11 October 2012

What We (Should) Talk About When We Talk About Big Bird

It’s been a week since Mitt Romney made his now-infamous remarks about Public Television during the first presidential debate: 
I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things. I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you too. But I’m not going to — I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it.”
Within minutes, the internet was buzzing with Muppet jokes, and Fired Big Bird was tweeting at Fired Grover. The hashtag #OccupySesameStreet was born. Muppet John Stewart took over on The Daily Show. Even President Obama got into the act, joking about Sesame Street on the campaign trail, and putting out a campaign ad featuring Big Bird.

Interestingly, the debate wasn’t the first time Mr. Romney has mentioned Big Bird on the campaign trail. According to abcnews.com, Romney has been specifically referencing Big Bird since December:
“We’re going to have to stop some things we also like.  I mean, I like PBS, for instance. I like my grandkids being able to see Bert and Ernie and Big Bird, but I’m not willing to borrow money from China so that PBS doesn’t have to run advertising.” (Romney, March 2012)
Clearly, the comment wasn’t off the cuff, nor was it unintentional. Going after public funding for the arts, public radio, and public television is nothing new, but normally that involves accusations of the liberal elitism of NPR or moral outrage over Piss Christ, not threatening a beloved American icon. Everyone with a beating human heart loves Big Bird. Why in the world would Mr. Romney repeatedly – and specifically – bring him up?

Some have interpreted it as an attempt to make Mr. Romney seem more human (“All humans love Big Bird. I love Big Bird! Therefore I am clearly a human”), or to reinforce an image of Mr. Romney as stern-yet-loving paternal figure (“I like Big Bird too, kids, but we can’t afford him, and anyway it’s past your bedtime”), or perhaps merely to reassure us that he lives on the same planet we do (“Sure I have a yacht and an Olympic horse and four houses, but I love Big Bird – I’m just like you!”).

Maybe that’s all that’s going on here. But as a teacher who spent the early part of my career working at schools in rural, low-income areas, I can’t help but wonder about the underlying race and class issues at play here.

History of Public Television

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting was created by an act of congress and signed into law by Lyndon Johnson in 1967, in response to a 1961 speech by then-head of the FCC Newton Minnow, who described television as a “vast wasteland… a procession of game shows, formula comediesabout totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence,sadism, murder, western bad men, western good men, private eyes, gangsters,more violence, and cartoons. And endlessly, commercials -- many screaming,cajoling, and offending. And most of all, boredom.” (Some things never change, am I right?)

This speech – commonly known as the “Wasteland Speech” – advocated for programming in the public interest, which led to the formation of the Carnegie Commission on Educational Television, which in turn led to the creation of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Put simply, the purpose of public broadcasting was to create “high culture” to counteract the “wasteland” effects of commercial television’s “low culture.”

Included in the Carnegie Commission’s recommendations were two revolutionary ideas: that television could be used for educational purposes, and – more specifically – that television could prepare children for school. “Public Television programs should give great attention to the informal educational needs of preschool children, particularly to interest and help children whose intellectual and cultural preparation might otherwise be less than adequate.” (Spring, 326)

The Children’s Television Workshop grew out of the Carnegie Corporation, in the first attempt to bring these revolutionary ideas to life, and in 1969, they aired the first episode of Sesame Street.

Sesame Street as Educational Gap-Closer

According to Paul D. Slocumb, Ed.D., author of Removing the Mask: Giftedness in Poverty:
“Students from enriched backgrounds typically perform better in school than those from poverty, as measured by standardized achievement and intelligence tests…. In educated households, the children have environmental opportunities and experiences that foster and encourage skills and academic performance to a level higher than students who don’t have such opportunities. Students from educated households are exposed to more abstract uses of language, more complex planning processes and procedures, schemas to organize space, precise use of words and phrases to describe objects and tasks, assignment of abstract values to time, and labeling part-to-whole relationships. Such exposure allows students to develop mental models, which serve as tools to get meaning from things they read, hear, and experience in school and in the outside world.”
Children of parents with limited income and education are already at an academic disadvantage by the time they enter school. Sesame Street was expressly created to help close this achievement gap between low-income and middle- and upper-income children entering school. Joel Spring, author of The American School: 1642-1996, describes Sesame Street’s original educational goals:
“While Sesame Street was supposed to appeal to a national audience, concerns with educating the children of the poor directly influenced the overall goals of the program. [...] The emphasis on preparation for school and concerns about children of the poor determined the basic shape of Sesame Street. The staff decided that poor parents wanted their children to achieve in the basic subjects of reading, writing, and arithmetic. The major complaint of these parents, the staff felt, was the failure of the school to teach these subjects. Therefore, the staff concluded that the program should focus on preparation for learning these subjects in school.”
The desire to help prepare low-income children for school wasn’t limited to television, of course. Around the same time, in 1965, as a part of Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” campaign, the Office of Economic Opportunity launched Head Start, originally conceived as a catch-up summer camp to help get children living in poverty ready for kindergarten.

Educational television offered one strong advantage over Head Start and other such programs, however: it was available to children in all geographic areas. To appeal to children from low-income families (and in particular, those in urban poverty), Sesame Street was set in an urban, racially diverse environment, but its creators knew that its success would come in appealing to all children.

In order to do so, Sesame Street sought to entertain and educate an audience not just of different racial and economic backgrounds, but also of different ages. Specifically, the Muppet characters were designed to reflect different developmental stages, in order to cover different curricular needs, to address the concerns and experiences of different ages, as well as to play to a broader audience of children. Big Bird, for instance, is modeled after an inquisitive 6-year old, while the impulsive Cookie Monster is babyish, right down to his grammatical errors (“Me want cookie!”).

The World as It Might Be

Chief advisor for the Children’s Television Workshop was Gerald Lesser, Bigelow Professor of Education and Developmental Psychology at Harvard, who had a great deal of influence over Sesame Street’s educational and ideological goals. Television, he believed, could offer “a vision of the world as it might be.”

As an example of this, Lesser described an urban bus ride, as depicted by Sesame Street:
“Now, we all know that a bus driver is often not our best example of someone who is courteous and civil. But on Sesame Street’s bus trip, the driver responds to his passengers’ hello’s and thank-you’s, tells a child who cannot locate his money, ‘That’s all right, you can pay me tomorrow,’ and upon seeing a young woman running after his bus just as it has left the curb, actually stops to let her on.” (Lesser, 95)
Lesser himself acknowledged this as an “outrageous misrepresentation” of real life, but “We wanted to show the child what the world is like when people treat each other with decency and consideration. Our act of faith… was that young children will learn such attitudes if we take the trouble to show them some examples, even if we stretch familiar reality a bit in order to do so." (Lesser, 95)

Another example of this “world as it might be” vision was in the way Sesame Street’s multi-racial cast lived, worked, and played together in integrated harmony – while, on the news and in the streets, white and black civil rights protestors clashed with white police and soldiers. (In 1970, a state commission in Mississippi voted to not air the show, stating that "Mississippi was not yet ready" for the show's integrated cast. The decision was reversed after the vote was leaked to the New York Times, gaining national attention. [Newsweek])

Why Sesame Street Matters

For more than four decades, Sesame Street has done what it set out to do in the late 1960s: teach basic alphabet, reading, spelling, and math skills to children while modeling values of kindness, consideration, and friendship. The magic of Sesame Street is that it’s managed to teach these lessons without being preachy or pedantic. Could it achieve the same magic while having, as Mr. Romney suggests, “Big Bird look at cornflakes from time to time”? I don’t know.

Mitt Romney was in his twenties when Sesame Street first aired, but for those of us who grew up in the 70s, 80s, 90s, or 2000s, the cast – both humans and muppets – feel like old friends. For people my age, Mr.Hooper’s death in 1982 was one of our first – if not the first – experiences of losing a friend. (And I don’t know about you, but I still get a little choked up when I think about Big Bird waiting for Santa, shivering and blanketed in snowflakes, while the residents of the street grow increasingly worried about him.)

For those of us with educated, middle- and upper-income parents, Sesame Street was a fun, educational show that helped us to ask questions we might not have asked otherwise, exposed us to racial diversity we might not have seen otherwise, and made us sing, laugh, and explore our feelings along the way. But to those of us with uneducated, lower-income parents who often worked multiple jobs and didn’t have the time, energy, or skills to read to us, teach us our letters, numbers, and colors, Sesame Street was an important resource that provided us with the knowledge and skills we needed to be successful in kindergarten.

Without Sesame Street, Mitt Romney’s grandchildren might miss the friendship and humor of characters like Big Bird, Ernie, Bert, and Elmo, but they’d still have access to the early educational opportunities and skills they needed to be successful in school. They’d be just fine. But other children – including many of the children of Mr. Romney’s 47% -- would enter kindergarten facing an even steeper learning curve, one that might prove too steep to scale in a single year. These children might find themselves falling farther and farther behind, blaming themselves for their academic struggles, eventually deciding that they simply weren’t cut out for school, and give up.

Whether or not Mitt Romney likes Big Bird is not the issue. Sesame Street matters not because it’s likeable, but because it seeks to provide pre- and early-literacy education to millions of at-risk children, to close an often overwhelming academic gap, and level the educational playing field so our children – all of them, regardless of racial, cultural, economic, or educational background – have full access to the America -- and the American dream -- we've promised them.

01 October 2012

An Open Letter to Book Banners

Dear Book Banners,

First of all, let me thank you for all the hard work you do. Without you, we wouldn’t be celebrating Banned Books Week in the first place! Just plain “Books Week” is much less exciting. By trying to get books banned from schools and libraries, you confer a degree of sexiness and danger on us that we might not otherwise have. Wait, do I sound sarcastic? I’m trying not to be sarcastic, Book Banners. I sincerely believe that you are trying to do the right thing, in your own mind, and I admire that. I’m not saying I want to hang out with you, but I get where you’re coming from. You want to protect kids and make the world better for them. So do I, and though I disagree about your methods, I think there’s a good number of issues we can agree on.
For one thing, we both agree that books are powerful! Every time you get up in front of a school board or town council and petition them to take a book off the shelves, you’re reminding us of the power and importance of books. You inspire us to start a dialogue about what books are and what books should be, and whether they should describe the world as it is or the world as it could be, and who should be allowed to read or restrict which books. These are interesting, often enlightening, conversations that frequently motivate people to go read the very books you’re trying to ban. Which is great! Anything you can do to get people talking about and reading books helps us all.
For another thing, we both agree that parents should know what their kids are reading. But while you seem to think parents should know so they can know when to take a book away from their kids, lest any dangerous ideas seep into a child’s brain, I think parents should know what their kids are reading so they can know when to swoop in and ask, “Do you have any questions? What did you think about the scene where the protagonist did that shocking thing? Have you ever heard of anyone doing that in real life?” Books can be great springboards for discussions, especially about issues that might be too hard or scary or weird to talk about in real life – a veil of fiction can give children that extra layer of safety to ask big questions. I used to teach 7th and 8th grade English, and we would have discussions like that a lot. Kids asked me questions like “Why did Hitler hate the Jews so much?” and “Why did the jury think Tom Robinson was guilty when Atticus proved he couldn’t have committed the crime?” and “What is rape?” and “Why would a society choose to stop feeling love and pain?” Are those scary questions for children to ask? Sure. Are they important questions for children to be asking? Absolutely.
We do seem to disagree, Book Banners, on children’s intelligence, wit, and strength of character. You seem to think that one stray reference to witchcraft or masturbation will shatter a child’s world forever. I think children are stronger and smarter than that. I think that kids can read about all kinds of things without immediately running out and doing those things – for instance, I read Native Son when I was fifteen, and to this day I have never beheaded a white girl and stuffed her body in a furnace. I read The Catcher in the Rye when I was fourteen and I’ve never had an awkward encounter with a prostitute. I read A Wrinkle in Time when I was eleven and have not yet managed to become a time-traveling witch (though maybe one day…).
Though we don’t always agree, Book Banners, I do admire your passion and tenacity, particularly in the era of online bookstores. Trying to restrict or ban a book is mostly a symbolic gesture in our culture, one that doesn’t honestly do much for your cause but which does a lot for ours. You remind us to love and honor books and of their significance in our lives, past and present. You remind us of the strength and beauty of the Bill of Rights, particularly the First Amendment, and you remind us how lucky we are to live in a society that treasures such a right. And by your vehemence – even by your professed disgust and hatred! – you remind us, in the words of Elie Wiesel, that the opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. I thank you for not being indifferent.

  Love, Molly

This post originally ran on The Debutante Ball blog, September 28, 2011.

27 August 2012

Child Transportation Safety Tips

Today on the internets, some of my parent friends started talking about front-facing versus rear-facing child seats. Apparently it's a big subject! The subsequent discussion quickly turned tense; it seemed everyone had an opinion about how best to keep their child -- and everyone else's child -- safe while traveling.

In light of this discussion, and while child safety is on everyone's minds, I thought I'd share some helpful lessons I learned in my own childhood.

Child Transportation Safety Tips
From The Adults Who Supervised My Childhood

1. When driving long distances, make sure the children are safely zipped into their Pound Puppy or Rainbow Brite sleeping bags. 

If you put the seats of your station wagon down and let them stretch out in the back of the car, properly zipped sleeping bags will keep them from pinching each other while you drive, therefore keeping everyone safe and happy. As long as they're lying down, they don't need seatbelts, because they're sleeping, and nobody needs to wear a seat belt when she's sleeping.

This child could totally still ride
on a bicycle baby seat

2. When driving long distances, or into any vaguely wild, remote area, or anywhere, really, be sure to have a cooler* full of cold beer cans available at all times.

These will come in handy in emergency situations, such as a child accidentally stepping on a nest full of yellow jackets after you encouraged her to go walking on some abandoned train tracks in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains while you went to go pee behind a tree. When your child is stung eight or nine times, the cold beer cans will help to soothe the stings while you frantically drive to the nearest Ranger Station.

*Note: If it is the 1980s, feel free to drink while you drive, because apparently that is still legal.

Helpful hint! Teach your child to identify yellow jacket nests at an early age, as well as other natural hazards such as rotting logs, uneven terrain, and bears.

3. When transporting children in a pickup truck, instruct the children to lie down in the bed of the truck as long as it is moving. 

It is never safe for children to stand in the bed while the truck is in motion. Have the children hold a blanket over them, so the cops can't see them. Remind children to hold tight! It gets windy back there.

Fun family tradition! The baby gets to ride in the cab.

4. Never allow a child to drive a car until her legs are long enough to reach the pedals. 

Unless she's sitting on your lap, in which case it's probably totally fine.

5. Children grow quickly! Prepare yourself for the day when your child outgrows the rear-mounted baby seat on your bicycle.

If she's outgrown the baby seat, do not try to squish her into it. Instead, have her sort of perch on top of the seat with her coltish legs hanging over the edge. When she outgrows that, teach her the rules of bicycle safety so she can use proper arm signals as she rides on your handlebars.

6. When tobogganing with your child, be sure to choose the steepest hill in town.

That way, when you suggest she stand in the back of the toboggan "like a dogsled musher," her fall will be swift and she'll have plenty of room to roll down the hill.

7. Teens and cars can be a dangerous combination. Distracted driving is deadly driving! 

If your teen won't stop rolling her eyes, sighing, and listening to obnoxious music on her walkman, make her a nest of pillows, blankets, and sleeping bags on top of all the suitcases in the back of your SUV. She'll have a comfortable spot to write her moody poetry, and you won't be distracted as you drive!

Safety tip: a sudden stop could be hazardous for a nested teen. In case of a sudden stop, warn your teen to hold tightly to the back of the seat, the interior roof handle, the clothes hanger hook, or anything else she can grab. Alternately, gently suggest that your teen try to sleep on her pile of suitcases and sleeping bags, because as everyone knows, nobody needs to wear a seatbelt when she's sleeping.

02 August 2012

Pop Song Lyrics That Make Me Argue With the Radio

It's summer! Still! Which means it's time to listen to the pop station when I'm cruising sitting in horrible rush hour traffic on Lake Shore Drive and/or driving to Iowa every other weekend, which is how I've spend most of my summer. Pop music is great for making long drives seem shorter. It's also great for having insane lyrics. And, well, you know me: when I see or hear something too often, I start to pick it apart.

In this case, I find myself arguing back at the radio, which doesn't look crazy at all.

And because the voices in my head tend to quiet down when I share them, here are a few of the songs that are currently making me stop and argue whenever I hear them:

Song: One Direction - "What Makes You Beautiful"

Lyrics in question: "You don't know you're beautiful / that's what makes you beautiful"

Argument: This is a very charming idea, I suppose. The song WANTS you to think, "Hey, maybe I'm beautiful! And I don't even know it!" But look, just because someone doesn't know they're beautiful doesn't automatically make them beautiful. I bet Marla Hooch doesn't know she's beautiful.

Is that what makes her beautiful?

Song: Nicki Minaj - "Starships"

Lyrics in question: "Jump in my hoopty hoopty hoop, I own that / I ain't payin' my rent this month, I owe that"

Argument: Honey, I get that you're trying to prove what a carefree badass you are, but look. Pay your rent. Just pay your rent. Otherwise, you're going to be living in your hoopty hoopty hoop, and there's nothing sexy about living out of a car.

Song: Bruno Mars - "Grenade"

Lyrics in question: "I'd catch a grenade for ya / Throw my hand on a blade for ya / I'd jump in front of a train for ya / Take a bullet straight through the brain"

Argument: Whoa. Settle down, pal. Maybe just buy me a beer or something, and we'll be good.

(My friend Christy asks, "What is the likelihood that someone would ever throw a grenade at you, and that, because of me, you would need to catch it?")

Song: The Killers - "Human"

Lyrics in question: "Are we human, or are we dancer?"

Argument: Are we... dancer? That is not English, Brandon Flowers.

The funny thing about these lyrics is that apparently Brandon Flowers was really upset that people were so confused about them. "I really care what people think, but people don't seem to understand 'Human.' They think it's nonsense. But I was aching over those lyrics for a very long time to get them right." Well honeychild, maybe if you had spent less time aching and more time, you know, writing grammatically correct lyrics, more people would have understood what the hell you were trying to say.

Song: Justin Bieber - "Boyfriend" 

Lyrics in question: "If I was your boyfriend, I'd never let you go"

Argument: You mean "If I were your boyfriend," kiddo. I know you've been living on a tour bus since you were a tiny baby, but that's no excuse not to learn your native language. Even Canadians use the subjunctive.

Song: Britney Spears - "Circus"

Lyrics in question: "When I put on a show / I feel the adrenaline moving through my veins / Spotlight on me and I'm ready to break / I'm like a performer, the dance floor is my stage"

Argument: That is not a simile, Britney. You got it right earlier in the song ("I'm like the ringmaster / I call the shots / I'm like a firecracker / I make it hot") -- you're not actually a ringmaster, nor a firecracker, so it makes sense to construct similes comparing yourself to them. But you're not "like a performer." You're actually a performer. Not a simile. The dance floor is actually your stage. It's not a metaphor.

Song: Ke$ha - "Tik Tok" 

Lyrics in question: "And now, the dudes are lining up cause they hear we got swagger / But we kick em to the curb unless they look like Mick Jagger"

Argument: First of all, Mick Jagger looks like an animated corpse.

Really, Kesha? You kick anyone to the curb unless he looks like this guy? 

Here's the thing. When Kesha was born in 1987, Mick Jagger was already 44 -- really, too old even to be her father. Let's say Kesha became aware of boys around age 12 -- Mick would have been 56, or old enough to get the senior citizens breakfast at Perkins. When "Tik Tok" was released in 2009, Mick Jagger was 66 years old. My dad is 66, and he mostly sits in his recliner all day. Not exactly who I want to go clubbing with. Though I do like to imagine Kesha on the dance floor, surrounded by an army of Zombie Mick Jaggers.

(My friend Michael argues that "The One True Mick Jagger is always 22 and unsatisfied." Fair enough, though in that case I would argue the lyric should go, "We kick them to the curb unless they look like Mick Jagger used to, twenty-two years before we were even born.")

Lyrics in question: Blah blah PAYPHONE blah blah PAYPHONE

Argument: Every single time I hear this, I imagine a 15 year old asking, "You're at a what? A... what? A pre-paid phone?" 

Extra Credit: Wiz Khalifa's rap break, which begins with the line "Man, f*ck that sh*t." Sorry, Adam Levine, I know you're trying to sing this totally wistful song about payphones or whatever, but Wiz is having NONE OF IT. 

08 May 2012

Princesses of Iowa Launch Day!

Happy Birthday, Princesses of Iowa

07 May 2012

Princesses of Iowa Media Round-Up

The Princesses of Iowa comes out TOMORROW! Happy almost-birthday, little book.

For your bored-at-work amusement, here are some articles & interviews about the book and me. Let's just say I'm glad the Wisconsin State Journal reporter didn't mention the part of our interview where I had to stop & retrieve a half-decomposed rat carcass from my dog's mouth.

Wisconsin State Journal: Q & A with M. Molly Backes

As a former English teacher, M. Molly Backes knows that all readers yearn for a happy ending. But life doesn’t always wrap up like the end of a Baby-sitters Club book....

Backes describes the book’s structure as a sort of “reverse Cinderella story” about a senior in high school trying to be the person she wants to be and not the person everyone else wants her to be....

The next time someone tells you that Iowa is flat, make them do a Google image search for “driftless area Iowa” and then stand over their shoulder screaming “ISN’T IT SO BEAUTIFUL????” 

A reviewer (who just happened to be a former student) described the book as a love letter to writing, and I think it’s an apt description....

Chicago Sun-Times Hot Chicago Writer Blog: April's Hot Writer M. Molly Backes
“You are brilliant and subtle if you come from Iowa and really strange and you live as you live and you are always very well taken care of if you are from Iowa.” – Gertrude Stein

25 February 2012

Princesses of Iowa Sneak Peek!

You guys! I keep forgetting to mention this! You can now read the first two chapters of The Princesses of Iowa online -- for free! Isn't the internet magic?

I should warn you that there's a PROLOGUE (which obviously comes before the first chapters) that is, of course, completely amazing (I'm practicing being better at self-promotion -- how's it going so far?) which is NOT online, for some reason. So if you like the first two chapters, just wait until you can read the PROLOGUE!

(All jokes about self-promotion aside, I do legitimately love the prologue.)

(Also, prologues! They're fancy! Mine has lots of swear words!)

If you like the first two chapters and want to hear this alleged prologue BEFORE the book is in stores, come hear me read it at the Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Friday April 27! I'll be reading with three other fabulous Chicago YA authors: Claire Zulkey, Jim Klise, and Julie Halpern.

For even MORE Claire, Jim, Julie, and Molly, come to the Loft Children's Literature Conference, April 27-29, 2012. (Why yes, that IS my book cover on the back of the brochure; thanks for noticing!) I went to this conference last year and it was fantastic -- I highly recommend it.

And if all that isn't enough, here is a box of baby sloths.

01 February 2012

Writing Roundup

I know I've been terrible about posting here, but that's because I've been doing lots of writing elsewhere. (And also watching Downton Abbey, because come on.) A sampling of some recent work:

I was sixteen years old when I realized that women could be writers. 
Obviously, I knew that women could write — and did write — books; I’d grown up with Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume and Ann M. Martin and Francine Pascal. I belonged to a generation of children raised by feminist mothers who read Ms. Magazine and told little girls that we could grow up to be the first female president of the United States. I spent my childhood in gender-neutral overalls, exploring cornfields and building bridges when the cow pond flooded. I was Free to Be You and Me and We Girls Can Do Anything! (Right, Barbie?) 
And yet....

Like most writers, I don’t know where characters begin. A moment in passing, a stranger on the train, a half-remembered story, a what if — characters begin as whispers and shadows, best seen peripherally. Time passes, and you do your best to show up every day, hang out for a few minutes or a few hours, and begin to tease out their stories. I don’t know of any way to do this part other than dreaming and listening and writing. I don’t think there’s a shortcut. 
Once you have them on the page, though, pinned down in sentences and paragraphs, you can begin to think analytically about who you’re working with....

Dear Fiction Writer, 
Despite what everyone else has told you, you don’t actually have to start a blog.

In fact, you probably shouldn’t....

If you’re reading this article, you’re probably doing everything right. You’re a member of SCBWI, and you actively work to build your network of fellow writers. You’re a student of storycraft. You spend a lot of time thinking about structure and plot and characterization and how to hook your reader. Your bookshelves are full of books about writing: Bird by Bird, Writing Down the Bones, If You Want to Write, The Artist’s Way, The Elements of Style. You take writing classes and belong to a workshop and have a writer’s group. Maybe you even have an agent or have publications under your belt. 
With all this studying and support, the writing part is a snap, right? 
If you attend every meeting and every class, read every book and every blog, and the writing is still hard, it might be simply because writing is always hard. It’s supposed to be hard. Writing pushes us to confront our deepest secrets and fears, to dig around in what it means to be human and build something beautiful. It’s not easy. 
But maybe it doesn’t need to be this hard, either....

If you want to read more, check out The Debutante Ball blog, where I post every Wednesday. And until then, here is a video of baby sloths.