75 Stories

Me with Hawona Sullivan Janzen (emcee) and Galit Breen (co-producer)    

Me with Hawona Sullivan Janzen (emcee) and Galit Breen (co-producer) 


"What do you do?"

For most of my adult life, I didn't mind that question because I had a clear answer: "I'm a social worker." That was something concrete that people could easily grasp, even if they then perceived me to be more saintly than I was.

But I left that job at the end of 2012 because I was burned out and past the point of recovery. After that, I answered the question gleefully: "I'm working on my manuscript!" And I was but I eventually finished it and it went nowhere and now sits on my hard drive. My answers to the question became more wordy and nebulous as I tried to explain what I do - as much to myself as to anyone asking the question.

It's been six years now and I have found my way to a simple answer, "I write." There's not much else to say, really.

Except there is. There always is.

At the same time I left my job, I started to work to bring the Listen To Your Mother show to the Twin Cities for the first time. For those who don't know, Listen To Your Mother is a live reading event that brings stories of motherhood to the stage. It was and still is a passion project that feeds my soul because I believe so deeply in the power of stories to change how people think of themselves and the world. I never thought of it as "work" or "what I do." It was this thing separate from all of that.

The sixth Listen To Your Mother Twin Cities Show is tonight. My co-producer, Galit Breen, and I will welcome 12 new storytellers to the stage and they will read their stories of motherhood to a sold out crowd of over 700 people. Yesterday, as I wrote the closing remarks for the show, I thought of all the women and stories that have graced the stage since 2012 and I counted them all up - 75 women and their stories - and that number made me realize that this too has been my work. Of course. I just didn't see it. But I see it now and I think it's time I change my answer to that old question.

"What do you do?" 

"I write and produce. I tell stories and help others tell theirs." 

I like the sound of that answer.

Photo Credit: Ann Marie Photography