my shiny new blog!

Just in time for BlogHer 2011, I have rolled out my new blog! Many thanks to Jamie and Nicole at Shatterboxx for this sweet new design; I think you’ll agree it’s quite easy on the eyes compared to the old one.

A few months ago, I asked you all about  making this change,  and you were all so supportive, and so thoroughly in favor, that I went for it. This new title seems more inclusive than “Mother Load,” more open to where I’d like to go with this site. At the same time, I’m not really going to change what I’m writing about at all. I will still write about:

  • going to the wackadoo side in what always begins as a sincere effort to be the best mother I can be
  • calling out the ridiculous standards of modern motherhood that make us all “like this”
  • and plenty of Seamus stories, since I wouldn’t have much to write about without him.
We have a couple more bumps to work out but I hope you all like the look of this half as much as I do. I’m at BlogHer in San Diego the next couple of days, and will return to this beautiful new space with what I’m sure will be renewed enthusiasm next week!

back to school? I say, back off

I had an essay printed in the national Macaroni Kid newsletter for August (I never miss it and neither should you). Here it is: 

Last week, as temperatures on the East Coast flirted with 100 for several days in a row, I headed to Gap Kids to grab a few more bathing suits for the kids. I found, to my shock, not a single swimsuit in the whole store. Children’s Place? Nope. Kmart? All gone. “We’re doing back-to-school now,” the saleswoman told me, waving to an entire wall of backpacks and pencil cases. I suggested that they might have had more luck selling shorts than parkas this week. She seemed unimpressed by my line of reasoning.

Preposterous off-season merchandising is nothing new; there’s always a full-court Christmas press long before the Halloween candy is gone. But this back-to-school thing is kind of a bummer—while I can pooh-pooh it as premature, a quick look at the calendar tells me that my kids’ summer vacation is already half-over. And I hate that.

I may sing a different tune by Labor Day, particularly if the Heat Miser doesn’t back off a bit with the temps, but I love summer vacation. I love the relaxed pace, the firefly-catching, the “lazy mornings” in jammies until we feel like getting dressed. I love the time off from the pell-mell pace of getting three kids out the door in time for the 8:07 a.m. bus, of shuttling them to their afternoons chock-full of activities. Most of all, I love the time off from homework—though it seems that that is a vacation my kids are not supposed to be having. My kindergartener and second-grader both came home with extensive summer reading lists, book reports to write, lists of educational board games for me to purchase and math-skill-honing websites to let my children visit (with my constant, vigilant presence, of course). With every good mid-June intention, I stuck those lists in the kitchen drawer for ease of reference. There they have remained, untouched, ever since. I didn’t think I was opposed to the idea of my kids doing daily times table drills—what else were they going to do for almost three full months?– but with half of that time now gone, it’s clear that I need to either get cracking, or embrace the slacking off.

And I’m just not sure which way to go. Just when I think “aw heck, kids need a summer!” I’ll have a friend ask me if I can recommend a reading tutor for her kindergartener, “just so he doesn’t fall behind,” and a tsunami of guilt will wash over me. So then I’ll announce over 6 pm mac and cheese that the evening’s schedule of playing Math is Awesome!™ will preclude any television-watching, and let’s just say I won’t get a supportive response from those gathered.

And frankly, I think I’m with the kids: I don’t want to play Math is Awesome!™ either. But one of these days, I’ll get them to read a book or three, and on a lazy August afternoon, I hereby promise to get out the flash cards. Just as soon as we get back from the beach.

my co-speaker for BlogHer ’11: Ann Imig

Today I’d like you to meet Ann Imig, who will be curating the “From Page to Stage” session with me at the BlogHer ’11 conference in San Diego this Friday. (My blood pressure just shot up from typing that: I have a fair bit to do before leaving Thursday morning.) Ann blogs at Ann’s Rants about her life as a self-titled “stay-at-home humorist” and “‘Sconnie Jewess.” 

She is also the creator of Listen to Your Mother, a show seen in five cities in 2011 (and coming soon to a city near you) featuring “live readings by local writers on the beauty, the beast, and the barely-rested of motherhood.” It’s amazing, and you can check out some of the performances here.

Ann was one of my first blogger-friend to in-real-life friends, and getting to know hilarious and thought-provoking women like her is why I’m so psyched to be heading to BlogHer this week. Read on to find out why Ann says rejections are like dirty gym clothes– and consider: are you ready to share your big idea with the world and hear, over and over again, the word “yes”?  

Hi, Ann. What inspired you to start blogging? What were some of the first blogs you read? How has blogging informed your other work?

Desperation inspired my blogging. Alone at home with a preschooler and baby, my Husband traveled constantly and I needed another outlet besides my loving but phone-weary friends and family. I found my first blogs through Amy of Bitchin’ Wives Club (bitchinwivesclub.com). Amy was the first person to comment on my blog that I didn’t know in real life, and bonus–she lived in my town. Following Amy’s cues I gradually found readers, and if you take a look at her following, I still have a lot to learn! Blogging re-connected me with the audience I didn’t realize how much I missed from my acting days. Blogging hasn’t just informed my work–the writing practice I established online plus the creative connections I’ve forged along the way directly resulted in my work today.

Listen to Your Mother is such an amazing idea and has already been such a success. What gave you the inspiration to create the show– and then to take it nationwide?

I always imagine reading my posts outloud–I guess the former actor in me always saw that as a goal–and I started thinking about a venue for my voice and voices of other women writers I knew. After seeing the BlogHer ’09 community Keynote (brainchild of Eden Kennedy) my wheels started spinning. In spring of 2010 I decided to gather some of my writer friends and hold auditions–see if anyone would show up. I wanted to connect the creative vitality happening in my online life with my community, and give Motherhood a voice other than FOR THE LOVE OF GOD PUT WUBZY ON MUTE.

My vision grew from a coffee shop-style open mic to a fully produced show at an 850 venue (barrymorelive.com) within 24 hours. I’ve never experienced such synchronicity with anything in my life, and I’ve pretty much only heard the word “yes” with LTYM since then. As soon as the 2010 video went online, bloggers started asking how they could bring LTYM to their town. With the help of my business development/strategic planning guru Deb Rox of 3 smart girlz (3smartgirlz.com) and a national media sponsorship from BlogHer , LTYM had a hugely successful beta launch in five cities for 2011. We’re planning for more cities in 2012.


How has being on the other side of the audition table for LTYM informed your writing and/or your performing of it? 

Even from 2010 to 2011 I think being on the casting side has changed my experience reading profoundly. I see how the most important thing is loving what you read–that passion of your story. The best writer can walk through the door, but if they don’t bring their passion I just tune out. I have a similar reaction if I feel people are performing for me instead of being themselves–I don’t want anything to come between the audience and the authenticity of the reader and their story.

Also I’m learning about editing–about taking out things that get in the way of your message. Sometimes even your prettiest pretty words and funniest funnies take you off track and the action comes to a halt. In live readings all you have is your voice and a mic–no sets or music or backhandsprings, so the story’s momentum is everything. For the same reason I prefer LTYM shows have no intermission. I don’t want to break the energy and journey for the audience.


What do you hope the attendees at  “From Page to Stage” at BlogHer this week will take away from our session? 

I hope they embrace the challenge of going outside of their comfort zone by reading to the group.  I hope they leave feeling energized–that is the goal for every LTYM event, to leave participants buzzing with a sense of shared experience and celebration. For the purposes of our workshop that shared experiences refers to a shared love of writing and a celebration of giving voice to our stories. Finally, I hope everyone leaves with this take away: make your own opportunities. Rejections are like sweaty gym clothes in your laundry–they are proof that you’re doing work toward meeting your goal. Use them as fuel to carry you to your own destination.


Do you think the LTYM open mic at BlogHer will be different from the other shows you’ve had so far– either because of the readers, or the audience, or both?

I think the Open Mic Salon will likely have the most passionate audience thus far about writing and sharing stories, because we are all bloggers and that is what we do. Because it is an open mic it won’t be as neatly produced as other LTYM shows, but I think that unpredictability leaves room for excitement and possibly even more authenticism. Also, we’ve tried to make it as inclusive as possible–read a motherhood piece, read a letter to your mother, or read something completely off the motherhood topic.


What’s next for you and for LYTM? 

Plenty! Right now I’m preparing for a logo and site re-design (no more playing graphic designer for me **collective sigh of relief**) Also, Deb and I are working on an application process for cities interested in hosting LTYM shows in 2012. We’ve spent the summer taking what we learned from the beta year and applying it to the LTYM process, and preparing pitch materials for 2012 sponsors. One day I look forward to handing LTYM over to any and every interested city, but we are just not there yet. I like to talk about a slow methodical process, and then my own mother shrieks with laughter and reminds me that I just filed my LLC in October.


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Thanks, Ann! I have no doubt that we will all be seeing a lot more of Listen to Your Mother, and soon.

Speaking of site redesigns… I’m putting the finishing touches on some big changes for this blog, and I hope to be going live with them in the next couple of days. What I write about won’t change, but it will sure look prettier. Hope you all like!