Tag Archives: Virginia Sole-Smith

The Legacy of Campus Rape [More, February 2015]

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming (aka, the things you’d expect me to write about): Campus rape!

I’ve been following the current campaign to address this issue for quite awhile now. Emma Sulkowicz, Ariel Koren and the other women leading the fight on this are doing such brave, important work. They’re dealing with the immediate aftermath: What to do about frat parties, and less-than-proactive university administrators and all of the other factors that contribute to rape culture on our college campuses, right now. But I’ve also wondered: What about the (far too many) women who were raped in college a decade ago? Or four decades ago? What are the ripple effects of this experience on their adult lives, especially since these attacks happened long before colleges were prepared to protect and empower victims?


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Apple Crisp Baked Oatmeal (Recipe.com)

Apple Crisp-Baked Oatmeal (Recipe.com)If you (like me) are squeamish about gooey oatmeal, get ready to rethink everything you thought you knew. Post by me, delicious photos by @redanchorphoto #makeahead #winterbreakfast #oatmealhttp://www.recipe.com/blogs/cooking/make-ahead-breakfast-apple-crisp-baked-oatmeal/?socsrc=recfb0204151

From time to time, I do some fun food blogging for Recipe.com. Yes, it’s a little outside my wheelhouse as a women’s issues writer, but I’ve been a serious fan of food since I was about 12 years old (before that, I only ate strawberry yogurt and spaghetti, just ask my parents). So it’s actually a pretty fun change of pace to get to go play in the kitchen for an hour and call it working.


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A New Little Blog Thing

In the name of ruthless efficiency, I have decided to sync my professional Instagram feed with this here blog.

The back story, for those of you who are less tech-savvy (in other words, you are just like me): I’ve been using Instagram for several years now and it is my hands-down favorite of all the social media platforms. It started as an app for sharing photos — but I’ve been finding that it really functions as a kind of micro-blogging site, because you can type captions that are not limited to 140 characters and run them with pretty pictures. I now keep two Instagram feeds: One for friends and family only (so please don’t be offended if I don’t approve a follow request there; it’s mostly kid pictures and we keep it private), and one for the whole wide world, where I post about my work life, things I’m reading, things I’m writing, plus some general out and about doings. (A kid picture may even occasionally slip on through — she is darn cute, after all.)


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Pleasure in a Pill? [Marie Claire, December 2014]

As a journalist, you always try to go into a story unbiased — but the truth is, we all of us have biases, almost all of the time. It’s unavoidable. You’ve got some kind of back story that brings you to the subject and that informs how you choose your sources, the questions you ask them, and how you write the piece. Of course, if you’re good at your job, you play devil’s advocate with yourself the whole time, ask both sides of the debate equally tough questions and stay open to having your mind changed. But that doesn’t happen terribly often. (See: All of the evening news.)

This might be the first feature I’ve ever written where I honestly did not have my mind made up. I mean, as a woman, a feminist, and a married person, obviously, I have pertinent back story (and no, we’re not getting into it here). But even after spending months reporting this, interviewing tons of different researchers and regular women, I have not found a good answer to the question I explore in this new investigation, out now in the December issue of Marie Claire: Do we need a female equivalent of Viagra? 


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Breathing Lessons [Prevention, June 2014]

A lot of the time, as a writer, my job is to tell stories. But sometimes, in ways that are forever surprising me, I realize that my stories are kind of telling me. So here’s a story that I started telling over a year ago, when two assignments inspired me to learn to swim. Yes, at age 32, yes, while seven months pregnant.

And today, I’m sharing a new story, which I wrote for this month’s issue of Prevention, about how swimming has sort of saved my life. The article is part of a wonderful package on “extreme healing.” There are pieces on how to turn your home into a healing oasis, the best healing destinations in the world, and fancy healing spas. Then there are two essays that weave together the science of healing with personal narratives. One is by the utterly fabulous Judith Newman, about the road trip nobody wanted to go on.


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[Freelance Life] A Day in the Life of David Moscrop

I’m excited to include David in this series because I know a lot of you guys are part-time freelancers, fitting your writing in around other jobs and projects, and he has an interesting take, plus some smart strategies for jumping around between different genres of writing. 

Name: David Moscrop

Job Description: PhD candidate in political science at the University of British Columbia, freelance writer, consultant, bourbon aficionado, sometimes blogger at davidmoscrop.com.

Location: Up until recently, Vancouver, British Columbia; currently in transition back to Ontario and perhaps to Europe.

And here’s how Dave spends his days: 

I generally avoid meetings and events as best I can, so I keep my days pretty clear. I’m not too consistent with how I spend my working time, so I don’t let the clock determine what I do or when I do it. Instead, I have a checklist system that lets me stay flexible while still getting my work done: as long as I spend some time working on a project, it doesn’t matter to me when I do so. That said, I do try to keep a rough order of daily events.

My daily “routine” unfolds over broad time spans instead of specific times. Also, if I really don’t feel like doing something that day, I don’t, but I do try to do most things on most days. When I spend more than an hour on something, I acknowledge that with a checkmark in a book in which I keep track of the days that I’ve met minimum work times. This only applies to weekdays, though. I do work on weekends, but there’s nothing even close to a pattern those days.

Morning: Sometime between 8 am and 12 pm I wake up, eat something that’s easy to prepare, make coffee, check e-mail and texts to see if anything is on fire, ignore most e-mails and texts, and then read whatever I feel like reading: essays if I’m curious, news if I feel like being despondent for the day, or maybe some novels or political non-fiction. Sometimes I play video games.

After an hour or two of that, I write fiction or essays or op-eds for about an hour and a half or two hours, depending on what I’m working on at the moment, either at home or at a coffee shop that I’ll walk to. I typically write long hand in a notebook, since this keeps my thinking to a manageable pace and forces me to really consider my options before I write or delete something: it’s easy to type nonsense or to push a ‘delete’ button, but takes a bit more effort to physically mark something down or scratch something out.

At this time during the day, I try my best to focus on one thing at a time, seeing it through to completion before I let my mind wander. I then spend a bit of time working on pitches. Check.

Early afternoon: After that I tinker with e-mails and texts for a bit, usually because the messages I receive are growing more frantic. I might do some errands or do some more leisure reading. If I do have some appointment, I try to make it for this time, since I’m more likely to actually keep the engagement if it’s after I’ve done some work, but before I’ve eaten lunch. Check.

Then I have lunch and watch some TV: usually American late-night shows from the previous night or listen to podcasts or some music while I cook.

Afternoon: After lunch, if I’m not injured (which is rarely), I go to the gym or run or swim. Occasionally I cycle, but I’m terrified of the traffic because, as a driver, I know that drivers are awful people when they drive. I’ve tried training for a few long-distance races over the course of the last three years (a half-marathon, a marathon, and a triathlon), and I’ve become injured each time. Eventually I recover and repeat the cycle. I’m at my best when I’m running though – nothing contributes to my creativity more than running, with the possible exception of a good conversation. Check.

Then I practice the guitar for 45 minutes. Check.

Late afternoon: Technically I’m a full-time PhD student, so I spend two to three hours each day working on my dissertation. I spend about half that time reading and the other half writing or editing. If I’m working on a related side project: an article or conference paper or some grading, I do that after my dissertation work is finished for the day. Check.

I also tend to be working on side projects, which I spend a bit of time on the late afternoon or early evening. In 2012, I drove from London, England to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia for an adventure charity rally known as the Mongol Rally. I spent a lot of time planning that. In 2014, I’m driving from Alaska to Argentina, so I make time to work on stuff like that.

Evening: Dinner. I eat out as often as not, but if I’m home and training and ambitious, I cook something healthy. But I prefer to go out to meet a friend or two for dinner. I eat a lot of sushi. I mean, obscene amounts.

Night: By now I’m probably meant to be at some event or engagement that I regret having agreed to attend. Most times I’ll try to find a way out, but I end up going slightly more often than not. If I don’t have anything to do, I’ll read more, maybe answer some more e-mails, or watch a movie or play video games. I often edit work for friends – they do the same for me – so this is when I do that if I haven’t already. Check.

Bed: I go to bed between 10:30 pm and 2 am, depending on the day. I can’t really predict when I’ll feel like sleeping, so that’s a big part of the reason my mornings can be so erratic. If I can’t sleep, I’ll get up and read a bit more, or watch something on Netflix that I’ll know will put me out.

One of David's workspaces.


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There’s Nothing Mickey Mouse About These Mermaids [Times Magazine, July 7, 2013]

In my last post (about my essay on fitness motivation for Elle), I mentioned that I traveled on another assignment in April and the experience inspired me to learn to swim.

That story will make more and less sense now that I can tell the whole thing, because the article in question is finally online now and will be in this weekend’s Times Magazine.


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A Day in The Freelance Life

Co-worker Walter gets on top of some filing. 

Introducing a new feature for The Freelance Life: Day in the Life snapshots! I love when other blogs do these — especially So How Was Your Day?, which obviously does nothing but — because I am absolutely beyond nosey (yes I will also look in your bathroom cabinets when you invite me over, without a modicum of shame). And with freelancing, there are just so many endless variations on how you could spend your day! But I have a working theory that while there are many different effective working styles, there are better and worse things you can do with your time to be productive and successful. And that perhaps the freelancer stereotype of sleeping until 3 PM, working in your pajamas and eating Ramen noodles for all your meals falls into the “worse” category.


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[Mission Statement] What’s Going On With This Blog

2013 marks my fourth year of blogging, and when I look back over how this blog (and this whole website, and my career and my whole life while we’re on the subject) has evolved during that time, it’s a little amazing to me.

But what may amaze and delight me may be confusing to my lovely readers. As in, I’ve noticed a lot of new subscribers in the past few months — and a lot of new un-subscribers. Ouch… except I understand why. People often come to my site because they’ve read a specific story that I’ve written elsewhere — and then understandably get bored or turned off when they realize that I don’t blog 24/7 about that specific topic. (Be it MLM marketing scams or lighthouse renovations or what have you.)

So I thought it would be helpful to all you readers, new and old, if I sketched out a clearer mission statement for this blog and kept it posted right here on the top of the blog page, always and forever. (Or until everything about this site evolves again and that no longer makes sense.)


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[Inside the Pink Pyramid] Why Mary Kay is Only The Beginning

Investigative Fund Virginia Sole-Smith Mary Kay Direct Sales Industry


Today’s look at why Mary Kay is just the tip of a pyramid-shaped iceberg — is brought to you by the Investigative Fund, who asked me to dig deeper into the direct sales industry as a whole. I’ve been getting so many great emails from folks who have read the Harper’s story or heard one of the NPR interviews last week and one thing everyone asks is: “So what about [Avon, Amway, insert-your-direct-sales-of-choice-here]? Are they as bad as Mary Kay?”


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