Lena Dunham in Conversation [Event Recap]

Book Reviews, Bursting the Bubble, Toronto Adventures


IMG_0742Yesterday was the perfect Fall day, 16 degrees with beaming sunshine and a cool breeze. It was also a perfect day in general because it was finally the day of a book event I booked tickets for over a month ago. This wasn’t just any book event — LENA DUNHAM IN CONVERSATION at the Appel Salon.

I headed to the city with the same ferocious anxiety and excitement I always get when heading to events, but this time it doubled (I haven’t felt like this since I met Jowita Bydlowska). I was actually going to meet Lena Dunham. I would be able to tell her how much her book meant to me, how my writing has changed since reading it, and how much I admire her… if I could get the words out of course.

After hours of waiting (okay it was only two and my mom and I got a glass of wine so it wasn’t so bad), Lena finally arrived. With newly dyed green hair, a gray bedazzled blazer, sparkly flats, and an infectious smile, Lena took the stage and read a chapter from Not That Kind of Girl. There’s nothing more exciting than hearing words that you love spoken by the author of the book. When she finished reading, she sat down for a chat with Johanna Schneller.

IMG_0752Lena is extremely smart, confident, and funny. With poise and conviction she talked about anxiety as a mental disorder, Girls, love, her relationship with the late Nora Ephron, body image, and her reason for writing. She said that she uses writing to connect with people and feel normal, to get to know herself. When it came to discussing personal essays written by women she said that in our culture there’s something threatening about women telling their stories without remorse, and she hopes to help change that. When asked about why she leaves her writing and her book so open-ended she was humble enough to admit that she’s still growing and changing, all she wants to do was share the little bit of knowledge that she has right now.

When sitting in a room of over 500 people it’s hard to imagine that you’ll connect with a person on a stage sitting eight feet away from you. But I did. Lena spoke to all of us like we were her girlfriends, like we were sitting down in our pyjamas, eating pizza and chips, talking about the most important issues facing our culture, and not being ashamed for any of it. I felt connected to the women and men around me, some of which were probably writers too. Lena opened our minds and our hearts, leaving us in awe and in stitches.

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When the time came to get my book signed by Lena, I was shaking. Everything I practiced saying to her flew out of my head and probably landed into someone else’s. It turns out that I yapped and hand-talked for almost a minute, but Lena was sweet and compassionate. She’s either a really great actress or she was genuinely touched by how much her book meant to me (I truly believe it was the latter).

Although I “learned” a lot from Lena last night, one thing that my mind keeps repeating is:

“It’s not nice to talk shit about yourself all of the time.”

 

Vanessa Xo

Liebster Award!

Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal

liebster_awardThe lovely Lindsey over at Reeder Reads nominated me (yes me!) for a Liebster Award! Not sure what it is? Well, it’s a way for bloggers to share their favourite blogs and gain a little exposure themselves. It’s kind of a long process but it seems like it’ll be super fun, so I’m ready to give it a go. First I have to state 11 random facts about moi, then I have to answer questions given to me by Lindsey (my nominator), then I must nominate people/blogs that I love, and finally list questions for them to answer. Not sure if they’ll be into it but heck, why not? So here goes nothing…

11 Random Facts about ME!

  1. I recently discovered that I am TERRIFIED of kittens.
  2. I’m hate speaking in public and yet I always made it to the finals when it came to Public Speaking Contests in elementary school.
  3. I am obsessed with my iPhone, notebooks, and books in general.
  4. I decided to become a writer in the eighth grade after I wrote and presented a monologue in front of my class. I got 100% and my english accent was amazing — the monologue was about Harry Potter’s first Quidditch match.
  5. I don’t like massages — being naked and touched by a stranger makes me feel icky rather than relaxed.
  6. In the first (or second grade, I can’t remember) I peed my pants at school, right before I made it to the bathroom. I hid out in a stall until my teacher came looking for me.
  7. I love to travel and hope to head to Europe within the next few years.
  8. I will get married in a bookstore (preferably Ben McNally Books in Toronto).
  9. I cry every single time I watch Lilo and Stitch, even though Tangled is my favourite Disney movie of all time.
  10. I love having my nails and toenails painted.
  11. I work on my self-confidence every single day.

Answers to Lindsey’s Questions

What is the one book you could never ever part with or get rid of?

How can I choose just one?? Since interning at Random House and becoming a book blogger, I have so many books on my shelf that I want to keep forever and ever. So, if I had to choose JUST ONE that I could never part with, it would be impossible. There are three books I could never ever part with. I’ve reread Speak and The Alchemist more times than I can recall. They have both brought me to tears and have helped shape the person I have become. They helped me find my voice. As for The Aftermath, it’s a signed advanced reading copy of an amazing read but it’s much more than that to me. I spent a day with Mr. Brook and his daughter, accompanying them to stock signings and bookstores. It was a truly amazing experience with a wonderful author, who shared some advice that I will never forget.

Thats what writers do. They spin plates and see how much they can get away with.”

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Paper book or eBooks? Why?

PAPER BOOK FOREVER AND EVER. I love writing notes in my books, I love the smell of the pages, and the sound they make when you flip through them. I love bookmarks and holding a book in my hand — no matter how heavy it makes my purse or my luggage.

If you could travel to one place in the world (all expenses paid), where would it be and why? 

England. It is super literary and I like their accents.)

If you could meet one author (dead or alive), who would it be and why? 

I met Michael Ondaatje at a book signing so I guess the answer would have to be Anais Nin or Dorothy Parker or J.K. Rowling. I just can’t decide.

Do you play music while you read?

Not usually, it depends on my mood or how loud everyone in the house is being.

If you could create a dish with any cookbook author, who would you want to cook with?

I’m not big on cookbooks, although I should be because my cooking skills are lacking quite a bit. I would have to say Chuck Hughes and not just because he’s super dreamy.

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Okay, it’s mostly because he’s super dreamy.

If you were given $5000 to spend in one store in the world, where would you do your shopping?

TED BAKER LONDON.

Do you have a favourite quote? Can you share it with us? 

I look up quotes like they’re going out of style but here is one I’m currently obsessed with…

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If you had to be a member of a literary family, which family would you join?

The Weasley’s or the Weird’s.

Do you have a bad habit when reading? Twirling hair? Clicking your tongue? Tapping your foot? 

I tend to bite my lip or furrow my brows.

Who is the one author or book that has changed the way you read?

Every book I’ve read has changed the way I read. Every experience is different and I appreciate them all. I can’t answer this one! GREAT QUESTIONS LINDSEY! ❤

Liebster Award Nominations

Kaley from Books Etc. trained me on my first week interning at Random House of Canada. She is a treat! Sweet, supportive, and one of the most bookish people I know! I knew I made a friend for life after only a WEEK of working with her.

Amanda from Not A Model Blog has a writing style that makes me swoon. Her words are like butter on a crusty, freshly baked loaf with an aroma that lingers for days. She’s a lifestyle blogger who writes about everything from fashion to everyday beauties to travel diaries to book reviews. Her posts have a powerful honesty about them and are just as wonderful as the writer herself.

Romi from Confessions of a Chick in Paris is a self-published author with sass and unbelievable whit. Her success and determination has inspired me beyond belief.

Deanne from My Fash Avenue is my go-to blog for fashion inspiration. I’ve been following her blog practically since its conception and to see how far it’s come is truly inspiring! She’s made a huge name for herself in the fashion blogging world and I’ve loved following her along the way.

Casie from This Is My Life is someone you’ve heard me talk about more than once. She’s an influencer and personal friend of mine. She was blogging before blogging was cool and I am so thankful for all of her advice and help since the start of My Pen, My Voice.

* Questions for the nominees *

1. What is one book you’ve reread over and over again?

2. If you had a million dollars, what would you do with it?

3. Who would play you in the movie of your life?

4. Why did you start your blog?

5. What’s your go-to outfit?

6. Who is your biggest inspiration?

7. If you could have coffee with one person in the world (alive or dead) who would it be? What would you ask them?

8. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Thanks to Lindsey for the nomination! I would like to mention that had they not already been nominated, Lindsey and Maria (from I Believe In Story) would have been on my list as well! To all those who had stumbled upon My Pen, My Voice because of Lindsey, it’s nice to meet you! I hope we’ll be seeing each other again soon!

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 Dead in Their Vaulted Arches [BOOK REVIEW]

Book Reviews

Around this time last year, I reviewed the fifth instalment of the Flavia de Luce mysteries (Speaking from Among the Bones). The ending of that novel was so gripping that I couldn’t wait for the sixth instalment to come out and it finally has!

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Alan Bradley is an honest-to-goodness genius when it comes to Flavia de Luce. She is one character I cannot get enough of — smart, brave, curious and always up to no good (and yet she has the best intentions at heart)! What I loved about this novel was how it stayed mostly at Buckshaw, how the characters came to Flavia instead of her peddling her way through the entire village. I loved how you got into the core of each of the de Luce’s, how you got to see a different side of them because you got to witness something that is so close to their hearts.

Bishop’s Lacey is never short of two things: mysteries to solve and pre-adolescent detectives to solve them. In this New York Times bestselling series of cozy mysteries, young chemist and aspiring detective Flavia de Luce once again brings her knowledge of poisons and her indefatigable spirit to solve the most dastardly crimes the English countryside has to offer, and in the process, she comes closer than ever to solving her life’s greatest mystery–her mother’s disappearance. . .

I admit *SPOILER* that I was truly disappointed when Flavia’s mother returned to Buckshaw in a coffin instead of walking on her own two feet. I was truly saddened for Flavia, I wanted her to meet her mother so desperately that I was brought to tears a few times while reading. But then… the mystery overtakes you and you nearly forget your sadness… because with Flavia, there is always a corpse nearby and a mystery to be solved! This mystery has to be my favourite by a long shot, it is so detailed, calculated, and intertwined that you have no idea where it’s going to take you next. You’re on the same page as Flavia the entire time. Each clue adds a little confusion and excitement, but not to worry, everything is always settled in the end. There are no loose ends, just new beginnings, and new tomorrows…

“What are we going to do, Dogger?”

It seemed a reasonable question. After all he had been through, surely Dogger knew something of hopeless situations.

“We shall wait upon tomorrow,” he said.

“But–what if tomorrow is worse than today?”

“Then we shall wait upon the day after tomorrow.”

“And so forth?” I asked.

“And so forth,” Dogger said.

It was comforting to have an answer, even one I didn’t understand. I must have looked skeptical.

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PLEASE TELL ME THERE IS GOING TO BE A BOOK #7?!

I’m not ready to say goodbye to this sleuth!

Talk soon,

Vanessa Xo

Disclosure: I chose The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches from a list of Random House Canada titles and received a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Quote: Page 273 of The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches

Synopsis: Random House of Canada

Photos: MY PEN, MY VOICE and living in the kingdom of too much 

Post edited by: Grammarly

Stay True.

Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal
Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker

The most difficult thing about blogging (writing) is staying true to the voice of your blog. It’s difficult to stay true to the brand you created when there are so many other blogs and brands to be intimidated by. I created this blog as a space for my personal thoughts, as a space to practice and improve my writing, as a place to learn more about myself, as a place to share great books. Admittedly I’ve lost sight of my voice a couple of times. Sometimes I didn’t even recognize the woman holding the pen, I didn’t hear my own nasally soften-spoken voice when I read my posts over again. The important thing is that I noticed and I put myself back on track.

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Another difficult part of blogging (writing) is privacy — what do you share? What do you keep to yourself? I’ve had people tell me that they follow my blog in a tone that makes me feel like they know more about me than I think they do. I’ve had people tell me that I should be careful. That my generation doesn’t know the importance of privacy. Well, that’s what social media is, letting people into your life, into your home. It’s scary how BIG social media has become in my life, I’m even applying for jobs with SOCIAL MEDIA in their description.

Sometimes I sit back and think oh my gosh, I’m sharing my thoughts with who knows how many people. On top of that it’s on the INTERNET, FOREVER. After the initial nausea from that thought subsides, I allow myself to think other thoughts. My Pen, My Voice is a brand. It is a brand that I created. It’s ME, it’s who I am and what I represent BUT I get to choose what I share. Along with this blog I have two other notebooks with me at all times. One is a diary and one is the rough beginnings of my novel — neither of which I share on my blog.

I think people forget that there’s a person behind a blog, a twitter account, an Instagram account etc and what they share is only fraction of their lives. They let you see what they want you to see.

I am my truest self when I write.

 I write with honesty, intention, passion, and determination, but please don’t forget —

My Pen, My Voice is just one side of me.

Love Always

Vanessa Xo

Who Named the Knife – and other thoughts

Lifestyle/Personal
“When you feel envy and wish you were someone else, remember you that you have to take the whole life.”
Who Named the Knife by Linda Spalding

It’s terrifyingly easy to become envious of someone else’s life. It’s easy to get so caught up in what others are doing (especially with all of this social media, sharing, and documenting) that you lose sight of your own dreams and wishes. I’ve written about this before and I’ll probably write about it again because it’s something that scares me a lot. When you can’t see the finish line or you feel like many people are sprinting faster than you (even though you’re working just as hard), self-doubt will sweep you up on its dark cloud and suffocate you. You can’t let that happen. Keep sprinting even when your lungs give out. No matter how many people pass you, keep sprinting.

If you look far enough into the distance you’ll realize that they aren’t gunning for the same finish line as you.

At some point the track branches off and we all have our own path to follow.

Your finish line is yours and yours alone.

Cross it.

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Love Always

Vanessa Xo

An Author’s Life for me, yo ho, yo ho!

Book Reviews, Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal

I’ve had a book in my hand since before I can remember. I’ve read many books and all of them have had some small impact on my life, on the person I’ve become. Funnily enough I haven’t acknowledged the person behind the words, behind the book. I always thought my gratitude could be found in the flip of the last page of their novel. I always thought that was enough. I never made a point to obsess over an author and I learned very early on in my English degree that you should never associate an author with a character or belief in their book (or even as the narrator for that matter). So in order to save myself from putting the author’s face to any character I forgot about them altogether — I rarely looked at an author photo or read their biography. It’s funny to me because as an aspiring novelist/author I know that I would want my readers to know who I am, or at very least acknowledge that there is someone (actually many people) behind the book they’re holding in their hands.

Interning at Random House of Canada has changed all of that. I now realize how many people are involved in getting a book out there. I now know how important publicity, online marketing, and media are in getting a novel onto a bestseller list. I understand the importance in having an editor who believes in you and who can guide your writing into the right direction. I’ve seen how many interviews one author can do in a day, I’ve been there when they are shuffled from store-to-store to sign stock, I’ve been to their launches and felt extremely honoured to be there. Now that I’ve spoken to a few authors of books I’ve actually read, I see how important it is to know these faces, to see these people, to support these people, to watch their interviews, to follow them on twitter — their book, their words, have made a difference in my life.

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Their masterpiece is my inspiration.

Their work is my play, my pleasure, and my escape.

And for that I say thank you to every author of every single book I’ve ever read.

Thank you.

Love Always

Vanessa Xo

An Author's Life for me, yo ho, yo ho!

Book Reviews, Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal

I’ve had a book in my hand since before I can remember. I’ve read many books and all of them have had some small impact on my life, on the person I’ve become. Funnily enough I haven’t acknowledged the person behind the words, behind the book. I always thought my gratitude could be found in the flip of the last page of their novel. I always thought that was enough. I never made a point to obsess over an author and I learned very early on in my English degree that you should never associate an author with a character or belief in their book (or even as the narrator for that matter). So in order to save myself from putting the author’s face to any character I forgot about them altogether — I rarely looked at an author photo or read their biography. It’s funny to me because as an aspiring novelist/author I know that I would want my readers to know who I am, or at very least acknowledge that there is someone (actually many people) behind the book they’re holding in their hands.

Interning at Random House of Canada has changed all of that. I now realize how many people are involved in getting a book out there. I now know how important publicity, online marketing, and media are in getting a novel onto a bestseller list. I understand the importance in having an editor who believes in you and who can guide your writing into the right direction. I’ve seen how many interviews one author can do in a day, I’ve been there when they are shuffled from store-to-store to sign stock, I’ve been to their launches and felt extremely honoured to be there. Now that I’ve spoken to a few authors of books I’ve actually read, I see how important it is to know these faces, to see these people, to support these people, to watch their interviews, to follow them on twitter — their book, their words, have made a difference in my life.

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Their masterpiece is my inspiration.

Their work is my play, my pleasure, and my escape.

And for that I say thank you to every author of every single book I’ve ever read.

Thank you.

Love Always

Vanessa Xo

Living for the Weekend…

Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal, Restaurant Reviews

Although I love my busy weekdays, nothing compares to a weekend filled with great food, great company, an interesting book, and a sun that won’t stop shining. During the week I don’t see much of my family, sometimes it’s two or three days before I actually see my brother, so I love spending weekends in their company. On Friday my sister and bf came over and we had a movie date with my dad — Django Unchained is the best movie ever!

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My niece is getting big (or so I would assume by the way my sister’s stomach is expanding) and she has the softest, sweetest kicks/punches. You really have to press down on my sister’s belly to feel Izzy’s punches or her heartbeat but it is the most beautiful tap I’ve ever felt. Next time Jess comes over I’m going to read Izzy a story, my favourite in fact (The Balloon Tree) so she can get used to hearing my voice.

Yesterday the bf and I went for a little drive and ended up at Katz’s Deli near Yorkdale Mall. My mouth is watering just thinking about the warm corned beef sandwich on rye bread, topped with mustard, that we demolished in about 30 seconds. It’s a great place with deliciously fresh food and fantastic coffee. It’s been around since 1970 and is the perfect Saturday meal. They have an eat-in and take-out option and their cashier is a wonderful old man, using an old-school cash register, cracking jokes at your expense. I will be back more often than I should now that I know how close it is to the subway.

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I hope you all enjoyed this beautiful sunny weekend.

I hope you spent it with the people you love, with wonderful food, and with the comfort that comes from having a great book waiting for you whenever you get home.

Love Always 

Vanessa Xo 

Birthday Recap

Family Time, Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal, Uncategorized

Below you will find today’s post. You’ll notice that the formatting is a little different, that’s because I typed it up on this bad boy:

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My aunt and uncle scoured the streets, flea markets, and various stores to find me the perfect, working typewriter. Although, it may be more of a novelty than anything, I couldn’t wait to give it a try this morning. It’s heavy and it smells old but this 1964 Royal Safari typewriter is what I’ve been dreaming of for quite a while. It clinks, it clanks, and it even dings when it’s time to move to a new line. It’s perfect and needless to say, I’m in love.

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Obviously I need more practice on my typewriter :P. What I love most is how it slows down your thinking, rather, how it makes you more conscious of what you’re thinking. You need to be aware of what you’re going to write next, you need to plan out your next sentence so that you don’t make a huge mistake and have to start all over. With time, I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it, perhaps I’ll start writing on it often.

Anyways, I hope you’re having a wonderful Sunday!

Love Always

Vanessa Xo