Filed under: Announcements, Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Post by: Sheryl R, Uncategorized
For those of you in Seattle for the AWP conference, don’t forget the So to Speak reading today, Saturday, March 1, from 3 PM to 5 PM! Our reading features poetry by Laura-Gray Street, fiction by Jessica Barksdale, and nonfiction by Tim Denevi and takes place at the Pine Box, a restaurant and bar located only a half-mile from the Washington State Convention Center at 1600 Melrose Avenue, Seattle, Washington 98122. We’d love to celebrate great feminist writing and have a drink with you! Most importantly, you’re not going to want to miss the line-up!
Filed under: Announcements, Nonfiction, Opinion, Poetry, Politics, Post by: Sheila M, Uncategorized
Former So to Speak Poetry and Blog Editor Sheila McMullin on the history of the StS blog and using online platforms to advocate for social change:
On March 8, 2011 I launched So to Speak’s blog with a simple one line post. No in-depth journal and provocative claim, just a quick message with the beginning word “Celebrating.” With this word began So to Speak’s interaction as an online open forum for discussing feminist issues as they pertain to art and artist communities. In those early days our editorial circle saw the blog as a supplement to the print journal, providing a space for our contributors to speak in broader terms on their creative process and artistic and feminist intentions in relation to their printed pieces. The blog was an opportunity for the community at large to engage with our activist-driven organization and find in us a community of peers who understand the importance of celebrating feminist dialogue, a safe space to explore identity relations, questions, and build new relations. It was a space for those curious to learn. A place for those skeptical to debate. It is no secret that women and those who don’t identify as cisgender are unproportionally harassed and denigrated on the internet. In launching a blog dedicated to feminism in the arts, I with Blog Co-editor Alyse Knorr were fulfilling a lack we saw in So to Speak’s organizational structure, and stepping up to fight against the notion that women aren’t allowed to play. Of course feminists and budding feminists waiting for a call to action were on the internet. And So to Speak needed to find them and bring them together. We believed that to meet the needs of our feminist allies we had a firm obligation to participate in the online community.
Today StS is still all these things under the care of the current editorial circle, and better, more expansive, more in-depth, more provocative. I am eternally grateful to Blog Editor Sheryl Rivett and her Assistant Blog Editor Paula Beltran for continuing and fostering StS’s online presence. One thing many people don’t really yet understand about encouraging online communities through dedicated and consistent blogging is that it takes a whole lot of energy and a s**t-ton of time. With open minds embracing online opportunities So to Speak has been able to be more of an engaged feminist advocacy group expanding its reach to promote gender parity in the arts and in our communities at large.
That beginning celebratory word on StS’s fresh blog, jumpstarted my personal endeavors of becoming more involved in utilizing web presences for social causes within organizations dedicated to advancing gender parity. I want to celebrate creative bravery. These days many of us engage in online communities through various social media sites that encourage surface level and sensationalist interactions. With sites like Facebook the tendency becomes to showcase only the most thrilling, titillating side of ourselves. These kinds of interactions can at times be a reprieve or fun, but if taken too seriously can interrupt crucial opportunities for empathetic human interaction. Similarly to how hyper-sexualized advertisements and media affect our collective conscious on definitions of “natural” and “beauty,” our most popular social media sites can actually make us feel more lonely, more isolated. Through these sites we have been trained to compare our behind the scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel, a well-worn yet accurate phrase. I don’t deny that sites like Facebook and Twitter play huge roles in providing low-budget socially-conscious groups opportunities to advertise, promote, and connect. These are often the hubs individuals go to see what’s the latest and check updates on news and events. But sites like these can also encourage an ego that denies the validity of another’s identity because of the lack of an ultimate goal of interacting in offline spheres. We forget the avatar on our screens represents a beating human heart, with just as many complex emotions and needs as we have.
I like using the internet very much. It is fun, serves a knowledge-based purpose, and connects me to like-minded folks and family and friends all over the globe. And while the internet allows me to stay in touch with people I love and explore the world without necessarily leaving home, it is still incredibly important to remember that the surface level of interaction while on the internet is through an inanimate object.
As I have become more involved in online communities I understand more the complete necessity for my online presence to directly influence my offline actions. The internet is a tool to make my material and physical life more fulfilling, more understanding, more substantial. So, for AWP 2014 I wanted to bring together creative literary thinkers who actively engage online in platforms they either built themselves because they saw a lack and wanted to fill that space with positive community-focused interaction or significantly monitor and update a unique platform with a socially conscious action-orientated mission for creative thinkers who want to learn to engage online in meaningful, nourishing ways and to talk about how to do so in productively.
On Saturday, March 1, the panelists and I will discuss building unique online platforms, or participating in already existing platforms to shape a cyber presence that provokes actual social change and propagates dissemination of educational materials in the physical world. We’ll discuss and explore opportunities for using our online platforms to evolve typical trite conversations, to change language, to vocalize inclusivity, reform out-of-date sexist traditions, and push out of comfort zones to empower individuals. Through our conversation, I hope we can come together to celebrate our unique visions and encourage users to create an internet that moves away from trolling, harassment, anxiety-provoking sites and moves toward representing the diverse cultures we participate in and the diverse human beings we are.
For you, in the cybersphere, who are ready to start using your online platform to advocate for social change consider what it means to blog with integrity, and focus on opportunities for offline activism by providing links at the end of your posts to others’ organizations or groups who argue for similar productivity you do and could benefit from a charitable donation or some type of volunteer action.
Now go write and share!
Headed to AWP? Be sure to check out the panel that Sheila is moderating!
So You Want to Build a Platform: But What is It & Why Do You Need One? Women Writers & Editors Speak Out (Sheila McMullin, Rosebud Ben-Oni, Molly Gaudry, Sheryl Rivett, Arisa White)
Room 608, Washington State Convention Center, Level 6
Saturday, March 1, 2014
10:30 am to 11:45 am
While women’s voices are underrepresented in print publishing, online activism can balance the scales. Cultivating an online presence is not as easy as DIY and shameless self-promotion tales make it look. Creative thinkers, to highlight minority and emerging voices, develop unique online resources to build ever-expanding communities and celebrate accomplishments. Panelists explore empowerment, utility of web-based writing, maintaining professionalism, and ways to keep viewers returning and sharing.
Filed under: Announcements, Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Post by: Sheryl R, Uncategorized
The staff of So to Speak would like to invite you to our offsite reading at the 2014 AWP conference in Seattle, Washington!
Our multi-genre reading will be held on Saturday, March 1 (the last day of the conference) from 3 PM to 5 PM and will feature poetry by Laura-Gray Street, fiction by Jessica Barksdale, and nonfiction by Tim Denevi. The reading will take place at the Pine Box, a restaurant and bar located only a half-mile from the Washington State Convention Center at 1600 Melrose Avenue, Seattle, Washington 98122. We’d love to celebrate great feminist writing and have a drink with you! Most importantly, you’re not going to want to miss this line-up:
Laura-Gray Street’s work has appeared in Many Mountains Moving, The Human Genre Project, Isotope, Gargoyle, From the Fishouse, ISLE, Shenandoah, Meridian, Blackbird, Poetry Daily, The Notre Dame Review, The Greensboro Review, and elsewhere; selected by George Garrett for Best New Poets 2005; commissioned by the New York Festival of Song; and included in Pivot Points, an exhibition of poets and painters that traveled internationally. Street has received a Poetry Fellowship from the Virginia Commission for the Arts, the Editors’ Prize in Poetry fromIsotope, the Emerging Writer in Poetry Award for the Southern Women Writers Conference, the Dana Award in Poetry, and The Greensboro Review’s Annual Literary Award in Poetry, and fellowships at the VCCA and the Artist House at St. Mary’s College in Maryland.
Jessica Barksdale is the author of twelve traditionally published novels, including Her Daughter’s Eyes and When You Believe. Her novel Becca’s Best is forthcoming from Ghostwoods Books. Her short stories, poems, and essays have appeared in or are forthcoming in Salt Hill Journal, The Coachella Review, Carve Magazine, Mason’s Road, and So to Speak. She is a professor of English at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, California and teaches online novel writing for UCLA Extension.
Tim Denevi’s first book, Hyper, a memoir and history of ADHD, will be published by Simon & Schuster in 2014. He received his MFA in nonfiction from the University of Iowa, his MA in English from the University of Hawaii, and his BA from Northwestern University. Recently he was awarded fellowships by the MacDowell Colony and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.
Can’t wait to see you there!
Filed under: Poetry, Post by: Sheila M, Reviews, Uncategorized
Melissa Schuppe’s debut chapbook Wild, But Not Lost (Finishing Line Press, 2013) finds itself in the good company of poets’ Sarah Vap, Rachel Zucker, and Arielle Greenberg: women writing motherhood and sharing women’s multifaceted experiences in the age of choice and women’s equality. Yet, as the many feminists reading So to Speak, we know choice not always has so many options and equality not so balanced. As a single woman, not yet a mother, but hoping to one day become, I am always appreciative of the poetic insights gleaned from poetry participating in adulthood theatrics and caring for aging folks and children. Schuppe’s collection acknowledges the all too familiar changing of relationships with parents and siblings, and struggles of keeping afloat in the dynamic landscape that is now our everyday lives.
Back-to-back poems “Note to Self” and “Nora” focus on beautifully complex relationships between mother and daughter, woman and elder. These pieces trouble static binaries of how one is assumed to react to and treat children and elders. From “Note to Self” to the end of the collection hold my favorite poems in the chapbook. Here I found a quickening pace of our speaker’s reflection on very present moments, creating uncanny collisions of material and thought, as in the husband who can no longer wear his wedding ring, not from lack of devotion, but of a changing of body. In Schuppe’s bio she writes herself to be “a wife and mother whose words reflect the exploration of her life’s event,” so I imagine Schuppe in “Note to Self” working with the elder woman who is growing “impatient with death,” who would “like to get out of here tomorrow,” and Schuppe noticing the body worked by age. I imagine when our speaker touches the older woman it both reminds her of her own fragility, reminds me of my fragility, and how that is scary. But overwhelmingly, we are provided insight through our bodies about the changing of time and how to look toward the future without so much fear. On the flip side of that, “Nora” a nine-year-old hugging her mother barefoot in the kitchen reminds us that one day children become adults, and although young they still carry agency. In this moment, our speaker is “afraid for what’s to come” and I am grateful for that honesty. It lets me imagine one day, in my own kitchen with my own daughter in my own version of this poem I will be afraid to, afraid out of protective love, but like Schuppe will have found inner strength to believe it will be alright. And with close attention, maybe then, I would hear “the whistle,/ clarity emerging” too.
Check out Melissa Schuppe’s guest StS post On Being Silenced
Sheila McMullin is an after-school creative writing and college prep instructor, supportsVIDA–Women in Literary Arts as part of their Membership Team, and is a contributing poetry editor and the blog editor for ROAR Magazine. She holds her MFA in Poetry from George Mason Univeristy where she was the 2012-2013 Heritage Fellow and the poetry editor and blog/twitter manager for So to Speak. During her final year at GMU, Sheila interned at the Library of Congress in the Poetry and Literature Center helping to create easily accessible poetry resources for the public through the LOC database. In 2010, Sheila lived and traveled throughout China, teaching English to university students in the Shandong Province. Winner of the 2012 Mary Reinhart Poetry Prize and 2012 Virginia Downs Poetry Prize, her work can be found or is forthcoming in HER KIND: Women in Literary Arts, YEW: A Journal of Innovative Writing and Images by Women, The Catbird Seat Blog at the Poetry and Literature Center in the Library of Congress, 1913: A Journal of Forms, ROAR Magazine: A Journal of the Literary Arts, Big Lucks, Counterexample Poetics: Assemblage of Experimental Artistry and Gentle Strength Quarterly.
Filed under: Nonfiction, Opinion, Poetry, Starring Local Feminists, Uncategorized
The following is a guest post by writer and HIV nurse, Melissa Schuppe:
Last week, I attended an evening writing workshop with a local college professor. I went out of a desire to get out of the house, to be with others who enjoy writing, and hopefully to jumpstart my own lagging efforts at getting words on the page. One of the themes of the class that caught my attention in particular was that of “literary silencing.” As women, what keeps us from writing our hearts out and feeling valued as writers by the rest of the world? We did an exercise where we figured out who would have been the last generation of women in our families to have lived without the right to vote. We then wrote a letter to that person. In my case, it would have been my great –grandmother. However, I observed, though my grandmother had the right to vote, she probably didn’t. She had seven children at home and couldn’t drive.
I wish I could have sat down with my instructor that night after the class ended. I would have poured another plastic cup of wine and told her about how I had inactivated my entire blog this past year, which I had been keeping since 2008. It was a sad and frustrated reaction to the negativity I was dealing with from my family regarding my writing. My children complained that they didn’t like being written about. My husband would read it and get thrown into a funk thinking that I didn’t love him anymore. All this from my attempts to capture the stuff of my life and make sense of it. I decided at that moment that it just wasn’t worth it. I retreated to my bedroom with my purple speckled composition book, and I wrote these words:
“I am growing more and more hesitant about putting my words out to people- in print or verbally. They always come out wrong, or they are misunderstood, or they hurt someone. As I grow older and I fight my ego down, my self-esteem kind of gets trampled along the way. I am afraid. Apologetic. Regretful- yes, very regretful.”
I have since restored a few of my blog posts, and occasionally add one (in fact, the last one I wrote touched on this exact subject), but it feels different now. I cannot write without thinking of others. And I realize now that I am being silenced.
I grew up in the early 70’s, with a working mother who managed to maintain the traditional female role but never forced it upon me. I have been very fortunate to have grown up in an environment filled with the unconditional love and support of my parents. I married a man who has always respected and supported my dreams and goals completely. I know that I am strong and that I have a voice. And yet- still I am silenced. I am silenced by the lack of approval of those around me. I am afraid to write about the man I fell for while married, and why. About the fact that I wish I had slept with a woman, just once, before settling down. About watching a baby die, or wishing my own child would die. These are deeply personal things, and it makes me feel so vulnerable to put them out there. Too vulnerable. Even if they might enrich the lives of those who read them – is it worth it?
I am also silenced by the clock. I work full time, in a job that requires me to be mentally alert and make decisions that affect peoples’ health. I cannot write at work, although I am known to take occasional notes. And then I come home and there are teenagers to look after and supper to make and a baseball game to get to. Or maybe I am drained from a day of working out of town, and I just want to crawl in bed with a book and a glass of wine.
I am silenced by my lack of privacy. I am rarely alone, and I must have privacy to write. I live in a busy household of five people. When my children were younger and I was at home with them, it was easy to put a movie on for them or dump out the Legos, and then retreat into my own world of writing for an hour. It is surprising to find my life so different now that my children are older and independent. Not only do I work outside the home, but when I am home with my children I find myself wanting to spend time connecting with them and hearing about their day. I know now how fleeting these last couple of years with them is. So I must make a choice and I make it. I close my journal. Yes, that one is worth it.
So I see two kinds of silencing at work in my life. The kind that comes from my circumstances and the kind that is a product of my own fear and insecurity. Some days, I wonder if can control either of them. For now, I vow to keep on writing, in whatever way I can. My life might look completely different in 5 years and the time to overcome these obstacles might present itself. The woman I took the class from is starting a 7 week class in her home. It’s on a terrible night for me. But I think maybe it will help me start the process of looking more closely at the issue of silencing and how it affects me as a woman, and as a writer. I think I’m going to take it.
Melissa Schuppe is an LPN specializing in HIV care. She was formerly a childbirth educator and student midwife. A self-taught, lifelong writer, her chapbook Wild, But Not Lost was published last summer by Finishing Line Press. What remains of her blog can be found a www.mfschuppe.blogspot.com.