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On The Road: Book Companions

On The Road: Book Companions

Road-tripping is, of course, a great time to bond with your friends in the very close quarters of someone’s borrowed car, but it’s also a perfect opportunity to find those lulls and moments of silence in the backseat to do a little reading. Even in an age where e-readers are at their prime, books are the best road trip buddies, and if you’re a nerd/bibliophile/love the sound of your own voice like me, you can read passages aloud to your friends. Here are some choices to throw in your bag to read between point A and point B. Maitri

Astronomy 101 By Carolyn Collins Petersen
This lovely little book is packed with clean illustrations and gorgeous technicolor photos of the heavens above. If you’re driving on the open road, you can try and find those corresponding constellations.

Colorstrology: What Your Birthday Color Says About You By Michele Bernhardt
Can you paint with all the colors of the zodiac? Colorstrology will tell you what colors will brighten (or darken) your life, and who on the spectrum is your color match. I’d like to think I’m a Pantone Radiant Orchid.

Love Is a Mix Tape: Life And Loss, One Song At A Time By Rob Sheffield
Similar to when you’re on an airplane, emotions run high on road trips — confined space, the vast country of America, running out of Pringles, etc. Sometimes it’s good to go with those emotions, so you should read Love is a Mix Tape, Rob Sheffield’s powerful and SUPER sad story of the love of his life’s death, and all the music that held them together. Then go dig up the first mix CD your high school boyfriend gave you and re-listen to all those old Arcade Fire songs from Funeral.

How Music Works By David Byrne
If you’re road-tripping this spring or summer, there’s a good chance you’re on your merry way to a music festival. Why not read a music and life-affirming manifesto from the Talking Heads weirdman/genius, David Byrne, to remind you how music can (and is about to) change your life?

Stargirl By Jerry Spinelli
Throw some fiction in the mix. Stargirl is one of the best “young adult” books out there, so forget about The Hunger Games. This one's about a girl who is loved and admired for her strangeness until one day, for reasons seemingly unknown, she’s turned on by her friends. It’s gonna stir up some bad tween memories, for sure, but it will also make you proud of being yourself.

Fine Print: Katie Heaney

Katie Heaney has a hilarious Twitter, a feature on The Hairpin, and she’s also a regular writer for BuzzFeed. To top it all off, Heaney’s first book, Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without A Date, was released earlier this year from Grand Central Publishing. In it, Heaney tells the tale of being the odd woman out; for some reason, even though she’s a total catch, she's just never been in a relationship. It’s not a book of woe, but a story of how it’s empowering to invest instead in your female friendships. I recently chatted to Katie about her book, her best friend Rylee, and her favorite Mr. Darcy.
Interview by Maitri Mehta. Photos c/o Katie Heaney.

First of all, congratulations on writing the book! Have guys from your past come out of the woodwork since you published it?
Thanks! Not really. Most of the feedback I’ve gotten has been really positive emails and tweets from women thanking me for writing the book. I’ve gotten a few messages from dudes, some creepy, some polite, but I usually just ignore them.

One of the main characters in your book is your real-life best friend, Rylee. How does she feel about being a part of it?
Rylee knew about the book from the beginning. Sometimes it was hard in college. I think that despite her having a different dating life she never thought it was weird that I wasn’t seeing anyone. It wasn’t something that came up a lot, even. It was more her struggling to understand why I didn’t WANT to be with anyone.

How long have you and Rylee been friends?
We’re coming on nine years! It’s been work at times, but part of the challenge of finding the right BFF is finding someone that also wants a very committed, loyal relationship they can devote time to, even if one or both people are also in romantic relationships. Finding the right best friend is just as tough and just as important as finding a significant other.

You wrote this book in "real-time." Was that weird?
At first, but by the end it was more like journaling mixed with being aware that I was writing a book. I was always hoping that it was going to be a good finished product, something that people would want to read. I still considered it a project to be finished that was very much separate from my actual life (even though it was my life I was writing about!). It’s good that I didn’t really have the chance to go back and change it.

How did you choose which dudes and experiences to write about?
I have to say I chose the crushes I had that were more substantial, more romantic, or just more interesting.

Who’s your favorite Darcy?
Obviously Colin Firth from the BBC miniseries.

Same! He’s the only choice, really. What do you think of the enormous statue of him in his long johns that was built in England?
I think it’s totally creepy and it doesn’t do him justice.

Who was your first kiss?
I can’t remember his name. Maybe Eric? It was at a frat party while I was visiting a friend during my freshman year of college at her school. I never saw him again!

Who’s your favorite Austen heroine?
You know, I always say Emma, but in a way I kind of hate her, too. She thinks she’s being helpful and great but then all these guys fall in love with her, and she’s just perfect, and oblivious, and annoying. I love the book but god, Emma kind of sucks. I’d be so jealous of her if we went to college together.

I hate to even ask (because it’s horrible to talk about out loud), but do you use Tinder?
I mean, I’ve been on OKCupid, and I have Tinder on my phone, but I’ve really only used it to test out a story or as a half-assed attempt to please my friends that think I should have it. I don’t like it at all!

What do you want people to take away from Never Have I Ever?
Young women shouldn’t feel bad about being single or wanting to be single and actively not wanting a relationship. It’s perfectly fine to prioritize other things in your life.

Fine Print: Jaime Hernandez

Jaime Hernandez, an illustrator from Los Angeles, is best known for his comic book series Love and Rockets. The series, which Hernandez writes and illustrates with his brothers Gilbert and Mario, recently celebrated its 30th anniversary and continues to be a mainstay in the alternative comic movement. Last fall Hernandez teamed up with Riverhead Books to illustrate Junot Diaz’s book This Is How You Lose Her, a heartbreaking and tender collection of stories from Diaz that celebrates and laments his character Yunior’s relationships with the women in his life. We were lucky enough to talk to Hernandez from his home in Los Angeles about illustrating and writing female characters.
Interview by Maitri Mehta. Illustrations c/o Riverhead Books.

First of all, thank you for illustrating this book. It’s one of my favorites, and I just got a copy of the illustrated version. It’s beautiful!
Thank you! But I owe it all to the publisher [Riverhead Books]; they did all of the design work.

Did you know Junot Diaz before you illustrated his work for The New Yorker?
Yeah, I was emailing him back when I did one of his first stories, but my computer crashed and I lost all the contact information until this time around! I was first introduced to his work through part of the Oscar Wao story [The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao].

Many people—myself included—find a lot of similarities in yours and Diaz’s work.
Sure, sure. A lot of the character development is similar. Maybe it’s just Latino culture.

Is there a reason you’re drawn to creating female characters? Do you feel like it’s more important?
There’s a million reasons. I basically… like women! You know, all around. For the right reasons and sometimes for the wrong reasons [laughs]. I think it all started when I was 13 and learning to draw women. I was a little scared to before that. Growing up Catholic, my mom was uptight about stuff and uptight about sex and I was a kid, you know? It was always, “Don’t draw girls, you’ll go to hell," or worse, "Mom’s gonna get mad." And when I was 12 or 13 my older brother Gilbert was already drawing women and doing comics with women, and he was like “You should draw girls, it’s fun.” From then on, it was like if I wanted to do stories about women I had to... should I say, back it up? It didn't feel right JUST to draw curvy women. I had to put something else in there to bring them to life. I think that's where it started. I just started to like writing women. I don't know if I was doing it right, but I was trying, and by the time we did Love and Rockets, a woman came up to me and said, “I like your women characters and I like the way you do women.” And I said bam, okay, I'm here. I've got nothing to apologize for.

I think it's hard for male artists to write a good woman which is really why I love Junot Diaz. Did you have a favorite of the girls in This Is How You Lose Her?
Yes, the one that read comics, Nilda, because she had 50 million things going on in her head. I liked the craziness and the sweetness and the intelligence, all of that put together in one character. She spoke to me more than the others.

Was it difficult to illustrate someone else's writing?
Yeah, especially because in prose you don't have to describe people in detail so I was looking at every detail in the writing, thinking, "Okay, I'm getting an idea about this woman," and then three pages later I find out she's not Latina, she's white! I guess I could have asked Junot himself but I figured it was my job that I was hired for, to figure it out myself, to put my two cents in there. You know, to help create his world. Luckily he agreed with 99.9 percent of what I did.

Did you have a lot of freedom in how you interpreted his characters?
Yes, a lot, but there were a few things that came back to me in his notes. You know, make this character bigger, or make this character more this and that. But not too much, and I’m happy that he trusted me because this is his world, and I know how personal that can be.

Diaz’s stories are really autobiographical. Are yours too?
Yeah, of course, but I take liberties and change things because my life is pretty boring and my characters need a more interesting life for my readers to follow them. I romanticize sometimes but within reality.

It seems like you ended up doing exactly what you wanted to do in life—any advice for young illustrators or artists in general?
Ooh! Tell the truth. Or I guess, be truthful to what you're drawing; don't fake it because you'll be found out later. It's hard to explain... but that's why I'm an artist and not a teacher.

Did you ever teach anywhere?
Nope. I sat in on a graphic novel class once; I didn't know I was being primed to maybe teach a class. I just sat there kind of like a doofus. I could never express myself the way these teachers do; that’s why I let it come out in my art.

Read Your Heart Out: Katharine Keegan

The latest installment of our Read Your Heart Out series focuses on Katharine Keegan, the 24-year-old woman behind the beautifully curated blog That Kind of Woman. Katharine's book choices reflect her own taste, and range from classic novels, to design inspirations for the home.
Written recommendations by Katharine Keegan.

The Kinfolk Table by Nathan Williams
"This 'cookbook' is the cream of the crop, and is a blend of perfect food and lifestyle aesthetics, as is all of what Kinfolk produces. These recipes and pictures are everything you want your dinner party to be, so turn off that fluorescent kitchen lighting and gather all the mismatched candles you have when you try the fresh takes on these recipes. Chosen by 45 different different 'tastemakers,' this book becomes less of a cookbook and more of an unconventional profiling of each person and highlights their 3 favorite recipes. It's essentially a beautiful, intimate look at how food brings people together."

Walden and Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau
"The first guy to drop everything, live in a cabin and document it, Thoreau was the most poetic 'weird bearded guy in the woods.' Every chapter in Walden is a love letter to nature and a guide to self-discovery through simplistic living. Minimalism as we know it is having a very sparsely decorated all-white apartment, but until you spend two years, two months and two days in a cabin you built in Ralph Waldo Emerson's woods, then you can't really compete."

Design Sponge at Home by Grace Bonney
"We can't all build a cabin in the woods. However, we can give our living spaces a little TLC with a Pinner's favorite thing: DIY decorating. Design Sponge has left the interweb and come to fruition as an actual book. (One that you can then put on that amazing coffee table you refurbished.) I never feel better than after adding a fresh, new twist to my apartment."

Orlando by Virginia Woolf
"Here comes the fiction. Orlando is probably one of the most confusing and wonderful texts I have ever read. A creative take on a 'semi-biography,' it is, in part, a documentation of Woolf's lover's life. Orlando, born a man in the reign of Elizabeth I at the beginning of the novel, ends the novel as a female author in 1928. What? Yeah, I know. As the body and the year changes, the person that Orlando is never changes. Orlando journeys through the centuries and gets tossed this way and that, only to come out the other end wholly him/herself."

The Essential Rumi by Coleman Barks
"Fresh starts are ageless, so when I suggest the ancient texts by Rumi, you can trust that the truth and beauty of his words have stood the test of time. I will always remember the first Rumi poem I read and how it felt like I was brimming over with enthusiasm and hope. Having his essential poems is... well, essential."

Fine Print: Allie Brosh

Allie Brosh is the best blogger in the world. And no, we're not biased. It's just a fact. She's currently wrapping up the tour for Hyperbole and a Half, her brand new book named after her blog, but she still found time to chat to us about her fans, Thanksgiving and that dead fish story.
Interview by Katie Gregory

How’s the book tour going? You’re almost done now, right?
Yeah, I’ve gotten to be home now for a couple of days which was nice! It was about two and a half weeks of total insanity. Fun insanity, the real rewarding kind, but at the end of the day I was just exhausted. I feel like I’m crashing a little bit now.

I saw that you’ve been signing books for seven hours at some of the book signings!
In Brooklyn, at WORD bookstore, that one was six or seven hours long. And in Seattle at the University bookstore, that one went super long. There were some signings that went until 2 in the morning. It’s amazing that people stayed that long.

Have people brought you any amazing gifts?
I’ve gotten some really cool gifts. Somebody in Brooklyn brought me a dinosaur costume! I wore that for the rest of the signing. And then someone in Seattle brought me this necklace she made that had a Wellbutrin molecule on it. It’s really cool. I’ve gotten a bunch of really neat stuff.

I actually ask people while they’re waiting in line if they’d like to do me a drawing. I bring a big stack of printer paper and hand it out to everybody. Some people write letters, some people do drawings – I’ve collected piles of these from all of my signings. I’m going to wait until the very last signing and then I’m going to go through all of them and read them. I’m excited about it.

Are you going to go back to writing on your blog once all of this settles down?
I’m going to write on my blog. I’m going to do it the same way I’ve been doing it. Like once I find an idea I have that I think is worthy, I’ll put something up there. I don’t want to write just to fill a time constraint, you know? I don’t want to publish on a schedule because I feel like I have to. When I publish something it’s because I think it’s really good. I have a few ideas, a few posts I’m working on, so when those are done I’ll post them up once I finish them. But I also want to write another book.

Is there any one blog post that people seem to mention more than others?
It seems spread out between a few of them. I know a lot of people relate to the depression posts. I talk to a lot of people about that when they come up and I sign their books. And then there’s the “ALOT” post. I know a lot of people found me because of that post. That’s one of my first ones that ever went viral on the internet. [Laughs.]

I think I first found you because of the “How to be An Adult” post.
Oh yeah, a ton of people relate to that one. And then there’s a small subset of people that just love that noodle cartoon I used to do, the Spaghatta Nadle. The silly little noodle has a cult following. [Laughs.]

I personally love the post where you have to kill your pet fish.
I have a surprising number of stories involving dead fish for some reason. There are a few that I’m working on and I’m realizing as I’m writing these posts that, yeah, I have five stories that are totally different from each other that involve dead fish in some way.

Now that the Holidays are coming up, I can't help but think of your post The Year Kenny Loggins Ruined Christmas. Are events like that easy for you to remember, or do you need to consult family members?
I remember them pretty well, but I also consult my family for some of the details. The Kenny Loggins one, we actually have a video somewhere of the actual play. We haven’t been able to find it, but I know that we filmed it and I know that I’ve seen the video. The last time I saw it I was young but I remember watching it. So, there is video footage of that somewhere that I’m hoping we can find someday and show people. [Laughs.]

That would be amazing. Do you have any Thanksgiving plans yet with your husband?
Gosh, we don’t do the whole turkey thing, really. Just whatever we’re feeling. Like we might make tacos? [Laughs.] A nice, taco Thanksgiving. They’ll be fancy tacos, of course.

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Fine Print: The Le Sigh

Since its launch last winter, The Le Sigh has been an online cool girl clubhouse of sorts. With consistently excellent indie music and arts coverage along with a strong allegiance to zine culture, The Le Sigh is one of the best well-rounded blogs in cyberspace today. This month, the Le Sigh girls will be moving to print with THE LE SIGH Vol. 1, a full color publication. The contributor list reads like a who's-who of Tumblr It-girls with work from Grace Miceli, Laurence Philomene, Lauren Cook, and more.

But the glossy, bubblegum pink-tinted zine is not the only thing these ladies have up their sleeves. The Le Sigh is partnering with Brooklyn-based record label Birdtapes to put out a girls-only tape compilation featuring acts such as the twee singer-songwriter Frankie Cosmos and the raucous punk band Priests. The publication and tape, which will be available for purchase online November 18th, will debut at The Le Sigh zine launch party November 17th at Silent Barn, which features performances from musicians on the tape like Whatever Dad, Lizard Kisses, and more. Hazel