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January 19, 2011

Looking Back / Looking Forward

I know I’m not at the outer limits of the acceptable time frame for 2010 wrap-ups, but what can I say? I’ve been busy. I’m not going to belabor the point. Here’s a look at my last year.

I spent my last week of 2010 quietly in Brooklyn, planning and thinking about what I want to get done and make happen in 2011. Last year was good to me. I worked hard, traveled a lot (some of it even for fun!), and improved the quality of my life with stuff like starting to cohabitate with my boyfriend, the aforementioned travel for fun, plus getting in on Kensington/Windsor Terrace community supported agriculture, cooking a lot more, and spending more quality time wandering Brooklyn. I celebrated 11 years in New York and 6 years of writing this blog. My work here on Waking Vixen was rewarded with the Best Sex Blogger award from the Village Voice, which was racked up beside another Best of 2010 Award for my storytelling series the Red Umbrella Diaries.

Workwise, I completed my second year of full time employment at the International Women’s Health Coalition as Program Officer for Online Communications and Campaigns, plus I consulted on communications for the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (culminating in the launch of a gorgeous new website), and I reconceptualized the monthly sex worker storytelling event I’d been collaborating on since August 2009 and turned it into the Red Umbrella Diaries.

In my world of media producing, I did a lot but also got a lot more strategic about how I do my projects. At IWHC, I led the redevelopment of the Young Visionaries program, a contest which drew 71 applicants from 27 countries; I oversaw the grant for the winner, Sunita Basnet of Nepal. I also produced some videos in collaboration with other media makers. The Dutch magazine LOVER held an event in Utrecht that served as a discussion forum on prostitution law in the Netherlands. I was asked to create a keynote framing things with the international rights-based perspective. The result is this video, my most-viewed video of 2010. At IWHC, the video I’m most pleased with is Abortion in India: Legal But Not Always Safe. And for the second year in a row, I collaborated with the Speak Up! media training class to produce a public service announcement. In 2010 we went for a much more narrow audience, harm reduction organizations. Nothing About Us Without Us: The Shared Goals of the Harm Reduction and Sex Worker Rights Movements is not just a video, but also a packet of materials that can help facilitate conversations between sex worker organizers and harm reduction groups.

In 2010 I also branched out from blogging and video and started producing a weekly audio podcast: the Red Umbrella Diaries. The show is a way to document the stories told at the Red Umbrella Diaries monthly live events, and there’s a new episode every Sunday. During 2010, with the help of my editor David Beasley, there were 26 episodes of the show, and we’ve now reached almost 10,000 listens, a big growth in just the last few weeks. I was really excited to hit 5000 listens with our twentieth episode, but now that’s doubled over the course of the last eight episodes.

While a lot of my projects grew and evolved during the year, $pread magazine evolved in a sad way: in August, a group of past and present $preadsters came to my apartment for brunch, and we decided that it is time to end the magazine’s run. Five years is a pretty awesome run for a quarterly, independent magazine run entirely by volunteers – but it’s still sad to see it go. The final issue (perhaps two of them) is in production right now. Here’s a post I wrote about the decision to shut down the magazine.

Though this was a pretty slow year for blogging here on Waking Vixen (as admittedly, most of my years have been since going pro as a blogger), I did write a few pieces that I’m really proud of, both here on the site and elsewhere in the world. Here on Waking Vixen, I wrote about the ways in which sex worker activism is broken, an analysis of the news coverage of the Melissa Petro scandal – she was removed from her teaching job after her online writing about sex work was discovered, and dominant narratives in sex worker storytelling. Elsewhere online, I wrote a piece for the Guardian about institutional violence against sex workers in Uganda, an advice piece for Scarleteen about sexual pleasure after genital cutting, and a feature for RH Reality Check about sex worker rights struggles in India. I also had one piece of writing appear in a bound book – a personal essay, “The Johns,” in Melissa Gira Grant and Megan O’Connell’s anthology Coming & Crying.

I consented to more major network television appearances than ever before, with a very shouty appearance on Fox News and two appearances on NBC. All were really intense in their own ways, but I enjoyed them and felt like I brought something useful to the conversations. Hopefully in 2011 I’ll do some more of that, plus bring some other sex workers into the fold and get them to do more media.

Speaking of which… in 2010 I produced some trainings I’m pretty proud of. In April, I did the second annual Speak Up media training for sex workers with Sex Work Awareness, and this time around it was a full weekend, with participants from seven cities. SWA also did a training on Sex Work Issues and the New York State Legislative Process. I also created a Personal Storytelling for Social Change training, which I taught for the first time at HIPS in DC in early December. I also attended a training run by the OpEd Project and joined the PROS Committee on Community Education.

Running a monthly storytelling series meant that I had plenty of events in 2010. From January through June, I collaborated with David Henry Sterry on Sex Worker Literati, but then we decided to go our separate ways. He moved SWL to the Bower Poetry Club and brought Zoe Hansen on board as a co-host, while I stayed at Happy Ending and began solo hosting the Red Umbrella Diaries. I participated in a few panels and discussions over the course of the year as well: a Feminism and Sex Work panel hosted by Paradigm Shift in March, a Sex Work and Feminism Dialogue with the Sex Workers Project in May, an event on Art, Sex, and Difficult subjects with Laurenn McCubbinn in San Francisco in July, a symposium on Projects for a Revolution in New York at the New Museum in July, and in a panel on Talking About the Taboo at the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health in Rhode Island, plus the huge International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers event at the Metropolitan Community Church on December 17. I stuck to my resolution of not attending any conferences, which I think improved the quality of my life a bit. As an introvert, conferences are tough for me, plus I end up interacting with the same folks at every event. In 2010 I pushed myself to really listen to different people’s perspectives. Stepping away from the conferences I usually present at gave me the opportunity to listen more deeply instead of just keep talking.

I did a fair amount of travel throughout the year, and a surprising number of the trips were for “vacation” (which is pretty fun, actually) instead of work. For fun, I went to Niagara Falls, Toronto, Minneapolis (twice), San Francisco, Amsterdam (twice, though one was for work), Berlin, and Richmond. For work I ventured up and down the eastern seaboard to Rhode Island, Maryland, and Washington, DC.

I’ve got (as always) big plans for the next year, many of which involve getting my projects more solidified, more strategic, and just more awesome. I’ll be producing the Speak Up! media training again the weekend of April 9-10, expanding the Red Umbrella Project, and planning to write more. I’m also trying to get better about evaluating projects and saying no when I should – which is hard, because there is just so much stuff that needs to be done in the world.

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