#GIRLBOSS [Book Review]

Book Reviews

I haven’t had the urge to carry a notebook around with me while reading a book in a long while, and then I picked up a copy of #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso. I found myself needing to write down all of the important quotes, anything that related to me and my current way of life, and ANYTHING that opened my eyes a little wider or got my heart pumping.

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#GIRLBOSS is Sophia’s story, how she went from selling a stolen book online, to shoplifting, to starting an eBay shop (Nasty Gal Vintage), to where she is today — CEO and Creative Director of a Nasty Gal. It’s the story of how she worked her way from the very bottom to the top by working long hours alone in front of a computer screen or sifting through thrift shops, teaching herself HOW to run her own business. She discusses what worked for her and what didn’t, she talks about all of the shitty jobs she had and how they prepared her for what would eventually become her empire.

BUT it’s not all about her nor is it a guide to becoming her. It’s a guide to becoming your OWN #GIRLBOSS, whatever that means to you. It’s not about becoming an entrepreneur, it’s about becoming entrepreneurial in everything that you do. It’s chalk-full of helpful hints, quotes, and stories from other successful #GIRLBOSSES (Alexi Wasser, Jenne Lombardo etc.). It’s a kick-ass book designed to open your eyes and help you on the road to kicking ass. I totally recommend it to any woman out there who knows that they’re destined for awesome and needs a little push in the right direction. All I know is that the second I put the book down I brainstormed ways to improve this blog, I made a plan to connect better with my readers, I searched up freelancing websites, and I decided to become that 1% (if you read the book, you know what I’m talking about).

Here are some of my favourite quotes from #GIRLBOSS!

you combine hard work, creativity, and self-determination, and things start to happen. (p 16)
There are secret opportunities inside every failure. (P 51)
Life is unwritten, like a great big experiment… I think it’s worth putting up with making some compromises, and even playing by (some of) the rules. (95)
Take care of the little things — even the little things that you hate — and treat them as promises to your own future. (121)
The last thing the world needs is another boring person or another boring brand, so embrace all the things that make you different (143)
Enjoy life and kick ass, 
Vanessa xx

Goodbye ?

Lifestyle/Personal

The other day I thought about contacting agents and putting together a proposal to turn my blog into a book. I saved all of my posts to a Pages document and fantasized about all the wonderful people in the world, reading my blogs (mini-essays) in print form and really resonating with my words. I thought about all of the people my words could touch, how many people could feel a little less lonely because they read something I wrote.

I was quickly brought back to reality after speaking to a few of my friends and colleagues. My blog doesn’t have a theme, it doesn’t have a niche, and I never really thought about an audience when I started it. It was simply meant to be something that was for me, somewhere I could practice my writing and maybe even build a platform. After 4 years and approximately 240,000 words I realized that I’m not far off from where I started. I’ve made wonderful connections and have worked with amazing brands but my blog is too personal and that creates a roadblock. I totally get it, I understand it. The thing is that I don’t know how to write any other way, I don’t know how to write without my heart in my left hand and my pen in my right. I write to understand truths, to find the truth and hope that someone out there understands where I’m coming from.

If I stopped writing this blog, I don’t think many people would notice. I’m a tiny person with a tiny, yet emotionally charged, blog in an internet world full of bloggers. FUN bloggers who can inspire your wardrobe or your next travel destination or a craft or your latest home improvement project OR your next meal. They’re all well-written, they have prettier photos, and they don’t force you to contemplate life. They just are. That is why they are so much more successful than I am.

When is it time to realize that I am not the next Carrie Bradshaw or Emily Schuman or Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman or even Julie Powell? Will it be enough for me to know that My Pen, My Voice is still just a place for me to think, to discover, to tell personal stories? Yes it will. When will I realize that this blog still has the same intention as it did in 2010 — to put my thoughts out there and hope they put a smile on even one person’s face? Today.

My Pen, My Voice isn’t going anywhere (in print or otherwise).

As seen on Twitter: ‏@AmandaLogan

As seen on Twitter: ‏@AmandaLogan

– Vanessa

greatness and all that jazz

Bursting the Bubble, Family Time, Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal, Restaurant Reviews

piclabThursday was a perfect day for walking around the streets of Toronto with one of my favourite girlies in all the land. I invited my brother’s girlfriend, Christine, to accompany me to the Chapters Indigo media preview. Although she’s been dating my brother for years we’ve never spent much time together, so when I went to pick her up I was a little nervous. I’m always scared that I’ll be awkward or run out of things to say to people but I was happily surprised when we literally could not stop talking!

I think one reason we get along so well is because we are a lot alike. We crave adventure, we’re ambitious, we’re quiet and yet can’t stop talking when we’re with people we like spending time with. We keep things to ourselves but are learning to speak our minds. We love our families, boyfriends, friends, and even books. We’re tired of saying yes to people who don’t appreciate us and have made a pact to not do things that make us unhappy just to make someone else happy.

As our chatting continued, my nervous energy melted away and we were both able to enjoy an evening in the city. We walked to Chapters Indigo head office and then over to The Store On Queen so I could pick up a pair of pants I ordered (I was super bummed that I didn’t get to meet Hubby and Wifey), and finally headed to the O&B Canteen for a bite to eat (dinner was delicious by the way).

IMG_7516IMG_7517IMG_7520 IMG_7553I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again — I LOVE BEING DOWNTOWN. The hustle and bustle makes me feel alive. The murmur of various conversations, the sardine-packed sidewalks, the endless rows of great shops and fabulous restaurants is so different from anything I experience on a day-to-day basis. King Street West is my favourite part of the city — it’s familiar and foreign. I can navigate that block pretty well and still see something new every time I walk it. I feel like I belong in the city, I should be walking home from work, grabbing an early drink or a late latte with my boyfriend, friends, or solo. 

What is about the city that makes me feel great? Is it just Toronto or all cities that make me feel like I can do anything, be anyone, and achieve my biggest dreams? An important part of this feeling is surrounding myself with people who feel the same way, or who at very least believe that I am capable of all those things. People who think I am great and that I can achieve greatness. Thank you to all of those people.

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 Love Always and Forever,

Vanessa Xo

the life you have is completely yours

Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal, Uncategorized

“But your task is to become something much more unique and surprising than anyone your parents could ever imagine you to be. You have to know that the life you have is completely yours.”  — THE GIRL WHO WAS SATURDAY NIGHT

I like to think that many years ago on a cold, snowy day as my dad watched T.V. and my mum crocheted a blanket, I sat on the floor with my sister and picked up a book. As I flipped through the pages and made up my own stories, both of my parents smiled and said “Yep, she’s going to be a great writer some day — or at very least, an avid reader”. That didn’t happen and I’m unsure if my parents ever stood over my crib and took a guess at who or what I was going to become.

I think the hardest part of growing up and becoming an adult isn’t getting my career started or getting out of the pizza place, it’s being Me. It’s forgetting about all of those outside factors, the opinions of others, the welcome and unwelcome advice, the negative comments or generalizations and simply being myself. I’m indecisive and I struggle with making decisions because I let so many other outside factors effect them. I’m always concerned about how any decision effects everyone else around me, I wonder and wonder if I can do certain things, and I second guess myself a lot. Maybe that’s why I am where I am right now.

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This life is completely and totally mine and I have to start acting like it. I’m going to start doing what I want to do, I am going to speak up and air my thoughts.

I am not going to let my fear stop me, I’m not going remain in unhappy atmospheres surrounded by unhappy people.

I’m going to take risks and make mistakes, but they’re mine.

And it’s okay because nothing is permanent, not even pain.

 

Talk soon,

Vanessa Xo

 

i've forgotten how to dream

Bursting the Bubble, Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal

QUoteI had an awfully sad thought the other day and I’ve placed it on a photo that I took during my mid-week staycation. 

Could this deep rooted sadness just be a phase? A side-effect of that disturbing mix of boredom and fear that has overcome me as of late? I despise the word bored. I detest feeling afraid. Afraid of what? Bored how? I don’t feel challenged or excited anymore. I don’t feel like I’m living so much as existing and I’ve created this cocoon of safety that makes me not want to try new things. That gives me a kind of anxiety that eats away at my heart, at my dreams,

Could it be all of the rejection I’ve received lately? Could it be that my insecurities are taking over? Could I just grow a pair already and make a change? Insanity is, after all, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

How to become sane (again):

WHEN IN DOUBT, OR BEING REJECTED, REMEMBER WHY YOU DO WHAT YOU DO.(you love to write and you do it for you)

DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT.

MAKE A SCARY LEAP OF FAITH.

DON’T TURN BACK.

Talk soon,

Vanessa Xo

@Paintlounge with my besties #mybrushmyvoice

Lifestyle/Personal, Restaurant Reviews, Toronto Adventures

My besties and I went to Paintlounge in Toronto on Saturday evening. We walked into a bright lit room filed with chocolate brown easels covered in paint. At the far back of the room we found a table filled with different paints, brushes, sponges, blow driers, chalk, and everything else needed to create a masterpiece. Plus a little cafe where you can purchase a tea or coffee while you paint.

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I want a purse that looks like this ^ — where can I find one?

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My besties and I jumped right in, picking out our canvases, grabbing our supplies, and putting on aprons. For a few minutes we stared at our blank canvases, not knowing what to do or how to go about it. “I’m getting anxiety over this,” is something you might have overheard one of us say. We all have Type A personalities, so we felt like we needed to plan our artwork, to sketch it out, to be able to erase our mistakes. Eventually we let go, and painted our hearts out. We spent over two hours painting, laughing, talking, and relaxing.

IMG_7140 IMG_7137Katrina (pictured above) LOVES love. IMG_7124“Vane, does this look ombre to you?” famously stated by Kathryn (pictured above).

IMG_7132“A writer’s heart bleeds a thousand times over.”

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A quick walk around the room ensured that we were the only ‘non-artists’ at the workshop that night but it didn’t matter, we were there to let everything out, not paint a masterpiece. What I loved most about this experience was the messiness of it all. I got paint on my favourite jeans, ruined my fresh manicure, threw paint at my canvas, and didn’t give a damn. Messiness is fun and deliciously beautiful.

Have you gone to Paintlounge? Would you? Do you like my painting? LMK in the comments!

Talk soon,

Vanessa Xo

The people you encounter when you're a walking cliche

Bursting the Bubble, Family Time, Lifestyle/Personal

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The acquaintance you haven’t seen in years who gets off by asking you what you ‘do’ because she/he can tell by your Instagram/blog/Facebook/Twitter that you are doing ‘nothing’. This kind of person needs no explanation. Depending on your mood they depress you or they make you work harder because you’re not doing ‘nothing’, you’re doing everything you want and you’re happy about it.

The customers who take pity on you because they’ve been coming to your establishment since you were sixteen and if they do their math they’ll know that you’re 25 and STILL working there. They give you a few extra dollars when they tip you, they smile at you with warm eyes making you feel both loved and depressed. They know you well enough to ask how the job hunt is going and offer you a sincere, don’t worry dear, something good will come along. I know it! This comment makes you want to hug them and run away screaming.

The genuinely concerned friend(s) who always forces you to look on the bright side. The friend who sends you job postings daily, who wants to help you figure out what you want, and who teaches you how to breathe when your anxiety hits the roof. This friend goes out of her way to listen to you and to be there for you, and you probably would have had a mental breakdown without her.

The sympathetic buddy who is in the same boat. The buddy who will listen to your complaints and fire a few back at you. The buddy who understands you and your frustrations the way no one else can. The buddy who will still make you smile and believe in yourself no matter how grim the situation seems in your mind. The same buddy who understands when you talk in quotes and send her photos like this:

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The loving boyfriend who is the only person that makes you laugh uncontrollably. The boyfriend who believes in you no matter what comes your way. The boyfriend who helps you relax, who tries new things with you, and who reminds you that you’re awesome and you shouldn’t want what everyone else has. The patient boyfriend who just wants to make you smile.

The sister who wants you to travel, insisting that THIS is the time to spend your savings and hit the road, to make memories, to write about them, and to find yourself. She’s never read Jack Kerouac but you know she’s onto something…

The brother who makes fun of you but actually feels bad for you, while secretly hoping that his life turns out differently. He doesn’t get why you chose to be a writer but you catch him reading your blogs and your book and know that you’ve done something right.

The parents who wish the best for their kid, who see how hard you’re working and just want something spectacular to happen to you. The parents who support their child no matter what she chooses to do and know that all she wants to do is make them proud. The wonderful parents who would never put pressure on their daughter because she puts enough pressure on herself.

The girl in the mirror who, in her heart of hearts, knows that life is wonderful. Who knows that she’s working hard and that something good will happen. The girl who is happy in her own skin, who is proud of her accomplishments, who will never back down. The girl who may not know EXACTLY what she wants but knows that she’s on the right track. The girl in the mirror who understands that life isn’t about what you do, it’s about who you are. The girl who wakes up every morning with a smile plastered on her beating heart. The girl who is so full of love, and who is trying her very best to not let her head get in the way.

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 That girl is me.

Talk soon,

Vanessa Xo

The Opposite of Loneliness [Book Review]

Book Reviews, Bursting the Bubble

cvr9781476753614_9781476753614_lgI read about The Opposite of Loneliness in FLARE Magazine and immediately emailed Simon & Schuster Canada to ask them for a copy (please please please please!). They happily obliged in exchange for an honest review, one that I am honoured to give. Marina Keegan a graduate from Yale, died in a car crash five days after graduation. She was an award-winning author and journalist with a play that was supposed to be produced at the New York Fringe Festival AND a job waiting for her at The New Yorker.

Her final essay is where this collection of essays and stories begins, ‘The Opposite of Loneliness’ is an essay about graduation and her time at Yale being anything but lonely. This essay was published in The Yale Daily News and went viral with over 1.4 million hits. Marina would have been turning twenty-five this year, just like me. Her fiction and nonfiction resonated with me as a writer, student, woman, and human being. She demonstrates a knack for understanding the human condition and has a way with words that tickles your mind. My favourite of her essays is ‘Song for the Special’, discussing all of those jealousies we have towards other people. All of our own insecurities and the yearning desire to be special, to create something wonderful and amazing. This essay shows not only her wisdom but her humanity.

She seemed to be a regular girl with a remarkable understanding of herself and the world around her. I read her book in awe and sheer admiration that someone so young could write so incredibly well. Her essays inspired me to pick up my pen more often and to think outside the box. I felt anything but lonely while reading this book. I felt like I was talking to a friend, spending time with someone I’ve known my whole life.

I felt the opposite of lonely and I am so thankful I read this book.

Talk soon,

Vanessa Xo

Photo of book and information from the Simon & Schuster Website

The Opposite of Loneliness comes out April 8th! 

Welcome to the pages of my diary.

Lifestyle/Personal

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I spit out words filled with poison because today I feel brave. I think of all the things I’ve kept to myself, all of the pain and anger I’ve hidden and unleash it on you. No, you did nothing wrong but you’re still standing there in a challenging stance asking to get knocked over

by my voice.

It’s not just white noise — my voice is the difference between a win or a loss. It’s the reason I’m here, asking for forgiveness. But look at you, you’re asking for it. That thick black cloud is my voice, suffocating you, silencing you, until I hurt no more.

My voice is a lot more than white noise. It’s more obtrusive than static and more electrifying than silence. It’s a beacon in the night, it’s a fire burning out of control. It’s lightning — no it’s thunder and it gets louder every moment

until it’s heard.

Talk soon,

Vanessa Xo

*This was written on February 20, 2014. Share with care.*

*Title of post is from an Alicia Keys song*

Puddles on the stage #TPSLAM

Family Time, Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal, Restaurant Reviews, Toronto Adventures

Flowing water – a waterfall – I slip on the ever dripping words that spill from their mouths. 

Puddles on the stage. 

So many words spoken, ringing in my ears, bleeding to my heart. 

When I left my first poetry slam at The Drake Underground last night I could barely speak. When my cousin asked me what I thought about it, I couldn’t articulate all of the emotion that ran through me. There were so many delicious words swimming in my head… I thought it might explode.

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I wrote down snippets of the performances that really resonated with me. People, complete strangers who knew nothing about me were able to put my feelings into a three-minute rhyme… making me feel a little less alone. I was moved by a poem about anorexia “sick turned into success — girl you’re thin — badge of honour”. I was touched by a love/anti-love poem “no person’s destiny is addressed to us, even if they have our name on their lips”. I was left breathless by a poem about a girl with no legs and blown away by the passion behind a poem about the Kennedys.

I was so focused on each and every performance that sometimes I held my breath for the entire three minutes. Each poet made me feeling something. My heart pumped, my veins were on fire, electricity swam through my soul, from the top of my head to the piggies on my feet, I felt alive. I felt like I was part of something, this group of misfit toys hipsters — each one different, imperfect, speaking songs in perfect time. I understood them all and was frozen line by line.

IMG_0206This girl right here ^ invited me to a poetry slam a few months ago and I kept cancelling for one reason or another. I am so glad that I finally took the time to go with her and my mentor/friend, Casie. It was Casie’s first time at a poetry slam too and I’m happy that she loved it —  I have a feeling that this wasn’t a one time thing! Thanks for opening my eyes to something new, Amanda! For those of you who’ve never been, spoken word is moving and beautiful, I tip my hat to all of those who performed last night — much love and many snaps*

Talk soon,

Vanessa Xo