Our last few days didn’t go exactly as planned, mostly because Christian was busy preparing for a job interview (!!!). It was all very last minute and he felt pretty conflicted about the job (a scouting assistant at a literary agency) but his internship boss really encouraged him to at least do the interview, so he did! The interview went well, but he decided not to move forward with the next step in the process because the job just wasn’t for him. Even though it would have been fun to brag about “my boyfriend who works on 5th Avenue,” I’m grateful that he’ll be close-by next year : )

Anyways, we still found time to have some fun our last couple days! First, we went to the Brooklyn outdoor flea market in Williamsburg. Everything was so weird and beautiful, but a tad expensive (especially compared to the Goodwill in Wheaton!).

The market is right on the water, so we got some ice cream from a vendor and people-watched for awhile. (Christian got butter pecan flavor, and it was literally like licking thick, sweet butter. SO GOOD.)

Later that day, I met up with a friend from California (who moved to NYC last year), and she took me to the church where the lead singer of The Welcome Wagon (a small, good band) preaches!

On Thursday, Christian and I decided to look up some cool shops online and then go try and find them. First on our list was “Tender Buttons”… a store that sells only buttons (thousands of them)! I was really excited about this one, until we got to the address and it didn’t actually exist. I’ve been trying to think of a button-related pun to convey my disappointment, but I’ve got nothing.

We pushed through the heart-ache and set out in search of Obscura Antiques & Oddities in the East Village.

It was a really cool neighborhood, and we only got lost 3 times looking for the store. After hours (okay, an hour) of daydreaming about what kinds of crazy, obscure treasures we were about to encounter, we finally got to Obscura. And it had a metal grate over the window. And it said “For Rent.” Right about this time is when Christian asked me how old the website I found all these “cool stores” on was. (I have since looked it up, and it was only from 2011!)

Anyways, we decided the neighborhood was pretty cool in spite of its lack of Antiques & Oddities, so we walked around for awhile.

We watched skaters in the park,

Went inside record stores,

And I stopped to take pictures of cacti.

We spent Friday, our last day in NYC, going to the Chelsea art galleries with our Contemporary Art Class.

an elementary school we passed in Chelsea

Alex Prager

This sculpture freaked us all out…it looked so realistic!! I couldn’t bare to take a picture with his face showing, mostly because I was afraid to get too close. (You never know what could happen… the art scene there is pretty weird…)

Tony Matelli

My favorite gallery was the one below, with work by Ernesto Neto. He made all these rope sculptures that you could run through. The “floor” was made of a bunch of black ball-pit-esque balls, so it kind of felt like a grown-up McDonald’s Play place.

We came across another “interactive” piece at a different gallery, where we went through this maze (which was eerily similar to going through a car wash, except there were loud TVs involved), and then at the end there was free orange juice! My favorite type of art.

We spent the rest of the day packing and cleaning our apartments and saying goodbye, and then Christian and I celebrated with a 10pm dinner of delicious Chinese food from around the corner.

While we were waiting for our food, the owner rode his motorcycle right into the store and parked it there. And yes, that is a cleanliness grade “B” in the window. A perfect last night.

This morning, Christian, my roommate Hannah and I went to Coney Island. We didn’t look up any information ahead of time, so we were surprised to find it closed (we learned it’s only open on weekends). That wasn’t too much of a bummer because we weren’t planning on riding anything anyway, and I kind of loved that no one was there! The whole place was really eerie and haunted-feeling, and we all loved just walking along the pier in silence.

After downing some cheese/chili dogs, Christian and I decided to stop in Brooklyn on the way home (Hannah had somewhere to be).  First, we walked through Prospect Park, which felt a lot like the midwest to me. There were even some little kids having soccer practice.

And then we went to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. I have been talking about going here for weeks, and even though we missed the cherry blossoms, it was everything I hoped it would be 🙂

The “Children’s Garden,” where kids can plant things and watch them grow.

The best part about taking pictures on an iphone instead of a camera (mine has been malfunctioning for the past month or so) is that you don’t seem like as much of a snoop.

It seemed like all the little children in the entire park were congregated around the koi pond, shouting about each one they saw.

There were hardly any roses left in the rose garden…

…but these beauts made up for it!

The conservatory…probably my favorite part.

“The Desert”

Strangely enough, after 3 months, I still mostly just feel like a tourist on an extended vacation. Not because it’s been relaxing, but because it’s been so adventurous and different. Hard to believe it’s only 4 more days until home!

Yesterday, Christian and I went to The Cloisters, a branch of the MET that displays Medieval Art on the northern tip of Manhattan. Since we’ve never been anywhere near there, we had no idea what to expect (to give some perspective, I work off of 14th Street and our studio is on 27th Street…to get to The Cloisters, we took the subway to 190th street!). It ended up being one of our favorite areas in New York!

First, we walked through Fort Tryon park, with tons of gorgeous paths along the Hudson River.

The weather was perfect for the mood of the place… a little bit gloomy, with a nice chilly breeze. I kept saying that I felt like I was in a Jane Austen novel. (These days, pretty much any interaction with nature seems exaggeratedly awesome to me.)

When we got to The Cloisters (in the middle of the park), as soon as I a”Quiet Zone” sign, I got really excited. I have to admit that I’m not the best museum-goer (I though I would get better this semester, but no such luck), but I loved the atmosphere of this one.

A small garden in one of the courtyards.

After we left the park, we decided to be spontaneous and explore Washington Heights some more. After a few wrong turns, we found a small park under the George Washington Bridge. There were a few picnic tables and a few families, and we walked on the rocks and under the bridge for awhile until we got cold.

We must have said “I can’t believe this is Manhattan” fifty times to each other throughout the day. And also, “this is the best.”

So thankful to have a few more days of exploring before we go home.

SoHo & Our Reading

May 6, 2012

On Friday, before us writers had our reading and the artists had their show, our Contemporary Art Class went to some galleries in SoHo. It was a nice, fun way to walk out some pre-reading/show nerves.

I didn’t take any pictures of the reading, but it went well. We were all pretty darn nervous…It’s intimidating to present what you’ve been working on all semester, even if it is only for 5 minutes. The main thing I don’t like about reading my work out loud is that even can’t read it like I want it to be read, like I imagine it as I’m writing (dialogue is the worst…I hate hearing all of the character’s words in my own voice!) Despite all that, it was exciting to hear my classmates read their work, and I’m relieved to have mine over with 🙂


April 29, 2012

My time in New York is winding down, and I think that is making me appreciate everyday here even more. Things are getting busier, but there’s still been time to squeeze in some fun.

A few of us recently went to see George Saunders read at NYU, and we got there so early that we explored the area a little bit beforehand. Even though I intern in the same neighborhood (Greenwich Village), I have never really walked around NYU’s main campus…it’s beautiful!

The reading was in this middle building...it looked like an old home on the inside!

The reading was fantastic. Saunders’ stories are always the type that I have to read slowly and more than once, so I wasn’t surprised I had a little bit of a hard time following the reading itself. The Q&A made up for that though. Even though many of the questions were kind of disappointing (a lot of askers seemed like they just wanted to know how they could be as successful as he is, so there were lots of questions about which magazines he submitted to early on, what the timeline of his career looked like, etc.), he turned a lot of them kind of upside down by explaining how he doesn’t really think getting published should be the end goal of writing. He talked about how writing is something worth doing in and of itself, and about the importance of living a life outside of your writing career. Overall, his answers were really refreshing.

Our class has also gone to a few more museums…

The Brooklyn Museum.

The Brooklyn Museum

The Contemporary wing of the MOMA

…and I saw a cool dance performance at the NYCAMS studio Friday night.

Yesterday, Christian and I went to New Jersey for a New York Red Bulls soccer game. Our friend Hayes is interning for them, and he got us free tickets! We enjoyed hot dogs and cool weather, and the Red Bulls won. We met up with Hayes for dinner afterwards and he gave us the inside scoop on all the behind-the-scenes stuff (he gets to go in the locker room with the team afterwards!).

Next Thursday is my last day at my internship, and Friday is our end-of-semester reading for the program. I am sad that both these things are coming to an end, but I’m also looking forward to going home for the summer (and no more morning commutes on crowded subways!).

But before we leave, a week to explore! I’m really excited to do all the things I haven’t gotten around to yet (botanical gardens, Coney Island, the Bronx…) and go to Dunkin Donuts 5 million times.

More visitors

April 22, 2012

This weekend, Christian’s mom and step-dad visited! We always have such a great time with them, and it was especially exciting because Kai had never been to NYC, and Christian’s mom hadn’t been for decades.

One of the first things we did was go to the top of 30 Rock. It was amazing. It actually felt way sturdier than I thought it would (though I could have done without the clear-ceilinged elevator on the way up).

Isn't it crazy how much of the island Central Park takes up?!

Fun 30 Rock (the TV show) Fact: in one episode, Liz leaves her cell phone in a taxi cab, and she goes with Kenneth the page to go pick it up in the taxi cab garage in Long Island City (where we live)! As soon as a very nervous Kenneth gets out of the car, he is attacked with spray paint…luckily, I have never had that experience.

Also, I saw Hazel (the new creepy page) from 30 Rock at a subway stop last week! And I may have followed her for a few minutes.

On Saturday morning, we walked through Central Park. Even though I have been here 6 or 7 times, I end up in new parts I didn’t know existed each time I go. Here’s Turtle Pond.

That little line sticking out of right side of the island is a bunch of turtles!

Then we walked the Highline…it never gets old.

Next we took them across the Brooklyn Bridge. Some of it was under construction, but we still got to see a lot. We went to a park we had never been to afterwards, and had the best ice cream ever (organic!).

We rode the subway a lot,

My new favorite subway art.

Somehow this is the only picture I managed to get of Kai...

and ate LOTS of great food.

Last night, we saw Memphis on Broadway, which was fantastic. The music was so so good, and it was really funny.

Kai had to fly out (to China!) early this morning, so Christian, his mom and I went to brunch, and then wandered around a flea market and a few shops in Williamsburg before she flew back to Arkansas. We were soaked by the end, but so happy.

He can never hold a straight face for very long.

Even though we choose to take Christian’s mom and Kai to a lot of the same places we took Zac and Anna, the city always feels new and exciting to me. It was another fantastic weekend… we’ve had so many here!!

Our neighborhood

March 26, 2012

New York blends the gift of privacy with the excitement of participation…it succeeds in insulating the individual (if he wants it, and most everybody wants or needs it) against all enormous and violent and wonderful events that are taking place every minute.

-E.B. White, Here is New York

One of my first (paranoid) weeks here, I just happened to google “NYC subway-related deaths.” I thought it would come up that there were maybe a few accidents a year. But much to my surprise, 4 people had died in subway accidents just that past weekend!!  4!! How did I not hear about that?! Now, I don’t know if this was an unusually high-risk weekend (I sure hope so), but I learned something from my google search: there is too much happening in New York to ever know exactly “what’s going on these days.”

E.B. White sees this ignorance as a necessary part of living here, though he acknowledges the fact that it might not be the best thing for us as humans. He says,

Perhaps it is healthier to live in a community where, when a cornice falls, you feel the blow; where, when the governor passes, you see at any rate his hat.

I think he might be right. Of course, that’s impossible in New York, and anyone who tries to keep up on everything going on probably just comes across as a wanna-be know-it-all. But I do think a lot of people here at least try to keep up with what’s going on in their neighborhoods–their “city within a city,” as White says–and that, I think, is admirable.

I have heard from a lot of NY natives that the area of New York where I live, Long Island City, is “up and coming.” Our apartment is right on the outskirts of Long Island City, within a stone’s throw of the Queensboro Bridge (which leads to Manhattan).

Since, we got to see a lot of the major sites in Manhattan and Brooklyn last weekend, Christian and I decided to lay low and look around our neighborhood in Queens for a change. (This decision was solidified after too many overwhelming hours spent looking for cheap for summer clothes in Manhattan one morning).

At first glance, our neighborhood isn’t the prettiest sight (though I have always loved all the different colors of graffiti… better than gray skyscrapers!), but it gets better the further you walk 🙂 In Astoria, just a 20 minute walk away, I found my new favorite place to write and eat, Communitea, and a retro 24-hour diner. (And my stomach is thankful: with a Dunkin Donuts half a block away, I am afraid I have eaten more donuts in the past two months than in the past 22 years combined.)

A lot of times I wish we were staying in a more residential area, but it’s still a really friendly part of town. All of our restaurant servers and bus drivers have been so kind, and our apartment ‘s doormen are awesome. I keep remembering that I will probably never live in a place like this again, so I really want to soak it up while I can. Unfortunately, now that Spring Break is over, I bet I won’t be venturing out too much for awhile…but that’s okay because a café just opened up RIGHT NEXT DOOR! Chocolate croissants here I come!

The Chrysler Building from our rooftop binoculars (I'm sure there is another, more proper word for those things...).

“The future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity. It is the most completely temporal part of time — for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays.” 

-C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters 

I have been thinking a lot about the future lately. Where I want to live, what I want to do…

When we were sitting in Dumbo Park the other day, Christian and I were talking about how weird it would be to live in a place like New York City but never have the time to walk to a park, or putz around at a museum, or go to a play. To me, the dirty subway rides and crowded streets wouldn’t be worth it unless I got to see the good parts too.

Last week, a publishing assistant came to speak to our class about her day-to-day life. While a lot of her work sounds really exciting, I am slowly learning just how much the publishing world is not 9-5. In order to eventually build her own list of clients, our speaker explained that she not only takes home whatever manuscripts the editors at her house are currently reading, she also goes to these elaborate get-to-know-you events put on by networking associations…almost like group dating events, but to help editor-hopefuls establish professional connections. I had no idea this kind of thing existed! So not only is this assistant reading hundreds of pages of client work on nights and weekends, she is also going rock climbing with a bunch of strangers a few times a month! My introverted, homebody self was squirming in my seat at this news. (Does that phrase usually imply giddiness? I think it might. But mine were uncomfortable, queasy squirms).

And so, our speaker got me thinking…not just about what kind of career I want, but mainly about how much I want to work, and what other kinds of things I would like to make room for as well (keep reading and writing!  keep crafting! plant a garden!). I’m beginning to wonder if maybe I’d fit well in a plain old 9-5 job, something to pay the bills. Maybe in a bookstore or a boutique or a café (though I’m still open to living on a farm…). Being in New York has given me big dreams, I know 🙂

Of course, I have another year of college (and the rest of my life after that…duh) to think and pray and dream about it all, so I’m trying not to get ahead of myself. Even though sometimes it feels like I am falling behind, I know that’s only fear talking. So far, I have found that living present-mindedly is a really good way to avoid missing unexpected opportunities God might give, and to remind myself that my future is not just about what I want or what I think I need (I forget that a lot, unfortunately).

C. S. Lewis reminds me that it’s enough to be grateful for my semester here in the book world, and for all the time I have been given to explore — that the future is not promised, the present is a gift, and that I would do well to keep my eyes open.

The Museum of Natural History.

The Guggenheim.

The MET.

Recent travels

March 19, 2012

These past few weeks, I have finally gotten to explore other Burroughs besides Manhattan. I have taken some walks further into Queens (we are on the very edge, one Subway stop away from Manhattan), and found some gems (mostly food-related). The neighborhoods around us are really diverse and really friendly (not to mention much cheaper than Manhattan!).

Christian and I have also had a few meals with friends in Brooklyn, and we even got to eat/snoop around at an apartment there. Brooklyn reminds me of some Chicago neighborhoods, and I love it. The buildings are shorter, the cars honk less, and instead of the tacky souvenir shops that line the walk to our Chelsea studio, there are restaurants everywhere. It’s actually somewhere I could picture living.


Fajitas and cake at Julia's sister's Brooklyn apartment.

Two weekends ago our Contemporary Art Class took a field trip to Dia: Beacon, a 90 minute train ride from the city. The pieces at the museum were pretty minimalistic, but most of them were really cool because they were made specifically for the space. After seeing all the art, most of us just sat in the grass for an hour or so before heading back…I really miss grass!!

Walking to the Dia.

One of my favorite pieces inside the Dia. Working on an essay about it... art is confusing.

This past weekend was my favorite one so far in New York. We kicked off spring break with a visit from Christian’s brother and sister-in-law from North Carolina, and we had a blast exploring the city with them. We went to the MET and the MOMA, saw Spiderman on Broadway, walked the Highline and the Brooklyn Bridge, sat in the grass of Dumbo Park and Central Park, toured 30 Rock, rode the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty, and ate SO MUCH good food. (I finally understand why NYC is known for its bagels!)

The Highline (an old suspended railway converted to a walkway/ park).

The Brooklyn Bridge. Though our feet were sore by this point, the views made our walk across go by so quickly. Also, thankful to report that we did not witness any biker vs. pedestrian brawls.

Dumbo park, under the Brooklyn Bridge. Loved watching all the little kids wrestling their parents here.

30 Rock. We watched 3 episodes when we got home that night, and squealed every time we saw something familiar. (Liz Lemon walks across the Brooklyn Bridge in one!)

The view from the Staten Island Ferry. Not bad for a free ride!

The Shake Shack...my new favorite! Their cheese fries were to die for. Also, they accidentally gave me a free burger! (Yes, I ordered cheese fries and a shake for dinner...)

One (or all) of us may have our eyes closed.

It is crazy how much we were able to pack into one weekend when traffic and parking weren’t factors (when Christian’s sister visited us in Southern California, we must’ve spent 3-4 hours in the car everyday). The Subway is kind of growing on me. (Also, New York has turned me into a dirtier person in general, because I have stopped using anti-bacterial hand gel 15 times a day).

This week, I’m really excited to explore some more the rest of break (and hopefully finish the 15,000 words of my novel due Monday!). On a side-note, my new favorite thing to do: sit in a coffee shop and watch all the “toddler trains” dawdling past. Local day-care centers have the kids hold these rings along a rope when they go for a walk, so it’s kind of like watching a giant millipede inch along the street. Today, I was close enough to get the stink-eye from one of the cuties.

A Happy First

March 1, 2012

The view from my boss's office! I got to work in here one day when there was construction in the intern room.

Today at my internship, I got to recommend my first book!

When I’m not reading queries (aka the letters and samples writers send us in the hopes that our agents will represent their work) from the slush pile (aka unsolicited queries aka letters from strangers…I just love book-world jargon, don’t you?), I get to read entire manuscripts that have made it past the querie level, and then write up a reader’s report explaining why I think our agency should represent the book or pass. Then, an agent reads my report and the original manuscript (unless it’s a clear pass), and decides whether they want to represent the book or not.*

Let’s just say that not a lot of slush-pile queries make it to the manuscript stage, and not a lot of manuscripts get recommended. So, a lot of my day is spent sending rejection e-mails, which can be a downer. It’s really cool (and occasionally disturbing) to see the topics people are willing to spend years of their lives researching and writing about, and really exciting to see that there are still so many genuine and humble people out there who love to write. It’s just not so exciting to be the one who makes their day a little worse with a rejection. (Also, isn’t it crazy that a [never published] 22-year-old intern like myself has the power to reject? Of course, it’s the only way a small agency with dozens of queries a day can stay afloat, but still.)

ANYWAY, today I turned in my first reader’s report recommending our agency represent a manuscript I was in charge of reading! (I have written 7 non-recommendation reports so far). I have been reading this manuscript (a magic-realism novel) for the past few days and was so excited today when I liked the ending just as much as the beginning! Realistically, I would be surprised if the agency ultimately decided to represent this book…not because they won’t take my report into consideration, but because there are so many other factors involved, especially with this particular project. Even so, it feels great to finally do my little part in propelling someone’s dream forward.

*I actually was never clear on the whole how-a-word document-becomes-a-book process until I started applying for internships. Most authors choose to work with agents because agents have much better access to publishers than the average Joe, and will use their connections to find the best fit for a book. Of course, some people just skip finding an agent and send queries straight to a publisher (and then the interns at the publisher’s office sort through their slush pile just like I do).