Free to Be...and Free to Chicago!
Written by
Deborah Siegel
November 2012
Written by
Deborah Siegel
November 2012

This summer I moved from Brooklyn to Chicago with my husband and toddler twins.  I thought the change in locale might help slow me down.  The opposite happened instead.  The pace of a writing life has little to do, sometimes, with the city outside one’s head.

She Writes asked me to share some of my projects and upcoming events with you, which I’m honored to do.

On November 29 here in Chicago, I’ll be reading at Women and Children First, along with cultural historian and fellow She Writer Lori Rotskoff, co-editor of a new anthology, When We Were Free to Be: Looking Back at a Children’s Classic and the Difference It Made. Because Free to Be...You and Me--the classic children's record, book, and television special produced in the early 1970s--turns 40 this year! The essay of mine that’s included (and excerpted online here) is part of a larger project on the gendering of childhood in the earliest years of life.  I’ve been micro-blogging around themes of gender, parenthood, writing, and life through a Tumblr blog (The Pink and Blue Diaries) since shortly after my now three-year old boy/girl twins were born.  On February 23, I’ll combine personal narrative and my background as a gender scholar through a multimedia talk at TEDxWindyCity, which (passionately!) brings to life key research about the gendering of childhood early on.

Writing about, and around, my children has raised ethical, as well as writerly, dilemmas.  In late June, I’ll explore these themes as a keynoter for the Communicating Motherhood conference, sponsored by The Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement.  I’ll talk about how the obligations of a mother and the imperatives of a writer are frequently at odds: the one lives to protect, the other to reveal.  We betray our kids when we write about them in ways that may one day embarrass them or invade their privacy. But we betray our writerly selves—if we choose to write personally about our lives as mothers—when we withhold the very details that authenticate our tale. As one writer puts it, it’s “an evolving journey of protection, privacy, and our need to write about what we care about most.”  As journeys go, I’m in the thick of this one.

The other hats I wear are those of a Visiting Scholar in Gender Studies at Northwestern University and a Midwest Leader for The OpEd Project, a social venture designed to diversify the range of voices we hear in public debate (written previously about here).  This month we launched a year-long fellowship on public voice and thought leadership for faculty at Northwestern.  Next month, we’re launching a three-month version at DePaul.  I’ll be teaching that program, along with Teresa Puente, Columbia College journalism professor and former editorial board member of The Chicago Sun Times.  On April 6, along with Northwestern journalism professor and author Michele Weldon, I’ll be teaching the project’s day-long core seminar, “Write to Change the World,” which is open to anyone, and particularly underrepresented voices, with something of public value to say. (Participants either pay in dollars or, if scholarship assistance is needed, pay in words.)

They say you teach what you need to learn.  And so it is with great personal investment  that on January 26, I’ll be leading a day-long session here at StoryStudio (North Shore studio), Rejuvenate Your Writing Life: A Mini-Retreat for Writing Mamas.

My friend Miriam Peskowitz (author of, among other titles, The Daring Book for Girls) has written here at She Writes: “Scarcity is a tough clime to write from. Creativity wants spaciousness. The time conundrum is especially difficult for women writers with young children, especially hard when the writing, the voice we are searching for is not commercial, when it doesn’t come with a salary or with enough pay that provides, that reassures, that says to the woman writer ‘It’s okay to trade more hours for more childcare, so your creative spirit can grow….The daring writer’s contribution to time’s scarcity is not to let the truth of this conundrum remain invisible, to not succumb to thinking of it as an individual matter. To articulate what it means to be a woman who writes from amid all this, who knows what is happening, and who somehow, still, finds ways to give written voice to her passions.”

Those words just about sum it up for me.  And if they speak to you too, and you're anywhere near the Chicago area, I look forward to meeting you on January 26 at StoryStudio.

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  • Paulette Livers

    Welcome to Chicago, Deborah! Enjoy that golden time of toddlers. Thanks for letting us know about your upcoming events.

  • Deborah Siegel Writing

    Keep on plowing on, Jessica. I am so with you - I read Miriam's words and they inspire me a new each time.

  • Jessica Vealitzek

    I just went back and read Miriam's post. I wish I had read it when she wrote it in 2011--the exact words I needed at that time, when I decided to write while raising two young ones. Though I plowed ahead and wrote, her words are still needed. Thanks to you both.