells the story of a college-aged woman living in a boarding house with elderly men while sorting out her dating life. It highlights how we often seek shelter in the wrong places. My other favorite, “Recovery”, is the heartbreaking tale of sudden death and survival and how we don’t always have the answers we need. The depth of pain in this story is contrasted against the stark hospital surroundings and left me deeply moved. Some of the characters lose depth from time to time, but overall it was an engaging read.


Strangers on a Train – Patricia Highsmithstrangers

How I missed this one until now is it’s own mystery. (See what I did there?) Many of you will know this story from Alfred Hitchcock’s film of the same name. I also haven’t seen the movie so being able to read the book prior to doing so (I am definitely going to now) was a real treat. At first I felt like the story started out slow and I was getting a tiny bit frustrated with the sedate and steady unfolding. How wrong I was! Highsmith builds a wild, important world and all that slow sharing really pays off in the end. This is a crime novel like nothing I’ve read and really focuses on how ordinary people can be driven to commit crimes they never imagined they could. I am obsessed with how Highsmith weaves this story and keeps you on board until the end. Incredible book to pick up ASAP.


elephant-vanishesThe Elephant Vanishes – Haruki Murakami (Translated by Jay Rubin & Alfred Birnbaum)

Before this collection of short stories the only book by Murakami I had read was his memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running which I read during my giant memoir phase. At this time, I was also super interested in writer’s working schedules and routines and how they incorporated fitness. I loved the ease with which he wrote that story and was interested to see how it would play into fiction. Fast forward a couple years to now–I’m on my short story kick and the boyfriend owns this one. Win! Murakami’s stories are enticing, and weird, and sexy all at the same time. No two stories are the same, though there are lots of reoccurring themes, and I didn’t have trouble getting on board with the more sci-fi level stuff. However, there are few female characters I identify with, and a couple times questioned how he represents women in his work, but overall the language and storytelling were unique and powerful.

Can’t wait to share new books with you next month. Let me know what you think of this new section and you can keep up with my reading list DAILY by following me on Goodreads! CLICK HERE.



Poet Interview – Arthur Perez Junior -@apjpoetry

Stop by every other month for extensive interviews with my favorite up and coming poets. First up in this new series is Arthur Perez Junior. I met Arthur on Instagram and was blown away by his words and depth of feeling. And full disclosure, I was super intrigued to hear and learn more from him because he has accomplished the goal I am now working toward–publishing a book of poetry. (You can buy his book Wandering here.) On to the interview…! 

Arthur Perez Junior

1. When did you start writing poetry?
I started writing at a very young age, around 10 or so. I had always been interested in stories, story telling and adventure and it really came to life when my father got a word processor (new school typewriter). From that point I wrote shorts stories and poems daily.

2. Since that time, how has your work changed/grown/evolved?
I developed a love of reading and found myself finding influence in the books I read and movies I watched. I have tried to remain true to my feelings and ideas. My style has evolved into something I would categorize as my own, my own style per se, and the ease at which words come has increased over the years.
3. What themes do you find yourself coming back to and why?
Love. It is always love. I have grown into somewhat of a hopeless romantic. I adore the melancholy of love and loss and the theme continues to carry through into my writing consistently.
4. Can you remember one of they very first poems you read?
I remember reading Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken, for the very first time and being so profoundly moved. Even at a young age the idea of forging my own way, resisting the urge to do the ordinary and venture out into the world without certainty. That poem has been ingrained in my mind, a reminder of the value in struggle and persistence.
One of my favorites from Arthur’s IG Feed
5. There are so many forms of writing. Why poetry for you?
I love rhyme, and although a lot comes through as prose, I have always been drawn to the whimsical nature of poetry. I have been very influenced by late 80s and early 90s hip hop. The flow of the words was intoxicating, and prompted me to get into spoken word and eventually recording and releasing 2 hip hop albums.
6. Who are your favorite “established” poets? 
I love Frost, Rumi, Shakespere, Dickinson, TS Elliot, and scores of others. I love classic literature, and there is no shortage of brilliance.
7. Any up and coming poets you enjoy?
In this age of social media, I am amazed at the sheer amount of talent. There are so many gifted writers with a platform to present there work on a daily basis. I have found several people that move me and if I take the time to follow, have something worthwhile to say.
8. What was it like putting a book of poetry together?
Nerve wrecking and exhilarating. Going through revisions, deciding what gets removed or added and learning the intricacies of publishing were all exciting. I loved the process of it all and hope to take what I’ve learned and make the next release even better.
9. What are your plans for the future with your work?
I am in the process of completing my next release, Star Sailors. I am shooting for an April release. It is all about self exploration and discovery with a space theme. I am very excited about this book and am working tirelessly to ensure that it gets the proper promotion.
10. What’s some advice/motivation you could give to other poets?
First of all, don’t wait. Do it. Release your book and don’t look back. Learn through the process and grow!
Second, have a plan. Do your homework and figure out what works for you.
Thirdly, I would say its your world. Don;t conform. Write what you like, release what you want, and enjoy the ride. 🙂 If you are copying someone’s style, the world has already seen it. Perfect your craft and be the original!
You can connect with Arthur here:

Instagram: @apjpoetry
Are you or do you know an up and coming poet I should feature? Drop me a note in the comments below or hit me up on IG!

Asking for Help Isn’t a Weakness

Photo by Han-Hsing Tu on Unsplash

I blame my countryside upbringing for my fear of asking for help. Where I come from pulling yourself up from your bootstraps is the ultimate goal. Nothing is worth having if you haven’t completely busted your ass trying. I still feel guilty when something comes to me too easily. Without exhaustion, hard work, pain, or even, tears some things just don’t feel like an accomplishment.

It’s not the worst way to live–my ability to work non-stop, to press through pain, to forget my ego to get a task done, has always served me well– but it’s not the only way to live. In fact, there was this whole concept of asking for help that I didn’t discover until I was an embarrassingly old age.

I am hesitant to name the concept “nepotism” because of the many negative connotations for the word, especially now with Trump as President and his kids skipping along to political careers too despite their lack of, well, any civic engagement whatsoever. While I don’t find that nepotism is an inherently bad thing, it is the cause and root of many troubling things so I must instead look to define the concept I really care about, which is “asking for help.”

I always thought I had to do everything on my own. In high school, it wasn’t until my junior year that I took teachers up on their office hours. There seemed to be a trick to what they were doing. They were going to stick around after class to teach me one-on-one? It seemed too easy. In college I never went to the Writing Center because I was convinced there was going to be some sort of plagiarism going on because, other students were going to edit my work and help me? It seemed like cheating. And when I graduated I had family friends and family members who worked in publishing or TV or journalism, and I pretended not to know them, or  to ask for introductions because I wanted to earn it. 

In other circles, using every single resource given to you is a way of life. I saw it as making things too easy, but other kids (often from privileged backgrounds) saw this process as more work and a chance to get ahead. I was afraid to get ahead. My whole middle class life I had been taught to care for others, to stay in my lane, to not get too greedy for a life I clearly wanted. Again, not a bad way to live. But without the balance of asking for help, I was lost well into adulthood.

Enter New York City. A place where everybody knows somebody and asking for help is part of your day-to-day. Nothing is a favor because more often then not, you have something to offer in return the same day, same week, same month. New York City can be very lonely but in a lot of ways its very tribal… if you find the right tribe. I can get friends discounted hotel rooms, they get me theater tickets, another friend always has an open bar to attend. Ideally, if you work your connections well enough, there’s not very much you actually have to pay for, or line up for. I haven’t perfected that, but I see people who have.

The easiest way to get a job here is to ask your friends who they know. Ask for introductions. Have someone send a resume through. Of course, the job market is still tough, interviews still suck, and you have to rely on your own talents after the introduction, but a good introduction can be 25 or 50% of the work. Even as I write this my country background is firing off: “You sound sleazy! This is gross!” It’s ringing all the bells in my head.

But I’ll say this. When done graciously and with purpose, asking for help doesn’t have to be sleazy. Grabbing on to opportunity isn’t gross. Everything in this life is hard enough, why do you want to make it harder on yourself? You will still have failures and you’re still going to feel lost and lonely. I promise you. So don’t feel bad if, this time, it was a little easy. And yeah, there are people who abuse it, exploit it, use the system for “evil” but that’s just about every system there is. Don’t let that fear keep you out of the game.

I Know My Brand is Indistinct… And I’m OK With It

Photo by Benjamin Voros on Unsplash

Very few of you probably don’t know how I spend my time off the blog and off the page. I work a regular “9-5” job in an office in Midtown Manhattan. My official title? Marketing and Brand Innovation Manager at a hotel company. Which means I spend my days creating and honing hotel brands and then determining how we market those brands to the wider public.

So why does my personal brand seem a little…wacky and unfocused?

Well, cause I am wacky and unfocused.

My brand is me.

I once spent a lot of time trying to cram myself into different, single boxes, to make a brand work. I was going to be Fitness Amanda or Writer Amanda or Book Reviewer Amanda or Foodie Amanda. And then I tried to be all of those things at once, trying to be an expert in every single one of my hobbies. It took years for me to realize that the most authentic true brand I could create for myself, was just to let my freak flag fly and see who came running.

That means I talk openly and honestly about how tough all of this is. I sometimes cook on my Instagram stories but rarely share photos of the food I prepare on my feed because I am terrible food photographer. I workout all the time, but only post the occasional photo of what that looks like. I share poetry more often. And I share photos of my day-to-day life, of the beauty in a life that sometimes either feels too fast or too boring. I share the balance between all those aspects of who I am and I encourage my followers to do the same.

I love a beautiful brand. I love curated photos. I love color schemes and different tones of voices and I adore creating logos. (Truly!) And these are all aspects of powerful important brands and we should learn from them for our businesses. But for me, a lack of focus and a lack of breadth are just who I am. I am a little wacky. I am overwhelmed a lot. I become obsessed with something and then abandon it weeks later for something new. I am a creative nutcase and I share it. And I’m ok with that.

So tell me, what’s something you’re doing that you KNOW isn’t the “right way” but you’re doing it your way anyway? Why do you do it this way? Why is it important to you? Tell me in the comments or make an IG post and use the hashtag #cheapcourage.

Part of Writing Non-Fiction is Not Writing

averie-woodard-122274Spring has flung me across the country multiple times already and it’s only mid-April. I knew my work life and social life were both going to ramp up at the same time (showers, events, travel) but I didn’t realize just how much it was going to put my ever beloved writing life on hold. You don’t really know how much you love to stare at a blank screen, willing yourself to write something brilliant, until it’s ripped away from you for a couple of weeks. A couple of weeks can feel like a lifetime.

It was in a particularly bad moment, when I was spiralling about not writing enough, not writing ever, potentially never again (?!), that my boyfriend pointed out that part of being a writer is also living. And that is even more important for someone like me, who writes non-fiction. My stories are the stories that I have lived. My stories exist because I was not alone in front of a computer screen at every chance I had. They exist because I went on dates, and traveled with my friends, and broke some bones, and almost lost my brother. They exist because I was off living, not worrying about getting a certain essay completed.

When the travel calmed a bit, and I was able to see two beautiful weeks ahead of me with time to write, I came across a Self Care Challenge. 7 days worth of Self Care. A challenge to love ourselves and give ourselves the time we need. How freakin’ radical. It came at the perfect time because I was so frantic last week to get back to work on my essays and my poetry that I was willing to forego a much needed haircut, to lock myself up and get the work done. I was desperate to be left alone and work. I put every other single need– work, side gigs, writing, family, friends, dog– ahead of my own. I was willing to put myself at the very bottom of the list because that’s what I’ve always done. Seeing that so many people struggled with Self Care last week helped me to at least try and take care of myself too.

Outside of taking care of myself I have to remind myself that I am so very lucky to find myself traveling, visiting friends, having things to celebrate. Yes, it does take me away from my writing but in the end it is enriching my life with memories and lessons and inspirations that will ultimately help me when I do finally find those glorious couple of hours to sit and pen something. Why is it so hard for us to see what’s full in our lives? Why are we trained to always see lack? Almost every bucket of our lives could be full to the brim, but it is the one that is empty that we worry about. I am so guilty of this and it’s embarrassing to admit to the greater public.

But I am hoping there are others out there, that feel overwhelmed as well. Overwhelmed with not just life’s annoyances, but overwhelmed with goodness too. And maybe together we can find some tactics to stay grateful for a little bit longer. Live in our present a little bit more. And accept that we cannot be all things at all times and let each part of us (sister, girlfriend, employee, writer, friend, daughter, SELF) have their moments to shine, and let the others take a step back. The others are still awake, still learning lessons that can be applied in any situation.

It’s a painful cliche–but I have found that the older I get the more I understand these cliches–but life is meant to be lived. And even though figuring out how to do that with success is killing me (I will figure this out one day!) it still feels worth it. Remarkable.

Now tell me, how often do you forgive yourself for having a little fun? How often do you avoid something fun because of your work, your “dreams”, your diet? How do you find balance between all the yous there are, and when do you find time for self care? FILL ME IN!