Category Archives: Personal

New writings

Hello followers!

I have been away for a year, writing, living, trying to stay positive. I’m going to try to come back here and create new content, in the meantime check out some more of my personal writing on my Tumblr here.



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5 Things I Learned Working at a Bookstore

It’s been one year since I left my position as a customer service representative at a bookstore – a job I had for six years. When I look back at my twenties, over half of it was spent working surrounded by books. That job put me through four years of university and one year of post grad. It gave me the flexibility to take time off to study. It introduced me to people who will be my friends for the rest of my life.  The year I’ve been gone from that job has been hard, since working there became a safety net. I could work other jobs, go hard with school, take trips and always come back to that job. Here are some things I learned:

1)     I LOVE to read – I’ve always been a reader, but I don’t remember what my reading habits were like before I started working at the bookstore. Working there encouraged you to read. Not only could you buy books at a 30% discount, you could also borrow books, read them and return them. I discovered so many authors and series because of these perks. I never would have picked up Game of Thrones, or found Oscar Wao, or started reading the Stephanie Plum series, or black Harlequin romance novels (my weakness) if I wasn’t around books every day. I was forced to know what was new, what was on Oprah the day before, what books I had personally read that I could recommend. I had to be a reader in order to be a good employee. Now I have an overflowing bookshelf. I pass books on to my mother and sister and family members. I remember saying to a customer one Christmas season, “There’s nothing better than giving a book as gift!” and he looked at me like I was crazy.

2)     Books made me smarter – Because I was around books constantly, there were times when I’d find something interesting and flip through the pages. I read non fiction books about black history, education and war, I read biographies about child soldiers and strong women, I read historical fiction that taught me about slavery, African history and Haiti. My world opened up the more I read. I know I am smarter now than I would have been if I didn’t have the access to books I had while working at the bookstore.

3)     Work can bring great people in your life – Some of the greatest friends I’ve made in my twenties have been people I’ve worked with at the bookstore. I’ve travelled with them, had drunken nights with them, inside jokes that only us bookstore people will understand. There was a time when I looked forward to going to work because I loved the people I was working with. That’s something very special that I feel lucky I got to experience.

4)     Starbucks is addicting – I didn’t drink Starbucks before I started working at the bookstore. There was one right inside our store, so I started visiting there trying out new things. With the suggestion of some coworkers, I tried a frappuccino one afternoon. It changed my life. I would literally buy one every time I worked. I remember specifically I was there during Christmas time, it was snowing hard outside and I went to Starbucks to get a frap. That was when I knew I had a problem.

5)     Bookstores are important – I watched book sales decline at my store. In my last year I was expected to know about toys, gift products like scarves, nail polish and blankets, and features of an e-reader. I resisted all of it. I knew about books and I wanted to sell books. I still visit my old store and buy books from there when I can because books are important. I loved seeing kids and their parents cuddle up in a corner of the kids section and read a book (as long as they cleaned up after themselves). Or seeing the same women come in every month for their Harlequins. Or taking part in the midnight releases of Harry Potter or Breaking Dawn. There was a sense of community in our store. I’d be out at the grocery store or the mall and people would recognize me from the bookstore. There were regular creepy customers. There were fights and drama that kept us gossiping. That place really did become home.

I’ve visited my store a few times this year and every time I go back I miss it a little. Some of my friends are still there. The store is still the same. I still have the urge to tidy the shelves when I walk by. I was there maybe three years too long, but I look back on my time there with fondness. I learned a lot.

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Books that saved me in 2013

By no means was this year easy. Change is hard. I am not good with change. This summer I was unemployed, broke and depressed. I spent a lot of my time at my local library. Gone were the days I could afford to buy any book I wanted. I realized how important libraries are. I loved being able to pick up books I would never buy and discovering new writers. Reading got me through the hard times. Here were some books I read this summer and this year that kept me going:

Americanah – I tracked this book down in a library half an hour away from my house, I wanted to read it so bad. I spent a week blissfully immersed in this book. I would sit outside for hours until the sun went down, not wanting to stop reading.  Americanah tells the story of a Nigerian couple who fall in love in high school and both immigrate to the U.S. It’s part love story, part immigrant story, part critical look at race in America. The writing was amazing. Amazing. It’s the kind of writing that made me feel like I should give up and try even harder at the same time. I cried at the end because it was over. I love a good love story.

Eleanor and Park – Speaking of love stories. I love a good teen love story as well. I bought this book hoping I’d love it. I wept through the last twenty pages. These characters leapt off the page and seemed so real. I have never been in love but this book showed me what it would be like to be sixteen and feel these emotions you never experienced before. I loved that Park was Asian. I loved that Eleanor was fat. I loved the ending (though some people hated it). I loved the writing. This is a book I will pick up again and again.

The Awesome Girls Guide to Dating Extraordinary Men – Ernessa T. Carter is my favourite writer. She writes the kind of novels I wish I could write. 32 Candles, her first novel, is one of my favourite books of all time. Awesome Girls is her second novel that includes some characters from 32 Candles. This book consumed my whole life. I laughed, I cried, I was forced to look at my own life critically. I have passed it around my house. It’s a perfect book club book. You can sit with girlfriends and discuss the themes in this book for hours.

Calling Me Home – This is a book I would never buy. I saw it in the library, read the synopsis and borrowed it. It’s about an old white lady and her young black hairdresser taking a road trip to a funeral. On the way the old lady tells the story about her first love, a black man in the segregated south. It took a while for me to get in to it, at first it reminded me of The Help too much but by the end, of course, I was bawling. It was a devastatingly beautiful love story. I will never forget this story.

Maya’s Notebook – Again, I saw this book at the library, picked it up on a whim. It’s about a young American girl who runs away from home and is sent to her grandmother’s village in Chile. It’s a mystery, suspense and also a novel about the importance of family. Maya’s relationship with her grandparents reminded me so much of my own. I loved it so much.

Judging from this list, every book made me cry, but I think that’s the sign of a good book. I love a book that draws me in, makes me feel connected to the characters and care what happens to them. But most importantly, I didn’t have to think about my own life and I could get lost in another world. That’s why books are important.

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Life Updates

At the end of this week, I’ll be finished school. I was so worried about going back after vowing I’d never ever go back to school. It turned out to be a pretty good experience. I met some amazing people, dealt with some hard challenges and came out stronger. There were moments I was literally on my kitchen floor crying, close to dropping out. But I stuck with it and hopefully I’ll have the experience and the education to get myself a real job that I enjoy.

I’ve been writing like crazy. It feels amazing. I’ve created a small challenge of finishing a novel in 8 weeks. I have three days left, I’m at 100 pages and almost 60, 000 words. I don’t think I’m going to be able to do it though. I’m near the end, but there are a few loose ends I have to wrap up before I can finish it. It’s another teen novel. I’m so proud of it. I love my main character, I love the boys in the book and its funny. Teen novels might be my new thing now. I’ve also started posting my fiction on another  blog. It’s an experiment, just to see what kind of feedback I get. So far I’ve gotten ZERO feedback, so we’ll see how it goes.

I’ve read some amazing books this summer. “Cutting for Stone”, “Silver Sparrow”, “In Darkness”, “Manchild in the Promised Land” and I re read both of Junot Diaz’s novels. When going through hard times, nothing makes me feel better than good fiction. I’m picking up “This is How You Lose Her” tonight. I’m dying to sink my teeth in to that book.

In November I am going back to NYC! It doesn’t even feel real yet. I’m going to be there for six days. Six days! The longest I’ve ever been there. I plan to do a lot of sightseeing, listen to some poetry, experience the nightlife and hopefully make some friends which would give me an excuse to go back soon. I haven’t been there in two years. I can’t wait to be in the city of my dreams again.

Now that school is over, I’m at a crossroads. I can throw myself in to finding a full-time job right away. Or I can stay at my shitty part-time job, keep making steady money and travel to NYC in November and possibly go to Europe in January. Going to Europe is a dream. I feel like I want to get that out of the way before I find a full-time job and am forced to become an adult.

Being in your 20’s is rough.

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Fear Means You’re Alive

“Fear means you’re alive,” is a tweet written to me written by spoken word artist and writer Bassey Ikpi last week. I tweeted her asking for advice for a writer who wants to move to New York City. Moving to NYC has been my dream since I was twelve years old. As I get older, the dream is starting to weigh heavily on my shoulders. I know that it’s something I have to do. Even if I don’t end up spending the rest of my life there, I want to be able to look back and say that I lived there for a period of time. It’s probably the number one thing I want to do before I turn thirty.

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Why I Don’t/Can’t Date

Since I was in high school, having a boyfriend meant you were normal. Normal girls talked to guys on the phone, had a bunch of different guys they were juggling, never paid for a nice dinner. Normal girls always had some drama going on, always had to talk to a guy about her feelings, always had some crazy story to tell about how a guy did her wrong. I’ve never been a normal girl. I can count on one hand how many boyfriends I’ve had and how many dates I’ve been on. At my age now, it’s kind of pathetic. People I went to high school with are getting engaged and having babies. And I can’t get a date. But now I’m thinking maybe I don’t want a date.

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The Importance of Headphones

You never realize what you have, or how much you take something for granted until it’s taken away from you.

I’m going through that right now… with my headphones.

Rewind a few years. I used to work the morning shift at my job and we were allowed to listen to music until the store opened. So everyday, for about four hours, I’d have my headphones in, either listening to music or a learn Spanish podcast. Then after work, I’d come home and write and put my headphones back in, cause I like to write with music.

All that headphone use turned out to be too much for my ears. After visiting the doctor this week for the second time, I was told that I have to give the headphones a rest for at least a month.

“But doc, are you saying I can never wear headphones again?” I asked frantically.

The doctor looked at me like it wasn’t a big deal at all.

But it’s a HUGE deal.

There is something so sacred about having your headphones in. The commute to school or work isn’t that bad, doing homework goes faster, that walk to your car becomes a dance, you walk with your back a bit straighter because a hardcore hip hop song is blasting in your ears and you feel like you’re the shit. It’s everything. It kept me alive working that morning shift.

There’s something satisfying about listening to music no one else can hear. A nod of your head becomes a dance, standing on the subway platform lipsycing your favorite song becomes the music video in your head, a slow jam can hit you a certain way on the subway and you burst in to tears. There’s that feeling that your iPod knows exactly the kind of songs you need to hear. You play all your jams when your happy, that make you smile super wide out in public, or the songs that match the shitty mood you’re in.

You put your headphones in so you don’t have to listen to the stupid teen conversations on the bus, hear the babies cry, tune out the crazy lady on the subway preaching about Jesus, when you’re bored in class, when you want to watch a show on your laptop late at night in bed.

Headphones are life. Music is life.

I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m going to have to learn to tune people out, find books that I can completely lose myself in so I can forget where I am and what my life is like. Walks will feel longer, the subway rides louder, the day a whole lot lonelier.

I’m already counting down the days. The first week of April, I will be the girl on the subway with big, ear muff like headphones in, grinning like an idiot because I have my music back.

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