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Christa Avampato

The short of it: Writer. Health, education, and art advocate. Theater and film producer. Visual artist. Product geek. Proud alumnae of the University of Pennsylvania (BA) and the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia (MBA). Inspired by ancient wisdom & modern tech. Proliferator of goodness. Opener of doors. Friend to animals. Fan of creative work in all its wondrous forms. I use my business skills to create passion projects that build a better world. I’ve been called the happiest New Yorker, and I try hard to live up to that title every day. The long of it: My career has stretched across Capitol Hill, Broadway theatre, education, nonprofit fundraising, health and wellness, and Fortune 500 companies in retail, media, entertainment, technology, and financial services. I’ve been a product developer and product manager, theater manager, strategic consultant, marketer, voice over artist, , teacher, and fundraiser. I use my business and storytelling to support and sustain passion projects that build a better world. In every experience, I’ve used my sense of and respect for elegant design to develop meaningful products, services, programs, and events. While building a business career, I also built a strong portfolio as a journalist, novelist, freelance writer, interviewer, presenter, and public speaker. My writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, PBS.org, Boston.com, Royal Media Partners publications, and The Motley Fool on a wide range of topics including business, technology, science, health, education, culture, and lifestyle. I have also been an invited speaker at SXSW, Teach for America, Avon headquarters, Games for Change, NYU, Columbia University, Hunter College, and the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. The first book in my young adult book series, Emerson Page and Where the Light Enters, was acquired by a publisher and launched in November 2017. I’m currently working on the second book in the series. A recovering multi-tasker, I’m equally at home in front of my Mac, on my yoga mat, walking my rescue dog, Phineas, traveling with a purpose, or practicing the high-art of people watching. I also cut up small bits of paper and put them back together as a collage artist. My company: I’m bringing together all of my business and creative career paths as the Founder of Double or Nothing Media: • I craft products, programs, and projects that make a difference; • I build the business plans that make what I craft financially sustainable; • I tell the stories that matter about the people, places, and products that inspire me. Follow my adventures on Twitter at https://twitter.com/christanyc and Instagram at https://instagram.com/christarosenyc.
Christa Avampato has written 4070 posts for Christa Avampato

Joy today: My first meetings with literary agents

I got excellent feedback at my meetings with literary agents. 2 of the 3 said Emerson’s story is inventive and original, ambitious and promising. They had very specific requests for revisions to make the 2nd book even stronger and then they’d both like me to send them the revised manuscript. I have a lot of work ahead on this next draft but I’m excited to see what happens next. Thank you for all your support on this journey!

Joy today: Preparing for my first literary agent meetings

This week I have my first literary agent pitch meetings. I directly worked with a publisher for my first book so this is the first time I’m meeting agents and pitching myself and my writing to them.

I wanted some advice on this process and came across the Netflix series Shine On hosted by Reese Witherspoon. In one episode, Reese interviews Ava DuVernay and they talk about this exact kind of high-stakes personal pitch scenario in creative fields.

Ava’s advice:
“They want to hear you be the one [they’re looking for]. They don’t want to hear that you’re nervous. They want someone who’s smart, and capable, and passionate, and going to try. And those are all the things you already have.”

What does Reese Witherspoon think when she auditions? “I think in my mind, “Give me the ball.” Because people just want to know you’re going to handle it.”

Their bottom line is that even if you don’t know what you’re doing, be committed to figuring it out.

So today as I prepare my materials and refine my pitch, I’m holding this advice in my mind and heart. I’ve already got what I need. Now it’s just a matter of walking into the room like I already belong and letting myself shine.

Joy today: Heading to SciCommCamp

I tried to sleep in today to rest up for the wknd. I just couldn’t—way too excited for SciCommCamp. I’m in LA only for the weekend to go to this amazing conference that is nerdy Fall camp for people who love science and love talking about it! Sneaking in a quick trip to Griffith Park before heading up to Simi Valley. Excited for everything I’m going to learn and I promise to share when I get back.

Sometimes I think I could live off a steady diet of curiosity, joy, and enthusiasm. (I won’t test that theory because I love food but it’s a strong hunch!)

LA, I’m glad to see you again and I’m pretty sure I’ll be back again very soon. Happy Friday, friends.

Joy today: Writing as service

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Photo by Christa Avampato – Little Italy, New York City

This is what it’s all about, you magical, imaginative, creative being. You can create worlds out of thin air. Characters, settings, desires, motivations, losses, victories, love, joy, disappointment, and healing. The full breadth and depth of human emotion lives in you. As a writer, you’re trying to get all of that out of your mind and heart, into your hands, and out into the world so you can connect with others, so we all feel less alone. What a noble, generous, and loving thing to do. Writing is service in its highest, most selfless form.

Joy today: How writers can win NaNoWriMo

“Every book in history has been written the exact same way: one word at a time.” ~Ed Freeman

Hello, writers and readers! Are you diving into NaNoWriMo today? Me, too!

For those of you new to this event, it stands for National Novel Writing Month. Thousands of people all over the world attempt to write 50,000 words (the length of a novel that’s on the shorter side) in the month of November. There are a lot of great resources available over the at the NaNoWriMo site including a calendar of virtual write-ins, Twitter chat times, encouraging letters from well-known novelists know as pep talks, writing tool suggestions, and a community of other writers writing this month.

This is my third time participating in NaNoWriMo. The first two times I wrote the first drafts of my two Emerson Page novels. The first was published in 2017 (and you can buy wherever books are sold). The second I’m shopping around now. This year, I’m trying a new genre—historical fiction romance set in an Italian bakery in New York City during the Christmas season of 1910. It’s called For Love and Other Reasons.

50,000 words in a month is a lofty goal, and winning it means you get to that goal. However, my p.o.v. is that any progress you make this month is a win. Here are some ways that have helped me the last two times I’ve done this:

1.) Break it down into small parts
Break down your writing into small parts. One scene, one part of a scene, one description. Heck, one good sentence is fine, too. My professor, mentor, and friend, Ed Freeman, is my Albus Dumbledore. He always says, “Every book in history has been written the exact same way: one word at a time.” I think about that every single day. One word, one sentence, one page, one chapter, one book, one library. Everything in our lives is composed of smaller parts. Don’t get overwhelmed by writing a book. Just write a word and then another and another. All the greats have done it that way, and you can, too.

2.) Schedule your writing time
Put it in your calendar and hold yourself to it just like you would any other important appointment. Sometimes people ask me what’s the trick to writing  book. I wish I had a silver bullet for you and for myself! I don’t. Writing a book takes time, dedication, and effort. It’s as simple and as difficult as that.

3.) Treat yourself
I don’t know about you but I like rewards so I treat myself for a job well done. When I hit my word count for the day, I have a cookie, a piece of candy, or a cup of delicious tea I bought especially for this purpose. Set up a reward system for yourself to stay motivated and to celebrate along the way.

4.) Outline
I love a good outline. This year I’m trying a new software called PlotPins. You can try any number of different tools and can go as low-tech as scenes on index cards which are my personal favorites because then I can move the order around. The New York Times ran an article this week with a list of great tools for writers, and some are completely free.

5.) Fun it up
This year, my novel includes baking so I’ll be posting pictures and recipes of my NaNo baking on social media and on my NaNoWriMo profile as my word count adds up. You’ll be able to find them on my Instagram and Twitter accounts, as well as on my Author page on Facebook.

Happy writing and reading, friends!

Joy today: Halloween writing and reading with Neil Gaiman

Happy Halloween! Anyone have a writing-inspired Halloween costume? Let’s see ’em – post a pic in the comments.

Also, if you’re looking for some fun Halloween literary entertainment, I’ve got some for you:

Neil Gaiman reading Poe’s poem, The Raven:

The origin story of Sleepy Hollow and the Headless Horseman traces its roots to the Middle Ages! This link also has some fun related Halloween content at the bottom of the page, too: https://www.history.com/news/legend-sleepy-hollow-headless-horseman

And when you’re all done with your pumpkins, don’t throw them in the trash. Instead, treat the wildlife in your gardens and local woods who can make very good use of them.

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Joy today: Community colleges deserve more credit

For the past few weeks, I’ve been looking around for an affordable way to take some science pre-requisites. While I’ve learned so much in my biomimicry studies, I really need a much stronger foundation in science and research to do the work I want to do—using nature’s designs to build products, systems, and services.

This led me to reach out to a Principal Investigator (PI) who runs a nanotechnology lab here in New York City, where I live. We’ve had some wonderful conversations and are planning to do a short research project together this spring which will be my last requirement for my biomimicry certificate. I’m considering doing my PhD with him, and to make that a possibility I need to take science requisites: two semesters each of biology, chemistry, and organic chemistry. The challenge—science classes are expensive!

I investigated online options thinking that would be the most economical way to go. Not by a long shot! They didn’t have any with labs, which is what I need, and I was astounded at the cost – $700 per credit for 22 credits left me looking at a tuition bill of over $15,000. And that wasn’t even the total cost since I’d have to get the lab experience elsewhere. I was crestfallen.

Then on a whim, I decided to look into the local community college – Borough of Manhattan Community College. And what to my wondering eyes did appear? Classes conveniently timed and in mixed formats of online, in-person, and hybrid at $263 per credit for in-state residents like me. I’m elated! I can get all my requirements in done right on time to (hopefully) start my PhD in the Fall of 2021.

Community colleges are unsung heroes in our communities, and I’m going to be shouting about their value for a long time. If you have dreams that require some additional education, I highly encourage giving your local community college a look. I hope you’re as surprised and delighted as I am by the opportunities they offer.

Joy today: How Twitter gave me my new writing opportunity

As many of you know, I’ve been working on my science writing and bringing since into my career as a product developer. I’m so excited to share that over the next few months, one of my favorite biomimicry publications is going to publish a series of pieces I’ve been wanting to write. I’m over the moon excited about this, and as a source of inspiration, I wanted to share how it all came about.

Twitter magic and the glass sponge
I’m pretty active on Twitter where my feed is mashup of different topics, two main ones being my writing and my work in biomimicry. A couple of weeks ago, I learned about the glass sponge for a grad school assignment.

Very quick recap: the glass sponge lives on the ocean floor over 1000 meters below sea level and is one of the oldest species in existence today. It builds one of the the most stable structures on Earth with the minimal amount of material needed. Its glass is transparent, flexible, and created from sea minerals (such as calcium carbonate, salt, and carbon dioxide) at ocean temperatures (~4 degrees Celsius, ~39 degrees Fahrenheit). It is created and then biodegrades without any toxic waste. Human-made glass is extremely fragile, expensive, and dirty to create—glass and cement production generates 5-7% of the Earth’s greenhouse gas emissions. It requires very hot temperatures in a kiln and therefore is also energy intensive.

Though we’ve known about the glass sponge for decades, engineers, designers, and scientists have no idea how it creates its glass and we’ve never been able to replicate its far superior product. It’s an absolute mystery. But when we learn its secrets, it has the potential to transform our construction industry into one that’s sustainable, clean, and healthy for the planet.

Power to the crowd
So…back to my writing. I wrote a tweet about the magnificent glass sponge just as part of my regular social media promotion of science and biomimicry. It got a lot of attention and became the 2nd most shared story about biomimicry on Twitter the week I posted it, second only to one my Mashable. That got the attention of this publication, and they asked me if I’d like to write something for them. And heck yes, I would!

What I’ll be writing
They asked me to pitch a topic to them. True to my brand, I gave them 10 pitches hoping there might be one in there that they’d like. To my surprise, they loved them all and asked me to write one a month. So, we’re off the races and here are the first few topics that will be coming out in the next few months:

1. Biomimicry and the Green New Deal (November)
2. Biomimicry and materials science (December)
3. Biomimicry makes the case for species conservation (January)
4. Medical applications of biomimicry (February)

I tell this story because I want it to inspire you to get out there and shout about what you love, what fascinates you, not because you hope it gets you something but just because you love it so much that you can’t keep it to yourself. I’m thrilled by this development in my writing. Shocked even. And even if no one liked the glass sponge tweet, it wouldn’t have mattered because I love it and wanted to share it.

The big publishing take-away
That’s the bit no one ever told me about publishing. In the age when people are obsessed with platform and followers and likes and retweets, too many of us have forgotten about joy. That’s the thing to focus on. That’s the secret sauce that keeps us going. Fill up your head, heart, hands, and feeds with joy, and see what happens. It’s a skeleton key that unlocks doors we didn’t even know were there.

Joy today: How to write a nonfiction book proposal

I started my first nonfiction book proposal tonight. I wasn’t sure how to craft one so I turned to Eric Smith’s website. Eric is an agent, author, and one of the most generous people in the publishing industry. I highly recommend all his Twitter and website to every writer I know!

He shares his tips for a successful nonfiction book proposal he put together with one of his clients. He also links to several excellent posts by Jane Friedman, Nathan Bransford, and Brian Klems who provide amazing advice for nonfiction book proposals on their own websites.

Happy proposing, and writing!

Joy: I believe science (and writing about it) is service

I just heard about President Jimmy Carter’s fall. This weekend, I learned a friend’s mother sustained a serious injury from a fall. Over the summer, we lost a dear friend of our family after he fell and injured his spine.

Recently, I’ve started to think about how I could use biomimicry to develop products that protect older adults from falling injuries. The stats are more startling than I realized:

– Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the ER for a fall
– 1:4 Americans over the age of 65 falls each year—29M falls causing 7M injuries
– Scariest of all, every 19 minutes an older adult dies from a fall

People ask me why science is so important to me, why I would make this career change now to study biomimicry when I could just happily continue along as a fan and promoter of science, and not a practicing scientist. This is why: it can change people’s lives. Science is service, and if we aren’t being of service to one another then what are we doing with our time? There are many ways to serve – millions of them every moment of every day. The combination of science, product development, business, and writing about all of it just happens to be the one that lights me up.

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