One for the Books: Feature w/ Volume Twenty

Founders of Volume Twenty Make Reading Interesting and Accessible for Millennials

Adrienne (L) and Diamonde (R), founders of Volume Twenty
Adrienne (L) and Diamonde (R), founders of Volume Twenty

“I just want to drop this [quote] and sprinkle it with fairy dust for all of my cousins who are inundating my feeds with booty-popping selfies. Pick up a damn book. Please.”

That was one of my Instagram captions awhile ago, evidence of my frustration with a Facebook news feed filled with more bare bodies than signs of functioning brains. But for friends and roommates Adrienne Colman and Diamonde Williamson, they have channeled that desire for young women (and millennials in general) to read into something much more substantial than an Instagram caption.

Adrienne and Diamonde are the founders of Volume Twenty, a site where they not only sell and recommend books, but also seek to whet twenty-somethings’ appetites to read.

“Millennials aren’t reading because it’s always been required,” says Diamonde, referring to required reading throughout everyone’s years in school. “Plus, people are busy with work and school and simply don’t have the time to read.”

cVWda6N7_400x400However, one of the goals of Volume Twenty is to make reading fun, so it seems like less of a task or undertaking. Adrienne and Diamonde break down how many pages you’ll need to read a day to finish a book in a month. And while walking through a bookstore or even hopping on Amazon can feel daunting if you don’t know quite what you’re looking for, Volume Twenty provides a varied list in its shop that is easy to digest.

Additionally, Volume Twenty connects reading to navigating through one’s twenties in a smoother and much more intentional way.

“The more you read, the more you develop ideas about yourself,” says Diamonde. “You become a better conversationalist and you’re smarter.”

Adrienne and Diamonde also just started “Circle of Genius”, Volume Twenty’s monthly book club with selections focused on different aspects of a twenty-something’s life including finance, entrepreneurship or, as the site says, “how to just be awesome right now.” Readers can purchase a month-to-month subscription or bulk subscriptions.

So, what books are on Adrienne and Diamonde’s list of recommendations?

Adrienne

Rich Dad, Poor Dad: What the Rich Dads Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not by Robert Kiyosaki

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Room by Emma Donoghue

Diamonde

A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course In Miracles” by Marianne Williamson

The Gift of Change: Spiritual Guidance for Living Your Best Life by Marianne Williamson

Enchanted Love: The Mystical Power of Intimate Relationships by Marianne Williamson

The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael Singer

Adrienne and Diamonde

Secrets of the Millionaire Mind: Mastering the Inner Game of Wealth by T. Harv Eker

To learn more Volume Twenty, check out www.volumetwenty.com and be sure to follow the site on Instagram @volumetwenty.

 

Review of GenTwenty’s Guide to College Success + A Big TU Announcement

Note: The review in this post is written in partnership with GenTwenty. Opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

There’s a quote I love in Amy Poehler’s “Yes Please” when she writes about being a writer in the middle of developing her book and making the mistake of asking published writers for advice.

“I made other terrible mistakes while I tried to write this book. I asked people who have already finished books for advice, which is akin to asking a mother with a four-year-old what childbirth is like. All the edges have been rounded and they have forgotten the pain.”

Guide to College Success ImageWhen I think back to my college days and even the earliest post-grad ones, I feel like that published writer or seasoned mom. My edges have been rounded and I’ve certainly forgotten the pain (and pleasure for that matter). But, I got to take a trip down memory lane when I read “GenTwenty’s Guide to College Success.”

Perhaps the grand disclaimer is that there is not any one definitive guide for college success, as is the case for any era, path or finite season in life. But, there are certainly words of wisdom to inherit from those who have been there, done that and are sporting the battle wounds to prove it. That’s what “GenTwenty’s Guide to College Success” is all about. The book came together under the creation and direction of GenTwenty’s founder Nicole Booz with the work of more than a dozen contributors.

I approached this book from many different perspectives–former college kid, (somewhat) recent grad and blogger/writer. Based on those three outlooks, here are some of my thoughts about the book as well as my favorite picks of essays in the book most related to that particular identity.

Former college kid perspective
Admittedly it’s tough to channel the wayward soul I was in college, but I do think if I were still a student, this book would be incredibly helpful. It covers the gamut in terms of the many issues that pop up in college and the potential shitstorms that follow. From choosing a major to studying abroad and even the ins and outs of small talk when you’re at networking events, the book offers up something for most scenarios in college. And, it also does so in a straightforward, digestible and relatable way. It’s way too easy for those have already endured the college experience to patronize students still in school, and I appreciate that “GenTwenty’s Guide to College Success” doesn’t do that.

My fave picks for current college students:

“Step 1A: Fueling Your Passions (And Not Your Parents’)
“Step 2: Creating Your X Year Plan” (especially the bit about not relying on college advisors to make decisions for you, yes!)
“Step 19: College Money Traps And How To Avoid Them

Recent graduate perspective
College students are definitely the target demographic for this book, but there are also gems for those just entering the hurricane that is post-grad life, particularly in the final “Planning For Your Future” section. The same way there is not a roadmap for college success, there also isn’t one for early adulthood, but there are definitely things I wish I knew more about ahead of time.

My fave picks for recent graduates

“Step 22: Understanding The Basics Of Credit And How To Build Yours”  (in the student finances section)
“Establishing Your Personal Brand”
“Building An Organic Mentor Relationship”

Blogger/writer perspective
Ironically enough, “GenTwenty’s Guide To College Success” resonates with me most as a blogger and writer–not because of any of the essays in the book, but because of how this book represents the clear sense of direction and brand awareness Nicole has for GenTwenty. There are a lot of books Nicole could have opted to publish, but this one is completely in sync with the mass of her audience. It’s organized well, easy to read and anchored with a solid cover design. A product like that will continue to propel GenTwenty’s brand.

My fave picks for bloggers/writers
“Managing Your Professional Twitter Account”
“Creating An Online Portfolio”
“Your Quick Speech: The Elevator Pitch”

If I could change anything?
The one thought I had while reading was that it would be cool if each essay had a suggested age/college year that piece was targeted toward. Something like “Recommended for Freshmen/Sophomores” italicized below the title or “Recommended for all.” The book is chock full of great tips, but everything isn’t always for everyone. That breakdown would make an already-wonderful book even more organized. Maybe we’ll see it for the second edition!

Much applause to Nicole and the GenTwenty team for a solid and well-done product. Head over to Amazon to purchase the book for a whopping $11.45 dollars!

And, now for a Twenties Unscripted announcement…

Spring 2015: Introducing the Twenties Unscripted Campus Reps Program!

I’m excited to officially launch and announce the Twenties Unscripted Campus Reps Program! In an effort to increase brand visibility and readership among college-age women, I’m expanding the tribe this year to include Campus Reps. Campus Reps will be my go-to girls, helping me to keep a pulse on what’s happening across campuses and how TU can be a part of that. They will keep my old ass young. And I love them for that.

To learn more about the program and apply, click here!

campus reps program flyer

‘Not That Kind of Girl’: Lena Dunham Offends and Delights

Guest Post by Dana Sukontarak

After reading ‘Not That Kind of Girl,’ the collection of personal essays she released in September, I was more or less in the same space regarding my feelings toward Lena Dunham. The book was essentially the literary counterpart to her hit HBO series GIRLS, which explores the tremulous experiences of twenty-somethings trying to reconcile the comforts and ease of their childhood with the pains and brutality of growing up and trying to find some slice of success. In NTKOG, Dunham takes a less general approach, and directly divulges her personal tales of everything from bad diets and body image to self-destructive relationships and gray-area sexual encounters. It should come as no surprise that Dunham is an open book. Much like her GIRLS character, Hannah Horvath, Dunham is arguably spoiled, misguided, self-centered, and aggressively annoying. She is not a child molester, as one severe reach-a-saurus put it in a recent article—one that not only decimates the principles of journalism but also taints the way someone who hasn’t read the book will digest the material, if they even decide that they want to read it at all.

In the book, Dunham describes looking into her one-year-old sister’s vagina, her curiosity about the female anatomy overpowering her. Dunham herself is seven (which the article originally, and erroneously, stated as seventeen), and immediately runs to her mom. It turns out her little sister had stuffed a handful of pebbles into her vagina—it’s an unconventional story, but don’t we all have a couple of those in our arsenal? The article also misuses quotes from Dunham’s book to paint a very grim picture: “…anything a sexual predator might do to woo a small suburban girl I was trying.” This is what we call a metaphor.

NTKOGIn reality, Dunham is obviously very troubled. But she seems to have a pretty solid grasp on the extent of that trouble. She is clearly intelligent and witty, though she tends to opt for paunchy puns over political correctness. That said, it is damn near impossible to form a valid opinion about Dunham—whether about her molester status, or her creative influence, or the Venn diagram of her reality and her artistic repertoire—without first reading her book in its entirety. Because this twisted exposition of one of Dunham’s childhood memories has cast a shadow over other discussions she prompts with this book, I think it’s only fair to provide a holistic interpretation of what really can be found in these 262 pages.

Reading Dunham’s memoirs confirmed one thing for me—if you’re looking for a sweet, healthy, levelheaded female role model, Dunham’s not that kind of girl. Rather, she’s the kind of girl who treats herself like a science experiment, fucking all the unsavory losers she can and eating baby spoonfuls of cottage cheese for dinner so that you don’t have to. You can simply read about her experiences of being used and abused by misogynist, artsy types (hello, Adam), and about her horribly awkward childhood recollections (telling an adult at a party that when she misbehaves, her father “sticks a fork in [her] vagina”), and about all the weird, unsettling things she did while at Oberlin (apparently the ideal college experience for someone raised by a couple of sexual, open-minded semi-beatniks living in Brooklyn).

NTKOG pulls the reader into the existence of a privileged, prosciutto-eating kid who was raised to speak her mind (sometimes beyond social norms) and was once, according to her, obsessed with her own beauty. It’s strange, yet completely understandable, how this translated into the woman Dunham is today—ambitious, often self-deprecating (under the guise of good old-fashioned humor and the virtues of not taking one’s self so seriously), and absolutely fine with being nude on TV (despite critics who have viciously chastised her Baby Cupid-esque body, as well as her directorial decisions to often display it completely exposed on her show). She definitely delights the reader in small ways—describing her little sister’s style as that of a “Hawaiian criminal,” for example.

Although flippant about some very grave issues, Dunham does provide some very poignant moments of clarity and advice, including this segment about self-worth: “When someone shows you how little you mean to them and you keep coming back for more, before you know it you start to mean less to yourself. You are not made up of compartments! You are one whole person! What gets said gets said to all of you, ditto what gets done. Being treated like shit is not an amusing game or a transgressive intellectual experiment. It’s something you accept, condone, and learn to believe you deserve. This is so simple. But I tried so hard to make it complicated.”

For me, the most powerful—and awkward—chapter of the book comes in the first section (of five total), ‘Love and Sex.’ It is simply titled “Barry,” and recounts a drunken college experience in which she is kinda raped (getting fucked in a half-conscious stupor while egging him on as sort of a way to “own” a situation she didn’t want to admit she had no control over), and laughs off friends who vocally identify this as rape. Dunham appears to have a shifting understanding of this situation over time, though she doesn’t quite spell it out. She leaves a lot of space for readers to create conjectures—sometimes that means people will label her as a child molester, but mostly it means people will see that Dunham is still learning and growing (and even failing) despite reaching this level of success in her life and her career.

If read as a “how-to” book, NTKOG is a bomb waiting to detonate all over your life. However, if taken simply as a collection of perhaps-embellished stories from the warped mind of a quirky egoist, designed to prevent you from the same downfalls, the book is something like a gem. If nothing else, Dunham will make you feel good about not being “that” girl—the pristine, poised one, the one that’s got it all together. She knows that, mostly, girls her age are (sorta) just like her: looking to live, love, learn, and feel.

Dana

 

Dana is 25 and living just outside of the nation’s capital in Hyattsville, Md. She is a Journalism graduate of the University of Maryland College Park. Some of her favorite things include snail mail, vacations, and great literature.

Writing, Inspiration And A Little In Between: Chat With Amber Janae

“Writers write.” Perhaps someone who embodies that most is Amber Janae, an author and blogger who has now successfully self-published four books. Amber Janae writes in many different forms–poetry, non-fiction and fiction–and through her stories, encourages women to remain inspired and encouraged. I had a chance to talk with Amber Janae a few weeks ago to talk about her creative process, how she worked through self-publishing and what she hopes to provide women with her message. 

How did you get started writing?
My mother was an aspiring author when I was growing up. Till this day in the home office there are plenty of books on how to be a successful author. I guess the writing gene came naturally for me. I have been writing since the age of 12 or 13. It wasn’t until reading Tupac Shakur’s “The Rose That Grew from The Concrete” that I was inspired to write poetry. I still have every piece I have ever written from then up until now.

You have successfully self-published four books. Can you tell us a little more about the self-publishing process? (i.e. how long it takes to publish the book from start to finish, what your writing process is like, etc.) 
My first book took me a little more than five to six years to complete it. I had a vision for many years and I worked around my schedule whenever I could to create a book that was captivating and worth reading. When the writing is complete, it’s pretty much a huge weight that is lifted off of my shoulders. And then the fun part begins! Editing, cover designs, and formatting typically only take about two to three months for me. I’ve always done editing myself; however, I will send the final draft off to get professionally edited just to have a second set of eyes on the job.

I also design all of my book covers on my own. It takes a lot of time to format the interior of the book to make it look presentable to my readers. After everything is 100% in order and complete, I send it off to a partner company to be printed up and the book is born. As time goes on, the writing process has been smoother and has gone faster with each book that I write. It is all dependent on ones writing process, being inspired to write and the true commitment to the project(s).

What is the biggest misconception people have about self-published authors? 
The biggest misconception is people assume that it’s easy putting yourself out there and the success and notoriety are instantaneous. Self-publishing is a huge risk, and it’s basically an author with a goal trying to build a name for themselves all on their own. It’s not easy; instant success isn’t promised at all. It takes so much time and effort to successfully market your brand while striving to be a respected author. The journey is never ending and it is the furthest thing from easy.

amber janae
Amber Janae

What is the best writing advice you have ever received?
The best writing advice I’ve ever received was: “If you’re in it for the money you’ll always be broke. Keep producing quality bodies of work and stop worrying about the numbers. The numbers will eventually pile up, but the focus should be your work and creativity. When the work is there, it will eventually be noticed and over time the consistency and commitment will pay off.”  To me worrying about the numbers, how much it’s selling and who is buying is a distraction. It can be a bit of a discouragement as well. My first piece wasn’t a NYT Bestseller, neither was the second or third, but I aspire to get there one day soon. The only way I will achieve that is by continuing to create the work my readers love and not worry about the numbers or the profits.

On your blog, you recently wrote a post entitled, “A Look Inside The Brand: WhoIsAmberJane” where you talked about seeing one of your books in Barnes and Noble. Can you describe what that moment was like for you?
I almost didn’t know how to feel when I first saw my book on shelves in Barnes and Noble. I had so many mixed emotions. I was proud, nervous and anxious. I was just a wreck. But, I allowed myself to celebrate in that moment and let it all sink in. I knew that it was only the beginning of what is to come on my journey. Seeing my book on shelves solidified that more moments like that are promised in the near future.

You’ve written different genres including fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Is there a genre you prefer? Is there one that comes more naturally to you than the others? 
Poetry definitely comes more naturally for me than anything else. If I had to choose among the three I would choose fiction. Fiction is the only genre that I can write using real life issues and send inspiring messages through fictional characters, while still making it entertaining. The goal is for my readers to be entertained, but it’s also important that they catch the underlying messages I give through these fictional characters lives. Its deep, I hope they feel it!

Give us a “cliff notes” version of each of your books.  
Sacrifices Love and Deception is a fiction anthology that takes place in modern-day times. It’s compiled of five short stories that are all full of drama and suspense. Because it features so many stories, I’ll share; Hellacious Love which is the first story in the book. It is a love story about a couple, Marcus (Butta) and Arianna. You get an inside look on how their different lifestyles collide. Marcus knew Arianna was the one from the first day he laid eyes on her. Over time the two fall in love. Marcus (Butta) learns later on in the relationship that his better half has secrets that connect their lifestyles more than he ever imagined. He begins to wonder if he can trust her. Marcus is unaware that loving a woman of Arianna’s caliber is dangerous. There was a story behind Arianna that she hid very well from Marcus. Women like Ariana are very easy to love and even harder to get rid of. She had a manipulative charm about her that Marcus couldn’t say no to. Someone in this equation would eventually end up hurt by the other. It would take them falling in love, dealing with Infidelity, dishonesty, mistrust and a drastic turn of events to figure out which of the two would end up scarred forever. The entire book is an emotional roller coaster. These stories are full of twists, and turns that are sure to keep you on the edge of your seats until the very end.

A Woman’s Quest to Self-Love is a self-help book that I wrote to share my journey to loving myself completely. I talk in-depth about my struggles with depression, suicide, body image, being bullied, terrible friendships and relationships and so much more. I knew when I started writing I wanted to be a voice for women and young girls to speak life and words of encouragement into them. I feel like with this book I’ve successfully accomplished that and more. My intentions were to spread the message that no matter what obstacles you face you can bounce back and overcome them all. All of my years of pain inspired me to start on my quest to self-love. Years ago I was in a space where I was tired of the pain and self-pity and I knew I had to do something about it. When you’re tired of being mistreated or mistreating yourself, you step your game up and start wanting more from not just the people around you but from you too. The quest to self-love is a never ending journey. I find new things about myself that I love every day. I wrote this book to inspire women across the world to do the same.

The Root: A Compilation of Poetry is my third book. I wanted to release a project that was close to where writing all began for me. Poetry is the root of where it all started and I wanted to put this book together to showcase my development as a poet throughout the years. “The Root” has 41 poems. Throughout the book, you’ll read poems about losing love, and finding love, self-love and self-respect. I wanted to incorporate a variety of poems in the books so that those who read will always have a piece to reference back to fit their mood. The Root is one of those books that tugs at the soul and captures the heart.

What advice would you offer to aspiring authors? 
My only advice is to be inspired, be encouraged and be blessed. Being an author means finding all different sources of inspiration constantly. Be inspired and stay inspired. It takes a lot to write a book and deal with all of the other logistics that comes with it. You’ll need a tremendous amount of encouragement to stay on course, but it can be done. Whatever it is that you do, however many books you write, always remember to be blessed. Celebrate your blessings and celebrate the fact that you’re able to be a blessing through your words.

What keeps you inspired? 
A person giving up on me is what keeps inspires me. Somewhere in that crazy equation I find the strength to keep going. It’s the doubt of others and their disbelief in what I am capable of that fuels me and inspires me to keep moving forward always.

Amber Janae is an author and blogger who currently resides in San Francisco, CA. Her overall goal and message is to inspire others to know that there is hope and recovery after any pain you’ve experienced throughout life. You are not your circumstances, there’s always room to overcome them and be great. Follow Amber Janae on Twitter at @WhoIsAmberJanae

Brunch, Blogs And Books Recap: Say Your Blog And Be Proud

About half way through April, I wanted to cancel this event. I started planning “Brunch, Blogs And Books: Going From Blogger To Published Author” before I even finished the infamous showcase. It seemed like a great idea. I was riding the high of a sold-out event so I grabbed my superwoman cape and started to plan another one. But, despite my aggressive online marketing and incessant social media plugs, the event wasn’t selling. I kept waiting for Eventbrite order notifications to hit my email inbox, but they crawled in at a glacial pace. I emailed people. Texted friends. Reached out to Meetup blogger and book groups. I even resorted to Facebook’s antiquated event invitations that no one notices. Clearly, I was desperate. I started to doubt my vision for the event and worried that maybe I had created something that seemed perfect to me (mimosas, bloggers and book talk…yes, please) but that wouldn’t appeal to enough of an audience.

But, I couldn’t turn back. I had invited one of my favorite bloggers Alida Nugent aka The Frenemy from NYC to speak. I had a room booked at a restaurant. I had ordered a fly Asos dress. You do not turn back after you have an Asos dress.

And, then, the event sold out.

OK, it didn’t happen that quickly. But, it did sell out. Last week, ticket sales picked up at warp speed and by Saturday morning, I was pulling up my Over app to post the words “Sold out” over the event flyer.

Here are some highlights and gems of wisdom from our #brunchblogsbooks hashtag:

Panelists: Alida Nugent of “The Frenemy” and author of “Don’t Worry, It Gets Worse“, Lindsay Deutsch of USA Today and GG Renee Hill of “All The Many Layers” and author of “The Beautiful Disruption

“If you feel an urge to write a book, listen to it. Don’t wait until you’re ready. You’ll never be ready.” GG 

“I think you can write really personal stuff and not have it invade your life.” Alida

“Reading a blog is passive. Buying a book is a commitment.” Lindsay

“A contract is a scary thing. I thought I knew the English language before I had to read my contract.” Alida

Brunch Blogs Books 3
(Left to right) Alida, Lindsay and GG. Oh, and me.

“Blogging mantra: your best friends want to know who you had sex with. The world wants to know why.” Alida

“If the word ‘controversial’ is put in front of your work, that’s a good thing.” Lindsay

“With self-publishing, you have complete creative control. But, you also have to keep promoting yourself.” GG

“The Internet is wide open right now.” Lindsay

“There’s something you have to say that hasn’t been said yet. Figure out what that is and say it.” Alida

“Shut up the voice in your head that tells you that you suck. And just do it.” GG

Many pieces of wisdom flew around the room during yesterday’s event and maybe the one that most encompasses my feelings about this event was when Alida said, “Get out of your comfort zone. Say your blog and be proud of it.” Sometimes I still feel like an impostor in the writing world and wonder who the hell I think I am by branching out to do events on behalf of my blog. But, somehow, that doubt doesn’t outweigh how just how much faith I have in Twenties Unscripted and the unbelievable amount of support I’ve received. I had friends in the room who traveled from out of state. Friends who were tired as hell and could have used a Sunday afternoon nap. Women (and one brave guy) I had never met. Women I had only connected with on Twitter before that day. The room was filled with pure goodness, love and an insane amount of wit and laughs.

I am so happy I did not cancel.

Xoxo,

Tyece

P.S. For photos from the event, click here.