Monthly Archives: June 2013


Hi Everyone!


Short post today-but next Wednesday, a BIG POST! I am interviewing someone and I am totally stoked about it. So, get pumped.

Anyway, I saw “Man of Steel” this weekend. I consider myself a big superhero fan-I love to see the movies, even when they don’t look that great. I love explosions, I love big battles, I love big battles WITH explosions…so it’s a good fit for me.  I have to say, I liked “Man of Steel”. And not just because Henry Cavill is shockingly good-looking. Benedict Cumberbatch, I will always be true, but oh, how I was tempted by Mr. Cavill. Superman, indeed.


But I digress. Something else I liked about “Man of Steel” was Lois Lane, portrayed by Amy Adams. I don’t have a great picture of Lois in my head from childhood viewings of “Superman”, but I’m pretty sure she didn’t wear a flak jacket, have a Pulitzer, or use the phrase “measuring dicks” in her first scene. It was pretty great. I was hopeful that she would remain plucky, and help Superman instead of just shrieking and needing rescued.

No such luck. After her excellent first scene, poor Lois finds herself in all sorts of trouble. I don’t want to spoil the movie, but suffice it to say there is falling, screaming, and smooching. Everything you’ve come to expect in a damsel in distress.

My question is why? Why is there no male equivalent for a damsel-in-distress? (dude in distress? dandy in distress? help me out here!) Why do women, even smart, Pulitzer-prize winning women, end up needing rescued by super-men? Why are there no super-women?

Joss Whedon, creator of one of the coolest super-woman of all time, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is also troubled. He’s “pissed off” that there are no female superhero movies. (To which I say, go take your gazillions of dollars and make one, buddy!) I mean, we had “Elektra” and “Catwoman” in 2004-2005, and then nothing. And both of those movies are terrible. What’s so hard about making a cool female superhero?


I don’t want to talk about Black Widow. She’s one of an all-man team, she’s sexy, and she just doesn’t do it for me.  The movie doesn’t pass the Bechdel test: where two woman have a conversation in a movie that’s not about a man. So Joss, I ❤ that you’re a feminist and you want to make some awesome female superheroes. But you’re not there yet.

I don’t want to talk about the X-men, either. (See? X-Men! Not X-People!) Admittedly, I know the least about these folks. Rogue, Storm, Mystique, Jane Grey…they are all really cool. And admirable. But still-part of a male-led team. So much closer to what we deserve, but not quite there yet. When they make an “X-Men Origins: Storm”, we can talk.

I want a female-led superhero movie. High-budget, high-action, good old fashioned ass-kicking superhero movie. It will star a woman hero who has a cool origin story, fights wicked bad-guys (or bad-gals), and saves the world. Heck, she can even get the guy (or girl) at the end. It’s all fine with me. But she won’t be flashing her boobs, she won’t be chasing a man, and she won’t get rescued. Because she can rescue herself.

Is this so much to ask? Does Hollywood really think this won’t sell? Check out “Hunger Games”. Women are, if you’ll pardon the pun, hungry for a girl to root for to win, not just score the perfect pair of shoes. I mean, I ❤ Carrie Bradshaw as much as the next gal, but I cannot live on Manolos alone. I want combat boots. Emphasis on combat.

And screw the logic that peaceful, sweet ladies don’t enjoy fighting. One trip to the Neiman Marcus sample sale would cure anyone of that delusion. We ladies love a good fight. And we’d love to see it onscreen.

I think the problem with “Catwoman” and “Elektra” was that they were so impressed that they had a girl that they didn’t feel the need to write a good story. Women will not just snap up anything you throw at them-we have to be entertained, just like men do. Don’t write us a “woman” story: write us a STORY, starring women. And we will show up in cineplexes. And buy popcorn. And buy our daughters Supergirl dolls. I promise.


What do you think, folks? Am I way off base here? How much do you think we need female superheroes?

Until next week!!!


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Making Some Noise

Hi Everyone!


You may have noticed that there was no book club last week, nor was there a Monday post. I am sorry. Real life is being sort of busy right now, so I am going to scale back my thrice-weekly blogging to “as often as I can, but no less than once a week”. How does that sound? We’ll see if absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that.


First off, my sister is starting her very own theater company and needs your support to pay for rehearsal space, etc. for their first production, “Envoy”. It’s a really excellent, boundary-pushing play and she is going to do a brilliant job bringing it to life! So please consider donating just $7 to her campaign! Let’s put our money where our mouths are and actually support brave women voices in the arts, not just talk about it. Thank you all ever so much.

Now, onto WTF Wednesdays. Today, I want to talk about Shut Up Culture. Yes, I just made that word up. It’s when a woman (or a person of color, or a gay person, or any minority person) says “I’m offended by your joke” or “we need more ___________ in __________”. Someone, invariably, will tell that person to Shut Up. Loudly, and rudely, sometimes violently. This week, Anita Sarkeesian made the comment that no major video games have female protagonists. Fairly innocuous, right? Wrong. She was told, over the internet and on TV, that she is terrible, that she “sucks a big f*&%ing cock”, that she should be raped, and killed. This is not an exaggeration. Sandra Fluke, my Georgetown Law classmate, received rape and death threats for the radical suggestion that birth control is a civil right. Rush Limbaugh, an (arguably) grown man, called her a prostitute. He later half-heartedly apologized, but the damage was done. Sandra is brilliant and brave and refused to be silenced by Shut Up culture, but how many other women can tolerate that sort of violence? And how many should?

The answer is zero. Zero women deserve to be told they will be raped for expressing their opinion. That’s hate speech, pure and simple, and it should be against the law. Hate speech technically is against the law here in the US, but it’s devilishly hard to get a court to enforce it. Although, the test is if the speech incites imminent illegal action-I’d argue that a rape threat is pretty illegal. But that’s another battle for another day. The point is-nobody should have to put up with this. But we do anyway, all the time.

Author Chuck Wendig wrote a great series of posts about sexism recently (first post here: and became a victim of Shut Up culture himself. He learned that by advocating for a minority, you are submitting yourself to danger, even if you yourself are not a part of the minority. Nobody is safe.

I’ve just had enough, okay? I’m tired of people getting death threats for the suggestion that inequality is still alive and well in this country. I’m tired of the fact that it’s not okay to say “that is offensive to me” without being called, at best, a killjoy. I’m REALLY tired of people justifying Shut Up culture by saying “you’re already equal, minority, so stop bitching about it.” Clearly, that is not even close to true, otherwise, there wouldn’t be Shut Up culture.

It’s about fear and guilt. Fear that those who have been systematically oppressed aren’t going to take it anymore, and that will upset the balance of power so much that those on top will somehow end up on the bottom. Fear that if women get equal pay for equal work, men will lose their ability to get jobs or have good lives. And guilt: guilt because in their hearts, they know it’s all true. I refuse to believe that all straight white men are monsters. I’m the daughter of one, sister of another, and wife to yet another one. Some of my best friends are straight white men. But I have still seen each and every one I just mentioned participate in Shut Up culture. Why? It’s easy. It’s ingrained. And everybody’s doing it. Nobody likes to be reminded that they’re wrong, or that they’re privileged. I know I am at my most defensive and snarky when somebody’s hit a nerve. I complain the loudest when I know that I’m wrong. I don’t think I am alone there.

How do we fight Shut Up culture? By not shutting up. By refusing to be cowed and quiet and meek. Because someone will eventually hear us. And then they will speak up, too. The longer I live, the more I realize we are all just products of what we’ve been told. There is no absolute truth-just who got to us first and told us what truth was. So I’m going to keep being loud. I’m going to call people on their sexism, racism, homophobia…whatever. If you say it, I will tell you I’m offended. Because people need to know that it is not okay to keep someone else down by stifling their expression.

You might say, but Laura, my jokes are hilarious! Aren’t you stifling ME by telling me I’m offensive? To which I answer, no, I’m not. I’m engaging in a conversation by asking you why you feel what you say is funny. That is how we grow: dialogue. Honest exchanges of ideas and opinions. Nobody’s growing or exchanging when the threat of violence is on the table.  So me telling you I find your statement offensive and you telling me you’re going to rape me are not the same things, see?

I will probably get some hate mail for this post. (Well, that is if anyone reads it.) That’s okay. I welcome a dialogue. Because the cure for bad speech is more speech. When I was in high school, I was very confused by the things I heard people say who claimed to be Christian. There was a lot of hateful rhetoric bouncing around, and I felt in my soul that it was not what God wanted me to be doing. So I asked a beloved pastor if God really wanted me to say that people were going to Hell and things like that.  He blushed, clearly wishing I had asked someone else, thought for a moment and said, “People are always going to say what they think is right. You can’t stop it and you can’t fight it. There’s a lot of hate in this world, and we can’t combat it directly. But what we can do is spread a message of love. And spread it louder.”


Facebook is finally taking action about hate speech because several brave people spoke louder, until they were heard. Things can change. But they don’t change on their own and they don’t change by accident. We have to fight Shut Up culture everywhere, because opponents of equality are everywhere. I read yesterday that the new Doctor Who has been picked-and he’s a white male. I felt so sad and frustrated, because I felt like lots of people (me included) had asked for something, and it had been ignored. There’s still so much work to be done before women are seen as equals-fit to be onscreen as a hero (and not dressed in a bikini or catsuit), fit to kick ass in video games, and fit to earn equal pay for equal work. Fit to walk down the street and not keep your head down to avoid the catcalls. Fit to wear a short dress and not be told you’re asking for it. Fit to be and do anything that a man can. We won’t get it unless we ask for it. Often and repeatedly. And for that, we can never Shut Up.


See you soon!




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Mrs. Doctor Who?

Good morning everyone!


I’d like to wish a happy anniversary to my beloved parents-may I still be as in love (and good looking) after 31 years!

Today is my favorite day of the week, WTF Wednesday. my column may seem a bit trivial today, but a) I never claimed my rants were important, and b)there’s more to this topic then meets the eye.

If you have a facebook account, chances are you are at least tangentially aware of BBC television series “Dr. Who”. (disclaimer: I want to be very clear upfront that I am a casual fan. I have not watched the whole  series, not even close. I have a basic grasp of the concept, I can name most of the major characters, and I know what the TARDIS is. I’m already anticipating the backlash from Serious Fans (aka My Brother) so let me be quite honest-if you think I don’t LOVE “Dr. Who” and don’t truly UNDERSTAND what it means…you are right.) It has been on the air for apparently ten thousand years and is super-duper popular. There is a Doctor Who experience in Cardiff, Wales. You can get TARDIS Christmas tree toppers. It’s a huge deal.

Part of the reason it’s been going forever is that the mythology of the show explains that the Doctor can regenerate into a new body. So whenever somebody’s done with being the Doctor, you can get a new one and it’s still the same show. It’s like when the changed Darrens on “Bewitched”, except not at all, because that made no sense (and nobody noticed, whereas I’m told the changing of the Doctors is cause for much weeping).

Matt Smith, the eleventh Doctor, announced this week that he’s stepping down, and the internet went WILD. Writer of the series Steven Moffat breathlessly related that, “Somewhere out there right now – all unknowing, just going about their business – is someone who’s about to become the Doctor. A life is going to change, and Doctor Who will be born all over again! After 50 years, that’s still so exciting!” Exciting, indeed. And nothing has caused more speculation than the revolutionary idea that the newest Doctor may be…GASP! A woman.

But I don’t watch “Dr. Who”, you say. Why does this matter to me? Well, it actually does, and I’ll tell you why. Because we are who we see on TV, to a great degree. Stories matter. After the movie “Top Gun” came out, sign-ups to the Air Force and Navy skyrocketed. The heroes we look up to come from our televisions. And our televisions need more kickass women.

Many diehard Dr. Who fans agree with me. They rejoice at the idea of a woman doctor, or a doctor of color, or any other minority, for that matter. Since the Doctor is in point of fact an alien, they don’t feel that having the spirit of the Doctor in a female body violates the essence of the show in any way, particularly since the Doctor has never been explicitly romantically involved with anyone, male or female (except for an arguably non-canonical kiss in a TV special-universally reviled by fans), so the thorny question of sexuality can be skirted. No penis? No problem!

There is a group of fans, however, who are totally and adamantly against it. Why? Tradition, predominantly. The Doctor is a man, I was told by a fan, because he just is. That’s what it means to be the Doctor. He’s angry and full of testosterone and it just wouldn’t work with a woman because women are different. Besides, they argued, what about the Companions? The Doctor travels around with a lady in his TARDIS, and wouldn’t it be weird if there were two ladies?

This argument to me falls flat, for several reasons. First-tradition. I love traditions! Especially around the holidays. But there are some traditions that are embarrassing. Like whites-only swimming pools. The justification “we’ve always done it like this” only works if the reason WHY you’ve done it like this ISN’T “because men/whites/straights are superior”. This is my issue with folks who want to hang the Confederate flag for “Southern Heritage”: that flag represents a legacy of oppression. I bet those same people would balk at hanging a swastika for “German Heritage”, but to me it’s all the same. As a Southerner, I understand the need to not totally write off our history, but the fact is that sometimes the way we do things is wrong, and we need to accept that and do them differently, even if it means jettisoning “tradition”.

Secondly, the “women are different” line is just bogus. Women are biologically different, but we still manage to hold the same jobs as men; we are doctors, lawyers, and someday, Presidents of the United States. Sure, we can trot out tired tropes about men being from Mars, women from Venus, but in the end, we’re all REALLY from Earth and can do just about everything the same, except pee standing up. I’m still mad about that. Saying a woman can’t handle the rage of the Doctor is silly. What about “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”? What about Clytamnestra? Lizzie Borden? Margaret Thatcher? Emma Goldman? Heck, Steven King’s Carrie? Those women all got pretty mad. And this one is getting even madder thinking about it.

Finally, the Companion argument. First, the Companions have not always been female and they have not always been such damsels in distress. Those particular characteristics we owe to Gatiss and Moffat, the current showrunners. Classic Dr. Who had male companions, as well as some brilliant female ones. And the show was richer for it. So the question “who will squawk and need rescued if the Doctor is a lady?” can be answered with “maybe nobody (and that’s good).”

Look, I’m not saying that it HAS to be a woman Doctor. I don’t like tokenism anywhere-but I’m saying that the fact that a woman might be a token at all is distressing. The idea that Doctor Who might crumble if a lady was involved is distressing. Ladies are not so different that our introduction will fundamentally change anything. As Cynthia Nixon said, “when women got the vote, they did not redefine voting. When African-Americans got the right to sit at a lunch counter alongside white people, they did not redefine eating out. They were simply invited to the table.”

On TV, there are not a ton of women at the table. Sure, there are shows with women, but I can’t think of a single show where there’s a woman action hero (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” being a notable exception, and that has been off the air for a long time). It’s not because women don’t like action. It’s because TV execs are afraid that men won’t watch shows with women heroes as leads. They have to be companions or they have to be sexy (aka man-friendly, like Scarlett Johansson’s “Black Widow”). Otherwise men will be threatened or worse, bored.

I want to give men much more credit than that. I had a (straight, macho) male friend in college who loved “Sex and the City”. Why? Because it was hilarious. It was well-written and clever, and he could see past the fact the protagonist didn’t share his genitalia. But SATC showed girls doing girly stuff, you say. What happens when they are fighting bad guys and karate-kicking and stuff? I truly think men can handle it. I happen to know and love a lot of men, and I have faith in them. Dr. Who has great writing. It’s good TV. And it will remain good TV, even if there’s a lady doctor.

Seeing yourself onscreen is powerful. I volunteer with teens, and I can’t tell you how many times one of them has said to me “seeing Kurt Hummel and Santana Lopez on Glee (a gay man and a lesbian woman, respectively)  gave me the courage to be myself/not commit suicide”.  Having someone you can identify with, root for, and strive to be on TV gives us hopes and aspirations. And it shows us that we are not alone. Men, you have a lot of heroes already. You have Don Draper and Sherlock Holmes and most of the cops on Law & Order and all of those sword fighting dudes on “Game of Thrones” and tons of others I can’t name because I don’t actually watch a ton of TV (but I would, if I had more heroes to admire). Can you share just this one with us? Give us a chance to have an ass-kicking hero? Don’t worry, you’ll love cheering for the Companions.

TV has undergone a lot of changes. I am amazed (and proud) at the variety of characters I see on TV now versus the lineup I watched as a kid. But it’s not through evolving. And it needs to continue to evolve. It’s time for a female Doctor. And to all the haters, I say, you will survive this. We’ve got an Asian, female John Watson on “Elementary” and the world hasn’t ended. But it’s time for this stodgy tradition to end-and I hope that Gatiss and Moffat are savvy enough (and brave enough) to realize it.
See you Friday, where I will actually review “Wide Awake” by David Levithan (a week late is better than never, right?)




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Taking Your Novel to the Backyard, Again: Writing a Synopsis

Happy Monday!

It’s pouring rain here in Boston-perfect blogging weather! It’s been about a month since I had a Monday post, so I want to make this one extra special. A few items before the main post:

1) My brilliant sister has started a nonprofit theater company! And they’re performing at the Midtown Fringe Festival in Manhattan! Here’s their fb page: They are raising money to be able to put on the play and they could use your help. Even ten bucks makes a big difference! Please consider donating: I will be eternally grateful. In fact, if you do donate, leave a comment here and I will send you baked goods! No joke. Cookies, philanthropy, and top-notch theater…what could be better?

2) I just finished Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” last night. And Oh. My. Gosh. I won’t write on it for Friday Book Club, since it’s not YA, but it was gorgeous and heartbreaking. I am an omnivore when it comes to books-there’s almost nothing I will refuse to read. My heart belongs to YA as you know-it’s my staple diet. But an excellent classic for me is like a rare, aged cheese-it is so rich and delicious that you’ll barf if you eat it all the time, but every so often, it can elevate you to a higher plane and change you. (Yes, I DO love cheese that much!) So, do yourselves a favor and revisit (or discover) a classic this month in between all your lovely YA. You will be glad you did!

Okay, on to the writing stuff.

You know how I mentioned early on the Truman Capote quote about how finishing a book is like taking it into the backyard and shooting it? Well, apparently that’s not a one-time thing. Because in order to get my book published, I’ve decided to try and get an agent. And in order to get an agent, I have to write a query letter.

What’s a query letter, you ask? Well, it’s just a fancy word for a cover letter that’s specifically tailored towards agents.  There are many excellent websites and postings on how exactly to write a query letter, so I won’t try to reproduce them here. But Google will hook you up if you want specifics.

Each agent (or agency) has very specific requirements for their submissions. Read them very carefully-you don’t want to get your book ignored before anyone’s even looked at it just because you sent them 5 pages instead of 10!  So make sure that you know precisely what each agent is looking for.

I’ve found something that most agents want is a synopsis of your book. Synopsis, I thought, I can do that! Easy-peasy. But it turns out that a synopsis is a term of art here meaning a 3-5 page summary of all the action and major characters in your work. (So a wikipedia paragraph, for example, is not quite enough.) Again, more specifics can be found on the internet. So, I sat down to write a synopsis for my lovely book and…I sat there. Stumped. As I tried to re-tell my book to myself, I realized that the actual plot doesn’t make a ton of sense. Sure, it’s character-driven, so much of the action is internal, but even then…I wrote a lot of pretty scenes that have no linear progression. Harsh.

So, I took my characters and my general plot and I wrote a kick-ass synopsis for the book I should have written. It took FOREVER. It was amazing-without all my flowery prose in the way, it was easy to spot a “whoa, that makes no sense” and “why would she do that?” plotline. I continually edited and revised it. It took me several hours. But, when I was done, I had a tighly-crafted, no-holes plot that made sense. The synopsis sounded like a book I’d very much like to read.

So, now I’m back to the drawing (or writing) board. But, this time, I have a skeleton in place, I just need to flesh it out. I have a feeling that the work will go much faster now.

Takeaway? I’m not sure. I feel like I should say “I will totally write an outline before I start my next novel! It will make things so much cleaner and I’ll be a better writer!” But I feel like I had to meander through two drafts to get to know my characters and their troubles. If I had an outline from the start, maybe it would have been too…easy? I have to think about this one for a while. To use my skeleton/flesh analogy, I feel like writing without an outline is like conjuring flesh and bone together without a plan. I might get (and probably will get) Frankenstein’s monster. But I could also accidentally make some wings or a mermaid’s tail.

What do people think about this? Do you always write with an outline anyway? I imagine people who write thrillers with twists and turns need an outline and this is a problem unique to romances/character-driven stuff. Should I try it next time and see how it goes?

Until next time, keep taking chances, making mistakes, and getting messy! (I am going to appropriate this from Ms. Frizzle. I’m certain she won’t mind.)




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