After putting out a call to our community for their success stories this week, we received this message from a three-time BinderCon attendee. We are sharing her letter with her permission.
It took a lot longer than I intended to get my thoughts on paper. It was impossible for me to describe in just a few sentences what BinderCon means to me because the truth is, it was the catalyst that empowered me, as a woman and as a writer, to change my life.
Two years ago I was a young mother who felt trapped in a life and a community that was oppressive and stifling. Growing up in an insular hasidic community, I didn’t know people who didn’t look like me, dress like me, or live like me, and I took for granted misogynistic and racist structures I was raised with; it was all I knew. At some point however, I became sorely disillusioned and I started questioning what I was taught to believe. I was forced to reevaluate and reconceptualize everything I thought I knew about the world and about myself.
I knew I wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t know how to go about having a career. I started looking for resources online, an infraction in a community whose rabbis had banned the internet, and I came across the kickstarter campaign for BinderCon in the summer of 2014. On impulse, I decided to support it and buy a ticket. It was an act of rebellion, almost. I had never before attended an event outside of the hasidic community, and I had no idea what to expect.
At the conference I discovered an entire new world. I didn’t understand much of the conversations during sessions and panels because most references to mainstream culture, media and literature were completely foreign to me. For the first time I was introduced to feminism and to issues like gender diversity, misogyny, racism, sexism and social justice. I came home with pages and pages of notes and I spent the next few months reading, researching, and educating myself.
Most important, for me, was the realization that diversity is a beautiful thing, not a threat. I also realized that identity is complex and evolving; something that one must define on their own, something that isn’t rooted in or dependent on communal expectation and approval. It was a long, difficult journey to find myself and be true to myself in an environment that values conformity above everything else, but I’ve never been happier.
As for my writing, I learned so much, from the basics of what a query is, what pitching is, to understanding how publishing works and how to network. I met wonderful, supportive writers who informed and bettered my work, and I am currently working on several projects I am very passionate about.
I am living a reality I never dreamed could be mine. I was in a particularly vulnerable space when I started searching for answers outside of the world I knew, and I am incredibly grateful that what I found at BinderCon was empowering and liberating.