Tori Telfer’s blog.

10 Things
“Portrait of a Young Woman” by Sandro Botticelli (probably)

“Portrait of a Young Woman” by Sandro Botticelli (probably)

10 things, that is, that are inspiring me today. (Remember when we all used to write lists like this? Why did we stop?)

1. Being in the bowels of Columbia’s library system—my husband goes there; I get a discount on a library card but no one knows that when I’m in the stacks looking for all the world like a hapless freshman! JK I obviously look like a visiting professor—and walking past a book with an intriguing name, like Pirates of the Ancient World, or Rome’s Debt to Greece. I will probably never know the nuances (or even the basics) of Rome’s debt to Greece (wait, let me guess: male wrestling?), but I love that someone out there does. 

2. Houses that are really full and lived-in but still gorgeous. Trinkets from vacations on the steps, stones from the beach in a basket, a dog in the corner that probably belongs to the neighbor but no one has noticed him yet. I am so-o-o-o sick of sleek spaces featuring not much other than a coy midcentury coffee table groaning under the weight of a minimal $3,000 hand-thrown ceramic ashtray. As in, I legitimately felt angry while typing that sentence. NO, THAT IS NOT HEALTHY.

3. Talking to my dad about finances and getting all of his old-school wisdom. (“This is the way people do things now, but this is how your grandparents did it…”)

4. Grabbing books at random from the library. I have no appetite for capital-L Literature lately; I only want books with titles like The Perfect Spouse or Summer in Amalfi, where everything is lovely, everyone is rich, and then someone gets murdered.  

5. All the drama inside Marie Antoinette’s circle of friends. (She truly loved them!! But did they actually love her or were they just social climbers?!) 

6. Flowers I can’t afford, for sale in the rain. 

7. Looking at flowers I can’t afford at the same time as another girl caught in the rain. I suspect we were feeling a very similar emotion. 

8. The IDEA, which I recently encountered but have not yet EXECUTED, of chopping up a grilled cheese sandwich into CROUTONS and using it on a SALAD.

9. Renaissance paintings. Isn’t it weird how they look so much more fresh and modern than a lot of more recent art?

10. Very old religious stuff, from Egypt, Byzantium (wherever the hell that was), and so on. I know the general explanation for the fervent belief systems of ancient peoples is a cynical, “Those rubes didn’t know what thunder was, scientifically-speaking, so they assumed the gods were angry at them!” Now, I understand what thunder is, scientifically-speaking. But I also think that ancient people were soooo much closer to the thin veil that separates our reality from EVERYTHING ELSE IS THAT OUT THERE. To put it in the finest of terms: they KNEW SHIT. And I think that’s really cool, and inspiring, and I like to look at their artifacts, as it gives me a frisson of sacred terror. I mean: can’t thunder be both things at once?

Tori Telfer

I think I might start blogging again.

Not that I need another outlet to write. I don’t, and in fact, giving myself one is probably a terrible idea. Since I started my podcast last May, I have written about 10,000 words a month minimum. That’s about two slim books a year. (From one angle, this is impressive—gosh I’m prolific! From another angle, this is painfully depressing, since I don’t actually have two books a year to show for it.) I have my podcast, like I said, and then my freelance articles, and then the book on con women that I’m currently working on, and then my monthly newsletter, plus the occasional Instagram caption. I don’t need more…AND YET.

It’s just that I feel some inner shift taking place lately, like…I want my career to go in a different direction. No, that’s not exactly it, it’s that I want part of my career to branch off in a different direction. I’m tired of writing exclusively about crime. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fascinating, and this book on con woman is absolutely the most intriguing and just plain fun project I’ve ever embarked on, but crime stories only take up about 30% of my thoughts, and for the past couple of years they’ve been 100% of my professional output. (Edit: there are definitely times when crime stories are 100% of my thoughts and I cannot BEAR to talk about craft cocktails or weekend plans or anything that isn’t a deep dive into the personalities of BLANCHE BARROW, LIZZIE BORDEN, AND PHOOLAN DEVI, but that’s mostly during the winter, when I don’t really want to talk to anyone, anyway.)

I realize that one’s work is never going to be a direct reflection of all one’s interests. I like to cook, and thrift, and garden; I have no interest in being a cookbook writer, a thrift store owner, or a professional landscaper. But I feel like I have all this creativity inside me that’s not necessarily being used right now, and I’m wondering if I should direct it towards a different sort of freelance gig—occasional event planning? Essay-writing?—or if I should just channel it all into my non-writing life, and busy myself with cooking, and decorating, and letter-writing (oops, more writing, dammit), and flipping through vintage design books, and re-reading the classics from my childhood which I’ve been meaning to do for a while, and all the other nice stuff that makes up a cozy, full life. (This list of “hobbies” makes me sound like I live in a cottage in England and have an affinity for herbal teas, neither of which is true.)

The problem is that when I DO take on a project that’s a little bit different—like write a play, which I’ve done a couple of times, or launch a true-crime-themed dinner party series, which I did with a friend a few months ago—it ends up requiring the sort of energy and time and even money that’s just not sustainable. I could be a full-time dinner-party-series-thrower, or dedicate myself full-time to my dream of being a playwright, but I can’t do either of those things part-time plus write a book and keep the audience from my first book engaged enough to buy my second and do the podcast and all the other freelance articles I want to do. I just can’t, and I have no interest in running myself ragged unless my life, my livelihood, or my family’s life/livelihood is at stake, none of which, thank God, is the case.

So what to do with this mysterious burgeoning feeling, this springtime sense that change is coming? Maybe it’s just part of getting older and getting more serious about things. One of my friends and I have been saying for the past year or so that we’re trying to level up. I feel like we usually say it in all caps, perhaps with an italics thrown in: LEVEL UP! Which is not exactly what I’m talking about here, but it’s parallel. You can level up by honing down on your one particular thing, or you can level up by taking on something new, which has always been my weakness, possibly to my detriment, but here I am again, like clockwork, talking about it. Oh well! Spring is coming!

Thanks for letting me work out these vague thoughts. I’ll see you back here in a bit, I hope! Blogging! It’s back! Who knew?



Tori Telfer