Here’s My Newest Thing

Okay, so here’s my newest thing, and don’t even start with the whole “Mary Anne, you already do too much,” because a) I know, and b) my goal is to do this as low-effort as possible and make other people do most of the work, especially Stephanie, and c) it really does feed very well into everything else I do, so shhh… (Also, the semester will be over in a week, so now is an excellent time to poke at this.)

I’d like to start a new magazine. (I say magazine, but I kind of mean magazine / podcast / website — is there a word for that? Broad cultural thing.)

I don’t have a name for it yet. One option is to just call it Serendib, staying on brand. The other is to pick something that’s less directly identified with me. I’ve toyed with words like “Heritage” (which has the problem of being co-opted by the conservatives, and maybe we can’t get over that, but it annoys me, because heritage is such a powerful concept, and they shouldn’t get to own it). Or “Hearth” (which I kind of love, but there’s this Magnolia Hearth and Home line at Target, and maybe that’s too confusing?) Naming is difficult — I could use help with that.

What I’m imagining is sort of “Granta meets Martha Stewart Living Meets Progressive Politics.” I’ve gotten so interested in domesticity lately, but in very particular ways. I want a publication that does the kind of educational work that Milk Street does for food, but also does that for gardening, crafting, teaching, game design…just ‘making’ generally.

(This would work in harmony with the Maram Makerspace project — we’re hoping to have a place in Forest Park open as soon as social distancing allows. Possibly as early as June for limited use. Another possibility for a name is ‘Maram,’ which is Tamil for tree. Imagine the outstretching branches, and the roots.)

I want a place that takes the labor women do seriously, and that will highlight how labor is always political — think of how Samin Nosrat curated her Best American anthology collection. I’d like to be able to showcase work like what Paul Goyette has been doing locally with photographing political events. I want Angeli Primlani and Nicole Walker thinking about the environment. And I want poetry and fiction in the mix.

This sounds huge. It is huge. But I think it can start very small — my tentative plan would be to start with a website and Facebook group and maybe a podcast, invite some contributors to start posting there, and then see if people want to follow it, see if it has legs.

I’ve been getting so much comfort out of Samin Nosrat’s “Home Cooking” podcast and “Staying at Home with Emily and Kumail,” I’d like to see if we can provide something similar. Warm, funny, welcoming, thoughtful, ardently progressive. Helping to dream a better world.

That last bit is where the SF comes in too — I would kind of love to have a column of SF stories as part of this — both ‘hope punk’ and darker visions. Definitely landing on the literary side, with attention to language and style.

Can I jam everything I’m passionate about into one place? I think I can.

Locally, I’ve already roped Maria Teresa McKee and Laura Young into this — Maria’s been doing yeoman’s work in Cicero and on our local garden club group doing teaching videos about seed starting, and Laura’s been doing the same with sourdough making.

There are people doing all kinds of interesting work, and I’d mostly like to collate it, give it a shape, and find it a central location that’s easy to access.

I’m also imagining a sort of local / global focus that’s a little hard to describe, but imagine each issue offering something local to the Oak Park area, grounding us in this place where I live, but also including something from far away.

So this is really a very early brainstorming thread, I suppose. Tell me what you think of this — what ideas does it spark for you, what seems problematic, what should I name it, what would you want to write for it, if you’d be interested in editing for it, or helping to organize it, etc.

Let’s talk.

(Photo of me just ’cause I needed a photo to put in here to make it more visible. Good morning! And oh, while I have you, note that from 3-4 CST, we’ll be doing a craft-and-chat that you’re all welcome to; Zoom details in the Serendib group.)

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