Carolina VonKampen

Editor. Reader. Writer.

Category: blog posts (page 1 of 4)

My Reading Speed Confession

I’ve always been a quick reader, but recently, I’ve been thinking about how fast I really do read. You see, I post about books on my Instagram account, and recently, people have asked me how quickly I read or how I have time to read all the books I post about. Continue reading

What I Learned From My First Conference Experience at the Sigma Tau Delta Convention

Last week, I attended my first-ever professional conference, the Sigma Tau Delta convention, in Cincinnati. As the Sigma Tau chapter president at my university for two years, I was giddy at the prospect of attending the conference and interacting with fellow Sigma Tau Deltans. Even though I’m not in academics or pursuing a master’s degree, I wanted to experience a conference and be in an environment where books and writing were the focus all day and night.

I attended the convention with Hannah, my fellow English major and Sigma Tau officer friend from college, and we had a blast. Spending the days listening to fellow book lovers talk about themes in classic literature and exploring Cincinnati’s bookstores lived up to my expectations. But as with anything in life, I realized after further reflection that I have a lot to learn about the art of conference attending. Here are some areas I learned I need to improve on from my first conference experience:

1. Rest

The crowds were a bit overwhelming!

I did not realize how packed the convention schedule was. Some days, we were in the convention center at 8 a.m. and left at 9:30 p.m. Sure, there are breaks for lunch and dinner, but it’s really hard when you’re an overachiever to feel like you can skip a session if you need a rest. I felt like I needed to attend every session because I paid to be there and it would be a waste of time and money to not get the most out of the experience. But…that’s pretty taxing, especially when you’re an introvert who melts a little just from being around people (even when you’re not talking to them).

At future conferences, I’m going to be a bit more strategic about planning breaks throughout the day, even if it means skipping a session to sit alone in a corner somewhere and refresh.

2. Live

In addition to needing time to rest amid the crazy convention schedule, I also learned that in the future, I need to make time for certain aspects of my everyday life. For example, I didn’t call my husband on the phone from Tuesday to Saturday. I finally made time to call him on Saturday—and we came home on Sunday. I learned that I can’t just focus solely on the conference; I need to also schedule time to talk to family.

Additionally, for future conferences, I need to have a better plan for handling freelance work that pops up during the event. At this point in my freelance career, I have very few clients, so I try to say yes to everything. Unfortunately, a few existing and new clients wanted things edited while I was at the convention, which was very difficult to swing given the busy schedule.

3. Restaurants

I don’t regret spending money on this amazing drink one night.

I regret not planning which restaurants I wanted to try before the conference. When you arrive in a new city and have no idea where you want to eat, you end up staring at your phone a lot, scrolling through restaurant after restaurant. It’s not a good use of your time. Next time I attend a conference, I’m going to have a list of a few restaurants I want to visit before I set foot in the city.


4. Food

Speaking of restaurants, I also learned it’s super expensive to eat out for every single meal when you’re at a conference. Part of the problem here was that I frequently slept in too late, meaning I didn’t have time to eat the cinnamon rolls I brought or the coffee our Airbnb host provided for us.

Hannah, on the other hand, very smartly packed sandwiches to eat for lunch throughout the conference; even though the sandwiches got a little boring by the end, this approach definitely saves money. For future conferences, I’m going to plan out a few meals that I can prep beforehand.

That said, some of the best parts of the weekend were spent at restaurants. It was worth it to spend a few bucks on a drink here and a nicer meal there; it made hanging out with Hannah and exploring a new city even more fun. I think I just need to focus on balancing restaurants with prepared food and snacks more.

5. Hydrate

It’s the most cliche advice for literally any event, but I messed up anyway: I kept forgetting to throw a water bottle in my backpack. As in, I forgot to do this every. single. day. Needless to say, I was a bit dehydrated in general throughout our stay in Cincinnati, although the convention did provide water in each room. But you probably can’t count on conventions providing water, so next time, I’m putting a water bottle in my backpack and filling it up frequently.

6. Explore

Luckily, there was a bookstore right across the street from the convention.

This is something we actually did do! Hannah and I visited some of Cincinnati’s bookstores, walked to the convention from our Airbnb when the weather allowed, and toured the Harriet Beecher Stowe house while we were in Ohio. I’m so glad we made time to walk around the city and get to know it a bit.

7. Network

I’ll admit: I didn’t really talk to anyone at the conference. The only people I talked to included Hannah (obviously), the registration desk people, and the panelists at the roundtable on creating a university publication. I recognize how…bad…this is. One of the main points of conferences and conventions is to mingle, network, meet people who can later connect you to your dream job in book publishing, etc.

But in my defense, I had no idea what to expect. It was a lot of people. And I didn’t really have anything to say to anyone other than the lit mag editor panelists. That’s not a great excuse though; at future events, I’m going to push myself and set goals to talk to more people.

8. Notes

I did take notes consistently throughout the sessions I attended, and I can’t imagine attending a conference and NOT taking notes. I’m not the best at remembering verbal presentations, so scribbling stuff down helps me keep it in my memory. After all, there’s really no point in paying to go to hear people talk about books and writing and such if you aren’t going to remember any of it a week later.

9. Weather

I totally blanked and didn’t check the weather for our drive to Cincinnati. Turns out, there was a snowstorm that night, and as I hate driving in snow, we ended up staying at a hotel in Indiana instead of driving through the snow. Lesson learned: Next conference, I’m going to check the forecast.

In conclusion

I enjoyed attending my first conference experience and my first Sigma Tau Delta convention. I could have planned a better experience using the takeaways above, but overall, it was an excellent week, and I learned so much. I’m excited to put these takeaways into action for my next conference, the ACES Conference in Chicago in April, and I can’t wait for next year’s Sigma Tau Delta convention in St. Louis!

What are your tips for attending conferences and conventions? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

Flash Fiction Roundup: 12 Stories From 12 Lit Mags

In February, I made a concerted effort to read more lit mags. I didn’t quite reach my goal of reading a different one every day, but I did find 12 stories that resonated with me for one reason or another. Enjoy this flash fiction roundup from around the internet!

1. “Imperfect” by Sudha Balagopal in Lost Balloon

This flash fiction centers around a girl at a Catholic school who embarrassingly doesn’t have clean shirts and has to keep borrowing shirts from the rich girl, Pia. The characterization is good, and the narrative neatly arcs to a satisfying ending. I love the line “I want to learn how how to faint” because I have thought that, too.

Read it here.

2. “Shapeless” by Chloe Clark in bad pony

I love how this story took a turn pretty quickly with the line: “Your baby’s a golem.” I love being surprised! I dig the emotional potency of the piece balanced with its slightly speculative/magical realism slant.

Read it here.

3. “Water is My Favorite Color” by Anna O’Brien in Cold Creek Review

I kinda love this story. The main character is fleshed out and real; I feel like I understand her even though I’m 20 years younger. The images throughout the story—water and watercolors and her kids’ color names—are well done and effective. I love how this mysterious Lindy character’s storyline twists at the end, revealing she’s not as perfect as she seems; in the last moments of the story, she’s both pitiful and still slightly unsympathetic.

Read it here.

4. “My Sister’s Aquarium” by Jennifer Todhunter in Cease, Cows

I adore the twist we get right away when we realize that her sister is an aquarium instead of holding an aquarium. That twist is the draw for me; I enjoy the rest of the dialogue and story, and the ending delivers.

Read it here.

5. “The City of Four Million Husbands” by Gillian Ramos in Cotton Xenomorph

Come for the title, stay for the realistic and relatable character that you either are or know. This story is the embodiment of the “girl who falls in love with everyone” character; Ramos crafts a dynamic character throughout a well-paced story.

Read it here.

6. “Sick Girls” by Lauren Becker in CHEAP POP

It’s short, but this story does some interesting things with relationships with others (especially when everyone in the friend group is dying) and relationships with food and body.

Read it here.

7. “Boston” by Matt Carlin in The Sea Letter

Here we have an interesting story about mask as mask, then as metaphor, then as shocking reality. I love the ending on this one.

Read it here.

8. “Take and Give” by Lauren Becker in Jellyfish Review

I like this one for a few reasons: First, the relationship between the narrator and her sister feels real. Second, the turn in the story felt unexpected, even though it’s echoed in the title; it’s an interesting turn because it makes that sister relationship so much more real—only siblings know exactly how to drive each other crazy. I love that the title hints at this twist, but doesn’t give it away.

Read it here.

9. “Now That the Circus Has Shut Down, the Human Cannonball Looks for Work” by Meghan Phillips in Wigleaf

This flash fiction captures how many of us Millennials feel when searching for a new job or at the beginning of our careers. I love the quick, witty prose: Lines like “She works on a cover letter, but isn’t sure how to talk about herself without exclamation points” and “Quick learner—She wasn’t always the Human Cannonball” are perfect.

Read it here.

10. “The Candle Farmers” by Rebecca Harrison in Paper Darts

Not only does this story have a super interesting and metaphorically rich concept, but it’s also got a good storyline and ending. I love the imagery of candle fields, and the story feels emotionally complete.

Read it here.

11. “Insomnia” by Hannah Rahimi in Carve

This story feels so real and genuine. There are lines in here that I love, like: “Gentleness tends to make me cry because it usually means someone has detected something breakable in me that I didn’t know was there. At least the camera’s off.”

Read it here.

12. “Story of a Witch” by R.A. Matteson in The Molotov Cocktail

I love how Matteson plays with the stereotypical flat characters of “witch” and “hero” here; she subverts them in an way that speaks to the current #MeToo movement and adds to the conversation.

Read it here.

Which story (or stories) did you like the most, and why? Tell me in the comments!

Why I Use Inbox Zero

I hate those red notification flags on my iPhone apps. I hate them. They make me feel like I haven’t tidied up every single aspect of my life.

That’s not the main reason I do inbox zero to control my email, but it’s definitely a contributing factor.

What is inbox zero, anyway? For me, it means that the ideal state of my email inbox is zero emails in it, including read messages. Continue reading

Your Career Column: Here’s How You Find an Internship

So you think you want to be an intern? Great idea—an internship can help you earn college credit, gain real-world experience in your career field, make connections with people in your line of work, and figure out whether you really want to do this type of work once you get out of college.

But finding internships that are relevant to your career interests isn’t always easy, especially if you can’t afford to move outside your home state or the area you attend college. Luckily, I’ve got a few tips and tricks you can use to find an internship near you: Continue reading

I Read Lit Mags Most Days for a Month—Here’s What I Learned

At the beginning of February, I challenged myself to read selections from one lit mag every day for the entire month. As with most goals, I didn’t end up reading lit mags *every* day, but I did read a sampling. Here’s what I learned from this reading challenge: Continue reading

6 Books by ACES 2018 Presenters to Add to Your To-Read List

As an editor, writer, and book lover, I’m always looking for excuses to buy and read new books. I’ll be attending the ACES 2018 editing conference in Chicago this year, so I decided to find out whether any of the people presenting sessions had recently published books. Surprise surprise, they have! Some books are related directly to the presenters’ ACES sessions, and some aren’t. Here are six books by ACES 2018 presenters to add to your to-read list before attending their sessions in April: Continue reading

Reflections on Copy Editing My First Full-Length Book Manuscript

In January, I copy edited my first full book manuscript. Naturally, it was an exciting moment for me as an editor. I had prepared for the edit for a few months, but I didn’t know quite what to expect when I sat down to copy edit 46,000 words within one week for the first time. I learned a few things that will make my next book project easier to tackle.

Here’s what I learned (and some things I wish I did) while copy editing my first book manuscript: Continue reading

I’m Actually Going to Read Lit Mags This Month

I have a confession to make: Since November, I’ve been regularly submitting the few pieces of my writing that are polished enough to send into the world to lit mags. But rarely, so rarely, have I actually…read…lit mags.

It’s terrible. Around 75 percent of lit mag submission guidelines suggest that writers read the magazine to get an idea of what the editors like. This makes sense. But I haven’t done it.

I have no excuses, really. I like reading, I intend to support lit mags, and I want to find the best places for my writing.

So I’ve decided that in February, it’s time to actually read lit mags. Continue reading

19 Books I Just Had to Buy in the United Kingdom

Bookstores are my weakness, and quite unfortunately, I was recently subjected to several tempting multi-level, well-stocked London bookstores. Reader, it was terrible. As I threw more and more books into my arms (and eventually into shopping baskets), I tried to think of some constraints to narrow down which books I would allow myself to buy. I decided upon a few rules to guide my British book buying:

  1. I could buy books that weren’t available in the United States yet.
  2. I could buy books that had sucky U.S. editions but fabulous U.K. editions.
  3. I could buy books that were significantly cheaper in the United Kingdom than the American Amazon prices.
  4. I was required to buy the complete volumes of Roald Dahl’s short stories, because gah.

Continue reading

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