On… the New York Times

So this is pretty exciting.

A piece in the New York Times on Saturday about BROOKLYN GIRLS.

Post-Collegiate Exploits In Brooklyn

Those who find themselves attracted to the Brooklyn bohemia of Lena Dunham’s “Girls” but who can’t understand why its gritty depictions of post-collegiate reality have to be quite so gritty might want to distract themselves instead with “Brooklyn Girls” (St. Martin’s Griffin, $14.99), a sassy summer confection by the young novelist and screenwriter Gemma Burgess.
The story stars Pia, an art history major fresh out of Brown with no money, no job and definitely no clue. After a semi-topless photo on Facebook costs her an entry-level gig in public relations, she faces a deadline from her parents: get it together in two months, or move out of the Carroll Gardens brownstone she shares with a quartet of friends, and back home to Switzerland.

This being Brooklyn, Pia’s adventures include beekeeping, barhopping and a food truck business called Skinny Wheels. And this being 2013, the plot turns on casual sex and business sense as much as it does on its rather literal Prince Charming.

If this sounds like fun, then you’re doubly in luck. The novel includes the first two chapters of a sequel, “Love and Chaos: A Brooklyn Girls Novel,” due out in winter 2014.

Goddamn thrilling, huh? I don’t get excited about most book-related stuff – I don’t have book launch parties, I don’t do readings, I don’t tingle when I see them in bookstores, I’d honestly rather just write – but wow, I got excited about this. This is just lovely. Thank you Blake Wilson.

One other thing.

People are going to keep comparing my book series and HBO’s Girls. They’re both about young women! They’re obviously identical (except being completely different in tone, audience, plot, characters, and as Blake says, grittiness, etc…).

Publishing is very, very slow. I conceptualized, got the book deal, and wrote BROOKLYN GIRLS in 2010 and early 2011. The writing process of BROOKLYN GIRLS is updated all through my blog, and the first announcement about the BROOKLYN GIRLS book deal with St Martin’s Press was in Publisher’s Marketplace on January 14, 2011. (The working title was ‘UNION STREET’.) Lena Dunham’s brilliant, hilarious and original Girls premiered April 2012. I finished writing the second book in the series, LOVE AND CHAOS in mid-2012, and it’s out early 2014. Like I said, publishing is slow.

Just because two writers notice the same thing (the total lack of books/tv shows about young women starting adult life) – and set it in the same location (because it’s an accessibly aspirational and very interesting place where, duh, a lot of graduates live when they get to NYC) – doesn’t mean there’s some huge conspiracy afoot.  Seriously.

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On… Aritzia magazine

So I did a little interview with Aritzia magazine – check it out here.



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On… a new song to love

Love the new Robin Thicke song Blurred Lines?

Offended by the topless bimbo video and potential rape-ishness of the lyrics?

I have the solution. Listen to this instead. It’s similar but, you know, way better.

And it’s my favorite song of all time.

Got To Get It On by Marvin Gaye.

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Life Begins At 22… your stories

I’ve been collecting stories about women’s lives when they turn 22 – to show that no matter where you are, or what you’re doing, it’s always the first year of your adult life. (Oh, and also to celebrate the long-awaited launch of my new book series BROOKLYN GIRLS, which is about five friends surviving their 20s.)

It’s kind of like New Adult non-fiction, and it’s fascinating. Inspiring and comforting and funny, all at once. These are a few of my favorite things.

I did have an individual post for every entry, but it started to take over my blog, so now they’re all here in one lovely spot. Just click the thingy below to read them all.

Want to take part? Email me your answers gemma@gemmaburgess.com

AMY, New York City

1. What were you doing at 22? Living situation, work/study situation?

I turned 22 in my last semester of college. I was working a crazy publishing internship, writing two theses, and riding an emotional rollercoaster while preparing to graduate. I lived just off campus with four guys—a lot of fond memories of that house.

Then I graduated. I survived two sublets before landing in a lovely Cambridge apartment with two lady friends. I got a job in September as a project manager for an internet start-up. I was not meant to be a project manager for an internet start-up, but I learned a lot.

More importantly, I spent an excellent year with my college friends in the “real world.” Adventures were had, not the least being the fake bachelorette party we threw for a silly girl’s night out. (We really committed.) There were also a lot of home cooked meals, thanks to a dinner rotation, and cozy little parties. A mixture of the expected and unexpected.

2. Were you dating / in a relationship? What was it like?

22 was a big boy year for me. It can probably be summed up by the phrase “learning experience.” I alternately sowed oats and tried to settle down a bit. Neither stuck for too long, but I wouldn’t trade the experience.

3. What was the hardest thing that happened to you that year? What was the best?

The hardest? Combating the crushing sense of existential despair. I put a lot of pressure on myself to find meaning in what I was doing, but life unfortunately doesn’t stick to a narrative. There are plenty of detours. I figured out what I was supposed to be doing only after I turned 23.

The best? Teaching myself how to write a screenplay was pretty cool. (I wrote an hour-long TV script as a part of my thesis, and it was well received by mentors I respected and trusted.) I also started a book review site that affirmed my future career path in publishing. Between blogging and jumping on the Twitter bandwagon, I internet-met a lot of neat people I now consider real life friends. People, new and old, were the best parts of 22.

4. What would you say to yourself at 22, knowing what you know now?

I’ve been consuming a lot of time travel narratives lately, and honestly, it’s gotten me a little paranoid about going back and giving advice to myself. You never know what change will unravel your entire life. Yes, I have a regret or two…Mostly it’s “don’t do that stupid thing that will hurt someone else.” (This is not confined to 22.)

I can’t give 22-year-old me platitudes. She deserves more than that. I think I’d like to send her a vague sense that things keep going and could possibly turn out all right. (I’m not sure of that last bit yet, so I hope 32-year-old me is sending now-me a similar message.) Otherwise, I could maybe orchestrate an elaborate time travel system where I left déjà vu clues. They’d all say “I think you’re on the right track.”

5. What do you do now, by the way?

I work in children’s book publishing, which is pretty rad. I may be biased, but getting to work with kids books all day is the coolest thing ever.

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Life Begins At 22: The Authors…


To celebrate the launch of BROOKLYN GIRLS, some of the loveliest authors I know very kindly agreed to write about what life was like for them at 22…

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Life Begins At 22: Gemma Burgess

To kickstart my Life Begins At 22 thingy, here are my answers to the questions I’ll soon be asking you…

1. What were you doing at 22? Living situation, work/study situation?

I had just moved to London. My very first job was a temp job writing website copy at Schroders, a bank in the City, for a few weeks. It was corporate but fun, because everyone was much older than me and took me out to lunch and to bars after work, like a pet. Then I got a job as a very junior writer for a technology marketing company in Shepherd’s Bush. I hated it. I didn’t understand what I was writing about most of the time, so I cried quite a lot, but I didn’t know what else I could do with my life because I had no real skills and no experience, and that made me cry too. The MD of the company was an idiot who constantly used words the wrong way, which really depressed me, so I cried more. On the plus side, the company was largely staffed by under-25s, so we all went out a lot.

What else? Let’s see. I was living with two American girls, in a total dump in a nasty area of London called Acton Vale. My clothes were all wrong and I couldn’t afford to buy any more. I ate awful food, because I couldn’t cook, and I couldn’t afford to eat anywhere nice. I was cold all the time. I kept losing stuff. My purse was stolen. It always seemed to take my employers months to get payroll set up, so I was constantly waiting to get paid. My bedsheets were so cheap that I could literally read through them. Being broke is shit.

One of the American girls moved out, and a Danish girl and her Swedish husband moved in, and then the lease ended, and while I was back in Hong Kong with my parents for Christmas, either the American girl or the couple stole six hundred pounds of my deposit and left the country. (I never figured out who it was.) So I got back, completely homeless and broke. I lived on various friends’ floors for a bit, and we drank a lot of wine and smoked a lot of cigarettes.

Then I moved in with two lovely posh English boys in Battersea. I got a raise, I bought some decent clothes, my best friends from university finally moved to London so my social life improved immeasurably. And then I found out about advertising copywriting and thought ‘hell yes, I want to do that’ so I started applying for jobs with advertising agencies – it would take another 18months of applications and begging to get anywhere, but I knew what I wanted, and I was having fun. Life got better.

The weird thing is that during all that shit, being broke and cold and homeless and unsure of what the hell I was going to do with the rest of my life, I was still pretty happy. I was living in London and every day was a new adventure. Life was good.

2. Were you dating / in a relationship? What was it like?

I had just broken up with a very long-term university boyfriend so I really wasn’t looking for a serious relationship. I dated my friend’s brother for a little while, mostly because he was the only person I knew when I moved to London, ha, and then he left to go travelling around the world and soon emailed me that he’d fallen in love with a medical student part-time model heiress virgin. (I was like well that’s just AWESOME for you.) So then I kissed a lot of boys in bars. And I had a lot of strange dates, like the roommate of the guy who played The Mummy in The Mummy who I met in a bar when I was accidentally four hours early for a party, and the extremely hot bartender and would-be music producer who borrowed money from me and disappeared, and oh… others. All idiots in their own special way. Dating in my early 20s was like shoe-shopping. I figured I’d keep trying on different styles until I found one that fit. It turns out there are many, many different kinds of shoes.

3. What was the hardest thing that happened to you that year? What was the best?

Probably when my rental deposit money was stolen. It was all the savings I had in the world and I couldn’t afford to move into a new rental without it… I rang my dad reverse charges in Hong Kong, as I was wont to do, and cried, as I was also wont to do. He said I had to deal with it myself (which was fair enough, I should add; I was – ahem – fairly spoiled and indulged up until that point). I went and sat in the estate agent office and tried not to cry and said ‘I told you to give me the money directly, so you owe me that deposit, if you made a mistake and gave it to the wrong person, it’s your responsibility’ and wouldn’t leave till they gave it to me. Which they did, eventually, and I realized that if you want something in life you should – and can – do it yourself. Without crying. So in a way that was the hardest thing, but also the best thing: I learned how to cope. (I have a theory that the main difference between people who are happy in life and people who aren’t are coping skills. If you can handle anything, then – boom – no matter what happens, you’ll be okay. People who fall apart whenever something goes wrong, and turn to someone else to fix their problems, will have a tougher time. So in a way, going through shit periods is like earning your future happiness. But that’s a whole other subject / blog post.)

The other best thing was discovering advertising copywriting existed. I really didn’t know it was even a thing before that. I don’t know how I thought ads were made, I just didn’t think about it. Once I realized that in great advertising every thought, every concept, every word, every line, every full stop has purpose and power and charm… I was hooked. (That lasted about seven years, till I realized I was being paid to sell people shit they didn’t need, and was being told what to do by subhuman account managers, and decided I’d had enough.)

4. What would you say to yourself at 22, knowing what you know now?

 It will all be worth it.

5. What do you do now, by the way?

I write books and screenplays. I’m married to a lovely Irish guy named Fox. I have a baby boy named Errol. I live in New York City.

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On… Life Begins At 22

As mentioned, Brooklyn Girls is out.

I think that what I’m supposed to do, as the author, is talk endlessly about the book series, the characters, the plots, blahblahyadablah. But I’ve done that, ad infinitum, in this blog, and everywhere else, and my God, you must be sick of it. If you want to read it, I figure you’ll read it, if you don’t, me telling you about how I worked out characters isn’t going to convince you. Anyway, it’s a bit like seeing the guy with the hand up Kermit’s ass. Sometimes, you just want to see the damn frog.

Instead, let’s talk about what inspired the book series: life in one’s early 20s. Because, as I’ve said before, it’s a really tough period. You’ve just graduated, you’ve been educated out the wazoo, and you suddenly realize that you’re qualified to do fuck-all except Starbucks runs. You can’t get a job that will pay you enough to actually, you know, have a life. Men suck. Or rather, boys, since 23-year-old boys really are still boys. You spend most of your time broke, worried, confused, lost, heartbroken, hungry or hungover.

And yet…

You get to have the most carefree, uninhibited, joyful fun with your best friends. At least, I did. And you get to figure out what you want to do with your life – which is yes, intimidating as hell, but it’s also exciting, because you’ve got a blank slate. The world is your bitch.

That’s why… (drumroll): Life Begins At 22.

So  I’ve been asking everyone what their lives were like at 22, and I’m going to post the answers on this blog over the next few weeks. If you’d like to get involved, YAY! Email me your answers to gemma@gemmaburgess.com and I’ll post them on the blog, or if you prefer, just put them in the comments. Whatever floats your boat.

Life Begins At 22 questions…

1. What were you doing at 22? Living situation, work/study situation?

2. Were you dating / in a relationship? What was it like?

3. What was the hardest thing that happened to you that year? What was the best?

4. What would you say to yourself at 22, knowing what you know now?

5. What do you do now, by the way?

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This morning I woke up with this playing in my head.

Why? Because BROOKLYN GIRLS is finally available to buy here, here and here!


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