The Sea Queen is coming out in the US in less than a week (August 14)! Do you have your copy pre-ordered yet?
It’s also been getting some good advance reviews:
Advance review from Booklist:
The “sea queen” is Svanhild Eysteinsdotter, a strong-willed woman with a difficult path ahead. In ninth century Norway, six years after the events in The Half-Drowned King (2017), Svanhild, married to the raider Solvi, loves her seafaring life but knows her intellectual son’s needs must come first. This leads to rising marital strife, while Solvi pursues revenge against Harald, Norway’s king. He’s not alone. Throughout the country and elsewhere, disaffected exiles and noblemen resentful of Harald’s taxes rise up against him. Svanhild’s brother, Ragnvald, king of Sogn, is loyal to Harald, and as rebel groups join forces, helping Harald achieve a united Norway becomes increasingly dangerous. Although less action- oriented than the first in the Golden Wolf Saga, the second captures the era’s violent atmosphere, where blood feuds last generations, and an early incident of stark brutality long haunts Ragnvald. Through her multifaceted characters, Hartsuyker adeptly evokes female alliances, the complications of love and passion, and vengeance both terrible and triumphant as she effectively juggles many subplots and settings, from Norway’s harsh, picturesque coast to sulfurous Iceland and Dublin’s muddy harbor.—Sarah Johnson
I’m doing a launch party on August 20 at Politics and Prose at The Wharf in Washington, DC. If you can make it here is the FB invite. But no tour for this one–moving was enough!
I’ve been living in the Seacoast area of New Hampshire for a little more than three weeks now. In that time, I unpacked all my boxes, shopped for the zillion things a house needs and an apartment does not, and oh yeah, finished a draft of The Golden Wolf. I’m letting it sit for a week before I go back to it, and do one more draft before sending it to my editors.
In some ways, three weeks seems like a long time, but of course, it’s almost no time. I thought I would do a long post about what it’s been like moving here and settling in here, but so much of it is very prosaic. It has been very hot. Also, New Hampshire gets some very violent thunderstorms, including some hail one day. Luckily no tornadoes, though there was a warning one day.
I’m very happy we moved here, and I’ve been finding ways to get more involved in the community, through volunteering and making other connections. I feel like I want to do everything right away, but I also know how easy it is to take on too much.
I’ve been re-reading the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder since I got here. They were extremely formative books for me, and I wanted to be a pioneer girl in the 1860s when I was in elementary school But I think I’m enjoying them now because those books are all about moving and making a home, and that’s what I’m thinking a lot about these days. And as much work as taking care of a house is, compared with an apartment, it’s less work than building a new house from scratch on the prairie every few years. That’s always good to remember.
It’s hard to know what news to talk about first, but please be sure to scroll down to the end, since I may be burying the lead by waiting until then to tell you I am leaving the state where I have spent my entirely life until now.
With new episodes coming out on the 15th (the IDES) of each month. We will definitely be doing something Julius Caesar-themed in March.
We are also planning on doing guest episodes, with just one or two of the hosts, between the monthly releases, so if you’re interested, please get in touch at thatbonkersbook at gmail dot com.
The paperback of The Half-Drowned King came out on June 26, 2018 in the US. It’s going to be in some Hudson Booksellers in airports, which is very exciting for me. If you see it in the wild, I’d love to see a picture of you with it!
It will also be in Barnes and Nobles all over the country, and in many independent bookstores, like Boswell Book Company in Milwaukee, WI, which looks like a huge and wonderful bookstore, and I can’t wait to visit.
My parents moved me to Ithaca, NY when I was less than two years old. I grew up there, and then went to Cornell University for college. I did a few out of state internships, but then moved to New York City after college, and stayed there….UNTIL NOW.
Yes, that’s right. Just yesterday my husband and I closed on a lovely house in New Hampshire, and we are moving in just a few weeks. I can’t wait to get back to country living, and to try living in a whole new state. I’ll be closer to Boston than New York, but will still visit both frequently to get my city fix.
For now, though, I’m dreaming of gardening and hiking and even shoveling snow.
The first thing I learned at Tucson Festival of Books is that I’ve been spelling “Tucson” wrong all my life. Why would you put the “C” first? What is with that?
Tucson Festival of Books is a huge, free book festival held on the University of Arizona campus. This year it drew 130,000 people and had about 1600 volunteers helping run it. There is a big science component, and also lots of events geared toward kids.
I saw authors like R. L. Stine wandering around, and I got to fangirl Janet Fitch, one of my favorite writers.
I was the author guest at an author dinner, where we had the world’s cutest desert:
I was on three panels, two about historical fiction, and one about being a debut author, and led a workshop ambitiously titled, “How to Turn an Idea into a Novel: Linking Theme, Plot, and Character”. Most of my events were full and turning people away.
I love being on panels, and these were very well-run, with interesting questions from the moderator. I think panels are more interesting for the audience than a single author doing a talk and a reading, and expose audience to more than one author at a time.
It’s also truly wonderful to meet other working authors. Many of my classmates are now published, and my teachers in my MFA program were all published authors, but I feel like I can never meet enough. It’s good to see other writers at different stages of their careers, having different struggles. The flight home was filled with authors and we were still talking about the festival and writing, even though we were tired and nearly talked out.
One of the great things about being on panels is hearing about other writers’ processes. Some of the historical fiction writers I met don’t do much research until after the first draft is done–which makes sense since they were writing about recent history and mostly need to spot check. Some writers outline, some don’t. Some, like me, do some outlining, some furious writing, and some more outlining. But most writers, especially writers of fiction, share an interest in other people, their stories, and a certain kind of thoughtfulness about the world and how it works.
My workshop was very well-attended, turning away nearly as many as people who made it in–and I wished it could have been twice as long. So many people who want to write novels! Some writers complain about meeting people who talk about their own writing ambitions, and I understand that since many new writers don’t yet appreciate how much work it is to finish a novel, but I also think that writers can come from anywhere.
I do also like to remind people that:
The Half-Drowned King had 14 drafts before it went to copy editing. The Sea Queen had 8. Writing a novel-length manuscript is only the very first step.
Don’t worry about finding an agent or a publisher until you have a manuscript that is as good as you can possibly make it.
It takes a combination of love of story, commitment, and talent, and different writers have different levels of each. Some people publish their first novel in their seventies. I’m happier to meet people of all ages with stories they want to tell than people who have suppressed those dreams. And writing is something people can take up at any age.
I’m still riding a high from this festival, and I hope to return next year. If you are in the area of Tucson (spelled it right this time!) or want to visit the southwest, you could do a lot worse than to time it around March and this wonderful event.
I received my bound galleys of The Sea Queen this week. These are uncorrected, meaning while they are copy-edited, they don’t have the final 100+ changes I made to the galleys. They are sent to reviewers and book buyers. It’s always exciting to get my hands on a bound copy of one of my books, even though it’s not the official, beautiful hardcover version.
In other news, I was away in Thailand and Vietnam for ten days, and I’m only just starting to recover from jet lag. Thailand is 12 hours off from New York, which is the absolute hardest time change to make. Night is day, up is down. Not only is my sleep off, but I’m hungry at the wrong times of day, ravenous in the middle of the night, but not hungry for my dinner.
Still, it was a wonderful trip. I had some time on my own in Bangkok while my husband went to a conference. I got a lot of writing done, ate delicious food, Thai and otherwise, and visited the Jim Thompson house.
After the conference was over, we flew up to Chiang Mai to visit with some friends who live there. Chiang Mai is a wonderful laid back city. In weather, and in parts of the culture, it seems like a Thai Southern California with aspects of Brooklyn.
I think one of the reasons I had such a nice time on this trip is that I didn’t go in with any expectations. I wanted to see friends and get writing done. I saw some sights of Bangkok, but I didn’t have a checklist of things I needed to see. I had my trip, not a trip out of some guidebooks. A lot of what I like about travel is not about seeing particular sights, but just about being in a place. Because of that, it was fun just to go to a Bangkok food court, or listen to the conversation at a friend’s dinner party–to experience my time rather than rush on to the next thing.
I think I don’t do that enough in my life in NYC–my days are always about checklists of things to get done, and appointments to keep. I rarely sit in a coffee shop, or in a park and simply experience life. I listen to podcasts to drown out life, and when I don’t I get annoyed at my fellow NYers.
Part of this is the difference between vacation brain and work brain, but part of this is the location. I went to a fitness park in Chiang Mai to go for a run and get some other exercise in. Here in New York I am not a fast runner, but at that park, I was one of the fastest. Everyone else was just trotting along, talking with friends, keeping an easy pace. It made me feel silly about my constant pushing myself to be better, faster, stronger, more productive.
It was also nice to be 12 hours off from the US news. Even when I did go on Twitter, it was pretty quiet. Not many people update between 3am and 6am–my afternoon there.
For reasons too convoluted to go into, we had to leave from Hanoi, so first we had to get to Hanoi, which was somewhat challenging. My knitting needles were not allowed to go in my carry-on on leaving Chiang Mai (a first!) and then once we got to Hanoi, there was a long visa and immigration line. Then we only had the morning in Hanoi before an evening flight to begin our journey back to NYC.
But even that was nice. The weather was chilly in Hanoi, making a bowl of Pho that much more attractive. We ate Pho and Bahn Mi and random fried street food. I had some amazing Vietnamese coffee (it’s incredibly thick, and then they put sweetened condensed milk in it–delicious). We went to a temple, and put our heads in random shops. By the time we had to leave, I definitely wished we had more time in Hanoi, but I also felt like I’d gotten a nice little taste of the city.
Here is the second in my series of Thursday “lifestyle” posts. As we get ready to put the apartment on the market again, most of our cookbooks have to go into storage so that the bookshelves don’t look too “heavy” or “intimidating” per our realtor. This means keeping out only my essential cookbooks, so I thought I’d highlight a few.
Tender by Nigel Slater
I have and adore several of Nigel Slater’s cookbooks. Appetite is another one I highly recommend if you are a beginning cook, and also Real Food, from which I got one of my favorite fast recipes. But Tender is the one I open the most often these days. It goes through a long list of vegetables, from A to Z, and gives many recipes and serving ideas.
Like many of Slater’s books, it is as much of an idea book as a recipe book, with helpful serving suggestions as well as written-out recipes. The recipes are vegetable-centric but not all vegetarian. I love ordering a CSA box and using this book to figure out what to do with the haul.
Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi
I love Middle Eastern food, and Jerusalem is the crossroads of many cultures. Though with all of Ottolenghi’s recipes I like to use about a quarter of the hot peppers, and half the oil, that he calls for, the combinations of flavors are wonderful, and many of them are new to me.
I make several of the different lamb meatballs regularly. The barley risotto is in frequent rotation, and the desserts have been unexpected and wonderful. Like Tender above, he uses many fresh vegetables, and huge handfuls of herbs, making these dishes very fresh-tasting.
The Best Recipeby America’s Test Kitchen
It’s not sexy, but you need one good reference cookbook. Once upon a time it was The Joy of Cooking, but now it’s The Best Recipe. America’s Test Kitchen exhaustively tests everything, and while I sometimes find their recipes to be a bit fussy to make and plain to eat, it is an excellent reference for the basics.
Their Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe cannot be improved upon. Their Flourless Chocolate Cake recipe is divine. The Caesar Salad recipe is perfection. If you want to eat a standard American recipe, this is the place to start. I also love their baking book, Italian book, and Soups and Stews book.
There have been a lot of twitter threads going around about how schools fail gifted children, and how gifted children can grow up to be adults who don’t have a lot of the skills they need because they were not taught much in school, but always told how smart they were.
I went to the excellent public schools in Ithaca, New York, and had parents who praised me more for hard work than for being smart. My high school honors and AP track was very challenging, and I excelled, but not without a lot of hard work. When I got to college, even Cornell’s Engineering School, I did not have to work as hard as I did in high school–at least not until I also started working 30 hours a week on top of a full course load. (High school and college were not super fun for me, but I did learn to work hard.)
In school I learned to think of myself as smart, yes, but I knew I wouldn’t succeed without work.
But where school and being tracked as “gifted” failed me, especially when I became an adult, was in teaching me how to fail. I hated failing, refused to fail, felt as though my reality was falling apart if I did fail in any way. And not only that, but I became convinced–and I still struggle with this to some degree–that whatever success I achieved was the bare minimum of acceptability. Tomorrow I needed to be better, and if I wasn’t better every single day, I was failing, and therefore worthless.
This is the very worst mindset for writing. Writing is never perfect. I spent my 20s doing lots of writing that was never meant to see more than a small audience, and learning how to turn off my internal editor when rough drafting. I learned to write rough drafts fast without looking back until later. It was very hard. I still have to read my early drafts with my hands over my eyes, sighing heavily the whole time, because it feels very Not Good.
I reached a real low point with my perfectionism in my late 20s. I had a lot going right for me, but I was depressed and anxious and full of self-hatred all the time. Therapy definitely helped, but so did learning to write. I also started doing Ashtanga Yoga, which gave me something to try and fail at over and over again. Later, I started Crossfit, and I cried about my failures at least once a week and dwelled on them after every single work out. But eventually I learned to be okay with failing, to pick and aim for little, achievable successes, to enjoy doing something I’m not very good at and will never be great at.
It was also the time I became a baseball fan, which is the perfect sport for understanding failure. So much of baseball never seems to come to anything: at bats that become strike outs, players who get on base and never complete a run. But at the end there is beauty and narrative and success. A very good batter only gets a hit 30% of the time. That’s an abject failure by any academic measure, but not in real life.
Without those early drafts that feel like failures, the finished work can never emerge. And without trying and failing at the various athletic things I’ve done, I wouldn’t get better and find the joy in them.
Most importantly, I got used to trying with the possibility that I might fail, but knowing that failure is not the end, and unless you walk away and don’t learn anything from it, it’s not even really a failure. Today I write many things I end up cutting from my novels, but in writing them, I discover where the scene does not go, the words that should not be there, and that points me to the words that should.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the year when I published my first novel, and it was the year when I lost and found faith in my fellow citizens over and over again. 2016 and 2017 were bad for a lot of people. In 2016 we had the worst presidential election season of my lifetime, and the worst election. In 2017 we saw the consequences of that election play out. Not since I went through a pretty serious depressed period have I been as hopeless as I was in late 2016.
But 2016 was the year I sold my first novel and 2017 was the year it came out.
I have a superstition I can’t shake about naming and enjoying my good fortune. I often have to remind myself that after years of dreaming about publishing a novel, now I have, with a major publisher, and in 6 other countries. Not only that, I’ve been able to quit my day job, and the novel I published is the one I dreamed about writing and publishing for my entire adult life.
One of the wonderful and frustrating things about life is that when you climb that big mountain, the final step to the summit isn’t that different from all the steps that have come before, and by the time you near the summit, you can see other mountains you’d like to climb. It is wonderful because it means that life is not over when you achieve something, and it’s frustrating because there is no sublime moment of completion, a moment where you win your badge and get to be forever happy.
I think the most purely joyful part of the whole experience was the offer for the trilogy, back in January 2016, though moments like seeing the cover for the first time have also been quite wonderful.
The election produced some deep soul searching for me. I’ve been politically informed and opinionated for most of my adult life, but never very active. I felt very hopeless after the election, but I decided that even if my worst fears came true, I would have rather spent this time trying to make things better than simply watching things go wrong. I feel good about that decision, and plan to continue in 2018.
I also decided that I would try to make my political reading and speech purposeful. Whenever I post something political online, I try to make it a call-to-action or something optimistic and hopeful. That is what I would like to contribute to the conversation–let others point out how bad things are.
Some important things I did in 2017:
I went to more protests and marches every month than I had gone to my entire life leading up to 2017: the Women’s March, the Tax March, many, many marches and protests for The Right to Know Act in NYC, a law that would help improve community/police relations.
I donated to many political campaigns and non-profits
I sprained my ankle the same weekend that the Muslim Ban first came down, so I watched on twitter and through the news as my fellow citizens impressed me with their patriotism and dedication to this country’s highest ideals, sad and scared and hopeful and angry and frustrated that I couldn’t go myself
I tried failed to sell my apartment and move–keep your fingers crossed for me for 2018
I stopped doing Strongman and got back into Crossfit. I always said I’d only do Strongman as long as it was more rewarding than not, and this year it really stopped being rewarding. I competed at Strongman Nationals in 2015, which was a wonderful experience, and after that, the competitions became less rewarding. I had gone as far as I wanted to go in the sport.
I went on book tour and met wonderful, supportive people from across the country
Leading up to and on my birthday, I went to Miami to help out with Operation Carelift, getting supplies to Puerto Rico in collaboration with Spirit Airlines. It was incredibly rewarding.
In 2018, The Sea Queen will come out. I will write several drafts of The Golden Wolf, and likely start the writing project that comes after that. Hopefully I will move. I plan to start freelancing so I can remain a (mostly) full-time author.
And I plan to be even more politically active. Happily, I think a lot of the country is with me.
I was bragging on Facebook the other day that one of my superpowers is cooking dinner and making it all come out at the same time, and promised some tips about that, so here they are! It’s not magic, and it’s not a superpower, it takes some planning but it also takes some of the tips I will outline below, from easiest to more difficult.
General Principles & Tips
My goal when serving a meal is for everything to come to the table warm and properly cooked, not for everything to finish at exactly the same time. That is not necessary. The main key is knowing not only how long everything takes, but how long different steps take and when dishes can be held while other dishes catch up to them. A lot of this is trial and error, but here are some tips:
Have a good idea of how long each thing you’re making takes over all, and how long major steps take
Chopping ingredients takes longer than you think. If there are a lot to be chopped do it first.
Boiling water takes longer than you think, do it first or at least early
Preheating an oven takes longer than you think
Potatoes and other root vegetables retain heat very well, so you have about 10 minutes of leeway after they are done cooking before they start to get cold
Rice is better if it sits for 10-20 minutes. Boil rice early.
Any dish that starts with sauteing onions and garlic can be held after that step is done. Leave the burner on the lowest setting or turn it off.
Any hot dish on the stove-top that does not involve vegetables or pasta that are going to get overcooked can be held at a very low burner setting when they’re done
I love roasting because you stick your vegetables or whatever in the oven and set a timer. Toss once, set another time, done. Super easy.
Roasting temperatures can be variable, much more than for baking. If you have something that needs to be roasted at 375 and something else at 425, consider roasting them both at 400.
You can hold a roasted vegetable in the oven for 5-10 minutes by turning off the oven but not opening it
If anything takes cream as a finisher, don’t add it until the very end
Things that are fast or touchy should get priority at any moment
MOST IMPORTANT: If you’re making one fast and touchy dish, or a new dish, choose other dishes you know well that are easy and easy to hold
Difficulty Level 0: Cold dinner
Have a picnic food where everything is cold, and don’t worry about it.
Difficulty Level 1: One hot dish, the rest cold
Still very easy. Just make sure you finish the cold dishes before finishing the hot dish. For example, say your meal is a stew, salad, and (store-bought) bread. This one is nice and easy because a stew can be held on simmer forever. If it’s something more time-sensitive than a stew, and has a cooking phase that’s long enough to make your cold dishes, make them while your hot dish is cooking. Otherwise make the cold dishes first, then the hot dishes.
Difficulty Level 2: Two hot components, the rest cold
This can make up most of your meals. Let’s say you’re making a fast-paced pasta sauce, like all’amatriciana, over pantry (not fresh) pasta, with a side salad. This is where you have to understand what takes up the most amount of time. If I were making this meal I would:
Start boiling the pasta water–this will take the longest
Chop everything for the sauce
Start sauteing bacon, onions, garlic for the sauce
If the water is taking a long time, you can hold the onion mixture here
Pasta probably cooks for 10 minutes. Put it in when the water is boiling
Add the tomatoes to the sauce
Make up the salad (I make very simple salads)
Keep an eye on the sauce and when it’s done cooking, turn the burner to its lowest setting
Drain the pasta
Add cream to the sauce, if using
Voila, dinner is ready.
Difficulty Level 3: Three easy hot dishes, maybe some of them use the oven
Sunday night I made roast chicken with potatoes and onions, roast broccoli rabe, and heating up some frozen sourdough rolls. It’s not a hard 3-dish meal, but everything is hot and in the oven.
A whole roast chicken can be a challenge because the cooking time is variable, so you have to be flexible.
The chicken cooks for 90 minutes or so, so that’s most of the cooking time. The potatoes and onions cook in the roasting pan under the chicken, so that’s two dishes for the price of one.
Chicken is better if it sits a little before carving, giving me a buffer.
The broccoli rabe only takes 10 min in a 400-425 oven
The rolls warm up at 400 for 12-14 min
So the chicken comes out at 7pm, then then I throw the rolls in while the oven goes from 350 to 400.
Once it gets to 400, the broccoli rabe goes in
Carve the chicken in the last few minutes of cooking the rolls and broccoli rabe
Difficulty Level 4: Everything is cooked hot and fast and can’t be held
One of my favorite meals, which is easy and fast but requires good timing is: Duck breast, red wine pan sauce, store bought pumpkin ravioli, roasted broccoli rabe (I have an obssession). Here are the steps I would go through:
Start boiling water for the ravioli
Preheat the oven for the duck
Score the duck breast, salt and pepper
Heat up the pan and start stove-top cooking the duck
Cut up the broccoli rabe and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper
Put the broccoli rabe on its roasting pan
Probably pour off some fat from the duck breast
Prep the pan for the oven for the duck breast
Put the broccoli rabe in the oven
Take the duck breast off the stove-top and onto its roasting pan, put it on the other shelf in the oven
Make the pan sauce for the duck in the same pan (I do a very easy pan sauce with red wine, honey, a little Beef Better Than Bullion, and maybe some jam or a cinnamon stick)
You have maybe 2 minutes left on everything now. Boil the pumpkin ravioli.
Take out the duck and tent it with foil to let it rest
Take out the broccoli rabe, and add lemon juice and crumbled goat cheese
Drain the ravioli
Carve the duck breast
Put everything on a plate and serve
The above takes about 30 minutes and I’m moving the whole time.
A Side Note
I read an article the other day that says Americans are eating fewer leftovers and throwing more food away. Leftovers are the best way to make sure everything is ready at the same time, especially on a weekday after work. And it doesn’t have to be cooking one thing and eating it all week. I made two whole roast chickens on Sunday. I made stock from the bones. I stirred some meat into soup I already had made for lunch yesterday, and made some of the meat and stock into Avgolemono Soup on Monday evening, which is a very fast soup and also used up some leftover rice I had sitting around. I will probably make some more of the chicken into Chicken Tikka Masala tomorrow. Often I’ll make side dishes that can stretch for more than one meal so I can have meals that are different combinations of leftovers.
Trial and error is very important. If the timing didn’t work out, figure out why not and try to do it differently next time. That’s true of all of cooking, and all of life, really. Experience, and learning from that experience, makes all of this much easier.
Let me know if you have any questions! I’ve been doing this for long enough that I have probably forgotten to mention important things that I now take for granted.
I have a marketing meeting (my first!) with my publisher today, and I’m bringing some visual aids that I thought you might enjoy also. (Credit for most of these photos goes to my husband Seth Miller.)
First some pictures from Strongman competitions I’ve done. While 9th century vikings did not pull trucks, they did some of the Strongman events that are seen in competitions today. For instance, the Husafell stone carry, which today is usually done with an object that looks like a small metal coffin, was originally done with a 418-lb Icelandic stone. (That is more than I can lift–usually I use a 200-lb stone.)
I’ll have some cool book news tomorrow, but today I want to talk about activism. I went to the Women’s March in NYC the other weekend, and it was so heartening to see so many people out marching in person, and all around the country and the world. We’re going to need that good energy over the next few years.
I sprained my ankle Tuesday night, and was very upset that I couldn’t go and protest with people at airports on behalf of my immigrant friends, and my friends with immigrant parents, some of whom can no longer go home to visit their family. But it was also heartening to see so many people protesting, and it made a difference.
Speaking of which, I haven’t been updating my Making A Difference blog, not because I am not doing anything, but because I am doing too much to write about all of it, and in this case I feel like my effort is better put to doing things than documenting them. I am doing things. Every day.
And I want to ask you to do something as well. I have my own priorities that I’ll go into below, but I want to ask you to step up, and be active for a cause you care about.
It doesn’t have to be the exact right cause. You don’t need to wait for the perfect opportunity to come along. You don’t need to know it will work. It might not, but you will learn something for next time. Or the way it works may be too small and subtle to see now. Try something, see how it feels, and then try something else. Take a little time out to rest, and then help some more. I have listed some suggestions below.
We are going to lose a lot of battles, probably even most of them. But no matter what happens, in two, four, eight years, wouldn’t you rather look around and say you tried to help?
Some things that are keeping me going:
Getting into informal groups, in person and online, with like-minded people. I don’t love Facebook for this, but it’s better than nothing. My more motivating online groups are through Slack. My most motivating groups are my in-person friends who I’ve organized, and who have organized me.
Getting involved in local, in person efforts where I can learn from people who have been active longer than me.
Doing things that get me out of my comfort zone, like going to protests, and doing things that leverage my skills, like project/product managing Sister District
Limiting the amount of time I spend consuming or disseminating bad news rather than trying to do something about it
I used to be scared of activism, because I worried I’d get something wrong. But I’ve decided that I’m just going to keep trying to help where I can. If I get feedback, I will try to do better, but I’m not going to stay away for fear I’m going to get bad feedback. And though I will accept critique from people who have been in the fight for longer than I have, I am not going to pay attention to people standing on the sidelines critiquing those of us who are actually trying to help.
You can’t do everything, but you can do something. I think it helps to commit to a number of hours or number of events you can do in a week or month, make it achievable with your schedule, and do it. If you have more time, do more. I am giving a couple of hours a day to this from hom, and as soon as I am on my feet again, at least two in-person events per month, and likely more.
It also helps to choose one or two issues to focus on. Other people will be focusing on different things, and that’s fine. Our safety is under attack from so many directions, we need people focusing on a wide variety of issues.
Here are my priorities:
Helping people in New York, often times following SURJ’s leadership on issues of racial justice, immigrant justice, etc.
Getting the GOP out of power as soon as we can, including at the state level, which is where we can fight voter rights infringements. I’m volunteerng with Sister District.
Environmental justice–here I’m focusing on the NoDAPL efforts right now, and the plastic bag legislation in New York State
Here are some sources of ideas for things to do if you’re not sure. You can go beyond calling and emailing and signing petitions, though. There is no substitute for being with like-minded people trying to make a difference.
If you’re upset about the way this country is going, if you see people who are hurting, if you are afraid of the future, please do what you can to make a change. Nothing is helped by panic and despair, though it is understandable, and I give into it more often than I like. You are not alone and there are many groups that need you, whatever your skills and abilities. Your country and your world need you.