Modern Loss Takes on BinderCon

A panel on women exploring their loss out loud at an inspiring writers’ conference.

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Bindercon Featured Panelists

Our lovely panelistas Niva Dorell-Smith, Mattea Kramer, Claire Bidwell Smith, Rebecca Soffer, Nicole Belanger and Emily Rapp.

Hi everyone. We’re back from BinderCon.

For the unfamiliar, it’s a biannual symposium for and by badass women and gender non-conforming writers. For Mitt Romney, it’s his verbal diarrhea haunting him in the most delicious, ongoing way possible to us ladies. (Thanks, Mitt!)

Modern Loss was thrilled to lead a panel of site contributors on how women are leading the way in opening up the conversation on loss and grieving in our culture. It was also thrilled to head to LA to do this, since the New York winter was total bullsh*t.

For nearly two hours a packed room engaged in a lively, profound, and even hilarious conversation with Nicole Belanger, who has made a compelling case for the Death with Dignity movement; Mattea Kramer, who gained a semblance of closure after her dad’s death in her dreams; Claire Bidwell Smith, who had us nodding the entire time we read about her experience watching Wild; Niva Dorell Smith (our new contributing editor!), who showed us through words what it’s like to lose your husband 11 days after your wedding; and Emily Rapp, the self-described “soft serve essayist” who’s knocked our socks off time and again with her ability to deliver breathtaking prose about losing her son, Ronan.

The conference was created by Leigh Stein, who’s done her fair share of writing through loss with pieces like this one, and Lux Alptraum. Once out there, we loved meeting some of our contributors and readers, and have been truly humbled by how deeply the pieces on Modern Loss have resonated with our community, and by realizing how many of you are looking for some guidance on crafting your own story.

Missed us in person? Don’t fret: We’ll be posting a link to the panel video soon. In the meantime, here’s a little something to get you started on your own loss writing project–and encourage you to keep going.

Nicole Belanger: Since I started writing about grief years after my loss, meditation has been tremendously helpful in improving recall of past events. Sitting silently with the intention of connecting to emotional states and experiences cuts through the mental clutter that accumulates over time. Before writing, I’ll often identify questions I want to answer. Taking an investigative approach and following my curiosity has helped me uncover parts of my grief I never noticed before.

Claire Bidwell Smith: Write for yourself, first and foremost. Write because you need to tell this story, not because you want it to be published. Write as if no one will ever read it. Say the hard things, the things you worry about others reading. You can go back later and edit them, if the time comes. Remember that it’s okay to feel big emotions when writing. Be kind to yourself as you move through them.

Niva Dorell Smith: Read (or listen to) some really good grief books, take Megan Devine’s “Writing Through Grief” class, start a blog (you can be anonymous if you want, but a blog is a great outlet and community), jot down as many memories as you can of your lost loved one, and listen to music that reminds you of them, or that just gets your mind flowing while writing.

Mattea Kramer: The topics of death and loss can surface some of our most unsavory qualities: our pettiness; our mistakes at the end when it mattered most; the list goes on. But it also makes for some of the best writing, because as readers we relate to characters who are petty and make mistakes. So as you see the worst coming out in your story, keep tugging until you’ve brought it all out into the open.

Emily Rapp Black: Writing in the midst of a difficult experience is like working in a tunnel of focus. Don’t wait to write. Don’t wait for distance. Put on your blinders and dig through it. Read everything.

Rebecca Soffer: It can be overwhelming to start writing about loss – a theme with endless permutations and combinations. Take a deep breath and try writing pieces that are narrowly focused around one aspect of your grief. You’ll be amazed at how you can end up piecing them together into something larger. And have a drink nearby if need be.

Some fun memories here:

  • Bindercon Poster
    Our names in print. Legit!
  • Emily Bindercon Slideshow
    Emily Rapp has the crowd in unexpected hysterics. Because she’s awesome.
  • Rebecca and Emily Bindercon
    Rebecca Soffer and Emily Rapp
  • Bindercon Full Panel
    Emily Rapp, Rebecca Soffer, Claire Bidwell Smith, Nicole Belanger and Mattea Kramer.
  • Bindercon Single shot
    Modern Loss contributor Erika Hayasaki enjoying a panel while double-fisting caffeine and seltzer.
  • Bindercon group shot
    Modern Loss contributors Nicole Belanger, Amy McElroy and Jordan Rosenfeld.
  • Bindercon Pamphlet
    Souvenirs from a terrific weekend.

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