Cheers to getting funded!

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After a month of preparation, 32 days of fundraising, 3 campaign events, the support of 552 backers, a total of $35,815 raised on Kickstarter and an undisclosed amount of champagne bottles, The Riveter is now officially funded to start publishing quarterly issues! We finished our first-ever Kickstarter campaign just a few hours ago, and the entire team can’t decide if we want a party or a nap first. (Probably a nap.)

Working on The Riveter’s Kickstarter Campaign might just be my favorite project ever — I got to throw my experiences from copywriting, PR, reporting and social media into one big stew pot, stirring in a bit of graphic design and event production (I even learned how to make a GIF — so line up, employers, ’cause this one knows how to follow YouTube tutorials…).

Things I’ve learned along the way: MailChimp gets sassy when you try to time travel. Being an aspirational Instagrammer works best when you have really fashionable roommates. Suitcases are an extremely effective way to transport champagne. Kickstarter CEO Yancey Strickler is really freaking cool. Press releases need to be quadruple-checked. Sometimes, Twitter trolls happen.

The best part, though was that I was working for a media publication again, which reminded me of working for The Maneater and MOVE Magazine. Promoting The Riveter magazine has been incredibly fun, though it isn’t only because I personally believe in promoting women’s journalism, or because working for Kaylen and Natalie has fulfilled the girlcrush I developed the minute I met them in The Maneater’s newsroom (Spoiler alert: they are just as freakin’ cool as freshman Delia first believed.)

But it’s also because, as The Riveter’s brand manager, it’s the first time I’ve had the chance to meld my advertising/PR experiences with the world of journalism. And I think this is something I really want to do, when I jump off into the chasm that is post-grad life: treating media outlets like the brands they are, creating content that fosters a community, and in the end, making sure great journalism gets noticed. Preferably with mimosa parties.

Click here to view samples of my work for The Riveter and the Kickstarter campaign.

From Ponte Vecchio to Purina


One week down, 15 to go. And so the final semester cometh.

It doesn’t feel like it’s my last semester of college. Just the other day, I stumbled into my introductory nonfiction writing class exactly half an hour late, because I got my buildings (and, okay, time itself) mixed up. You should have seen the once-overs the mostly sophomore constituency of that class gave me. But I suppose I have graduated beyond my days of eating cereal in a dining hall (now, you see, I eat cereal alone in my room), and frequently (Thursday), I even put on real pants to go to class.

I think I’m just going to blame all of my other embarrassing underclassman-like behaviors on jet lag. I spent three weeks over my winter break in Europe visiting my boyfriend, who lives in Paris. He yanked me out into the sunshine at 8 a.m. on my first day so that I could adjust to “Paris time” quickly (disclaimer: I also was the one who said she wanted to see the Eiffel Tower in the morning and not wait in line for 4 hours to do so). But here, in the confines of the big-kids’ playground that a Midwestern public university is, no one (or monument) is here to adjust my sleep schedule, and so I shall continue, jolting awake at 7:31 a.m. and blaming the day’s subsequent mishaps on it.

Europe was, of course, ridiculously lovely. We even traveled to Florence, Italy, for a week, and I am not sure if I fell in love more with the Ponte Vecchio or a particular plate of pesto linguini that may have challenged all of my prior beliefs on life. It’s obviously a bit of a shock, then, to be transported suddenly to Columbia again, where the pasta comes in a Hamburger Helper box and Renaissance Art is a class only the art history kids get into.

Nonetheless! Exciting news — for my capstone class, I will be working as a copy editor for MOJO Ad, which, we’re supposed to tell recruiters and skeptical parents, is the nation’s premier student-staffed professional-services ad agency, based at Mizzou. This semester, I’ll be working with a team of 9 other students to develop a fully integrated campaign for Purina, who have enlisted MOJO to help develop a strategy that appeals to youth and young adults. Will there be puppies involved? Will I ever stop going to sleep before 10 p.m.? Will senior spring semester be all that ‘Animal House’ has made it cracked up to be? I have no idea. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to take a nap.

Riveting news

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 9.37.40 PMAhh! I’ve been so excited to share this that I’ve given myself three distinct headaches from all the grinning I’ve been doing since last week, when I signed on to join the team at  The Riveter magazine.

Kaylen, one of the magazine’s co-founders, was a senior editor when I was at The Maneater, and she was the kind of person you flattened yourself against the wall in awe whenever she walked by. She  was just that cool. After graduating from Mizzou, Kaylen went on to start The Riveter with another MU grad, Joanna Demkiewicz, and the two have dedicated themselves to celebrating longform journalism by women ever since. This time last year, I was dragging Kaylen and Yanna into a Maneater workshop so they could inspire our staff with their story, but I never imagined I would get the chance to work with them myself.

Which is why I’m completely over the moon to share that I’m starting this week as their brand manager, which means I’ll be overseeing The Riveter’s social media, doing a little media relations and reporting to the ridiculously talented Natalie Cheng (for the first time since I tried to write for her at MOVE Magazine!). It’s exciting enough to head back to magazineville while still getting to flex my PR/advertising/copywriting/social media muscles, but getting to work with such an incredible publication and some very inspiring individuals? What a dream. Nobody wake me.

Follow The Riveter on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I’ll be waiting. 


It’s getting to be that time, now, when us college seniors attain ninja status and become serious professionals at ducking and rolling out of any conversation that has to do with the F word. The Future. People are all, What are you doing with your life? And, How are you preparing for your career/401k/potential zombie apocalypses? And, partly in preparation for those zombies, we duck and roll away.

I’ll admit it’s because I’m mostly afraid that anything I say won’t be good or cool or future-Pulitzer-material enough for whoever’s asking. So I made a list here instead, of actual things I’ve been up to, none of which will come up in a casual conversation with the relatives over the holidays (unless I add the word ‘law school’ to the end of each sentence). But it’s here, because I’m pretty okay with it all, and it’s been a lot of fun.

Now presenting: An Inconclusive List of Ways I’d Actually Like To Answer “What Are You Doing With Your Life?” Without Giving My Career Counselor A Stroke

 1. Being a dummy.
Or, arguably, a dummie. Last spring, I met a French exchange student who changed my perspective on everything from journalism, Tarantino films and cheese. Over the summer, I bought a copy of “French for Dummies” and have been chiseling away at it with the determination of a rabid Millennial who just wants to understand what that one part in that one Beyoncé song actually says.

2.  Photographing smoothies
There’s this great smoothie and juice shop called Blenders by my apartment that’s converted me into someone who mildly cares about kale, and since September, I’ve had the opportunity to run their Instagram account (follow us at @BlendersComo). It’s been a crash course in social engagement, how local businesses work and my roommates learning not to be perturbed when they come home and find this:

(This is how Mario Testino started out, right?)

(This is how Mario Testino started out, right?)

3.  Self-helping
When my friend Celia sent me James Altucher’s book, “Choose Yourself,” I had a brief traumatic flashback to when my mother used to give me self-help books for Christmas. But I’ve become the most obnoxious proselyte about Altucher now. He’s like this crazy, triple-octane older sibling who’s seen it all and done it all, and convinces you that you can do the same. I finished it a week ago and keep telling my friends I’ll lend them my copy, but in reality I’ve chained it to my nightstand and made it clear it’s never allowed to leave.

4.  Reading bedtime stories
I picked up an old copy of The Missouri Review and The Paris Review from a used bookstore at the beginning of the semester, I think, as literary penance for buying the latest issue of Cosmo at a gas station earlier that day. Reading short stories and poems again revived that preteen dork inside who always flipped to the end of Girl’s Life issues to read the fiction. My favorite story, Ben Fountain’s “The Lion’s Mouth,” is about an aid worker in Sierra Leone who falls in love with a diamond smuggler. Sigh. If only job interviews let you discuss the ethics of diamond smuggling, instead of like, applicable skills.

5.  Butting my head in Maneater affairs
To the current Maneater staff, I’ve officially become the overly excitable, mouth-breathing aunt who just really wants to know every detail about your life. But they’ve been complete gems about my inability to accept Maneater “retirement,” so they’re letting me help a little bit of the 60th Alumni Reunion (does anyone else actually get workshopgasms? No?) and write an occasional article rating the best bars in town. I mean, you know me. Anything for the good of the paper…

Dear incoming freshmen (and others)


It’s a big pond out there.

My brother already hates his literature class. He showed me the syllabus yesterday, which listed titles like “Animal Farm” and “Fahrenheit 451.” The former is of the political satire genre, (which my ¾-college-graduate self learned from a Wikipedia check); the latter, I had read sophomore year in an advanced high school class.

My brother is 13. Thirteen. When I was 13, I had no idea what satire was, much less an adequate grasp of the Russian Revolution, both of which, at least from my Wiki-research, seemed necessary to understand Orwell’s novel. (But maybe memory’s fuzzy, and I’m doing that thing that barely 20-something-year-olds do to separate themselves from the next generation with a diamond-edged paring knife and artificial sense of nostalgia).

But, see, this literature class my brother is in isn’t for all eighth graders. It’s called “power literature,” which means that it’s the advanced level, theoretically designed for the kiddos in middle school who are going to be the next generation’s professional plot diagrammers. My brother hates it. Last year, he struggled in the 7th grade version; this year, he’s already resigned himself to the same, if not worse. Power literature makes him feel stupid.

The thing is, though, he is brilliant. My brother is fucking brilliant. He competes in statewide chess tournaments, plays trombone at selective competitions, watches YouTube videos about friction and gravity, makes hovercrafts out of plastic bottles and treats each year’s science fair like a Christmas Part II. With the help of YouTube videos and kneepads, he taught himself how to skateboard. With the support of my parents, he attended leadership camps in Washington, D.C. and science camps at Purdue University — only to come home, complaining that learning about gears was way “under his league.” He’s amazing.

But he’s not the greatest at writing, or at answering literature comprehension questions, and for that, he comes home feeling like complete shit every school day. So why is he enrolled in power literature, when he could easily coast by in normal literature and have more time to invest in, say, things he’s more into? My parents are part of the reason. Teachers could be another part.

But I think it’s more so this pervading realization that kids these days, even at age 13, are starting to get already: if you’re not on the path of the Master Plan For Personal And Well-Rounded Success, Version 2014, then you’re not doing it right. The Master Plan is unwritten but ubiquitously known: it dictates that being in all the best classes in junior high equals being in all the best classes in high school, which equals getting in the Best College, where you lock in a degree in the major that will land you the Best Job, which then, finally, equals living the Best Life ever after. You do what you have to do. You stick to the plan.


Then, the other evening, I had dinner with a friend whose little sister was about to start college. This little sister was a bright, well-liked girl whom I remember hanging out with, and she was going to a well-respected public university. The thing was, she didn’t know what exactly she wanted to major in, and so she was going to be “undecided.” And so all these people, my friend was telling me, were giving her hell for it. Because being 18 and not knowing exactly what you want to do with your life for the next four (forty?) years is not a part of the Master Plan. It’s indicative of a lack of a Plan at all, and to a society that asks what are you doing with your life more often than how are you, that’s even worse.

You know what? I think the Master Plan is madness.

It’s an assertion that I think, also, is hypocritical, as it is coming from a girl who’s operated on the Master Plan for most of her life so far. See, in the Master Plan, life is a pyramid. To get to the apex of self fulfillment and the perfect retirement, you literally feel compelled, inspired, even, to climb each laborious, mandatory step in order — that is, you get the perfect grades, you apply to the best colleges, you worship devoutly at the Cult of Internships each summer, and you never ever wasting time looking down, for fear of falling. At the top of the pyramid awaited Fulfillment, where, for a long time I believed, you have a job that makes tons of money, lets you come home at 5 p.m. every night, and never allows you deign to eat ramen again, ever.

As long as I can remember, I loved writing. Creative writing. The kind that parents and teachers try to quietly — and then not-so-quietly — nudge you away from, because who the hell even makes money doing that, except J.K. Rowling? So studying journalism was a way to get trained in writing and then be a jumping point to write novels, and maybe television scripts, too. And while I absolutely love journalism and studying strategic communication in the past three years, I know I’ve put all my energy in the past years into classes and internships and the Master Plan, the journalism edition. I wouldn’t touch my novel drafts, or my secret sitcom script, for semesters on end. When I’d tried to pick things up during a brief free moment, I would realize that, like trying to lift with an atrophied muscle, I could barely remember how to construct a good dialogue, or write a plot that wasn’t designed to sell something or fit inside a newspaper.

I would laid lay awake at night, wondering if I’d done it all wrong. Recently, I realized that at the rate things were going, there was no way I would be “successful” in the way I defined it as a starry-eyed 13-year-old who wanted to write books. Along the way, I’ve fallen in love with journalism and advertising, true, but in the same way that you never quite get over your first love, I sometimes still wonder about those poor NaNoWriMo drafts as they rot away in my hard drive.


There’s a ludicrously common theme among the peers I’ve looked up to in the past few years. There’s the girl who maintained a long distance relationship for two years and then became engaged to the guy within a month of his return. There’s the guy who dropped out of college to be the full-time CEO of a construction company he’d started when he was a kid. The friend who didn’t buy into the Master Plan as dictated by the Missouri School of Journalism’s agenda, and went on to find an internship and full-time job at well-respected national newspapers in the ensuing months. The guy who bought art and laid it on his floor to look at, because landlords’ rules about wall hangings didn’t mean he couldn’t enjoy art from a different angle.

The upperclassman who decided to spend his first year out of college repaying student loans and driving trucks, who we all know is going to pull a Hemingway or Steinbeck and end up turning his experiences into the next great American novel. The co-worker who applied to two internships, total, in his entire life, and wound up finding a place at one of the best media companies in the world. The friend who managed a sushi restaurant while studying full-time, and then spent half a year exploring South America. The journalism student who helped come up with the best business idea that the MU Student Center’s ever seen, and also a mobile app that got an appearance on Good Morning America. The young reporter who admired people like Nate Silver and Ezra Klein so much that he decided he would write about them, and convinced one of the best newspapers in the world to give him the tools to do so.

These were people who broke almost every single rule you’re supposed to follow on the Master Plan. They were not cautious. They were not careful. They were not well-rounded. They didn’t do it for a grade. They didn’t look back. They ignored critics.

They walked up to that pyramid of fulfillment, looked at all the pointless, irrelevant steps and knew they didn’t need them. Instead, they wheeled out a cannon, climbed in, and fired themselves out into the sky, reaching great heights on their own terms. They didn’t follow the path. They found what they loved. And fearlessly eschewing our society’s rabid obsession with climbing ladders and relentlessly paying dues, they refused to wait, reaching out, seizing what they knew they wanted.

I hope one day to be so brave.

Future college freshmen, whether you’re starting your journey in higher education in a few weeks or in a few years, don’t set foot on campus thinking that the next four years are the missing link between you and a dream 401K. Give these years — and yourself — more credit than that. College can easily pass for a dance lesson where, if you hit all the right, pre-coordinated dance moves,  you’ll be rewarded with the perfect job and the perfect life. But do not be fooled; there are no real dance moves. You make it up as you go, and if people doing the synchronized macarena stop to watch and hate, then point how how idiotic they look.

If you haven’t found the things you want to live and die for — that is, if you happen to be someone who’s, say,  undecided about all the things you could be good at, celebrate how beautifully wide open your future is. You could be anything. You could be everythingSo treat school as the testing ground that it should be. Try it all. Then, spend as little time as possible on the things you have to do, and more on the things you love to do. Trust yourself. Remember, there are no real dance moves. And if you’ve found your passion, and you know it — you know that you’re amazing at constructing bottle hovercrafts though terrible at constructing literary devices — then be thrilled and celebrate that.  Don’t let anyone — especially not yourself — diminish your passion for fear of unsure futures or lagging behind in the rat race. You make those hovercrafts. This world needs more hovercrafts.

The Thing About Happiness PR

pain perdu

Day 55

Exactly 99 days ago, I started the #100HappyDays challenge, which dares you to post a photo of something that makes you happy, every day, for 100 days. When I first came across this challenge, I was somewhere between stress-Pinteresting mug cake recipes and Googling “inspirational posters with penguins on them,” having felt buried under classwork, the pressure to find an internship and typical 21-year-old What The Hell Am I Doing With My Life terror.

The challenge, hosted by the 100 Happy Days Foundation, promised to make me feel more grateful and, yes, happier, if only I could stick it out the entire time. So I created a Tumblr, posted a photo of an newspaper office meeting and told myself this was like some form of new age journaling.

Over the following months, I posted pictures of loved ones, views, puppies, French toast and fun events. When I sat down every night or so to add to the Tumblr, it did provide a nice moment of reflection, especially if it had been a few days and I had a few photos to make up for. I realized that the things I remembered best from each day that made me happy weren’t getting good grades, or losing weight, or even pay day (well, also, it seemed sketchy to post a photo of my bank routing number online). They were people, places and things like painting or learning a new language that were devoid of obligation or a grading system. In the moments when I felt down, I would scroll through the blog and feel better, as if reminding myself see, look at all this awesome shit you’ve got going on. The 100 Days of Happiness project worked.

At the same time, it changed the way I saw happiness.

While the 100 Happy Days project made me appreciate so many things (and people!) more, I also started to devalue every feeling and moment that wasn’t happy –moments when I was bored to tears building an Excel database for hours at work, moments when I actually was in tears, sometimes, embarrassingly enough, in the office bathroom. I started resenting myself for being someone who couldn’t just be happy all the time. I knew I was #blessed. So how dare that ungrateful lip of mine even think about quivering!

This summer, I put hundreds of miles between me and my closest friends to move to a new city, in a new state. There were a lot of scary, boring, confusing, frustrating, terrifying and downright unhappy moments involved, and it feels weird to skim back through my blog and see absolutely no trace of any of that amongst the foodstagrams and screenshots. And, unless you’re really committed and go look at all the posts, you’ll notice that there’s actually one day that’s missing. In the complete story of the past 100 days, this day would be known as The Absolute Worst Day Ever, but it weren’t for the missing date, you’d never even guess it. So I started thinking about Happiness PR.


Our generation is particularly obsessed with happiness, which is mainly a really good thing. We don’t just want 9-to-5 jobs to pay the bills; we want jobs that actually fulfill us and make the world a better place. We don’t just eat food; we shop for mega-organic uber-vegan products that are supposed to make our lives purer and whole. We take gap years, go abroad, and travel like mad to find ourselves. We rally to Beyoncé’s battle cry of seeking but happiness as our aspiration life. And we enlist Happiness PR to show each other how well we’re doing.

Happiness PR has always been around, but it’s never been more apparent than now, when we have access to the same communications technology as corporations, and vice versa. Our generation especially has become experts at boiling down our messy, imperfect lives into flawless personal brands. Every Facebook photo, tweet and study abroad blog post becomes part of a carefully-designed public relations strategy, whether we admit it or not, designed to create perceptions about ourselves. Even that Tumblr I made and this portfolio website, too, is no worse nor better than a corporate news release or PR stunt.

I don’t think there’s anything unnatural about Happiness PR, because I mean, just as I want to know about Starbucks selling fair trade coffee and Taylor Swift visiting kids with cancer in hospitals, I want to know what’s making my friends and family happy, and I want to know they’re doing well with their job/relationship/school/Candy Crush. But I think one of the biggest problems with Happiness PR is that unhappiness has no place in it.

A YouTube video released earlier this summer shows, there’s a problem with all of us only selectively showing the peaks of our lives, when in reality, there’s a hella lot of valleys going on in between. Unfortunately for us, a thinking heuristic makes us automatically assume that a sample (aka what we see on social media) is representative of the whole (aka, the quality of our friends’ actual lives).

The irony here, of course, is that doing Happiness PR kind of makes everyone else unhappy as they’re comparing 100% of their lives to the top 20-30% of yours shown online. And then it makes them ashamed for being unhappy, because as far as the smiling photos and Snapchats go, no one else feels that way.

The other problem, as I encountered with the 100 Happy Days project, is that Happiness PR makes unhappy moments seem… unimportant. Moments like getting rejected, getting over someone, feeling alone, dropping toast butter-side down and thinking you’re never going to succeed – those moments really, really suck, but these are the experiences that make us strong and driven and passionate (and more careful with our toast the next day). To deny the inherent worth of those moments is to reject a huge part of our lives, and ourselves.

So, to combat Happiness PR, should we just post things like “She broke up with me today” or “I can’t open my Nutella jar, and I actually cried because I am that hungry”? I don’t think that’s necessarily the answer. As that Higton Bros video shows, we’re typically not interested in opening our news feed and seeing hundreds of people griping left and right. Psychologically, too, it’s just as bad of an idea to surround yourself in other people’s misery as it is to surround yourself with things to envy.

But I don’t think that means we as a population don’t want to hear about each others’ problems, period. Humans of New York, for example posts magnificent photos of average people talking about the heartbreaking and frustrating things they’re going through, and it has done a great job of bringing everyone on the Internet together in a big well-lit group hug. Celebrating struggle without bringing anyone down – that’s what we as future professional storytellers and human beings should work toward.

The first step, then, to combating the problems of Happiness PR, is to realize that Happiness PR exists, and that like any PR strategy cooked up by professionals paid by clients, it has its benefits and its limits. It doesn’t tell the whole story. As uber-savvy consumers, we’re well practiced at calling bullshit on big corporations, and as humans in civilization, we should be better at looking at social media with some of that same – not skepticism, per se, because I don’t believe we’re all just faking happiness to trick each other – but maybe awareness. Awareness that the photo your best friend took in front of the Eiffel Tower is not proof that her life is completely perfect and yours is shit; it’s just her celebrating being abroad, and off that cramped 10-hour flight. Awareness, on a personal level, that that #100HappyDays Tumblr I made is a nice record of happy things, not a comprehensive representation of my most recent 100 days.

The obvious second step after that, of course, is to take advantage of our persona, private interactions to help each other recognize and appreciate all parts of our lives.

Being happy is important. It is so important. It is, many argue, the point of this whole shebang. But what this project has made me realize is that it’s important to find meaning in our happiness. In order to find meaning, we have to also welcome and appreciate the less than picture-perfect moments. Not a novel discovery by any means, but 100 days of rather acute ups and downs have given me a lot to think about. Because while those unsavory, unhappy moments hurt, and they don’t look cute on Tumblr, they’re part of the package deal. And it’s a pretty great package deal, all things considered.