The Street Where I Live

British by birth, New Yorker by nature.

Careers and Working

Why I Sent Myself Postcards For A Year

Books & Words, Careers and WorkingAlexandra king8 Comments

Around this time, five years ago, I was 24, living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and freshly employed in a new job. Sounds good, right? Nope. It was tough. I was figuring out the office culture in a new country (read: very different). The freelance contracts I had were intermittent, unpredictable and my visa depended on them. I was on-and-off dating a very intense and controlling and in hindsight absolutely bat shit mental man. I was desperately in love with New York, but I spent half my time in a state of bliss and half in abject terror. Had I done the right thing by staying? Was this the place I was meant to be in? Was I wasting my time? Why could the man in the bagel shop still not understand a word I said? Was that script I wrote good enough? Shit, it wasn't good enough. My anxiety was through the roof. I cried in a lot of bathrooms. I drank a lot of Margaritas (see above). I also started doing something a little strange. Though I have always kept a diary, on and off, throughout the years, somehow, then, it wasn't enough. One day, as is my want, I bought a postcard, which I found myself absentmindedly scribbling a few lines on. Then, entirely on a whim, I posted it to myself. I was absolutely delighted, two days later, when the card arrived back at my door, like a dependable message in a bottle, boomeranging its way back to its maker. The act of writing, sending and receiving reminded me, somehow, that the best way to deal with the fleeting yet essential business of days is for them to be both, in turn, recorded and discarded into the ether.

I carried on sending myself postcards for a year or so after that. At the time, I realize now, I was a lone satellite, as so many of us are in our early twenties, pottering about in a wildly undulating state of both absolute joy and total confusion, surrounded by people, but desperately lonely. I needed to be looked at with love to remind myself that I was there, some stamp of affirmation that I was a real girl, in a real place. Who would have thought the answer could have been so literal. Each of those postmarks, with their curved sooty lines, willed me on like a wave.

You can see a couple of the first postcards I ever sent to myself in the photos above. I look at them now and they make me laugh. I even feel a bit nostalgic for that littler version of me. I see her now, folded like a praying mantis in the windowsill of that apartment on 75th street, glancing at passersby with the warmth rising off the pavements, bare legged, a postcard at her feet, wondering what will happen next.

Sneak Peek: Tactile

Careers and Working, Fashion & BeautyAlexandra kingComment
Dress  by  Naftul , shoes by Zara (now sold out- similar  here )

Dress by Naftul, shoes by Zara (now sold out- similar here)

Super awk giggle attacks, model's own

Super awk giggle attacks, model's own

A sneak peek that I'll be on rad new website Tactile, soon, talking blogging, journalism and generally being unapologetically sweary about the things that annoy me (the media industry's gender problem, the non-word "content" and how it seems impossible for some to understand that girls can be simultaneously knowledgable about Beyonce and Benghazi). Also upcoming on Tactile, an interview with the amazing artist Elana Noy, whose ceramics line, Malka Dina, is truly swoon worthy (I stalk her Instagram on the daily-behold, the sexiest incense holder of all time). I'm so excited to be part of this project, which aims to foster an inclusive space for female thinkers, creators and doers.

Can't wait to share the interview in full soon! And in the meantime, you can follow Tactile on Instagram here.

#WCW: Terry Gross

Careers and Working, Books, #WCWAlexandra kingComment
terry gross

How do I love thee, Terry Gross? Let me count the ways.  To those unacquainted with Terry, and I certainly was before I moved to the US, she's the host of NPR's "Fresh Air" a show she has hosted for 40 (!) years. Fresh Air podcasts are one of my commuter staples- I love them because the show is just so expansive- from chats with Jennifer Lawrence to interviews with emergency paramedics to scholarly discussions on the differences between Sunni and Shiite. But despite being often disparate, subject matter wise, it still somehow makes total sense, and that's because of Terry, who has that magical ability, as all great journalists do, to ask exceedingly personal and difficult and searching questions in the most charming and deft way imaginable. And, here's the magic, and what gets me, every time- so often, you can actually hear her subjects, in the process of unravelling their deepest darkest secrets, totally falling in love with her. If you want to see what I mean, listen to her recent interview with Jeffrey Tambor- in a world of celebs that come to the arena pre-armed with publicists and carefully crafted public personas, I don't think I've heard such a refreshing interview with an actor in a long time. 

Anyway, if you want to learn more about her, and I recommend that you do, I loved this New York Times article, which profiles her marvellous brand of magic most perfectly (including the time where things went very wrong with Hillary Clinton, and I LOVE what she says about "the real moment") and is definitely required reading for any aspiring or working journalists or communicators.

In closing, this beautiful thought from Terry on the art of the interview:

"Anyone who agrees to be interviewed must decide where to draw the line between what is public and what is private- but the line can shift, depending on who is asking the questions. What puts someone on guard isn't necessarily the fear of being 'found out.' It sometimes is just the fear of being misunderstood."

Isn't she wonderful? Such a lesson for all of us there. Oh TG, I'm crushin' on you forever and always, girl.

TSWIL On Cup Of Jo

Careers and Working, Home and Design, New York City, Books & Words, BooksAlexandra king4 Comments
Alexandra King-Lyles and Isaac Lyles

Delighted to share with you that the wonderful blog Cup of Jo, has featured our apartment today. Head on over to see me and Isaac being awk on camera and hear me waffle on about handymen, my love of black cats and why there's a painting of a penis above our dining table.

So many thanks to Cup of Jo and especially my wonderful new friend Caroline Donofrio for interviewing me. And oh hey Cup of Jo readers!  It's so lovely to meet you.

Career Girl Inspo: NY Mag's "Beginnings" Series

Careers and WorkingAlexandra kingComment
helen mirren

In need of some inspiration this Monday? (raises both hands). Take a look at New York Magazine's Beginnings series, which features the stories of how a bunch of famous, smart people got their start in their respective industries. I discovered it over the weekend and found myself poring over the site for a happy few hours. The testimonies are so insightful, honest and refreshing. I loved Jerry Seinfeld's assertion that handing in the red apron he wore in his job at a fast food restaurant was the greatest moment of his life, Ta Nehisi Coates's description of meeting New York Times legend David Carr, and Yo Yo Ma's admission that his parents "didn't think he was talented" and so simply "left him alone". Also, how it took Helen Mirren seven years  (!) to get to grips with Shakespeare.

So many lessons and laughs in these stories. Binge read them all, or maybe ration them out, one per Monday, over the next few months, as the mornings grow colder. A welcome reminder that each of our paths wind a different way, and that the smartest thing we can do is to keep going.

A Weird (but BRILLIANT) Tip For Job Interviews

Careers and WorkingAlexandra king1 Comment
Alexandra King-Lyles TSWIL

About five years ago I was asked to do a very important interview, on camera, with a head honcho in the UK government (ok, it was Gordon Brown. He was very nice). Anyway, it was one of the very first times I'd ever to appear on camera for anything that big and I was well aware of how some of my previous efforts had been mortifying to play back (I'll save you too vivid a description but needless to say there was manic blinking, a rabbit in the headlights expression and a general aura of untrustworthy shiftiness). 

Pre interview, wriggling in my chair, I was feeling crappy and sweaty palmed. I had no problem with the interview itself or the subject I was talking to. It was just the thankless glare of the lens and the prospect of my propensity for frantic gesticulation, cynical side glares and the occasional awkward laugh being broadcast to the world under a filter of harsh HD megapixels that freaked me out. Five minutes to air, I nervously shuffled my papers as a compliant make up lady dutifully lacquered me with thick face powder. "You ok?" said the studio manager. "Yeah" I said, unconvincingly. "Can I give you a piece of advice?" he said, not waiting for an answer. "Uncross your legs. Put your feet flat on the floor. Feel yourself rooted to the ground and think from that place".

What a man. I listened to him, changed the way I was sitting and instantly felt myself feel more grounded. The interview was (mercifully) a breeze. Since then, this simple action has been a game changer for me in job interviews, important meetings and tough conversations. In any of these scenarios, as I sit in my chair, I consciously resist the urge to cross my ankles or legs, as I would normally, and instead sit straight and serene, the soles of my feet connecting with the floor beneath me. I breathe into my whole body, and imagine thinking from the earth up. The kind dude who gifted me this seemingly laughably simple but truly amazing advice was spot on. There's something about centering oneself to the ground that results in feeling stronger and more poised. Immediately you feel thoughtful and magically calm. I think it's also, body language wise, a majestic and powerful pose that communicates strength and poise. I urge you to try it. 

I'm curious, do you have any tips or rituals you do before high pressure meetings or interviews? 

The Photo I Keep on My Desk

Careers and WorkingAlexandra kingComment
Katie Walsh by Spencer Murphy

I've had a postcard of this photo taped above my desk at work for the last two years. It's of jockey Katie Walsh, taken by Spencer Murphy, and it won the 2013 Taylor Wessing photographic portrait prize. Isn't her expression incredible? Mud splattered, exhausted but totally defiant. Anyway, something about her face in this photo just moves me, and when I'm having a difficult day, I make a point of taking a look at Katie (who won third place in The Grand National, FYI, becoming the highest placed female jockey of all time). Her expression alone gives me adrenaline and reminds me to be bold and brave.

In case you're wondering, my other desk essentials- a pot plant (this guy is buff enough to alternately handle low light, office AC and bone dry heating air), these Muji notebooks (thin, minimal, narrow lined) and on the recommendation of my sister-in-law Anna, this botanical hand refresher which smells incredible and revives even the most tired-of-typing hands .

I'm curious, what do you keep on your desk? Any inspirational images I should know about?