A Night At Waterstones: Marina Keegan’s Family

Some people do more in a few years, than other people do in a whole lifetime.

Back in May, I read a book. Not just any book. A book that smacked me right in the face, out of nowhere, like an uncontrollable magnet. A girl with words, who played them like Beethoven having some playtime on a piano. I curled up with it every night for two weeks, scowling at anyone that dare interrupt me, lost in a world of a parallel 20-something in New York who wanted to unashamedly make art with her laptop and imagination. The Opposite Of Loneliness. The words made my eyes sparkle and my palms sweaty and my heart thud. This girl knew stuff. She was 22, and she had the most unique perspective on the world I’d ever come across for someone of that age – and she wasn’t afraid to ask uncomfortable questions or just prod someone into asking themselves questions. She wasn’t safe – but she was likeable. I then ending up Googling her work for hours on end. Every article, every quote, every single piece of writing I stumbled upon unlocked something in my brain. I wanted this young author, Marina Keegan, to be my friend.


In 2012, Marina Keegan died in a car crash. Her book “The Opposite Of Loneliness” is a posthumous assemblage of her wonderful essays. It is honestly one of the best things I’ve ever read, but with this added layer of emotion; a heavy sadness at a loss of such talent. And tonight, I went along to an incredibly special event at Waterstones in central London, where Marina Keegan’s parents, Tracy and Kevin, her tutor Beth McNamara and her school friends spoke about Marina and the reasons behind publishing the book of her essays.

Kevin Keegan, Marina’s dad, opened the evening was something poignant: “Marina wouldn’t have wanted to be remembered because she’s dead – she’d want to be remembered because she was good”. After all, Marina, at the age was 22 was already an award-winning playwright, activist, poet, writer, viral online journalist. Oh, she was good alright. Some work included in the book was written when Marina was just 16, with sentences powerful enough to send shivers up grown-ups’ spines.

Marina’s book is a combination of part fiction, part non-fiction. Marina’s au pair from when she was around five years old read a passage that Marina wrote, describing her the messy homeliness of inside her car. Her friends from Yale read parts of her book that were non-fiction – brilliant excerpts from short stories that involved mysterious, complicated characters who are way beyond her age. Marina’s amazing talent let her write so vividly from one person’s viewpoint, from someone so so far removed from her own life. The dialogue engrosses you, the audience sat there, eyes closed, conjuring up all this interesting people that came all from Marina’s imagination. This is all Marina.

My favourite readings was from “Songs Of The Special”:

“Every generation thinks it’s special—my grandparents because they remember World War II, my parents because of discos and the moon. We have the Internet. Millions and billions of doors we can open and shut, posting ourselves into profiles and digital scrapbooks. Suddenly and totally, we’re threaded together in a network so terrifyingly colossal that we can finally see our terrifyingly tiny place in it. But we’re all individuals. It’s beaten into us in MLK Day assemblies (one person can make a difference!) and fourth-grade poster projects (what do you want to be when you grow up?). We can be anything! Our parents are divorced but we’re in love! Vaguely, quietly, we know we’ll be famous. For being president, for starring in a movie, for writing a feature at eighteen in the New York Times. I’m so jealous. Unthinkable jealousies, jealousies of the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel I’m reading and the Oscar- winning movie I just saw. Why didn’t I think to rewrite Mrs. Dalloway? I should have thought to chronicle a schizophrenic ballerina. It’s inexcusable. Everyone else is so successful, and I hate them.”

Her parents also touched on one of her well-known pieces “Even Artichokes Have Doubts” (her dad made a great point that Marina had a real talent with writing incredible headlines for her pieces). This article touches on the fact that a lot graduates almost subconsciously walk in to careers like “finance” or Goldman Sachs – and she questions why people aren’t encouraged to take a step back think what do I want to do before mindlessly entering to Another One Of Those Jobs. Marina’s message was “it’s never late to change.”

It was a reflective, intimate evening. We had wine. We listened, we asked questions. We sat and watched as her parents shared personal anecdotes, memories, confessions, advice, questions, answers, jokes, their favourite pieces. They shared all of this with us. Us, the readers of Marina’s work.

A brilliant thing happened at the end of the evening – Marina’s university read out a Facebook message that she’d sent him. He re-enacted the words, speaking her words with energy and re-telling a funny story when Marina auditioned for a talent recital with a rubix cube. In that moment, even Marina’s words in a Facebook message had turned into art. It reminded me that written words are meant to be spoken. It was so lovely to hear readings, listen to the words, and hear things we’ve read spoken out loud – everything became so much more real.

At the end of the night, Beth, Marina’s old tutor came up to me and my friends Laura and Zoe as we were all sat on the front row, and we thanked her for the evening. She saw me scribble down the URL to the YouTube video that was mentioned earlier in the talk. She said, I saw you were interested in the YouTube link, you really should watch it. If you love Marina’s writing, you should see her energy when she reads out loud her own poems, her passion. Watch her tonight. Thanks for seeing us tonight. We all just wish she could have been here too.”

I went home and watched the video of Marina and that energy.

I cried. And cried.

The lessons I learnt tonight? Whatever your thing is: make time for it all. Write it down. Go out and do it.

Better out, than in. Because if nothing else, you’re leaving some of your art behind for the people that love you.

Why Everyone Should Have Naked Photos Of Themselves


*one non-naked photo from the shoot

What do you do when you find things hard to write? You write the truth.

“Live outside of your comfort zone” is a quote we all see on Pinterest, hanging in friends hallways, in episodes of Girls. We’ve been told it’s where the magic happens. It is the cringe inspirational quote that I actually do think about, daily.  But those things that are outside your comfort zone are different for everyone. Some people are scared of spiders. Some people are scared of relationships. Some people are scared of being alone, for some, it’s crowded rooms. For me, it’s having to looking at a naked photo of myself.

As a strong believer of body confidence, I was actually a big phoney. How can I parade around preaching body confidence when I had none myself? I used to work for Dove, for goodness sake, I work for an empowering women’s magazine, and yet I found myself terrified at the thought of showing all the bits I don’t like, and letting people see it, and/or judge it. The thought of having to properly look at my own body really freaked me out. 

So this post is quite important for me. It might not seem huge, but for me, it’s something I’ve put on hold for a long time.

So let me tell the full story of how I got here. A few months ago I went to the pub with Laura and Megan, my two friends who also blog, write and put themselves out there. We’ve always had stuff in the common, frequently asking the same questions, feeling the same positive (and negative) feelings, all armed with an equally long self-inflicted to-do list of things we want to achieve in and outside of work. So we went for a drink and a brain download.

We were chatting about Laura’s recent naked photo shoot. I leaned in with my glass of prosecco, wide-eyed and utterly utterly in awe. You stripped off all your clothes, had yourself photographed, and are getting them framed? So that everyone could see? She was naked, in a field, to celebrate her body. For herself. I gulped on my drink, sat back and knew full well that I could never do that. I would be terrified. I’ve never seen a photo of myself like before. Wasn’t it awkward? Weren’t you afraid? Weren’t you worried about what you might see? Weren’t you worried about what people might think of you?

These shouldn’t have been my immediate reactions from someone who claimed to be ‘body confident’. These photos are beautiful, and they were art. But the truth was, my reaction to Laura’s photo shoot made me realise: I was terrified of the idea.

The story behind Laura’s photo-shoot is an inspiring one. It was to celebrate her hard-earned body transformation. She decided to go on a mission to change her lifestyle and in the process, she inevitably lost some pounds along the way. Day by day, Laura was focused, determined, happy – and it was infectious. She became the fairy godmother of getting shit done, inspiring other people, doing things for herself and having a rock solid attitude that was as hard as a brick wall.

To celebrate this new sense of self, and body-shape, Laura booked in her friend, a lady named Alexandra Cameron (a brilliantly talented photographer) to document this stage of her life as part of a #StrongAndSexy campaign. It was a milestone, and what’s better than taking seductive photos with a professional photographer to mark the occasion? Shortly after, Megan, to celebrate her 25th birthday, did the same. She stripped off and celebrated her body. She arranged for a similar type of shoot. She too, was nervous. It was a ripple effect, Laura’s shoot had been infectious, why shouldn’t we embrace our body, feel confident, and get over our niggling feelings of body perception? It appeared that facing your fears actually works.

This weekend I went to Laura’s house. Alex was there, and she had her camera. I realised that I actually deep-down wanted nothing more than to be part of the #StrongAndSexy campaign and whilst boiling the kettle I got over the fear and said I should do it. Have my picture taken. Be brave. Do the bungee jump. This wasn’t about doing a ‘sexy photo-shoot’, or being posey, or cringe or tacky. This was for me, to have naked photos of myself. And to celebrate my body so that in 50 years I can look back and think YOU LOOK ALRIGHT ACTUALLY.

This was also about saying a big EFF YOU to the beauty industry – the industry that seeps into us all from childhood. The industry that makes us feel that we don’t have the permission to be the way we are. And that we are silly or self-indulgent or ‘asking for it’ if we decide to celebrate it. I could just cover myself up and continue reading the magazines and wishing I looked different. But I know something for sure: that would be a waste.

So, the shoot itself: I felt ridiculous. Hilarious. Awkward. I am no model. I was sat on the bed wearing an over-sized t-shirt that Laura had bought from the charity shop next door for £1, taking off my bra (pants stayed on). I put it on, taking off my bra and thinking…what am I doing! I had been inspired enough to get that far, to want to join the conversation of removing the stigma attached to celebrating your body yet I was acting as if someone had asked me to dive with sharks. I didn’t have a CLUE how to pose, or act, or behave. Alex was amazing, telling me where to put my head, where to look, we chatted about other stuff whilst I was naked and I started to calm down a bit.

When I saw the photos, I felt a bit emotional. I looked…good. I’ve always been so terrified to actually embrace my whole body as it is and learn to love it. It’s strange to say, but I guess I’d never properly seen it before. I just put my clothes on each day. After seeing Alex’s photos I felt like I was letting out a big pent-up sigh of relief, and thought “you know what. This is what I’ve got. And actually I’m darn happy with it.”

In this world of the #Fappening, mobile hacking, J-Law leaked nude pics, it being REVOLUTIONARY that Lena Dunham got naked on TV I wanted to make a point. What happens if you want to celebrate yourself, for YOURSELF? What happens if it is posted out there, into a public forum, and it all goes tits up (mind the pun?) It’s OK to share them. I’ve got the pictures on my desktop. And for me, that in itself is f*cking terrifying. But won’t stop me from having them.

I decided to not post the revealing ones on here. I was going to. But actually, on reflection, they genuinely were just for myself. I will get them printed on big paper. Just having them stored somewhere I know will make me feel good.  I like looking at them. This whole experience made me realise that I don’t want to be scared of being myself, or at looking at my own body. It’s all about what you feel at the end of the day.

And if you ever come to my house, I’m sure I’ll get them out and bore you with them whilst you have a cup of tea.

If you’re interested in having this same experience (which I MASSIVELY recommend) – it’s terrifying yes, but it’s empowering doing it for YOURSELF – the shoots start from less than £100 and Alex’s contact details are here).

To keep up with her work, follow her on instagram, facebook and twitter.
Thanks for reading. X

Do You Want To Go To The MOBO Awards?

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You know I don’t normally do giveaways on this blog unless the prize is AWESOME, and this prize REALLY is. I’ve teamed up with Three this week to giveaway tickets for you and a friend to attend the MOBO Awards on Wednesday 22nd October at the SSE Arena!

All you have to do is send me an email with the answer to this question:

HTC’s latest flagship smartphone the HTC One M8 has super-long battery life (WOO!) but how many minutes of talk time can you get from a single charge?

Submit your answer – along with your name, age, email address and telephone number – for your chance to win two tickets to the MOBOs!

Email me with the subject “MOBO Three competition” to girllostinthecityblog@gmail.com and I’ll pick the correct answer and reveal the winner on my blog – and contact them directly.


T&Cs (the boring bit…)

  • Only one winner will be selected
  • Winner will receive a pair of tickets to the MOBOs final on Wednesday 22 October at 7pm (19:00) at the SSE Arena, Arena Square, Engineers Way, London HA9 0AA
  • Winners will be contacted by me on Sunday 19 October, and asked to supply the names of both attendees
  • Tickets will be sent by Three on Monday 20 October using next day delivery to ensure the winner receives their tickets on time. Tickets will not be sent separately
  • Travel and accommodation costs are not included
  • Entrants must be 18 or over

Image source: newleafseniors.com

Not That Kind of Book


In a strange way, I’m slightly gutted that my awkward teen/childhood has been trumped. I’m not usually that competitive about ‘who’s more of a loser’ but I thought my 14-year-old self was the worst one out there, surely. Surely all those weird dreams, getting into trouble at school, experimenting with baggy jeans and black lipstick and fancying the grossiest of boys made me the worst teen ever?

After reading Lena’s poignant memoir Not That Kind of Girl I no longer feel embarrassed, ashamed, or humiliated anymore, about anything actually (which is quite extraordinary: I have some extremely cringe memories). Instead, I feel purged of my sins and at one with my awkward yesteryears because actually, Lena has tied up all that ‘shame’ into a book, put a bow around it and pushed it out into the world. The result being that now ALL my “skeletons” that used to reside in the closet are now walking around, quite confidently, introducing themselves to anyone they meet. ‘I used to do THIS, how grim is that! I win!’ The internet has allowed us to over-share (or should I say encouraged), and in fact it’s therapeutic. This book gives any millennial the confidence to say: YEAH I WAS WEIRD, WEREN’T WE ALL? And for that reason alone, I applaud it. It’s hard to be honest, especially when your past isn’t that far behind you. Plus, a lot of bad memories unfortunately exist somewhere, digitally online.

Here are the main themes that I took away from the book:

Being a teenager is literally the worst

NTKOG took me firmly by the hand and forced me down a #dark Memory Lane. In some chapters it all came suddenly spiralling back, lots of neglected memories that were once wedged into the hidden corners of my mind where suddenly staring at me, in loud technicolour. This resulted in a mixed feeling of gratitude to Lena and slight resentment: her sharp memory has now made me face up to my past. All those times I felt screwed over as a teen, not yet in control of myself enough to know how to go about solving issues, big or small. Because after all, who wants to face up to potentially the worst years of your life whilst curling up with a book? Those situations in which you test your parents (lying at house parties, getting into trouble, bad school reports, screaming matches) and leave you wondering why they still love you, but they always do – all that drama, all that worry. All of those hormones.  It’s these teething periods of being so hormonal that you could scream the house down and cry in the corner of your bathroom for weeks, just because someone commented on your new hairstyle. Ridiculous in hindsight, but oh so real and raw at the time. I remember thinking to myself you must promise to remember how f*cking awful it is being a teenager for when you have your own teenage nephew/niece/daughter/son to look after one day. Never make them feel ridiculous. 

Don’t deny that us Millennials are all massive geeks

Every mention of Lena’s teen milestones (like first sex, first period, first best friend), and even the smaller things like remembering Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing and odd childhood traits like compulsive lying, made me remember things I’d sort of repressed. Things that, as an adult, I wouldn’t ever willingly need revisit. Even smaller seemly insignificant things like the moment when you were first introduced to a computer. Can you remember where you were when you first sat down onto a computer and ‘bonded’ with it? This big alien white box whirring and purring in the corner of a room, sitting there unused, until suddenly, it all clicks. You are communicating with people, really easily and it’s fun. All those days and nights of “socialising”: i.e. talking to your friends online or invited friends over to sit in front of the screen with you. Talking to boys on MSN together was your social meet-up, except you wouldn’t talk to each other. We practically taught ourselves HTML on Myspace only a few months after exiting the womb. Thinking about how much of life has been spent typing actual makes me feel a bit funny.

Really, really stupid things can disguise as being ‘fashionable’

Lena talks about things that A LOT of girls have done, whether or not you would probably ever own up to it. I too, “attempted” bulimia a few times, and like Lena, gorged and “dry heaved” with nothing coming out. It’s a serious matter of course, and I know true sufferers of this illness. But somehow I found myself laughing inwardly at this paragraph, at my stupidity, at my desperateness. In a similar situation to mine, Lena eats loads of crap food, then falls asleep by accident, and then tries this pathetic attempt at being bulimic for the day but it (fortunately) doesn’t quite work out. It totally sums up the strange teenage landscape of different trial and errors. I tried to be a vegan, vegetarian, not-eating, goth, hippy, gluten-free, Dukan diet, only-eating-Weetabix-diet, all for no longer than a few days. Of course for many others, an eating disorder it isn’t a ridiculous “fashionable thing to try out once”, it can turn into a proper problem which deserves separate attention, but this bit did relate to me, the fact I definitely tried and failed so many diet tactics, for no real reason.

It’s not all on you

“Going along with it” is a major theme of the book too. A difficult theme. Upon reading the story of Lena and Barry, I nodded along at the awful situation she finds herself in after a party. It goes a bit like this: you’re not entirely sure how you got there. You don’t really know what’s happening. You sort of trust this person, but you sort of don’t. You think ‘what’s the worst that can happen’. Luckily, in my situations I had managed to escape. But I could totally relate to these types of episodes, in which guys who lead you astray and you just follow their lead, plodding along. Walking right into the danger zone. Because in the drunken haze you see no warning signs, it’s all fun, and exciting, silly and strange, rather rebellious. But then: you realise, along with Lena’s own reflection, and her friends whom she confides in – that these situations can lead to rape. Suddenly it is extremely black and white, there, written down on the page. However reading the situation, where Lena appears to casually go along with it, you see how it was a spider’s web, a clear trap. A blurry night that can play mind-games with you for years, even though you know deep down it’s not your fault, it’s easy to doubt yourself on a hungover afternoon.


I feel like this is the tip of the iceberg for Lena. She’s warmly introduced us to her talent: her amazing, friendly writing style. It excites me that there is so much more where this came from, more books, many more books. Her writing makes us feel like we know Lena a little better. I do think that this book is for a very specific audience. I’ve read some reviews by much older journalists who just don’t seem to get it – they think it’s self-indulged or cliche. But I disagree. In fact I think it’s cliche that their reviews just comment on her monetary advance from the publisher or dryly comparing it to “the Mindy’s” and “the Tina Fey’s” (who I love, by the way, but why does everything always need the same old reference point?). These reviews don’t comment on how the book made them feel.

I think NTKOG reviews a niche period of time and there are ‘in-jokes’ for Gen Y readers only. I think it’s brave. She never had to open up to all of us, but like the rest of our generation, we like to overshare. We almost need to overshare. “I have to tell my stories in order to stay sane,” Lena wrote. And if like me, reading this book makes you feel even a little bit more OK with yourself, including all your weird and wobbly bits, then that is money well spent, in my opinion.

Available on Amazon: Not That Kind Of Girl By Lena Dunham

BUG London: The Future of Journalism

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I honestly don’t think there’s a more exciting time to work in journalism, or in the media in general. For so long the media industry sort of tried to ignore the Internet, hoping it might just go away but obviously that was never going to happen, soz guys. In the last five years, we’ve gone from needing printed news (the websites were too shitty) to being introduced to a new whole world of social media – or social news, straight into the palms of our hands 24 hours a day.

And other media industries, like PR, marketing, advertising are all getting more “hip” and modern and undergoing massive structural re-shuffles, plus introducing new roles. People are now not just account managers but “writers”, “curators”, “chief brainstormers” (etc etc). Even though most millennials thought everything was a bit old-fashioned in their first graduate job (you want me to SCAN this?) turns out everything just takes a while to adapt to change. Finally, the companies, i.e. the people behind the companies, realised it’s actually much safer these days to take risks (before your competitors do).

So now we live in a world of many job roles that would make any grandparent go, HUH? YOU WHAT? Because journalism, I feel is currently having the biggest transformation of them all. We’re having to re-train ourselves almost daily on new platforms, new formats, new delivery. Breaking old habits, learning new ones. Re-learning what people want, how they want it, when they want it. You don’t have one channel anymore, you have about 8-10, when you count up all the different social channels that your audience will no doubt search for and expect daily refreshed content.

Because what we’re mostly talking about here is the news. The thing that has always been around forever and ever and ever. Whether it’s village gossip down the pub (local news), or the 10’clock news on TV, or going to the shops and buying a newspaper, there was a really clear way in which we received our news, and who verified it. We have our different preferred trusted sources. The paper we picked up would be the way we would define ourselves.

But now – newspapers are drying up and the business models are changing. Printed news is slow. We’ve already heard it whilst the ink was drying. What does this all mean? Is the industry dead, as Seth Godin insists?

Earlier this week I went to an event put on by Bug London which is a night at the House of St Barnabus, a not-for-profit members club in Soho. The event was hosted in the most beautiful part of the building, in a chapel, candles everywhere. The question to the panel was “Do we get the press we deserve?” which was an interesting one, because of course the way we receive our news has drastically changed over the last decade. The Fleet Street glory days appear to be over. It’s now all about Silicon Valley. Briefcases away, iPads out.

Are we overly sentimental about household names when it comes to press? Miranda Sawyer asked this question to the panel. For example, Sophie Heawood, who had a column “Milf Teeth” in Vice I’ve been following for yonks, has now jumped ship to the Guardian as a weekend columnist. A fabulous job of course, but said herself that Vice really is taking over financially and broadening their offering in very savvy ways. Given the choice, would you choose a household brand over a newer venture? Does a traditional paper even had more clout anymore? Is it a generational thing?

Matt Kelly, former head of features at the Daily Mirror was on the panel, reminiscing about the good old days (in the 80s) where the salary was huge and you could buy a house with your annual earnings, and have a never-ending budget to do some seriously high-rolling. (And he worked with Piers Morgan, nuff said). Now, the budgets in newspapers are much much lower, the teams are smaller, and it’s even harder to get an entry level job at one of them.

Scott Bryan from Buzzfeed jumped in and everyone was completely engrossed in hearing about the behind-the-scenes, you know, being the hottest new website on the block. Buzzfeed was only founded in 2006 and has just received $50 million in funding. AKA, doing way better than Rupert Murdoch’s papers who lose millions every day. People sat in the audience were sceptical and asked Scott some difficult questions about how such a site would be sustainable but he made it known that the site isn’t just cat videos and lists. He also made it clear that the staff writers also have proper editing, as it appears that a few people were assuming that things just get slapped on the site within moments. It was really interesting to hear because I love Buzzfeed long reads and overall the business model is so interesting. But it seemed as though the old school journalists weren’t happy with the idea of a gimmicky website taking over, taking eyeballs away from traditional news sources where you would normally pay for your content.

I asked a question at the end about the importance of the individuals who are profiled within the papers. I spend a small fortune every weekend on papers, but that’s because I want to read Caitlin’s Times column, Lauren Laverne in Observer, Katie Glass and Camilla Long in Sunday Times etc. Those writers have their own personal audience who enjoy their weekly words and trust their judgement – it’s the individuals who keep pulling in younger readers. Some writers have bigger social followings than the publications and could jump ship at any moment, taking that community with them. Then we all got sidetracked and spoke about Jenna Marbles for ages. But definitely an example though of a self-made platform with a mega audience. Everyone is self-publishing, it’s just that some grow to the millions and some don’t.

The night was full of debate, lots of reflectiveness, and a lot of questions. No one had all the answers. I think it’s fair to say that we all agreed that the media is in a total state of flux right now. But, as someone who is very much a “digital native” (vom at the over-use of those two words but you know what I mean) I am really excited for the digital future of the news. I think becoming more connected can only be a good thing, for everyone. It also gives everybody a reason to never become complacent.