Personal Essays and Fiction
I write across many different niches, from literary essays to fiction; arts and culture to parenting; tech and design. I teach in the First-year Writing Program at The New School in NYC, and for the Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College. Sarah Lawrence College, MFA '17. Recent publications in Variant Literature, Post Road, Fictive Dream, The White Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Green Mountains Review, and HCE Review.
Personal Essays and Fiction
by Rachel Aydt The salesperson who sold the set of World Book Encyclopedias to Dorothy O'Sullivan in 1958 knocked on her door, his tired hat in one hand and his briefcase in the other. He touted his product. 'It's a real boon for a family, a real step-up on the homework front!'
Winnie heard the panhandler's voice before she saw him; it echoed across Sixth Avenue and pinged off the walls of the Jefferson Market Library. "Oh my god, you look like the fifth Beatle!" he called out. Daddy longlegs-tall and thin, the man wore a plaid blazer that looked like something one might don for a Christmas party.
TINY BABBITT Beth Babbitt's parents died after an airplane slid off the runway in Chicago because of ice buildup. By the time they were gone, she was already grown, living alone in a floor-through apartment in downtown Manhattan. All there was to do was call the family lawyer.
by Rachel Aydt THOMAS WAS THIRTEEN years old, taking one of the long evening walks that he understood was necessary to keep him tuned up in his body. During the school days, his whirligig energy complicated things. It was all he could do to make it through each class, and it was never without long...
Winnie's 350-square foot studio that she called home resembled a submarine, she liked to say to strangers, to offer them a quick image of what it was like to live in small spaces. A submarine was dark and hollow, challenged by gravity.
Where Harry and Helen Staley would sleep was obvious; Winnie would give up her full-sized bed and take the couch. She scrubbed the grimy black and white tile in the bathroom.
ST. JOAN The great actress Renée Jeanne Falconetti stands trial for heresy, a woeful story told with her eyes and their shadows, deep ponds of grey long-written about. Carl Theodor Dreyer's La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc was filmed in 1928. Falconetti's Joan wobbles between the fortitude of her beliefs and the struggle...
Big Mouth Rachel Aydt There's a woman in my neighborhood named Big Mouth. That's what I call her, anyway. I see her walking down the street, talking to everyone like she owns the joint. It's deeply annoying, because of course she doesn't. It's not like she's the freakin' mayor of the East Village.
"Better to Give" short story
'I used to take a moment at the pump to bend down and tie my shoes, but they've rotted into strips and I've let them go, like so many other things. There might be rust on the pump, or it might be dusty. The water comes out in a trickle.'
Puppet Kite Window, by Rachel Aydt
RACHEL AYDT "But when he calls me, I will be able to meet my family at God's table." - Gillian Welch, "Orphan Girl" Orphan: One Deprived of Some Protection or Advantage My wispy septuagenarian neighbor Nick paces my block with a bulky camera around his neck.
fiction, May 2018 issue
In winter, the ubiquitous American elm trees are bare and the anemic playgrounds of these projects are empty; the concrete of the buildings appears heavy against the gray skies.... And yet, in ...
(above) These days, the Witter Bynner House is the Inn of the Turquoise Bear. I n 1983, When I was 11 years old, I lived in a mysterious adobe mansion on the corner of East Buena Vista Street and Old
My 9-year-old son Jamie is obsessed with chess. I taught him a few basic moves at 5, and then he went on to chess club, summer camp and now, tournaments. All that formal training made him a competent player, but didn't teach him the strategy and anticipation so vital to winning.
GET UPDATES FROM Rachel Aydt I'd been away to Texas for a few days visiting my very sick (and beloved) Grandmother, most likely saying goodbye in person for the last time. It hasn't been an easy season.
I was home with my feverish 5-year-old when a colleague called to say she had terrible news. I imagined a plane hitting a mountain, or a grim subway accident killing our boss. Call me naive, but I never expected her to say our employer was shutting the doors of our office forever.
Last night, my kid and I rented The Grey, a film I wasn't sure about showing to him. He's 9-years-old and it's rated R... but he was very enthusiastic about watching guys get eaten by wolves. Instead, we watched Sleepless in Seattle. At first, he was suspicious about our change of plans.
I brought home Edna, a Chihuahua/terrier mutt, when I was 12 years old. She'd been living with a punk rock boy named Clay who hung out where I did on the Santa Fe Plaza. We were called the Plaza Rats (in our thrift store creations and Violent Femmes-blasting boomboxes), but this Edna "thing" was rattier than any of us put together.
I've just finished reading the new eBook anthology Welcome to My World , a collection of 13 essays written by mothers about work/life balance. I contributed a piece called "Robot Moms in the Closet," whereby I imagined a science fiction world where a mother could call upon various robot clones of herself to meet various needs at any given time.
I first met Rachel Aydt when I took her Fashion Publishing course last fall. It was where I found my love for magazine writing! But don't think that you have to be a journalism student to take her Fashion publishing course; students ranged from BBA Design and Management majors to BFA Fashion Designers.
The Essex Street Market on the Lower East Side of Manhattan is a collision of old and new. Admittedly, the new is more attractive than the old. A bakery gleams across the aisle from a wall of dusty deli cans; a trendy taco joint draws more crowds than that old Santoria religious store that's been there since time forgot.
On the Arts...
Sarah McColl's debut book, Joy Enough: A Memoir (Liveright, April 2019), was a crushingly beautiful look at a mother-daughter relationship, written after her mother died of cancer. It's an investigation into deep grief and what shapes us, but also it's a study in observational precision and the moments that add up to a life well-lived.
The writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (1927 - 2013) lived a life that spanned numerous wars and traversed the globe. She wrote novels and screenplays; Heat and Dust, her eighth, garnered the Man Booker Prize in 1975, and her E.M. Forster-adapted screenplays, A Room with a View and Howards End, both won Oscars.
I'm on a non-fiction tear this summer in preparation for a new course I'm teaching this fall at Eugene Lang, and feel blessed that my first real foray into this summer reading binge was with Gabrielle Hamilton's memoir Blood, Bones and Butter.
Once confined to large, lavish spaces, chandeliers were traditionally all about opulence, symbols of success hanging overhead in visions of crystal, gold and silver. Today's designs reflect more surprising and eclectic ideas - but in their whimsical twinkling, there's still a nod to the old magic.
All good artists find inspiration where they can - even if that means tapping failure. In 1985, Pritzker Prize-winning architect Frank Gehry was commissioned to design a home for Ohio insurance magnate Peter Lewis. The project began well: Gehry was encouraged to experiment and push the boundaries in form and function.
One Woman's Journey into the Southwest.
Turns out you can have your fancy digital and the retro look of your old Leica, too: meet Samsung's Digimax L85, whose sturdy black shell conjures up the romance of 35 mm of yore. Samsung's eight-megapixel Digimax L85 is the world's first digital still camera to feature High Definition Multimedia Interface.
In the spring of 1951 in New York City, Jack Kerouac sat down to type his magnum opus, On the Road, onto 10 rolls of architectural tracing paper taped together to create the most famous scroll in secular literary history. Now the scroll travels back to New York for the 50th anniversary of On the Road's first printing.
Paris has always harbored a special allure for American expatriate writers, artists and composers. But throughout the late 19th century, a particularly high concentration of great American painters - including Winslow Homer, James McNeill Whistler and Mary Cassatt - passed through the City of Light. From Oct. 24-Jan.
Artists in unstable and troubled countries always find a way to speak. In Thailand - currently in political turmoil - messages of protest and dissent have begun appearing in canvases, embroideries and sculptures.
No New Yorker was safe from Weegee's lens - not the grieving widow, the flirting husband, destitute children or drunks on the Bowery as they were bundled into a police wagon. And the Big Apple crime photographer named Usher Fellig, later anglicized to Arthur Fellig but internationally famous under his two-syllable pseudonym, is set to haunt the public again with his revealing and sometimes macabre images.
William Hogarth, the 18th century English painter and printmaker, called the S-curve the "line of beauty." From this graceful line arose the entire rococo aesthetic, which first flourished in Paris in the early 1700s. Gathering momentum in the salons of Europe, rococo survived by mutating, reaching one of its many peaks during the Art Nouveau movement of the early 20th century.
"If your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough," Robert Capa once said. The Hungarian-born Endre Friedman (who rechristened himself the less ethnic-sounding Robert Capa to get more work) became a legend shooting five wars by getting closer to the action than most dared - including when he landed on Omaha Beach in Normandy with the first wave of U.S.
TIME.com explores the most exotic, beautiful and interesting getaways There are 8 million New Yorkers, which means around 8 million closets that get regularly purged. After they come off the hanger, some of the best garments end up in the city's vintage stores.
Nestled in New Mexico's sangre de Cristo mountain range is Santa Fe (Spanish for Holy Faith), a small city of 70,000 that has been in existence since Spanish settlers took root in 1610. The oldest capital city in the U.S.
What is it that so endears us to such a painful genre? The voyeuristic impulse to watch the horrifying train wreck of addiction and despair, cruelty and sickness is a big motivator, followed by watching the delicate craft of the author putting their life back together.
Amsterdam was a hotbed of conceptual art in the 1960s and '70s. In its damp studios and fetid cafés, artists from dozens of countries came together in the belief that the ideas behind a work were more important than the work itself. (See Time.com/Travel for city guides, stories and advice.)
Life in Paris during the Belle Epoque saw the buttoned-up 19th century step aside for a more carefree Modernism. Forward-thinking and well-connected fashion designer Paul Poiret seized the moment. The self-appointed King of Fashion, who started his career at Paris' House of Worth, discarded the corset in 1906 for loose, flowing shapes, including Empire-waist dresses and Middle Eastern caftans.
My 6-year-old son, Jamie, came home from school talking about something new that had happened in his circle of friends. He'd caught a glimpse of Miro kissing Stephanie on the cheek, but he wanted Stephanie to be his girlfriend, not Miro's. My questions began pouring out: Does Stephanie know you like her?
For nearly a decade, my husband, 9-year-old son, and I have lived on the top floor of a five-story apartment building in Manhattan. However, until I recently chaperoned a field trip with my son's third-grade class to the New York City Fire Museum, I'd never seriously considered what we would do if a fire broke out.
A local nutritionist shares tips to getting your child to make healthier food choices and limit the amount of sugar in their diets and discusses refined sugar versus unrefined sugar, as well as the benefits of having natural sugars as part of your diet. Are you living with a little sugar beast?
Maybe your child's favorite refrain on the playground is, "That's not how you kick the ball; do it like this!" Or, maybe he's entered a new phase where he likes to challenge every Monopoly move his little brother makes, or corrects all the baseball facts his best friend rattles off.
Plenty has been written about teaching children to be more tolerant of their peers with special needs, but what about reaching unsympathetic adults? How to handle those intrusive questions and ignorant comments, whether on the playground or, ahem, at a family gathering. Let's say you're on the playground with your 3-year-old who (hypothetically) has sensory issues.
On Bookstores and Writers...
Fashion brand Club Monaco has enlisted The Strand bookstore to decorate its flagship store with books, creating a store-within-a-store. By Rachel Aydt Walk down Fifth Avenue in the Flatiron district of Manhattan and you'll see the expected mid to high-end retail storefronts: An Anthropologie and Restoration Hardware over here; a Banana Republic and Ann Taylor over there, and a Club Monaco clothing store tucked in for good measure.
Three Lives & Co. Booksellers in New York City has managed to survive increasing economic pressure that has forced the closing of numerous other bookstores. Three Lives' longevity is the result of staying very much the same as when it first opened in 1968.
By Rachel Aydt New York writer Rachel Aydt is traveling through Europe this summer, and has been filing occasional posts on her bookish adventures. Today, she visits an English-language bookshop in Rome.
Rachel Aydt PARIS: On a bright and sunny Wednesday, we set out to see the catacombs- I should have guessed we wouldn't be the only tourists heading over to Montparnasse for a glimpse of the deep macabre; problem was, we weren't exactly expecting the line to literally reach around the block and number into the several hundreds.
By Rachel Aydt PARIS: I've gotten to the point during a long summer apartment swap in Paris where the Lonely Planet France and Paris books aren't going to cut muster for much longer. It all begins to sound the same...one bland historical reference after another (how exciting can a single sentence be?)...it was time to hit a bookstore for some reading material (in Anglais).
By Rachel Aydt It's just getting harder and harder to buy a print book in Manhattan, America's publishing capital. Following on today's feature story about bookstores looking to raise cash on the internet for survival comes the news that Partners & Crime Mystery Booksellers, a specialty bookstore on Greenwich Avenue in Manhattan that has been in business for 18 years, will close its doors for good on September 20th.
Paris' venerable Librairie Galignani lays claim to being the oldest English language bookstore on the European continent. * Despite its age - the store was founded in 1801, but the publishers of the same name date back to 1520 - it has weathered the years well and continues be an important part of Paris' vibrant literary community.
Today, authors are compelled to constantly self-promote, but the practice isn't always pleasant or appropriate. * What happens when the intimacy of the typically quiet writer's life, and the nature of real friendship, blends with the public persona of our professional selves online?
By Rachel Aydt * Some people think that there's a "second book jinx." Is it real? * Writers, editors and publicists explain the challenges facing those who want to publish a successful follow-up. The pressure of high expectations makes second books a peculiar business.
St. Mark's in New York City and Atlantis Books in Greece are just two stores that turned to the internet for financial salvation. By Rachel Aydt Late last month, St. Mark's Bookstore in New York City launched its first crowdfunding campaign on a website called Lucky Ant.
Jan Berenstain's 300 books have sold more than 200 million copies and soothed just as many souls. By Rachel Aydt Jan Berenstain, who with her husband Stan created the Berenstain Bears series, died on on February 27, after suffering a major stroke. She was 88 years old.
Cuba by Inverna Lockpez and Dean Haspiel, offers a unique view of Castro's Revolutionary-era Cuba from the point-of-view of one of its dissident artists. * Haspiel offers a visual interpretation of his interview with PP writer Rachel Aydt and discusses the challenges of interpreting with such a highly-charged and personal story.
At BEA, veteran publicists offered various strategies and tips for promoting books with no clear author or the the author is not available or even dead. By Rachel Aydt What do you do when you're planning an author's marketing campaign...but there's no author on hand to promote the book?
On the Publishing Industry...
By Rachel Aydt Like gallery openings, one might stumble into a neighborhood bookstore only to find a casual book release party. Maybe there's a few cheap bottles of Chilean red, some chat, and a little reading to go along with it. So what happens when you take away all of those elements, but still call it a party?
By Rachel Aydt Yesterday's opening Keynote Panel at BookExpo America 2013, "The Future of the Book," once again set the tone for this year's book fair.
By Rachel Aydt What's black and white and read all over? Apparently, it's English content in China - not English books translated into Chinese, but rather the English books themselves, in both ebook and physical format.
"Begin to think of your backlist as a series of fragments that can be repurposed," says Randy Petway, COO of Publishing Technology. By Rachel Aydt Last Thursday at Publishing Perspectives' Monetizing the Backlist conference, Randy Petway, COO of Publishing Technology, asked a tough love question to the crowd: Are you going to adapt to survive, or adapt to thrive?
By Rachel Aydt Last week at BookExpo America, editors from five different publishing houses were walking on air over their upcoming buzz-worthy Middle Grade titles. I expected the panel to be, at least in part, a conversation about the state of the industry insofar as that demographic is concerned, but no such luck.
By Rachel Aydt You're reading an ebook on your device, whichever one it may be, but the font size is a bit small. You bump it from 10-point type to 12-point, the text reflows automatically, and your reading experience continues on without a hitch.
Digital publishing startups are sprouting up in Australia, where they may be late to the game but still see a wealth of opportunity in their (spacious) backyard. By Rachel Aydt In Australia, a pair of entrepreneur publishers have decided, independent from one another, to take the matter of digital distribution and publication into their own hands, rather than wait for the changing industry to find them Down Under.
By Rachel Aydt Reading the original Oprah Book Club list is like throwing yourself into a dizzying cultural time machine. From Charles Dickens to Gabriel Garcia Marquez to Toni Morrison, her Book Club picks from the platform of her storied ABC television talk show imprinted a new generation of readers with classics, both new and old.
By Rachel Aydt Cindy Ratzlaff, @BrandYou, is on a lot of Twitter lists, including Forbes' "30 best women entrepreneurs to follow." "I've booked six figure clients and been in national media by using Twitter," she says.
By Rachel Aydt Ask a room full of people if they've ever used Moleskine notebooks, and the cultish devotion tumbles out of their mouths quicker than you can say "Analog, please." Marco Beghin, an Italian who's headed up Moleskine America as its president for over seven years, has a keen understanding of the relationship between his customer and their love of paper.
By Rachel Aydt For a long time, publishing companies have tried to use analytics software originally designed for larger companies such as GM, whose interest in the social media spectrum doesn't exactly match their own need to collect book chatter. There's General Motors and car building and selling, and then there's the publishing industry and books and, well, that's that.
Follow the Twitter conversation from the conference under hashtag #reachingreaders. By Rachel Aydt and Edward Nawotka During the first half of Publishing Perspectives' " Reaching Readers Conference " on Tuesday, panelists posed challenging questions against the backdrop of even more challenging statistics: Last year, $170 billion was spent on direct marketing and only a fraction of that reached potential readers; and only 7% of "word of mouth" marketing, arguably the most effective means of...
By Rachel Aydt Recently I was browsing New York City's Shakespeare & Co. bookstore, and the classics section caught my eye. The store relies on face-out displays and I was surprised to find that instead of the familiar Penguin black paperbacks was a collection of clothbound hardback books with embossed covers.
The Finns' love of books has bolstered the publishing industry in spite of global economic challenges. This article was supported by FILI - Finnish Literature Exchange. By Rachel Aydt In Finland, the publishing industry isn't exactly on fire, but in spite of the challenges of the last few years, cool heads have prevailed.
Bookshare is a non-profit seeding literacy for those to whom it doesn't come easily. By Rachel Aydt I've been dipping my big toe into the waters of how accessible literature is for those with print disabilities, something that recently grabbed my interest as I walked past the New York Public Library's Andrew Heiskill Braille and Talking Book Library in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood.
BEA 2014 highlighted translation, with overlapping sessions focusing on missed chances, the ever-expanding marketplace, and changing avenues toward publication. By Rachel Aydt For the first time, BookExpo America - the United States' primary publishing event - focused its Global Market Forum on the topic of translation, rather than on a specific country.
Storybird offers free illustrations as inspiration for writers to produce a corresponding text, resulting in a variety of books from the same source. By Rachel Aydt Trying to explain to someone what the crowdsourcing website Storybird is can be difficult, because the truth is, it doesn't quite know what it is yet.
A new online service from R.J. Julia Booksellers - "Just the Right Book" - promises to match readers with their ideal books and keep them coming back for more. By Rachel Aydt The "bookstore business" is a pretty loaded term nowadays.
By Rachel Aydt Monday's panel at BookExpo America, "Free for the Asking: Marketing with PR and Social Media" was a bit of a tease. After all, who doesn't want something for free? What I wasn't aware of is that I was going to stumble into the world of struggling indie bookstore owners, each struggling for their own part of a market share.
By Rachel Aydt Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, is moving his company - already heralded as the largest, global, indie, self-publishing digital outlet - to an even more global playing field. As international as the distributor/publisher is, all instructions on the Smashwords site remains in English (including a very lengthy and comprehensive self-publishing guide written by Coker).
Random House's Open House last Friday brought together writers, editors and readers for discussions about craft, strategy and finding your soul signature. By Rachel Aydt Last Friday, May 4, the Random House headquarters on Broadway and 55th Streets in New York City opened their doors to a large flock of enthusiastic readers, aspiring writers, students, and all other manner of walk of life.
"Most e-book readers do not provide right-to-left functionality, and that's only if they get away with displaying Arabic characters in the first place." By Rachel Aydt Self-publishing an e-book is pretty simple. Once the thing is written and (hopefully) edited, all you have to do is choose your platform and click a few buttons.
Every book is a backlist opportunity. Here we offer 8 tips gleaned from Publishing Perspectives' "Monetizing the Backlist" conference last Thursday. By Rachel Aydt On April 24, Publishing Perspectives held a half-day conference at Scholastic, sponsored by Publishing Technology, called "Monetizing the Backlist."
The growth of literary translation has given authors unprecedented opportunities, but challenges - such as a loss of meaning as books cross borders - remains. By Rachel Aydt What do international novelists CJ Lyons, John Rector, Denise Rudberg, Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson and Deborah Reed have in common?
Tweeters and bloggers are teaching publishers new tricks, and each continues to profit from collaboration with the other. By Rachel Aydt Blogger. Vlogger. Tweeter. Author. Journalist. These words aren't synonymous, and yet they all have one thing in common: behind these terms are people who are jockeying in the media world for your attention.
By Rachel Aydt The multi-media packaging business Full Fathom Five, the brainchild of James Frey - who until Lance Armstrong appears on TV today, was likely Oprah's most famous confessor - has refined a business formula that marries talented writers, filmmakers, television producers, video game makers and toy designers, into one big collaborative "IP Factory."
Editorial by Rachel Aydt Social networking sites exploded last week as Amazon rolled out a new promotion whereby you download a new barcode scanning app from them, walk into a store, scan the book/toy/electronic item that you're planning on purchasing, and then exit the store, go home and purchase it online through Amazon for a 5% discount of up to $15.
Milan-based 40K Books is convinced that less is more, and offers e-books that can be read in 60 minutes or less. Interview by Rachel Aydt MILAN: E-book publishing house 40K Books (the "K" stands for Key, not the abbreviation for thousand) is a company based in Milan that has planted itself firmly into the global digital marketplace.
Cairo-based Kotobee, sister company to BookBake, has launched a new tool for developing interactive textbooks in the Arab world. By Rachel Aydt There's a new ebook engine in town by the name of Kotobee. It's an "interactive ebook engine" that was launched on April 10 by Vijua, the same Cairo-based company that put out the Arabic-friendly ebook software Bookbake a couple of years ago.
By Rachel Aydt International rights deals provide a growing revenue stream many agents, even as advances from publishers continue to shrink. Tuesday's panel "What is the Low-Down on the Global Publishing Marketplace?" panel moderated by agent Ira Silverberg of Sterling Lord Literistic, offered several tips, observations and "best practices" for working in the field of international rights.
"In a way, each of these libraries are an everyday miracle. Somehow, they just keep going." By Rachel Aydt In 2009, the first Little Free Library was erected in Hudson, WI by Todd Bol, who wanted to find a creative way to memorialize his mother, a book lover.
By Rachel Aydt Last Friday night, at the Bowery Poetry Club in Manhattan's Lower East Side, the book GirlBomb: A Halfway Homeless Memoir, by Janice Erlbaum, was being celebrated on its 5th Anniversary by roughly fifty people who appeared to have been deeply touched in different ways by the memoir.
By Rachel Aydt Wednesday at noon, on the Uptown Stage, four YA authors gathered to discuss their new book project Dear Bully, a spirited anthology that has gathered some of the industries best to crack open the shame and hurt of being bullied-and bullying.
By Rachel Aydt In their anthology, Read.Russia: An Anthology of Voices an introduction written by Antonina W. Bouis evokes the space inhabited by the tribe of silent translators. She writes, "A good translation should be transparent and unobtrusive, and then, of course, like a good mobile phone connection, it is taken for granted.