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Readers learn to focus on life’s central perks instead of mistakes in alumna’s book

Alumna Samantha Mannis released her debut book, “Friends Guide to Adulting.” The interactive guide aims to alleviate stress and add humor to readers’ lives through advice from the characters of the hit TV show, “Friends.” (Esther Li/Daily Bruin staff)

By Allyson Weissman

Oct. 15, 2020 11:19 p.m.

Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly stated Samantha Mannis has been given permission to write a sequel to her novel. In fact, she has not.

This post was updated Oc. 16 at 7:21 p.m.

Just like Ross and Rachel, everyone needs a break.

Alumna Samantha Mannis is combining her love for the TV show “Friends” and her passion for writing in one book, hoping to alleviate the stress that she said is associated with adulting. In her debut book “Friends Guide to Adulting,” Mannis said she analyzes the scenes where the characters face typical adult problems to provide guidance to readers embarking on their journey of adulthood. The characters taught Mannis to add humor to the mishaps of life and she said she hopes readers will do the same in their own lives after reading her book.

“Life is guaranteed to be completely 180 from what you expect, but that’s okay,” Mannis said. “The key is to have a little bit of a sense of humor and not take yourself too seriously.”

Because high-achieving students – like Bruins – are mounted with pressure to achieve their future goals, Mannis said one mistake may seem like the end of the world. But the author said her book reminds young adults that mistakes can be turned into learning experiences. Mannis said she believes the characters of “Friends” are the perfect guides to adulting because their flaws teach readers to embrace their own imperfections.

[Related: Alumna talks meaning of success in lighthearted rom-com, sci-fi first novel]

Particularly, Mannis said she resonates with the episode The One Where Ross Got High,” when Rachel tries to make the perfect dessert for the group’s Thanksgiving dinner, but she accidentally follows the wrong recipe and ends up with a not-so-delicious trifle. Mannis said she inserted Rachel’s dessert fiasco into her book to demonstrate that it is okay to get out of one’s own head at times. She said she often reminds herself of this episode and lesson when her attempt at a dish for her family’s holiday meal goes awry.

“I think the holidays can be challenging for the majority of us,” Mannis said. “I’m a good baker, but not a good cook. I really relate to Rachel because she messes up her trifle hardcore and I’ve been doing that a lot with the things I have been cooking.”

In addition to holiday blunders, Mannis said her book focuses on other frustrations that come with growing up such as the ups and downs of living with roommates. Mannis said she reflects on her own experiences at UCLA when she left the security of her parents to live with roommates in a dorm. She said her early dorm and apartment years qualified her to give tips on how to live with roommates in her book.

“Sometimes you’re the neat and tidy one like Monica – or you’re the more laid back one who doesn’t care about cleaning like Joey – so there’s a little section of advice from the show on how to deal with roommates,” Mannis said. “UCLA was my first experience with adulthood because I was being expected to do things that I’m not used to doing like grocery shopping.”

Throughout the book, Mannis enforces the idea that human beings are bound to make mistakes, and she said she attributes this idea to her UCLA screenwriting professor Kris Young. Professor Young said he encourages his students to write to finish because he wants his aspiring writers to experience the feeling of completing a script, even if it is not their best work. While enrolled in his class, Professor Young said Mannis took his advice and finished multiple scripts to overcome the struggle for perfectionism. Mannis said Professor Young taught her that writing is about understanding people and that their flaws are what makes them who they are – like the characters in “Friends.”

[Related: Second-year student publishes her first book on self-help techniques]

Because of the pandemic, Mannis said the concept of not taking yourself too seriously is a message many need to hear right now. As such, she said she is grateful that the accessibility of her book at major retailers allows her message to reach a wider audience.

Though the book was only released less than a month ago, Mannis’ manager, Keely Wells, said she is optimistic about the author’s future projects, which includes a full-length novel. If Mannis continues down this path of consistent storytelling, Wells said there’s a possibility to even explore different mediums in the future, such as film adaptations of her works.

And even though the book’s purpose is to help others, Mannis said writing “Friends Guide to Adulting” has influenced her own life path as well. She said it has allowed her to overcome her fear of change, as her original career goal was to become a screenwriter. After dipping her toes in the realm of publishing books, Mannis said she learned that pursuing what you love will ultimately lead you down the right path.

“It’s okay to break away from what people tell you to do,” Mannis said. “It’s okay to try new things and pursue what you like even though it’s scary.”

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