Seriously? This Is What Passes for Feminism in America

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Originally posted on TIME:

On Tuesday, I listened to Malala Yousafzai speak at the Forbes Under 30 Summit on her work fighting for girls’ education. Malala was shot in the head on October 9, 2012, by the Taliban for her outspoken views. She survived. But many girls don’t.

She has become a public figure, fighting for education for girls. Appropriately, she learned that she won the Nobel Peace Prize this year while in class. Her courage and grace are inspiring.

Today, I returned home to the so-called “war on women” in America. The latest antic? Apparel company FCKH8 posted a video of young girls dressed as princesses using the F-word and gesturing with their middle fingers to try to bring attention to sexism. It’s uncomfortable to watch—not in the sense that it causes viewers to rethink long-held beliefs, but because it’s a cheap ploy. Toward the end, two adults appear hawking “This is what…

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A really great way to spend a Saturday

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It’s the last weekend of the State Fair of Texas, and little Wednesday – a pitbull mix pup of about a year old that B. found at the train station one day – spent most of today hanging out at the DFW Rescue Me adoption booth behind the Chevy building.

I never knew how much love I could give to anyone, let alone a dog I only met a few months ago. But Wednesday has that way of stealing your heart and never letting go.

Interview: Vela Magazine Founder Sarah Menkedick on Women Writers and Sustainable Publishing

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Originally posted on Longreads Blog:

Cheri Lucas Rowlands | Longreads | Oct. 2 2014 | 10 minutes (2,399 words)

Three years ago, Sarah Menkedick launched Vela Magazine in response to the byline gender gap in the publishing industry, and to create a space that highlights excellent nonfiction written by women. Last week, Menkedick and her team of editors launched a Kickstarter campaign to grow Vela as a sustainable publication for high-quality, long-form nonfiction, to pay their contributors a competitive rate, and to continue to ensure that women writers are as recognized and read as their male counterparts. Menkedick chatted with Longreads about her own path as a writer, the writer’s decision to work for free, building a sustainable online publication, and the importance of featuring diverse voices in women’s nonfiction.

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Let’s talk about Vela’s origins. You created Vela in 2011 as a space for women writers in response to the byline gender gap — yet it’s…

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My Own Little Italy

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It’s been nearly two months now since I went to Sicily, Italy, for our team meetup (I’m a Happiness Engineer on the Store Team at Automattic, the division of the company whose twin purposes are to keep the WordPress.com Store running smoothly and to keep our Store clients happy), and I finally am getting around to posting the pics I took of that mad, 6-day working-and-eating bacchanalia.

As a reference point, we stayed at the Grand Hotel des Palmes in Palermo for the entire week, using it as our home base over the weekend while we ventured out on day trips to the historic site of Agrigento and the rustic fishing village of Cefalu. The hotel had a lot of…issues, many of them having to do with spotty wifi, which is verboten when your client is a cloud-based company that runs nearly a quarter of the world’s websites.

But in terms of location — just a fifteen-minute walk from the harbor and across the street from a charming little coffeehouse with a Breakfast-at-Tiffany’s theme (complete with a very large poster of Audrey Hepburn in that famous black dress — served as some compensation, and the expansive breakfast buffet, which included a seemingly endless supply of yummy cannoli, helped kick off each day on a high note. It was the first time I’d ever had cannoli ever, so it felt only fitting that I would finally indulge in that rich, melt-in-your-mouth dish in its native home.

(Note: These were all taken using my Nexus 4 camera and have yet to be edited. I just wanted them up and published!)

My latest favorite book (and inspiration)

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CT daily-rituals01.jpgI finished reading Mason Currey‘s Daily Rituals recently. It’s one of those books that you have to read with a highlighter in one hand and a hot cup of tea or coffee in the other. A notebook might be nice, too, but it’s not required.

I can’t remember how I first heard about this book (probably from Arts & Letters Daily, one of two websites I must read every single day if I’m going to feel complete before I tuck in at night — the other one being NPR.org), but I’m sure that when it happened, I must have immediately opened a browser tab and searched for it on Amazon. I went to several Barnes & Noble shops over the next few weeks, but not one of them had a copy. I guess I could have called each one rather than wasting so much time and gas traipsing from one to the other, but I like going to bookstores. Bookstores are my Tiffany’s — nothing bad could ever happen to you in there. You get rid of the mean reds, blues, violets, and blacks.

Except, of course, if you don’t find what you’re looking for, which was the case in my search for Currey’s book.

I wanted to give my local bookstore a chance to make me happy, especially after the disappearance of not one, but all of the brick-and-mortar bookstores in my town last year, but I finally gave in and ordered it from Amazon.com. Once I had it in my hands, I devoured it in two sittings.

It’s actually a pretty short, quick read. Currey collected interviews, essays, and vignettes about various creatives — over 200 of them — from Stephen King to Henri Matisse, Somerset Maugham to Twyla Tharp. You can dive in and read a one- or two-page written snapshot of how each creative professional worked, their routines and habits, even their tools. It’s not meant to be a little encyclopedia of artists, and Currey doesn’t really even bother explaining who these notable figures are. If you pay any attention at all to the worlds of arts and literature, you will likely at least have a passing familiarity with just about everyone featured in this book (Louise Bourgeois, Friedrich Schiller, Knut Hamsun, and Maira Kalman, are just a handful of folks mentioned whom I had to look up on Wikipedia), but really, it’s not really necessary.

Currey goes into intimate detail with many of his subjects, from Picasso’s habit of sleeping late and rising late as well, getting to his studio by 2pm to begin his work of the day; to Alexander Graham Bell’s own regimen of working around the clock, which he eventually had to modify to take his wife’s pregnancy into consideration. If you’re looking for techniques on how to be creative, or tips on how to call forth the muse when you’re stuck on a paragraph or a blank canvas, you’re better off looking elsewhere.

What I got instead, however, was a deep appreciation for the sacrifices artists must make in order to engage in the hard, unrelenting work of creating something: a book, a painting, a piece of music, or a piece of software. Austin-based writer, artist, and blogger Austin Kleon frequently laments the creative’s practice of sharing only finished work with the world and hiding all the messy, gut-wrenching process that made that work possible. Currey’s answer to that was this book, a wide-open door into what artists throughout history have had to do in order to make time and room for the act of creation in their lives. Whether it meant working feverishly around the margins of a day job, or a family’s demands, or crafting a rigid schedule of daily hours, these folks got it done.

I have it on my desk now as a reference, right next to a lot of history books and notebooks (and receipts, pens, random Post-Its, and folders), and dip into it frequently. I’m still working on a schedule that works for me and the many things I juggle with on a daily basis (home, work, dogs, volunteering, extended family needs, reading, and writing), and this book reminds me that others with far more demands on their time were able to carve out the space in their lives to make art.