It’s been a long while since I asked you for some insight into how I can do my best work for you. Please let me know a little bit about your creative experience by filling out the very short 2020 Community Survey. It’s only three questions, and should take no more than five minutes.
Whether utterly entertaining, deeply informative or just downright riveting, these are the books I read in 2019 that have stayed with me. Enjoy!
These are affiliate links to books I truly love and think you’ll enjoy.
And for a bit of further detail: Hands-down my favourite book of the year was Red, White & Royal Blue. It’s a spectacularly well written political love story that takes every aspect of our real-life dumpster-fire society and sets it right. Read it yourself and give a copy to everyone you love.
Also: Listen to the audiobook of Becoming. It’s like spending a weekend with your BFF the former First Lady. And Educated is everything it’s hyped to be.
It’s a new year coming up – heck, it’ll be a new decade! – and there’s no better way to start fresh than to do it by embracing the imperfection and occasional downright ugliness that comes along with doing creative things.
Join me from January 6 – February 7th, 2020, and together we’ll work through my book Make It Mighty Ugly.
Through guided discussion, prompts and live chats, we’ll fight our creative demons and kick the new year off with a focus on prioritizing the meaningful creative projects that make us happy so we can spend the rest of the year making and learning and not worrying about it all ending up perfect. Because perfect is boring and imperfect is fascinating.
Since one of the most amazing things about connecting with other makers is learning from each other, we wanted to see what would happen if we set aside some time to focus on a particular kind of craft.
So this month, we’re diving into weaving. (Most of us know nothing about it!)
Community members who know a thing or two about weaving will be sharing tips, tricks, tutorials and projects. And even those of us who are total newbs will be sharing our trials and errors and successes as we give weaving a shot for the first (or second or third) time.
No fancy equipment required! Just a desire to try a new thing, cheer people on, and learn something new.
Our community is free to join because it’s supported by Patreon members who kick in a few bucks each month to cover our operating costs (which include my time and skill); as such, Patreon members enjoy live video chats with me, their own private video chat room, a monthly newsletter, and more.
They do not want us to ridicule them (their word) when they bring up climate action.
They do not want us to dismiss them or tell them to wait till they’re older and know more.
They do not want us to maintain our status quo, leaving them with an even bigger mess once we’re dead.
They do not want us to be hypocrites who say we love our pets but won’t protect the rest of the animals on this planet.
They want us to put our collective survival ahead of our individual desires.
They want us to join them and help them fight climate change.
This is what they told me in our session on craftivism at UBC’s Girls-Only Maker Camp. We rounded out their week of camp with a discussion about what makes them mad about climate change (see above). Then we talked through what they might do about it, and how they might effectively get adults to take action with them instead of dismissing them.
They decided to call on local Vancouver businesses to take a #WithoutWasteWednesday pledge in an effort to reduce their overall landfill waste. To accept the challenge, a business would simply commit to posting a photo of their landfill-bound waste each Wednesday and try to get it down to zero within a year, and use the hashtag #WithoutWasteWednesday.
Reversing our dreadful climate-change trajectory will involve far more than reducing waste, but this session wasn’t about duplicating work scientists have already done to identify what we need to do. It was about giving kids an opportunity to be heard, and heeded.
We would do well to join them in this fight. Indeed, the survival of life on earth literally depends on it.
The only time I do Mighty Ugly with kids is at the University of British Columbia’s annual girls-only Maker Camp. It’s an incredible weeklong day camp run by Dr. David Ng, whom I met years and years ago through Vancouver Mini Maker Faire, and whom I’m so grateful to for inviting me to be a part of his awesome STEAM-focused camp.
It’s so different doing this exercise with tweens versus adults. Hopefully introducing them to deliberate ugly-making at this stage in their lives will help to head off some of the negative experiences we adults have with self-doubt and perfectionism.
[Kim] hosts these really cool sessions around the concept of making “ugly” things. This is a great mindset, especially in various professional fields where failure is actually a worthy experience, whether it’s to emphasize the importance of reiteration, or where new valuable perspectives are forged when a person goes against their natural inclination (to make things look “good”).
I shared a longer version of this with our online community today and with our Patreon members, and I’m putting it here on the blog because our community extends beyond our forums. (If you didn’t know we’re building an old-school forum [with awesome, contemporary tech and features], well, we are! I’ve been terrible about mentioning it here on my website, but here’s the gist. I hope to see you in there!)
Ravelry has announced a new policy yesterday, banning expressions of support for President Trump and his administration, equating such support with support of white supremacy. If you haven’t seen it, please read it. It’s succinct, direct, and clearly not intended to stoke a flame war, though you can probably imagine the deeply polarized response to it (it’s a Twitter dumpster fire is what I’m saying).
I’m going to hit pause for a sec and tell you about a photo I posted on Instagram last night. It’s of a demonstrator holding a sign at a rally I attended yesterday in support of transgender rights.
The sign in the photo reads “Be careful who you hate. It could be someone you love.”
Words to live by, really. (If, like, not hating in the first place isn’t an option?)
The reason I’m bringing it up is that I’m pretty sure it’s the most “hearted” photo I’ve posted so far this year, and in the day since I posted it my total follower count on IG went down by exactly two (then went up by two, so).
I live and work in a bubble, is what I’m saying.
Most of my colleagues who post about supporting the rights of any marginalized group often experience a shitstorm whenever they do so, no matter the platform they’re using. People rage-unfollow them, attack them with vicious verbal abuse, and occasionally said abuse turns to outright physical threats.
I suppose that over the years, I’ve opened my mouth about enough things that the only people left who follow my work are those who either agree with me or accept that my opinions are part and parcel of their enjoyment of my work.
So, back to Ravelry’s announcement and our community.
The last time I hosted an online community was Crochet Me, and that was a community that pretty much built itself while I tried my damnedest to keep up.
This time around, we’re starting slowly, and we’re starting very consciously, and we’re taking the time to discuss how we want our community to be and how we’re going to make it something we value and love and use to connect us meaningfully to other people all around the world.
When I first put the new community site together, I wrote a blurb about it being an inclusive space where intolerance will not be tolerated.
I had and continue to have a tremendous amount of faith that the social bonds that tie us together in our creative adventures are the strong kinds of ties that, even if we disagree with each other about any number of things, will always lead us to be respectful of each other and to always, always support each other’s right to live and breathe and thrive in this world.
I have recently been reminded, though, that there are some (many) circumstances that should not be left up to faith in the goodness of others.
I will be fleshing out the inclusion policy of our community this week. It will boil down to: All people are welcome here, all opinions are welcome here except those that deny the rights of anyone or any people.
I always think in terms of human rights. We all deserve them, we are all entitled to them. Making sure all people have them does not take away from any one person’s or group’s possession of them. Therefore, we do not, under any circumstance, assert that any person or group is undeserving of human rights. This includes rights to exercise bodily autonomy, to freely love, to be fed and clothed, to receive medical care, to practice religion, to speak out, to vote, to express any gender identity, to have access no matter one’s physical ability, to be of any colour, size, ethnicity or nationality.
This is not about politics. Politics is about which approach to take to ensure all people enjoy these rights. Claims that denial of rights to certain people(s) is a matter of politics is a gross misstatement. Denial of rights to certain people(s) is bigotry. This is where Ravelry’s ban on expressions of support for Trump and his administration comes in – the president and his people have repeatedly denied rights to a variety of groups, and they have repeatedly shown sympathy or downright support of individuals and groups that are violently hateful.
Bigotry will find no home in my work, or in our new and wonderful community.
One of the most frustrating things I experience as a parent is when groups and organizations don’t tell us what we need to know when we need to know it.
As a writer, this is in my professional wheelhouse. Driven by frustration more than anything, I’ve volunteered to help with communications for a wide variety of groups over the years, and I’ve learned a lot about how to do it well. I’m not the only one who’s easily frustrated by not having the information I feel I need, but I’ve also learned that effective communication can do so much more than simply keep people in the know. Great emails and newsletters can bring parents and guardians together so they can support each other and form friendships, and they can provide a window into the group that inspires some of them to become volunteers, themselves.
So I just wrote my first proper Twitter thread with some simple ways to effectively communicate with parents and guardians. Then I posted it on Facebook and someone said she’d want it as a pamphlet, so I put it into an infographic format. It seems like it’s striking a chord, so now here it is on my website for easier sharing (see below for the graphic version, and for a downloadable PDF).
If you’re tasked with communicating with parents and guardians on behalf of an organization, club, team or group of any kind, here are some tips for doing it effectively:
Write to a newbie. Write every email as if it’s to a parent/guardian who has never participated in your group before. Experienced recipients will ignore you if they want, and first timers will really appreciate being brought up to speed.
2. Assume they don’t know. Assume that no one you’re writing to knows what you know. Assume they want and need to know what you know, and tell them.
3. Be explicit. Lay out time commitments, provide relevant addresses and dates/times of major events, spell out volunteer expectations and demands on their children.
4. Include the why. Always explain why parent/guardian help is important or even essential to the functioning of your group and to their children’s experience. Including the why makes it easy for parents/guardians to meet the group’s needs. (“Why” does not = simply stating that their help is important. “Why” = actually explaining why and how it is important, even if what’s needed is as simple as making sure kids are dropped off and picked up on time.)
5. Respect parents’ time. Parents/guardians are juggling their kids’ schedules, their work obligations, their family needs, and more. Give them everything they need so they can make room for your group in their lives, especially if you’ll rely on them to volunteer.
6. Make it fun. Provide easy opportunities for parents/guardians to connect with each other and you will strengthen your group in all kinds of ways. Happy, engaged parents make your job so much easier.
7. Assume it’s hard. Write as if all parents/guardians have less time than you, less help than you, more struggles than you.
8. Say thank you. Finally, thank parents/guardians early, and thank them often. They may be moving mountains without you knowing so they can keep their kids involved with your group.
A friend Andrea added the following two points to my initial list, too:
Consider whether you would accept cash or in-kind donations, because some people have very scarce time and it can be quite privileged to set things up so that they depend on devaluing the time of (often women) volunteers or necessitating a second adult who has time to do all this stuff.
And note that you can work out options for parents of kids with disabilities, single parents and parents with extenuating family situations. A lot of volunteer commitments might sound easy for most people, but a single parent with a child with disabilities may simply not be in a position to wrangle their child and sell hot dogs or raffle tickets at the same time and the meltdown later may be excruciating. Some parents can barely make it to the field or the troop and are already doing a huge amount of invisible labour. Offer other ways of volunteering too.