Feel-Good Fall Playlist

I'm all about a good rainy day playlist, but just because the weather gets cooler doesn't mean we need to Bon Iver our ways to next spring. From pop to soul and everything in between, stay upbeat through the first frost with these dance-worthy and totally downloadable tracks.

Gave Me Something - Jesse Glynne

5 Ways Female Comediennes Taught Me To Be Fearless

This article was also published on HuffPo Women.

Gilda, Kristen, Amy, Tina. These are the names I gave during an exercise many years ago when a psychologist asked me to list women--famous or not--I would choose as mentors if hypothetically possible. I was referring of course to Radner, Wiig, Poehler, and Fey, and I chose them because to me, they were fearless.

This is probably counterintuitive if you know anything about actors or creative types because, as a group, we tend to be quite familiar with fear. Even the most skilled performers often cite that they're riddled with nerves before going on stage--but that doesn't stop them from doing it.

What that psychological exercise was getting at was that by focusing on people you admire, you uncover parts of yourself waiting to be strengthened. At first, it surprised me that I listed slapstick comediennes, but as time went on I knew it was because these women put themselves out there without fear of being judged--and that's how I wanted to live. Each year that passes I believe more and more that it's what life's all about. Not playing small. Having the courage to contribute your voice.

Because unfortunately, there is no return on investment for your fear. You get nothing back from the countless hours you spend alone with it, save for a few gray hairs. Of all the terrifying things this world has to offer, sometimes the scariest things can live within us: our negative self-talk, our beliefs about being accepted or loved or good enough. I don't know how to stop worrying. But harnessing the confidence of these women has truly helped me become more fearless, both in my creative work and in my everyday life.

Knowing that you're being true to yourself--whether you look dumb doing it or not--is the most liberating sensation there is. Recognizing you can feel the fear and pursue your passions anyway, or speak your mind even if your voice trembles, is incredibly empowering. 

So take it from the first ladies of comedy and the lessons they've given us: pretend, for one moment, that you are not afraid. Show up. Get on that stage (whether the "stage" represents your first day on the job, an actual audition, or just facing another day as your authentic self). Be willing to make a fool out of yourself. Be willing to laugh at yourself. Be brave, and try again tomorrow.

1. "No one looks stupid when they're having fun." - Amy Poehler


Everyone has a moment or two from adolescence when they distinctly remember their freak flag not being well-received and decidedly shutting it down. Although I had many before my 7th grade summer camp experience, that week was pretty much the holy grail of embarrassment. Let's just say I didn't know how to use eyeliner or sing all the words to Dashboard Confessional at the time, so I was pretty much persona non grata. I was an enthusiastic theatre nerd swimming in a sea of kids who were trying to look like they didn't give a shit; it wasn't a good combo.

At the end-of-summer dance, I remember having a great time--by myself. Let's just say I got down with Mariah Carey a bit more than punk rock. I proceeded to lip synch an entire MC song, dancing enthusiastically and doing that thing where she puts one finger up in the air, waves it around wildly while closing her eyes, and puts her other hand on her ear. I was being me, performing, acting like an idiot, but having a great time. Until...I noticed people pointing and whispering. At that moment I told myself not to have fun like that, because it wasn't cool. But as I got older, I realized that people who constantly try to fit in and appear nonchalant aren't having any fun, and Ms. Poehler backed that up for me. Would you rather be looking over your shoulder, wondering if you're being liked, or having fun and enjoying yourself? Life is too short not to sing Mariah, thanks.

2. "There is no real security except for whatever you build inside of yourself." - Gilda Radner

Throughout my early '20s I clung to the notion that other people could make me happy, and it was a calamitous way to live. It made me clingy, dependent, and miserable. If you're dependent on external forces to make you feel secure, you'll never be happy. Instead, Gilda's words remind me that we have to feel secure in ourselves in order to feel secure in the world. So no matter what's going on around you, try and build something good within yourself. Spend time cultivating self-confidence. Take responsibility for your own happiness. 

3. "Why not me?" - Mindy Kaling.

It can be easy to fall victim to "imposter syndrome" or feeling like we're not worthy of promotions, love, or even having a voice and expressing ourselves. I've certainly experienced it with creative projects, questioning whether or not things are good enough to put into the world. That sinking feeling that you don't deserve to give yourself a chance is at best distracting and at worst, paralyzing. What would happen if every powerful woman questioned whether or not she was worthy or capable of the task at hand? You can't doubt yourself like that, or you'll never get anything done. Work your ass off and know there's enough room for all of us to contribute something positive to the world. The world needs what you bring to the table, and there can never be enough people who are happily doing what they love.

4. "Don't waste energy trying to change opinions. Do your thing, and don't care if they like it" - Tina Fey


If only I would have learned this in my early twenties, they would have been a lot freer and more fun. If someone doesn't want to be with your or want you on their team in whatever way that may be, it's a waste of your time to try and change their mind. You don't need to convince anyone you're worthy of their attention. Instead, focus that energy on your own talents and passions. DO YOU. Strengthen your backbone and don't look back. Remember that people do what they do for their own reasons, and no one's opinion of you dictates your self-worth.

5. "You have to do what you really, really want to do--even if it scares the shit out of you." - Kristen Wiig


Kristen is so wonderfully unique and free and her advice is something I've tried to internalize over the last year: do what you love and worry about it later. The world needs more people who are happily pursuing their passions and sharing their light with others. I don't want to think of a world where Kristen Wiig was too scared to give us the Target Lady, or a world where Amy Poehler thought she was looking stupid so she stopped making us laugh. 

When you're passionate about something and work hard, not only will amazing things happen, but you'll make the world a happier place. So whatever you've been putting off: a solo vacation, telling someone how you feel, or pursuing your artistic dreams, life is too short not to go for it. There will always be a hundred reasons to worry on any given day, but you can't let that fear prevent you from going after what you want. So what if it doesn't turn out exactly the way you thought it should? Do things because you want to. Do things because they're fun. Do them because you're fearless.

5 Must-Read Books for Fall

Looking for a new book? Explore new worlds this fall with any of these five page-turners, from historical fiction to family sagas.

1. We Are Not Ourselves - Matthew Thomas 

This sprawling multi-generational saga of an Irish-American family is a moving portrait of life and death, love and marriage, secret longings and lots of whiskey. 

2. The Emperor's Children - Claire Messud

This complex social drama captures the mood of a generation, centering around a group of thirty-somethings living in New York City during the years leading up to 9/11.

3. Lives Like Loaded Guns - Lyndall Gordon 

Fans of Emily Dickinson (or juicy family gossip) will love this scandalous historical account of some of the Dickinson family's secrets. It will leave you looking at Ms. Emily, the poet, with totally new eyes.

4. Dreaming For Freud - Sheila Kohler 

One of Freud's most well-known cases is revisited through this fictional account that turns the psychoanalyst's theories on its head.

5. The Paris Wife - Paula McClain 

The romance of Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley, is explored in this riveting, fictionalized account. In Hadley, a new generation of readers will discover a welcome protagonist worth rooting for.

Calming Fall Playlist

With autumnal sunshine hanging in the air and our trees taking one last colorful breath, time to relax and unwind is best accompanied by these perfect tracks ripe for the picking--ranging from the strange to the simply seductive. Enjoy xx

1. Riptide - Vance Joy

I love you when you're singing that song and,

I got a lump in my throat cause

you're gonna sing the words wrong

2. Golden - My Morning Jacket

Sure sometimes they thrill me, but nothing could ever chill me

Like the way they make the time just disappear

3. From Eden - Hozier

Honey you're familiar

Like my mirror, long ago

4. Little Whiskey - Angus and Julia Stone

Poor, poor little lovesick child

There's still fire in your belly and your heart is still wild

5. FUNKNROLL - Prince

Only way to get where you never been

Is to party like you ain't gonna party again


A Poem After Scotch & The Fox's Heart

I didn't know it at the time, but one year short of graduating college, something I read aloud in my poetry class would go on to spark an idea for this here place/plan/project we call S&TF.

1e8359595fdf71e43788e63fe4b18370.jpg

We were all asked to bring in a poem to read aloud on the first day of class. I brought in this poem, "Daughter" by Nicole Blackman. My copy of her book Blood Sugar had been highlighted, ripped, and torn since my discovery of it three years prior. I loved her poetry, but no one poem spoke to me more so than others. I picked "Daughter" at random. It wasn't until I was forced to read the poem aloud that I realized how much the words meant to me.

The poem goes like this:

 

Daughter - Nicole Blackman

 

One day I'll give birth to a tiny baby girl

and when she's born she'll scream

and I'll tell her never to stop.

 

I will kiss her before I lay her down at night

and will tell her a story so she knows 

how it is and how it must be for her to survive.

 

I'll tell her to set things on fire

and keep them burning.

I'll teach her that fire will not consume her,

that she must use it.

 

I'll tell her that people must earn the right

to use her nickname,

that forced intimacy is an ugly thing.

 

I'll help her to see that she will not find God

or salvation in a dark brick building

built by dead men.

 

I'll make sure she always carries a pen

so she can take down the evidence.

If she has no paper, I'll teach her to

write everything down with her tongue,

write it on her thighs.

 

I'll make her keep reinventing herself and run fast.

I'll teach her to write her manifestos

on cocktail napkins.

I'll say she should make men lick her ambition.

I'll make her understand that she is worth more

with her clothes on.

I'll teach her to talk hard.

 

I'll tell her that when the words come too fast

and she has no use for a pen

that she must quit her job

run out of the house in her bathrobe,

leave the door open.

I'll teach her to follow the words.

 

I'll say that everything she has done seen spoken

has brought her to the here this now.

This is no time for tenderness,

no time to stand, waiting for them to find her.

There are nations within her skin.

Queendoms come without keys you can carry.

 

I'll tell her to never forget what they did to you

and never let them know you remember.

 

The second I was done reading, a tiny spark lit within me. I had heard my own voice declare these promises, and I wanted to make good on them, to whoever I could.

There are so many things I have no fucking clue about. But when you do know certain things--and you've learned them the hard way--you don't wish them on anyone else. I imagine this is what it's like to have a daughter. To have so many hopes for their strength and their spirit, for their ability to not make the same mistakes as you have. I may never have a daughter, but this poem's message is what I want women to hear when they come to Scotch & The Fox. Queendoms come without keys you can carry.  No matter what you've been through, what you're dealing with, or the lessons you will have to learn the hard way, keep reinventing yourself and run fast. Write your manifestos on cocktail napkins. You have a story to tell. There are nations within your skin.

-claire

A Writer's Advice On Defining Yourself

Writers or not, we all have the urge to define ourselves in neat, easily explainable packages. To sum ourselves up in some pretty one-liner, like we are walking mission statements on the resume we hand in to live our lives. Jenna McGuiggan says this is selling yourself short. 

Ms. McGuiggan is a teacher and writer who shares her personal story of feeling fragmented and struggling to define herself. I think anyone who's wrestled with similar feelings can relate to her story. She assures us that we are not our paychecks or our friends or our achievements. Those things are a part of who we are, but they are not who we are. She also encourages us not to want to be so easily defined. What a revelation! You don't need to be defined by a 140 character bio and furthermore why would you want to be. Our lives are complex and disjointed and a little messy, but that's okay. As Jenna puts it: you are your one thing. And isn't that great?