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Confession: Shopping stresses me out. I’ve also churned out five product reviews in the last year or so. This apparent contradiction has inspired more than one friend to ask, with a confused, kindly tone: What gives? Do you like doing them?
The answer is: Yes! Look, I’m as surprised as anyone. But the truth is I love product testing generally and freelancing for Reviewed, in particular.
One of my biggest beefs with shopping is the way it’s lined with pitfalls that have the potential to sink time, money, and resources (which, in turn, contribute to climate change and other Big Problems). But it turns out that helping people shop smarter is something I can get behind. Not enjoying the shopping process personally means I have practice and passion for making it as efficient and effective as possible. Plus, I’ve availed myself of many a product review over the years, so there’s a cosmic (ok, capitalistic) balance in helping other people pole vault over some booby traps.
I love the nuts and bolts of the work, too. I am all about opportunities to understand something deeply, apply research and organizational skills, adopt the point-of-view of others, and use words to present what I learn in a practical and engaging way. Writing product reviews requires all of this and more, making them a perfect writing puzzle for this former mental health researcher. Granted, they’re not the only type of thing I ever want to write (writing only one kind of piece til the end of time would be deadly boring), but product reviews are a genuinely appealing part of my freelance writing diet.
New Writing From Me
Speaking of product reviews…I’m proud to share my fifth (and most involved) service piece for Reviewed (a division of USA Today). This time I tested strollers. If you know anything about product testing, you know strollers are big. I’m grateful for the chance to take this on.
If you or anyone you know anyone is stroller shopping, read my piece, Best Strollers of 2022! I took more than 300,000 steps and let a fleet of strollers annex my guest room for months so you would know the best stroller for your family right now.
Books I Think You’ll Like
For this newsletter, I like to recommend books I’ve read this month. It gives an urgency to my reading and provides me a little invisible companionship. You (yes you) are sitting on my shoulder as I read what I read, and I get to wonder about whether I think a book is worth your time right now. By the time I finished this book in late May, I had already decided on three other books for you. But it’s July now, and I’m still thinking about Essential Labor: Mothering as Social Change by Angela Garbes so I figured it was time to tell you about it. I think the first half of the book (organized as part one, what Garbes calls “A Personal History of Mothering in America”) is especially strong. In particular, the essays titled “Mothering as Survival” and “Mothering as Valuable Labor” provided context and critique that helped me locate my experience as a mother in the fabric of America in ways I hadn’t before, not exactly.
Baby A is a year old now. Thankfully, this means he’s sleeping for longer stretches overnight (Except this week — Get it together, Baby A!). More connected sleep cycles feels like my brain is coming back to me. When I’m exhausted, I remember that I am passionate about writing, but the passion itself is somewhere out there in the foggy distance. Being more well rested lifts the clouds and brings me closer to the feeling. One sign post along the sunlit path is that craft books appeal again. How to Tell a Story: The Essential Guide to Memorable Storytelling from the Moth is explicitly about oral storytelling rather than written, but I think it still counts. The forward and introduction and other congratulatory parts are a bit much for me, but the bulk of the content is hard to argue with.
I picked up this book at the going-out-of-business sale at my neighborhood bookstore (RIP Storied Owl). I’m sad that such a loss brought this book into my hands but very glad to have turned its pages. Weather: A Novel by Jenny Offill occupies the liminal space between novel and poem in a way that makes is very not-shocking that Ocean Vueng blurbed the book. Offill’s novel is more about mood and character than plot, and I loved falling into it nightly before bed.
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