Thursday, October 25, 2012

Interview at Count My Stars!

Elizabeth Thurmond, amazing writer and pop culture aficionado, interviewed me today on her blog, Count My Stars, for her feature, Woman Writer Wednesday!

Check it out!  Thanks so much for featuring me, Liz! I am honored to be part of your blog.


Friday, October 12, 2012

To thine own self be true

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Ah, Will Shakespeare can turn a phrase, can't he?  The above is from "Hamlet," Polonius to his son, Laertes.

Much has been made lately of authors writing to their young selves. There's even a collection of letters from famous authors to their teen selves, "The Letter Q."  This one is in regard to sexual orientation but there are others, plus blog posts galore, many inspired by Oprah Winfrey.

You know what I'd tell my younger self? Be true to yourself. Be honest about what you really love.  Don't waste time on things and people you don't feel passion for. It's not like I'm telling Teen Leigh to be all Goth or not to drink or want to hang out with the popular kids. But Teen Leigh definitely had a dark streak, one that she didn't think she should have - or had a right to have. In her mind, people who liked reading horror or science fiction, who imagined impossible worlds and insane characters, were people who had unusual past lives, who experienced trauma or abuse or other hardships.  Girls who grew up in middle class households and attended women's colleges, who danced and studied hard, generally and generically speaking, "good girls," didn't like those things.

For much of her life, that Teen Leigh's "preferred" thoughts prevailed and the things she liked and dreamt about were pushed aside.  She felt false a lot of the time but then the fake truth became kind of real. Until now.

While I am super proud of having been published by a big publisher and I love seeing my books on library shelves, I don't think Teen Leigh would have read them.  She haunted the stacks for creepier reads, for uneven books, messy books, stories that didn't have happy endings and whose narrators were good people who went bad. Lots of middle-aged people will tell you the same thing, "Never regret. Do what you love." That's because, when you reach a certain place in your life, you can see the end of the tunnel. You don't want to spend one minute more doing something you don't like.

Writers are told all the time that they should only write what they love. Part of the reason for that is that it takes a long time to write a book and you will spend many, many hours with your characters. But the other part of it is that you can only write passionately and honestly about things you truly love. As I explore darker elements in my stories, characters and situations that I might not have written about in the past, I am finally finding the passion that was missing.  I love what I'm writing,  I love what I'm doing.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

CBS News Anchor Talks about Bullying On-Air

This is anchorwoman Jennifer Livingston of the CBS affiliate WKBT in LA Crosse, Wisconsin. In this video she confronts a cyber-bully who sent her an email telling her she was no role model because she was "obese." The man talked only about her looks, her outward appearance, she says in this video, and not about what is inside her.  She reminds us that October is Anti-Bullying Month and she reaches out to all kids who might be bullied because of their size, sexual preference, disability, etc. She encourages them to reject their bullies' definitions of them.

I love that her approach is nether strident nor a plea for acceptance.  She is frank and honest and sharp in her words.  She does not become an "emotional female" when discussing her weight; in fact, she does not discuss her weight at all. That is exactly her point: her weight is not a topic of discussion or speculation for anyone outside her family or circle of friends. Case closed.

Another very good point she makes is that attitudes like this have a trickle down effect.  When someone in your household voices the opinion that fat people are bad (or gay people are bad or the disabled, and so on), then the members of that household internalize the opinion and take it away with them.  They might go to school and see someone who is overweight, call them fat, call them bad. She turns the tables on her cyber-bully and tells him that he is no role model if this is how he talks about other people.

Like most women, I am sensitive to weight(y) issues and I am always watching certain industries in which women's weight is particularly noted, like on-air journalism, acting, modeling, and so on. I'd like to believe my characters in FAT GIRLS IN LA would respond like Jennifer Livingston does.  She not only takes the high road with dignity but delivers her message to everyone, not just her bully.