The Authenticity Experiment Posts

The Authenticity Experiment, the suddenly dead old friend special edition.  My father—consummate international business man—was never good with names.  His right ear ruined by rifles and high angle artillery on naval vessels meant that even when I was a teenager, he didn’t hear well.  So when I introduced him to Nita Kuhns, short for Juanita, I articulated the I dramatically. “Dad,” I said, “this is Neeeeeeta.  Can we drop her off on our way home? …

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This week you hear from the Alaskan Poet, Erin Coughlin Hollowell.  I met Erin at graduate school and I’ll be honest, at first she scared the shit out of me.  She’s super tall and, when I met her, she wore Frye boots that made her even taller.  And she’s extra super smart (and not just because she went to Cornell for undergrad).  Erin is one of the most well-read people I know, finishing well over 125…

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This week you hear from Ashley Brittner.  I met Ashley through her fiancé Mel Wells who works at Literary Arts, the organization that administers the Oregon Book Award.  I invited them to a reading one of my friends was hosting and realized I LOVED them both (actually, the whole room of 50-, 60-, and 70-something queers realized we loved these, um, kids).  They’re both grounded and funny and so who they are, and they’re well-read…

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This week you hear from Nikole Potulsky.  Last summer, just weeks after my mother died, I met Nikole at a party and was immediately drawn to her easy laugh and her way of telling captivating stories.  I don’t know that I’d had a good laugh in weeks, but her stories not only coaxed a smile out of me, but made me laugh hard. I learned she was a musician and went to one of her…

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I first encountered Penny Guisinger at Nonfiction Now.  She was on a panel called “First Person Dangerous,” about the side-effects that writers of nonfiction face.  Penny wrote about driving hungover—not hammered, mind you—hungover, and how, while driving, she imagined the essay she’d write about it, about drinking, about not drinking.  An Internet troll had a heyday when her essay was published, tearing her apart.  Who knows why.  Because she was honest.  Because she was a woman. Because,…

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This week you hear from Kate Ristau.  I met Kate at the Terroir Writing Festival, organized by my grad school buddies Tandy Tillinghast Voit and Lisa Ohlen Harris (the Country Music Singing Femme asked me, “What is it with you writers and your three names?” I dunno.  We like to take up space across the spine of a book, I guess.  But I digress).  Immediately, Kate and I hit it off and not just because…

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The Authenticity Experiment, the death and ageing edition. Here is what the woman who is not my girlfriend said to me a few nights ago. She said, “I think in the past ten years,” (well, okay, she said five years, but it is really ten, she was just being gracious), “you’ve been under a lot of pressure and you make it look easy, like things happen sequentially and you simply manage them, when we all…

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The Authenticity Experiment, the guitar edition. She said it off-handedly.  She didn’t mean it that way, but that’s how it hit my tender heart with its secret shame when I told my friend that I’d spent my teenage years in my room playing my guitar to every album popular during high school: Fleetwood Mac, Jackson Browne, Phoebe Snow, Janis Ian.  “Why would you do that?  Why wouldn’t you just write your own music?” she said.  Flat, the…

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The Authenticity Experiment, the mostly anxiety anniversary edition.  My friend Lesbiana Profundis, aka my secret weapon, laughs at my Rainman-like ability with dates.  Take  July 20th, for instance.  A year and two days ago, I began the Authenticity Experiment.  AE was a writing challenge for myself—to see if I could be authentic and tell the truth on social media.  Here’s the lead from that very first post: “I’m posting this to kick off my own…

The Authenticity Experiment, the unexamined privilege edition. I’ve been thinking so much about #AltonSterling and #PhilandoCastile, and the officers who were killed in Dallas and St. Louis. But mostly, I’ve been thinking about the incredible privilege I have simply because of the accident of my birth: born to an Irish/English mother and a Polish/German/Lithuanian father. In case you’re not following my logic or you’ve never seen a picture of me—that makes me white. As a…

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