Scatterbrains, Texas, Twitter, and Virtual Conferences

The continuing ridiculousness inside my mind...

I will likely keep writing these every Sunday. Feel free to reply if you wish.

Some things I spent a ridiculous amount of productive time thinking about this week:

“Ahhn-ray and scatterbrained” - one of my friends lives in Iowa, and she and I had a ridiculously long discussion about how “in the country” (this is what Texans and apparently Iowans call the Outback) people used to label their neighbors by personality type—and then forgive those faults, or at least dismiss or overlook them. Now we diagnose and assess—and still forgive those faults—but we unearth medical or socioeconomic reasons for doing so instead of weird, possibly-mean personality labels. (Kudos to you if you figured out she was saying ornery.)

“learning from differences” - You know how people say to kids ‘you can learn from your differences’? I think that we frequently should (and do) actually celebrate differences: if you have never gone to a friend or neighbor’s house and had dinner that was utterly common for them and way different for you, you’ve missed out. (Go make interesting friends.) But learn from your differences doesn’t mean to choose who is better then change to both become the same. It doesn’t imply that anyone’s opinion is right or wrong when they differ or that one of those opinions needs to change. (Not saying this is never the case, merely pointing out it is not always the case.) Too frequently we judge instead of learning. We could do both! You can learn from all kinds of abhorrent things: your own mistakes, historical calamities, awful people… Learning is making new, thoughtful connections in your own brain—judging is assigning moral value to that new idea.

This is a completely random photo from my desktop of the successful group-completion of a jigsaw puzzle featuring my daughter (many years ago) on a staircase that was in a house rented by 65 of my closest friends. Don’t judge.

Texas: Or rather, “Ain’t Texas” — one of my brothers (remember? I’m from Texas) sent me a link to this website selling Ain’t-Texas swag. Three weeks ago, I would have found this stuff hilarious and charming, but after all this isolationist energy crisis-during-the-mini-ice-storm in my home state, I started wondering when it stopped being funny, and whether it would be funny again once the crisis was averted.

Twitter: Here’s a topic switch: If you’ve been on Twitter a while, besides having carpal tunnel, have you noticed that ever since Twitter put the pop-up asking its users attempting to share articles to read it first, there have been a LOT fewer articles shared? Like a LOT fewer articles. So much so that I spent some time scrolling my feed and noticed the only things that people were posting were articles about what was being taken off Netflix this week.

Jay Fever wasn’t wrong: this article is super-cool, about artists taking down Nazis: with art (notice how this tank is being held up…performance art)

Virtual conferences. Usually at this time of year, I’m packing and preparing for panels at AWP (the Association of Writers and Writing Programs). It is held in a different city each year—last year I was in San Antonio, buying hand sanitizer because there were rumors that this weird virus might eventually spread to NYC and in California there were already shortages. This year, I’m not getting to go to Kansas City which is too bad because they have an incredibly gorgeous library. The conference organizers spent a huge amount of time determining that they would list all their events in Central Time, even though their offices are in the Eastern Time Zone. Yes, this is the sort of thing that organizers must fret over, even though our calendars automatically shift time zones to the one of our device. Anyway, I spent a ridiculous amount of time this week googling this city, discovering it has actual castles and other really neat archeology including an art museum with massive badminton birdies, and then I was sad that I will probably never make it to Kansas City, Missouri.

Yeah. So those are my random, ridiculous thoughts this week. If you liked this email, you might want to share it with some other people and maybe, who knows, actually start discussing something other than the usual things.

Stuff I have done this week:

FROM BEFORE: If you don’t know me all that well, here’s a recent print (with old photos!) interview that discusses one facet of my ridiculously busy life. If you like that and want to see me on video, I did this Facebook Live interview with Katherine R. Lewis who founded a Parenting Journalist Conference which is open to any writer professional or aspiring, whose nonfiction subject is parenting-related. (Coming up March 13-14.)


Crazy-busy week! The Pen Parentis Fellowship opened (so I’ll be fielding questions and pointing people to the answers on the website), and on Wednesday I’m hosting the Writer-Parent Discussion Room at AWP. I have no idea if I should expect my usual 50-60 guests or if it will be swamped — or empty! Or how to navigate my usual 50 people on a Zoom! Ah well, I will figure this out. I have until Wednesday. On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday I’ll be sitting on an open Zoom “at” the virtual AWP Bookfair to answer Pen Parentis questions. It is interesting that we can now host 12,000 person conferences online. This is the conference in case you’re curious.

Here’s the link to find out more about my book, about parenting and productivity if you’re curious.

Thanks for reading & have a great week.