The Craft: Lydia Mack on inclusion, the personal essay, and writing outdoors
Greetings on this humid Tuesday! Welcome to The Craft, Novella’s monthly series where we talk to women like you and do our favorite thing: geek out about writing. We spoke with Lydia Mack, freelance writer and founder of Yes She Can, about about creating a diverse community and scratching that creative itch.
Interviewed by Lourdes Avila Uribe
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TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 18
The Craft: Lydia Mack
What’s your name and what do you do?
Hi! I’m Lydia Mack. I’m a freelance writer and founder of Yes She Can, the first and only news source for female founders in LA. Through our weekly newsletter and curated calendar of events, we support LA's hardworking women – all with an eye for diversity and inclusion.
What made you decide to start Yes She Can, and where do you see it going?
Yes She Can started very simply as a curated calendar of events for female founders. But the more events I attended, the more I saw a very homogeneous crowd. LA is one of the most diverse cities in the country, but you would never know based on what’s portrayed on social media. Since then, Yes She Can has evolved into a news outlet for female founders and champion for diversity and inclusion within this community. We’ll go wherever that road takes us.
How has copywriting for private clients informed or inspired your personal editorial work?
For me, they are two very separate things. They fulfill me in very different ways and require me to flex different muscles, which I enjoy because it keeps me sharp. I enjoy working with private clients because there’s an energy exchange that I crave because I spend so much of my time working in solitude.
Is the writing process for private clients vs. editorial work similar?
At its core, yes they are very similar processes. As a writer, my job is to extract the truth. Private clients hire me for my expertise, but also to be a soundboard for the story that lives inside of them. With my own personal editorial work, it’s bit more challenging to navigate my own emotions to get to the truth, but the end goal is the same.
Do you have an object you keep by your side to inspire you while writing?
I write on my computer, but I like to keep pen and paper by my side to scratch out and organize my thoughts. Something about the visual and tactile aspects of pen and paper helps me find the through line in my ideas a little more easily.
There’s been a backlash of sorts against the personal essay, mainly rooted in misogyny. How do you think writers can approach the personal essay in an innovative and truthful way that isn’t exploitative?
In my master’s writing program, one professor told us to think of personal essay as an exploration. That has really stuck with me. I’ve found that sitting down to write a personal essay with an agenda – to get revenge or to bitch about someone let’s say – does the writing a disservice. But if you let it be an exploration, you will discover truths you may not have known existed when you first sat down to write. And you have to be ready for the good, bad, and the ugly that could surface, but also willing to take it one step further and acknowledge to the reader how you feel about these discoveries. Personal essay is rooted in truth and honesty. You never know what you’ll find when you pop open the hood. But that’s the fun of it. Otherwise, why bother?
Where do you like to write?
As a native East Coaster living in LA, I love writing outside on my porch with my dog. Feeling the warm breeze while I write is a luxury that I make sure not to take for granted.
Do you have any favorite writing supplies you can’t live without?
I can’t seem to stop acquiring notebooks. I have Moleskines of all sizes and I find them in random pockets of my bags, much like grandmas and butterscotch candy.
What’s your favorite/dream fall activity?
Fall is when I miss the East Coast the most. Every year here in LA, I spend most of October daydreaming about New York in the fall, when the air is crisp and the leaves have started to turn. My favorite thing to do is find a bench in Madison Square Park with a view of the Flatiron Building and people watch. I could be there for hours, just sipping a milky hot chai. (BRB gonna go look up flights to NY now.)