It’s that time of year again. This is where we leave you (until January). And whenever we get to this juncture of the year, I always take a minute to take stock of where we’ve been this year, as a team and as a company.
Some years feel easy to wrap my head around. For example, 2017 was really difficult. It was the hardest year we’d ever had in business, and it was the most politically traumatizing year of my life. And 2016 was a good year of business, complete with a business trip to Lisbon at the end (where Trump was elected right in the middle of the trip, turning it from great to terrible). But 2018? Well, it was… a lot. After the trauma of 2017, our team ended the year with an intention ritual, where we burned a sheet of paper with the word abundance on it. Perhaps we should have been more specific.
A Maximal Year
Because 2018 was exactly that. It was a year of abundance… abundance of everything. We had opportunities rolling in faster than we could manage them. Some of them fizzled, or have yet to play out (like that time we pitched TV for the third time, or that mystery audio project coming in 2019). But so many of those opportunities played out in a big way. In fact, it was enough good stuff to fill several years, all packed in to one year with not enough sleep or downtime. We started the year by filling my dining room with balloons to celebrate our nine year wedding anniversary, and then filled our studio with balloons for a photo pop-up for East Oakland schools, after which I headed off to Palm Springs to Keynote at Alt Summit. Then we went big in April, throwing a magical ten year anniversary party in a roller rink. In June we pulled together a Game of Thrones–inspired bridal shower in Palm Springs. Then in July, we threw a fundraiser for Families Belong Together. And a week later, with thehelp of our brand-new-in-2018 friend Jess of Sentimental Fools, we hoisted clouds the size of small cars three stories in the air in San Francisco’s Crate and Barrel store for an event complete with aura photography. In August, we threw our first ever The Compact Camp, feminist summer camp for grown-ass women. (The Compact is returning in 2019, and dates will be announced after the new year. We fully expect the event to sell out in a day or less, so if you’re interested in going, head over to The Compact website and sign up.) Then in the fall, we soft-launched our plus size wedding dress collaboration with Lace & Liberty, which we’ve slowly been showing at select events around the country as we fine-tune it for a full launch in 2019. (And trying on David’s Bridal wedding dresses made me smile for the first time after a long summer.)
Feel like lying down after reading that list? I do.
But as I look at that professional timeline, I see my own personal timeline woven in between it, as red lines of pain. Before I left for my keynote at Alt, my dad was rushed to the ER with a gallbladder infection, and just when the doctors told us he was going to be fine, he suddenly turned septic and brushed very close to death. I kept a vigil in the ICU, and he was finally well enough to go to a skilled nursing facility just in time for me to leave to give a keynote. Then, during that bachelorette party in Palm Springs, my dad slipped and fell while walking the dog. I missed his last truly coherent words in the ER before his brain swelled, sending my husband there to witness them instead. By the time I got back, he was moving from ICU, to hospital, to rehab facility, and I spent the entire summer trying to operate as his primary caregiver and patient advocate, while raising two small children and running a business. Then mid-summer, just when things were improving, we checked my dad into the hospital for behavioral medication titration. I left in the middle of that wildly mismanaged stay to run our summer camp (in retrospect I look swollen and out of it in nearly every picture), and by the time I got back, my dad was dying. He left this earth exactly two weeks after The Compact Summer Camp ended. And the autumn, was, of course, largely a blur of grief, mixed with the ever-present joy of having small children.
The State Of Independent Publishing
As for independent publishing, well. With that too, it’s felt like a mix of the best of times and worst of times. Much has been written about how everyone’s over-reliance on apps and social media has made publishing a very difficult place to be. (Tavi Gevinson wrote a clear-eyed and shockingly un-bitter take on the state of independent publishing when she announced the shuttering of Rookie last month.) I started APW before influencer marketing (or decent display ad revenue) were really things. And we’ve been able to see those businesses grow and develop… while also try to manage the enormous scope-creep that’s happened. Because writing a post isn’t enough anymore. Now a post comes with a full photo shoot, content across several platforms, and sometimes a full-scale event (not to mention several ad agencies in on the action, all taking large cuts of cash before we see a penny.)
Who knows where we’re going next. But in the midst of all of this change, APW scaled back and focused on what we love, and that’s been a good process. Because did I mention our offices got robbed two days in a row, just one week after my dad’s funeral, with $30K worth of (blessedly insured) property taken? So in the aftermath of that, we moved out of our office (we move into a new, and smaller, office in January, and we’ll finally get to get all our things out of storage), and scaled back our team. In the midst of all that abundance—the good kind, and the bad kind—focusing on working with the people we care most about has been the best thing we could do. I currently work with a staff that has seen me give my dad’s eulogy, and has virtually or physically witnessed me sob over really hard stuff and hasn’t blinked in the face of that. And for that, I am profoundly grateful.
Over the past few years, we worked hard to do what we thought we should do—expand APW to a somewhat bigger business with formal offices and a more formal management structure and a larger staff. Turns out, we didn’t like that much. There may be a time when we join up with a bigger team, but for now it turns out I don’t want to spend the majority of my time as a manager. I want to be in the trenches, working as an editor and a business strategist and collaborating with people I like and trust, as friends and colleagues.
Plus, when I look at the work we produced this year, I am really proud of it (and last year, I did not uniformly feel that way). In fact, I loved so much of it that creating this Best of APW 2018 post took a lot of time and a fair amount of editing. (After all, it can’t all be the best.) That’s a huge turnaround from a rough 2017, and I’m so grateful for our team that made it happen. (Najva Sol included, who left our ranks for another job in August and is currently on the market for a new gig. Someone should hire her, she’s the best.) OH! And we landed in Ad Week for one of our campaigns this year, which is basically a big goddamn deal.
So here is to 2019. Who knows what it will bring. But when I burn my paper with an intention this year, I’m going to be more specific about the kind of abundance I want… while remaining grateful for all the wild abundance 2018 brought, along with the pain.
Here is to what’s next.
P.S. Oh, and I just signed a contract for the second edition of the first APW book (it’s somehow been seven years since it came out), so look for an updated version of that book this time next year!
Great Stuff About Weddings
These real-life wedding planning conversations between a mother and daughter might make you want a drink.
What do you do when you’re tired of people telling your five-year-old son he can’t be who he wants to be? In this case, a flower boy.
We found the best alternative wedding guest books on the internet and made a few of our own original creations.
Flower centerpieces are expensive. Try making these party terrariums instead.
Diversity in the wedding industry is progressing, but it isn’t moving as quickly as it should.
While it’s easy to boil down the last-name decision to a series of simple choices and practicalities, in real life, there is a whole lot of emotion involved. And guess what? Women are still taking on the emotional labor of it all.
It’s 2018 and we still have to tell people why it’s not okay to get married on a plantation.
After the mother of the bride called her fat, she got fired as a bridesmaid. Should she still attend the wedding?
Her fiancé had to propose twice. Once drunk and once hungover. So, she’s making him do it again, but is the damage already done?
Family drama is tough any day, but multiply that by a hundred when you’re wedding planning. Yes, that means making the hard decision on whether or not to invite your toxically masculine, alcoholic brother to your wedding.
What do you do when you fall in love with someone who is not your husband?
Getting your friends and family excited about your engagement shouldn’t be tough. But, when you’re polyamorous that may be hard for others to understand and, you know, actually be excited for you.
This rockin’ DIY Chicanx pop punk party (mariachi band included) in downtown Los Angeles will hit you right in the feels.
Sometimes a wedding comes across our desk and our whole staff is like WHO ARE THEY, WHAT IS THIS? Seriously though, this wedding is GLAMAF, and the bride and groom look like models. WARNING: Happy tears may flow.
One of APW’s most popular weddings this year was this $10K super hip, joy-filled gay wedding, complete with tacos (and neon lights). And with a sign that says tequila over boys, can it really get any better?
Two architects, one wedding. This wedding in a glass chapel in the woods with (gasp!) all the bridesmaids in white jumpsuits is super modern and ultra glamorous.
An Indian/American wedding perfectly balanced between old-school traditions and modern flair. And an epic alcohol-free dancing filled reception with the best party picture of Grandma ever!
When you have two impeccably dressed brides and one awesome venue in the dessert, what else are you supposed to do besides host your closest friends and family from all over the world to celebrate your love?
A custom green velvet wedding dress and a change into a luxe floral tux—need we say more? This small town Northern California, backyard wedding has everything you were missing in 2018, kissing booth included.
This isn’t your average pizza party wedding. Unless your average pizza party includes a wedding cape and a floral whip. My guess, probably not.
Morning is for a traditional church wedding and afternoon is for a completely punk reception, if you’re this Southern California couple. Sometimes you need to ditch the heels and go for a pair of metallic pink sneakers to dance your ass of to your punk music wedding playlist.
Politics & Other Stuff
The APW staff (and a bunch of our favorite commenters) give their take on the roles politics play in their relationships.
Maddie learned how to deal with emotional labor in her relationship and gave us all some helpful tips to do the same.
A waiter told me I should sit down and be grateful. Unfortunately for him, we were right in the middle of the Kavanaugh hearings and I had rage. And nothing but time and white privilege that I was delighted to weaponize.
When you choose your spouse, you get your in-laws too. This Jewish letter writer’s future in-laws said some “weird, vaguely anti-Semitic things,” and she’s not sure how to navigate this situation.
Liz talks about being a stay-at-home mom and a feminist badass navigating traditional roles in a contemporary world.
You know how I talked about spending a lot of time in the hospital this year? Well, it gave me a lot of time to think about marriage and how aging parents and other heartbreaks affect relationships. Especially the relationship you have with your partner.
Climbing the generational income ladder can come with complex feelings about money and class. Jareesa discovers some of her points of view stay the same and others change.
How one couple learned to navigate the road to non-monogamy and save their marriage at the same time.
My husband and I both make money, we throw it in a joint pot, we make financial decisions. So why is it that women are still dragging patriarchy inside our homes and embedding inequality in our wallets and relationships?
How an international move, a brutal election, and “having it all” almost made one woman run away from her marriage.
The #metoo movement made this writer realize what happened to her was actually non-consensual.
This year I shopped ethically, rented clothes, and tried all the trends to create my own grown-ass woman uniform.
We also learned how getting a prenup is an exercise in #selflove.
Here are the real-life milestones of growing old together. The ones that include the fun stuff like (vile) bodily functions, hidden talents, and revealing your inner ugliness.
Y’all have asked me about writing a will so many times. But guess what? My answer is still the same. What are you waiting for? Now is the time to write that will.
This marriage has been full of unexpected… babies. And learning to navigate the unexpected curves that life throws at you.
Becoming a mother and all the thoughts that come with it can be terrifying. Feminism—and a good support network—led Jareesa to the realization that motherhood doesn’t have to be that scary.
Maddie settled into her first year as a working mom with a working husband and a super cute baby. She shares all the tips that help her get everything done when there are two partners with demanding careers and a baby.
Stuff We Did
Also… APW launched a custom plus size wedding dress line with Lace & Liberty and got to create a dress for my BFF Gina that had us all in happy tears.
We threw a big-ass party in a roller rink to celebrate APW’s ten year anniversary with all of our closest friends.
We hosted our first-ever Compact feminist summer camp in the Santa Cruz Mountains and it was pure magic.
A Compact camper asked a hundred women at our summer camp for their friendship, and their responses will have you in tears (the good kind).
Thanks for stying with us for the ride in 2018. It’s been good, and hard, and well, pretty much everything. But you all made what we do possible, and every day better. See you in 2019!