Hi. I’m Helen.

I keep shedding my skin.

First, I named this publication Everything Is Compostable, because I planned to write about, and practice, what I call etheric composting—turning the stinky guck of experience into fertile, fragrant soul-soil.

Then I discovered that people were assuming I was focusing on food waste. And realized that the first step in etheric composting is getting honest—in particular, about what I’m afraid to admit.

So I changed the name to Shit I’m Not Supposed to Say (SINS, for short).

Now (as of late spring 2024) I’m reassessing. Taking a break. Acknowledging that the one most vital writing project in my sphere this year is my novel—conceived in January 2019, drafted and redrafted a few times since then, slowly ripening into maturity.

Like Mating in Captivity (my memoir), this project has cycled through many titles; I’m currently calling it The Ballad of Lichen MacLeod.

During my break—beginning May 31, ending June 27—I will make a decision: to relaunch this publication in yet another form, with yet another name (The Miracle Cave?) or pause subscriptions, finish my next novel revision, and relaunch early next year.

In the meantime, please enjoy the novella-length archive, featuring the play-by-play of my decision to declare a year-long marital jubilee; some attempts to compost my relationship with the friend who told me to write the novel and provided the basis for the title character; a couple novel excerpts; and some thoughts on cults.

Most of my writing is behind a paywall. Paid subscriptions cost $10 a month or $120 a year. For $360, you can become a Founding Member—and get a 40-minute one-on-one Zoom call with yours truly.

If you prefer not to pay through Substack, you can send me money via Venmo (@Helen-Zuman) or PayPal (madgelma@hotmail.com) and I will comp you a paid subscription. Just mention “Substack” when you pay.

You can also send me money just for fun. I love receiving financial gifts!

You can write me at madgelma@hotmail.com. (“Madgelma”—pronounced muh-JEL-muh—is my middle name.) Since I religiously check my junk mail, you can trust that I’ll get your message.

Thanks for visiting.

Thanks to the mycelium for bringing you here.

Let’s reweave the living web.

Want to know more?

Read on for some highlights of my illustrious career.

I graduated from Harvard in 1999, with a degree in Visual & Environmental Studies (aka visual art). Before graduating, I received the George Peabody Gardner Traveling Fellowship, worth $13,500.

In 2018, I published Mating in Captivity, my Zendik memoir. It won the 2020 Communal Studies Association Outstanding Book Award, was a finalist for CLMP’s Firecracker Award in Creative Nonfiction, and received a Kirkus Star. It is currently under option with a film production company.

Other work has appeared in CommunitiesLivelihood, and The New Farmer’s Almanac.

I appear as a character in three books: From the Ground Up: A Food Grower’s Education in Life, Love, and the Movement That’s Changing the Nation (by Jeanne Nolan), Grace without God: The Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Belonging in a Secular Age (by Katherine Ozment), and The Quiet Zone: Unraveling the Mystery of a Town Suspended in Silence (by Stephen Kurzcy).

In 2020, a video VICE made about my Zendik story went viral, racking up 17 million views in a few weeks.

I’ve guested on dozens of podcasts, including Was I in a Cult? and Let’s Talk About Sects.

I’ve been quoted in VICE News and Rolling Stone.

In 2023, I published a compilation of essays and such, called What Is a Sex Cult? How Cults Reveal Our Culture.

I’ve received honoraria for sharing my composted cult experience at Pace University, Hamilton College, and Harvard Divinity School. (Want to pay me fabulously well to speak to your class or group? Send inquiries to madgelma@hotmail.com.)

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