Month: April 2014

Thank You!

Our Kickstarter is funded. It reached full funding last week, and I apologize that I’m just now posting this thank you. We spent much of that week trying to figure out what to say. To figure out how to express as much gratitude as we feel. And still, I’m not sure we’ve got it right, because every time I sit down to draft this thank you note to all of you, it falls short and I delete it.


(For some reason, I also always seem to fall a little bit into “Stephen Elliott Writing the Daily Rumpus Voice” when I try. But that’s a nice voice, and I would be happy to write half as well as Stephen Elliott, so there you go.)

Two fortune cookie fortunes. One reads “You will journey to pleasant places.” The other reads, “A thrilling time is in your immediate future.”
Our fortunes from last night. No, really.

We are very excited about our list of cities and writers, and we look forward to bringing you tales from the road–and our guests’ short pieces about food–over the course of the summer. We are. But right now, our overwhelming emotion is gratitude rather than wanderlust.

(Here, really, is where the blog post usually begins to derail. It starts to sound to me like an Oscar’s acceptance speech, which then feels pretentious. And we are humbled by this experience, not made more full of ourselves by it.)

First, we are thankful to all the writers who have agreed to participate. The list is amazing: Sara Pritchard, Jesse Kalvitis and Rebecca Doverspike, Ami Iachini Shiffbauer, Silas Hansen, Randon Billings Noble, Richard Peabody, Laura Bogart, Rob Bennett, Anna March, Jill Talbot, and David Lazar. Many of the people on this list are also on my reading list for my Comprehensive Exams. I can’t believe their generosity in agreeing to share their work and their time with us. We are both a little giddy over this.

Next, we want to thank our families. Kickstarter didn’t turn out to work the way we had anticipated. We thought most of our money would come from interested strangers. It didn’t. Most of it came from the pockets of the people we love, and who love us. Thank you, kinfolk.

(Here, too, the post always falls apart. I want to say that I’m not sure we’d have done this if we’d known that so much of the funding would come from the people who are already enabling us to be middle-aged graduate students pursuing a writing life instead of responsible grown-ups with real jobs. But I’m afraid saying that sounds ungrateful, when really it’s just that we were already so very grateful that we didn’t want to ask for more. If I weren’t making an effort not to be pretentious, I’d say something about cups that are running over here.)

We want to thank our community of fellow writers/readers/editors. I think folk who don’t write imagine that it’s something we do alone in quiet rooms–maybe with a cup of tea, maybe with a glass of whiskey–and that we succeed or fail solely on our own merits. That’s not even a little bit true. (Well, sometimes I do have a cup of tea.) Most of being a writer is something that we do in community with one another: introducing the work of writers we admire to our friends, acting as readers for drafts of work by friends, reading for literary journals, and (particularly at this time of year) inviting one another to give AWP panels/readings/interviews. Writers and editors both got us off the ground and put us over the top on this project. Some of them are friends, some of them strangers I admire, two are crazy famous and sometimes at night I sit up in bed and say to Dominik, “Holy crap, Authors X and Y backed our Kickstarter. Is this really our life?”

“Yep,” he says. And then we both go back to sleep.

And finally, we are grateful to our friends who supported us in this and in so many other our harebrained schemes. We promise to be equally supportive of your next crackpot idea.

(Here, too, past attempts to write this have stalled. I’m sure I’m leaving someone out, and I don’t want to do that. We will be thanking each of you individually both when the Kickstarter is officially over and then, over and over again, for years. Really. Maybe enough that you’ll tell us to please, for the love of God, give it a rest. And probably some more after that.)

Here is the truth of it: we both wake up almost every morning amazed and grateful at the life we get to lead together. (Obviously, some mornings we just wake up grumpy about the papers we have to grade or worried about someone we love or angry over something we heard on the news before we fell asleep. We are grateful, but also human.) We stop in the middle of other conversations to say to one another, “I can’t believe we get to actually do the summer tour. I can’t believe that these amazing writers have agreed to be part of it. I can’t believe how generous and supportive our family and friends have been.” (Also, sometimes, “I can’t believe Brock Lesnar broke the Undertaker’s 21 year winning streak. Brock Lesnar? That’s just not right.” But that’s a whole other kettle of fish, and not related at all to what I was talking about.) We are reeling, in the best possible way, from the support and generosity you’ve shown to us.

(And now, when I know the whole thing is full-on pretentious and that I haven’t thanked anybody adequately, I usually hit delete. I want to do a better job than this. I know that, as a writer, I’m supposed to revise until I’m satisfied but I don’t think that’s ever going to happen, and I know that it’s more important to say “thank you” now than it is to screw around with craft issues in this blog post until I think I made pretty words. So, flaws and all, I’m going to hit send. Right after I say “thank you” this one last time.)

On Being a Fat Food Blogger

When Dominik and I decided to start Writers for Dinner, I was afraid it was a terrible idea. Not because so many folks who set out to blog do so without thinking about how much work it is. I knew that it would be work, but it’s work we both love. Not because I thought we couldn’t get great writer-guests. I’m a PhD student in Creative Writing at Ohio University… I know lots of great writers, and many of them are also broke graduate students, so I imagined it would not be that hard to get them to agree to let us feed them dinner. Not even because I was afraid nobody would read our blog. I knew that the great writing of our guests would bring an audience and it has. (Thank you, readers!)

No, I was scared because I’m a fat woman and, in spite of having worked pretty much my whole life to overcome my internalized fat prejudice, I still have a tiny voice inside me that says fat women shouldn’t eat in public… and food blogging seemed like eating in public taken to a new level.

A photograph from the early twentieth century of the head and shoulders of an older woman in a black dress. The photograph makes it obvious the woman is a person of size.
My great-great grandmother, Sheva Baila Polan ran a nobleman’s dairy on an estate in Lithuania.

First, let me say that, like our Summer Tour guest Laura Bogart, I acknowledge that I choose to be fat. Unlike Laura, my fat is not armor or tied in any way to unhappiness… my fat is half genetic predisposition and half a love of the voluptuary pleasures of great food. My fat is perhaps the most transgressive kind… it’s the joyful fat of taking pleasuring in, rather than disciplining, the body. It’s the fat of saying yes to second helpings and no to spending more hours than my body needs me to spend in order to be healthy trying to negate the calories of those second helpings at the gym. It’s the fat of my great-great grandmother Sheva Baila, of my great-grandmother Bertha, of soft-bodied women everywhere who spend their time and energies on things other than being thin.

I am most comfortable with my body at just about exactly 200 lbs. When I get above that weight (as I am right now… I’ve gained 15 lbs during this joyous first year of marriage, which I understand it actually a thing), I work to bring myself back to it, but when I get there, I stop. I know that I can get to 200 lbs by getting about 50 minutes worth of brisk exercise five times a week and eating sensibly. If I want to get below 200 lbs, I have to make losing weight one of my jobs. It takes a couple hours at the gym every day and the kind of obsessive food-tracking that, frankly, takes too much time away from my other work for me to be willing to do it. I want to be a good writer, a good professor, and a better-than-good partner. That takes a lot of time and effort and I’m not willing to cut back on the work I do in any of those areas in order to also be thin. It just doesn’t matter that much to me.

Dominik and Sarah sharing a piece of wedding cake. In the photo it is obvious that Sarah is a person of size and Dominik is not.

The groom and the (fat and happy) bride share a piece of wedding cake.

But although I am comfortable at 200 lbs., the world is not comfortable with me at that weight. Last year, a colleague took a sweater-capey thing I keep in my office for chilly days and used it to costume her “Fat Sarah” performance in the hallway outside the main office of our department. I happened to catch her in the act, and she was so comfortable with the idea that fat-shaming is okay, she never even apologized. She just said, “I took this (the cape) because I was cold,” and then went right back to the conversation she had been having. During our recent trip to Austria, my husband’s aunt–after feeding us a lovely dinner–gave me a diet book written in German (which I don’t read) because she assumed I was unhappy about being fat and wanted to be helpful. I love Aunt Elizabeth very much, but I was heart-broken that she would feed me and then suggest I shouldn’t eat the very food she’d just served. These sorts of casual reminders that the world thinks I should care more about my size than I do are omni-present. Facebook constantly bombards me with diet ads. Friends often compliment me by telling me an outfit is “slimming,” which isn’t actually a compliment because it means that I look good because I’ve managed to find clothes which hide the reality of my body. It gets tiresome.

And so, when Dominik and I decided to launch a food blog, it took me a while to get comfortable with the idea that I was going to be public–as a fat woman–about my love of food. I’m lucky to have a partner who is supportive when I need to put in the effort to get back to the weight I want to be, but who isn’t invested in my being anyone or anything other than who I am. Who is okay with the fact that I am a person of size. It helps me to remember that I am also okay with it, and that it’s the result of choices I make and of which I am not ashamed.

So, won’t you come over and join us for dinner? Because I love food even more when it’s shared with good friends.