1-Time Workshops for Groups

Are you looking for meaningful enrichment opportunities for your group, club, or organization?

As an independent educator, I teach workshops and classes in a variety of settings. Workshops are the latest addition to my teaching portfolio!

I’ve been an English professor for 11 years, and before that, I taught writing at a community arts center and online. Since early 2020 (before the pandemic!), I’ve also been teaching classes to young people through Outschool.

I am excited to be launching a series of workshops that are specifically designed for groups like yours.

These groups are ideal for book clubs, parenting groups, Sunday School classes, groups of friends, women’s retreats, writers’ retreats, nonprofit organizations, religious groups, and so much more.

What Are You Looking For?

Mom groups, book clubs, church groups, organizations, and companies are often in need of affordable but meaningful opportunities to learn and share together. In the covid-era, these opportunities became even more challenging, as existing programs shifted online and people stayed home in order to stay safe.

Today, so much of the world has gone back to normal, but there have been some big changes. This is what I’ve noticed:

  1. Some people still need to take precautions. Perhaps they are sick, quarantined, caring for someone who hasn’t been able to get vaccinated, or at high risk for covid complications in a community with high rates of transmission. This is definitely my pandemic experience, so I know what it’s like to have to scale back again and again, while still trying to stay active and engaged with my community.
  2. Today, pople are much more comfortable with online engagement, even if they hadn’t ever seen the Zoom interface before 2020!
  3. People have really benefitted from the ability to gather with friends, regardless of distance.
  4. The number of meaningful online opportunities has decreased as many organizations, schools, and events have gone back to being in-person. While there were once many different group events that people could pick from online, the choices are getting slimmer!

If you are looking for something that allows your entire group or team to get together online to share, talk, and write, a LizBR workshop is a great option!

Also, you’re probably looking for something that is affordable. I have never been part of a group that has had a huge budget–probably because I’ve always worked in non-profits and education! If you do have a huge budget for stuff like this, that’s awesome! However, if you’re looking for something that doesn’t cost a ton of money but still delivers a really great, live, online experience, my workshops are a good solution.

Current topics

For Summer 2022, I’m offering just a few workshop topics. You can read more about each workshop on my website.

These workshops are:

Developing a Christian Spiritual Writing Practice

Developing a Secular Spiritual Writing Practice

Spiritual Writing Guidance: Writing Transcendence

Feminism & Princesses

Writing Deconstruction Narratives

I can also offer topics related to any of my other teaching areas, so if you have seen something I offer as a multi-week class or on Outschool that you’d like me to teach to your group of adults, just let me know and I will create a workshop that meets your needs!

What to Expect

Each workshop features a combination of presentation and discussion. The bulk of each workshop is facilitated discussion, although writing courses also involve a bit of time for doing a creative writing prompt.

You can choose a 60-minute or 90-minute session, depending on what works best for your group.

The event takes place over Zoom.

cost

My goal is to make these workshops affordable and accessible to all groups! Registration costs are based on the length of the session and the number of participants. The price can be as low as $20 per participant!

60-minute session
1-5 participants: $100
6-10 participants: $200
11-15 participants: $300
16+ participants: reach out to me for a price

90-minute session
1-5 participants: $150
6-10 participants: $250
11-15 participants: $350
16+ participants: reach out to me for a price

How to Register

To register for a workshop, contact me on my website. We’ll talk about which workshop is best for you and when you want to schedule. I have available during some weekdays, as well as nights and weekends.

After you pick a time, you’ll need to pay for the group size you expect to have. One person is required to make the payment; I do not collect registration fees from each individual participant. If you end up having more people sign up than expected, just reach out to me and I’ll let you know how much more you owe for the additional participants.

You must have your workshop paid in full at least 24 hrs before your workshop. You and your participants will be sent a Zoom link after your workshop is paid for.

I could use some help!

If your group is interested in one of these workshops, please send them my information! I hope to offer several workshops in May, June, July, and August, and I need your help to spread the word to more participants.

Please share this blog post with them! You can also follow me on Facebook and TikTok, where I post interesting writing stories, updates, and information about the topics I teach about.

If you have questions about workshops or classes, please don’t hesitate to reach out today! I look forward to meeting your group!

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Writing the Pandemic: 4 Moments

Moment #1: easter candy

In the weeks after the pandemic, if you searched “How many days has it been since…” the auto-fill would read:

How many days has it been since Christmas?
How many days has it been since March 16, 2020?
How many days has it been since March 15, 2020?
How many days has it been since March 19, 2020?

Those auto-fill suggestions revealed our collective behavior: we were trying to figure out how much time had passed since our lives shut down and everything changed. How long had it been since our last day at work, our kids’ last day at school, our last trip to the grocery store?

I have a chronically ill husband who is already on 24/7 supplemental oxygen and a bipap at night. He can’t afford to get covid. We operated with the strictest of rules. Friends brought us things we couldn’t order online. We only saw my siblings and their kids if they could quarantine for two weeks before we got together. On Easter, it was just my mom and us, the kids having a lonely egg hunt without their cousins for the first time ever.

Putting together their Easter baskets had been a chore; everything online was so expensive (or only available in bulk), and our local grocery stores didn’t include seasonal candy in their Instacart listings at that time. I managed to add a few things to each grocery order leading up to the holiday so that they had a good Easter basket. No chocolate bunny this year, and less themed candy, but still–it was a celebration.

Several weeks after Easter, I found myself at CVS. It was the first building I had been into that wasn’t my own home (or my mom’s next door) in two months. But my husband had a prescription that needed to be picked up, and so I called my mom and said, “Do you want to go with me to CVS?!”

Walking around the store made me feel like I was visiting from another planet. I filled my cart with things like rubber bands, allergy medication, new pens and pencils, whiskey and vodka and wine, band-aids, and everything I hadn’t been able to browse through in weeks. I looked at the other shoppers and wanted to shout, “Does this feel weird to you, too?!”

Then I turned the corner and saw the clearanced Easter candy and decor. Easter candy on clearance? Weeks after the holiday?!

I looked at all of the options and immediately choked up–Peeps, chocolate bunnies, cute little eggs. Everything I would have normally browsed and picked through, finding the best deals and the best options. They had been here this whole time, of course, in a place that had always been perfectly accessible to me–the drugstore on McGalliard Road–and yet I hadn’t been able to get them.

I didn’t want to cry in CVS, so I didn’t let myself. But how silly and important it felt, all at the same time, to have lost the chance to give the kids their normal Easter, and to wonder if we would ever get back to what we had before.

My 2 kids at their not-the-same-as-before Easter egg hunt

Moment #2: funeral

September 2020: my grandma, who was in her 90s, caught covid. She died about a week later, at home. Her caregiver, my aunt, caught covid at the same time, and so we couldn’t see either of them. I just couldn’t take the risk of bringing it home to my husband. I knew my grandma would never want me to take such a big risk.

We said goodbye on video chat; she knew it was my kids and me even in her sleepy haze. I told the kids, “We’ll call again tomorrow,” but she was gone by morning. My son still feels like I lied to him. It has been a year and a half, and he still cries about how much he misses his great grandma and how she never got to meet his puppy.

Instead of a funeral, family could come to the funeral home and then go to an outdoor grave-side service. Masks were required, and only one person refused. It was held 2 weeks after her death because we had to wait for covid to clear the family.

We stood in the rain during the grave-side service, not enough room under the canopy. The only rainy day that September, it seemed.

I had been trying not to judge people for different decisions than I was making, because what is the point of judging? But in that moment, I wondered–where was the chain of contagion? What choices had led us here? Who said, “No, I don’t need to wear a mask,” or “You absolutely have to come to work today, I don’t care if you’re sick,” or “You’re not going to make me live in fear!” and got us to this moment?

Grandma Ruthie & my dog Scout

Moment #3: Retreat

I pulled up to the 149-year-old church where I would be spending the next 4 nights. Alone. The snow was up to my ankles and coming down fast; I was lucky to have picked the perfect day for my arrival, right between two snowstorms.

I found my way inside and took a long, deep breath.

Then I hurried to the bathroom, because the AirBnB was three hours from home and I wasn’t comfortable going inside gas stations to use the bathroom yet, as I was still only half-vaccinated.

It was February 2021. For the past 11 months, I had spent every minute of every day with my family. The only “alone time” I got was when I taught from my little desk in the corner of my garage. Some nights, one of the kids would spend the night next door at my mom’s, but there was never solitude. Never quiet. I never got to be alone in my own house.

I just wanted to be on my own. And when my cancelled research trip got turned into a writing retreat, I finally got what I wanted.

Four nights. I slept alone in a big bed. I made meals that were exactly what I wanted to eat. I watched what I wanted to watch, sat at the table and wrote, taught a few classes, listened to the Inside Llewen Davis soundtrack a dozen times without my kids judging my music tastes, and went on walks through the snow-filled cemetery across the street.

The pandemic took a lot from me, but it gave me that beautiful retreat, too.

Moment #4: Inside

Everyone on TikTok was talking about Bo Burnham’s Inside.

Things were finally feeling normal. Ben and I had gotten vaccinated, and the risk to our family was lower. Kids were still not getting covid in huge numbers and their vaccinations were on the way to approval, with hope that they would be vaccinated before the school year. We had done some traveling; we had been in some masked crowds.

We had no idea that schools would drop their mask mandates AND their virutal programs, or that the Delta variant would start causing thousands of kids to get sick, or that breakthrough cases would become more common.

May 2021 was the sweet spot in the pandemic. I often wish I could go back to May 2021.

As for Inside, I knew Bo Burnham as the comedian some of my friends really loved, and the guy who directed Eighth Grade, which was so good.

I decided to give it a try.

What could it hurt?

Halfway through, Ben sat down beside me and I started it over. During “All Eyes On Me,” I remembered what it felt like to be at church as a teenager, caught up in emotion, and held my breath at the visceral memory.

As the credits rolled and the song sang It’ll stop any day now, I looked over to Ben and said, “Wow, that was really good.” Was it? he asked. He had thought it was fine.

“It’s just been a really hard year,” I said, suddenly crying in my hands.

I finally had something that documented how hard things had been. I didn’t care about the debates of whether it was scripted or authentic (I think it was both) or whether Bo Burnham is truly owning up to his problematic jokes of the past, or anything like that.

Inside gave me an artistic representation of life interrupted by the pandemic, and I am still so grateful.

Write about the pandemic with me.

Writing this felt good. Even though I know that some parts of it will make people mad. They won’t like that my kids wear masks or that I got vaccinated. They’ll say I overreacted to the pandemic, that it’s not a real threat. Well they haven’t seen my husband’s oxygen drop to 85% for days because of a cold, and maybe they haven’t lost people to covid, and maybe they don’t have a kid with asthma who cries in his sleep when he remembers past hospital stays.

Picking the scenes–the moments–made me reflect on the previous years and what they have meant. Things are still so strange. I am tired from making life-or-death decisions all the time, tired from working against systems that seem determined to hurt us, tired from

I can’t be the only one.

If you’re looking for cathartic, meaningful ways to cope with the pandemic’s effects on your life, join me for a 6-week Zoom class where we’ll talk about our experiences and take time to write about what we have gone through these past two years. Class details for Writing the Pandemic are on my Upcoming Classes page.

The awful, the beautiful, the mundane, the horrible.

I’m facilitating this class because it’s the class I need to take. I’ll do the work of putting it together, finding students to join us, choosing texts we can read together, creating writing prompts and activities, facilitating conversations, and structuring the class–you just need to show up, ready to share and write.

I sure hope you’ll join me.

Writing the Pandemic: A live, online class for adults

We Need to Talk about Princesses!

I’m about to launch a brand-new class for adults: Feminism & Princesses, a live, online course that meets once a week for 6 weeks. Welcome! Scroll down to the last section of this page to learn about the class, but in the meantime…

let’s talk princesses…

Every generation of feminists seems to have a different attitude about princesses and princess narratives.

I was a child of the 80s and 90s, so the Renaissance Era princesses meant everything to me. I spent my childhood singing mermaid songs in the pool, jumping around the living room pretending to be on a flying carpet, and playing the part of a dog-turned-footstool in our recess performance of a favorite film.

When I discovered feminism as a young adult, I started hearing criticisms of the princesses I had always loved.

She gave up her voice and her tail–for a man!

She fell in love with someone who imprisoned her!

She only has 17 lines!

They always just wait around for a prince to come rescue them!

I was also aware of the growing debate about whether girls were expected to be too “girly” and only embrace princess-y things, like pink and pearls and jewels and long beautiful hair.

When my oldest child was born, we were gifted a lot of pretty pink toys and clothes, even though we had hoped to keep things a little bit more gender neutral. (I can’t lie, though–I loved those sweet floral onesies and frilly dresses!) My new mom friends and I talked about our thoughts and feelings on princesses, and whether or not they were good role models.

There were plenty of think pieces to keep us talking for hours:

“Is Disney sexist?”
“The recent ‘Disney princess’ craze could have a devastating effect on kids”
“Researchers have found a major problem with ‘The Little Mermaid’ and other Disney movies”
“5 Ways Modern Disney Is Even More Sexist Than The Classics”
“Disney Princesses: Best to Worst Messages for Women”

Talking About Princesses with Tweens and Teens

When I first started teaching on Outschool, I thought I would teach scholarly writing. But instead, I ended up developing a teaching niche that I didn’t expect: feminism and pop culture.

I started Feminism & Cartoon Princesses, a 4-week class for ages 10-14, way back in the spring of 2020. Since then, I’ve taught it 15 times–plus more times in camp versions and asynchronous “Flex” versions.

In this class, we talk about the three different waves of cartoon princesses and apply basic feminist theories to the characters and plots.

This has been a completely fascinating experience! I’ve noticed three main perspectives among my students:

  1. Students who have clearly been raised by 2nd and 3rd wave feminists who may like a princess here or there, but bring a LOT of criticism to the princesses. These are the students who are quick to find fault with the decisions the princesses make. I love their unwillingness to accept everything that is presented to them as entertaining; these students are critical and smart and usually quite funny.
  2. Students who LOVE princesses and everything about them and just want to talk about how great the princesses are. These are great students to have in class because they always know a ton about the characters and what they experienced. They’re the ones that win the trivia game during week 4!
  3. Students who really like the princesses and can find ways to analyze their behavior while taking into consideration the context in which the films were made and the positive ways the characters cope with their circumstances. These are the students who realize that if you lack agency in your life, it can be pretty hard to make good choices. They realize that the sexism of the era in which a movie was made has an impact on the representation of characters within the film, but that doesn’t mean you have to hate those characters. These students are incredibly insightful and always give me something new to think about!

Branching Out to Teaching Adults: upcoming feminism & Princesses class

I recently launched a platform for teaching adults, not just kids on Outschool.

At LizBR.com, I can teach the subjects that adults are always asking me about when they hear about my Outschool and university courses!

Let me tell you about Feminism & Princesses!

Class duration: 1x a week for 6 weeks (55 minutes per class)

Class topic: How feminism helps understand, appreciate, and critique the princess narratives we were raised with.

What makes this class different: Unlike other online classes for adults, this is not a situation where you watch videos and participate in a chat room or forum. This is a live, online class that meets every week. The class minimum of 5 ensures that we have a good group dynamic for discussing the topic over Zoom every week.

Cost: This class costs $150, but because I’m just now launching the platform, I’m offering an introductory price of $75. That’s only $12.50 per session–and significantly less than other platforms offer for their pre-recorded video classes.

To take advantage of this price, register before the end of 2/28/22. This applies to any class I’ve listed for the year!

Homework/commitment: This class has NO homework and no time commitment outside of class. I want it to be easy for people to join the class without feeling like they have to commit to a huge amount of time.

When is the class being offered: There are several times listed on the Upcoming Classes page of my website!

Scholarships available: Yes, scholarships are available if you need one. Just reach out to me and let me know!

Image: Princess about to kiss a frog
Text: Feminism & Princesses, live online class for adults
http://www.lizbr.com
50% off: Register by 2/28/22 for 50% off class fee

Writing as a New Parent

4 Ways to make it work

Image: A mom trying to write, one kid on her lap, another kid on the couch.
Caption: Writing as a New Parent: 4 Ways to Make It Work

Everyone LOVES to give advice, especially unsolicited. Have you taken a look lately at the TikTok comments every time a video of a cute kid goes viral? A ton of people are just waiting to jump into the comments with their “suggestions” and “questions,” most of which are actually just veiled criticisms of the ways that the parent is parenting.

Sure, sometimes, there are reasons for people to kindly and thoughtfully provide a parent with something they didn’t know. But most of the time, it’s just a platform for people to share their parenting preferences as if they were parenting rules.

If you’re a new parent, you’re probably pretty tired of advice. Especially advice you didn’t ask for. That puts me in a bit of a Catch-22. I want to offer some advice based on my experiences of being a writer and a mom, but I don’t want to pile on more advice to make you feel like you’re doing something wrong! Or worse, like you’re doing everything wrong!

That’s why I’m giving you my blessing to stop reading now.

Seriously, if you’re fed up with advice and you just want to get some peace, then stop reading this! You don’t need this list–you probably want a nap!

If you’re feeling up to reading some ideas about how to write while parenting, feel free to read on.

1. Don’t Feel Obligated to Listen to a Stranger’s Advice

It’s one thing to have some trusted voices of guidance to help you make decisions in the early days of parenting. Maybe those voices are people like your child’s pediatrician, your partner, a trusted parent or older friend, or a small group of dear friends.

However, there are a LOT of strangers out there, ready to give you all their thoughts. That’s why I said you don’t have to read this; chances are, I’m a stranger to you!

Learning to let go of everyone else’s advice was so important to me when I tried to get back into writing after my first child was born. I was in a graduate program for writing, so everyone had input for me–my professors, my classmates who didn’t have kids, pretty much everyone on the internet, and all the books I had acquired about parenting.

I had to figure out how to limit those voices to just the ones I wanted to prioritize and value.

There is a lot of writing advice out there. And you know what? Most of it is written to people who DON’T have kids to take care of, let alone a baby. Writing advice is often geared toward single men or men who have partners that are caring for their children. It is often written to young people who haven’t started families yet or older people whose kids have left the home.

Standard writing advice includes: Write every single day to make it a habit. Read every single day; spend more time reading than writing. Get up an hour early every day and make writing a disciplined part of your life. Get away from your responsibilities as often as you can, perhaps even once a month, so that you can focus on your writing.

These aren’t bad pieces of advice. They’re just not pieces of advice that can be applied to every situation!

If you find that a piece of advice makes you feel bad about yourself, or makes you feel like you couldn’t possibly manage such a thing right now, maybe that is a piece of advice to save for a different time in your life. A time when you’re not adjusting to the responsibility and joy and challenge of parenting.

2. It’s Okay to Measure Productivity Differently Now

I remember when I realized that my baby and I could do exactly two actvities per day.

If I needed to go to Target, and had a doctor’s appointment to get to, and wanted to go to the New Parents Support Group at the hospital where my oldest was born, that was going to be way too much. One of those things was gonna have to go.

I’m someone who had always been on the go, and the need to reduce my activities to just two things per day was briefly demoralizing. I had so much to get done! But when I tried to tackle things like I used to, I ended up exhausted, with a grouchy baby and usually a new frustrating experience in my wake.

Measuring productivity may have looked different for you in the past than it does now, and that’s okay. If you used to write 50k words for NaNoWriMo every year and now you’ve found that you’re struggling to open your laptop to write a paragraph, have patience with yourself. “Success” may not look like 50k words in November. It might look like 50k words spread throughout an entire year, or 10 minutes every day in November, or 3 submissions in a year instead of 10.

Be kind to yourself as you learn to identify what your new goals should be. And remember that it’s not just, “Oh, I’m not doing as much as I used to.” You’re doing far more! It’s just that your energies are divided up a bit differently now, and you can’t expect to continue to take on this huge new responsibility without shifting some things around.

3. Remember that Your Voice Is Valuable

Your voice matters!

When you’re surrounded by thousands of mom blogs, parenting books, and microcelebrity influencers, it can feel like your voice isn’t that important. Hasn’t everyone already said what needed to be said?

Imagine if Anne Lamott had decided that it wasn’t worth it to write about parenting, because so many others had already written about it, so she didn’t write Operating Instructions?

Whether you are writing about parenting or anything else, your voice is still important and worth adding to the world. You don’t cease to be a writer when you become a parent, even if your productivitiy has gone down.

4. Give Yourself Concrete Deadlines

I have found that when it comes to writing while parenting, I often end up putting my own needs and interests last, because I know I can handle it. Or at least I feel like I can handle it!

If I have to choose between work, parenting, and writing, I often put writing last, because it seems the easiest to set aside and “get back to later.” The demands of work and kids and health and a partner are often louder and more insistent than the quiet work of continuing to write.

The best way for me to force myself to get writing done is to give myself a deadline. Actually, I know myself–I need someone else to give me a deadline! Being in grad school when my oldest was born was really helpful, because I needed to meet certain deadlines to stay on track in order to graduate.

Taking writing classes, participating in a structured writing group with due dates, or creating firm deadlines that you can’t wiggle out of may be just the thing you need to hold yourself accountable to doing your writing.

This is the reason why I’ve started a class on my independent educator platform for writers who are new-ish parents–anyone who has become a parent and is still struggling with that parenting/writing life balance, regardless of how old their kids are.

My goal is to give parents the framework to set aside time and write. Plus, I hope to provide opportunities for small writers groups to continue even after the class is over. Making connections with other writers is so important! I never felt more like a writer than when I became part of an organic writing community.

To learn more about Writing as a New-Ish Parent, visiting the upcoming classes page of my website! This class meets 1x a week for 4 weeks. Because I know how tight money can be when you’re a new parent, I’m pricing this class at the most affordable rate I can. Plus, I’m offering 50% off the normal class fee to anyone who registers for any 2022 class before 2/28/22. If you register by that date, it’s only $40 for the whole 4 weeks!

Plus, there is NO homework in this class. Everything is live via Zoom and conducted within 55 minutes a week. You’ll get the opportunity to talk with other parent-writers and then actually do some writing. You can take this class over and over if you want!

Image: 4 babies playing
Text: Writing as a New-Ish Parent, a live, online class for adults

What is Spiritual Writing? And How Can We Practice It?

I recently posted about what I’ve learned from teaching the Spiritual Practice of Writing for several years at my university, but I want to back up a little bit and talk about some definitions, especially now that I’m teaching on a similar topic (though not the same course!) for adults through my independent education platform.

What is spiritual writing? What makes it a practice? And is it really something that is accessible to everyone, regardless of religious affiliation or belief?

what do you think when you hear “spiritual”?

Spirituality, spiritual, spirit–these words, like many others in the English language, are incredibly subjective.

If I were to ask everyone in a class what their feelings are when they hear the word “peace,” I’m going to get a bunch of different answers:

-Peace is the goal of ending wars and putting a stop to senseless killing.

-Peace is sitting on the beach in a chaise, my eyes closed, the sound of the ocean in my ears, the heat of the sun on my face.

-Peace is the feeling of quieting my inner worries and fears as I practice meditation.

-Peace is when my children are not arguing.

Is of those definitions more correct than the others? No, of course not. When we have these big subjective words, it’s natural that we approach them differently, through the lenses of our experience.

“Spiritual” is a word like peace. People bring a lot of different associations and experiences to the conversation when we discuss spirituality. For some, it is braided tightly into their religious faith, and yet many non-religious people are also drawn to the exploration of spirituality.

Towards a Definition of Spirituality

I try not to put firm limits on the definitions of spirit or spirituality. Instead, I like to make room for students to bring their own understanding to the class.

However, I do have to create some boundaries for what the class discusses, addresses, and explores.

I define spirituality, for the sake of my classes, as anything that engages with a person’s deep inner self and its connections to the broader world.

If spirit is that non-physical part of yourself where you feel your emotions, think your thoughts, and house your identity, then spirituality is any attempt to engage and understand that part of yourself.

Spiritual Writing is Writing that Explores the Self

Spiritual writing, then, is writing with the primary purpose of interacting with our deep inner lives. Often, in practice, it has no audience beyond the self. Just like you wouldn’t think of having an audience for your yoga or mindfulness practice, much of your spiritual writing doesn’t have an audience, either.

When we practice spiritual writing, we intentionally set aside time to engage with our spirits through writing. This can look like spiritual journaling, writing exercises, mindfulness, reflective writing, and more. For people of faith, it may also look like prayer.

Reading Others’ spiritual writing

One way of practicing spiritual writing is to become a reader of essays, memoirs, and poetry in which the writers are doing that hard work of engaging with their inner selves. I always incorporate reading into my spiritual practice of writing courses because I think it’s incredibly helpful to see how other writers explore their thoughts, ideas, fears, doubts, and identities.

In my upcoming Spiritual Writing classes at LizBR.com, we will read several spiritual texts. I haven’t quite finalized my list, but here are some of my favorite books and poems that I place in the “spiritual writing” category.

So Late, So Soon by D’Arcy Fallon

Wake, Sleeper by Bryan Parys

A Thousand Vessels by Tania Runyan

Burning Wycliffe by Thom Satterlee

Poems by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

In the Wilderness by Kim Barnes

Book of My Nights by Li-Young Lee

Here is a long list of spiritual memoirs that might be of interest to you!

Do you want to develop a practice of spiritual writing?

Like other forms of mindfulness and meditation, it takes time, patience, and perseverance to build up to engaging in writing as a spiritual practice. If you want to develop this practice, I would be so happy to help you take those first steps!

Spiritual Writing is an 8-week course that I teach on my independent educator platform, LizBR.com. In the class, we split our time between two main things: discussing spiritual writing and actually practicing spiritual writing.

The class is live–we meet for 55 minutes on Zoom once a week for 8 weeks. The time commitment outside of class is minimal; you just need to do your best to complete the readings each week.

Learn more by visiting my Upcoming Classes page.

If you’re seeing this post before 2/28/22, you’re in luck, because I’m offering introductory pricing for any class that you register for before the end of February! That includes any class that meets in 2022. As long as you register by the end of the day on 2/28/22, you get 50% off your class fees! That means this 8-week class is only $100.

Rocks on a beach.
Text: The Spiritual Practice of Writing, A live, online class for adults.

Writing as a New Parent

Years ago, when I was a new-ish mom with an infant and a preschooler at home, I sat in a breakout session at AWP, a huge conference for writers and publishers, and listened to some moms give advice for how to MAKE IT WORK as a writer and a new mom.

The advice I heard was completely useless to me.

Turns out, they were only talking to people who were *already* full time writers with consistent income from their writing who needed to learn about managing their schedules now that they had a kid or two.

It should have been a “how to work from home with kids” session, rather than “how to write and parent,” because I found myself looking at the notes I was taking and thinking:

X Can’t afford a “solo writing retreat” once a month at a local hotel or retreat center
X Can’t get up an hour earlier than I already am, since I’m sleep deprived already
X Can’t ask my chronically ill husband to stick to a specific schedule that meets my writing needs, since he could be unable to help on any given day
X Can’t set aside “just a few 30 minute blocks of time every day to write” when my day is scheduled from morning to night with work, kids, household tasks, and more…

The thing is, I wasn’t trying to continue my writing career while parenting. I was trying to find time to write while also being a parent and a full-time English professor.

I wouldn’t say that the advice the panel gave was bad. It was just not helpful to someone who was trying to write while also working and parenting.

Working parents who want to write are up against what feels like an impossible task. I certainly know that I have struggled over the past 12 years since I became a mom to get my writing done, get essays submitted to publishers, and feel like a writer.

I’ve accomplished some writing goals in that time, certainly. I finished my MFA and have published at least a few essays most years. I’ve done NaNoWriMo a few times and was able to take a sabbatical from work to work on a novel. I even found a great group of writer friends and, up until the pandemic hit, went on writing retreats with them a couple of times a year once I was able to leave the kids for a few days at a time!

But finding time to write consistently while performing the tasks of parenting and working? It has been nearly impossible.

What I Actually Needed

You know what I needed when I was in the thick of being a brand new parent and still wanting to write and publish? I needed structure (my grad school deadlines gave me that), community (which I only found after YEARS of searching), support from my family (which I had from my husband, but it’s not like toddlers can have buy-in to their parents’ goals), and TIME (which I rarely had).

I also needed more sleep, more money, and less stress–none of which I have successfully acquired consistently since becoming a parent.

I‘m curious, what bad or out-of-touch advice have you gotten regarding parenting and writing?

Image Description: 4 babies playing with blocks.
Text reads: WRITING AS A NEW-ISH PARENT. A LIVE, ONLINE CLASS FOR ADULTS.

Also, if you know of a new-ish parent who could benefit from a dedicated time to write every week and ideas that ACTAULLY HELP, check out my affordable online class, Writing as a New-ish Parent.

Give This Writing Activity a Try: Exploring Liminality

Some activities come and go, but when I teach the Spiritual Practice of Writing, I always include this activity on liminality.

Liminality: being in a transitional state, or being at a boundary or threshold between two spaces, ideas, or experiences.

When we talk about “liminal spaces” in literature, we often mean the in-between moments. In fiction, it is often the tension-filled, difficult space between the conflict and the resolution. In memoir, these spaces can be found in the moments of transition, when an experience has ended but the writer is not finished understanding it.

Examples of liminal spaces

In my own life, the liminal spaces I have been aware of include:

My first pregnancy–when I felt in between being an independent adult without kids and being a mom. I was both at the same time, and neither.

Fall 2021, when my husband and I had been vaccinated, but the kids hadn’t. We thought we were going to be able to send both our kids back to school, but then the Delta variant hit, and my son’s pulmonologist recommended that he stay home. Suddenly we had one kid in school, one kid at home, and the impossible task of deciding what was safe and what wasn’t. It felt that the world had moved on, but we were still right in the thick of the pandemic’s interruptions.

All those moments when I haven’t known what comes next. Will I get that job? Should we move or not? How much longer will be in this holding pattern?

The Doorway

I think the most useful metaphor for liminality is a doorway.

A doorway is a threshold. When you stand within a doorway, you are not entirely in either of the two spaces, and yet you are still in both of those spaces. You can hear and interact with people in both rooms, but you are also somewhat removed from the activity in both spaces.

Standing in a doorway can be awkward–you usually want to get out of the way. Others may be coming and going through the same threshold, and you don’t want to hold anyone up. And yet there are benefits to staying put, especially if you need to feel that connection to both rooms.

Additionally, the doorway is itself a fabrication. I don’t mean that it is fake; I mean that it has been created. The space around the doorway exists, regardless of whether or not the doorway does. And yet the creation of the doorway has also created the experience you are having by standing within it.

Image Description: A woman stands in the frame of a doorway.
The text on the image reads Liminal Spaces: Doorways, Thresholds, Boundaries, Transitions

Explore Liminality with This Activity

Liminal spaces can be a rich and meaningful way to explore your inner world. However, they often show up when you don’t expect it, and it can be difficult to force a liminal experience when you want to spend some time looking at how you react to being in a state of transition.

That’s why I recommend this little “forced liminality” activity. My students often report loving this activity more than any other of the semester, so I hope you appreciate it, too! Please, if you give it a try, let me know how it goes in the comments!

Objective: Experience the feelings associated with liminality and write a response that explores what you felt and why.

Step One: Find a threshold.

Find a safe threshold to place yourself in. This should be somewhere transitional–somewhere you would not normally spend time.

Popular options among my students: a foyer, an entryway or lobby, the large grassy median between a divided road (ONLY if this is a safe space to be!), right outside of a classroom where they can hear the lecture but aren’t actually part of it.

Put yourself there for as long as you can stand it. Maybe it’s only 5 minutes if it’s awkward and uncomfortable. Maybe it’s an hour if you’re people-watching in a foyer or lobby!

Step Two: Concentrate on how it feels to be in this space.

You could write during this time, but I like to encourage students to embrace the discomfort of the threshold by just being there. You can write later!

Take note of your thoughts and what they do with this awkwardness or discomfort or boredom. Check in with your body–are you comfortable, breathing rapidly, tapping your toes, fidgeting, tempted to stare at your phone or check your notifications?

Step Three: Go somewhere else and write.

Now it’s time to explore those feelings. Go back to a favorite writing location, like your desk or your couch or your kitchen table or your favorite chair at your favorite coffeeshop, and write a reflection on the experience.

Before you do this, you may think, “I’m not going to experience much through this.” But you may be surprised! I have had students who have gotten major insights into the ways their minds work by participating in this activity! They have learned about how they deal with discomfort, why they struggle in moments of transition, and what they should do about a big challenge they are currently facing.

Join me in developing a spiritual practice of writing

Image Description: A human-mand rock formation on a beach.
Text reads The Spiritual Practice of Writing: A live, online class for adults

If you found this to be a challenge or a meaningful experience, or if you want to learn more about developing a spiritual practice of writing, I would love to see you in my Spiritual Practice of Writing class!

This 8-week class will introduce you to writers who are doing fascinating work in the area of spiritual writing. You will join with a small group of other writers who want to develop spiritual writing as a discipline. Some of the class will be dedicated to discussion and some to guided writing activities similar to this one!

Because I am just launching a new platform for offering live, online instruction for adults, I am offering introductory pricing. Anyone who registers before 2/28/22 automatically gets 50% off the prices I will charge starting in March.

Register here.

What I’ve Learned from Teaching Classes on Spiritual Writing

The first time I took the idea of spiritual memoir seriously, I was a budy grad student at the University of New Hampshire, working under my writing mentor, Meredith Hall. I needed to take an independent study in a topic relevant to my MFA thesis, and we decided that spiritual memoir would be a good match. I was, after all, writing a book about how I was coping with and trying to understand the years I spent as a teenage missionary with a cult-ish, manipulative organization called Teen Mania.

I can’t remember all of the books I read in that independent, but I know that I read Karen Armstrong’s Through the Narrow Gate, and my favorite book of the class was In the Wilderness by Kim Barnes.

Several years later, after I became an English professor, I was tasked with starting a brand new class that would be available not just to English majors, but also to the students in our spiritual formation minor. This course, called the Spiritual Practice of Writing, has become one of my favorite things to teach.

In the spring of 2022, I am launching an online course called Spiritual Writing that is available to anyone who wants to develop or strengthen their spiritual writing practice. In the class we will write, journal, share, participate in guided writing activities, read, and discuss our experiences.

This course is so different from what I teach at the university level because instead of containing a significant scholarly component, it is primarily about personal enrichment, self-expression, and community.

In planning the course, I have been thinking about this question: What are the most important things I’ve learned about the spiritual practice of writing from the last several years of teaching this course at the university level?

1. the definition of “spiritual writing” is beautifully and wonderfully vague!

Every semester, we start the class by trying to define spiritual writing. It always goes in directions I wouldn’t expect! Think of how differently each of us understands the word “spirituality.” It’s no wonder why people bring their own assumptions, beliefs, and expectations to this class!

We typically land on something like this for a definition: Spiritual writing is writing that attempts to engage with the deepest parts of ourselves; it often seeks some form of transcendence between one’s self and one’s understanding of the divine.

But I think that spiritual writing is one of those “you know it when you see it” situations. And if the writing speaks to your spirit, can’t we call it spiritual writing?

2. There Are Limitless Books That Can Be Called Spiritual Writing

When choosing texts for these classes, it sometimes seems like everything has the potential to be called spiritual writing. If it asks big questions, explores deep inner feelings, and looks beyond the self to try to find meaning, then I would argue it fits into the genre of spiritual writing.

I have assigned so many incredible readings and books in these classes! Some of my favorites to discuss with students include:

Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott

Burning Wycliffe by Thom Satterlee

Basically anything by Li-Young Lee

A Thousand Vessels by Tania Runyan

Poems by Julie L. Moore

A Chant to Soothe Wild Elephants by Jaed Coffin

Wake, Sleeper by Bryan Parys

“On Witness & Respair” by Jesmyn Ward

Dangerous Territory by Amy Peterson

So Long, So Soon by D’Arcy Fallon

Poems by my late friend Anya Silver

This is not a comprehensive list at all, but it’s a good start

3. Spiritual Writing Is Unique Because It Doesn’t Require You to worry about an audience

Of course, if you are publishing your spiritual writing, you have to take audience into consideration. I don’t mean to say that audience never matters when it comes to spiritual writing.

But unlike other forms of composition, including fiction, nonfiction essays, and poetry, spiritual writing can often be written without worrying about how a reader is going to respond, because you are your own audience.

This one might be the most controversial thing I’m saying here, because people might think I mean that spiritual writing is the equivalent of journaling or that it ONLY has an audience of the self. That’s not it at all!

What I mean is this: most of the writing we do, we do for others. Spiritual writing is sometimes done for others, but there can be a perfectly rewarding and meaningful exploration of the practice without ever intending to publish or share the work!

I have found that my students find this to be really freeing! In fact, even though I require weekly participation in writing journals, I never collect them or read them as part of the grade. I want there to be spaces where students can write freely, without the imposition of a greedy reader, just waiting to take what the writer put on the page and use it to their own benefit.

Want to give this genre a try?

Check out my list of upcoming classes at LizBR.com! I have several sections of Spiritual Writing available! Introductory pricing discounts (50% off!) are available to anyone who registers for a 2022 class before February 28, 200.

This is a live, synchronous course that meets every week for 8 weeks. We divide our time between meaningful conversations about spiritual writing that we’re reading and participating in guided reading activities that are designed to stretch and grow and develop that real practice of spiritual writing.

In addition to the course fee, you will need to acquire 4-5 books. Most should be available in your local library!

Upcoming class dates are:

Sundays, 2-2:55pm Eastern: April 3-May 29 (does not meet on April 17)
Thursdays, 7-7:55pm Eastern: April 14-June 2
Mondays, 8-8:55pm Eastern: July 11-August 29

Click here to register!

Join me for a class about Feminism & Cartoon Princesses

Let’s talk about feminism & princesses!

Cartoon princesses play such a huge role in the lives of our children. They are one of the dominant cultural influences for kids of all kinds, inclusive of gender, race, orientation, economic status, and more.

Sometimes, the messages they send are empowering and empathy-building. Other times, the messages are confusing or concerning for parents and kids alike.

On Outschool, I teach classes for teens and tweens about the messages about gender, equity, and diversity that can be found in the cartoon princess movies. These young people have incredible insights about the movies that have influenced them. I have often found myself wanting to engage in these same conversations with my peers!

That’s why I look forward to facilitating conversations about the same topic for adults.

What i have learned from Talking with Kids About Princesses

With my Outschool students, we talk about things like agency, consent, authentic representation of a diverse world, and much more. These kids discuss what the movies mean to them and how to navigate the experience of realizing that something you love has problematic messages. We also look at the changing trends in princess movies and how the films have become more inclusive and feminist over time. We celebrate what should be celebrated and critique what should be critiqued. This gives kids practice using a feminist lens to look at media and entertainment.

talking about this topic with adults

In this class that I’m offering for adults, the focus will shift. We’ll cover the following issues and ideas:

  • How were we influenced by princess movies when we were kids? (The good, the bad, and the in-between)
  • What messages are we introducing to our kids through princess movies, trips to princess-themed parks, and more?
  • What should be celebrated? What should be criticized?
  • How do we navigate issues of our children’s love for complex entertainment?
  • What is the responsibility of parents, teachers, and other adults who have influence over children to discuss topics like feminism, inclusion, and diversity?

Of course, we will also discuss the feminist values of the major princess narratives that children interact with on a regular basis!

How does class work?

My classes are designed for busy adults who want to participate in deep, enriching conversations with like-minded peers without having to commit a major amount of time or money.

We meet weekly for four weeks via Zoom. Each class lasts one hour.

There is no weekly homework, although I will occasionally provide optional supplemental reading materials.

Class is conversational with some in-class activities. I provide some introductory material, theories, or information, and then we discuss in our group.

A maximum of 10 students can enroll in each course.

This class costs $40.

Details for this upcoming class

Feminism & Cartoon Princesses will meet on Mondays from August 24-September 14 at 7pm (Eastern).

To register, send me a message through my contact page. You will receive instructions for how to pay, including options for PayPal, Venmo, and CashApp.

After payment is received, you will be sent an invitation to our recurring Zoom meeting, which will work for the rest of the class. Just log on at 7pm Eastern on August 3 and we’ll go from there!

Questions? Send me a message or post them below in the comments!

I look forward to talking about this important topic with you!

Please note:

I teach from an intersectional feminist perspective. These issues are non-negotiable in my instruction: Black lives matter. Trans men are men and trans women are women. Racism is real; reverse racism is not. As a white instructor, it is my responsibility to de-center white voices and feelings in our conversations and any supplemental readings. Diversity isn’t just important because it’s good for us to learn from each other; diversity is also about ensuring that people in marginalized groups benefit from a change in the power structure. A diverse community must include neurodivergent individuals. Talking about feminism from an intersectional perspective means talking about race, gender identity, LGBTQ+ concerns, neurodiversity, body positivity/neutrality, and disability/ableism.

My Review of Teaching on Outschool

I discovered Outschool in January, and it has been a bit of a game changer.

What is Outschool?

Outschool is an online platform that offers thousands of classes for kids ages 3-18. Most classes are taught live via Zoom. As an international site, there are classes at all hours of the day and night on pretty much every subject you can imagine. While its original focus was to provide opportunities for homeschooling families, anyone can sign up for classes. Parents pay per enrollment, so you can do as little as $5 or $6 on a short, 30-minute, 1-time session, or you can spend hundreds of dollars on classes that last for weeks or entire semesters. There are also drop-in clubs that are offered on a weekly subscription basis and classes that are complete asynchronously.

Our Experience as Outschool Learners

When we were planning my daughter’s Dungeons & Dragons themed 10th birthday party, a sponsored ad popped up in my Facebook feed: Introduction to Dungeons and Dragons, a live, online course for kids.

I asked my daughter about it, and she thought it sounded great. We signed up, and she had a really positive experience sitting in our living room one evening, listening to an enthusiastic teacher tell her (and about 10 other kids) all about the basics of D&D.

Since then, we’ve taken dozens of classes. When schools were closed to in-person lessons and I was suddenly working from home, I needed something to help my kids stay busy and stay engaged with the learning process. (Note: Our rural school district is full of students who don’t have reliable internet or devices, so our distance learning didn’t involve a whole lot of online instruction. Our teachers were amazing during this time, and I’m grateful for all the work they put into the end of the school year–but just to be clear, I wasn’t adding Outschool classes on top of a very busy elearning schedule.)

Some of my favorite classes so far have been:

Read & Draw Book Club: Wings of Fire “Dragonet Prophecy”: For my 10 year old, this class had really great engagement and a reasonable amount of homework. She got to draw really cool dragons and participate in a fun class that lasted for several weeks.

Let’s Make Polymer Clay Miniatures (Ongoing Club): After taking all of Summer Jacobson’s individual clay courses, my daughter signed up for this ongoing club that meets weekly on Tuesday nights. She looks forward to it every week.

Half/Time Tutoring — Reading and Math for Little Ones: This is probably our biggest Outschool investment, but I use Outschool referral credits to help offset the cost. (More on those in a bit!) In this class, teacher Midge Spencer does an incredible job of working with our 6-year-old in a one-on-one setting to keep him involved in learning to read. I don’t feel qualified to teach early literacy at all, and so I was nervous when the school year ended abruptly and my almost-reading kindergartener was suddenly without the kind of instruction he had been receiving from his wonderful teachers at school. Midge Spencer to the rescue! When he is in her class, he pays attention, cooperates, and stays actively engaged with the lesson. He’s a pretty rambunctious, excitable kid, so watching him pay attention to ANYTHING for 30 minutes at a time is so cool to watch. She keeps his attention, redirects as necessary, and provides very clear instruction. I love her teaching and I feel so lucky to have found her!

My Experience as an Outschool Teacher

As soon as my daughter took that first class, I wanted to teach on the platform! I love teaching–planning lessons, organizing activities, talking with learners of all ages, explaining concepts.

As an English professor for more than 10 years (9 of which have been spent at a small liberal arts university that I love), I have enjoyed a lot of academic freedom in my classroom. Outschool seemed like a cool opportunity to do even more teaching, but with some of that same freedom, unlike other online teaching sites I’ve looked at.

Here is a breakdown of what I’ve learned from my Outschool teaching experience:

The Application Process

Applying is easy. Maybe too easy?

Because Outschool prioritizes learning in a non-traditional environment, they also welcome and celebrate non-traditional teachers. There are no degree or credential requirements for teaching on the site. On the one hand, that can be really cool, as I’m not really looking for someone with an advanced degree when I choose a class for my kindergartener about how cool toads are.

I think the drawback is that some people who are good at marketing themselves can probably talk their way into an Outschool teaching position and not have the teaching chops to provide good classes. My guess is that these teachers burn out quickly or receive bad reviews from dissatisfied parents, so this isn’t a huge concern for me. It’s just something to be aware of.

When you apply, you have to do a background check, create your profile, and create your first class. I also participated in an onboarding call with a veteran teacher, which was very helpful. Since I started, the amount of training for new teachers has also increased. However, the training appears to be optional, since the teacher Facebook group tends to be full of the same questions over and over that are answered in the training.

Something to note: I recently learned that there are some big-name “recruiters” with massive online platforms are pushing people to apply to teach on Outschool so that they can make a ton of money through referrals. If a new teacher signs up under your referral link, you get $200 when they earn their first $100. A massive influx of new teachers has provided tons of great new classes, but it is coinciding with a natural decline in enrollments during the summer months, and so there is increased competition for a smaller number of students.

Getting Started as a teacher

Unless you are incredibly lucky, you will not immediately have a ton of full classes or a full-time schedule on Outschool. You just won’t. For a brief period of time, when schools first closed and Outschool was giving away free classes to families affected by Coronavirus closures, lots of teachers experienced a huge influx in students. (I did, too!)

I started teaching with the intention of teaching just a few classes a month. I already work full time as an English professor; I don’t need another huge time commitment taking away from my main focus as a professor! My plan is to teach primarily in the summer months with an occasional class during the school year in order to stay active on the platform.

Still, during school closures, I was able to offer classes at more competitive times because my schedules was less restrictive than usual. This allowed me to teach a lot of students in a short period of time.

This is the advice I followed when I got started, and I think it’s still super useful:

  • Parents are not very willing to take a big financial risk on a brand new teacher. Instead of offering expensive, multi-week classes when you first get started, offer one-time classes that are safely within the recommended hourly rate.
  • Be willing to teach to just 1 or 2 students when you first get started, and beyond. You won’t make as much money, but you will build a following and earn reviews that will help your credibility.
  • Offer something that makes you stand out; find your niche. However, don’t be so niche that there isn’t a market for your class.
  • Share your classes with friends and family.
  • Join the various teaching and parenting Facebook groups where you are allowed to promote your classes and talk about what you’re teaching.

How much will you get paid?

It really depends on a number of factors. The website advertises $40/hr, which I think is pretty accurate. You’ll hear stories of teachers who make thousands of dollars a week, and that is certainly possible, but it’s not the norm. The good news is that there isn’t a huge workload that goes into the classes. It’s not like an MLM where you have to spend money to make money (and of course, with MLMs, you’re much more likely to lose money than make any.)

The pay structure is straightforward:

You set the prices for your classes, within a recommended price range ($10-15 per student, per class hour). So, when I offer a fun, social, 1-hr class like my Writing About Animals: Discussion Class, I will typically charge $10 per student. (For a more rigorous/academic one-hour course like Feminism & Frozen, I’ll charge $12.)

Outschool takes a 30% cut.

So, for that one-time class, if I charge $10 and have 6 students enrolled, I keep 70% of that $60 and end up with a PayPal balance of $42. It’s your responsibility as a teacher to keep your own records for taxes. (I put 30% of my Outschool income into a savings account for taxes next year, just to be careful.)

Of course, if I only had 1 student in that class, I would only make $7 for that class. If I spend a lot of time on prep work, I have to take that into consideration as well.

Multi-day classes, which meet for several weeks in a row, are priced for the total class, but you can use the same approach to figure out what to charge: what do you want to charge per student, per hour? Some examples of my multi-day courses, which I generally assign a $10-13 fee. That means it costs about $50 to take one of my 4-week courses.

Are there any drawbacks to teaching on Outschool?

It takes time to develop a following and get students.

The 30% fee is a little steep, but then again, you don’t really have to do any of your own marketing if you don’t want to. Your presence on the platform is a recruitment tool itself. Once you see Outschool’s cut come out and you set aside your taxes, your take-home pay can be underwhelming until you get your footing.

(By the way, Outschool spends a LOT of money on targeted advertising. If someone ends up finding your course on the site, there is a good chance that they will be reminded of it every time they sign onto Facebook or Instagram through targeted advertising.)

The online teaching community can be a little intense.

If you’re accustomed to higher education, it can be an adjustment to suddenly interact with students’ parents regularly!

There is definitely a learning curve for figuring out how to offer classes, list the times, choose cover pictures that you have the right to use, respond to parent concerns, understand the rating system, etc.

Outschool Perks

There are definitely some perks in addition to self-employment.

  • Every time you refer someone to the site and they take their first class–anyone’s class, not just yours–you get a $20 credit that you can use towards your own kids’ classes. All you have to do is share links to classes. I’ve gotten hundreds of dollars in free classes for my kids this way!
  • There are so many cool classes for kids to take.
  • So many of the students are really amazing! The best part about teaching on Outschool is that I get to spend time talking to so many great kids about important topics like writing and feminism.
  • You don’t put any money into it! You do have to put time into creating and planning your classes, and there are some administrative tasks like replying to parent emails and class requests, but there are no unexpected costs involved.
  • You can decide how much you want to teach. During the summer, I’m offering several classes a week, but during the school year, when I’m back to work, I’ll easily be able to reduce my course load.

Who should teach on Outschool?

I think this is really important: the people who will have the most success on Outschool are GOOD TEACHERS.

Whether you’re a teacher by trade or by passion or both, Outschool classes seem to be the most successful when they are taught by people who understand course design, classroom management, distance learning strategies, and how to engage with a wide variety of students.

If you have questions about signing up to teach, feel free to contact me or post below! I’ll do my best to answer your questions. I am just one of many thousands of teachers, but I’ve been on the platform for about five months (since before school closures) and feel pretty confident in navigating the system.

Thanks for reading!

Join me for a class about Diversity & Young Adult Literature! (UPDATE: CLASS IS FULL)

Update: This class is now full. If you are interested in signing up for a future class on this topic, please use the contact link below to send me a message and we can talk!

After giving it a lot of thought, I have decided to launch a series of live discussion classes for adults. I’m kicking this off by offering a 4-week class on diversity and YA lit! This is a class for adults–specifically, adults like me: people who are busy with tons of responsibilities but who crave intellectual conversation about literature and culture with like-minded peers!

Here is what you need to know:

Live classes. This class will consist of four 60-minute Zoom chats with everyone who is enrolled. They will take place on Monday evenings in June.

Max capacity: 8 people. This isn’t going to be some Zoom webinar. This is a small, conversational group. Minimum enrollment: 3 people.

Dates: Mondays, June 1/8/15/22, 7pm EST. (If this time doesn’t work for you, contact me and let me know what works better. We may be able to work something out!)

Homework: None. You don’t have to read anything. Don’t have to write anything. Just show up ready to discuss the role of diversity in YA and middle grade literature. You don’t even have to be an expert in the genre! If you have an interest in YA lit, middle grade lit, or teaching, or diversity theories, you can join us! This class is all about discussing ideas. Each class will include a short presentation and then focus on discussing these ideas.

Cost: $40. But if you sign up with a friend, you both get a $10 discount and can take the class for $30 instead.

Theories we’ll be discussing: Who does diversity benefit? Why do children need diverse books in their lives? What is the importance of the #ownvoices movement? What are “windows and mirrors?” What are the successes and failures of today’s YA/middle grade publishing industry? Is your own reading list diverse?

Can teenagers join? Yes.

Important note: This class is taught from an intersectional feminist perspective. Diversity is important not just for the whole, but for the individuals who are part of groups that have been discriminated against. White privilege is real and white fragility isn’t a reason to avoid hard conversations. Justice is often about more than just equality. Racism is real. Reverse racism is not. Black Lives Matter. Ableism is a problem. Neurodiversity is important. Every individual has value. Anti-trans views are not welcome in the class. This isn’t a class where we try to teach you that diversity is important; this is a class for people who believe in and understand the importance of diversity and want to discuss how that belief impacts their engagement with the YA lit world.

How to sign up: Contact me to sign up. I will update this post if all 8 spots have been filled. Payment can be made through PayPal, Venmo, Zelle, Facebook Pay, or the CashApp. Zoom invitations will be sent out through email.

I hope you join me!!

Things I have ALMOST bought, adopted, or acquired during quarantine:

a hedgehog.

a trampoline (except that they are literally ALL sold out, except for the ones that cost $1500 or more). (Sorry, kids, your summer quarantine joy is not worth my $1500.)

every dog on PetFinder.com within 50 miles.

patio furniture worth thousands of dollars.

patio furniture worth $500.

2x4s to make my own patio furniture.

every single thing sold by Zulily.com.

Trolls: World Tour a SECOND time, even though it cost $20 to rent the first time.

a buzzcut hairstyle for myself.

Things I have acquired:

a pet toad named Lucky.

way too many art supplies.

a bunch of cheap crap from Oriental Trading Company.

total impatience for people who are awful, and a growing unwillingness to tolerate anyone’s nonsense.

a complete inability to tell how much time has passed between any two events.

Don’t feel bad about being busy during a pandemic.

I understand the intent behind those “reject productivity during a pandemic” memes and posts. I think that’s probably a really important message for some people to hear.

If you need to hear these things, please hear them! I’ll back you up to anybody who needs to hear it from someone else:

  • You don’t have to make your kids do every single elearning assignment.
  • If you’re a teacher or a professor, you can be more lenient in your grading than you usually are.
  • Be kind to yourself during this time; this is chaos and trauma and uncertainty, and it’s okay to move slower and accomplish less.
  • If a little bit of mess doesn’t bother you, it’s okay to be a little messy right now.
  • You don’t have to go to Zoom church, Zoom happy hour, Zoom game night if you don’t want to.
  • You don’t need to learn a new language, pick up a new hobby, work on a side hustle, or re-invent your self. (Or re-start your blog, Liz.)

All that said, I worry that there’s another message that has gotten lost in all of the “don’t be productive” commentary: it is okay if you’re really busy right now.

With all this encouragement to slow down, rest, and try to take this time to re-center and rediscover your love for your family and so on, it’s also good to acknowledge that some of us have a WHOLE LOT OF STUFF TO DO.

I have college students who are depending on me to provide clear, consistent instructions and feedback on their work.

I have bills that need to be paid through my freelance work as a writer and an Outschool teacher.

I have kids who need help coping with this new situation we’re in and will continue to be in for the next several months, from what I can tell. They don’t see their friends, everything they love to do is cancelled, their cousins are at once a mile and a world away, and they need structure and some activities and one-on-one time.

I have a yard to take care of and a garden to plant. I have weeds to get rid of and honeysuckle to try to eradicate. I have a brush pile that needs to be burned. At the start of this, I had chickens in the garage who needed a new, safe run outdoors and I had to finish it before they could move out.

I think better when my house isn’t a total disaster, and now, with 4 of us home all day, every day, the work load of keeping things picked up has skyrocketed. Laundry still exists. I gotta figure out the grocery situation every week. Everybody needs to eat.

My husband is chronically ill, so a lot of day-to-day responsibilities fall to me.

I don’t have the luxury of rejecting productivity right now.

And I bet a lot of my friends don’t have that luxury, either.

So if you are someone who needs to hear that it’s okay to relax your expectations of yourself and turn down opportunities that are overwhelming right now, please make sure you do that! But if you’re busy and overwhelmed, and you feel like there’s nothing else you can give up, that’s okay, too.

You’re not a failure if you’re not thriving in this new schedule that some of your friends say is awesome. You’re not screwing this up because there hasn’t been a rediscovery of your inner person while in quarantine. You’re not a traitor to your own well-being by staying on top of your responsibilities during this time.

You’re awesome. You’ve got this. Embrace the lessons you need to embrace right now, and remember that some of the advice out there is not targeted toward you, and so you can read it and set it aside.

Grocery Shopping in the Age of Isolation

Quick backstory, for those who don’t know us: My husband is 38 and has several chronic respiratory diseases, including some severe ones. He’s on 24/7 supplemental oxygen, so we are taking isolation guidelines very seriously.

Questions you ask yourself while grocery shopping during isolation:

  • Why are some things from Aldi so good, and some things are so terrible? (Good: cheap brie. Bad: the granola bars that made my 6-year-old come to me one day and say, super sweetly, “Mom, will you promise me somping? It’s that will you promise me not ever don’t buy those granola bars from Aldi ever again? Please?”)
  • Why does Meijer up the prices just to let me use Instacart?
  • Is it ethically acceptable to shop with Instacart right now when they’re not taking care of their workers? Yes, as long as I tip well?
  • Is it ethical to let someone else take the health risk for you by paying them to do your shopping?
  • Why doesn’t Aldi let me shop the fun aisle through Instacart? Do you know how much I would buy from their fun aisle right now? It’s SPRING! They are probably stocked with planters and gardening clogs and interesting seeds and yard decorations and fun summer kids’ toys!
  • What am I going to cook for the next 14,000 meals? Probably just more spaghetti and burgers.
  • Why are there reports that the Muncie Wal-Mart parking lot is packed with people, and that the Muncie Lowes is full of families, no observations of social distancing, no limits to number of people in the stores? Don’t people realize what this is going to do?
  • Am I contributing to that by placing my order TODAY? Should I place my order tomorrow? Next week? I made it 10 days without needing to re-stock, but there are definitely some things we’re running low on.
  • Why do I miss grocery shopping so much?
  • Is it really okay to skip the disinfecting process for groceries? Reliable sources say it’s not necessary, but I remember what it felt like three weeks ago when I was convinced for two hours that my allergies were actually COVID, and how I tried to think of what else I could have done to keep Ben and the kids safe, and if I get peace of mind from cleaning the groceries, does it matter?
  • Why does it make me feel like crying to pick between a few different candies so that my kids can have a fun little treat during the week?

Dear Boring-As-Shit Pandemic Diary:

It’s not your fault that you’re boring now.

I used to journal about falling in love.

Going on adventures. Traveling the world.

Committing random acts of colonialism around the world as an ill-informed teenage missionary. (Yeah, sorry about that.)

Getting married & moving across the country.

Coming to terms with my husband’s countless respiratory diseases and what it means to be the healthy partner in a marriage governed by chronic illness.

Having a baby!

Moving back home and getting my dream job of being an English professor.

Having another baby and trying to get him to sleep through the night. Then he’s a toddler and trying to get him to sleep through the night. Then he’s a pre-schooler and trying to get him to sleep through the night.

Then he’s a kindergartener and have you ever been so tired in your life.

Those sleepless nights added up, and it became years of sporadic diary entries, a half-hearted attempt to document some important moments: a summer of hospitalizations for my husband, the first time I took the kids on a solo road trip, the time I took my daughter to the Women’s March to protest the inauguration of a disgusting excuse for a president, the time my mom and I took the kids to France for a month and spent the summer hiking with a donkey, playing in castle ruins, watching plays in French, and cheering at the Tour de France.

Yes, my diaries used to be exciting. ‘Cause I’m a stupidly lucky person with a stupidly lucky life that is full of love and good conversations.

And now, poor diary, you are a spiral-bound notebook with lines (my high school self would be MORTIFIED), and your entries look something like this:

  • Today I taught some classes.
  • Today my kids took some classes.
  • We went on another walk again.
  • I saw some ducks.
  • We cleaned the living room/kitchen/bedroom/garage/bathroom.
  • Nobody yelled at each other much.
  • I made spaghetti/leftovers/chicken tenders/salad/pizza/burgers.
  • Running low on boxed wine.
  • Ben slept most of the day; it’s spring time. That’s normal.

But then I posted something on Facebook. I wrote down the things that had really happened lately. The things that hadn’t made it into my Pandemic Diary:

  • I ordered deodorant online and it says it’s arrived but I’ve never found it. Do I care? Not sure.
  • My coffee filters haven’t arrived either and I DO care about that.
  • Phantom of the Opera starts live streaming at 2pm EST today, if my brain is still working and I’ve converted the time correctly.
  • Oscar says he’s out of clean pants and is wearing tiny Hawaiian shorts that are shorter than his boxer brief underwear. Which are too small for him.
  • I need to help Ada feel excited about something, so I bought her some fun Wings of Fire and John Wick tshirts that she can earn by meeting whatever goal she wants to set, even if that goal is something absurd and silly.
  • My third and last box of wine is almost empty. God help me. (yeah, I drink box wine. IT’S A PANDEMIC.)
  • I dreamed last night that the president of our university convened a Zoom faculty meeting to discuss the importance of not swearing so much. Debbie from work was asked to go on CNN to talk about swearing on college campuses, but I don’t remember what she said, just that she made us look good.
  • My new chickens are dumber than my old chickens and I’m not sure how to feel about that.

And at the end of my list, I felt better.

I liked what I had written. And my friends liked what I had written. And a bunch of them asked me to write some more. And Marci Rae Johnson said I should blog again. When Marci Rae Johnson tells you to do something, you really don’t have any other choice.

And so today, diary, I dusted off my old blog, archived all the posts, tried to learn the new WordPress site editing system (not sure I like it), and sat down to write it all down.

So, Marci, here goes. I’ll either thank you later or blame you.