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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

2009 memoir festival!

I want to tell you about the 2009 Memoir Writing Festival at the Loft Literary Center, May 15 – 17. I attended the first festival two years ago, and it was amazing to be surrounded by so many talented memoirists. This year, the keynote address will be given by the fabulous Bernard Cooper, whom, of course, I adore. Cooper will also be doing a reading Friday evening, May 15th at the Open Book, and I will try not to embarrass myself too much when I stumble up to him and declare my literary crush, something I fully intend to do. On Saturday, the talented Patricia Hampl will be leading a discussion on the evolution, craft, and ethics of the modern memoir. On Sunday morning, I will be co-leading the session “Lessons from the Trenches: Selling Your Memoir” with the amazing Bonnie J. Rough. For more information about the festival or to register, visit the Loft Literary Center. This festival only takes place every two years, so don’t miss it!

Monday, April 27, 2009


D has been in town for only one day out of the last ten, which I hope explains my silence the last two weeks. When D’s gone I lose my morning writing time and my weekend teaching prep time, but I also lose sleep. Usually, we alternate getting up with Zoë, but when D’s out of town, I’m up by 5 am every day. After two weeks of this, I’m so tired I could puke.

But even with this—the tiredness and the lack of work time—I don’t feel crazy the way I did last year when he was on the road. At least Zoë sleeps through the night now and still naps regularly (knock on wood), so I’m able to get some work done during the day.

While D was gone, Stella and I practiced her reading—she read one whole page of Diamond Castle Barbie the other day! And we “chatted” every night in bed before she fell asleep. She’s been asking about evolution and God and souls—the big questions that surprise me and that I hope I answer without too much bumbling. Zoë has begun to love books, as well. She picks up Bear On A Bike—her favorite—and plops down in my lap a dozen times a day. The dear.

My mind has been buzzing with writing of the non-Barbie and non-Bear variety, as well. I’m loving my new Loft class, American’s Writing Across Cultures, which is helping me stretch my memory back to the work and research I did in Costa Rica in the 1990s. I’m also still immersed in my online Mother Words class, which is going very well. I was worried that teaching online would be difficult for me because I’m someone who feeds off the energy in a classroom, and I thought I would miss sharing that physical space, but it turns out I don’t. My students are so smart and thoughtful and are such careful readers that I have found myself both energized by them and in a nearly constant state of appreciation for their hard work and talent. They’re amazing!

D won't be traveling for a while now, so I can safely say that I’m back, as well.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Last night, D was reading Little House in the Big Woods to Stella, and I was sitting at the dining room table, planning my new Loft class, Americans Writing Across Cultures, which begins on Monday. I was alternating between working and watching them read because I need frequent breaks from the computer to let my eyes rest. (I had an eye exam yesterday, and I do, indeed, need new glasses. Hence the recent trouble focusing.)

D and Stella looked so precious, cuddled together on the couch, reading. Stella was listening intently, her brow slightly furrowed, and I was struck by how much she looked like me when I was little.

Whenever Zoë or Stella furrow their brows around my mom, she says, “That was exactly the look you used to get when you were little.”

I am a brow-furrower, and now that I am in my late 30s, I have a prominent line between my brows to show for it. Sometimes I furrow because I’m concentrating, intent on something. But often I furrow because I’m worried. (There is a direct correlation between my stress level and the amount of time I spend furrowed.)

As I watched Stella last night, furrowed in concentration, I had one of those pangs, those desperate wishes that she wouldn’t spend as much of her life—her energy—worrying the way I do. I so hope she can hold onto the playfulness, the confidence she exhibits in so much of what she does. But I worry—I admit it—that she will lose that sureness, and that she will begin to question who she is and her many abilities.

I know it’s early—Stella is still young—but ten years from now I don’t want to be sitting at the dining room table with her, wondering where her confidence went. I’m going to get a copy of Reviving Ophelia and read it now so I’m ready. Is that crazy? Has anyone read this book? Did it make a difference?

I’m also thinking that it would be wonderful if Stella and I could do a mother-daughter self-defense class. When I was in college, I took a semester of self-defense, and I remember feeling different—stronger, more sure of myself—after each class. One day after class, I walked into the restaurant where I worked as a hostess, and one of the waitresses said, “You look different today. Taller? Something’s different about you.”

I want my daughters to walk tall, to believe in themselves. It took me until my mid-30s to find solid ground, and I don’t want this to happen to them. Any suggestions?

Note that I am linking all books on this blog through Powell’s instead of Amazon until I’m sure Amazon is no longer discriminating against LGBT authors. You can read more about their censorship here and here.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

i'm having trouble focusing today

Could this be because my morning work time was swallowed by three children—two mine, one not? Could it be because one of the said children had diarrhea all over my—ahem—clean-this-very-morning bathroom? Could it be that I’m in one of those writerly slumps (and full of despondency)? Could it be that I’m just impatient for spring—real spring with warm weather and the smell of flowers blooming? Could it be that I’ve run out of chocolate and I’m jonesing? Could it be that I’ve been spending so much time in front of the computer that my eyes are sore and I might need new glasses?

What. Could. It. Be?

Friday, April 3, 2009

the personal, the political

There is something that’s been bubbling under the surface these last few weeks, something born from a combination of anger and fear and hope. I’ve been reading Shari MacDonald Strong’s The Maternal is Political and Caroline Grant’s and Elrena Evan’s Mama, PhD. How amazing to read these books side by side. There is power there, between them. I can almost see it, like a charge of electricity, reaching from one anthology to the other, bridging distance and time and experience. And as so often happens to me when I’m reading, once thoughts begin to percolate, more writing pops up to speak to me, and connections are made. I want to direct you to a friend’s blog. A couple of days ago, Lynne Marie wrote a post called “Mind Body Mama: Get Your Self Defense On.” This is how her post begins:

“I’ve been thinking about instincts this week. And how mine are fundamentally altered by my twenty-one year practice of self defense.

It wasn’t long ago that I congratulated a sister martial artist on practicing “kick-ass self defense” when she stood up for herself in a professional situation. I don’t know her well enough to interpret her surprise at that nomenclature, but she did sound surprised. I fear she shares the misapprehension that it doesn’t count as self defense unless there’s some kind of physical beat-down, or at least a physical threat. I hear that a lot.

Self defense is what we do to take care of ourselves and the people we love. In the very best cases it’s what we do before or instead of getting hurt. Lots of times it’s what we do in the midst of being attacked—emotionally, spiritually, sexually or physically. And too often it’s what we have to do after we’ve been hurt: the long road of healing and taking action so that the same hurt doesn’t happen again to ourselves or others.

Twenty-one years studying martial arts and self defense in a feminist, social-justice, anti-racist and anti-violence context has changed me. I don’t think like normal people any more. That’s a good thing.”

A good thing, indeed. If you want to read Lynne Marie’s full post, visit her blog, Mind Body Mama. I’ll be writing more about The Maternal is Political and Mama, PhD in the next few weeks, but in the meantime, I’m going to get my self-defense on. How about you?