Jessica Lahey, Teacher and Author


Cool Tools Show 222: Jessica Lahey

Our guest this week is Jessica Lahey. Jess writes about education, parenting, and child welfare for The Atlantic, The Washington Post and the New York Times. She’s the author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed. She co-hosts the popular #AmWriting podcast with KJ Dell’Antonia and Sarina Bowen. She lives in Vermont with her husband and two sons, and her second book, The Addiction Inoculation: Raising Healthy Kids in a Culture of Dependence will be released in April of 2021. You can find her on Twitter @jesslahey and on Instagram @teacherlahey.

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Show notes:

Since I discovered Scrivener, it’s been impossible for me to go back. I actually have to use a couple of different programs for writing simply because of Scrivener compatibility issues with my editor, and my agent, and things like that. Scrivener is amazing for me because I’m a nonfiction writer, and I do a lot of research. I can create folders for every one of my chapters, and I can dump all my research in there, and I can dump images in there. I can dump anything I want into those folders. Within those folders, I can have the main text and the things that I delete, and fragments, and quotes, and all kinds of stuff. Then when I compile all of that, I usually transfer it into Microsoft Word just for compatibility issues. Scrivener has really changed the way I write and help me become a much more organized writer. It’s inexpensive. That’s the best part.

Semikolon Sticky Page Tab Markers ($13)
The day after I handed in my manuscript for my first book, The Gift of Failure, I had been helping train a horse and I was thrown from that horse and landed on my head, and suffered a pretty bad head injury. For a while there, I couldn’t really read especially off of a screen. Since then, I’ve had to really rely heavily on paper, so, if I’m going to listen to a book or read something online, I’m also almost always going to have the hard copy. So I have these notes by Semikolon, and it’s 12 different colors of sticky tabs. Having 12 different colors allows me to do something really cool, which is anytime I read a book, I pick three colors. One color gets used very rarely, and that’s like, “Alert, alert. Come back to this, use this. This is important.” Then the other two colors, one is for, “You should read more about this.” The other one is, “This should probably go in the book.” So that way, no matter what book I have, they may all have different color sticky tabs, but I can sense what the three colors mean. So if you look at any of my books, most of them have just an obscene number of sticky tabs in them. The other cool thing about this brand is they really do stick and they don’t come out. A lot of brands of sticky notes just fall out over time, or my cat will pull on them and bite them out of the book, and these actually stay put where they’re supposed to.

LG UltraWide Monitors
I had just a regular Thunderbolt Mac Monitor for a long time, which was great. I really did like that monitor. It got dropped during our move, and our moving company was replacing my monitor. So for a very similar cost, I was able to get this LG ultra-wide curved monitor. The reason I like it so much is not just because it looks super cool, but because I can have many documents up at once and line them up. I can have a PDF of an article. I can have an interview. I can have my text and all lined up. What’s really hard about that then is if I’m traveling and I have to just use my laptop. I feel like I’m looking at a tiny, tiny little screen and I can only see one thing at a time. This big monitor has really made it so much easier for me to work between documents. It is ultra-wide. It’s 38 inches diagonally. Something about the curve also makes it a lot easier on my eyes.

Leuchtturm1917 B5 monthly calendar with journal (available at the end/beginning of the year) in a black Little Mountain Bindery XL tri-fold Fillion made by Lesha Shaver
I host a podcast called the #AmWriting Podcast and I have two co-hosts, Sarina Bowen, who’s a bestselling romance author, and KJ Dell’Antonia, who actually used to be my editor at the New York times. We all have the same planner. The reason we love this one is that it has a monthly calendar in the front, so that you can plan out your month and there’s weekly planners in there too. The three of us text each other all day long. We text each other the word “sticker” when we’ve achieved our goal for the day. So right now, my stickers are bumblebees and I can tell which days I actually achieved, whether it’s a word count goal, or research goal, or an editing goal. Whatever it is we’ve set as our goal for that day, once we’ve done it, we get a sticker in our book and we text each other the word “sticker”. If I hit 9 at night and I’m like, “Man, I’m tired,” and I didn’t sticker today, but one of my friends Sarina or KJ texts me and tells me that they stickered, I’m going to be really likely to just stay up for 45 more minutes and get my work done.

About The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed:

The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed
Most of the speaking I do around this book is for parents, teachers, coaches, that kind of thing. Anyone who works with kids, anyone who wants to try to get kids motivated to do stuff for the sake of the thing itself, and to get a little less reliant on extrinsic motivators like trophies, grades, points, scores, or stickers. It’s also about how kids learn. How we can work with that to keep them motivated and not helicopter parenting, which was the original genesis of that book. I realized that I was angry with the parents of my students for parenting their kids into a state of helplessness, and yet I was doing the exact same thing with my own kids. So, that’s how that book was born.


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