Mother Knows Best: The Politics of White Christian Motherhood

*What disappears in the discussion of motherhood and faith is the relationship of both to race.*

In 1924, Robbie Gill, the Imperial Commander of the Women of the Ku Klux Klan (WKKK), gave a speech entitled “American Women” at the annual Klonvocation (Klan speak for convention) of the Ku Klux Klan (1915-1930). She proclaimed:

We women of America love you men of America….We will mother your children, share your sorrows, multiply your joys and assist you to prosper in the way of this world’s good. In return, we expect you to recognize our power for good over your lives, and in the nation….We pledge our power of motherhood to America….Our knees can be the altars of patriotism to them.

For Gill, just as mothers parented children, they could also parent the nation. Maternity functioned as a claim to authority in public spaces, and she let Klansmen know that women as mothers could change the nation for the better. Gill, however, was not satisfied to let men (even Klansmen) dictate national politics and policies. (more…)

Things you forget about making a book

*You forget how much of you is in the book. You forget your investment.*

Your book was published this week. Something you created made it out into the world, and your creative work with it is finished. (Book promotion is a different story.) There’s nothing more to write for this particular book, which makes you wistful, nostalgic even. Your book was not finished. And now, it is. One book complete, and another (and another) wait to be written. You try to remember what writing this particular book was like, but your memories have already dissipated. You realize how little you remember. You realize how much you’ve already forgotten. This thought stays with you awhile.

There’s so much you forget about making a book. There’s so little you remember.

Perhaps, there’s a reason for this forgetting. Perhaps, if you remembered everything required to write this book, you would run for the hills or the mountains or the forest or the streams instead of writing another book. Perhaps, if you remembered, you wouldn’t write the next book, the next essay, the next poem, the next paragraph, the next line, or the next word. If you remembered what making a book required, maybe you would give up on writing. Maybe you might not want to create anything. But, if you forget, maybe you can write another book because you’ve forgotten the agony of a book’s beginning and the harrowing and continuing doubts about its potential.

Here are the all of the things you forget about making a book once it’s published:

You forget that a book is made word by word, line by line, paragraph by paragraph, page by page, and chapter by chapter. You build a book piece by painstaking piece. Only you. It’s yours to build. It’s yours to protect and harbor. It’s yours, it’s yours, it’s yours(more…)

Crafting a pitch

*Show an editor what you can do.*

I receive a lot of pitches for guest submissions at Women in Higher Education, not as many as editors of larger publications, but enough that I see a variety of pitches, both good and not-so-good, from many different types of writers. WiHE mainly publishes articles from a regular group of writers, but I also accept guest submissions from journalists of higher ed, freelance writers, and practitioners within in higher ed. Now that I’m nine issues into my tenure as editor of WiHE and in my fourth year as a freelance writer, it’s become more and more clear that pitching is hard skill to master.

When a writer is pitching a potential article for a publication, it is a delicate balance of telling the editor what the article is about, why it matters for this particular publication, and why the writer is the most qualified to write said article before writing the whole darn articleA good pitch is able to do all of these things in a few paragraphs, which can seem pretty daunting. Pitching is still a craft that I’m learning. My pitches for potential articles still fall flat sometimes, and even some of my best pitches get rejected because they don’t quite fit what an editor is looking for at that exact moment for their publication. That’s how pitching works for all of us, even the most seasoned writers. Being able to craft a clear and concise pitch helps you get ahead by showing an editor that you are serious about the article you want to write.

So, here’s my advice on what kinds of pitches work, and don’t work, for me as an editor. I do offer these tips with the caveat that what might work for me might not work for other editors, but hopefully, this advice gives you an idea of what the process requires. (more…)

In-between projects

*I’m doing all of the parts of the business of being a writer that I don’t really like.*

I’ve been seriously grumpy lately. There are many reasons for my grumpiness, but one of the main culprits is that I haven’t been writing as much as I want to. Yes, I write a column and articles for Women in Higher Education. Yes, I wrote a lecture on the artifacts of white supremacy that I gave at the College of Charleston. Yes, I wrote up a statement about why you should all move to Florida like I did.

And yet, I feel like I’m still writing less than I want to.

What occurred to me today is that I’m writing less because I’m currently stuck in-between two projects. Months ago, I finished all the writing I had to complete for my forthcoming Grace Period (Killing the Buddha press), a collection of essays about my slow transition out of academia, the loss of dreams, and the long process of  learning how to manage where I happened to land. I’ve only been editing what needs to be edited. Now, the soon-to-be book is in the hands of my excellent copy editor while I worry about everything else that needs to be finished and my strategies for book promotion. (more…)

On Quitting

*Quitting is not inherently a failure.*

It all started with a parenting newsletter in my inbox. This particular newsletter focused upon what to do when your kids want to quit an activity, sport, or extracurricular. Like much of the advice on quitting, the newsletter cheerfully suggested that you shouldn’t let your child quit, even when their misery appeared in slumped shoulders and frowns on face. Instead, parents, you should encourage your child to stick around, in spite of their misery. Quitting, it seemed from the newsletter, could only be read as failure. And the implication was that parents surely don’t want their kids to be quitters or failures.

As I read the newsletter’s parenting advice, I got angrier and angrier. I promptly deleted the email and almost unsubscribed (is that quitting?). I couldn’t quite pinpoint what made me so angry. Then, it occurred to me that the assumptions about quitting and failure bothered me. The newsletter assumed that quitting was somehow bad and sticking around was somehow good. Sticking around signaled success, but quitting could only be failure. This is a terrible way to imagine quitting, but it’s a remarkably common one.

People equate failure with quitting all the time, and I really hate when they do because quitting isn’t inherently a failure. Quitting is but one choice out of many. We make many, many choices about our lives each day, but quitting is one choice that is consistently presented as a type of failure.

Claiming that quitting is only failure misses the fact that quitting can be so much more. Quitting has many possibilities. (more…)