Up over at XOJane today! “”How I Learned to be Taken Seriously — and Stylishly — As a Young Woman in Academia”

“How I Learned to be Taken Seriously — and Stylishly — As a Young Woman in Academia”

My first piece for XOJane.  I have a lot of thoughts about the many themes covered–from owning personal style to classroom politics–but I figured I’d start with this and see where it goes.

And yes, because I know you’re wondering, 1994-Sassy-reading-me is squeeee-ing because she just got published on 2014-Jane-Pratt’s site.

On Action: Resurrect, Revise, Rebirth, Renew

I began a Blogger called “Heather’s World” a little over ten years ago.  I wrote some really funny, sad, insightful, angsty stuff there; I was 24 and floundering in the world.  I met some fellow bloggers (because it was a smaller group back then) with whom I am still friends.  But, since then, I have recreated, renamed, re-platformed, etc., a bunch of different blogs–essentially recreating myself–but not really–every time.

You see, I do this thing where I reinvent the wheel all the damn time–even on a daily basis, when I’m teaching.  It’s a problem.  I also save everything… so I have a file for every first day class I’ve taught, every semester, since Fall 2006.  (No joke.  Are they all the same? No.  Are they pretty similar?  Very.)  I also do this thing where I have Great Big Ideas and then don’t do anything about them and give up and have really awesome pity parties about failing when I have not even begun to act.  The past two years have featured a lot of hurt, a lot of pity parties, and worse, a lot of inertia.

But…I’ve been thinking.  I’ve been reading.  I’ve been doing some serious self-evaluation.  I’ve hopped back on my bike and back on my yoga mat.  Seriously.  In the spirit of action, I have created yet another blog after abandoning one about a year and a half ago.  But this time, I started going back through the saved texts of past blogs. I wanted to see what stories I could find in those posts, spanning ten years.  I’m thinking about the young writer then and the still-sort-of-youngish writer now.  I’m thinking about what I can write about, rather than the things I can’t.  Most importantly, I’m writing–even if it’s total gibberish, it’s something.

Bear with me while I edit some old posts, write some new ones, play with the theme, and get this beast up and running.  “Alphabet: A History” will return (yay!).   You can follow the blog via all the usual social media ways, WordPress, email, or just by dropping in.

Welcome, friends, old and new.

M is for My Mother (Yet Again)

“I’m finally getting published.  I even won a contest.”  The phone was silent.  Breathe, I told myself.  I held my breath.

“That’s—that’s great.  Wonderful,” my mother said.   “What’s the essay about?”

It wasn’t a question, it was a demand, an accusation.

“It’s about when J. was sick, and food… and stuff…” I trailed off.  Writers know how terrible this question is when it is an honest question, much less a leading one.  I sat down, waiting.


How much weight can one syllable hold?  How many meanings can it have?  Relief, disappointment, suspicion all in two letters.  It wasn’t about her.

“Wow, well, that’s great.  That’s really great.  I am so proud of you.” I wanted to believe she was trying her best. I did the best I could, she always said.  Again, there was silence before she spoke.

“Yeah, so I had a really bad week at work.”


In writing, as in life, it’s all about my mother.

Just about every story and essay I submitted to grad school workshops had elements of her, or was about her.  Almost every single critique—probably around 60 over three years—said, “I want to see more of the mother.”

But how much space must I give her?  How much space must she take?

Joan Didion wrote, “That is one last thing to remember: writers are always selling somebody out.”  The part of me my mother won’t let go, that I won’t let go, feels guilty.  But I don’t think Didion is saying that to the writers.  It’s a statement of fact, and it’s a warning to those the writer knows.  You may be faced with the brutal truth of your actions and their consequences.  The writer must face hers, as well.

You can’t write about me.  You wouldn’t do that to me.  That’s not fair.  That’s not yours to tell.

Yes, I can, and I will. It is, in fact, mine to tell.

Joining 80,000 wordsFog City Writer, and others, in working through the alphabet with short, memoir-like pieces.