Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Miss Manhattan Hangs Out...with Julie Miller Pennell

When Julie Miller Pennell offers to make me a grilled cheese, I accept. Perhaps like any red-blooded American, I am a sucker for melted cheese on bread. She places sliced cheese, bread, and butter on the counter, and assembles two, one for her and one for me. While each of them cooks, she adds some tomato soup to a small pot. “I’m not a very good cook,” she says, “but I can make grilled cheese!” She definitely can. It's delicious. 

In fact, there is a character whose culinary skills are based on Julie’s in her new novel, The Young Wives Club, which was published in February, on Valentine’s Day no less, by Simon & Schuster. The book, recently named one of Southern Living’s Best New Summer Books, follows the lives of four young Louisiana women who get married right out of high school and what happens as their paths unfold. There are traces of Julie’s three closest friends, with whom she is in a daily, ongoing group text, in the book’s other characters. 

Prior to writing her book, Julie worked at Seventeen and Alloy Digital Media as an editor. But her career in publishing had an interesting start. Originally from Shreveport, Louisiana, Julie idolized CosmoGIRL! founding editor Atoosa Rubenstein, and went to a beauty pageant in Louisiana, where Rubenstein was a judge, with the express purpose of meeting her. When the pageant ended, Julie ran to the stage to meet Atoosa, but the editor was being whisked away so Julie shouted “ATOOSA!” to grab her attention. It just barely worked, and the editor turned around and looked before heading out. Julie wrote a piece for a local newspaper about the experience and sent it to the editor, who loved it, later hired her as an intern at the magazine. She then brought Julie along to Seventeen when moving on. Atoosa actually wrote about Julie and their meeting in a CosmoGIRL! editor’s letter, which Julie has framed in her house. 

Julie later became a full-time freelancer while working on her book and has kept with it. She starts every day at her computer, writing and blogging for places like Teen VogueThe NestTodayInStyle, and more. This is what she is up to when I arrive at her apartment, pre-grilled cheese. Interestingly, though freelancers are notoriously hermit-like, this is the reason I met Julie: we were both speaking on a freelancing panel at a conference. Looking to be around other humans for a day, we resolved to meet up and co-work at a coffee shop. Luckily, we both like a quiet workplace, so working together was easy and very productive. In fact, after grilled cheese, we go downstairs to her building’s office space (which has a copy of Julie’s book in its library) and work on our own pieces. Time ticks by as the sky darkens and giant chandelier above the conference table begins to be more and more useful. Another freelancing day gone, this one not at all lonely.

Follow Julie on Twitter and Instagram. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Miss Manhattan Hangs Out...with Raydene Salinas

There’s a clay pot resting on top of a cable box just outside of BKLYN Clay when I arrive as if it’s drying in the sun. It’s a hot-but-not-too-hot summery day, and I am happy to meet Raydene Salinas inside the cool (temperature and awesomeness-wise) clay studio where she is already working.

Most people get to have one life where they’re passionate about something they do, but Raydene is lucky: she has five. When she is not at the clay studio, she is a freelance photographer, Photo Editor at New York Magazine’s The Cut, the founder of the site Lady Guns Global which recognizes women's achievements around the world, and a certified yoga instructor. She also enjoys acro yoga and will later head to an acro yoga practice for an upcoming performance.

I met Raydene when I interviewed her about being a photo editor and it was a funny experience—within minutes I found myself speaking to her as if I had known her for years. She has a bubbly, welcoming aura that makes people feel at ease, whether they’re chatting at a Tribeca coffee shop or hanging out at a ceramics studio.

She just finished a little clay pot that's resting on a table in front of the pottery wheel where she sits. It will be a centerpiece for her upcoming wedding, and she has a few more to make before the big day. Today she will try for two more.

But first, a tour of the studio, a place she’s been coming to work on ceramics since the beginning of the year. Raydene tells me that for herself she tends to make items she specifically needs at home, like a juicer she recently finished. If not she worries her home will just fill up with ceramics because she loves working with clay so much. She has turned this passion into her own, newly-launched ceramics collection, sprig + arrow, for which she makes elegantly rustic yet modern mugs, bowls, plates, and more.

Downstairs, there are shelves upon shelves of ceramics made by studio members, Raydene included. I am terrified of swinging the wrong way and destroying everything. Luckily I don’t and everyone’s work stays intact. Raydene shows me more of her work, teeny pots and bowls in white and red and gray clay. Then we go upstairs, she ties up her beige apron printed with tiny horses and hits the wheel again, a bag of clay in front of her. She wets her hands and as if by magic forms gray lumps of clay into newer, slim, curved shapes and soon her hands, her legs, the apron, are covered in clay. She laughs and keeps spinning, making her way through a bag of four balls of clay before calling it a day.

To my untrained eye, everything is astounding because another human created something from nothing with their hands, but Raydene has higher standards. “Some days you only get one,” she says with a soft smile, packing up the clay.

Follow Raydene on Instagram and Twitter.
Follow Lady Guns Global on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook.
Follow sprig + arrow on Instagram and Facebook