Editor’s Letter

Hi, Rookies!

December’s theme is “Potential,” a word that can conjure both glowing, choral, Disney fireworks-over-a-castle feelings as well as extreme dread.


For as much as my brain is decked out in encouraging mottos (x-rays show it is actually a cork board from a very posi sorority house), I’ve also always resisted the expectation that people in high school ought to have their whole futures mapped out so that they may properly “live up” to their Potentials. George Saunders has spoken about feeling like he would not truly consider himself a writer until he wrote a story, and then it was once that story would be published, and then once it won an award, et cetera, so I imagine that unless some of Potential’s pressure is alleviated, it remains a source of anxiety until it bitterly gives way to regret, no matter how enriching a life you’ve led.

When we were discussing this theme, Lena described the pressure to reach your Potential and find your Passion, specifically as it’s shoved down your throat in high school: there’s an implication that “there’s a better version of you that you aren’t being at the moment,” at the same time that you’re constantly told to “be yourself.” In My So-Called Life, Angela says, “People always say how you should be yourself, like yourself is this definite thing, like a toaster or something.” In The Flick, Avery is asked why he’s depressed, and he says, “Are you serious?…Because everything is terrible?…And the answer to every terrible situation seems to be like, Be Yourself, but I have no idea what that fucking means. Who’s myself?”


It can be rewarding to shape Yourself from the outside in—I often use the way I dress to enact some kind of internal change, and artist reinventions like David Bowie’s can feel as real as they do performative. But thinking of Yourself as some tangible outside-person that you must imitate and measure everything against, is limiting. What if you find yourself passionate about something that doesn’t match this toaster-thing? I don’t think I ever love doing something because I’m like, “This is so typical me; very on-brand!” I love it because I love it, and because it allows questions of Who I Am to fall to the wayside. We have to spend our whole lives with ourselves, and so it’s thrilling when something can cause you to forget who you are or who you are trying to be, and then you come out on the other end with a newfound self-respect. It may not manifest as an extroverted personality or brazen confidence; just the gut knowledge that you have, in your life, taken immense pleasure in being a person, and are capable of doing so some more.

I’m frequently collecting ways to ensure that the blissful cork board that is my brain does not mutate into a big-ass silvery refrigerator used by parents to passive-aggressively impart motivation on their children in the form of Post-Its. Tracee Ellis Ross says, “I am learning every day to allow the space between where I am and where I want to be to inspire me and not terrify me.” Neil deGrasse Tyson told Rookie in 2012 that he was secretly disappointed that the Higgs boson particle was discovered, because it only confirmed physicists’ theories, and “sometimes when things go as you don’t expect them, major advances occur.” When asked if he’s ever intimidated by the vast percentage of the universe that we will never know much about, he said:

“The not knowing is the actual attraction of it. So many people only want answers. To be a scientist you have to learn to love the questions. You’ll learn that some of the greatest mysteries of the universe remain unanswered, and that’s the fun part. That’s the part that gets you awake in the morning and running to the office, because there’s a problem awaiting your attention that you might just solve that day. You have to embrace the unknown and embrace your own ignorance.”


“Living up to your Potential” may just mean going deeper into your uncertainty and immersing yourself in things that might not turn out to feel like Yourself but that you’ll learn from anyways. Being Yourself may mean letting your instincts respond and your synapses fire, and then if you need to summarize it into a 150-word college application essay after the thought, you will.

We have lots more thoughts about Potential over on our Submit page, and we want to hear yours, too, be they in the form of writing, photography, illustration, all of it! As always, ideas not directly related to this month are welcome, too. Your potential for making something great about the concept of potential is vast!!


Gifs by Christina Lee.

The Rookie Gift Guide: Grab Bag

There are certain people who defy easy holiday present–giving. It’s not like they have EVERYTHING—it’s just that it’s hard to pin down which material objects, exactly, complement their wonderfully specific and/or broad interests. For them (and for you, dear gifters!), we’ve compiled a list of stuff that is super fun but that doesn’t fall under any specific category. Reach into this grab bag of narwhal slippers, cat-print tote bags, and other generally awesome items, and you’re sure to find something that will make just about anyone’s eyes light up.

Upasna’s picks

minimergency kitMetallic Minimergency Kit
The other night at a party, I felt the back of my earring fall off and into my bra. I struggled to get it out—one hand holding my earring in place, one hand in my underthings—then watched it drop to the floor. Because it was dark, it was hopelessly lost. Luckily, tucked within my purse was this kit, which has backup earring backs! It also contains an emergency tampon (PHEW!), hair elastics, breath freshener, lip balm, pain reliever, a safety pin, and a whole bunch of other useful stuff! Throw one in a box with your bestie’s favorite candy, and I’m pretty sure it’ll save their day/night at least once, too. ($16, Pinch Provisions)

642 Tiny Things642 Tiny Things to Write About
For a high school graduation present, my friend Karina gave me a box. Inside was a shit-ton of Hershey’s Kisses, a sweet note, and this cute little book. It contains 642 writing prompts that I use whenever I’m stressed or feel writer’s block creeping in. Because I love it so much, and it’s so small, I carry it with me everywhere! I recommend it for family, friends, or anyone with a creative soul. ($12, Urban Outfitters)

Amber’s picks

narwhalusbheatedslippersNarwhal USB heated slippers
’Tis the season of cold toes, so you really can’t go wrong by giving someone a pair of slippers. This is especially true when those slippers are heated foot-warmers, and even more true when the heated foot-warming slippers are shaped like majestic narwhals—the unicorns of the sea. You plug these adorable, plushy slippers into a USB port to heat them up, and then slide your frozen toe-cicles inside for a cozy, narwhal-y good time. ($25, Smoko)

usbthermoelectriccoolerwarmerUSB thermoelectric cooler and warmer
For anyone who’s ever wanted to keep their personal soda supply both chilled and conveniently close, but doesn’t have the space or cash for a mini refrigerator, the thermoelectric cooler and warmer is the answer. Designed to resemble a retro fridge, this USB-powered beverage holder is tiny enough to place on your desk and will cool a single 12-ounce can down to a nice and refreshing 46 degrees Fahrenheit (or warm it up to 149 degrees, if that’s something you’re interested in). Aside from providing a way to avoid all the drink thievery that often goes down with communal refrigerators, the cooler/warmer is great for late-night, last-minute essay-writing or study sessions: If someone has this on their desk, they’ll never again have to make the epic, Lord of the Rings–esque journey to the kitchen to grab a cold, caffeinated drink. ($20, Think Geek)

Isabel’s picks

il_fullxfull.722416991_li8xButtons and pins with tons o’ slogans
These pins, by Word for Word Factory, make me feel like an internet-famous cyber-show idol. Basically, they’re sharable sayings to pin here and there, and there are so many sayings to choose from! (My favorites: “Dad Joke Champion” and “Feminist With a To-Do List.”) They make such great stocking stuffers, annnnnnd they’re a pretty good deal, I think—you can get three for $10! Word for Word Factory’s tagline is, “Fun stuff for people who laugh and cry.” If you’re getting something for anyone who falls under this audience, I suggest that you check these pins out! ($2–$10, Etsy)

BagguReusable tote bag
Sneaking Ben & Jerry’s ice cream into the movies cannot get any more fashionable and easy than hiding it in a Baggu bag. My older sister was sporting one when she visited from New York, and I fell in love. The standard size is pretty big: It can fit books, journals, and jackets all at the same time. The material is quite durable, and comes in many colors and patterns: cats, smiley-faces, elephants, oh my! You can carry one around as a statement piece. Did I mention that they’re machine washable? Another great stocking stuffer, as each one can be crumpled up into a smaller packet that fits in your pocket when it’s empty. Bonus: You can use a Baggu bag as wrapping for ANOTHER gift! Fill ’er up, twist the handles, and complete the look by tying the top with a bunch of ribbon or tinsel. ($9, Baggu)

Shriya’s picks

otterboxOtter Box
Do you know someone with serious butterfingers? I’m always dropping things, especially important things, which is why I love Otter Box, a smartphone and tablet case company that creates cases for devices by a variety of brands including Apple, Android, Samsung, and Blackberry. I drop my phone on the daily, and I’ve found that Otter Boxes hold up super well over time, whether a gadget is landing on a hard surface or dropping from an ear to the ground. They have four different series of cases, each one more protective than the last, and they also provide a one-year warranty that guarantees protection. ($20–$100, Otterbox)

headphone splitterHeadphone splitter
Headphone splitters were my saving grace in grade school. Listening to music with friends on long bus rides always meant only getting one earful of a song. And the worst: if my friend or I moved our head too far, the earbud would get yanked out of the other person’s ear. No fun at all. A headphone splitter solves that problem so wonderfully by creating two jacks for two people to plug their own headphones into. This means that you and a pal get to have the full listening experience and still have room to boogie without worrying about anyone losing out. ($5–$15, Bestbuy) ♦

Hold a Feeling: An Interview With Eileen Myles

Illustration by Alyssa Etoile.
Illustration by Alyssa Etoile.

When I had just started college and was getting interested in contemporary poetry, I emailed my favorite poetry professor for a list of recommendations. He sent back a bunch of names, and Eileen Myles was at the top of the list, distinguished from the others by an exclamation mark following her name. Several books later, I wrote back to thank him for the list and said, “Yes! Eileen Myles! I see why she was distinguished with an exclamation mark now!”

The exclamation mark, as punctuation, is an explosion in your brain and heart that inflects whatever is attached to it. That’s what Eileen Myles’s poetry is like: a burst that can be felt and performed, but is impossible to box away or neatly categorize. Her work is so funny, so witty, so punch-you-in-the-stomach sad, so past-midnight love-y, so late-summer-afternoon sexy.

I spoke with Myles while she was “prancing around in a suit” and getting ready to go to the White House, but she took the time to talk about her two new releases: the reissue of her 1994 novel, Chelsea Girls, and her fabulous collection of poems, both old and new, titled, I Must Be Living Twice: The New and Selected Works of Eileen Myles.

I want to start by asking you about the relationship between these two books and your other books. And when I ask this question, I’m thinking of how French or Spanish words enter the English language as “loan words,” but they retain their history while taking on new meaning. I’m wondering how a poem like “Peanut Butter” or “An American Poem” is different when it’s in a collection like Not Me [1999] and then how it might change when it enters I Must Be Living Twice?

It’s in a bigger river that I’m getting carried by at this time. The conclusions of the poems seem different. I don’t read that poem [“An American Poem”] much at all, or haven’t, up until recently, because it’s so much like my calling card. A lot of people know me through that poem. I’ve been on this tour and of course I wind up in Dallas, and I’m like, do I read it in Dallas? And also, what does Kennedy mean to a new generation? Kennedy meant something so specific to people in the ’80s and ’90s, people who came up in the ’60s and ’70s, and it’s like, does it even have the same punch? One of the things about having a new collection is that it gets mixed in with all the other days and months and years of poems and times, and you basically get to check what it’s flowing against in the world right now. Does it work? And I’m finding it does, but I think it works differently. Everything does. “Peanut Butter” was always one of my favorite poems but nobody made much of it. Suddenly it’s a coping poem, and I guess because of social media. People post it on social media and a lot of people who don’t know [my] work at all know that one poem. And then it becomes, do I read that? I know people really like this poem.

I think the whole cloud of this book is maybe figuring out how to be a poet differently. I’ve never been obscure. I’ve always been known in the poetry world and known in the queer world, but we all live in these different containers of community. Suddenly, I’m sort of thrown into this wider one. As a poet, you don’t think of yourself as having standards, like, “sing ‘Like a Rolling Stone’!” It’s funny to be that person. I get to play with my own oeuvre, so to speak, read it when I’m in the mood, be a little draggy. I’ve had much more of an experience of myself as a performer with this book. Because I do need to read the older work, and I love reading the older work, but it’s a different performance.

Do you think it’s a different poem each time you perform it?

Oh yeah. Because I wrote [“An American Poem”] in the ’80s, and it didn’t come out until the early ’90s, so yeah absolutely. It’s absolutely different.

You straddle so many genres in your work, and you do it very gracefully, often creating new ones at times, such as “a poet’s novel.” Chelsea Girls calls itself a “novel,” and I’m wondering what the term novel means to you, and how it’s different from “a poet’s novel,” or the genre of poetry?

With this publication of Chelsea Girls, to say “a novel” is just a bigger grab. A few years ago, I remember being with a friend—I can’t remember what book of mine we were talking about, but I was with a guy and a woman—and at some point she said, “Why do you call it a novel?” I was thinking, What should I say?, and my friend leaned forward and said, “Because she says so!” And it’s just that. As an artist you get to determine. I get to wield genre as a way to control [the audience’s] apprehension of my work. But I also love fiction, I love novels, I’ve read more novels than nonfiction. In a way, the act of saying a book is a novel instead of a memoir is also saying, “This is writing, this is art. I want to be perceived that way,” as opposed to someone saying, “Did that really happen to you?” I don’t want that conversation.

Totally. That makes me think of what gets to be considered writing. There are so many platforms now, but only some forms become “writing.” I think about this with emails all the time, because I spend so much of my day writing emails. So I got some of my friends together and we did a poetry reading series where we all just read our emails.

Oh, how great! I love that.

It was really fun! But also cool to see how an email sounds like a poem when it’s read in the context of a reading series. And you’ll often hear, “young people don’t write, young people don’t care about poetry!” But you can see writing and poetry all over Tumblr and Twitter.

We live in an incredible day of language. I write about art as well as fiction and poetry, so I was writing this essay about a visual artist. I was at this [visual artist’s] performance and suddenly my girlfriend texted me. Then suddenly, this guy texted me about coming to some other event, and I just thought it was so apropos in my essay for a catalogue to include the texts exactly as is. They’re sort of performed as poems inside of the essay because of the way they were a smaller window in a larger spread of language. They took us out of a space and returned us back to the space, which is what texts do all the time, or what a tweet does. You know, you’re walking along and you get a text from your friend that’s so funny. We keep being changed by language in such radical ways that I think the possibility of poetry is totally enhanced by that. So is it a tweet, or is it a poem? We don’t know. We only know by what we get to say and where we choose to present it and how we choose to present it. It’s so much about performance.

A lot of people who have more fixed ideas about genre find that so upsetting. And that’s great, too. Because all those walls really need to be taken down. The notion of what’s literary is the least interesting notion I can think of. Social media, film, television, music, everything that’s just streaming and pouring is the world we live in. The language that can be part of that is the language that’s going to survive in our time. The term “literary” doesn’t work for those of us who still want to use forms like poem and novel and nonfiction. It might be great to call everything nonfiction except for poems and novels. It would be great to put social media in nonfiction.

That calls to mind, for me, the question of all the “selves” you play with in your writing. I see a tripartite Eileen—

[Laughs] Thank you.

And because Chelsea Girls is a novel, and it’s not nonfiction, we have to assume that the Eileen of Chelsea Girls is not the Eileen that I’m talking to right now.

She’s a fictional character; I refer to her as the Eileen Myles character a lot.

What is the relationship between the character Eileen of the books, Eileen the poet or the performer, and then the Eileen that eats, and wears sweaters?

Well that’s a question of how we present ourselves privately and publicly and socially.
One of the most depressing things my mother ever said was, “Don’t do anything you wouldn’t do in front of your mother.” I was like, “Well, that certainly limits my existence.” Just to be a self, I must do things I wouldn’t do in front of my mother. All of life is like that. There’s certainly an intimate Eileen for the people I’m really close to, and the people I love, and my lovers, and my family. And then the one who teaches, and the one who rides the subway. There’s the anonymous Eileen, of course, they’re just citizens.

It’s funny, right now I’m in D.C, not so much under my own steam but because my girlfriend created Transparent, so we’re here for Trans Day at the White House. I’m here as a date, going on a press junket. I’m different! It’s like a whole other performance. What you’re describing is something we all normally do; I’m just asserting it in an extra way by putting my name in my work.

I still think the transformative powers of language are such that me in an employment line as Eileen Myles and me in a poem are not the same Eileen Myles. Language is magic and transforming; language does replace a certain kind of loss. The real space you’re standing in doesn’t exist in the same way when you say your name. You’re in some room, and we’re going around the room all saying our names, and suddenly it’s that moment when you have to say your name. It’s awkward, and uncomfortable. It’s not the same once you bust that barrier of the self.

Does this idea of names as context-specific with changing meanings have anything to do with gender?

It does, and it’s really interesting, I was just thinking as I was speaking that a name functions as a pronoun, and a shifting pronoun. Do we call you “he” or “she” or “they”? I know that my own escape hatch, lately, has been, “I think I’m the gender of Eileen.” It’s sort of evasive, but it’s very particular. The collectivity of the single me would be the most apt pronoun in a way, for who any of us might be.

I’m fascinated by the different images of you on the covers of your various books. In this interview with Vulture, you talk about Chelsea Girls as an exorcism, which seems very Picture of Dorian Gray to me. The idea that your photo, or whatever you’re putting between the pages, has your soul, and one thing is preserved while something else deteriorates or changes. What is exorcised during the process of writing, and what happens to the self when it is written and published?

God, I think, in a way, it’s a bit of a sacrifice. It’s a little bit like giving something to the gods and losing a little bit as a human—certainly if you write about an existence that resembles your own, and you tell that story repeatedly and people consume that story. Then when you as a human need to tell someone about when your father died, they have that glazed-over look, and you feel like you’re repeating yourself. You realize you become redundant, because the original has now become the work. There is a self-thievery accomplished by this act of publicly sharing intimate stories of your existence. It becomes everybody’s existence and in some way not yours.

How does one practice self-care when using the self as a subject?

I think you keep writing. Or [do] all the things one does to take care of the self. You meditate. You do things in which you ask whole other questions that have nothing to do with writing, like, “What am I?” Not, “Who am I?” but “What am I?” Something that’s just breathing and it’s alive and it’s sometimes male and sometimes female and sometimes sleeping. Being an artist and a writer, at a certain point in time you feel, Well, what about me? because the care of the self has not been a priority. I mean, that’s a real struggle and it’s something that I continue to have to turn around. Maybe in the last 10 years I thought, Oh, you have to take care of yourself, and figuring out what constitutes that. I bought a house in Texas so I can have a place to go to, and now the big problem is, when do I go there? Each solution is like a new puzzle.

November Collages

Saturday Printable: Greeting Cards

Slip these greeting cards, hand-doodled by Paloma Link, into lockers, under doors, inside math books, or anywhere you want to surprise a friend by telling them they’re the best, basically.

Go right this way to download the first page of cards:


And here to get the second:


A hint for the dotted lines on each page: Cut through the vertical one, then fold on the ones that are left over. ♦

Dear Diary: November 27, 2015

My sister and I leading a conservation project, while trying to conserve our dignity amidst the awkwardness. —Ella Carlander
My sister and I leading a conservation project, while trying to conserve our dignity amidst the awkwardness. —Ella Carlander


I feel stuck in a state of a OK-ness, of fine—but fine isn’t enough. Read More »


Some of the discussions were heated, some even ended with me having to say goodbye to people I’ve known for years. Read More »

Life Soundtrack: Hilton Als

Illustrations by Elly Cactei.
Illustrations by Elly.

Hilton Als is the author of the books The Women and White Girls and is a theater critic and writer for The New Yorker. The way he recounts experiences such as love, art, grief, and friendship can make a person feel like they are understanding, for the first time, subjects they already know painfully, blissfully well. Here, he introduces us to some of the songs that have shaped his life, much of which has been lived in New York City.

1. “Trains and Boats and Planes” by Dionne Warwick

This song is so important to me on so many levels. I must have first heard it hanging out with my four older sisters who are much older than me; they’d play 45s while they got dressed to go out. Dionne was a perennial favorite, in part because she was so witty about longing—in the songs she sang written by Hal David and Burt Bacharach everyone was a fool for love. “Trains” made an indelible impression on me; the rhythm of the words influenced how I saw and felt words.

2. “Got to Be There” by the Jackson 5

Growing up we lived in a number of different neighborhoods in Brooklyn, but this song always brings to mind my adolescence, which happened in Crown Heights. I was in love with a guy named Arnold; he had black curly hair, and he lived near us. It was summer; I must have been 12 or 13 (the song came out in 1972), and I used to go to Arnold’s house and watch him sleep. I was intoxicated by his smell. “Got to Be There” played on the radio and it was every moment that I spent watching Arnold nap and waiting for him to wake up and see me and hopefully love me.

3. “Do the Du” by A Certain Ratio

I loved my friend Valda who died of cancer almost 10 years ago now. She was one of the people who introduced me to New York nightlife. The city was very dangerous and exciting in the 1980s, and Valda was well known at the Mudd Club and Save the Robots. Save the Robots was an after-hours place, it had a basement and there, in the dark, you’d dance to wonderful English-based bands like A Certain Ratio that combined elements of ska with disco and disco with reggae. The beat carried you along, and before you knew it was almost six o’clock in the morning and time to eat pea soup at Veselka before you had to get dressed for work.

4. “Dig a Pony” by the Beatles

A surrealist masterpiece that means many things and nothing, too. It feels like the weirdest kind of ballad, but it’s faster than that. I can’t describe it musically but I think I first heard it when I was in my twenties (I was late coming around to the Beatles). I think what got my attention was how visual their words were, and the visual—that was so interesting to me. I was 22 and an art history major at Columbia University and the world was opening up culturally in many ways, and even though the Beatles were “old” they made me see how very new they always would be.

5. “He Was a Big Freak” by Betty Davis

For a time Betty Davis was married to the great jazz artist, Miles Davis. I didn’t really know her music until the early 1990s, when I was a DJ at a club called Bar d’O on Bedford and Downing Streets in the West Village. It was a great experience, a great small lounge where I played records; my payment was some scotch and amazing company. My friend, the artist Darryl Turner, lent me some of his records for those Friday night gigs—I was afraid of growing stale—and one of the records he gave me was this Betty David gem, which was, I learned, about one of her lovers: Jimi Hendrix.

6. “Human Behavior” by Björk

I was working as an Editor-at-Large at Vibe magazine then; Björk’s first solo album, Debut, was released in 1993 and it was like hearing a voice you recognized and didn’t recognize all at once—something you remembered hearing from the womb, really. She hit hard in part because she was that rare thing: a singer who talked about her optimism, and desire for more: more love, more fun. We tried to have that energy in the pages at Vibe, and I look back at that time as extraordinary and beautiful and filled with hope: we reported on a multicultural world that was just beginning to make itself known, really.

7. “Simple Twist of Fate” by Bob Dylan

As with the Beatles, it took me many years to understand Bob Dylan (I am not partial to guitars) and it was his shattering ability with words that finally got to me. Also how much narrative sense he makes. My best friend and greatest love, Kevin (he died in 1992; AIDS), loved Dylan and so many artists I had not been exposed to previously. I can’t remember when I first heard this song, but I relate it to Kevin, and my love for him. I think of him every day. This song feels like my yearning for him.

8. “Love Has Fallen on Me” by Chaka Khan

When Kevin died, I played this song every day for him for years. Because everything the incomparable Chaka sings here we lived. I think we still live it.

9. “I’m Hip” by Blossom Dearie

I live in New York still and I never miss an opportunity to imagine that everything Blossom embraces/makes fun of is still possible. ♦

The Rookie Gift Guide: DIY Presents

DIY gifts for days!
DIY gifts for days!

When it comes to holiday gift giving, nothing spells l-o-v-e like a DIY present. In this latest installment of Rookie’s gift guides, Emma Dajska will show you how to make a teeny-tiny chest of drawers to fill with teeny-tinier treasures, Savana Ogburn has instructions on how to make a day-brightening pom-pom keychain, and Esme Blegvad demonstrates how to make a party cracker that is festive as heck. Each is an ideal gift for a sibling or best pal—you might also decide to keep these crafterpieces for Y-O-U.

Emma’s miniature chest of drawers


The idea for this DIY comes from one of my favorite childhood books, Pippi Longstocking. In the book’s first chapter, Pippi befriends two neighborhood kids, Tommy and Annika, and invites them over for pancakes. After dinner, Pippi has one more surprise:

“Pippi invited them to step into the parlor. There was only one piece of furniture in there. It was a huge chest with many tiny drawers. Pippi opened the drawers and showed Tommy and Annika all the treasures she kept there. There were wonderful birds’ eggs, strange shells and stones, pretty little boxes, lovely silver mirrors, pearl necklaces, and many other things that Pippi and her father had bought on their journeys around the world. Pippi gave each of her new playmates a little gift to remember her by. Tommy got a dagger with a shimmering mother-of-pearl handle and Annika, a little box with a cover decorated with pink shells. In the box there was a ring with a green stone.”

To celebrate your best buds, new and old, you can create a micro-version of Pippi’s chest of drawers by glueing matchboxes together and filling them with the tiniest of gifts.

What you’ll need:


  • Empty matchboxes (As few as three will be enough; I used eight.)
  • Multipurpose glue
  • Decorative papers
  • Ink or paint in whatever colors you like
  • Paintbrushes (one for glue, and one for paint)
  • A ruler
  • A pencil
  • Scissors
  • Small beads and/or buttons (I used googly eyes because my bead collection disappeared mysteriously)
  • Ribbon, stickers, markers, glitter, and other decorations galore (optional)

How to make the chest:

Refer to this photo for Step One and Step Two.
Refer to the left side of this photo for Step One, and the right side for Step Two.

Step One

Stack the matchboxes in a one- or two-column cube, so that the short, “drawer” sides of the matchboxes face you.

Step Two

Glue the boxes together. The easiest way to do this is to go column by column. For each column, glue the top side of a matchbox to the bottom side of the matchbox above it. Once all of the matchboxes in a column are glued together, tightly secure the whole column with a rubber band and wait until the glue is completely dry. When all of the columns are finished, glue them together on their broad sides (each column’s short/drawer sides should still be facing you).

Step Three


Measure enough paper to wrap around the four non-drawer sides of the chest, then cut the paper to that size. (The diagram above is a guide for cutting the paper, if that helps.) Glue the paper to the box, one side at a time, starting with what will be the bottom side and going all the way around:


Step Four


Now, decorate! I added some stickers and tied a ribbon around the chest to give it that holiday-present look.

How to make the drawers:

Step One


Coat the outsides of the sliding boxes in whatever colors of paint or ink that you like! If you want to get fancy, you can also paint the insides.

Step Two

Once the paint/ink dries, place all of the drawers back into their slots. Now, decorate again! I cut a tiny piece of paper to glue to the front each drawer:


And then added googly eyes where handles would normally go:


If this thing had cheeks, you’d want to pinch ’em!

Fill the drawers with tiny treasures like candy, stickers, notes, novelty erasers, and whatever else your heart desires to bestow upon a friend, whose socks will be charmed all the way off by this gift!


Happy Thanksgiving, Rooks! We’ll be posting just once today, to give our staff a break for the holiday. Speaking of breaks: If you happen to need a mental escape from the day’s festivities, or a fun thing to do in general, we’ve got a li’l something for you…

Sandy and Dylan wrote fill-in-the-blanks stories (aka RookLibs, which are based on these classics), and Esme made ’em look cute. Each story has a list of parts of speech, and you supply words based on whatever pops into your brain. Fill those words into the corresponding blanks in the story, and the result tends to be randomly absurd enough to make a person snort-laugh. Try it on your own, or huddled in an olds-free corner somewhere with your siblings, cousins, or friends!

The stories are included on the following pages. We recommend filling in the words before you take a peek, for maximum enjoyment.

Here’s the parts-of-speech list for the first story, by Dylan:

1. Number
2. Number
3. Span of time
4. Plural noun
5. Plural noun
6. Name
7. Verb
8. Verb
9. Plural noun
10. Plural noun
11. Year
12. Adjective
13. Adjective
14. Adjective
15. Span of time, plural (example: years)
16. Adverb
17. Noun
18. Proper noun
19. Past-tense verb
20. Proper noun
21. Verb
22. Noun
23. Name
24. Adjective
25. Adjective
26. Verb
27. Adverb
28. Name
29. Name
30. Name
31. Location
32. Span of time, plural
33. Noun
34. Noun
35. Past-tense verb
36. Plural noun
37. Location
38. Adjective
39. Adjective
40. Span of time, plural
41. Noun
42. Noun
43. Noun
44. Adjective
45. Year
46. Adjective
47. Verb
48. Noun

And the list for the second story, by Sandy:

1. Exclamation
2. Noun
3. Noun
4. Name
5. Measurement of time (example: minute)
6. Noun
7. Plural noun
8. Plural noun
9. Verb
10. Name
11. Proper noun
12. Number
13. Verb
14. Adjective
15. Adjective
16. Name
17. Noun
18. Adverb
19. Noun
20. Name
21. Adjective
22. Noun
23. Noun
24. Plural noun
25. Name
26. Noun
27. Noun
28. Proper noun
29. Adjective
30. Verb
31. Name
32. Plural noun
33. Noun
34. Adjective
35. Name

Now amuse yourselves, scribes!

Dear Diary: November 25, 2015

I'm really digging this chilly weather. —Isabella Acosta
I’m really digging this chilly weather. —Isabella Acosta


The literary scene in my city, Davao, is thriving, and every year that LitOrgy is celebrated, I see and hear new faces and stories. It’s wonderful to think of what passion can make you do. Read More »


One of my best friends asks me three times if I want to learn a dance to one of her favorite songs with her. Read More »

The Rookie Gift Guide: Good Reads

Don’t fret if you haven’t decided on what to give your beloved bookworms this holiday season. We’ve compiled some of our favorite novels, poetry collections, and zines, all of which would make excellent presents. There’s something for everyone: the mystery lover, the budding poet, the romantic, the fan of comics. This reading material is bound (HA HA) to put a smile on the face of the reader who receives it.

Stephanie’s picks

The Foxglove KillingsThe Foxglove Killings
Tara Kelly
2015, Entangled Teen

This book begins on a playground, with the discovery of a dead deer’s head, and a foxglove placed in its mouth. Then one of the Cakes—what the locals of Emerald Cove call the rich kids who vacation in their coastal Oregon town—disappears and turns up murdered, with a foxglove in her mouth, too. Seventeen-year-old Nova’s best friend Alex is a suspect. Even though Alex has been acting weird lately, Nova refuses to believe he’s capable of murder. The only one who sides with her is her longtime enemy Jenika. This isn’t just a suspenseful page-turner set against a gorgeous and creepy Pacific Northwest backdrop: It’s a story populated with nuanced, challenging characters that deals realistically with class differences. The Veronica Mars and Twin Peaks fans in your life will love it, and if you come from a family of mystery readers like mine, it’s a good gift for just about everyone. ($14, Entangled Teen)

Salt Is For CuringSalt Is for Curing
Sonya Vatomsky
2015, Sator Press

Salt Is for Curing is a book of poems that fill you up. They acknowledge hollow and aching places. They make you hungry—hungry for self-reclamation, for survival. They serve up fairytales—Little Red Riding Hood, Baba Yaga—in a way that feels so personal, so empowering. (“And if you come across a wolf, you go by/And if you come upon an oracle, you go by,” reads A girl’s guide to adventuring.) They are a chant, a challenge, an incantation. (“Loves me/And then what/Loves me not/And then what,” Mouth-off (II) repeats for more than two pages.) When I finished this book, I felt like I’d tapped into some deep inner magic—like this wasn’t just a chapbook, it was a spellbook. It’s the perfect gift for new friends that you want in your coven. Read it in the winter, make magic come spring. ($15, Sator Press)

Tayler’s pick

Daniel José Older
2015, Arthur A. Levine Books

I heard of this book in passing, and when Amandla Stenberg name-dropped it in her interview with NYLON, I had to check it out. Without giving too much away, the book is about Sierra Santiago. She’s a young artist in Brooklyn, and her summer gets turned upside down after the murals in her Brooklyn community start to fade and weep. She then learns of shadowshaping, and subsequently realizes the murals contain the spirits of her ancestors. What really struck me about this book was that the protagonist is not only a teenage Afro-Latina, but the author doesn’t make her some throwaway character. Her culture is central to her story, and for once a girl is the hero. Also, her crew of friends are a reflection of the people within my own community. The great care Older takes in making sure the representation is thorough and doesn’t ring hollow is to be applauded. It’s a step in the right direction, as YA fiction is actively seeking to be more inclusive, as it should be. There’s so much to unravel and enjoy—be it the supernatural storyline, the relatable characters, and the underlying commentary on gentrification and cultural appropriation. ($13, Amazon)

Estelle’s picks

An Ember in the AshesAn Ember in the Ashes
Sabaa Tahir
2015, Razorbill

If you’re picking up something for a reader who tends to devour rather than meditate on a book, this magical fantasy novel (the first in a series) is my tip. In the Empire, children are taken away from their families to train as Masks, who brutally subdue and rule the downtrodden Scholar people. Laia, an orphaned Scholar girl, vows to find and free her brother from their tyranny. When she agrees to spy on the trainees for a group of rebels who also oppose the Empire, she meets Elias, a Mask who is beginning to question his cruel duties. Their missions entwine across their differences as they work against oppression. For those who are pro-good and anti-evil (haha, trick question), lay your paws on this addictive tale. ($20, Penguin Random House)

Sara Jaffe
2015, Tin House

End-of-year holidays are perfect for settling down with a dreamy read. This coming-of-age novel by Sara Jaffe (who used to play guitar for Erase Errata) is perfect for you or a bookworm you know, with its gentle tendrils of feeling about love and growing up.

Teenager Julie Winter’s older brother, Jordan, is a swimming superstar who almost made the Olympics. When Alexis—yearbook editor and also a swimmer—starts becoming friendly, asking Julie to join the swim team, Julie basks in the warmth of her notice and develops feelings for her that she can’t name. Everything about this book, from Julie’s tentative recognition of her sexuality (and the internal chaos that follows) to the beautiful rendering of swimming pools and their damp surroundings, seems real. That’s because everything in the novel feels important but not important at the same time, which is one of the great mysteries of experience I haven’t been able to solve yet. ($15, IndieBound)

Annie’s picks

First Year HealthyFirst Year Healthy
Michael DeForge
2015, Drawn & Quarterly

Toronto cartoonist Michael DeForge tells a story of illness and escape in this beautiful, allusive book, filled with inviting visual details. Pastel yellows and pinks drive the palette in this strange and sweet little hardback. It feels like a kids’ book that holds dark secrets, and keeps them just out of view. ($16, Drawn & Quarterly)

My Anxiety is My LoverMy Anxiety Is My Lover
Joyce Hatton
2015, Self-published

Philly artist Joyce Hatton looks at her relationship with anxiety in this zine-y comic, or comic-y zine. She slyly personifies an abstract feeling into an almost tangible presence. Through open visual layouts and hand-lettering, Joyce explores anxiety in response to issues around sexuality, race, addiction, and abuse. While it’s a difficult read, it helped me feel less isolated in my own struggles with anxiety. ($2, Big Cartel)

Shriya’s pick

The God of Small ThingsThe God of Small Things
Arundhati Roy
1997, Random House

The God of Small Things is not written in chronological order. It doesn’t have just one protagonist. It doesn’t have just one story line. It hops back and forth, traveling in time and space, from person to person, describing the life of a broken family living in South India in the 1960s, a time that was ridden with the caste system and Communism. The novel weaves together the perspectives of children and adults, nature and God, morals and organized religion. It’s written so lyrically that the prose feels like poetry, with its vivid descriptions of the landscapes and sights and smells. The story follows twins Rahel and Esthappen and the many losses they face in their lives, including their father, cousin, and mother. And while death is at the core of the tale, the book is at times quite uplifting and even comical, showing us that not everything is all good or all bad, all happy or all sad. ($10, Amazon)

Diamond’s picks

Other People's ComfortOther People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up at Night
Morgan Parker
2015, Switchback Books

Ever so-often, a critic will proclaim poetry dead. Morgan Parker’s poems are here to let you know that poetry is very much alive. Her poems hit you right in the chest—in the best way possible. These poems are hilarious, sad, fun, and profound. Parker touches on lost loves, mental illness, the absurdity of reality television, and more in this book. I was in a dark place the first time I read this book. I took comfort in poems that spoke so realistically about pain and happiness, and didn’t take themselves seriously. You won’t find these poems in English class (but you should). ($16, Switchback Books)

The Turner HouseThe Turner House
Angela Flournoy
2015, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

The Turner House is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. It is a magnificently written story of family, triumph, and loss. The story of the Turners, their house on Yarrow Street, and the rise and fall of Detroit will pull at your heart strings. I found myself laughing and crying at various times while reading this novel. With its themes of family, coming of age, loss, and love, this book is an ideal read to devour during winter break. The Turner House is Flournoy’s first book and has been nominated for a dizzying array of awards. She is a burgeoning literary star, and I can’t wait to read more of her work. ($23, Powell’s Books)♦

Life Syllabus: Kelela

Gif by Alyssa Etoile.
Gif and all subsequent illustrations by Alyssa Etoile.

Since Kelela first appeared in Rookie in 2013, in an interview with Julianne Escobedo Shepherd, the artist has released two EPs; the first, Cut 4 Me, and the latest, Hallucinogen, which is BRILLIANT. We knew that she would have many gems to share in a Life Syllabus, the Rookie feature in which wonderful people assign us crucial reading, viewing, and listening.

When she discussed her choices over the phone, Kelela described them as, “geared toward my experience as a woman of color, as a visible artist who happens to be a woman of color. What tends to happen when you become visible and you happen to have been black your whole life is that your identity has to be built with even more rigor. I have to really know what I think and feel about my reality, because a lot of people are trying to construct it for me. I needed tools that would allow me to navigate that.” So, here is Kelela’s jam-packed tool box, aka her Life Syllabus:


adrian copy

“Cornered” is a visual and conceptual work by the artist Adrian Piper. The video of Piper’s performance is no longer online, but what’s written here, and in the image below, is what she says to the camera. It’s quite powerful. It’s an unassuming video—one of the best things I’ve ever seen, and one of the best things I’ve ever read, also.

This work is significant for a few reasons. It’s situated between an academic piece and a performance-art piece, and that relates to the fuzzy line that exists between those two modes. When I saw it I remember feeling, Oh my god! Hah! I’m such a rookie—no pun! I can’t believe that’s allowed, and that was made in 1986! It’s important to me to be able to look up to certain people artistically but also substantively, for what they’re saying.

Adrian Piper is a woman of color, who is not always visibly black. The “visibility versus identity” that she addresses, comes from an important positionality that is quite specific to the United States. It’s not that we’re the only country that has this phenomenon—we’re not—but this is one of the places where you can take a look at how race is such a construct. If you can have people who look like Adrian Piper, who are black in this country, then no one is unquestionably and “purely” white. Her existence—one’s identity, and how it’s built, by virtue of existing—starts to disrupt how other people think of themselves. That’s a really interesting phenomenon. Her story is the story of the country. It’s not all of our personal narrative, but it’s our reality, which she exists within. We have to engage that.

Adrian Piper, My Calling (Card) #2, White business card with printed text, 2” x 3.5”, 1986. Image © Adrian Piper Research Archive, Berlin.
Adrian Piper, My Calling (Card) #2, White business card with printed text, 2” x 3.5”, 1986. Image © Adrian Piper Research Archive, Berlin.

Creative Prompt: Fantasy Dinner Party

Illustration by Ana Hinojosa.
Illustration by Ana Hinojosa.

The holiday season can mean more parties and gatherings with family, friends, or classmates than usual. Sometimes—even if you love the people you’re with—you may find yourself wishing you were somewhere else. I (Stephanie) have spent a lot of time in my own head at Thanksgiving dinner, reimagining what was going on and making it more interesting. (Sorry, fam, I do love you, I’m just…creative?)

Now is your chance to host a fantasy dinner or holiday party! Who would you invite? Famous people? Aliens? Owls and rabbits and bears that dress up and talk? Tell us all about these guests! Or maybe you envision hanging out with your own family, but something MAJOR happens, like an asteroid hits Earth, or there’s some wild, soap-opera–level drama, like the discovery of a long-lost family member or a secret fortune. (OMG, I want to be at a family dinner where my mom announces that she is actually, like, a James Bond–style spy and has been amassing wealth from her secret spy jobs, and she owns a castle in Scotland…or something.)

Write a story, poem, or screenplay about your dinner party, or draw or collage the scene, and please send it to us (along with your first name, last initial, age, and city) to [email protected] with the subject line “Creative Prompt” by Monday, November 30 at 6 PM EST.

Last week, we asked you to be the mother of an invention. Here’s what you brought into the world…

Dear Diary: November 24, 2015

I'm having a lot of stress and anxiety lately but I know I can get through this. —Jao San Pedro
I’m having a lot of stress and anxiety lately but I know I can get through this. —Jao San Pedro


This could be my way of rejecting my mother’s authority, or revolting against my old, well-organized world—I do not know. Read More »


I do not want to be strong anymore. I spend 95 percent of my days wishing I could lay my burdens down in someone’s lap and just cry for the rest of my life. Read More »

The Rookie Gift Guide: Pretty Things

As you have likely noticed, the holidaze are fast approaching. If our modern rites of gift exchange have you flummoxed (perhaps you have NOT A SINGLE CLUE as what to buy your nearest and dearest?), we’ve got your back. Over the next couple weeks, we’ll feature a heap of gift guides, chock-full of ideas for presents you might give your best people.

First up: Beauty and style products that your loved ones can apply to their faces or necks or feet or general bodies.

Alyson’s picks

13189744_Alt01-1Lip Smacker Party Pack (Bonne Bell)
Lip Smackers are my favorite thing to give and to get. They are my mom, my best friend, and my boyfriend—so why not give them to your mom, BFF, or boyfriend? The rainbow of flavors (Funnel Cake and Double Cheeseburger included) provide never-ending experimental and surprise value, while the lovely moisturizing formula remains consistent. With these Party Packs, you can give your lucky giftee eight Lip Smackers—each Smacker coming in at just a little over a dollar!

Although each store varies, popular Party Packs include Originals, Skittles, Starburst, Vintage flavors, and Disney. My brothers have loved every Coca Cola Lip Smacker present I have given (so much so, in fact, that I am 99 percent sure they have eaten one or two). Also, if there are multiple family members or friends who deserve the gift of tasty lips this season, buy one or two Party Packs and divide them among the people on your list. (Target, $8.80)

32533747_001_dHello Bunny Perfume Bar (Tonymoly)
Winter is only a concept in Southern California. Our mornings are below 30°F but the rest of the day is like “LOL JK, back to you, Susie 70°!” Read: What was once a cozy wearable blanket can quickly become a sweat-inducing tent ripe for SMELLZ. So, when I discovered Tonymoly’s Hello Bunny perfume stick, I hoped it would keep me from smelling like bad McDonald’s.

I have had the stick since the beginning of this school year, and it’s still going strong. A couple swipes on the inside of the wrists and behind the neck, and you’re set for good smells (for at least one class period), compliments, and even requests for a swatch from peers. There’s more: If you’re looking to show off the flippin’ adorable bunny packaging, go right ahead, but if you prefer to give the illusion that you naturally smell like sweet green tea (me), the stick form is perfect for a stealthy swipe here and there. As a gift, this little bunny stick of love is equal parts aesthetic and good stuff—a memorable and braggable gift. (Urban Outfitters, $14)

Marie’s picks

LINDA21WHT_MAINShelly mod bootie
I am completely obsessed with these all-white, mod-style booties from Echo Clubhouse. If you have a friend who truly believes they should have been born during the swinging sixties, who name-checks Mary Quant as a style inspiration, and who basically loves ALL things mod, these shoes are the ultimate present for them. Imagine wearing these babies with a psychedelic neon mini skirt, brightly colored tights, and flower hair clips?! It seriously is the quantessential sixties shoe! (Echo Clubhouse, $34.95)

il_570xN.873225434_bqeuWanda from Cry-Baby enamel pin
For stans of (Uncle) John Waters movies, this enamel pin is IT. Give this as a gift and your pal will be able to instantly spice up their outfit by accessorizing with one of Cry-Baby’s coolest characters—Wanda Woodward (played by Traci Lords). Wanda is the ultimate style icon with the most immaculate bangs in the world. Wear her on a shirt lapel or a denim jacket and you’ll be sure to scare off squares and creeps. This pin is illustrated by You Were Swell, who also made these amazing Halloween coloring pages! (You Were Swell, $8.50)

Amy Rose’s picks

Ultra-Matte-Jellies-300x300Colour Pop Ultra Matte Lip in Jellies and Tulle
My favorite lipstick colors are either so of this earth, so NATURAL-LOOKING, bro (an innocuous-looking rose shade, applied deliberately), or deeply extraterrestrial (any technicolor that leaves you with neon sign mouth). Is there is a beloved alien-person hybrid who deserves a perfect gift at YOUR Holiday’s Inn (what I’m calling winter now; it’s fine, let’s move on)? Colour Pop’s lip creams last as long as you need them to, and the formula has a sybaritic finish and feel that reminds me of really nice wall-to-wall carpeting. They’re $6 each and come in a universe of shades, meaning you can get two or even three, if you are feeling extra-generous and want to represent both land and space.

Should you go this interstellar route: I love Jellies, a rich, regal azure that borders on pre-nighttime-sky purple. Tulle, my other favorite, announces itself the exact opposite amount of Jellies, color-wise. It’s very “posh rug” in its own right. As a product name, “Jellies” is…fine, for now. Call it whatever you think your loved one would like on the wrapping paper, because who cares? (Your recipient, when you do the very sweet thing of naming a lipstick in their Holiday’s Inn honor. Also, maybe that last part is a potential option here? Holiday’s Inn Honor? Your friend would REALLY have to rule. Which I bet they do, so you can use it if you want.) (ColourPop Cosmetics, $6)

sephora_12Iridescent Holographic Glitter Spray
Excepting toothpaste, your recipient might just go ahead and replace every single one of their regular products with this. I would! (Sephora, $10)

Lola Nova’s picks

holographic fantasyCloud nine crystal infused pendant
These handmade necklaces have a baby blue charm that comes in the shape of a heart, star, flower, or crescent moon. According to Rachel, owner of the Etsy store that makes these pendants, each shape is “filled with a mixture of selenite, kyanite and aqua aura quartz. They have a very airy energy that is great for creativity and letting go.” These are perfect for entering a new year, and letting go of past grudges, stress, and grief. Give your BFF good vibes to spark their creativity and make a cute addition to their outfits. (Holographic Fantasy, $20)

10261209_hiDeath metal rainbow T-shirt
Do you have a friend (me!) who adores Marilyn Manson and everything pastel equally? Maybe they have trouble finding items that satisfy both loves? If you’re looking for a gift for someone who finds themselves in my predicament, then perfection has arrived. This baby pink, graphic T-shirt is the perfect oxymoron. Its angelic and cute cloud and rainbow motifs are balanced by the name of the heavy metal subgenre that serves combative drums and hostile vocals. This T-shirt is ACTUAL HARMONY. (Hot Topic, $20.50–$24.50)

Arabelle’s picks

strobing-medium-deep-300x300Cosmetics sets (ColourPop)
It’s hard to choose between ColourPop’s sets…so I didn’t! I’m a huge fan of this brand for its affordability, shade range, and quality across the board. None of the products I’ve tried from them have let me down, and with pricing at $5 a pop, the value they offer is hard to beat. The lipsticks and highlighter sets are really cute, and a great introduction if you (or the recipient of your gift) haven’t tried the brand before. So, the choice is yours—the lipstick bundles are well worth the price, but if you’re super into strobing, one of the strobing kits is the better bet—they make two, for different skin tones. Whatever you choose, this price point makes a lot more sense than blowing $100+ on a single fancy, limited-edition beauty product. (ColourPop Cosmetics, $30-$39)

71KU4ZCTeZL._SY355_SNP Cosmetics Sheet Mask Sets
I bought a bunch of these masks piecemeal during my last stay in Taipei and I have so much fun inviting my friends over to have face-mask parties with me. These are endlessly entertaining, they definitely help your skin glow, and your holiday party guests can pick which animal they want to be for the night—endless selfies and skincare self-care, what more does anyone need? (Amazon, $20 for eight)

The Run Down

Illustration by Beth Hoeckel.
Illustration by Beth Hoeckel.

I began running in middle school, in sixth grade. Over the course of junior high, I went from being someone who had to be forced to participate in Run Club, to being known as “the girl who runs.” I ran before school, and extra in P.E. I even became a T.A. for P.E. in eighth grade so that I could hop right back into my still-sweaty, mandatory workout suit and take to the track during an extra class period. In track meets, I set school records with my times. I was something of an athletic celebrity—or weirdo phenomenon. That’s not to toot my own tuba, necessarily; where people saw a dedicated, promising runner, there was, in reality, a deteriorating and dependent girl.

After four years of obsessive long-distance running (a quarter of my life, to give you some perspective), I quit. Since then, I’ve had to invent new ways to answer a question I’ve gotten again and again: “Why’d you stop?” I have gotten the feeling that, “I am struggling with depression and anxiety, and, for me, this sport is a trigger for both,” would not be an easily understood answer.


The peak—and absolute pit—of my running career happened during my freshman year of high school. For several years, our girls’ cross-country team has been hopping between first and fifth in national rankings. Despite this fact—more like because of this fact—my parents drove a wedge between me and my plans to run for the team with a marathon-sized “No.”

I understood why: There was my consuming obsession over monthly, timed mile runs in middle school P.E.; the anxiety and tears that followed suit could have been described as unhealthy. I understood their fear, but I also understood the force of will inside me. I decided to start practicing with the team anyway, behind their backs.

The summer before freshman year started, I had my friend pick me up at 7 AM every weekday morning so I could go run myself ragged at cross country practice, in the hopes of catching the attention of the famed and feared coaches. They were there to win and to make us into winners. During roll call on a hot day, I was exposed as a “rebel runner” (runner without a cause?)—meaning that I was there to run for the summer but wouldn’t be participating in the actual cross country season.

Flabbergasted, a coach serenaded me with praise for my talent and skill. He was apparently aware of my junior high reputation and had been dreaming of coaching me in high school. He kneeled on the ground before me, and asked me to reconsider. Never before had anyone—especially an adult male who wasn’t my dad—go on endlessly about how amazing, necessary, and special I was. At this point, it was up to my parents.

Upon meeting my folks at the end of practice, Coach went full car salesman on them. Needless to say, we didn’t leave without an agreement to let me run—and that is how this story was borne. The following three months were the beginning and the end of my high school running career.



Let’s flash back to the first race of the season. Only runners selected by Coach got to go, and I was one of them (having been declared “necessary” and “special” and all). The meet would require an overnight stay in another town, so I got to leave class early on Friday, which added to my growing sense that I was among the “better” runners. After all, Coach had projected me to be the fastest freshman girl, and my teammates knew it.

The moment I opened my eyes the morning of the race, a demon of a feeling—one that had been gaining power all summer during practice, and that I had been pushing down since middle school—pounded at the door.

There was no part of that meet that wasn’t painful. There was no part that wasn’t impacted by emotions that I desperately wanted to keep in check. Under 100 degree heat, my confidence eroded. I couldn’t stop shaking during warm-ups. During a warm-up lap before my race, I already felt too exhausted to pull a step ahead of a girl who was a foot in front of me. If she was ahead of me already, what did that mean for the race?

Tears blanketed my eyes while I waited on the starting line. I not only remember, but feel, the intensity of the demon-feeling as it reached peak power. My parents proudly smiled on the sideline, but I couldn’t smile back, and that confused them. I was a statue. How could a statue smile back at them, let alone run an immaculate race? I don’t remember what place I came in. I just know that as the fastest freshman, it wasn’t the place I was “supposed” to come in.

After I recovered from the wave of physical shock that resulted from running miles at one’s absolute fastest, I was hit by another shock: I felt like I was being dragged under a torrential sea of emotions. I didn’t want to cry or let anyone see what I was feeling. That would mean acknowledging that the demon-feeling had broken out. If my parents saw, the season would be over for me. I couldn’t allow that to happen because Coach said I was “supposed to” be one of the best. I grew to resent the idea of “supposed to.”

The Eerie Update: Mothman

Illustration by Kendra Yee.
Illustration by Kendra Yee.

Warning: Today’s Eerie Update, about a mythic figure known as Mothman, is so creepy that I had trouble sleeping after I wrote it! Proceed with caution if you are easily freaked out.

Legend has it that Mothman—a creature resembling a moth and a man, as its name nicely summarizes—roams the state of West Virginia, near a town called Point Pleasant.

Depicted here in this goosebumpadocious artist’s rendering, Mothman is generally considered to be a cryptid, which is a creature whose existence is believed by some, though not proven by the scientific community due to a lack of evidence. (Sasquatch and Chupacabra are other examples of cryptids.) There are some people out there, though, who believe Mothman is an alien, or an incarnation of evil. Yikes!

The first sighting of Mothman is believed to have been in a cemetery in Clendenin, West Virginia, on November 12, 1966. Five dudes were preparing a grave when they saw a large, human-like figure fly over their heads. They were convinced it wasn’t a large bird—it was some sort of humanoid creature. Three days later, on November 15, Roger and Linda Scarberry and Steve and Mary Mallette were driving around in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, about an hour away from Clendenin. As they went past the West Virginia Ordnance Works, an abandoned ammunition plant from World War II that locals nicknamed the “TNT Area,” they claimed to have seen a large, human-like creature with glowing eyes and 10-foot wings. They took off but saw the creature again, staring at them from atop a hillside. They sped away at over 100 miles per hour, but Mothman was able to keep up. Once they reached Point Pleasant, he disappeared. “It was shaped like a man, but bigger. Maybe six and a half or seven feet tall. And it had big wings folded on its back,” Roger Scarberry told police at the time. Linda Scarberry explained, “But it was those eyes that got us. It had two big red eyes, like automobile reflectors.” OH NO HE BETTER NOT WITH THOSE EYES!

More Mothman sightings were reported by other concerned citizens. Newell Partridge was in Salem, West Virginia when he had his reported encounter with Mothman. He said he was watching TV when the screen suddenly went dark. His dog, Bandit, started howling like crazy, so he went outside and saw Mothman’s glowing red eyes in the distance. Bandit ran across the yard toward the creature despite Newell telling him to come back. Sadly, the dog was never seen again.

Rumors began to spread about what Mothman could be. Some people thought it was a mutant creature created from a nearby chemical dump, while others thought it was part of “the Cornstalk Curse,” a hex believed to have been brought upon the region after a Shawnee leader was murdered in West Virginia’s Ohio River Valley in 1777. Local authorities wanted to attribute the Mothman sightings to an actual bird, a large sandhill crane that had just strayed from its migration route.

Paranormal writer John Keel heard the stories and traveled to Point Pleasant to gather information about Mothman from the witnesses. He ended up publishing a book in 1975 called The Mothman Prophecies, which subsequently inspired the 2002 movie of the same name. It was this movie that first got me interested in and fully freaked out about Mothman!

To me, the creepiest part about Mothman is how people believe he is connected to tragic events that have taken place after his sightings—almost like he is a harbinger of tragedy or an angel of death. On December 15, 1967, Point Pleasant’s Silver Bridge collapsed during rush hour, resulting in the deaths of 46 people. The incident caused Mothman believers to link sightings of him to the tragedy. Some believed he caused the bridge to collapse (that whole harbinger of death thing), while others believed he was trying to warn people.

People from around the world claim to encounter the mysterious Mothman to this day. YouTube is littered with questionable “Mothman sightings” such as this alleged sighting in New York and this incredibly long Easter egg hunt video that concludes with either a glimpse of Mothman or some kind of bug. As for Point Pleasant, the town has embraced its local legend with a Mothman Museum, an annual festival complete with a “Miss Mothman” pageant (imagine winning that title), and even a statue made in the creature’s likeness. It makes me wonder, just WHAT did all of those people actually see flying around in West Virginia in the ’60s? We may never know! ♦

Letting Go

Illustration by Maria Ines.
Illustration by Maria Ines.

I’ve been replaying moments in my mind: ones that have happened, and ones that I wish had. Maybe it’s because, over the past few months, I’ve been compelled to let go. Not wanting to let go, but needing to. It’s as if there’s been a force preventing me from taking a step further until I do: “Erika, no. No more. Deal.”

I look back at the times I’ve placed myself in the backseat and let boys who didn’t see my light, or their own, take the wheel. I look back at the times I stayed in relationships longer than I should have, to not hurt someone else. I look back and think, It should have been more about me than anyone else. I’m ready for that.

On October 21, Adele tweeted a manifesto of sorts to preview her much-anticipated third studio album, 25:

“I’m making up with myself. Making up for lost time. Making up for everything I ever did and never did. But I haven’t got time to hold on to the crumbs of my past like I used to. What’s done is done.”

I re-tweeted instantly, accompanied by the emoji of the girl with her hand raised high. Me. ADELE IS PLANNING TO SLAY ME WITH HER TRUTH…MY TRUTH. And that she did. When Adele released 25 on November 20, I let myself crumble, and face myself, in hopes of letting go.

If her last albums (19 released in 2008; 21, released in 2011) were about the love or pain felt right now; this one is about what could have been, or what will never be. Adele is letting go, but not without a fight. On the stripped-down album cut, “Million Years Ago,” she lets herself fall into her past, even though/especially because it’s no longer familiar:

“I know I’m not the only one who regrets the things they’ve done/ Sometimes I just feel it’s only me who never became who they thought they’d be/ I wish I could live a little more. Look up to the sky, not just the floor/ I feel like my life is flashing by and all I can do is watch and cry/ I miss the air, I miss my friends/ I miss my mother, I miss it when life was a party to be thrown/ But that was a million years ago, a million years ago.”

25 is deeper than being about a beloved; it’s about self-acceptance, and embracing both who you are and who you aren’t. “When We Were Young” finds Adele running into an old friend and reminiscing about a past that she longs to relive, as though to connect with herself and stay in the familiar:

“It’s hard to win me back/ Everything just takes me back to when you were there/And a part of me keeps holding gone just in case it hasn’t gone/ I guess I still care. Do you still care?”

It’s about “everyone that you’ve ever fallen out with, everyone that you’ve ever loved, everyone that you’ve never loved,” she tells Sirius XM.

A hard reality I’ve had to face, especially during the holidays, is the distance between me and my family and friends from home (Tracy, California). That’s not nearly as difficult as looking back and seeing the moments that could have been if I had stayed.

There’s a person in New York who I haven’t been able to let go of. I think of him when I listen to “Love in the Dark,” in which Adele leaves someone behind, in a gray area she can’t bear to reside in any longer (“I want to live, and not just survive”), and when I hear “Water Under the Bridge” (“If I’m not the one for you, why have we been through what we’ve been through?”). This is someone who I love, and who loves me, but not enough to choose me. Maybe I gravitated toward him because he’s from California, too, and has become my home away from home. Either way, I told him that I couldn’t do this anymore. I’ve been waiting for it to click for him, when I should’ve needed it to click for me.

While the path to “What if?” may feel familiar, it’s also tiresome, and never-ending. You have to get off at some point. You can be a daydreamer, and a realist. Before closing the album with “Sweetest Devotion,” an ode to her son, Adele belts a song about spending one last night with someone: “Let this be the way we remember us/ I don’t want to be cruel or vicious, and I ain’t asking for forgiveness/ All I ask is if this is my last night with you/ Hold me like I’m more than just a friend. Give me a memory I can use.”

25 is laced with lyrics possessing a pull so powerful, and straightforward enough to connect to. It’s about regret and reflection, and the inevitable: change. ♦

Club Thrive: Say What You Feel

Illustration by Alyssa Etoile.
Illustration by Alyssa Etoile.

A few years ago, an ex texted me on my birthday, after a lengthy, loaded silence between us. A text may not sound like a big deal, but hearing from him threw me off course. A madcap montage of the New York City summer we shared came to mind. His captivating, capricious persona had hit me like a silver lightning bolt when we met; before that summer was over, it made me feel like I was on a noxious see-saw.

I re-read the text as my new partner summoned me to cut my birthday cake in the other room. I motioned for him to wait and watched the fall leaves swirling outside the window. I recalled reading aloud to my ex from my favorite choreo-poem, Ntozake Shange’s For colored girls who have considered suicide/When the rainbow is enuf, and reciting “my love is too magic to have it thrown back on my face.” It hurt when he’d recklessly flung my love back at me, and being reminded of that pain made my stomach clench. After a big exhalation, I texted back: “Thanks. The leaves are changing, just like our lives.”

For months after I sent that message, I felt a sense of remorse. The rawness of my emotions informed my reply, which was firm but…gentle. Tepid, even. Logically, I knew I didn’t have to say thank you, or text back at all. The “good girl” values I’d adopted through years of Sunday School, and the Southern politesse of my upbringing, almost surely would have nagged at me if I hadn’t, though. My note about the “changing” we were both going through hinted at a truth I needed to speak: that I had moved on. It stopped short of saying that I didn’t want to be his friend, or even that friendly with him, because he had treated me in such a callous way. Even though I didn’t trust this person with the generosity of my heart, I felt genuine goodwill toward him—enough to spare his feelings by not expressing mine. I still cared, and I hated myself for it.

I share this story because it is only one example of my struggle to trust my own indignation for fear of seeming immature, or being deemed insensitive or rude. Over the years—at work, with friends, and with love—I’ve grown accustomed to saying or acting like I’m OK when I’m far from it. I can’t pinpoint the first time it happened, but like many women and girls, especially women and girls of color, I have been conditioned by dominant culture to dilute or de-prioritize my emotional needs in order to protect, forgive, or support people with more power and privilege than myself—in my case, men and white people.

As I unpacked why one seemingly minor text bothered me so much, I realized that this sort of internalized oppression deploys its stronghold in strange, unexpected ways. This re-initiation of contact brought back the feelings of disappointment, sadness, and anger I felt when someone who once felt like a best friend treated me like I was disposable. My response to his virtual olive branch came from a desire to draw a boundary and cut a psychic cord without doing harm—but that exact action made me uncomfortable because it showed I cared, that what happened mattered, and that something had hardened in me as a result—and honestly, I didn’t want to give him that.

I know my own worth, intrinsically, but there’s an inner dialogue that second-guesses my expressions of personal truth. It repeats on a loop in my head more often than I’d like to admit, like when I’ve drawn lines with difficult colleagues, friends who have offended me with their actions or words, or family members I’ve been in conflict with.

I was reflecting on this pattern during a training I participated in for work last month at a leadership institute. The curriculum devotes significant time to helping nonprofits and other social-change leaders navigate the art of “courageous conversations.” For hours, we practiced how to navigate the difficult conversations we often avoid having because of the discomfort they conjure up. Throughout the experience, I kept wondering about self-care for someone like myself, who is able to have these conversations but regularly feels badly about potentially hurting other people’s feelings or alienating them when I speak my truth. The tension between my need to speak freely and honestly, and my hyper-vigilance in wanting everyone to feel heard and seen (even when they are being hurtful), and to also practice the kind of compassion I want to see in the world, is palpable.

When I read this month’s email from Cassandra in New York about her experiences with “the politics of respectability,” and feeling conflicted about prioritizing her needs over pressures from friends, I knew that I was not alone in my struggle—and consequently, neither is she.

Cassandra wrote:

I’m a black first-gen lady, with parents from Haiti. Whenever I let my friends down (when I breach their trust in some way, or I drop the ball on something they really care about because I need to make some boundaries around my own self-care), it exacerbates my depression, and I can find it hard to be motivated to take care of myself. It has been easier for me to be direct with my friends about what is wrong and resolving our issues out in the open (in private messages), but when it comes to following up with an in-person meeting to apologize, they usually don’t have time.

I have come to expect that we may not have the time to make for in-person apologies, and [that we] take it on faith that our online communications can suffice. But when my friendships feel like they are in limbo like this, I can feel really scared, like the friendship is over and [my friends] are sick of me. During those periods, I can feel like it’s not worth it to take care of myself, and I can’t bring myself to eat or exercise. It can confirm my feelings of worthlessness.

Throughout my teen years, I haven’t felt comfortable getting close to people because I was scared they would find out I was a horrible person and leave. These thoughts are very endemic of my depression, which went undiagnosed until [recently]. I assumed I couldn’t hang out with people regularly, and could only see them once in a while, because they would get tired of me. I feel like that mentality, which was informed by the politics of respectability, and placing schoolwork before friendship, has carried over into my early adulthood.

So I wonder: How can I feel like I’m not irredeemable in these moments? How can I forgive myself, and believe my friends will come around on me? How can I trust that they will like being around me, even if I’ve done something wrong? How can I not take this as an insurmountable character flaw when I let them down?

When I read Cassandra’s note, my first reaction was admiration for her thoughtfulness for the people in her life. I thought about the power of her magical love for them, and how much of it I wanted shone back at herself. That’s why I wrote this response:

Thanks for letting me witness the beauty of your life in all of its twists, turns, and triumphs. Caring for yourself is not a “character flaw,” it is a healthy practice, and a sign that you’re resilient. You know best about what you need to lead a sustainable life. Congrats on putting your oxygen mask on first—that’s an important step.

I don’t like to tell folks what to do, but I’m going to take that liberty here: Give yourself permission to forgive yourself for being the complex, curious, and complicated gorgeousness that you are, because you are human.

Because I know first hand that self-forgiveness is easier said than done, I recommend that you check out my friend Gabby Bernstein’s self-forgiveness meditation and do some journaling afterward. I listen to it often on the train, before bed, and anytime I need a reminder about how I would forgive myself easily and gently if I could see or talk to my five-year-old girl-child self. If you can’t forgive yourself, find your inner girl-child and talk to her with love.

As I navigate my own struggles with transitions and sadness about how all of this stress impacts how I show up in the world, I often refer to Maya Angelou’s wisdom. She said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

The mandate now is to know that all you have done is exactly where it needs to be, in the past. As you move forward, try to put your focus on what’s next and how you want to be and feel. This doesn’t mean that you’re going to brush off depression, or that it is something that you should be ashamed of. It just means that depression or the feelings of unworthiness you mentioned do not define who you are.

It sounds like you may be carrying around a lot of heavy feelings without being able to fully discuss them with your friends and family in real time. I recommend taking some time to reflect about who you trust enough to have a “courageous conversation“ with, about exactly what you told me in your letter. I recently engaged in one of these with a friend who I felt I let down due to stress, anxiety, and a fear of vulnerability. When I received a positive response, I wished that I had done this much sooner.

One of the things leadership training has taught me is how to assess the risks and the rewards of having these challenging conversations. Ask yourself what the real threats are in telling your friends your truth, and then take some time to think about some of the potential opportunities that may emerge if you ask your friends for more support in your quest for self-care and speak openly about your desire for forgiveness.

Write these down and see if the rewards outweigh the risks, and then I urge you to take a bold step and try to arrange at least one of these conversations. I have a feeling that the people who really love you value you for who you are more than what you have done for them. Your love is magic, and one thing I know for sure is that support and being held by my beloved community has been a helpful, healing elixir in my life.

You deserve support. If you find yourself feeling depressed or getting triggered during this process (or any other time) contact crisistextline.org or text “START” to 741-741 to talk to a trained counselor.

I’m rooting for you, because, just like the leaves, our lives are changing—and for you my dear, I hope the leaves turn golden. ♦


Do you have a question for Club Thrive that we can talk through together? Please email it to [email protected] and include your name/nickname/initials, city/state, and age.

Dear Diary: November 20, 2015

I got to see Youth Lagoon and the concert was incredible: Their music and lyrics are so good, and Trevor Powers's dancing is something else. —Ella Carlander
I got to see Youth Lagoon and the concert was incredible: Their music and lyrics are so good, and Trevor Powers’s dancing is something else. —Ella Carlander


I made myself a spam account on Instagram, which is something a lot of my friends have been doing. Read More »


As the semester draws to a close, I find myself confronted by a host of feelings I’d labeled “resolved.” Read More »

Friday Playlist: Wallflowers

Illustrations by Elly Cactei.
Illustrations by Elly.

Have you ever walked into a party and immediately regretted coming out? You think, I’ll stick to the perimeter, try not to attract attention, and leave soon. Below is a playlist of songs for the times you feel out of place, lonely, or self-conscious, and want to melt into the walls.

Style by Numbers

Ensemble movies are awesome for their large cast of interesting characters, the friendships between those characters (which may remind you of the connections you have with your own friends), and for the clothes. With an entire cast of stylishly-dressed people, you get more inspiration-per-scene than in films with fewer leads, which means more ideas for your wardrobe. Many of the characters coordinate their outfits, creating a sort of style synergy. Bottom line: You’ll be good with whichever character’s style you choose to emulate!

Take a look at these fashions from four different films featuring ensemble casts—including a ragtag a capella group and four friends bonding over tales of woe-mance—to see what inspires your next outfit.

Some Pitch Perfect looks.
Some Pitch Perfect looks (ugh).

Pitch Perfect 2 (2015) is about the Barden Bellas, a collegiate a cappella group lead by Beca Mitchell (Anna Kendrick). After a major performance ends in a revealing disaster, the group’s reputation is tarnished, and they are forbidden from touring and auditioning new members. In order to be reinstated, the Bellas must literally, band together to win the world championship. If you’re wondering why I went straight to the sequel, the answer is simple: It’s more stylish than the first film. There are matching vests, lots of polka dots, and a plethora of prints. I especially love Beca’s outfits because they somehow look sophisticated and effortless at the same time.

Clockwise from left: Lace crop top, Macy’s, $9.99, music notes necklace, Macy’s, $22.50, Red plaid skirt, Hot Topic, $22.12, tights, ASOS, $18, studded mini duffle bag, ASOS, $40.
Clockwise from left: Lace crop top, Macy’s, $9.99, music notes necklace, Macy’s, $22.50, Red plaid skirt, Hot Topic, $22.12, tights, ASOS, $18, studded mini duffle bag, ASOS, $40.

Get her look by pairing a red tartan mini with black tights and a lacy top. Wear musical note-themed jewelry and show of your own ACA-AWESOME style!

Looks from Steel Magnolias.
Looks from Steel Magnolias.

In Steel Magnolias (1989), a group of six women (Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Julia Roberts, Olympia Dukakis, Shirley MacLaine, Daryl Hannah) form friendships while living in a small Southern town. The women congregate in Truvy’s (Parton) beauty salon to gossip and trade barbs. While there are tons of memorable lines you may find yourself repeating (“What separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize”), this movie includes some pretty weepy moments, too. You’ll need a box of tissues to go with your Steel Mags-inspired outfit, that’s for sure. My style icon of the group is Annelle (Hannah). She’s a recently-graduated beauty student who starts working at Truvy’s salon. Annelle has a really cute vintage look: cat-eye glasses, matching hair barrettes, and a nameplate necklace.

Clockwise from left: Petal Than Ever dress, Modcloth, $35.99, nameplate necklace, ONecklace.com, $48.95, purple cat eye glasses, Zero UV, $9.99, purse, Unique Vintage, $44, pastel hair slides, ASOS, $4.50
Clockwise from left: Petal Than Ever dress, Modcloth, $35.99, nameplate necklace, ONecklace.com, $48.95, purple cat eye glasses, Zero UV, $9.99, purse, Unique Vintage, $44, pastel hair slides, ASOS, $4.50.

Steal her style by dressing in pastels and mimicking her accessories. (Find more of my unabashed love for Steel Mags can be here.)

Waiting to Exhale style.
Waiting to Exhale style.

Waiting to Exhale (1995) is about four friends who get together to bond over the woes and throes of romance. All of the women have successful careers, but have not been so lucky in love. Robin (Lela Rochon) and Savannah (Whitney Houston) are both “the other women” in their relationships, Bernadine’s (Angela Bassett) husband is leaving her to marry his mistress, and Gloria (Loretta Devine) is a single mom raising a teenage son, who is still in love with her kid’s father.

Clockwise from left: dress, Topshop, $20, sunflower earrings, ASOS, $26, sunglasses, ASOS, $27, headband, Forever 21, $3.90, Colourpop Lipstick in Limbo, $6
Clockwise from left: dress, Topshop, $20, sunflower earrings, ASOS, $26, sunglasses, ASOS, $27, headband, Forever 21, $3.90, Colourpop Lipstick in Limbo, $6.

I love Robin’s style the most—probably because it’s so easy to pull off today. She dons a sunflower-print, one-piece bathing suit, an orange bodycon dress, and various headbands.

Playing by Heart.
Playing by Heart.

Playing By Heart (1998) follows several stories all centered around different kinds of relationships—family, friends, and romantic. It’s also one of those films where you find out how everyone is connected by the end. Among the characters are Joan (Angelina Jolie) and Keenan (Ryan Phillippe with blue hair), two people who meet at a club when Keenan witnesses Joan screaming into a phone. Joan is outgoing and talkative, but Keenan isn’t as open at first, so the two struggle with their new relationship. Joan has the best outfits. In one scene she wears a sheer pink shirt and shiny gold pants, and in another, she sports a black dress that has rhinestones right on the boob area. This kind of ensemble is glamorous AND risk-taking, which I definitely appreciate.

Clockwise from left: Sleeveless jumpsuit, H&M, $34.99, heart earrings, Forever 21, $3.90, fishnets, H&M, 9.99, Body gems, Claire’s, $5, Essie nail polish in Pret-A-Surfer, Kohl’s, $8.50
Clockwise from left: Sleeveless jumpsuit, H&M, $34.99, heart earrings, Forever 21, $3.90, fishnets, H&M, 9.99, Body gems, Claire’s, $5, Essie nail polish in Pret-A-Surfer, Kohl’s, $8.50.

She regularly switches up the look of her cropped, dyed hair, and accessorizes with black fishnets, flashy gold earrings, and body gems, which Joan wears like they’re beauty marks. For placement ideas, try sticking a tiny heart gem right above your own eyebrow or on your cheek. ♦

This Week in TV

It’s that time of the year. Thanksgiving hasn’t happened, and it’s not yet time for December holidays, but we’re being inundated with holiday episodes. TV hiatus season is both terrific and cruel. (We miss you already, Bob’s Burgers!)

In drama-land this week, Scandal brought a timely fall finale that led to the explosion of Twitter, while How to Get Away With Murder solved a season-long question.

**Hi, this is your spoiler alert! Read on if and only if you’ve caught up on this week’s episode’s of Scream Queens, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Bob’s Burgers, How to Get Away With Murder, Scandal, and Empire.**

Scream Queens

Nick Jonas as Boone Clemens.
Nick Jonas as Boone Clemens.

We could have had it all, Scream Queens fans. We were so close to more Nick Jonas, only to have him beautifully stabbed away from us. In this week’s episode, we got closer to unmasking the third Red Devil. Things are also getting intense at the Kappa house. Boone (Nick Jonas) almost blows his cover when Chanel No. 3 sees his Joaquin Phoenix facial hair fall off; lucky for him, she thinks he’s a ghost. He uses the slip to his advantage and “comes back from the dead” to seduce Zayday, revealing that he was the killer who kidnapped and fell in love with her.

We learn that Boone is not just the Bathtub Baby, but that twins were born to the deceased mother and then raised by none other than Gigi. Still, who is Boone’s twin sister? I can’t think of an option, because all of the other young women are either dead or have been trapped in the Kappa house with other living sorority sisters. Anyway, Boone’s love for Zayday completely blows his cover. His masked twin murders him as he confronts Gigi for not appreciating all that he’s trained himself to do in the name of ~cold-blooded murder~.

Meanwhile, at KKT, Chanel No. 6 (previously known as Neckbrace) pretends to be pregnant to steal Chad from Chanel No. 1. Chanel becomes viciously bitter, and pushes the newest Chanel down some stairs in an attempt to kill her. Of everyone on the show, Chanel No. 1’s death count is the most obvious, she’s now murdered two people, without a second thought and in front of WITNESSES, no less.

What’s next? I’m upset that Nick Jonas’s absence from the show is about to be very real, but I’m thankful that the suspense is thickening in an incredible way. Could Chanel No. 1 be the third Red Devil? If so, how? There are so many logistical elements that rule out all of the girls, but the Red Devil has to be someone we already know, right? RIGHT?!? –Brittany Spanos

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Andy Samberg  as Jake Peralta.
Andy Samberg as Jake Peralta.

Can work and #romance mix? Yes, they totally can, and Jake and Amy’s relationship so far has been proof. But we’ve also never seen them pair up as partners, until now. This week, the two find themselves in a bad place over Jake’s terrible mattress, which ends up jeopardizing their case. Amy is both overtired and resentful of Jake’s unwillingness to compromise and get a new one. Fortunately, with the help of Holt, they avoid disaster. Amy and Jake realize that if your partner can’t sleep because someone’s mattress is so terrible, the fair thing to do is save up for a new one. —Anne T. Donahue

Bob’s Burgers

Louise Belcher.
Louise Belcher.

This week, the Belcher kids kicked a mall Santa out of his massage chair, and out of sheer selfishness. Haunted by the worry that they’d forever be on the naughty list, they organize the Nice-Capades, a celebration of talent, kindness, and proof that Gene, Tina, and Louise deserve to get presents this year. But alas, collective conscience pulls through and Louise realizes that parading faux niceties isn’t close to the real thing, making her nice and totally deserving of presents. –Anne T. Donahue


Katie Lowes as Quinn Perkins and  George Newbern as Charlie.
Katie Lowes as Quinn Perkins and George Newbern as Charlie.

Olivia Pope received a brand new couch and a brand new outlook on life. In
Scandal‘s winter finale, Liv had a startling realization that she can’t maintain a relationship that requires her to play the supporting role, even if it’s with the man she thought she couldn’t live without. Fitz and Liv were finally honest with themselves, and each other. They reached the end of a high-profile journey and called it quits on Christmas Eve, the same day Olivia got an abortion. I didn’t see that scene coming. But, while this relationship burned out, another partnership reignited. Papa Pope and Jake are back in business. After Huck had a change of heart and freed Command from captivity, B613’s former leader teamed up again with his predecessor. Senator Mellie Grant also had a shining moment after she stuck to her guns to make sure Planned Parenthood received the proper funding. There’s no telling what next season will hold, especially since there were no cliffhangers to keep us holding on until February 11. –Camille Augustin

How to Get Away With Murder

Alfred Enoch as Wes Gibbins.
Alfred Enoch as Wes Gibbins.

This show deserves all of the trophies next awards season. The characters’ secrets came to light on this week’s episode, and the flashes forward that have teased us all season helped connect the dots. To begin, Asher killed Emily Sinclair, the prosecutor, after she said a few things about Asher’s father, who had just committed suicide as a result of his dirty laundry being aired. Bonnie and the frightened students helped cover up Sinclair’s death to make it look like a hit-and-run.

But it’s what happens next that made me throw in the towel. To divert the blame from Asher, Annalise tells the police that Catherine, her former client, shot her. Annalise has that fib down pat—now all she needs is a gunshot wound to make her lie look real. She asks each of her students to shoot her in the leg; they all decline. To goad Wes on, Annalise confesses that his ex-girlfriend Rebecca is dead, which makes him see red. He shoots her in the stomach, and before he can shoot her again, Annalise croaks out the name Cristof. The name rings a bell with Wes, probably because that’s his real name. Cue a flashback of a younger Wes in an interrogation room, where he supposedly recounts his mother’s death. Annalise and Eve, while in Wes’s flashback, utter, “What have we done?” It’s safe to say that Annalise has been ruining her students’ lives way before they enrolled in her class. –Camille Augustin


Bre-z as Freda Gatz and Bryshere Y. Gray 	as Hakeem Lyon.
Bre-z as Freda Gatz and Bryshere Y. Gray as Hakeem Lyon.

Until this Wednesday, I thought Empire was slowly phasing Boo Boo Kitty out of the series: I was wrong, but I’ll get back to that in a minute. Jamal landed a major deal with Pepsi! Frida ether-ed Hakeem in a rap battle, but somehow he won?! Lucious and Cookie are still fighting for the attention, love, and affection of their kids, while trying to profit off them. We finally met Cookie’s sister Candy, portrayed by Vivica A. Fox. She referred to Cookie by her government (Laretha). Our time with Candy will be real.

Now, back to Boo Boo Kitty. I’m still wrapping my head around the fact that Anika thinks she’s pregnant with Hakeem’s child. Also, when she went to tell him, he confessed that he was in love with someone else. She then disguised herself as an UBER DRIVER to either kidnap or scare his new love. For real, is Anika that crazy and desperate?

Oh! Is Rhonda really pregnant or nah? I will ask this every week until it’s confirmed. I think she’s faking it to pull on Lucious’s heart strings and keep Andre from himself, but I’ll remain optimistic. –Taj Rani ♦

Dear Diary: November 19, 2015

I’m loaded with tests and deadlines, but I refuse to whine about it. —Isabella Acosta
I’m loaded with tests and deadlines, but I refuse to whine about it. —Isabella Acosta


I have become good at being lonely, even in front of the people I love and admire most. Read More »


I wish I could go back and leave all my past selves little Post-It notes covered with encouragements. Read More »

A Great Escape

Illustration by Hunter.
Illustration by Hunter Schafer.

The Music Sanctuary is a non-profit organization that I set up with my friend Mollie earlier this year. We connect teenagers living with mental illness with the band or artist that has helped them make it through their toughest moments. In the future, we also aim to help end the stigma that comes with having a mental illness.

In my freshman year of high school, I was dealing with depression, anxiety, and self-harm. I was also very seriously considering killing myself. I felt alone, like I had no one to talk to, despite having a group of friends. 5 Seconds of Summer’s music meant so much to me during that time; listening to it was an escape. The band never failed to make me laugh, whether it was something they said in a long interview or a 30-second keek. They just made me feel a bit more comfortable with myself.

Mollie and I met through our mutual love of the band 5 Seconds of Summer. We both had Tumblr accounts dedicated to 5SoS and we followed each other. One day, she posted something about wanting someone to talk to, so I messaged her saying she could talk to me. We exchanged numbers, and soon we were texting all the time. Although it was sometimes hard to stay in touch—I live in the U.S. and she lives in England—we became close. I began to feel less and less alone.

Although I still struggle with anxiety, I’m no longer depressed and I no longer have any intention of killing myself. 5 Seconds of Summer is the reason I’m alive and the reason I met my best friend. My personal experience is part of the reason that creating Music Sanctuary is so important to me. But the idea to create was sparked by a tweet the musician Halsey wrote:

She tweeted this back in 2013, and I had seen it many times on Tumblr, but when I saw it the night before her debut album was released I thought, Why can’t I do that? I skyped Mollie to talk about my idea to actually create this foundation and she was really excited about it.

The night we launched, we created a WordPress blog and created a GoFundMe campaign. A few days later, I made a Tumblr post about it and the post EXPLODED. We’d hoped to get, maybe, 500 notes by the weekend (it was a Thursday), but we got way more than that. Our excitement skyrocketed. The positive response inspired the project’s slogan or “mantra”: “It’s not a me thing, it’s a we thing.” That everyone wanted to help or to get involved in some way meant that it was no longer just my project; it was for everyone. The Music Sanctuary has become a community of people wanting to help other people, and it’s a beautiful thing. People have donated to our GoFundMe, and someone wrote an article about what we were trying to. We were so excited we literally did not know what to do with ourselves!

As people from across the globe continued to email, send us Tumblr messages, and comment on our posts, we began to feel a little intimidated. We needed a website and we wanted to start making merchandise, but neither of us really knew anything about all that. A girl named Gabrielle reached out to us wanting to help make us a website, and to just generally get things in motion. We now have a website up and running—it includes our motto!

It’s only been two months since all of this started, and it’s still going full speed ahead. Besides the website, there have been a ton of logistics to figure out and questions to field. People have asked how exactly we’re going to choose who receives concert tickets, and how they can apply. Others have expressed concern about how we will discern whether the person applying has a mental illness. We have decided that the best way to go about this is to have an adult—a parent, guardian, or a counselor (college, guidance, therapist)—“nominate” someone before we consider them. The adult will contact us, and tell us about the teen in need and which band or artist has helped them.

When the question of giving teens money for medication and therapy (or just buying it for them) came up, Mollie and I considered the idea for a long time. For the moment, we’ve decided to remain focused on our initial idea. There are other foundations that do that kind of work, and we hope to partner with them in the future—they could even refer us to teens who want help. And, of course, we will always encourage families to get their child help, if they haven’t already. In our best dreams, we can help every single depressed teen. We know that may not be possible but we’re going to do our best to help everyone who is nominated, even if it takes us a while to do so.

Mollie, Gabrielle, and I are also excited about the possibility of having professionals go into schools to talk about the realities of mental illnesses. We know there’s stigma, and we’d like the Music Sanctuary to be part of the movement to end it. However, that part of the plan will come later. At the moment, we’re still finding our footing as a non-profit, and we’re in the process of making Music Sanctuary tax deductible so that we can use all the money we receive to help teenagers.


When we started out a few months ago, neither Mollie nor I knew what, exactly, we were getting ourselves into. We knew nothing about the legality of non-profits, nor how to even apply to become one. As a result, we lost the initial donations made on GoFundMe. I felt like I had ruined the whole thing! It was really frustrating because everything had been going so well, and in a single moment, everything was going wrong. Thankfully, my cousin, who is a lawyer, was kind enough to help me through the process of becoming a legal non-profit in the state of Kentucky, which is where I live. Now that I’ve filled out the forms for my state, I’m just waiting for the state office to file them. Once that’s done, we will complete 501c forms and begin planning fundraisers such as 5K runs and selling merchandise.

If you’d like to start a nonprofit, talk to a parent, or an adult you’re close to about your idea. They can help you walk through the process of making your dream a reality. It’s a good idea to find someone who knows legal things to help you fill out the various forms. Make sure you know exactly what you want to do with your non-profit, so that people aren’t confused when you talk about what you’re trying to do.

The best advice I can give to anyone who has a passion for something and wants to start a non-profit is to not give up on it. It will slow you down, you will (probably) get stressed out, but don’t forget why you started it in the first place. Surround yourself with people who have the same vision you do, and never give up on your idea. The saying “where there’s a will, there’s a way” is true: You just have to work it. ♦

It’s About Equality: An Interview with GRRRL PRTY

Photo courtesy of Score Press.
Photo courtesy of Score Press.

GRRRL PRTY, comprised of Lizzo, Sophia Eris, Manchita, DJ Shannon Blowtorch, and Quinn Wilson, aren’t afraid to talk about what’s going on IRL. On their new EP, GRRRL PRTY x Bionik, streaming below, the rap collective does just that:

I spoke with some of the members of GRRRL PRTY about feminism, Destiny’s Child, and standing up for yourself.

SYDNEY GORE: Growing up, which groups inspired you to create music?

LIZZO: Beyoncé and Destiny’s Child really helped me when I was younger. [Manchita and Sophia agree in unison.] I was always forming groups with my friends—R&B groups with one rapper, like TLC. There are obviously other influences, but when it comes to GRRRL PRTY, making music with my friends, who are talented and also happen to be women, the [inspiration] came from Destiny’s Child, the greatest R&B group of all time. [Laughs]

You take such a strong stance on feminism, in your music and in real life.

SOPHIA ERIS: Feminism is not being seen as a female rapper, but just a rapper. It’s about being seen as equals. It’d be nice if one day it would be like, “Oh, this is a rapper.” We are women, we’re very proud of it, and it’s nice to be in unison as a female group, but it is nice to also be looked at as just a rapper, and to have the “female” dropped.

MANCHITA: [While] I think feminism is the belief that men and women are equal, it reaches further than just gender and equal rights for men and women. It’s about equality for everybody. Right now, movements are divided. We need to really fight for individual rights like Black Lives Matter, [gay rights], equal pay for women, and the general ideological transformation of our society.

LIZZO: I’m at a point where I’m like, “What about fairness?” We’re talking about equality. Why don’t we make [things] fair? If you’re not going to shoot a little 11-year-old white boy, then don’t shoot a little 12-year-old black boy. If I look cute and you want to ask me about it on the red carpet, [also] ask a dude. At the same time, it’s not fair to make THAT the only thing about me. Once we get people to start thinking about [what’s fair], I think we’ll make some strides.

Do issues that you’re all passionate about come through on the new EP?

LIZZO: Yeah. “Klank Klank” is flirty; [we’re] like, “You’re never gonna get it.” But, we’re also saying, “Listen, to what we’re saying. Listen underneath that, and get it through your mind that just because I am a woman, does not give you the right to [go] beyond desiring me. We’re writing these verses to get our own personal demons and problems out. At first, artists are trying to get the words off their chests, because we don’t always get the opportunity. As our music evolves, the message will evolve. It’s hard to start off being like, “We are the world,” when we’re like, “Why am I in this world?”

MANCHITA: There’s a lot of power in our delivery and anger in our messages. There’s this boiling up of stuff that we are just letting go. It’s all coming from this place in our guts that’s just pissed. I consider every GRRRL PRTY song a battle song. We write fight songs. [Laughs] We’re charged, and [our music] is inseparable from who we are as people.

SOPHIA ERIS: There’s a song called “Can I Live?” on the EP. At the time, there was a lot of turmoil in Ferguson, and a lot of really bad things were happening. We felt an angst inside. We were thinking, “Can I live?” And, we went off that feeling.

MANCHITA: On “Klank Klank,” we’re laying claim to our bodies. We’re like, “I see you looking, but I don’t care. Back up, it’s not for you. This is my body.” The truth of the song is taking control of our physical selves and being in charge of our bodies.

LIZZO: On “Can I Live?” I say “you make me sick” because I just don’t have any other words, you know? “Klank Klank” is about—and this happens a lot—[when] dudes come around a group of women that’s killing it, and they think they can cruise through with the crew and try to [hit] on all of us. When men do this, it’s annoying. It’s not even cute. On the EP, I’m able to express myself. ♦

Damn Girl Ya Look Good

Collage by Jao San Pedro.
Collage by Jao San Pedro.

My school’s formal is coming up, and I have a lot of ideas running through my head. I want to try wearing a one-piece instead of a dress this year, but this is where you guys come in, because I don’t know much about formal one-pieces. I’m fine with it being shorts or pants, and fall/winter colors would be great! —O., 15, Hamilton, Ontario

Dresses are certainly not the only option for formal attire! You can look just as elegant with an evening-appropriate jumpsuit (jumpsuit = one-piece with pants) or a fancy romper (romper = one-piece with shorts), and you’ll stand out from the crowd because your outfit will totally be unique!

First tip: Look for styles that have embellishments such as rhinestones, glitter, sequins, and lace. ASOS has a wide range of romper and jumpsuit choices in various sizes, including this sleeveless sequin jumpsuit, which would make you look like a disco ball on the dance floor! Same goes for this playsuit and this romper, which has amazing sleeves. This dazzling romper from ASOS’s Curve line is pretty fantastic. There’s also this metallic gold jumpsuit from Modcloth!

Now, let’s take a gander at some other possibilities:

Caption TK Clockwise from upper-left corner: Satin romper, $81, ASOS; Maxi romper, $78, Nasty Gal; Embellished romper, $99, ASOS; Lacy romper, $92, Revolve; Sequin romper, $118, Nordstrom; Backless jumpsuit, $47, Lulu’s.

Gorgeous, right? The first one is super-special because it has huge, dramatic sleeves—just watch out if you’re eating chips and dip, ’cause you don’t want to dunk those sleeves in something like SALSA! (Trust me, I know from personal experience.) If you want to make an unforgettable entrance, the maxi romper by Nasty Gal will totally do it. I feel like it’s something both Taylor Swift and Isabella Rosellini might wear as they enter a room.

Now, if you decide to take the romper route and want to wear it with tights, there are plenty of options. If you’re looking for something with a little flash, I like these glitter opaque tights, and these tights with a decorative floral design on the back of the leg. If your romper has enough embellishments to shine on its own, fishnets or some simple opaque black tights will do the trick.

As for shoes: If you want to do something with a little height, I suggest some cute platform wedges, like these. They will look dressier than a lot of flats, are still easy to dance in, and will literally elevate your outfit. You can also go for a pair of metallic kitten heels.

For a little more va-va-va-voom, try throwing a faux-fur shawl over your jumpsuit or romper, especially if you decide to go with an unembellished solid-colored style, like the blue pantsuit above. If that’s your look, either a black or white shawl will work! And satiny white gloves are guaranteed to give off more of those wintery vibes. Hope this helps! —Marie

I was wondering if you could give me some advice on how to punk-ify my clothing when I mainly own clothes from Old Navy? I’m really (really) bad at buying my own clothes because whenever I have to make decisions I freak out. My mom ends up buying a lot of my clothes online, and while it’s convenient, it doesn’t leave me with a lot of options for how to dress like a hardcore, DIY, give-no-fucks type of girl. So basically just casual day-to-day ways to punk up basic outfits would be great. Thanks a ton! —Sim, 16, Portland

Hey, Sim! Once upon a time, I, too, was a regular girl with gutter punk dreams and an Old Navy reality. This “punk rocker” outfit of mine from Halloween 2001?


Brought to you by Old Navy! Let’s be real, though: You are as hardcore as you feel. And you don’t need spiked and studded decadence to feel punk as hell. The Number One Thing You Need is…drumroll, please…CONFIDENCE! I’m not just being corny. I’m totally serious.

Imagine your life as a music video, soundtracked by your favorite band. Pull back your shoulders and keep your chin up. Keep your eyes straight ahead as you’re walking to class. Adapt your stride to the pace of the song. (Unless you’re thinking like, 240 blast-beats per minute! You want to cultivate a tough, assured presence among your peers—not a speeding ticket.)

Now, once you’ve mastered your best Debbie Harry strut down the hallways of your high school, you need a fresh, sartorial canvas to work with. Start with a rotating cast of simple statement pieces that you can find virtually anywhere in the mini-mall, or even in your own closet. For starters, try a denim jacket or a plain hoodie. A pack of black or white T-shirts. Some slim-cut jeans. A comfy pair of sneakers or boots.

Once you’ve got your base look together, you can ACCESSORIZE. This can mean different things to different punks. Does your favorite band sell any merch at their shows or online? Buy a T-shirt, a patch, a button—or make some! You can even pay Etsy a visit and scope out some patches and buttons to decorate your stuff with. If you’re worried about overdoing it, start small. Pin a couple buttons on the pocket of your jacket, or pull a Girl Scout Merit Badge Supreme by lining up the whole front and back with your band-love. If you’re feeling bold (and handy with a needle and thread), top it off with a backpatch! Once you get into the hang of it, you can push the envelope a little more. Try experimenting with some T-shirt colors that don’t have names like “heather grey.” Go for those tacky animal print socks. Scrawl song lyrics on your Vans, and maybe some beautiful, kindred spirit will notice them?

Now for the advanced stage: modification! Give old clothes new life with what I like to call DIY Fashion Surgery. All you need is a pair of scissors. (Or a friend who is good with a pair of scissors.) Do you have an old summer camp T-shirt that still fits? Cut off the sleeves! Is your grandma finally getting rid of that bedazzled kitten sweatshirt she’s had since 1992? Cut the collar and make it an off-the-shoulder piece. Do you want to make a old, sad pair of jeans even MORE distressed? Fold each pant leg in half and cut a simple slice across each knee with scissors, as per this lovely tutorial. (You can also try shredding and fraying them like so, if you feel so daring.) And when it’s warmer outside, why buy new shorts when you could just level some pants up into cut-offs? Choose your own punk adventure! —Suzy

My personal style has always leaned toward clothes that you can only wear during warm weather, like skater skirts, crop tops, tank tops, and cut-off shorts. But every year when the weather turns cooler, it gets harder for my sense of style to show because I am just not sure how to dress during colder months and still maintain the looks I want to achieve. I usually just end up wearing plain jeans and a T-shirt every day, and it feels a bit boring for me. Any advice on keeping my wardrobe weather appropriate, but still vibrant? My style also is kinda hip-hop/grunge/’90s, if that helps. —Vivien, 15, Charlotte, North Carolina

I just moved to Wisconsin, and I need to stay warm in the winter, but I also still want to look nice. I’m having trouble finding a super-warm coat (and other items) that will keep me warm but also don’t make me look like I’m wrapped in a sleeping bag 24/7. I’m willing to spend quite a lot of money on this, but I just don’t know where to look! —A., 18, Amsterdam/Wisconsin

The changing of the seasons doesn’t mean your style has to suffer, mah boos! You can totally wear stuff like skirts with thicker fabric, wool skirts, long-sleeved dresses, and sweater dresses. It’s all about layering. Let’s take a look at some style bloggers who live in cold climates for inspiration!

cold clothes

From left, that’s Karen from Where Did U Get That, Keiko from Keiko Lynn, and Blair from Atlantic-Pacific.

All three of these bloggers manage to look stylish even when their freezing their tushes off, in part because they accessorize with tights, high boots, and statement coats. With just a few key pieces, you’ll be just as fashionable when it’s freezing!

First up, shoes. If you find yourself trudging through snow and sludge, then a serious winter boot is a necessity. Well-made styles can be costly, but they will last you for years. Sorel makes really awesome winter boots, like these fur-lined classics, and Hunter boots, which are similar to the boots Blair is wearing above, come in different colors, like fire-engine red! If you don’t need something so weatherproof, you might try some over-the-knee suede boots like these. I also love these boots with a cute, quilted detail and these strappy ones.

Tights are one of the most important elements to stylish winter dressing. Definitely stock up on fleece-lined tights, like these or these, which are thicker and warmer than regular ones. You can also get fleece-lined leggings like this shiny version.

Now, more accessories! Make your outfit more exciting AND keep your neck warm with a scarf like this pizza one or this one that looks like ice cream cones! Keep your head covered with a pom-pom beanie or a knit beanie with kitty ears! Don’t forget some eye-catching gloves! And finally…A COAT! Look for a statement coat in a loud pattern, or a bright, solid color. And if you end up going with a standard black coat, it doesn’t have to be a bummer—it just means your accessories will be the stars of the show! Here are some ideas:

coat cllage

Clockwise from upper-left corner: Faux-fur jacket, $120, Urban Outfitters; Fur-trimmed coat, $170, Modcloth; Animal print coat, $135, ASOS; Wool-blend cape, $80, H&M; Faux-fur coat, $135.00, ShopBop; Pile-lined Parka, $60, H&M.

Stay warm! —Marie ♦

Dear Diary: November 18, 2015

I've spent half of my life wishing it away. —Jao San Pedro
I’ve spent half of my life wishing it away. —Jao San Pedro


This is a merciless, lonely feeling. Her absence claws at the back of my neck. I know she’s supposed to be here with me. Read More »


Some days are gonna be harder than others, some weeks are going to be harder than others, some months, even. But don’t doubt how wonderful and how capable you are. Read More »

How to Run an Intersectional Feminism Club

Illustration by Sarah Rimington.
Illustration by Sarah Rimington.

I was at summer writing camp, listening to a discussion on feminist literature, when a girl casually mentioned that her school had a feminist club. I could not focus for the rest of the discussion: I was too busy imagining what a feminist club could do at my own school. I’d had the idea to start a feminism club earlier that year, but that’s what it had remained—an idea. That summer after camp, I fell in love with my research on feminism. I’d learned a little in class, and some at writing camp, but more than anything else, I wanted to learn with other students and to address students’ questions and problems.

I had plenty of passion but no plans. In my excitement, I overlooked the fact that I was an underclassman with little public speaking skill. I’m very shy—I shook and stammered during every presentation I’d given at school—but in that moment, my enthusiasm for the club outweighed my nerves. Running a feminist club was not easy at all. I still mumbled when faced with a crowd. Sometimes, we had meetings where only three people attended, and there were aimless hours during which no one would participate. Also, I didn’t anticipate the backlash to a club that had never existed at my school—people constantly accused us of “complaining about made up problems.”

Although there were many (MANY) days when I just wanted to quit and give my position to someone else, I stayed with my little club, and I’m so happy that I did. Feminist Club has become a diverse, inclusive space where everyone can discuss issues that don’t come up in class. We are still growing, and I am still learning—even in my third year—to be a better leader. Starting an intersectional feminist club is a difficult but super-rewarding experience. If you want to start one at your high school or college, here are some tips Cammy and I put together!

1. Identify the politics of your school.

The San Francisco Bay Area is pretty liberal, with lots of people involved in social justice. At our school, we already had a well-known Queer Straight Alliance, so we could pretty safely assume that there’d be some support for our intersectional feminism club. If your school is more conservative—if the community is hostile when women’s rights or LGBTQ issues are come up—it doesn’t mean you’re at a dead end and can’t start your club! Just find people who are interested in feminism, too, and check out our next point.

2. Find a teacher who can act as an ally to sponsor your club.

Having a good teacher as your club sponsor can help the development of your club, and make it easier to navigate the school administration. Try to find a teacher you really like and who is into your idea (you don’t want a passive teacher hanging around all the time). Our sponsor is my freshman year English and history teacher. She’s been great at supporting our causes, even when some of the other teachers may not have been as accepting. She also helps us contact the school administration and advises us on how to move forward if someone shares a personal situation in our meeting involving their safety or well-being. In the past, she’s given me tips and guidance for dealing with conflicts. She was actually the person who put me on to feminism, so it’s been amazing to have her there every step of the way.

3. Develop an intersectional core and diverse leadership.

Intersectionality, a term coined by the black feminist scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, is all about how different oppressions intersect. So, if you’re trying to build an intersectional club, it would be cool if your leadership reflected the range of identities at your school. Representation matters, even if it’s on a small scale. When people see others who look like them, your club will feel more welcoming to all people of all races, abilities, genders, and sexualities. Your club will be full of people with different perspectives, skills, and good ideas. I (Cammy) am part of QSA leadership, and sometimes I’ll tell Sienna about something the QSA is doing that Feminist Club could do, too, such as peer education.

4. Do your research!

When I started Feminist Club, I hadn’t done as much research as I should have—and it showed. My presentations were very simple and did not address more complex issues, such as the controversial history of the feminist movement. In my first year running the club, I gave a presentation as a brief introduction to feminism that started in 1920, with the women’s suffrage movement, and laid out the traditional, white narrative of the feminist movement. I did talk about the exclusion of black and lesbian women, but there was definitely room for improvement!

It wasn’t that I woke up one day and realized the flaws in mainstream feminism; rather, I realized the value of intersectionality gradually—through research, Twitter and Tumblr conversations, and in-class discussions with my friends about the lack of representation of people of color in American history. I began to read works by bell hooks and Audre Lorde, among others, and I got more involved in feminism on Tumblr. I became better informed about historical and current feminisms; in turn, my presentations became more nuanced and interesting.

For this year’s “introduction to feminism” presentation, I scrapped the oversimplified version and made one about the different women’s movements, such as Womanism, Xicanisma, and Indigenous feminism, which states that if looked at from the indigenous women’s perspective, feminism in the Americas goes back to Native American women’s resistance to colonialism. This presentation gave a much more complex and accurate view of the history of feminism, and all its branches.

Begin your research by reading books from your local library. I love “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House” by Audre Lorde and Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center by bell hooks. The book Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti was one of the first books I read, and it’s a good, simple introduction to feminism. You can also watch videos and documentaries online, such as Missrepresentation or Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk on feminism. Read more about feminism by searching the tags #feminism and #intersectionality on Tumblr and Rookie.

5. Make plans with your members (rather than for them).

Now that you’re up and running, you’ll need to figure out what to do with your members. Brainstorming is one of the best, most underrated, things you can do with your club. It provides you with an opportunity to determine your goals as a group, to make a schedule you can all agree on, and, most importantly, to listen to and learn from those around you.

Some of my club’s best ideas have come from brainstorming, with everyone chiming in to make a particular idea even stronger. Determine what types of projects you all want to do: Tackling your school’s dress code? Raising money for a local organization? Make these group sessions regular so that you’re consistently deciding the direction of the club together.

6. Give presentations.

Presentations in the club are one awesome way to share the club’s core ideas with all its members. Start by giving presentations that offer an historical overview of feminism, its so-called “waves,” the meaning of intersectionality, and whatever else interests you. I usually make slideshows and prepare notes on topics like women in art and my personal favorite, strength and femininity which details the ways in which society accepts a woman’s strength. Having your presentation prepared and organized beforehand is essential—it helps to know what you’re going to say! Encourage other members to give presentation based on their interests, too.

Presentations are informative and can help get discussions started on topics that feel relevant to your club members. Subjects such as reproductive rights and rape culture, which includes dress code and sexual consent, are good to talk about with those in our schools and communities so that we so all recognize how prevalent these problems are, and think of ways to combat them.

Last year, someone erected an anti-abortion billboard right across the street from our school. In our club discussions about it, we talked about how anti-abortion groups often target low-income and minority areas. In our discussions, we learn how these issues affect us through hearing people’s personal experiences and by finding examples within our community.

Encouraging others to give presentations helps every member to feel involved and invested in the club. Plus, there are some topics that you may not be qualified to prepare a presentation about. I am not the best person to make presentations and lead discussions on issues that black women face because I myself am not a black woman and have limited personal experience with these issues. So, black girls, who are members of the club, led a discussion on the Black Lives Matter movement. Queer group members have given presentations on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, women in STEM, and my friend even did one on how women are portrayed in comics. Having other people share their ideas also means that there are more voices being heard within the club and greater participation by everyone.

Our Own Little Victories

Illustration by  Ella Carlander.
Illustration by Ella Carlander.

Red Rock

Children leap over picket fences and flowerbeds,
dance in a knot under the white-hot sun,
throw dares across serrated rocks.
Hands grapple at its mass,
race up its side.
She looks at the orange dust,
the stains on her hand,
and wonders what lies in wait
atop the Cheeto Dust mountain.

Shadows float across tin roofs
as sunlight leaks out of the day
and the little girl runs to Red Rock.
Her brother, older, starts;
an outlawed cigarette suspended between two fingers.
Smoke crawls caterpillars into the air.
He leans forward,
blows ashy threats into her face;
“If you tell, I’ll throw your babies in the River.”

She sucks down Carlton Draught
and leans against the hulking Rock,
warmth of the day held within.
“Check this out,” she declares to the group,
and reveals two dolphins stabbed into her skin.
A suntanned hand lingers on blue ink,
fingers a strand of brittle hair.
Across the asphalt,
under a lonely street lamp,
a Datsun Sedan waits patiently for its owner,
floral mattress strapped to its back.

Nineteen years and three children later,
she traipses through a bed of broken beer bottles.
Her children clamor at the trivial mound;
Red Rock, robbed of its majesty.
All that is left of the town,
the primary school toilet block;
four porcelain bowls,
grimy amongst greying shrubbery.

—By Morgan-Lee Snell

Creative Prompt: Be an Inventor

Illustration by Ana Hinojosa.
Illustration by Ana Hinojosa.

Because Rookie’s theme this month is Assembly, I (Stephanie) thought it would be a great time to write about fantasy—or nightmare—inventions. I’m still disappointed that we don’t have flying cars, so I would personally love to write a story about a time when we have them. Maybe there is something even more innovative that you have in mind—an invention that would change the world or make life infinitely more convenient, or that would just spark a really cool chain of events in a story. What would happen, for example, if we had a machine that could control the weather? Would that be a good thing? What if it fell into the wrong hands?

Some inventions have a negative side or are invented for truly terrible purposes. In one of my writing classes in college, we read “In the Penal Colony” by Franz Kafka—a short story about a machine that tortures prisoners to death by carving their sentence into their bodies. You don’t have to write something so sinister: You can stick with a delightfully cool invention, or even write a biography or profile of the person who comes up with your great invention.

Send your story, poem, comic, or the schematics for your invention (yes, please, we really want those!) along with your first name, last initial, age, and city/state to [email protected] with the subject line “Creative Prompt” by Monday, November 23 at 6 PM EST.

Your last prompt was to write a love letter, addressed to anything or anyone, including yourself. Here’s what you wrote, straight from the heart…

Dear Diary: November 17, 2015

Parents divorcing is not fun, especially when you have to switch schools AGAIN! —Amil Barlow
Parents divorcing is not fun, especially when you have to switch schools AGAIN! —Amil Barlow


I run away to another room and close the door, but they follow me wherever I go. Read More »


I was running so fast that I could only think my mind was running for me. Read More »

How to Start a School Club

Illustration by Sofia Bews.
Illustration by Sofia Bews.

Building a school club (aka an empire) requires more than a few authoritative signatures. You will need strength, determination, organization, a Spotify account with a password you remember, and a personal pack of minions to get this club engine roarin’!

Back in the day (sophomore year), my only option for joining a creatively productive club was my school’s lit mag. Lit mag was run entirely by seniors who were none too eager to share duties with underclassmen. One day, in that very club, I whispered blasphemous things to a pal about starting our own club for zines—and that is how Zine Club was born.

Now in our second year, Z.C. is established, though we are still learning. We have published three copies of Zine Club, hosted two launch parties, and have made zine-ing friends from all corners of the globe. But that’s just the good stuff. We have also endured a presidential split, hate from the haters, and financial struggles. Below is the advice I offer to you, Future Club Leaders of the World:

1. Assemble!

The most important piece of this club-puzzle is the people, and your best people are going to be your pals. Running your operation is going to be a heck of a lot more fun and generally more awesome if your friends are involved. I see you, person in the back, thinking you are completely capable of taking on this responsibility-lion by yourself. I am you of the future, pleading with you to start this thing with the grand support of your acquaintances!

Club advisors also can be a beautiful thing. We all have that one teacher who we want to be maybe sorta friends with, or at least can trust to not make fun of our fandoms, et cetera, so what better way to get the conversation rolling than to ask them about advising your club? For Zine Club, I knew my freshman English teacher, Mrs. Scharf (ayyyyyeee <3) would be the pink to our lemonade. Not only was she a built-in supporter of the literary arts, but she also had a flair for the funky. Since becoming advisor of Zine Club, she has fought for us when school administration was being too administrative, when anyone lost their chill, and that one time the “tech crew” was lagging on our Spotify download (sigh).

2. Activate!

The foundation of your club is going to be a solid idea and mission that you are psyched about. When the masses inquire about your sparkling new club, you are going to realize the importance of the one-liner mission statement and knowledge on the subject (apparently, making excited noises and/or gestures doesn’t get the message across). Zine Club was pretty hard to describe, especially before it officially existed, so it helped to have a short-n-sweet spiel for administrators and prospective members: “Zine Club is a creatively open platform for students to publish their work and, most importantly, their OPINIONS, which are generally suppressed by popular media, society, exclusive publications, or plain fear.”

Once you have assembled your reason for being and your people, your new club is about ready for take-off! To do so successfully, it is essential to begin with some type of game plan. I HATE wasting my time and going to a club that ends up being a bunch of people from the same clique talking amongst themselves. When I and many others attend a club meeting, we want to be enlightened with awesome teen-smarts that we wouldn’t have the chance to engage with during regular school hours. I mean, we didn’t choose to be in a classroom during our only free period for nothing!

So, plan a basic meeting strategy. Zine Club meets every week on Thursdays, where we go over announcements, ~get creative~, and listen to Nicki Minaj and/or Best Coast, all while feasting on our never-ending supply of Dum Dums. Because people, including me, can depend on Zine Club meetings to be chill, interesting, doodle-y, and sugary, we have gotten ourselves a nice group of dedicated members. Find your niche in the great, big, fertile chunk of land that is high school, and start digging.

3. Advertise!

I knew that Zine Club was capable of drawing a crowd—if only people knew it was a thing! If you are on the brink of launching your baby club, it’s time to…PICK! YOUR! PROPAGANDA! Popular forms include fliers, in-school TV announcements, and business cards. I recommend that you or one of your new club members create your version of a logo and a flier design that you would want to examine if you saw it in the bathroom stall. You may think that this goes without saying, but even my tenured brain forgets, at times, to put the date and meeting place on the flier in the midst of all of the exciting beauty that is our poppin’ propaganda. Don’t forget!

The second part of advertising is placement. (The Twilight series never would have taken off had it been filed under “Developmental Psychology” section of the bookstore.) Your fliers will have more of an impact if they are posted in key areas such as…

  • The backs of bathroom stall doors!
  • Bathroom mirrors!
  • Doors to classrooms!
  • Lunch tables!
  • Windows of respected teachers’ classrooms!

And little cards are great for taping under desks (sneaky!) and innocently dropping around campus (whoops!). You can graduate to James Bond-level promo by strategically slipping your cards into library books.

4. Meet!

The first time your club assembles will likely be the simultaneous best and worst moment of your club-life: I was incredibly nervous and, therefore, a bit like an over-caffeinated young chimp. Remember to stay calm and keep clubbing! Concentrate on executing the plan you created beforehand (see: “Activate!”). The first things I do when I walk into Zine Club is get the music going and the Powerpoint up. Then I chill for a bit. Sometimes, I don’t want to talk to people and be all smiley, so I park behind the computer desk and don’t come out until my plan forces me to the front of the room to share the good news of Zine Club. Even though I don’t always want to, I know that actual human interaction is key to keeping my peoples stuck on Z.C. Just BE YOURSELF! As the Prez of Zine Club, I am never completely not-nervous whenever I am in room 302 on Thursdays at lunch. But I just act really weird and real, and it seems to be working out. Pro tip: If you speak confidently, even if confidence is nowhere to be found, people will be into what you’re saying! Engaging people your own age and herding teens toward a certain goal can be an effort. But if you treat it like a priority and something that is world-rockin’, so will they.

5. Keep meeting!

Although the first meeting and first impressions are history, there is still the responsibility of maintaining your club’s awesome vibes and mission throughout the school year. You don’t have to meet every week—there will be inevitable periods of inactivity or plateaus—but try to stick to a regular meeting schedule as much as possible, and keep the environment open and interactive.

The biggest lesson I learned from Year One of Zine Club is to disperse the responsibility. In a year-long moment of delusion, I believed that I was actually five people and, therefore, could do the amount of things that five people could do for the club. Admitting that I was just one person and needed help from my friends/club homies has made Year Two a breezy, downhill ride.

And there you have it, club-starters! Before I bang the gavel and bid you farewell, I’ll leave you with a mini-zine containing a few more tips:

11-11-2015 5-11 PM

Keep Moving Forward: An Interview With Jenny Lewis

Collage by Minna Gilligan, using a photo by Autumn de Wilde.
Collage by Minna Gilligan, using a photo by Autumn de Wilde.

Jenny Lewis’s nearly two decades-long career as a musician is really something to behold. She’s recorded three solo albums and six with her band Rilo Kiley, and she has collaborated with acts such as the Postal Service, the Watson Twins, and Elvis Costello. In January, the former child actor and California native will re-issue her beautiful, first solo album, Rabbit Fur Coat, which will be 10 years old!

I talked with Jenny about becoming a solo artist, how the meaning of her songs has changed with time, and how to keep fighting to get the sometimes-elusive creative results you want.

HAZEL CILLS: When did you first get the urge to start writing music?

JENNY LEWIS: My mother’s record collection was really amazing. I grew up listening to a lot of female singer-songwriters, and that’s what sparked my interest in songs. But when I discovered hip-hop–that was my music, the music I didn’t share with my mom. That’s when I started writing lyrics. The words came first, before the music for me.

Some singer-songwriters scrap material they know won’t work right away, but some hold on to everything. Do you consider everything you write potential material?

I just write shit down constantly. I have shoe boxes filled with barf bags from airplanes that I’ve just written aimlessly on. I collect all these scraps, and I’ll occasionally go back and lay them out and write something from them. But there’s a ton of stuff that doesn’t get used, or verses that are cut or altered dramatically. [When] working on The Voyager with Ryan [Adams], I would come in with what I thought was a complete song and he’d cut verses out. It was cool to have a perspective like that.

You’ve said that Rilo Kiley was sort of a group of outcasts when you started playing music in the ’90s. How did you make your own scene?

We certainly were outcasts in our minds and hearts. Blake [Sennett] and I had come from this background of child acting and passed out, in a way. In the beginning, we were almost apologetic about our pasts. We collected fans in L.A., and then our world bumped up against Elliott Smith’s world and that guided us along.

When Rilo Kiley released Under the Blacklight, some fans were mad the group was going to a major label. How do you shrug off widespread criticism of work you really care about?

That was such a weird period, when we were making that record. I think it’s inaccurate to blame a major label—we were just an indie band working with a major label. We were really passionate about those songs. Only time will tell…If it’s good, it will last. If it’s not, people move on. People say things all the time. You have to just keep writing and keep working, you can’t get hung up on whether people like it or not. And I don’t think that’s a perfect record, by any stretch. I like some of it more than I like some of the other songs, but I certainly don’t know if it deserved the hatred. I think it was also linked with the video that came first, “The Moneymaker,” which I play in my set now. [Laughs] Not only did people hate that song, but they hated the video directed by Autumn de Wilde, which was a long-form video about pornography. It was a bold move to make.

You were an actress before you were a musician–something you poked fun at in your “She’s Not Me” video. You were essentially the breadwinner of your family as a teenager. What did you learn during that time in your life?

That’s a big question! I started supporting my family when I was three years old, so work was always linked to my family. Part of the reason I started playing music was because that was something that was my choice. But I wouldn’t change the past, because I learned so much from a young age. I also learned how to work eight hours, and to learn my lines.

Music was purely artistic. When I started making music with Blake, we played our songs in living rooms for our friends for years before we ever got on stage. It was unadulterated art, unexploited. It’s why I cover that song “Handle With Care”—the lyrics really speak to that. That’s also why I think having come from Hollywood, growing up there, Rilo Kiley was this sacred thing, and it wasn’t going to be tainted. It was a very pure institution.

You write a lot about your personal life, and you also fictionalize it. Is music as much a catharsis for you as it is a way to rewrite parts of your life?

I almost create things in my songs. Sometimes I feel like a psychic songwriter, where I’ll create a scenario and then five years later I’ll find myself in it. Like, wait a minute! What came first, the song or the experience? But there’s a lot of truth in my songs. Much of it is autobiographical, I wouldn’t deny that. With poetic license, you can flip any situation or character. I never want to nag [too much] in songs, or nit-pick or finger-point. I’ve written a lot of angry songs, and they don’t hold up as well. If you think about all the Beatles songs, they’re all about love. As you grow as a writer, you think about things you want to write about, the angry stuff sort of slips away–some of it!

Do those songs not hold up because they feel more specific than a love song?

It’s the resentment; I don’t want to identify with it. A love song can always exist.

How does it feel to know so many people relate with “A Better Son/Daughter,” which sounds like a very personal song?

I still play [that song], and it’s relevant every night I play it. That song is not an angry song, and it’s raw. It moves me [when] I catch someone in the audience singing along to it. There’s an element of hope to it. A girl came up to me the other night in Canada and said, “That song saved my life.” There are some pretty specific lines that I’m not sure everyone can relate to, but the mood of the song, the feeling, transcends specifics.

Finishing and releasing The Voyager took almost five years. What kept you powering through, without scrapping it or giving up?

Music is what makes me feel better. Despite going through a rough couple of years–my dad died and all this shit happened–going into the studio and working on the record is truly what pulled me out of it. It wasn’t an option to not keep moving forward.

Did finishing the album make it feel like you had reached a better place emotionally?

Absolutely. You can hear it in the songs, just in the order of the way they were written. That’s why I wanted to call it a voyage. And, it’s partly named after a motel, but the idea was just this journey of a woman over an eight-year period, which is a generation. Having put it out and touring it for over a year, the songs keep revealing themselves to me. It’s sort of reaffirmed my love, and gratitude, for playing music. [I’m] able to feel something, write about it, play it and then move on.

You talk about your songs like they’re tarot cards, they sort of say different things to you at different times in your life.

They do. Some of those songs still really resonate with me. Something I wrote in my early 20s or late teens will come back around and feel relevant. I don’t have any kids, so my songs are like my kids, and there are a lot of them. I think things will evolve [with Rabbit Fur Coat], but I have to start where I left off. Who knows what my songs will be in two months when I get off the road.

From Ryan Adams to Blake Sennett, it seems like you’ve worked with people who’ve really challenged you, or maybe there was some head-butting in the process?

Ryan and Blake are basically the same person. It’s like a two-headed monster. [Laughs]

Do you think tension among collaborators creates better music?

I wouldn’t say it’s better, but it’s definitely different, and I certainly operate well under those circumstances. I like a little bit of a fight. I hate them both, but I love them, and they both know their way around my tunes. Hopefully it doesn’t always have to be tense, because that takes years off of your life. It’s why I’m not in a band anymore, it’s too much on a day-to-day basis.

Now, as a solo artist, when you want the input of other people you’re not saddled with it.

Yes, and that’s the joy of being a solo artist. There’s a flip-side to that, which is that you’re sort of at the mercy of your own decisions. I can work with Ryan and then walk out. I can make something in…Jamaica, or whatever! I love the freedom of that, but when I first left my band I was terrified of it. It was a scary thought of not having your gang, your family, and having to make those choices. I feel confident as an artist with a solitary vision. I trust my artistic path, no matter where it takes me. I’m not afraid anymore. ♦

Makeup Trick: Customize Your Foundation


The sun is setting earlier, and the signs of summer sun are likely fading from your lovely visage. If you’re like me, your skin tone is now lighter than your summer foundation shade, but not quite ready for your dead-of-winter color. I’m going to show you a few foundation tricks that will help you make the most of what you’ve already got in your makeup bag during these in-between days.

1. Customize Your Foundation Shade


With your finger or a makeup brush, dab a bit of dark foundation on your neck (though I used my arm in the photo above), then dab a drop of the lighter one next to it. Blend them together. The goal is to match the mixture to your skin tone, so adjust the ratio of light and dark foundations until the combined color disappears into your neck. When you’ve landed on the magic ratio, mix enough to apply to your face as you normally would. Couldn’t be easier!

2. Use Foundation as Bronzer


Using a fingertip or makeup brush, dot the darker foundation along the tops of your cheekbones, temples, jaw, and neckline. Then blend. When you’re done, you’ll have a sun-kissed look that’s also seamless because the same tones in this “bronzer” are in the customized foundation shade you’re already wearing.

3. Use Foundation as Highlighter


Take the lighter foundation shade and, using your fingertips or a makeup brush, dot it on the tops of your cheekbones, the bridge of your nose, and your chin. Blend, then brush on some blush, and you’re all aglow. This will help tide you over ’til next spring, I promise! ♦

Dear Diary: November 16, 2015

I often wake up without smelling the roses. Model: @dumbirl on Instagram.
I often wake up without smelling the roses. Model: @dumbirl on Instagram.


It’s odd because 17 is so much bigger than 16. I can’t think of an age transition I’ve experienced as drastic as this one. 6 to 7 was a stepping stone. 12 to 13 allowed me to relate to a new demographic. But 16 to 17? 16 sounds like schoolgirl crushes, and bubblegum, and begging my mom to let me go to a concert with friends. Read More »


The thing about this particular kind of recovery is that you don’t really have much of a choice. Sure, my doctor tells me all the don’t-try-this-at-home stories as she wraps up my ankle in cotton gauze and surgical tape, but short of taking a saw to the fiberglass construction on my leg—don’t try that at home, please—I’ve just had to wait it out. Read More »

How to Adjust to Living Alone

Illustration by Elly Cactei.
Illustration by Elly.

I didn’t really know what silence or privacy was until I moved to Toronto to start university. I spent the majority of my life with my family of nine, or at my best friend’s house with her family of 10-plus several “adopted” teens like myself. I took both the love and warmth of community and the lack of privacy for granted. “Alone time” and “secrets” were foreign concepts to me. If I locked myself in my room (which I shared with my sister for a good chunk of my childhood), someone would inevitably need something from me or want to play, and they would just pry open the door with a screwdriver or bang incessantly until I relented and opened it myself. If I told my best friend a secret, I may as well have told it to her mom and all her siblings, too. The next day everyone would be interrogating me about how my date went or what happened with my parents the night before.

When I moved into my own apartment, I spent the majority of the first few weeks marveling over the quiet. It was unbelievably quiet! If I put my shoes down in one place they would be there the next day. All of my things were so beautifully untouched. My roommate even asked me before using my blender—I felt so respected—and she visited her family on weekends, so I often had the place to myself. I could pee with the bathroom door open. I could walk around naked and eat ice cream that hadn’t already been devoured by little kids. My friends and family would call and ask if I missed them, and I’d say, “Of course I miss you guys, but being alone is great.” I relished the newfound solitude, so much that it was difficult for me to acknowledge that after a few months, I was finding all this space and silence unnerving—and kind of sad.

There were other things I couldn’t understand about my newfound solitude: For example, why was it that I was finding myself getting less done in my quiet apartment than I got done while I lived in all these noisy houses full of people? Why did I feel less motivated to do things in my new life than I did in my old life, when so many more inane demands were constantly being made of me? I adjusted to the quiet and, slowly, learned to bring the community and the noise back into my life—on my own terms this time. Here are some things that might help you, too, if you’re getting used to a new, more solitary living situation:

Get out of the house.

When I lived amidst chaos, I longed for the day I wouldn’t have to leave my house to write a short paper for class. However, having to wake up and get dressed made me so much more productive. Although I could work in my apartment every day now, I’ve learned from my past habits and try to get dressed and work outside my bedroom if I need something done without procrastination. This isn’t to say I leave my house every time I need to write or read for class, but I try to go out when I find it difficult to concentrate among my home comforts.

If there’s newfound quiet in your home and you’re struggling to use that space (and time!) productively, try to find other places where you feel motivated to work. Because I grew up constantly surrounded by noise, I can have a difficult time writing or doing homework in complete silence and solitude, so I go to a coffee shop or work at the library around other people. Try finding similarly quiet-yet-not-alone places that work for you, and remember that you don’t always have to work in a coffee shop or a library to be around people! It’s lovely to work outside if it’s warm, either in the park or on a good stoop.

Leaving the house isn’t just important for writing or homework, either. If you like to dance, do yoga, or exercise, you might find it easier to engage in these activities more fully and consistently if you do them outside your room, like at a studio or a park. That being said, sometimes it is too cold or expensive to leave your cozy, quiet apartment. You can make working from home feel more productive by getting dressed (this one is crucial), sitting upright at a table or desk if possible (rather than doing it from your bed), and taking a break every hour or so to walk around the block or do some stretching. If you need background noise to help you concentrate, try playing music without words, or even this strange soundtrack of coffee shop noises.

Find your community.

Understanding that my home wasn’t the ideal place to get work done made me see that it didn’t need to be a sanctuary of silence, either. Admitting that I missed the community and warmth of my old homes and families—both real and adopted—didn’t mean I was admitting defeat, or a dislike for my new life. It just meant I was admitting to the very human need for community. It wasn’t until I moved into my apartment that I began to discover the phenomenon of Wasting Time on the Internet for Hours. I don’t think the internet is evil or bad, and I do enjoy a good ol’ internet waste every now and then. But when I came home looking to unwind and began to click through the black hole of the web, I went to bed feeling bleary eyed and sad. In the past, I would come home and sit with my sisters, cook dinner with family, meet with my best friend and drive to my city’s lake (and get Slurpees on the way, always). Missing that didn’t mean I wasn’t capable of being alone, it just meant I needed both things: the real, wonderful interactions with loved ones and the time to unwind by myself.

When you’re used to constant stimulation and community from your home, it can be difficult to adjust and reintroduce something you’ve always taken for granted. But finding your community again isn’t as difficult as it might seem. You can ease community back into the different areas of your life by trying different spaces out while carefully checking in with yourself to see what feels right. You won’t find people like your family right away, but you may find places that remind you of home. These spaces will typically align with your interests and comforts, be it language, poetry, gaming, art, dance, hacking, film, etc. You may be surprised at the many places you can find this coziness, too! When I realized I missed the two things I had always taken for granted—having kids around and speaking Yiddish—I began to volunteer so I could be exposed to kids and my familial language again. If you have a hard time leaving the house or don’t like going out much, it helps to invite people over for dinner or tea. Cooking with others can be a wonderful way to make your house feel homey.

Frequenting spaces that align with your interests doesn’t guarantee instant community. It may take some time—and some painful small talk—for you to start feeling at home in a space or scene. Be patient with yourself when you’ve just moved to a new city or eased your way into a new community. Just because you don’t feel like “one of them” right away doesn’t mean you won’t feel that way soon.

Owning It: An Interview With Hailee Steinfeld

Illustration by Alyssa Etoile.
Illustration by Alyssa Etoile.

Hailee Steinfeld has portrayed iconic characters like Mattie Ross in True Grit and Juliet in that one love story that’s kind of famous, but on Haiz, her new EP, she’s most concerned with being herself. We first got to hear the Oscar-nominated actress sing in Pitch Perfect 2, and her first single, “Love Myself,” basically defined my summer. I talked to her about the similarities between acting and singing, loving thyself, and Haiz’s other infectious offerings.

TAVI GEVINSON: Do you find that there’s any crossover between the emotional experience of acting as a character and performing or recording a song?

HAILEE STEINFELD: In the beginning of my process, I didn’t write. I would sit in writing sessions and I would be curious, and ask questions, and be fascinated by how the whole thing worked, but I didn’t physically write. There’s this judgmental thing that you automatically ask for when you don’t write your own music—you’re looked down on. But I realized that I’ve never written a script of a movie that I’ve done: All I do as an actor is connect to the words that are written on the page, which I can easily do with a song. As an actor, music is a huge part of my preparation and my life and world. When I’m making a movie, I’ll make a playlist for that movie and that’s all I’ll listen to the whole time. That’s one thing I realized, right off the bat, that I was never ashamed to say, “I didn’t write this song, but it resonates with me.” Now, obviously, that I have started to write, there’s this sense of vulnerability—in that that’s my name and my voice and my experience, not a character, no matter how much I’ve related to that character or identified with that character.

I think it’s fascinating that a screenwriter and an actor, or a songwriter and a singer, can connect over something that isn’t 100 percent either person’s. What first drew you to “Love Myself” and why did you want it to be the first song that people would hear from you?

I wanted movement. I have slow, ballad-like songs, but I wanted to make people move, I wanted to see people smile and to make people feel good. [The song has] such a strong message that I, in my life, forget all the time. It’s been so amazing because, in releasing this song, I’ve gone through really crappy stuff in a relationship. Like, I just hung up the phone with this guy who ended things and I have to go do promo. But the song I’m doing promo for is “Love Myself.” It’s like, “Man, I just have to sell it! This just has to be me, and it’s gotta be my thing.”

I can only imagine the psychological effect of singing “I love myself” over and over.

For sure! Somebody said to me, “How much self-confidence do you think it’s important to have without being cocky?” But having mottos and positive messages in your mind—if they make you feel that good about yourself, well then, amazing. As long as you feel good, and it makes you feel like you can make other people feel good with it, that’s the perfect balance.

They asked that?! Having self-respect doesn’t necessarily mean…

That you’re cocky or full of yourself. I know. It took me a minute, too. I’m 18, I don’t always feel confident, I don’t always feel amazing, I have my moments of insecurity and not-great days quite often. But there’s nothing wrong with [confidence], as long as you’re not rude to other people!

What do you do to rise above those moments of insecurity?

A lot of the time it’s going in my room and turning my phone off and closing my door and not doing anything. Sometimes it’s that same thing but listening to music. I have some form of paper and pen in my bag at all times and I jot down anything I’m feeling. Even if it’s just notes in my phone, I’ll write something in.

Do you remember what the playlist was like for the last film you shot?

Before I did Pitch Perfect 2—that soundtrack was built in for me—I made a movie called Ten Thousand Saints and a film called Term Life, and there were a lot of similar songs on both of those playlists, a lot of Black Flag, Ramones, Sex Pistols. I don’t listen to that on a daily basis but my character in Term Life was a music nut. I’m thinking of another movie I did called The Keeping Room, where I have three songs where, if they do come up on my daily shuffle, I will have to skip them because they’re so [connected to] that experience for me.

What drew you to the song “Rock Bottom” on your EP Haiz?

I feel it speaks to so many things—not necessarily a relationship with a significant other but a sibling, or a pet, or anything where you’re just like, “Ohmygod you ate my favorite pair of shoes and I hate you, but you’re my favorite thing in the entire world!” Or, “Ohmygod, I said I was going to throw a party tonight! Brother, can you not be so friggin’ annoying? I hate you right now!” Or when you’re in that relationship and you’re like, “Why can’t we make things work? We’re doing everything right but it’s just not working.” But there’s also a weird sort of positivity to it, being on the right side of rock bottom.

A lot of people have been calling “Love Myself” a masturbation anthem. What has the reaction been to that interpretation?

It’s actually, surprisingly, taken people longer than I thought to catch on to it! But, I mean, listen—it is what it is. I have nothing to be ashamed of, and the reaction has even been like, “Is this…ohmygod, this is what that song is about? Dope, man, that’s awesome! OK, cool.” But the lyrics are subject to the listener’s interpretation. I’ve had people on social media make vines interpreting [it as] they will, and I’ve had little kids jumping up and down in a classroom singing this song saying they love themselves. I’ve realized it’s revolutionary to be able to say, “I love myself,” whatever that means to you.

The song is ultimately about taking care of you, whether that means physically or emotionally. That’s not to say it’s not nice to have someone provide for you, but the song represents how much power there is in providing for yourself. I did a bunch of phone interviews with people in the UK and people were like, “Is this song about having a wank?” And I’m like, “I almost want to say ‘yes’ because of how great you just said that.”

It was something I thought about in the beginning, How people are gonna perceive this and how people are gonna interpret it? I’ve done movies and films where I have…I mean Romeo and Juliet, there’s a love scene, and even though it’s implied and not fully shown, it’s there, and it happens, it is what it is, there’s no way around it. Just like singing a song, it’s a message I’m proud of. I would never put anything out there that I wasn’t comfortable with or wasn’t proud of. So. I’m owning it.

As you should! On Valentine’s Day on Rookie this year we posted a playlist called Happy Valentine’s Day and all of the songs were about masturbation.


Yes. Like, you think these are gonna be love songs, but actually…

They are!

…Wow, true. Boom. Done.

Saturday Printable: Badges

Minna Gilligan made this page of rainbow-fied badges, which you can print, cut out, and paste to cardboard or any sturdy surface that a pin back can be glued to. (They’d make smile-inducing stickers, too, if you happen to have sticker paper around.) Give them to yourself, a pal, or anyone who needs a pick-me-up. Download all six here:

Saturday Printables Minna

Dear Diary: November 13, 2015

Nothing has been going on. —Amil Barlow
Nothing has been going on. —Amil Barlow


When I tell people that I’m both black and Mexican, or show them pictures of my parents, I receive a variety of responses. Read More »


I learned that, each month, there are over 1,000 evictions in my city. There’s been a spike in the number of people without homes, especially in this area. Read More »

[Editor’s Note: We are oh so verrrry excited, pumped, and THRILLED, to welcome a new diarist to Team Diary! Welcome, Keianna!]

Friday Playlist: The Teenage Realist

Illustrations by Kaleemah Morse.
Illustrations by Kaleemah Morse.

We all handle life’s hardships differently. Some keep it optimistic, while some prepare for what’s in store. It’s not about being a Debbie Downer, but about being rational. This is a playlist for the teenage realist.

Injustice on Campus

Illustration by Esme Blegvad.
Illustration by Esme Blegvad.

Over the past few months, racial tensions at the University of Missouri have been escalating. A stream of racist incidents has been occurring on campus, and students at the Columbia, Missouri school—also known as Mizzou—are flooding social media with their stories of racism, and calls for change.

A University of Missouri graduate student named Jonathan Butler, who organized and participated in protests in Ferguson, Missouri, after the killing of Michael Brown, brought national attention to injustices at Mizzou on November 2. He began a week-long hunger strike, which called for the firing or resignation of University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe for his inaction in making the campus a “safe, welcoming, and inclusive environment for all identities and backgrounds.” Wolfe resigned on Monday, November 9; Butler ended his hunger strike, but he and activist group Concerned Student 1950 continue their protests and calls to action:

Below is a timeline of recent events at Mizzou:

September 11: Missouri Students Association president Payton Head, who is African-American, was verbally abused with racial slurs. “Some guys riding on the back of a pickup truck decided it would be OK to continuously scream n–- at me.” Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin reportedly did not respond to the incident until a week later.

October 5: A white male student reportedly disrupted a play rehearsal of the Legion of Black Collegians (LBC), calling African-American students “n—-s.” Chancellor Loftin addressed the racist incident, saying, “One bias incident is too many. The incidents that I have heard about—both blatant and subtle—are totally unacceptable.”

October 7: Mizzou students covered a statue of Thomas Jefferson with Post-It notes calling him a “racist,” “rapist,” “hypocrite,” and more strong messages.

October 10: During Mizzou’s homecoming parade, Butler and 10 other African-American students surrounded Wolfe’s convertible. Columbia police “pushed them out of the way, threatening to arrest them and rattling cans of pepper spray in their faces.” Thankfully, no one was harmed.

October 20: Concerned Student 1950 share a list of demands, which include the resignation of Wolfe, and for the university to create a curriculum and atmosphere that is racially and socially aware and just.

October 24: A swastika drawn in human feces was found in a communal bathroom of the university’s Gateway Hall.

November 2–November 6: On November 2, Butler announced, on social media, that he was going on a hunger strike until the university’s president, Tim Wolfe, resigned or was fired. “Since Mr. Wolfe joined the UM system as president in 2012, there have been a slew of racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., incidents that have dynamically disrupted the learning experience for marginalized/underrepresented students at the University of Missouri,” he said in his statement. “I will be embarking on an indefinite hunger strike in opposition to Tim Wolfe as the University of Missouri system president. During this hunger strike, I will not consume any food or nutritional sustenance at the expense of my health until either Tim Wolfe is removed from office or my internal organs fail and my life is lost.”

November 8: Members of the Mizzou football team threatened to boycott future games.

November 9: Wolfe resigned following protests against his handling (or lack thereof) racist incidents taking place on campus. Loftin will step down, effective January 2016. The University of Missouri Board of Curators also plans to implement new initiatives they plan to implement to “address the racial climate on its campuses.”

November 10: African-American students were reportedly being surrounded by and threatened by white students on campus. Racist threats were being posted on social media app YikYak, one message saying: “I’m going to stand my ground tomorrow and shoot every black person I see.”

Mizzou campus leadership posted a message on the university’s “online emergency information center” that stated they were “aware of social media threats and increased security” and “investigating reports” of threats.

When a Mizzou student reached out to professor Professor Dale E. Brigham over email, expressing fear to attend her Nutritional Science 1034 class the following day, he replied by saying, “If you don’t feel safe coming to class, then don’t come to class. I will be there, and there will be an exam administered in our class.” He continued to associate the threats with “bullies,” saying “If you give into bullies, they win. The only way bullies are defeated is by standing up to them. If we cancel the exam, they win; if we go through with it, they lose.” Brigham resigned soon after. Some classes were indeed canceled.

Some classes were canceled.

November 11: Hunter M. Park, a 19-year-old white male, was arrested for posting death threats on YikYak. Park confirmed to police that a threat he made (“Some of you are alright. Don’t go to campus tomorrow”) “mimicked” a threat made before a shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon in October. Park “smiled and stated, ‘I was quoting something.'” When asked if it was in regards to the Oregon shooting, Park said “Mmhmm.”

Mizzou’s online emergency information center was updated with a message: “University of Missouri Police have apprehended the suspect who posted threats to campus on YikYak and other social media. The suspect is in MUPD custody and was not located on or near the MU campus at the time of the threat.”

Students at universities across the United States have been standing in solidarity with the Mizzou students in protest, on their own campuses and their timelines. ♦

This Week in TV

This week in TV, we encountered a few scares: Empire announced that it is episodes away from its winter break, and Bob’s Burgers aired its Thanksgiving-themed episode—meaning there may not be a new episode of Bob’s until after the holiday. UGH! In Shondaland, Scandal entertained us with secrets, lies, and revelations–as always. There was a breakup on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and How to Get Away With Murder made us second-guess just about everyone/everything, as per usual. But we’re burying the lede: NICK JONAS IS BACK ON SCREAM QUEENS!

**This is your regularly scheduled spoiler alert! Look away now if you’re not caught up on this week’s new episodes, and return to us once you’re ready to recap.**


Taraji P. Henson as Cookie Lyon and Bryshere Y. Gray as Hakeem Lyon.
Taraji P. Henson as Cookie Lyon and Bryshere Y. Gray as Hakeem Lyon.

Cookie had Laz “open up the cookie jar” and so, their love affair begins. But will it last? Hakeem doesn’t trust him, and Laz’s boss can sense him falling for Cookie. Aside from Cookie and Laz and their hot-and-heavy situation, the episode raised a few questions: (1) When is Andre going to ask Rhonda for a sonogram? (2) How many flashbacks did Kelly Rowland tape as young Lucious’s mom? (3) When are we going to find out why Lucious is as devious and crazy as he is? (4) Will Jamal ever become a breakout star? I’m tired of waiting! (5) Didn’t Hakeem undergo serious head trauma in the last episode? How is he suddenly cured and acting like a young Puff Daddy? (OK, that was two questions in one, but still.) The less realistic Empire becomes, the more inclined I am to turn away. But I can’t. At this point, it’s so bad, it’s good. —Taj Rani

Scream Queens

Lea Michele as Hester Ulrich,  Billie Lourd as Chanel No. 3,  Skyler Samuels as Grace Gardner,  Emma Roberts as Chanel Oberlin, and  Niecy Nash as Denise Hemphill.
Lea Michele as Hester Ulrich, Billie Lourd as Chanel No. 3, Skyler Samuels as Grace Gardner, Emma Roberts as Chanel Oberlin, and Niecy Nash as Denise Hemphill.

He’s back! Nick Jonas is back! Unfortunately, his character, Boone Clemens, is only around for the last few minutes of the latest episode, he isn’t shirtless, and he’s pretending to be Joaquin Phoenix, because he’s one of the Red Devil killers. But, whatever…he’s back!

After focusing on the Feather versus Dean Munsch fiasco last week, Scream Queens returned to the hunt for the serial killers plaguing campus. The episode kicked off strong with Jamie Lee Curtis putting a satirical twist on her mom’s ICONIC shower scene from the movie Psycho, which was a fun touch in an episode all about mothers. Later, it was revealed that there are actually three Red Devil killers. (Well, actually two Red Devils and one Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia). Munsch survives the three-on-one attack, miraculously. In the KKT house, the girls are focused on finding incriminating evidence to prove that Zayday and Grace are the killers. Meanwhile, Grace sets out to prove that she is the bathtub baby of KKT lore. All of the sorority girls are unsuccessful in their quest, the house’s beloved candle vlogger is brutally murdered, and Grace discovers the real identity of her mother, who is not the woman who died in the bathtub.

Although it wasn’t really a huge shock, Gigi and Boone are confirmed as two of the three campus serial killers—the final killer remains a mystery. Grace has already begun to figure out Gigi’s role in the murders, just as Gigi’s co-conspirators seem worried she’s not pulling her weight, given her Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia costume. Who can possibly be the third? I’m thinking Chad Radwell, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out that Grace’s mom is secretly NOT dead. Either way, do not take Nick Jonas from us again, Scream Queens. —Brittany Spanos


Tony Goldwyn as President Fitzgerald Grant and Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope.
Tony Goldwyn as President Fitzgerald Grant and Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope.

Scandal opened with Olivia Pope in handcuffs, and I immediately assumed that she’d let Fitz in on her deep, dark secret: Rowan Pope escaped maximum security with her assistance. Although Liv was planning to come clean eventually, David Rosen sped up the process, after he uncovered the source of Papa Pope’s escape. He delivers the news to an eager Cyrus, who couldn’t be happier to hear that Fitz’s beloved has betrayed him. There’s no telling what Rowan has up his sleeve now that he’s a free man, and when he reveals to Liv that he’s being “hunted” it’s hard to believe, given his meticulous moves in the past. Who is trying to kill Rowan (besides everyone)? This week’s ending threw me for a loop: Huck tracks down and subdues Rowan for an intense Q&A. We’ll have to wait until the winter finale to see what Huck has planned for Liv’s father. —Camille Augustin

How To Get Away With Murder

Aja Naomi King as Michaela Pratt.
Aja Naomi King as Michaela Pratt.

For a second, I thought Asher had gone to the dark side, but his discoveries on this week’s episode have changed my mind about his character. Almost everyone had a breakthrough in Annalise’s eyes, except for Wes. He’s still reeling from Rebecca’s suspected death, and can’t seem to focus on Caleb and Catherine’s case. A painting provides all the answers Annalise and Co. need to know. Catherine gifted Wes with a portrait that was the same image seen in a photo of Phillip, the man we all thought was about to harm Oliver last week. In the plot twist of all plot twists, Phillip and Catherine are actually very familiar with each other, so much so that we might assume that she killed her parents and Caleb is innocent after all. HTGAWM keeps the theories churning. –Camille Augustin

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Terry Crews as Terry Jeffords and Andy Samberg as Jake Peralta.
Terry Crews as Terry Jeffords and Andy Samberg as Jake Peralta.

When Rosa decides that it’s time to dump Marcus, she enlists the help of his uncle Captain Holt. To them (and me), break-ups should be cut, dry, and tear-free (vulnerability can be terrifying)! After the breakup, Rosa realizes she can acknowledge her sadness with Holt. Turns out that because they’re similar personalities, they can create a safe space in which to cry or talk candidly. —Anne T. Donahue

Bob’s Burgers

Bob Belcher.
Bob Belcher.

Bob’s Burgers delivered a Thanksgiving special as anxiety-inducing as Thanksgiving itself. When a snowstorm threatens Bob’s favorite holiday, he manages to make it home from Linda’s sister’s home by hauling her—and her fake sprained ankle—across town in a kiddie pool. He relies on her to do the same for him, after he falls from a tree when rescuing her cat. The moral of the story? Families can be weird, but they’re still ours. Even if Thanksgiving dinner is ruined by well-meaning family members (never trust Linda to cook a turkey), someone will come through with microwaveable egg rolls. –Anne T. Donahue ♦

Dear Diary: November 12, 2015

I'm slowly becoming myself again. —Jao San Pedro
I’m slowly becoming myself again. —Jao San Pedro


November is a month of death. As a child I assigned colors, symbols, and moods to months, the way a synesthete may say that a song sounds like the yellow-brown of hay. November was always a raven, harbinger of gray seeping into school windows and initial goosebumps and the incurable cold preceding the smell of my living room radiator in December. Read More »


The extent of their interaction with the police is being hounded for smoking weed in public, whereas my interaction with police could result in death or serious injury—plus sprinkled racial expletives for added effect. To be confronted with these things in your day-to-day life is a struggle. Not that this threat wasn’t apparent before, but I’ve gone from a predominantly black community and school system to a PWI (predominantly white institution). Read More »

One in a Million

Emaan MajedDaadi
When I was three, robbers broke into our house. They tied my parents and family up, wielding guns and coarse threats. They emptied the gold bridal jewelry from my mother’s and aunt’s cabinet, and made quick work of our possessions, apologizing intermittently—they said they were short of cash. This didn’t happen often, but it had happened before, and it would happen again: such was the state of an increasingly insecure Lahore, Pakistan. When the four burly men were about to leave, my frail, bony grandmother called out to them, “If you ever need dinner and are about to go hungry, you can always find bread here.”

My grandmother, known by her first name, Mumtaz, was born in Pasibet, India, before the bloody scar Partition left in the Indian subcontinent’s body came about. She recalled hiding in gas stations as a little girl, cowering with her family as they took the risky journey to Muslim-majority Pakistan. She faced further loss when, in her early 30s, she became a widow with three children to care for. Pakistan, like the rest of the world, struggles deeply to accept the strength of its women, preferring to stifle them so it may not be seen. I cannot imagine how hard it was for my grandmother, made entirely of iron and steel, to navigate single motherhood in late 20th century rural Punjab. She may not have liked it when I cut my hair short or met our modern standards of feminism, but Daadi, as I called her, embodied strength in a much more meaningful way, gamely facing down struggles most of us can only imagine.

Some people, when faced with scarcity and loss, come to clutch what they do have closer—Daadi was the opposite. She and her blimp-sized heart threw open the doors every morning, saying to the masses in Pakistan, “Come in, come in!” It didn’t matter what new tragedy befell her personally—she would still pour her soul into helping the needy as a way of living. Early on as a child, I noticed the differences between her household and that of my mother’s side of the family. Though both treated their workers well and gave to charity, Daadi took it several steps beyond what was expected. The people we hired—maids, drivers, chefs—were our family, eating with us, talking to us, dropping in on us when they’d moved away. I remember hearing through the grapevine that her tendency to pass out ice and water among construction workers during the humid summers was looked down upon—a lady of her class was definitely not supposed to cater to and invite in laborers of their class—but that didn’t have a chance of stopping her. When Daadi passed away, mourners came to our house from far-flung corners of the country. People, ranging from society ladies to de facto beggars, wanted to pay their respects—and the same people knew they would be accepted and welcomed into Daadi’s house, regardless of social class. She didn’t run a house for us, her already privileged family—she ran a house for anyone in Lahore who needed one. And, yes, one of those robbers did drop by, semi-regularly for a time, to have some hot food in his mouth. —Emaan M., 19, Dallas, Texas

Abigail P.Matt from Matt and Kim
About a week ago, Matt and Kim had a show to kick off homecoming week at my university, where I’m in the marching band. I skipped rehearsal, just this once, to camp out next to the stage with my brother to see if we could catch a glimpse of the band we had both admired since middle school. We found Matt, bent over and digging around in cords and amps behind the stage. He stood up and walked in our direction. “Hey, Matt!” my brother called to him. He jogged over to us.

Let me say how adorable this man is. He has perfect skin and teeth and an intense jawline and bright blue eyes. He was wearing black skinny pants and a white sweatshirt with the word “KING” in big bold letters. He came over to where my brother and I were standing and introduced himself, and asked us our names and shook our hands. He was unexpectedly normal, and made polite conversation—something about the metal barriers dividing the stage from the audience, I don’t really remember, I was a little starstruck. He asked us how to pronounce Louisville—was it “Loo-ah-vul,” or “Loois-ville?” He told us that it, “Should be pronounced Loois-ville because it makes more grammatical sense.” As a native Louisvillian I don’t agree, but I was too excited to fight him on it. After we chatted for a little bit, we asked if we could take a picture with him. He said yes, and a friendly passerby took the shot.

Later at the actual show, the band was awesome. Tons and tons of energy, great crowd, great band, good vibes all around. When Matt came on stage, he waved at me and my brother in the crowd, and I found confetti in unexpected places for days after. I’ll never forget how thrilling it was to make a relationship with of my favorite bands while in my favorite city. Matt earns a solid 10 out of 10, at least according to this critic. —Abigail P., 18, Louisville, Kentucky

The day that Kimi told me I was her favorite camp counselor at Boring-City-Day-Camp was probably the most emotional I have ever been at any job ever. She has been coming almost every week for the past two summers and has been bringing her sass with her, always looking fierce in pink frilly dresses and oh-so-chic shrug sweaters. I’ll never forget the day she gave me the once-over and stated, “Quiche (my pie-themed counselor nickname), your hair is really short. But don’t worry. It will grow back soon.” She currently goes to my old elementary school, and we have very animated conversations about old French teachers with fake accents and the first-grade teacher we both had who wears a lab coat and pretends to be a scientist. She’s only nine, but I always find myself talking to her like we’re a couple of cynical old spinsters who both hate swim time with an unhealthy passion. On the last day of camp this summer, I told her I had a present for her and produced my very own personal collection of embroidery threads from my backpack. I told her she could pick any colors she wanted, and that I would show her how to make a friendship bracelet. She reluctantly started browsing through the options and said dramatically, “OK. But I thought it was going to be a real present.” Oh, Kimi. Stay fiery. —Brianna D., 19, Canada

Isabella RLondon
I live in Florida. If you are a Floridian and haven’t been to Orlando, you haven’t lived here for more than a year. Since I have lived here my entire life, summers were spent at the beach or at “the most magical place on earth.” I have been to Disney World many times, but one stranger has made every Disney trip since the one I saw him pale in comparison. Disney World is famous for many things, especially its fireworks show, Wishes. At the end of a great day meeting up with some family friends, our night was coming to a close and we were more than sad to see it go. For one last hurrah, we decided to sit around and watch the fireworks show together before they drove back to South Carolina. While hundreds of people were deciding whether to sit down on the pavement or try to stick it out standing, one person stood out, and before the show even started. He was a tall man holding an umbrella in one hand and wearing a soccer jersey that read “London” on the back. For the purposes of this story, his name is London. When everyone heard Jiminy Cricket’s voice over the loudspeakers, the show was about to begin. London raised his umbrella and started conducting the fireworks show, for 20 minutes, without stopping. This was a big deal. Wishes is a great fireworks display, except for the fact that the fireworks pop up everywhere, and you never know where to focus your attention. London solved that problem. He directed the entire fireworks production flawlessly, so that no one following his lead would miss a beat. London gets five stars for being an amazing human who decided to help people, and asked for nothing in return.

P.S. In my research, I found a video of him (not mine) on a different occasion. —Isabella R., 16, Miami, Florida

Tilly AThe Trio
Last year, I was on a bus with my mum when the coolest old women in the world also got on for the journey into town. All three had perms and bad coats, but all of them were also wearing high heels and seemed ready to party, at around half-nine in the morning. They were discussing all the places they were going, and all the things they wanted to see whilst in town. Getting off the bus, they nearly fell over due to their high heels, and one had to be caught by someone getting on the bus—but that clearly didn’t stop them. All three got off and within literally 10 seconds they had reached their first café, presumably of the day, and walked in chatting away like the happiest people on the planet. They are who I want to be when I am an old woman. I give them all five stars just because they were the coolest and happiest old people I have ever seen. —Tilly, 16, United Kingdom
★★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★★★

Gertie FThe Boy in the Bush
I live far away from my school, and a short walk away from the nearest bus stop. One day I was walking home, away from the bus stop, and I turned into a narrow alley—the only way to my house. There’s a large bush of I-don’t-know-what at the entrance to the alley, and as I pushed it out of the way to cross through, something stirred in the bush. I froze as a boy’s head popped out of the leafy fronds. He wasn’t bad-looking—hence the immediate appeal—and he stepped out from behind the bush wearing a Van Halen T-shirt (already, he had won my heart) and offered me a mint. I refused politely but we got talking. The next day, after school, I returned, and there he was again, waiting for me, and the next day, and the day after that. The thing about him was that wherever he went, he attracted attention with his spiky red hair and a strangely charming way of dressing. I loved that. He is now my best friend. —Gertie F.

Livija L​​Sinister the Dog
These events took place while I was watching my aunt’s dance show in a beautiful alley in San Francisco. The show started outside, and it was the perfect time of day; it was a beautiful sunset and we weren’t too hot or too cold. It started out with about 12 people walking in time slowly up the alley and humming softly. Since the alley was open to the public, people would walk through every once in a while, right through the show. One women in particular stood out to us: She walked right through with two big dogs and all the confidence in the world. She seemed not to notice us at all, and instead was very concentrated on getting her dogs to follow her. Then, she started to call one of her dogs: “Sin! Sinister!” she yelled, much to everyone’s surprise. She continued walking, with her cleverly named dogs, and we all continued watching the show, now with smiles on our faces. I give this women five stars for her creative pet names, for not caring what others think, and for immensely adding to the performance, without even knowing it. —Livija L., 15, San Francisco

Abby N.Katie
For my friend’s birthday, we decided to go roller skating. Simple and fun, and we thought we would all suck, so what harm could be done? Well, after an intense game of laser tag with kids half our age, we entered the rink. To be completely honest, I am not that bad at roller skating, and neither is my friend, Katie. After around 10 minutes of practicing, Katie and I decided to race (not the best decision when there are a lot of people in the rink). So, after one lap, I started cutting it close with people, and basically I did a 360 in the air and landed flat on my knees. Not the point of the story, though. The point of the story is that I was able to rely fully on my friends to help me get home and stay strong. I had my own 360 in my head at the same time—that my friends aren’t just people I hang out with to have fun, but people I count on to not only literally pick me up when I’m down, but stand by me through whatever my obstacle is. —Abby N., 15, Massachusetts

Meghan ChiewEmma
When I first started high school, Emma was one of the senior girls, and I thought she was the prettiest girl in her grade. One time, I noticed her playing Jesus in chapel, and from that my 12-year-old self concluded that surely she must be popular, because only popular girls would have the courage to wear a white robe and sandals in front of the entire house. Emma always qualified to represent the school in cross-country and athletics, and she was a model. Then, to top it all off, even after she’d graduated, Emma was invited back to the school to give a speech because she had become the dux. The vice principal even gave her a pre-speech, commending all her achievements and gushing over how she got the highest score in the entire state. I think that was the moment I decided I wanted to become the dux, and I visualized myself in her position at the podium, having my name carved into a school plaque. Not too long ago, I heard that Emma was actually pretty pretentious, which goes to show that sometimes your idols aren’t always all that idealistic. Nevertheless, thank you Emma for being a rare source of motivation. I will always remember how you said in your speech, “Be like a duck—calm on the surface but kicking like hell underneath.” —Meghan C., 15

sinead mPostman Pat
It was a normal day. I was eating my bowl of Lucky Charms, watching an episode of The IT Crowd, waiting for my parcel to arrive. The phone rang and, knowing it was the postman, I buzzed him in to my apartment block. However, the person I saw at my door was not the usual grumpy, annoyed, scarily-pounding-on-the-door postman I usually encounter. This was, in fact, an angel sent to the post office business from the almighty being himself. His knock was a perfect gentle tap, letting me know I needn’t worry about him wanting to recreate one of the Taken films, and the face that greeted me was no longer one that made me fear for my life, but a beautiful ball of happiness. I look forward to seeing it every time the post arrives. (I don’t know his name, but I’ve accidentally started calling him Postman Pat.) His eyes were the happiest pair of eyeballs I had ever seen, and he did something that both shocked and moved me: HE SMILED. He continued to make my heart dance like a puppy by wishing me, “A nice day,” and saying, “Thank you.” No, Mr. Postman, thank you, for helping this girl no longer feel like she’s going to get murdered every time someone buzzes her apartment when she’s home alone. —Sinead M., 18, Wales

Chloe MAbbey
Abbey is a great gal. Wearer of quirky garments and smudgy kohl eyeliner, she’s always available to get me out of gym through lunch dates and hot chocolate in her office. Yup she’s a counselor. Our relationship is strange at times ’cause she’s an adult who happens to be an authority figure, and I’m a 15-year-old. We met through a series of sewing classes (we danced and chatted way more then we sewed) and posh dinner parties that our parents put on (they were all friends as well). But it works anyway, and we don’t give a fig what people think. She’s feisty yet shy and doesn’t recognize her greatness and how admired she is. She’s still learning the ways of the world and her counseling shows that through chocolate biscuits and cheesy quotes, but that’s the beauty of her—out of any adult, she understands kids the best and even though she’s way ahead of our game, she still delivers her wisdom on the right level. Her and my grandma also have a strong bond going because their dogs died around the same time. For a while they were making plenty of late night, teary phone calls to each other and exchanging boxes of chocolates through the mail. In fact, my grandma recently bought a puppy. She called her Abbey. —Chloe M., 15, New Zealand

TiffanyBubbly Starbucks Workers With Creepy Bear-Snack Comments
Most popular, big marketplaces have a coffee shop built into them. The one I was in had its own Starbucks. I ordered a Frappuccino. I got the two most bubbly, kind baristas to help me. I didn’t catch their names, but the cashier didn’t charge me for the loose change on my order. While the other worker was making sample Fraps, I took two. He said, “They have Teddy Grahams in them—you know, the bear snacks that you eat face first so they’re headless.” They were both super nice, and the comment about the Teddy Grahams made my day completely. I wish I could give them 20 stars, but they get five out of five, if we’re keeping it professional. It must kind of suck to work in such a small area with busy customers all the time, so I guess if cracking jokes and being nice makes their job easier, so be it. Thanks Starbucks dudes, for being so bubbly! —Tiffany, 18, USA
★★★★★ ♦

Mizan K: Awe

Computers and phones can make it easy to forget that there’s nature out there, and that it’s often overwhelmingly beautiful. Mizan K is here to remind us of that. In the music video for her song “Awe,” premiered below, the singer-songwriter shows us that happiness can be waiting right outside the door.

Earlier this week, I talked with Mizan K about “Awe,” the power in simplicity, and collaborating with friends.

CHANEL PARKS: What’s the meaning behind “Awe”?

MIZAN K: “Awe” is about remembering to look around at nature, and remembering to be in awe of existence as a way of finding happiness. I’m talking to and about a friend who doesn’t do that enough. In the song, I’m talking with someone that I would like to remind of the beauty of nature, and of the beauty of existence, and to pull them out of their sadness and their indifference. The video illustrates that point, in that it’s a DIY video.

“Awe” also borrows from “Morning Sunrise” by Weldon Irvine. [The song features] an interpolation of the chord progression. I wanted to reference “Morning Sunrise,” because it’s also about the beauty of natural phenomena. “Awe” is sort of like my modern, electronic part two of that song.

You’re also alone in the video. Can you talk about solitude in nature?

I didn’t choose to be alone. It was me and my friend, and we had a camera and tripod. We were sneaking around New York Botanical Garden, even though we weren’t allowed to film. We were trying to avoid the security guard, and it was 95 degrees outside. It wasn’t really planned that I’d be alone. I just couldn’t make it so obvious that I was filming. In a way, I didn’t want to distract from the nature that’s in the film; I really love the look of the flowers. I wanted to keep it simple, and not a story about a person.

You direct all your videos. Do your life experiences influence how you craft visuals for your songs, and vice versa?

The thing that distinguishes the videos I make is the fact that I use film. I’m not exactly sure why and when I started being fascinated with the look of film, but it adds a layer of texture. I love that. I try to use film for everything I shoot—not [for an] aesthetic, but to make the mood deeper. Everything looks good on film. I also collaborate with my friend, Str8ngecreature, who’s an artist. We write music together. We’ve known each other since we were 13. He’s an influence on the aesthetic as well.

I love that you collaborate. Can you talk about how that friendship influences the way you both create art?

When I first met him, he was a 13-year-old genius. He used to make collections of songs and instrumentals he had recorded. He made [around] 20 songs every six months, every year. He was the best artist in high school. Then, I didn’t see him for a while. We both went off to college, but we maintained contact.

When I decided to move to New York, he was going to Cooper Union [in Manhattan]. I ended up moving 10 blocks away from him, just completely by accident. We started working together. We really have a similar point of view when it comes to our work, and we have matching personalities [when it comes to] taste, art, and music. We enhance each other’s work. We’ve been great friends and great collaborators for a long time now. ♦

Tech Trek: Make Your Own App

Collage by Maggie Thrash.
Collage by Maggie Thrash.

Hello, Tech Trek-ers! Today, Maggie is going to talk about the many joys that an infrared thermometer gun can bring to a person’s life. You can use it to take the temperature of pretty much any object—like, say, your cat, or a pumpkin—by reading its thermal radiation. You can even wield its powers to make stuff like homemade yogurt*!

Pretty cool, right? Now here’s Amber to answer some of your burning tech-related questions!

How do I start learning HTML? —Nyaila

Great question! To answer, I first consulted my cat Luca. I think of him as a sort of computer savant because he once accessed a secret level of Google simply by lying across my laptop’s keyboard. The bad news is that he can’t talk, so he was no help. The good news is that I know of a great place to start learning HTML: Khan Academy. This site is an incredible instructional tool—not just for learning HTML, but for learning a lot of things (art history, math, science, and pretty much the rest of it). Oh, and it’s free! Yay, for free knowledge, right?

Khan Academy can help you learn how to make webpages with HTML (the language that provides the structure for online content) and CSS (the language that controls the style of a site). Everything is explained clearly, concisely, and in a conversational way, and I like that the lessons present information through text and audiovisual aides. There are interactive challenges, too, like a code editor that tests how much HTML knowledge you’ve absorbed. These games are fun, and pretty necessary, for me at least, because completing them has helped me see how much I’ve really learned. It keeps me moving forward with the lessons, rather than abandoning the whole endeavor to stalk Taylor Swift’s cats on Instagram with Luca.

My friend and I really want to make an app, but just don’t know where to start! What are the basics? Is it even possible for us? ­—Phoebe, 19, Madison, Wisconsin

Just from the couple of sentences’ worth of info that I have about you and your friend, I can tell that you are industrious folk—you’re asking questions, and you have the desire to take your idea and turn it into something tangible. So, the short answer to your question is, yes, of course it’ll be possible for you two to make an app!

First, you should know (and you may already) that apps or any kind of software or website are created with code. On the most basic level, code tells a computer to do what you want it to do. There was a time when not knowing how to code would make it very, very difficult for someone to develop an app: After coming up with an app idea, you would have had to outsource the work and potentially pay tons and tons of cash money. Or you’d have to devote a lot of time to learning how to code before you could even start work on your actual app project. But these days, if you’re raring to go—totally ready to just, like, have that app—but don’t have the requisite coding knowledge, there are several different app-making programs, also known as “authoring tools,” that you can use.

Before you decide on which program you want to use, you need to figure out which type of app you want to make, because some programs are going to work better for your purposes than others. If you want to make a mobile game, for instance, you might want to give GameSalad a try. The interface is fairly simple: You pick the elements that you want in your game from a list of options, and then just plop them into the game you’re creating. Per the company’s site, “you can make your first game in about an hour.”

If your goal is to take a personal site, like maybe your blog or YouTube channel, and turn it into a mobile app for your readers/viewers/fans, then you could take a look at DWNLD, a relatively new authoring tool. With DWNLD, you simply type in the web address of the site you want to app-ify, choose a template, and then publish. It works in a way that’s very similar to WordPress, and it’s extremely intuitive.

If you want to create an app for a club or other organization, then I’d suggest taking a look at AppMakr, which will allow you to add features like forums, photos, video, and live-chat to your app.

All of the tools I mentioned have free options, but you’ll be able to do more with your creation if you have a paid package (you know how it goes). That being said, why not learn to code? It’s the slower path to app creation, for sure, but if you want your app to be more customized, then this is really a great option. Code Avengers has courses that lay down the foundation for developing apps and games with Javascript. If you have the money (the first lesson is free, but the more advanced levels average at about $34 each), then this could be the place where you begin. There are also Women Who Code and Girls Who Code networks that hold workshops and events all over the world. You’ll learn how to code, and who knows—maybe you’ll meet a new friend/app collaborator, too, while you’re at it? ♦

*If you make Maggie’s yogurt and decide to try her heating-pad tip, do not leave that pad unattended, y’all! Even if it does take hours for the yogurt to set (’cause heat and electricity).

You don’t need an infrared thermometer gun to know that you’ve got a burning tech-related question. If that is the case, email [email protected] with your first name, last initial, age, city/state, and what’s on your mind.

Dear Diary: November 11, 2015

It's beginning to get cold—at least, by Southern California standards. The sun starts to set around 4 PM, which has been throwing me off completely. In other news, I've realized that I need a tutor for Algebra Two, and that my former crush is haunting me like some pesky ghost. —Briana
It’s beginning to get cold—at least, by Southern California standards. The sun starts to set around 4 PM, which has been throwing me off completely. In other news, I’ve realized that I need a tutor for Algebra Two, and that my former crush is haunting me like some pesky ghost. —Briana


There’s nothing like that sinking feeling when you hit the “on” button on your school-mandated, important-software-containing laptop and get—


Blank space. An empty screen. Read More »


I knew what the other people here would say, “God was with you! Didn’t you know that?” But I didn’t. He wasn’t. I had to crawl out of the dark on my own hands and knees. And now I’m watching these kids enjoy fully-fledged rescue missions. Read More »

On Mass

Illustration by Allegra Lockstadt.
Illustration by Allegra Lockstadt.

If there was a Venn diagram to map out where my strongest dislike lies, the left circle would say “Groups,” and the right circle would say “Forced Emotion.” Where they overlap would be every required communal gathering of childhood—summer camp, pep rallies, youth groups—meeting in the form of my worst nightmare. These moments were embedded in my school years, mostly in various gatherings and assemblies, all through which I not-so-humbly suffered, eyeballs fixed in a perpetual roll, right foot locked into an imaginary drum-machine setting called “impatient tap.”

“Considering those examples,” the casual observer might say, “the hallmarks of the conventional American upbringing must have been inconvenient due to your instinctual frustrations.”

“Correcccccct,” I’d hiss, while a hell-mouth cracks open and fractures the ground behind me, swallowing me up as I take every drum circle, drama club, and well-meaning after-school group leader with me.

This hostile reaction may not come across as “normal,” or very kind to others. Bonding occasions like assemblies, where clapping hands and stomping feet and kumbaya-ing happen, bring with them many people’s most comforting moments. For some reason, all of those things grated me, and yes, it was very inconvenient. Especially because at the epicenter of the Groups/Forced Emotion diagram was the major touchstone of my high school experience—Catholic school.

My all-girls’ Catholic high school was where community was an enrollment marketing strategy and bonding was a word used by many of my peers with genuine joy and not a trace of irony. By any definition, I should have hated every minute of it with fiery dedication—especially mass day.

Mass day happened roughly a dozen times each year. On a typical mass day, class was cut short to accommodate the journey to the chapel up the hill, where we would endure a 90-minute service. The student body generated a quiet stampede as we exited the school building and swarmed our way to the parish, our chatter hushed by the warning looks of nuns, and our feet silenced by the soft padding of the ballet flats we all wore in 2008. If “detached from the group” is where I felt most comfortable, then the 600-odd girl-train chugging three blocks uphill from campus to chapel was my personal pilgrimage of pain.

If anyone I knew from the outside world spotted me there helpless, shoaling like a fish toward a ceremony for a religion I would never identify with, with a school I never even liked in the first place, I would have crumpled into a ball of humiliation. Being required to group in this way was against the core of my identity, the bulk of which I was still figuring out at the time. But I knew enough to be convinced of the following: I was fierce about my autonomy, I was certainly not religious, and if you told me I had to do something and the only reason was, “Because I told you so,” then I would run as fast as I could in the other direction. It wasn’t so much that I was upset about going to a Catholic mass; it was the feeling of losing control in a herd of what I considered to be sheep.

Sometimes, though, when you sit with your discomfort long enough, what meets you there is surprising. My resistance to mass day sprouted some unlikely responses from my low-key rotten core, like the start of a new potato budding from a decomposing one. Sitting there in the pew, shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of other girls, I noticed myself contending with the emotional push-and-pull of reluctance to being in the group, while simultaneously being swept into moments of near-mystical connection.

There was the contrast of one voice echoing from the altar during a reading, followed by the humming chorus of “Amen” and the hefty, audible sweep of bodies moving in tandem from their seats to standing. Then there was the sound of those bodies sitting down again. The antique pews creaked slightly as everyone shifted against the person beside them to get comfortable again. When someone else’s knees bump yours, you are reminded that you aren’t alone in your head. These mini-rituals were strung together throughout mass, and gave me moments to space out, contemplating eternity or whatever else was beyond the big, stained glass windows. These moments allowed me to lean into the group in a way that, due to so many masses over the years, felt instinctual.

I was unwillingly attacked by the tingles you can get when everyone sings or murmurs along to the same words in a large, reverberant room. I didn’t ask for this, or expect this! I thought I hated being here, I said to myself. Why do I feel, like, one with the group right now? It might have been the procedural, tempered flow of the rituals that calmed me, or the vibration of the music that rearranged some chemicals in my brain. Or maybe it was some sort of intuitive sense that arose from being there, and noticing that the entire reason for this gathering was derivative of an ancient striving to connect to universe in some way. The 10-story church I was stuck in was deliberately designed for the sound waves to resonate in a way that hits a person to their core, and inspire one to seek a connection with God. That mind-bending thoughtfulness led to another realization: that the whole world, in a way, is also designed for a person to not feel alone. In going through the motions with all those people, there was something to be found—even if it went against my ego’s grain. Through that discovery, I was able to appreciate a sense of holiness in a religion I didn’t even believe in.

Unexpectedly, mass day made me more receptive and willing to let go of myself, to let my restlessness fade out, and to learn to be just another head in a sea of heads. Because of it, I’ve been able to move through populated spaces differently, feeling like I have the secret code to unlocking reverence. I found it when I went alone, suffering through a cold, to see Beyoncé in concert, where I was sandwiched between a couple and two teenage boys. I find it when I watch grainy videos from the ’70s and ’80s of Bruce Springsteen, his voice contending with thousands of screaming ones as he performs bombastic anthems that speak of the acute and intimate sparks of love and magic. I feel it more acutely now when I’m in the car with my friends, or at a wedding or birthday party or a funeral. There is something we can’t see that holds us together.

Being forced to participate once made me feel like my emotions, while I was in those groups, weren’t mine. But isn’t that what empathy is—the ability to share in a feeling? If I took the opportunity to go down that empathic avenue, I’d arrive someplace I still recognized—just with the help of others’ energy. Magic doesn’t always dilute when it’s spread across multiple people, multiple vessels—it amplifies, sometimes, when the group is right. Slipping into the feeling of the gathering—even if it meant relinquishing some control—didn’t mean I would ever lose myself. ♦

Makeup Is Art: A Beauty Interview With Seinabo Sey

Illustration by Mithsuca Berry.
Illustration by Mithsuca Berry.

Seinabo Sey possesses a mighty, soulful voice, reminiscent of the pop-powerhouses of the late ’80s and early ’90s. You can’t help but get chills when you hear the 25-year-old, who hails from Sweden, belt on her debut album Pretend. “The songs [on Pretend] are little notes to myself, to remember the lessons that you learn from hardships,” she says.

Besides music, Seinabo also is obsessed with makeup and skincare, which happen to be two of my favorite things to talk about, too! I chatted with Seinabo over the phone about zits, her favorite beauty brands, and her refreshing philosophy on makeup.

CHANEL PARKS: I have to ask about one of my favorite songs on Pretend, “Poetic.” What was the inspiration behind it?

SEINABO SEY: “Poetic” is one of the lessons I learned about love, how love can be easy if you let it…and it can be hard as well. It’s about giving yourself up and seeing the beauty in loving someone, even though that person might not love you the same way back.

OK, now let’s talk about beauty! What’s your philosophy on makeup?

Makeup is art. Makeup is like looking at a painting. I think it’s important to understand what you’re doing when wearing makeup—are you wearing makeup to hide yourself or to emphasize yourself? When you get to a point where your makeup is an expression of who you are, and it’s something that makes you feel better, then wear makeup!

People have their opinions about looking “natural” versus not looking natural, but I say f– that. If you like purple lipstick, wear purple lipstick! There are too many things in the world that are hard enough as it is for a woman. If you feel better with your makeup on, wear your makeup.

What are some beauty products that you love?

I definitely use a lot of MAC products, maybe because my makeup artist uses them. I love this [Sephora] mascara called Better Than Sex. It’s the best mascara I’ve found in a long time. I love MAC’s Ruby Woo [lipstick]. I’m starting to try lip glosses, so I use Lancôme’s Juicy Tubes in pink. I have a LUSH lip balm called Honey Trap.

Do you have any drugstore favorites?

H&M has come out with some pretty good new makeup that is really highly pigmented. I’m not sure of their foundations, but the lipsticks are really good. My favorite blush is from Forever 21. I love any kind of NYX product—they have a really good finishing spray at Target, in the States, that’s inexpensive.

Which makeup product do you like to experiment with most?

I’m really into finding out how to get the perfect base, so I love different highlighters and I have a couple from MAC. At this point, I just walk into MAC and see whatever I can find! [Laughs] But, I love the golden tones. I know Sephora has some good highlighters as well, like their own brand. Anything that’s golden, a little pink, or pearly, I love.

What’s your experience like shopping in Sweden for cosmetics as a woman of color?

It’s actually a very big problem, and it’s on the news nowadays. I have a lot of friends who work with makeup, and that subject is being raised. [Drugstore brands] don’t have our color here [in Sweden]—that’s why we have to go out and buy these crazy expensive products. It’s difficult, and it’s not easy to find.

How does your beauty routine, and the way you present yourself, align with your artistry?

I wear a lot more makeup on stage because of the lights. You can be more dramatic, like contouring your face more, which will make you look like you have great cheekbones–that’s fun. With everyday life, as of the last maybe six months, I’m getting into putting on a lot of makeup. Well, not a lot of makeup, but looking fresh. In the summer, you want to be free, you don’t want to have stuff in your face, and you’re sweaty. But, now that the winter is coming, and my skin is super pale and I need some glow, I started putting on makeup again. My everyday regimen is mascara. I’m working on getting the perfect foundation.

How do you take care of your skin?

That’s my number-one stress in life, beauty wise. [Laughs] I remember having bad skin when I was younger. I used Proactiv, and that was what I found worked. Now I use Dermalogica, but they’re pretty pricey. There’s this brand called Simple, which has a really nice moisturizer. I use it to moisturize without getting all greasy. Putting toothpaste on pimples helps me. You have to find what works for you. Another thing I like using is coconut oil, but if you have breakouts that may not be the best idea.

Do you have any other tricks?

If you have a pimple, don’t touch it! And if I do, I use tweezers, otherwise bacteria may get into my pores, and I make sure to always clean my face afterward. I don’t wear that much makeup if I have a breakout. I live with it for a day or two and wear as little makeup as I can. Because then, you’re piling stuff on, and that can be detrimental. Stay courageous for two days, and let it calm down! ♦

Creative Prompt: Write a Love Letter

Illustration by Ana Hinojosa.
Illustration by Ana Hinojosa.

Before I (Pixie) ever wrote a love letter, I fell in love with the one Brian Krakow writes to Angela Chase—secretly, on behalf of Jordan Catalano—on My So-Called Life. I thought it was the most beautiful letter anyone had ever written anyone, and though I was years away from falling in love myself, I thought of it often, wishing someone would write a letter like that to me, or that I could love someone enough to write a letter like that to them:

Love letters disclose our deepest thoughts and feelings; they also reveal choices we make about how to express those feelings using our words, or our art, or even a spritz of our perfume (pretty sure there are some suburban Connecticut boys who might associate the smell of CK One with hearts drawn on notebook paper thanks to yours truly). The first time I wrote a love letter, I agonized over it, trying to make it seem “writerly” and romantic. I spent hours trying to figure out the best way to sign it. Love? From? Yours? (I ended up using what is now my signature for everything—a heart and my first initial). When I forced it, the letter never seemed right. When I opened up and was honest about my feelings, things started to flow. It didn’t have to be perfect. It just had to be real.

This week, we’d like you to write a love letter. It can be to anyone/anything you love, be it a person, pizza, or your pet turtle. You can even write a love letter to yourself, because you are the best! Or maybe you’d like to write the love letter you hope to receive someday. Really, anything that makes your heart happy is worthy of some love. The goal here is to write without overanalyzing things—just express how the intended recipient makes you feel, and how you feel about them. If letters aren’t your thing, feel free to submit art, or a song, or lyrics, or a poem, or anything you feel best conveys your emotions.

Put your heart into it, and send your work, along with your first name, last initial, age, and city/state to [email protected] with the subject line “Creative Prompt” by Monday, November 16 at 6 PM EST.

Your last Creative Prompt was to play the role of historian, and to record whatever details you felt were important for future people to know about your era, or even your day. Here’s what you preserved for the ages…

Dear Diary: November 10, 2015

All of my classes are so COLD, excuse me as I thaw in the sun. —Isabella Acosta
All of my classes are SO COLD. Excuse me as I thaw in the sun. —Isabella Acosta


At school, my friends showed me pictures of displaced Syrian families stuck at the borders of European countries, trying to find new lives illegally. Their faces show humiliation and exhaustion. How could I continue with my day after all of this? Read More »


Last night, I googled “signs and symptoms of depression.” Of the 11 symptoms listed on Web MD, I ticked eight. This worries me—knowing full well that I am not just “sad,” or “down,” or “PMS-ing.” More worries come knocking, for I am aware that I live in a place where mental illness is not talked about, or even taken into consideration when one says, “I’m not feeling well.” The only thing most people consider a mental illness is schizophrenia. Read More »

The Ways We Grieve

Illustration by Dinda Lehrmann.
Illustration by Dinda Lehrmann.

A few of us got together to talk about death, loss, and grief—the traditions we inherit and invent as we struggle to live with the pain of losing someone cherished. Rather than imagining that closure is possible when it comes to this kind of loss, we decided to have a conversation about how we keep the memory of those we’ve lost close, while acknowledging that each person grapples with death and grief in their own, individual ways.

Let’s start with the hard question, who have you lost? Who are you losing?

STEPHANIE: I’ve lost three grandparents—all when I was in my late teens, early twenties. The fourth, my dad’s mom, died while my mom was pregnant with me. My mom found her dead of a heart attack. Her name, Eunice, is my middle name, so I have always felt this closeness to her even though we’ve never met. Just a couple years ago, I also lost my aunt to leukemia.

But, I’ll be honest (and I feel sort of shitty saying this), the more profound period of loss, for me, came when I was 28 and three of my friends died within six months. First a college friend, just randomly from a health condition, then a high school friend who also died from a health condition. While those were both shocking and upsetting, the third loss was hardest of all. My good friend Marcel was killed in a motorcycle accident. I wrote about it for Rookie.

SHRIYA: First, I just wanna send love to all here and elsewhere who have lost important people. My dad’s mother passed a month before I turned 16. That was my first encounter with death and grieving and coping, and I found it very stressful and confusing and difficult. I went to school that day and cried in the hallway at least twice, I felt like I was in a state of shock. My paternal grandpa passed when I was 18, and my maternal grandpa passed when I was 20, and the latter has been the most difficult loss I have faced yet. I also wrote about him and our relationship for Rookie. This past summer, my family suddenly lost my maternal grandpa’s sister, and to be honest that isn’t something I’ve even come to terms with yet.

MADS: When I was 13, I was in a church class when my parents opened the door, interrupting my class, with this awful look on both of their faces. I immediately thought they were getting a divorce, and tried to mentally prepare myself as we walked outside.

Earlier that day, my father had the terrible idea of leaving my guinea pigs, Tinkerbell and Sassafrass, in the trunk during New York’s hot, humid summer while we were in church. Both my mother and I expressed our concern over their well being, but he assured us that they would be fine so long as we cracked the windows. Anyhow, when we got outside, my father opened the trunk and I saw Tink and Sass curled up next to each other, dead. My heart had dropped into my stomach, and I started sobbing uncontrollably. My mother was worried about me getting some sort of disease, so I had to wrap tissue paper around them while I held them. Losing my guinea pigs was awful, but it helped prepare me for a different kind of loss I’d experience five years later, when my grandmother was diagnosed with dementia.

My grandma Pia always felt more like a mother than a grandma to me, and she frequently expressed that I was just as much of a daughter to her as my mother and aunts. She helped raise me, telling me stories of mermaid sightings in Denmark, helping me build fairy houses in her garden, creating this beautiful dream world that encapsulated my childhood.

Losing someone to dementia is awful because you have to grieve them twice. First, you lose them mentally and then you lose them physically. My grandmother has forgotten many of her family members, but still retains the cozy sweetness that was always at the heart of her personality. I’m lucky in that I haven’t experienced a person dying, but it is rough to be around someone whom I was once so close to, whom I still feel so close to, only to be reminded that I’m talking to almost a shell of my former grandma, someone who looks the same but feels so different.

STEPHANIE: Mads, I am glad you brought loss of pets into this conversation because I think we do grieve them deeply, and I agree that how we grieve them can sometimes prepare us for how we grieve people. I also grieved very deeply for my cat, Sid, when he passed three years ago. I wrote about him in my journal and then ultimately for Rookie, and the conversations I had with readers in the comments of that piece really helped me. You also make another really important point about how when someone has something like dementia or a long-term illness that you grieve twice, or throughout the process, and that is awful.

ALYSON: While I was away for a month at art school, I spoke to my parents sporadically, and one night, just as I was about to begin painting, they called me. As I walked outside, I heard them tell me that my first friend and childhood pal, D, had died by suicide. The noises I was making, still on the line with my dad, made it sound like I was having serious health problems. I felt so much but couldn’t release that in the form of tears, although some leaked out—but not enough. I spent the rest of the week shaken. The worst feeling was knowing that one of my friends, with whom I’d spent my naive, carefree suburban childhood endured the torture of depression and anxiety. It was only a year ago that I, too, was contemplating whether or not to live. After hearing the news, I thanked my parents again and again for helping me become myself again.

CHANEL: In the past year I lost two uncles and my grandmother. It’s weird to think that three of my family members are gone forever, because it was almost like I was in a movie. I don’t know if that’s crass to say, but sometimes I still can’t believe it’s real life. The causes were all health-related, which I don’t know how to really process either. Would it be worse if it wasn’t their bodies literally shutting down? I don’t know. It’s been an interesting year for my family.

DERICA: When I was between 10 and 12 years old, all four of my grandparents died. During that same period, or perhaps it was just before or just after, my mother had two miscarriages. Later, an uncle who was so much a part of our everyday lives died after seeming like a bastion of health and strength and then becoming sick very suddenly. My mother’s best friend died while I was abroad but she didn’t let me know until I got home to London—that was awful. More recently, my dad’s eldest brother died, and I learned that one of my friends from high school had passed away.

John Heart Jackie: If All I Want Is Love

Photo by Amanda Hakan.
Photo by Amanda Hakan.

John Heart Jackie–the duo comprised of Peter M. Murray and Jennie Wayne–has a way of spinning their vulnerabilities into folksy, low-key pop songs. Their upcoming sophomore album, Episodes, out January 22, comes with all the feels: ones that tackle love, life, and loss. Below, we get a sneak peak with the premiere of “If All I Want Is Love.”

I spoke with Jennie and Peter about collaborating, creating personas, and how to retain an IRL sense of self.

ANNE T. DONAHUE: Tell me about “If All I Want Is Love.” It sounds like it’s about the bargains we tend to make with ourselves, and the bargains we make with the other person we fall in love with. Am I right, or am I totally in left field?

PETER M. MURRAY: There are a few themes in this song, one certainly being the concessions we make in falling in love with a person. Relationships are a constant navigation of the best and worst parts of both ourselves and our partners. But, the song is definitely sung from the place of desire.

JENNIE WAYNE: And while the song is blatant in declaring that desire, it’s sung by a very confident, feminine voice. The protagonist of this song is a strong woman.

You describe the album as a survey of a human relationship, and a depiction of characters you created. Would you say Episodes is a work of fiction or non-fiction?

PETER: I think the idea with Episodes, and John and Jackie, is to explore that space where fact and fiction overlap. I don’t think you can write about something you haven’t experienced. All of our initial ideas are based on our own experiences, but what we seem to find most interesting about this project is how our initial, autobiographical ideas always become something so much more when we explore them in the context of the character study of John and Jackie. It’s as if you’re looking at yourself through the eyes of someone else.

Where do Peter and Jennie end, and John and Jackie begin?

PETER: I think this is something we’re continually trying to figure out. We’re not really quite sure ourselves. We remain interested in the question itself.

JENNIE: When I listen to the lyrics I wrote for this album, it’s nearly impossible to disregard the event or feeling that inspired the song. It’s all so personal. Simultaneously, however, when I listen with a more open and analytical ear, this other narrative emerges. Again, it’s that idea of looking at your own life through the eyes of a character you’re exploring. When I explore my own experiences through the lens of Jackie, I’m always amazed at what parts are filtered out. On some level, John and Jackie might simply be more concise, acute versions of ourselves.

I think a lot of us tend to create personas for ourselves, regardless of our industries or what we do–whether it be our Internet self versus our IRL self. How do you differentiate between your personal and private selves?

PETER: I think this band is a constant exploration of just that. In the pre-internet age, it was only public figures and performers that were able to present different personas. You look at people like Tom Waits or Grace Jones, [and] you forget that they eat toast for breakfast just like you.

Today, each of us have both a public and private self, and the line is very blurred between what’s acceptable to share and what isn’t. Whether you’re Kanye West or my mother, you have to make decisions about your public self versus your private self. I do think, however, that the private self can learn from the public self in some weird way. The public persona allows you to present only the best parts of yourself, and if done correctly, it can really allow us to manifest some of those things in our real lives. For years, I wanted to be a musician and by putting it out into the world, it became reality.

How have each of you helped bring out something new in the other, creatively?

JENNIE: I think the functionality of this band exists largely because of our creative differences. Every song, video, photo, and letter is a product of that dichotomy. I grew up listening to my parents’s ’60s folk records, and I usually gravitate toward what’s major. Peter was listening to modern rock radio and can tolerate things that are a little more abrasive. But, that creative tension and aesthetic differences always seem to get us much farther than we would ever get on our own.

What’s the scariest part of collaborating?

PETER: There’s a lot of vulnerability in working this closely with someone. We are continually presenting ideas to each other, many of which are shot down by the other person. You’re often putting your ideas and yourself on the line much of the time, only to have them rejected. Collaborating can be a good exercise in falling down and getting back up again. ♦

Just Wondering: How Do I Motivate Myself?

Illustration by Maxine Crump.
Illustration by Maxine Crump.

I am possibly the most unmotivated person ever. I need to study for exams, but I find it almost impossible. My daily routine pretty much consists of school and then coming home and going on Tumblr until dinner and then sleeping. I desperately want to be a more motivated person, but it’s just so hard. Do you know how I can become more motivated? —Emma, 15, Australia

First up, I feel you on exams, because it was always the type of assessment that stressed me out THE MOST. The fact that I would be judged on my performance during ONE VERY SPECIFIC HOUR (or whatever amount of time) made all my muscles bunch up tight and my brain go into some kind of hellspin.

OK, now that we have commiserated over the brutal pressure-pit of examinations, let’s talk about motivation, which actually applies to EVERYTHING in life—not just exams.

For me, there are three main questions to answer when I’m trying to get things done. They help me isolate the reasons I might be getting stuck:

1. Why do I want to do this Important Thing? The answer to this question might be straightforward: For example, if you think about why you’re motivated to go on Tumblr all the time, the answer might be that it’s entertaining or it connects you to a community. If you’re Frodo from Lord of the Rings, you might want to destroy the One Ring so that its evil power will never enslave another unwitting victim.

But for something like studying for an exam, the answer might be a bit more abstract. Do you want to study because you love studying itself? If the answer is yes, think about why you’re not studying. It might be obvious, or it might be something you don’t expect. (For example, when I was in fifth grade, I was sent to the school counselor because I wasn’t handing in homework, even though I was contributing happily during class. The counselor suggested that I might be a perfectionist—that is, someone who was so scared of failure that I tried to sabotage myself by not even trying at all. Does that sound familiar?) If you don’t love studying qua studying, then we’ve arrived at a different conclusion: You just don’t like studying. (P.S. You’re not alone. It recently ranked highly in my Made-Up Survey of Stuff People Don’t Like.) But that’s OK! It’s a good thing to know about yourself.

If you don’t enjoy endlessly looking at chemistry textbooks or writing essays, why do you want to study? You might have a goal that you want to achieve, like passing all your subjects so you can continue on to the next year of school, or you might want to do well enough so that your parents don’t worry about you or nag or revoke your Tumblr privileges. There might be more than one reason, which is fine.

2. What will work to motivate me to do this Important Thing? Once you have ascertained the reason for doing the Important Thing, you can move on to the guts of getting motivated! There are three types of motivational methods that I use:

The Goal Method: To use this method, work out how to achieve the Important Thing. So, if you’re Frodo, you need to befriend some elves who will give you magical food, persuade eight people to accompany you on a deadly trip, and maintain your purity of heart. Us mortals might be aiming to get into university, or might need to complete all assignments in order for our parents not to ground us (eek!). Awesome. Now break this bigger goal into the steps you need to take to get there. Thinking about the actual process of getting stuff done is important because it breaks the task into smaller, more digestible parts. So instead of simply saying, “I want to get at least a B on my math test,” I would think about how can I do that. I might have to study every day for an hour. I might have to ask a friend or teacher for help if I’m stuck with homework. I might have to use a website blocker to make sure I don’t creep onto the internet every five minutes to check what’s going on so I can focus on algebra. All done? OK, now you have the map, so set off, sailor!

The Reward Method: This is the more fun one. What’s something you can look forward to after doing something necessary but boring? It might be a snack, or a walk, or checking your social media accounts. Let’s be honest—some of the stuff we have to do in life just isn’t fun, and we deserve a li’l pick me up afterwards. Select a reward you can enjoy after you’ve done the deed.

The Ahhhhhh!!! Method: This one is a bit scary, but also sensible. What would be the consequences if you didn’t do the Important Thing? Poor old Frodo—if he didn’t destroy the One Ring, evil would take over the world and, also, Gandalf would be sad. That’s what kept him going. Consider what might happen if you don’t do the Important Thing, and that might spur you on each step of the way.

These are just the methods I use! There are lots of other tips (I like this list and this list, and you can come up with your own, too.

3. Is anything getting in the way of the Important Thing? This question involves taking a long hard look at your habits and “cleanin’ out your closet,” as noted bard Eminem would say. In your question, you told us that you know there are things you’d prefer to do (Tumblr, sleep) than study. You can still do these things! (You should DEFINITELY still sleep.) But be realistic. There are only 24 hours in a day, and if you’re at school for eight of them, asleep for eight of them, and on Tumblr for the remaining eight, that doesn’t leave enough time to get your other stuff done. You’ll need to make time for the Important Thing if you really want to see it through. This may not be fun. But it does involve being strategic and purposeful, and you might find that satisfying in and of itself.

And that’s it! Easy! JUST KIDDING. You know how challenging it is to become motivated, especially if you’re tasked with something tedious or unpleasant. It took me a very long time to find my studying stride, and it can feel like the hardest thing in the world. But I believe in you. You can do it! Think of Frodo going into hellacious Mordor. He did something almost no one else could have done, and he was just a humble hobbit. You are capable of difficult things, too! ♦

Need a second opinion? Send your metaphorical message in a bottle toward our advice-filled shores by emailing [email protected], and include your AGE, FIRST NAME/INITIAL/NICKNAME, and CITY. Ahoy!

Dear Diary: November 9, 2015

To the rude boy in second period: Yes I am "a shade." I am black. I don't care what you are. I'm black. I'm not the shade of night, but I am the beauty of it. I'm black. I was born black. Labels mean nothing, but I embrace it. —Lola Nova
To the rude boy in second period: Yes I am “a shade.” I am black. I don’t care what you are. I’m black. I’m not the shade of night, but I am the beauty of it. I’m black. I was born black. Labels mean nothing, but I embrace it. —Lola Nova


I don’t know any girls who wake up crying in the middle of the night because their spine looks like a distorted Leaning Tower of Pisa. More importantly, I don’t know girls whose spines—even after spinal fusion surgery—still stray dramatically away from their bodies the way mine does. Read More »


For too long have I allowed my personal value be determined by my peers. When made to feel small, I acted accordingly. People took advantage of my weakness, and the vicious cycle repeated. But ultimately, to paraphrase something Freddie Highmore once said in a really pretentious film I watched when I was 12: I was born, and I will die, alone. And thus, who do I have to impress? Read More »

Doing What I Thought I Wouldn’t

Illustration by Juman Malouf.
Illustration by Juman Malouf.

When I was little, I thought I’d never write a book. I thought my mother was the book writer of the family, therefore I should find something of my own to do. I got into theater. I wasn’t a good actress. I liked drawing. So, I turned to set and costume design. During my first year at college, I went to a psychic who worked above a crystal shop. She told me I would end up doing what my mother did. I thought, “That will never happen!” As time went on, I continued in theater, and I started a fashion label called Charlotte Corday.

Then, one day, two characters popped in my head: Charlotte and Sonja, identical twins. My best friends growing up were identical twins. I felt like I knew all about them, and what it really meant to be a twin. Some more characters seemed to gather around them in my mind: a villain named Kats von Stralen; their adopted mother, a Tattooed Lady; a mysterious Aunt Alexandria with magical powers. It happened. I was doing exactly what I thought I wouldn’t! I wrote a book, The Trilogy of Two.

Now, to the excerpt below: At this point in the story, the bond between the twins has become strained. Sonja is lost without her sister. She is starting to get a crush on her nemesis, Wolf Boy, without quite realizing what is happening. (Wolf Boy is a special type of “creature.”) I hope you enjoy it!


Sonja ran through the dark meadow, lost. Her sight
was bleary from crying. Had the bond between her and her sister
been broken forever? A wingless silhouette approached. Charlotte
had come back. The bond was unbreakable.

Sonja’s heart sank. “Oh, it’s you.”

“They made me come find you,” grumbled Wolf Boy. “By the
way, you ruined my chances with that Tiffin girl. Thanks for that.”

Sonja’s eyes narrowed. “Why do you care so much about a girl
you’re never going to see again?”

Wolf Boy shrugged. “Animal instinct,” he said.


“Never mind.” He paused for a moment. “How come you never
laugh or smile or have any fun? You spend too much time rolling
your eyes and complaining.”

“I have things on my mind. If you haven’t noticed, our mother
was kidnapped.”

Wolf Boy nodded. “My mother threw me into a stinking or-
phanage. Better not to sulk about it, though.”

Alone Together

Illustration by Kendra Lee.
Illustration by Kendra Yee.

When I met the girl who runs the “diversity club” at my college, and I asked her why she started it, her exact words were: “It was either start this club or transfer out.”

I am Indian. I’m a freshman at a very small college—enrollment is roughly 3,000—in an affluent suburb that’s about 40 minutes from Chicago. It takes only 10 minutes to get from one side of campus to the other. It’s a safe, cozy, and already-familiar environment. However, our campus is mostly white—77 percent to be exact. I knew I would be a minority on campus, but I wasn’t prepared for the lack of people of color to be so overwhelming. Move-in day was a culture shock. As I walked to my dorm with my parents, I could count the number of people of color we passed on campus. One. Two. Three, maybe? No, two.

I was worried about making friends; I was worried about people asking me where I’m “actually from,” or where I was born, or if I have a nickname because my real name is “weird.” These thoughts ran through my head as I unpacked my clothes, as I met my peers in my orientation group, and as I called my mother that first evening and wished her goodnight.

My roommates are Nicole, who is white; Leonor, who is Mexican; and Nancy, who is Vietnamese. Leonor, Nancy, and I are part of the 23 percent of minority students at school; Nancy and I are part of the 2 percent of Asian students. We take pride in being in what we’ve been told is the most diverse dorm room on campus, and one of the most exciting parts about living with each other is the integration of our cultures. When Nicole and I were sick, Nancy offered us her mother’s citrus-honey home remedy. When Leonor was craving Mexican food, Nancy and I took her to a Mexican restaurant and watched her eat a gordita in peace. Food cravings and curiosity led my roommates to try the Indian fried chicken I had in my fridge, and they loved it. Leonor, Nancy, and I talked about how we are very lucky to have each other to relate to because we feel the discomfort of being a person of color on a campus where there is a “token minority” label. Without their support and understanding, I’d be more than ready to transfer, too.

It’s a tricky situation. I remember talking to a friend, another person of color, my senior year of high school, expressing my stress and worry about college applications. Their reply was, “At least we can apply. There was a time when we couldn’t have. I mean, schools want diversity now. So we’ll be accepted.” But being accepted into college shouldn’t negate anyone’s feelings toward white privilege. Just because I can attend college alongside white people doesn’t mean white privilege doesn’t exist anymore. When I tried to explain this to a boy I was sitting with at the cafeteria during dinner, he brushed it off. He shook his head and said, “White privilege isn’t a thing. I mean, you’re here with me right? That’s proof.” And he didn’t stop there. When I heard, “Racism doesn’t exist anymore,” I couldn’t help but leave the table. What else can I do in an environment like this?

I started to question what I believed to be true about the social issues I was so passionate about: racial inequality and gender inequality, issues that are so prevalent on this campus, and in my life. I asked myself, Am I imagining the indifference I feel from my peers? Am I overreacting about my situation? Does my race matter? Is it wrong of me to even think about my place on this campus in relation to my race?

Recently, I was with a group of girls, all of whom were white, at a drugstore, where we were trying to pool cash to buy, among other things, chasers for alcohol. (Typical college, right?) One of the girls groaned and said, “I fucking suck at math,” turned to me, and asked me to add up a bunch of numbers. Unfortunately, I am awful at math, and I told her. But I had to stop myself from saying, “You had to ask the Indian girl for help with that?”

I don’t want to avoid making friends, aside from my dorm-mates, because I’m afraid of being the “Indian girl” in the group. I find myself sitting at football games looking for someone Latino or Asian or African-American in any of the cliques huddled together on the bleachers, and I find myself disappointed that in groups of 10 or so people, there isn’t one person of color. Even knowing my campus’s demographic breakdown, I don’t understand why. I end up hating myself for even asking that question, and feeling the lump in my throat when I realize I think I know the answer.

During the third week of school, the Director of Multicultural Affairs held a “Multicultural Student Welcome BBQ” for students of color, and anyone interested in multicultural affairs and social issues. She emailed the entire school. I was excited for this step toward awareness and appreciation and understanding. At the barbecue, my hope was crushed when I overheard a football player tell his friend, “Nah, I really don’t care, dude. I’m here for the food.”

The idea that multicultural issues are only for minority students is one that my friends have noticed, too. But this idea is so, so wrong. My friend Tommy, who is Mexican, and I were talking about this, and he said, “I’ve heard slurs being thrown around by white people, from the ‘N’ word to the ‘F’ word, but I don’t think the campus is aware of issues like racism, unfortunately.” We agreed that the college’s administration seems to be trying to make the minority student population more comfortable. But it can feel like the only students who care about discrimination are the ones who experience it firsthand.

I joined the diversity club—along with minority student unions, one of the on-campus havens for students of color—a couple of weeks after the barbecue. There were 10 or 12 of us at the meeting, and we all sat in a circle. The president set ground rules: mainly, that it was important for us to listen, to keep an open mind, and understand that everyone’s words were valuable. We talked about the racial discrimination that Rini Sampath, student body president of the University of Southern California, faced at her own school, and we related our own stories back to it.

We had all faced or witnessed some type of racial discrimination, which was unfortunate, but it was a relief to find people who cared about the issues I cared about, and who understood. When I met the club’s president, the only thing that came out of my mouth was, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” The club made me feel like I had a place on this campus, and an important role to fill as an activist. My worries about the lack of POC visibility started to evolve into determination to spread awareness and acceptance.

Being a minority has been hard for me. Thinking about my place in society and on my college campus leads to me stressing out about things that I wish weren’t a big deal—or a deal at all, like making white friends and worrying about their acceptance of me. Flirting with white boys and wondering if they even find me attractive. Overhearing racial slurs and fighting the urge to go off on a rant. I don’t know what to do when drunk people at parties react negatively—or at all—to my cultural or religious or social beliefs, or when (white) students openly disagree with my feelings about racism. I wish that there was more I could do to eradicate ignorance, and there are times when being in the diversity club and making my voice heard during class discussions doesn’t feel like it’s enough. It helps to know that there are people who understand what it’s like to be a minority here, and what it’s like to be afraid of speaking up about it. It helps to know that there are people who will listen, no matter how small the group. ♦

Life Skill: How to Get and Give Constructive Criticism

Illustration by Sofia Bews.
Illustration by Sofia Bews.

We are all creators. Whether it’s an essay for school, a poem, a killer layup, a drool-worthy caramel-apple pie, a secret YouTube channel, or our LIVES, every one of us is hard at work on something. Often, other people have opinions about whatever it is we’re doing, and they share those opinions, whether we’ve asked for them or not. This kind of feedback can be super helpful, but even when that’s the case…it can be so hard to hear. Why? Because in general, it is much, much easier to pass judgment on something than it is to create something, and when you’re the one toiling away at the thing AND the one getting criticism—no matter how constructive—that (understandably) can be very difficult to reconcile. On the other side of the fence, it’s also tricky to give someone constructive criticism, even when they’ve requested it, because you don’t want to hurt their feelings.

TBH, criticism—whether giving it or getting it—can seem like a hard-to-navigate lava field full of red-hot bubbles of wounded pride and gushing steam-geysers of insensitivity. But there is a way for everyone to get from one side to the other without getting burned. Follow me!

1. How to Get Constructive Criticism

Let’s say you have a zine, and you wrote or drew everything in it. It took a few weeks, and you’re really proud of it. You want to show it to your best friend to see what she honestly thinks of it. Before you do, pause for one second: Are you ready to hear anything less-than-positive about the zine that you’ve worked so hard on? Or are you looking for some fortifying praise? Either option is OK (there’s nothing wrong with asking for a boost when you need it, especially to push through a project), but know what you want going in. If it’s constructive criticism that you seek, keep in mind: It is not fair to ask someone for their feedback only to get upset if the feedback is not what you were hoping to hear. Then, here’s what you do:

1. Ask for feedback.
2. Listen.
3. Ask questions.
4. Thank the person for constructive criticism.

Allow me to demonstrate how the same scenario can go two totally different ways!


Fictional Friend of Mine: [Flipping through zine I made] This is really cool. I like the collages.

Fictional Me: Did you read the poem?

Friend: …yeah. [Silence] I dunno about this poem.

Me: What? What don’t you like about it?

Friend: Oh, well, um…it’s kind of intense.

Me: [Instantly annoyed] It’s supposed to be intense. That’s the whole point.

Friend: I know, it’s just kind of a lot. Like I didn’t know you were thinking that stuff.

Me: OK, sorry it’s too much for you. Give it back, I shouldn’t have shown it to you. It’s really fun to spend forever making something and then have someone hate on it.

Friend: I wasn’t hating on it!

Me: Whatever. It’s fine.


Heyyyyy there! Fictional Me directly asked Fictional Friend about the poem, but then jumped all over her for having an opinion! And I didn’t really hear her out or try to find out why she felt that way. NOT COOL, Fictional Me! Let’s try again…


Fictional Friend: [Flipping through zine] This is really cool. I like the collages.

Fictional Me: Did you read the poem?

Friend: …yeah. [Silence] I dunno about the poem.

Me: What didn’t you like about it?

Friend: Well, um…it’s kind of intense.

Me: Yeah, I know. I wondered what people would think about the poem, to be honest. What about it feels intense?

Friend: It’s just kind of a lot. Like I didn’t know you were thinking that stuff.

Me: Thanks for telling me. Is there a part of the zine you really liked?


Yay! This time around, there was the same potential for hurt feelings, but Fictional Me listened to Fictional Friend, then gently dug for more details. Then I thanked her and directly asked for praise, which I—I am not afraid to admit!—needed.

If you approach someone for their feedback about something, it’s helpful for everyone involved to guide them toward whatever you’re especially interested in getting feedback about, then open yourself up to what they have to say. If they like something, ask for details about what, exactly, works for them. If they don’t like something, still ask for details, but resist the urge to jump all over them. Getting really defensive or firing back with all the reasons why you did what you did every time someone offers an opinion that is less-than-positive may make the person you asked think twice about offering it again. You don’t have to like the feedback you’re getting, but, as long as someone’s being constructive, try to find a way to discuss what bothered them without turning it into something negative. What they’re saying may be hard to hear, but you trusted this person enough to ask for their help, and they offered—give ’em the benefit of the doubt.

2. How to Give Constructive Criticism

Now it’s your turn to dole it out! Let’s say you have to do a report with a partner and—yes!—it’s your friend. This will be great. You divide up the work, choosing who will do what, and agree to have everything ready on Friday. The paper is due Monday. When Friday rolls around, your friend hands you her portion of the work, and it’s…wow, it’s pretty bad. She did her research but could not have spent more than 30 minutes organizing and writing it; the citations are a mess, and she’s a page short of what the assignment asked for. Your portion of the work is polished, and (if you do say so yourself) pretty good, actually. But what do you do about your friend, who you’re relying on? It’s time for constructive criticism! Don’t be nervous! You’re not going into this unprepared. You see, you have a tasty treat/tool in your backpack: the Constructive Criticism Sandwich. Delicious!

So what’s this Constructive Criticism Sandwich? It is a time-honored classic, beloved by good teachers and bosses. Here’s how you make it:

1. Say something honest and encouraging.
2. Deliver the constructive criticism in the clearest way possible.
3. Say something honest and encouraging again.

When you serve someone this sandwich, the criticize-y part goes down a lot smoother. Watch!


Fictional Me: Hey, can we talk about this project for a sec?

Fictional Friend: Sure.

Me: [THIS IS THE TOP PIECE OF BREAD ON THE CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM SANDWICH] You found awesome sources for your part of this paper—the research is super solid, and it’s definitely going to help our argument.

Friend: ::beams::

Me: [THIS IS THE CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM FILLING] There are just a couple things left to do, to make this really strong. I think we should move this sentence up here, so it’s clear—it’s the thesis statement—and we definitely need to make sure we’re citing all our sources. I can help you with your citations, if you need it. Also, we for sure need this to be at least a page longer—is there another solid example from your research that could be added to your part? We can brainstorm about what to pull from it for that last page now, if you want.

Friend: ::frowning vaguely:: I guess? I mean, I thought I was almost done.

Me: [THIS IS THE BOTTOM PIECE OF BREAD] You are! You’ve done most of the work, and the info you have is really good. I love how clear the idea is! We can move that sentence I mentioned now, and you’ve got so many notes already. One more page, citations, and you are done! Our report is gonna be awesome!


And there you have it! Not only did I praise the work my friend had already done, but I explained what she needs to do to bring her part of the report UP TO THE LEVEL and offered to help.

What if she got defensive? Well, hey—she’s only human! Like we talked about before, this is hard for everyone! I would have gently reminded her that we have the same goal—to make the thing we’re working on together as good as it can be. Because that’s the secret, really, to constructive criticism: It’s not personal—it’s friendly, helpful, respectful feedback about work. Hey, look at us: all the way on the other side of that lava field, and no one got hurt! ♦

Collage Kit

And we’re back, with another action-packed collage kit! This month’s edition is brought to you by Jao San Pedro, who assembled everything you need to cut, arrange, and paste your own Kollaged Kreation.

Download this beauteous bricolage here:

Collage Kit - Revised

And these scene-setters right here:

Collage Kit (Prints)

Now, go to town! Near the end of November, we’ll publish a gallery of the collages you made with this here kit. If you’d like to submit yours, please email it to [email protected] by 6 PM EST on Wednesday, November 25 with the subject line, “November Collage.” Please include your first name, last initial, age, and city/state, and if you’re able, submit files that are at least 300 dpi and 1,200 pixels across. ♦

Saturday Printable: Flip Book

Esme Blegvad made this neat-o flip book, which becomes a teeny-tiny animation when you page through it real fast. She’s got everything you need—including step-by-step instructions on how to make your own illustrations for a flip book—below.


(Download a PDF version of the first page of instructions here.)


(Download the second page of instructions here.)

Ready to FLIP OUT? Click here to download the flip book’s first page:


For the second page, click right here:


And for the third page, click here:


Dear Diary: November 6, 2015

The weather this week has been beyond amazing and taking naps outside feels like being hugged by sunshine, clouds, and cool breezes. —Ella Carlander
The weather this week has been beyond amazing and taking naps outside feels like being hugged by sunshine, clouds, and cool breezes. —Ella Carlander


The leaves I tread upon represent my optimism, my excitement, and all that made me so nervously excited for the school year to begin in the last few weeks of summer, despite the approaching reintroduction of homework and having to time your pees as to not detract from your academic studies.

In September, these leaves were green, still photosynthesizing on their respective trees. I was hopeful. They were hopeful. The score had not been set. We did not know what was coming. Read More »

[Editor’s note: Britney is taking a break from diaries this week.]

Friday Playlist: All Together Now

Before we talk about what we believe to be the most remarkable instrument on Earth—the human voice—we’d like to discuss Mars. Specifically, whether we would, given the opportunity, abandon this soul-crushingly beautiful, faltering planet forever to live there. The answer is no. We would not. And the reason why: There are no choirs on Mars. But Mars could have choirs, once someone gets there, right? We sincerely hope so. Until there is proof, we cannot commit to never again hearing the goosebump-raising, tear-inducing, awesome, celebratory, desperate, mournful, overwhelming sound of humans raising their voices together, to sing the same song. We’re staying with the people, and music like this.

Collages by Emma Dajska.
Collages by Emma Dajska.

After Spring Valley

Illustration by Alyssa Etoile.
Illustration by Alyssa Etoile.

When I watched the video of Shakara, a black 16-year-old, being viciously attacked by former officer Ben Fields in her South Carolina classroom in October, nothing could stop the acid from rising in my throat. In response to Shakara allegedly failing to leave the classroom when she was asked, Fields choked her, overturned her desk, and flung her across the classroom.

While TV pundits debated whether a teenage girl deserved to be tossed around, I thought of the injuries to her body—according to her lawyer, she sustained carpet burn on her forehead, and a broken arm. My mind was fixated on her anguish, and the less visible psychic scar tissue that creeps up and lingers for years: trauma. What I knew, despite my disorientation, is that because she is a black girl, some perceive Shakara as a threat instead of what she was in that moment—a human victim of a crime.

I was born just 20 minutes away from Spring Valley High School, Richland County—where Shakara attended high school. It occured to me that Dylann Roof, who shot killed nine African Americans in a church, is also from Richland County. The images of Roof being generously escorted to Burger King after his arrest played in my mind alongside the loop of Shakara being brutalized. James Baldwin’s writes, “The children of the despised and rejected are menaced from the moment they stir in the womb.” My heart ached with the striking normality of this inequity.

The only difference between Shakara’s experience and the countless other black girls who have endured excessive punishment and violence in school is that it was recorded and posted online. Examples of incidents and attacks such as this one are extensive. An 8-year-old girl in Illinois was arrested for “acting out,” and a 16-year-old girl in Alabama who suffers from diabetes, asthma, and sleep apnea was hit with a book by her teacher after she fell asleep in class. The teen was later arrested and hospitalized due to injuries she sustained in her interaction with the police.

Kiera Wilmot, a 16-year-old in Bartow, Florida, was charged with a felony after her science experiment with a mixture of household chemicals caused an explosion. But, unlike Ahmed Mohamed, a student in Texas whose homemade clock was mistaken for a bomb due to racial and religious profiling, Wilmot received neither an invitation to the White House, nor the same level of media coverage.

Racial bias and violence from police officers has also impacted my life. I grew up watching my father get pulled over repeatedly for driving “a nice car,” and heard stories about my mother being repeatedly assaulted by the police as a teenager during the Civil Rights movement. I experienced my own altercations with cops in college, who tried to detain me (the only black girl in our group) for being a minor in a bar while ignoring the majority of my white friends who’d used fake IDs. Shakara’s encounter with police violence is a horrifying example of that tragically inevitable rite of passage that I call “black girl lessons.” It’s a part of a legacy and present reality that causes daily harm, to us and to our communities.

What is “zero tolerance” discipline?

Ben Fields’s title was “school resource officer,” which implies that his job was to protect, serve, and offer support instead of brute cruelty. No matter what euphemized names schools use to sugarcoat the presence of police officers in schools, the presence of law enforcement perpetuates the criminalization of classroom conduct (like refusing to put away a cell phone) that could be handled in more educational and rehabilitative ways.

Oakland Unified, one of the largest districts in California is known for their trailblazing restorative justice work in schools and colleges. Since 2012, the district has worked to decrease the kinds of racial and class-based discipline inequity that affect a third of the school population. They even received $750,000 from Google to help support African-American boys in their school. Obviously that is great, but it also underscores the need for more support for black girls and young women who are also deeply impacted by systemic oppression in schools nationwide.

In an educational environment where a quarter of a million students are suspended and then arrested each year, schools are moving away from being safe spaces for learning and personal growth. Instead, a disproportional number of black and brown young people and teens with disabilities are exposed to or on the receiving end of excessive physical force, public humiliation, and other indignities in the name of discipline. Research is limited about why black cis and trans girls tend to be punished more frequently and aggressively by school officials and law enforcement, but the data that does exists suggests that “implicit biases, stereotyping, and other cultural factors” play a role.

The most wretched part of this form of “discipline” is that it hurts more than it helps. The majority of the young people affected by “zero tolerance” have survived abuse, live in poverty, lack the mental health and learning support they need, or are in foster care. Too often, young people of color are more susceptible to the most aggressive and biased enforcement of these policies, which results in the siphoning of mostly students of color out of educational institutions into youth detention centers or prisons for even the smallest transgressions.

Contrary to what our media tells us, girls and young women are as harshly affected by the criminalization of blackness as men. The reality is that black girls are suspended from school six times more than white girls, and African-American women are incarcerated three times more often than their white counterparts. When the safety of black women and girls is often ignored—or at best, an afterthought in our culture and politics—it is no surprise that acts of violence, like the police aggression Shakara experienced in her classroom, keep happening.

Black girl suffering is so normalized that our stories are too often dismissed, undermined, made invisible. It’s sad but foreseeable in a climate in which a white, former police officer named Daniel Holtzclaw was assigned an all-white jury in his trial for sexually assaulting 13 black women; pregnant women in prison (who are predominantly of color) are shackled during labor; and in July alone, five black women, including Sandra Bland died in police custody.

What you can do.

I passionately support the movement for black lives and campaigns that combat “zero tolerance” in schools and barriers to black girls’ freedom and education. If you want to get involved, here are some ways you might consider taking action:

  • #SayHerName: Join the #SayHerName campaign ignited by African American Policy Forum and Black Youth Project. This call to action surfaces the stories of countless black cis and trans women and girls who have been assaulted and/or killed as a result of police or vigilante law enforcement violence. Moreover, it centers the experiences of black cis and trans women and girls which has been lacking in the majority of mainstream media coverage about racialized state violence.
  • The #EveryBlackGirlMatters campaign started by Girls for Gender Equity is a letter-writing campaign that affirms black girlhood, black girls’ rights to safety and freedom, and expresses support for Shakara, Niya (who was arrested for defending Shakara and protesting the incident), and “every black girl in America.” You can sign the letter here.
  • Educate the people around you: Civil liberties actions and programs by groups like the ACLU offer ways to get involved in creating equality in schools. The NYCLU Teen Activist Project organizes and peer education work on decriminalizing discipline in schools. Teens, including several of the young women we featured in our very own Stand for Something feature, work with the ACLU to document and speak out about the effects of zero-tolerance rules, police officers in classrooms, and ending the school-to-prison pipeline.
  • Demand accountability: The Color of Change’s petition calls for Officer Fields (nicknamed “Officer Slam” by students at Spring Valley High) to be prosecuted for criminal assault. The petition also demands that all charges against Shakara, Niya, and all students affected by his violence, are dropped.
  • Actions like these, of witnessing injustice and being righteously indignant about it, build community and will begin to change the way that our schools work. Just as importantly, they signal to black cis and trans girls that we will stay fighting to defend their lives and freedoms. ♦

    This Week in TV

    This week in TV, Empire, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder delivered drama and gif fodder, while Scream Queens featured the guest appearance of a very familiar face. Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Bob’s Burgers had the week off, but worry not—they’ll be back next week, along with our related thoughts and feels.

    **Greetings, from your weekly spoiler alert! If you’re not caught up on one or more of the aforementioned shows, please come back later—unless you don’t care about spoilers, in which case—please proceed!**

    Tavi Gevinson as Feather.
    Tavi as Feather McCarthy on Scream Queens.

    Scream Queens

    Finally! This week’s Scream Queens blessed us with an appearance from the one and only #teenboss and our commander-on-fleek, Tavi. She played a Mia Farrow–inspired character named Feather McCarthy, who is also Dean Munsch’s sworn nemesis. This episode moved more slowly than previous ones, because there was a lot less to catch up on, and it was mostly driven by the love triangle between Feather, Dean Munsch, and Dean Munsch’s ex-husband, who left his wife for the much younger Feather. It’s also the first episode without the Red Devil, but that didn’t make it any less terrifying.

    What I really loved about the introduction of Feather was the based-in-reality horror her plot line brought to the table, and I’m wondering if the series will do more of that in the future. The Feather/Dean Munsch/Mr. Munsch love triangle was based on the IRL love triangle among Mia Farrow, the conductor André Previn, and the musician Dory Previn, who was then married to André. Dory had a breakdown after her husband and Farrow’s betrayal, and then wrote the song “Beware of Young Girls” about it. The song was the episode’s namesake, and played as the closing credits rolled.

    When Feather discovered that Mr. Munsch was murdered, the reveal was much darker than previous ones. It got even MORE twisted when his ex-wife admitted to the audience, via voice-over, that she had done it and framed Feather. The voice-over mixed with the Dory Previn soundtrack had me thinking about the show’s motivation: young women getting “what they deserve.” When I first started watching the series, my wariness stemmed from the fact that it seemed to be trying to prove that young women are vapid and should be put in their place. The redemption of Chanel No. 1 among her fellow Chanels, and this week’s chilling scene of Feather being put in solitary confinement while screaming about how much she loved Mr. Munsch, makes me hope and believe that the show’s satire may actually be on young girls’ side. –Brittany Spanos

    Taraji P. Henson as Cookie and Terrence Howard as Lucious
    Taraji P. Henson as Cookie and Terrence Howard as Lucious on Empire


    I wasn’t prepared for this week’s episode of Empire, but when am I? Jamal continued to struggle to find his voice as an artist. Hakeem’s mouth ended up getting him beat up by kidnappers. The fight caused him PTSD and head trauma, all of which may affect his career and livelihood. Lucious tried to remain relevant, while Cookie got it POPPIN’ with her new bae Laz, portrayed by Adam Rodríguez.

    I yelped the second Cookie was ready to get physical—but I stopped breathing when Laz threw Cookie onto the counter, and revealed that he has a longhorn bull tatted on his back. Why does that even matter? Well, when Hakeem saw his kidnappers change their shirts, he noticed that they had the same tattoo on their backs. Is Laz in love, or trying to get in good with Cookie to extort her and the Lyon family? –Taj Rani

    Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope.
    Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope on Scandal.


    Olivia unleashed havoc on Washington, D.C., again. Papa Pope crashed Fitz’s impeachment victory party without actually being in the room. The leader of the free world learned of his escape from prison (thanks to Olivia and Mellie), during champagne toasts. But that wasn’t the only event rocking the nation’s capital. The arrival of an OPA client, Hannah Taylor, sent shock waves throughout Liv’s office, when Hannah revealed that famed author and professor Frank Holland sexually assaulted her. Before this was brought to Liv’s attention, he’d received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Holland, who’s also Hannah’s professor, was accused of the same heinous crime by 22 other women, which his wife helped him sweep under the rug. Liv took down Holland publicly, but now she’s kind of leading a new role: President of the United States. Cyrus dropped a bean in Liv’s head that she pretty much runs the Oval Office, which is partly true. –Camille Augustin

    Karla Souza as Laurel Castillo  and  Matt McGorry as Asher Millstone.
    Karla Souza as Laurel Castillo and Matt McGorry as Asher Millstone.

    How to Get Away With Murder

    This week’s episode of How to Get Away With Murder was a mess. Lawyers took part in illegal acts to win–or lose–their respective cases. A couple examples: One prosecutor had intimate relations with his client, and Eve doctored medical forms to get Nate Lahey’s name cleared from his wife’s death. But the last 10 minutes of the episode? ::fans self:: Annalise and Bonnie’s interaction was too intense. I’ve always wondered when Bonnie would tell Annalise how she really felt, and she finally did. “I want you to die,” Bonnie told Annalise. Whoa. But there’s more to Bonnie’s rage: In the last 30-seconds of the episode, it seems as though she might’ve killed D.A. Emily Sinclair. Could she be behind Annalise’s mysterious gunshot wound, too? –Camille Augustin ♦

    Dear Diary: November 5, 2015

    Making mistakes left and right. —Ella Carlander
    Making mistakes left and right. —Ella Carlander


    I have been actively trying to transfer to other schools. The last time I went through the college application process, I was knocked on my ass. I didn’t meet my own expectations and I had to bear the burden of not being the genius child I’d been made out to be. Dissatisfaction with yourself is even more crushing than disappointing others. Read More »

    [Editor’s note: Marah is taking a break from diaries this week.]

    On the Road With Rookie Yearbook Four

    Grievers Anonymous

    Illustration by Sendra Uebele.
    Illustration by Sendra Ubele.

    I got the idea to tell this story in the summer of 2010. It was four in the morning, and I was sitting in my bathroom crying because the basement of my house was flooding for the second time in a month. I couldn’t stop the water from coming in, just like I couldn’t stop the other shitty things that were happening in my life—the writing career that, it seemed to me, was tanking; the illness affecting my beloved cat that had been getting worse and worse all year; and the depression that had been getting worse and worse for two years, ever since three of my friends died unexpectedly in a six-month period.

    This could be worse, I told myself as I listened to my husband trying, unsuccessfully, to suck up the flood water with a shop vac. It’s just the laundry room and the den down there. It’s not somebody’s bedroom. Or even worse still, the bedroom of a dead loved one, containing all that I have left of them…Hey, wait, that could be a story! Because that’s how my mind works.

    Over the course of the next couple years—as the beloved cat got sicker and eventually died; as I went back to therapy because I was unhappy in my career; in my life, and as my therapist pointed out, I was still grieving—I worked on this book.

    It’s about a girl named Meredith whose older brother Justin died right before her 16th birthday. (And yes, his bedroom is in the basement. And yes, it floods.) Even though his death has left a big, gaping hole inside her, Meredith just wants to have a normal life. Actually, she wants the life she was supposed to have if Justin had lived. He was a musician, about to move to the city with his bandmates, and he’d promised Meredith she could hang out with them. So, Meredith starts sneaking out to punk shows. One night, she’s so caught up by the performance of a friendly girl named Kat that she misses the last bus home and is forced to call her aunt Holly for a ride. Holly agrees not to rat Meredith out to her parents and to take Meredith to get her license, but only if she goes to the support group she ends up nicknaming “Grievers Anonymous.”

    For those of you who have read my book Ballads of Suburbia (another book that I wrote by thinking, What if I took this thing from my own life and made it worse by… you get to see the grown-up version of Cass. Her role here is inspired by my therapist, a woman named Liz, who helped me through my own grief as I wrote this book. Sadly, Liz would also pass away far, far too young. This is for her and for anyone who has lived through loss.

    The full book, which is tentatively titled Grievers Anonymous, is not done yet; I thought it was but now I am rewriting it. Writing is a process in that way. Like grieving. Like healing. This is the second chapter, and I hope you enjoy it.

    Only eleven sessions left, I told myself as I walked into group therapy.

    It was the first day of June, a gorgeous Wednesday afternoon that would’ve been perfect for a long run in the forest preserve behind Abby’s house. Instead, I was going to spend it trapped in a stuffy, white room with eight to 10 other kids, watching flecks of dust dance in the sunlight at the center of our lopsided circle and praying that the counselor, Cass, wouldn’t call on me.

    I’d spent the first three weeks doing my best to avoid her roving gaze, but the art of invisibility that I’d perfected in my classes didn’t work in such a small group. I thought I was getting by with shrugs and one sentence answers, but last Wednesday, Cass had held me back after everyone else left and said, “I want you to share something next time, Meredith. You don’t have to talk about what happened if you’re not ready to, but I’d like you to participate more than you have been.”

    I slumped into an open seat on the side of the circle facing both the door and the clock, so I could see, and countdown to, my escape. Hopefully today we’d be doing some sort of activity. That would be easier to bullshit than the general feeling or memory sharing. We all had workbooks that we could either take home or leave with Cass. I always left mine. She said she wouldn’t read what we wrote and since I barely wrote anything I didn’t care if she was lying.

    As the hands of the clock approached four, most of the chairs filled. Murmured conversation took place around me. A lot of the kids had been coming to the group for several months, so they knew each other pretty well. Some of them even hung out afterward or on the weekends. I couldn’t imagine doing that, forging a bond based on something so awful.

    Then the door swung open, and I caught sight of Cass’s long dreadlocks. She wasn’t carrying the workbooks, which probably meant no activity. I slouched down further in my seat, stomach knotting up at the thought of my impending interrogation. But then hope surged. Cass was talking to a girl with short, spiky blond and red-streaked hair, whom I’d never seen before. Maybe she’d focus all of her attention on this new victim and forget about me.

    Except the new girl wasn’t actually new. “Her hair’s different, but I’m sure most of you remember our old friend, Katalina,” Cass said as she cut through the circle, heading toward an open seat by the windows. At least the sun would be at Cass’s back, giving me an excuse not to look at her.

    I did glance up at not-new Katalina as she passed by, and I realized that she wasn’t new to me either, right as Dario, whose construction worker dad had died in a job-site accident, said, “’Sup, Kat.”

    It was the girl singer. The one from the show I’d snuck out to see a month ago. The one whose performance was so good, and she was so friendly to me afterward, that I got caught up in the moment, missed my bus, and because of that, landed here.

    Kat’s hair was completely different, and she wasn’t wearing the pearls that had made her stage outfit, but I remembered the combat boots, the nose ring, and her scratchy voice. “Hey, Dario,” she replied, flopping into the seat beside him.

    I ripped my eyes away from her as they slapped hands, hoping she wouldn’t remember me. Cass made us go around the room and state our names as she always did. I muttered mine, staring at the silver legs of the chair across from me, so I didn’t have to see the recognition spark on Kat’s face.

    What a fucked-up twist of fate. Once Aunt Holly stopped watching me like a hawk, I was hoping to eventually sneak out and see Kat play again. Maybe even become friends with her and the other people that I assumed she knew in the music scene. But now I couldn’t.

    Why Can’t I Be You: Andrea Hangst

    Collage by Ruby Aitken.
    Collage by Ruby Aitken.

    When an NFL analyst named Andrea Hangst, aka @FBALL_Andrea, tweeted at me around a year ago, I assumed she was not the same Andrea Hangst with whom I’d shared riot grrrl fandom and zines in high school. The teenager I’d exchanged long, handwritten letters with had never mentioned a love of sports. I started reading her writing online and found that it was the same Andrea, and she had written an amazing Tumblr post about inserting herself into the masculine-dominated world of sports writing—specifically writing for several publications and running a podcast about the NFL. I just had to interview her about her path to sportswriting.

    Here’s what she had to say about writing, football, feminism, and dealing with impostor syndrome and nasty internet comments.

    You were 13 or 14 when we started corresponding and exchanging zines. I was super impressed with your writing and your outspoken nature back then, and I know those qualities are serving you well in your current profession. How long have you been writing and was your goal always to write professionally? How did riot grrrl fit into it all for you?

    Riot grrrl was so important for me. Reading the Seventeen piece featuring Jessica Hopper really made things click for me. By the time I was nine, 10 years old I was digging around my small-town Pennsylvania library for feminist works and it was all very ’70s and not applicable to me, even then. Riot grrrl made it possible for me to not only publish my own writing but to connect with girls and women all over the nation and world and not feel so alone.

    As far as writing, I’m 33 years old and I’ve been writing since I was three. And since I was three, my goal was to make my living from writing. I had no clue, until just the past few years, that it would lead me to sports and football. But all of my passions have aligned in the right way at the right time. It’s not perfect, to be sure, but I’m no longer in a cubicle or answering phones or commuting and that’s what’s best for me.

    What about your love of sports, football in particular, how did that come about?

    It came about so randomly. I am from Western Pennsylvania, which is Pittsburgh Steelers country. I was brought home from the hospital, when I was born, in a Steelers hat that, by the miracle that is 1980s stretch acrylic knit, still fits. But I rejected so much of that as a teenager, because sports were something that I thought was diametrically opposed to everything I “stood for,” as a punk rock riot grrrl feminist.

    The first college I attended was in Western Massachusetts, and at one point the Steelers were in the playoffs, facing the New England Patriots. I could hear my whole campus cheering for the Patriots and kind of felt that burn, that “how dare you!?” about something that had suddenly become “my” team. As the years unfolded, I became more and more attached to my hometown team and my love of the sport as a whole sprung from that. And once that happened, I needed to know everything. All teams, all coaches, all roster moves, contracts (oh, I love breaking down contracts and salary caps), the Xs and Os, of course. I was just hooked. I don’t particularly know why, but when it hit me, it hit me. I started needing football, which is extremely problematic but also enjoyable in the sense that dissecting the problematic parts is something I like to do.

    I know exactly what you mean about feeling like sports were in conflict with your punk rock riot grrrl feminist persona. I grew up on baseball, and to a lesser degree basketball, but by the time I was a teenager, I’d shunned that part of me. We exchanged loooong letters, but I don’t think sports were a thing we talked about at all—unless maybe I was bitching about the jocks at my school. It took until my early 20s to let go of that feeling that I couldn’t like all of these things. What would you say to our readers who might be struggling with a similar feeling?

    Oh, we most certainly didn’t talk sports! “Jocks” and all! I struggled so much, but once I started really getting into football I realized something: You don’t have to pigeonhole yourself. You like what you like? So what? If parts of that are problematic—and we all consume problematic media to some extent—and you’re aware of that, then you’re good to go, in my opinion. You get drawn to certain things for reasons both tangible and not. For me, there was a feeling of “home” to football. And, I mean, I grew up (and went through the whole riot grrrl movement) involved with professional wrestling, things like ECW [Extreme Championship Wrestling] which had it’s own problems. You can love something and still be critical of it. And that doesn’t make you a hypocrite. And you can be as punk rock as you want to be and love things like football, wrestling, baseball, basketball, MMA, whatever. You are who you are, you define that.

    Let’s talk about college. You mentioned people being really into the playoffs at your school in Western Massachusetts, but I also know you attended Antioch College, which is a school I attended briefly, too. Back then, they proudly advertised not having a football team or really any sports other than, like, Ultimate Frisbee. This was a selling point for me because I was still “too punk for sports,” but how did that culture affect you? And how did your college education in general influence what you are doing now?

    College taught me one thing: Classrooms are not for me, and I only really overachieved in high school because it was boring and easy and because I wanted to get out of my hometown. Once I could really put going to class (or not) in my own hands, I realized classrooms aren’t for me.

    But at Antioch, when I was there, there was but one television on the whole campus with cable access—in the C-Shop—and I didn’t go there for football games. Football, sports and most of pop culture was lost on me at the time, which is part of the appeal of Antioch, or was, I think. But I made the best, most enduring friends of my life while there. Folks who are working hard on that whole “make a difference for humanity” stuff while still supporting my NFL writing career and not saying this is a misogynist world or I’m upholding terrible standards. They know that me in particular writing about football is a subversive act. I sure think it is, at least. Antioch, basically, teaches you that subverting the way things are is a goal and an asset, and I can directly see a link from that kind of mentality to me loving football, wanting to write about it and then going about doing so without fear.

    That is a subversive act and I know you’ve written about that, as well as about domestic violence in the NFL. How do you handle the conflict that must arise with you when yet another story breaks about a player’s violence and how the NFL is (or is not) dealing with it? I know other women who have turned away from the sport because of it, but you aren’t just a fan, this is your work. What’s your approach been? And what would you like to see the NFL do to change things?

    The NFL tries to be a moral entity, which it is not. It is a multi-million dollar business that is merely covering itself in the cloak of “protect the shield,” than actually caring about women, about any of this stuff. I don’t blame anyone for walking away from the sport because of things that players have done and the league’s reaction to it. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by just how bleak the whole enterprise is. Not just […] the way the league responds to players [involved in domestic violence cases], from discipline to “why” Greg Hardy has a job (“he’s a good player!”) but the documented link between concussions and repeated concussive blows (mostly suffered by the guys in the trenches, the offensive and defensive lines), and CTE [Chronic traumatic encephalopathy] and other long-term, later-in-life brain disorders, and how the NFL spent decades purposefully covering up what multiple concussions can do to a person. There’s much to be cynical about, jaded about, frustrated with and disappointed by.

    I’m lucky though. Because this is my work, I have an opportunity to speak about about any and all of these things—whether in writing or on radio spots, or on my podcast—and actually get those words out there. I have an audience.

    As far as changes the NFL can make, that’s a difficult question because the NFL really just reflects what is going on in society. There’s no way to believe that the NFL is going to make any strides that are pro-woman and distinctly anti-domestc and -sexual violence when we’re also not seeing that progress in everyday life. The NFL basically prints money and, unfortunately, that money will keep flowing no matter who gets arrested for what and how long he gets suspended for. If the money starts drying up in a significant way, that’s the only way the NFL is going to make any kind of significant changes to how it operates. That, or the team owners, the billionaires, demand change themselves which…well, good luck with that.

    How did you start writing for Bleacher Report?

    Luck and timing! In fall of 2010 I lost my job and though between then and starting at Bleacher Report, I had a few temp jobs, I mainly kept myself sane by starting my own NFL blog. It was basically my all-consuming hobby by the time I had lost my job so I figured that I should bide my time by combining my two biggest passions: football and writing.

    This was in the early days of “NFL Twitter,” so it was much easier to interact with people, make connections and all that. That’s how I met Josh Zerkle, formerly of Uproxx/Kissing Suzy Kolber. In the summer of 2011 he approached me about an opportunity to write about the NFL full-time; he was brought on to Bleacher Report at a time that the site wanted to get more legitimate from a writing quality and sports knowledge standpoint.

    At first, I was a little reluctant—at the time, Bleacher Report was not respected in the sports media community, at all. But then I realized, This site is trying to earn respect, and they think I can be part of making that happen. So, I came aboard in mid-August 2011, right after the NFL lockout. Since then, I have written for Pro Football Focus, Sportsnaut, and the Sports Daily, and I’m also writing for Sports on Earth, and Scout.

    In a typical week, right now I write 15-18 columns of varying length, sometimes 500-700 words, sometimes 2,000-plus, depending on subject matter and the outlet.

    What is your daily or weekly routine?

    It can vary from day to day, and how many places I write for. For so long, it was just Bleacher Report, five to six days a week and one or two fantasy football columns per week for Pro Football Focus. When I started at Bleacher Report, I covered all 32 teams and could write maybe 10 or 14 short to mid-length pieces, which would take place over a typical, 9-to-5 kind of workday. In the regular season, now that I cover specific teams at Bleacher Report, I do post-game columns, so that’s either Sunday afternoon or night, or Monday night or Thursday night, depending on when the Browns and Steelers play.

    A typical weekday for me at this point is to wake up in the morning, catch up on the latest news in the NFL, do a bit of research. Write one thing, write another for a different site, write another for Bleacher Report, write for another site on days when I have four immediate deadlines. I try to make sure [I have] Saturdays completely off. Some people can do this seven days a week, but writing about football isn’t just about football for me—it’s writing, and to me it’s creative, psychic and emotional labor because it’s my passion. If I don’t have one day to step away per week I’d easily burn out.

    So it sounds like this is a full-time job for you. Or are you doing other work on top of all of that to supplement it?

    Full time! From day one! Yep, this is how I earn 100 percent of my living, and I know that I’m super, super lucky to have that be the case basically from jump street. I know how uncommon that is in this industry, and I like to think it’s a sign that I know what I’m doing. I have major “imposter syndrome” feelings all the time, like many women experience.

    Oh yeah, I know those imposter syndrome feelings. Any advice for dealing with them?

    The only way I have found success in dealing with these feelings is basically making a mental list, almost like affirmations. Like, “All these places wouldn’t have sought out my abilities, wanted to pay me to do this, if I wasn’t any good at it.” But it’s kind of amazing how insidious imposter syndrome can be. I was reading up on it after answering some of these questions and noticed that saying things like “luck and timing!” are often excuses or justifications we make when dealing with imposter syndrome and how to explain away our successes. It’s odd.

    When I really get into an imposter syndrome spiral, it causes active feelings of anxiety. All I can do is try to calm myself down, remind myself I have earned and deserved the chance to do this work and that I am “good enough.” It’s amazing, though, how we as women actively minimize our accomplishments, that the more accomplished we are the more we feel like we didn’t earn or deserve our successes. I wish I could more adequately explain this; heck, I wish I knew the exact root causes of why I feel this way. But all I can do is just try to build myself up against these feelings.

    Makeup Trick: Repurpose Dark Lipstick

    The leaves are changing, and so are the colors on my lips. In autumn, I put summer’s corals and pinks away, and reach for rich plums and deep berries instead. But as much as I love a dark lip color, it sometimes looks a little bolder than what I’m going for. To get the most out of dark lipstick, I’ve figured out three other ways to put it to good use. I’ll show you!

    1. Under-Eye Concealer

    Berry-colored lipstick as concealer may sound weird, but an orangey-pink wash of color can help counteract any blue tones under tired eyes.

    Step One


    Put a light dot of orangey-pink lipstick under your eyes, and blend. (The lipstick will help cover up any under-eye blue-ness, because orange is blue’s complement on the color wheel.)

    Step Two


    Dot your usual concealer over your under-eye area, and blend it with your fingers.

    Step Three


    Dust a bit of powder under your eyes, and you’re done! Now no one will know you were up late watching puppy Vines.

    2. Creamy Eye Color

    The next look, courtesy of dark lipstick, is an eye color that will make your lids look like tiny autumn sunsets.

    Step One


    Put a dot of lipstick on each eyelid and blend with a brush or your fingertips. Concentrate the color at the lash line, and blend upward.

    Step Two


    Dust the powdered eye shadow color of your choice over the creamy base. (This gives the lipstick pigment something to adhere to, and will help it last much longer.)

    Step Three

    Put another dot of color in the center of each eye, then blend outward, along the lash line. Add a coat of mascara, and you’re all (sun)set.

    3. Lip Stain

    There are times when I want my lip product to look like the echo of a color, rather than the full-volume color itself. This is achievable in three super-simple steps:

    Step One

    Apply a thick layer of your favorite lip balm all over your lips.

    Step Two


    In the center of your bottom lip, add a dot of dark lipstick.

    Step Three


    Blend the lipstick with your fingertips, and you’re good to go!


    This washed-out lip look would go nicely with some Impressionists–inspired blush, I think. ♦

    Dear Diary: November 4, 2015

    The world we live in is much bigger than your Twitter feed may show you. —Lola Nova
    The world we live in is much bigger than your Twitter feed may show you. —Lola Nova


    It was great knowing that I could wear a dress with tights in sandals and have it be seen as a fashion statement rather than a DUI (dressing under the influence), as most fashions beyond Hollister and Forever 21 are deemed in my corner of suburbia. Despite feeling very liberated in that way, I was more arms-crossed-and-head-down than ever. Read More »


    School is a little complicated. Thankfully we have an elevator, so that takes a load off my back, but there is no decrease in the mental weight as we round the corner of our first marking period. Early application deadlines for a lot of colleges passed this weekend, and I submitted my first few just days ago. If anything, it’s even more real now than it was when I was plowing through essay after essay. Now all there is to do is wait. Read More »

    How to Be Happy With Who You Are

    Illustration by Valerie Kao.
    Illustration by Valerie Kao.

    KYLE is one to embrace his outsider status. His new album, Smyle, features the 22-year-old rapper/singer sharing stories about how he overcame judgment, and learned to never compromise himself. Below, he gives his best advice for how to feel great about yourself, even when it’s hard.

    I’ve always been really shy. As a kid, the only thing I’d ever do in front of a lot of people was sing. Off stage, though, I was super shy. Today, it’s totally different. I’m high-fiving strangers, doing all types of weird stuff. I think everybody has the ability to find that side of themselves. It’s hard for any shy person–any introvert, really—to come out of their shell. We don’t share ourselves with the world, so we are the only people who really know ourselves. I think you have to find people who make you feel comfortable, and spend a lot of time with them.

    High school, especially, is hard, because it’s hard to fit in. Once you find a friend group, you [often] end up just sticking with them, whether they’re the best friend group for you or not. The turning point for me was around that time. At first, I was on the football team. I was hanging out with a bunch of jocks, and I wasn’t really happy, now that I look back on it. I was around people who did nothing but judge other people, all day long. I never truly felt comfortable. I was always on edge, like, “I can’t slip up, I’m going to be made fun of. I have to look my best at all times.” One day, I got up from the table I was sitting at, with all the popular people, and walked away.

    I went and hung out with the kids who were in my drama class, and they were so non-judgmental. When you don’t have that fear of being judged by your peers, you’ll be able to truly be who you are. Find people who you respect morally, ahead of everything else. You are going to find people you trust.

    Everybody has critics. I’m not perfect–I’m human. Sometimes criticism gets to me, and it causes me to make bad decisions. With criticism, you have to analyze it, and be like, “Do I agree with this? Do I relate to this? How is this right for me?” See what you can take away from it, rather than letting it make you feel like a failure. If you don’t believe it, don’t do it. At the end of the day, you have to go with what you really feel.

    For me, to be self-confident is to love yourself more than anybody else does. Be so proud of who you are, that it’s just oozing out of you. That comes with knowing yourself, and knowing what’s awesome about yourself. Once you believe that you are great, you’ll just feel great. When you see you, you’re happier about you than they are. Figure out the reasons why you’re awesome, remember those reasons, and then you’ll be walking around with a smile on your face. ♦

    (As told to Natalie Weiner, who also writes for Billboard, the Guardian, Noisey, Pigeons & Planes, and more.)

    Creative Prompt: Be an Historian

    Illustration by Ana Hinojosa.
    Illustration by Ana Hinojosa.

    Art is our connection to the past and our contribution to the future. Just think of all of the amazingly ancient facts, stories, paintings, and treasures we have thanks to the work of archivists and artists who carefully wrote, recorded, painted, drew, carved, and sculpted important moments. Without their contributions, much of human history would be lost to legend and myth.

    This week, we’d like you to approach a day as an historian. Describe or depict everything that feels important to convey about this moment in time: the weather, your surroundings, what people are wearing, what songs are playing, what’s on TV, how people carry themselves, the food that is served, the smells in the air, et cetera. Think of someone just like you, reading your work 500 years from now. What would you want them to know about now? Keep in mind: you are observing, not judging. The goal is to capture as accurate a picture as possible. This can be done with words, sketches, photos, music, a video diary—whatever!

    Be the historian your era needs, then send your work—along with your first name, last initial, age, and city/state—to [email protected] with the subject line “Creative Prompt” by Monday, November 9 at 6 PM EST. Thank you!

    Last week, we asked you to get weird with your writing or art by employing a creative device called “slipstream.” Here is the strangeness you sent back.

    Dear Diary: November 3, 2015

    You make me wonder. —Jao San Pedro
    You make me wonder. —Jao San Pedro


    I told her she had no right to tell black people how to “channel” their anger when they’re grieving the deaths and brutalization of their people. Just because I sounded “eloquent” in my essay doesn’t mean I always sound that way, particularly when I’m talking about state-sanctioned violence. Read More »


    I hope my friends know that I’ve been reading this quote to them because I feel an emotional and spiritual connection with it; that I wanted them to know me, not all at once, but little by little, through this quote, and a single moment of bravery at a time. I want them to know that I trust them with this part of me. Read More »

    Bad Girl Painter: Pia Gynell-Jörgensen

    Illustration by Pia Gynell Jörgensen.
    Illustration by Pia Gynell Jörgensen.

    The 17-year-old Australian artist Pia Gynell-Jörgensen draws inspiration from her vast imagination, and loves to be among nature when making art. I spoke to Pia about her creative journey, her preferred media, and her love for insects.

    MINNA GILLIGAN: How long have you been making art?

    PIA GYNELL-JÖRGENSEN: I’ve been creating things ever since I was a chubby little toddler! I found a video of myself at about three, piling layers and layers of paint onto a canvas [alongside] my brothers. Although, in saying that, I probably classify some things as art that others wouldn’t–mud pies, for example.

    Your parents are artists. Do you think being raised by them sparked your creative journey?

    Absolutely. My whole family creates art, and being surrounded by creative people made me realize early [in my life] that this is what I want to do. I’ve been raised in an environment that thrives on art, so creation has been as simple as breathing and talking.

    What materials do you use to make work, and what environment do you predominantly create in?

    My essentials are my mechanical pencil and an Artline 0.4mm point pen. I also use various acrylic paints and Prismacolor pencils, which are a dream. I don’t have a specific brand of paper that I work on, but I love the texture of Arches watercolor paper. As for the environment, I am surrounded by succulents, but I don’t work at a desk. I always end up splayed out on the floor. It works better for me. I feel like I can really get into the piece I’m working on. I’ve actually gotten rid of several desks to make more floor room!

    Who are your subjects?

    My portraits are completely reflections of the self. I think every creation is. All of my drawings are very introspective—sometimes I don’t see that until I’ve finished. As for the figures, I never intend to draw myself, or anyone specific. Lots of people assume that they’re me, which I find quite flattering.

    To me, it appears as though your works are heavily invested in fantasy and the imagination. What is it about these realms that attract you?

    The imagination is probably the most amazing thing ever! I’m really interested in our minds and everything inside it, and everything that isn’t reality. I’ve never referred to it as fantasy, though—just another metaphysical reality. It’s these thoughts that lead to the existential crisis that is my work. All of my art is introspective, and I use my drawings to observe and analyze my mind. I think a lot about fantasy and reality, and they become very blurred in my head. Those thoughts pour onto the paper.

    I see lots of insects in your drawings, like butterflies, cicadas, and moths. Is there symbolism associated with these inclusions?

    I’m not aware of any symbolism. I think I just love bugs! They’re all incredibly beautiful, moths especially. In my head, insects sit in the same realm as mountains, plants, and teeth. [They’re] all these weird things that I group together and seem to connect. I usually draw them together.

    Do you spend a lot of time in nature? If so, does it influence your practice?

    I do. I love to be among nature. It’s one of the most inspirational environments. I often sit on a big, wooden table in my backyard. It’s so beautiful and exhilarating to be surrounded by trees and birds, with the sun shining through the great, blue sky right above me. When I’m in my room, I’ve got my little potted plants around me, and they often make it into my art, too.

    Are you also experimenting with digital work?

    Yes, I would love to learn to create digital art. I rarely work digitally, because I prefer to be able to touch and feel what I’m working on, but I sometimes edit or apply color digitally.

    Who are some artists you are inspired by?

    My biggest point of inspiration from other artists is my favorite band, Tame Impala. Other than that, I find the art of Wes Anderson, Henrietta Harris, Jasper Hills, Ines Jakovljević, Oliver Jeffers, Samantha O’Farrell and Beth Hoeckel to be hugely inspiring.

    What would you like to accomplish in the future with your artistic practice?

    I am going to do this forever. I decided that a long time ago. Even if I don’t support myself by being an artist, I will be an artist. I aim to go to the University of Melbourne [in Australia]. I think that will open some amazing doors for me. My dream is to share a studio with many artists of all different kinds. We will work together, inspire one another, and create beautiful things by bouncing ideas off of one another.

    What are three words that would describe your artwork?

    Beautiful, existential mess. ♦

    If you’re a bad-person painter and want me to check out your work, please email [email protected] with the subject line “Bad girl painter.” Please include a link to your blog, Instagram, or website.


    Illustrations by Esme Blegvad.
    Illustrations by Esme Blegvad.

    Hey, it’s November! And the stars say we’re going to be in the thick of some STUFF; parts of it will be challenging, while other parts will be expansive. (But when is that NOT the case?!) Thankfully, astrologer and writer Jessica Lanyadoo is paying us a visit, to share this month’s astrological predictions, plus some Oprah-level insights! On to you, Lanyadoo…

    Jessica Lanyadoo, on November’s astrological trends:

    New moon in Scorpio: The energy of the new moon, on November 11, is intense. It can bring about healing, but it might also lead people to overdo it, which presents a real risk for gossip. That sort of talk may feel really fun, but it almost certainly will come back to bite you in the butt—even if it seems totally innocent. The new moon can mean good things for romantic relationships. It tends to bring about exciting beginnings, too, as new moons do, but there could be more to them than what appears on the surface. The full moon is on the 25th: Wait through the moon cycle (from new moon to full moon) before you make up your mind about these developments—they may just as easily fizzle out as they could become lasting.

    Pluto in Capricorn, squaring Venus in Libra: This event, happening November 20 through 22, is no small potato: Venus wants everyone to get along and chill, but Pluto’s like, “LET’S TURN ALL THE WAY UUUUUUP!” This can bring compulsive, driving energies to the fore. People may be defensive, and emotions will likely run high. Behavior during this period tends to be felt authentically, deeply, and meaningfully. Don’t lie to avoid conflict, and steer clear of drama.

    Mercury in Sagittarius, squaring Neptune in Pisces: November 25 through 26, we’ll experience an event known for bringing up passive-aggressive and confusing communication. Awesome, right? This is the kind of influence that can make us say, “Yeah, no problem!,” when we’re asked to do something we really don’t want to do. It’s important to mean what we say, and say what we mean. At the very least, don’t fib—even if it’s to save someone’s feelings. It will only lead to confusion, especially because on the 25th, there’s a full moon in Gemini…

    Full moon in Gemini: The full moon on November 25, like any full moon, signals a time for letting go, and a time when emotions can run high. Gemini, for its part, wants to understand everything, and explain every detail. But this month, Gemini’s obsession with detail may go rogue and cause confusion. For example: You may find yourself wondering why a friend is ignoring you, or whether they’re upset with you, when really, they’ve been MIA for reasons that aren’t personal. The key with this full moon, then, is to have as much empathy as possible, for other people and yourself. Opt for compassion, to hopefully avoid defensiveness or misunderstandings.

    Sun in Sagittarius, squaring Neptune: The sun’s action with Neptune, November 20 through December 1, may throw you off your game. When Neptune is in the mix, the universe’s lessons tend to be about setting healthy boundaries. How does the universe teach us this? By presenting situations that show us the need to establish healthy boundaries! Keep in mind that when someone is careless with your emotions, that’s a reflection of them—not a reflection of you.

    Sun conjuncts Saturn in Sagittarius: A Saturn-sun conjunction tends to be a bummer. This one occurs November 29 through 30. You may feel down, or want to lay low. You may also experience the blues, potentially due to heavy family dynamics. But never fear! This is an ideal day for concentration, hard work, and sustained effort, too. Try some yoga, or any other way you like to get into your body, so you’re not so caught up in your head!

    OK, those are the basics! Ready to dive into some star soup?

    Aries (March 21–April 19)

    Taurus (April 20–May 20)

    Gemini (May 21–June 20)

    Cancer (June 21–July 22)

    Leo (July 23–August 22)

    Virgo (August 23–September 22)

    Libra (September 23–October 22)

    Scorpio (October 23–November 21)

    Sagittarius (November 22–December 21)

    Capricorn (December 22–January 19)

    Aquarius (January 20–February 18)

    Pisces (February 19–March 20)

    Jessica Lanyadoo loves big hair and cats and helping people help themselves. Check out her stuff here.

    Dear Diary: November 2, 2015

    Now I have enough candy to last me through college. —Isabella Acosta
    Now I have enough candy to last me through college. —Isabella Acosta


    In my room, we made up some floor beds and attempted sleep. But what happens at sleepovers? You talk into the early hours about the most trivial and the realest things. Read More »


    It was truly a surreal and amazing experience; I felt like I could just burst at any moment and like nothing could probably ever amount to what I experienced that night. I still feel so, so good. Read More »

    There’s No Justification for the Spring Valley Assault

    Collage by Ruby Aiken. Photograph by Joseph Rodriguez titled "Growing up in Harlem," in National Geographic, 1990.
    Collage by Ruby Aiken. Photograph by Joseph Rodriguez titled “Growing up in Harlem,” in National Geographic, 1990.

    Last week, video footage surfaced showing a white school resource officer named Ben Fields grabbing a 16-year-old, African-American girl by the neck, flipping her over, and then throwing and dragging her across a classroom at Spring Valley High School, in Columbia, South Carolina. She was then arrested on a charge for disturbance.

    Later that week, Niya Kenny, the girl’s classmate—who was also arrested for instructing others to film the incident—told the State newspaper, “When I saw deputy Fields, that’s when I started…I told them to get the cameras out, because we know his reputation—well, I know his reputation.” Kenny was aware that Fields might harm the victim whether or not she defied him. As I was expressing my disgust about the attack to my friends, one of them cut me off to say that the girl had, “Deserved it because she was talking mad crazy and acting up.” Others agreed with her. I became so flustered and angry that I could barely get a word out. Though their views on the attack, which I consider dense, infuriated me, I wasn’t surprised at all.

    There is a tendency to blame black girls when they are victims of abuse. So much so that when I saw the 19-second clip of the sophomore being thrown around the classroom, I not only began shaking, but immediately thought, Cue the “she was probably poppin’ at the mouth” commentary. People from all backgrounds will unify to proclaim, “She probably said something. You know black girls are loud and ratchet,” or, “She deserved it, y’all know y’all got slick mouths,” also using the defiant, sassy black girl trope to justify inflicting pain on black girls. Listening to people blame the girl and excuse Ben Fields’ violence, reminded me of how Sandra Bland was described as “combative” in order to justify her death in police custody. I heard these justifications around campus and on Twitter, even when classmates of the student came forward in her defense, saying she was quiet, and had done nothing to warrant arrest. And there, too, is the problem: It doesn’t matter if the girl was quiet or acting out, you shouldn’t have to be a model student to avoid having your head slammed onto a floor by a grown man.

    The high school I attended wasn’t too different from Spring Valley High—it was also a campus of around “2,000 students […] about 52 percent black and 30 percent white.” A diverse environment comes with diverse behaviors. At my school, I witnessed a variety of bad behavior including a white male student sliding fake anthrax under an administrator’s door, causing the school to be evacuated for two hours, and a black female student attempting to put her hands on a dean. The glaring difference between Spring Valley and my school is that even in life-threatening situations, I never witnessed a faculty member or police officer react like Ben Fields did.

    Schools cannot be safe spaces where all students can learn if some are treated as though their normal teen behavior is criminal. Currently, it is against the law to “disrupt school” in the state of South Carolina—where the assault took place. Doing so is punishable by up to 90 days in jail or a $1,000 fine. This zero-tolerance policy only aids the rapid growth of the “school to prison pipeline,” which puts students—especially those at-risk—out of classrooms and into the criminal justice system, giving them less of a chance to rectify and learn from their mistakes. When it comes to black girls, the U.S. Department of Education reports that we are six times more likely to be suspended than white girls. Black girls are frequently chastised for being excited or loud. We’re described as “ghetto” and “extra” when we’re emotional, while white girls who behave in similar ways are “enthusiastic” and “passionate.” These difference in labels may seem trivial but they determine who gets punished and who doesn’t. Black girls are severely penalized for displaying these emotions, with little regard for what we were feeling or experiencing.

    At school, I’ll admit that I was considered a smart ass by teachers. I wasn’t violent, but I was depressed and angry throughout the majority of my adolescence. Faculty eventually took notice and I was advised to talk to the school’s crisis counselor. Having someone to talk to helped me resolve the internal issues that had caused me to act out. Students who expressed their issues using physical aggression were disciplined and referred to a crisis counselor or to anger management classes. I don’t want to imagine what could’ve happened to me, or any of the more aggressive students who walked the same hallways I did, if we attended Spring Valley High. All students’ mental and emotional states need to be taken into account when discipline is administered. Students of all races deserve safe spaces to vent and explain their actions, places where they can trust authority figures to find constructive and nonviolent ways to diffuse situations.

    The Black Lives Matter Movement’s inclusive approach to liberation has brought light to the struggles of black women and girls, and hashtags like Say Her Name force people to acknowledge the very real risks black girls and women face. I shouldn’t have to hear “she was being mouthy and combative” as justifications for the death and pain of girls who look like me. It’s wrong. Just like sagging your pants or being hesitant to trust a man in uniform shouldn’t be used as an excuse for the killing and assault of black men and boys by police. However, society still sees the fight for black rights as a fight to protect black men’s lives and rights. The attack at Spring Valley High, the assault at McKinney pool, and Sandra Bland’s death contradict that idea. Black girls and women do not have it easier than black men. We are not immune to violence because of gender, and our issues warrant just as much attention as we give to those facing black boys and men.

    Being a teenager is an angsty, strange, and rebellious roller coaster. No matter her actions, nothing the victim of this attack could’ve done, short of causing bodily harm to others, could warrant an arrest, let alone one so violent. When I rewatch the video of the girl’s arrest, I think about the times I didn’t listen to a teacher because I wasn’t sure if they had my best interests at heart. The statistics from the U.S. Department of Education suggest that we have every right to be skeptical of how we’re being treated in school. Black girls deserve to learn and make mistakes in a safe environment that gives us the opportunity to rectify our wrongdoings as young people. We shouldn’t be pushed out of school, thrown across floors and into jails for acting out as most teenagers do. The foolish mistakes we make in our youth should not leave such terrible, long-lasting marks on our records and bodies. ♦

    Upasna Asks: What Are My Squad Goals?

    Having a close group of friends (aka squad) that you stick with and always spend time with is so amazing and beautiful and FUN, but it can be SO HARD to form that group. In this video, I ask (and answer) the following questions, plus some more, about squads:

    • Why is it so hard sometimes for some of us (including me) to form a group of friends?
    • Why do we feel the need to even be in a group of friends?
    • Is being cliquish bad?
    • Do we HAVE to hang out with the same group of people ALWAYS?

    Editor’s Letter

    Illustration by Anya Baker.
    Illustration by Anya Baker.

    November’s theme is ASSEMBLY, inspired by the quiet sense of unity that wells up after the initial shock of how ginormous the world is, that your teachers are real people with problems, and that your friends’ families are messed up, too. I feel constantly overwhelmed by the knowledge that I am different from other people; not that I’m this huge outcast, but that everyone is alone with themselves. On most days, though, this elicits a wave of compassion, because if my inner world is this odd, then theirs must be, too, like, even if this guy in the waiting room is being a monster to whomever is on the other end of his phone call, I am mostly sure it comes from a sad little pocket that resembles my own reservoir of insecurity and fear. Maybe not. Some people are actual monsters, robots, and vampires. But it is healthier for the heart, as David Foster Wallace articulated here, to presume otherwise. This confinement to ourselves is, in fact, shared, and probably the one thing we all definitely have in common.

    The tension between not wanting to be alone but not wanting to join the group was always magnified for me by school assemblies that were stupid but painfully sincere, like the speaker was usually trying to do a genuinely decent human thing by talking to us, and I sympathized that students were giving them a hard time, but I was certainly not about to like, DEFEND the assembly or anything like some herb! Last November’s theme was about everlasting marriage-friendships, but Assembly is about the groups you don’t choose, where the circumstances force you to become super close, but the bond could never carry over into real life. School, camp, sports teams, plays, clubs, youth groups, group assignments. You feel both enabled to become someone other than yourself, and finally allowed to be who you truly are, knowing no one will speak of it ever again.

    Mosey on over to the Submit page to see what kinds of stories and art we are looking for this month, and stuff to know about sending it in. Tell us about your experiences with connections that were forced but became real, or with school assemblies that prompted whole inner crises! Say, the Assembly feeling is quite relevant to the upcoming holidays, too, and so maybe you have thoughts on family, the original forced-connection-that-becomes-real. We want to hear about any ideas that get you remotely excited, even if they are not perfectly November-esque, and we know that you will ASSEMBLE something GREAT! (Unless I scared you away with that terrible joke, just now.)


    Saturday Printable: Halloween Masks

    Happy Halloween, Rooks! We’ve got a treat: Masks, made just for you by Hunter Schafer. If you’re not sure what you’re dressing up as just yet—here are five options!

    Click here to download this space face:

    spaceship mask

    Here to download this heart head:

    heart mask

    Right here for this drippy candle disguise:

    candle mask

    And here for two macabre eye masks:

    little masks

    Go to town! And, if you’d like to be included in this year’s reader Halloween costume photo gallery, please send a pic of your fully decked-out self—whether it’s in one of these masks, or an ensemble entirely of your own making—to [email protected] by 6 PM EST on November 1. If you can, please send high-resolution photos (at least 300 dpi) and be sure to include a signed version of this here release, which says it’s OK with you and your parent/guardian to feature your beautiful visage on Rookiemag.com. ♦

    Dear Diary: October 30, 2015

    I'm thinking up plans for Halloween this weekend. I really want to go to a haunted house, because I never done that before, but I think I'm gonna channel my inner child and go trick or treating with friends. You're never too old, right? —Amil Barlow
    I’m thinking up plans for Halloween this weekend. I really want to go to a haunted house, because I never done that before, but I think I’m gonna channel my inner child and go trick or treating with friends. You’re never too old, right? —Amil Barlow


    I am in the process of watching friends shed their organic, sophomore skin and work themselves into calloused juniors. I, too, am a junior, but I think I somehow managed to get left behind on the planet “lol, just doin’ me.” Like in Martian, except I am a metion. Read More »


    Kelis made pocketbooks out of throwback jerseys, and had wild hair long before Tumblr was inundated with pictures of Black girls with a range of curl patterns and hair colors. She embodied this alternative black girl rebellion, and that resonated with me in a way riot grrrl never could. Read More »

    Friday Playlist: It’s My Time

    Illustrations by Annie Mok.
    Illustrations by Annie Mok.

    The fire in your eyes can’t be put out, and glory’s more about that flame than any torch that anyone can ever hand you. It burns when your friends lift you up on their shoulders, and it still burns when you stand alone—when your throat tightens up and the ground beneath you shifts.

    Theme Song: Little May

    Collage by Isabel Ryan, using a photo by McLean Stephenson.
    Collage by Isabel Ryan, using a photo by McLean Stephenson.

    Annie Hamilton teamed up with her former schoolmate Liz Drummond and pal Hannah Field in 2012 to form Little May–a band that’s been hustling ever since. And today, we’re premiering their cover of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’s “Skeletons” as October’s theme song!

    The Sydney, Australia–based trio offered their interpretation of the majestic classic by adding haunting harmonies (happy Halloween!) and their own melodic interpretations:

    I recently spoke with Annie, who talked about friendships, defeating self-consciousness, and creativity.

    ANNE T. DONAHUE: You covered one of my favorite songs in the world! When did you first hear “Skeletons”?

    ANNIE HAMILTON: It was a few years ago. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are just such a good band, and that song had such a good melody and vibe—it takes you away. When we did the cover, we didn’t want to drastically change anything, because it’s a beautiful song. We didn’t want to overcomplicate it. We took what we loved, like the melody, lyrics, and the dreamy feelings, and did what we’d normally do with those melodies. We wanted to make it our song without taking away any of the beautiful parts of the original.

    Karen O is very poetic.

    Definitely. A lot of the lyrics are abstract. It’s not like they’re telling a literal story, but there’s so much imagery that comes through.

    You and your band members came together while in high school. You’re in it to win it. How do you keep boundaries as a group?

    It can definitely be very hard, because we’re together 24-seven. We’re sharing beds while we’re on tour. We’re in a van, and it’s exhausting and stressful. When you’re working all day, it’s tough. But, we figured out how to do things that mean everyone gets space, how to respect each other, and how to have fun, because in the end, what we’re doing is fun.

    Is that how you stay creative? I think creativity can come from a place of feeling safe.

    Definitely. When you’re feeling self-conscious, it’s paralyzing. If there are times when I’m feeling self-conscious or worried about what other people might think about what I’m doing, and I’m trying to come up with something on guitar, draw something, or make something, I really struggle. If everyone is in a space where they can be having fun and letting ideas flow, that’s when you get the best creative result.

    In what ways have you looked for somewhere to belong, creatively speaking?

    I’ve always loved music. From a young age, I played saxophone and clarinet in a school band, and then I started playing guitar when I was 13. I always wanted to be in a band. But, I didn’t know anyone else who played. It was really sad to me, because I really wanted to play with other people, but none of my friends were in bands. It ended up being a very private thing to me. I became very self-conscious about playing in front of people, and embarrassed, nervous, and shy about my music. I always wanted a sense of being in something alongside other people.

    How did you overcome that?

    I think it was just a matter of time and practice. I still get self-conscious about my abilities, but now I have the confidence to do my thing. You have to push through it, keep going with it, and don’t let it stop you. You have to be like, “I’m just going to do it, because no one else can do what I want to do better than I can.”

    Did your bandmates help you?

    The three of us have always had times when we’ve felt nervous about our abilities, but, in the end, it’s nice to have each other. It’s like, “What’s the point of not doing it?” We’re all very supportive of each other. We help each other out and give each other the confidence to do our thing. It’s not about being the best mechanically, it’s about putting as much of your own personality into it. If you can do something unique, that has got your own personal stamp on it, then that’s more effective than someone who’s doing technical things without their personality. The three of us have tried to help each other express ourselves, and what feels right to us. ♦

    This Week in TV

    This week in TV was a short one. We went without new episodes of Bob’s Burgers, Empire, and Scream Queens (WAH), but the bright side is that there’s time to catch up on old eps before new ones return (YAH). Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder reliably brought the drama, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine got into the Halloween spirit.

    ***Per usual, this week’s roundup is spoiler heavy. Just sayin’!***

    Stephanie Beatriz as Rosa Diaz,  Chelsea Peretti as Gina Linetti, and Melissa Fumero  as Amy Santiago  on Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
    Stephanie Beatriz as Rosa Diaz, Chelsea Peretti as Gina Linetti, and Melissa Fumero as Amy Santiago on Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

    Brooklyn Nine-Nine

    This week marked the third annual Halloween competition between Peralta and Holt. The two divide the precinct into teams that must help capture a (literal) crown that would win one of them the title of Halloween King. But with such an important honor on the line, paranoia runs high. Jake thinks Amy would betray him to get on Holt’s good side, while Holt thinks Amy would choose her boyfriend over her boss. Thus, they leave Amy out of the game completely, setting in motion a series of events that sees Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s hardest worker outsmart them both. She ends up capturing the crown and scolding them accordingly for leaving her out. The episode ends with the beginning of her reign as Halloween Queen. As her majesty Nicki Minaj raps on “Monster,” “You can be the king, but watch the queen conquer.” –Anne T. Donahue

    Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope and Tony Goldwyn as President Fitzgerald Grant.
    Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope and Tony Goldwyn as President Fitzgerald Grant.


    Before we get to the meat of this week’s episode of Scandal, let’s start with an appetizer: Mellie and Jake, separately, stood up to their ex-lovers, or in Mellie’s case, now–ex-husband. Before freeing papa Eli Pope from prison, Mellie told Fitz off like only she can. Jake hung up on Olivia both times she called for advice.

    Now…the main course: FITZ FINALLY PROPOSED TO OLIVIA POPE AND OLIVIA COULDN’T DEAL. When Fitz got down on one knee, it was almost like Olivia had a moment of clarity. While she may be in love, marriage means less of her and more of him. Selfish? In the ongoing saga of Fitz, Mellie, the White House, and Olivia—not at all. Will Liv sacrifice her identity for love and lust? Let’s hope we get the answer in next week’s episode. –Taj Rani

    Charlie Weber as Frank Delfino and  Liza Weil 	as Bonnie Winterbottom.
    Charlie Weber as Frank Delfino and Liza Weil as Bonnie Winterbottom.

    How to Get Away With Murder

    Every week, How to Get Away With Murder leaves me breathless, and needing to decompress for 15 minutes. This week was no different. Annalise continues to win cases, while simultaneously playing mind games. When she notices that Wes’s curiosity about his ex-girlfriend’s disappearance is getting out of hand, she distracts him by bringing up the suicide of his mother. Ouch. It also became painfully clear that Asher’s father has an icebox where his heart never was. Michaela is getting her groove back, even if that means flirting with a sexy client. (Get it how you live, girl!) Connor’s boyfriend Oliver took hacking to another level for Connor’s love, but unknowingly puts everyone in danger. And right when we think we’ll get the answer to #WhoShotAnnalise, the episode comes to a close. —Taj Rani ♦

    Dear Diary: October 29, 2015

    This year has opened so many doors for me. Meeting Destiny Frasqueri, Tavi, and growing my website, babytwigs, have been milestones. I'm looking forward to the future. —Lola Nova
    This year has opened so many doors for me. Meeting Destiny Frasqueri and growing my website, babytwigs, have been milestones. I’m looking forward to the future. —Lola Nova


    Life’s been coming at me fast lately. I am a teenage girl experiencing new and important things every day. But I rarely open up to my friends, or my mom about how I’m feeling or what’s going on in my life. I know I should. Read More »


    She grabs my hands and energetically forces me to sway with her. I comply, laughing, until it no longer feels natural and I drop my arms by my side, standing slightly awkwardly in the middle of the moving bodies. I look up, a sudden jerk of my head, and he is right across from me, looking at me. Read More »

    Guillermo del Toro’s Guide to Gothic Romance

    Illustration by Allegra Lockstadt.
    Illustration by Allegra Lockstadt.

    Do you ever wonder what goes on in the wondrous mind of director, producer, and screenwriter Guillermo del Toro? Yes? Same. Well, to chime with the recent release of his creepy, goth thriller Crimson Peak, Guillermo has curated a syllabus of the Gothic and Gothic romance novels, short stories, and engravings that influenced the making of the film. He sent us these recommendations with the following words: “I hope you enjoy some of these as fall or winter reads by the fireplace.” Before you post up beside an actual fire, here’s what Guillermo del Toro has to say about these Gothic essentials.

    49190Uncle Silas by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
    This book defines the link between fairy tales and gothic romance. Uncle Silas is a convoluted, highly perverse mystery-thriller about innocence in danger, written by the master of ghost stories, J. Sheridan Le Fanu. It’s a dense but rewarding read, and it was crucial to Crimson Peak.

    charlotte_bigJane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
    Along with Uncle Silas, Jane Eyre is my favorite novel. Jane is a complex hero, and the book’s structure is an exemplary model—to the point that it was imitated by later works such as Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, Dragonwyck by Anya Seton, and even, in an oblique way, by Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden.

    I read Jane Eyre at the same age as I read Frankenstein, and I fell in love with both books. My young crushes were on Mary Shelley and the entire Brontë sisterhood. The Brontës and their brother, Branwell (their own private Heathcliff), had such brief, tragic lives. Their literary output can be read rapidly and with gusto! In contrast to her sister Emily’s ferocity, or her sister Anne’s real-world feminism, Charlotte seeks balance between emotion and self-control, and between genre and denunciation.

    As a character, Jane is stainless-steel strong when facing the world. Her inflexible dignity and self-knowledge allow her to survive the brutality of boarding school and the indifference of the world. In this novel, love goes through measured, calculated pain in order to be deserved. The book contains one of my favorite scenes in the history of literature, and one that I quote almost verbatim in Crimson Peak: The “cord of communion” speech from Rochester to Jane.

    93134The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe
    This novel is Ann Radcliffe’s Gothic romance magnum opus (well, along with another novel, The Italian). Radcliffe was a powerhouse. Like a lot of Gothic romances, The Mysteries is set in an “exotic” locale, which intends to make its readership to dream of “dark” passions. This book features in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, which was written in response to the enormous popularity of the Gothic genre.

    the-turn-of-the-screw-by-henry-james-lodozo.comThe Turn of the Screw by Henry James
    This story is a sort of deconstruction of Gothic, done beautifully by Henry James. He picks up where the writer Edgar Allan Poe left off—searching for horror, not in dark castles, but in the dark edifices of the mind. The true ghosts are in our minds and haunt us–ambiguous, but terrifying. James once said—and I poorly paraphrase—that in Gothic romance, the ghost represents the past. I used that idea as a springboard for Crimson Peak. James’ clash between American and English culture is also somewhat present in the movie.

    518A0CQ6VVLWuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
    Emily is my favorite Brontë. Her mysterious but powerful personality shines through Wuthering Heights, her only novel. Marginalized by publishers of the time, female writers resorted to pseudonyms in order to get their work published. This was the case with the Brontë sisters, and of this book, which was originally published under the pseudonym Ellis Bell. (The siblings all came up with pseudonyms that allowed them to keep their initials).

    The powerful emotions and contradictions that fuel Catherine, undoubtedly fueled Emily Brontë and her dark, convulsive work. This book is as close to an autobiography of the soul as one gets—other than Frankenstein. The elemental ferocity of the characters seems as much influenced by bookish concerns (notably Sir Walter Scott), as by the fiery heart of its author. Impossible, mad love, essential to Gothic romance—and seemingly impossible to understand for male writers of the era—is enshrined here between Heathcliff and Catherine. Wuthering Heights is tragic, fierce, and unforgettable.

    9780141023533Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
    Dickens is one of my favorite writers of all time. His plot structures and characters are precise, vibrant, and effective today as they were in his day. The Gothic romance spirit is alive and well within his work, and that’s especially true of Great Expectations. The sense of place as destiny, the class struggle, the convoluted plotting, and the redemption story are both Dickensian and Gothic. But it is Miss Havisham—her rotting wedding dress, and mummified banquet—who stands tall. Once again, the fairy tale element of the Gothic genre shines through. Dickens was occasionally concerned about the consumption of the body by fire—to the extent that a spontaneous human combustion occurs in his novel Bleak House). Here, the conflagration of Havisham is both horrific and quasi-magical—it’s a phenomenal read.

    93157The Monk by Matthew G. Lewis
    This work exemplifies the spirit of the Gothic novel with its intricate plots, coruscating prose, and the faint smell of sulfur. Iconoclastic, anarchic, and a lot of fun if you get into its rhythms and prose! The essential Gothic works include, The Monk, The Castle of Otranto, Vathek, and Melmoth the Wanderer. In The Monk, there is a great horror tale about “The Bloody Nun” that sent shivers down my spine as a kid. The lurid balance between titillation and bloody imagery were important in the making of Crimson Peak.

    tumblr_mun8q3kkQ21riczvco1_500“Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar Allan Poe
    This short story was crucial to developing Crimson Peak. Gothic is birthed in Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, a novel which establishes the importance of a decaying edifice as the ideal arena for horror and passion. Poe, however, creates a bridge between the psyche of his characters and the edifice that surrounds them. Every detail and every texture is important. He pointedly imbues the edifice with a malignant, vigilant character. The mansion in this novel is rotting and sinking, much like the souls of the siblings—the last of a decadent lineage. The house encapsulates and represents them. The incestuous undertones, and way horror is internalized are quite revolutionary. Before Poe, haunted castles were an external agent. He cements the bridge between external and internal horrors: The haunted edifice and the haunted mind become one.

    Telfair_083Carceri d’invenzione (The Imaginary Prisons) by Giovanni Battista Piranesi
    Contemplation of the past is key to the birth of Gothic, and the genre is full of the romantic emotion that surges at the sight of monumental ruins. At its origin, Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto is inspired by the engravings of Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s Carceri. Piranesi was a remarkable artist and his engravings of Italian ruins captured European imaginations. However, this novel creates a series of imaginary prisons and cellars of impossible dimensions and containing fantastic machinery and infinite architecture. They are truly the stuff of nightmares and, over the years, they’ve inspired countless artists—Romantics, Symbolists, Surrealists, and filmmakers. ♦

    The Disconnect: Halloween Edition

    Illustration by Allegra Lockstadt.
    Illustration by Allegra Lockstadt.

    This time of the year is so beautiful to me—the color of the leaves, the mellow weather practically begging me to go out and walk around in it, the goblins—that I don’t have to make too much of an effort to disconnect from all of my devices. I want to be out in the world, I want to celebrate the season, and come October 31, I want to get real spooky with it. If, like me, you’re ready to take a brief sabbatical from the internet, then I’ve got a few ideas for you.

    Hold a secret, scary storytelling gathering. OK, so there was once this phenomenal horror TV show on Nickelodeon called Are You Afraid of the Dark? It was about a secret society of Canadian teenagers who’d go deep into the woods late at night, not to drink or dry hump, but to tell each other scary stories. They called themselves the Midnight Society and they were the real deal, OK? There wasn’t anything or anyone cooler than them. Why not take a page from the Midnight Society’s book and have a secret gathering totally devoted to telling scary stories. Everyone invited should craft their own, original, chilling tales beforehand—making sure the stories have all of the requisite twists, turns, and clowns. Then, sit around a bonfire at night or just in a dark room, forebodingly lit by Yankee Candles, and terrify each other.

    Create a monster. Remember when Victor Frankenstein created his monster? At first he was super pumped about what he was doing, but then the whole thing went totally off the rails (everyone was immensely unhappy, people started dying, etc.). Vic could’ve saved himself a lot of grief if he’d just built his monster with arts and crafts materials—something that is incredibly fun and always therapeutic for me. Drawing a monster—a traditionally frightening creature is a good outlet for some of my darker, heavier emotions and anxieties, which I end up channeling through my creation. Grab some paper and your favorite drawing implements and create the monster of your dreams. Or rather, the monster of your nightmares (muhahaha). How many eyes will your monster have? Will it drool? Will it be hairy or hella naked? Monsters can look like anything and everything: Let your imagination take over.

    Make a Halloween or autumn-themed headband. DIY floral headbands are awesome. They’re easy to make, they’re pretty, and they make your head look all nature-y. Best of all, though, is that when you sit down to put one together, figuring out how the flowers will be arranged is a truly meditative experience. If you are in the northern hemisphere, take advantage of October, by making a headband with fall leaves. Walk around your neighborhood gathering bright, orange and yellow foliage (or just go to a craft store and buy some fake ones if real leaves aren’t an option) and then arrange your bounty onto a headband, and secure them with some floral tape. You can step up your headband game by incorporating Halloween- or autumn-themed decorations. With a hot glue gun (these cost about $3 at craft stores), glue a tiny fake pumpkin, cobwebs, or a toy bat or spider onto the headband. You will look bomb and, because making one of these headbands is such a peaceful, calming activity, you’ll be all serene while you’re wearing it.

    Hold a séance. If you’ve ever wanted to contact spirits from the great beyond, Halloween is the time to do it—ghosts become super chatty on October 31, to the point where you practically can’t shut them up. Dim the lights and gather a few friends or family members around a table with an array of spooky candles in the center. Everyone should hold hands and concentrate hard on making contact with the netherworld. You, acting as a spirit medium, can begin the séance with a prayer. Say something like, “If any phantoms be near, reveal thyself here or whisper thine name in my ear (if thou art shy).” You may want to use a spirit board to assist in the séance—everyone placing their hands on the planchette, taking turns asking ghosts questions.

    An alternative to this, which I think is just as entertaining (maybe even a little more exciting), is to not actually attempt to contact ghosts, but instead hold a kind of mock séance. The setup is the same, but here, each person takes turns pretending to be possessed by a dead historical figure. No one reveals the name of the person they’re channeling, they merely do the best impression they can—recite well-known quotes, and reveal tidbits about the person’s life (like, if I looked around the room and said, “This wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. Either it goes or I do,” you might gather that I was Oscar Wilde). Everyone else has to use these clues to try and figure out who you’ve all “contacted.”

    Travel back in time and right the wrongs of the past. Right about now you’re saying, “Surely, I must need a wifi connection or some kind of USB cord to travel through time, Amber.” Actually, you don’t need NONE OF THAT. You don’t even need to leave your house. In the U.S., daylight saving time ends on Halloween night (well, technically, it ends a 2 AM, November 1). When the clocks “fall back,” we are gifted an extra hour—the ultimate Halloween treat. While many people are content to just fritter that bonus hour away sleeping, I like to recognize it for the magnificent thing that it is.

    When daylight savings ends (in most countries that observe DST, this happens on the last Sunday of October), we all essentially become time travelers and are given the chance to “redo” the hour of 1:00 AM–1:59 AM. This time around, be a kinder, more compassionate person! Eat a burrito! Lift some weights and become one hour buffer! Do any or all of the things that I’ve just described in this month’s installment of The Disconnect! But don’t forget to end the hour with the “Time Warp” (it’s just a jump to the left, then a step to the right. With your hands on your hips, you bring your knees in tight. But it’s the pelvic thrust that really drives you insane…). It isn’t very often that we’re given second chances in life, and it’s even less common to be able to time travel, so make the most of this wonderful opportunity. ♦

    Just Wondering: How Do I Tell Someone to Stop Texting Me?

    Illustration by Maxine Crump.
    Illustration by Maxine Crump.

    Over the summer, I had a short fling with a boy I have known since childhood. I was happy because he lives in New York, and, although we had fun together, I was ready to go back to school and start fresh. But I think he was more into me than I was into him, because now, a few months after summer, he snapchats and texts me 20 times every day, and I don’t want to have excessive communication with him. How can I tell him to leave me alone without sounding harsh? I think he still likes me, and I don’t want to hurt him. —May, 15, Los Angeles

    May, my dear, from your question alone I can tell that you are a careful and considerate person who is prioritizing her needs as well as the feelings of others. This sensitivity will surely play into how you approach this dude—in the kindest way possible—about easing up a little. That being said, even when you’re being very careful to not hurt someone, it’s sometimes unpreventable, especially when they’ve got large feelings for you that you don’t reciprocate.

    It seems pretty clear from your question and concern for your fling’s feelings that you care about him, even if you’re not interested in him romantically. Communicate this very sentiment to him: that you care about him, despite not having romantic feelings for him. Because the two of you are living in different states, I think this will be a lot easier to break to him without being harsh: long-distance romance is almost universally recognized as being super fuckin’ difficult, and it is completely understandable if you want to keep the fling as just that—a fling.

    Whenever I’ve had to break it off with long-distance flings, I’ve made sure to stress my need to be in the present moment. I find it alienating and exhausting to constantly text past swains from other countries or states because it keeps me from living in the place where I am and paying attention to the people around me—but I don’t phrase it exactly like that when I broach the subject with the person in question, because it could be hurtful. Instead, I try to say gently and tactfully—while being as clear as possible—that I’m not interested in keeping in such close contact. Hopefully the fact that the two of you have been acquainted for so long will make it easier for you to be open with him about this. Being straightforward and honest with him doesn’t have to mean telling him you don’t like him/that he likes you more. You can just simply say you don’t want to keep in touch as often (or at all, if that’s the case), and that you’d like to put the summer behind you and move forward. If you do want to stay in contact with him—just not all day, every day—you can even suggest a good time to talk later, when it won’t feel like a distraction or burden.

    There’s a chance that, after you take these steps, he may keep texting and snapchatting. I’ve found that those who are crushing are capable of seeing things that aren’t there because I, unfortunately, have been in the throes of this phenomenon before. If that’s the case, it is best to be very clear about the fact that you viewed the short fling as just that: short, and a fling. In addition to the temporariness of the fling, the permanency of the friendship can also be stressed. But if you aren’t interested in keeping him around as a friend, the best way to avoid hurting him is to tell him that.

    The shift from seeing someone in a sexy way to talking casually and/or infrequently can be done, but it almost inevitably involves time and a little sadness. If you want to stay friends after setting boundaries about communication, but he needs a little space to calm down his feelings for you, be understanding. He might feel stung by even a gentle request to back off, but it will be far less hurtful than avoiding the issue and leaving him to stress or wonder why you aren’t responding to his messages/if you like him/if he said something wrong.

    Think about if you were in his shoes: Would you rather experience the temporary, short-term pain of being told that someone isn’t interested in you, OR spend weeks or months anxiously over-analyzing the texts you’ve sent, obsessing over the fact that someone opened your Snapchat and didn’t respond, et cetera. I’m going to have to disagree with the commonly accepted idea that “ignorance is bliss” and go with “knowing is blissier.” By letting him know that his constant communication is more than you want, you’re giving him the opportunity to move on, which is actually quite kind. ♦

    Is life sending you messages that are ??????? Let us help you try to decode them! Email questions about anything that has been puzzling, eluding, or bugging you to [email protected], and please include your AGE, FIRST NAME/INITIAL/NICKNAME, and CITY.

    Dear Diary: October 28, 2015

    Before, I always wished that I was older. Now that I am, I don't want to grow any older. —Jao San Pedro
    Before, I always wished that I was older. Now that I am, I don’t want to grow any older. —Jao San Pedro


    Despite all the humiliation and deprivation that I have faced in my city, I still truly love it. I love its people. Maybe because I was raised as a forgiving person, forgiveness is something the conflict couldn’t take away from me. I used to think that forgiveness was a sign of weakness, but I now realize that forgiveness is a source of strength. Read More »


    My grandparents raised me Catholic. I had no way out of it. I graduated from a Catholic high school and it was protocol to attend confession every month. I mostly skipped, but on days when I couldn’t, I’d go last, assuming that the attending priest would be so tired hearing 36 teenagers spew their sins and ask for forgiveness and absolution. I asked my classmates how they felt after confession. Mostly they’d reply, “I feel forgiven and cleansed.” But I didn’t feel forgiven or cleansed. Read More »