International Creative Strategist
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inspiration

The key to creating, much like writing, is to never stop. Never stop thinking, scheming, writing, and looking for inspiration. That's why I've decided to include an "Inspiration" section. If not only to have a place to organize years of bookmarked inspiration, but to also share what keeps my mind — and heart —motivated to create. 

Storytelling with data // Mona Chalabi

Oh data. How we love it, breathe it… plan our futures around it! It’s considered the new oil, for crying out loud!

And, contrary to what Liza Minnelli‘s Cabaret song would have you believe, money does not, in fact, make the world go round, but rather data. (Which is used to make money but let’s continue with the topic at hand, ok? Cool!) Data = dollars

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But oh my data. The way it’s presented. Charts on charts on charts. Never told as a story. But data is one big story! Isn’t that exciting? I get excited when I think about it. But as numbers and I don’t mix so well, it can be overwhelming.

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Data journalist Mona Chalabi turns data into stories, charts included! And it is wonderful. I love her approach — how story comes through and makes you want to look into the data, not just glaze over at the sight of numbers (guilty, as charged).

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When you marry data and creativity, and see that there are so many ways to tell a story, it’s a beautiful thing, literally.

Forwarded Friday // Volume 4.
 
 
Interesting, bizarre, fun, and sometimes just random internet finds that I’ve forwarded to friends, family, or colleagues, this week…

Interesting, bizarre, fun, and sometimes just random internet finds that I’ve forwarded to friends, family, or colleagues, this week…

 
 
 

Ooh a literary take on the Oscars! Sign. Me. Up. Once again, LitHub proves to be one of my favorite daily web stops.

“The only question is: what should the statues look like? Little golden Maya Angelous? Globular Hemingways? Teetering book towers? Our nominations for the imaginary 2018 Academy Awards for Books are below—and since, just like the real Academy Awards, all these categories are based on taste and leave off a lot of fine contenders, feel free to nominate any and all of your missing favorites in the comments.”



I still need to post my review of John Carreyrou’s incredible book Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup about Elizabeth Holmes. It’s absolutely W-I-L-D. The Theranos story manages to get weirder and weirder, which I really did not think was possible. But alas, Vanity Fair came through with their latest piece about what Elizabeth has been up to since the it all came to a proverbial head.

“Yet through all of this, former employees of the company have told me, Holmes had a bizarre way of acting like nothing was wrong. Even more peculiarly, she appeared happy. “The company is falling apart, there are countless indictments piling up, employees are leaving in droves, and Elizabeth is just weirdly chipper,” a former senior executive told me. One former board member also noted that Holmes would come to board meetings “chirpy” and acting as if everything was “great.” She would walk up to people in the office who could have just testified in front of the S.E.C., or been questioned by lawyers at the F.D.A., and she would give them a hug and ask how they were doing. She was so confident that the company would be fine, executives who worked with her said, that she enrolled Balto [her dog] in a search-and-rescue program. Holmes spent weekends training him to find people in an emergency. Unfortunately, huskies are not bred for rescue; they are long-distance runners, and Balto failed out.”


In college I remember learning about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and it really blew my mind — such a simple concept that rings so true. So it was rad when I came across the “Ladder of Needs” early this week. The “Ladder of Needs,” in a similar vein of Maslow’s pyramid, calls attention to Flourishing Needs. After Core and Comfort Needs, Flourishing Needs offer businesses new opportunity with consumers.

“The big prediction for the coming century is that enormous opportunities will open up for businesses that can skillfully address our Flourishing Needs. Technology, the wealth of nations and the shift in public taste will make this very likely. A great many of the multi-billion dollar companies of the future will be those focused on the fullfilment of flourishing needs: our need for self-knowledge around love, our desire for a satisfying social life, or our need for resilience. Bits of the tech sector are already nibbling at the borderline between Comfort and Flourishing needs, a trend aided by the forthcoming development of Artificial Emotional Intelligence. This, rather than the economies of developing nations, are what constitute the truly ‘emerging markets’ of the future.”


Coming from a family engineers, I always feel a bit like an outlier as I have more of an affinity for words than numbers. So happening upon this beautiful piece on the genius of Ada Lovelace and her “poetical science”, I was thrilled. When it comes to famous people I’d want to have dinner with (living or dead), Ada is at the top of my list.

“Ada Lovelace’s search for beauty in the rational and the logical is an approach from which we have a lot to learn. The fusion between two areas previously thought opposite such as the technical sciences and the humanities is what creates the most charming things — but I have already discussed this. Most of all, the search for poetry within the sciences is not a weird and unexpected fusion experiment as much as an exploration of the most human of traits: curiosity, desire for exploration, awe in front of ‘the great facts of the natural world’.”


There are zero directors nominated this year that are female. That sentence sounds wonky to a native ear, but I think it’s true that it’s strange a female who happens to be a director is almost always referred to as a “female director.” It’s a bit sexist. Much like the, often problematic, Academy Awards. Filmmaker Shaina Feinberg explains this issue poignantly in her illustrated article.

“And until the numbers even out, I will be staging my own protest by referring to all male filmmakers as male filmmakers.”

 

 

Cartoon of the Week

 
New Yorker Cartoon, Issue:  February 18 & 25, 2019

New Yorker Cartoon, Issue: February 18 & 25, 2019

 
#annareadsthis: ‘How To Be A Person In The World’ by Heather Havrilesky
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Seeing as how a version of Pizza Hut’s BOOK IT! program is yet to be created for adults, I’ve created my own of sorts…

Except it doesn’t involve pizza of any kind. Or any rewards. Or the satisfying pin to wear with pride upon completion. This is all to say I’m going to read books and log them here. (Until I can get my greedy pizza paws on one of those pins…) A few quotes that stuck out to me. Easy peasy. (Time sadly doesn’t allow for me to write reviews. As much as I would love to do exactly that. Someday. Promise.)

First up…

On modern living…

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On allowing ourselves to be human…

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On embracing the messiness of life…

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To twinkling and twinges, indeed.

Anna A.books, wise words, authors
Agnes Dene’s Wheatfield — A confrontation
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“In May 1982, a 2-acre wheat field was planted on a landfill in lower Manhattan, two blocks from Wall Street and the World Trade Center, facing the Statue of Liberty.

Two hundred truckload of dirt were brought in and 285 furrows were dug by hand and cleared of rocks and garbage. The seeds were sown by hand and the furrows covered with soil. the field was maintained for four months, cleared of wheat smut, weeded, fertilized and sprayed against mildew fungus, and an irrigation system set up. the crop was harvested and yielded over 1000 pounds of healthy, golden wheat.

 
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Planting and harvesting a field of wheat on land worth $4.5 billion created a powerful paradox. Wheatfield was a symbol, a universal concept; it represented food, energy, commerce, world trade, and economics. It referred to mismanagement, waste, world hunger and ecological concerns. It called attention to our misplaced priorities. The harvested grain traveled to twenty-eight cities around the world in an exhibition called "The International Art Show for the End of World Hunger". The seeds were carried away by people who planted them in many parts of the globe.

 
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A questionnaire was composed of existential questions concerning human values, the quality of life, and the future of humanity. The responses were primarily from university students in various countries where I spoke or had exhibitions of my work. Within the context of the time capsule the questionnaire functioned as an open system of communication, allowing our descendants to evaluate us not so much by the objects we created—as is customary in time capsules—but by the questions we asked and how we responded to them. The microfilm was desiccated and placed in a steel capsule inside a heavy lead box in nine feet of concrete. A plaque marks the spot: at the edge of the Indian forest, surrounded by blackberry bushes. The time capsule is to be opened in 2979, in the 30th century, a thousand years from the time of the burial. There are, still within the framework of this project, several time capsules planned on earth and in space, aimed at various time frames in the future.”

— Agnes Denes

Hungarian artist, pioneer of environ H/T @gotagirlcrush

 
Anna A.
Forwarded Friday // Volume 3.
 
 
Interesting, bizarre, fun, and sometimes just random internet finds that I’ve forwarded to friends, family, or colleagues, this week…

Interesting, bizarre, fun, and sometimes just random internet finds that I’ve forwarded to friends, family, or colleagues, this week…

 
 
 
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I’ve been in the “blogosphere” for more than a decade and it’s been a wild ride that honestly gets weirder by the day — and the latest drama does not disappoint. Influencer Caroline Calloway’s “workshop” is making headlines as the first big viral scam of 2019. W Magazine writer Andrea Park reported from the trenches.

“After lunch, Calloway returned to retelling her life story for another 30 minutes, under the guise of talking about the importance of physical and mental health, and turning your hardships into art, then declared that it was time to take individual photos with each attendee. Calloway had promised in the event listing that she would be teaching attendees her "secret" to making flower crowns out of orchids, but when it was my turn to take photos with her and learn this secret, she merely clipped an orchid that had been attached to a butterfly clip (and then reused on every single attendee) behind my ear, and whispered, The secret to flower crowns is there is no secret.’”


What do The Gap, Brady Bunch, Monty Python, The Internet, The Moon, & 45 other things have in common? They’re all celebrating their 50th(!) birthday this year. I was surprised by so many of those included — I never realized how long some things have been around.

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GRITTY

One of the best things to come out of 2018 is undisputedly Gritty. Who is Gritty? You ask? Grab a cup of tea and read about this national treasure’s birth story.

“According to Gritty's official bio, the slack-jawed, muppet-mouthed creature was a reclusive subterranean being before construction disturbed his secret dwelling underneath the Wells Fargo Center and forced him to the surface. Fathered by a "bully," Gritty inherited some aggressive tendencies and a general bumptious demeanor but is fiercely loyal to his team and their fans, who swiftly grew to love their big nightmare boy.”


Along with seemingly the rest of the Netflix-watching world, I’ve been obsessed with sorting out what does and not spark joy in my home thanks to Marie Kondo’s hit show, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. It’s such a simple concept, and coming from the US, the episodes resonate with me immensely. Houses in the Midwest have far more unused space than any home I’ve been in in Europe , and therefore, we have a lot more places to stick stuff: ergo, collect unnecessary things. Town & Country spoke with the organizing guru and I just wish she and I could be BFF already.

“Kondo: I have a secret for raising our joy level for things we know we need but that fail to excite us: shower them with praise. Let the items know that while they may not inspire joy, you really need them. For example, to a remote control, you can say, “Thank you for supporting our family’s evening bonding time.” Or “I appreciate your sleek design. Thanks for always being there to help me relax when I need a break.”

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Beloved poet Mary Oliver passed away earlier this week at the age of 83. Her words and poems have been written on my heart since I discovered her in high school. What an amazing soul we had to say goodbye to — How lucky are we that she shared her wondrous words with us.

“Oliver published ‘Our World,’ a collection of Cook’s photographs interwoven with her own writings on their life together, in 2007, two years after Cook’s death. In it, she wrote, “The end of life has its own nature, also worth our attention. I don’t say this without reckoning in the sorrow, the worry, the many diminishments. But surely it is then that a person’s character shines or glooms.”

 

 
 

Cartoon of the Week

New Yorker Cartoon, January 16, 2019

New Yorker Cartoon, January 16, 2019

An interview with: The Pound Project founder JP Watson
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One of my favorite modern writers, Dolly Alderton, brought The Pound Project to my attention earlier this fall on her Instagram.

Dolly published an exclusive book with The Pound Project for their third installation of the project. I immediately was intrigued and as soon as I read more about the project, I was hooked:

The Pound Project is a professional publishing company that puts writers and readers first.

Each month we publish a beautiful new short story online, in audio, and in print.

We campaign one pound at a time. And when we meet our targets, we pay our writers.

This is central to our mission, because too often their talent goes unrewarded.

We also hold writing workshops and work with educational institutions to help other writers hone their craft, and run reading events where we share our exceptional content live.

I signed up for Dolly’s book, Hopeless Romantic, and when I got my digital copy (for a mere £!) it was so lovely that I was really bummed I hadn’t bought the print version. (Lucky for me they did a special Christmas reprint and I was able to get one for just 5£!)

I was so impressed I had to learn more. And once a journalist, always a journalist, so I reached out to founder JP Watson and was beyond thrilled he was up for answering a few questions I had about the project:

What initially inspired the inception of the pound project?

I'm passionate about the value of writing. As consumers we're so willing to shell out for passing fancy - a bag of crisps; a chocolate bar - and yet increasingly many of us expect creative content (in myriad forms) to be free. How has this happened? The hours and skill and beauty that goes into the creation of arts warrants fair payment, even if it is just the price of a treat, so that it is sustainable. Otherwise where will we be? Isn't a good story worth it?

How do you approach writers to participate? Are they generally pretty open?

It is a mixture. As our exposure increases, more and more writers are coming to us and pitching their ideas. What we're trying to encourage is talented people to come to us with an eye on a brilliant story, but also on the entrepreneurial side of the process - why do people need to read what they have written? Why does their story speak to the world now? How will they spread the message? Those questions are part of surviving as a creator. We also approach writers we love, who we believe have the same principles as us, and we take it from there.  Beyond that it is all top secret...

What are your future plans for the pound project? Any chance for international projects?

To build our reader base, to make a mark in the industry, to spotlight some brilliant stories and talent. We also want to go in to Universities and the like to help new creatives look at the business/startup side of things, so we can help spread the idea that creativity can and should be a sustainable industry. We are more than open to international projects - our supporters already stretch around the world and we want to work with as many voices as possible. Art is a worldwide language.

The Pound Project has offered such a disruptive take on traditional publishing, how has this been received by readers and industry leaders alike?

We want to focus on what we're doing. One story and one writer at a time. We aren't criticising the way others do things, far from it, rather we're trying to be innovative where possible and hope there's room for us to do that. We recently won The Bookseller's FutureBook Tech Startup of the Year Award, which was an amazing vote of confidence from peers in the industry. In my experience, people who work in the book/publishing/content industries are open to new ideas. It's also incredible to hear from our readers how much they appreciate our straightforward approach. Surely we all want to industry to be more representative and valued? 

Thanks so much, JP, for taking the time to answer these few questions! And I can’t wait to see what cool endeavors the future has in store for you and The Pound Project!

Data Made Art // Information is Beautiful 2018 Award Winners

In a time where data is as valuable as gold, the way you present it can be just as much of a treasure — and these winners from the 2018 Information is Beautiful Awards are the crown jewels.

 

Frames of Mind by Alberto Lucas López for National Geographic

 
 

Kepler.gl by Shan He & team

 

Simulated Dendrochronology of U.S. Immigration 1790-2016 by Pedro M Cruz & team with Northeastern University & National Geographic

Anna A.data driven
Forwarded Friday // Volume 2.
 
 
Interesting, bizarre, fun, and sometimes just random internet finds that I’ve forwarded to friends, family, or colleagues, this week…

Interesting, bizarre, fun, and sometimes just random internet finds that I’ve forwarded to friends, family, or colleagues, this week…

 
 
 
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What happens when your brand tries to stay exactly as it was in its glory days of say, 10 years ago? Nothing good, that’s for sure. Look no further than Victoria’s Secret for the perfect example of incredible self-destructive brand stubbornness and what happens as as result.

“It takes an extraordinary amount of ineptitude, laziness, and sheer disregard to make a show as stultifying and lifeless as the Victoria’s Secret one,” Givhan wrote. “Greater diversity would be welcome, but it can’t save Victoria’s Secret from its own self-destruction.”


Did you know… a Spanish bakery will install a thermal breadbox to your house for free & deliver fresh bread daily to you? Or… that the average viewer’s age for Viceland TV is 42? OR that 54% of Chinese born after 1995 chose “influencer” as their desired profession? Well now you do! Plus 49 other fascinating facts from consultant Tom Whitwell.

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Girl Who Gave No Fucks

A fairytale for self-critical women everywhere, I am sure there are loads of lessons for me to learn in Amy Kean’s book, The Little Girl Who Gave Zero Fucks. She sat down with The Drum to discuss the book’s conception and reception.

“Years ago, a more senior female at an agency I worked for said to me: “you have two options: you can be yourself, or you can progress in your career.” I’ve never forgotten it and know so many people who’ve been told similar. Being a woman in marketing is tricky because there’s so much personal critique: you’re too loud, too enthusiastic, too informal, too emotional, too nice, too hard on people, too overpowering, not enough gravitas, too much cleavage, clothes too frumpy, A bitch. The amount of times I’ve heard people say about ‘stern’ female bosses: “Oh, she just needs a good shag.” What’s worse is this is often women talking about other women. We’ve forged strict templates and regulate each other’s behaviour in a way that men don’t. The book is the fruit of my frustrations and encourages women to be themselves no matter what, personally and professionally. It’s about how we should support each other more; we don’t always have to agree but we can stop pushing other women down as we clamber for the spotlight. There’s room for all of us to succeed, and for a multitude of diverse, powerful characters.”


 

Rookie is the child prodigy of digital editorials. Though I’m a bit older than the its founder, Tavi Gevinson, I did grow up looking to Rookie as one of my blogger idols. It’s a brilliant example of experience not always being staple ingredient for success, and the hope and joy and exciting energy young creatives can breathe into a space. Rookie had an incredibly successful run, and it acted as a spark that ignited thousands of young people’s creativity — and to end on such a poignant note, wow. Bravo, Rookie. You will be missed.

“Now onto the celebrations. To everyone who has bared their souls through their writing and art on Rookie, making us all feel seen, heard, connected, and inspired; making Rookie better, smarter, and more human: Thank you. It has been an absolute gift—I don’t know how else to describe it—to see you interpret Rookie’s monthly themes in your own work. To learn about you through your art. I will really miss that exchange of ideas and experiences. And now I am actually starting to cry, thinking about how much love and vulnerability have gone into the thousands of articles, essays, poems, advice, stories, interviews, photos, illustrations, comics, collages, playlists, and videos on Rookie. Thank you.”


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There’s no doubt were living in the Golden Age of Podcasts. I’m a dedicated listener at least 5 a week (you can read about my favorites from 2017 here), and I am always on the search for new gems.

“Short Cuts: Short documentaries The Radio 4 show offers “brief encounters, true stories, radio adventures and found sound” and each one is a self-contained gem. Josie Long presents the long-running series packed with observations on themes from sibling rivalry to mortality, and just about everything else in between, so you never know what you’re going to get.”

 

 
 

Cartoon of the Week

New Yorker Cartoon, December 7, 2018

New Yorker Cartoon, December 7, 2018

Women of the House
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Nearly as inspirational as the women it showcases, ELLE magazine’s editorial introduction of the Freshmen Congresswomen to the United States House of Representatives is excellence in digital journalism.

The most diverse class to make up the House in its 230-year history, Elle poignantly presents the women of this historical moment through riveting photography, reporting, and editorial work. The hopes and aspirations captured in this piece are conveyed so beautifully that I can’t help but beam with pride of having these women represent us. (Included below are a few excerpts, however I implore you to read the piece in its entirety at Elle.com.)

Elle -- Women of the House
Elle -- Women of the House
 

Note: So proud to have Congresswoman Davids representing my home state of Kansas! — Did you know Kansas was the FIRST state to vote a woman into public office? Susanna Salter was voted mayor April 4, 1887, only months after Kansas women were granted the right to vote — 33 years before women of the United States were granted the right to vote nationally.

 
Elle -- Women of the House
Forwarded Friday // Volume I.
 
 
Interesting, bizarre, fun, and sometimes just random internet finds that I’ve forwarded to friends, family, or colleagues, this week…

Interesting, bizarre, fun, and sometimes just random internet finds that I’ve forwarded to friends, family, or colleagues, this week…

 
 
 
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Should we even be surprised at this point that this exists? I’d venture to say no… but I am wondering how Med students manage to find enough hours in the day… and the ethical issues are a whole additional layer of issues:

“The uncharted ethics of social media are already confusing, and that’s before you add in the influence of outside interests, many of which are ready to take advantage of students’ ability to offer some stamp of medical authority to the general public about a product or idea without asking too many questions.”


I distinctly remember a life-size cutout of a Kansas City Royals baseball player (no idea who) that was prominently displayed in our kindergarten classroom circa 2004 — in fact, I can’t remember a time in which a ‘Got Milk’ poster wasn’t displayed in one of my cafeterias during my school years…

“Research by Goodby Silverstein & Partners revealed an alternative. When discussing milk consumption, consumers kept returning to the idea that running out was a source of frustration. While they may not have longed for milk as a rule, the times they could have used it—in coffee, for cookies, for cereal—and didn’t have it gave them a fresh appreciation for the beverage. When the agency put a hidden camera in their own offices to capture their staff's reaction to running out of milk, they noted it was one of disappointment. (And sometimes expletives.)”

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A fascinating read on the “Supply Cloud” and why we should continue to see “shops” hock free watches, knock-off designer goods, and more — equal parts absurd, disturbing, and especially important for the eCommerce industry to understand:

“These new retail sites are also creatures that could only exist in our current economy. They are a reshuffling of the same fast-fashion infrastructure that powers H&M and Zara. West Louis and Folsom & Co are a new a front-end for the Asian factories that make stuff. Stumble onto one—or more likely—find yourself targeted by such a brand’s ads, and you open up one of many highly disposable faces of the globalized economy. It’s just that with companies like West Louis, the seams show, literally and figuratively.”


Books, cheeky gift guides, and shopping for friends, this article features a few of my favorite things:

“The most giftable books are the ones that your recipients will want to talk about long after they’ve finished reading. Below you’ll find some of the best books of 2018 from a wide variety of genres, arranged with consideration for friends with specific needs. Read on for the best book to buy your friend who recently had a baby, your friend who loves old movies, your friend who’s a workaholic, and more…”

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As a proud Kansas City native, finding it on the latest of National Geographic’s best trips guide left me over the moon. Kansas City, I love you.

“To me, West Bottoms speaks to the history of Kansas City: the stockyards and trains and commerce moving through the middle of the country,” says KC native Chris Goode, CEO and founder of Ruby Jean’s Juicery. “But no matter where you go in Kansas City, it will feel like home. The city just has soul.”

Anna A.links, articles, lists
Quotes from Women of Note // Girlboss Rally NYC 2018

Though I’m admittedly not the biggest fan of the term #girlboss — we don’t call men “boybosses”—, I am a huge fan of the Girlboss community, whose mission is “to redefine success for millennial women by providing the tools and connections they need to own their futures.”

Sign me up, indeed.

So! I was pretty stoked to see their latest post highlighting notable moments from their Girlboss Rally NYC 2018.

They compiled a list of poignant quotes from the various panelists, & here are a few that really spoke loudly to me…

Anna A.quotes