Month: July 2014

Reminder to self

don't-censor-imagination

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Jennifer Weiner on writing, feminism, and her daughters

Last month, I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to go see Jennifer Weiner at Joseph-Beth Booksellers. I needed a little pick-me-up, and there’s something so inspiring about watching an author interact with her fans. Especially when the author is as smart, funny, and genuine as Jennifer.

Jennifer Weiner at Joseph-Beth 002

 Highlights:

  • “I think it would probably be easier to get my books made into movies if they were about skinny women falling in love … but that’s just not what speaks to me.”
  • She writes to explore topics and themes, not promote a specific viewpoint.
  • That said, feminism definitely informs her characters. They live “realized feminist lives” — with choices — and those choices have consequences.
  • “We live in a world where, if you’re a woman who expresses a strong opinion, there are 3 possible responses:
    (1) I agree.
    (2) I disagree.
    (3) You should be raped and murdered.”
  • Someone asked Jennifer when she felt that she had “made it.” She said it wasn’t when she got a book deal, or a starred review, or even when she hit the bestseller list. It was when she championed Sarah Pekkanen’s debut and helped Sarah hit the bestseller list. Jennifer said she felt her own success most strongly when she helped others achieve their dreams.
  • “To be a writer, you have to have thick skin, but you also have to be exquisitely sensitive.”
  • Last but not least…

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Stuff worth reading

“A Letter to Aspiring-Writer-Me from Debut-Novelist-Me” by Natalia Sylvester

Looking back, the moments you’re most proud of won’t be your big successes; they’ll be your biggest failures, and the fact that you kept going in spite of them.

Your book may be your whole world, but to the whole world it is a book.

“On Marriage :: A Year Later” by Lisa Congdon

I will do everything in my power to protect this person from pain, comfort this person in her grief, love this person with every bone of my body, honor this person in every way possible, and to be absolutely truthful to this person.

“For Love or Money (And If You Do It Right, BOTH): Choosing a Career in Art” by Greg Ruth

Value what you do, and fight for its value. If you don’t do this then how can anyone else? Don’t wait hidden in some ancient cave like a treasure to be discovered one day, get out there and make yourself present and get discovered. That said, you don’t need to be a dumbass about it. There is a tangible difference between ego and self-worth. Fighting for a better page rate reasonably is different than refusing to do a book tour unless you get a limo. Being an artist is a natural declaration of hubris, and you will be reminded of this by friends and family more than you’d like. Don’t take it too seriously, but don’t undervalue it either. It matters because it matters to you — it doesn’t need to matter to a million others to have value.

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A wolf grows up

Confession: If I’m a bit quiet lately, it’s due to wedding planning. Everyone warned me that this would be a stressful process, but I thought that by choosing something small, quiet, and suited to me, I could escape the drama. Unfortunately, I was wrong. The concept of a wedding is all tied up with tradition, family, and culture — beautiful, powerful things — and some people have very strong opinions about what a wedding should be. Disagreements quickly dissolve into emotional tailspins. They create canyons in what you thought was solid earth. They pose problems that don’t always have easy solutions — or maybe no solutions at all.

As I try (and sometimes fail) to deal with all of that, I find myself thinking about the short story “St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves” by Karen Russell. In it, a group of human girls and boys are born to wolves. The wolves love their children, and take care of them for a while, but eventually they allow the kids to be taken away and raised by humans, because that’s what they think would be best. Despite some initial fears and sorrow, most of the kids do adapt, and even become happy. Then, at the end of the story, one girl goes back to see her wolf parents, and only then does she understand the gulf between where she came from and who she is now.

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