10 Years of The Exponent: EmilyCC

Sunstone 2009I remember at an Exponent II board meeting in early 2004, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich said, “There’s this new thing called a blog, and there’s this Mormon one called Times and Seasons. They’re doing such interesting things, and we might consider doing something like that.”

We barely had the womanpower at that time to keep the paper running even in the very capable hands of editors, Nancy Dredge and Heather Sundahl. With dwindling subscriptions and even fewer submissions, the idea of trying to find ways to generate more content felt impossible. The same thing was happening at our annual retreats…often board members had to step up and do a workshop because we couldn’t find enough people willing to present.

Fortunately in 2004, Exponent had been approached by two women, Jana Remy and Caroline Kline, who were willing to guest edit a Southern California issue. After that issue, they proposed an Exponent blog should be created since Jana had the experience with blogging and the technical know-how to get something like that started.

The board was reluctant. Exponent had never allowed its name to be used outside of the control of board members. I have heard that there were attempts to have retreats around the country that wanted to be Exponent retreats, but the board held the name close.

The board discussed this idea a lot. No one really wanted to be a blogger, but it felt important that a board member be a part of the blog if we were going to let our name be used. This discussion went back and forth with no real decision made.

By fall of 2005, I was pretty sure my time in Boston was coming to an end. My spouse’s work situation wasn’t sustainable and my newborn son had some health problems. It was clear that it was time to return home to Arizona. I also knew that I would be leaving a job that I loved as a hospital chaplain in Boston and moving to a part of the country where paid hospital chaplaincy positions were rare (and rarer still for a Mormon woman). I would likely be staying home for a while upon my return.

I was ambivalent…it felt right to return home, but I had struggled a lot in Arizona with depression and OCD. Would they return when I came home? How would I find friends outside of my ward with no external organizations to be a part of? How would I let Arizona politics not bug me?

So, when the board came to the agreement that we would lend our name to the blog, it felt perfect. I couldn’t be a board member anymore (back then, once people moved from Boston, they were not on the board), but I could be a blogger and as the one former board member on the founding blogger team, I thought I could be a good bridge. I was grateful that this came at a time of such transition in my life…I had deadlines and a way to engage my mind with a community of Mormon feminists when I was about to leave the haven I had had for five years.

I talked to Caroline primarily about coming on board, and I remember being petrified at the commitment. We were going to have new content up every. Single. Day. Each blogger was to take one day a week. I knew I couldn’t handle that, so I took one day every other week. The first post took me a solid month to write. I did so much research to make sure that the complaint I was laying was true. Each of those early blog pieces took me 6-8 hours to write, and all modesty aside, they weren’t very good. I was so scared to speak. So scared of alienating active members, so scared of how people would perceive me.

I remember feeling such a sense of community in the small Bloggernacle. I loved the friends at Zelophehad’s Daughters. They started around the same time we did, and it felt/feels like we cover many of the same ideas and have stayed about the same size over the years.  They were the ones we teamed up with when Deborah had the brilliant idea to start doing lesson plans for Relief Society in 2007. I felt at home with those early Mormon Mommy blogs (very different from the ones of today) like Mormon Mommy Wars and Tales from the Crib. I remember that time in 2009 when I went to Sunstone and met fMhLisa and Bored in Vernal with the help of introductions from the brilliant artist and writer, former perma, G, and tried to totally play it cool (see the picture above for proof) or the time in 2007 when I geeked out that Starfoxy came to a bloggersnacker I hosted, where I also happened to meet one of my best friends, Jessawhy, and the lovely mraynes.

As a perma, I’ve had ward members tattle on me. I’ve enraged family members. It’s been sad and hard and still stings a little when I think of those times. But, I’m proud of the things I’ve done and grateful that when I have made mistakes in this organization and on this blog, my sisters have been generous with their forgiveness.

Blogging for the past 10 years has been a way to find my voice. I’m still not an amazing writer like so many of my fellow past and present permas are, so I’ve felt lucky, despite that, to have a forum that forces me to sit and write every so often about what I’m most passionate about at the time. Sometimes it was a recipe, sometimes it was a memory, sometimes it was a piece of exegesis that I didn’t have a place to share in any other area of my life.

But, most importantly, I want to say how it was the creation of this blog that has kept Exponent II alive to see its 40th birthday. If Caroline and Jana hadn’t had the foresight to create this blog and if intrepid women like Deborah, Dora, Amelia, and Brooke hadn’t signed on to begin this. When Aimee and I worked to revive the magazine, we depended on these bloggers and permas that had come on since the blog’s inception as well as the relationships we had with other blogs to build those quarterly magazines. Though it has not been without bumps, I love the relationship between the blog, the magazine, the retreat, and the board–none would function as well without the other arms.

EmilyCC

EmilyCC works for a national non-profit and lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her spouse and three children. She is a former editor of Exponent II and a founding blogger at The Exponent.

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4 Responses

  1. Ziff says:

    I love your retrospective, Emily! I especially love that you count us at ZD as a sister blog!

  2. Kevin Barney says:

    This was fun to read. I love retrospectives on Bloggernacle blogs. Thanks for sharing.

  3. fMhLisa says:

    Good memories, and I am so impressed and grateful for all the excellent and difficult work you have done.

  4. Libby says:

    I’m grateful for all of you!

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