Writing for Girls’ Life: The “Get Inspired” Series

Happy holidays, my Internet friends!

Something I am grateful for this year is that I had the opportunity to create a series of articles for the “Get Inspired” section of Girls’ Life‘s website. I interviewed three girls who were State or National Honorees at the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a program that recognizes kids and teens for their outstanding community service. Riley Callen is a high school freshman who holds hike-a-thons to raise money and awareness for benign tumor research. Lorelei McIntyre-Brewer is a seventh grader who developed a kid-sized compression heart pillow that she sends to kids all over the world.  Gable Sloan, who is pictured below, is a seventh grader whose bakery has generated thousands of dollars for charity, in addition to funding an annual scholarship. Girls' Life Gable Sloan (2).pngI have worked with and written for Girls’ Life over the past seven years, and I’ve had some really awesome experiences along the way. In 2010, I began as a Blog Moderator for their website, where I not only approved comments but answered advice questions from readers in real-time. As you may imagine, it was really challenging at times—some of their questions warranted a more thorough conversation than we could have in the comments section!—but I was so grateful to get to listen to them, learn from them, and help out where I could. When I became an Online Contributing Writer the following year, I got to write about everything from how to host a “cupcake war” to bringing up tough topics with your parents. One of my favorite tasks though was interviewing awesome girls, including many who had given back in big ways like Riley, Lorelei, and Gable. (All of my Girls’ Life links are available here!)

I am genuinely grateful to get to help share these girls’ stories, because I think it’s incredibly valuable for them to be heard. Whether you’re a kid or an adult, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by what’s going on in the world and wonder what your place in it is. We all have so much power—power to create, power to help others, power to change the world—and sometimes, hearing someone else’s story can inspire us to begin writing our own. In my recent article on BuzzFeed, I mentioned that Deborah Reber’s book In Their Shoes changed my life for the better, and I really meant that. I read that book when I was 16 years old and starting to think about life after high school. After reading the profile on Jess Weiner, who described herself as an “Actionist,” or someone who uses their voice, their career, and their actions to make the world better,  it was like everything clicked into place. I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to write and create things for girls that would help them navigate the wild ride that is growing up and becoming who you want to be. Granted, the road hasn’t always been smooth, but having that guiding goal has helped me make decisions along the way that could have been a lot more difficult. I am so grateful for Jess, and for Deborah, and for the girls who have let me share their stories in hopes that we can send light and inspiration to someone who needs it.

If you haven’t yet checked out the articles about Riley, Lorelei, and Gable, please do so! Also, if there is someone whose story inspired you in some way, please feel free to tell us about it in the comments below. You never know who you could help inspire.

xoxo

Marie

Literally, Darling: “Cheryl Strayed’s Truth Bombs Inspired Me to ‘Write the Thing I Needed to Read’”

Hello, Internet friends!

I’m excited to share that an essay I wrote was published on Literally, Darling, an awesome website designed with millennial women in mind, this week. The essay is titled “Cheryl Strayed’s Truth Bombs Inspired Me to ‘Write the Thing I Needed to Read.’” It’s about the lines in books that resonate like nothing else can, which I like to call “truth bombs,” and the impact my favorite author has had on me. cheryl-strayeds-truth-bombs-home-pageThe inspiration for this piece sprouted from seeing Strayed speak last year at the writing conference AWP (on my half-birthday, no less). But the seed was planted, so to speak, two years ago, when I included Tiny Beautiful Things on this book list for The Huffington Post and first used the term “truth bombs” to describe my experience reading her work.

My essay—which was originally titled “‘Truth Bombs’ an
d the Subjective Magic of Reading,” and then “On Cheryl Strayed, ‘Truth Bombs,’ and the Magic of Reading”—went through a lot of changes to get ready for the web. I ended up cutting what I thought was the final draft almost in half. Doing so was not only helpful in making the piece more succinct, focused, and easy to read, but also a good exercise as a writer. However, there was one part of the original essay that got left on the cutting room floor that I still really wanted to share with you, because I think it shows how powerful books really are—and the whole experience was also just a bit wild.

Sometime during the fall where I was going through a tough time (that I mention in the essay), I had this line pop into my head: “Allow yourself to be gutted.” I didn’t know that I would ever find a place to use it in my writing, but I thought it was good, so I saved it in a note on my phone, just in case. A few months later, I pulled out my copy of Tiny Beautiful Things, and realized that along the right side of the front cover was a line from the book: “Let yourself be gutted.” Oops.tiny-beautiful-things

Then something else happened. I started writing my essay last spring, and I realized I hadn’t read Tiny Beautiful Things since the spring semester of 2013, so I decided to reread it in between working on my draft. One day, I wrote a section where I compared reading a truth bomb to falling in love:

That’s why—and I’m going out on a limb here—I think finding a truth bomb through reading is an experience made out of some of the same stuff as falling in love. Because, just as a person in love can detail all the things they love about their loved one, without the magic glue that holds their reasons together, there’s no way others will be able to observe the same picture.

Later that day, I was reading Tiny Beautiful Things, and in one letter from Sugar/Strayed to three women who are considering leaving their current partners, she compares her second marriage to her first: “My two marriages aren’t so different from each other, though there’s some sort of magic sparkle glue in the second that was missing in the first.” What?! I had written my own “magic glue” reference mere hours before, years after reading that passage for the first time. I was legitimately flabbergasted. I take those two freaky/cool experiences together as proof that the books we care about weave themselves into our minds, perhaps even in ways of which we aren’t aware. Books have changed my life for the better, and for that I am incredibly grateful.

xoxo

Marie

HelloGiggles: “I spent a week taking the advice I’d give a friend—here’s what I learned”

Great news!

An essay that I have been working on for a very long time (like, since before Halloween) was published on HelloGiggles today. The article, titled “I spent a wMy Weekeek giving myself the advice I’d give a friend—here’s what I learned” (originally “My week giving myself the advice I’d give a friend”), was based on some very good advice from my dad that popped into my head at just the moment I needed it.

The actual “experiment” may have only taken a week, but the process of turning the idea into a finished, shareable article took much longer—and seemingly, longer than it usually does for me to finish an essay for the web. There were days when I would sit down, write for an hour, and realize I had only finished about a sentence. Not that I wasn’t working, or was “working” but also crafting a playlist and updating  my Snapchat story and staring off into space. Rather, I would write a sentence, cross it out, and write it again—potentially, slightly better. That process was more time-consuming and perfectionistic than I was used to, but, for the most part, I didn’t mind it. Because I realized that the same qualities that at times contribute to me feeling bad—e.g., my ability to think too much—were helping me create something potentially great.

So, check out the article, and please, let me know what you think! If you have other strategies for working through bad days, I would love to hear them as well.

xoxo

Marie

The Huffington Post: “5 YA Makeover Novels Where Inner Beauty Prevails”

Hello, lovelies!

I’m very excited to share that an article I wrote was published yesterday on The Huffington Post.  It’s titled, you guessed it, “5 YA Makeover Novels Where Inner Beauty Prevails”  (though it has appeared on the main pages as “The Problem with Our Cultural Obsession with Makeovers”).  You can view it here.  They have published a coHuffPost YA makeover articleuple other pieces of my work, and honestly, it never stops being exciting.

The idea for this piece came from my excitement over a few movies that came out this spring: the new live-action Cinderella and the book-to-movie The Duff.  I am notoriously bad at watching movies; I nearly always fall asleep before the end (or maybe the middle).  But I stayed awake for these two movies, and I loved them.  And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that they have something in common (besides being based on stories I already loved):  they both hinge on a makeover.

I can’t resist a good makeover story; I’ve even tried to create a few real-life ones for myself, with the help of John Frieda Precision Foam Colour in a variety of shades.  But, as with almost all things pop culture, I’ve conflicted by the draw of makeovers.  Is it just another example of the high value placed on appearances?

After digging through the YA stacks, I realized that the truth is more complex.  In truth, the best makeover stories are about personal growth.  The characters may start off with the wrong idea (that changing your looks will fix your life), but ultimately, their choice – superficial as it may have seemed – leads them to a truer version of themselves.

For me, that makes sense.  A number of times, I have tried to change something external about myself, thinking that if I fixed my outside, then I’d be happy on the inside.  Unsurprisingly, it never panned out quite like I dreamed up.  But each time, I gained new insights on myself that I’m not sure I would’ve gotten otherwise.  And therein lies the true beauty of mistakes.

Above and beyond all that, though, I just want to reiterate to you, my captive(ish?) audience, how exciting this is for me.  I was thinking about how cool this opportunity is in the car the other day, and it made me tear up (and that’s before Sarah Dessen shared my article, which just sent me over the edge).  I thought about my 17-year-old self, many transformations ago, who had braces and a purple composition notebook and dreamed of writing girly things that would inspire people.  She may not have truly known how much hard work it would take to get here, but she had enough hope to believe it was possible.  And in their wonderfully roundabout way, that’s what these great makeover stories remind us to do:  believe in our ability to craft a beautiful, genuine life.

xoxo

Marie

HelloGiggles: “In Celebration of Being Uncool”

Hello, friends!

I wanted to share some exciting news:  another one of my essays, entitled “In Celebration of Being Uncool,” was published on HelloGiggles this weekend!  You can view it here.

The idea for this essay (originally called “In Celebration of Weirdness”) came from a few major changes that occurred in my life over the past six months.  Personally, I started dating HG Being Uncoolsomeone whose weirdness matches my weirdness.  Writing-wise, I finished my master’s program and had a few of my essays published on a couple of well-known websites.

Those publications were a big deal to me in more ways than one.  Yes, they seemed like signs that maybe I could really “make it” at this writing thing.  More than that, though, they were kind of like my big reveal.  Suffice to say, I’d been a bit guarded and secretive about my writing for a long time.  I truly believed if I told people the type of stuff I was spending hours working on – an analysis of the effects of  Facebook and Kim Kardashian on identity formation, or musings on the metaphorical and psychological implications of makeovers and hair dye – that they’d think I was weird.  Not a serious, sophisticated, writerly weird.  Just lowbrow, navel-gazing, writer-in-air-quotes weird.

Having my work read and responded to by others, however, made me realize that maybe I’m not that weird after all.  Or perhaps, we’re all a bit weird, and when we share our weirdness, we can relate to each other on a whole new level.

I’ll admit, it’s cloud-nine exciting to not only have your work published, but to see it shared thousands of times on social media (yes, I’m shameless, and I was tracking the shares all weekend).  But the coolest thing to come out of this was that one woman followed the links in my bio to not only read this blog but to personally message me on Instagram, saying she enjoyed and related to my essay – that in fact, one of her school breaks involved a Disney-Channel-star concert with a parent (for her, the Jonas Brothers with her mom).  Being able to hear from and connect with someone I’d never have known otherwise makes all those hours of writing, and all of my so-called “weirdness,” totally worth it.

xoxo

Marie

HelloGiggles: “The Very Real Problem of ‘Fat Talk'”

Hello, dear readers!

Just wanted to share a recent writing success:  one of my essays, entitled “The Very Real Problem of ‘Fat Talk,'” has been published on one of my absolute favorite websites, HelloGiggles!  I feel SO blessed (the site was cofounded by the incomparable Zooey Deschanel, after all).

The crazy thing is, theHG Fat Talk seed of inspiration for this article came years ago, first from one of the books that I read in high school which inspired me to write – Do I Look Fat in This?: Life Doesn’t Begin 5 Pounds from Now by Jessica Weiner – and then by some observations I made as a freshman on campus (and blogged about in the past!).  Persistence pays off!

As much as “fat” may be a throwaway word in our culture – one glance at the tabloid headlines in the checkout line will tell you as much – it truly does have some serious negative consequences.  But the good thing is, the more we become aware of how we talk about our bodies and those of others, the more we can change our language (and then our perceptions) for the better.

So check out the essay here, and let me know what you think!  Agree, disagree, whatever, I’d love to hear your thoughts on “fat talk” and how it is used in our culture (or not).

xoxo

Marie