Author Jami Attenberg on What It Means to Be an Adult

5363140885001

What does it mean to be an adult? That’s the question author Jami Attenberg asks in her latest novel, All Grown Up. The book tells the story of 39-year-old graphic designer Andrea Bern, who eschews the traditional milestones of adulthood—marriage, children, home ownership—and searches, with mixed results, for her own sources of fulfillment. Watch the video above to hear Attenberg’s thoughts on what it means to be “all grown up.” And check out the interview highlights below for some handy tips for aspiring novelists (hint: try writing by hand).

mental_floss: Your protagonist, Andrea, is 39 years old and still trying to figure out what it means to be an adult. Why choose that age?

Jami Attenberg: Andrea is 38 at the beginning of the book, and then turns 39 and 40 very quickly. I have her 40th birthday come and go, and it’s really a very small section of the book. I wanted to show that it’s not really that big a deal. You can choose to be an adult at any time in your life. You can get over your issues any time you choose, and 40 just happens to be that age [for Andrea]. But it’s kind of significant in our culture, more for women than for men, since we have a biological clock, and pressures surrounding that. I’ve created a character who doesn’t care about having babies or getting married. It doesn’t really mean as much to her in the book, and I’m trying to show why it doesn’t really matter.

mental_floss: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Attenberg: I teach a little bit, and the best advice that I have for writers is to just sit down and do the work. There are no shortcuts to writing a novel, or an essay, or a screenplay. Whatever it is that you’re trying to put out into the world, you just have to sit down, and write every single day. That’s how I get everything done. There’s no cheating. My process is: I read first thing in the morning, anything but the internet, because I find that tightens up my brain a little bit. I try to take a walk, and not take my phone with me. There’s a lot of turning off screens. And then I write by hand until I think I’m done.

mental_floss: Why write by hand?

Attenberg: Writing by hand is a totally different experience than typing. It uses a different part of your brain. For me, in a really pure and simple way, when I’m typing into a computer, and a red line shows up, telling me I’ve spelled something wrong, it feels like someone else’s voice in my head. Whoever programmed Word is correcting me, and correcting my way of thinking. When I hand write, I have no red lines, and I’m able to make mistakes if I want to, and be more experimental. I find that when I type directly into the computer, I want my writing to be perfect. And I don’t think any first, second, or even third draft needs to be perfect.

Watch John Krasinski Interview Steve Carell About The Office's 15th Anniversary

John Krasinski and Steve Carell in The Office.
John Krasinski and Steve Carell in The Office.
NBC Universal, Inc.

The Office just passed a major milestone: It has been 15 years since the American adaptation of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's hit British sitcom made its way to NBC, where it ran for nine seasons. To celebrate the show's big anniversary, former co-stars John Krasinski and Steve Carell reunited in the best way possible: Carell appeared as a guest on Krasinski's new YouTube show, where the two decided to spread some positivity.

Krasinski just launched his very own news show titled Some Good News, and it's exactly what we've all been needing. During this segment, he interviewed Carell via video call, and the two shared their favorite memories of working on the beloved workplace comedy.

"It's such a happy surprise," Carell said of The Office's continued success. "After all these years people are still tuning in and finding it." The two also addressed the question that's been on every fan's mind: is there a chance that we'll see the Dunder Mifflin crew reunite in some way?

"Listen, I know everyone's talking about a reunion," Krasinski said. "Hopefully one day we'll just all get to reunite as people."

You can watch the full episode below. (Carell joins the video around the 5:50 minute mark.)

10 Ways To Look Professional, and Hide Your Pajamas, In a Video Conference Call

You don't need to wear full business attire to maintain a professional appearance.
You don't need to wear full business attire to maintain a professional appearance.
fizkes/iStock via Getty Images

The COVID-19 crisis has forced offices to shutter around the country, and as a result, more people are working from home than ever. That means we're seeing more of coworkers' bedrooms, pets, and pajamas than we ever imagined.

If you're navigating the dos and don'ts of working remotely for the first time, you don't necessarily need to choose between professionalism and comfortable pants. Just keep a few tips in mind to make your transition from being alone on the couch to hopping onto a last-minute Zoom video call as smooth as possible.

Just like in real life, wearing the right outfit can go a long way when it comes to looking professional for your colleagues. Standards aren't as high when you're telecommuting, so even switching out your T-shirt for a business-casual top when you expect to be on video can be enough to show you put effort into your appearance. And unless you plan on moving around on the video call, don't bother putting on pants that don't have an elastic waistband.

If you want to look good on video, there are a few things to keep in mind that don't apply to in-person meetings. Position your computer so you're eye-level with the camera, placing it on a stack of books if necessary, and find a room with good lighting so your coworkers can actually see you. And to avoid getting any unpleasant surprises when you see yourself in a group meeting, check how you look on camera privately before calling in.

You can find tips for looking professional on a video conference call below. And for more ways to optimize your telecommuting experience, check out these habits to practice.

  1. Sit facing a window for natural lighting.
  1. Wear a business-casual top.
  1. Choose clothes with neutral tones.
  1. Position your webcam so it's level with your eyes.
  1. Sit farther from the camera rather than closer.
  1. If you're having a bad hair day, pull it back with a hair tie.
  1. Keep on comfortable pants if you can avoid standing up.
  1. Find a private room to minimize background distractions.
  1. See how you look on your computer camera before joining a video call.
  1. If you have limited time to put on makeup, focus on brows and cheeks to give your face dimension.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER