A big part of the motivation behind starting this blog was to have the opportunity to connect with womxn who inspire me, so here goes! The first interview in my new series, Womxn Interviews, with the wonderful Maria Thomas.
I know Maria from high school, but we had not stayed in touch until recently when she started her superb newsletter, Read this Now. Actually, it probably started a little earlier, when Maria moved to Paris for her journalism master’s and her Instagram became even more of a goldmine for inspiration. I love Maria’s explorer spirit and her ability to discover local treasures wherever she goes, be it coffeeshops or second hand bookstores. She embodies the flâneuse attitude of daydreamy wanderings, and generously shares her adventures and ponderings on social media. Maria also really loves to read, and celebrates both literature and journalism in her newsletter Read this Now, which I look forward to reading every week. It was a pleasure catching up over iced cinnamon lattes at Third Wave Coffee Roasters in Bangalore- thank you so much Maria for sharing your light and love of books!
Describe who you are.
I am a digital journalist with a serious book-buying problem and more pretty postcards and notebooks than I know what to do with. Also, Instagram is my life.
Can you talk a bit about starting your newsletter, Read this Now?
Ever since I first started working as a journalist, in 2012, I would spend a lot of time online. So, inevitably, I ended up reading tons of articles and fine-tuning my social media feeds to show me all the good stuff! I would always share a lot of what I found online via Facebook and over the years I started to get really nice messages from friends, acquaintances, and even people I hadn’t really spoken to in ages, all saying that they liked being informed via my feed.
In June last year, I had some free time while trying to figure out what to do next after finishing my Masters degree. At the time, I was subscribing to a bunch of TinyLetters from various interesting women and it occurred to me that having my own newsletter would be a cool way to occupy myself, while also being a useful place to put all my interesting internet finds.
And so I sent out my very first email on July 12, 2016. Incidentally, the launch of my newsletter coincided with a short-lived break from Facebook which seemed to convince everyone that something terrible had befallen me. But that made them even more likely to open my email!
I wanted my newsletter to look cool but I really have no design skills so I used a random email header template on Canva to make it look official. Pretty much everything else was random too, from the title (Read this Now) to the TinyLetter description (A reader for angry feminists, people with too many books and/or bear lovers.) Luckily, TinyLetter is really easy to use so you’re good to go in minutes.
What was your vision for the newsletter, and did you face any challenges in the process?
When I started out, I didn’t really have any big ambitions for the newsletter. It was just supposed to be a creative outlet, and a way of sending the same stuff to different friend circles easily. That’s why it’s written the way I would write an email to my closest friends. As for difficulties, there fortunately weren’t any! The only real struggle is to not get caught up in the metrics. TinyLetter gives you access to data on how many people open your newsletter, how many people clicked on the links. You can even see how many emails each of your subscribers has opened and exactly when they last opened them! So it has a lot of potential for encouraging obsessive tendencies.
Not everyone who subscribes to my newsletter reads it, for various reasons I’m sure. One thing is that Google often chucks it into your Promotions folder, meaning that you’d often never even see it, despite signing up for it. But like I said, the newsletter is like an extended friend chat circle, it’s not about how many people read it. All that matters is that some people do.
How do you like to start and end your day?
I am a morning person but I start work really early so my mornings are always crazy rushed. On good days, I have time to sit in the balcony and read whatever book I’m reading or the latest issue of the New Yorker in print. But more often than not I am running around: making coffee, making breakfast, getting ready for the day.
I’ve started ending my day by reading in bed. Normally I’d have spent the whole day writing and researching and editing online so it’s nice to not look at a computer or a screen, though I do always cheat and go through Instagram one more time to see what’s new!
Do you have any other routines or rituals during the day?
Making coffee has become a serious ritual for me ever since I discovered what a difference freshly-roasted coffee grounds make. I make coffee once a day, usually in the morning, and it’s very soothing to add the grounds to my little moka pot, smoothing the top so it’s perfectly set. While it’s getting ready I set up my special coffee mug (for me and only me) with one teaspoon of sugar inside.
I also try to write about my day in my notebook whenever I have an interesting thought or experience I want to ponder. I spend all my time typing words on screens so writing in my notebook is pretty much the only instance I use pen and paper, how crazy is that, right? During my first job I basically never wrote anything by hand for two years and after that it felt so weird to hold a pen and my hand would get tired after writing just a few sentences! I never want that to happen again.
Do you have any self care rituals?
I view books as therapy (and hey, so do these guys!) so when I’m not reading about books I’m thinking about which ones to get next. But also, my favourite thing to do to soothe my soul is to read restaurant reviews in the New Yorker. They have such style in the way they talk about food and ambience. You’d almost never guess you were reading a restaurant review, they tell such good stories in such few words.
What are some favourite ways you like to treat yourself?
Books, books, and more books. I’ve also recently become obsessed with high-quality culture magazines, like L’Instant Parisien and The Gentlewoman. Because I’m fully immersed in the world of digital journalism (and endure a daily battle with the ephemeral nature of internet content) it’s so nice to invest in real things, real magazines that you can hold in your hands. As soon as I started working I got myself a digital subscription to the New Yorker, which was a big treat, and now I have a print subscription as well. It’s definitely very bad for the environment to have a magazine shipped to India all the way from the US every week but I love it so much, it’s my favourite thing to get in the mail.
What are some of your favourite occasions throughout the year, both personal and cultural?
Christmas is the best time of the year, hands down. I’ve always loved the way Bangalore becomes suddenly festive and full of families returning from wherever it is in the world they’ve spread out to. It’s the one time of the year my family goes to all the special meat shops (Bamburries, Lusitania) to stock up on everything yummy. We plan an epic lunch; our fridge overflows with plum cake (which I personally hate but I support the idea of it, I guess)
But certainly part of my love for Christmas is just a general love for colder weather and presents. If there’s one thing I miss about Paris, it’s temperatures below 10 degrees and pretty department stores and boutiques!
Also, this may not be an ‘occasion’ per se but it is a cultural happening that I look forward to every year: the Bangalore International Film Festival. I remember when it was just a small thing, held around town over a few screens. I have fond memories of being a college student and waiting in line an hour in advance to watch Azghar Farhadi movies (my favourite). It’s one of those few cevents in India that meets the cultural standards of other parts of the world. They always bring amazing movies and it feels really cool to be able to have access to foreign films that you wouldn’t see in PVR or Inox.
Thank you so much Maria, much love to you and your all your books! ps- you can subscribe and view the archives to Read this Now here