What I’m Reading: “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed + More

"Wild" by Cheryl Strayed and Other Good Reads

During some downtime in Big Sur while waiting for our friends to arrive, I cracked open “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” by Cheryl Strayed and promptly fell down a delirious and delicious rabbit hole in which I couldn’t stop reading. (My boyfriend practically had to pry the book from my hands in order for me to pause, and I snuck back into our tent several times to sneak in additional pages. I still have the remnants of a slightly severe sunburn from sitting still in the sun for so long.)

You may remember my effusive report of Strayed’s other book, “Tiny Beautiful Things,” which is mostly me announcing its brilliance. Well, the same applies for “Wild.” The book possesses that same signature Strayed warmth, humor and passion — that same brilliance.

In “Tiny Beautiful Things,” you receive provocative snippets of Strayed’s tumultuous life, but only as they pertain to the advice-seeker’s personal story and request for guidance. In “Wild,” however, you get Strayed’s full and unbridled background. As you follow the author’s journey on the arduous Pacific Crest Trail through California and Oregon, dots begin to connect.

You understand how Strayed was able to help the disconsolate, the confused and the heartbroken in her letters — how she was able to answer the questions they couldn’t (or at least state the answers they knew all along, but didn’t have the heart or courage to admit). You realize just how vast is and was her devastation when her mother passed away and how easy it can be for things to fall apart. And you recognize just how resilient and brave and strong a human can be, if he or she wills it.

Bravo, Strayed.

Additional, quicker reading (accessible via the web!):

  • Learning How to Exert Self-Control (The New York Times) – Because I personally have no idea how. Seriously, I assume I would have been one of the kids who gobbles down two cookies within the first few minutes. What about you? Do you think you would be able to wait?
  • Love People, Pleasure (The New York Times) – I have read this article a few times since my sister first emailed me its link. The  really hit close to home… I may return to this piece again and ramble about it on this blog soon.
  • Stepping Out: Living the Fitbit Life (The New Yorker) — My coworkers and I share a love of David Sedaris and his inimitable wit, and they recommended yesterday that I give the article a read. Prepare for several good chuckles.

On a separate note (but still related): The Last Bookstore in Downtown Los Angeles has been on my to-visit list for quite some time, and I finally paid that overdue visit a few weeks ago (and again this past Sunday, after “snacking” on tacos at Gusiados). Your turn! It’s a spectacular, two-story with a soaring ceiling, eclectic decor and bookshelves encircled by even more bookshelves. They also sell a large collection of records, and there is a cool artwork gallery on the second floor, along with a variety of unique shops. Used books, priced very reasonably, are mixed with brand-new copies. I brought home a hefty stack of books (just started reading “Sellevision by Augusten Burroughs”), so more recommendations to come.

stock photo via Death to Stock

So you like to write and want to do it for a living, eh?

A handful of people — readers, friends and friends of friends — have reached out to me, asking for tips on securing a professional writing job or switching careers and breaking into journalism.

To preface this post: I am, by no means, a wildly successful writer or editor. I’m pretty low on the totem pole at work. I’m still fairly young (though my once-a-month, stress-induced grey hair may imply otherwise); I make mistakes; and I have eons to learn about journalism, digital media, writing, the world, myself, etc. And I’m aware that anything could happen (a bad economy, a bad stroke of luck, a bad piece of steak) between now and two months from now — or maybe three years or even a dozen years.

But I will say that I have a decent amount of experience job hunting and going through the meticulous and painstaking yet rewarding steps of starting a career. I have experienced a wide range of employment ever since working as a water park ride attendant in the 7th grade (helloooo T-shirt tan!), each job accompanied with incredible mentors, managers and co-workers.

And right now, I can say that I genuinely love my job. So I thought I’d share the following advice on this blog (some of which can apply to job-seekers of different fields), along with a handy dandy checklist:

How to Land a Writing/Journalism Job: See full list of tips at LilyOnFillmore.com

Dear friend, hopefully not foe, who is valiantly searching for a writing/journalism job,

Be willing to sacrifice — temporarily — notions of a dream job or a specific niche.
- Take an editorial internship, even if it’s unpaid. (And unpaid internships can still be difficult to find if you are not in school, as companies usually prefer interns who can receive school credit. See if you can find a company willing to bend those rules or pay a small stipend.) Also, internships can sometimes evolve into full-time positions. If they don’t, fine — that internship is another relevant position to beef up your resume.

Both of my past editorial internships were unpaid. One took place during summer, while I tutored at my alma mater’s writing center; served/bussed/hosted at a restaurant; and participated in launching the university’s first online magazine as editor-in-chief (also for free). The other took place after I graduated with a degree in journalism, on Saturdays and Sundays while working full-time during the week for a temp admin/technical writing (i.e., non-journalism) position. Neither turned into a full-time role. Yep, internships are not really fun or glamorous. But you do get invaluable learning experience, and as of right now, they are a reality of the writing industry.

– If an internship is out of the question — none are available, or you just don’t have the time — pitch stories to publications. Write for pennies, or write for free. Write because you love to write.

Personally, patience is far from my strong suit. But striving to maintain a balance of patience and a strong hustler mentality will ease this trying process. Pinky swear.

Sell yourself.
- Make that resume shine! Check for spelling and grammar (remember, verbs describing tasks at former jobs should be in past tense!); list all apropos experience, awards/honors and skills; and be thorough and comprehensive with your past job experiences.

- Add (an appropriate dose of) personality to your cover letter. Your future employer has to work with you and see your lovely face every single day. So your face better come with a likable personality! Give a little sneak peek of that in your cover letter. Also, I particularly enjoyed, and have utilized, this Slate piece about cover letters. To sum it up: keep it short, advocate yourself, prove that you have done your apt research, explain how you will benefit the employer, stay relevant and follow instructions.

- Pimp out your LinkedIn. Good news! You have much more space to #HumbleBrag on your LinkedIn page than on a 8.5-by-11-inch sheet. Recruiters DO peruse Linkedin for job candidates (I was recruited for my first full-time editor job through that magnificent social media platform). Treat it as a digital resume: no errors and no typos. Ask former co-workers and employers to endorse you, but endorse them first! :)

- Create an online website/portfolio showcasing your knowledge, expertise and best assets — in addition to your sparkly resume and Linkedin profile. And if you’d like, start a blog, which can serve as a live portfolio of your writing skills, graphic design skills, social media skills, etc. It also shows you are willing to put in extra “work” hours outside of a full-time job in order to pursue a passion. BE THE UNICORN.

Click through, if you’d like to keep reading …

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A Weekend Camping in Big Sur

Big Sur, California | lilyonfillmore.com

Big Sur, California | lilyonfillmore.com

Camping in Big Sur over Labor Day weekend was a textbook farewell to the calendar-defined summer. (Meanwhile, Southern California’s annual Indian summer still trudges along.)

In February of 2013, my sister’s friends left their campsite the same night that my boyfriend Ben and I were heading down from Monterey and passing through Big Sur. A vacant tent was then available, and we jumped at the chance of extending our vacation in the gorgeous Central Coast.

How does one turn down an apparently never-ending sea on one side of you, reaching trees on the other and s’mores all around?

Answer: You don’t. You can’t.

Big Sur, California | lilyonfillmore.com

Once you step foot on Big Sur soil, the seaside region will linger in your mind — even with months and miles stacked up, halfheartedly prying against its hold.

So ever since that glorious camping happenstance, I’ve been aching to return north and camp there once again. But the toils of daily life interfered; plus, Big Sur camping sites are notorious for getting snatched up quickly.

Big Sur, California | lilyonfillmore.com

With my birthday around the corner, my boyfriend — unbeknownst to me — checked the Kirk Creek Campground’s booking website day after day for any cancellations, not letting the fully booked schedule deter him. Yep, sweetest guy ever, much? :)

Big Sur, California | lilyonfillmore.com

But by some small miracle, someone released a spot for the sought-after Labor Day weekend. It was one of the best ones too: a site overlooking the cliffs and with a clear view of the Pacific.

Though exact details of him telling me are fuzzy, it’s likely I immediately broke into an uncontrollable smile, as well as my ritual happy dance. (I tend to do those a lot, particularly the latter, more embarrassing-for-everyone-else-around-me action.)

To make the situation even better, my sister, brother and good friend from high school were to join us from the Bay Area, and two of my more local close friends were to meet us there as well.

Big Sur, California | lilyonfillmore.com

Come end of August, we eagerly met our four days and three nights in the place where you constantly pause, slowly look around, take a deep breath of fresh air, quietly gaze at nature’s unsurpassable beauty and feel darn lucky to be alive.

Big Sur, California | lilyonfillmore.com

Left: Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant for a daily dose of coffee and pastries. They had this fresh delicious trifle made of raspberries, custard, sponge cake and bits of the angel halos/fairy dust. Get it when you go, and mail me a slice. }

Big Sur, California | lilyonfillmore.com

{ In front of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, home of McWay Falls. }

Big Sur, California | lilyonfillmore.com

{ My sister, ever the brilliant chef, had made multiple feasts at home to share: arugula salad with fennel, goat cheese, peaches and homemade dressing; slow-cooked tri-tip and pulled pork for sandwiches, plus kimchi ketchup; and more. Much better than the daily hot dogs and chili we anticipated, and we’ve been eating the leftovers all week. Thank you Mel! }

Big Sur, California | lilyonfillmore.com

The beautiful Henry Miller Memorial Library. // photo via Ryan Bird }

Tips about camping at Big Sur and more photos behind the cut, if you’d like to see …

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How to Squeeze a Home Office into a Small Apartment

Kitchen dining nook turned home office | lilyonfillmore.com I’ve shared glimpses of my “home office” on Instagram (such as here), but I’ve yet to give y’all a closer look at what it actually is … Kitchen dining nook turned home office | lilyonfillmore.com Kitchen dining nook turned home office | lilyonfillmore.com … a kitchen nook!
Kitchen dining nook turned home office | lilyonfillmore.comWhen my boyfriend and I first moved in, our landlord explained that he originally intended for the little alcove in the kitchen to be a dining nook with a built-in table and bench.

This never happened, however. I’m assuming the reason was a dwindling budget (he had taken a daunting task of renovating his house into a duplex with the downstairs level for renters, and that’s where we came in).
Kitchen dining nook turned home office | lilyonfillmore.comWe soon realized that the alcove is a smidgen too small to comfortably fit our dining room table and four accompanying chairs. Also: Pass on the ensuing claustrophobia.

More photos and sources behind the cut!

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The Everygirl Conference in Chicago

Working in the digital age, particularly when working freelance and/or telecommute, can imply several things:

  1. You can be on a very important conference call while eating a triple-scoop ice cream sundae with gummy bear vitamins on top.
  2. You are alarmingly hyper-dependent on Google and all of its products. Communication is held in G-chat or email form rather than face to face and can be minimized when drat, you’ve ran out of ice cream.
  3. You have never met the majority of your lovely co-workers, despite regularly communicating with them and greatly admiring their contributions.

Points #1 and #2 are likely still to occur. But last week, the #teamTEGcon held in Chicago made the last one moot.

Alaina and Danielle, the co-founders of The Everygirl, a site that I have been contributing fashion features to since February, generously invited all of us out-of-state TEG editorial board members to fly in from our respective cities — Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Charleston, Washington D.C. and Madison — to discuss and help shape the future of the website. The Chicago ladies joined as well, of course.

Removing the hazy digital screen and actually meeting everyone in person was surreal. Though my time at the conference felt like a whirlwind due to a less than 24-hour time frame, getting to know all of these intelligent, ambitious and career-driven women and their ideas made the nonstop hustle worth it.

#teamTEGcon | LilyonFillmore.com

One of the many gorgeous views — hello, Navy Pier! — from W Chicago Lakeshore, where we stayed. The recently renovated luxury hotel is located at the edge of Lake Michigan, thus offering serious eye candy from essentially every window, even the ones in our conference room.

#teamTEGcon | LilyonFillmore.com

I had the best travel buddy every step of the way: Allyson, the other Los Angeles TEG editor who also works at Lulu & Georgia and runs her own fantastic blog, Mimosas in the Morning. We ended up being roomies for the night due to a slight mix-up, which made sense after narrowly avoiding a missed flight together (darn you, lure of vino and french fries) and various other mini-adventures.

More behind the cut, if you’d like to see …

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