island magic, The Unwed Mother Agenda, and everything else that came from the silence
Hi, misfit fam. It’s been over five months since our last dispatch. I’m thrilled and a little nervous to be back at it after, well, so much. I’ve been thinking a lot about what this reentry issue would say to all of you. Let’s start with a recap.
Last fall I parted ways with the youth organization where I served as the Executive Director. That transition was clarifying and motivating in ways that I see now put me on the path I’ve been searching for for a long time. Following that exit, I returned home to Honolulu for an extended trip* that included endless plates of lau lau, a car situation on the Likelike Highway that reminded me that life is short and magic is real, and a few heart-healing reunions 20+ years in the making.
And then. And then! Just as I was about to return to Seattle, I found out that I won a 2023 Creative Capital Wild Futures: Art Culture Impact Award. Readers, I wept.
Here’s what this award means: For the next five years I will be working on The Unwed Mother Agenda, a project that has been simmering under the surface of every personal, creative, academic, and journalistic endeavor I’ve embarked on over the last 15 years. It’s a project that I first started when Teenager Leong was still Baby Leong.
The Unwed Mother Agenda will report on America’s broken Family Court system, and share my experience of being a single mom fighting for protection and justice for my son for over a decade. There will be a book(!!), and a podcast, and community engagement opportunities that I hope will overflow with the unlikely optimism that fuels this newsletter and everything I’ve ever cared about.
Friends, I have never been so excited or so terrified. I’m grateful to be stepping into this journey with all of you. Here’s what this all means for ROCK PAPER RADIO.
👉 Our Thursday RPR dispatch will stay the same—starting next week, we’ll return to our regular programing of Something to Read, Something to Listen To, and Something to Hold On To.
👉 Personal stories, reporting, and updates related to the circus that is our U.S. Family Court system will be shared through a new ROCK PAPER RADIO section, The Unwed Mother Agenda. RPR subscribers can choose to subscribe to both RPR and The Unwed Mother Agenda newsletters, or just one of them. Want to make sure you’re on my new The Unwed Mother Agenda list? Good news—RPR subscribers are automatically added.
👉 No paywalls! So why is there a paid subscription option? All RPR and The Unwed Mother Agenda content will remain freely accessible to all—including our Odd One In podcast (more episodes coming this spring!). For subscribers who are able to, if you’d like to show support for my work and help ensure that this home for misfit stories and Family Court reporting can keep going, please consider upgrading your subscription to paid, or gifting a paid subscription to someone who’d be a nice fit for our crew. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
DO YOU HAVE A STORY TO TELL TOO?
Our RPR subscribers are the best. You all are the misfits and unlikely optimists I was looking for when I started this dispatch in those early lonely days of the pandemic. You’re DJs and dentists and “urban walkers.” You dream of tattoo parties and quilting bees. You like surprising news and sad stories with hopeful endings.
I’d love it if the fascinating lives and (mis)adventures of our RPR family became the stories our newsletters and podcast shares.
🐧 Did Old Chingu’s Odd One In episode make you think about your own story of being an outsider making your own way? You might be a great fit for our next show. Reach out.
💅 Have you too have stood in front of a Family Court judge swallowing rage and grief so profound you thought you might projectile vomit right there in court in your sensible heels and knee-length skirt? Reach out.
Email email@example.com, or if you’re a subscriber, just hit reply to this newsletter and give me a glance (maybe 100 words—less is more!) into what you’ve come through. I read and appreciate all of your messages, and although it sometimes takes me a bit, I try to respond to everyone.
And that’s a wrap on issue 94, friends. Thanks for reading and sharing and holding me afloat—even after long breaks, maybe especially after long breaks. I can’t wait to read your stories and reconnect.
See you next Thursday, in our familiar RPR style.
P.S. Today’s subtitle is a nod to the wise words of multi-hyphenate Renaissance Woman Michaela Coel, who shared this solid advice to writers that I’ve been thinking about a lot. From her 2021 Emmys acceptance speech:
Write the tale that scares you, that makes you feel uncertain, that is uncomfortable. I dare you. In a world that entices us to browse through the lives of others to help us better determine how we feel about ourselves, and to, in turn, feel the need to be constantly visible, for visibility these days seems to somehow equate to success. Do not be afraid to disappear, from it, from us, for a while, and see what comes to you in the silence.
*Shout out to Keri and Teenager Leong for sending me off to Hawaii with love letters hidden in my luggage and for holding down the fort in my midlife adventure absence. You two are my original misfit fam and I love you both with all of my guts. ❤️