Life Lately & Long Form

This summer has absolutely flown by! I know we still have about a month left, but I am leaving my summer job in just a week, followed by two weeks of vacation in the Poconos (AKA using my parents’ laundry, AC, and fridge) and then on the 23rd I’m off to Harrisburg.

In the last four years I’ve bounced between rural Pennsylvania, Queens, Rome and Western New York, and now I’ll be getting to know urban PA in the state capital.


The hood ornament on a vintage Pierce Arrow, a car manufactured in Buffalo.

I love new places, but I detest moving and that’s probably what I’ll spend this weekend doing.

Last weekend a friend of Rick’s from school visited and we had a nice time doing all the touristy things in Niagara Falls and around East Aurora, as well as Canalside and of course the Made in America Store.

I’ve been reading a lot of long-form/longer journalism lately (is that what’s in, or is it me?) and here are a few of the best pieces I’ve found:

To those who are hungry for real, well-researched news–which it seems like many are, based on what I see and hear–it’s out there. And it’s worth finding it.

I’ve also been really into email newsletters (I know, so 2009) so I may share my favorites soon!

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A Window into the Work of an Artist

So a few weeks ago I got the chance to interview a lady who makes stained-glass windows. Seriously, how cool is that?

The piece I wrote was never published elsewhere, and since it’s that kind of day where I spilled coffee on my skirt and got hit in the face twice before 10:30 a.m., what better time to post already-written content. Enjoy!


Photo/Pixabay, not designed by Sylvia Nichols

Photo/Pixabay, not designed by Sylvia Nicolas, but still pretty.


Stained glass is in Sylvia Nicolas’ blood.

Slight and soft-spoken, Nicolas is the fourth generation of artists in her family to specialize in stained-glass windows. On family road trips across Europe, Nicolas, who is originally from the Netherlands, said that her parents would stop in every church they passed to admire the artwork.

Nicolas spoke at St. John’s University last Wednesday about her experience designing and painting the stained-glass windows in St. Thomas More Church. The event was hosted by Campus Ministry and was planned in conjunction with the 20th annual Founder’s Week celebration and the 10th anniversary of the dedication of St. Thomas More Church.

Father James Martin speaking at St. Thomas More last year. You can see some of Nichols' work in the background.

Father James Martin speaking at St. Thomas More last year. You can see some of Nicolas’ work in the background.


Nicolas was first approached by St. John’s about four years before the church was built, but when she discovered that there was a competition for the design of the windows she lost interest.

“I never do competitions, because I like my colleagues much too much,” she said.

However, she had an outline on her desk of the shape of one of the windows, and she began doodling on it. Eventually, the entire outline was full, and she began to color it in.

“Finally I’d drawn the whole thing,” Nicolas said.

When she began to officially design the windows, she estimates that she spent about a year and a half working on the project, which began with the four large windows at the top of the sanctuary, which depict the four gospels, and expanded to add 15 additional windows that now ring the edge of the circular space. 

Nicolas first draws and colors a detailed design for each window. She then plans how the window will look at scale, accounting for the bars of lead that must run through the glass at intervals to add stability. If a face or another important feature falls along one of these lines, she explained, the drawing must be altered.

 When the design is finished, a full-size cartoon is created and used as a pattern for cutting the glass pieces, which are then painted. The window is assembled and fired by a studio that Nicolas works with in Mount Vernon, New York, and the glass is covered in a layer of black matte. Nicolas scrapes away the black matte to reveal the designs underneath, and uses it to create depth and shadow in her work.

“Once I start working I work very intensely and very hard,” Nicolas said. “With painting on the glass, I get so carried away it’s hard to stop. Every time things come alive.”

 Nicolas, who resides in Mount Vernon, New Hampshire, spoke to a crowd of about 250 students and others inside the church. She gave a short description of her work, which was followed by a question and answer session and a light reception.

“Seeing them again is a great pleasure,” Nicolas said. “This is wonderful.”


How cool is that?! I love churches and looking at the windows, and I had no idea just how much went into designing one.

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Church Up Close (part 1)

It’s a gray, rainy day here in New York, so what better way to spend my afternoon than sharing some pictures of bright sunny Roma with the world?

IMG_2350Just two weeks ago I was here, admiring Bernini’s handiwork and learning a whole lot about religion writing and the Catholic Church, along with my best friend Pope Francis.

IMG_2459This is the Popemobile. (Fun fact: the little cobblestones are called petrini, like Peter, to whom Jesus gave the fabulous nickname The Rock.)

I was in Rome for the Church Up Close conference, which was for journalists covering religion “in the age of Francis,” and deciding to skip the beginning of my senior year to attend was one of the best decisions of my life. I was the only student who’s ever gone, and I learned so much from the other attendees, let alone the program itself.


The Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

Our time was split between seminars at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross with guest speakers both from the media and from the Vatican, on-site visits with more lectures, and tours of various locations and offices.

IMG_2400Above is the Vatican press office briefing room, which is where I’m going to be during the next conclave. I hope.

IMG_2412One of our speakers was Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, who was giving a talk on his work on interreligious and ecumenical dialogue, but is more of a public figure for being the guy who comes out on the balcony and goes “HABEMUS PAPAM!”

 IMG_2468It was pretty intense compared to other conferences that I’ve attended, with all-day sessions Monday through Saturday and then a tour and farewell lunch on Sunday, after which I was able to spend a little time in my old neighborhood, Prati. 

This is the very short version. I hope to be able to post about a few of the sessions, not all of which were on the record, as well as some of my travel experiences, including my hostel, which was my first-ever blog collaboration. Stay tuned!

(And thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who made this possible.) 

IMG_2406In the meantime, I’ll be over here trying to reach this crazy dream job:

  • Following religious media and journalists on news alerts and social media
  • Having the realization that maybe I should have taken Italian more seriously and, you know, actually eventually learn how to speak it
  • Reading the USCBB’s documents on covering the Holy See (so interesting)
  • Getting ready for the career fair next week
  • Reading everything John Allen Jr. ever wrote. 



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Where I’m Writing

Life has been busy lately, my friends.

I recently finished my internship, which was so great. I can’t say enough about the NYPA intern program.

diary of an intern

I wrote a lot of classic small-towny news stories, which I loved, like these:


In the meantime, I’ve been blogging. My posts lately have been a little travel-focused, like the keys to a great road trip, the ultimate cross-country train trip, and the thirty bajillion times I’ve gotten lost.

I would love to travel back to this bakery.

I would love to travel back to this bakery.

I guest posted for some bloggers I love:

  • Packing for college (BEN, READ THIS). Ironically, I’m currently in the middle of packing, again, so I can move, again. UGH. Kriselle is one of the cutest and most upbeat bloggers I know, so I encourage you to read all of her other posts as well!
  • An awesome (and easy) baked strawberry shortcake recipe. I made this all the time for the Boyfriend and I this summer! Katie is super sweet and funny and we have a lot in common, which is always nice to find.
  • My career center career comes to fruition in this post on what you should avoid in a resume, for Megan the Artistic Brunette. Her blog is very clean and adorable, and I love her inspiring posts–especially the travel ones.
I went on some picnics, too. Picnics are the best.

I went on some picnics, too. Picnics are the best.

The Prospect is a great college-admissions website where I’ve been a college writer for about six months now. College and high school students, go check it out.

The Torch, our school newspaper, is near and dear to my heart and I’m so excited to get back to making it great this fall. (Here’s something I wrote last fall about a student who is doing great artistic and Vincentian things!)

Since I’ve been a little light on content here lately, I encourage you to go ahead and check out some of my other writing!

(Also, follow me on Twitter if you don’t already. I’ve been posting all kinds of great articles on there.)

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The Most Interesting People in the World


Writing 101 challenge: describe the most interesting person you met in 2014.


One of the things I love most about journalism is getting to meet and talk to people from all walks of life with all sorts of different stories.

Here are just a few highlights of the people I’ve read about, written about or spoken to in the two weeks since I started my internship.

  • A teenager who is joining the circus for the summer
  • Two Eagle Scouts who restored local trails. Eagle Scouts are close to my heart because my family is huge on scouting, and my brother also did trail rehabilitation for his Eagle project—in fact, it was at the historic mansion at which I was employed.
  • A couple who has been working with the National Weather Service for 53 years. They’ve faithfully taken data about the weather every morning since November 1, 1960. 
  • A family who runs an organic farm, where they raise goats and make soap
  • Two veterans who fought at Normandy on D-Day and don’t want the rest of us to forget
  • A teacher who is spearheading a film festival for students
  • Organizers of an alternative music festival held in a garage
  • Survivors of cancer
  • Local business owners who collaborated with town authorities to plant 32 flower beds on Main Street


All people are sort of interesting in their way, aren’t they? Who has interested you lately? 

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