Something I’ve always found excitingly daunting is jumping into a new style or genre of literature. I felt this strongly when starting Vivek Shraya’s latest book featuring her play How to Fail as a Popstar. Personally, I’ve never really felt the need to venture into reading plays because I felt as if I got my fill of that in high school, and if I desperately wanted to consume one, I could easily head into the city and get tickets to a show. But being a fan of Vivek’s work and compelled by the idea of this play, I knew I had to pick this up. And wow, am I sure glad I did!
Despite my nerves going into this piece, I immediately felt at home reading the foreword by play director Brendan Healy. I knew right there that this play would be something I highly value, and when Healy listed his three main takeaways from the play, I felt so much more eager to continue reading.
Vivek is extremely skilled in creating a compelling narrative. The majority of this play is formed around an autobiographical telling of her experiences with wanting to become a popstar from her earliest memory of music to where she sees her ultimate failure. Music is of course a key aspect of this play as it is dotted with her original songs (much to my delight as I really love her music, check her out on Spotify), and they really added so much to the story. I particularly love the closing song, Showing Up.
Mostly, though, this play spoke to me as a creative at a fundamental level like nothing else. Failure is never talked about in this sense. We’re told to move on, to never give up, that our failures make us stronger, but in reality a lot of us are just playing the lottery—99.9% of us are set up to fail. And that’s okay. Failing sucks, but we can mourn, learn (if we want to), and move on, and we don’t have to keep trying again and again when the odds are against us. And even if you don’t fully achieve your dreams of being that 1 in a million megastar of whatever art you do, you can still keep doing your art without striving for what, despite what our society tells us to do.
This play says all of that in a personable, skillfully written way that is extremely compelling and keeps you hooked to the narrative. I highly recommend this book to other creatives who have struggled with failure, or really creatives in general. And really, to anyone who has dealt with any kind of failure. It’s a really brilliant play that doesn’t rely on bullshit motivational quotes; it actually speaks to real life. I give it 5/5 stars, and please check it out!
For our final peer review, I was paired with Savannah, who runs savannahswatske.com, a personal blog dedicated to “lifestyle, travel, [and] health & wellness”.
Savannah’s blog is visually stunning, something that visitors can immediately feel soothed and welcome by. The design is very user-friendly and simplistic, which lends great to accessibility while staying within a clean and modern aesthetic.
The About Me page centres the framing of the website, and serves as a great introduction to Savannah’s brand and personality. I really like how clear her mission statement is without explicitly stating that it is her brand’s mission. While I tend to follow content creators who fit into more specific niches that align with my interests, the brand and business narrative being presented here are very effective and have piqued my interest greatly. Savannah notes that she strives to be “authentic” on her About page, and that authenticity is extremely present and what is keeping me enticed by her brand.
From that, the posts on the site are very reflective of the overall goals. The content of the website is very well aligned to the topics outlined in the About page, with each topic of interest clearly organized in the drop-down menu. I really appreciate the raw honesty in her post Well, It Finally Happened… in which she discusses testing positive for COVID-19. It’s personable in the way it’s written and the subject matter, but the categorization of the post fits seamlessly in with the branding of the blog. I also really enjoyed reading R.I.P. To My Bank Account. I love fashion and clothes, so it was great to see some very nice pieces, but also to learn more about who Savannah is. All of her posts have that same theme of fitting with her interests and speaking to her personality, which achieves her blog mission incredibly.
I completely agree with Cailey’s peer review of Savannah’s site, especially with the emphasis on how Savannah is inviting her audience into what works for her and encouraging them to find their own ways and inspiration from her, rather than telling them what to do. I also think that Savannah should continue to focus on copy editing her content, as there were a few typos in the posts I looked at.
In terms of monetization, the site’s design makes it friendly for advertising, and making ads stand out. While I think the site could use Google Ads, or other kinds of banner ads, I believe sponsorships and affiliate links would be more effective and logical ways of monetizing. For example, I think having a discount code or a sponsored post for comfortable and fashionable workout clothes would fit really well into her brand, all without forcing banner ads or clicks, which can deter an audience. This would be great on the blog itself, or on her YouTube channel, where sponsored content and banner/preroll ads can generate funds.
Overall, I think Savannah’s blog is very well branded and extremely compelling. She has found a wonderful balance of the personal and professional self in her content, which is great for drawing in a broad audience and for monetization. I really look forward to seeing how her blog and brand continue to develop!
Our branding story told in gifs!
From a love of books as a small child, to a book obsession, to a passion for pride and intersectionality, and finally to being a enthusiastic writer – all leading to the creation of a diverse book blog!
Slayer Willow is now on libib.com! Libib is a site similar to Goodreads where you can catalogue books, but also music, movies, and video games. Libib is more all encompassing of different media, providing more opportunity for cataloguing across interests—this can be especially useful when tracking book-related media, such as movie adaptations. Libib is also an alternative for book tracking and cataloguing for those who do not want to support Amazon-owned Goodreads. You can find us on Libib here!
As a large part of my brand is highlighting QTBIPOC stories, an informative inforgraphic providing book recommendations based on widely popular books works to achieve a main goal of my brand.