We The People

These are the days we've been training for.

I know, I know. It seems hyperbolic at worst, fatalistic at best. But it's also true. For anyone who has been politically or socially active in the last 60 years, it is clear that this is the time we have been training for -- that all our work (or lack of it) has brought us to now.

This isn't about pointing fingers. Goodness knows I do my share of calling out and calling in -- and I get called out and called in also. I'm grateful for opportunities to unpack my privilege and to learn and read about intersectionality and participate in the emotional labor necessary to move beyond White Feminism.

And so as I am moving into this next phase of activism (as I suspect you may be also), I wanted an easy tool for writing to my elected officials. Something clear, concise, and also honest.

Enter the postcard!

Since I wasn't sure where I might find inexpensive and awesome postcards, I designed one. It's created to print on 8.5x11" 110# card stock (available at any printers) and be cut into four. The back will be blank for you to include a message and the address of your elected official of choice. Slap on a postcard stamp (currently 34 cents) and drop it in the mail. You'll not only be expressing your views AND participating in the public exchange of ideas, but you'll be supporting the United State Postal Service as well. Now THAT'S democracy!

Click here to download the pdf!

Once you've printed your postcards, take a moment to print off this worksheet from Jen Hofmann to find your Congressional Representative and your US Senators. Also consider signing up for her weekly action checklist on things to do NOW to stay aware and educated.

Now, get printing! If you have any questions (or need some moral support), let me know. I don't have all the answers, but I am happy to help and listen.

Colonizing the Story

peony.jpeg

I begin this by acknowledging my places of privilege and power, and the intersection of my life and identities. I write this piece as a queer, cis-gender White woman of lower-middle class who grew up in rural Northern Minnesota in a family of learned racism, homophobia, and xenophobia.

This morning, I came across a post on Facebook paraphrasing part of a conversation from Canada Reads. If you're unfamiliar with this, it is an annual "battle of the books" hosted by the CBC. Five books, five Canadian celebrities, five days of debate before one book is determined to be the year's book that all Canadians should read. This year, the shortlist includes books by an Indian-Canadian woman, an Indian woman living in Canada, an Indigenous Canadian woman, a Canadian man born in the United Kingdom, and a Canadian man born to Black and white immigrant parents from the United States. 

The group debating the book (each defending one title) is equally diverse: a Canadian former WWE wrestler, a Canadian former Olympian and world traveler, a Canadian businessman born in Trinidad, a Canadian man of Indian descent, and a refugee woman of Indian descent born in Uganda. I share all of this information to accurately describe the group having a conversation about one of Canada Reads finalists: Birdie, written by Indigenous woman Tracey Lindberg.

During today's debate, a conversation was had by the panel about the narrative structure and arc of Birdie. One panelist, with a background in the film industry, complained that the book doesn't follow a logical story arc and therefore is not accessible to general readers. Other panelists nodded in agreement, but the man tasked with defending Birdie made a very specific and clear argument: 

Indigenous people are descendants of nomads. They don’t look at time the same way that we do. They map out their time based on places and the way they felt.

So for you to read it and expect a linear story as the script is colonizing the book. You’re trying to make the book respond to how you want it to respond. 

FULL STOP

 

Colonizing the book? For a few moments, I could barely breathe. Here is a man defending the structure of a book written by an Indigenous woman as specifically authentic to the culture of the author, and calling out another for attempting to colonize the story because it doesn't ascribe to a traditional, linear Western story arc.

In all my years of writing, I have seen this kind of story policing from various sources. In academic writing programs, in small presses and major publishing houses, in public k-12 education systems. For centuries, the dominant culture (or the invading culture) has articulated the how and why of written work. The adage that history is written by the invaders is entirely true, as evidenced by every single book and newspaper. White (European, British, colonial, invading) stories are the dominant stories, and as such they determine the narrative, dialogue, and even the form in which stories are heard. 

So how is it that we acknowledge the colonization of literature, and how do we mitigate the effects of this experience to honor diverse voices and storytelling processes?

We acknowledge that it exists. 

As dominant white culture, it is our duty to make space for other voices to be heard. When the loudest voice in the room is silent, it perpetuates the status quo. When the loudest voice in the room says "Hey, let's listen to someone else for a while," other voices get to speak. 

We also have to listen. 

When we are accustomed to privilege, not being the loudest/biggest/strongest voice in the room can feel like we are the ones being oppressed. But I assure you -- this is not the case. Centuries of dominance have given us the perception of privilege being the same as equality. But when we sit down, step aside, and shut up to hear the voices of those truly oppressed, we discover what diversity and equality really look like. 

We stop "correcting" ways of storytelling, writing, and sharing history.

If we stop policing how a story is told, we open the world to a new possibility -- that an individual's story could be told by them, exactly as they desire to tell it, and that it is valid and authentic. When we look at "canon" and the same books that are being read in schools across the globe -- the things we call "good literature" -- we discover they are the same stories told in the same ways. I don't know about you, but I'm tired of the same old stories. I want to read work that is new, different, unexpected, and challenges me in ways large and small. I want to think about what I'm reading, not just enjoy it. I want to be inspired to ask questions and open space for dialogue. 

We begin publishing new, diverse works -- and we defend the space they take up.

This is the biggest one for me. As part of In Her Room, I am consciously inviting guests of all backgrounds. The show is about building and sustaining women's writing community, and this includes all women. Those who say yes and join me in conversation are adding to and taking up their rightful space in this community. As I begin sending invitations to potential Season Two guests, I am consciously asking more and more women of backgrounds different from my own because I want to be pushed, challenged, and inspired by everyone who puts words to the page. 

When we allow space for stories to be told in an authentic manner -- in the voice, style, and cadence of the storyteller -- we are committing to a new way of being in literary community. We are pushing our own edges and asking hard questions of ourselves as members of the dominant culture, and we are stepping aside to listen and honor the stories of oppressed, colonized people. This is how we make change in our communities. Not by speaking up louder, but by quieting our voices and handing the microphone to another. By valuing their experience and their humanness as we value our own. By breaking down the walls of other and sharing what it means to live in the culture that has been created -- and by dismantling this culture to discover a new way of living in community. 

WANDER: a chapbook

It's finally here!

After so much hard work, a steep design learning curve (and an incredible designer who loves me), WANDER is ready for pre-order! A beautiful labor of love and experience, this book is an expression of my journey over the past few years, and a wealth of wisdom to be shared with you and those you love. 

I created WANDER because I wanted to share not just the photographs of my travels far and wide, but because the act of writing what inspires us visually matters -- to our hearts, to our minds, to our art, and to the world around us. When we put our words into the world, we are not only sharing our wisdom and learning, but also agreeing to take up space in this world. 

For years, I have clung to my identity as editor, and quietly stepped back from publishing my own work. In some ways, I have denied myself opportunities to put my work in the world in an attempt to focus on helping my clients get published. Except ... I'm not practicing what I preach.

 

The world needs your voicE

Coincidentally, the world needs my voice, too. And WANDER is the first step toward reclaiming this work as author. Published by Paper Lion Press, WANDER is a back pocket book, a coffee table beauty, and a collection of quiet wisdom direct from my heart to yours. 

WANDER is currently in pre-order to ship in mid-April. A limited number of special-edition book bundles are available -- they're going fast, so order yours today!

Coming Home

It's been nearly two months since I posted here. Not for lack of desire, or for a lack of words. So many things have shifted in this tiny part of my world. Through hunger and longing and desire, I have made my way from the East Coast to the West, and am curled into a cottage in Portland, Oregon surrounded by love and family and endless possibilities. 

And so, too, has my work found itself shifting. I'm less interested in working on just any old manuscript and focused more intently on working with women who are telling their stories -- raw, gritty, powerful stories -- in unique and rule-bending ways. I want to push myself in my editing career, and push writers to find new edges and break through old barriers to get to the deepest parts of our lives and our hearts. 

In addition, I am owning my magick

After what feels like months and no time at all, I cannot step out of my authentic power and still do the work to which I am called. A gift of the Nomad tarot deck for my 31st birthday, combined with a longing I just can't ignore, has me knocking on doors I closed long ago. The hunger, the connection, the flow that swirls and crashes against me. 

It started with a whisper, a voice in the darkness of a dream. Like mist it rose around me, tangled in my hair each morning. As time passed it grew louder, haunting me around street corners and under azalea trees. When the neighbor's started blooming in mid-January, I took it as a sign. It's time to blossom. 

It starts with stitches. Stitching. Stitch-witchery. For years, I have hungered for the pull of thread through cloth, but never have I allowed myself to dive deep into the practice. I imagine it to be the residual effects of growing up in a household full of sewing, but never being allowed to learn. Then last week, when going through a box of crafting supplies, I found a color wheel sampler from Dropcloth Samplers, founded by Rebecca Ringquist. Goodness knows when I tucked this away for a rainy day, but with a handful of embroidery floss hanks and a little bit of patience, I started stitching away. 

What is it about hand-stitching that stirs us? What conjuring occurs in the hush of a stitch, the whisper of thread, the puncture of a needle and the way fabric seems to heal itself? The more I stitch this sampler, the more I am drawn to designs, shapes, colors. I bought a clearance table runner at Ikea because it was hemp and linen -- prime stitching fabrics. My love simply smiled and said "Can I put it in the basket?"

My mind and heart are swirling with stitchery, with designs tucked onto tarot card bags and lavender sachets and tiny bits to hang upon your walls. I do not know when or where it will lead, but it will be a mystical journey of it's own making -- one I am fully ready to embrace. 

Here's to perfectly imperfect crafting, to heeding the call of the wild, to honoring the Muse.

In Her Room Episode #41: Renee D'Aoust

author photo DAoust.jpg

This week's guest on In Her Room is hiker, dancer, and author Renee D'Aoust. Our conversation features thoughts on movement and the body, pedagogy and the writing craft, and so much more. 

The urgency needs to be on the page...

In Her Room Episode 40: Randi Buckley

Just-me-here-300x300.jpg

This week's guest on In Her Room is writer, coach, and advocate of healthy boundaries Randi Buckley. Our conversation features the power of Viking women, lots of laughter, and so much more.

Randi-Buckley.png

Writing is a mountain ... Every time I climb it I get to a different place,
and I see new things from there.

In Her Room Episode #39: Amanda Mays

This week's guest on In Her Room is author, editor, and publisher Amanda Mays. We talk about the importance of an editor, leaving no trace, and what it means to show up to the page.

I firmly believe in the printed word...

Here are some things mentioned in this episode:

Anchor & Plume Press
Anchor & Plume on Facebook
Anchor & Plume Press on Twitter
Kindred Magazine

In Her Room listeners can use promo code INHERROOM20 to take 20% off any order over $50. Check out subscription options and all the amazing books published by Anchor & Plume Press!
Valid until 3 January 2016.

 

In Her Room Episode #38: Bronwyn Petry

From wedding until July 23 080.JPG

This week's guest on In Her Room is writer, editor, and lover of travel Bronwyn Petry. We talk about maintaining authentic voice, social justice, and so much more.

Writing is my activism.

In Her Room Episode #37: Maggie Messitt

Messitt_AuthorPhoto_Color.jpg

This week's guest on In Her Room is writer, teacher, and journalist Maggie Messitt. We discuss her latest book The Rainy Season, immersion journalism, and so much more.

Messitt_cvr.jpg

Writing...has long been a way inside people unlike me.

In Her Room Episode #36: Laura Bogart

Laura Blue Shirt.jpg

This week's guest on In Her Room is writer and pop culture thought-provoker Laura Bogart. We discuss the importance of sticking to the work, showing up to hard topics, and so much more. 

Laura on porch.jpg

Writing is about giving a voice to my younger self, who did not have [one].

In Her Room Episode #35: Ellis Avery

IMG_4941.JPG

This week's guest on In Her Room is writer, memoirist, and teacher Ellis Avery. We discuss her new book, The Family Tooth, cultivating a curiosity of the natural world, and so much more.

Underneath all the fear, what is it that's just standing there?

Here are some things mentioned in this episode:

Ellis's website
Ellis on Twitter
Ellis on Facebook
The Family Tooth :: released 11/6/15
"On Fear" :: a kindle single from The Family Tooth
The Teahouse Fire
The Last Nude
Broken Rooms
 :: a collection of Ellis's haiku 

Annie Dillard :: "The Death of the Moth" (from Holy the Firm)
Virginia Woolf :: "The Death of the Moth"
Orlando
David Mitchell
Sharon Marcus
Elaine Scarry

In Her Room Episode #34: Anne Brannen

This week's guest on In Her Room is poet, medievalist, and teacher of the craft Anne Brannen. Our conversation is full of laughter, aventure, and what it means to listen to the authentic voice within us.