Best-for-you sunscreens

Many people who know me also know that I recently started writing some articles for a Chinese-English lifestyle magazine, and that I began with a couple beauty articles on sunscreens and aftersun skin care. Some of my friends have asked when the sunscreen article will be out, because they want to know what sunscreens to buy.

Let me start with a disclaimer about my forthcoming article in said magazine: It does not reflect my own opinions about what sunscreens are best; rather, it was about so-called bestselling sunscreens, only it was really about bestselling high-end sunscreens, because of the demographic of the publication’s readership (i.e., wealthy Chinese-speaking tourists in NYC who buy luxury products). That’s why I’m writing this little guide to choosing safe sunscreens here.

My contribution to pushing safer products in that article was leaving out the ones on the lower end of the price spectrum that contained the most toxic sunscreen ingredient, oxybenzone, as well as any with retinyl palmitate (a form of vitamin A), which the Environmental Working Group states increases sun sensitivity and reacts with sunlight to speed the growth of tumors and lesions (not something I would want to put on my skin specifically to protect my skin from the sun).

Those two ingredients are the main ones to avoid when choosing a sunscreen. There are also a few other considerations (and I am taking these mainly from the EWG sunscreen website, which you can browse for more information):

  • Make sure it provides broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) protection.
  • The best sunscreens are physical (not chemical), meaning the minerals zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
  • Apply liberally and reapply frequently.
  • Avoid fine sprays or powders that can easily be inhaled during application.
  • Stay indoors or in shade during peak hours, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Wear a hat and sun-protective clothing, duh!

SPF ratings only indicate protection against UVB rays, which are the ones that cause sunburn. Scientists have found that, while UVA rays do not cause sunburn, they can cause skin cancer, so it’s important to protect against both kinds. Surprising to me was the fact that UVA rays can penetrate normal glass windows, which means it’s probably a good idea to wear sunscreen even if you’re not out in the sun a whole lot. (That being said, I don’t often bother with sunscreen for everyday besides my foundation, because I believe in getting vitamin D, but I might change my habits.) Of course, a low SPF of 15 would be sufficient for daily use, but the longer or more intense the exposure, the higher the SPF should be.

Mineral sunscreens have improved with time, so they are not all as chalky white as you may remember from your days lifeguarding in the ’80s or something. But some chemical sunscreens are OK to use, too, like avobenzone.

The EWG sunscreen website has a list of the best products, but there are seriously a lot to sort through, which is the kind of thing I like to do, but I understand most people don’t have the time or motivation to do so. (You can also look up the sunscreens that you already have at the EWG website.) Here are my picks, meaning the ones I want to try, because I have only used one of these so far. Some of these are among the bestselling on amazon, which one can take to mean they are well-liked but could also just mean they have better marketing.

Badger products are awesome, but I’d opt for Badger SPF 30 Unscented Sunscreen ($15.99).

Kids’ sunscreens that anyone can use: BurnOut SPF 35 Kids Physical Sunscreen ($17.99), Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen ($19.95), Thinkbaby Sunscreen SPF 50+ ($15.99), and California Baby Super Sensitive Broad Spectrum SPF 30+ Sunscreen ($20.95).

Logically, products designed for sensitive skin often exclude known irritants (such as many fragrances), as does Aubrey Organics Natural Sun Sunscreen, Sensitive Skin, Unscented, SPF 30+ ($15.95).

A sports-minded sunscreen preferred by marathon runners, cyclists, etc.: Sunology Natural Sunscreen Creme for Face SPF 50 ($14.99) and Natural Sunscreen Lotion for Body SPF 50 ($14.99).

Others to try
Elemental Herbs Sport Sunscreen SPF 30+ ($15.99)
Loving Naturals Clear Body Sunscreen SPF 30+ ($21.99)
The Honest Company Sunscreen SPF 30 ($13.95)
Block Island Organics Nontoxic Mineral Sunscreen SPF 40 ($32)
John Masters Organics Natural Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 ($32)
MDSolarSciences Mineral Creme/Lotion Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 50 (Creme $30/Lotion $34)

MDSolarSciences Mineral Creme

MDSolarSciences Mineral Creme

Daily facial moisturizers with SPF
DeVita Natural Skin Care Solar Protective Moisturizer SPF 30+ ($25.95)
Juice Beauty Oil-Free Moisturizer SPF 30 ($29)

Tinted moisturizers/makeup with SPF
Physicians Formula Super BB Cream SPF 30+ ($14.95)
Eau thermale avene Tinted Compact SPF 50 ($34)
BareMinerals Original Foundation SPF 15 ($27) (What I use because it feels like nothing yet covers everything!)
MDSolarSciences Mineral Tinted Creme SPF 30 Broad Spectrum ($32)
Sukicolor Tinted Active Moisturizer ($50.95)

Of course there are a lot of other good products out there, and I admit to using some that do not have the EWG’s lowest toxicity scores (most listed here have scores of 1 and maybe 2), but I’d say to just stay away from the worst ingredients and you’ll at least be reducing damage from harmful chemicals in some skin products.

I hope to update this blog once I’ve tried some SPF products!

 

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Getting back on the horse

I haven’t blogged here in ages because I was looking for a job, and as I found out previously, the hard way, it’s not a good idea to blog about trying to get a job, because even if employers don’t find the blog, the paranoia that they might find it would be nerve-wracking enough.

In the meantime, I really amped up my birding blog, and since major spring migration has finally begun in New York, I’ve been spending a lot of my free time birding and posting photos of birds.

As for jobs, I finally got some. I really wanted to freelance as a copy editor/proofreader, and then after realizing that would be pretty hard to get into without more experience and super connections, I tried to get full-time jobs in publishing houses, which, as if I didn’t learn a few years ago, is also difficult to do without the right connections. Even after I made a bunch of connections through alumni networking and the workshop internship in the fall, I still couldn’t get a job as an editorial, production, or publicity assistant.

Meanwhile, the savings dwindled and the husband got more and more nervous about finances. That led to my decision to apply for a lot of other types of jobs.

In March I started working on a freelance basis as a proofreader for a company that provides training in web development. It’s pretty sweet, since I get to learn a bit of computer stuff while testing their workbooks; so far I’ve done a few lessons in Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, WordPress, HTML email, and other stuff like that. I think my understanding of coding, though extremely basic, is even improving. I’d like to learn more Photoshop and Lightroom, since I am trying to get better at digital photography, but too bad I don’t really get to tailor my work projects or get software suites for free.

That month I also started working part-time at Teachers College again, in a different program and department than before. It’s not bad, even though I have no benefits as a part-timer, because I’m good at helping faculty and students and all that. And then there’s the possibility that this could turn into something that has benefits in the future, like tuition credits, and I could do some conflict resolution or TESOL courses if I wanted, maybe even some writing workshops or journalism classes. Or ornithology….

And then there’s this writing gig I got, because I applied for a job I really had no business trying to get — so there are advantages to aiming high, you know — as bilingual editor of a Chinese-English lifestyle magazine aimed at affluent tourists from China. They liked my writing, I guess, so when they asked my cash-strapped self whether I’d want to write an article about sunscreens and translate it into Chinese, I said YES.

Since that first article, I’ve done one on aftersun skin care and another on a new Chinese restaurant in the city, with more in the works — one on a new trilingual private school and yet another skincare one. Of course, these are for the summer and fall issues, which haven’t come out yet, so I have yet to see the payment for them, but I’m sure I’ll be raking it in soon….

You may laugh and think I’ve sold out, writing about skincare and sunscreens and makeup, but the truth is that I AM interested in that kind of thing. Of course, they had me revise my original articles quite a bit, because safe products — environmentally as well as health-wise — are more my thing, and this magazine is more interested in high-end, luxury products that I cannot afford (and even if I could afford them, I wouldn’t be able to bring myself to spend that much money on a single product).

So, yes, in a way, I did sell out, but I also chose to feature only those products that I thought were safer … that is, if I could find out what ingredients were in them. That’s the problem with luxury products — the more expensive they are, the less likely you are to find the ingredient lists online — proprietary formulas and all that, I suppose. But hey, if you have that much money to blow on a skincare product, I guess you’re not really going to care what’s in it, right? Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, but whatever — I’ll post my real article on the best(-for-you) sunscreens and aftersun products here soon.

Back to jobs: the best news is that I may start freelancing soon as a proofreader for a book publisher! A connection from the workshop came through, and I got to meet the managing editor for the publisher, who gave me the copy tests and feedback and put me on the roster!

Another fun prospect is that a friend of mine from my knitting meetup wants me to help write copy for an online yarn store/magazine that she is planning to start. Of course, I wouldn’t be making money doing that at first, but I’m happy to be doing it as a labor of love.

I actually didn’t knit at all for about three months, because in mid-January I started having pain in my right wrist. I was, after all, spending hours knitting from November and December on, sometimes for hours on end without stopping. I never did go to the doctor, because I figured I’d just be told to stop knitting for a while and wear a wrist brace, which I did do, and now it is better. What’s weird is, I think that it really feels better now that I’ve started crocheting and knitting again! I still don’t do it often or for long periods of time — maybe once a week for an hour or two — so I’ll have to keep monitoring it.

Now the challenge is how to fit MY OWN WRITING into this schedule….

Knitting instead of writing

The holidays are officially here, which means a great deal of knitting and too-ambitious plans to make gifts, as well as that familiar feeling of sassy fatness from eating way too much.

sohotombeanie

one of many hats knitted this fall

turkey

Manischewitz-brined turkey for Thanksgivukkah

The knitting is beginning to take a toll on my hands and the development of carpal tunnel or some other form of repetitive strain injury. If I knit for a while, my fingers start to get tingly, and lately I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night with my right hand asleep, and it takes a while for me to shake it awake. I may have to reassess the list of projects to make over the next month.

It has also taken over every free moment of my life, which means I haven’t written, not even in a journal, for a week now, and I’m definitely not fulfilling the contract I made for myself for the duration of the writing workshop I’m taking, which was to write for 45 minutes at least six days a week, which was nothing compared to my initial NaNoWriMo idea of writing 1,660 words per day, so I thought it was doable.

Today, I am proud to announce, I went to my first yoga class in a loooooong time, so the fat feeling is dissipating, while the motivation to do other things, like write in my journal, update my neglected blog, look for and apply to jobs, is increasing. All is not lost!

Back in grad school at Ohio State, I developed a daily yoga practice, which was excellent for my health in general but especially for my depression, and the combination of that with learning about mindfulness meditation made me think the clearest I think I ever did in my life. While reading Wherever You Go, There You Are, I had this very sad revelation that I had lost my way in life, that I had gotten distracted by other things, like material possessions–fashion, beauty products, academic degrees, social status, etc.–which I thought were essential to finding a good mate, a good career, a good life.

I was in a master’s program in Chinese literature, partly because I had acquired this desire to be in academia and get my PhD in something (it didn’t really matter, at the time, in what) and become a professor, like my parents. There were good reasons for wanting to go into Chinese lit, but not good enough, and I realized I wasn’t doing what I once thought I should do with my life, and that was mainly to be useful in the world, which came down to practicing nonviolence, because trying to help others starts with trying to stop harming others, and especially yourself.

At that time, I also realized I had harbored a dream of becoming a fiction writer for a long time but was always too scared to try it. Nearing the end of my program, newly on antidepressants and having successfully defended my thesis on Lu Xun, I decided to find a job in publishing in New York City and try to write. Then, of course, I discovered how hard it would be to find a job in publishing in New York City. That’s when I got distracted again and went into teaching.

The point is, doing yoga has helped me be more mindful, and it’s a good thing that I am starting to do it again. So: more writing, less knitting.

No more NaNoWriMo … I think

Even though the week got off to a rather harrowing start — when I went to move the car for street sweeping and found our car window smashed in — things seem to be going pretty well, especially on the writing front, though I have officially given up on NaNoWriMo. (Their messages to me, however, try to sound perky and encouraging, making it sound like it’s possible to get the word count back up. I don’t know about that.)

Image

Everyone was nice and concerned about the car, but the car was actually fine — I was just grateful first that it was still there, and second that nothing was taken from it, even though there’s nothing of any value in it anyway. And even though the replacing of the window cost me $300, at least I was able to find a place to fix the window that day. I was saying to someone that the car thing wasn’t actually the worst part of the day.

Because when I finally made it into the office, I (or I like to think someone who used the bathroom ahead of me, because I don’t want to blame myself, haha) managed to clog up the toilet, so I got the plunger, but it wasn’t working properly. Making sure it wasn’t just me not working properly, I struggled with it for a while, but in the end I had to go out and buy a new one. That one did work, but I had just spent most of what little time I had in the office doing that ridiculous task. (Those at the workshop don’t want me to scare off any future interns from working there, but since it was my poop in the pot, I wasn’t going to make anyone else deal with it. Just teaches you to take your dumps in a reliable toilet is all.)

Then I decided to make myself a nice, comforting cup of hot cocoa, but of course I took a big sip and it was scalding my tongue and I didn’t want to spit it all over the place or let it scald my throat, too, so I just let it burn my mouth before gulping it down. My tongue still feels messed up two days later.

The good thing about that day was workshopping my story. I had good feedback on the writing I had submitted, because the workshop has definite guidelines on being supportive, so I came away feeling confident about it. It needs a lot of work, but I don’t worry as much anymore about whether or not people want to hear my story; it seemed that there were enough interesting parts to keep people wondering and wanting more, and that makes me feel happy. Of course, I haven’t gone and read the comments on the hard copies yet, but in time I think I will have to courage to do so. And I might even get up enough courage to read part of it or an edited version at the open mic on Friday, which the AAWW is holding.

In other news, I am a knitting fiend these days, since I volunteered to make some hats and things for the AAWW fundraiser for typhoon survivors in the Philippines. Like I’ve said before, I’d rather knit than write. And apparently, I’d even rather do chores than write, sometimes, because yesterday I was super productive like I have never been in my entire life, taking the car for an oil change, doing the laundry, and making dinner, even while finishing the sewing up on a couple of knitting projects, which I usually detest doing. Just so I didn’t have to even think about writing. Which is why I think NaNoWriMo is over for me, and my very own knit-yourself-sore month has begun.

A week of momentous writing events

Week 2 of NaNoWriMo is not going well, but like I say to anyone who asks, the whole point of the exercise for me is to get into the habit of writing every day. Of course, having a lot written down is good, too, and so far I’m over 15,000 (though technically I should be at around 25,000), so there’s some material to work with for the future.

Most important this week was the start of my six-week memoir/autobiographical fiction workshop with Bushra Rehman and two big literary events: a conversation with playwright/novelist Ayad Akhtar through the Brown University entertainment group last night, and tonight Junot Diaz will be at the United Palace in Washington Heights to promote the illustrated version of This Is How You Lose Her.

I’m excited about the workshop — Bushra is encouraging and helpful, and Corona was a great read, but of course I’m nervous, too. I volunteered to be the first person to turn in a piece to workshop next week. Since AAWW is having an open mic for readings on the theme of ancestors next Friday, I thought I’d try my hand at the topic while writing as many words as possible for NaNoWriMo, so I cleaned it up a little and just sent it out to the class. We’ll see what I can do to make it better, and whether I think I would want to read it in public….

Last night, my coworker Nadia and I went to a Brown alum’s apartment on the Upper West Side for this 20-seat event to hear Ayad Akhtar ’93 speak. He had been on a panel for Page Turner, our huge literary event in October, but neither of us had heard it because we were both running around working. When we heard that he was going to do this Brown group event, because he has had a lot of success recently (like winning the Pulitzer Prize this year for his play Disgraced), Nadia and I scrambled to read his novel, American Dervish, in time to actually hear him speak. It was a very good book; both Nadia and I cried at the ending, which I think is saying something, because while I cry at everything, Nadia said she hardly ever does.

Image

I was inspired by hearing him talk about his trajectory from Brown to now, because he really persisted in writing, through years of struggling, having to learn to take criticism, and opening his mind to lessons from really unexpected places (like from the ultra-successful creator of Survivor and other reality shows). And he also had to come to terms with his identity and background, growing up Pakistani American in Wisconsin, and I think he did that through his recent writing and through his novel in particular, which is autobiographical to a mysterious degree. That is something that I aspire to — simply because that’s all I end up writing about anyway, myself — and letting my past experiences and background be fodder for creative work. I had recently decided, whether or not anybody wants to read about my life, I just have to do it, and then maybe I can move on to other things.

I related a lot to Akhtar’s novel, even though I knew close to nothing about Islam or Pakistan — the book taught me a bit about the Quran because the protagonist starts learning about it as an adolescent — but the experience of growing up Asian American with immigrant parents in a white community was familiar, and interest in spirituality and religion at a young age, too. The story in the novel, about the consequences of a childish error, was fascinating, similar to Ian McEwan’s Atonement, tragic and riveting, like a train wreck. I would like to read Disgraced and see his new play, which will be produced at Lincoln Center next year. (Shane will be happy because I have up to now had very little interest in going to any plays at all, not having ever been in the habit of going to the theater as he did growing up.)

In preparation for tonight’s event with Junot Diaz, I made myself read This Is How You Lose Her, which I finished last night. I enjoyed it, but not as much as The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (coincidentally, winner of a Pulitzer Prize in 2008). Well, this new one was just different. I would like to read Drown next, which was his first book, a collection of stories. Looking forward to hearing him talk tonight and hanging with my AAWW comrades coming up to my part of town.

Week 1 of NaNoWriMo

I’m not sure if I’m going to continue doing this novel-writing month thingie.

It isn’t that the first week isn’t going well–in fact it has been good to get in the habit of setting aside time to just write, and not just a couple pages but a substantial amount (even though it’s all crap that I’m writing down, but that’s not the point of why I’m doing this, is it?)–but I am starting to see that there are other things I could be doing with my time on certain days. This may just mean doing a lower word count on busy days and a higher one on days off, but as the month gets into swing, I start to find all kinds of reasons not to write 1,667 words per day.

For example, I like doing this blog, even though I’m not sure what it’s for exactly–but it helps me in some strange way. I have never tried to promote this blog outside of my own circle of family and friends, because I have always just used blogs to keep those people who care updated about what’s going on in my life, starting with the blog about living for a year in Mexico eight years ago. I don’t necessarily want it to get a big readership or anything, because then I’ll just feel pressured to produce something really good every time I write, and that proves disastrous for me. Instead, I use it to focus my thoughts on what I want to do to make a living and to try to notice what I like and don’t like and work that all out. It’s also something that keeps me a little more accountable, because even though I only have a few people who read it, I have committed to trying to post once a week so that I do think about my career (or lack of one, more like) and communicate that to people who either worry about me or just want to make sure I’m still alive.

My tumblr is another thing I want to spend time on, only because I love birding and photography now. Which leads to a bunch of other things I want to do, but primarily: Learn how to take better photos. First, it does mean getting a stronger zoom lens, which I’m hoping I’ll do once I get a job with an income…. Second, learn how to process the photos I do take with Photoshop.

I saw a posting for a communications assistant for the New York Philharmonic the other day, helping with press releases and PR but also managing photography and video for the orchestra, and I’d have applied except for that whole thing about not trying to get a full-time job while I’m committed to a part-time internship, but also because I don’t know how to use Photoshop yet, even though my friend Ruth lent me a book months ago to help me start with learning. So that’s another thing I’d like to spend some time doing. And while I’m not thrilled about doing communications work (having to contact lots of people for shit isn’t my idea of fun), I’d do it for an organization like the NY Philharmonic, of course, hello! The freakin’ Philharmonic!

Other things to do with my time:

Read. I start the six-week writing workshop on Monday, and I just got the workshop leader’s novel in the mail yesterday! Also, Junot Diaz is going to be at the United Palace in Washington Heights on Nov. 15, and I am getting This Is How You Lose Her in the mail today so I can be prepared to listen to him talk about it.

Yoga. I used to have this daily morning practice back in Ohio, but it fizzled out while I was in Mexico and I’ve never really gotten back into a routine since. By now it’s nonexistent, so I have to start taking classes to get going again. It was so good for me back then to do it–good for my body but mainly good for my low-grade depression because it was a discipline that I did even when I didn’t want to, and it made me feel better in the long run (plus I hate all other forms of exercise). That’s the problem when you’re depressed, not doing things because you don’t feel any motivation or energy at all, ignoring the fact that it will make you feel better at the end of the day, not caring what’s good for you anyway because, well, you don’t feel self worth in the first place, right? 

Therapy. That segues nicely from the depression thing, because honestly I need to deal with some of these issues that have been problems for most of my life. Also, I don’t want to be medicated anymore. Time to find a counselor.

Look for jobs. Of course–what else? I have to find some way of making money to fund one of my favorite all-time hobbies: shopping.

In the end, I’m still going to try to continue NaNoWriMo for at least another week. They say it takes two weeks of doing something daily to make it a habit. We’ll see about that!

On the eve of NaNoWriMo

I didn’t accomplish my October goal to write every day to practice for National Novel Writing Month (November). So now I guess I must suffer the consequences of just having to jump right into it & learning to get 1,660 words down per day.

One good thing is that I got into the next AAWW writing workshop, led by Bushra Rehman, whose first novel was recently published and who read at the first event I ever attended at the workshop. (I write about it in a previous post on this blog.) She is doing six weekly sessions on memoir and autobiographical fiction — Hello, exactly what I want to do for November! Her novel is about growing up Pakistani in Corona, Queens, and the workshop filled up within a week.

I was definitely lucky to get in, because even though interns get to attend one workshop for free, there haven’t been any in the past few months, and there are a lot of interns who still have yet to take one. Basically, I wrote asking for permission as soon as it was posted and I was persistent. Squeaky wheel and all that.

It also helps that my older sister and a couple of other interns at the workshop are also doing NaNoWriMo, so there will be fellow writers I know suffering through the month.

Another good thing is that I have a friend who tried to do NaNoWriMo last year and gave up on it, with no regrets, so I won’t feel so bad if the same thing happens to me this year. I mean, it’s nice to know it’s not necessary or easy. I imagine there are lots of casualties of this thing; just guessing.

P.S. I’m not used to the WordPress app on my phone and accidentally published this before I was done writing. Also, didn’t see autocorrect typos till much later!

Of handmade pasta and knitting

On the Friday night before my Sunday birthday, Shane’s friend Enrico had me, Shane, and their friend Evan over for dinner, and when they found out that my original plan to celebrate my birthday by doing karaoke that night had fallen through, I think they might have felt obligated to make dinner a special occasion in my honor. It was indeed special, and I deeply appreciate their efforts. These guys are incredibly good people.

The three of them are playing Bach inventions together, Shane and Enrico on guitar and Evan on cello, with plans to provide musical entertainment at the Columbia econ department’s Christmas party. They are expecting me to join them on the violin for Christmas tunes. But more on that at a later date.

Shane and I had invited them over the weekend before, to play music and drink lots, and we fed them some slow-cooked venison (courtesy of Shane’s hunting family), which they greatly appreciated, so much so that Enrico, who is from Italy, vowed to make pasta for us the next time we got together.

After getting out of Spanish class Friday evening, Enrico went home and made pasta dough, rolled it out with a rolling pin, and hand-cut the tagliatelle he later cooked and served with a creamy mushroom sauce he just threw together. It was divine. Then he brought out a caprese salad. Oh my god, some of my favorite foods….

Note to the ladies: Enrico is single and apparently a brilliant doctoral student in economics, which means he’ll probably be making the big bucks after finishing school. Plus he is a great cook. And he even bought me flowers for my birthday!

I mention the handmade pasta on this blog because Enrico made a remark that is relevant to the idea of doing work that has visible outcomes/tangible results: He said that choosing to spend an hour making noodles often makes more sense to him than sitting and doing economics on a computer for three hours, after which he doesn’t see the result of his efforts anywhere in the world; but with pasta-making, you have pasta.

Like many people, I’m guessing, I completely relate to this — especially with the cooler fall weather arriving and as I feel a push to get some knitting done. All of a sudden I want to knit a million accessories for myself, not to mention the tons of holiday projects I’ve planned for other people, many of which have been in my Ravelry queue for years.

And instead of writing more, like I’m supposed to be doing, and reading the next book on my list, I just knit. A noodle, or a scarf, is just so much more satisfyingly and physically present than, say, an economics paper (or whatever economists produce), or a short story.

Sort of, not really, back to normal

Now that the literary festival is over, and we’ve moved vanloads of stuff back from downtown Brooklyn, we at the AAWW office finally get to wind down. We’ll slowly unpack boxes while getting back to the work of putting out three online magazines and preparing for other, smaller events.

I will get back to the project of creating a house style sheet/guide for the AAWW publications, which is kind if exciting if you like copyediting, as language-nerds like me do.

I also spent my first working day away from the office writing my long overdue article on the Quakers, whose service I attended weeks ago. If there’s time today, I may even finish it, which is no small accomplishment for me. I putzed around most of the morning yesterday until finally getting myself to the nearby cafe to work.

Haven’t started looking for work again yet. The whole part-time thing seems strange since I won’t be doing this internship long-term, but it’s no excuse.

I complain about working as an intern a lot, but it is a special thing to be working with writers.

One thing I found inspiring at the festival Saturday was unexpected, because it came from the author of several urban-fantasy romance novels and X-men comics, Marjorie Liu. While I love the X-men films (especially Hugh Jackman, I mean, Wolverine), I do not aspire to writing romance novels or making comics. But she said something that has given me motivation to start writing my own fiction, that you can talk about voice and plot and character development all you like, but you have to finish your writing. If you don’t finish something, none of that other stuff matters.

She also said that a lot of her writing, especially in the beginning, sucked, but that’s what revision is for. You have to spend a great deal of time revising to make the writing good. That’s something I definitely need to remember when my perfectionism takes over and harshly judges everything I write down or even think.

So I’ve now signed up to do National Novel Writing Month, in which people vow to write 50,000 words over the course of 30 days and keep track of it at the website.

Who’s gonna do it with me?

In preparation, I am going to have to spend the rest of October writing a lot, so I’ll have to journal daily, at the very least, which I haven’t done in ages, and maybe try for a short story or essay.

No procrastination, no training wheels, just writing … every day.

Final push

Page Turner, the AAWW’s literary festival, is Saturday; in preparation, the office is in overdrive, and I’m working the internship full-time.

That means long meetings about logistics, publicity emails, postcards and posters all over the city, and the process of procuring and moving materials to the venue. For me, it meant spending last Saturday walking all over lower Manhattan and Flushing to drop off postcards and put up posters, and again yesterday morning to hit a couple more sites.

I’m complaining, but only just a little, because had I not done it, I probably wouldn’t have gotten to the Museum of Chinese in America to see the Chinese American designers’ fashion exhibit, or part of the Highline, or Trinity Church on Wall Street, nor would I have had the opportunity to try the other dumpling shop in Chinatown or to buy yummy Chinese treats like longans, mochi, egg tarts, and steamed buns in Flushing. On top of all that, I got in a ton of exercise.

And while I am not enthusiastic about going out to pick up and schlep stuff back to the office, had I not walked the nine blocks or so to get the projector for Saturday, I would not have witnessed the mechanized wonderland that is B&H, a huge electronics store run largely by Orthodox Jews, like a kosher version of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, except for photographic equipment. And had I not gone shopping for the workshop most of today, I would not have experienced Jack’s, a three-level dollar store in the middle of Manhattan.

New York is a fabulous place.

On the downside, my right foot, probably slightly injured over the last few weeks from wearing stupid shoes, has gotten a lot worse, to the point that I can hear bones clicking in it as I walk. Also, I think I have finally come down with the cold that was going around the office and which I have been trying to fight off for the past few days with Emergen-c and ALJ. I need increasingly large amounts of coffee and sugary snacks to keep from falling asleep. And I have had no time to work on my latest article or on the job search.

Jenn’s bringing treats back from Providence tomorrow!

There are a lot of other good things, though, and I have to focus on the positive. The major thing is being involved in this giant effort to promote Asian American writing and helping to gather over 70 writers and artists in a free event to celebrate their work. Plus, there will be vendors with good food, and wine and beer at the after party! Lord knows we at the office are going to need to relax at the end of the day Saturday.