Young Brooklyn author on how to ‘make it’ as a writer
“In this day and age, big dreams are the first step down a long, lonely path to disappointment,” jokes Alida Nugent in the first chapter of her new book “Don’t Worry, It Gets Worse: One Twentysomething’s (Mostly Failed) Attempts at Adulthood.” Nugent is a recent college graduate living in Brooklyn, and like many twentysomethings, she is struggling to navigate life as “a living, breathing, job-having, bill-paying responsible adult.”
In her new humorous and deeply sarcastic collection of essays, Nugent presents a raw illustration of post-college life in the recession – recalling her experiences moving back in with her parents, job searching (or trying to make it as a writer), online dating, and desperately trying to pay bills on time while simultaneously mustering the cash for some cocktails. She intersperses her recent memoirs with comedic lists, such as “How the 1980s Screwed Over This Generation” and “Tips for Saving” (which includes such tactful advice as ‘Don’t get a manicure, bite your nails VERY CAREFULLY.’)
Nugent is not afraid to tell the truth, no matter how ugly it sometimes gets, and her stories resonate not only with twentysomethings, but also with the parents who’ve helped them (or are still helping them) find their way in the world. Nugent, who will appear for a book launch party at powerHouse Arena on Friday, May 10, recently spoke to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle about her career as a young, emerging writer. She speaks about how Brooklyn has shaped and inspired her work, and offers advice to recent graduates who hope to pursue a career in writing.
Can you talk a bit about the inception of the Frenemy blog?
The Frenemy blog started right around the time I graduated college. It was just a frantic time for me: “Where do I go from here? How do I get a job? So, I really have to pay those loans, huh?” I worked at a coffee shop to pay my bills, and my biggest fear was getting stuck in the paycheck-by-paycheck grind and never using my degree at all. I was a writing major, after all. I wouldn’t be getting my starter job at a place that paid well, but I definitely wasn’t getting a well-paid writing job – the gold unicorn amongst a sea of other unicorns. So I decided to try to anchor myself in a creative project that I could do from my home after long shifts, without ever having to move from my couch. At least I would write, I thought. That’s how The Frenemy was born.
Did you have any hesitations about publishing such a confessional book?
Not really. I’m one of those people that will have a couple of drinks at a party and start oversharing with a stranger. It’s mostly because I don’t think my experiences are unique – I think a lot of people have experienced them and a lot of people know where I am coming from. That’s why the confessions don’t feel so jarring. I know I’m talking to a group of people who can say, “Oh, yeah, that’s how I feel!”
Have you ever considered writing fiction?…or do you intend to stick with personal essays?
In college, I only wrote fiction – usually from the perspective of teenage boys. I hated writing non-fiction. I like creating characters and worlds that go beyond my own scope. However, the older I got, the more I wanted to write about my own experiences because they were normal. I want to make the ordinary things interesting and readable. I used to want to live in a world that was magical and unreal; now I guess I just want to write about mine.
What advice do you have for recent college graduates who are pursuing a career as a writer?
First, make it your heart. Spend hours writing for free and for you and sweat all over the page and fall in love with writing and all the frustrations that come with it. This is the easy, romantic part. Then, make it your craft. Learn how to take criticism. Learn how to edit your own work and cut things you like out of it. Learn how to fail and write it again.
Finally, learn how to make it your business. Send your samples out to everybody. When they don’t pay you, stop writing for them. E-mail every editor that puts their e-mail address on their website. File your own taxes and pay the government back 3,000 dollars or more a year because freelance doesn’t tax. Write all day and then work on your personal book proposals all night. It’s like marriage: fall in love first, make it official next, then work at it for, essentially, the rest of your life.
When did you move to Brooklyn, and in which neighborhood are you living?
I moved to Brooklyn almost two-and-a-half years ago. I live in Bushwick. It’s so different from when I moved here – there are way more artisanal cheese shops. Everybody pickles.
As a young emerging writer, Brooklyn seems like an ideal place to be. Do you find that your material is particularly shaped by your neighborhood and physical surroundings?
Of course. It’s pretty chock-full of people my age trying to make it in a creative field. I think most of us are trying not to fit into the stereotypes of this, but even I own a couple of knit caps I wear in hot weather.
What are you reading now?
Honestly, I’m reading the third “Hunger Games” book right now. I eat that up like popcorn. I love stories with bow-and-arrows and strong female leads.
Are you working on any new projects?
Of course! I’m mapping out my next batch of stories.
Alida will appear at DUMBO’s powerHouse Arena on Friday, May 10, for a book launch party and signing. The event will begin at 7 p.m. powerHouse is located at 37 Main St. in DUMBO.
Alida Nugent is the creator of The Frenemy, a female-centric comedy blog – as seen on the Today show, Huffington Post and Gothamist – that is devoted to making girls feel okay about staying at home and drinking wine in their pajamas. She is as shocked as you are that she’s making a living in today’s economy as a writer. Nugent lives in Brooklyn.
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