I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better [Book Review and Author Interview]

Book Reviews

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I was approached by Red Deer Press and asked if I wanted to reviews a book by Toronto Writer and Comedian Monica Heisey. Before reading the synopsis of the book I had to pause and Google her name. I’d recognized her name from somewhere, and that somewhere was She Does the City. Monica wrote one of my favourite column the Grown-Ass Woman’s Guide, so obviously I had to get a copy of her book in my hands.

I Can’t Believe it’s Not Better: A Woman’s Guide to Coping With Life was witty, ironic, sarcastic, and hilarious. I had no doubt that Monica was a terrific writer, but there’s something about the way she strings together thoughts and tells her stories that is unique and utterly brilliant. Her book reminded me of Not that Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham but funnier and even less-filtered. It’s one of those books that you just have to read – so read it already!

Red Deer Press sent a few of my cheesiest-blogger questions to Monica as an interview of sorts, here’s what she had to say. Enjoy!

From: She Does the City

From: She Does the City

When did you start writing?

I’ve been writing forever, basically. As a kid I used to write short stories and plays and make my sisters act them out with me. I was kind of a classic word nerd, I worked at my student newspaper and then started a blog when I moved to London in 2010. The blog was all I had as writing samples when I applied for an internship at VICE at year or so later. 

What are your writing rituals?

I don’t know that I have any sure-fire rituals to get things started. I deal with all my emails and admin stuff first, so that I’m not distracted by it throughout the day. I try to make sure I’m not hungry, and I like to be somewhere with good natural light. I feel the most like a Successful Writer when I get up before 9:30 and take a little while to make a nice breakfast and good cup of tea before sitting down to start work.

What was your favourite section to write in I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better?

This is going to sound really cheesy but all of it was really fun! It felt kind of surreal to be doing it in the first place, and I was writing about things that make me and my friends laugh, so I just tried to approach every section like I was having a conversation with my best friends. That made it pretty enjoyable. Obviously, there were an equal amount of nights where I was like “WHAT IS ANY OF THIS” and wanted to throw my computer out the window, but those experiences were spread evenly across the multiple sections too. 

What advice do you have for aspiring writers? (Or bloggers like myself who want their voice heard)

If you’re writing for free, write for yourself. My early blog was something I wrote to amuse myself, and it really allowed me to develop my own voice and interests. I think knowing who you are and what you have to contribute or say is crucial for anyone hoping to be heard. Why should people listen to you? About what topics? That’s stuff you can figure out in the early days, before you have to deal with the house style of individual publications or assignments or whatever. 

You’re clearly a traveller – where are you headed next?

I’m going back to London to do some comedy. It’s festival season soon and the big music festivals usually have comedy stages with great acts. I’m on a littttttle stage off to the side in a forest, I think it’s going to be pretty magical. After that I think my husband and I are going to Iceland for our honeymoon. 

Have you ever regretted publishing (in print or online) anything that you’ve written?

Oh, some stuff I wrote as a teenager or early-twentysomething makes me cringe, but I figure it’s going to be like that forever. I’ll look back at 30 on the stuff I wrote this year and be like “girl, no.” So I try not to regret any of it and just look at it as part of the process of getting better. 

What are you working on now?

I’m working on getting VICE’s new women’s-focused project, Broadly, ready for launch! It’s going to be so exciting, and the quality of the work we’ve got so far is just blowing my mind. I’m also getting ready to move to New York to work there full-time. 

Who are your favourite writers?

I feel so spoiled by the Internet. I have so many favourite writers. I think Anna Fitzpatrick and Haley Mlotek from the Hairpin are just unbelievably smart, funny geniuses. Jazmine Hughes (formerly of The Hairpin, now of the NYT magazine) is amazing too. I love reading Julieanne Smolinski’s stuff, and Leah Finnegan is just so great, ooh and Josh Gondelman, and and and andddddd… I read a lot. For less contemporary writers who make me laugh, I love Nora Ephron (always), Fran Lebowitz, Charles Dickens, and P.G. Wodehouse.  

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

Oh god, I really feel like I’ve regressed past the point of hireability in any kind of “real” job. I really enjoyed working at a cafe when I was in London. My friend Emily and I have a longstanding probably-never-gonna-happen dream of opening a little coffeeshop that’s very cool about flexible schedules so the servers can nurture their passions on the side. Flexible part-time work is vital to emerging artists. 

When writer’s block hits, what do you do?

When I feel blocked I like to really Lean In. I find I work pretty well under a deadline, so if I’m procrastinating and have room to do so, I’ll take the day off and go for a walk or meet some friends for a drink. If I don’t have time to be blocked, I find I’m generally not blocked. 

Monica will be doing a signing at Indigo Bay & Bloor on May 27th at 7pm!

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

The Perfect Word [Thoughts on #Writing]

Lifestyle/Personal

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As a writer, using the correct wording isn’t enough, you have to use the ONLY word in the entire English language (or whichever language you write in) that will make the sentence perfect. And there is only ONE word — not a jumble of words listed in a thesaurus to choose from.

Days are longest when that word won’t come out from behind the bushes, when I’m lost in a labyrinth of possibilities and none of them stick out at me. There are days that turn into weeks when nothing sounds right. It is all crap. It’s those days or weeks that I question my abilities as a writer. Those days when I rush through a post or an email and scream at my reflection in the computer screen FRAUD!

Then there are days when all of the words are perfect; they exist one by one in perfect harmony. Together. Separate. They are my salvation.

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

Books I’m Looking Forward to this Spring @RandomhouseCa

Book Reviews, Products and Brands

Last week Random House Canada hosted a Spring Preview for their bloggers. Unfortunately I was unable to attend, BUT I want to share with you some of the titles I cannot wait to read.

9780385685085(06-02-2015)

When a series of passenger airplanes crashed in Elizabeth, NJ within a three-month period in 1951-1952, Judy Blume was a teenager. “These events have lingered in my mind ever since,” says Blume. “It was a crazy time. We were witnessing things that were incomprehensible to us as teenagers. Was it sabotage? An alien invasion? No one knew, and people were understandably terrified.” Against this background, Blume uses her imagination to bring us the lives of three generations of families, friends, and strangers who will be profoundly affected by these events, either directly or indirectly.

9780345808165(05-12-2015)

Oliver Dalrymple, nicknamed “Boo” because of his pale complexion and staticky hair, is an outcast at his Illinois middle school–more interested in biology and chemistry than the friendship of other kids. But after a tragic accident, Boo wakes up to find himself in a very strange sort of heaven: a town populated only by 13-year-old Americans. While he desperately wants to apply the scientific method to find out how this heaven works (broken glass grows back; flashlights glow without batteries; garbage chutes plummet to nowhere), he’s confronted by the greatest mystery of all–his peers. With the help of his classmate Johnny, who was killed at the same time, Boo begins to figure out what exactly happened to them (and who they really were back in America) through this story about growing up, staying young and the never-ending heartbreak of being 13.

9781770497818 (05-12-2015)

Thirteen-year-old Stewart is academically brilliant but socially clueless.
Fourteen-year-old Ashley is the undisputed “It” girl in her class, but her grades stink.
 
Their worlds are about to collide when Stewart and his dad move in with Ashley and her mom. Stewart is trying to be 89.9 percent happy about it, but Ashley is 110 percent horrified. She already has to hide the real reason her dad moved out; “Spewart” could further threaten her position at the top of the social ladder.
 
They are complete opposites. And yet, they have one thing in common: they—like everyone else—are made of molecules.

9780771038617 (08-11-2015)

    Starting with something as simple as a boy who wants a dog, His Whole Life takes us into a richly intimate world where everything that matters to him is at risk: family, nature, home.
     At the outset ten-year-old Jim and his Canadian mother and American father are on a journey from New York City to a lake in eastern Ontario during the last hot days of August. What unfolds is a completely enveloping story that spans a few pivotal years of his youth. Moving from city to country, summer to winter, wellbeing to illness, the novel charts the deepening bond between mother and son even as the family comes apart.

9780449016268_0(04-07-2015)

The world of Sweetapolita is sparkly and sprinkly and charming as can be, with 75 recipes for everything from pretty homemade cookies to decadent layer cakes. But what really sets these treats apart are interactive designs that let everyone in on the fun of decorating: Painted Mini Cakes are served with edible “paint” for guests to personalize at the table, the fondant-covered tiered Chalk-a-Lot cake is paired with homemade edible “chalk,” and Rainbow Doodle cookies are made for kids to go to town on with edible markers.

Which books are you excited for?

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

* All photos and synopsis are from the Penguin Random House Website!

 

Public Service Announcement

Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal

There was a time when I could sit on my bed with a notebook and write for hours, or simply get lost in my own thoughts. Now I’m constantly reaching for my phone out of boredom or fear of my own thoughts. My cellphone addiction began the moment I added unlimited texting to my plan. I was 17. Between the ages 18 and 22 I went through more phones than I can remember: I always wanted the latest gadget. When data plans became an option and I learned how to use apps such as Twitter, Facebook, and later on Instagram, my entire social life was no longer based on 3D tangible people, who could talk to me or touch me. It became a vast world that I could hold in the palm of my hand. Over the years I’ve gotten into many fights with my friends, boyfriend, and family over ALWAYS having my phone on me. I realized late last year that I am addicted to my cellphone, social media, and the way I am perceived on such platforms. The internet has taken over my life. It’s made me feel small and useless.

From Pinterest

From Bloglovin

I decided that in 2015 I would take control of my life and my social media habits. As a start, I deleted Facebook. Why? Facebook is a creeping mechanism where I look at people from my past and feel sorry for myself. It’s been about two weeks since my last Facebook sign in and I don’t miss it one bit. It gives me one less reason to reach for my phone, one less excuse to put off this article, that story, or my job hunt. The next step is removing Twitter from my phone and only using it when I go on my computer. I love Twitter and have connected with so many brands and bloggers because of it, but I have a problem: NO ONE SHOULD SPEND 7 HOURS ON TWITTER TRYING TO WIN A NEW PHONE. No one.

After Twitter the next mountain to climb will be Instagram. I share everything on Instagram only the good things on Instagram. I’ve written about this before and it still irks me that I find myself obsessed with capturing, filtering, and sharing every moment. When I scroll through my 1300 photos I see a happy book-obsessed woman, with a loving boyfriend, great friends, and wonderful family. She doesn’t have any bad photos of herself, nor does she have photos documenting the fight she had with her boyfriend over something stupid. She doesn’t have photos representing her insecurities or her failures. She is a photoshopped and filtered version of me. I feel like Instagram has made me lose sight of who am I and what I want. I’m obsessed with other people and what they’re doing. I compare my relationship, job, milestones, and friends to theirs. One of their accomplishments belittles mine, one perfect selfie makes me feel hideous. I realized that Instagram and I had an issue when on the stroke of midnight of New Year’s Eve I was clicking away on Instagram instead of making out with my boyfriend in front of my family. I was too busy looking for the next “I said Yes” photo so I could “like” it and feel utterly jealous. What a way to start a new year.

The truth is that I’m tired of keeping up with the Joneses. I’m tired of trying desperately to be a top blogger (mucking with my content because I think I want to be like this blogger or that one). I’m tired of feeling like I owe the world my privacy. I’m tired of feeling anxious when my phone rings because I don’t speak on the phone too often. Something must change. I’m only a week into the new year and I must say that I find fewer reasons to pick up my phone. Apart from sending out a few tweets and pinning on Pinterest, my phone has become a, well, a phone. Phone calls and text messages only. I haven’t been carrying it around with me, I’ve been looking at phone plans with less data, and I’ve actually had more time to write, work, and read. I feel lighter.

There are some days where I wonder if I’m going the right way about this. I’m a blogger, I SHOULD be on social media. I mean how does a blogger who’s taking a step back from technology, blog? There’s no way I can approach companies or brands and ask to try out products or work with them if I don’t have Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. It’s bad enough that I don’t have Google+, Foursquare, or Snapchat. It’s jarring to think about but I am still committed to reviewing only products that I love (especially books), sharing things that I use, and working with brands that truly understand the sentiment behind my blog. I may not have the same reach as I once did but this blog has never been about gaining validation or reaching the whole world. It started as a place to write, to learn, to grow, and to remember.

That is how it will remain, until my very last post.

Love always, 
Vanessa XX

Spark Sessions Workshops

Fashion & Beauty, Just for Fun, Products and Brands

ee8f9a163540b302a494b724a340f63bTo all of my fashion and beauty blogger babes, if you haven’t heard yet, Spark Sessions is doing full day workshops throughout 2014. If you’re looking for an intimate atmosphere where you can learn from your favourite top fashion bloggers, these workshops are for you!

sparklogo-website Spark Sessions Workshops are full day workshops to help you take your content to the next level. Our workshops are specifically designed with our attendees in mind, and intended to teach you all you the tips and tricks in a hands-on setting. We aim to provide direction, inspiration, and the knowledge to create the brand that you want.

Their first workshop is all about photography and it’s only two weeks away. The guest speakers for this workshop are: Casey Palmer from CaseyPalmer.com and Natalie from MyLittleSecrets.ca. I urge anyone who is starting their own blog (especially fashion) to take this workshop. Photos make or break a blog post, they add a visual aspect to your blog that people will remember. Some people may only read your post based on the photos that accompany it. There are still a few spots left, you can register HERE.

The second workshop is coming up in June and it will focus on SEO strategies and coding for bloggers and I am definitely going to sign up it. I blog often but I don’t really think about what I’m blogging about or why — in the sense that I take content as it comes — this is my diary not a money-making business. BUT I would LOVE to learn how to make it both. The third workshop is in August and it aims to teach you how to build partnerships and create the perfect media kit for your blog (I should probably sign up for this workshop too).

Are you going to sign up?

Talk soon,

Vanessa Xo

Spark Sessions logo and quote taken from the Spark Sessions Website 

Tickets for each workshop are $69 +HST 

@PenguinCanada’s Daily December Delights!

Book Reviews, Giveaways, Just for Fun, Products and Brands, Toronto Adventures

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I’m super excited to be part of Penguin Canada’s Daily December Delightswhere YOU (an avid reader and awesome individual) will be introduced to a different book every day of the month! Not only that but you can enter to win a copy of these books every day! There’s also a chance to win a $750 Library from Penguin — talk about a Happy Holiday! Myself and many other wonderful bloggers will be reviewing the featured books to help you narrow down which title is perfect for you!

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Get ready to Rock and Roll READ!

We’re already on day THREE!

Talk soon,

Vanessa Xo

"Make it the best it can be." Mark McEwan #Winterlicious #Fabbrica

Just for Fun, Restaurant Reviews, Toronto Adventures

Yesterday evening my boyfriend and I tried out Winterlicious for the very first time! Our place of choice was Fabbrica, a Mark McEwan restaurant. We’ve been a fan of Mark McEwan since dining at ONE Restaurant and Bymark Restaurant — the food is always amazing and the service is phenomenal.
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Their Winterlicious menu was difficult to choose from but we finally decided on the following:

Arugala salad with poached pear, walnuts, apple balsamic dressing and pecorino romano.Bruschetta with lamb bolognese, chickpea and minted ricotta.

Arugala salad with poached pear, walnuts, apple balsamic dressing and pecorino romano.
Bruschetta with lamb bolognese, chickpea and minted ricotta.

Porchetta di fabbrica, pear mostarda, roasted potatoes with rosemary.Risotto with mushroom and truffle.

Porchetta di fabbrica, pear mostarda, roasted potatoes with rosemary.
Risotto with mushroom and truffle.

Unfortunately my photo of dessert isn't uploading BUT we had tiramisu di fabbrica and chocolate bread and butter pudding.

Unfortunately my photo of dessert isn’t uploading BUT we had tiramisu di fabbrica, chocolate bread and butter pudding, and two cappuccinos.

I’m happy to report that the atmosphere was as romantic and soothing as it appears in the photos and the food was as delicious as it looks — maybe even better. Each dish was like a story, with only the finest characters included. Every bite ignited my taste buds. Every morsel was eaten and the plate that held my risotto was nearly licked clean. Every dish was presented elegantly, each portion was hearty, and at the end of the meal my taste buds were still asking for more — even though my stomach was full! $35 a person, not including coffee, wine, taxes, or gratuity was an absolute steal and I am so glad that we participated in Winterlicious this year.

Mark McEwan and his staff do it right every single time! I’m looking forward to checking out North #44 Restaurant sometime in the near future (maybe for my birthday) so that we’ve tried them all. I think my favourite of his restaurants will always remain ONE Restaurant, but that might be because my brother-in-law is the Executive Sous Chef there :P.

Thank you for the wonderful meal and the incredible service, Fabbrica.

Have you tried a new restaurant for Winterlicious? Let me know in the comments!

Love Always

Vanessa Xo

Fabbrica is located on 49 Karl Fraser Rd. Don Mills. 416-391-0307