The Brooklyn-based writer, editor and host of The Trip That Changed Me podcast lets us into her writerly world, from the millennial must-read on her beside table to the viral Refinery29 feature she penned, on immigration, identity and independence.
Photo by Amanda Suarez
Bedtime stories ignited my love of words. Although Benjamin family folklore maintains that I was practically speaking in full sentences by nine months old, so I guess I was a word nerd from the jump.
My writing career began at university when my first story – 800 words examining the real meaning of post-graduate success – was published in the campus magazine. It was an absolute masterclass in navel-gazing and I get a full-body cringe thinking about it now.
The book currently on my bedside table is Jia Tolentino's Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion. If you're a millennial who came of age during the birth of the social internet (hello, Blogger/MySpace/LiveJournal) and find yourself increasingly conflicted about performing your selfhood online, Tolentino's essay 'The I in Internet' will really speak to you.
Being a writer in New York is as good as I hoped it would be. Without wanting to sound too wanky, there's a reason artists of all ilks find this city magnetic. You never know who you'll meet or what you'll see on any given day. All that stimulation and novelty does good things to your brain.
I like to write about what changes us for the better and how.
The best storytellers understand that the more personal and specific a piece of their writing feels, the more universal it usually is.
The piece I’m proudest of is probably an essay for Refinery29 about moving to the U.S. for my now-husband, not being legally allowed to work and the struggles that ensued. On the surface it was a story about immigration drama and the ways career and identity are often intertwined, but it was also about mental health and relationship rough patches and re-establishing one's sense of agency. It seemed to resonate with lots of people, which is a worthwhile reward for being publicly vulnerable as a writer.
My advice for budding writers is to make friends with other writers. Workshop each other's pieces, promote each other's projects, share editor emails and job opportunities. Your writer network is integral to your success and I wish I'd prioritised it more when I was first starting out.
If I write a novel, it will be about cults in the internet age. More specifically, how social media has modernised the dynamic between gurus and their devoted followers.
My favourite word in the English language is supercilious, meaning 'to act superior'. The repetition of the 's' feels all silky in my mouth. I'm also a fan of coalesce, effervescent, ricochet and lascivious 👌 I could play this game all day long.
Esme Benjamin is a Brooklyn-based writer and editor whose work explores what changes us for the better and how. Previously, Esme was an editor at Culture Trip, where she started and developed the wellness vertical, exploring the healing traditions, rituals and trends of cultures all over the world. Esme has contributed stories to a slew of publications, from Refinery29 to SELF, and currently oversees content for Full-Time Travel, including hosting the podcast The Trip That Changed Me. She is also the recipient of a Muse Creative Award in the travel and tourism category. When Esme isn't writing, you'll find her at the yoga studio (she's a trained instructor) or exploring with her husband and their corgi Loaf. You can follow her adventures – including her upcoming six-month road trip across the USA – on Instagram.