Sunday Update #5 | Creating “Art,” Printer’s Row Lit Fest 2018, Book Haul


Happy Sunday! I am currently sitting at The Book Cellar, enjoying an iced mocha and a copy of Kathleen Rooney’s “Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk.” I don’t live a charmed, aspirational life of Instagram-worthy vignettes, but when I take a nice photo that may suggest that sort of existence, I will syndicate that shit on all of my social channels. I never think to take carefully curated photos of my life, and it’s not out of some misplaced superiority over people who “live their life on their phones.” I absolutely live my life on my phone, and of course it’s a problem, and of course this commitment to my screens is chipping away at my self-esteem and my social skills and my eyesight.  We all know this. It’s been repeated in the media ad infinitum.

This lack of participation on Instagram is more about my “complicated” (lol) relationship to art. I don’t possess the art gene or the carefully attuned sensibility that would allow me to discern between good and bad art. In middle school I learned how to use Adobe Photoshop so that I could create fan art for Neopets and online book forums, and I’ve been able to parry those photo manipulation skills into school projects and internships with some success. But actual art eludes me entirely.

There was a time in my freshman year of college that I considered majoring in graphic design because I did have that technical background. I even took a few of the required classes for that degree, but I quickly realized that it wasn’t for me. I loved the idea of being a package designer (inspired by The Dieline), but I can’t “concept” or “compose” for shit. I don’t know how to draw. I did the absolute bare minimum in all of my art classes. Once, we were in the ceramics unit of my 11th grade art class, and a classmate declared that she was planning on making a vase to give as a gift to her mom. This blew my mind, because it had never occurred to me that I could create something valuable or lasting beyond this one-week lesson. People were trying because this was their creative outlet–their home within the rigid 7-period school day–and my apathy and incompetence stood in stark relief.

I don’t know how to curate an Instagram feed or maintain anything resembling an “aesthetic,” and perhaps that shouldn’t be considered a virtue when Instagram is the de-facto highlight reel to our behind-the-scenes lives (or however that quote goes). But it is a real insecurity I have in the 21st century that I’ve apparently decided to dedicate 400 words to in what was supposed to be a gentle intro to the actual content of this post. Comment below if you can relate.





Yesterday I went to the Printer’s Row Lit Fest! It’s an annual literary festival in Chicago that brings together the city’s readers, writers, booksellers, and publishers in one really fun orgiastic weekend. Just kidding about the orgies though, people who like these kinds of events are notoriously awkward. See: me.

I attended Q&As with authors David Levithan, Joyce Carol Oates, Audrey Niffenegger, and Eddie Campbell. In particular, I really enjoyed David Levithan’s talk and was able to get a book signed and a picture with him (right). I’m a huge fan of “Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares,” which he co-wrote with author Rachel Cohn. It’s a really fun, earnest exploration of young love set against the playground of New York City, and I’ve been reading it every Christmas since it came out 7 years ago. It’s also what made me fall in love with indie bookstores and NYC’s The Strand in particular. I’ve read many of his collaborations (including “Will Grayson, Will Grayson” with John Green), so I’m excited to finally read one of his solo novels.

Over the course of the day, I accumulated more books to add to my pile. That’s what my TBR books have become—not a collection, but a pile. I borrow and buy books at a far faster rate than I can read them, so I hope I can get to these before the summer is up and a new crop of books have come to supplant them. Here’s a snapshot of what I bought.


“Every Day” by David Levithan

Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.

There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.”

“Bizarre Romance” by Audrey Niffenegger and Eddie Campbell

“Internationally bestselling author of The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger, and graphic artist Eddie Campbell, of such seminal works as From Hell by Alan Moore, collaborate on a wonderfully bizarre collection that celebrates and satirizes love of all kinds. With 16 different stories told through illustrated prose or comic panels, the couple explores the idiosyncratic nature of relationships in a variety of genres from fractured fairy tales to historical fiction to paper dolls. With Niffenegger’s sharp, imaginative prose and Campbell’s diverse comic styles, Bizarre Romance is the debut collection by two of the most important storytellers of our time.”

“The Cliff-Dwellers” by Henry Blake Fuller

“Originally published in 1893, The Cliff-Dwellers was the first “Chicago novel” to win national acclaim, written by Chicago’s first LGBTQ novelist, Henry Blake Fuller. In 2010, Chicago magazine ranked it the sixth-best Chicago novel of all time.

Set in the fictional Clifton building on LaSalle Street (based on Chicago’s earliest skyscrapers like the Monadnock and the Tacoma), The Cliff-Dwellers “shocked and outraged” Chicagoans at the end of the 19th century for its unflattering depictions of the city’s cutthroat industrialism, violence, and preening upper class.”

Note: This book is of particular interest because it’s the Chicago Review of Books‘ first foray into small-press publishing. They do a lot of exciting, important work in the Chicago lit scene, and I’m eager to see what they release next!

“Storm for the Living and the Dead” by Charles Bukowski

“Charles Bukowski was a prolific writer who produced countless short stories, novels, and poems that have reached beyond their time and place to speak to generations of readers all over the world. Many of his poems remain little known since they appeared in small magazines but were never collected, and a large number of them have yet to be published.

In Storm for the Living and the Dead, Abel Debritto has curated a collection of rare and never- before-seen material—poems from obscure, hard-to-find magazines, as well as from libraries and private collections all over the country. In doing so, Debritto has captured the essence of Bukowski’s inimitable poetic style—tough and hilarious but ringing with humanity. Storm for the Living and the Dead is a gift for any devotee of the Dirty Old Man of American letters.”

Sunday Update #4 | Freelance Writing + Faking My Own Death

Happy Sunday! The birds are chirping, the sun is shining, the temperature has evened out into the low 70s, and I am inside.

A couple months ago I started doing some freelance copywriting/content writing for a marketing agency in Orlando. The gig is great and has really pushed my boundaries in terms of what I feel capable of writing. But unfortunately, I have also learned I’m a horrible procrastinator who’s unable to park her butt in the seat when it’s truly necessary. I’m on the hook for about 8,000 words due tomorrow (but really today, because I work tomorrow).

A story just came out about a Russian journalist who faked his own death to help Ukrainian authorities catch his would-be assassins. Many journalism watchdog organizations have come out to condemn the journalist and Ukraine for taking such extreme measures, and while I can’t speak to its long-term effects on journalism and Ukraine-Russia relations, I just want to say: Isn’t this kind of awesome?! I thought this only happened in movies. Good on them for capturing the bad guys.

Here’s an excerpt from ABC News:

On Thursday Babchenko said that he and Ukraine’s police had simulated every step of that. First, he said a make-up artist arrived at his house and he began practicing falling down.

“It was all real. I made that shirt with bullet holes in it and I laid on the floor. They have poured blood over me, I took some of it in my mouth and let it out,” Babchenko said.

His wife, who Babchenko said had been in on the deception, pretended to then find him dying and called an ambulance. Real paramedics arrived and carried him to the ambulance which drove to the hospital, reporting that Babchenko had died on the way. He said a doctor had then recorded his death and he had been transported to the morgue.

“I was lying there pretending that I was the murder victim, like a dead person. They came to the morgue, they put me on the tray, the doors were closed behind me and then I was resurrected. I turned on the TV. I sat down and watched news of my ‘murder’.”

I’m not saying that I would stage my own grisly death to alleviate the embarrassment of missing a deadline…but I’m also not going to rule it out as a possibility.



Because I didn’t post last Sunday, I now have TWO weeks worth of stories and articles to share. Enjoy!

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: I shared my advice on interviewing for jobs as a shy person with The Financial Diet (the byline I alluded to a few weeks ago). I also wrote about my fascination with ABBA on Thursday.

“Sometimes you win the race because everyone else stops running.” An inspiring reminder from Sarah Von Bargen, one of my favorite bloggers.

I loved this Vice story from a corporate restaurant consultant on how menu items are decided for chain restaurants. I never knew how much went into those decisions.

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Have you seen the new trailer for the Christopher Robin movie? I was obsessed with Winnie the Pooh growing up, and I will absolutely be there opening day crying into my popcorn.

This Medium essay about cultural appropriation in interior decorating and the ways in which the industry glorifies, erases, and sanitizes designs from other cultures is fascinating.

The employees at Google’s Silicon Valley headquarters are really into feeding feral cats, and this may be contributing to the endangerment of native burrowing owls.

Aly & AJ are back together, and I’m going to their Chicago concert next month! Listen to their new EP “Ten Years” on YouTube.


Photo by Sophie Barbasch

Adored this story on the history of the Ragdoll cat breed and one woman’s quest to genetically engineer the perfect cat, even through hefty legal battles. Give it a read!

I’m trying to become more involved in Chicago’s literary scene, and I found this Poets & Writers article about the best bookstores, literary landmarks, events, and publications very illuminating! I’ve been to a few of these, and I plan on going to Printer’s Row Lit Fest next week.

What’s Nick Jones up to nowadays?



That’s it, folks! Have a relaxing Sunday. I hope you spend the day outside enjoying the sun and not contemplating your own kidnapping and/or murder. So that my social media networks can pick up an image for this post, here’s a photo of me as a zombie 4 years ago. You aren’t allowed any context.


Sunday Update #3 | New Job + Thoughts from Being Unemployed

It’s me again! I’m writing in on yet another rainy day in Chicago. Whoever told me that there were “seasons” in Chicago was lying to me. There is only too cold and too hot. And in between those extremes is this month where the temperature seems okay on its face, but it’s undermined by the constant rainfall and bone-chilling wind that I never seem to dress right for.

Don’t move to Illinois. Move to California.



I have some personal news: I got a new job! I start tomorrow and am very excited and nervous.

You may have heard me allude to being unemployed on this blog. I’ve been not-working since February. I left my previous company to give myself the space to find a role that was a better fit, and I think I’ve finally found it.

This is a relief, because after a month in, I ran out of things to do.  I have been reading books, taking long walks, going to author events, the like. My family’s visited a couple times, and I’ve been back to Orlando as well. But I also miss doing things, you know?

It’s interesting how closely work becomes tied to your self-worth. In conversations at happy hours, on Uber rides, with movers and building managers  and neighbors, eventually the question of “What do you do?” comes up, and I have internally braced myself each time. It’s hard not to answer that question defensively or feel like you’re on the back foot of any situation. I didn’t realize how much security I felt from having a job until I didn’t have one.

Sometimes I skipped going to events entirely out of fear that the question would come up (and it always does). I thought, what if they think I’m a flake, someone who couldn’t hack it in a real job? Maybe her parents pay her rent and support her, because who else would callously quit their job with no backup plan?

I am happy to count myself back in the professional world, but I will still continue to examine these feelings that my stint of unemployment has blown the dust off. I know that I am not my job and that my self-worth goes beyond how I feel and perform at work, but it is difficult to remember when you don’t have anything else going on.

I made this post’s featured photo one of me at an Ad Club event. I spent most of college doing these kinds of professional development events and thinking about where I’d end up after graduation. I was very green then. I was convinced that work would be my life’s ultimate passion and that it would give me endless fulfillment. So after I came out of my first job finding out that maybe this wasn’t the case, I realized how important it was to find value and passion in all areas of life.

This is my segue into saying that hobbies are important! I have benefited immensely from writing regularly and pursuing interests outside of my industry. It feels invigorating to work on something that is completely mine. It feels reassuring to know that if something were to happen to this next job or any subsequent one, I will still have dreams and wants that exist outside of a 9-to-5.

This has gone longer than I originally intended, so in the most natural transition yet, here are things online that I’ve been enjoying lately: