- Janet Pelz
The sun is shining today and with it comes the prospect of spring, new life, long evenings outdoors, the hot bake of sun on the face, and bare feet in the sand.
I’m working on setting up some interviews – I have one next week that I’m excited about and others in the email exchange (Would you be interested? When are you available? Don’t worry – every woman I interview says there is nothing interesting about her life…)
In the seven days since I posted the story about Sandy Hirsch, I’ve had more than 600 hits, along with several new subscribers. Most of you are seeing my site for the first time. Welcome!
So, in this break while waiting to write my next story, I thought I’d explain for the new visitors what this site is and how it works. I’ve also got some updates on people I’ve written about previously, for those of you who like to track their progress. And in the course of this column, I’ll share with you some of the results I got from the survey many of you were kind enough to take back in November.
The Story of How Does She Do It?
I was always writing. At work I wrote the policy papers, the speeches, the memos -- whatever required putting one word after another in print seemed to fall to me. But when the recession hit, words were no longer a marketable commodity. I heeded a pent-up call to write what I wanted to write and a bad novel grew slowly from my keyboard.
Then the revelation struck that my world was filled with characters much richer than anything I could create from my imagination. They lived next door, their kids went to the same school as mine, they were friends and friends of friends -- all ordinary women living extraordinary lives – quietly, far from the headlines.
I set out to tell some of their stories.
I approached each of them like a gift, to unwrap carefully and find the treasure inside. And to each of these women I gave a gift in return -- their lives, with every bit of humor, resolve, passion and love wrapped up in one story.
I spend an hour, maybe two, listening to a woman tell me her life. And at the end I ask, “Whom should I interview next?” In this one community my stories have featured women of ages 11 - 99, mothers, artists, teachers, community leaders, gay, straight, and of diverse cultural backgrounds. Through their individual stories a much larger one is told -- our communities are filled with amazing women who are each doing their part to change the world. And you don’t have to do much to find them -- just ask.
The stories clearly hit their mark. Readership of the site grows steadily, mostly through word of mouth. People comment that we need more of this -- inspirational stories about regular people; a way to root ourselves in a broader world.
In the process I also aspire to connect people, even if just through the diaphanous threads of cyberspace. My friend Charlotte in the Phillipines had suggested in her survey response (miss you, Charlotte!) that I interview “a man who started life physically as a man but has chosen to live as a woman.” My friend Jane recommended I interview Sandy Hirsch, who has built a specialty of working with transgender clients. So I sent an email to Sandy and asked if she would like to take part.
Researching my site, Sandy read about someone she knew – Mary Ellen Buchanan – but didn’t know that Mary Ellen was a powerlifter. While I was interviewing Sandy, Laura saw us in the café. When Laura saw the story, she was moved to tears and shared the link on her facebook page. Mary-Ellen read Sandy’s story and sent her greetings through the comment link. Sandy sent the story link to her client Jerica to let her know she was featured in the story. Jerica was thrilled and shared the link with several transgender websites and on her youtube video log. Jerica is now a subscriber, and several hundred have found the site through Jerica’s links. I love that.
More from the survey:
Here are the types of women you’ve encouraged me to write about through your survey responses:
- women in their 40’s or older
- moms trying to find balance in their lives
- women who overcome obstacles and are living with power and purpose
- any woman in a male-dominated profession
- athletic women
- women who have chosen to veer from a particular set path to pursue a passion or social cause.
- women rights, immigrant, poverty, racial minority and labor activists for justice
- amazing teachers and parents making a difference in our schools
- a stay-at-home mother who has started her own business or chosen to work on a social cause or in politics
- a novelist – what’s it like to sit alone and write?
I’m pursuing some leads on several of the above, and I always welcome your ideas for women who fill any of these categories and particularly, for women most of us have never heard of.
As for the rest of the survey responses, I learned that 50% of respondents don’t always read the stories because they don’t like reading on the computer or the notices get lost in their inbox. This lends impetus to the idea of compiling the stories into a book, which could be enjoyed with a bedside light. Some find the stories too long – it’s always the hardest part, to edit out words or experiences from these women I find fascinating. Few of you are subscribers, preferring instead to wait for an email from me notifying you of a new story (warning: you will miss several of my postings because I don’t always send an email, but the story will always come directly to your inbox if you subscribe).
Not a one of you responding to the survey have purchased anything from an Amazon-affiliated website from the ad on my site. Guess I don’t exactly have a good business model going on. I should do a lot more to try to generate revenue to pay my costs, I realize, but I always choose to spend my time writing instead. Always open to ideas on this front, of course, so feel free to pass any good ones along.
(Speaking of business models, a memo leaked that Nokia, the world’s largest cell phone company, is worried about going bankrupt. Any ideas why?)
Melissa Erickson has set up a Foundation to receive contributions to help fund her health care costs (she is the former UW basketball player battling Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Click here to go to her site. It’s easy to send a paypal donation – I just did.
Simone Porter, the young violinist I wrote about last year, finally had to give up on public school and pursue her studies on-line – a situation more conducive to her schedule with The Academy, an elite conservatory program for pre-college musicians which requires being in L.A. every week from Sunday –Tuesday. Writes Deborah, her mother: “After barely a week of this online program, Simone is thriving. She feels empowered by being able to work ahead and she is able to practice her violin more and still have free time to exercise and even meet friends. Next year Colburn may allow her to actually board there, which, while heartbreaking for me in many ways, would, I know deep down, be great for her. She has emerged to a level of consciousness where she knows she is a musician first and foremost.
“We just returned from England where Simone performed the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with a great orchestra. The conductor just happened to be in the Barbican when Simone was rehearsing with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra last year (talk about luck!), heard her, and almost immediately invited her back to solo with his orchestra. Upcoming performances include soloing with the New West Symphony in L.A. in March, and soloing with the Hong Kong City Chamber Orchestra in July.”
Thanks for reading and as always, stay in touch.