Searching for a Project

I must say…I have read everyone else’s posts so far, re: your ideas for a project this semester, and you all have such wonderfully rich ideas, some with so many terrific research avenues already! I’m looking forward to reading your work, and I’m also a bit overwhelmed and having a hard time getting to any level of clarity for my own project…

There are always a ton of things I want to write about:

  • identity as mother vs identity as child (and I think about my mother’s presence at the homebirth of my second child, and how different that was from my own entry into the world, and the difference in our postpartum experiences)
  • the way my children’s faces have lengthened and aged over the course of the past year, and how I’ve been unusually close to witnessing these minute changes during the pandemic (also makes me think of how much more I notice scars and other markings on my children than my husband does, and how my children still feel like an extension of my own flesh)
  • the things I now notice and appreciate about the place I grew up (PG County, MD, a diverse, majority Black suburb of D.C. that has provided me a special connection to many of the places referenced in The Wire), things that were relatively unnoticed parts of my existence as a child but that have become more apparent especially now as my family is more dispersed. My parents and brother are still in MD, but I’m a 22 year resident of NYC, and my sister is in Tennessee, and we have very different social experiences now. There is probably a lot to get into here, re: pop culture and music and the clash of my own parents with the space of DC and MD, themselves from very white PA and WV. Also – my experiences in different social circles in school as a kid, and how that has influenced my worldview (this all sounds terribly vague, I know).

A lot of the above can feel like navel gazing unless I complicate it properly through wider societal and historical angles, which I totally think is possible, but I’m also not sure if I want to write about the above things this semester.

I’d love to do a project that can intersect with some of the other stuff that is keeping me very busy right now…for example:

  • I host a social justice podcast for my job called Just Three, where I interview artists, writers activists, etc. about how their work engages with issues of social justice. So far I’ve interviewed a midwife in Zambia, a Dalit activist in India, a child bride survivor in The Gambia, a curator from Turkey, and a theater artist in NYC, among others.
  • I’m building an in person and online writers community in Queens that is very important to me – it has served as a place of support for many wonderful people during this past tumultuous year (we signed our lease in February 2020, and then COVID hit, haha). The experience of writing in community is so powerful and purposeful.
  • My oldest kid will soon enter the NYC public school system, which I’m basically kinda dreading since listening to the Nice White Parents podcast!
  • I worked with a witch over the past six months and have been developing a tarot and lunar practice…these are points of interest that have occupied a good deal of my time, but I’m not sure they are areas for me to write about at the moment.

Thank you for reading this brain dump, which believe me is getting me closer to refining a project for this class this semester!

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4 thoughts on “Searching for a Project

  1. Jason Tougaw

    We’ve only just begun. No need to have made firm decisions. So many great writing topics here. I love the closeness and specificity of writing about your chlidren’s faces. There’d defefinitely be a way to do something related to your podcast work. A lot of people are writing about place, which is cool, and that’s always a nice way to ground a project. Honestly, all these ideas seem exciting.

  2. Katie Machen

    Hi Catherine,
    You have so many ideas here and so much possibility! I also love the idea of writing your children’s faces — what clearer indication of the passing of time than growing children? This could be really rich material, especially given everything and how time is so strange now, how it’s difficult to know if things are going fast or slow, but how it’s clear that they are growing. If you’re writing about them as an extension of your body, I think writing about birth would make natural sense, too, though I know you’re thinking of that as maybe a separate project. I’m so excited to see where you go!

  3. Michelle

    If folks are reading multiple posts, please forgive me for circling the same topic, but Catherine, have you read Alexander Chee’s essay from “How to Write an Autobiographical Novel” about his experience reading Tarot?


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