Blog Series

Shameless Called Me a Writer Before I Called Myself One

January 8th, 2020     by deb singh     Comments

Illustration: Beena Mistry

Shameless Magazine called me a writer before I called myself one.

And, at a time where we have the power more than ever before, to birth ourselves as activists, artists, online pop stars or influencers; Shameless Magazine grounds us as adults and youth for the current world and how to think within it in order to thrive.

In 2010, Shameless Magazine asked me to blog for its online publication.

At the time, I was like ‘What? I don’t get to write a feature (in the print magazine)?’ (That was my massive ego thinking but also, it shows where we were at back then before online reading superseded print publications).

Photo of deb singh by Shameless photographer, Carmen [2010]

When Shameless’s then Directorial Editor, Sheila Sampath and my first piece editor, Allison Martell, encouraged me to find my blogger voice, I had a mix of ‘I can’t do this’ and ‘What the heck is my blogger voice?’ Up until then, I had written tons but published nothing and all of it was either read aloud as speeches at rallies or statements of solidarity and political policies. And yet, I was a public educator so over the years I had created my own materials to support in educating masses around sexual violence, consent and anti-oppression through one-page articles or infographs (before we called them infographs).

So when Shameless magazine approached me, editors did that same double-take that I had when they asked if I would become a blogger; but the difference was, they took a chance on my written voice as a fearless public-speaking activist and they committed to helping me hone my writing skill and style.

I wouldn’t be the writer I am today without the patience, ideas, dreaminess and commitment of my editors, then Julia Horel and now Naz Afsahi. And, the then editor of Shameless magazine Sheila Sampath, who I knew as a mentor from afar, activist and dope-ass human.

Shameless magazine as a publication in my late twenty-something and early thirty-something minds-eye, was the feminist, queer-positive, body positive version of YM or Teen Vogue that I never had as a youth (nor would anyone I knew ever have shown me).

As a queer, Brown, emerging activist and definite feminist back then, I need(ed) the stories and perspectives the blogs and articles had to offer: what they decide(d) to write about, whose voice they decide(d) to centralize and how they share(d) their politics and perspectives. (Knowing about Shameless when I was younger would have saved my queer tender heart much sooner than it was saved!)

Once I became a resident blogger, Shameless editors had given me a platform and saw my voice as critical and important, and through supporting my blogging, gave me the power to empower others through my writing! What an activist-writer’s dream!

In my time with Shameless I wrote over 60 blogs. Some of my favourites are these:

This one is a love letter to my 17 year old self.

This is about the non-legal, transformative justice experience I had after I was sexually assaulted.

This one is about my relationship with my dad now that I’m a parent (Part 1 of 2).

This one is a written celebration of my 40th blog entry.

I choose these blogs not because the content was more or less important than other pieces I wrote or because the writing is particularly good: I choose these blogs because this writing moved me. It changed me. As a human and as a writer. And Shameless and my editorial team helped cultivate that personal process and work with me while simultaneously supporting my writing.

And, I am eternally grateful for that gift. Shameless editors and team knew it was a practical ‘empowerment mentorship’ of sorts: To give voice to emerging writers like me so I could support youth to cultivate a voice of their own through published writings in Shameless magazine.

I have to admit, its been a minute since I sat with a coffee and a good Shameless blog entry. Being a Queer, Brown Girl Trying to be a Parent and turning 40 this year, I wouldn’t say I have outgrown my youthful voice but rather it’s grown up and shifted onto another level of my writers style.

Self-Portrait by deb singh [2019]

Shameless takes us to that next level in grounding us as youth and adults alike by sharing perspectives on politics, feminism and useful raging. The volunteers at Shameless work tirelessly to engage with us as writers in the same way as we share our views with readers: through kind and compassionate narratives and editing, giving voice to diverse perspectives and critical information and knowledge-sharing.

15 is a great year. It can be a time where you actually begin to blossom, and shed the old ways you might have been as a kid, and the new ways you want to expand as a young person. In traditional relationship anniversary years, it is represented as crystal; and we all can recognize that shine. In publication years these days, it is a lifetime of volunteer work, emails, track changes and stories about what one writer feels and thinks at any given time.

And that is the forward movement right there: given this harsh climate of journalism, money and biased toward greedy political perspectives that serve the privileged, Shameless offers writers space to create: cultivating voice, a supportive environment for learning, and damn good reading for everyone.

The very way Shameless writers and editors (who are volunteers) work, grounds us for the ways we can be with each other in the larger world. Shameless and the people who make it what it is, create a microcosm of the type of world I work to build as an activist-writer. If more online and print publications moved like Shameless activist-writers move, well, everyone would benefit from the world I did.

“It is what you don’t write that frequently gives what you do write its power” - Toni Morrison

Tags: art, politics, queer, youth

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