Gina Vaynshteyn is a successful writer and former Minnesota girl who just so happens to be our new favorite person, making us laugh about everything from cult films to bra shopping. Between writing for HelloGiggles, Thought Catalog, working as an editor for BuddyTV and teaching composition at SDSU, Gina was kind enough to let us pick her brain on everything from her writing process to drink of choice (vodka lemonade, please) and what she misses most about the good ole' Midwest.
S&TF: You have an amazing roster of publications you write for, and on a broad range of topics. You're an editor for BuddyTV and a published poet; you contribute to HelloGiggles as well as Thought Catalog. How have you built such a diverse career as a writer? Who has inspired you along the way?
Wow, THANK YOU, first of all. My parents would be so proud to read that paragraph. Well, I read a lot in college--both in volume and in variety. I love classics such as Edith Wharton, and modern/post-modern/contemporary/whatever we call it books like The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen and Killing Yourself to Live by Chuck Klosterman. My friend Caitlin got me into poetry when she let borrow Crush by Richard Siken. It just hypnotized me. I knew I wouldn't make any money from pursuing poetry, but I decided to do it anyway. I also discovered I wasn't half bad, and my professors pushed me to apply to MFA programs, so I did. While in school, I came into some free time, so I started writing personal essays and I sent them out, and lo and behold, HelloGiggles responded. It was kind of a domino effect after that. Writers/personas who inspire my writing would probably be Joan Didion, Kelly Oxford, Mindy Kaling, and Chelsea Fagan. I'll read anything they write/have written.
S&TF: Because you write on such a wide range of topics, including pop culture, we want to know: what are some of your current pop culture fascinations/obsessions?
Oh man. Okay. I'm still not over Beyonce yet, and her "Flawless" remix with Nicki Minaj is just everything amazing about the world we live in. I recently got back into America's Next Top Model because I'm covering it for BuddyTV, and I forgot how much I absolutely adore Tyra Banks. She's a wicked powerhouse. Let's see...I just love exploring the banal, and the nuances of life. Like, today I wrote an article for Bustle about baristas and our subconscious relationships with them. I also think Normcore is bizarre but I kind of like it as much as I hate it. I'm also SO EXCITED for Alt-J's new album, which comes out later this month. I've been pretty much only listening to "Left Hand Free" for like 2 weeks straight.
S&TF: We read that you teach writing at SDSU! When aspiring writers come to you for advice, what is one thing you tell them?
I do! I teach composition, so it's pretty dry and most students would rather swim in pools of hot Jell-o, but there ARE a few who are interested in journalism or creative writing, and I tell them to try out some classes and see if that's what they want to do. Because if they're not sure, I would never, ever recommend writing. It's very time-consuming. And you have pour everything of yourself into it to succeed.
S&TF: What is your drink of choice, and why?
Right now I'm super into lemonade vodka. It's like 100 degrees here in San Diego and it's the most refreshing thing, ever.
S&TF: What does your process look like for writing poetry?
I always, always start off by reading a book that is inspiring. While I read, I jot down images I like, and I play with those. Bring some new ones in. Get a narrative of some sort going, even if it's super choppy. Something usually comes together within an hour or two.
S&TF: What has it been like writing for HelloGiggles?
Amazing! HG is a really positive website, and it's made me grow as a writer and a person. I'm eternally grateful for them for giving me the chance to become a "real" writer.
S&TF: What was/is your favorite thing about Minnesota, or an aspect of it you miss?
Pretty much everything. I think I have this romanticized version in my head, because I left when I was so young. But I miss the lakes. I miss ice-skating and sledding during the winter. I miss buying new ice skates and feeling so proud of them. Minnesota had a GREAT autumn. Like, super crisp and vivid. California doesn't really have that. I miss my old house, too. My brother is 18 years older than me, so I was basically an only child and I had to entertain myself. So I got really creative. I would build forts in the basement, pretend I was a radio DJ, play in the backyard and make up all these wild scenarios. MN definitely fostered an awesome environment for kids. It's so lush and spacious. CA is crammed and very city or desert. And also kinda unforgiving.
S&TF: You're throwing your dream dinner party. Six people alive or dead can come. Who's on the list?
Zelda Fitzgerald. Christina Ricci. Jennifer Lawrence. Kelly Oxford. Allison Mosshart. Lenny Kravitz.
S&TF: What do you wish you had known 5 years ago?
That I would figure things out and to not worry. Oh, and that tenure-track positions are extinct, so maybe not get my Master's. OOPS.