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

Book Reviews


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

Interview with Kathy Buckworth

Book Reviews, Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal

f735e57991607d9a0b55636a21dc0882Ten Thousand Coffees is a website that connects recent graduates with experts in different fields. You invite an expert for coffee, answer a few questions, and hope that they will agree to meet with you so that you can pick their brain. I frequently browse their newest experts in Publishing and Writing in case I come across someone I’d love to meet or ask for advice.

Recently I sent an invitation to Kathy Buckworth. I first heard her name while interning at Random House of Canada. Her book I’m Am So The Boss Of You had just been published and there was quite the buzz going on in the office about it. I’ve read her articles on The Huffington Post, and love her straightforward approach to writing and her warm voice. Kathy is a public speaker, television personality, and award-winning author. From our correspondence so far (mainly Twitter, email, and Ten Thousand Coffees) I can tell that she is kind, approachable, and really wants to help out.

Guess what, Kathy agreed to have coffee with me! Since her schedule is pretty packed, we decided to start off with a few questions via email and then meet up for coffee sometime in November — awesome, right? I am so curious about the writing world and have a feeling that once I sit down with her, I’m going to have tonnes of questions to ask. Below you’ll find a little chunk of our email-interview. Enjoy!

View More: http://clbuchanan.pass.us/proofs

What are you reading right now?

Actually just finishing Andrea Martin’s biography “Lady Parts”, right on the heels of finishing Lena Dunham’s book. Both very smart, very funny ladies, at opposite ends of their careers. Great to read one after the other.  I read loads of fiction also and have a Lindwood Barclay waiting for me as well as the latest Rosie Project book.

Which books had the biggest impact on your life?

As a kid I read everything Stephen King wrote. My favourite was “The Stand”.  But the book of his I love the most, as an adult is “On Writing”, which every writer should read.  Also Anne Lamott’s “Bird By Bird”.  I still read loads of top ten fiction books – John Grisham, Jonathan Kellerman, Gillian Flynn, anything I can get my hands on. I also read a lot of business books – mostly written by successful women. I loved “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg.

Where do you find your inspiration to write?

Mostly from my family, but almost as often from current news stories.  I’m always looking (in my case) for family/parenting/women oriented issues and read at least one daily newspaper (either in print or online). I read the magazines I write for and my Twitter stream is full of news feeds. I also listen to what people are interested in on social media.  I watch morning television to see ‘what’s hot’ and constantly listen to 680News radio. I also search surveys and research studies online (associated with parenting) to see if a stat/finding can give me inspiration. I also just listen to what people are saying at Starbucks (I should have a warning sign around my neck, really). Get out and observe people and listen to what they’re saying.

Do you think maintaining a blog is a good way to get your name “out there”?

I do. A blog post doesn’t have to be long (as I’m sure you know) but a blog does have to be relevant and up to date. I don’t have a blog, but I do have a website and I do occasionally blog for other people. But as a starting writer it does a few things – gets your work in public domain, helps with your SEO, and also helps you to practice writing, especially if you set deadlines for yourself (ie blogging once a week etc). I know some ‘social media experts’ will say that you should only blog when you have something to say, but if you are trying to go beyond the blog, blogging on a regular basis is a great discipline.

What do you think is the key to becoming a successful writer?

Sounds ridiculous, but just keep writing. Pitch local papers and websites who might not pay, but will give you credentials and allow you to pitch bigger places.  ALWAYS submit before your deadline, NEVER go over on word count, and be EASY to work with.

“Write every day, and read more than you write. Don’t be afraid to share your articles and to ask friends/family to share them too. Pitch everyone you think would like to run/print what you have to say.”

– Vanessa 

Bursting the Bubble [Week 11]

Bursting the Bubble, Toronto Adventures

Yes, you read that correctly, I just finished WEEK ELEVEN of my internship — next week is the final week. But before I dwell on the sadness that envelopes my heart at the thought of that, I’ll tell you what happened this week.

Random House of Canada, Chatelaine Magazine, and Flare Magazine teamed up to celebrate the launch of Crazy Rich Asians at the Shangri-La Hotel on Tuesday. Although I’m still an intern, I got to attend as a blogger which meant I received a wicked gift bag at the end of the evening. This launch was by far the swankiest I’ve attended. The hotel is GORGEOUS and the Museum room was perfect for the event — plus the hotel is mentioned a few times throughout the novel, so why not!

I started the night out with the signature drink: Shangri-La Lemonade. A delicious concoction of vodka, cranberry juice, ginger, orange juice, and soda. Then I mingled with my fellow bloggers and watched the room get pretty packed with both book people and magazine people. It was great to attend an event where the two worlds intertwined. Kevin Kwan took the stage, as did the publisher of Doubleday Canada, and two seriously fashion forward ladies from Chatelaine and Flare – which was my favourite part of the evening. Kevin Kwan gave a sweet, sincere, and witty speech, mentioning his love for Canada and his gratitude for Canadians who love to read!

Week 11 was FULL of binding and mailings but just as full of good weather, hard work, and a few laughs. I love working with positive, passionate, and upbeat people who listen, answer, and understand. Everyone has taught me something about the world of publishing and I am so glad I decided to come into this internship with an open mind and all the energy and passion needed to back it up. I now understand why internships are so important and how great they can be if you give your all.

Also, this week I’ve been preparing for interviews (that I hope will come up). I’ve been sending out my resume, gathering references, and researching all I possibly can about interviews to ensure that I make a great first impression. This internship has made me want to work, to start a career, and to devote my energy, time, and passion to a job I enjoy.

largeIt’s also helped me appreciate many of the people in my life. I don’t know if I mentioned this before but my family waits for me every single night to eat dinner with them. I get home anywhere between 6:35 and 7:10, and for a family who used to eat dinner at 6:00 on the nose, eating at 7:00 would normally cause a serious kind of HANGER. Even if they’re hangry, they don’t mention it. We eat together and discuss our days and they ALWAYS listen to my stories and to my anxious yammering (even my 16-year-old brother who probably doesn’t care at all). Getting home and talking to my family makes the subway delays and bumper-to-bumper traffic on the 400 disappear. I definitely appreciate the bf and my best friend a lot more too — I don’t see them as often as I’d like and when I do, I usually fall asleep! I always miss them and I appreciate their encouragement and their constant belief in me — I owe you two, forever!

Next week is my final week as a publicity intern at Random House of Canada. I’m a little sad at the prospect but you never really know where life is going to take you. It will be the end of a three-month chapter but the beginning of something else too.

I feel like I’m on the edge of glory.

I know that I’ll have to make a leap to something bigger? different? and I have less than a week to do it…

Here goes nothing!

Love Always

Vanessa Xo