My Top 5 Favorite Audiobooks (And a Bonus!)

I usually opt to read books with my eyeballs, but sometimes I like to listen to audiobooks in the car or while I’m doing mindless tasks at work. I’ve listened to a couple dozen of them now (and DNF a handful of others). It can be hard to find a good audiobook, because sometimes narrators are not so great or the content just doesn’t lend itself to being read out loud. Here are the best ones I’ve found so far.


Okay, so all of these are children’s fantasy books. It’s my favorite genre, but it also just makes for a fun road trip. They’re simpler than adult books, and therefore easier to follow. Besides, considering how enduring Harry Potter is, I don’t think I’m the only adult who loves children’s fantasy books.

The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett audiobook coverThe Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett – Even if you don’t think you’re a Terry Pratchett fan, you might like this one. It’s probably the best book he ever wrote. It’s funny and beautiful at the same time. I’ve listened to two of the five books in the Tiffany Aching series now, and they’re easily my favorite audiobooks ever.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman – This is a relatively short one. Neil Gaiman narrates it himself, and he’s a wonderful narrator. I keep meaning to find more self-narrated Gaiman books.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman- I’ve only listened to part of this one; I was using the audio to bridge the gaps while I was reading the book series, if I recall correctly. It’s very well produced. Philip Pullman narrates it himself, and his voice is quite pleasant to listen to. The other characters are voiced by a cast of actors, and they all do a good job. The story is bizarre, but there’s something about it that really stuck with me. It’s definitely worth reading.


These happen to be humorous, so I guess what I’m learning is that I prefer my audiobooks to either be fantastic or funny. I find that funny books are actually better in audio format than on the page, so even if you generally prefer to read books (or don’t like books), I recommend checking out a funny audiobook to brighten up your commute every once in a while.

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris audiobook coverMe Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris – I didn’t think I was that big of a David Sedaris fan. I read two of his books and then borrowed this audiobook from a friend with a pretty sizable amount of skepticism. His stories tend to be kind of… weird. But this book is just plain funny, especially if you’ve ever tried to learn to speak French.

Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan – I didn’t think I was a huge Gaffigan fan, either, but this book made me laugh a lot. As a bonus, it also made me really grateful for my childfree, moderately-sized-city life.

Bonus!: Bossypants by Tina Fey – I’m adding this just to say that I read the book first and thought it was just okay, and then I listened to the audiobook and liked it much better. So if you’re going to read it, listen to it instead.

After writing this I noticed that all of these audiobooks but one (The Wee Free Men) are narrated by the author. So perhaps that’s something to look for in an audiobook.

What are your favorite audiobooks? When do you like to listen to them?

The Wuss Who Took Half a Donut: How I Avoid Eating Office Donuts

donut(Trigger Warning: this post could be triggering to those who have had experience with eating disorders.)

Every Wednesday morning, come hell or high water, there are treats beckoning to me at the office, looking all soft and sweet and eatable. In my department, we take turns bringing treats every Wednesday. Ninety-five percent of the time, it’s donuts. Each person has their favorite international chain, grocery store, local shop, or convenience store that they bring donuts from. And most people generously bring enough for each person in the department to have not just one, but two donuts.

I usually eat zero donuts. Sometimes I’ll take half a donut. I did that on my first week working here (almost six years ago!) and one coworker took a look at the box and said “who’s the wuss who took half a donut?”

I love donuts—don’t get me wrong. But I believe they’re unhealthy because of the sugar and refined flour content, and that they shouldn’t be a regular part of my diet. I still eat them, but mainly on special occasions. Besides—there are so many other delicious sweet treats in the world! Scones, cookies, pies, pastries! I’d rather save my sugar allotment for something more interesting than have the same treat week after week.

Still, I mean, they’re donuts. They are tempting. So I have a weapon that I use to fight the temptation.

The Anti-Donut

Keep an anti-donut at your desk at work, or take one with you on treat days (if yours are scheduled like mine are). An anti-donut is something that’s a treat for you, but is still healthy—or at least better than a donut. It works best if you only eat it on days when you would otherwise reach for the donuts, or whatever treat it is that you want to avoid. If you eat your anti-donut whenever you feel like it, then it won’t have as much power to counteract donuts.

My anti-donut has been apple pie Larabars for a while now because they’re tasty but have no added sugar or heavily-processed ingredients.

Eat a Bigger Breakfast

It has occurred to me only recently that another good way to avoid the Wednesday morning donuts is to eat a nice big breakfast so I won’t be hungry when I’m confronted with treats. I need to be better about this all the time (I just don’t feel that hungry first thing in the morning), but especially on Wednesdays.

All Donuts are Not Created Equal

Another strategy for cutting back on your sugar intake is to research the different types of donut and go to the treat box with a game plan. A single butternut donut from Dunkin’ Donuts, for example, is 410 calories and 33 grams of sugar, while their French Kruller is 260 calories and 10 grams of sugar. A simple rule of thumb is: raised is less bad than cake, when it comes to donuts.

Fifty Percent Less Sugar!

If you just can’t resist the donut, maybe you have the willpower to have just half a donut. I do this sometimes, but I’m what Gretchen Rubin calls a “moderator”: I have the ability to allow myself a little bit of something without getting into trouble. On the other hand, some people are “abstainers” who find it easier to write their vices off once and for all instead of making daily decisions about whether or not to indulge. If that sounds like you, better to avoid the donuts altogether.


I’ve been using the anti-donut concept to drink less beer lately, too. For a long time, I was in the habit of popping open a beer every day when I got home from work. So when I decided to cut that down to two days per week, it helped to have an anti-beer to reach for on the abstaining days. I found that sparkling water is bubbly and refreshing and feels like a little bit of a treat, and it has virtually nothing in the way of unhealthy ingredients.

Do you use an anti-donut? Do you use this strategy to avoid some other temptation?

7 Types of Crappy Gift Givers & Receivers

veruca salt willy wonka animated gifBrace yourselves: the holidays are coming. That means many of us will be thinking about gifts soon. The thought makes some people groan, others rub their hands with glee. Whatever your attitude, this post may insult you, possibly in multiple ways. It’s meant to.

Here’s the thing: I think we as a society have some terrible attitudes about gifts, and we hurt each other’s feelings all the time over something that’s supposed to be joyous. We need an adjustment. We’ve got a variety of different crappy ideas going on, so I want to shed some light on them. I’m guilty of almost all of these myself, so in no way am I trying to say that I’m a model gift receiver or giver. But I’m trying to get better. Here’s what to watch out for:

Crappy Receivers

1. The Expecter – Expects to receive gifts on certain occasions. Yes, most of us do this, and yes, it’s kinda crappy. Unless it’s for a shower event, of course, since gifts are the point of a shower. (And, by the way, this is why you can’t throw a shower for yourself.)

2. The Princess – Even though you put money, time, effort, or thought into the gift, it isn’t the “right” thing, so the princess is ungrateful.

3. The Guilt Tripper – Feels bad and consequently makes you feel bad because you gave her a nice gift.

4. The Mute – Never acknowledges that a gift was received.

5. The Refuser – Preemptively requests No Gifts, or refuses gifts that people try to give. This is usually meant to be kind, but it counts as being an Expecter and/or a Princess.

6. The Veruca – Requests a specific gift from you without being prompted.

7. The Victim – Views a gift as an act of aggression. Sometimes this attitude is the result of having previously received a gift from The Gangster (see below).

Crappy Givers

1. The Grinch – Hates giving gifts. Sees it as an obligation instead of an opportunity to make someone they care about smile. This attitude is sometimes the result of having to give to a crappy receiver.

2. The True Love – Gives mass quantities of gifts. …And a partridge in a pear tree.

3. The Poor Planner – Forgets to leave room in his budget or schedule to give gifts.

4. The Clueless – Has no idea what to give, even if she knows you intimately. This person sometimes imagines that anything she might give will be somehow wrong.

5. The Puppeteer – expects you to keep every gift he gives you for the rest of your life. Feels personally insulted if you part with something he gave you.

6. The Genie – Asks you what you want as your gift. Depending on the situation this can work, but often it puts undue pressure on the receiver.

7. The Gangster – Gives a gift with an ulterior motive. May intend to make you (or someone related to you) feel inferior, obligated to reciprocate, or otherwise bad.

Now, here’s what I think is the correct attitude to have when it comes to gifts:

Giving: if you choose to give a gift—and yes, you do have a choice—do it with love. Do it because you want to make the receiver smile. Go forth and choose something that you think they might like. Then give it to them. The moment the gift has been received, understand that the receiver has the right to do whatever she wants with the gift, including give it away immediately.

If you don’t know what to get, gift cards are perfectly good gifts. The receiver gets to go to a shop she likes and pick out something she might not have gotten for herself otherwise. Just don’t judge her for what she picks! Alternatively, you can give gift cards for movie theaters or restaurants. Who doesn’t love going out on someone else’s dime? Spa treatment gift cards are also awesome and usually appreciated.

Another great gift for the right person is a charitable donation in that person’s name. I’ve done this a couple of times and it was well received. It’s easy, and it makes everyone feel good—as a gift should.

Gifts don’t have to be expensive. If you just can’t afford to buy or make gifts, you can probably still write a nice note on a card and give that instead. And that’s perfectly acceptable.

Receiving: don’t expect to receive a gift. From anyone, ever. (That said, it’s wise not to buy too much for yourself in the couple of months preceding your birthday and major gifting holidays.) If you do receive a gift, lucky you! Someone cares a lot about you. Be grateful, no matter what it is or how much money you suspect was spent on it. Say thank you. It would be especially kind if you tried to put the gift to use, but you have the right to do whatever you want with it and not feel guilty.

Look—when someone offers you a gift, they’re not just giving you the thing itself. They’re offering you their love. That’s the whole point. So even as the receiver, you have a job to do. You need to accept the gift with grace and gratitude, especially if you know that a sacrifice was made when this gift was acquired for you.

I think it’s okay to keep a Pinterest board of things you’d like to receive as gifts. That way, nobody has to directly ask you, and you’re more likely to receive things you actually want. Keep it up-to-date, otherwise you might receive things you don’t really want anymore. Unfortunately, it’s hard to see someone’s Pinterest board if you don’t have a Pinterest account yourself, but it’s still the best option I’ve encountered. You can also create wish lists on many e-commerce websites, and those are usually easier for your friends and family to view. You can add absolutely anything to your Amazon registry, even if it isn’t sold on Amazon.

Most importantly, whether you’re the giver or the receiver, remember this: the moment a gift is received, it has served its purpose. The purpose of a gift is to be given and received, and to make both the giver and the receiver smile. If the thing happens to be useful and/or desirable to the receiver, great! If not, that’s okay, too. The thing itself is not a symbol of your relationship. It really is the thought that counts.

Agree? Disagree? Did I forget any distinct types? Tell me in the comments.

What KonMari Left Out: What To Do With Your Cast-Offs

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie KondoI was hesitant to try KonMari at first. I had watched Marie Kondo’s Google talk on YouTube, and I knew she advised throwing a lot of things away. Sure, paring down your possessions until you love everything you own sounds great in theory, but what about the waste? I can’t just send half my stuff to the landfill and go blissfully about my life.

Then my mother put her copy of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up in my hands, so I set that concern aside long enough to read it. And I devoured it. And then I decided to give the method a shot, and I am so glad I did. I’m a more conscious consumer now, and I think I will ultimately consume and waste less as a result of this process. But there’s one major thing I think is missing from KonMari’s wonderful books: what to do with the things you decide to part with.

I think KonMari purposely avoided this topic because stopping to decide what to do with the things you get rid of — or even thinking about having to make that additional series of decisions in the future — may derail some people from completing or even beginning the method. It’s hard enough to keep going with such a huge task without also having to worry about where the discarded things should go. And I think that’s totally fair. If this sounds like you, then you have my blessing to simply throw your things away, so long as you do the method. Because it’ll teach you to appreciate stuff in a way that will keep you from bringing excess into your home in the future.

I ended up putting my discarded items aside and dealing with them (much) later instead of throwing them immediately away (which goes against the method, yes, but I swear I only fished two or three things back out of the trash bags). You don’t have to procrastinate like I did. And I felt awesome after I got rid of things in a way that I felt was responsible. I was energized by the idea of someone else getting good use out of my cast-offs. I think making this a part of the process is worth it if you’re an environmentally conscious and/or altruistic sort of person, and it’ll actually boost your enthusiasm and motivation as you go through the KonMari process.

So here’s a list of ways I’ve found to responsibly get rid of some common items, both big and small. I did virtually all of these, so I recommend using a multi-pronged, ongoing approach. However, if you simply can’t take the headache of dealing with your stuff so meticulously, there’s always the option of taking everything that’s still usable straight to your favorite drop-off thrift store. You’ll even get a tax break!

Option 1: Host a Swap Party

This option is by far the most fun. Set a date, buy a big bottle of bubbly and some snacks, and throw a swap party for your friends. This works best for clothing, accessories, toiletries, and household items. I’ve also heard it called a “naked ladies party,” which sounds like something entirely different. Invite plenty of people and ask them to bring a reasonable amount of stuff, and then lay everything out and let people browse and chat and sip and have fun. Usually everyone goes home with some great new things for free, and everything that’s left over gets donated to your place of choice (see Option 3).

Option 2: Sell

Local Stores
If you’re parting with anything that’s valuable, selling it can be a lot of fun. I’m partial to local (chain) stores like Plato’s Closet and Half Price Books that I can take things to and walk away from with cash, even if it’s less than I would get if I sold things myself online. Even consignment stores like Worn save me from having to post and store and ship each item.

However, I have friends who have had a lot of success selling clothes and accessories on sites like Poshmark, Mercari, and Tradesy. There’s also eBay, of course, where you can sell almost anything. For larger things like furniture, it’s quick and easy to sell or give away on Craigslist. If you have things that are useful but not really that valuable, there’s Freecycle. I’m thinking of putting my vast collection of bubble mailers up there sometime soon.

Garage Sale
If you have an entire weekend that you don’t know what to do with, there’s the garage sale option. I did this a couple years ago and made forty bucks for two days’ worth of work, which isn’t great, but it was not a bad way to get rid of a bunch of stuff. It’s satisfying to give your neighbors a good deal on something they can use, and making even a little bit of cash off of stuff you never would’ve used anyway is a great feeling.

Option 3: Donate

I like to donate different things to different places, both because I want to support different causes and because, to be honest, I feel a little guilty about piling a lot of stuff on any one place that already has stacks and stacks of donations. Somehow, spreading it out feels better to me.

Books and other media
go to the Planned Parenthood book sale, which I like because the dropoff requires zero human interaction, plus it supports a cause I care about.

Stylish clothing, Housewares, and some Toiletries
go to a local store called the Beacon Boutique which benefits a women’s shelter. I also really enjoy shopping there!

Women’s Business Attire
There’s a place in Des Moines called Dress For Success that provides donated business clothing to needy women who are interviewing for jobs. I haven’t donated to them before, but I think it’s a cool concept.

Other Clothing
goes to The Clothing Closet in West Des Moines where low-income folks can “shop” for free.

Necessities – Toiletries, Blankets, &c.
Shelters like CISS always need things like personal hygeine items and warm stuff like blankets and coats.

Unexpired Pantry Items
can go to food banks.

Anything Else That’s Usable
Housewares, odd and vintage clothing items, stationery, etc. — goes to good ol’ Goodwill. Other options include: the Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul, and local thrift stores. [Edit 9/30/16:] A commenter mentioned the Disabled American Veterans (D.A.V.) thrift store, another great option. For like-new building materials, fixtures, and furniture, the Habitat for Humanity ReStores are a good option. I think it’s worth doing a little research to see what exactly the profit from these stores goes toward, because choosing a cause you believe in will make you feel extra good about your donation. Also, if you’re donating to a smaller organization, it’s a good idea to check their website or give them a call first to make sure you’re giving them things they have a need for.

Option 4: Repair

Make an effort to fix your damaged stuff. Oftentimes, all it takes is a few minutes of searching the internet for a solution to present itself. As a bonus, fixing something you thought was broken makes you feel like a hero.

Sew up those holes—you can do it! I usually watch a YouTube video and then sew up or darn holes, reattach buttons, and replace broken threads. I condition and polish my leather items to keep them in good shape. Virtually any stain (besides ink) can be removed from fabric with Shout Stain Remover Wipes. (Don’t even bother with the Tide Pen, it sucks.)

Appliances and such
If an appliance is acting weird, try googling the problem. My husband was able to repair his keggerator by buying a small $3 part! I’m still proud of him.

Option 5: Repurpose

The sky’s the limit on this one. I don’t do a lot of repurposing, but some people are really into it. You can use fans and magnets from broken computers and microwaves to create all sorts of gadgets. You can put virtually anything in your garden to add whimsy and visual interest. Old iPods can be used as alarm clocks or for music in the car. Old clothes can be turned into quilts. Scrap wood can become any number of things, like a shoe shelf or a table top. Use your imagination, or search Pinterest.

Option 6: Recycle

You can take almost anything related to electronics to Best Buy to be recycled. I’ve taken TVs, cell phones, power cords, batteries, and ink cartridges there. It’s super quick and easy. [Edit 9/30/16:] I did a little research after a friend made a suggestion in response to this post, and discovered that Goodwill stores in central Iowa will also recycle old computers!

I took a broken dishwasher to a local store to be fixed up and (presumably) resold. Sometimes churches have programs that fix broken appliances and provide them to the needy. Do a little googling to see what’s available in your area.

If you have clothes or other textiles that are no longer wearable, H&M stores can recycle them. [Edit 9/30/16:] I’m told that Goodwill also recycles textiles, but I haven’t confirmed this.

Paint, Cleaners, and Other Hazardous Materials
In Des Moines, the Metro Waste Authority has a hazardous materials drop-off site. Anything that’s still usable goes to the Swap Shop to be resold.

That about does it.

This is obviously not an exhaustive list. I don’t want anyone to go crazy trying to find exactly the right way to get rid of every little thing they decide to KonMari. But I hope this will at least inspire you to try the method and to take a moment to donate or recycle the big things you get rid of instead of sending them to the landfill. Believe me, you will reap the benefits in terms of feels. ♥

How I Read 30 Books a Year

books(Give or take a few.)

People sometimes ask me how I read so much. I have a full-time job and a social life. I’m also a very slow reader. Truly. But I still manage to read about 30 books per year. Here’s how I do it.

I read every day. Even if it’s only for a few minutes, I try to sit down and get a few pages flipped at least once a day. It’s not something I have to force myself to do, really, it’s just something I love doing. It’s how I unwind.

I read in short bursts. I rarely have the time to sit down and just read for a solid hour, so what I do is pull out my book whenever I have or ten or fifteen minutes to kill. I read in the bathtub, while I’m waiting for laundry, on my breaks at work, etc. I almost always leave about twenty minutes for myself before bedtime to spend reading (and although I love to read in bed, I don’t recommend it since it’s bad sleep hygeine).

I read books on my phone. It’s not as unpleasant as you might imagine—or maybe I’ve just gotten very used to it. It’s so convenient though. I never dread air travel or waiting at the DMV anymore, because I always have a book on me. Books that take up zero space are super convenient for travel, too. Reading apps like Kindle and Overdrive are free, and you can even download free books for them from your local library. I only actually purchase a couple of books a year.

I set a reading goal for myself each year on Goodreads, and I enjoy trying to keep it. The app tells me if I’m on track or not, and I can see how many books my friends have read so far, too. Last year I fell short of my goal of 30 books by 3, so I actually fudged my goal down to 27 so that I would meet it. I was afraid I wouldn’t get my badge for 2015! I lied, I’m sorry.

I read books of various lengths. The books I read range anywhere from 50 pages to 1000 pages. I think the average is about 300. I don’t discriminate—although I wouldn’t count a picture book as an actual “book” toward my Goodreads goal, if I happened to read one.

I listen to audiobooks. Again, I don’t actually count these as books that I’ve read, but I do supplement my reading with a few audiobooks each year. If you just can’t find the time to sit down and read, I bet you could still pop an audio CD into your car and listen to it on your commute. I download audiobooks from the library and plug my phone into my car to listen to them.

Occasionally, I give up on the book I’m reading and move on. Sometimes you just get stuck in a book, even if you don’t necessarily hate it. I usually power through because I don’t like to leave things unfinished, but every once in a while I’ll set a dense book aside so that I can move on to something that’s more fun.

I read different kinds of books. My favorite genre is children’s fantasy, but I wouldn’t stay as interested in reading as I do if that was all I ever read. You might feel exactly the opposite way, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Read for pleasure, just don’t limit yourself to what you think you “should” read. Read anything and everything that catches your fancy.

And finally, I don’t watch a lot of TV. Or play video games. Or even watch that many movies. The book is always better!

How many books do you read or listen to in a year? Are you trying to read more? Let me know in the comments.

Book Review: Parable of the Sower

Parable of the Sower (Earthseed, #1)Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I chose Parable of the Sower for my book club before I’d read it myself, because I thought it was about time we read something that wasn’t written by a white person. This had been on my to-read list for quite a while and it sounded weighty and realistic enough for a good discussion. I agree with my mom, who told me when she finished it that the story feels unfinished. This is really just the beginning. And as it turns out, the author, Octavia Butler, died before she had a chance to finish the series. But there is a second book that I’m told makes the story feel more complete.

Reading this book was a little bit like watching The Walking Dead. It’s a group of strangers being drawn together somewhat reluctantly by the will to survive in an extremely hostile future America. Their leader is Lauren Olamina, a young black woman. That in and of itself makes it a good story. Refreshing, to say the least. And I love Lauren’s hyperempathy, or “sharing” as she calls it. She literally feels other people’s pain. I love that concept, and it’s especially interesting in this world where hurting other people is often necessary for survival.

One of the most interesting aspects of Lauren’s strength, to me, is her sexuality. It’s not a major aspect of the book, nor should it be. She’s attracted to men and she has relationships with them, but they are not the center of her universe. Lauren isn’t confused or upset or rendered in any way weaker by her sexuality. She just buys condoms when she needs to. She understands and accepts that aspect of herself, and she prepares for it. She has more important things to worry about. I was so grateful to see that an author finally got a woman’s sexuality right. Thank you, Octavia Butler.

Beyond Lauren, though, I wasn’t able to connect to this book very much. I like Lauren’s ideas about spirituality and survival and hope. But the story of her group’s journey to Acorn is just dark and gruesome, with new horrors emerging throughout. I’m not a fan of stories like that. I stopped watching The Walking Dead after about a season and a half (although that was partly because I got tired of all the impassioned speeches). I think the major thing that bothered me about this book was that it didn’t even attempt to explain how things got so terrible, with drugs and murder running rampant in an America where the government does nothing and the cops are corrupt. It’s hard to believe that our country could ever get so bad. But I’m sheltered and I take my safety for granted, I suppose. Plenty of people in this world are living a nightmare. It could happen here, too.

I like books that make me feel good.
But I also like books that make me go hmmmmm…

Lauren really is an interesting character. She’s not super-likable since she’s so strong and not very relatable. Her physical empathy is her only weakness. But it’s awesome to imagine that a woman could have so much strength and hope—could so firmly believe that she has the power to push back against horrific circumstances—in a world that is out to get her at every moment.

And it’s interesting to consider what this book is saying about the current state of our world. We’re abusing our natural resources. We’re not solving race issues. Our authorities don’t always have our best interest in mind. Slavery still exists. We aren’t really handling the drug problem. We may be first world, but our problems are serious.

The thing is, human life as a whole is getting better. It might not seem like it, but it’s true. And things might collapse before they get even better than this, but I think they will. I believe as Lauren does that humanity will keep springing up anew for many many years to come, especially if people hold onto hope and believe in themselves. New worlds are possible, and our will to survive runs deep. Humanity’s worst enemy is itself. Isn’t that strange? We’re so intelligent and yet so irrational. There are no monsters in this book. There’s no bad guy. And yet every person in it is a potential monster or bad guy. It’s too realistic for comfort.

See all my book reviews on Goodreads.

Why I Wrote an Article for Wikipedia (and You Should, Too)

I’m happy to announce that my first Wikipedia page is now out in the wild. I am not going to mention it by name in text for the sake of protecting my identity, but you can see it in the screenshot below and then go find it, if you’re interested. As of this writing, the page hasn’t changed much since I wrote it. It received a rather poor rating from the mods, and I’m not entirely sure why yet, but I am proud of it anyway.

Wikipedia article screenshot

So why did I decide to write a Wikipedia article? I had never heard of the subject of my article before I picked her somewhat randomly from a list of redlinks (missing articles). I was certainly not an expert on her. I don’t believe I’m an expert on anything, because even though I read a lot, I have a terrible memory. I get my facts pretty crooked, unless they’re related to Star Wars.

But I learned how to do research in the third grade. And I needed this little confidence boost of feeling like I’d contributed something concrete to the world, however small. Strange that digital things can feel concrete, isn’t it? And the #1 reason that I decided to write an article for Wikipedia is:

90% of Wikipedia contributors are men.

I wanted to become a Wikipedia contributor to help tip that balance a little. It took me an embarrassingly long time to put this one article together, but I want to push myself to keep contributing occasionally to Wikipedia, both writing articles and editing existing articles. Wikipedia is largely written by and about men, so there’s a big need for articles to be written by and about women.

Wikipedia lists the following as reasons that fewer women contribute than men (source: Gender Bias on Wikipedia):

  1. A lack of user-friendliness in the editing interface
  2. Not having enough free time
  3. A lack of self-confidence
  4. Aversion to conflict and an unwillingness to participate in lengthy edit wars
  5. Belief that their contributions are too likely to be reverted or deleted
  6. Some find its overall atmosphere misogynistic
  7. Wikipedia culture is sexual in ways they find off-putting
  8. Being addressed as male is off-putting to women whose primary language has grammatical gender
  9. Fewer opportunities than other sites for social relationships and a welcoming tone

Another reason cited in the article is Wikipedia’s failure to attract female editors.

So far, I haven’t really interacted with the Wikipedia community, so I can’t speak to what it’s like. My plan right now is to keep to myself, but maybe some day I’ll be confident and involved enough to want to join the fray. The threat of online harassment is definitely off-putting, but I think it’s an issue no matter what forum you enter online — even among family and friends on Facebook! It’s more damaging in some forums than on others though, and it’s weird to join an established community with nothing but your words to represent you.

As far as the interface, I didn’t find it too difficult since I have a background in web design & development. In fact, I thought learning and using the markup was pretty fun. But I can see how it would be uninviting to many. I had to use Google to find the resources I needed, on Wikipedia, about editing Wikipedia—things like style, markup, formatting, citation. It was like there was too much information and no good way to navigate it.

But it’s a rewarding little challenge to step up and create something that could be useful to people. I would encourage all of my friends to give contributing a shot, especially the women. You don’t have to be an expert, you just have to be able to learn and follow the rules. I did 100% of my research online, so I was able to do it on my own time, from the comfort of home. I’m sure not all articles can or should be researched this way, but as long as the sources meet the criteria, it’s still better than if the Wikipedia article continued to not exist at all. If the powers that be decide that your sources or your writing suck, they can point it out and it can be fixed.

If you’re interested, here’s the list of redlinks where I found my subject. Poke around, maybe you’ll find someone who interests you. Join us! Everyone’s favorite encyclopedia could use your skills.