Happy Birthday 88 Cups of Tea (and Why You Should Listen)

Man, what to say to express my true and intense love of 88 Cups of Tea in honor of the show’s fourth birthday at the beginning of this month?

Let’s start by explaining what 88 Cups is for those of you who don’t know! 88 Cups of Tea is a podcast (my very, very favorite podcast) in which the host, Yin Chang, interviews storytellers — mostly writers, often young adult authors, but there’s variety as well — about their process.

Ugh, that description sounds so dry. Here, let’s try this: 88 Cups of Tea is like listening to your favorite cool, slightly older cousin (because Yin is so personable in every episode and to everyone who interacts with her that she feels like family, but at the same time she’s super cool so she’s like a cousin a few years older than you — you know, the one you always looked at with mouth slightly agape in awe? Yeah, that’s Yin).

Anyway, it’s like your favorite super cool and slightly older cousin Yin Chang sits in an armchair and drinks tea and chats with your favorite authors about everything from their books to their writing process to their childhood to the joys and sorrows that made them who they are. (The tea and armchairs are metaphorical, but that’s how I like to picture it.)

And we, the listeners of this podcast, get to eavesdrop. And we get to feel like we’re even more a part of this weird, wild, terrifying world that is p u b l i s h i n g.

I don’t really know how to accurately list all the ways I love this podcast. Here, let me quote myself from my very excited iTunes review of the show:

I love listening in on [Yin’s] convos with authors because she’s SO EXCITED about them and their work and that’s inspiring. She loves what she does and there’s nothing better, honestly. The authors who come on are incredible, so hope-giving and encouraging! I can’t speak highly enough of the people on Facebook who are a part of it. This show is so amazing. <3”

Yes, I’m a total fangirl. Am I ashamed? No. Am I literally the embarrassing younger cousin who’s always hanging around going “OMG look, so cool!”? Undoubtedly.

I’m gonna break this post, this appreciation post, into two parts: the show itself, and the community around it.

The show itself

Like I said before, listening to each episode is like sitting in on a cozy conversation between two great friends. Yin is the perfect choice for a podcast host, as she’s incredibly personable and finds ways to connect with every. single. guest. I don’t know how she does it, except that she must just see everyone as somehow simultaneously special and ordinary; someone worth celebrating but someone just like you and me. Which, really…isn’t that how we all should look at everybody?

So the host is one factor, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say the guests weren’t a massive part of the show’s appeal. I’m unashamed to admit that I’m one of those readers and fans who wants to feel like I can know my favorite authors. Writers have always been A-list celebrities in my mind. I go to signings and get all shaky and nervous when I’m in the autograph line, like I’m about to meet Captain America himself: my mouth runs dry and my palms get slick.

Every opportunity to learn more about them — from their creative processes, which always teach me to be a better writer; to their backstory, which remind me to view them as humans and not mere faces on a pedestal; to their advice — every chance I get to know more about my favorite writers is something I cherish.

And such great people have passed through the halls of 88 Cups of Tea! Sabaa Tahir! V.E. Schwab! Sandhya Menon! I could go on, but you could also just find the archives here.

There’s something thrilling about hearing your favorite storyteller’s voice in your ears and listening to them have this personal yet somehow, by some miracle, publicly accessible conversation so rich in goodness and inspiration.

The community around 88 Cups

To be honest, this is one of the two things that truly sets this podcast apart from others, for me (the first being, that’s right, Yin as host).

So the thing is, there’s this Facebook group where more than 1,000 listeners and fans of the show, writers and readers of all kinds, have gathered and formed a digital community. It’s one of my favorite Internet spaces — next to Twitter, which for some reason I do love, despite its issues (but that’s another post).

It’s a space that Yin actually created and nurtures, and that makes it all the more special; it’s a fandom-space, but it’s hosted by someone we’re a fan of.

I have the sweatshirt, yes.

I have the sweatshirt, yes.

We don’t just talk about the show — in fact, most of the posts and discussions in the group…aren’t necessarily about the show at all. Every day of the week there’s a different discussion post for us to share things like what we’re working on and what we’re proud of from that week, and these posts are broken up by members popping in to introduce themselves, ask for advice, just in general chat. And each post has tons of responses from everyone else.

I’ve gone there to post about writing; I’ve gone there to (do my best at) encouraging others; I’ve even gone there when, in the depths of my depression, I needed encouragement and advice.

In the beginning of June, I went to an in-person meet-up with three other listeners. We sat around a table at Kopitiam, Yin’s girlfriend’s restaurant, ate Malaysian breakfast food and drank tea and coffee, and chatted for hours about everything from our life stories to the projects we were working on to the things we were struggling with — both personally and in writing.

Those two hours were so refreshing I almost don’t have the words to describe them, and I still cherish the memory of that incredible morning and the lovely, wonderful people I met.

The conclusion?

I’m a fan, of this podcast and the people who create it and those who listen to it, and I’m so grateful to my friend Vanessa for telling me about it three years ago.

Happy birthday, 88 Cups of Tea (And here’s to many more)!

I'm Getting Back into Essays (And How You Can Help!)

It feels like an eternity has passed since the last time I published an essay anywhere other than this blog.

In reality, it’s only been since last September. Maybe August? Either way, somewhere under a year.

But I went from publishing multiple posts a month to absolutely nothing, for months on end, suddenly and abruptly and to be honest because of work stress and mental illness ravages and just an entire host of issues. So I guess maybe it seems like it’s been longer just because I’m not used to it.

I haven’t published anything in what feels like a million years because work got busy and I stopped feeling creative and suddenly even contributing to Operation Awesome (the group blog I’ve since had to leave) or updating this blog was too much. I was still writing of course, occasionally, but publishing? Felt like even more of a pipe dream than it did that long-ago day when my first piece went live at Seventeen.com

So what am I doing today, just sitting here moaning and groaning about how long it’s been?

Nah, not today. Moaning and groaning is totally up my alley, but today I have a plan. Today I’m coming to say that I’m setting things in motion once more.

I reached out to editors at a few publications I wrote for regularly and we talked about getting me back on track, back to contributing, and I’m ridiculously excited to say that I’ll have a piece published at LitReactor on July 23rd! I’m not going to tell you what it’s about (yet) but I’ll share the link all over my social media so you know…feel free to check that out. Or like my Facebook page.

I’m trying to get back into regularly writing personal essays, editing them so they’re the most excellent they can be, and submitting them to publications. Both publications that have never heard the faintest whisper of my name before and ones where I have existing relationships with editors and therefore (perchance) a greater hope of being published.

I’m also trying to make this blog better. Trying to commit to writing love posts about the books I adore, and writing honest takes about my mental health, and occasionally sprinkling in random personal blogs.

So here’s where you guys can help. There are actually a few things you can do if you want to support me and my career as a writer. Stay tuned for a list! Below!

  1. Tell me what you want to read on this blog. You can contact me, or drop comments on any posts, or go through the aforementioned social media links, but if you have a book you want to hear my thoughts on, or a specific mental health issue you’d love to know about, or if you saw a picture on my Instagram and want to know the backstory…let me know! I’d love to write what you want to see.

  2. If you feel so inclined, follow or like my various social media pages (linked below) so you can get updates on my published pieces. There’s a chance I’ll bring my newsletter back and send out biweekly-to-monthly updates with links to my favorite blog posts or articles. Feel free to sign up!

  3. If you see my posts and want to read them, go for it, and then a like, a share, a comment on social or the website hosting the work does wonders, not just for my confidence, but for added visibility to each post and, in the case of published articles, showing editors that people like my content.

  4. Finally, and this is a big one that I know is asking a lot, you can support me financially through Patreon or, for gifts without the commitment, Ko-fi. Patreon is a site where fans (called patrons) can sign on to regularly support my work by pledging a set amount per essay traditionally published, whether it’s already paid or not. Feel free to head to my profile to learn more, if you’re so inclined. On Ko-fi, you can give a one-time gift of a “coffee” ($3) if you, say, like a blog post or essay or just feel like you want to do so. No commitment!

In the end, if you do nothing but silently read my posts and appreciate them…I may never know you’re doing that, but the truth is, that’s why I write. For anyone who wants to read my words and takes hope, happiness, encouragement, learning from them. Whether you tell me, share my work, or pay me for it, I appreciate that you’re here.

Have the most excellent of Thursdays!