My Favorite Addictions

A wee while ago the lovely curiousbird tagged me to pull back the rotting log and share the white maggots of my addictions.

As though I´d be into anything as edgy and exciting as maggots.

  1. The Internetz.
    As evidenced by the fact that I am currently on holiday in Peru, and yet? Here I am in an internet cafe, writing a blog post and compulsively twittering.
  2. Cheese.
    Please allow me to share this anecdote to illustrate: I lived in Taiwan for a year and half a while ago and the Chinese people are not particularly keen on their dairy products. For the first two weeks that I was there, I could not, for the life of me, locate any decent cheese. This lack of cheese in my diet resulted in an eight pound weight loss. But don´t worry – after I found the expensive import store, all was once again right in the world.
  3. Magazines.
    Few things beat a sun porch, a cup of chai and a lady magazine. And apparently I´m actually a 45 year old yuppie, because I love Real Simple and the Oprah magazine. So be it.
  4. Baby Animals.
    I don´t actually own any at the moment, but I am often reduced to baby talk and cuddling upon seeing any mammal that is a pre-teen. I recently spent 15 minutes cooing at a stray Bolivian puppy with matted fur. Irresistible!
  5. Planning.
    Hence my daily mantra. If I´m not careful, I´ll spend all my free time waxing Virgo on the up-coming weeks and months. I must always have three back up plans for any given scenario.
But what about you?! What are the things you can´t live without?

Nice work if you can get it: Handbag Designer

This is one! Of many! interviews with people who have interesting/envy-inducing jobs. They also all happen to be my friends. I met Laura at a Halloween party last October – I was a some sort of sexy Roman (read: trying to wear a toga in the most flattering way possible) and she was a very impressive Raggedy Ann. Over miniature Butterfingers I discovered that she was a handbag designer. No, but I mean she’s a real handbag designer. Like, she’s had purses featured in In Style. The girl’s not even 30!
Her accessories line, Nelle, is made of gorgeous fabrics with delicious details and is quite reasonably priced. In addition to being incredibly talented and super cute, Laura is entirely self-trained. Y’all, she got her start with a used sewing machine from the Goodwill and sewing books from the library. Seriously.
So what’s the deal? What do you do?
I run my own independent accessories label, NELLE
Tell us about an average day in handbag designing.
One of the fantastic things about running your own business is that there isn’t an average day. On any given day I could be designing an upcoming collection, developing a marketing campaign, actively pursuing sales leads, or spending time tracking down sources. One thing is for certain, there is always work to be done!
Did you go to school for this? Or get any special training?
No special training or schooling, but I did receive a BA in Communication/ Photography/ Visual Media. Upon graduating I knew that I wanted to work in brand development, but was having a difficult time getting my foot in the door. I decided to create my own opportunity.
How did you get into this line of work?
With the knowledge that I wanted to work in brand development I decided to create my own brand. I considered opening a flower shop, but with the high overhead I new that was not an option. I had worked at a flower shop for a bit in college and was fascinated by using color and texture to build a 3D object. I spent a bit of time thinking about what I enjoyed about flowers and what was something similar that I could create. I landed on handbags. There were similarities between the two and starting a handbag business required minimal overhead! I went to the Goodwill, picked up a machine and some fabric, borrowed some books from the library and got to work.
Are there any drawbacks to working in this field?
I can’t say that there are drawbacks to working in this particular field, but I think that when anyone works for themselves or runs their own business you realize rather quickly that there is no one to blame but yourself if things go wrong. You are responsible for all of it, the product, the relationships, the sales etc…
What are the highlights?
I get to create and I get to build something! Searching for materials is exciting and forming relationships with customers and buyers is enjoyable. I am always humbled when a bride decides that she wants NELLE to be a part of the big day.
Are there any misconceptions about working in this field?
I think that there is a fantasy about design; my fantasy is a little space with a dog in the corner, French music playing in the background, and the sun shining through enormous windows, all while I sit sipping tea and sketching out the next seasons upcoming collection. However, my reality is hurried emails/ phone calls to accounts, contractors and media, balancing the books, fabric scraps everywhere, a bit of loneliness, and learning to make sacrifices.
What suggestions would you give to people interested in getting into this?
My first piece of advice would be RESEARCH, REASEARCH, RESEARCH. I spent the first year researching and learning, I still continue to research. The old saying is true; Knowledge is Power.

How to Make Friends Wherever You Go

 (Freya works in words. By day she is an editor for a publishing company, and by night she writes daily missives about life’s better qualities on Fish nor Fowl. She loves cheese, Russian literature, and automatons)
How to make friends wherever you go
One of the most rewarding aspects of traveling, whether short or long term, is meeting new people with new ideas. It can totally refresh your thinking and will brush up your communication skills. But making new friends takes time and effort right? Well, not as much as you’d think, and even if you’re shy, follow these guidelines and you’ll be meeting new interesting people in no time!

Dress to Impress
Everyone knows first impressions are important, so be sure to brush your teeth, comb your hair, and generally look together. If you look like you’re trying to hide in your clothes, no one is going to try and approach that bubble. Wear bright colors, smile, put on some lipgloss, whatever makes you feel your best. Look like you have a delicious secret, and everyone will want to know what it is, and more importantly, who this secret-holder is. People are predisposed to different colors, and depending on where you are, they might mean different things, but if you stand out a little from the crowd, and look like you’re enjoying yourself, you’ll be a step ahead.

Know Thyself
While you can probably find something in common with almost anyone, to make fast friends, stick with people who have similar interests as you. So, if you’re a wine freak, it’s probably not advisable to go sit by the kids drinking Three Buck Chuck. Instead, mosey over to the group of people huddled around the specialty wine list. This is not to say if people look interesting even without a common denominator you shouldn’t talk to them, just that you’ll have an easier time with those who you know you already have a common interest with.

Practice Makes Perfect
I’m more an off-the-cuff person, so I usually just talk until I find something with others, but if you’re shy or a little nervous about your foreign language skills, study up! Learn some neighborhoods, or at least about the one you’re staying in, and do a little research on what the region or city is known for. Don’t be a guidebook, but showing that you have genuine an interest in the people and city is always appreciated.

Location, location, location
Okay, so you look hot, you’ve done your homework and now you just need friends. Where do you go? I like to stay in hostels when I travel because it’s cheap, you’re already surrounded by like-minded travelers, and there’s usually a bar or pub either in the hostel or close. Especially when traveling alone, this is a great way to meet people to take day tours or split a taxi with. Your bunkmate might be a rollerskating champion an avid fire dancer or studying to be a epidopterologist. A word of warning though, bring earplugs if you like to go to bed and get up early. Most hostels are awake until about three or four in the morning, and not so bustling at even of eight am.

If you’re moving to a new city, you still have lots of options. You can by all means go to the hostel bar and meet people who are new. A walk around your new digs will hopefully reveal some local restaurants and shops. Look for the crowd you want and where they go. Follow that girl with the banana yellow handbag to see where she eats. Coffee shops, used bookstores and thrift stores are my first haunts in a new place. Even if you don’t drink, don’t rule out a laid-back bar to meet new people. A lot of people, especially travelers, visit pubs for socializing as much as drinking.

Flattery will get you Everywhere
People love being told they are awesome, so don’t be afraid to start a conversation by walking over to someone and mentioning how much you love their coke bottle glasses. Just be genuine about it and follow up with a comment or related question. Commiserating over terrible service at a bar can also work, just be careful because the bartender could be your potential friend’s cousin. If the first person you approach just doesn’t take the bait, don’t take it personally, just move on to a different section of the pub and try again. Read the people who look like they’re looking for a friend as well, and you should do pretty well. Once you start chatting, insert a “oh, by the way, my name is . . .” and they’ll reciprocate. Remember their name the first time they say it.

Let’s get together, Yeah yeah yeah
After you’ve chatted for a bit and feel like the conversation is going well, initiate a meeting. Especially if you’re staying for a while in a city, it helps to have a few consistent friends around. Ask them where their favorite place for dessert is and make a date for next Friday. Tell them to bring a friend or significant other if they like, which will hopefully net you one more friend without as much work as the first one.

Keep in Touch
Be responsible with your fledgling relationship. Call and initiate plans, don’t wait for them to do all the work. Be on time when you say you’re going to meet or call if you’ll be late. Listen carefully and remember the details about their life. With Facebook, Myspace, blogs and Twitter, it’s easier than ever to stay in touch after you’ve left your destination. Even if you only spent a week or a few days with your new friends, keep a line of dialog open. You never know when you’ll be in their home city again, or when they’ll be traveling through yours. And who doesn’t want to have friends the world over?

How do you make friends in a new place?

Photo by richard kardhordo // cc

Nice work if you can get it: Author

(This is just one! of many! interviews with people I know who have amazing, envy-inducing jobs. I met Andrea through the wonder of the interwebz. Not only can she rock a vintage dress like nobody’s business, she’s a blogger extraordinaire and an author to boot! Gosh! I’d be happy with two out of those three!)


So what’s the deal? What do you do?
I write novels! I had a children’s book published in 2002 – a fantasy novel for ages 9 to 12 – and now I’m trying to get an adult’s novel published. But since I can’t support myself doing just that at the moment, I also work as a freelance writer and editor.Tell us about an average day in book-writing.
I drink two cups of coffee. I procrastinate for half an hour. I put another pot of coffee on. After waiting in vain for some kind of natural disaster, I get down to work at about 9am. I work best within a strict routine, so I’m chained to the desk for at least four or five hours every day. Essentially my day involves lots of caffeine and lots of staring at a computer screen. As well as working on a new book, I’m usually in the process of editing an old one at the same time, and sending out queries to literary agents by post and email.

I try to write 2,000 words a day when I’m writing a first draft. It’s a little more variable when I’m editing or rewriting.

Did you go to school for this? Or get any special training?
If you want to be a writer, write. It’s good advice. I have been writing since I knew that the black, squiggly shapes were letters. To me, that’s more important than formal qualifications, but I did do a BA degree in English and took all the university writing classes I could. I worked as the editor of a magazine for a while after university, then did a post-grad diploma in book publishing, and now I’m finishing up a MFA programme in Creative Writing. I don’t think any of those things are necessary if you want to be a writer, but they were all helpful in different ways – particularly the MFA programme. If you’re really serious about fiction writing as a career, it’s a good path to take.

How did you get into this line of work?
It’s the only thing I’ve ever been really good at, and it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. I suppose it was a combination of that certainty, bloody-mindedness, blind optimism and the willingness to not earn very much money.

Are there any drawbacks to working in this field?
The aforesaid lack of money! It is unlikely you’ll earn very much from being a writer, unless you’re one of the 0.0001% who write a bestseller. It is also a very difficult field to break into. Finding an agent and a publisher is a Herculean task, and receiving all those inevitable rejections is emotionally quite hard. The average published author receives around 120 rejections before she is successful. You have to be prepared to hear 120 people telling you ‘no’ before you get one ‘yes’. Working as a writer also means you will need a ‘day job’, unless you’re very lucky. You have to fit writing time around your other commitments and responsibilities.

Oh yes, and the postage costs are horrific. Sending a 400-page manuscript through the mail is very painful for the wallet.

What are the highlights?
There’s nothing better than doing what you love. Nothing at all. I’m lucky to work in a job that feeds my soul every day – even on the bad days.

Are there any misconceptions about working in this field?
Many. One is that it’s easy to write a book. It’s not. Another is the misconception that if your book is good enough, you won’t have a problem getting it published. Again, not true. It’s a complex industry, and publication relies on the opinions of many different people who all have very different ideas. It’s tough to break into.

Working in any artistic field, there is also a chance that people will label you as an ‘artist’ in a negative way. Here are some of the terms I have heard associated with ‘artist’: temperamental, prima donna, drama queen (or king!), unreliable, starving, over-emotional, arrogant, selfish, waster. Of course, these terms hardly ever apply to the real people we call artists, but that stereotype is quite a powerful one.

What suggestions would you give to people interested in getting into this?
Write, write, write. Take all the classes you can, enter all the competitions you can, submit to all the literary journals you can. But most of all, write. Watch the word count mount up every day. Plunge right in, do something ambitious and keep plodding away until you’re finished. It’s the best way to learn.

Once you have a completed novel, edit it until you’re blue in the face. One of the best ways to start is by reading the whole thing aloud, in its entirety. This will show you any problems with the flow. And do a really anal copyedit. Once you’ve done all that, show it to someone with expertise in the area, someone you trust, and get their thoughts, and edit it again. You really can’t go over it too often. Once you’re relatively happy with it (and it will never be perfect), you need to write a query letter, research agents and start sending out queries. I wrote a post on this process.

And good luck! It’s a long, difficult process, but it’s also hugely rewarding and fun.

Are any of you harboring visions of books with your name at the bottom? Any questions for Andrea?

Notes from the Road: Worst Busride Ever

Remember, about a month ago, when I rocked some impressive travel karma? To the tune of a $500 flight voucher, a swanky hotel stay and a first class upgrade where I drank my weight in free Diet Coke? Well, the travel gods saw to it that any karmic imbalances created with all that good luck were righted during our most recent busing adventure.
The Mister and I had just finished a three-day tour of the salt flats, hanging with some fantastic Wellingtonians that we met at Carnival. Uyuni, the tiny dust bowl of a town that serves as the gateway to the salt flats, cleverly offers train service out of town only twice a week. Our bible, The Lonely Planet, called the buses out of town ¨cold, bumpy and inadvisable¨but then we know how they felt about the awesomeness that is sandboarding, don´t we? ¨We´re rugged!¨we cried. ¨We´re rough and tumble travelers!¨we challenged. ¨We don´t want to stay in this shit hole another minute!¨we wept.
So we were more than pleased when we found a bus out of town that would take us all the way back to the capitol in seven hours. We rounded up snacks for the bus, inflated those nerdy neck pillows and settled in for what we were sure would be seven hours of lovely mountain scenery and Pringle nibbling.
Here are some highlights of what transpired during my own personal version of hell:
  • We find our seats at the very back of the bus and are immediately surrounded by a huge group of silver miners
  • They pull out several bottles of rubbing alcohol, mix them with bottles of Fanta and begin drinking before the bus pulls out
  • They joyfully (and repeatedly) offer us this delicious drink while asking Sam who is the hottest American actress. “Angelina Jolie, yes? Yessssss?!”
  • After several drinks, they begin peeing into Sprite bottles
  • As we drive over the rutted dirt road they spill beer, Fanta/rubbing alcohol and pee all over.
  • The bus fords several rivers successfully. Then the driver stops the bus, asks us all to get out, wade across the river on our own and guns the engine over it.
  • The miners take turns carrying each other across and in the excitement of all the wading and drinking, one of them gets left behind
  • As night falls, the miners begin to drunkenly sign folk songs, getting louder every time someone shushes them.
  • The two babies sitting in front of us begin to cry
  • My seat doesn’t recline
  • Lather, rinse and repeat for sixteen hours.

There´s a special place in heaven for us, right?Got the travel bug?  Check out my ebooks and podcasts on making long-term travel a reality!  Only $15 forpetessake!

Web time wasters

Do you love all things vintage? Are you a fan of handle bar mustaches and rosie-cheeked babies attempted to sell you salt? You will no doubt love this collection of old-timey catalog images. I particularly love the ad for Pong “You hear the sound of action! Every time electronic “ball” hits “paddle” or sideline you hear a beep!”

A functioning Grandfather clock that’s printed on canvas. Because a real one looks out of place with your Wii/milk crate inspired decor scheme.

For the true cat lover: a mug with a cat on the bottom. You set your mug on top of his cheeky little face. Perhaps it’s also the mug for cat-haters as well?

I know a lot of people consider the Midwest to be flyover space, but there’s something haunting and beautiful about our expansive plains and obscene amount of lakes and snow. This photo series captures that.

A chocolate shoppe that markets itself as a research facility? In that case, I have many important experiments that I need to tend to.

You will undoubtably be the coolest kid in the office if you download this screen saver.

You know the face you make when you’re giving yourself a french manicure? Or when you’re applying mascara? Be glad that Robbie Cooper wasn’t around. Here is his series of photos capturing the faces kids actually make as they play video games.