This world. This place. This life.


How I curate UU content

Sometimes we develop our most useful skills without conscious intention.

I’ve always been a reader, and I’ve always been that friend who says, “Hey, I found this thing you should read.”

I never thought that would turn into something I felt called to do—much less that it has a name.

Almost three years ago, UU World magazine invited me to edit The Interdependent Web. My editor gave me freedom, support, and the opportunity to practice curation, week after week.

Here’s a window into my process.

  • Curation begins with love. This is demanding work, and passion sustains it. I care deeply about helping Unitarian Universalist voices find larger audiences. If you’re thinking about becoming a curator, choose something you love, because you’ll spend more hours doing it than you can hope to be paid for—if you’re lucky enough to find a curating gig that pays money; many people are giving away this kind of work.
  • Immersion is essential. A curator cannot expect to occasionally dip her toe into the waters of her subject. I spend hours, not just reading UU blogs, but also participating in UU forums on Facebook. As Unitarian Universalist content becomes more diverse, my daunting task is to follow it wherever it goes. Blogging is the area of UU content where I’m most comfortable; I’m hoping that some of you may begin curating other types of content—video, design, music, etc.
  • Gathering sources never ends. When I began reading UU blogs, Philocrites’ Guide to Unitarian Universalist Blogs was a great resource. Soon I learned about UUpdates, and taught myself how to use Google Reader. Once I began editing The Interdependent Web, my Reader was no longer just a few favorite UU blogs; instead I collected an exhaustive list of every single UU blogger I found. When Google retired Reader, I switched over to Feedly, where my “All UU Bloggers” folder has 391 blogs at last count. And I’m always looking for more. Are you a UU blogger? Do you suspect I don’t know about you? Introduce yourself . . .
  • Scanning and saving are the first steps each week. At this moment, there are seventeen new posts in my “All UU Bloggers” folder. I won’t read all of them. I’m looking for headlines that grab my attention. What grabs my attention? Specificity. Responses to other bloggers’ posts. Humor (including snark). Something that grabs my heart. A clear connection to Unitarian Universalism. Good writing (yes, that matters, even in your post titles). A great track record as a blogger. Anything that catches my attention earns a little green Feedly bookmark, which puts posts into a “Saved for Later” folder.
  • Reading and reducing is where the work gets hard. Eventually, I have to read all those “Saved for Later” posts. Beginning each Wednesday, I review what I’ve saved, and compile the best posts. My goal is around fifteen pieces of content, sometimes more, sometimes less. That means a lot of culling. Some weeks I wish I could send out apology notes to some of the bloggers whose excellent posts just don’t make the cut.
  • Arranging and distilling are the last steps. I could just list the best fifteen posts, images, videos, etc. But good curation is more than that. I look for intentional and coincidental conversations between posts, images and videos. I look for natural categories. Sometimes things get shoehorned together, and other times there are beautiful juxtapositions.  The format of The Interdependent Web—at least for blog posts—is “introduction, pull quote.” I usually arrange, then find the quotes, then write the intros, but not always in that order. It’s a great format, but it’s very blog-centric, as is most of my process. That’s the growing edge for me—tweaking this process so I remember to look for and include images, videos, tweets, Facebook conversations, Pinterest posts, etc.

Since August of last year, when I returned to The Interdependent Web from maternity leave, I have done this work while also adjusting to life as a new parent. Liesl comes home early on Thursday night to watch Willa while I put the finishing touches on the column, but for the most part, curating fits well into the daily schedule of a stay-at-home mom.

Did I answer your questions—or create more?

I’d love to hear from you about how you’re coping with the deluge of content that social media generates. Do you opt out? Are you grateful for your friends who help you choose what to read? Or are you, like me, the friend who says, “Hey, I found this article you should read”?


A stile in the Facebook garden wall

I like using HootSuite to post simultaneously to Facebook and Twitter, and today I figured out why.

Thanks to Chris Walton, I’ve been thinking since December about Facebook as a walled garden.

Chris said—and I’m paraphrasing here—that much of the public conversation of UU blogging had moved into the walled garden of Facebook. Particularly into the walled gardens of Facebook groups.

Now, don’t get me wrong here. I love the energy of UU Facebook groups. They are an amazing place to meet people, have great conversations, spark new ideas.

But there is a downside, particularly for a religion where newcomers often say, after years of wandering in the wilderness, “I was a UU, and I didn’t know it!”

The downside is that we’re spending a lot of time and energy enclosed in private spaces, talking only to each other.

We’re having tea parties in our walled gardens—and tea parties have their place.

But we also need to host concerts in public parks.

We need to find ways to bridge private and public.

Which brings me back to HootSuite.

I think HootSuite is a stile in the Facebook garden wall.


What do you think? Are there times when you want to say something to your friends on Facebook—and also to the public at large? What are you using to bridge public and private?

Photo by Tim Green, used under a Creative Commons attribution license.


Meeting Marya


Last Tuesday morning, one of the first things I read on Facebook was a friend’s link to a story from KTUU, our local NBC affiliate. Neighbors had discovered a woman’s body that morning in the parking lot of the Anchorage UU Fellowship.

The article said that police were investigating her death as a homicide.

My mind scrambled, thinking of people I knew from the fellowship who might match the article’s description of the unnamed woman. A quick check of Twitter and Facebook ruled out the two auburn-haired Unitarian Universalists who came to mind.

About thirty-six hours later, on Wednesday evening, police released the woman’s name: Marya Abramczyk, known to AUUF as Mya.

The next day, the Anchorage Daily News reported that Marya had taken her own life.

Yesterday afternoon, I attended her memorial service. I had never met Marya. My only contact with her was a series of emails this past May. She was serving as a pastoral care assistant for the congregation, and wanted information about online UU resources for one of the people she was visiting.

I attended Marya’s service to support her family and the congregation, both rocked by this tragedy.

And I was hoping to find some way to understand what had happened. I wanted to meet Marya for the first time, in the stories of those who knew and loved her.

The service included an extended time for storytelling. One by one—beginning with Marya’s mother—family members, friends, co-workers and neighbors stepped to the microphone and introduced me to Marya.

She was a gifted quilter, an artist who loved color, a person brave enough with a paintbrush to paint the walls of her home vibrant reds and yellows. She was a generous volunteer, a friend to newcomers, a maker of gifts for people she barely knew. She worked hard, and noticed the little things, like the grubby towels in the fellowship kitchen that she replaced with cheerful new ones. She chased down happiness with everything she had—even if it meant walking in the rain.

Everyone spoke of her generosity of spirit, her kindness, her beauty, her light. Their words formed a picture of such a loving, lovely person.

I found myself thinking about Jenny Lawson, the journalist and quirky blogger known as “The Bloggess.” Lawson, who suffers from depression, passed along a simple, two-word mantra that I’ve found tremendously helpful: depression lies.

I don’t know what lies depression told Marya. But somehow depression deceived this lovely, loving soul into not seeing, not feeling, not knowing the healing love flowing her way in return for all she gave, and all she was.

And that’s a tragedy. A too-common tragedy.

One of the last people to speak yesterday was a neighbor who lives a half-block from the fellowship.

She saw the police tape as she drove by on her way to work on Tuesday morning. When she learned that a woman had been killed, and that the police were investigating it as a possible homicide, her first thought was, “It could have been me.”

Then as things unfolded through the week, and it became clear how Marya died, she said again to herself, “It could have been me. I live alone, and I’m a very private person. It could have been me.”

Rates of suicide and depression in Alaska are very high. Those of us gathered yesterday knew exactly what she meant. We know the crazy whispers in the darkness of the mind.

It could have been any one of us. It could have been our spouse, parent, sibling, friend, co-worker or neighbor. It could have been any one of us.

This week it was Marya, a beautiful soul I know only through the stories of those who loved her.

Photo by TK Kleiner. Used with permission.