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: Art, Interview, Nonfiction, Opinion, Politics, Post by: Sheryl R, Uncategorized
I first discovered Lili Almog’s work at the Brooklyn Museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, where her stunning images illuminated an intimate stillness in women’s faces and poses, each emotionally naked before the camera. When confronted by the images, I knew I had been invited into a conversation, a conversation about gender, about societal roles, about faith and culture. An energy pulsed from the stark, stripped view she captured through her lens.
Born in Israel, Lili Almog worked as a photojournalist before attending the School of Visual Arts, graduating in 1992. Her vision as an artist has taken her into people’s bedrooms; villages in Western China; Carmelite monasteries in Israel, Palestine, and the USA; and beyond. Increasingly, she stretches the boundaries of her photographic training to include drawing, sculpture, and video in her art. She has exhibited her work in galleries around the globe; published two monographs, Perfect Intimacy and The Other Half of the Sky; contributed to four books; and won awards. One curator says of Almog, “In times when the tides of aggression seem high on the horizon, an intimate seeking for the feminine without gender characterizes Lili Almog’s work.”
We invite you to share in this intimate conversation with Israeli artist, Lili Almog:
Sheryl: How would you define your role in the artist-subject-viewer relationship?
Lili: My intention as an artist is to enter an extremely private space without disrupting the delicate essence of communication between subject, their experience and the viewer. I wish to move beyond documentation, to preserve the private moment by transcending limits imposed by preconceived ideas, cultural stereotype and prejudice so that people may speak their stories to me.
Sheryl: You grew up in Israel and studied art at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. How did your childhood affect your art vision, which developed in art school?
Lili: My upbringing Israel was a creation of the powerful dynamic between women. I grew up surrounded by my mother, grandmother and sister; men left no permanent trace on our lives. Was this a kind of feminism? Perhaps in Israel it was, since the greater society surrounding us was very traditional male-centric values. Living in a home created by, and for, women, and we were always aware of the tensions between our family’s modern feminine values and the traditional Israeli society around us. My art reflects the female bonds that were so vividly present in my childhood, and the compelling and dynamic clash of traditionalism and modernism in the culture around me.
Sheryl: Who are some of your feminist influences?
Lili: I will have to start with my mom; my mother was a model of the modern feminist woman, with all the difficult choices she had to make in order to give me a foundation to be an independent and free thinker. But I admire so many women in so many areas of life: I respect and am influenced by Simone de Beauvoir’s theories of the “other gender.” Sarah Schenirer, an early orthodox Jewish pioneer of education for young women is someone I admire greatly because of the changes she made in religious Jewish society.
Sheryl: What personal factors do you feel inform your art?
Lili: My art focuses on creating representations of the feminine body and psyche. I try to capture the cultural and spiritual identity of women set in their private spaces. My images combine elements of history, social class, and personal experience in surroundings that have timely significance.
My subjects are often from remote cultures not experienced with mass media exposure. I utilize a variety of photographic means — portraiture, landscape, and video camera —as testimonial recorders, to emphasize the individuality of my subjects, their enduring dignity, their sense of self worth and their traditional values.
Sheryl: Many of your photos are poetic, stories onto themselves, and they invite interpretation. If there were one piece of which you’d like to tell the story, which one would it be? What is that story?
Lili: Here is a story about a nun who I photographed during my “Perfect Intimacy” project.
On the way to the monastery in Bethlehem we stopped for lunch. I observed a nun fixing her habit, with a fairly large cross made of brass sticking out of a little pocket in the center of her chest, under her scapula. I asked her if her cross had a special meaning and she told me that each sister has her own personal crucifix that she receives on the day of her Profession of Vows. Each nun receives her Profession Crucifix from the Prioress and always carries it next to her heart. This nun held her cross very gently and lovingly as she showed it to me. I was deeply moved by this and Somehow for me it became a symbol of their relationship with God From that point on, when I would photograph a sister I would ask her to show me her personal Cross.
Sheryl: You’ve travelled around the world and captured women in many different environments. Is there one culture that has affected you most?
Lili: In my project, “The Other Half of the Sky”, I created portraits of minority women in the countryside, small cities and villages in China with an emphasis on Muslim women in China. The Mosuo women are one minority that I encountered in my visits to China. They are one of the last matriarchal societies existing in our world. Geographical isolation enabled the Mosuo society to preserve their matriarchal way of life until the 1970s, when a road built into the mountainous area opened up the Mosuo culture to the outside world. In recent years, the traditions of the Mosuo society have been severely challenged by modernization, which has brought an invasion of tourists — and tourist dollars to the Mosuo region. Traditional practices are being abandoned for more financially lucrative opportunities, for example, farmers are leaving their fields for tour-guide jobs and women are charging money for dressing up tourists in traditional clothing. Some male tourists come to the region for sex. In the Lake Lugu red-light district, prostitutes from other parts of China dress up as Mosuo women and offer their services. The younger generation is starting to abandon tradition for all things modern; older Mosuo wonder how much longer their unique culture will survive. My work documented the Mosuo struggle to hold on to their unique matriarchal practices despite the erosion of their culture by modern society.
Sheryl: What are you working on currently?
Lili: My focus has shifted from the private space to more global space. Currently I am exploring the broad spectrum of changes in culture via landscape. I have been working on a project, “Beyond Presence and Absence”, which documents topographical change in a kibbutz in Israel due to a natural catastrophe. Although I live in New York, I personally identify with the intimate kibbutz community and the way it deals with change so differently than we do here. I am also documenting massive change in the American post-industrial landscape from a local topographical perspective. The visual questions I am exploring are boundless . . . and intrigue me.
Lili Almog is an Israeli-born artist based in New York whose work in photography and video investigates female identity. Her exhibition and book, The Other Half of the Sky, portray women in rural China. Beginning in 2006, Almog traveled to remote Chinese provinces to document women of diverse backgrounds and societal functions such as members of the Muslim minority, tile factory workers and farmers. She produced portraits in six distinct geographic sections: mountain, lake, factory, street, backyard and land. Recent solo exhibitions of her work include The Art Museum of Lexington, KY; the Emmanuel Valderdorff Galerie in Köln, Germany; and Andrea Meislin Gallery in New York.
Filed under: Nonfiction, Opinion, Politics, Starring Local Feminists, Women's Health
photo by Stephen Morton for The New York Times
As a feminist, I was interested in the Marine Corps’s January decision to delay the implementation of its testing standards when 55 percent of women failed to complete at least three pull-ups, a required component of the combat fitness test. This issue stirred up a lot of attention in military and feminist circles alike, as both groups wrestled–and continue to wrestle–with what it means that so many women failed in this endeavor.
The figure that is still on my mind, though, is the 45 percent of women who did accomplish the pull-up requirements. By focusing our attention on the women who failed, we have failed the women who succeeded in rising to the standard. Literally, by pulling themselves up to where they needed to be the required number of times, they thereby demonstrated their capability to serve alongside men in a war zone, where “scaling a wall, climbing up a rope, or lifting and carrying heavy munitions” are life-dependent tasks. That’s something to celebrate, but instead, the Marine Corps will deny them the chance to be considered equals to the men with whom they have in fact demonstrated physical equality.
I’m a feminist in the most basic sense: I believe in equal rights and equal opportunities for men and women alike. In short, I believe in equality for all people, period. As such, I support the presence of qualified women in the military, and I think barring women from service in combat zones is to ignore the long history of women who have always done so, with or without formal recognition of their contributions.
However, I do not support the idea that we should have women in a combat zone simply for the sake of having women in a combat zone. Just as the military screens for the strongest and most physically capable men, so also do I expect the military to screen for the strongest and most physically capable women. Actually, scratch that: What I expect is for the military to screen for the strongest and most physically capable people. Period.
The Marine Corps is in a particularly awkward position regarding the social and political push for a certain quota of women to be maintained in its ranks, because the Marine Corps is unique among military branches in its requirement that all Marines meet core infantry standards, not just those assigned to serve in the infantry. The Corps seems to hope it can achieve this socially and politically demanded quota by “equalizing physical standards to integrate women into combat jobs.”
But I worry that the quest for equality in the military is becoming more about achieving the appearance of equality, through socially and politically imposed quotas, than about upholding true equality of opportunity for everyone—male or female—to serve his or her country if he or she is qualified to do so. I think it is a mistake to hold back the women who have demonstrated their ability to meet the physical standards for serving in the Marine Corps simply because there aren’t enough of them (yet) to meet these superficial quotas.
Lowering the physical standards for women in a euphemistic effort to “equalize” the Corps’ gender distribution is no more equitable than banning women from combat zones. All infantry training programs in the military have a long history of high attrition rates; in fact, many would argue that, for the Marine Corps especially, these high attrition rates are a point of pride, a bragging right, a means of establishing the Corps’ image as physical and mental elites. They’re not known as the Few and the Proud for nothing.
Military service is not something men or women are entitled to. Even in times of conscription, physical requirements still limited eligibility to serve. For example, we did not let blind men fly airplanes in World War II, and I hope we would not have let blind women do so, either. Upper body strength is as important to infantry service as vision is to flight, and we do no one, male or female, any favors by diminishing the importance of physical standards for military service.
The issue, then, is not whether or not we have an appropriately equitable number of women serving in the military, but whether we are granting women equality in the opportunity to prove their qualifications for military service. And prove it many did. As 45 percent of recruits demonstrated in their successful execution of the combat fitness test, and as has been pointed out in reportage of this issue, it’s not impossible for women to do several pull ups.
By fixating on men and women as separate categories, we’re forgetting that first and foremost we are all people. Gender is just one of many factors that plays into an individual’s ability to serve successfully in the military. If sticking to its guns means the Marine Corps can’t attain whatever socially and politically desirable quota of women society would prefer, well, tough nuggets. As for those 45 percent of women who did achieve the physical standard, who can do three or more pull-ups, to those women I say: Ooh-rah. Get some, ladies. Get some.
Liz is fiction editor at So to Speak and a third-year fiction candidate in the MFA program at George Mason University, where she also teaches in the English department and serves as the assistant director in the Writing Center. Liz lives and writes in Annapolis, Maryland.
Filed under: Fiction, Interview, Opinion, Politics, Starring Local Feminists, Uncategorized
Fairy tales—a term that might not be considered “literary” in some circles, but So to Speak’s assistant editor Christina Elaine Collins will argue with you for days on end about the artistic, social, and various other values of fairy tales and of the importance of retelling them. In particular, she has a weakness—no, a strength!—for feminist fairy tale retellings, both reading and writing them. And with her publication of one such retelling in a new anthology from Tenebris Books—Willow, Weep No More—she offered to share her thoughts on what feminist fairy tale retellings should do and why she writes them.
Sheryl: It sounds like you’ve been interested in fairy tales for a long time. Can you tell us what your favorite fairy tale is, and your personal experience with fairy tales?
Christina: I can’t decide between The Twelve Brothers from the Brothers Grimm and The Little Mermaid from Hans Christian Andersen. These two tales have something in common: a mute heroine. That is, a heroine who must be silent to succeed. This fascinates me, and also bothers me. One could interpret her silence both literally and figuratively—and where there is silence, there is potential for feminist revision.
My experience with fairytales started off like many people’s. As a child I was exposed to the Disney animated classics (the sanitized versions of fairy tales). But I was also exposed to Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre TV series and the Grimm’s Fairy Tale Classics anime series from Nippon Animation, both from the 1980s, and these gave me a better taste of the original tales. And then in adolescence I had quite the obsession with reading fairytale retellings. When I studied abroad at the University of Oxford years later, I wrote several of my own retellings for a creative writing tutorial. Before I knew it, I was writing my senior thesis on mute women in folk tales, fairytales, and feminist revisions, as well as a novel that would retell one such tale. It’s safe to say that fairytales, along with feminism, have always been on my mind.
Sheryl: Tell us about your story “Glint of Gold,” which is included in Willow, Weep No More. Where did you draw your inspiration from, and what were you trying to achieve in your retelling?
Christina: “Glint of Gold” draws on two lesser-known tales: “The Twelve Huntsmen” and “The Golden Goose.” I was first inspired to write “Glint of Gold” when I discovered “The Twelve Huntsmen,” a tale from the Brothers Grimm that I’d never heard of before. Many people are familiar with the “femininity test” motif in fairy tales—The Princess and the Pea, for instance—and The Twelve Huntsmen includes this motif. But I was fascinated by all the feminist potential the tale holds. It is progressive—or at least it was in the nineteenth century when the Grimms published it—in that it shows women successfully behaving like men, proving they can be just like men, and acting in a role (hunter) that was traditionally considered inappropriate for women. Unfortunately, the tale fails to reach that feminist potential; the women are presented as though they would have fallen into the feminine stereotype if they had not been warned about the femininity tests in advance. Plus, the ending, in which the protagonist marries the king despite his ridiculous tests, negates much of the female empowerment that the tale initially offers. In my revision, I changed these two plot points. And my aim was not to portray the king as bad or evil—trading one gender bias for another solves nothing, in my opinion—but I wanted the protagonist to recognize how unreasonable and restricting his tests are. In the end, my goal is to offer liberating alternatives, following in the vein of admirable feminist fairy tale revisionists such as Emma Donoghue and Angela Carter. I hope that “Glint of Gold” can contribute to that crucial literary canon.
Sheryl: Speaking of Donoghue and Carter, what works would you recommend to StS readers looking to read literary feminist retellings?
Christina: Indeed, Kissing the Witch by Emma Donoghue and The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter are excellent places to start in terms of fiction. That is where I started. As for poetry, Anne Sexton’s Transformations is a must-read. I would also recommend Don’t Bet on the Prince: Contemporary Feminist Fairy Tales in North America and England, an excellent collection edited by Jack Zipes. And, of course, the other stories in Willow, Weep No More from Tenebris Books!
Christina Elaine Collins is a Pushcart Prize-nominated fiction writer, an MFA candidate at George Mason University, and So to Speak’s assistant editor. In addition to “Glint of Gold,” she has published other feminist fairy tale retellings in literary journals such as Jabberwock Review, Rose Red Review, Poiesis Review, and Cliterature Journal. She has been a writer-in-residence at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts as well as the Art Commune program in Armenia, and is represented by Kristin Nelson of the Nelson Literary Agency. You can find her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/CElaineCollins.
Filed under: Nonfiction, Opinion, Politics, Uncategorized, Women's Health
At the age of forty-five, my devotedly Catholic maternal grandmother gave birth to her thirteenth and final child, a girl. Less than a year later, after being obliged to marry my father because it was deemed the “right thing to do,” my seventeen-year-old mother gave birth to me, the first female grandchild. She returned to high school in the fall as a senior, but did not graduate with her class.
Four years later found me and my mom, divorcée and recent convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, in northern Utah—two thousand miles away from the small Pennsylvanian town of my birth, away from the gossip and the stares, both pitying and disapproving. A young returned LDS missionary caught Mom’s eye not long after our arrival, and three months later he became my step-dad.
At this time, members of the LDS church, which has a long and storied tradition of being led exclusively by old white men, accounted for almost four-fifths of the state population. Saying there is a church on every corner falls well below hyperbole—I’m sure they outnumber Starbucks locations in Washington.
With a background such as this, I have no business being a feminist. I didn’t even hear the word until I started college.
I remember sitting in Young Women’s (once you turn twelve, the church separates boys and girls into their own Sunday school classes) as a teen, listening to the teacher tell us that to enter the highest level of heaven—the Celestial kingdom—we needed to marry (preferably a returned missionary) and raise a family. I looked around at the other girls, smiling beatifically and nodding in unison, clutching their monographed Book of Mormon tote bags, and thought, What if I want something different? Having witnessed during visits the cyclonic chaos of my grandma’s modest brick house, its wooden floors pounded into submission by so many pairs of feet; heard repeatedly about all of the missed opportunities (e.g., a college education) and struggle endured by my mom because of early pregnancy and custody battles; and missed out on much of my own childhood taking care of three younger half-siblings, finding a husband and having children wasn’t exactly on my list of priorities.
Instead, after turning eighteen, I got the hell out of dodge and reversed the two-thousand mile trip to attend Penn State. I discarded organized religion like an ugly sweater bequeathed by a well-meaning relative that had never fit well to begin with. I drank tea and coffee and alcohol. I smoked sour apple-flavored hookah. I wore shirts that showed my shoulders and my cleavage. I had sex, way more than once. It was scary and exhilarating and nerve-wracking and mind-numbingly, toe-curlingly glorious. Above all, it was my choice.
I signed up for the Introduction to Women’s Studies course because I’d heard it was a tough class, headed by a formidable female professor, and I craved the challenge. Jackie, feisty and flaxen-haired, opened my mind and poured in the finely distilled words of Virginia Woolf, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Simone de Beauvoir, Betty Friedan, Kate Chopin, Audre Lorde, among countless others, and they swished and swirled in the depths of my consciousness, forever shifting the way I perceived and interacted with the world. I graduated college a year early with a minor in the subject.
More than exposing me to new and diverse female voices and perspectives, my Women’s Studies courses provided a lexicon for naming those phenomena on the periphery of my growing awareness and a framework through which to analyze and dissect their causes and effects, not only in my personal experience, but also in society at large. Patriarchy and objectification and oppression and double jeopardy and gender roles and marginalization became conversational focal points and were suddenly everywhere I looked, although they had always been there. Watch any beer commercial, and you’ll see what I mean.
Unfortunately, immersing myself in the world of feminist literature and discourse did not save me from falling victim to dysfunctional and emotionally abusive relationships in my early twenties, willfully trading my innate ethos for validation of my worth in even its smallest measurement. Creating boundaries in my relationships, romantic or otherwise, and expressing my truth could not be intellectualized and parceled in a pretty theory—they required action, a birthing into being, and continuous effort and practice.
I’m twenty-seven now. With no husband, no mortgage, and only two canine children, my life looks very different from my familial female role models’ lives. Based on social media and anecdotal evidence, I’m also fairly certain I’m the sole member of my high school class who isn’t married and actively procreating. I have a master’s degree. I’ve lived and traveled around the world on my own. I’ve walked across an entire country. This way of being is not better, or worse; it’s just different. And it’s mine.
It’s important to recognize, though, that my feminist ideology and freedom came with a price, paid by all the women who came before me, including my mom and grandma, who were held hostage to their respective time periods and places in society, buffeted by circumstance and cultural dogma. I realize now that the path toward feminism (which really should be termed “humanism”) involves remaining open to growth and connecting with how my decisions and actions make me feel—if they’re moving me away from, or bringing me closer to empowerment and the highest version of myself.
I’m still a big tea drinker, with the occasional cocktail or two at social gatherings. Hookah smoking now happens maybe once or twice a year. My closet has plenty of form-fitting V-necks because wearing them makes me feel confident and sensual. And casual sex partners dwindled to zero a couple years ago when I finally embraced that I’m just not a casual person, and I enjoy the act most when there are real feelings involved.
Someday, I might get married. I might get pregnant. I might get a cute little house with wooden floors that I’ll decorate with vintage book covers and treasured quotes and quirky items I’ve collected while traveling. Or I might not.
I have nothing to prove.
Kecianne Shick is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University’s MA in Writing program. An independent writer, editor, and budding adventurer, she currently works at City Weekly Newspaper in Salt Lake City, Utah. Her website, www.pickingthefig.com, is a growing compendium of travel stories, philosophical ponderings, and advice for taking action in one’s life.