As I announced last week, Friday was my last day as editor of Kveller (see here for all my mushy-gushy feelings about leaving this beloved site). But with every ending comes a new beginning, and I’m thrilled to introduce you all to the new editor of Kveller, Sarah Seltzer. Sarah brings with her years of experience as an editor and journalist, most recently as Deputy Editor at culture website Flavorwire.com. Her print and online work has appeared in publications including Poets & Writers, The Forward, Lilith, The Washington Post, Ms. Magazine, The New York Times, Salon, The Nation, The Wall Street Journal, Jezebel, The Hairpin, Refinery29, The Toast, Rolling Stone, and many more. Her first baby, Mikey, is 10 months old and she can objectively report that he is very cute (see photo above for confirmation).
In order to get to know Sarah a little better, we chatted about her use of Yiddish (both pre- and post-baby), gross mom experiences, and of course, kvelling.
Favorite Yiddish word:
Before I had a baby, my favorite word was schlep, as in, “Sure, I’ll make the schlep to Brooklyn from Harlem for an awesome, hip, and youthful party/concert/all night rave, after all I’m so cool and young and carefree!”* However post-baby the word kvetch has jumped, nay, it has vaulted ahead. Why? Because it so accurately describes a certain kind of baby noise. This is the noise that does not reach the level of a full-throated cry or even complaint, but nor could it in any way be described as happy or content. It can be used in all kinds of ways: “He seems a little kvetchy.” “Do I detect a little kvetchitude?” “I just heard a kvetch from the crib area, etc. etc.”
*or you know, more often, “I’d rather not schlep to Brooklyn for said rave, because TV.”
What’s the most surprising lesson you’ve learned in your first months as a mom?
I was one of those annoyingly maternal people who really wanted to be a mom and loved it from the first minutes. And yet one cannot understand how different it is to have your life ruled by a tiny human until it happens. Nothing ever proceeds exactly as planned; nothing is as simple as you think it will be. Like, the night before I started at Kveller I was going to sit quietly and enjoy my last evening of the long weekend, and I ended up schlepping a kvetchy (see what I did there?) cough-ridden baby to the doctor’s where of course they told me, “It’s a cold! Ride it out.”
What TV show have you binge watched?
The most recent show my partner and I binge-watched was “Mozart in the Jungle,” a fictional account of musicians in a prestigious NYC orchestra and their eccentric conductor. It’s a lovely and light show with serious undertones, whose central theme is about the struggle between artists’ lives (often romantic, occasionally financial) and the pursuit of their craft. It’s sexy and breezy and melancholy, and it’s so far removed from the intensely domestic world of new babies that it was a particular joy to watch when we did. It also reinvigorated our interest in classical music—we tend to be a rock and hip-hop household, but since our viewing of “Mozart” ended, we’ve also been digging through the entire Western Canon to find the most soothing symphonies for the babe.
Biggest pet peeve:
I’m a lifelong New Yorker but I have a contemplative side that doesn’t always fit in well here. I find city dwellers’ habit of overscheduling themselves and their kids, and the ensuing competition over who is the most overscheduled, annoying to the point of head explosion. Stop and smell the flowers—or, you know, the rotting garbage.
If you were a Jewish holiday, which one would you be?
I want to say Passover: sober yet meaningful, and justice-minded. But I’m going to say Purim, because it involves arguing about feminist modes of resistance and eating cookies.
Grossest experience as a mom, to date?
I think the NoseFrida snot-sucker is a true marker of parenthood. What’s gross is not just the act of using this very special and delightful tool, but the centrality it assumes in your life and household, a casual centrality that would have been unfathomably disgusting before parenthood and is now just a fact of existence.
I definitely wanted to be a novelist and crusading feminist but also a ballerina, a princess, and Amelia Earhart.
What’s your favorite kind of writing to do?
Before the baby (hmm, are you noticing a theme here?) my favorite things to write were fiction and literary essays, a tiny handful of which were actually decent. These days, anytime I write anything that I’m not deeply ashamed of and I have time to finish, I feel like it is a joy and a triumph.
What’s the first thing you do in the morning? Last thing at night?
The first thing I do in the morning is grab my kid from his crib and bring him back to bed for a snuggle. This is the best moment of the entire day. His smile makes waking up a pleasure, although I still wish I could sleep in, of course! The final thing I do before lights out is put on some eye cream that will do absolutely nothing to erase the effect of those early mornings on my dark circles, stuff my face into the pillow like it’s a hamantaschen, and mumble for my husband to check on the baby as I begin to pass out.
What makes you kvell?
Seeing my baby bond with his extended family, grandparents, aunt, and uncles, has brought me into the true fellowship of kvellers. I can’t get enough of the family lovefest. But it’s 2017, so I also kvell particularly hard when I see my colleagues and friends in the journalism, activism, and literary worlds make a difference with their writing, reporting, organizing, editing, and thinking.