Tag Archives: faith

Lit Life: Labor of Love & I Kissed Dating Goodbye

17 Aug

LaborOfLove

As I mentioned yesterday in my Citrus Coconut Drinks post, my alumnae book club recently discussed Moira Weigel‘s Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating. I’ve been a member of the book club for many years now, and I love the intellectual banter that arises for the wide variety of books we choose. We’ve read classics like J. D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye (see my book club theme party pics here) and we’ve read feminist texts such as Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In

As graduates of a women’s college — Scripps College in Claremont, California — we enjoy discussing womanhood, gender, and feminism. We talk a lot about our lives. We talk about what’s going on at campus. And we talk about politics. Through the course of a recent catch-up session, we began talking about dating, marriage, and motherhood. Our members span a thirty or forty year age range, with some people in their twenties and others retired. Some got married right out of college and juggle career and babies. Others have not gotten married and wonder about fertility and whether they will quit their jobs — their careers — if they have children.

There had recently been an article about Moira Weigel’s book in The New Yorker that discussed the complexities of dating. It addressed dating not as a self-help book might but in terms of its history and through a feminist lens. We decided to read it and see what we thought.

Through the course of our book club discussion, we discussed: Who pays? Is “going steady” and serial monogamy ruining chances for marriage? Why did some generations go out with a different person every weekend and think of dating more casually while today’s generation is more likely to be in committed relationships? Does this have to do with premarital sex? Slut shaming? Why is the biological clock something only women have to worry about? What happens to men’s sperm as they age? Is marriage warped by consumerism the same as dating is?

Here’s an excerpt from Weigel’s Labor of Love:

At a time of dramatic social and economic change, the ways the biological clock was talked about reinforced old ideas about gender difference. Indeed, it exaggerated them, creating a sense that male and female partners were even more different than traditionalists of the 1950s had imagined. More and more women were breaking into the previously male world of well paid work. Nonetheless, conversations about the biological clock suggested that reproduction was an exclusively female concern.

Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating and our discussion of it was fascinating and eye opening. In explaining dating’s history, Weigel talks about how men and women met and married through social events in a family home. There were no flowers. No emoji eggplants. No candlelit dinners at fancy restaurants. It was courtship. Dating began when people moved outside the home. The gender wage gap meant that women couldn’t afford their own meals out, so they had to rely on dates to pay for them. Women were sometimes accused by police of being prostitutes just because they accepted free meals from men! This then set up a power dynamic in that women had to rely on men if they wanted to go out and men were never sure if women liked them or just wanted a free meal. Not much has changed today. Women typically can pay their own way now, but there’s a lot of confusion about what chivalry is, what a date should consist of, what one should look for in their partner, and how to go from a monogamous relationship to a married relationship while still young enough to have children — if one so desires.

What’s interesting is that about the same time that Weigel’s book came out talking about how dating put women at a disadvantage, Joshua Harris has been in the news for taking a step back from his influential 1997 book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. Harris, a conservative Evangelical Christian, preached that instead of contemporary dating, singles should practice “courtship.” You might be familiar with that term from the Duggars, of 19 Kids and Counting fame, who are known for their strict rules against even hand-holding. Harris recently told NPR:

But I think one of the things that I’m changing in my own thinking is I just think people – myself included – it’s so easy to latch on to a formula. You know, you do these things and you’ll be great. You’ll be safe and you’ll be protected and you’ll be whatever.

And I just don’t think that’s the way life works. I don’t think that’s the way the life of faith works. And so when we try to overly control our own lives or overly control other people’s lives, I think we end up harming people. And I’m – I think that that’s part of the problem with my book.

It was interesting listening to discussions of both Moira Weigel’s book Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating and Joshua Harris’ book I Kissed Dating Goodbye: A New Attitude Toward Romance and Relationships around the same time. Their perspectives come from such vastly different vantage points, and yet both are critiquing the contemporary dating scene and discussing the idea of courtship. It seems that in the end, when it comes to dating today, men and women need to be upfront about their expectations and desires. Maybe this will scare some people off, but maybe it’s better to know that upfront anyway. Maybe there’s no formula for how relationships work. Maybe each person and each couple has to actually communicate and find out what works best for them.

This May Improve Your Mood about Your Social Media Presence

12 Aug

WereAllKerouacy02 copy

This is me reading at Ronnie Norpel‘s fantastic reading series Tract 187 Culture Clatch at The West End —/ photo by author Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond

Over the years, I’ve blogged about everything from twitter to pinterest, in the effort to help fellow writers think about their social media presence. Why? Because every conference and expo I’ve attended has drilled the need for social media into my head. Swirling around my brain, I hear platform, platform, platform.

But platform is about so much more than social media.

According to Rob Eagar’s article “Stop Grading an Author’s Social Media Presence” on Digital Book World, publishers are “misguided” in how they look at an author’s social media presence. He suggests what authors and publishers should focus on is:

  1. Email list and performance
  2. Monthly website visitors
  3. Speaking schedule or webinar participants
  4. Previous sales history

I’d highly, highly suggest reading the full article. What he says makes a lot of sense.

Does this mean we abandon social media?

By no means! It means social media is simply one tool in our toolbox. Okay, toolbox metaphors aren’t quite my lingo—nor my “brand”—but the point is that publishers, agents, librarians, and readers value the fact that an author uses social media, so we should maintain our online presence, but we should also look to diversify. Give a reading. Engage with people who leave comments. Send out a newsletter. Host a webinar. Maintain your backlist. Participate in a panel.

That’s what I’m doing at least. Or at least trying to do.

You can find the facebook page Paul Maher Jr. and I run for Burning Furiously Beautiful here.
My Twitter handle is @stephanieniko.
I pin about Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation and lit life and 1950s fashion and nighttime road trips and the Greek beauty and deer on Pinterest.
I write articles for other publications.
I am reading at Word Bookstore in Jersey City.
I am teaching a writing class at the Festival of Women Writers.
I am participating on a panel at BinderCon.
I am co-organizing the faith and writing conference called The Redeemed Writer: The Call and the Practice.

There’s so much more to writing than, well, writing. I enjoy it, though. It’s stretching me as a writer, as an entrepreneur, and as a person.

Kick Your Writing Off This Year at the Redeemer Writers Group

16 Jan

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Nana, Maurice, and I are leading a writers workshop at the Redeemer Offices (1359 Broadway, 4th Floor, Main Conference Room) here in New York on January 21, 2015, from 7-9pm. All are welcome to join us. Please bring one to two pages of your writing to share during the critiquing time. FMI.

Editor’s note: The date has been changed to January 21.

Stepping into 2015

5 Jan

I thought it might be worth reposting this as a reminder to myself.

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Last January, I posted these two articles I wrote for Burnside:::

Does God Laugh at Our Resolutions?

Christian New Year’s Resolutions

Reading them a year later, I wish that I had done so sooner and refocused myself.  I really love these two resolutions:::

Resolution:  Walk humbly with God.

Resolution:  Love others.

The notion of walking humbly with God is just so beautiful and peaceful.  When I visited my family over the holidays, we took a few walks together.  There was no agenda.  We simply walked leisurely around the neighborhood, taking in the bright pinks of the flowering trees and the azure sky as we chatted.  The walks were short — under half an hour — but that time we spent meandering cul-de-sacs and admiring palm trees made an impression on me.  It felt meaningful even though our conversations weren’t necessarily any more meaningful than any other conversations we had during our time together.  In New York City, I walk a lot, but I’m usually walking with an agenda — with a predetermined place to go and time to be there by — and am walking on my own against a crowd of strangers.  Walking with someone just to enjoy their company is a much different feeling.

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That was from 2012. A lot has changed since then. My sister moved out of the city, and my mother had a stroke, so we haven’t spent the past two Christmases together. I’ve spent a lot of time walking in the city by myself. But new people have also come into my life, and I’ve spent time walking with them, both literally and figuratively. Most importantly, many of the new people that have come into my life have been helping me in my walk with God.

This week I was reflecting on 2 Peter 1: 3-11:

3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to[c] his own glory and excellence,[d] by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue,[e] and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities[f] are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers,[g] be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

It seems like a good passage to continually focus on this year.

Remembering Juggling-Poet Robert Lax!

26 Sep

lax

Born in Olean, New York, Robert Lax studied poetry at Columbia, worked for The New Yorker, cofounded the Catholic publication Jubilee, joined the circus, spent thirty-five years on the Greek island of Patmos, and took up a type of meditation founded by Eknath Easwaran before returning to Olean just weeks before he passed away there on this day in 2000.

Lax never achieved the level of success that some of his colleagues did. He was friends with Columbia alum and Trappist monk Thomas Merton and the abstract expressionist Ad Reinhardt, both of whose work reached a wider audience. Yet early on in his career, Kerouac wrote to Lax, praising his work. The New York Times Book Review favorably reviewed Lax’s poetry book Circus of the Sun.

Lax’s work was collected by editor Jim Uebbing as Love had a Compass: Journals and Poetry. Here’s the overview from Barnes & Noble:

Every generation of poets seems to harbor its own hidden genius, one whose stature and brilliance come to light after his talent has already been achieved. The same drama of obscurity that attended the discovery of Emily Dickinson and Wallace Stevens is suggested by the career of Robert Lax. An expatriate American whose work to date—more than forty books—has been published mostly in Europe, this eighty-year-old poet built a following in this country among figures as widespread as E. E. Cummings, Jack Kerouac, and Sun Ra. The works in “Love Had a Compass” represent every stage of Lax’s development as a poet, from his early years in the 1910s as a staff writer for the “New Yorker” to his present life on the Greek island of Patmos. An inveterate wanderer, Lax’s own sense of himself as both exile and pilgrim is carefully evoked in his prose journals and informs the pages of the Marseille Diaries, published here for the first time. Together with the poems, they provide a portrait of one of the most striking and original poets of our age.

Here’s what Publisher’s Weekly said:

Lax is a somewhat legendary poet known primarily for two reasons: he traveled in a circle in the 1930s that included Thomas Merton, John Berryman, Robert Giroux and Ad Reinhardt; and he has lived and written on the Greek island of Patmos since the early 1960s. This combination of famous friendships and personal obscurity has added heat to his reputation but not much lighthis poetry has been obscured by his myth. This volume, however, will likely introduce Lax’s considerable poetic power to a wider audience. Uebbing’s introduction captures the essence of Lax’s work: “A simple response to a simple moment”; “much of his work is almost devoid of imagery.” Lax’s early poems are a mix of emotionality (“for we must seek/ by going down,/ down into the city/ for our song”) and formal experimentation (“black/ black/ white/ white/ black/ black/ white/ white”). But his finest work can be seen in the previously unpublished sequence of poems, Port City: The Marseille Diaries. Drawing on the people and places he encountered during an extended, down-and-out time in the city during the 1950s, in “Port City” Lax finally declares his mission: “I will sing you/ of the moments/ sing you/ of those/ possibly/ meaningless moments.”

Lax’s funeral was held at St. Bonaventure University. Excerpts of his poem were distributed.

Recap from My Reading at Jason Harrod’s Album Launch

2 Oct

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Do you mind if I tell you about my reading with Jason Harrod, even though it happened a few weeks ago? I know it’s waaaaay overdue but I still want to share it with you because it was a fun event and I was happy to see some of you there.

So I get to Space 38|39 a bit early and, as any bibliophile would do, I spend my time browsing the bookshelves. And look what I spy on the shelves! Do you see it? The original scroll version of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road! Providence, right?!

I actually read the same passage from the book I coauthored with Paul Maher Jr., Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” as the one I read with David Amram. Someone recorded it so I may have video in the future to show you from the reading, but in the meantime you can see me reading it with Amram here. I selected this particular passage because Jason had asked me to read something about wrestling with God, and here Paul and I tell about when Kerouac felt God wanted to have a few words with him and paid penance for watching a bullfight. It’s actually a pretty gruesome passage, so I always feel awkward reading it, but I think it’s an important passage. It speaks a lot to the way we try to reconcile our actions to God, and it demonstrates Kerouac’s softer, sensitive side.

I was invited to read a second piece and chose an old personal essay I had written. Jason joked with the audience that most of his songs were about God, girls, and the road, and it fit in perfectly with my writing. My first piece was about Kerouac’s road trip, but my second one was about my own road trip, where I met a woman who talked to me about God. The essay I read was called “Man Cannot Live on Bread Alone,” and it’s an early piece that Burnside Writers Collective published. You can read it here.

I made Jason play guitar as I read, and it was beautiful. I love collaborating with other people, and he’s a super talented musician. You can get Jason Harrod’s new album, Highliner, here.

Paul and Bets also performed, and they were so adorable. They’re this amazingly good-looking couple that look like they should be on TV, and they sang songs that transported us from the grime of New York City to the quaintness of the South. And you guys! They whistled! Oh it was too hipster cute.

Anyway, after the show this woman comes up to me, and starts saying her name and how I may not remember her but…. And I was like of course I remember you! It was a woman I used to work with and whom I actually met with on a regular basis right before the publishing division at the company shut down. She and another woman had been a  blessing on my life in dealing with work and life and the transition with the company, but whom over the course of the past few years I had lost contact with. It was such a surprise and so nice to see her. She had no idea when she came to Jason’s album release that I would even be there, so we were both surprised!

Anyway, New York City is a small world full of wonder. It was a great honor to get to read at Jason’s album release party and to have so many friends show up to support it and to run into a few I wasn’t even expecting to see!

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Burning Furiously Beautiful is now available as an ebook! You can download your copy here.

Redeemer Writers Meet Tonight: Fall Writers Workshop

23 Sep

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I’ll be co-leading a fall writers workshop today with my friends Nana, Maurice, and Jane. Here’s the info:

 

Fall Writers Workshop
Monday, September 23rd, 7PM
Redeemer Offices, 1359 Broadway, 4th Floor, Main Conference Room

The Redeemer Writers Group will be hosting a writing workshop for which we invite you to bring a short piece of writing to be read aloud in small groups for on the spot feedback.

It will be a new thing for us as a group and our hope is that it will not only bond us closer as writers as we “put ourselves out there,” but it will sharpen our respective crafts to the ultimate glory of God.

Clip: A Time to Give Up

5 Sep

Indelible-South-Pole-expedition-388-thumbPhoto of Robert Falcon Scott’s failed exploration via The Smithsonian‘s article “The Doomed South Pole Voyage’s Remaining Photographs,” which states: “Their return trip would become one of the most dismal failures in the annals of polar exploration.”

Burnside published my latest art post in the “A Time to…” series. It’s

A Time to Give Up

 

In case you missed the previous posts in the series. They are:

A Time to Search

A Time to Embrace

A Time to Refrain from Embracing

A Time to Gather Stones

A Time to Scatter Stones

A Time to Dance

A Time to Mourn

A Time to Laugh

A Time to Weep

A Time to Build

A Time to Tear Down

A Time to Plant and a Time to Uproot

Clip: A Time to Search

20 Aug

Burnside published my latest art post in the “A Time to…” series. It’s

A Time to Search

 

In case you missed the previous posts in the series. They are:

A Time to Embrace

A Time to Refrain from Embracing

A Time to Gather Stones

A Time to Scatter Stones

A Time to Dance

A Time to Mourn

A Time to Laugh

A Time to Weep

A Time to Build

A Time to Tear Down

A Time to Plant and a Time to Uproot

Fun Fact Friday: The First AOL Instant Message Was Sent by a Greek

26 Apr

ted

So here’s a fun fact I just read this week, via Yahoo: Ted Leonsis was the very first person to ever sent an AOL instant message.

If you don’t know who Ted Leonsis is here’s a quick run-down of just some of his achievements:

  • He was a senior AOL executive for 13 years
  • He is the co-CEO of Groupon
  • He is a founding member of the Revolution Growth Fund
  • He is the majority owner of the Washington Capitals, the Washington Mystics, and the Washington Wizards
  • He’s on the Board of Directors for American Express
  • He produced the award-winning documentary Nanking
  • He is the author of The Business of Happiness
  • He was born in Brooklyn, NY, and raised in Lowell, MA
  • He currently lives in Potomac, MD, at Marwood, previously owned by Franklin Roosevelt, Joseph P. Kennedy, and Al Gore
  • He mentors through the Hoop Dreams program

Successful people are often thought of as ruthless and privileged, but Ted Leonsis is a self-made millionaire who follows his heart. This is the promotional copy for The Business of Happiness:

When the plane he was on prepared for a crash landing, Ted Leonsis asked himself the crucial question, If today is my last day on earth—will I die happy?. . . and realized the answer was no. Despite having achieved massive business success—he was a self-made multi-millionaire at the age of twenty-seven—he realized he would die unfulfilled. He told God that if he survived, he would turn his life around, give back more than he took, and pursue happiness. After walking off that plane, he got to work.

And while I mentioned Nanking above, I should also point out that his other documentaries are equally about social justice. Kicking It is a documentary narrated by Colin Farrell about the issue of homelessness, and A Fighting Chance tells the motivational story of Kyle Maynard, a wrestler who was born without arms and legs.

Ted Leonsis and the stories he helps get to the public are examples that no matter what our circumstances we are all capable of achievement.