Practical Feminism with Sarah Gilbert

Sarah Gilbert

Sarah Gilbert is an award-winning memoirist and editor-in-chief of Stealing Time Magazine. She founded Stealing Time Magazine in 2012 with the goal of offering a space where non-normative parenting voices could speak free of judgment and restraint.

The publication describes itself as a “community of writers and readers: parents who come together […] to celebrate that a parent’s work is intellectual as well as emotional.” Stealing Time Magazine aims to change the way parenting is talked about in mainstream media as well as what it is that makes a parent. To that end, the magazine features narratives from an open and all-encompassing perspective:

“All content must be parenting-related, broadly construed. We are eager to give expression to the broadest possible spectrum of parenting experience. Naturally we want to see parenting essays that reflect monogamous heterosexual families as well as single parents, queer parents, transgendered parents and parents of transgendered children, blended families, grandparents raising grandchildren, families including children or parents with a special needs diagnosis, parents of children lost or deceased, and other less conventional parents and caregivers of children.”

Gilbert also blogs as Cafe Mama, which she dubs a “domestic realist” space, and can also be found on Twitter @sarahgilbert.

1. You are founder and editor-in-chief of Stealing Time Magazine, a literary magazine for parents. In your mission statement, you write that you want the magazine to represent parenting experiences outside of the mainstream, giving voice to queer parents, single parents, parents of adopted children, etc. What motivated you to come up with this kind of parenting publication?

This idea came from where come all good ideas: the void. Specifically, a void of truly-told, carefully-examined parenting stories. There are many parenting stories in the mainstream media, but they’re often very flat and one-dimensional. In my experience as a consumer of other parenting stories and as a writer of them, I have repeatedly felt this hunger for better, clearer, wider-angle looks at the spectrum of parenting experience, told without the context of what you should do, or what a perfect socially-acceptable, best-of-all-possible-worlds parent would do, feel, think — but what we actually DO. How we navigate the flawed world as individuals who are not flawed in all the right ways — and still strive to be good people, good models, and authentic versions of ourselves (gay, straight, step-, infertile, special needs parents or parents of special needs, all of it). It’s a delicate dance; it’s worth telling all these stories. Brave stories that lay themselves open to judgment without offering any. It’s sure as hell worth reading.

2. What has been the most effective tool for gathering the funds to create and distribute the magazine?

Kickstarter was what we used as a launch funding mechanism, and as a way to build energy and spread the word and (indeed) raise money it was amazing. It was an enormous amount of work and focus and it was worthwhile but HARD; I doubt I will ever want to be an organization that funds all its issues through Kickstarter. I would much prefer to “build it and they will come” than to spend a lot of my time doing intense marketing like this, even though it was such an emotionally overwhelming (in a good way) experience to see so many people put their love and money behind something that hadn’t yet been done. Over time, I really believe that the magazine will fund itself; the need for these stories is obvious and the first three issues are so chockfull of wonderful stuff, I know they will live on. We need something like 2,000 subscribers in order to pay our editors AND print/mail/pay writers and photographers; the best tool to get that is simply to get magazines into people’s hands. It’s a fantastic bargain.

3. What are one or two parenting issues you wish to give voice to with this publication? What do you wish people were paying more attention to?

I think there is a real lack of stories told from the perspective of parents in lower socio-economic classes and immigrant classes. So often in lovely stories by lovely writers, the problems are distinctly middle- or upper-class, and while these deserve their place in our pages too, I want to give voice to the stories that often go untold. And not necessarily those stories of abuse or abandonment; just the everyday struggles of people who are strangers in their adopted countries even after many years, or who have to buy their gas a five dollar bill at a time (or both). So much of our public discourse is either to pity or to stigmatize those who live near or below the poverty line; calling the social supports we give to some of them “entitlements” or calling Obama the “food stamp president” as if that is a bad thing (I won’t even go into how much better he could do for the poor). I’d like to see stories told without that pity, without the judgment for how they got into the lives in which they live, just seeing reality from their eyes. There are many, many parents who are neither living in squalor nor are they sodden with drugs or alcohol; they’re just dealing with different challenges than the parents whose stories are more widely told.

I also am very interested in hearing from parents with a less conventional family makeup, not from the perspective of “here’s what it’s like to raise a child in a lesbian relationship!” or “I’m a stepmom and I’m not evil!” but “here is a parenting situation I’ve encountered along with my partner,” or, “my relationship with my stepchildren is complicated, even though we love each other dearly, sometimes I’m jealous of the parent who came before me.” I want to see the nuanced differences beneath the obvious differences. And the reminder of how alike we all are; and how brave and deep and tearful and loving every parenting relationship can be, no matter what its label.

4. What do you love about Portland, where you are located and from where you also distribute Stealing Time Magazine? 

I love almost everything about Portland, but I think most of all I love how passionate everyone here is; seeing someone moved to tears by riding bicycles, or someone who devotes 30 hours a week to advocating open-to-all scouting organizations, or someone who tirelessly promotes a certain niche of writing, energizes me. And we’re all so supportive of each other. I get knocked over all the time realizing that there’s a whole new artistic circle I never knew existed (history writers! cellists! sock knitters!) and they have this weird, devoted, and thoroughly generous subculture. I’ve been invited in to so many of them and it always makes me want to shake the rest of the world by the lapels and say, “hey! don’t you see how it COULD be?”

I also really, really love the coffee and the food. I’m so lucky to have grown up here, and to have made it again, in adulthood, my home!

5. Favorite under-the-radar writer and/or blog?

There are so many! I have a new crush once a week. I’ve long loved the blog posts and poems of Sarah Piazza. There’s another one that’s like it in so many ways — quiet storytelling. And I happened into Anakana Schofield‘s reading at Wordstock; I was there for the writer with whom she was reading; and fell in love with her voice like a 14-year-old for the cute point guard on the varsity team. Her book “Malarky” lived up to my hopes.

This is part of an on-going series of interviews with activists around the world who are putting their feminism into practice.

If you have any suggestions of people we should interview (including yourself), please write us at flyover[at]flyoverfeminism[dot]com.

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