Keyboard at the Crossroads

My maternal grandmother went off to college at the age of 17. Her roommate, a much more mature woman of 20, was named Lucy Johnston Sypher. Ms. Sypher went on to write four widely read (at least by me) children’s books about growing up in Wales, North Dakota. When I was little, Ms. Sypher gave me a subscription to a new magazine for children called Cricket Magazine. Ms. Sypher had excerpts from her books published by Cricket, and I adored the magazine so much that at Girl Scout camp one summer I was nicknamed Cricket by my troop.

Cricket Magazine has changed; it’s now four-color and glossy (back then it was a tiny black and white thing). But it was such a great format for budding readers; if words or concepts were complicated, the page edges where lined with drawings of little bugs that both told their own story but also would give definitions and explanations about details of the print story. They also featured poetry, both for kids and by kids. Each month they had a poetry contest.

I was six years old the first time I wrote two poems that I wanted to submit to the magazine. I don’t remember much, except that they were supposed to be on the theme of magic and I wrote about the mountains in Albuquerque that were a stony purple-gray by day but turned a flaming pink when the sun went down. I don’t remember if I actually ever submitted the poems, but it was then that I was bitten by the writing bug.

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I kept putting pen to paper. In sixth grade, I won a poetry contest with the following poem:

I am a cat, stalking a bird.

I am a bird, fleeing from a cat.

I am a tree, watching it all.

I am fortune for the cat.

I am death for the bird.

The prize wasn’t much–I think it was published in some school journal or something. But I’ll never forget my teachers face when she read the poem. She was moved and, most importantly, impressed.

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In high school, my poetry sucked. It was filled with typical teenage angst and drama, and lovelorn soppy bullshit. But I wrote, and wrote, and wrote. I still have a lot of those poems.

The one thing I didn’t do was read much poetry. I read a lot of fiction that impressed me greatly, like The Color Purple which was actually forbidden at my school but my teacher slipped me on the side in a desperate attempt to get me more involved with school. Because of course, alcohol and boys had me very distracted, and I was no longer interested in much else.

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I was still writing teen-like love poetry when I first met Charlie. He saw me sitting at the bar writing (at 19, I was already getting into bars quite easily), and came over and struck up a conversation. He’d just begun to write as well in the Bukowski style and was already getting poems published. When we met up again, he read my poetry politely but was more interested in "dating" me than reading my work. We did go out a couple of times but it was clear it wasn’t going to work out.

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Years later, when Charlie and I did become a couple, poetry was at the heart of our relationship. Charlie and I began going to poetry readings (and hosting one) and for the first time I became exposed to a wide range of poets and poetry. I began reading poetry, and, naturally, my work began to improve. I became deeply invested in the poetry scene and I wrote constantly, often four or five new poems a week.

But with the rise of poetry in my life came the rise of alcohol, the introduction of drugs, and then all of a sudden it wasn’t cool anymore. I was sticking needles in my arm, contemplating fucking a dealer so I could keep getting my drugs, and then BAM! I overdosed, got sober, and the words stopped coming.

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It took a year of sobriety for me to clear up enough to write again. The good news was the poems were much better–tighter, concise, and tough. I loved them. But they came rarely, and as we became less interested in being part of a poetry scene and more interested in growing the fuck up, they stopped coming completely.

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Many years later, we were beginning to think about starting a family. I was still reading extensively (I was working for a bookstore), and I finally began reading memoirs. First I read the memoir by Anne Sexton’s daughter (Anne Sexton being a favorite poet at the time). Then I discovered Anne Lamott, who is still my writing hero. Ms. Lamott was sober, struggling with politics and God, and I adored her writing. Luckily, at the same time I was also working with author Rachel Simon, who became my mentor in many ways (she worked for the same bookstore at a different branch). Rachel took the time to help me perfect my writing and taught me a great deal about choosing words carefully, and how to say exactly what I meant.

Not much later, I discovered blogs. I was reading a lot at various forums here, and since I knew we were dealing with a male factor issue I frequently popped in to the "donor sperm" forum (although we didn’t end up using donor sperm). Someone there posted a link to Dooce, Grrl, and Julie (I am forever grateful to that person).

I read all three of their blogs avidly, and went back through their entire archives (at that point, they weren’t that old–Julie had only started blogging about six months before I found her). This led me to Danae (gone), and Karen (Naked Ovary, now defunct) and many others like Tertia.

We were just launching into our first IVF cycle, and I began sending funny emails to my friends updating them with the latest steps in the process. It was already clear that bloggers were effecting my writing style, and I finally emailed Julie and asked her how to do this blogging thing. She kindly showed me the ropes, and viola! My first entry appeared.

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When I started this blog, my intentions were simple: share what was going on and try to become part of this amazing community of bitter and funny women that were sharing my struggle.

But something else happened during the last three and a half years: I became–more fully and completely than I had ever been before–a writer. I found my voice. I found the way I wanted to write, what I was best at writing, and was able to tell people with confidence that I was a writer. I stopped trying to write poetry (although I joined the editorial board of a local poetry magazine to keep my hand in) and focused on writing the personal essays that became my best blog entries.

Since Tori was a few months old, I’ve floundered here. Without a current election, an impending FET cycle, or impending birth, I didn’t know what to write about. I’ve tried to keep the blog relevant, and I am so honored and grateful that you all keep reading. I didn’t want to walk away, as so many of my favorite bloggers did after they had kids. I was–and am–committed to this blog.

But. Of course there is a but; there always is, right?

But as a writer, I am at a crossroads. I know what I want to write, and I’ve been hoping to get a paid blogging gig to give me the forum to do it, leaving this blog as it has been–a blog of personal meanderings. But that clearly isn’t going to happen anytime soon, so that leaves me with a choice.

Do I keep this blog as it is, or do I take this opportunity to try my hand at some writing that not everyone that reads here will enjoy? Stuff that is more topical, and maybe a little less personal–still in my voice, but not as much blog-like. More essay-like.

I timidly suggested something like this months ago and was deluged with emails and comments begging me to "not change a thing." But I’ve changed. My life has changed. This blog has changed, and not in a good way–at least not in a way I’m proud of.

So, at the risk of offending some of you, I am going to make some changes ’round these parts. I’m going to write about less "inside" stuff, and tackle more "outside" stuff. Stuff like body images issues, and being a fat girl in America. Politics. Books and movies. Issues about choice, infertility, and other medical stuff. Of course parenting (obviously) and issues surrounding parenting.

There will still be plenty of Tori, and, I’m sure, a lot of me. But as a writer, I need to challenge myself, and I need to take the next step down the path to being a professional, capital W, Writer.

Bear with me.

Comments Closed

Comments

  1. Kermit says

    I welcome a change. I’ve enjoyed your blog no matter the subject, but you’ve got to stretch the tendons a bit, and I think it will be fun to read.

  2. Monica says

    Absolutely! I am looking forward to the change. I’ve always been so curious about those aspects of your life so I know it will really interesting to read.

  3. Jenn says

    The question is, will you be happy if you don’t make the change? I don’t think you will be. Write for you, not any of us. I’m looking forward to your changes!

  4. PJ says

    I’m all for hearing your “voice” no matter what you say. You make me think and that’s why I’ve always come back to read.

  5. Journeywoman says

    Lady, sometimes you’re brilliant, and sometimes you’re silly.
    I read your blog because of you. You ARE a Writer (note that capital W please.) As such, I read what you write.
    It shouldn’t matter a bit to you whether I like it or not. You’re not writing for me, you’re writing for you–to complete the part of yourself that is only complete by writing.
    Let me put it another way, if JK Rowling decides, for her next book, to write porn–I’ll be in line for it because I love her writing.
    As long as this blog is open I’m reading it. ‘Kay? Now get to work!

  6. thalia says

    i’ll be delighted to read more ‘outside’ stuff. I’ve always enjoyed your political writing, it would be great to hear more in the same vein.

  7. SusieJ says

    Go for the change! There are people I read because they have a compelling story, and people I read for a compelling voice. You have a compelling voice.
    (And a grasp of spelling and grammar — thank you, thank you, thank you for the grasp of grammar.)

  8. JuliaKB says

    Sounds good to me. But then again, I seem to share your politics a great deal, so this is a total win for me. :)
    A fascinating story on how you got here too. So it will be interesting to see where you go from here.
    I’ll be reading.

  9. kbreints says

    You go girl! This is your blog- I think that whatever you do will be brilliant! I cannot wait to see some changes, however I do want those Tori updates too!

  10. Melissa Garrett says

    When I started having outside people email me to write reviews and endorsements for them, it was only then that I thought I might be able to write for a career. Granted, there is absolutely NO WAY I could support my family on what I make (right now), but at least I can buy us groceries for the month. Between what I do on my blog and the online content I write, I am (so far) happy. Deep down I feel that this is only the beginning for me. But before I started my current blog, I had another more personal one. I figured I had better clean it up a bit so I could feel good about pointing potential clients in my direction. Also, it got to a point where I began to wonder ~ does anyone really care how many times my kids puked during the last 24 bug? Although my posts are still personal, I try to be more informative with what I write. I will forever write about what I know and what is going on in my life, as I have learned that there are others struggling with the same issues. And I have found the confidence to begin pitching articles to magazines. I say, do what YOU want to do. Those who have been loyal readers of your blog will love it no matter what. I only just found your blog about a month ago and have not read any of your archives. Therefore, I had NO idea about your past. But I still find your posts enjoyable to read.

  11. Genie says

    Can’t wait to see where this new path takes you, the blog, and your loyal readers. I’ll be here. By the way…I was devoted to Cricket as a kid, and my three year-old daughter is a new devotee of Ladybug, the young kid version. It saves my ass when she’s begging for a third or fourth reading of Dora the Explorer at the Carnival. I’m not one for book burning, of course, but if I were ever to set a pile of books ablaze, I’m pretty sure Dora would be at the top of the pyre.

  12. Carrie says

    Sounds like a good plan to me. I am really surprised you can’t get a paying gig b/c though I am a new reader in my mind you are one of the the stars of blogging. It’s really hard to find personal things to talk about that aren’t totally boring when you are working from home with a baby. Where’s the drama (that doesn’t involve poop)?

  13. Dea says

    You know while I was in uni I had to write a lot, both in the creative manner and as a historian/ anthropologist. In my creatice classes we were sometimes assigned to write about ABC and we would read it to the group for critique. I soon learned that some people’s pieces were amazing while others fell short. I deduced that this was becasue I really liked the way that some people wrote. That being said you could write about something droll and mundane and I would still read it becasue I appreciate your style. So change up, because you can’t change the most important part, (the reason I read and I suspect why most people read) and that’s you!

  14. Pamplemousse says

    It was always the politics and the feisty woman stuff I adored. As an infertile still, still in the trenches, I have been keeping an eye on you but not so much with the active participation due to my lack of assvice on anything parenting. Let it out, C.

  15. leslie says

    I’ll eagerly read whatever you write. Cecily you have such a strong voice and a distinct “take” on the world. Go where your writing takes you!
    As others have mentioned, the publishers of Cricket also produce BabyBug (Tori is just the right age for that one), Ladybug and Spider magazines. (and Muse, for older kids) – all are terrific – my kids still enjoy Spider and Cricket.

  16. Tara says

    And to think you might not be writing anything at all if your maternal grandmother had not gone to college at the age of 17. I loved reading the evolution of your interest in writing and think you should write about whatever you want to write about. I don’t see why you can’t just write about *everything* you want to.

  17. Maura says

    I look forward to this next stage of your writing “journey” (eew, that’s way too schmaltzy, isn’t it?) and eagerly await your new pieces — love the possible topics you threw out there.

  18. ksmaybe says

    Hey, this is your space, for your writing and your ideas. We’re all just lucky enough to be able to choose to be here. I look forward to what you have to say. You, and other bloggers, have already shaped some of my thoughts and views and I look forward to seeing what new ideas you can make me think about. So, lead the way whichever direction you need to, I look forward to following!

  19. Eva says

    I think that sounds great.
    What I like about blogging is that it makes you write even when you don’t want to. It’s really good discipline. Now that you have developed that part of your writing, and your voice and gotten the confidence of a devoted readership, why not challenge yourself further?

  20. Carly says

    I’m on board. I like the potential topics you listed. Write about what YOU want to. Don’t forget – five people might leave, but fifty might start to visit.

  21. Jill says

    You are like me- once you hit your stride, you’re ready for a new challenge. Can’t wait to see where this goes.

  22. Janice says

    If you are writing, I am reading! Perhaps you could do a monthly Tori video or something so we could keep up with your homelife? Just a thought! I’ll be here.

  23. Amy says

    It is important to realise that despite the audience and the adoration this is your platform. Use it as you want to and your adoring fans will stay. Sure some may leave, but even more will join because you are a talented and inspiring woman.
    I look forward to your creativity, I only wish I had a little bit of it to call my own :-)
    hug!

  24. kathleen999 says

    Write what you want to write, and they will read.
    I will, anyway, and I’m sure others will too. I also think the blogging gig will happen at some point as well.

  25. Andrea in IN says

    Bring it on, Girl! I’ll still be here reading. Good luck, I’m eager to go along for this ride with you….

  26. Julie says

    Let’s have it! I love poetry. I love your writing. Something tells me that whatever you do – it will talk to me and touch me – just like you always have :)

  27. Elizabeth says

    “Stuff like body images issues, and being a fat girl in America. Politics. Books and movies. Issues about choice, infertility, and other medical stuff. Of course parenting (obviously) and issues surrounding parenting.”
    YES. All of these sound like things I’d like to read about.
    Can’t wait to read your future posts. :)

  28. AmyinMotown says

    Write what YOU want, and don’t give a rat’s ass what any of us think! Although I for one will be interested. (I was a high school poet too, BTW. I wasn’t terrible, and I had a really good teacher who taught me a lot about chossing words accurately. But geez there is a lot of bad poetry out there. It’s good I stopped :-) ).
    Also? I LOVED Cricket when I was a kid. I want to get Maggie Ladybug this year for her b-day.

  29. Nancy says

    i’m hanging in there – write away
    dont stop writing the monthly tori emails…it’s how i know what my gal should be doing! :)
    and we got the princess leia costume while we were in America,,,,so cute!
    xo

  30. Veevs says

    For the first time in history writers like you have a ready-made audience on whom to try new things, before hitting the wider market. Take advantage of us!
    The bloggers I continue reading are the ones who unite personal and political, writing essays rather than a diary.
    Change can be progress, change can be growing up. You may lose some people along the way (“We’ve grown apart”) but there’ll be new readers around the corner whose interests now converge with yours.

  31. Bridget says

    First and foremost I would read any blog you write. I like your style, your take on the world, your honesty.
    Thank you for the reference to Lucy Johnston Sypher. When I was a kid – over 30 years ago – I went to one of her readings at the local library. It was a turning point. I read all the books over and over and kept the autographed program for years. I’ve been unable to remember what her name was. You made my day!

  32. Meegan says

    Do what makes you happy, what makes you feel challenged and what makes you fulfilled. Some readers may go but others will come as long you stay your honest self. I like your “voice” and I’ll stick around for a while.
    Bon chance!

  33. losing true says

    Well done. Since you know Anne Lamott, you know Bird by Bird, to which I turn constantly to remember what I’m supposed to be doing. (Not that it works, much. But hey. It helps.) Go get ‘em.

  34. Claire says

    Cecily, I’m delurking here because I’ve been reading your blog for years and I can’t imagine what would happen if it left my blog roll. This last post was awesome. You have the writer’s voice and you can put it on “paper”. I welcome the change!

  35. jeanie says

    Cecily – I always come in and check out your blog when it pops up in my bloglines.
    I think you are a writer – and I think that you should not limit yourself by what you think we might want vs what you want to write.
    I look forward to everything you write anyway.
    Good luck.

  36. AdirondackJen says

    Ooo, ooo, body image & fat girls! Like me! Yes, please! Anything not spouted by a trim male doctor blathering away on the Today Show will be more than welcome. And what’s up with ‘larger’ fashions? Dammit, I’m not that old…muumuus are NOT hip in the workplace, yo. Giant pastel flowers and polyester still reign out there. That part sucks. Mention that! Mention that!!
    (And ditto, ditto, ditto to all the rest of the supporters’ comments – I’m not going anywhere either! Experiment away!)
    And PS, speaking of books..have you ever read Outlander by Diana Grabaldon? Holy MOLEY. That’ll do something to your mojo, just sayin’!

  37. Lauren says

    You know what? Seriously? write what you want! Its YOUR blog honey! Screw the rest of us!
    If we dont like it, who cares? at least you will!

  38. Meegan says

    Go for it. I think the changes you mentioned sound interesting and more than worth my blog-reading time still!
    And remember that this is YOUR BLOG and you can do WHATEVER YOU DAMN WELL PLEASE!
    (can’t you just tell I’m having a shocker at work today!!)
    :)

  39. Anne says

    Cec whatever it is you decide I’m right here to watch, listen, and most importantly read! you know since about the 5th grade I’ve been a voracious reader, hey I even became a librarian The strange thing is that library school killed my reading habit, so much boring reading took the pleasure away for me. For a long time after I just quit, quit reading (crazy talk I tell ya!)and now with the boy I find it hard to sit down and really read. IF blogs became my way of dealing with our own cycles and helped me get through the rollercoaster of IVF, they have become my main form of reading of pleasure and I look forward to whatever it is you have to say.

  40. Kerri says

    Cecily I went back to your beginning here, as you had linked and found this poem. Somehow I missed it the first time or maybe just now at this time in my life it speaks to me. I think it is the most startlingly beautiful thing I have ever read. I have said before that I love your openness and honesty and I look forward to the next journey you take us on. And by for the record, me thinks you could never be boring!
    Cheers
    Kerri in Australia
    To One Not Allowed To Exist: my baby not born
    Occasionally I picture you
    standing ankle deep
    in blue moon water
    after rain.
    You are joyful–
    nothing impeding
    this fraction of time.
    A honey Goddess,
    you sing.
    Voice drifting up
    to the purple moment
    of sky, worshiping
    like music.
    Your face a shiny peach rose tree.
    Your beauty a garden.
    We’ll meet in that
    hazy pink dreamscape
    so I can finally learn your name.
    For now, though,
    the harmony for your songs
    will remain tattooed
    on my heart
    waiting to be sung.

  41. Bobbi says

    Cec, whatever and however you decide to write, I will be reading as long as you will allow me the pleasure…

  42. wealhtheow says

    I look forward to seeing the changes. Change is difficult and awful and very scary for me, but I’m also learning that it sure beats the alternative. Good luck!

  43. me says

    I think that would be great. You have a wonderful writing style, and frankly I’m more interested in your opinions on stuff than in your happy, adorable family. Go for it!

  44. Valerie says

    I think people will enjoy and continue reading what you write no matter what it is. It is your personality more than anything that draws people here. I, for one, love to hear about your opinions on things, as well as your wonderful family. So, in my personal opinion, write about whatever it is that you want to, be it family, politics, or anything else, as long as it makes you happy.
    Signed,
    A long time reader(lurker)

  45. Ellen says

    We’re here for your voice, whatever you want to talk about. I expect when people told you not to change, it was probably under the erroneous impression that you felt like you HAD to change to be more interesting for us, as if you thought we weren’t interested in what you had to say anymore. You don’t have to do anything for us. We’re already interested. Since you need to change things up for yourself, though, we’re behind that as well.

  46. Natalee says

    I’m struggling with the same thing myself. I feel like if I have nothing meaningful to say, it’s better I not “speak” at all (on my blog). I’m in a slump, but I feel really inspired by the direction you are heading in. I’m looking forward to what you have to say.

  47. Nicole says

    I think its a wonderful idea! No matter the topic, I come here to read because I love the way you project your ideas and have no fear or shame in saying how it is. Your one of my favorite WRITERS, not necessarily bloggers. I look forward to hearing and seeing where you take this!

  48. Green says

    I’ve been having a hard time writing lately also, so I understand your pain, though we have it for different reasons.
    Write whatever you’re inspired to write. You may lose a few readers, but you’ll probably pick up a few new ones also. It all evens out in the end.

  49. Stephanie says

    I think that sounds wonderful! I think you should write what you want to write, take this where you want to go-I’m looking forward to going along for the ride :-)

  50. Meg says

    Bear with you? Are you kidding? I’m thrilled. Thank you.
    I love what it’s been so far, and think that these new changes sound really exciting.
    Onward!

  51. Tine says

    You go, girl. Whatever you write, I’ll keep reading it.
    And BTW, you made my day with that love letter about Cricket Magazine. I was an editor there for 5 years — it was my first “real” job after college. I’ve moved on to other literary adventures now, but that job holds a VERY special special place in my heart. :)

  52. Heather says

    I read 2 blogs regularly. Yours and Dooce. I had to ask myself, “Why does Dooce get the money and not Cecily?” I find both of your writing equally engaging, and nothing on Dooce’s site seems more beyond her personal life and observations. So I have no answer to why you are not being paid to do this (and you do deserve to be paid). To be honest, I have enjoyed what you have been writing the past few entries quite a bit. A mixture of personal and general. I come here everyday for the same reason I am sure many, many of your readers do. I like what you have to say, and I like to know what you are doing as a person. Change however you want, I’ll still be here reading. As long as you are posting, I’m happy.

  53. Chiara says

    (Ok, I’m catching up in reverse order, so my last comment was before I caught up to what’s happening.)
    Writers write. Do it!