01/16/17

Becoming politically involved as a college student

When I started school in the fall, one of the places where I found a home was in the weekly meeting held by the Columbia University Democrats. Now, I don’t usually talk about politics on this blog, but it’s pretty obvious on my Twitter account where I lie on the political map. In the recent months, I feel like I’ve become more politically aware, and also have become far more active politically. However, sometimes it becomes difficult in college to know how to be active politically, and also find time to read the news and stay current. I’ve listed out some of my tips on how to accomplish both of these things during a busy school year in this post and hope they help!

1. Follow a variety of news sources on your favorite social media platforms

I’m a firm supporter of the New York Times, and they are definitely my most read newspaper, but I also read CNN, The Washington Post, Politico and many other news sources. However, in addition to reading the news by directly going to these sites, I follow all of these sites on Twitter, and I love the New York Times on Instagram as well. I highly recommend including news sources on your social media feeds so that you can see news in your feeds frequently.

 2. Check out your school’s political organizations

Personally, joining Columbia Democrats has allowed me to become more educated on political issues I wasn’t well educated about, and also helped me to broaden my scope of thought. Having political conversations with people from all over the country from a variety of backgrounds has been an indispensable experience that has given me a better context for interpreting current events. Also, having an organization to talk about current events with has been incredibly beneficial in helping me to digest the news and form an informed opinion.

3. Get to know your local officials

I’m going to an out-of-state school, and so this is one of my goals for the coming year. I want to gain a better understanding of where New York officials stand on political issues, and also learn more about how the New York state Legislature works. I highly encourage students who have gone to a new state for college to learn more about the state they’ve moved to!

Hanging out in the sun in Reading, PA where I canvassed for Hillary Clinton in the fall.

4. Volunteer and organize!

Canvassing for Hillary Clinton was one of the most powerful and transformative experiences of my life. I urge everyone to canvass at least once for an issue, a person, or a piece of legislation they feel passionate about because it will give you this incredible feeling inside–it left me feeling like I truly create change. So get involve! You can canvass and organize constantly, and it’s work that must be done.

5. Don’t be afraid to voice your opinions–but be cognizant of the words you use

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in the past few months is the importance of word choice when it comes to talking about politics. It’s very easy to use a word that misrepresents what you mean and suddenly your sentiment is lost along the way. So, while it’s vital that you speak up and have conversations about politics, it’s even more important that you are aware of your word choice and avoid inflicting harm with your words.


This was a bit of an unconventional post, but one that’s incredibly important to me! Let me know in comments some of your suggestions for being politically active when a busy schedule makes it difficult.

01/10/17

Honesty Hour

Hey friends.

Thought it was time for a bit of an honesty hour. I was reading Xan’s blog and came across this post on getting out of the blogging slump (which, PSA, I’m totally in) and it inspired to me to come clean to all of you fabulous readers.

I’m in SUCH A BIG SLUMP. 

Blogging slump is killing me. I feel unmotivated to do reviews, questioning why I blog in the first place, and feeling just all around not interested in my blog. This past month the thought of “why don’t I just stop?” cross my mind so. many. times. But, I’ve decided to stick it out. The last time this happened to me I was able to jump back in by shaking up my content, so I’ve decided I need to do that.

This blog might turn into more of a lifestyle + book review blog. I think it’s basically just going to be a place where I post whatever I darn well please, and I’m honestly over the moon about that. (As I write those words there’s this pressure lifted off of my chest!) Start expecting more posts from me on a variety of topics, from NYC to college to books to music, movies, dogs, memes. WHO KNOWS.

However, this semester is going to be insanely busy for me. I’ve got a really exciting job I’m going to be working on this semester (I’m not sure if I can talk about it so I’m not saying what it is yet!) which will take up a lot of my time, so I don’t know how much time I’ll have left for blogging. So, just as a precaution, I may not be as consistent as I want to be. But I’m going to give blogging my best shot. I’ve got some ideas that I’m excited to work on and hope you all enjoy!

the reading slump

Oh gosh guys.

The reading slump?

SO. REAL.

I told myself that winter break was going to my reading marathon time, but instead I’ve been so brain-dead that I can barely do more than watch TV when it comes time to chill out. Forget that huge stack of library books I got at the beginning of break, I’m not more than fifty pages into any of the books I started.

But, at the same time, I also don’t really…care?

For the first time in my life, I’m realizing there isn’t a pressure for me to read. I’m not getting ARCs, there’s no one demanding reviews of me, I’m not taking any blog tours or promotions, it’s just me and my little blog and the books if I’m feeling like reading. To be able to go into the library and say “Hmm, this looks cool–I’m going to read it!” For the first time, I can think “Hey! I want to read some adult books! And I have the ability to do it without having to rush it!” or realizing “This is backlist? SO WHAT!”

Those thoughts are so freeing.

But: I’m not reading.

The prospect of reading just…isn’t exciting me like it used to? I don’t feel the desire to read.

And this PAINS me.

My plan of action? Sit in this place. Read when I want. Not pressure myself to read, and instead spend my time doing things I really want to do. Focus my energies in other places for a little while. I will always go back to reading, but maybe I need a little break right now.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll start reading obscure Ukranian fiction. (That was the weirdest thing I could think of.)

big picture?

There’s a lot of pressure in the blogging world to feel like you HAVE to read. That you’re crazy if you just don’t feel like reading. I thought for a long time the way to combat that was to force myself to read. But what if that doesn’t work? What if that just pushes off a larger issue?

So I’m letting my body and mind run the show here. I’m letting go of the niggling feeling that’s screaming “YOU! MUST! WRITE! OR! YOUR! LIFE! WILL! BE! OVER! AND! YOU! WILL! NO! LONGER! BE! HUMAN!” (Okay, maybe not that dramatic. But you get the jist.)

Either way, here we go friends! Let’s see where this semester takes us. I’m hoping the reading comes back, but I’m not making any promises. I’m in a slump, and I’m kind of….enjoying it?


How are you guys doing? Any fellow slump-ees out there? TELL ME YOUR FEELINGS.

01/5/17

Doing New York On A Budget

nyc-on-a-budget

New York is known for being expensive, and for a lot of people, it’s difficult to visit the city because of the price tag attached. However, it’s completely possible to see all of the incredible things New York has to offer without breaking the bank! After spending a semester in New York City on a college student’s budget (aka very small) I feel like I’ve gained a bit of an idea on how to live in the city on a budget, and here are my tips on how to do it.

plan ahead

One of the best things I learned about New York once I moved here is that this city is AMAZING with discounts. Most museums have free or discounted days, and all of the big ones have student discounts (SCORE!). If you can, try to schedule your trip around those days so you can take advantage of as many deals as possible! I’ve put together all of the “pay-what-you-wish” and free days at various popular New York museums, and I highly recommend you check them out. I’m still trying to get to all of them!

nyc-museum-times

go to the park(s)

New York is chalk full of parks, and I adore spending an afternoon in a park. Plus, they’re FREE! Head to a grocery store and grab some bits for a picnic, pick up a cheap book from The Strand, and head to one of the many parks in the city. Or, if you’re in the mood for a nice long walk, walk through Central Park. It’s a beautiful walk, and I highly recommend going off the main roads. You’ll find hills, massive rocks, beautiful trees, and quiet peaceful areas that make you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere rather than in the middle of the city.

Check out the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation for a complete guide to fun activities happening in the parks around the city: https://www.nycgovparks.org/highlights/places-to-go

(Aneeqah and I got a slice of cake from Magnolia Bakery and spent the afternoon in Central Park and it was by far one of the highlights of my weekend with her.)

food

Eating in New York on a budget is no easy feat, let me tell you. My pro-tip: SHARE FOOD. Not only can you get a larger variety, but you also end up paying less! Also, don’t feel like you need to try every kind of food on the face of the earth. This is something I have to remind myself of on a daily basis. Also, food in touristy areas is always more expensive than food in less-popular areas of the city, so try to not get food right next-door to a museum or in the middle of Times Square.

I also recommend stalkingNew York foodie Instagram accounts prior to your trip and making a list of places you want to go. This way, you can look at menus and price out spots, and then you go into the trip with an idea of the restaurants you want to go to ahead of time! Planning your food can also help you figure out what other spots to hit up.

transportation

Don’t take a cab, my friends.

I repeat, do not take a cab. (Obviously, this is if you have the option not to.)

(Obviously, this is if you have the option not to.)

WALK. Seriously. Walk everywhere. Use your two legs and see the city as you walk around–it’s a great way to find places to eat, stop into, and to get a feel for the city. I adore walking around the city and do it when at all possible.

To get between areas, get a MetroCard and take the Subway! Not only will you see the people of the city, but it’s also such a New York experience. My personal rule is that I don’t take the Subway unless the distance I would be walking is farther than five subway stops. That’s somewhere around twenty blocks AKA nothing! Definitely doable. Using this rule also helps you save money!

For help getting around the city, I highly recommend the “NYC Subway” app, which shows you a map of the island and allows you to plan routes between stops to see the best way to get there. It’s free in the app store! (Also, don’t be afraid to ask New Yorkers for directions. I haven’t met a rude one yet.)

I recommend centralizing your activities around one thing. For example, if you want to go breakfast at a certain spot in the Flatiron district, spend as much time as you can down in the Flatiron district. Then, walk over to Chelsea for dinner, go to the High Line in the evening and then head to bed. Only TWO Subway rides total if you plan it right!

(Also, MetroCards work on NYC buses, which go crosstown. You can take a crosstown bus through Central Park! Make sure to pay for your ticket PRIOR to getting onto the bus.)

housing

Hotels in New York are SO expensive. Personally, I don’t think I’ve ever stayed in one. I’ve been lucky enough to have family friends in the city who are willing to let my family and I stay with them, or I’ve stayed in Air-BNBs. I highly recommend one of these options if you can! Or, you can get a hotel in New Jersey and take the train into the city every day. (Trust me, it’s WAY cheaper to take the train in than spend an exorbitant amount of money on a hotel room in Manhattan.)


Let me know if you have other New York questions, or ideas for posts you’d like to see! I loved making this one and would love to make some more in the future.

12/31/16

Goodbye, 2016!

Hello everyone!

It’s been ages, I know. Like, two months kind of ages. Where did the time go?

I got it together enough to make my best of 2016 list though, which I’m super excited to share with you guys! I didn’t read as much this year as previous years, mainly due to college (I’ve read a total of four books from September until now) but I managed to squeeze in some great picks. If I reviewed the book, I’ve included a quote from my review along with a link, otherwise, I’ve shared my thoughts. So, without further adieu, here is my top 7 (for 2017)!

Top 7 Books of 2016:

Kids of Appetite by David Arnold

I’m in love with Kids of Appetite. It’s a phenomenal story of growing up, friendship, and being unique,three of the most important things teens need to read about, in my opinion. So, thunderous applause for Kids of Appetite, and I’m already desperately awaiting David Arnold’s next book.

Review: Kids of Appetite

 

 The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

Not only is Jeff Zentner one of my favorite people, he is also one heck of a writer. The Serpent King is touching, honest, and an incredible story about growing up and moving on. I read it shortly before leaving for college, and it hit home. The questions of: how do I leave home without leaving the people behind? what happens if I change? how am I going to pay for this? These are all addressed in the book and in such a wonderful way. I can’t recommend this one enough!

The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter

The First Time She Drowned is a heart-wrenching and beautiful story of healing. Cassie’s story of growing up and confronting her past is one that readers will fall as in love with as I did. Kletter’s writing is haunting and lyrical and will pull you in from the first line: “My mother wore the sun like a hat.”

Review: The First Time She Drowned

 

Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

Kathleen Glasgow has written a book that feels. It understands what it’s like to be human, to suffer, to want to heal, to struggle to keep it together. It understands what it’s like to start over, to find new friends, to find the good in people. It is real.

Girl in Pieces is a song I never wanted to end.

Review + extended thoughts: Girl in Pieces

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

I made a bullet-pointed list of the things I loved about AGOS and A Darker Shade of Magic that does a great job of explaining my feelings, so I’m going to link everyone to that.

But, the basic gist of the list is:

I LOVE THESE BOOKS A LOT OKAY

Review featuring all the feels possible: ADSOM + AGOS

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

I wrote a love letter to this book, and here’s the ending (but I highly recommend reading the whole thing):

This book is a wonder. It’s utterly beautiful and made me feel every emotion I’ve ever known and I don’t know what to do with myself now. So I’m just rereading it because I don’t know how I will ever get over it. Thank you for writing this book and for writing these characters and for continuing this series…because if you left me with that ending I would smash YOUR arm into pieces just like Rhys.

A Court of Mist and Fury, you will be joining Jellicoe Road in my suitcase to college in the fall. You are that treasured.

All my love,

Willa.

The rest of the love-letter: A Court of Mist and Fury

The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle

…it wins for best quote from a book so far this year:

“Quinn, your life story is starting to turn into a documentary that people would walk out of because it’s both too sad and too slow.” -Geoff, being the realest friend ever.

Basically, Tim Federle, you win with this book. You. Win.

Review (a mini one): The Great American Whatever


My favorite posts of 2016:

“Why moving to New York is the best decision I’ve ever made”

“Change”

“I turned 18!” (i like this post mainly for the gif not going to lie)

“On growing up, fear, and the future”


Highlights of 2016:

1. Getting into & GOING TO Barnard (!!!)

I can’t believe I’m at Barnard. Every day it feels like I’m living in a dream, but it’s reality.

I love my school, you guys.

2. Spending TWO weekends with Aneeqah

I spent a weekend at Aneeqah’s school and she came to Barnard for a weekend, which is a record-breaking amount of time for us to spend together IRL. It was absolutely AMAZING and gosh I love Aneeqah. A lot.

3. Leigh Bardugo’s launch party

I went to Leigh’s launch in New York City and it was fantastic! I made friends, saw Leigh again (I LOVE THAT WOMAN) and had a great conversation with some publishing people. And, obviously, I got my copy of Crooked Kingdom signed.

4. Met Melina Marchetta

i don’t even have words guys how did this happen is life real ?????

5. Eating the most amazing food of my life

shoutout to all of the places I’ve eaten in New York because WOW have I had some good food. (Especially that donut Aneeqah and I had from Dough. No words for that donut.)


Goals for 2016:

I’m not one for resolutions (because I relate that word to doing something NEW and a lot of my resolutions are the same as they have been for years) so I do resolutions. Here’s what I’ve got for 2017!

1.  Blog AT LEAST once a month

But really I’d love to do three times a month. But, you know, trying to keep this manageable.

2. Do more NYC-related posts

I would love to do some food guides and recommendations on things to do in the city! Let me know if you’d be into that.

3. Read at least one YA book a month

Considering in October I didn’t read one, I think this is a pretty good goal. We’ll see how it goes.

4. Get an internship!

I’m hoping to get an internship at a publishing house this summer, so cross your fingers for me!

5. Finish my WIP

I’ve been wanting to write this book for eight months, and I’ve managed to put it off for a long, long time. So, IT’S TIME TO DO IT.


What are your favorite reads of 2016? What are some of your goals? I’d love to read them, so please share in comments!

LET’S DO THIS 2017!

09/24/16

Why moving to NYC is the best decision I’ve made

As most of you know, I moved to New York City a month ago for school. I’ve been living in the city since the end of August, and now I feel like I can do some early reflections on my time here.

My biggest reflection?

I’m so happy I came here.

Not only to Barnard, which is everything I could’ve dreamed of and more but to New York City as a whole. There’s something about living here that is so remarkably different from visiting and I don’t really know how to describe it.

I think it has something to do with the fact that when you visit a place, you’re in a rush to see everything, eat everything, do everything, and it’s impossible. But when you live in a place like New York City, there’s no rush. There’s always another weekend to go to a Broadway show, another evening to go out to dinner with friends, another afternoon to spend thrift-shopping in the Village. There’s enough time to do everything. And that takes the rush of MUST! DO! IT! ALL! off. For example, I’ve been here a month, and I haven’t even been to Central Park yet. Or a Broadway show. Or eaten at all the amazing places I want to go. Or spent any time on the East side.

But that doesn’t bother me. Instead, I think about it the way I did when I lived in Austin: oh, I have time to do that. There’s no rush. And that is such a refreshing feeling, especially when you’re in a city as wonderful as New York. It takes out the pressure of being in the city all day (exhausting) and lets you enjoy it at your own pace.

Which brings me back to why moving to New York is the best decision I’ve ever made.

There is no other time in my life I will be able to live on the Upper West Side for what I’m paying in Room & Board right now. There is no other time in my life I won’t have to cook OR go out for dinner (cafeterias y’all – they’re better than you think). There is no other time in my life when I am constantly surrounded by my friends and new people to talk to who WANT to talk. Living in New York City while you’re in college is such a valuable opportunity because you experience the city in a different way.

For me, I have a campus – a formal, gated campus. (If you go to NYU and most other schools in the city this isn’t the case.) This means that, usually, I spend about six out of the seven days of my week on campus. I stay in my little bubble of Morningside Heights and Columbia/Barnard. It’s quiet, there are students everywhere, and I spend zero money. But, on the days when I have less homework to do and feel like going downtown and getting lunch, or trying out a new bakery, or going to a coffee shop to study, I just hope on the subway and it takes me 15-30 minutes. And then I come home to my dorm room.

That is so unique. Having a respite in this busy, bustling city, and also not being bombarded with the city 24/7. Instead, you feel like you’re in your little college ecosystem, but you can venture into other ecosystems if you want, when you want, and on your own terms. And I love that part.

The other main reason I’m so happy to be here are the opportunities. I’ve already met amazing people (I met Adam Silvera at an event and died a bit) who can help me in my future career, and I can go to events I wouldn’t be able to go to if I was in Austin. (Ex: SIX OF CROWS LAUNCH PARTY ON MONDAY O M G.) Being connected to the book world is such an important part of my happiness, and so being here is just a dream come true.

So, in conclusion, I just want to reiterate how freaking happy I am to be here.

Like.

So happy.

And now I’m off to study some more because that’s all I do with my life. (And why I’ve read nothing since I’ve been here oooooops.)