August 20, 2014

Pachydermata

There's an elephant in the room. I can't ignore it. That isn't how I work.

 The last few weeks have been troubling and stressful for everyone involved with LEO. Most of us have waffled about whether or not we should continue writing here. We feel solidarity with the friends we’ve lost–those who guided us through multiple deadlines and edits. We feel anger for the abruptness and the lack of direction given in the midst of such drastic changes.

Despite those things, I have to continue. 

I’m a mother and I use writing to supplement the dismal income of adjunct teaching, so it is necessary. I feel that my voice has some value and place in the Louisville/Southern Indiana community.  I’m not willing to surrender that easily. So here I am — still writing.

My column is called “Fun with Shrapnel” because my original aim was to explore and embrace the pieces of a human life — to enjoy my wounds. To some extent, I think I have successfully blended the fun with the shrapnel. Lately though, I’m not feeling quite as fun but more than that, I’m feeling a lot less solipsistic. 
 
Writing was something that I came to as a child to find a life outside of poverty, bullying and the reality that sometimes, ‘shit stinks.’   I wrote first as an escape, then as a way to make connections, and somewhere in that continuum, I began to write for the purpose of making life more fair. 
 
As an escape, I turned to the page with my ankle chained to a desk penning my first “novel” — a terrible mess with zero skill in regards to plotting. But as a teen, writing allowed me to live in any world I chose. I didn’t have to carry home the hurt of being bullied by girls with worse lives than mine. I also didn’t have to think about the struggles my parents were having with money. With writing, I could run over the bullies with my dream cars and relax in the palaces of my own creation. 
 
As I grew, writing allowed me to connect to the things that I cared most about, movies and music—which is how I came to LEO.
 
During my time here, I’ve found moments when it is necessary to use my columns for issues greater than myself.     Some of these are things that are difficult but need to be said–plainly and without pretense.  I feel that now is one of those times and the “elephant” needs to be addressed by someone with a little more distance than the editors and new owner.
 
When the changes at LEO started, beginning with the loss of Sarah Kelley as editor and then with the abrupt loss of Sara Havens, I realized something important.
 
Despite the snarky comments about the quality of the LEO, Louisville cares very much for its alt-weekly. 
 
Sure, some folks might pick it up, give a cursory glance to the Staff Picks and read nothing else. The fact remains that LEO is, at its very heart, part of what makes Louisville special. Not because it is our alt weekly, because many cities have them. It makes Louisville special because that alt weekly was crafted and written by people that at some point we all have known. Our friends made it possible every week for us to know about events, movies, and new restaurants. Sometimes they shared their opinions about politics, music, or the state of traffic. 
 
The fear with the abrupt changes, I think, partially lies in the realization that we might not be familiar with the paper anymore. Will we know the people talking to us from its pages? Will they speak for us?
 
I think it is important that we do and one small part of why I will keep writing.  I felt the sting of the last weeks just like many of the staff and readers. I was left without an editor and given no idea what that would mean for my work. 
 
When I came to LEO, I needed the outlet. To have it jeopardized was heartbreaking. When finally asked to continue, I considered the sting of the changes and the bad taste I felt about the execution. I considered saying no. But I can’t say no and I can’t give up on LEO…not just yet. I am not making a case for what went wrong. I’m making a case to save whatever is left because I still care that LEO exists. I care because I care about Louisville.