On Introverts and Blogging While Brown.

Words in an online space are particles, wafting out to who knows where, being cupped into eager palms or blown out of dismissive ones. When they land, are re-blogged, replanted, you know — long after whatever you wrote ceases to matter to you — that your words are growing in someone else’s heart, that they’ve planted themselves in someone’s memory. It isn’t often, though, that you get an opportunity to meet the people who’ve been tending your discarded gardens.

When I decided, just hours ago, to apply for a scholarship to this year’s Blogging While Brown, a networking and personal development conference to be held in New York on June 21 and 22, I knew this event would provide one of those rare glimpses. Blogging While Brown affords introverts whose social media relationships are as important as her analog ones to break a fourth wall of sorts and clap eyes on the folks whose words she reads and those who read hers.

Erika Nicole Kendall, founder of the uber-popular A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss, talks about her experience with meeting her blogging peers and allies last year. And the meet-and-greet aspect of Blogging While Brown is also an experience Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie explores in her latest novel, Americanah, where her heroine, Ifemelu, not only makes networking gains with her already thriving blog but also reconnects with a man she was certain she was meant to love. Adichie understands acutely the importance of writers making in-person connections with one another.

I, on the other hand, have always struggled with it. Two weeks ago, in fact, when I stood in the book signing line to meet Adichie at Washington, DC’s wonderful bookstore, Politics and Prose, I silently proffered my copy of her book when the time came, without even mentioning that I’ve frequently written for one of the very blogs she mentions by name in the book.

Introverts need networking as much as anyone, but it can be far more difficult for us than for most people, to network in spaces that aren’t designed for that purpose. I’ve written a bit about introverts and interaction for Clutch magazine back in 2012. I’ve since foundedĀ Beyond Baby Mamas, a new blog used to create a safe space for unmarried mothers of color to share their stories and to receive support and advocacy. Since I’ve grown it as much as I can without facilitating many in-person meetups or events, it’s important that I push myself to grow my online community by strengthening my offline one. Blogging While Brown will help with that and it will allow me to meet many of the black and brown “momoir” pioneers who’ve come before me.

The experience will also help me to grow my personal blog readership — which has seen a significant spike in the past two years. I’m in the process of adapting many of the posts here to book form, a process that has been demystified during BWB panels in previous years:

Of course, if I do win a Day Pass to this year’s BWB, I’ll write about my experience here and at BeyondBabyMamas.com. It’ll be my first step toward applying the techniques I’m sure to learn there to build grow even stronger communities for both sites.

Two Recent Pubs and an Upcoming Interview.

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Hopefully, prayerfully, tomorrow, I’ll have a new blog entry. Today, I just want to share three recent publications. Most of you may have already seen them, via Twitter shares. But for those who haven’t:

I’d also like to take this opportunity to welcome new blog subscribers. I hope you continue to enjoy the work I’m doing here and elsewhere.

Stacia in the Press: Freshly Pressed, The Atlantic, The Takeaway.

It’s been a crazy half-month. Last week, my blog entry, “How the 3/5ths Live” was featured on WordPress’s Freshly Pressed page, drawing more traffic and comments to this site over a four-day period than it’s seen in the five years it’s been around. If you’re a new blog subscriber via Freshly Pressed, welcome! I’m glad you’re here.

Fair warning: I’ll be moderating my comments rather closely from here on out. I appreciate and welcome all respectful and productive feedback. But I’m doggedly anti-troll.

After this site saw that sudden surge in activity, I was invited to write a piece on unmarried motherhood for The Atlantic. I know. Pretty amazing, yes? Still pinching myself over that. In addition to being a creative writer and adjunct English professor, I’m also the founder of Beyond Baby Mamas, an online support and advocacy community for single parents of color. If you know anyone who could benefit from joining our fledgling group, send them to our Facebook page, our Tumblr, our Twitter, and our website.

The Atlantic piece has now led to what’s going to happen tomorrow (March 27) morning: I’ll be joining a discussion on unmarried motherhood and why talking to unmarried mothers is a critical part of interrogating stats on single parenthood. The discussion takes place on The Takeaway, a co-production of WNYC Radio and Public Radio International, syndicated nationally. If you’d like to listen live, I’ll be on around 9:45 am. I’ll update this post with an embedded audio clip, should one become available.

UPDATED: I can’t figure out how to embed the audio player, but here’s a link to the audio.

If you came to this blog for lyrical, moving writing, fear not. The next post will be a return to form. Periodically, I do update readers on my writerly news, publications, and developments. But this is, first and foremost, a creative nonfiction (and fiction/poetry) blog. That it will remain.

Beyond Baby Mamas: Take a Look.

You wait. You let yourself be carried off with the current. Slacken. Allow it to deliver you back to a shore. It will, when it wills. You open your ears to the cries of others. Seek exits; seek havens. Tell them not to twist; when they’re too weak to tread, surrender. You draw them maps and pray that the course you’ve charted is one that will not change. Be the landmark, the lighthouse, the buoy. Be whatever you can.

I’ve a litany of commands, of guidance. It comes to me in rations, like the drip of an IV. And it repeats. Be the landmark, the lighthouse, the buoy. Be whatever you can.

It’s been exactly two weeks since I launched my new online initiative for single mothers of color, Beyond Baby Mamas. It was just an idea, like the many that flash in my mind every day. But with every day that I move forward in executing it, I realize that its potential is far more vast than I imagined. Even that realization seems inadequate, as I’m fairly certain that I’m not yet aware of all the possibilities for mining that potential.

Here’s what we’ve done so far:

  • Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr pages? Done.
  • YouTube channel? Created.
  • Official website? Formed.
  • Weekly webcasts? Two recorded, one on the way this week.
  • Promotion? Here’s where we need to catch up. So far, we’re relying on word of mouth (and web, so to speak). Our FB page has 81 likes. We have 71 Twitter followers. Six people have subscribed to our YouTube channel, thirteen to our Tumblr. It’s a process.

After this post, you won’t see much about Beyond Baby Mamas posted on this blog. I want to distinguish that online space from this one, so if you want to be kept abreast of what’s up over there, subscribe or follow to that blog. I just want to make sure that anyone and everyone who subscribes to or reads this blog on a regular basis is aware of BBM’s various online presences. Are you connected with us yet? Do you know anyone else who should be? I’d love it if you joined us or let someone else know. Direct anyone who needs to know more about who I am to my BBM bio or more about the initiative itself to our frequently asked questions.

Thanks to everyone who’s helped get the word out, participated in panels, and been generally encouraging. It’s helped so, so much.

Statistics Are Not Our Stories.

I don’t know why other women do it. I can’t say what keeps them out of the pharmacy within 120 hours of conception. I don’t know why they don’t choose the clinic? It’s unclear what makes them believe: in the strength of their relationships, in their capacity for quick maturation or increased earning potential, in the rightness of what they feel taking root, that warm fleshy oblong, unformed but undeniable. To be sure, there are many unmarried mothers of color, but I cannot imagine the myriad narratives that motivated their choice. To speculate would be more than presumptuous; it would be damaging.

The numbers don’t provide that insight. Whenever I hear new ones, issued in press releases, then disseminated like handfuls of grain, before spreading unchecked like weeds, like root rot, I imagine the underpaid census-takers, the overtaxed academics being pressured to publish work on issues that go under-explored, the grad students who need to lend their theses gravitas. Did they ask the right questions? Were we breath and bone to them or just data to add to their infographics?

Could they hear our exhaustion as we answered? Yes, single. Yes, black. Yes, 30-35. Yes, under 18. One child, three. Two fathers, both involved. One father, an apparition. Did they know we could already sense the collective tsk-tsking of a nation, as they scribbled their survey findings into the blank spaces of forms on clipboards?

Does it matter what they know? Is it significant that we love our daughters or sons more than each other, that we pool our paychecks to protect them from the blight of poverty, if not the category of it, and that most days we succeed? Would it skew the data if they realized that when we go to bed at 2 am, with a near-primal ache in our joints and a day’s worth of worry to quell, we don’t put ourselves to sleep by contemplating bygone outcomes which do not include having children?

Do they know we do not deny that there are women who find ways to cull more than a fair share of the assistance that government subsidies offer? Do they understand how reticent we are to declare that those women “make us look bad”–or that they are themselves “bad?” We do not know them. We do not know their stories.

Do they wonder at all what the thousands of families who qualify for TANF but decline it do to stretch their earnings? Do they get how injurious the very thought of being labeled can be, how criticism can haunt so deeply it can cause us to refuse the food in an open palm, even when we’re truly hungry?

Have they asked how often we hear, “Well, that’s your problem.” and “You shouldn’t done xyz if you didn’t want to hear about it?” Do they know who-all has offered unsolicited, retrospective advice about our bodies and about the legitimacy of our love? “You should’ve closed your legs. You should’ve gotten confirmation of his commitment with a ring and a signature.”

These are the longer narratives. They cannot be fully considered in 140 characters. When they are truncated, there is too much lost in translation–though, if we’re honest, they’re often delivered in a dialect few people have interest in learning.

We still try to communicate. We are loose-lipped about our struggles. We co-opt others’ conclusions. We internalize the criticism and publicly concede that the dynamics of our families are, indeed, unfortunate. When they knock with their clipboards, we still open our doors.

But their numbers are not our stories. We are our stories. And only in telling them fully can we change the condition of our communities. Only in offering each other a bit of the light we’ve found on the roads down which we travel can we see all the newly paved routes to better destinations.

It is through conversation, not calculation or criticism, that we learn to identify with one another.

Join me tonight, as I begin that conversation. Each week, I’ll be hosting a live webcast called Beyond Baby Mamas: Conversations with Single Mothers of Color, which will feature a different invited guest panel and field viewers questions and comments. Our premiere episode will begin live-streaming on Google Hangouts On Air at 6:30 PM EST. We’ll be talking statistics, stereotypes, and personal stories. Subscribe to our YouTube channel to catch any conversations you miss. And join our online community on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.

Beyond Baby Mamas: Conversations with Single Mothers of Color.

This Thursday marks the premiere of my brand new, experimental web broadcast, Beyond Baby Mamas: Conversations with Single Mothers of Color.

Beyond Baby Mamas will aim to address some of the issues I’ve discussed on my blog over the past two years, from building a child-rearing “village” to tackling different stages of child development to challenging commonly held assumptions about what it means to be a single mother of color in America. Each week, I’ll welcome a new panel of women of various backgrounds and experiences to share their opinions, expertise, and/or personal stories. Every broadcast will focus on a different topic. This week’s theme is Statistics Are Not Our Stories: Confronting Public Perceptions of Minority Single Motherhood.

The discussion will begin LIVE on Thursday, September 20 at 6:30pm EST. Join us then at Google Hangouts On Air. In the meantime, I’d love it if you bookmarked this page, joined our Facebook community, and spread the word! We’ll be taking on-air questions via Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook. And if you’d like to be considered as a guest on an upcoming panel, contact me at stacialbrown at gmail dot com for more information.