About

“Mental Thunderbolts”

Martha Nichols Online is the website for writer, editor, and teacher Martha Nichols. As a faculty instructor at the Harvard University Extension School, Martha has become a strong advocate of first-person journalism—features told from a personal perspective, including essays, think pieces, columns, and reviews.

Martha Nichols Online includes her blog Athena’s Head and links to Talking Writing—the nonprofit digital literary magazine she cofounded and runs—as well as another blog she kept while living in Singapore.

Follow Martha on this siteLinkedin, Twitter, and Talking Writing.


Why Athena’s Head?

In her blog, Martha writes about parenting, adoption, women’s issues, the media, and other topics she also explores in print. Athena’s Head is currently on hiatus, although Martha posts occasional news updates and links there to her recent publications.

"Head of Minerva" by Elihu Vedder; public domain

“Head of Minerva”
by Elihu Vedder

Martha began blogging in 2009, but the genesis for Athena’s Head goes back to Martha’s girlhood in 1970s California, when she first read Edith Hamilton’s Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes.

Hamilton’s 1940s classic came as a cheap paperback reissue, passed on by her dad, who wanted her to read more than Tiger Beat or another installment of Nancy Drew. And he was right: Martha loved the myths. Ancient Greece captured her imagination—especially Athena, the goddess of wisdom and war—the warrior girl who was born from her father’s head and her own mind.

Athena is “flashing-eyed.” She is “the protector of civilized life, of handicrafts and agriculture,” Hamilton writes. “She was Zeus’s favorite child. He trusted her to carry the awful aegis, his buckler, and his devastating weapon, the thunderbolt.” She created the olive tree, and the owl is “her bird.”

“He trusted her to carry the awful aegis, his buckler, and his devastating weapon, the thunderbolt.”

In fact, Zeus swallowed Athena’s mother, afraid the child she carried would overshadow him. But that couldn’t stop Athena from bursting free. She doesn’t suffer fools—a weakness?—but she likes tricksters and contrarians, and so does Martha.

“Martha in the Trees” © Martha Nichols