I obsess over things for weeks and then ignore them completely for the rest of my life. Here’s what I’ve been obsessing over for the past couple of weeks: Good Writing and Mary H.K. Choi
Mary H.K. Choi
After going on my street photography binge, I went back to read some more stuff about Daniel Arnold. That’s how I discovered Mary H.K. Choi and her writing. She (and her podcast) led me into my next rabbit hole.
Mary Choi is a Korean writer who grew up in Hong Kong, lived in New York, and is currently living in LA. She produces segments for VICE News and writes for several different publications: Wired, The Awl, The Fader, Marvel Comics, etc. Her work and writing is thoughtful, entertaining, and consistently good. Her Kindle Single is a great example of and introduction to her style and tone.
Speaking of her tone—it’s one of the best examples of a comfortable writing voice. Mary writes how you would imagine she speaks. While most of the time this comes off as a tone that’s too relaxed or too casual or lacks coherent sentences, in her case it’s amazing. Like, she uses punctuation so well. There’s a cadence to her writing that makes it seem like she’s in the room with you, telling you about how she smoked weed and which kind of weed is best for particular activities. In terms of style, this one’s pretty difficult to come by. I have a feeling that it’s where everyone starts, but it looks and reads kind of amateurish (like my writing, ya feel?). But with Mary it feels like she learned to write following every single rule before she had the confidence and experience to be able to break them all and still write coherent, engaging pieces.
Here are some of my favorite articles written by Mary H.K. Choi:
- Her article on The Awl about what strain of weed is best for specific activities.
- Her Rihanna cover story for The Fader (which she wrote without getting to actually meet Riri)
- Her Daniel Arnold article in Wired
And a few of her Vice News segments that I enjoyed:
Hey, Cool Job!
Along with her amazing writing across a myriad of publications, Mary H.K. Choi is also the host of a very informative and exciting podcast, “Hey, Cool Job!”. The title speaks for itself. In the podcast Mary invites many of her friends and past coworkers to talk about their jobs, what they do to stay inspired, who their mentors are, whether they mentor anyone, and what they do to take care of themselves. This last bit, about self-care, is always the most interesting one for me. Many podcasts spend a lot of time talking about people’s work and how they spend their time working, but very few do anything to reveal that behind every creator, writer, photographer, and manager there is a real human being that needs to take care of themselves.
So, obviously, my entry-point with this podcast was the episode with Daniel Arnold. I stand by my assertion that he’s the coolest. He’s the coolest. I then went and listened to all the episodes that involved writers, journalists, or editors. And MAN those are the best. At some point, Mary and her guest, Julianne Escobedo Shepherd, Culture Editor at Jezebel, geeked out about the use of semicolons for a solid 5 minutes. I am HERE for these kinds of conversations. When people geek out about grammar in a friendly way—it’s amazing.
Each episode is also a great introduciton to the work of the person, their past accomplishments, and the events, books, and movies that shaped them. The episode with Julianne Shepherd introduced me to an amazing article about Whitney Houston’s performance at the Super Bowl. I think it’s amazing when an author can take an idea that I couldn’t care less about and turn it into a thrilling piece that comments on an individual event in the context of an entire country and the world in general. It was amazing. It’s what good writing is meant to do—make small moments matter to everyone.
Finally, Mary H.K. Choi is the author of a short Kindle Single. It’s a book that talks about her childhood in Hong Kong, her issues with body image, her relationship with her mother, her relationships with past boyfriends, her life in New York and LA, and the difference between the two cities for her, as an Asian-American woman who earns a living by writing.