Tag: women

From Circle to Celebration

“Without great solitude, no serious work is possible.”- Picasso

Melissa Wyse, Matt Winkler, and me. Don’t we look classy? We’re gathered to celebrate Melissa’s reading last night at Barnes and Noble UCONN.

Writers work largely alone, seeking to breathe new life into familiar language. In my case the toil involves messy hair, no makeup, wearing rubber boots to walk my dog at inopertune creative moments, and heavy chocolate use.

I take a shower and dig around for lip gloss on those delicious days when I join other writers.

I am lucky to live in a rural landscape rich with literary talent. Crucial to my developement as a writer is my Writer’s Circle. Melissa Wyse and Matt Winkler join me at my dining room table every two weeks. In addition to indulging in banana bread, cookies, and all the tea I’ve collected, we read each other’s work and give constructive feedback.

What does that entail? We listen, we read, we circle words on the page we fall in love with, and suggest solutions to make the work stronger.

We support each other in the toil. We encourage submission. We celebrate each other when we have publishing success, even if that “success” is a kindly-worded rejection.

My precious Paris Review rejection. I submitted an experimental essay. There is nothing else to do but stretch the experimentation even further.

This is my tribe. Every writer needs one.

Tell Me Something Good

“Tell me something good,” is often the first thing I hear from my dad on the other end of the phone. It’s usually in place of “hello.”

My regular response is news about his grandsons, my boys. The oldest, nearly 21 or my 16 year-old twins. But I’ve got something about me to share the next time I talk with my Dad. I’m marching on Washington in less than two weeks. In the wee hours of January 21st  I’ll board one of 80 buses that will depart Connecticut and arrive in D.C.  I will march behind a banner with my Connecticut contingent.

Why?

I am not generally a joiner. I was raised to question ideas and form my own opinions. My parents are baby boomers and while well-informed, they have never attended a rally or protest in their lives. Neither have I. For the first time I feel compelled to be part of a movement: the Women’s March on Washington. I feel compelled to be among other women who feel the same and most importantly, I was compelled to buy a bus ticket.

If I drove myself to D.C. I wouldn’t have the opportunity to sit next to women and talk to them. I want to know what made them pay the $100 + bus ticket, walk all day in who-knows-what weather, and be up all night. Is it that Hillary lost? That Planned Parenthood is under more attack than ever? Is it education? Perhaps by interviewing others, I will be able to see clearly my own reasons.

for posterity

I will be writing a piece about my participation in the march for inclusion in the next issue of PAGE, a Connecticut based literary and arts journal. I hope to include interviews with some of the women I am riding to Washington with. I hope that in some small way, I can expand the experience of the march past the day itself and into the hands of readers who may not have had the opportunity to participate themselves.

The Official Statement from the National Organizers of the Women’s March on Washington reads:

We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families — recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.

The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us–women, immigrants of all statuses, those with diverse religious faiths particularly Muslim, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native and Indigenous people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, the economically impoverished and survivors of sexual assault. We are confronted with the question of how to move forward in the face of national and international concern and fear.

In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore. The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new administration on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.

We support the advocacy and resistance movements that reflect our multiple and intersecting identities. We call on all defenders of human rights to join us. This march is the first step towards unifying our communities, grounded in new relationships, to create change from the grassroots level up. We will not rest until women have parity and equity at all levels of leadership in society. We work peacefully while recognizing there is no true peace without justice and equity for all. HEAR OUR VOICE

I am looking forward to riding on that bus and recording those voices.

 My official t-shirt came in the mail! I must really be motivated because in this picture I am sick with the flu and makeup free.

Click Bait: Taking My Creativity Back

my-desk

It’s been a week since the election and the thing I thought would never happen, happened: my candidate lost and I went down the wormhole of internet click bait. By clicking I felt as if I was taking action.

I signed online petitions, watched satirical videos, and became a member of Pantsuit Nation. I was angry and each click was a middle finger, a tap to close my bleeding heart. I found myself falling into the abyss of “what now?” and watched fear seep in.  With fear, comes restriction and I have never found restriction to be a great initiator of creativity. Instead, restriction makes me want to turn away from writing and organize my closet.

A week ago, I took a stand against restriction, against misogyny, xenophobia, and for women, for inclusion. I voted last Tuesday and then I rode fifty miles on my bicycle with my “I voted today” sticker front and center on my helmet. Later in the day, I went to my parents’ house ready for election night victory wearing a “The future is female” t-shirt. And then I watched as the country turned red. My party’s cool blue only on the fringes.

Every altruistic thought, intention, and months of on-my-knees prayers in my bathroom under the skylight in view of the moon had resulted in…failure. I turned to Facebook and the wormhole sucked me in. I saw my feelings reflected in my friends’ horror and I entered the conversation. A fellow writer friend of mine posted a call to action, “…Grieve. Then dry your tears. Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights…” I responded:

Because of Trump I’ve already had several explicit conversations with my nearly sixteen-year old twin sons about ungentlemanly behavior.
Their father and I conduct ourselves with civility and kindness. Yet, the office of President of the United States is an automatic model for our youth. I am deeply concerned as a parent. As a woman, I am deeply concerned about healthcare and Planned Parenthood.

Two men responded.

Man #1: I don’t condone Trumps actions and he did apologize. I wonder did you have the same talk to your children about the husband of the Democratic nominee for president, a former president himself?

Me: Sir, I certainly have. Bad behavior by one does not excuse another’s. I wonder why you are concerning yourself with my mothering ability.

Man #1: Just curious if you were biased like most. Not concerned with your parenting at all. But as said wondered if it was a bias comment since you failed to mention the Clinton side but did mention the president selects behavior on a social media

Man #2: I was thinking the same thing as [man #1].

Me: As it happens, my oldest child was two and my twins not yet born when Clinton was impeached in 1998. Bias is unavoidable, as we view others from our own, unique lens of experience.

Conversations like this (which was actually quite civil) are happening all over the internet. But for me, it wasn’t satisfying- regardless that the two men responding to my comment seemed interested in a different point of view and man #2 confessed his assumptions about me, someone he doesn’t know.

Yes, I was happy to sign those petitions, got a much needed laugh or two from the videos, and was heartened by the stories on Pantsuit Nation. Also, it appears I am marching on Washington in January. But with all that click bait- I wasn’t writing very much. In fact, a significant decrease in my creative output occurred. Instead of my steadfast “write two hours a day and read two hours a day” I was scanning Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram three hours a day. It was twenty minutes here, ten minutes there- minute by minute I was giving my time and my voice away. I was mute, spinning in place.

There is significant danger in feeling futile. Futility leads to apathy and if that happens, why make art at all? Being an artist- a writer, is already hard enough. So many of us create regardless of financial reward, if we feel that our art doesn’t make a difference, why write at all?

I woke up today and decided to re-phrase Trump’s rhetorically offensive “Take the country back.” I’m taking my time back, my voice back- so that I can contribute to the feminist narrative. I have essays to write, a book to finish editing, a magazine to help get to print, and classes to teach. Not to mention children to feed, bills to pay, and a dog to walk. A bike to ride.

For those artists among us, our art is our action.

Now go make something.

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