Thesis: Submitted.

Cue: blog about how utterly anticlimactic it was to shove three $30 binders fat with 119 pages into professor’s mailboxes. Subsequent happy dance, alone, in dimly lit department lounge. Mild asthma attack.

Slow walk back to dorm, took brief nap.

Response: photoshoot with self, thesis, and about 2/3 of the books consulted and employed in the writing process.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

i call it: thesis face phases.

i call it: thesis face phases.

T-minus six days until the defense.

Advertisements

Senior Symposium Presentation

I wrote about my baby last week – my senior thesis, capping off at 120 pages on a womanist/feminist interpretation of the Christian Liturgical year. While ten minutes feels like an inch of what i had to say, here’s the presentation i gave at the Senior Symposium on Friday, should you like to watch it!

You might want to turn up your volume to hear. Many thanks to Alex (whom i reference in the film as having presented right before me on God and the Holocaust) and Nora for filming!

The Big League.

The run stretched from the fold of my knee to my ankle. I toppled out of the car, engine still purring, legs wobbling at their unaccustomed new altitude.

“Just stay in the car!” i craned my neck back at Jonathan, his fingers still thrumming on the wheel. He’d probably put NPR back on without me there. I’d been too nervous to listen to the latest exposé on Joy Division, or whatever.

The lady behind the Rite Aid counter gave me a perplexed once-over, my shimmery pink swath of a dress and elegantly messy bun a vision of out-of-place.

“Y’all carry tights?” i was practically yelping, in need of an inhaler but afraid to elevate my heart rate any more.

“Back row, near cosmetics.”

Heels clacking and eyes as wide as my eyeliner would let them, i flailed my way to the rear of the store. My salvation: rows on rows of Leggs silky-sheer. Five dollars later, i was doubled over in the dingy back bathroom struggling to pull a mess of nylon over my prickly legs. Hopping from foot to foot, i plucked off the ring my Grandmother had given me for my high school graduation, gingerly placing it on top of the toilet paper dispenser. As beautiful as the blue stone was, the beast was the reason for this four-inch-heels sprint through the drug store.

And there i was: legs in nylon knots, trying not to collapse into a hypoglycymic meltdown Rite Aid toilet stall, twenty minutes before the moment i’d been dreaming of since second-grade carreer day.

It was the night of the Talking Taboo book launch.

My book, the real book – not the Advanced Reader’s Copy – was tucked next to my vintage leopard-print coat in the car. I’d outlined in pencil the excerpts i would read, rehearsing with a hairbrush-as-microphone like i was still sixteen and auditioning for American Idol. I’d spent the afternoon slathering myself with hollywood mascara, not caring that i’d be overdressed because you only get one first book launch and this was the dress i felt the strongest in. Pink, effeminate, swishy, and tender. Not a congruent image to the ball-busting feminist ricocheting off the Rite Aid toilet stall walls, but just as much me as the foulmouthed bra-burner found on page 170.

I wound a stretch of scratchy toilet paper around my hand, dabbing at the smears in my foundation. Surrounded by flourescent lights and graying tiles, i stared myself square in my mirror-face. You can, you will, you have. I plucked up my Grandmother’s ring and smoothed down the faux-silk of my skirt.

Jonathan had turned NPR back on by the time i wobbled my way into the passenger seat. Graciously, he turned the volume off and gave me his best honey-you-can smile. With one hand on the wheel and one hand wrapped tightly around mine, he drove the final two miles to the Reality Center downtown.

“You got this, babe.” He’d donned a sport coat and khakis for me, never letting me be the only one overdressed again. In his pocket was a pen, one i’d use later to sign my first book.

“Do i have lipstick on my teeth?” i blurted. He shook his head. “And you’ve got my inhaler?” He tucked the red plastic next to the pen. “Okay, okay, let’s just take a second.” I envisioned myself on my yoga mat, drinking in oxygen as muscles popped with tension-release. Whispered a prayer of thanks, a prayer for confidence, a prayer of humility.

“Ready?”

“Ready.”

Half-wobbling, half-strutting, we made our way inside.

With the incredible Erin Lane, co-editor, her husband Rush and my own Jonathan at the event!

With the incredible Erin Lane, co-editor, her husband Rush, and my own Jonathan at the event!

current jam: ‘rise to me’ the decemberists.

best thing: signing mary’s book!!

buy my book!

You’re Invited!

IMG_5374My phone has been pinging with the most precious selfies a lady could ask for: friends with grins as big as Texas holding up their copies of Talking Taboo!

Little by little, this book is making its way out to all those who pre-ordered their copies. (And if you haven’t received yours yet, no worries! It’s coming, i promise!)

People aren’t just snapping sassy selfies; i’ve been to one fantastic event already – the Homegrown Preaching Festival in Durham, NC, sponsored by (my favorite non-profit) the Resource Center for Women & Ministry in the South. We had a phenomenal conversation about shame, preaching tough texts, and writing in our multitude of authenticities.

The best part for me, though, was that my mom finally got to read my essay.

With the woman who inspired my essay!

With the woman who inspired my essay!

I say “finally,” like some centrifugal force was withholding information from her. Really, it was knee-knocking me. But an hour or so before the event, i figure the caving needed to happen and she best know what she was getting into. Spoiler: my mother is the direct inspiration for my essay, as she is my inspiration in my every day. Talk about one helluva boss lady.

Needless to say, my knee-knocking was a moot point. There were tears. Sloppy, mommy-and-me tears.

So it’s going to be hard to top event #1. But i have a pretty solid feeling that the next two big events i’m participating in are going to be hefty competition.

And you’re invited to both events!

The first is the official book launch party on Saturday, November 2nd from 5 – 7 PM at the Reality Center in Durham, NC. It’s free, open to the public, and there’s going to be cocktails AND readings from some of the contributors. And, of course, there will be books available for purchase. Seriously, what more incentive do you need?

The second is still in the works, but folks in the Pioneer Valley, MA, should mark their calendars for December 3rd for what promises to be an excellent conversation and reading at All Saint’s Episcopal Church in South Hadley. Details to follow!

These aren’t the only events connected to the launch of the book – be sure to keep tabs on the event page of the official website for more readings and conversations!

I hope, for those of y’all in the NC area, to see you at the official launch party!

best thing: cabin trip tonight!

current jam: ‘marry you’ by jason derulo. typical.

How Do We Speak Against Shame?

This Friday, i’ll be sitting in my best blazer on a panel with some of the best womyn i know, talking about shame at Homegrown: North Carolina Women’s Preaching Festival 2013.

Talking Taboo is on the launchpad, y’all, on a catapult ride to a Mary Daly-esque outerplanet. (Or maybe that’s just my personal NASA-themed fantasy…) The books have shipped, and orders are coming in at local independent bookstores across the country so you can get your hands wrapped around our 40 essays dismantling taboos and reconstructing faith.

And somehow, as deliriously excited as i am to be in print, i’m also still kind of crapping my pants. My essay is, after all, entitled “Sex, Shame, and Scarred Knees.” It doesn’t take too much imagination to realize it is acutely personal and confrontational in one swath of five pages.

But that’s the whole point, for me, in talking about taboos: going for the gut, the personal jugular. I get so frustrated with academic hoopla that over-objectifies ideas and only wants to talk about problems as if they exist in this neutral universe. Like system problems exist outside of our own experiences.

It’s partly a feminism thing; i can only tell my story, and my story is a gradient of privileged (white, cisgendered, American citizen, middle class…) as is the stories of every thinker from Max Weber to Alice Walker. It’s also partly a theological thing; sitting in a stuffy room all day talking Christology is a necessary part of the learning curve, but it’s only relevant when we can embody what we discuss. Feminist/womanist theological ethics – my particular field – is a brilliant, needed, complicated, and an evolving facet to the study and practice of religion. But i still believe feminist theological ethics (or any conversation, really) matters most when we can implement what we talk about in the academy in to real life.

And real life can be some tough shit.

Tough, personal, painful shit. Like feeling isolated, marginalized, ridiculed for pushing back on heteronormative and sexist sexual ethics. Or thinking my body was too fat and too hairy and too imperfect to be lovable, even by its inhabitant.

It was not easy to write about my shame in any place other than my well-hidden cavern of angst and Kahlil Gibran quotes: my journal. My first twelve drafts or so were so externally-focused it felt more like a gender studies essay than a personal confrontation with taboo.

But i knew, i knew i was not the only person in the world who had struggled with the church’s perfectionistic teachings on human sexuality. And it was the thought of writing to younger me that made me be bold. If one – just one – pre-teen girl could crack open my story and heave a sigh of “it’s-not-just-me,” than my exposure would be worth it.

So on Friday, i’ll be talking about just that: how do we speak out against the shame that has silenced us?* I’m the first to say i’m no expert. Hell, my therapist would gladly tell you (were she not bound by HIPAA) i’m in a daily uphill slog against self-shaming. There’s no five-step plan that frees us for life from shame. It’s a systemic thing, shaming womyn for our sexuality (and you know, a million other things people of every gender are shamed for).

But the thing about systems is this: we’re all participants in the system, which means we all have the potential to disrupt the system’s power over us in our own narratives.

buy the book here!

best thing: flights home in less than 24 hours.

current jam: ‘eavesdrop’ the civil wars.

resources on shame, courage, and radical self-love: dr. brené brown’s TED talk & website,  audre lorde’s article “uses of the erotic,” wehappytrans* website.

*not a rhetorical question! how do you speak against shame? what barriers prevent you from speaking against shame?

The Relief of “I-Thought-It-Was-Just-Me”

There have been a slew of reasons why this blog – WanderingWrites – has remained vacant until now. But certainly one of the most life-giving reasons for my hiatus has been this group of energetic, electrifying, and eager young woman. It’s been a delight and a privilege working this summer at the Resource Center for Women & Ministry in the South and working behind-the-scenes with the (almost ready to publish!) Talking Taboo anthology. Here’s more about Courageous Conversations, reposted from the Talking Taboo website!

pre-order my book, talking taboo, here!

talking taboo

post by contributor elizabeth mcmanus

When Erin Lane, co-editor extraordinaire, asked me to submit an essay for the Talking Taboo collection, my first reaction was to leap-dance around my room to Whitney Houston.

My second reaction was spine-curling panic.

Panic, for two reasons. One: i had to choose a single taboo to write about, when the options before me filled a book three times over. And two: whatever i wrote about was going to go public. Something everyone from my favorite professor to my future in-laws could peruse.

I felt like i was about to do a strip tease for everyone i knew, and for everyone i didn’t. Rationally, i realized that the possibility of everyone i knew reading my essay was slim, but rationality isn’t my strong suit when Whitney Houston is at a decibal-shattering volume.

So i met with Erin. Armed with a plate full of Daisy Cakes…

View original post 572 more words

The Sisterhood of the Crapping Pants.

A few days ago, i hurled myself off a (metaphorical) cliff in one of those Lifetime-movie Leap-Of-Faith moments. It kind of made me want to hurl in a definitely non-metaphorical way.

The 24 hours leading up to the Big Announcement (which, in case you haven’t heard, is that i’m being published in an anthology called Talking Taboo) involved a lot of frantic Skype calls to J, juxtaposed to dancing around my room in my underwear. Mostly to Whitney Houston. Sorry, flatmates.

My oscillating between paralytic fear and booty-shaking happiness basically boiled down to two things. One: i was tea-totally-terrified of what was about to happen. Two: i was ecstatic with possibility-itis. It’s a frightening and beautiful thing to realize a dream. It’s effing overwhelming to share that dream with the world as you know it.

The book itself asked its contributors to be vulnerable – imperfect, honest, and fierce in conviction. “Truth-tellers,” is the phrase our fabulous co-editors use. So, on a basic level of the material itself being published, i was nervous. My essay is tremendously imperfect. Imperfect because writing is a malleable and elusive art, but mainly imperfect because what i have to say centers around my own fallibility. In some ways, my elation came from a sense of release. It’s a weight off to own what everyone else already knows: we’re all imperfect, no matter how hard we may not want to be.

While i was – and am – obviously thrilled to share the news with people, i also wanted to accompany every proclamation of excitement with: “but please tread carefully! That’s my naked heart you’re going to be handling!”

And then the emails and facebook messages started to pour in with congratulations and we-believe-in-you’s. My dancing turned into hands-hiding-weepy-eyes laughter. Teachers from years ago, friends of my parents, people i never expected to take notice. It’s been humbling and beautiful and the best kind of response i could hope for, naked heart and all.

But the best part of this whole process hasn’t been the ego-boost (though let me be perfectly clear: that is really, really nice!). It’s been reading the blog posts of my co-contributors, hearing and feeding off of their excitement and buzz for the Big Day.

In a multitude of ways, this book is the perfect authorial debut for me. The essay is compact, the editors fabulous, and the book’s premise is a belief i 100% uphold. Most of all, though, there has been such a sense of community in the truth-telling from the get-go. Grace Biskie, one of my co-contributors (and one of the ladies featured on the cover of the book!)  said in her blog she felt like crapping her pants, her piece in the book was so vulnerable. I left a comment saying we could form a Sisterhood of the Crapping Pants.

I’ve known, from day one, that this writing-from-my-core was risky business. People will not universally love what i have to say – even people whom i love very, very much. But whether they toss it out with the rubbish or not, i know i’m not alone in being brave. And that is the best kind of consolation.

So, thank you. Thank you for your reads, views, comments, liked statuses. Thank you for your thoughtful and uplifting messages. Thank you most of all for the outpouring of love. It means the world.

preorder the book on amazon here!

current jam: ‘summertime sadness’ lana del rey.

best thing: friends in all the expected and totally unexpected places.

Talking Taboo: The Big Announcement!

I’m seated in the church pew, unsaid words pressing against my clamped teeth. I’m chewing instead of talking for any number of reasons; i’ve had this experience so often i can’t delineate which memory belongs where. It could be a flagrant disregard of the female characters in the lectionary reading by the pastor. It could be a subtle refusal to even consider female pronouns for G-d in Sunday School. It could be when a member of the congregation makes a combo homophobic-sexist comment about a woman in leadership needing to be “straightened” out by a man.

I’m not in an obvious rage. It’s not always a rage – sometimes it is a thoughtful frustration. But the most important thing is that it’s quiet – i am quiet. I might rant, later, to my ordained-minister mother. She’ll remind me that women have come a long way since the days she couldn’t be a pastor by virtue of her gender. I’ll nod, but exclaim: “we’re not done yet!” If i’m being particularly good that week, i’ll pray. Pray for my anger, pray for the reasons i’m angry.

But i don’t start a conversation. My anger turns into silence, and this silence becomes the taboo i never dare to bring up with anyone who i suspect might disagree.

And the thing is, i know i’m not the only Jesus-lovin’ lady out there who feels this suffocation. I can’t speak for all women who encounter such prejudice – i can only speak for myself. And this what i have to say, boiled down to the basics: i have enough faith in Jesus and the Church that we, people of all gender identities, are capable of confronting the everyday sexism in Christian communities. Capable of engaging compassionately and critically in dialogue with one another about faith and feminism. I am capable of voicing my frustration, even when it requires boldness . It is time i stopped staying silent in the pews.

Because when a chorus of individuals share personal narratives, i think a truly transformative space for conversation can be created.

And that, i hope, is exactly what my co-contributors and i have done in a stupendously exciting new book. It’s called  Talking Taboo: American Christian Women Get Frank About Faith, and it’s set to be published in October of 2013 by White Cloud Press!!

Forty women under the prowess of two fabulous co-editors, Erin Lane and Enuma Okoro, have each contributed their own story. An essay that embodies the marginalization they have faced because of a clash between our gender and our faith. In the spectrum of women represented there is an equally wide spectrum of perspectives – some claiming feminist as an identity, and some decidedly not. Women of many denominations, races, backgrounds, long publishing resumés and shiny-eyed newbies (like me!). Women coming  together to instigate a taboo dialogue.

A proper book! With a proper cover and everything!

A proper book! With a proper cover and everything!

But having a Big Conversation like this requires a lot more voices than the 40 contributors, which is why today we are kicking off an Indiegogo campaign to help launch Talking Taboo with a bang. It would mean the world to me if you would make a donation to the campaign. Your support helps generate conversation, and the conversation works to end these silences. As an added bonus, we’ve chosen May 7th because it is the feast day of Saint Rose Venerini, who was a teacher of girls & women.

As the youngest contributor to the anthology, i stand on the precipice of my adulthood filled with explosive hope because of my co-contributors’ courage. Having my own story shared in the company of women who have paved so much of the road before me humbles (and, if i’m frank, terrifies) me. Their courage leaves me cracking with expectation for the kind of boundary-transgressing dialogue this book will generate.

Mostly, though, i want to say thank you.

I said yesterday i have always wanted to be a published author. By the grace of G-d and some wonderful mentors, this book is making that happen. It’s people like you – friends, faithful readers, neighbors, kin, and internet-passerbys that empower me to keep writing in the spaces of silence. You are wonderful, and sharing this news with you wonderful people makes the excitement tremendously tangible.

So let’s go shatter some stained-glass ceilings, shall we?

For more information about the book: check out the campaign’s website!

Pre-order your copy of Talking Taboo on Amazon!

Like Talking Taboo on Facebook!

A prologue to today’s announcement.

current jam: ‘i wanna dance with somebody’ whitney houston!

 

On Being Bold

The first thing i ever wanted to be when i grew up was a dolphin trainer. Who also wrote books. And sang songs. And invented things.

The hybrid of this all in my imagination looked like this: i was the musical star of the Sea World dolphin show, using my inventions to train dolphins in singing along. And then i’d write of adventures in books with plots that suspiciously resembled Harry Potter, but with dolphins.

Lots of social skills as Harry Potter for Halloween, circa third grade.

Lots of social skills as Harry Potter for Halloween, circa third grade.

The hybrid of all of this in reality looked like this: a large cardboard box in the corner of my room overflowing with “inventor-y stuff” (matchbox cars, duct tape). As my friend Becca so fondly recalls, i had a plastic toy dolphin named “Trixie” because she did tricks. (Becca will also tell you Trixie’s tricks were a big flop, but that never stopped me from trying). I actually went pretty far with the singing gig – two years of voice lessons and five years of more choir than anyone with any sense of social skills should hope to take. (Actually, i loved choir, but that’s not the point. I still have no social skills.)

But what has outlasted even my tacky-ass black chorus dress and books of Italian arias is the writing. The desire to write books, perhaps without Trixie-as-Harry-Potter plotlines, remains central to my ten-year plan. It’s kind of why i keep a blog: to keep in practice, to keep writing. To preserve material for my someday egocentric and totally indulgent memoir about my romp through a historically women’s college and semester mucking about Europe.

But if i’m honest with myself, my writing about traveling is not the substantial stuff. It’s tremendously fun, and i know come next year when i have the missing-Edinburgh-blues i will be grateful for making the effort to memorialize what i have experienced. And i love travel writing best of all for keeping in touch with neighbors-as-good-as-kin, my parents, my friends back home.

The substantial stuff, though, that’s what i want to do. I remember telling my best friend in high school i wanted to write a classic – a Tolstoy, a Fitzgerald. She facetiously (and rightly) pointed out that no one sets out to Write a Classic. I look back now with a grain more of humility and heartily agree: people write what is meaningful and beautiful to them, and the power that comes from such truth-telling is what defines a classic.

I’m pretty sure i’m never going to write a War and Peace, as much as my self-important teen self may have wanted to. But i do think it is time for me to truly start embracing that fundamental asset i have seen in all the Good and Great Books i have read, from John Green’s teen fiction to my beloved Toni Morrison’s work.

I have to be bolder, take the risks that terrify me with my naked honesty. This doesn’t make me a Phenomenal Writer – it doesn’t even make me a great writer. It means i am writing, truly and deeply, from my gut. And the best i can hope for is that my vulnerability and lexical expression communicates those questions and feelings with authenticity.

So that is what i’ve done.

Tomorrow, friends and family and good-as-kin-neighbors, i have some exciting and anxiety-inducing and wonderful news to share. I hope you’ll come back to read about it, and i hope it doesn’t flop quite the way Trixie used to.

And, hey, even if it does, i’ll just keep trying.

current jam: ‘san francisco’ the mowgli’s (thanks, radha!) 

best thing: #talkingtaboo.

also: HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM, YOU’RE THE GREATEST. Thanks for the dolphin wallpaper and putting up with my “dolphin call” for the whole of second grade.

Rue the Day: Racial Commentary & The Hunger Games.

Suzanne Collins did not write a book about a dystopian society wherein only white people were foregrounded in a plot to overthrow a totalitarian state. In fact, she pretty explicitly states that the characters of Rue and Thresh, tributes from District 11, have “dark skin.” In this future, there is no buying into the social constructions of race (one thing they did right) but that doesn’t mean she was not making a pointed social comment when she made the little girl, so like the sister for whom Katniss volunteered to potentially die for, black.

When i read The Hunger Games for the first time, i saw Rue as a symbol for interracial empowerment and unity in two key ways: the first were the aforementioned parallels between her and Prim and, consequentially, Katniss’ vision of Rue being one of love unblinded by skin color. The second was her tragic, undue, and horrific death; coming from District 11, which we can guess by the general descriptions of weather and distance is meant to be somewhere in the South (Central Florida? Alabama?) this, to me, read as a pointed comment against segregation and racism across America, but most viscerally apparent in the southern US. Rue was a character who functioned to illustrate the horror of the Games, but also was so beautifully crafted in her intelligence and ability to survive that she still very much existed within the realm of Collins’ fleshed-out, human, believable cast.

Furthermore, i actually always pictured Katniss as being a woman of mixed race/color herself. While i love Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss (and, let us remember, not all racial backgrounds are immediately apparent because race is socially constructed) i had always inferred by Collins’ description of Katniss being a woman of “olive skin” and dark hair that she was a woman of some American Indian ancestry. When she was initially cast, i was a little bit disappointed. However, her performance, as i mentioned earlier today, was so stellar she was such a natural choice for the role.

In fact, if you look closely at the demographic breakdown of the residents of District 12, you’ll notice all the people of more privilege are described as being “fair.” Peeta, who comes from one of the town dwellers, has blonde hair and a pale complexion, much like Katniss’ mother who was a woman of more status prior to marrying Katniss’ dark-haired father. For these loose (but pointed) allusions to a potentially racially-driven class divide that Collins was using to deepen the commentary. While i was sad to, in some way, lose this with Lawrence’s casting, i recognize that Collins was instrumental in choosing her and that the references to Katniss as at least partially American Indian are, after all, very scant. And, may i reiterate: Lawrence herself could very well have American Indian ancestry, because race inherently by its nature of being socially constructed, confines our perception of what “American Indian” or “white” look like in ways that are often not applicable to the masses labeled with such terms.

But still. The point remains: the people who are tweeting that they were “disappointed” that a black girl was cast as Rue is, frankly, disgusting. To express such bigoted and racist views is so contrary to these subtle, poignant commentaries Collins interlaced with her broader statement against consumerism, capitalism, and the military-industrial complex. And clearly, these people didn’t read the books with much care. These tweets and opinions represent everything the Capitol stands for: a place of discrimination, exploitation, and unmitigated privilege at the expense of mass groups of oppressed people. I normally try to stray away from going preach-y on other fans, but the popularity of these horrible, prejudiced views is hurtful, frustrating, and SO NOT THE POINT OF THE STORY COLLINS CRAFTED.

The Hunger Games, at its core, is a book about overcoming adversity in the face of odds that are most certainly not in your favor. A struggle not unlike that faced by all oppressed groups in this country. I think we all do remember this, as fans of the story and as human beings.

current jam: ‘abraham’s daughter’ arcade fire

best thing: the hunger games soundtrack.

*I know this is double-posting in one day, which breaks all conventional blogging rules. But, per request (thanks, Gabs!) and per my own interest in the matter, i wanted to write about this while it was still fresh on my mind. Thanks for sticking with me, friends!