Monthly Archives: May 2013

Yes, I’m an Intern

Hi Everyone!

I hope you had a lovely Memorial Day holiday. I was reflecting on how thankful I am that we have warriors-both abroad, fighting for our safety, and right here at home, fighting for our freedom and civil rights. Have you heard Mackelmore and Lewis’ (the “Thrift Shop Song” folks) new song, “Same Love”? Give it a listen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlVBg7_08n0. The first time I heard it on the car radio, I had to pull over and cry. It still gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. We are winning, people!!

 

Anyway, it’s WTF Wednesday and today, I am thinking about political correctness. At a party this weekend, I witnessed a large group of young, wealthy, cosmopolitan folks riff on PC. Quotes included “I mean, you’re a f*&%$n’ secretary, just say it!” and “we have to call our janitors ‘sanitation engineers'”. The general consensus is that political correctness has gotten way out of hand.

 

But has it, really? I love to joke about PC-isms as much as the next gal. I vividly recall a book we had when I was a kid-“Politically Correct Holiday Tales”. The elves were “vertically challenged” and Santa was given carrots instead of cookies in a nod to the (then still relatively new) obesity epidemic. I thought it was HIGH-LARIOUS. The humor made me feel like an adult-a far cry from the Nickelodeon lineup, which featured bathroom humor and people falling down.

(A vital aside-I think people falling down is also hilarious. Still do. Probably will never stop. Provided that nobody is hurt, of course. But oh man. It kills me.)

Political correctness seems to fall into this over-protective mania we’ve got going on right now-making churches and schools peanut-free to combat allergies, not letting kids walk home from school (even if they live down the block), SPF-infused clothing…the list goes on and on. We are no longer encouraged, as my childhood icon Ms. Frizzle would say, to “take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!” Ever-fearful of crossing the line, we make up ridiculous titles to spare people the indignity of a job title that’s been held for years with no comment. It’s not a stewardess, you chauvinistic pig, it’s a flight attendant.

I see all of that. Hanging around people with kids has made me hyper-aware of my own germy grossness. I want to spitefully feed all these super-clean, organically-fed-and-diapered babies dirt just to prove to their parents that they can relax a bit. The five-second rule is Gospel, y’all. There’s something about this new overprotective thing (EVERYTHING WILL GIVE YOU CANCER NEVER GO OUTSIDE NEVER EAT ANYTHING EVER) that really sticks in my craw. I’ve backpacked Southeast Asia. I have eaten some truly dubious things and lived in some foul conditions. And I am still standing. My parents, who did not have the benefit of all this zeitgeist hovering, are still standing. Can’t we all just chill out a bit and call a stewardess a stewardess?

No, and here’s why. Because words can hurt. (I’m going to take a sec here to plug an AMAZING book-The Book Thief by Marcus Zusack. It’s a powerful testament to what words can do. Seriously changed my life. Go read it!) And how you talk about people does affect how you see them. I’ll own up-I’ve used the words “retarded” and “gay” as pejoratives. It’s so common that it never felt wrong to me. But it is wrong, it really, really is. Ask anyone with a retarded family member. Or a gay one. Think of something you use to describe yourself (woman, white, Christian) and then use it to mean “bad”.  “Man-that movie was so white! It totally blew!” It feels weird. Because we all know that “white” is synonymous with “power”. But it wouldn’t be, if it was slang for low-quality or tacky. My hero Kurt Vonnegut said “We are who we pretend to be, so we must be very careful who we pretend to be.” I say-we feel what we say, so we must be very careful about what we say.

While doing research for this post (yes, I do research, thankyouverymuch) I read some brilliant and incisive critiques of this PC thing. I don’t really disagree with most of them. I don’t want to be the morality police and say we have to call janitors “sanitation engineers”. But I do say that we should ask people what they want to be called. Because people are people-and they deserve respect. My friends from this weekend, God bless them, have never been janitors and secretaries. They have not ever been treated with less than courtesy. So of course they think that ‘those people’ should just be called what they are. But we’ve set things up so that “secretary” means “sex toy”, “stupid”, and “not worthy of deference” (and almost always “female”, but that’s another story). So, if my secretary, should I ever be fortunate to have one, doesn’t like all that baggage and wants to be called “administrative assistant”, I will totally call him or her that. Or “copy machine master” or “superman” or “magician”, come to that. Whatever they want.

Because some people don’t care. I had a friend growing up who hated the term “African-American”. He said, “you don’ty call yourself Irish-American. I’ve never even been to Africa. I’m just black.” So, I called him black. But I would be foolish to believe that’s what every person of color I know prefers. So I have to ask each person what they like.

That’s what this is all about, in the end. Just treating people like people. And sure, it takes a little more time. But it’s so, so worth it. For example, right now I’m unemployed. I’ve been searching for a job for a while, and so I volunteer at the public defender’s office. People get all nervous when they try to decide what to call me. Some magnanimously call me “lawyer”, which I technically am, since I am licensed to practice law in Massachusetts. Some vaguely offer “she’s helping us out around here” for a while. And some shrug sympathetically before muttering “intern”. Because, at 27 years old and married, intern is not a very desirable thing to be. But I will own it-because it shows that I haven’t given up yet. I’m not a home, watching “The Price is Right” in my pjs while perusing the want-ads, no. I’m at work at 9am, dressed in my suit, giving everything I’ve got to a job for which I receive no compensation whatsoever. So yes, I’ll own that title. Because it means I’m strong. But other people may not feel the same way. In fact, they probably don’t. So I’ll just ask them how they feel before labeling them. And if I may be so bold, you ought to do the same. Let’s see what a little kindness can do.

Tune in Friday for a book review of a truly revolutionary book from an excellent author-Wide Awake by David Levithan!

 

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Friday Book Club-Paper Towns by John Green

Hello Everyone!!!

So, I haven’t been sleeping at all. Like, not falling asleep until at least 4am. So, please forgive any lack of eloquence on my part. But-like the US Mail, there’s nothing that can stop my love for FRIDAY BOOK REVIEW!!

This post is very special because it’s my first review of my new FAVORITE YA AUTHOR EVER, John Green. (Sorry, Sarah Dessen, you had me for almost ten years. But I still love you!) This is not my favorite book of his, but it’s a great one. Enjoy!! (and go read all of his books, seriously. Right now. Your boss will understand if you run out of work right this second to grab them all at your local library.)

BOOK: Paper Towns by John Green

ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY: guy chases his manic pixie dream girl, both literally and figuratively.

IT’S BLANK MEETS BLANK:

New Girl meets Song of Myself (this is sort of a cheat-since it’s featured in the book, but the sprawling, wanderlust-y greatness of the poem really captures the feel of this book.)

SNOWFLAKE FACTOR:

FRIENDS! Like, honest-to-heaven pinky-swear best-friends-forever friends. So many YA books are all about the romance with some flat wingmen thrown in, but this book’s most memorable scenes involve interaction among close friends. Male friends, at that. John Green is the master of the buddy-rom-com, and this is him at his finest in that respect.

SOUNDTRACK:

Piazza, New York Catcher by Belle and Sebastian

MY HEART FEELS:

Sated. In a, gosh, what a great book, I remember being a teenager and also I’d really like to take a roadtrip now and/or call my best friends and tell them I love them kind of way.

GRADE: A+

 

This book. Oh, John Green, you’ve done it again. Quentin, who goes by “Q”, has a long and sordid history with his neighbor, Margo Roth Speigelman. After one wild night where they break into Sea World and avenge various wrongs via some madcap capers, Margo vanishes. Her parents aren’t worried, but Q totally is. He enlists the help of his best buddies, Ben and Radar (whose parents own the second-largest collection of black Santas) to find her. I really don’t want to say too much more about the plot, because I don’t want to give it away. So just read it!

This book refused to let me go. I tore through it, on tenterhooks to find out how it ended, but then after it was over, I found myself lying awake, replaying my favorite scenes and wondering what came next. I really, really wish Mr. Green would write a sequel. (This is fairly uncommon for me. Not that this book is incomplete, but WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO ALL OF THEM!!!) I can’t say enough about the real-ness of this book. Even though I am not a dude, and this book was about dudes, I still loved it. There were some serious laugh-out-loud moments and OMG-honey-let-me-read-this-out-loud-to-you moments. John Green nails so many things-the longing for love, the desire for authenticity in a sometimes fake world, the realizations that friends are the best freakin’ things ever and more permanent than anything else that comes from high school…I related to this book in a major way.

I must say, in all fairness, that Margo Roth Spiegelman was somewhat of a cypher to me. I am not saying dudes can’t write chicks (and John Green has created several wonderful heroines-Hazel Grace Lancaster, anyone?) but Margo seemed like more like an idea of a girl than an actual girl. I think that’s part of the point-nobody really knew her, just like we often don’t know those we crush on (like, what do I really KNOW about Benedict Cumberbatch? What would we have to talk about, if I ever met him (besides how pretty he is)?)  but Margo is not drawn to suggest hidden depths. She’s the center of the action, but I’m never really rooting for her.

But Quentin. And Radar. And, to a lesser degree, Ben. I love you all so much and I wish we had been friends in high school. I would roll my eyes while you played your Halo-esque video game, but I would love you all the same.

John Green makes me want to be a better writer. He effortlessly demonstrates all that realistic YA can be-hilarious, poignant, touching, and ultimately, transformative. I can’t say much more than that. But seriously guys, go read it. And then read all the rest. Like right, right now.

 

Happy memorial day!! I’ll see you all on WTF Wednesday (sorry to take two Mondays off in a row. I will make sure the first Monday I’m back is super-duper!!)

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Fashion Kills

Hi Everyone!!!!!!!!!

 

Did you miss me? I definitely missed y’all. It turns out that having a captive audience is addictive. So Hawaii was lovely-but I am delighted to be back in the blogosphere with you.

 

Here were are-WTF Wednesday. And I have a post I’ve been thinking about for a while. I know we’ve all been thinking about the tornadoes across Oklahoma (and as a former Okie myself-I definitely have been) but I haven’t yet been able to give up the tragedy of the 1,000+ people who died in Bangladesh April 24th.  Because that tragedy, unlike the Boston bombings in my hometown or the Oklahoma tornadoes, was my fault.

I have never set foot in Bangladesh. To be perfectly honest, I’m not entirely sure where it is. But my closet is chock-full of clothes sporting its name. Bangladesh is a huge supplier of garments to stores like Forever 21, H &M, Old Navy, and Zara (all stores where I love to shop). The cheaper the item, the more likely it was made in Bangladesh. Why? Because their workers are paid the worst, and their conditions are the most deplorable.  All that cheapness doesn’t come free. For our convenience, someone else has to suffer.

I started thinking about this at Christmas with the Amazon shipping. I mean, same day? How does that even work? I knew there were not robots packing my items in a warehouse, but people. The more I read, the more horrified I became-stories of employees not given bathroom breaks for hours and hours, experiencing multiple stress injuries from repetitive movements, and then, when they got too slow or voiced a complaint, dismissed without ceremony. There were always lines of people willing to take their place-everyone wants a little extra cash over the holidays. These workers were not being treated as people but as tools: something with one purpose to be used until it is no longer optimal, then to be discarded and replaced. Somehow that didn’t fit in with my image of goodwill towards men.

Anyone who knows me can tell you I ask a lot of questions. In the past few years, I’ve become very interested in where my food is coming from. Were my apples doused with pesticides? Was the cow my milk came from treated with growth hormone? Is my chicken free-range? Essentially, I wanted to know if my food was natural, and thus safe. Factory farms, I’ve learned, pump so many things into the animals and then treat them so inhumanely that the food that results cannot be ethically good (and may not even be physically good, either).  Well folks, factory-made clothing is just the same. Except instead of cows and chickens, it’s people who are being treated inhumanely. And that makes my $7 tank tops morally liable.

Look, Laura, you might say, but I’ve seen you eat at McDonalds! You’re not a vegan. You don’t really remove yourself from the factory farm system. So get off your high horse. Friend, you are right. I haven’t removed myself. Because it’s really, really hard. I like the taste of meat, and I like the cheapness of fast food. And I like being able to eat with friends without having to scrutinize the menu and ask embarrassing questions of the waiter to find something I can eat. So I feel you. This ethical eating (and dressing) thing is HARD.

But-I am trying the best I can. Any time I can make a substitution, I do. I buy organic apples and berries despite the higher cost and then tighten my belt in other areas. Given the choice between two products, I buy the one with less packaging to cut down on garbage. And I eat at restaurants that I know serve local, sustainable foods. You don’t have to be a total convert. Every little bit helps.

Because this stuff matters. Our world is small. Our resources are finite. And everything we consume (food, clothes, electricity) belongs to the same finite system. If we are using something, others cannot be using it. And our country is using a lot of things-cell phones and clothes chief among them-that are really causing the lives of our brothers and sisters in other countries to be Hell.

I’ve done some reading lately about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory disaster. In New York City in 1911, 146 women were killed when the garment factory they worked in caught fire. The bosses locked the doors (a common practice to curtail unauthorized breaks) so when the blaze started, women could not escape it. Many jumped from high windows to their deaths. It is one of the deadliest incidents in New York City history after the 9/11 attacks. The public was so outraged by the deplorable condition of this factory and the shocking manner of these women’s deaths that legislation was passed that protected workers across the board, which led to the ladies’ labor union.

146 people died at Triangle. Over a thousand died in Bangladesh last month. Let’s have some outcry, shall we?

 

I for one vow not to buy any garment with “made in Bangladesh” on the tag. And I also vow to buy secondhand before new. I know it’s not much, but it’s a start. Will you join me?

We vote with our wallets, plain and simple. When Abercrombie and Fitch recently came out as a company that is anti-plus-size, many people (myself included) decided that if that company’s policies were so gross, that we would take our shopping dollars elsewhere. I felt no pain making that decision (partly because A&F is so expensive and their clothes aren’t that great anyway). But if I can defiantly be anti-fat-discrimination, shouldn’t it be just as easy to be anti-basically-slavery? Yet I know many will not see it this way. Bangladesh is a world away, after all. Or at least I think it is.

What we buy matters. Please join me in the Bangladesh boycott until all factory owners have signed the Bangladesh Safety Accord, which guarantees safety regulations inside the factories for the workers. We must show the factory owners that we do not support their practices, and until conditions improve, we will not buy their products.

I know my blog alone won’t change anything. But it’s the best I can do. Will you add your best to my best? Together, we can make a difference.

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Friday Book Club-eleanor and park by Rainbow Rowell

Hi Everyone!

Happy Friday! I am headed off to HAWAII tonight with my fabulous family, so there will be no blogging next week (I know! I know! I’m so sorry. I’ll never leave you again.) So, this post about the excellent eleanor and park will have to hold you over. Go out and obtain the book from your local library-it will entertain you for the week!  So, here’s the review, without further ado (if you find yourself puzzled by my categories, go back to last week’s book review [the Inaugural Edition] for descriptions. But y’all are smart cookies. You’ll figure it out.):

BOOK: eleanor and park, by Rainbow Rowell (how cool is her name? PS-her blog is MUCH cooler than mine. When Rejected finally gets published, I will get a cooler blog. Cross my heart.)

ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY: two kids meet on a school bus and fall in love.

IT’S BLANK MEETS BLANK:

Romeo and Juliet meets High Fidelity

SNOWFLAKE FACTOR:

the 80s-music, comics, walkmen that ran on batteries, not having cell phones…so many things I sort of remember. (Full disclosure: I was born in 1985. But! I did have a walkman, and my family didn’t have the internet until I was 16, nor did I have a cell phone until then. So I feel the pain of teenagers trying to establish a romance without being able to covertly text.)

SOUNDTRACK:

Oh man. Music plays a HUGE part in this book-especially the mixtape. I miss mixtapes SO MUCH. Playlists are not the same. Anyway, these crazy kids love the Smiths, the Cure, and U2, among other things. Eleanor loves the Beatles, for which she gets my undying affection. Rainbow Rowell made playlists for her blog (see, cooler than mine) which are here: http://rainbowrowell.com/blog/2013/03/eleanor-park-all-the-playlists-all-the-music/

MY HEART FEELS:

TEEN ANGST. Is there anything like it? So epic, so melodramatic, but so utterly, totally real.

GRADE: A

This book. Oh man, this book. It came so highly recommended to me that I was practically foaming at the mouth to get my hands on it. I mean, John Green, aka My YA Author Role Model and Hero, wrote the NY Times review. So this is a BFD, to quote my other role model, Vice President Joe Biden.

And then I read it. This is one of those books that keep you up at night because IF YOU DON’T FINISH IT BEFORE YOU SLEEP YOU WILL PROBABLY DIE OF ANXIETY. I have to say the thing this book made me feel most is nervous.  Being a teenager in love is gut-wrenching enough, but (this isn’t really a spoiler since it’s set out really early) Eleanor’s home life is a nightmare, and I was terrified of what was going to happen to her. At one point I wailed (literally wailed) to my husband “Whatever is going to happen to poor Eleanor?” Maybe I’m too close to it, having worked in child abuse and neglect before, I don’t know. But my fears for her safety overshadowed my enjoyment of the romance for most of the book.

I remember being a teenager in love (hey there, Brian. Thanks for taking me to Titanic and holding my hand for all three hours).  And a lot of it was devastating. But there were some happy moments. I recall vacillating wildly from joy to despair, and I feel like this book is heavy on the despair. If this book had a theme song, it would be “We Found Love (in a hopeless place)” By Rihanna. Maybe I just got lucky and had more joy than pain, but that part of it didn’t ring true for me. I could not identify with all the sad.

It’s still an amazing book. I want there to be a sequel so I can make sure these crazy kids are okay. I want to send them both on an all-expenses paid trip to Disneyworld. I really, really cared about the characters. Maybe too much. And that’s a the mark of a great book to me-I simultaneously want to tear through it to find out how it ends, but I also never want to finish it.

Park’s parents play a big role in the book, which gets huge bonus points  from me, because adults usually disappear in teen stories and that’s so unrealistic. When I was a teenager my entire life revolved around my parents. Were they proud of me? Would they let me stay out late on Friday? Would they drive me to the mall or give me my allowance early or tell me my skirt was too short for school? These autonomous teens (like Dash and Lily in the otherwise-excellent Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares) always seemed like cheating to me. This book, apart from one moment at the end, does not suffer from that.

The more I think about this book, the more I like it. When I finished it last week, I needed some distance from it. I was suffering PTSD from this book. But now, as I’m remembering it, I’m having serious flashbacks to my own teen years. This book really captures the agony and the ecstasy of first love. And it does end well, despite my nail-biting fear. So, go give it a read. You’ll be glad you did! (and let me know what you think when you do!)

That’s all for now, folks. Aloha and see you on the 20th for another post about writing (with some pics from Hawaii, if you’re good.)

 

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WTF Wednesday-EVE ENSLER

Howdy folks!!!

I know that WTF Wednesdays (WTF, in case you didn’t know, stands for Why That Face?) are supposed to be for ranting, but I’ve had an experience this week that changed my view on rants forever. Does that sound dramatic? Good! I feel dramatic. On Monday, I saw Eve Ensler, author of “the Vagina Monologues” (a play I’ve been in three times-hey there, fellow Vagina Warriors!) at Brattle Theater in Cambridge, MA. Here is my account of the life-changing event.

“I saw Eve last night (is it okay to call her Eve? Should I call her Ms. Ensler? I don’t want to be presumptuous. But I feel like I know her. I think she would not be mad at me for calling her Eve.) at the Brattle Theater in Cambridge, MA. The 247-seat theater was completely sold out, and I felt lucky to be there. I’d seen Eve before in 2008 on her “Emotional Creature” tour. I had come away from that experience impressed and inspired. I came away last night awed.

I must admit, embarrassingly, I did not know Eve had battled uterine cancer. I thought “In the Body of the World” was about body image issues-just general empowerment stuff. As soon as she came onstage, however, I knew something was different. She was thinner, and the signature black bob and red lipstick were gone. But something more profound had shifted-she positively radiated peace. As she held her hands in the “namaste” position, just soaking in the adoration, I think we all felt like we were in the presence of a divine figure.

Then she spoke-and explained, in harrowing truth, about how lucky we all are to be alive. She was hardcore, honest, and totally, heartbreakingly real. She read from her book-gorgeous prose-but also shared stories from her heart, casual asides that were all the more meaningful for being spur-of-the-moment.

The whole house sat rapt-young, old, lesbian, straight, all colors, all shapes and sizes (even some brave males!)-as we drank in her words. I felt like a child sitting at the feet of a storyteller. Or a prophet.

She closed the evening with a reading from the scan “Second Wind”. I found myself in tears as she described being a force that moved everything but did not leave a mark. She spoke of joy-endless joy, no more rage and hate and blame. No more proving herself, no more “I’ll show them”, but just love and peace and joy. Her words were like rain on my parched, bitter heart. For a woman, such a brilliant and powerful woman, to say-we don’t have to fight anymore. We don’t have to push and hurt anymore. We just need to love, love, love: it was a rebirth. I felt right for the first time in a really long time. I felt free, I felt alive-I just FELT. And I did not feel ashamed that I FELT.

Eve has always urged women to love and accept who they are. We are emotional creatures. We feel, deeply and often. We sob, we laugh, and we scream. But for the first time last night, I knew that we didn’t have to rage. That we could change the world-that we are already changing the world-with pure and peaceful love.

Eve pointed out that much has been done to improve peoples’ minds-literacy campaigns, education, etc. But until peoples’ hearts are improved, there will be no end to the violence. I had always suspected that in my soul, but never found the words to say it. Hearing from Eve was like the unlocking of a cage door around my heart. I cannot, nor will I ever be able to, describe that feeling.

I drove home from the event in prayer. Then I called all the women in my life and told them how much I loved them, how beautiful they were, and how much they mattered to me. This morning on my way to work, instead of scowling at people on the train, I thought, “What a wondrous, wondrous world.”

With Vagina Monologues, Eve started a revolution. With Body in the World, she revolutionized revolution itself. And I will always count myself incredibly lucky that I was able to be there.”

So, friends, thank you for reading my blog. I promise to continue to highlight social injustice on WTF Wednesdays, but I promise not to rage. We can make a difference without it! So, hold me to it, folks. If you see me raging, call me out on it.

Join us Friday for a review of  Rainbow Rowell’s “Eleanor and Park”-the book that almost made me vomit it was so nerve-wracking!

Love-

Laura

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When are you “ready”?

Hi Y’all,

Did you have a nice weekend? Spring has finally shown its face here in New England, and the hubby and I spent the weekend…gardening! We bought some flowers at Shaw’s (local grocery store) and put them in the backyard. We’re getting ready for Buffetsday, a made-up (by me) holiday where you have a cookout and listen to Jimmy Buffett, patron saint of summer and margaritas. I’ve never really done any gardening before, but Tom and I found we quite liked it. It’s very satisfying, to look at a well-weeded garden and know YOU did that. Maybe Voltaire was on to something.

Anyway, Monday is writing-topic day (anyone have a catchy, alliterative title for Monday?) so we’re going to talk about when your novel is “ready” to be published. The first question on most publishing sites and authors’ sites is, “I just wrote a book! Now what?” The answer is, overwhelmingly, EDIT.

But, you protest-I’ve written the Next Great American Novel!! I need no editing! To which I reply-I totally feel you. Finishing a book is a HUGE accomplishment! Truman Capote once said, “Finishing a book is just like you took a child out in the back yard and shot it.” No joke. So, congrats on shooting a child in the backyard! Or something appropriately less morbid. When I finished my book, I put it away for six months. I didn’t look at it, didn’t think about it, just passed it off as a fever dream. (which it sort of was, being the product of NaNoWriMo. What is NaNoWriMo, you ask? http://www.nanowrimo.org/) Then I took it out and read it, not changing it at all, just experiencing it.

Reading it after being away for so long felt like I was reading someone else’s book, not my own. I was able to experience it much more objectively-see what worked, what didn’t, and really critique the characters. It should be obvious that a book needs to flow from beginning to end, but it took me til that first read-through to realize the pacing was way off.  I selected what I thought was the best part of the book, decided it was the climax, and re-wrote the beginning to build to that point.

There are, roughly, two types of writers: (I’m stealing this from Kurt Vonnegut-I think it was him anyway. Just assume anything good on here is attributable to him in some way. No copyright infringement intended. 🙂 1-people who agonize over each sentence as they write them, not moving on until they’ve achieved perfection, and           2-people who slam out drafts willy-nilly, then edit it all at the end.  I am definitely of the latter persuasion. So my first draft was, essentially, figuring out what kind of novel I wanted to write. I had the a)main character, b) a general idea of the ending, and c) some conflicts when I started out. The second draft was a refinement of the ideas I had. I realized that my book was not an adventure novel, but really about the relationships between mothers and daughters. So I had a lot of adjusting to do.

The six months I took gave me the distance to be ruthless. I cut large parts of the book (about 2/3) completely out and started again. That would not have been possible right after finishing it. You need some space to begin, if I may mangle a metaphor, repeatedly shooting your novel  in the backyard. Sometimes you have to viciously cut things to make the novel better. I loved my ending. Really, really loved it. But I realized that it was totally fanciful and stole some of the gravitas of my story by being too made-for-TV-movie. So I threw out the last forty pages of the book and started again. It was really scary hitting “delete” and watch your page count shrink by 40, but it was so worth it. Fortune favors the brave and all that. And there’s no way I would have been able to do that if I hadn’t taken time away from the novel.

I also made some pretty drastic character changes to almost every character. Reading the first draft, you would have thought the school had ten million students-all with multiple personality disorder. I changed names, forgot what I changed them to, changed physical features and personalities…you name it, I did it. Several times. Mid-novel. My second draft drastically cut down on the cast of characters (from about ten girls to five) and shaped them into (I hope) fully-drawn individuals.

I should mention that, in between the first and second draft, I asked two trusted people to read it and make suggestions. Not “you misspelled this word” suggestions, but “this ending makes no sense” and “this character is really unlikeable” suggestions. I did not take each and every suggestion, but I really pondered them all. I heartily suggest that anyone who wants to write a book find a Beatrice to their Dante-someone to guide them through the Hell that writing sometimes is. 🙂 It will help you realize what’s working and what isn’t. It’s invaluable. Be careful who you choose-make sure you trust them to be honest but fair. And thank them profusely for putting up with your “I’m not sure if I really even want there to be a suicide in the novel…” emails at 3AM.

The Big Edit (that created the 2nd draft) took three months-three times longer than it took to write the book, I should point out. Once that was FINALLY done (and I stopped referring to my novel as That Damn Book), I sent out the draft to a larger circle of friends, who I am hoping will give subjective as well as mechanical criticism. I don’t plan (at this point) to make any major structural changes, but I do need to fix spelling errors, typos, etc. And, of course, I want everyone to tell me I’m brilliant and I’ve written the Next Great American Novel.

So, quick and dirty-1)write book. 2)let it sit as long as you need to be able to hack it into little pieces. 3)hack it into little pieces. 4) reassemble your little pieces (with a little help from your friends).

Hopefully step 5 is Become a Famous and Celebrated Novelist. Stay tuned.

Join us Wednesday for WTF Wednesdays (my rant of the week)!

 

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Friday Book Club-the Inaugural Issue

Good morning world!

it’s Friday, and do you know what that means? BOOK CLUB!!!!!!! I have always loved book clubs, except I could never get in one that the people were as hyped up about the book as I was. The club meetings were ten minutes of cursory discussion, followed by fifty minutes of discussions about boys/clothes/makeup. (Until I went to St. John’s College, which is in essence a 4 year book club. ❤ u, SJC!)  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE talking about all those things, but NOT DURING BOOK  CLUB PEOPLE. So, now that I have this blog, I can talk about books as long and as loudly as I want. The format of this post is still up for discussion-have ideas on how it could be better? Let me know!

BOOK: Shut Out, by Kody Keplinger

ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY: (how could one ever boil a book down to one sentence? Yet I am asked to do it all the time. To be contrary-this category will be populated with really vague sentences, just bland enough to pique your interest. Like a fortune cookie.)

To end a rivalry, high school girls go on a sex strike. (yes, you HAVE heard this before)

IT’S BLANK MEETS BLANK: (when people pitch movies, they’re often asked to submit it in this format-aka, it’s Jaws meets The Notebook, or something similar. This amuses me: why can’t it be all it’s own? And, I like coming up with really silly “meets”)

It’s “Lysistrata” meets “Someone Like You” by Sarah Dessen

SNOWFLAKE FACTOR: (as in, what makes this book unique…like a snowflake. Get it?)

refreshingly frank talk about female sexuality

SOUNDTRACK:  (pretty self-explanatory)

Spice Girls

MY HEART FEELS:

pretty amped up on GRRL POWER after reading this book.

GRADE: B-

This modern re-imagining of Aristophanes’ “Lysistrata” is really great…for younger folks. (I know, you’re saying, well Laura, you read YA, you should have known!) But much YA is readable for As as well as Y-As. This one was not. Keplinger was 17 when she published her first book, “The DUFF”, so she’s a younger author, which is AWESOME and AMAZING but I was really feeling my age here. The plot is the classic battle-of-the-sexes, with a heavy dose of girl-power involved. The girls start the sex-strike in order to stop the stupid rivalry, but in the end, they learn Important Lessons about Being True to Yourself and Not Getting Pressured into Sex. Which is super, super important. Obviously. Women are not allowed to talk about sex, not even with each other. Oh, we can have Cosmo and other raunchy mags, but that’s just to learn how to please our partners, not to please ourselves. Female pleasure is majorly taboo, and this book highlights that in a big way. I wanted to like this book so much? I really did? But it just felt so…overstated. I was like, oh my GOSH we get it, there is no “normal” and nobody should make you feel guilty about how you feel about sex, HOWEVER you feel (like it/hate it/not sure/etc.)!!! I just couldn’t get involved in the story or the trials of the girls because I felt like I was being preached at.

Maybe if I had read this in high school, when sex was mysterious and scary, instead of as a married woman, I would have like it much more. I feel like I want to send it to my younger cousins and see how they feel about it. I’m so conflicted, because I ❤ the subject matter, but just didn’t think it was handled very deftly. But I applaud Ms. Keplinger’s efforts for bringing it up. I hope that other authors continue the conversation. Because, no matter how old I get, girl power never goes out of style. I wish I could say the same about my Caboodle, glitter eye shadow, and lip smackers.

 

Perhaps I shouldn’t have written my first book report on a book I wasn’t nuts about, but I just finished it last night. I made a resolution to read 52 books this year, AKA 1 book a week, so this was this week’s installment. (I’m at 23, by the way, which is good, I guess. I originally wanted to read 100 books this year, but then I realized that was two books a week, and I a)work full-time, b)am working on my own book, and c)volunteer 10 hours a week, so I scaled back my resolution. Discretion is the better part of valor and all that.) So! Join us Monday, when I talk about my very own book and the things I’ve learned about getting it published!

Happy trails,

Laura

 

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