Last week I received a very long email with instructions for Zeder. This year millions of Jews around the world will log into Zoom, and try to continue a 2000-year tradition of not changing the tradition. We will recall plagues of past like infestation of locusts and raining frogs and we’ll silently scoff that Egypt didn’t even have to shut down the schools. Also, I expect that like teachers who can’t believe how quickly a full day of lesson plans zip by on Zoom, we will be shocked that a dinner that usually lasts 4 hours and 7 glasses of wine will be over in less than half that time on video. Read more

I knew something was wrong the day my son lay in bed in an emergency room waiting for his MRI to come back. A nurse entered his room and said, “Has your son been outside the country recently?”

I did a double-take. “It’s pretty late to be asking that, isn’t it?”

“Ma’am, yes or no?”

“No.” Read more

Sometime in February, it was clear that the US was headed toward crisis, and every day we don’t take major action would make the crisis geometrically worse. Suburban schools closed first. The last school districts to close are bigger cities, because they had to figure out how to get breakfast and lunch to the kids who depend on it. For homeless kids, and hungry kids, school is a home away from home.  Read more

I had this idea that coronavirus would be heaven for me because I’ve been working from home with my kids circling all day long for ten years. This should be my time to shine. I was looking forward to when schools closed down. I wanted all the parents to ask each other: How are you coping????

Finally, I will get to be the parent who is on top of things. I will be the coronavirus version of the mom who packs snacks for soccer and never forgets extra water. And people will say: She’s incredible!!! Read more

Each country reveals so much about itself by its approach to coronavirus. China pretended nothing was happening—the country with the best disinformation system applied it to the virus. South Korea figured out a way to test 400 people a day using a drive-through system—the country with the strongest video game teams applied their team gaming skills to the virus. And the US had trouble sticking to reality—the country with the most fragile sense of identity elected a President who imagined himself as a savior saying, like a miracle, coronavirus will disappear.

Read more

The first writing class I signed up for I told myself I could leave in the middle if it sucked. And I told myself it would definitely suck because who would want to be in a writing group if they were letting me in? So I didn’t go to the class. In fact, I found a lot of writing classes that looked good. And I found a lot of reasons to not go to them.

Studies show that high performers thrive on feedback. If you want to know what you’re good at, ask yourself: what would you like to hear feedback about? I was so excited to hear feedback about my writing, so why did it take me ten years to actually show up to a writing course?

It’s not fear of failure. We can imagine failure just like we can imagine success, so it’s predictable. But whatever is in between failure and success is hard to imagine; fear of what we can’t imagine is what causes inaction. I know that was true for me with my first writing class.

I’ve found that facing the gap between failure and success takes practice, like lifting weights. If you lift weights you’re tearing your muscle which is kind of gross but it’s the only way to get a bigger muscle. And if you try something new you might feel lost and incompetent for a bit, but that’s the only way to get better at anything.

When I started selling the year-long writing course I had very little sense of what I’d do to make it work. I wanted to get to know people better but I worried a year of Penelope is too much for anyone, and people would write terrible things about me online and say the course sucked.

The course turned out to be so good that I am having a whimsical weekend workshop at my apartment for all the people who signed up for a second year. It’s a big deal for me to invite people to my apartment without charging them any money. I’m nervous because I never do this. But that’s what they thought when they signed up for the course. Which is probably why I like them: their bravery. It sucks to not be certain where you are going and when you’ll succeed. But it sucks more to not try something new.

At the beginning of the course, I did live videos for common how-to-write topics: character, plot, dialogue, etc. Then I started doing obscure how-to-write topics. And the more quirky the topics were, the more popular the videos were.

Making the weekly video is a lot like writing on my blog, except the video is live and when my kids need something from me they show up on screen. Also, I don’t self-edit in the video so I take intellectual risks I wouldn’t normally take in a blog post.  I don’t know exactly what I will do with this library of how-to-write videos I’m amassing, but the intimate nature of video inspires me, and I’m grateful that I’m not alone while I’m in that in-between stage of not failing and not succeeding.

In the meantime, here is one of my favorites. And, if you sign up for the course you’ll get access to last year’s archive: sometimes gut-splitting, sometimes heart-wrenching, always a surprise, even to me.

Last night at midnight, our theoretical family bedtime, we were listening to the most recent episode of our favorite podcast, Chapo Traphouse. And they started screaming at listeners to go to  New Hampshire to get people to vote for Bernie. “Go to Durham, New Hampshire! Bernie needs your help in Durham!”

I said to the kids, “We’re going. We’re going to Durham.”

The kids ignored me.

I said, “No really. Pack up your stuff. Boston is about an hour away from Durham.”

I had to look really firm in order to get the kids to believe me, but here is the thing: My oldest son thinks he wants to study political science, and he loves Bernie, and I don’t want him to try politics after he spends four years studying it. So I called an Uber and told the kids to pack Cliff Bars for breakfast and we left.

With the dog, one more important endorser of Bernie:

My youngest son said, “Wait. Am I bringing my cello?”

My older son said, “You’re an idiot.”

The Uber driver, “I need to stop for gas.”

I said, “Fine.”

I woke up when the car stopped. We were out of gas. At 2am in the middle of nowhere New Hampshire where gas stations were all closed. The Uber driver walked a block to a man sleeping in his truck. The man said that if we had cash, he would take us somewhere for gas.

My son said, “We’re leaving right now.”

I was so proud to have kids that could not only campaign but save their lives in an Uber disaster.

Even though I know you are always supposed to pack for the car breaking down, we didn’t. I gave my coat to the dog. As I watched the Uber driver getting into the red truck, I looked for the emergency number on the Uber app. It’s labeled HELP. I called to report that their Uber driver was probably being abducted. A recording said the helpline is out of service and will be fixed shortly. There was no other Uber in sight, but Lyft somehow popped up on my screen and offered to pick us up in 45 minutes.

Our hotel was two miles away, so we started walking.

I thought the walk would be scary but then I realized we are walking through a neighborhood of homes built in the 1700s. I pointed out architectural intricacies of the Live Free or Die colonists. I knew my kids were scared because they were genuinely interested in my proof that we were in a safe neighborhood.

Then the boys got bold.

They led the way and talked about how they will always remember how much I did to campaign for Bernie, and they will never call me a boomer again. Relief: I worried this would go down in the records as one of the times I  endangered the kids’ lives. (By the way, if Uber’s lawyers are reading this, I think actually it’s Uber endangering lives by making people think there is actually a help button on their app.)

We knew we were going in the right direction when streetlights made a median glow like an election oasis.

Our hotel was full of campaigners, presumably asleep but we knew we were in the right place.

The next morning my kids were up and ready to go faster than ever before. As I walked out the door with the dog, I noticed someone didn’t have underwear on, which I took it as a sign of excitement and we headed to Durham.

At University of New Hampshire, we found the Bernie people. My kids were nervous and excited and everything they should be when they are learning about themselves. I wanted to take a thousand pictures but I also wanted to model the importance of being useful, which is not my strong suit.  I said, “We are here from Boston. What can we do to help?”

The Bernie workers cheered and pointed the boys toward a table. I took pictures while the boys got training.

The boys listened and asked questions. And my older son said for maybe the first time in his whole life, “Mom take my picture too.”

When I was getting ready to go last night, I was so scared that I was making the wrong decision. Kids need stability. And I was telling my kids they can’t go to bed because we’re taking a road trip.

But I’ve spent decades writing about how you need to try a career to see if you’ll like it. Trying anything new is scary; I want my kids to be brave enough to try stuff to see if they will like it instead of pretending they know they will like it to put off the scary part for later.

I am actually shocked that my kids like campaigning, but to be honest I am shocked that I like blogging about campaigning: I support Bernie because the only way parents will to be able to spend time with their kids and earn money at the same time is if this country disentangles human value and economic value; we’ve been counting the wrong things, and voting for Bernie is a big step toward fixing that.



Companies that have both men and women in high-level positions see improvements in productivity, innovation, safety, and profitability. Yet the number of women with jobs at the top is still decreasing.

You know why you would not want one of those jobs: 80-hour weeks, monthly travel, other people raising your children. But I wonder if you know the incredible lengths a company will go to attract and keep a woman who has reached a top position. These are stories I hear from women I coach and companies who hire me to recruit the type of women I coach. Read more

As we sat down to dinner last night, my son said, “Look. Kobe died.”

I looked at the phone screen. My first thought was: he was so young and oh my gosh his daughter. My next thought was: the rape.

I have never stopped thinking about the night Kobe raped a 19-year-old woman while she was working at his hotel. Read more

I coach lots of parents who look at scaling back work and worry about what they’ll do when their kids grow up. If you are one of those people, you are about to save the $350 coaching fee.

What you want to do for work when your kids are young is not what you want to do for work when your kids are grown. For one thing, you can’t imagine what will be available when your kid is 18. Also, you can’t imagine what you’ll be like when your kids grow up.

Shortly after I raised $500,000 for Quistic, I realized my kids needed a lot more attention than I was giving them. I tried to adjust how I spent my time, but more pressure made me feel more crazy. So, finally, at a board meeting, I explained to investors that running a startup is so intense that it’s actually as inflexible as working 9 to 5 (which is really 8-7)  in an office, and I am missing too much of my kids’ childhoods.

I assumed the investors would replace me as CEO, but they told me to just slow down the growth of the company. “Take a few years break,” they said.

We agreed that when the kids got older I’d start scaling the company again. I was relieved to not have to give up everything permanently. I could go back.

But now the kids are older, and going back to that life feels like taking a step back. Last year I forced myself to try something new and I offered a one-year writing program. I loved it. All year long I talked with people about their writing, and books we love, authors we hate. It was exciting to watch people in the course become great writers over twelve months’ time.

Earlier in my life, I taught one-day writing courses at Brown and Cornell and told everyone my real job is launching startups. I have changed. That’s how I know you will, too. You will do something you did not consider before you had kids. And you will be good at it. It’s just so hard to imagine until you give it a try.

Another industry I said I’d never be a part of is publishing. It didn’t make sense to me when there was so much more money in startups. But I’m offering the one-year writing program again this year, and I’ve added something really special: a book deal. The best writers from this year’s program will be published in an anthology. I’m excited for the book to be special and important to the writers who are published. I want the book to be nice to hold and fun to read; it should be the quirky book people leave out on the table to share with their friends.

I am so happy to have spent the last year cultivating a group of writers — many of whom had never really written before. And I am happy to offer the program for a second year to people who want to be part of my writing program. We will all grow together because I’m still growing into my new choice too. As a startup founder, I used my platform to promote other startup founders and their companies. This year I will use my platform to promote other writers and their stories.

This turn of heart is not anything I expected years ago when I admitted I had to scale down my career. At that time I was disappointed and terrified. But I didn’t need to be so scared. It turns out each of us has a new episode in our career when our kids get older.  We get a new chance to decide what we want. And we get to look
at the world in a fresh way as we enlist people to help us get what we want.

Not all of you have thought about writing before, but many of you have. And I hope you’ll consider joining me for this year’s writing program and all the potential that comes with it. For all of us.

Here’s the information about this year’s writing course. The price is $1550 now, but the price will go up February 1, 2020. Sign up now!