Travel, Making Art, & Permission

Record Shop, Lancaster PADo you remember the Amtrak Writers’ Residency craze that was happening several months ago? It felt like everyone I knew was talking about it some capacity, most of them longingly. What could be done with weeks on a train to write one’s heart out? Artists wanted in on it too, calling for an artists’ residency.

I have a trip coming up myself, and in the midst of a busy 9 to 5, a booked-solid freelance schedule, and a recent move, I can’t wait for the mental break. I recently stumbled across a printable form to be filled out with self-imposed travel arts residency information. You fill out where you’re going, what you’ve created, who you’ve talked told about it, and a bunch of other information. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, but just enough that if I filled it out, I’d feel committed to creating something while traveling. It’s a really great idea and something I would totally do if I ever find the link again. (Have you seen it? Please tell me if you know what I’m talking about and where to find it!)

But perhaps the most interesting and powerful thing about the concept is that it gives you permission. It’s a promise you make to yourself (and maybe to your seatmate on your flight?) to be playfully productive during your explorations, but without the pressure of doing actual “work.”

So now I’m wondering what would happen if, even if I can’t find this form, I give myself permission to create my own traveling artist’s/writer’s residency. No excuses, no self-consciousness, no feeling like I have no business with creativity or that I’m not good enough. Just a pressure-free assignment to be where I am and document the journey.


I am a Contributor: We Are the Contributors Project

We Are the Contributors

Credit: We Are the Contributors

I’ve been so busy with starting my new job, working on contract projects, and trying to stay warm the past few weeks (perhaps the most difficult task of all here in Philly!), that I neglected to share a really wonderful project that I got to be a part of last month!

Melanie Biehle and Sandra Harris joined together to start We Are The Contributors, an online community and publication that exists to showcase art in all its forms and to highlight makers across different media.

I participated in the most recent project by contributing an essay. You can read that and see amazing work by 11 other people at We Are the Contributors.

It was a really valuable experience for me to have a low-stakes venue, supportive community, and deadline that forced me into creative writing again. I’ve had a very fraught relationship with writing (and, tangentially, any really creative work) for the past ten years, so it was a powerful opportunity for me to throw a piece of writing out into the world. Not only that, but I also met a new Philly friend in the process!

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Lunchtime Reads 11.4.13

Fall DahliasBringing Art Home: What is the fruit of creativity worth to us? We are totally blessed to have been gifted with tons of art for our wedding, but I understand the hesitation to spend money on art. I think many people probably focus on the practical necessities (especially those with Mennonite/Anabaptist backgrounds, and probably other specific backgrounds as well), but what if art is also a necessity? What is the worth and role of beauty, art, and creativity?

Get Specific about your dreams. Sure, you can say you want a more interesting and inspiring life, but what does that specifically look like? Kathleen reminds us that if we want to move in the direction of our dream job, dream life, or dream travels, we need to take action. Dreaming vaguely doesn’t get ish done. Getting specific does. This is definitely something I need to work on, though I’ve certainly improved over the past year.

Quilts, maps, history, and more. This is rad & makes me want to quilt more than ever. Pouring my love, time, and self into something so practical & beautiful (I clearly love the marriage of form and function, practicality and art — see above!), is super appealing to me. Alas, it’s also super time consuming. I can do it all, just not all at once. Learning to quilt will have to wait.

I’ll admit, I’m biased, but I’m incredibly proud of Chad for writing this post: Subconscious Life Lessons: My (White, Male) Narrative is More Important Than Yours. One of the things that I love about him is his willingness to accept criticism, improve, and evolve. He’s bravely and publicly taken time to reflect and examine his own privilege as a white male: “It’s awful to think but doubtlessly true that people who are not white or male learn the same lesson in our culture: That the white male narrative is the main story arc, and everyone else plays a supporting role.” But he points out that if those of us who aren’t part of the main white male story arc don’t speak up, the world is missing out on a multitude of stories and perspectives.

Likewise, Garann Means encourages non white non male humans to blog about code & give zero fucks. Her words, not mine, though I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment. I’ve struggled with this personally & will be thinking about venues to practice writing about code. Hesitating to write about code is doing me no favors, no matter how little experience I have. There’s still people who know less than I do and could learn from something I share.

What interesting things have you been reading ’round the interwebs lately? I want to know!

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Literary Love and Dance Party with APIARY

One of the very many organizations I work with is APIARY Magazine, where I’m a web editor. Our next print issue is about to launch, and we’re super excited.

With readings from APIARY authors, Philadelphia Poet Laureate Sonia Sanchez, music from Napolean Dolemite & The Signifyin’ Monks, and a dance party with DJ PHSH, tell me why you wouldn’t be at APIARY 6 launch party.


What: APIARY 6 Launch Party
Where: Underground Arts at 12th and Callowhill
When: June 8. Readings from 7 – 10 p.m., dance party from 10 – 2 a.m.
How much: $10
RSVP here

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Lunchtime Reads: 2.4.13

Last week was super busy with all good things. I’m excited to be able to share more about them in the near future. 

In the meantime, here’s some internet reads for your Monday lunch break. Enjoy!

Found this via my favorite internet girl

“Suffering is not a benchmark of hard work. Misery is not an indicator of importance.  Anxiety does not bequeath great discovery.  The grass might be greener on either side, but grass is growing everywhere. You do not have to search arduously to find grass.” I’d certainly do well to remember that.

A conversation between Cheryl Strayed and Elissa Bassist regarding the original advice letter that probably made The Rumpus a fortune in mug sales.

More writing advice from almost everyone you could hope to ask for writing advice.

Sarah Bessey. Again. For when we feel too much and think, “Who do you think you are?” of ourselves.

Erin Loechner ponders voyeurism, exhibitionism, art, and the internet.