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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

How to be successful at a craft fair

The booming popularity of sites like Pinterest and Etsy have given craft lovers a reason to get in touch with their artisan sides. If you’ve decided that you want to take your former hobby and turn it into something that can make a profit, then you’ll want to consider hosting a booth at a craft fair.

There have been people who have been attending craft fairs for years and know the ins and outs of handling crowds and getting the most bang for their buck when attending a show. If it’s your first time or you haven’t found the success that you would like, there are a few things to keep in mind so that you do well at your next craft fair.

First, consider if the booth fee is worth it. Nearly every fair or vendor event will require a fee to set up your booth and sell your crafts. While most of the time these fees are reasonable, once in awhile, they can be exceptionally high. Consider how many people are estimated to be at the fair, what position you’ll be in to sell your goods, and if you’ll receive a good return on your fee investment.

Second, familiarize yourself with the space and your booth setup. Make sure that your products are visible to people passing by and that your best sellers are front and center. Vinyl banners are great for advertising your brand because they're highly mobile, very durable, and will last throughout the show season. Make sure you have enough “stock” items to replace the items you have for display; that way if you go through a particularly busy time during the fair and your inventory is bought (which is fantastic!), then you’ll still have more products to put out for those cruising by your booth later.

Third, be attentive throughout the show. It can really put off a potential buyer if you are sitting at your booth texting on your phone or looking uninterested. You are there to promote your crafts. Keep in mind that even if someone doesn’t purchase an item from you that day, they may still take your business card and follow-up on a later date or at a later show. Don’t be afraid to chat up attendees passing by.

Fourth, about the business cards, make sure they are updated and that you have plenty of them to hand out. If you have a website or Etsy shop, make sure that information is included and let people know of any upcoming fairs you’ll be at in the near future. Be informative but not pushy, promotional without being too salesy. Let people browse your booth and give them a chance to ask questions.

Fifth, plan in advance. Sketch out how you want to set up your booth, how much inventory you need to bring, and make sure your portable payment machine is working well and you have enough cash to make change. The last thing you want is to be scrambling when your table is full of customers waiting to buy, but you’re not prepared.

The last tip I have is to simply have fun. If you look like you enjoy what you’re doing, then others will be more likely to come by your booth and be interested in your brand. Engage with customers without first thinking of only making a sale. This will help you grow a fanbase and hopefully, make your crafts a must have at the next fair.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Why ridiculous stories do well

So today I had a piece up on Washington Post On Parenting about my hilariously bad grocery shopping habits.

I pitched it as a funny blog bit, and that's what I wrote, style and form and all. I mean, I used the word poo-splosion in the Washington Post, and I'm thinking not many people have been able to pull that off.

Now, why on Earth would I do such a thing? Does it get any more boring than grocery shopping?

I didn't think so. Until I posted a picture of my carriage on my private facebook, to show my friends how full it was. (My facebook is SCINTILLATING, let me tell you about it.)

Anyway, in true fashion, I got about 250 comments telling me about all the ways I was doing it wrong, with varying degrees of outrage, disgust and empathy. It was a pretty great thread, not going to lie.

And I've learned a few things about the Internet:

1) Facebook doesn't lie. If people wanted to talk about my groceries on Facebook, they probably wanted to talk about my groceries in a national newspaper.

2) You don't have to be serious all the time. The tone in this blog (and in that piece) is pretttttty different from the tone I strike when writing a story on something actually relevant to anyone's life.

3) People LOVE to feel superior to other people, and I love to help them make that happen.

This grocery shopping post was number one in the parenting section all day, and it was the fourth most read story on the Washington Post site itself during business hours. My husband was thinking that, damn, a whole lot of people must think they grocery shop wrong and want a companion, but that's not it. I mean, surely some people were there for that, but I've no doubt most of the clicks were hate clicks. People can look at that carriage and read my little comedy bit about the process, and they can feel better than me. And I don't mind! Grocery shopping rates right alongside bowling with things I wish I could do really well at. So if I'm able to fill that I'm-better-than-you void with some puffy writing, all the better for both of us.

But, yeah, if anyone was wondering, it's a thing. It's not clickbait. I mean, nothing in the title, I grocery shop all wrong, screams click me. It's not important. Nothing leads anyone to believe it is. And other than click bait and importance, we're left with two reasons people click things:

1) Hate click. Their friend read it and shared it with the "OMG HOW IS THIS IN THE POST" label.

2) Superiority. They read the headline and figured they'd be able to feel successful about one area of their lives.

And that's how a blog-like grocery post got so popular on WaPo.

The end.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

My problem with the mommy wars

So, I have a problem with the mommy wars.




They're BORING.

That's it.

I'm just, I mean, can we just not?

Now, I know I'm speaking from a place of privilege here because my girls are now six, and I remember, (oh, boy, do I remember) how super-duper important shit like whether I was classified as a stay at home mom or a work at home mom, or who loved their kids more or the most, or whether or not me calling my kids little jerks when they were meant I didn't love them, or breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding, or cloth diapering vs. disposables, or eating your placenta vs. painting with it or whatever the case, was.

I promise that I remember that this was important. At one time. For some weird reason.

I mean, look back in the archives of this blog to 2010/2011 and, like, half of it at least is made up of posts where I tell everyone that no matter what they do, they're probably still rad parents, and they don't need to worry about how long that dude's (aka the mom who just wrote whatever other blog) dick was. We were all dicks together, kwim?

So, yes, I get it. I get when some ahole publishes this piece on xojane that people are going to be hurt and upset and shout about it. Because she wrote it to be hurtful and upsetting so people would shout about something.

(Cue the whole, not uh! I was just stating my point of view to add to the discussion! I can't control people's reactions to my rightness! I'm just a writer doing what I do!)

Anyway, I'm not annoyed at that piece (well, I mean, I am, because it's hugely exclusionary to those mothers for whom staying at home is not a privilege, and trust me, lady, there are many!).

I'm annoyed that it got picked up by Time and various other outlets. I'm annoyed that then Salon and The Daily Beast and a bunch of others wrote a response.

Back in 2011, it would have annoyed me because people were getting their points of view across in major media outlets and I could not. That's no longer an issue for me (OH, MAN, CATCH THAT HUMBLEBRAG).

These days, I'm annoyed because it's taking up space in my news feeds, and forcing my attention to it when it's literally nothing. It's so incredibly boring, for real.

This is stuff my first-time mothers and I hashed over for hours on our own personal journals and forums and groups. We could spend days on this stuff. There is no drama like mama drama after all. And, there, at least it was in real time, and people could say to me, "oh, you work so hard and are such a good mom, so why are you still on here fighting with me?" and I could go, "NO U" and etc. It was glorious. It was relevant. It was where I knew where to find it.

It was not in Time or Salon or other national outlets. At most, a regular columnist would be empty that week and write a thing. But a freelancer? Hardly ever.

So, yeah. I'm annoyed. If you're going to complain about how being a stay at home mom isn't a job but a privilege in your opinion, for Christ's sake, have the decency to do it in your groups and forums where it belongs.

There's nothing new in that piece. There is no research, no new trend, no numbers. Hell, there aren't even any anecdotes. Just a personal essay. Which is fine. It's great. I love personal essays. But it says absolutely nothing that hasn't been said 1,000 times before and argued over a million times before that.

This isn't a post bemoaning the existence of the mommy wars (there are plenty of those, too. But for all their flappery, really, they're also just contributing to the mommy wars. It's all just an excuse to talk about how other people shouldn't parent. Meta or not.).

This is a post asking that the mommy wars please return to their designated areas. Some of us have more important shit to do in our lives right now. NOT because those mommy wars are not important (believe it or not, they probably saved my sanity when I had two year olds). But because they do more for their audience when in the right space, and, also, they annoy the general population less.

Just saying.

Monday, March 16, 2015

One of the dangers of home birth--being judged by everyone you meet: Contributor Post

As the Big Day approaches, I’m finding that a lot of the things I used to think about childbirth and child-rearing have gone right out the window. For instance: never in a million years would I have imagined I’d be on board with cloth diapering. Not only did it seem like something for the granola and kefir set, I had this image in my head of a baby that looked like a heroin addict from all the safety pin pricks left by a dad with shaky hands. And then we got our first delivery of adorable cloth diapers with little buttons on them and I thought well, that won’t be so bad then.

Same thing with breastfeeding in public. There was a time when I thought it was kind of weird and mildly offensive for a woman to flop out a boob in public. Now I’m actually looking forward to our first “nurse-in.”

But when the subject of home delivery came up, I freaked out a little. OK. I freaked out a lot. My mom delivered my younger sister at home, and the stories that I grew up with (told mainly by my dad) about her being breech with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, and completely blue by the time they finally got her out, went a long way in shaping my opinions about home birth. I should mention that my sister is totally fine, and Mom has since gone on record that it wasn’t as bad as all that, but the thought of having a baby at home still terrified me.

The girl had a certainty about wanting to it at home this time around, though, and when she told me why, I couldn’t really argue. Her first delivery had been a nightmare experience of abuse by medical professionals in a hospital setting, and she didn’t want a repeat of that experience if it could be avoided. So when we started planning to make babies, we met with a midwife who came highly recommended and I got to begin the process of getting over my initial fear and getting comfortable with the idea of home delivery.

Then came the fateful ultrasound, and suddenly things got a little more complicated. Twins are a special case. The medical establishment would prefer that you not deliver multiples at home at all, ever, case closed; the State of California, though, says go for it, so long as one of your midwives is an OB. We were fortunate enough to have selected a midwifery practice with one of the only OB midwives in the state, so we were good to go. We opted to take a dual-care approach: continue to see the doctors in the big buildings with the fancy machinery and the schedules of tests, and also receive in-home care from our midwife doctor.

Now that I’ve had the opportunity to experience the American medical establishment’s approach to treating pregnancy as a disease firsthand, my terror has started to shift; I’m becoming increasingly worried that we might actually end up delivering in a hospital. It’s not that I think the doctors or nurses are incompetent (although a couple of the ultrasound techs have been); it’s that they seem to value competence to the exclusion of compassion.

Don’t get me wrong: If I had to choose between competence and compassion in a life-threatening emergency, of course I’d rather have a competent doctor. But pregnancy isn’t a life-threatening emergency, is it? So why treat it like it is?

Let me be clear: I’m not anti-science. I’m not anti-medicine. I don’t believe choosing home delivery makes us better parents or that folks who go the hospital route are doing something wrong. I understand that the amount of pregnant women seen by your average HMO-based OB practice is overwhelming, and that things like compassion and caring are often sacrificed at the altar of efficiency and standardization.

As a result, though, we seem to be approaching pregnancy from the position of what can go wrong; it doesn’t seem to leave any room for the beautiful, miraculous thing that’s unfolding along the way. The medical viewpoint, as summed up by Martha Reilly, chief of Women's and Children's Services at McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center near Eugene, Ore. is that, “Reproduction is very dysfunctional.” That quote, by the way came from an article in The Daily Beast title Home Birth: Increasingly Popular, But Dangerous (, one of several articles turned up by a quick Google search for “dangers of homebirth,” which all seem to boil down to the conclusion that hospital births are inherently safer because of the proximity of staff and equipment in the event of an emergency.

I can’t argue with that logic, but considering the fact that fully ⅓ of hospital deliveries in America end up in a C-section, I can’t vouch for the safety of a hospital in the event of a *non*-emergency delivery.

So what can you do? Like any decision in life, you do your research, weigh the options, take the risks into account, make the choice that seems right to you. In our case, the choice that seems right is to aim for a home delivery, have a solid backup plan if things get hinky, and let go of any attachment to certainty.

Oh, and be prepared for every armchair expert you meet to offer an opinion (and their judgement) on the subject, cuz that’s gonna happen no matter what you decide. Fuck ‘em.

Friday, March 13, 2015

What's in a name? -- Guest post

O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father, and refuse thy name;
'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself though, not a Montague.
What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O! be some other name:
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name;
And for that name, which is no part of thee,
Take all myself.

~ Juliet Capulet, Romeo and Juliet,
Act 2, Scene 2, lines 37-38; 42-53,
William Shakespeare.

She makes a good argument for it, doesn't she? You love someone, and it's a reasonable thing to ask them to surrender their name for you. Their name, that carries with it their history and sense of family honour. It's easy to say that when your two families are at war, and you'd give anything to see their bloodline extinguished anyway. Harder, when it's just the ordinary decision of whether or not to change one's name upon marrying, as I am currently debating.

Those of you who know your Shakespeare may have noticed the lines I deliberately omitted earlier:

Deny thy father, and refuse thy name;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.

(Ibid, lines 38-40, emphasis mine)

so there's no dispute that she intends this to be a mutual surrendering, although it is interesting that she spends seven times the length of those lines asking him to change his.

So, if Shakespeare is relevant today, is it valid to ask our men to change their names for us? I am hoping it is.

In my particular case, I have a sister but no brothers, no uncles on my Dad's side, my Grandfather is long deceased, and my Dad can't even remember the last time he saw or spoke to his male cousin (whom, I believe, had only daughters anyway). So, in the ordinary course of events, my Dad's surname will be extinguished after this generation, and there will be no one who was close to either him or my Grandfather who will be able to carry it on.

That being said, why shouldn't there be? It is entirely a cultural matter that us ladies surrender our family name and heritage, when our men do not have to do likewise, but, culture can be changed. At least, I personally do not consider cultural reasons by themselves to be enough to continue a tradition, especially one I don't agree with.

And I don't agree with it. I side with Juliet on this issue.

To lay out all of our options:

1) The traditional route, I surrender my name and family history and honour, and take on that of my beloved as if I belonged TO him (rather than, WITH him). The fact that for me, this is socially a climb-down, and I would be surrendering a surname from the English aristocracy for an American one that... isn't, also makes that suggestion unpalatable to me (although I concede that maybe it shouldn't).

2) What's good for the goose is good for the gander: he completely changes his, as, in fact, Romeo himself was eager to do:

I take thee at thy word.
Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptiz’d;
Henceforth I never will be Romeo.
(Ibid, lines 54-56.)

And also:

Juliet: Art thou not Romeo, and a Montague?
Romeo: Neither, fair maid, if either thee dislike.
(Ibid, lines 66-67.)

However, how can I, with fairness, ask my beloved to do something I am not to willing to do? No, this is not an option, not for me.

3) Nothing changes, nobody surrenders anything, we both keep our family names and heritage and just make do having to different names. In many cultures, this is still the norm. I'm not completely against the idea, but to a certain extent, I say, “Well, what's the point of getting married, then? Don't we want to look like we belong to and with each other?” For some paperwork, this actually is the way we will go. For example, I don't see any reason to pay quite a lot of money for a new passport when my current one is only a couple of years old, just because I've got married. I'll just leave it in my current name and travel under that, and then when it runs out, get a new one in my married name, but I personally think it sounds a little cold-hearted that we'd never be introduced by the same name in the flesh.

4) Use the American tradition of adding the maiden name as a second middle name, even though they then go by their husband's surname. To be honest, I can't really see the point of that. If I'm not going to continue to use my surname as my surname, why bother?

5) Hyphenate. Either one or both of us. I'd prefer both. The feminist in me is crying out, begging, that we take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to prove to the world that in this marriage, we really do intend to be equal partners. BOTH of us matter. Both of our families, and histories, matter too. We're BOTH changing our identities when we get married, and why shouldn't our name/s reflect that?

My beloved isn't in favour of that, for a few reasons:

a) hyphenated names (apparently) cause issue with automated forms, and such. (Eh. The technology around automated forms was designed by humans, it could therefore also be redesigned, if needed...)

b) which way around would we do it? Personally, I'm a fan of both of us just adding the other's name to the end of our current name, because that points to more equality; we're both doing the same thing. He thinks that's making things unnecessarily messy, which, I have to admit, I don't think is nearly as important as he does. Were we to pick one version over the other, there's also the aesthetics argument: which way looks/sounds better? I'd argue, mine first, because otherwise there's five consonants in a row, which makes it a bit difficult to say, and also, mine's the longer name, so it does sound better that way, but that's another (small) reason he isn't up for it.

c) He – correctly – points out that the process of changing our names will be a hassle. He forgets that I'd have that hassle either way (unless we chose option 3), and thinks we ought to avoid options that create more hassle “for the sake of it”. I think it's for the sake of him showing that he doesn't think he's better than me, but he can't quite connect the dots yet.

d) But what would we name the children?? Aren't we making life intentionally more difficult for them, especially if they then want to do the hyphenating thing themselves?? Well, for starters, we are no where near a firm decision on if there even will be any children, and if we do, by the time they get to marrying, they'll be able to make their own choices about this, but why can't we just cross that bridge when we come to it? Flip a coin or something, to see which one of our names will get passed down?

This decision feels really large to me. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to really stand up and be counted, to take a decision that will lead to multiple conversations, and maybe, in a small way, be part of changing the world! To deliberately not take it, I have to admit, does feel... cowardly. And I am not a coward. My own deep-seated family values, which half of this conversation is about, are “be kind, be brave, be fair, be loving.” Brave, and fair, is more important than cowardliness or wanting to make life easier for oneself.

I didn't create this unfair patriarchy, although given the hand I've been dealt, I do feel obliged to play my part in dismantling it.

And yet.

My beloved didn't create it either. How far is it fair to mke him fight this battle, when it's not his personal fault? I love the man, and I want him to be happy. I think that means, not continuing to pressure him about it, even when it frustrates every bone in my body.

I can only influence myself. I can take my choices on, and I will hyphenate my name. He will, in all likelihood, not change his at all, but I will hope and pray that I'm wrong about that. It feels somewhat anti-climatic, but what other choice do I have? As my beloved himself often says, “A good compromise leaves everybody mad, right?” And, of course, in the words of Juliet, our marriage will still smell sweet, regardless of what we end up calling ourselves.


Sarah Fountains

An accountant living in the UK, who's engaged to an accountant living in California. Currently she lodges with/housesits for/nannys for/freeloads from close friends with two extremely boisterous sons. She's been reading parenting advice in books and on the internet as a hobby since she was sixteen, and cares particularly about adoption issues; she's probably also the only voice in the feminist crowd insisting that sexism goes both ways in different circumstances. She loves dancing and sewing, fails at one but not the other, and struggles continually with things that other people refer to as "common sense." Her lifetime ambition is to be organised enough to justify baskets in the refrigerator, and has yet to meet someone who doesn't laugh at it. Most days, though, she still has laundry on the floor. Read about her international adventures at:


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