My First Pan Am Game, Blog to Book, and MORE

Family Time, Lifestyle/Personal

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Last Saturday I found myself melting in the stands of a stadium in Hamilton to watch the bronze metal men’s soccer game. It was my first work-outing and even though I didn’t entirely understand what was happening, I cheered when everyone else did and had a great time. The sweltering heat made me wonder why I decided to put on jeans that day but the fiancé’s mellow attitude and constant water/ice purchases got me through it. Side note: definitely nowhere hot for our honeymoon!!! We cannot take the heat!!

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I received some feedback on my blog-to-book manuscript from a wonderful publishing company in the U.K. There’s loads of work to do to polish my manuscript but their kind words and useful criticism has me roaring with excitement to get it done! There’s no guarantee that they’ll publish it, in fact it’s insanely rare for publishing companies to take on new authors who don’t have an agent. BUT that doesn’t mean that it’ll never happen and if I want it to happen I MUST keep trying. According to Alex all I need is a real break, someone to take a chance on me. The hardest part about that is not giving up. My goal is to have it finished by the first week of September and send it back to them then. Might need some extra motivational words my friends!

“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.”
Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

This weekend is going to be a busy one between Izzy’s second birthday, my aunt’s wedding, and an adventure with Alex on Monday, but I cannot wait!! Remind me to get some blogging, manuscript editing, and reading in too 😉

Wishing you sunshine, love, and uninhibited dance-parties this long weekend!

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Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

5 Simple Rules [on trb blog]

Just for Fun, Products and Brands

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You may not be seeing posts as often as you’re used to on My Pen, My Voice, but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped writing. I’ve started contributing to The Red Bow Blog and my first post went up yesterday!  Check it out here and stay tuned for another short story in Passion8 Mag, as well as, some new posts right here on My Pen, My Voice.

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo 

What is Happy?

Bursting the Bubble, Lifestyle/Personal

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I had a thought yesterday and it created another thought, which rolled into another, and then into a labyrinth of the best thoughts that could be thunk. But then the phone rang. POOF! Gone. My life has become a series of cycles; planning, researching, working, budgeting.

Apparently that is what growing up is all about. On my drive to work I often think about happiness, I look at the person in the car next to me and wonder if they’re happy. I wonder if they like their job, if they’re passionate about what they do. I imagine what their home-life, love-life, and hobbies are. I wonder, what is happy?

My happy comes in the form of moments. My niece’s smile, a perfectly written sentence, my fiance’s hand reaching for mine, a drive up north, having dinner with my family, crying over a character in a book, saying something smart or witty enough to evoke laughter from someone. My happy comes from something more than 9-5, although I do leave the office feeling accomplished and useful, my life will always be about more than that.

That is my happy. What’s yours?

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

 Goodbye Gourmet Pizza [ A Letter ]

Bursting the Bubble, Lifestyle/Personal
  

 

On Wednesday evening, I got word that Caruso Gourmet Pizza locked its heavy black doors for good. Caruso Gourmet Pizza was many things to many people; an excuse to forgo their diet for one night, a place to relax over a cup of coffee with friends, a Friday lunchtime tradition with coworkers, and even a daily stop on the morning commute for the best cappuccino in town.

To me, Caruso’s was a second home. I first started working there at the age of sixteen, when they were located in a tiny shop on the second floor of a complex. In the ten years I worked there, I learned more about life, responsibility, and customer service than I thought possible. I made incredible friendships with coworkers and lasting relationships with the regulars.

Somewhere a long the line my bosses, Domenic and Dina Caruso, became a third set of grandparents to me. I talked to them openly about my life, my dreams, and my passions. Equally, I complained about my life, my dreams, and my passions. They always listened to me fully and gave me advice without hesitation. Dom and I spoke daily about books, writing, and even current events. He’d tell me story after story and more often than not, I’d leave for the day feeling inspired and ready to write.

In fairness, I’m not THAT special; Domenic and Dina had incredible relationships with every single one of their customers. During a busy lunch or dinner rush, they always made time to chat with a customer, or shake hands with a friend. Not to mention sending me from table to table with complimentary espressos in hand. To many, the building was much more than a place to eat;  it was a place to be among friends.

I am truly saddened by the closure of such a wonderful establishment. Caruso’s is a huge part of Bolton’s history, culture, and identity. I will miss the warmth of the ovens, the delicious pizza, and having a second place to call home.

Here’s is my heartfelt thank you to Domenic and Dina Caruso, for everything you’ve done for me personally, for everything you’ve done for this town, and for keeping the Bolton youth employed and on the right track. I wish you the best of luck and hope you can finally have some time for yourselves, you deserve it.

Love Always,
Vanessa Xo

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

Without Writing I am…

Uncategorized

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Whether you’ve noticed or not, it’s been 10 days since I’ve posted anything new on my blog. It’s not that I haven’t been writing (because without writing I am not myself) it’s that I haven’t felt like sharing. Every blogger I knew goes through this, moments of self-doubt or fear that they’re sharing too much. Moments where they feel as though they’d rather be doing something else. Moments where they contemplate the point of their blog’s existence.

Recently I’ve been having trouble relating to my blog and the person who created it. I’ve wondered whether or not my last post really should have been on December 31st, 2014, but then I realized that my lack of blog posts has nothing to do with who I am as a person or writer, and everything to do with the fact that I have more going on in my life now than I once did. I’m currently learning loads in my new role as Customer Service Coordinator at Serrano Imports, I’m taking a social media marketing course at George Brown, I’m trying to stay fit and healthy, and…this past weekend I got engaged!!

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So if my posts come few and far between for the next little while, you know why.

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

Whiplash: the film, the writing, the life you’re living

film, Lifestyle/Personal

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Last weekend, Alex and I watched Whiplash. He’d seen it before and said to me, “when you watch this, think about your writing”, so I kept that in mind as the opening credits rolled out. There’s no denying that Whiplash is a time-bomb of emotion, a story that depicts what it really takes to be one of the greats. There’s a part in the film where the band teacher (Fletcher) says to his student (Andrew), “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than good job”.  Why? because it promotes mediocrity. It promotes that just because you’re good, you don’t have to push yourself beyond the capabilities that you don’t even know are there.

I was there to push people beyond what’s expected of them. I believe that’s an absolute necessity

If you’ve watched Whiplash, you’ll know that Fletcher is a little insane in the way he pushes his students – especially Andrew. But it kinda worked, didn’t it?

Andrew: But isn’t there a line? You know, maybe you go too far, and you discourage he next Charlie Parker from ever becoming Charlie Parker?

Fletcher: No, man, no. Because Charlie Parker would never be discouraged.

This line moved me beyond belief. It inspired me to sit down every morning and evening this week; to write all of the words I could let out of my head. It inspired me to start trying again, to believe in myself, and to push myself harder when the words won’t flow as well as I hoped they would. Because, the next Dorothy Parker would never get discouraged.

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

*Quotes from Imdb*

The Saint Tavern and Tattoo Parlours

Bursting the Bubble, Lifestyle/Personal, Restaurant Reviews, Toronto Adventures

Weekends are my absolute favourite; I get to catch up on my reading and blogging, spend time with my family, and have an adventure or two with my love. On Saturday Alex and I headed down to The Saint Tavern for breakfast.

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I loved the dark and cool vibe of the restaurant, the deliciously creamy and strong latte, and the delectable Duck Egg St. Benny. The service was fantastic, it felt like being at home, with a bunch of other brunching strangers enjoying their meals.

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After breakfast we walked around the city and ended up at a tattoo parlour near my house. I finally got the “writerly” tattoo I’ve been wanting. It’s a semicolon on my right wrist, which was inspired by this photo on Pinterest. I’m hoping that it will remind me to use my spare time wisely. To use every moment that I’m not at working, writing things down, creating characters, and stringing stories together.

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“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo