SpeakEasy Blog

Seriously Questioning…Julie Scelfo

Julie Scelfo is a former staff writer/current contributor to The New York Times, where her stories about society and human behavior reframe popular ideas and ask us to rethink our basic assumptions. Scelfo has contributed to The St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, Ad Nauseam: A Survivor’s Guide to American Consumer Culture and her work has also appeared in Salon, Oprah’s O Magazine, Epicurious, Time Out New York and LitHub. Scelfo’s most recent work is The Women Who Made New York.

On November 1, she will be speaking at House of SpeakEasy’s Seriously Entertaining show, Fear Itself alongside Rachel Eliza Griffiths, David Kilcullen, and Lev Grossman (tickets). We spoke to Julie ahead of the show…


Name: Julie Scelfo

What is your earliest memory involving reading or writing? For a reason I can’t explain, I still remember a haiku I wrote in elementary school:

A butterfly flies.

Out goes its beautiful wings.

It flutters away

What advice would you give to aspiring writers? I would never advise someone to be a journalist unless they have no choice. You only do this because you have to.

What writer, past or present, do you wish you could eat dinner with? James Baldwin. Duh! Anais Nin, Alice Walker, Gloria Jean Watkins or Carson McCullers would be pretty great too. Also Alexis de Tocqueville. Ida B. Wells. Maybe the poet Dorthea Lasky? I will stop now.

What writer do you wish you could share with the world? Every person on earth should read Audre Lorde, bell hooks and Neil Postman. Along with a few others, like Marshall McLuhan, Simone de Beauvoir, Toni Morrison, Piri Thomas, Erving Goffman, I guess that’s my personal canon.

Are there any quotes you use to inspire you? Sure, an expression my Great Aunt Jean used to use if she really agreed with you: “And how!” Just two words but it communicated many things.


Seriously Questioning…Lev Grossman

Lev Grossman is the author of Warp, Codex, and The Magicians series, the first of which was one The New Yorker‘s best books of the year. The Magicians books have now been published in twenty-five countries. Grossman was both the lead technology writer and the book critic for Time magazine for fifteen years, from 2002… Continue Reading

Seriously Questioning…Rachel Eliza Griffiths

Rachel Eliza Griffiths is a poet and photographer. She received the MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. A Cave Canem and Kimbilio Fellow, she is the recipient of fellowships including Yaddo, Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, Cave Canem Foundation, Vermont Studio Center, The Millay Colony, and others. In 2011, Griffiths appeared in the… Continue Reading

Seriously Questioning…David Kilcullen

David Kilcullen is the Chairman of Caerus Associates. Before founding Caerus, he was Special Advisor to the Secretary of State from 2007-2009 and Senior Advisor to General David Petraeus in Iraq in 2007. He is the author of bestselling books The Accidental Guerrilla, Counterinsurgency and Out of the Mountains. His most recent book is The… Continue Reading

Seriously Questioning…Ann Brashares

Ann Brashares is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, The Here and Now, 3 Willows, The Last Summer (of You and Me), and My Name Is Memory. She lives in New York City with her family. On September 26th, she will be speaking at House of SpeakEasy’s Seriously… Continue Reading

Seriously Questioning…Loudon Wainwright III

Loudon Wainwright III is a singer-songwriter and actor. In 1968,  he began to write songs, and in 1969 recorded his first album. Wainwright has recorded twenty-seven albums, including his 2010 Grammy Award–winning High, Wide, & Handsome. His songs have been covered by Johnny Cash, Mose Allison, Rufus Wainwright, Bonnie Raitt, and Earl Scruggs, among others. As an… Continue Reading

Seriously Questioning…Erica Wagner

  Erica Wagner was the literary editor of The London Times for seventeen years and is now a contributing writer for The New Statesman, and consulting literary editor for Harper’s Bazaar. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, The Economist, The Financial Times, and The New York Times, among others. She is the author of Ariel’s… Continue Reading

Seriously Questioning…Adam Begley

Adam Begley is the author of Updike and, most recently, The Great Nadar: The Man Behind the Camera. He was the books editor of The New York Observer for twelve years. A Guggenheim fellow and a fellow at the Leon Levy Center for Biography, his writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Financial Times, the London Review of… Continue Reading

Seriously Questioning…Ada Calhoun

Ada Calhoun is the author of two nonfiction books recently published by W.W. Norton & Co.: St. Marks Is Dead was named a New York Times Editors’ Pick, Amazon Book of the Month, and one of the best books of the year by Kirkus, The Boston Globe, Orlando Weekly, and The Village Voice, which called… Continue Reading

Seriously Questioning… Glenn Frankel

  Glenn Frankel is an author and journalist, based in Arlington, Virginia. Most recently, he served as the director of the School of Journalism and G.B. Dealey Regents Professor at the University of Texas at Austin. He has also spent time as a visiting journalism professor at Stanford University and an Alicia Patterson Fellow. Notably, he… Continue Reading

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