Author Jami Attenberg on What It Means to Be an Adult

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What does it mean to be an adult? That’s the question author Jami Attenberg asks in her latest novel, All Grown Up. The book tells the story of 39-year-old graphic designer Andrea Bern, who eschews the traditional milestones of adulthood—marriage, children, home ownership—and searches, with mixed results, for her own sources of fulfillment. Watch the video above to hear Attenberg’s thoughts on what it means to be “all grown up.” And check out the interview highlights below for some handy tips for aspiring novelists (hint: try writing by hand).

mental_floss: Your protagonist, Andrea, is 39 years old and still trying to figure out what it means to be an adult. Why choose that age?

Jami Attenberg: Andrea is 38 at the beginning of the book, and then turns 39 and 40 very quickly. I have her 40th birthday come and go, and it’s really a very small section of the book. I wanted to show that it’s not really that big a deal. You can choose to be an adult at any time in your life. You can get over your issues any time you choose, and 40 just happens to be that age [for Andrea]. But it’s kind of significant in our culture, more for women than for men, since we have a biological clock, and pressures surrounding that. I’ve created a character who doesn’t care about having babies or getting married. It doesn’t really mean as much to her in the book, and I’m trying to show why it doesn’t really matter.

mental_floss: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Attenberg: I teach a little bit, and the best advice that I have for writers is to just sit down and do the work. There are no shortcuts to writing a novel, or an essay, or a screenplay. Whatever it is that you’re trying to put out into the world, you just have to sit down, and write every single day. That’s how I get everything done. There’s no cheating. My process is: I read first thing in the morning, anything but the internet, because I find that tightens up my brain a little bit. I try to take a walk, and not take my phone with me. There’s a lot of turning off screens. And then I write by hand until I think I’m done.

mental_floss: Why write by hand?

Attenberg: Writing by hand is a totally different experience than typing. It uses a different part of your brain. For me, in a really pure and simple way, when I’m typing into a computer, and a red line shows up, telling me I’ve spelled something wrong, it feels like someone else’s voice in my head. Whoever programmed Word is correcting me, and correcting my way of thinking. When I hand write, I have no red lines, and I’m able to make mistakes if I want to, and be more experimental. I find that when I type directly into the computer, I want my writing to be perfect. And I don’t think any first, second, or even third draft needs to be perfect.

A Custom Wheelchair Allowed This Brain-Injured Baby Raccoon to Walk Again

фотограф/iStock via Getty Images
фотограф/iStock via Getty Images

Animal prosthetics and wheelchairs allow dogs, cats, and even zoo animals with limited mobility to walk again, but wild animals with disabilities aren't usually as lucky. Vittles, a baby raccoon rescued in Arkansas, is the rare example of an animal that was severely injured in its natural habitat getting a second shot at life.

As Tribune Media Wire reports, Vittles came to wildlife rehab specialist Susan Curtis, who works closely with raccoons for the state of Arkansas, with a traumatic brain injury at just 8 weeks old. The cause of the trauma wasn't clear, but it was obvious that the raccoon wouldn't be able to survive on her own if returned to the wild.

Curtis partnered with the pet mobility gear company Walkin' Pets to get Vittles back on her feet. They built her a tiny custom wheelchair to give her balance and support as she learned to get around on her own. The video below shows Vittles using her legs and navigating spaces with help from the chair and guidance from her caretaker.

Vittles will likely never recover fully, but now that she's able to exercise her leg muscles, her chance at one day moving around independently is greater than it would have been otherwise. She now lives with her caretaker Susan and a 10-year old raccoon with cerebral palsy named Beetlejuice. After she's rehabilitated, the plan is to one day make her part of Arkansas's educational wildlife program.

[h/t Tribune Media Wire]

A Close-Up View of a Mosquito's Terrifying 6-Needle Bite

Backiris/iStock via Getty Images
Backiris/iStock via Getty Images

Summer is nearing its end, so here’s a close-up view of the nightmare that has come for you at every barbecue, outdoor movie night, and sweaty porch get-together. Mosquitoes, those deadly, pesky bloodsuckers, are even more terrifying up close, as this 4K video from San Francisco–based PBS station KQED shows.

A mosquito bite isn’t a bite like anything you’d imagine: There are six different needle-like stylets that pierce the skin, including two bearing tiny, super-sharp teeth that saw through skin. Watch the process below.

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