Archive for the ‘Blogging’ Category

Why do I write a blog?

Monday, July 21st, 2014

 

I received my first blank book as a Christmas present in 1982. Prior to then I scribbled my thoughts and various Archie fanfics (though in those days we didn’t call them fanfics, we called them silly stories about comic book characters) in notebooks and scratch pads around the house. My mother believed me when I said I wanted to be a Writer When I Grew Up, so she thought I finally needed something Fancy to Write In.

And write in it I did. I was a faithful correspondent in that book for months, pushing myself to write something every day, including what I had for dinner (Green Mill pizza) what I watched on TV (Powerhouse) and whose family got a mysterious machine called a VCR that showed movies you actually wanted to watch (Rachel’s, the lucky girl). Then I realized that my fifth grade existence was actually pretty boring and I gave it up.

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In 8th grade I was given a new book, perhaps to sort out my complicated feelings about my parents’ yearlong separation, but family problems barely made its pages, devoted as they were to my single-minded pursuit of the cute boy who sat in front of me in math class. Oh sweet heavens, he was adorable. Even the sudden death of a classmate gets only a page of reflection before devolving into a navel-gazing meditation on how important it was to make that cute boy like me before I, like Lisa, got run over by a car on my way home from school.

After reading Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones in high school (another gift from my mother, who still believed me when I said I wanted to be a Writer When I Grew Up), I ditched the B. Dalton brand blank books and returned to notebooks. Goldberg swore by the unassuming nature of the lowly school notebook, believing that fancy books deterred creativity instead of inspiring it. I kept a journal only sporadically, however, as I was more interested in writing teenage angst fiction based on the skaters and McPunks who hung out at the Uptown McDonald’s.

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After graduation, I decided to take up the journaling habit again, this time in a series of beat-up notebooks covered in random stickers, including one from my place of employment. I wrote constantly. I wrote at home, in coffee shops, at bars. I wrote so much I gave myself cramps in my hands. In 1997, I fell head over heels for the cute boy at the record store–but this time, I was so busy being loved  in return that I didn’t have to pine about it. Requited love is a great productivity killer. I stopped journaling for a very long time.

Until I started a blog.

Old masthead

 

Of course I wasn’t nearly as candid in a blog as I was with my blank books or journals, but I was still pretty honest when I wrote about my children, my family of origin, my best friend, the parents at my kids’ school.

Surprise! The only people who weren’t pissed off were my kids–because they were too young to have MySpace accounts.

About a month ago I wrote another personal blog post in which I reflected on the end of a friendship. I received a swift and brutal response from the person I wrote about, in the form of a comment that hit me so hard I felt dizzy and unsettled for days (last week I finally removed it). Again, I had to wonder why I ever thought to make the jump from easily hidden packs of paper to digital diaries that are open to the whole goddamn world. Why?

Why do I write a blog? These days I could say that I do it to push the soon-to-be-published book that shares the blog’s name. But we’re going to go deeper and REALLY WONDER WHY:

To make friends? To make enemies? To make manifest the promised Writer When I Grew Up? To feed my penchant for narcissistic navel-gazing? To make sense of what Mary Oliver called my one wild and precious life? To embarrass myself? To make myself happy?

All of the above?

I’m sure I’ll post something here when I’ve figured it out.

 

 

 

 

 

One from the heart

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

 

I have started and stopped this post more than a dozen times. Here’s the conversation I hear as I type, delete, type, hit save draft…

Head: “It’s time to write a blog post.”

Heart: “Yeah, probably, but I don’t wanna.”

Head: “You have stuff to say, publications to plug, yadda yadda.”

Heart: “Ugh, I would rather sit under a blanket and watch Scandal, the best show on television.”

Head: “You streamed every episode available.  There won’t be a new one until March 21. WRITE THAT POST.”

Heart: “Dammit.”

 

In last month’s issue of the Minnesota Women’s Press, themed “Matters of the Heart,”  I wrote a fan letter to feminist men.  It was pretty good, I think–at least good enough to warrant many hetero women to inquire where I found my awesome feminist husband (behind the counter at Cheapo, of course).  But I didn’t do the usual thing and hawk it here, for an uncomfortable reason.

My big fat feminist heart is in pieces.

On January 30, my friend Pam Taylor passed away from brain cancer.  She died with her family at her side, at home, in typically stubborn fashion–her doctors gave her just weeks to live, but she pushed that out to fourteen months.  If you knew Pam, you knew she was not about to leave her two daughters THAT quickly.  No way.

Usually, I respond to upheaval by writing.  I wrote volumes when my dear friend Liz passed away in 2007, also of cancer, also at home, also leaving behind two young daughters.  At the time I kept my blog on MySpace, a charmingly mindless place to vent about the ugliness and unfairness of life.  As a plus, you could add the music you were listening to at the time, which in 2007 was always Paul Westerberg’s “Let the Bad Times Roll“:

The good times hide/and so do I/out of my control/I dig a hole/I’m gonna let the bad times roll

It should be noted that this song was released in 2002, a decade before Scandal was available to cheer ol’ Paul up.

In the years (yes, years) that I’ve been working on The Radical Housewife, the book, I’ve utilized the services of a number of industry professionals who advised me that my blog should be a place where I “build my platform,” such as it is.  I must be vigorous about promoting myself and my work at the Women’s Press, at MPR, at the Minnesota NOW Times, at any analog and/or digital publication that would have me–nevermind that this is contrary to every introverted cell in my body.  I find that this push towards “branding” has strangled my natural impulse to write directly from my heart, whether it’s broken or whole.

And more and more often I see bloggers are clashing with each other (and with their readers, sometimes) over anything and everything.  Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg seem to have reinvigorated the Mommy Wars for 2013, and every feminist writer I know has taken a side.  Page views and well-placed editorials are the reward for the winner, dontcha know!  The Feminist Breeder was so fed up she put up a paywall on her site.  Kinda makes you wish we were all gluing up zines at Kinko’s doesn’t it?

Goddammit, whatever happened to GIRL POWER?!  Forgive us, Bratmobile and Sporty Spice!  We need you!

Ultimately, waxing nostalgic for long-lost “good old days” is as unhelpful as wishing very very VERY hard that people wouldn’t die.  You can give it a go, just don’t expect results.

The heart is a fragile thing.

 

 

The Radical Housewife gets awesome!

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

It has come to my attention that my recent blogs have been using the category “Idiots” far more often than the category “Awesome.”

Perhaps that explains why I am so far behind in the 2012 Circle of Moms Top Political Mom Blogs contest.  As of this writing, I am #23 in the rankings.  Though I don’t mind losing to The Mamafesto, Blue Milk, PunditMom and current leader Monologues of Dissent, I MIND VERY MUCH that I’m 12 places behind Pamela Geller, a racist so virulent she’s being watched by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Sigh.

I hereby vow to be more proactive about sharing all that is awesome with my readers.  I’ll start with an heartfelt appreciation of my representative in Congress, Keith Ellison, shown here at the 2011 Minnesota State Fair with two adorable constituents and their dorky mom*:

 

Rep. Ellison issued the following statement yesterday, after previously confidential reports showed that the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is using a race-based strategy to pursue its decidedly non-awesome agenda:

The exposed documents reveal that NOM’s ‘strategic goal’ is to ‘drive a wedge between gays and blacks – two key Democratic constituencies.’

Our nation was founded on the principle of liberty and justice for all people—regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. NOM is clearly opposed to these basic ideals that so many Americans hold dear.

I call on people from all backgrounds to speak out against NOM’s agenda and vote NO on the anti-marriage amendment this November.

Isn’t that awesome?  I bet you’re jealous that Rep. Ellison doesn’t represent you.  

But there’s more!  Check out this video from the House floor, taken only hours ago:

 

 

Damn!  I wish Rep. Ellison had done that, and I’m so glad Rep. Rush did.  But since no one can vote for either of them until November, please make sure you vote for me, NOW!

AWESOME!

 

*Confidential to Ms. Geller: yes, I did let a practicing Muslim near my children.  Shortly after this photo was taken, my children and I were killed in a terrorist attack.**

**Just kidding!  Pamela Geller is a racist idiot!  Please don’t let her win!  Vote for ME!  

 

 

War is over (if you want it)

Sunday, December 25th, 2011

War, whether fought between nations, communities, families, or within our own selves, CAN be over–but only if we want it.  Revolution truly begins at home.

I wish all my readers peace and joy as we transition from darkness to light, from old year to new.  Thank you for your friendship and support, and I look forward to the many adventures we’ll have in 2012.

 

Reclaiming family values, or: Blog-In 2011!

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

Two feminist mom bloggers whom I greatly admire, Avital Norman Nathman of The MamaFesto and Lisa Duggan of The MotherHood Blog, wrote the following message and asked writers like yours truly to repost it today for what they’re calling a virtual Blog-In.  I am very happy to participate, for I believe in and support every single word!

I encourage all of my media-connected readers to participate, via blog or with the Twitter hashtag #BlogIn2011.

 

Dear 2012 Presidential Candidates,

We are your future constituents and we are parents. We are American mothers and fathers and grandparents and guardians. Our families might be the most diverse in the world. Blended and combined in endless permutations, we represent every major religion, political ideology and ethnic culture that exists. We are made from equal parts biology and choice. Our children come to us in every way possible—including fertility miracles, adoption, and remarriage.

Our very modern families embody the freedom that defines America. We embody America. We are rich in diversity, but we are united in our family values. We come together today, with one voice, to express our grave disappointment in the national political discourse.

The 2012 countdown has barely begun and we are already being bombarded with the warmed-over, hypocritical rhetoric of 2008. We are living in a time where 15.1% of Americans now live in poverty, the unemployment rate stands at 16%, and we are spending close to $170 billion annually between the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan*.

Given the current state of affairs we would expect every candidate to focus on the issues that truly matter: job creation, debt-relief, taxes, education, poverty, and ending the war(s). Instead, it is already clear to us that the conversation has been hijacked, with the goal of further polarizing our nation into a politically motivated and falsely created class-war.

We will not stand for another campaign year in which politicians presume to know what our family values are as they relate to the nation.

To be clear, here are our family values:

  • Affordable health care, including family planning, for all Americans. We will not tolerate any candidate using the shield of “Choice” to blind us from the issues that really matter. When funding is stripped from organizations like Planned Parenthood, access to sliding-scale health care (including yearly pap smears & mammograms), comprehensive sex education, and family planning is blocked from the poorest of the population.
  • Access to education, and the ability to actually use it. We want quality, affordable, federally-funded pre-K programs made available in every State, in order to provide an even starting point for all children enrolled in public schools— regardless of the wealth of the district or town they live in.
  • A reinstatement of regulations for banks issuing mortgages and full prosecution for those who engaged in fraudulent lending practices. We want full accountability —investigation, indictment and prosecution— of those individuals and institutions who engaged in fraudulent lending practices and who helped create the massive foreclosures that left many families homeless or struggling to keep their homes.
  • A return of strict environmental regulations protecting water, air, food, and land that were removed in the last two decades. We want our children to grow up in a world not weighed down by the strains of pollution and global warming. Between BPA in our products, sky-rocketing rates of asthma in kids, questionable hormones in our over-processed food, and more, we need leaders who will put our needs and safety over the desires and profits of large corporations.

Family planning, healthcare, education, economic solvency and environmental safety: these are our national family values. Candidates who demonstrate the ability to understand the gravity of these issues, and their impact on our families, and who can provide actual, viable solutions to these problems will garner our support and our votes.

We believe in this democratic system of ours, and we will continue to use our voices and our votes to see that it reaches its fullest potential.

Sincerely,

Your future constituents,

The mothers & fathers of America

If you would like to forward this letter to your elected officials, you can find their contact info at the following links: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml

* Sources for stats:
http://money.cnn.com/2011/09/13/news/economy/poverty_rate_income/index.htm http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=CNG.4452bed82adf3124e5884678e236d7fb.361 http://costofwar.com/en/

Writing November (and beyond)

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Get our your typewriter ribbons, everyone!  It’s NaBloPoMo!

NaBloPoMo stands for National Blog Posting Month, brought to you in 2011 by BlogHer, the folks responsible for the flurry of exciting ads to the right of your screen. Inspired by National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, NaBloPoMo lets us blogging types in on the fun, for it’s very important that everyone with a computer write themselves crazy for the month of November.

As is typical of everything we do here at Radical HQ, I’m joining a day late.  Deal with it.

I love the motivation behind NaNoWriMo, for it recalls the sage advice within Natalie Goldberg’s classic guide Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, a book I’ve had in my possession for 25 years.  Drawing from her study of Zen meditation, Goldberg reveals that the secret to being a writer is….

(wait for it)

….to write.  Just write!   Tap on your typewriter, scratch on your notebook, click on your keyboard.  Write.

Some of what we write will be crap. Some will be good.  Some will be great.  But we’ll never know what will our writing will be like until we write, over and over again.

In 2004, I joined NaNoWriMo for the first time and wrote a novel that was four hundred pages of melodramatic garbage.  In 2005, I wrote two-thirds of a novel than was slightly better.  In 2006, my friends suggested that I start a blog on MySpace that accidentally led to a paid writing gig, which led to another, and another.  I discovered that I love writing nonfiction.  The work is better because I enjoy it more.  No longer an aspiring Margaret Atwood, today I am an aspiring Joan Didion! (but more on that later)

In November of 2009, I pondered the raft of blog posts, newspaper columns, and essays on my hard drive and wondered if my month might be put to good use in the service of what I’ve come to call The Radical Manuscript.  Named after that ancient MySpace blog, it would trace my journey from a quiet riot grrrl to a post-partum depression-addled mom to a feminist activist crusader determined up upend the myth of American “family values” one dirty diaper at a time.

This November, I am thrilled to announce that Medusa’s Muse, an independent press based in Ukiah, California, will be publishing The Radical Housewife: Redefining Family Values for the 21st Century in 2012.  Terena Scott is a fellow rad mom who started the press with the same DIY spirit that the creators of NaNoWriMo had back in 1999.  I’m very excited about collaborating with Medusa’s Muse to bring this November-inspired project to a bookstore near you.

So what are you waiting for?  It’s November 2nd already!  Unroll that ribbon, sharpen that pencil, plug in that laptop!  Do whatever you need to do–just WRITE!

On blogging, threats, silence, and what we can do about it

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

 

 

I know there are millions of posts that we blog addicts deem “must-reads,” but yesterday’s by s.e. smith on TigerBeatdown is one that truly earns that title.  In an essay called “On Blogging, Threats, and Silence,” smith writes about her experiences with online threats, opening her piece with the very startling revelation:

I got my first rape threat as a blogger when I was on Blogspot, so new that I still had the default theme up… someone really had thought it was appropriate not just to write this email to a complete stranger, a totally unknown person, but to send it.

Smith’s point is not just to reveal how very often this happens to women bloggers, but also to illuminate how often our concerns are minimized with the advice “don’t feed the trolls.”

It’s concerted, focused, and deliberate, the effort to silence people…..this is the strategy that has been adopted, to not feed the trolls, to grin and bear it, to shut up, to put your best foot forward and rise above it….when it happens to people for the first time, they think they are alone, because they don’t realise how widespread and insidious it is.

Regular readers of The Radical Housewife know about my resident antagonist, one Neal Krasnoff.  He’s been on my case since a 2008 Minnesota Women’s Press column in which I expressed support for Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary. At the time, he blogged under a pseudonym, Nachman, and the depth of his venom so rattled me that I did a little digging and discovered that his was typical of a million pseudonymous blogs in which the author assumes that “anonymity” grants carte blanche to express opinions that would never be tolerated in polite company.  Among Neal’s bugaboos were feminism, LGBT rights, and any support for Palestinian human rights, and in his blog he heaped scorn upon Twin Cities folks active in any of these civil rights movements.

But Neal wasn’t anonymous, really.  It took only a handful of Google searches to discover his real name and that he was, in fact, a local activist with the Minnesota DFL Party.

The DFL?? Minnesota’s Democratic Party? Really? Why, yes!  This is the party whose platform states opposition to “discrimination against any person on the basis of race, creed, religion, immigration status, sex, sexual or affectational orientation, HIV status, gender identity or expression, marital or homemaker status, disability or age.”

Huh.

Do you think Neal would allow his Nachman persona to speak aloud at DFL meetings?  Not likely.  Do you think Neal, like those who targeted s.e. smith, TigerBeatdown, and other bloggers, took advantage of this perceived “anonymity” as well as bloggers’ ongoing reluctance to talk about it?

This summer, I had enough.  Inspired by news of  the upcoming SlutWalk Minneapolis, Neal wrote as disturbing a piece of rape apologia as I have ever read, and he made sure the post included the name of its director, my friend Kim Sherva, in an attempt to rattle her as I had once been rattled.  I responded with a piece I called “To our male allies: a challenge,” in which I identified Neal by name.  And take it from me, friends: NOTHING TERRIFIED HIM MORE.

He closed up his blog for a time.  He officially resigned from the DFL Party.  He begged me to redact his name, to stuff the genie named Nachman back in the bottle.  Today, his blog contains the longest rant against me yet, with specific threats of legal action against me and veiled threats of personal harm in calling me  “Shannon Drury (YM”SH).” For those whose Hebrew is rusty, this is apparently a curse that calls for the destruction of a person and her memory.  I’m not certain myself, so I think I’ll ask the rabbi with whom I’m meeting next week (I’m not kidding–I really am).

In the words of s.e. smith:

I’m still not going to shut up, and not just because I am bullheaded and don’t take kindly to being told to be silent or die. I don’t shut up for all the people who were forced to shut up, for the ghosts who drift through the Internet, for the people too terrified to leave their homes at all, let alone try to coordinate safety concerns to attend events, for the people who ask friends to open and sort their email because they can’t handle the daily vitriol. I don’t shut up for all the people who have been silenced, who did throw in the towel because they just couldn’t take it anymore. 

I hope you, dear reader, will join me in accepting smith’s call to keep talking about this on our blogs,  our social media sites, and in our communities.  Refuse to be silenced.  Demand accountability.  Speak out!