News from the Homefront

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Oh, boy. It’s been four years. FOUR YEARS, since I posed to WHL. In that time, those YEARS, I’ve:

Also, I accidentally lost the url to this blog. Thus, we’re now at phoebesinclairwrites.com. I miss my wholeheartlocal address, but perhaps this is for the best. I still want to wax romantic about my adopted city, about the many beautiful little things; small, bright or shadowed moments. Yet, with so much on the horizon, this field needs grow a little wider, wilder.

Looking forward to catching ya’ll up, hopefully. Soon.

Whole Heart Update – Spring 2018 Edition

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Hi! I’m checking in, after many months way. As I wrote back in the winter, I’ve been taking time off from Whole Heart Local, my trusty blog and web home since 2011. There are a number of projects in the works that I’m pleased to finally have an opportunity to note. Several are writing projects, several relate to paid-work (read: jobbity-jobs), several more are straight-out wanderings, and at least two aren’t mine. Several + several + several adds up to A LOT, hence my continued absence at WHL and well as MIA hours of sleep. My mom, and maybe somebody else, says “you can sleep when you’re dead!” and, while I might not go that far, I’ll admit that I’m proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish recently.

Writing

Edits: Intermediate Fiction Novel
Those of you who know me personally, or have met me and asked what I’m writing, will recall that I’ve been plugging away at a novel featuring a 12-year-old, Halloween, and a zine. As I wrote in a blog post for my Fellowship, at 13-years-old the manuscript has out-aged the protagonist. Nonetheless, I’ve got stacks of colored index cards, notes, writer’s critique group edits, and Scrivener’s document files at the ready to make good on completing yet another reorganization/revision. Stay tuned.

Edits: Other Manuscripts
You can read more on this blog’s Writer Page, but suffice to say that there are a number of other projects idling on the runway for when the above novel manuscript achieves lift-off, in whatever form that takes.

Fellowship: Writer’s Room of Boston
Early in 2018, I applied for a Fellowship at the Writer’s Room of Boston. Writing space is something I’ve long struggled to obtain –especially space near to home. I was honored, grateful and excited to be awarded the Ivan Gold Fellowship for 2018, which means I’m able to access a quiet, retreat space in Downtown Boston, shared with paying members of the room and other Fellows. So far, I’ve been utilizing the space at least twice per week and it’s making a significant difference in my productivity. Equally important, the Fellowship has raised the profile of my creative writing endeavors in an increasingly overcrowded schedule.

An requirement of my Fellowship is to pen WROB blog posts, check ’em out:

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Community: Boston Writers of Color
This Facebook group, supported by GrubStreet, is comprised of writers in the Boston area. Even though I’ve only been able to make it to one IRL event, meeting other writers of color in my vicinity and learning what they’re working on, struggling with, and achieving energizes me. I’m following and participating in an effort called the Rejection Joy Tally, where people send in notice of their rejected submissions. Related, I attended a Submit-a-Thon event back in March, where writers of varying ages and backgrounds gathered at Grubstreet to submit work to publishers, contests, journals, etc., as well as work on projects to shine them up submission-ready.

Paid Work

Community Liaison at Agassiz Baldwin Community
I know that some in the Interwebs-sphere believe that I’m a librarian because I endlessly talk about books, reading, and libraries. In fact, I am not. (I did work in a library during my teen years.) As is the nature of nonprofit work, my role at Agassiz Baldwin Community comprises many disparate elements. My title, Community Liaison, I tend to oversimplify as “writer and charmer” or, even “I talk to people.” I primarily organize and support a nearly 50-year-old neighborhood advocacy group, and secondarily manage long-standing community events; ‘master’ several websites; and, more recently, provide facilitation and communication supports. What I deemed a job for a decade looks more and more like a “life-style.” It’s completely bizarre and unpredictable. I love it.

Associate, Essential Partners
I started attending workshops and training at Essential Partners, then Public Conversations Project, to gain skills to help me better serve the Neighborhood Council (see above.) Several years passed and I got in deeper with the EP crew –showing up to pretty much any free learning opportunity they hosted. In 2016, I was invited to take part in a pilot apprenticeship program and BAM. To my surprise and absolutely no one else’s, I’m now officially working with EP as an associate. What am I doing, people often ask? With my super-impressive colleagues, helping people and communities develop the skills and knowledge to successfully engage across difference. (Also, this winter I got to work with two very different communities in NYC and Wyoming –so yeah, there’s that. #wander!)

Freelance Consulting
Not sure how to describe this yet as it’s a thing that’s happening almost without my calling it forth. ☺??!

Wandering

Mentor for Institute for Nonprofit Practice
I was invited to mentor a Community Fellow student at the Institute for Nonprofit Practice. My bright, skilled mentee and I met a few times during the winter and spring and discussed what I’ve learned working in the nonprofit sector for over a decade, as well as both of our early community building experiences. It was hard to imagine what else I might offer to someone who is already so well prepared to stride forward and lead. In that paradox of imparting knowledge and insight, I gained as much as I shared.

Learn more about the Institute: https://vimeo.com/230456427

Fan Fiction Theatre
Although my affection for fan fiction is apparently never dying, I myself am not really an author of such. Except . . . I am? Or, was! At age ten I wrote a poem in the voice of Samwise Gamgee and kept it because it turns out I’m an excellent archivist of my own work. Good thing: that poem came in handy for the Fan Fiction Theatre, a fun and hilarious event hosted by The Ladies of Comicazi, a volunteer-run “community devoted to consuming, critiquing, and creating comics and pop culture.”

Check out the LOC blog for a full recap of the event. In brief: I read two poems to the great amusement of those gathered. The opportunity for old work to find new value and an audience was a treat.

Phoebe fan fiction theatre

The Human Library
The Human Library is an event that I’ve been itching to host in some form or another, so I jumped at a chance to participate when I saw Cambridge Community TV and the Cambridge Pubic Library had collaborated to run it. The goal of the event, originally out of Denmark, is to challenge prejudice by bringing people of different identities together to learn about one another. “Readers” are invited to check “Books” out for a specific amount of time, and precautions are taken to ensure that the experience is safe and pleasant for everyone. I signed up to be a “Book” and my description was:

Title: Writer, Wanderer, Friend . . . Radical?
Excerpt: Meet Phoebe Sinclair – writer, wanderer, friend and radical. She is ready to discuss her experiences growing up during the “colorblind” 1980s, and also to talk about natural hair, fresh food warriors, and the Nation of Islam.

About seven people (some in groups) checked me out for 30-40 minutes each, and I engaged in conversations about what it means to be a radical (which, admittedly, isn’t a title I normally claim); what I write; and most intriguing to me, what it means to wander. I’m still thinking on the experience and would definitely do it again. Cherry on top, I “checked out the book” that is the new Cambridge Police Commissioner Branville G. Bard, Jr. Fascinating.

Podcasts
Participating in the Fan Fiction Theatre spun several other opportunities for me to get my wander on. One was being a guest on Paragraph’s Lost. Host Tim Hewitt and I chatted about my high school self and I read several poems that I’d written during those years. Tim’s impressively apt episode description: “Phoebe makes strides to stay an individual while balancing two high schools and a library gig. Parents magazine proves invaluable.” Take a listen.

I’ve also been a guest on the fun, funny, and insightful Ladies of Comicazi Podcast, sharing reactions to the movie Avengers: Infinity War, with particular attention to how Marvel movies’ treat female characters. Take a listen.

Partner Projects

Literally, my partner’s projects. Although I’m not directly involved with David’s music endeavors (I cheer from the sidelines), I’m including them here because GO DAVE!!! and also being exhausted vicariously is 4realz.

Double Star
After a year of band and song development, Double Star has launched and will soon be playing on a stage near you (in greater Boston.) Self-described: “Double Star fuses female-fronted alternative rock onto a chassis of R&B inflected punk. With their emphasis on vocal harmonies, effected guitars, catchy melodies, and R&B rhythms, they recall The Clash, Belly, Big Star, Liz Phair, Ramones and Indigo Girls.”

Like ‘em on Facebook to catch ‘em live!

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream
As Music Director for an outdoor performance of my favorite Bard comedy, David teams up with a Double Star bandmate and other area musicians. The show is being produced by Theatre@First, a volunteer community theatre based in Somerville, MA. Performances continue to the end of June 2018, and you can learn more on their website.

Honoring an Architect of my Personality: Kirsten Quatela

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I wish I could recall where I learned the phrase, this idea that one’s personality is not just birth and place and time and opportunity, but also a construct of unseen, inscrutable influences. Non-fixed, perhaps with some central elements, and definitely with strong strands reaching back to lineage, out to family, out to friends, loves, and chance meetings of heart or intellect, forward to those who come next. For me, it’s not always obvious who architects of my personality are, until I lose one.

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Flower bud by Kirsten

Around the time that I met Kirsten Nordt in high school, a favorite family member had warned me away from the path I was tripping down –me: a slightly boyish girl who loved animals, who loved words and books, who unwisely made friends with white kids. I have no doubt that my family member’s desire was for me to thrive, but what I remember most were words that tore at what I was trying to build. His and my truths were not the same, and one of my truths was Kirsten.

Far taller than me, paler, red-haired, with a laugh that invited. Still strangers to one another, we stood in a narrow hall while volunteering as ushers for a high school play and Kirsten joyfully punched my shoulder hard enough to hurt. Friends from that moment forward, she never harmed me the way my family member feared. 

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Flowers up close by Kirsten

When a person sees and can articulate what you are worth, you become that worth. I have learned that people are reflections of one another. Kirsten reflected humor, artistry, generosity, and thoughtfulness. I reflected my budding feminism, curiosity, silly gifts purchased from toy shops, and word-craft. She introduced me to what today remain some of my favorite media, from Bjork to the Wishbone television show to the Griffin & Sabine novel trilogy.

From Kirsten I learned how to respect and celebrate faith, even one I did not share. We shared a love of picture books and the natural world. I spun college and post-college experiences into letters and cards, sailed them across the miles. She became Kirsten Quatela, mother of two and inspired photographer in Portland, OR. I remained Phoebe Sinclair, writer and wanderer, partnered and thriving in Boston, MA. We inspired one another to continue to reach out, by letter, holiday card, art-gift, quick note typed into a blinking message field.

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College-age Phoebe by Kirsten

All ends. That is not a choice, but a reality and what I did not expect, I must still accept. In one of our last correspondences, I expressed love and concern, and Kirsten responded: “I appreciate you reaching out and your kind words. Life took an unexpected turn a year ago, but I am walking forward and taking what I can from it to be the best Kirsten I can be.

That she was.

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High school Kirsten by Phoebe

Starting the Year Off Right

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One of my surprises at the conclusion of 2016 was, despite being devoted to so many jobs and efforts and recurring piles of laundry, I read over 50 books!* How I managed this is a mystery . . . and yet not. I truly cannot keep myself from checking out a book or magazine or CD whenever I visit a library. I visit often.

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Then there’s my life-long penchant for padding my numbers with picture books (this proto-cheating behavior was inspired by Summer Reading Challenges at my local libraries wherein every ten books or so won a certificate for a ‘personal pan pizza’ at PizzaHut.) Also, I happen to love picture books and keep my own collection, despite the noticeable lack of children in my house.

So. Here we are in 2017 and I discovered I already had a sizable stack of library materials on loan. (Pictured above.) Way I see it, startin’ the year off right.

*You should see my fanfiction numbers. We’re talking 100s!

My Blog Talks to Me

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The spark.

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I’m biking, walking, working, showering, and suddenly there’s a voice. It’s my voice, but not. It’s Whole Heart Local.

Ideas spool out. Emotions, snippets, funny asides. In my head, a dialogue that I don’t quite direct. Mostly, I listen. Mostly, I feel it out . . . a blog post is born.

I write what I hear. Listen more. Worry some (though not nearly as much as when engaged in writing fiction), and consider possible repercussions. I edit, then post.

To some this might sound like magic. Just another writer/artist out there, myth-talking my process. Others know this process well -they flirt or fight with their own versions.

For me, there is a type of magic, but more an experience of wonder and gratitude. The effort can be delicate, sensitive to disruptions. Which is why, WHL posts recently dried up. Too much on my plate.

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When I’m not writing for WHL, I miss it. There is a satisfaction that comes with getting a blog post just right -unexpected spelling errors, spacing issues, left-out conjunctions, and all. The imperfect perfect that I stretch for.

Am I back on task with WHL? Nope. Fall was just as event, activity, and responsibility heavy as last spring and summer. But it still speaks to me, WHL. I race to capture the words –whether I’m biking to work, showering, reading, whatever.

As long as it speaks, I’ll try to keep listening.

Mild MBTA Misbehaviors: Overdue Apology #3 – Sorry I Weirded You Out

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Skin is so soft and smooth and warm. Sometimes I can’t help but kiss it. Which isn’t a problem, not really. Though perhaps . . . inappropriate if that skin is my own? My soft, smooth, warm bicep, presented to me so alluringly as I hang, drunk with exhaustion or maybe simply distracted, by one arm from the too-high stainless steel grip bar on the Green Line, Red Line, Orange Line.

Perhaps you do this, too? I can’t be the only smooth customer holding myself aloft by an act of might, resting my mouth against my arm, too-early in the morning/too-late at night.

Boston transportation planning

Anyhow, fellow passengers, my apologies. Sorry if I weirded you out.

A Visit to Sandy Hook National Park

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My birthday wish this year included visiting Sandy Hook, a barrier spit and Jersey Shore National Park that my family frequented in our younger years. I remembered the long, flat, pale landscape sandwiched between the Lower New York Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Smell of salt and pines and sand. Charming tide pools and holly trees.

But I’d forgotten the abundance of prickly pear cactus. The visage of old armaments.

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Remembered horseshoe crabs. Forgot fiddler crabs.

Remembered how the ocean pushes. Forgot how it pulls. Remembered seeming stability of sea-earth beneath a swimmer’s toes which can just . . . disappear.

Then, driving past blond, brick buildings, most now dilapidated beyond use, I remembered the smell of thick, shiny floor varnish, the sound of a wide, wooden door squeaking shut for the evening, warm light in a kitchen, and camp counselor taking time to be silly with just-me. I remembered the fierce bloom of affection for that person, those moments among preteen GirlScouts I met once then never again. The swoop of a windsurfing board catching wind to take my ten or eleven-year old body, long-limbed, nervous yet ecstatic, tacking across the water beneath a sky that stretched, pure blue, over everything.

There was the special treat of the holiday weekend: a Sandy Hook I’d misplaced, regained.

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