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The High, Low, Weird, Deep, and Deeply Online Machinations of Girl Worlds: A Conversation Between Marisa Crawford and Kristen Felicetti

I love a great writer who is also a great editor, and Marisa Crawford is both of those things. I first met her as an editor in 2015, when she published my interview with Lucy K Shaw on her feminist arts and culture site Weird Sister. We kept in touch, and years later, I had another nice editing experience with her, when in the deep pandemic days of March 2020 she put out a call for submissions to an anthology she was editing with Megan Milks about the children’s book series The Baby-Sitters Club. I submitted and ended up having an essay in We Are The Baby-Sitters Club (Chicago Review Press). I admired both the edits that Marisa and Megan gave that leveled up my piece, as well as how clearly they communicated the entire process from start to finish—contracts, final proofs, and online release events for the books, which were entirely new to me at the time. 

Fast forward to 2024, and Marisa has just released another anthology, this time for Weird Sister. It’s The Weird Sister Collection (Feminist Press), celebrating ten years of work on the site. This is coming only a few months after she released Diary (Spuyten Duyvil), her third poetry collection. Both books question preconceived notions of the types of writing that are considered confessional and the types that are considered, by contrast, literary. She challenges this binary in Diary and The Weird Sister Collection by weaving together serious literary criticism, light pop culture, and personal memoiristic narrative.

Writers who are also editors are often asked whether editing other people’s work helps them edit their own, but real ones know that this is the wrong question. Editing your own work can feel like a solitary masochistic challenge, but editing someone else is a collaboration and a conversation. There can be real joy in helping another writer clarify their vision and supporting them on the path to publication. 

Over Zoom, Marisa and I talked about The Weird Sister Collection, the excitement that comes from editing, the current media landscape, diaristic writing, and of course, one of our favorite topics: 90s girl rock. –Kristen Felicetti


Kristen Felicetti: I've been thinking lately about how the mid-2010s was such a peak era for lit sites and online magazines of all types. But now almost none of them exist anymore, from the smallest blogs to the major sites that everybody wanted to write for. You mention this change in your intro to the anthology The Weird Sister Collection, but I was wondering how you felt about it? 

Marisa Crawford: It's totally true. When I started Weird Sister in 2014, it felt like this heyday of the blogosphere. I was reading all these literary blogs like HTMLGIANT, The Rumpus, and I don't even know—there were so many! And I was also reading Feministing, Crunk Feminist Collective, Bitch Magazine, and a bunch of other feminist blogs and magazines. With Weird Sister, I wanted to create a space that was specifically devoted to the intersection of feminism and literature, but a year or two after I started the site, it felt like feminism had taken this mainstream turn. Beyoncé was posing in front of a sign that said “FEMINIST,” and VICE created Broadly, an imprint devoted to feminist content. Suddenly there were all these new feminist sites like xoJane and Bustle and Lenny Letter, all of which had some content about feminist books. At that moment, I was like, does Weird Sister even need to exist?

A few of those spaces still exist today, but many of them have disappeared. A lot of the smaller independent spaces have gone defunct, and even the bigger ones are folding. I don't feel great about it, but I don't know what the answer is. It’s this weird thing where we're returning to these self-funded and independent spaces with little to no funding at a time when we really need journalism and criticism. I do have faith that people are going to continue making feminist-minded and progressive media that is DIY and scrappy, but it’s really a question of how to make these independent projects sustainable, which has been part of the conversation since the dawn of the feminist blogosphere and the independent publishing landscape before it. It is a strange and scary time in media. I mean, how are you feeling about it?

KF: I feel similarly. Sometimes it feels like we're moving toward championing the individual creator and away from the collective. And I think you need a balance between the two. I love moments of celebrating an individual artist, but it’s also nice to feel like you’re part of a community. For example, when you published that interview I did with Lucy K Shaw on Weird Sister, it was such a great feeling. Like, not only was the interview published, but it was on this site where other writers I liked were published too and which just overall had a cool vibe. And that wouldn't have felt quite the same if I had just published it on my own blog or something. 

MC: Totally. And that was such a great interview. Like, it's collaborative and community-building in this way that is so vital to being a writer and being out in the world. Connecting with other writers, reading and seeing and hearing what other people are writing and reading and thinking about is honestly what keeps me inspired and motivated as a writer.

KF: Definitely. And yet I say all this about the collective, but I’m not helping the problem. I used to do this print literary magazine, The Bushwick Review, which published different writers and artists in each issue. And the reason I stopped is that I don’t think people read that way anymore. Like, considering all the work that goes into it, do people really like buying and reading literary magazines with dozens of different writers in it? It's still important to me to show up and support other writers, but what's the best way to do that in 2024? If it's not to put out another issue of a print publication, or start another online site, is it just supporting writers on social media? Or doing an event? Starting my own book press? 

MC: I agree with you. I don't know if the space of the blog or literary journal is how people interact with writing anymore. I don't know if that form is still relevant on a grand scale, but it still feels relevant to me—even if my own attention span is shot, I still look for pockets of time to sit with a curated assortment of writing, whether it takes the form of a print magazine or a bunch of links in an email newsletter or something else. I’m not sure whether anything else can replace that sort of deep, slow, thoughtful form of engagement. Our culture has become so no-attention-span. It’s all clickbait, Instagram, social media feeds. Years ago, it felt important to be on the internet, but now that everything's online, it feels important in a more cynical way. Everything's so commodified. How can we engage with things in a deeper, more thoughtful way?

Similar to what you're saying with The Bushwick Review, Weird Sister still exists, but the content has slowed over the years. I'm not actively posting on it or seeking out content. It's not the same anymore, but I also don't know if it makes sense for it to exist in that way. So I’m trying to figure out like, what's next for Weird Sister? Maybe I can hand it off in some capacity to someone else, or maybe it needs to take a new form. 

It's important for me to have that balance of working on my own writing and supporting other writers through editing and publishing their work. That's been something I've really enjoyed with Weird Sister and the We Are the Baby-Sitters Club anthology. Working on my own writing I'm just like, in this weird little cave and it’s so insular. Curating and editing and supporting other people's work—it’s outside of my head in a different way. It's a different mind space. So that's something that I do want to figure out. I don't want to abandon that mode.

I think new publishing projects will come up, too. Like with Weird Sister or The Bushwick Review: sticking with the same project has its merits, yes, but I also think there will be other opportunities, either in those venues or in others we’ll create. We’ll keep editing and publishing because I don't think we’re done. It’s more about making sure we’re doing it in a thoughtful way. 

KF: Yeah, editing can be really fulfilling on both ends when it's done well. On that note, I would love to know more about the process of selecting and editing pieces for both the Weird Sister site and its subsequent book.  

MC: When I started the site in 2014, I was working with a staff of regular contributors who I’d invited to be part of Weird Sister because, tying back to what you were saying about the group environment, I wanted it to be a space that had a rich variety of voices and perspectives. I was like, who are the smart, awesome, feminist writers that I know, and what happens if we're all writing in this space?! So, basically, I put together this team of contributors and we came up with a calendar system where everyone wrote once or twice a month, or once a week, or whatever. On top of the regular contributors, we’d get submissions, and then I’d also solicit work and so would other Weird Sister contributing editors like Naomi Extra and Becca Klaver. And double shout-out, by the way, to Becca who was so instrumental in encouraging me to start the blog and getting the whole project off the ground in the first place. 

In terms of editing, I edited pretty much everything on the site, sometimes barely at all and sometimes with multiple rounds of deep edits. It depended on the piece. And sometimes other editors edited the pieces they solicited. It was kind of a scrappy mix. I wasn't getting paid; no one was getting paid. Like, there was no budget. And figuring out a way to create one was not something I had time for with everything else I was doing just to keep the blog afloat. It was really fun, but it was a lot, in terms of sustainability. I became really burnt out.

With the anthology, I was working with Feminist Press to put together a best-of-the-blog, because this year is the ten-year anniversary of Weird Sister. Shout out also to Lauren Hook, who was my editor at Feminist Press, who's awesome. When I was putting together my proposal for the book, she’d said something about “the Weird Sister special sauce,” or the pieces from the website that really tap into this special Weird Sister thing. There are other sites that are writing about pop culture from a feminist perspective, but I think what Weird Sister did differently was bringing in its literary focus. For instance, one of Naomi Extra's pieces in the anthology looks at Toni Morrison's work and the “bad bitch” archetype in 90s pop culture in examples like Destiny's Child and Waiting to Exhale. I think of this piece as representative of a kind of Weird Sister ethos because it centers feminist criticism, pop culture, and literature all in one piece, and shows how these three frameworks are all interwoven.

In putting together the anthology, I thought about which pieces are my personal favorites, which are our readers’ favorites, and which pieces feel really crucial and important. A part of me wanted it to be this exhaustive thing that touches on every important figure and movement within feminist literary history, but it obviously can't be that. But to make sure that important writers and works were included, as well as different perspectives and schools of thought, I brought in some new work—Christina Olivares’s essay on Emily Dickinson, Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie’s piece on Ntozake Shange, Zoe Tuck’s reflection on Helene Cixous, and others—to round out the collection.

At first I had this ambitious idea that I was going to make it read like the pieces were written in 2024, and not 2015. And then I was just like, you know what, that's not possible. These pieces were written at whatever point they were written and I want to honor that. I did edit it to some extent: editing language that felt out of date, modifying work to read well in a book as opposed to online, trimming where it made sense to trim, expanding pieces where it made sense to expand. It ended up becoming more of a time capsule to archive the work and conversations that happened in this online space. 

KF: What’s amazing to me is that whether there were minor or extensive edits to a piece, you have to be in conversation with all of these contributors at once. That’s a lot of coordination and communication. Speaking of workload, The Weird Sister Collection came out in February and your own book of poetry Diary was released last October. That’s two books released in the span of six months, while you were also working a day job. How do you balance it all? 

MC: It has been a lot. And I appreciate this question too, because many of my poems in Diary, especially in the Big Brown Bag section, are about having a job. It’s something I've been obsessed with as an artist—how you have a job, how you exist as an artist within and outside of that job, and how you find the time to do it all. It’s this impossible challenge and riddle and balancing act. My schedule is just constantly bursting with too many things to do. 

For The Weird Sister Collection, I first met with Lauren at Feminist Press in 2018 or 2019 and pitched the idea to her. And then I ended up shifting gears and doing We Are the Baby-Sitter's Club with Megan Milks, which came out in 2021. After that, I was in this process of focusing on my own writing, which I was doing every day, and which felt really good. 

I had this deadline for The Weird Sister Collection, but I also felt like I needed to stick with this everyday writing practice. Time for my own work is so precious—and it was nice to feel like a writer again instead of just an editor, after having just edited the BSC anthology. I work as a copywriter and digital marketer for my day job, and I would do an hour before work every morning, but then at a certain point, I was like, okay, lol, I need to abandon this and focus on the anthology, or I'm never going to meet this deadline. Then Diary was accepted, and it was just too many things—an hour of my own writing, editing an anthology, having my poetry book coming out, and then like, an entire full-time job. 

It was a very chaotic schedule, but I would just force myself to get it done. I would finish work and then leave my apartment—it was deep COVID and I wasn’t going to just sit at the same desk where I've been sitting for eight hours—and sit outside a café and work on the Weird Sister anthology. It’d get dark and I’d still be sitting there on the sidewalk drinking caffeine. 

I’m happy it all came together. But yeah, it's so hard to find a schedule and balance working for money with being a creative person. And then also just being a human and having time to rest, have relationships—all of the things. 

KF: I want to talk a little bit more about Diary. I feel a lot of your work challenges people's expectations of confessional writing or challenges who gets taken seriously when they write the personal or the confessional. I even liked how you named the collection Diary because I felt it was kind of daring someone to be like “Oh, you just published your little diary,” which historically has been a common reaction when women writers publish a memoir or when women musicians release a personal album.

MC: I love how you’ve said it's like a dare—I don't think I’ve ever articulated it that way but it's totally true. There’s this message I’d internalized that, as a woman writer, writing has to be a certain thing to be art, or it needs to be filtered through some lens in order for it to be taken seriously. And that's something I've had a lot of anxiety around with my own work. Like, with my first two books of poems, I worked really hard to veil everything and make sure it didn't feel too bare or diaristic. But after the combination of all the stuff we've been talking about—you know, having to balance working and being in the world as a human being and as a woman while trying to be an artist—there came a point when I threw up my hands, like, fuck it. I was so tired of this idea that I had to veil my feelings to make sure my poems don’t read as too overly emotional or personal or confessional. 

Sometimes there's this tendency, especially with women's work or writing that's not by white cishet men, to take it at face value and be like, oh, this is personal writing, and therefore, you’re just writing about your life. It’s presuming that the writing doesn't have a point of view or an imagination. And there’s also this idea that if something has a diaristic quality, that it's juvenile or bad. But that work can also be super powerful. So much of the work by women artists we grew up listening to—like Tori Amos or Fiona Apple, who we’ve bonded over our teenage obsessions with—has been powerful to me because of its emotional or personal quality, how it taps into these real human feelings and experiences. 

It's like, why? Why are we dismissive of so-called diaristic writing? And also, when writing the everyday, whose writing is considered literary and whose gets dismissed? And now, speaking of diaries, I'm thinking about your novel Log Off. I know LiveJournal is present in it. How do these ideas play out in your work?

KF: Log Off is written in LiveJournal format, so it’s also a type of diary. It has this teenage girl narrator who talks a lot about her emotions and pop culture and all these other things that, as you’ve said, are dismissed or written off as confessional. I mean, I know someone like you or I would be into it, but other people might view it as the opposite of serious or literary—for the kinds of biases you just named. So it does feel like a dare, or like a challenge to people’s expectations around what is considered literary or important to write about.  

MC: I really love that—I connect to those ideas in my writing too. Giving attention to these deep machinations of girl worlds. Growing up in the 90s, we were definitely taught that our stories aren't the stories of history, or like, we're not living art. To take LiveJournal and that world—the teen girl up on her computer late at night—and say yes, this is the stuff of literature and the stuff of literary history and the stuff of art. That’s super important. 

KF: I'll always honor a teenage girl on the computer late at night—or on her phone, I guess, whatever it is now. In Log Off, I also talk about many of the artists that are mentioned in Diary—Tori Amos and other figures from 90s pop culture. I think people of our generation are feeling very nostalgic right now. There's something in the air. Even bands that weren’t really my thing growing up, like Warped Tour bands, they're reunion-touring again, or having a revival. It’s been interesting to see which 90s artists are still active or continue to appeal to new generations in 2024 and which are of the more time-capsule variety. 

MC: On the one hand, I see it as our generation getting older, making more money, and the music industry trying to capitalize on that—the moment of our nostalgia, which is so weird. But on the other, I also see it as a deep dive into the culture that shaped us—a kind of archaeological excavation of the sites of our youth. I remember when we met up—it was like 2021 or something—and talked about Tori Amos and Megan Milks’ book Tori Amos Bootleg Webring, their book about this early internet “webring” Tori fandom that you were also part of, which is so cool. I am so fascinated by what’s uncovered when we revisit these artifacts now that we’re older, smarter, and have a more dimensional adult understanding of the world. 

I'm always returning to music in my work, my poetry, Weird Sister, or my podcast All Our Pretty Songs, which is me and Seth Landman, my friend and fellow poet, overanalyzing the often incredibly dumb and sometimes super profound lyrics of 90s rock music. Music was so central to how we grew up, which isn’t unique to our generation, but lately I want to return to the way I experienced the world as a teenager and think about it with a critical lens. Like, taking work by women artists like Tori seriously—at the time, even I as a fan felt dismissive of it. I was like, I love her, but it's embarrassing, or whatever. Whereas I felt proud to like dumb fucking white male musicians, that I was going to the Warped Tour and listened to Pearl Jam. I felt like I was doing something right when I identified with them.

And so now I’m really interested in returning to all that with a new lens. A lot of Weird Sister is about the idea of “high” and “low” culture—who makes the rules of what gets taken seriously and what doesn't. I’m thinking now about the hilariously narrated scene in Log Off where the speaker does a class presentation on an important historical figure and chooses Fiona Apple. In some ways it is really funny to frame a contemporary pop culture figure as “historical,” but also why not? I spent so much of high school completely bored and alienated as I learned almost exclusively about the lives and accomplishments of “important” dead white men. I guess I am making up for lost time as an adult—I didn’t know then that we get to make our own culture and our own rules.


Marisa Crawford is the author of several poetry collections, most recently DIARY. She is the editor of The Weird Sister Collection, and co-editor, with Megan Milks of We Are the Baby-Sitters Club. She’s the creator and editor-in-chief of Weird Sister, and co-host of the 90s rock podcast All Our Pretty Songs. She lives in Brooklyn.

Kristen Felicetti is a writer based in Rochester, NY. Her debut novel Log Off is out now. She edited the literary magazine The Bushwick Review for over a decade.


This conversation is part of Peach's Indie Lit series, which spotlights the creative, experimental, often brief, often shoestring, and always underreported-upon projects in independent publishing. We are now open to pitches of interviews and profiles for this series; learn more here.


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