Writing to Rise Up


This past Tuesday, I walked to my polling center at the elementary school around the corner and cast my vote, and then I walked back home and worked on my book and started editing a teaching manual on bullying and braced myself for whatever might happen next.

On Wednesday and Thursday, I cried. And then, because I wasn’t sure what else to do, I wrote up a social justice reading list and I wrote a list of six things we can do in the aftermath of the election and I tried to amplify as many voices as I could via Twitter.

On Friday, my husband went out of town with our daughter, and I felt lonely.

On Saturday and Sunday, I attended Book Riot Live. And while you might imagine such an event to feel out of place at a time like this—with its plethora of “shelfies, not selfies” tote bags and Hamilton T-shirts and bookish pictionary—it turned out to be exactly what me and many others needed. Because, in addition to the book nerdery (I myself sported my “Books Books Books” hat and my “All About the Hamiltons” T-shirt and my Lafayette pin), it was also a celebration of what can be accomplished through books.

For example, the fearless leaders of Book Riot kicked off the conference with a cathartic primal scream. Later in the day, I sat in on a panel about rewriting history, and about how we can bring untold stories into the light. After that, I went to a phenomenal panel with Jade Chang, Tara Clancy, and Negin Farsad, three kick-ass writers who use humor in their storytelling while simultaneously placing a spotlight on the issues facing various marginalized populations. And that was just the first day. Sunday included a panel on the complexities of the prison and judicial systems, an activist brainstorming meetup, a panel on using your writing to effect change, and more.

For awhile now, I’ve been writing to connect with readers in a way that shows them they’re not alone. With my focus on female sexuality, sexuality education, and other women’s issues, I try to spur dialogue around topics women are sometimes afraid to speak out about.

Since last week, I’ve worried that what I write has too narrow of a focus. I wonder if, all this time, I should have been doing more. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to do so, and grateful for the publications that have given me a platform on which to encourage others to rise up.

How has this past week affected your writing?

If you’re based in NJ and are looking for new ways in which to effect change with your own writing, I’ll be teaching a weekly writing class starting in January 2017. The class is called The Art of the Memoir, but I’ll be touching on more than just the traditional memoir. I am also here for your memoirs in essays, your prose poetry, and any other forms of narrative nonfiction you’re working on. Click here for more information, and to register.

(The image above is from a Redbubble product page and, yes, it’s on my Christmas wish list.)


  1. Interesting to hear how the outcome of the election affected you personally and as a writer, Steph. It’s good that you took time for self-care; we all need that. For me, the election has had two main consequences, both involving my freedom of expression. I show my dissent physically by wearing a safety pin and participating in the demonstration in Montclair on Sunday https://www.facebook.com/events/150219858784691/). I also took to writing, like you, but for me as a first-time blogger. (See “An Open Letter to Trump’s Main Supporters” at https://medium.com/@dscadet/an-open-letter-to-trumps-main-supporters-e73e421d7998#.73an4ylwc). Nothing can cure me of my deep sorrow for our nation and unease about the future, but I think these changes are making be better equipped to make something positive come of it. Hope you continue to find solace in expression, too.

    • Steph Auteri says

      Such a fantastic post, Dan. I must admit, I feel torn between the deep gut feeling that the votes (and the non-votes) that got us here are unforgivable, and the knowledge that so long as me and others maintain this adversarial mindset, we’ll never get anywhere. I was thisclose to signing up for this…:


      … but I lost my nerve because: social anxiety.

      So I continue to look for other ways to combine empathy and action.