Connected Learning can be conceived of in three ways: as a type of learning experience that occurs spontaneously, as an empirically-derived model or framework for describing that type of experience, and as an agenda for research and design approach for creating learning experiences. The model/framework was first described by Mizuko Ito, Kris Gutierrez, Sonia Livingstone, Bill Penuel, Jean Rhodes, Katie Salen, Juliet Schor, Julian Sefton-Green, and S. Craig Watkins in their report, Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design (2013).

The Connected Learning framework incorporates three spheres of learning: interest-based learning, peer-based learning, and academic learning (Ito & Martin, Fall 2013). These spheres of learning are derived from the HOMAGO framework outlined in the report, Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media (Itō et al., 2009). This report draws on three years of “ethnographic investigation of youth new media practice” (p. 2) examining how these practices fit into social and cultural worlds and how they are meaningful in youth’s everyday lives. Ito and colleagues found that youths’ new media practices tended to fall into one of three genres of participation: “hanging out,” a friendship-driven mode of participation, “geeking out,” an interest-driven mode of participation, and “messing around,” a mode of participation that tended to bridge the other two, in which either youth deepen their commitment to particular interests as they engaged in social practices, or in which youth engage in expanded social activity via participating in their current interests. Ito and colleagues found that young people transitioned easily between these three genres of participation.

The HOMAGO framework was derived from a study that was designed to describe current practices, especially in informal learning spaces (Ito et al., 2019). This study was not aimed at creating a design agenda for educational experiences or describing formal learning environments. Ito and colleagues (2009) found, however, that formal learning environments were often cut off from peer-driven or interest-driven learning environments. The Connected Learning environment seeks to incorporate academic, civic, and career opportunities with peer-driven and interest-driven learning, describing and expanding access to a mode of learning in which all three of these spheres overlap (Figure 1).

In its initial iteration, the Connected Learning framework encompassed six Connected Learning principles. The first three incorporated the spheres of learning: peer-supported, interest-powered, and academically-oriented. The other three principles described the kind of environments that tend to promote connected learning experiences: being production-centered, having a shared purpose, and being openly networked.

“Connected learning is a framework under constant development that offers principles and examples to be adapted and remixed rather than a template for programs and activities” (Ito & Martin, Fall 2013, p. 31). In the years since the model’s initial development, it has undergone some changes. A number of studies developed by the Connected Learning Research Network have provided new evidence that contributes to revision and refinement of the model (Arum, Larson, & Meyer, Forthcoming; Ben-Eliyahu, Rhodes, & Scales, 2014; Ching, Santo, Hoadley, & Peppler, 2015; Ito et al., 2019; Larson et al., 2013; Livingstone & Sefton-Green, 2016; Maul et al., 2017; Penuel, Van Horne, Santo, Ching, & Podkul, 2015; Van Horne, Allen, DiGiacomo, Chang-Order, & Van Steenis, 2016; Watkins et al., Forthcoming). The three spheres of learning have shifted slightly (see Figure 2): “peer-supported” has changed to “relationships,” to indicate not only peer-to-peer relationships but also relationships between young people and adult brokers or mentors, while “academically-oriented” has changed to “opportunities,” to include not just academic opportunities but also civic and career opportunities.

Figure 1. Original spheres of learning.

elements of connected learning

Figure 2. Revised spheres of learning.

The other three principles of Connected Learning have shifted, as well (“About Connected Learning,” 2017). “Sponsorship of youth interests” is a new principle that was previously woven throughout the others; studies have consistently demonstrated that young people require adult assistance to make connections between their own interests and academic, civic, and career opportunity (Ching et al., 2015; Ito et al., 2019; Van Horne et al., 2016). This principle asks adults to reconsider their role in youths’ learning, to be more than either a “sage on the stage” or “guide on the side,” engaging in actively assisting youth in expanding their networks. “Production-centered” has shifted to being described as “shared practices,” including not just media production as the early model suggested, but also “friendly competition, civic action, and joint research” (“About Connected Learning,” 2017). “Shared purpose” remains, while “openly networked” has changed to “Connections across settings” to incorporate not just openly networked online platforms, but also connections between online and local affinity networks and relationships between home, school, and community.

All of the principles of Connected Learning are directed toward creating learning environments with an equity agenda, in which nondominant youth gain access to learning experiences that have historically been more available to those with privilege and financial access. Without attention to the cultural and social environment, new technologies like those that facilitate connected learning “tend to amplify existing inequity…access to social, cultural, and economic capital, not access to technology, is what broadens opportunity” (Ito et al., 2019, p. 6) (emphasis original).Youth need programs and mentors with social capital to broker connections; if brokering is treated as a market-driven process, this exacerbates inequity.

“The responsibility of providing mentorship, brokering, and connection building to link youth interests to opportunity is a collective one and cannot be shouldered only by families, nor only by schools and other public educational institutions. It entails a broader cultural shift toward recognizing the new learning dynamics of a networked era, paying more attention to learning and equity in online communities and platforms, and providing more educational supports in both formal and informal learning environments.” (Ito et al., 2019, p. 169)

Connected learning has often been conceived of as occurring along pathways, but recent research suggests that it “is more appropriately conceived of as the growth of a network of connections than as a linear pathway or an internalization of skills and knowledge” (Ito et al., 2019, p. 21). Connected learning is best seen “not as a journey of individual development that is transferrable across different settings that a person moves through, but as building stronger, more resilient and diverse social, cultural, and institutional relationships through time” (Ito et al., 2019, p. 167).


About Connected Learning. (2017, December 6). Retrieved April 12, 2019, from
Arum, R., Larson, K., & Meyer, W. M. (Forthcoming). Connected Learning: A Study of Educational Technology and Progressive Pedagogy. New York: New York University Press.
Ben-Eliyahu, A., Rhodes, J. E., & Scales, P. (2014). The Interest-Driven Pursuits of 15 Year Olds: “Sparks” and Their Association With Caring Relationships and Developmental Outcomes. Applied Developmental Science, 18(2), 76–89.
Ching, D., Santo, R., Hoadley, C., & Peppler, K. (2015). On-ramps, lane changes, detours and destinations: Building connected learning pathways in hive NYC through brokering future learning opportunities. New York, NY: Hive Research Lab. hiveresearchlab. files. wordpress. com/2015/05/hive-research-lab-2015-community-white-paper-brokering-future-learning-opportunities2. pdf (accessed November 15, 2015).
Itō, M., Baumer, S., Bittanti, M., Boyd, D., Cody, R., Stephenson, B. H., … Tripp, L. (2009). Hanging out, messing around, and geeking out : kids living and learning with new media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Ito, M., Gutiérrez, K., Livingstone, S., Penuel, B., Rhodes, J., Salen, K., … Craig Watkins, S. (2013). Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design. Irvine, CA: Digital Media and Learning Research Hub. Retrieved from
Ito, M., & Martin, C. (Fall 2013). Connected Learning and the Future of Libraries. Young Adult Library Services, 12(1), 29–32.
Ito, M., Martin, C., Pfister, R. C., Rafalow, M. H., Salen, K., & Wortman, A. (2019). Affinity Online: How Connection and Shared Interest Fuel Learning. New York: NYU Press.
Larson, K., Ito, M., Brown, E., Hawkins, M., Pinkard, N., & Sebring, P. (2013). Safe Space and Shared Interests: YOUmedia Chicago as a Laboratory for Connected Learning. Irvine, CA: Digital Media and Learning Research Hub. Retrieved from
Livingstone, S., & Sefton-Green, J. (2016). The Class: Living and Learning in the Digital Age. NYU Press.
Maul, A., Penuel, W. R., Dadey, N., Gallagher, L. P., Podkul, T., & Price, E. (2017). Developing a measure of interest-related pursuits: The survey of connected learning. Retrieved from
Penuel, W., Van Horne, K., Santo, R., Ching, D., & Podkul, T. (2015). Connected Learning: From Outcomes Workshops to Survey Items. Retrieved from
Van Horne, K., Allen, C., DiGiacomo, D., Chang-Order, J., & Van Steenis, E. (2016). Brokering In and Sustained Interest-Related Pursuits: A Longitudinal Study of Connected Learning. Retrieved from
Watkins, C., Lombana-Bermudez, A., Cho, A., Vickery, J., Shaw, V., & Weinzimmer, L. (Forthcoming). The Digital Edge: How Black and Latino Youth Navigate Digital Inequality. New York: New York University Press.

I mentioned in my post about writing comedy from the heart that the TV show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is an important piece of art for me. And there are lots of lists of the top songs, I guess, though the only one I’ve paid attention to is my imaginary podcast bff Glen Weldon’s. (Weldon himself is not imaginary; the conceit that he and I are bffs is.)

But I wanted to do something more personal.

I came to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend a little late, not very – I think I started watching as soon as the first season was available via Netflix, maybe? I loved it immediately. The sheer perfection that is the song “West Covina” made my musical theater nerd heart sing, and I honestly saw a sort of alternate universe version of myself in overachieving lawyer Rebecca. (Because getting a PhD in Information and Library Science is the underachieving path in my mind, apparently?)

Anyway, this show has made me feel seen in a way few things have, so I thought I’d share the top 3 songs that resonated with me the most.

3. I’m the Villain in My Own Story

For all those times when you realize the “good” things you were doing didn’t outweight how you were being a jerk.

2. Sexy French Depression

The line “My bed smells like a tampon” is, like, scarily spot on. And this subtitle crawl:

My anxiety is so out of
control that all I can think
about is
thinking about thinking
about thinking about fixing
everything I’ve ever done
wrong and all of the ways
I’ve already messed up my
life beyond repair.

Perfection. If you ever look at my face and wonder what’s on my mind, it’s probably that.

And finally…

1. You Stupid Bitch

This is a classic internal monologue of a person with anxiety and/or depression. This song makes me cry because it makes me not feel alone.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is amazing because, as Glen Weldon points out, the show “[respects] how fraught and complicated a prospect it is to turn the travails of mental illness into blistering one-liners and catchy ditties … and then [does] it anyway.” I’m actually finding myself without more words to talk about why it’s so important to me.

Read How Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Creators Gave Rebecca Bunch Her Happy Ending by Allison Shoemaker (Vulture)
“It’s not about auditioning for the missing puzzle piece. It’s about getting everyone to a place where they can healthily prioritize someone else.”
It feels like there have been a thousand times Rachel Bloom has said something in an interview and I felt like shouting, “YES THIS!” but this is a new flavor of that:

I came from a very… rigid is the wrong word, but a very set technique of sketch comedy writing. When you study at UCB, if you do improv or sketch, you find the game of the scene, you heighten the game. It’s almost mathematical. And I think that for so long, some of the sketches I wrote, I wasn’t necessarily bringing my full self to them, because I was trying to fit into this like mathematical technique. I was surrounded by guys. So everything I wrote was probably subconsciously trying to, like, be acceptable to the male gaze. So when I started writing songs, because it was combining what I learned from sketch comedy with musical theater, my first love since I was 2 years old, it felt like I was bringing myself fully into my writing. I wasn’t trying to be anyone else, because I could bring in emotions, I could bring in those tropes that I’d been absorbing for my entire life, and then use my techniques to shape that.

Like Rachel, I have loved musicals from a young age. Like Rachel, I trained in improv and sketch writing at a school/theater that emphasized game: you begin a scene, find the first unusual thing, repeat it, heighten it, and break the pattern with your punchline. Not only did we learn that structure, but we also learned how to write particular flavors of sketch: fish out of water, comedic duo, commercial parody, satire, superpowers, torture game, literalization, and mapping.

I had a lot of fun and I got really good at recognizing game, if not initiating it, but there was a fundamental disconnect between how most other people in my comedy community did comedy and how I did comedy.

When I showed up at sketch class eager to show everyone Mike O’Brien and Tina Fey’s crazy car salesman, in my mind a brilliant example of a commercial parody combined with literalization, the class tore it to shreds.

My strongest sketch was one in which several adolescent girls show up at a county fare to participate in a literal melon growing contest and express their insecurities about their produce. (It’s a mapping scene, mapping their growing bodies onto the growing produce, see?) It was a deeply personal sketch, drawing on my own experiences with never feeling like I had the right body shape as an adolescent, whether that shape was too small or too big.

Eventually, I ended up on a hip-hop improv team – thanks almost entirely to developing a Hamilton obsession. (Seriously, if you want me to like something, just write a musical using/about it.) Again, I was a little sideways from the group sensibility; my favorite raps drew on my impostor syndrome and my frustrations with family holiday gatherings. My favorite scenes were often quiet little things, with comedy arising from the awkwardness of two people trying to connect, or things that used my heavily pregnant body as a punchline itself (I was pregnant for my entire tenure on that team), or preferably, things that combined both, like one scene where I had ended up on a blind date and ended the scene responding to my scene partner’s “This’ll be a funny story to tell the kids” with the line “Ohhhh… You want kids?” while I was eight months pregnant.

(We do comedy in our bodies. They are one of the tools we have, and we don’t leave them behind, even when we take on characters with different physicalities than our own.)

While everyone was very nice, I often felt out of place. And reading this quote from Rachel Bloom pinpoints a lot of the problem, I think. I imagine that, while she wasn’t writing with her whole self, Bloom was very good at writing that kind of sketch. I can even imagine some parallels between her Crazy Ex-Girlfriend character Rebecca Bunch’s success as an attorney and Bloom’s as a writer, both getting good at/pursuing the thing everybody says you’re supposed to want (in Bloom’s case, right down to auditioning for Saturday Night Live).

And I love that in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Bloom has gotten to finally write more personal things and bring her full self to the table. It’s such an important piece of art for me, personally, and reading about this part of her experience has led me to rethink how I engage with comedy and what types of writing and performance I want to pursue in the future.

So Rachel, thank you.

Photograph by Greg Gayne/CW.

It’s always helpful to check in with ourselves every once in a while, and I like to do it quarterly if I remember to. Let’s dig in and check out how I’m doing so far this year!

I selected PHASE as my word of the year, and I have to tell you, I completely forgot that I had done that. Life has been a whirlwind.

Here are the things I said I wanted to do/try this year:

  • Embracing the PHASE energy.
  • Really owning my Mer-Goth/#seawitchvibes aesthetic.
  • Reading for pleasure more.
  • Having a good time.

And here’s some notes on how those are going:

Embracing the PHASE energy: Woof. I have not done this! Oops! I mean, I’ve kind of done this. Let’s see… I’ve gotten pretty good about really taking advantage of my high energy moments and giving myself permission to rest during my low energy moments (I think this is what Lindsay Mack is talking about when she talks about expansion and contraction). But that remembering that these things will pass? That part I haven’t done a great job of. My kid is two, and that comes with some tough parenting moments. I haven’t been handling them as gracefully as I’d like; I mean that both in terms of being graceful with him, but also giving myself grace when I get frustrated. I’m working on this one. Making progress, though.

Owning my mer-goth/seawitchvibes aesthetic: This is hard when it’s cold out. My aesthetic right now is mostly “grad student/mom who hopes her clothes aren’t too stained.” My go-to outfit has been this dress over some black leggings, topped with a hoodie. Throw on whatever socks are clean and a pair of black New Balance sneakers, and I’m ready for sitting at the co-working space OR going to the mall or museum with my kid! Honestly, I’m bored with this look and really want to change it up. I don’t have a lot of money to do so, but I’m starting to need more looks for conference presentations and client meetings as I’m taking on some consulting work (yay!). Trying to find things in my budget that capture the whimsy that I want in my daily life and still looked polish is a JOB OF WORK, let me tell you.

Reading for pleasure more. I’m doing pretty well on this one. I’m a little behind my goal for the year but I know I can make that up quickly.

Having a good time. You know, at first thought I’m like, “I’m having a hard time!” But then I realize that I’ve been going to Silent Book Club and Retro Cinema, that I went to a Comicon, that I get to see my kid exploring new places, that I’m crocheting things and playing video games every once in a while, and I think yeah, on the whole, I’m doing a really good job with this one.

Other things worth noting: I have drafted two of my five comps chapters. I had an article accepted with revisions. I am taking on a consulting job. My kid is growing and growing. I’ll probably write another post in the next few days with more details about general life stuff, so keep an eye out.

How’s your year going?


Lovefool Cover
April 1: Fool

We listened to Lovefool
We glittered and glued
I have rarely been so present
As I was in that past

I’m making a few notes to myself here to document my process for keeping a public research notebook. They might be of interest to you, too.

First, I’m talking here mostly about keeping up with the literature. There are (in my opinion obvious) ethical implications of actually sharing your data on your website. I’ll explore them as I write my proposal, but right now, all I’ve got is other people’s research that I’m reading and writing about, and then I’ll probably have some memos on my own process of preparing for comps and selecting my dissertation topic. Nothing wild.

So, what am I doing? Well, inspired by some writing by Kris Shaffer and Chris Aldrich, and by the fact that I gave a keynote last weekend on Connected Learning and the IndieWeb, I want to share my reading notes on some of the readings I’m doing for comps. It will help me keep track of my most important notes, and maybe it’ll be useful for other people researching similar topics. I tend to pick fairly under-researched areas, and I know it can be frustrating to have to dig up the literature on those, so this is one way I can maybe make it easier for colleagues.

Raul Pacheco-Vega is another inspiration, as he both shares reading notes and has heavily influenced my literature review workflow.

What’s the workflow?

  1. I find the source, as described through one of the various techniques in my literature review workflow, and pull it into Paperpile. If Paperpile can’t find a PDF on its own, then I track a PDF down or, if it’s only available physically, track down a physical copy.
  2. If it’s a PDF, I read it on my Android tablet with Xodo, making highlights and annotations using my Musemee Notier stylus. If it’s a physical text, I take notes on a dedicated COMPS spread in my Bullet Journal (I use a Moleskine large dotted black notebook and a Pilot G2 07).
  3. I create a new Google Doc.
  4. From Paperpile, I copy the citation and paste it into the Google Doc. I name the Google Doc Author Year Article Title. (These are all in a folder called “Synthetic Notes,” nested in a folder named after the literature area.)
  5. I type up a quick synthetic note based on my highlights and annotations.
  6. I use Paperpile to find a link to the source of the original.
  7. Then, I use a bookmarklet with the WordPress Post Kinds plugin to create a new bookmark on my website. (I use the bookmark post kind instead of a read, because I’m only doing an Abstract-Introduction-Conclusion extraction, not a full read of the piece.)
  8. I paste the abstract into the Summary box in the Response Properties box.
  9. I paste the contents of my Google Doc into the WordPress editor and use the “Clear formatting” button to clean up messy GDocs code.
  10. I give the post a tag related to the literature area (e.g., connected-learning) and select the category “Research Notebook,” then publish!

You may have noticed that this workflow leaves out entirely. This is for a few reasons, but mostly just that right now, would add several extra steps as I read on my tablet rather than on my laptop. I’d have to open up the PDF on my laptop, re-highlight and annotate using tools, then use the aggregator plugin to bring over those to my website. So for now, I’m doing it all manually on my site and not sharing anything there.

Read Dangerous angels : the Weetzie Bat books by Francesca Lia BlockFrancesca Lia Block
Love is a dangerous angel...Francesca Lia Block's luminous saga of interwoven lives will send the senses into wild overdrive. These post-modern fairy tales chronicle the thin line between fear and desire, pain and pleasure, cutting loose and holding on in a world where everyone is vulnerable to the most beautiful and dangerous angel of all: love.
These books are magical, but like all our faves, they’ve got some problems. See American Indians in Children’s Literature for the specifics of some issues of cultural appropriation and stereotyping.

In spite of this, I loved a lot about these. I’ll update this post with some favorite quotes later.

Read How to quit Facebook without quitting Facebook by Kaitlyn TiffanyKaitlyn Tiffany (Vox)
Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing makes the case for keeping your Facebook account, staying on Twitter, checking your email, but doing it all differently, and "not as asked." (And not as self-help.)
Kaitlyn Tiffany interviews Jenny Odell, author of How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy.

Highlights and marginalia:

“The villain here is not necessarily the internet, or even the idea of social media,” she writes. “It is the invasive logic of commercial social media, and its financial incentive to keep us in a profitable state of anxiety, envy, and distraction.”

Yes! While these tools will necessarily be biased by their creators’ biases, they aren’t necessarily evil. But the prevalent model isn’t people-focused, it’s profit-focused, and that means it has different incentives than it might otherwise.

A lot of self-help books have this rhetoric of “do this one thing and your life will change forever,” you’ll never have to read this book again, and you’ll just be fine. I think this is very different; you have to know that you’re going to keep getting sucked back in and be realistic about that.

I think if more self-help books were honest about the fact that you’ll need to revisit them, they’d be more useful, but we’d also probably have a lot fewer self-help books.

What if social media were a public utility — one you used for your own purposes and left alone otherwise? What if there were no profit incentive to trap you in a loop of seductive, brightly colored apps?

One of the things I talk about in the last chapter is this idea of a social network that’s actually a utility, where you go to it to do the thing you wanted to do and then you leave. It’s just sort of there for you to use, like a landline.

I love this idea. Odell talks about a Chrome extension that hides her Facebook feed. This is essentially what I’ve done, but manually: I follow no one on Facebook. I do kind of treat it like a landline: if I want to catch up with a particular person, I head over to their timeline and browse it directly. This mitigates the problem Odell describes here:

A lot of times you’re going to a site because you have some idea of something you needed to do or see, and then 20 minutes later, you have no idea why you’re there.

Contrary to recommendations from Silicon Valley iconoclasts like Jaron Lanier to delete your social media accounts, Odell suggests that there is value in keeping something like them while reclaiming our attention:

we actually really need something like social media. Especially in a time when a lot of people live far away from family, it’s actually really important, I think, to stay connected to other people.

It’s that something like that sticks with me. Could the IndieWeb be the something like that she means? She has me pondering the ways we kept in touch before Web 2.0 and how I can replicate them now to take advantage of the affordances of the modern web without succumbing to that villainous commercial logic.

I found this because Whitney tweeted it.

Venture Bros Guild of Calamitous Intent Council of 13
It’s been more than 3 months since I had my first committee meeting, but I still want to write a little about the process.

If you’ll recall, my advisor, Sandra Hughes-Hassell, and I put together an awesome committee. She handled the scheduling of our first meeting, which we did using Zoom as I have two out-of-town committee members.

Before the meeting, I shared two things with my committee: a dissertation prospectus and a preliminary bibliography.

The main agenda item for the meeting was reviewing that preliminary bibliography and settling on the areas for my comprehensive examination package. One of my committee members couldn’t make it; there were 5 of us on the call. I had my prospectus and bibliography in front of me and my bullet journal at hand for taking notes. (My method is really a hybrid of Ryder Carroll’s bullet journal method and Raul Pacheco-Vega’s Everything Notebook, with some modifications of my own thrown in, but that’s a different blog post for a different day.)

I can’t tell you how this will go for you, but it had a couple of really positive outcomes for me.

First, with respect to information literacy: There is a whole world out there of information literacy standards, guidelines, and models, and quite frankly, by the time you’ve been working in this field for 10 years the basics start to get a little stale. I had them all on my preliminary bibliography and Casey Rawson suggested that, since we all know those models and nobody really wants to read about them again, I could focus on newer models. She specifically mentioned embodied information practices (especially as conceived by Annemaree Lloyd), as my research focuses on the information practices of cosplayers and cosplay is an embodied fan practice.

I mentioned to the committee that I was going to start with a focus on information literacy in affinity spaces and work my way out from there, and Heather Moorefield-Lang suggested that I consider subcultures as well as affinity spaces, specifically suggesting the work of Vanessa Lynn Kitzie, who has done a lot of work on the information practices of LGBTQ+ individuals.

Taking these two suggestions together led me to a complete reframing of my conceptualization of information practice and information literacy, moving me from thinking of it as an individual, knowledge-based process to a sociocultural set of practices. More on that another time, but this was a huge and immensely valuable shift.

Second, with respect to methods: Casey pointed out that the “mixed methods” piece of my study (counting qualitative codes for frequency) wasn’t really enough to qualify it as a true mixed methods study, and so it might be better for me to just focus my methods chapter on qualitative methods. This was great because it always helps me to narrow my scope; I tend to want to be far more thorough than is necessary or appropriate when I write a literature review.

After the meeting ended, I felt great. I was really excited about my work and excited about my committee, and those feelings have carried me through the last three months of slowly chipping away at the first two chapters of my comps package.

Featured image is the Chamber of the Council of 13 of the Guild of Calamitous Intent, from Venture Bros, provided by reddit user Empyrealist.

I’ve been working on editing the fourth episode of my Buffy the Vampire Slayer podcast, Things of Bronze, and in that episode I talk about how being a mom is like being the Slayer.

And then I’m reading Barbara Brownie and Danny Graydon’s The Superhero Costume: Identity and Disguise in Fact and Fiction and I run across Ana Álvarez-Errecalde’s beautiful work Symbiosis and it feels like my heart stops for a second. My breath catches.

And I go track down this interview with her, and save it for later, knowing it’s going in the February issue of Genetrix:

 Symbiosis (The Four Seasons, 2013-2014) talks about relationships that nourish each other both physically and psychologically. It challenges the idea of a negated mother who also negates her body and her presence to her children, so they will all ultimately conform to our unattended, unloved, and unnourished society. It is not about being a “supermom.” It is about two complete beings that strengthen each other by the relationship they establish. That is where the mutual empowerment resides.

But also then I go back to Brownie & Graydon and flipping through I realize that Álvarez-Errecalde’s photograph is in a section called “Parent power,” with quotes like these:

As the death of family provoked the adoption of heroic identities in Batman and Spider-Man, new parents find themselves transformed by the birth of a child. (p. 130-131)


It is just as impossible to define any parent without acknowledging their parenthood, as it is to define Bruce Wayne without acknowledging Batman. (p. 131)


Parenthood, like crime-fighting, is labor-intensive, exhausting and emotionally draining… Superhero imagery allows parents to express the tremendous strength that is required in parenthood, along with the new sets of values that emerge with their new identity. (p. 131)

And this is all serendipitously making me feel immensely seen and I’m on the verge of tears.

Read Fangirl by Rainbow RowellRainbow Rowell (
Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan.. But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere. Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to. Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words... And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone. For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?
Fangirl Cover

I just finished reading Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. And now I want to be best friends with her, because she gets me.

This book means so much to me. I didn’t have a good time in college. I was lonely. I had no interest in partying. I was clinically depressed. And fandom saved my life.

I did have an adorable tall boyfriend with a receding hairline. (Reader, I married him.) He talked through my magnum opus with me, a blatant Mary Sue in which I wrote my hopes and dreams for season 5 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (I deleted it from in a fit of embarrassment in 2009, but I’m planning to resurrect it from my old personal domain in the Wayback Machine and post it to AO3 soon.)

I was more distant from my sister than I’d ever been in my life. My little brother was very sick and ended up hospitalized.

I got a job explicitly to pay my way to fannish events. I made so many fandom friends. I printed up pages and pages of fanfic.

I started a fan campaign. It gave me a sense of purpose when my grades were tanking and my mom was in the hospital.

I embarked on a teaching career in a town two hundred miles away from anyone I loved. I read fanfic and posted on forums and LiveJournal and it was my only human contact outside of work.

This book just feels very personal and I’m so grateful to Rainbow Rowell for writing it.

Text: "Rupert Giles Actual School Librarian" and "A Buffy the Vampire Slayer Story by Kimberly Hirsh" on a brown background, in front of an image of antique books on a bookcase to the right of a wooden podium with a framed picture on the front of it.Still drafting the first chapter, but it has a cover and a summary…

The Watchers Council had made certain promises. First, that Rupert Giles would have no trouble getting his cover job as the new school librarian at Sunnydale High School. Second, that this role would require minimal actual librarianing, which was a good thing, as he had been rather distracted during his library studies coursework what with all the simultaneous advanced Watcher training. And third, that he would not have to deal with teenagers other than the Slayer herself.

The Watchers Council had lied.

Quoted Assume away

Miserable human beings who you wouldn’t want to spend a second with in real life are capable of making something great that is beautiful or useful to you.


I’ve fallen down an internet rabbit hole! My current work = reading about cosplay. Cosplay is part of fandom, and I feel disconnected from fandom so I started listening to Fansplaining to get me back in touch, and that took me to Wattpad, and then I started reading a Wattpad blog post that linked to Fanlore (which I already knew about but have never explored in-depth) and now I guess I’m going to just die of starvation while reading all of Fanlore? But also, please stay tuned for details about my upcoming fic, Rupert Giles, Actual School Librarian.

Most people who know me know that the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of my favorite things. It has been the dominant pop culture text in my life for almost 20 years, so of course my husband bought our son the BtVS picture book for his second birthday.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer picture book cover

We read it for the first time a few nights ago, and, y’all, this is done so lovingly, I almost cried. If you love BtVS and you like picture books, pick this one up.

The plot is simple. This is, let’s say, an AU where Buffy lived in Sunnydale when she was in elementary school. Don’t think about canon too hard. The writers of the show didn’t, so we probably shouldn’t, either. Sixteen year old Buffy introduces herself at the beginning, then sends us in a flashback to when she was eight years old and afraid of the dark, because OF COURSE there is a monster in her closet.

And you know how BtVS is all about literalizing tropes, so… She’s not wrong. She recruits Willow, Xander, and Giles to help her with the problem, and of course through the power of friendship it all works out.

But where the whole thing shines is the little touches in the illustration. Each time I read it, I find a new BtVS easter egg. I don’t want to spoil too much, so here are just a couple examples.

Below, I’ve noted a few special  Sunnydale locations in the front endpapers in yellow.

Front endpapers

Next, a few things worth noticing in Buffy’s room, this time in blue:

Buffy's room

And this is just the beginning. Each page has tons of this stuff, and the book’s climax has the best references of all.

Right before the climax, though, we get this page:

Together we stepped into the darkness.

And really, isn’t stepping into the darkness together what BtVS is all about?


Lizzo in the "Juice" music video
A week ago, my friend shared the video for Lizzo’s song “Juice.”

I commented, “I want to feel as cute as she is.”

I started watching Dietland last week. I got to the scene where the main character, Plum, goes to her Waist Watchers meeting, and everything they talked about started to feel familiar:

Logging literally every bite you eat. Telling yourself you’re doing it to look good naked.

When Janice showed up with her amazing dipped hair and fabulous eye makeup and colorful clothes, I loved her immediately. And then when she responds to the idea that she is here to be her best self with “Excuse me?” and then launches in to her lovely monologue:

I love myself… I came here to get some help to lose weight because I have back problems, not because I hate my body… I am a unicorn. I am a goddess.

I was ready to cheer.

In the one-on-one at the end of the scene, the facilitator reminds Plum that, “Food is fuel. That is all.”

Later, there’s a scene where Plum absentmindedly licks a little bit of frosting off her finger, then realizes what she’s done and runs to the sink to try and spit it out.

There are a million tricks: put half your food away as soon as you get it at a restaurant. (I actually like that one.) Drink water and fill up on vegetables before you go to a party so there will be no room in your stomach for treats. And there are all of the fashion rules to make you look slimmer, too: black. Only vertical stripes. Prints on a very precise scale to match your body.

I realized watching Dietland how tired I was of this nonsense.

I have been trying to lose weight since I was 20 years old. And I know I started later than many other people. I have tried Slim-Fast. I have tried ChangeOne. I have tried the Fat Flush diet. I have done two elimination diets. I have walked on the treadmill. I have done the rowing machine. I have done bodyweight exercises. I have used hand weights. I have used gallon jugs as weights. I have done all the things you can do to make water taste better. I have brought my own special foods to parties.

And I’ve also tried intuitive eating and Health at Every Size.

The only correlation I have found between my actions and my body’s shape is that when I eat fewer inflammatory foods, I’m less-inflamed. So that informs how I think about food. Food is one of life’s great pleasures. It is a centerpiece for social functions. It is a source of comfort. And it is fuel. I want to give my body anti-inflammatory, mostly whole foods, because it gives me energy and is more flavorful. But not to punish it for being the wrong size or shape.

Lizzo said in this interview with the New York Times, “I had to really look myself in the mirror and say, this is it…This is the person I am going to be for the rest of my life and it is not going to change.”

I need to love this vessel I’m in. This chronically ill, hard-to-clothe piece of flesh that carries me around the world, that created the most amazing person I’ve ever known. I need to get okay with it truly at every. Size.


But my body shape isn’t the only way I’m not too much or not enough. I remarked on how I tried literally all the things that Anne Helen suggests won’t fix burnout.

I’ve tried a million things to fix my mood – not things that move directly toward giving me the neurotransmitters (a thing I wholeheartedly endorse getting via pharmaceuticals if your body isn’t making them), but things that indirectly help: sun lamps. Fish oil supplements. Scheduled friend times. Gratitude journaling. Affirmations.

I’ve tried gamifying my habits with Habitica and Fitocracy.

I have more than five different books about how to get my home organized and keep it clean. It isn’t organized. It’s only clean because my husband cleans it.

I have two different books about improving my wardrobe. I have four about fixing my finances.

I subscribe to two self-care newsletters and two self-care podcasts. But at this point, self-care feels like another to-do list item that overwhelms me, not something that actually involves caring for myself.

I read this New York Times piece on the genius of insomnia, and thought about all the different ways I’ve tried to fix my “bad sleep hygiene.” Red light bulbs. Blue light filters on my devices. Yellow glasses. White noise. Audiobooks. No caffeine after 4 pm. Using the bedroom for nothing but sleep.

And then I thought, “What if everything I am – everything I’ve tried to improve in this particular, optimizing, tool-utilizing way, is just fine?”

And then I thought, “Well, what if I try living as if it is, anyway?”

What if I give all facets of myself the nutrients they need, without judgment? What if I purchase things from companies that affirm the idea that I’m already great, rather than selling me the idea that I need to be corrected? What if, when I wake up at 4 am, I don’t chastise myself for being a bad sleeper, but instead use that time to relax while awake? What if the only self-improvement projects I take on are related to my curiosity, my desire to grow and learn?

And I decided I will live this way. I’m going to operate on the assumption that everything about me is exactly enough.

I’m going to stop optimizing.

I’m going to start nourishing.


Some notes on Millennial burnout. This started as a Twitter thread because I needed a frictionless place to write my initial ideas, and apparently I was hoping they would get some attention. (They didn’t, really, and that’s fine now that I’ve slept on it.)

Anne Helen’s excellent piece on Millennial burnout sketches out a framework for us to think about why (white, middle class) Millennials are burned out. She admits that a framework is not a solution, and in her newsletter that acts as a sort of commentary track she talks about both why she didn’t use academic jargon (BLESS HER) and also didn’t offer a solution (which I’m sure is disappointing/frustrating for some people). Tiana Clark offers a valuable critique about the limits of this sort of generational thinking and its failure to capture the experiences of people of color. Helen published additional perspectives on what Millennial burnout looks like for different people: black women, first-generation immigrants, queer people, chronically ill people, people with disabilities, people at the intersections of more than one of these identities, and more.

I’ve collected some less in-depth pieces on the phenomenon in my Pocket, like Kristin Iversen’s Why Millennials Are Always Tired (found via Holisticism‘s newsletter), which approaches Millennial exhaustion more from the perspective of the youngest Millennials, as opposed to Helen’s piece coming from the perspective of older Millennials. (Jesse Singal’s Don’t Call Me a Millennial — I’m an Old Millennial is my favorite piece that makes it clear how old Millennials and young Millennials differ and what the inflection points are for Millennialness.)

Helen says:

You don’t fix burnout by going on vacation. You don’t fix it through “life hacks,” like inbox zero, or by using a meditation app for five minutes in the morning, or doing Sunday meal prep for the entire family, or starting a bullet journal. You don’t fix it by reading a book on how to “unfu*k yourself.” You don’t fix it with vacation, or an adult coloring book, or “anxiety baking,” or the Pomodoro Technique, or overnight fucking oats.

This is basically a caricature of my life. I have been an avid follower of Lifehacker, obsessed with Inbox Zero, installed and uninstalled Headspace and Calm, prepped meals for the week ahead, used a Bullet Journal for approaching five years, read and re-read Unf*ck Your Habitat, have the immense privilege of being able to take a beach vacation annually, have a huge stack of adult coloring books, anxiety baked my way through my Master of Science degree, powered through PhD writing using the Pomodoro Technique, and had overnight oats for breakfast every day for a week. (Other things that won’t fix it: mason jar salads. An Instant Pot. Subscribing to every self-care newsletter and podcast. Witchery.)

And I agree with Helen that

…individual action isn’t enough. Personal choices alone won’t keep the planet from dying, or get Facebook to quit violating our privacy. To do that, you need paradigm-shifting change.

But at the same time, I can’t sit and wait on that paradigm shift. Helen doesn’t have a plan of action, but I need one. So that’s what I nattered about in that Twitter thread. And here it is, summed up:

We have to perceive ourselves, and by extension others, as creatures of inherent worth, not merely parties to transactions, in spite of existing within an economic system that views us exactly as such. Tiana Clark points out that being a literal commodity was an actual, physical reality for black people until 1865. I think our economic system still relies on people seeing themselves as engines or tools.

I think we have to reject that idea with our whole hearts.

When I was a freshman in college, I saw a clinical social worker in my school’s Counseling and Psychological Services department. I saw him once and never again, because he enraged me. But now, almost 20 years later, I’m realizing he was really right in one thing about his assessment of me. He’d asked me to tell him about myself. And after I did, he’d pointed out that everything I’d told him was about my achievements: the grades I’d gotten, the scholarships I’d won. I left angry. Of course those things were how I defined myself. Of course those things were what made me a person of value in the world.

My 18 year-old-self had completely bought into the idea that her value could be measured and had to do with the production of valued things. (In my case, scholarly output. That’s still the valued thing I try to produce.)

Almost-38-year-old me is ready to reject that idea. I have value because I am a person who exists. I don’t need to be productive all the time. I feel a sense of purpose when I work, but that work is not what makes me a person.

The current version of me is ready to move into this way of thinking.

But, as I admitted in my Twitter thread…

I’m not there yet.

For more on “fixing” Millennial burnout, read Jessanne Collins’s Having a Kid Was the Unexpected Cure for my Millennial Burnout. It resonates with my experience as a mother of a young child.

Noah Smith identifies another piece of the burnout puzzle when he says Burned-Out Millennials Need Careers, Not Just Jobs. (Ask any stereotypical Millennial about their #sidehustle.)

Many thanks to Austin Kleon for first running Anne Helen’s piece across my radar.

Featured image is my favorite panel from Joss Whedon’s run on the Astonishing X-Men, Vol 3 #22, drawn by John Cassaday. Colors by Laura Martin. Letters by Chris Eliopoulos.