Author Jami Attenberg on What It Means to Be an Adult

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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.

Kodak’s New Cameras Don't Just Take Photos—They Also Print Them

Your Instagram account wishes it had this clout.
Your Instagram account wishes it had this clout.
Kodak

Snapping a photo and immediately sharing it on social media is definitely convenient, but there’s still something so satisfying about having the printed photo—like you’re actually holding the memory in your hands. Kodak’s new STEP cameras now offer the best of both worlds.

As its name implies, the Kodak STEP Instant Print Digital Camera, available for $70 on Amazon, lets you take a picture and print it out on that very same device. Not only do you get to skip the irksome process of uploading photos to your computer and printing them on your bulky, non-portable printer (or worse yet, having to wait for your local pharmacy to print them for you), but you never need to bother with ink cartridges or toner, either. The Kodak STEP comes with special 2-inch-by-3-inch printing paper inlaid with color crystals that bring your image to life. There’s also an adhesive layer on the back, so you can easily stick your photos to laptop covers, scrapbooks, or whatever else could use a little adornment.

There's a 10-second self-timer, so you don't have to ask strangers to take your group photos.Kodak

For those of you who want to give your photos some added flair, you might like the Kodak STEP Touch, available for $130 from Amazon. It’s similar to the regular Kodak STEP, but the LCD touch screen allows you to edit your photos before you print them; you can also shoot short videos and even share your content straight to social media.

If you want to print photos from your smartphone gallery, there's the Kodak STEP Instant Mobile Photo Printer. This portable $80 printer connects to any iOS or Android device with Bluetooth capabilities and can print whatever photos you send to it.

The Kodak STEP Instant Mobile Photo Printer connects to an app that allows you to add filters and other effects to your photos. Kodak

All three Kodak STEP devices come with some of that magical printer paper, but you can order additional refills, too—a 20-sheet set costs $8 on Amazon.

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13 Inventors Killed By Their Own Inventions

Would you fly in this?
Would you fly in this?

As it turns out, being destroyed by the very thing you create is not only applicable to the sentient machines and laboratory monsters of science fiction.

In this episode of The List Show, Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy takes us on a sometimes tragic, always fascinating journey through the history of invention, highlighting 13 unfortunate innovators whose brilliant schemes brought about their own demise. Along the way, you’ll meet Henry Winstanley, who constructed a lighthouse in the English Channel that was swept out to sea during a storm … with its maker inside. You’ll also hear about stuntman Karel Soucek, who was pushed from the roof of the Houston Astrodome in a custom-designed barrel that landed off-target, fatally injuring its occupant.

And by the end of the episode, you just might be second-guessing your secret plan to quit your day job and become the world’s most daredevilish inventor.

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