Search Results for: Emily Gould

Longreads Best of 2014: Essay Writing

We asked a few writers and editors to choose some of their favorite stories of the year in specific categories. Here, the best in essay writing.

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Meaghan O’Connell
Freelance writer, “Birth Story” author, motherhood columnist at The Cut, who believes her best work is at The Billfold.

The Empathy Exams (Leslie Jamison, The Believer)

I did not know who Leslie Jamison was before I read her essay “Empathy Exams” late one night at the pie shop that I use as an office when the library is closed. I was hungry, and it was dark out, and I was very pregnant and needed to get home. But I stayed in that uncomfortable chair and read it the whole way through, bursting with excitement. I G-chatted friends in all caps asking them if they’d read it. I Googled her, saw she had a book coming out, and floated home feeling like, “Yes, let’s do this. Let’s write some fucking personal essays, people!” I think Jamison, especially here, convinced or re-convinced a lot of people of the possibilities and the value of writing in the first person. Of course I think it’s horse shit that it takes a white lady with a veneer of intellectualism to make it okay, but I’ll take it where I can get it. Jamison, for her part, rises to the occasion. She certainly reminded me to hang onto the art of the thing, all the while going deeper, letting the problem of whatever you’re trying to do take up its own space. Read more…

Women vs. the Internet Trolls: A Reading List

I am the exception, not the rule; I am lucky. The writing I produce garners little to no (negative) attention. When it does, people usually correct my grammar or spelling. This is okay with me, because it’s constructive. To my knowledge, no one has called me ugly, or stupid, or any number of cruel epithets or slurs. This is privilege; I am lucky. But I am scared to put my name to controversial opinions, or to voice my own opinion at all. My tweets are innocuous quips or retweets of people far more articulate than I am. I hide behind other people’s words.

I scan Roxane Gay’s Twitter feed about once a day; she is one of my favorite writers. I don’t want to miss a thing. I know she must be exhausted from engaging with trolls, but she’s logical and courteous. She says, “God bless you” or “Live in the light,” and she sounds sincere, if not a little weary.

Ginsberg wrote, “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness.” I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by public trials on Twitter; by nasty misogynists who critiqued their appearances rather than their creations; by hurricanes of anonymous cruelty. And I can’t even offer an umbrella.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you probably aren’t a woman on the internet. Fortunately, I’ve collected several pieces that illustrate this experience far better than I ever could.

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Publishing Startup at a Crossroads: ‘Maybe It’s Time to Embrace Something Old-Fashioned’

The iOS app, pending improvements, still might catch on, but if it doesn’t, we’ll have to figure out how to try to keep those subscribers as we fold them back into the original distribution system. We’re also in talks with an established indie publishing house, trying to figure out whether doing a handful of print and e-book Emily Books originals in collaboration could make financial sense for both us and them; I’m hopeful, but when I look at the profit and loss statements they’ve given us for reference, I get less so. The idea that print availability is the only difference between selling a few hundred and a few thousand books seems like a stretch. Then again, we have a built-in base. “Two hundred people who love you are more important than 2 million people who like you,” some startup guy or other once said. Startup guys say a lot of stuff, though.

When night fell on our retreat, we put away our laptops and curled up on the couch in front of the TV. The Devil Wears Prada was showing on Lifetime, as it always is, and we were delighted to sit down and rewatch it. Outsized caricature that it is, this monumentally great chick flick does seem in some ways to encapsulate my own journey from principled young striver to glamour-chasing young sellout and back again. As we watched Andi toss the cell phone that had tethered her to her dream-nightmare job into the fountain and put her terrible corduroys back on to work at some kind of scrubby newspaper, I wondered if the movie wasn’t an omen. Maybe it’s time to embrace something old-fashioned instead of something glitzy and new and untried. Maybe our future–and publishing’s future–isn’t to be found in technological advancements that change the way we read, but in advancements that change the way books reach their audience.

Emily Gould, in Fast Company, with an honest reflection on her own publishing startup, and questions about what to do next.

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Photo: nataliaromay, Flickr

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Below, our favorite stories of the week. Kindle and Readmill users, you can also get them as a Readlist.

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The Financial Reality of a $200,000 Book Advance

In 2008 I sold a book-in-progress for $200,000 ($170,000 after commission, to be paid in four installments), which still seems to me like a lot of money. At the time, though, it seemed infinite. The resulting book—a “paperback original,” as they’re called—has sold around 8,000 copies, which is about a fifth of what it needed to sell not to be considered a flop. This essentially guarantees that no one will ever pay me that kind of money to write a book again.

It took me a while to realize that my book had failed. No one ever told me point-blank that it had. It was more like the failure occurred in tiny increments over the course of two years, after which it was too late to develop a solid Plan B.

I spent some of the advance on clothes that no longer fit my body/life, but mostly I spent it on taxes—New York even has a city tax, on top of the state and federal kind—and rent. I lived alone for three years in Brooklyn, paying $1,700 a month ($61,200 all told) for a pretty but small one-bedroom within eyeshot of the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway. I also spent $400 a month on health insurance. At one point I thought I would find another full-time job after finishing the book, but then I must have convinced myself that teaching yoga part time would better enable my writing. I also thought that I would immediately start another book, which I would sell, like the first, before I’d written half of it. In order to believe this I had to cut myself off from all kinds of practical realities; considering these realities seemed like planning for failure. In retrospect it seems clear that I should never have bought health insurance, nor lived by myself.

Emily Gould, in an essay from the anthology MFA vs. NYC, about the book business, personal and professional failures and the harsh financial realities of being a writer. Read more from Gould in the Longreads Archive.

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How Much My Novel Cost Me

Longreads Pick

Writer Emily Gould on writing books, going into debt and navigating relationships. An excerpt from MFA VS NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction:

It was more like the failure occurred in tiny increments over the course of two years, after which it was too late to develop a solid Plan B.

I spent some of the advance on clothes that no longer fit my body/life, but mostly I spent it on taxes—New York even has a city tax, on top of the state and federal kind—and rent. I lived alone for three years in Brooklyn, paying $1,700 a month ($61,200 all told) for a pretty but small one-bedroom within eyeshot of the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway. I also spent $400 a month on health insurance. At one point I thought I would find another full-time job after finishing the book, but then I must have convinced myself that teaching yoga part time would better enable my writing. I also thought that I would immediately start another book, which I would sell, like the first, before I’d written half of it. In order to believe this I had to cut myself off from all kinds of practical realities; considering these realities seemed like planning for failure. In retrospect it seems clear that I should never have bought health insurance, nor lived by myself.

Source: Medium
Published: Feb 24, 2014
Length: 22 minutes (5,586 words)

Longreads Best of 2013: 22 Outstanding Book Chapters We Featured This Year

This year we featured not only the best stories from the web, but also great chapters from new and classic books. Here’s a complete guide to every book chapter we featured this year, both for free and for Longreads Members: Read more…

Longreads Member Exclusive: An Excerpt from 'Sempre Susan' by Sigrid Nunez

For this week’s Longreads Member pick, we’re excited to share an excerpt from Sigrid Nunez’s memoir Sempre Susan, which comes recommended by Emily Gould, the proprietor of Emily Books, who writes:

This memorable passage from Sigrid Nunez’s gemlike memoir of the year she spent under the influence of Susan Sontag begins with a description of a trip to New Orleans with Sontag, who was then at the height of her literary powers and intellectual fame. Nunez goes on to detail some of the explicit lessons Sontag taught her—about treating writing as a vocation rather than a career, about giving yourself permission to devote yourself to reading and writing even when that devotion is difficult to justify. With great subtlety, Nunez uses her intimate experience of the particulars of Sontag’s work habits and lifestyle to illuminate some of the tensions that all writers experience—tensions between the need to write without fetters and the need to make money, and between the confidence that’s necessary to accomplish anything and the insecurity that can act as a goad, or a filter.

“If you’re lucky, you might have had a great boss, teacher, leader, guru, parent or friend who encountered you at a receptive moment and shaped the direction your life would take from that moment on. If you’re unlucky, you might have had a boss, teacher, leader, guru, parent or friend who encountered you at a vulnerable moment and warped the direction your life would take from that moment on.  There’s a fine line between these two varieties of experience—or maybe there is no line. Maybe to shape is always to deform.  Here, Nunez treats readers to a succinct cost-benefit analysis of the pleasures and perils of acquiring a charismatic mentor.  The unlucky—or is it lucky?—among us will relate.

Read an excerpt here.

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Illustration by Kjell Reigstad.

Longreads Member Exclusive: Sempre Susan (Excerpt)

Longreads Pick

For this week’s Longreads Member pick, we’re excited to share an excerpt from Sigrid Nunez’s memoir Sempre Susan, which comes recommended by Emily Gould, the proprietor of Emily Books, who writes:

“This memorable passage from Sigrid Nunez’s gemlike memoir of the year she spent under the influence of Susan Sontag begins with a description of a trip to New Orleans with Sontag, who was then at the height of her literary powers and intellectual fame. Nunez goes on to detail some of the explicit lessons Sontag taught her—about treating writing as a vocation rather than a career, about giving yourself permission to devote yourself to reading and writing even when that devotion is difficult to justify. With great subtlety, Nunez uses her intimate experience of the particulars of Sontag’s work habits and lifestyle to illuminate some of the tensions that all writers experience—tensions between the need to write without fetters and the need to make money, and between the confidence that’s necessary to accomplish anything and the insecurity that can act as a goad, or a filter.

“If you’re lucky, you might have had a great boss, teacher, leader, guru, parent or friend who encountered you at a receptive moment and shaped the direction your life would take from that moment on. If you’re unlucky, you might have had a boss, teacher, leader, guru, parent or friend who encountered you at a vulnerable moment and warped the direction your life would take from that moment on.  There’s a fine line between these two varieties of experience—or maybe there is no line. Maybe to shape is always to deform.  Here, Nunez treats readers to a succinct cost-benefit analysis of the pleasures and perils of acquiring a charismatic mentor.  The unlucky—or is it lucky?—among us will relate.”

Support Longreads—and get more exclusives like this—by becoming a member for just $3 per month

Source: Atlas
Published: Feb 6, 2013
Length: 14 minutes (3,513 words)

Longreads Best of 2012: Doree Shafrir

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Doree Shafrir is the Executive Editor of BuzzFeed. Her story, “Can You Die from a Nightmare?” was featured on Longreads in September.

This year I read a lot of great personal essays, but these were my favorites.

Meaghan O’Connell, “Places I’ve Lived: A Nanny’s Room, the Perfect Sublet, and a Place You Can Instagram,” The Billfold

The story of young people moving to New York and learning how to navigate the city, particularly its real estate, will never get old, but it’s hard to do well/without sounding like you’re trying to mimic Joan Didion. I loved Meaghan’s piece because it was so perfectly of its time and place, and yet managed to capture the timelessness of feeling that, for the very first time, you’re really on your own in a city that doesn’t give much of a shit. 

Lena Dunham, “Seeing Nora Everywhere,” The New Yorker 

No one could quite believe it when Nora Ephron died, partly because she’d concealed her illness from all but her closest friends and family, but also because she was the premiere chronicler of love and relationships and making it as a woman, and if she was gone, what did that mean for the rest of us? There were lots of tributes to Nora Ephron, but Lena Dunham’s resonated the most with me, because she portrayed so beautifully Nora’s brilliance, her empathy and her wit.

Amity Bitzel, “My Parents Adopted a Murderer,” xoJane 

The particulars of the story were so outlandish that it almost seemed impossible for someone to write about it eloquently, but Amity Bitzel’s essay about her parents adopting a young man who had murdered his parents, and what it was like for her as a 13-year-old, managed to be affecting and beautiful, and maybe most amazingly, not sensationalistic. 

Emily Gould, “Laughing and Crying”, Emily Magazine 

Emily is so, so good at talking about those feelings that you’d really rather not admit you felt, much less put on the internet, and she is also really good at being funny about it and making bigger points about success and jealousy and autobiography. She writes in this piece, which is also about “ladyblogs” and a visit to PS1, “I have made so many decisions based on my desire to never seem publicly weak or vulnerable,” and that seemed like just about the most perfect articulation of human behavior I’d ever read.

Read more guest picks from Longreads Best of 2012.