Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Happy Jewish American Heritage Month

So I didn't know this til just now (whoops, bad Jew!), but May is Jewish American Heritage Month. And for this third annual celebration, the Jewish Women's Archive is partnering with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) to launch This Day of Jewish American Heritage, a daily online feature that connects every day in May to significant moments in American Jewish history.

Not surprisingly, the month of May encompasses a broad range of achievements of American Jewish women including: 19th century stage performer Adah Isaacs Menken, Beverly Sills, Ayn Rand, Susan Sontag, labor activist Bessie Abramowitz Hillman, pioneering political advisor Belle Moskowitz, and comedian Gilda Radner. And, yes, the birth of The Settlement Cookbook--a book my mother gave me, if I recall, when she packed me off to college.

The Jewish Women's Archive and JTA will be featuring This Day of Jewish American Heritage on their websites and are also offering its content as a badge (pictured left) that features each day's historical event. This badge can be placed on your personal or organizational website/blog and will link back to the Jewish Women's Archive's website for a full description of each date's event. Cool, huh? I had the chance to meet Judith Rosenbaum, Director of Education at the JWA, when I spoke in Cambridge earlier this month and she's, as the kids say, the bomb. Love what they're doing over there.

To find out more, contact Ari Davidow: adavidow@jwa.org, 617-383-6766.

Mariam and Me

Just wanted to share this pic of Mariam Chamberlain at her 90th birthday party with the young folk who worked with her over the years at the National Council for Research on Women. Amazing woman, I swear. (Thanks, Gwen, for taking pix!)

Feminist Apologies

There's been a lot of discussion around feminism and racism in the feminist blogosphere of late, and for those wanting a primer on what's been going on, you can check out Jessica Valenti's apology over at feministing, Seal Press editors' apology over at the Seal Press Women's Interest blog, and important commentary from women of color bloggers including Racialicious, The Angry Black Woman, for starters.

While the issues are REAL, many who know Jessica (myself included) feel that she has been the target of some undue criticism (though also some that's merited, as she herself acknowledges). While the context is different, I still can't help but think about the trashing that went on in the 1970s when a "leader" in the movement emerged.

It's complicated, I know, but oh how history repeats.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Linkety link link...

I promised participants from my blogging workshop at CCF last weekend that I'd post a list of the links we showed. Here they are - have at 'em, and enjoy!

Blogs mentioned by participants...
The Juggle (Wall Street Journal's work/life blog)
Yarn Harlot
So When Are You Going to Retire (Ashton Applewhite's blog)
Viva La Feminista (Veronica Arreola's personal blog)

A few big progressivey political blogs…
Huffington Post
AlterNet

A sampling of the Momosphere…
Chicago Moms Blog
Work It Mom
The Motherhood

A few group blogs...
BlogHer
WIMNsVoicesBlog

A few blogs to check out by academics…
BitchPhD
Feminist Law Professors
Afrogeek Mom
Hugo Schywzer
Culture Cat

Blog hosting:
Blogger
Wordpress

Widgets (aka bells & whistles):
Springwidgets

Carnivals:
Carnival List

Blog readers (to simplify your blog reading):
Bloglines
Google Reader

And of course, Google Alerts (caution: ADDICTIVE)

If I missed any that participants would like to add, please add them in comments! (And if you're still working on figuring out what that means, learn how to post a comment by clicking here.)

Bella to Hillary...and Beyond

I've spent much of April saying yes to saying no. After a grueling (but wildly fun) March, April 1st commenced my month of slowing-it-down. I said no to coffee, no to many events, and no, ultimately, to all the things that distract me from getting my writing done. But when my colleagues at the Women's Media Center sent over a comped invite to a panel at The Paley Center for Media last Thursday, I jumped. Just couldn't pass up a chance to hear ladies like Gloria Steinem, Suzanne Braun Levine, Mary Thom, Patricia Mitchell, Carol Jenkins, and Marlene Sanders pontificate on women, media, and politics, "From Bella to Hillary," as it were.

Listening to the panel was a great cap to the speaking I've been doing of late with my fellow WomenGirlsLadies. It confirmed and inspired.

Confirmed: Women in this country have a long, long way to go. (We're 71st in the world in terms of representation of women in positions of political power; we occupy a whopping 3% of the clout positions in media over here, oh boy.) The program included a clip from an early women's movement documentary, "The Hand That Rocks the Ballot Box," and much of the cry then is the same as it is now. As Lily Tomlin proclaimed in another clip from a 1992 PSA that was shown, women in this country have a better chance of getting into another galaxy then Congress--where, in 2008, we're still only at 16%.

Inspired: Gloria Steinem spoke of the variety and differences within the women's movement, and how we're still dealing with a lack of full and nuanced tellings when it comes to telling the story of that movement's past. "First a movement is a hula hoop," she said. It's ridiculed by the press, and then it quickly becomes Not News. What was missed in that cursory coverage, she noted, was the role women of color played in shaping the movement of the '60s and '70s. Take Fannie Lou Hamer, a founder of the National Women's Political Caucus and the first woman to come forward against forced steralization. While Hamer is remembered as a Civil Rights movement champion of voter registration, her role in the women's movement is underplayed.

"Whitemiddleclass became like one key on the typewriter, used to devalue the women's movement in the media at large," said Steinem. And that's the version we next-generation feminists imbibed wholesale too, I might add. I'm looking forward to the forthcoming scholarship that's bound to unleash a wider range of tellings, scholarship I know from various sources is well underway.

During the Q&A, I asked panelists for their thoughts on how we might capitalize on the outrage women feel about how Hillary has been treated by the media. It's an outrage transcends candidate support and transcends age. No clear answers emerged, but all agreed that we need to channel it into harnessing votes against the hardly-woman-friendly John McCain. I look forward to figuring that out together as the general election nears.

EVENT: Condi and Other Powerhouses to Speak at Girls School

This just in:

The Castilleja School, the 100-year-old middle and high school for girls in Palo Alto, is bringing globally recognized business, scholars, and national political leaders to its campus for a symposium on “Power,” on Saturday, May 3rd. Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice; President and CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Mark Hurd; Former Clinton Economic Advisor, Laura Tyson; Princeton’s Dean of its Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Anne-Marie Slaughter, will be among other distinguished speakers presenting and discussing their views of leadership and power shifts in the 21st Century.

For more info, contact Dana Sundblad, 650-740-7748, Dana_Sundblad@Castilleja.org

(Thanks to Jolie for the heads up!)

Monday, April 28, 2008

Fresh Talk about Sex

It's amazing to me how little research exists on teenage and young adult sexuality in contrast to all the hot media air the topic seems to inspire. At this weekend's Council on Contemporary Families Conference in Chicago, I had a chance to listen in as journalists and sex researchers shared their latest thinking on hook ups, the orgasm gap, and girls gone wild.

Hook ups, argued Deb Tolman, founder of the Center for Research on Gender and Sexuality at San Francisco State and a scholar of adolescent sexuality, follow a rather male model of sexual behavior. Friends-with-benefits do not a "relationship" make, and hookups are supposed to occur without those nasty little things called "feelings" getting the way. How did that model get so broadly accepted as ok?, Tolman wanted to know. She added that the question of what "good sex" means is still up for grabs. Who decides? Is it always about orgasms? Kids need adults to talk openly about sexual pleasure in concrete terms.

But back to hookups. At the same time that hookups are part of kids' sexual landscape, they are not the landscape in its entirety. Tolman reminded the crowd that the recent emphasis on hooking up overlooks the fact that coupledom still exists. Couples just ain't sexy news. Pepper Schwartz later noted that relationships during adolescence were NEVER easy. So if we're saying hookups are bad, what are we comparing them to? Young people today get more intimacy from each other than in days of yore. And perhaps that's not such a bad thing after all.

Tolman feels strongly that the topic of teen sexuality has been reductively portrayed, fueled by moral panic. Laura Sessions Stepp, author of Unhooked, bypassed this (veiled?) critique of her recent work, concentrating instead on the downsides of hooking up. "Young women say they don't have time for relationships, so they play at relationships -- faux ones, aka hook ups -- while they're busy getting everything else done," said Stepp.

And then came the larger frame. Stanford researcher Paula England commented that we've had a sexual revolution without much of a gender revolution in the bedroom. The focus in sex is still, often, male pleasure (orgasm gap being alive and well) and there's a double standard about women initiating both dates and sex. Compare this to the gender revolution we've made in the realms of jobs and education. With sex, we're still a bit in the dark ages.

England drew on findings from the College Social Life Study, which gathered quantitative data from students at Stanford and Indiana and qualitative data from an online study. According to the numbers, hookups do NOT threaten relationships. It's true that most hookups don't lead to relationships, but it's also true that most relationships are preceded by hookups. When asked if they want to marry someday, under 2% of young women and men said NO; 98% said YES.

As the panel reached its close, my crew--late 30something/early 40something academic women--whispered conspiratorily amongst ourselves. "And what about hook ups in your 30s?" we asked, directed at nobody in particular. After all, hook ups are how many of us grown ups begin our long-term relationships these days. And I'm here to say hook ups ain't all bad. Heck, I'm marrying mine!

For more on the CCF conference, see coverage in Saturday's USA Today and Chicago Tribune.

Links from CCF Blogging Session Coming Soon!

Greetings to all those from the Council on Contemporary Families conference who are new to GWP! As promised, I'll be posting links from my session on blogging in this space soon. Stay tuned...!

Friday, April 25, 2008

My Whereabouts

Last night I heard amazing ladies--Laura Flanders, Carol Jenkins, Gloria Steinem, Marlene Sanders, Mary Thom, Marie Wilson, Pat Mitchell, and newfound friend Suzanne Braun Levine--talk about women, media and politics ("From Bella to Hillary") at The Paley Center. I promise promise promise to post about it early next week.

I'm rushing off to catch my plane for Chicago, where I'll be doing a blogging workshop at the Council on Contemporary Families Conference (with the help of blogger extraordinaire Veronica Arreola). If the conference venue is wired, I'll try to do some live-blogging from the conference, but if not, I'll be back over here on Monday of course.

Meanwhile, tonight kicks off the second class of Progressive Women's Voices back in NYC and I'm only bummed I won't be in town to join them all for dinner. (The WMC crew are now accepting apps for the 3rd class, btw, so if you didn't make it this time, you can try again!)

And on a personal note, my parents are currently in Turkey, teaching therapists over there and getting hot stone massages. Not that I'm jealous or anything.

Happy spring weekends to all...!

Vroom Vroom....

Rushing off to catch a plane, but some quick news tidbits to share before I go, courtesy of Rebekah S:


Girl racers in USA Today:
They thrive in the vast proving ground of the hugely popular sport of auto racing, where girls learn to drive by the age of 5 and go from zero to 80 by the age of 12. The vehicles they are racing are go-karts, not cars, but they are driving nonetheless. For them, the phrase "woman driver" is not another era's term of derision. It's simply the job title they covet.

40+ women in NY Times: Interview with some boldface names about their new Internet company, Women on the Web, or wowOwow.com. The site, a dishy, uncensored, freewheeling version of The View is their effort to create an online forum for women over 40 interested in smart discussions. (Oh my gosh - that's almost me)

FMLA in Washington Post: This year marks the 15th anniversary of the landmark Family and Medical Leave Act, which made it possible for many workers to take unpaid job-protected time off to care for their newborn children or sick relatives. But instead of celebrating, workers' rights advocates and the Bush administration are battling over what would be the most sweeping revisions ever to the law.

Variety: GLAAD Media Awards reality TV nominees - Gay Characters Just Another Slice Of Life

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Take Your Kid to Work Day - Pro or Con?

Well, today is Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, an event I've long thought a brilliant conception--especially when it used to be just for girls. But I get it, I get it, esp. when it's a case of boys seeing Mommy at Work. According to the official literature, the day is designed to be more than a career day:
For over 15 years, the program’s development of new, interactive activities and partnerships has helped us in taking girls and boys to the future they dream of.

This year's program theme, “Making Choices for a Better World,” centers on "encouraging girls and boys to consider the options they have and make choices for a better world. This means making choices to serve the community and one's family, to care for one's body and health, and to make better choices that impact our environment, as well as one's future."
Cool. And how can you argue with that. But still, I can't help but feel the language lost something in the translation from daughters to daughters and sons--and you know what an advocate I am for including boys/men in the feminist conversation.

Helaine Olen (co-author of Office Mate: The Employee Handbook for Finding and Managing Romance on the Job and a contributor to the forthcoming book The Maternal Is Political) has a different bone to pick, and I'm not sure how I feel about her critique. Helaine rails against it in a piece in Newsday, writing:
If the past is any guide, several million children nationwide will accompany their parents to work today, participating in the annual rite of spring known as Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. Moms and dads across the United States will allow their kids to play in their offices, running through cube farms and "assisting" at cash registers, all in the name of breaking down the mystique that exists between work and family.

Yet in a world of home offices, moms on the playground taking business calls by cell phone, and dads answering queries on their BlackBerries at school events, it's quite likely that children are all too aware of the importance of paid employment to their parents. What they really need is a lesson in the value of taking time to kick back and relax.
She goes on to call for an official event to teach America's children about the importance of downtime, concluding: "We can call it Let Your Daughters and Sons See Mom and Dad Do Absolutely Nothing Day. Any takers?"

Now, I'm not a parent (yet) so maybe I'm off kilter here. But I still think the event is a good idea. What do y'all think - especially you parents out there? Is it a good thing, or a pain? Did it lose something in the translation when it switched to include boys? What's been the experience of folks who've done it?

If I had a kid and I took them to work today, they'd be spending the entire day in Starbucks, watching mommy type. Thrilling, no doubt.

CFP: A Radical Chicken Soup for the Feminist Soul

I just learned about a new project from Think Girl: "I Was There: Stories from the Feminist Front." Think Girl's Executive Director Sarah Morgan explains that she was inspired to begin this project after reading Susan Brownmiller's description of her work on reproductive rights during the Roe v Wade fight. Writes Sarah, "Her first person account of rallying, flyering, marching and, finally, celebrating struck a cord with me and I wanted to read more." After reading The Feminist Memoir Project: Voices from Women's Liberation, she decided she wanted to deepen the dialogue on feminism and anti-racism, to cull past and present stories of activism, and to bridge generational divides between feminists.

In this spirit, Think Girl is asking women of all ages, races and backgrounds to submit stories of their work as activists for women's issues. (Think: A Radical Chicken Soup for the Feminist Soul.) Their hope is that first person stories of strength, perseverance and courage will serve as inspiration to women and girls as they continue their work in or enter the movement.

Stories will be posted weekly at ThinkGirl.net, and they also aim to publish a collection of these stories.

So what's Think Girl, you ask? Here's a bit about them:

Locally, Think Girl bridges women in Metro Detroit: women of all races and ethnicities, of low- and middle-income, of all body abilities, of spiritual and secular beliefs, and from Detroit and the suburbs. They present educational workshops for preteen girls on media literacy and body image, women's history and feminism, and challenging stereotypes. Think Girl believes in feminist activism that is both global and local. We aim to center women of color in our dialogues and activism, and to represent the ways in which all social justice movements intersect.. Globally, our web site links activists with women's news, educational resources, and personal writings. We hope to help girls and women understand feminism's past and present, and encourage them to contribute to its future. We are co-organizing The Feminist Summit, a national conference coming to Detroit in May 2009.

More info here.

New at New Moon

This just in, from my friends at New Moon:

25 Girls Nominate Themselves As Most Beautiful...Just They Way They Are.

Eighty percent of 10-year-old American girls diet. The number one magic wish for young girls age 11-17 is to be thinner. (justthink.org) Studies show that reading "teen magazines" and having exposure to thin models creates lower self esteem, body dissatisfaction, decreased confidence and potential eating disorder symptoms in young girls (mediafamily.org)

By age 13, approximately 53% of American girls are "unhappy with their bodies". This number will increase to 78% once girls reach 17 years of age. (National Institute on Media and the Family)

In the May/June 2008 25 Beautiful Girls issue of New Moon, the magazine puts a new twist on the annual theme by asking girls to nominate themselves as beautiful girls. The magazine entitled Toot Your Own Horn, features twenty-five girls from around the country who wrote essays explaining what makes them beautiful. The issue brings together compelling evidence of the ability for girls to see themselves for who they really are...and find it beautiful. Nominations for the 2009 "25 Beautiful Girls" issue are due by September 15, 2008. For more information visit, www.newmoonmagazine.org.

And BTW, New Moon is sweeping up awards. The mag recently received the 2008 Parents' Choice Gold Award for best children's magazine and has garnered nine Parent's Choice Foundation Awards, five Educational Press Association of America Design and Editorial Awards, a National Association for Multicultural Education award, a Folio Award and the Association of Educational Publishers prestigious Golden Lamp Award in 2006.

Equal Pay Day Passes...Unnoticed?

While we were all focused on PA, the Republicans were busy filibustering to prevent a vote on the Fair Pay Act. NOW has been tirelessly fighting for this on all of our behalf. As Kim Gandy tells it, there's nothing new in this bill. Writes Kim, "The Fair Pay Act just gives women back the rights that the Supreme Court took away last May. Simple, right?" For the latest, which isn't good, click here.

And do check out the interview with Lily Ledbetter in TAP. Here's the preamble:
Of all the appalling decisions the Roberts Court issued last year, one of the worst was the 5-4 ruling in Ledbetter v. Goodyear, which gutted the equal-pay provisions of the Civil Rights Act and overturned a decades-old employment-law precedent.

The plaintiff, Lilly Ledbetter, worked for nearly two decades at a Goodyear Tire plant in Gadsden, Alabama. She brought an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint against Goodyear after she discovered that for years she had been paid less than male co-workers with the same job. The justices ruled that employees can only file a wage-discrimination complaint within 180 days of when the payroll decision was made.

After the Supreme Court issued its decision, which leaves women and minorities in Ledbetter's situation with no recourse, congressional Democrats pledged to pass legislation that would give employees two years to file a complaint, in accordance with the law before the Supreme Court issued its decision. The Senate is considering the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act this week, and TAP talked with Ledbetter, who was in Washington to push for the bill's passage.

Read the interview here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

You Always Remember Your First Time...

I just saw a clip from The League of First Time Voters on CNN and must say I'm impressed with what CNN is doing over there. I just watched a panel of young women -- first time voters, all -- talk with the host about the issues. Nice site. I urge folks to check it out.

Pennsylvania Recap

Quick hit post-game coverage of yesterday's results:

Allison Stevens at Women's eNews ("Women's Vote Gives Clinton Pennsylvania Win") notes, "White women went particularly strong for Clinton, with 64 percent backing Clinton and 36 percent for Obama." And goes on to quote Ellen Bravo: "'Some of it is gender identity and some of it is admiring her on other grounds,' said Ellen Bravo, an Obama supporter who is former director of 9to5, the National Association of Working Women, an advocacy group in Milwaukee. 'Some of it may also be race. I don't think it's so simple.'" Obama, in turn, drew heavy female support from African-American, young and anti-war women.

PunditMom shares insights culled from Pennsylvania college students.

And over at Addie Stan, some folks just want to Make. It. Stop.

Happy 90th, Mariam Chamberlain!

Last night I informally celebrated the 90th birthday of one of my mentors and guides: Mariam Chamberlain, founding president of the National Council for Research on Women, major funder of women's studies back when she was at the Ford Foundation, economist at Harvard from the days when women didn't do such things. Mariam was surrounded by the young women who know and love her from our various stints working at the Council. (I worked there for two years straight outa college, and then returned for another round after I finished my PhD.) When conversation came round to the election, my favorite response came from friend and former colleague Gwendolyn Beetham, who simply said: "I'm for whoever is going to be McCain." After amazing lemon cake from Buttercup, all rushed home to watch the returns.

To Mariam (who is on email daily): May your 90th year be filled with hope, love, continued faith in the vitality of a women's movement in all its flavors, and a candidate who can beat McCain.

Now Booking for Fall: Talkin 'bout My Generation

All this generational conversation of late has made me want to take action and create more space for young people to speak their mind. So come fall, I'll be taking it to the campuses some more. If interested in bringing me to yours, please do get in touch! Here's the blurb:

Talkin 'bout My Generation: Youth, Gender, Race and the 2008 Election

Young voters—and female ones in particular—have been the subject of heated debate in an election where race and gender matter like never before. But what do young voters really think about gender, feminism, race, and the Presidential election? In this talk, feminist author/cultural critic Deborah Siegel sheds fresh light on media myths and real-life generational rifts that surfaced during primary season. Join Deborah for a lively, interactive forum in which members of the so-called postfeminist, post-Civil Rights generation are invited to freely speak their minds.

For more info, please contact Speaking Matters at info@speakingmatters.org.

Image cred

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Join Me @ Woodhull Nonfiction Writers Intensive

For anyone who has taken my "Making It Pop: Translating Your Research for Trade" workshops, here's a great way to keep it going: I'll be doing a day-long workshop on nonfiction book proposals at Woodhull's upcoming writers' retreat. Tell them Girl with Pen sent you and receive a $50 discount. Details below.

Raise Your Voices: An Intensive Nonfiction Writing Retreat for Women
May 9 - 11
(Retreat starts Friday at 1PM and ends Sunday at 3PM)
Ancramdale, New York

Why: Women are underrepresented as nonfiction authors and opinion writers. In a long weekend of writing instruction and one-on-one critique, participants gain fundamental knowledge of: Op-ed pieces, features, book proposals and pitching ideas. Tuition covers lodging at Woodhull Institute retreat house, food and materials.

More info here. Contact: Elizabeth Curtis at ecurtis@woodhull.org

Family Issues of the Non-Feminist-Generational Kind

This weekend I'll be at the Council on Contemporary Families 11th Annual Conference (April 25-26) in my sweet home Chicago, where I can't wait to hang with all those CCFers board members I know and love--Virginia Rutter, Stephanie Coontz, Steve Mintz, and more. If in Chicago, come join me! I'll be giving a workshop on blogging on Saturday (10:45-12:45), with the help of Veronica Aerrola, who prolifically blogs here, here, here, and here. My session's aimed at researchers and therapists and is called "What You Need to Know about Blogging and Why."

And here's more:

CCF 11th Annual Conference
Family Issues in Contention
University of Illinois, Chicago (Room 605, Student Center East)
750 South Halsted

Featuring:

-- A panel on the "hooking-up" patterns of today's youth, with new
research and commentators from diverse perspectives on the impact of these practices.

-- Another workshop on the controversial question, "Is Transracial and
Transnational Adoption the Right Policy for Parents? Children? Society?"

-- Still another panel of demographers and clinical psychologists examines whether cohabitation is "good" for love or for marriage.

-- And the latest thoughts of researchers and clinicians on whether unhappy couples should divorce of "stick it out."

Full conference program available here. To register, visit www.contemporaryfamilies.org . Press may receive complimentary registration by contacting Stephanie Coontz, Director of Research and Public Education, at coontzs@msn.com.

Monday, April 21, 2008

A Book to Soothe the Mother-Daughter Soul?

Well if this isn't the most timely book ever published, I don't know what is. Deborah Carr, a brilliant sociologist at Rutgers, has teamed up with journalist Julie Halpert to write Making Up with Mom: Why Mothers and Daughters Disagree About Kids, Careers, and Casseroles (and What to Do About It). If they had timed it a bit differently, they could have easily added "and Candidates" to the subtitle. The book shows how generational differences in women's lives have created (fixable) frictions between Gen X/Boomer women and their moms. I like the emphasis on "fixable."

Here's from the book description:
Young women today have infinitely more options than their mothers and grandmothers did decades ago. “Should I become a doctor, a writer, or a stay-at-home mom?” “Should I get married or live with my boyfriend?” “Do I want children?” Women in their twenties, thirties, and forties today are wrestling with life-altering decisions about work and family—and they need all the support they can get.

But the very person whose support they crave most—their mother—often can’t get on board, and a rift is created between the two generations, even for women who have always had a strong relationship.

A mother’s simple question, like “How can you trust a nanny to watch your children all day?” can bring her poised, accomplished CEO daughter to tears, or provoke a nasty response more suitable to a surly teenager than a leader of industry. Why can’t mothers and daughters today see eye to eye when it comes to important choices about love, work, children, money, and personal fulfillment? Why does a mother’s approval matter so much, even to the most confident and self-possessed daughter? And when daughters choose paths different from their mothers’, why is it so painful for the older generation?

Making Up with Mom answers these important questions by focusing on three core issues: dating/marriage, career, and child rearing. Relying on interviews with nearly a hundred mothers and daughters, and offering helpful tips from more than two dozen therapists, Julie Halpert and Deborah Carr explore a wide range of communication issues and how to resolve them, so mothers and daughters everywhere can reclaim their loving relationships. This enlightening book is a must-read for all women today.

The perfect gift for Mother's Day?! The authors will be reading at Barnes & Noble in North Brunswick on Tuesday May 20 at 7:30 p.m. For more, check out www.makingupwithmom.com.

Sanity, Thy Name is Gloria Feldt

Gloria Feldt is a sanity-inducing voice in the midst of the generational snarkfest that's currently going on. I'm sharing her comment on my last post here, as a post, because I wonder if I ever shy away from the flames of controversy just a wee bit too much. (Hmm...paging Dr. Freud!)

I truly believe in engaging debate and viciously hate the anger-filled tone that debate seems to have taken on of late. Doth Girl with Pen protest too much? I'd be curious to hear what others think about tactics for airing differences. How do we clear a space for argument, as Gloria urges below, in a way that genuinely moves debate forward? (And doesn't this image of Gloria on an IPOD just make your day?)

In any event, one of the many things I value about Gloria is her ability to engage--meaning debate and differ--with younger generations while maintaining a deep sense of respect. And here she is:
Deborah-
I couldn't agree more with your suggested course of action to defeat McCain together. That's the job #1 of all feminists for sure.

At the same time, I want to put in a good word for engaging the debate even when it is with gloves off. I suggest that what women need most is to learn how to engage vigorously and constructively without being turned off or frightened off.

Like you, I believe we shouldn't trash each other, but (probably because I've had lots of experience with hardknuckle conflict and know that one lives to tell the tale--and even learns and grows stronger from it), I think we need to clear a space for arguing about the issues together with the goal of not just understanding but making concrete plans to go forward on matters like winning the general election.

Every generation has to speak in its own tongue. We don't have to be angry with one another to air our differences.
Gloria Feldt

The Beat Goes On...and On...

Just read a post over at the Mother Jones blog called "Throwing Clinton Under the Bus To Spite Mom." Really? I mean, really? This conversation is going nowhere fast. In the post, Debra Dickerson trashes (to dredge up a dread practice from the 1970s) Courtney Martin and Amy Tiemann, then concludes:
We'll stop saying aloud that you don't know what you're talking about if you'll stop believing that you know everything already. Deal?
Here's what I posted in comments to Dickerson's post, and here's how I feel:
Deal.

Deborah Siegel here - a young(ish) Hillary supporter who feels pained at the way some young female Obama supporters are getting flamed. I don't care how it started, or who said what about whom. Time to start focusing on beating McCain. I hope this is the last post of this tone that we'll be seeing for a while. Goodbye to all THAT, I say.

Quick sidenote: Feminist history is full of intergenerational division, as I write about in my book. Important to remember that young Alice Paul and older Carrie Chapman Catt shared a goal (suffrage) but disagreed on tactics. "Libbers" and the older Betty Friedan disagreed on whether politics meant what you do in the bedroom or what happens at city hall. Together albeit in different ways they made the momentous change that became the 1st and 2nd+ waves.

Difference today is that we have blogs and online media, where it's easier, it seems, to write snarkily and quote each other out of context. If I've been guilty of it too, mea culpa. Let's move on. A Democrat in 2008. Deal?

Updates to Intergenerational Brouhaha

Two quick hits:

Amy Tiemann interviewed me for the MojoMom Podcast this morning. Here's the link.

Courtney just published a response to Linda Hirshman's critique of her in The American Prospect today.

And ok ok, I take back "brouhaha." Totally just playing into the sentiment that it's a mini-war. In all honesty, I wish we could see MORE media stories about the kinds of conversations we WomenGirlsLadies have been seeing take place from Ypsilanti to Cambridge. And in our own backyards. Or the kind Amy and I--who are on opposite sides of the Clinton/Obama divide--had this morning.

Empathy, people, empathy. Eyes on the prize. I know our politics are intensely personal, but can we please start cutting the noise and get ready to get behind the notion that we'll need to unify in order to successfully do battle with McCain??? I'm getting nervous. Though I KNOW we can win.

Happy Belated Passover!

A belated Happy Passover to those who celebrated this weekend! I spent the first seder at my aunt and uncle's (who I learned are readers of GWP!) and the second at a dear friend's dear parents' house. Among the attendees at the latter was an Iraqi refugee, peace activist, and school teacher who arrived in New York from Baghdad about 8 months ago. I'll call her S.

My friend's dad is a linguist (and also a blogger!), and we asked the 4 questions in 7 different languages. Marco read them in Spanish, and S. read them in Arabic. I felt very verklempt at the whole thing, and proud to be part of a tradition that requires us to invite people who aren't Jewish to the seder, in the spirit of being "welcoming to the stranger in your midst". May this season usher in a time of renewal, rejeuvenation, and true freedom for all who remain in chains, whether enslavement be internal, external, or both.

Last Week's Intergenerational Recap

I'm back from a WomenGirlsLadies event at Harvard, orchestrated by the Harvard Women's Center--a center which didn't exist, we learned, until just 2 years ago. Not that Harvard hasn't been in need of this center or anything before then (ahem). Shout outs to Susan Marine, Sandra Ullman, Natasha, Annemarie, Andreas, and the rest of the crew over there for bringing us to town (we had a blast!), but mostly for the important work you do on campus all year long.

We always try very hard to turn the panel (subtitle: A FRESH Conversation about Feminism across Generations) into audience conversations, and after our presentation this time a very interesting Q&A ensued. Courtney is writing about it in her column today over at The American Prospect, so stay tuned.

And ohhh but it's been an interesting week in the land of intergenerational feminist convo around the election! In case you missed it, here's a quick recap:

Amy Tiemann in Women's eNews (with a follow-up on her blog)
Amanda Fortini in New York Magazine
Rebecca Traister in Salon
Linda Hirshman in Slate

Commentary to follow--I'll be doing a podcast this morning over at MojoMom.com with my 2cents on it all and promise to post the link.

Musical Girls Gone Grandmas

Interesting review this weekend by Janet Maslin in the NYTimes of a book called Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon — and the Journey of a Generation ,
by Sheila Weller. Maslin calls it "a strong amalgam of nostalgia, feminist history, astute insight, beautiful music and irresistible gossip about the common factors in the three women’s lives." Most interesting to me of course:
[I]t also has a point to make about sexual inequality in the era when these three women came of age. The ambition and posturing that turned middle-class Robert Zimmerman of Minnesota into Bob Dylan, Ms. Weller argues, were much more costly for women, no matter how freewheeling those women seemed. This book illustrates how Ms. Mitchell’s long-held secret about the baby she gave up for adoption was infinitely more punishing than the rambling, gambling male singer-songwriter’s stock way of paying his dues.
And most amusing:
There is something irritating about the very premise of “Girls Like Us,” Sheila Weller’s three-headed biography of legendary singer-songwriters. Maybe it’s the instant-girlfriend tone of the title. Maybe it’s that at least one of Ms. Weller’s subjects, Joni Mitchell, objected to being lumped into the same book with the other two, Carole King and Carly Simon. Or maybe it’s the euphemism. Her book is about women whose musical careers took off in the 1960s, and all are now in their 60s. They aren’t girls. They’re grandmas.
Go grandmas :)

Friday, April 18, 2008

GUEST POST: OMFG

The following is a post from GWP's newest regular, Elizabeth Curtis. I'm forever grateful to E, as we call her, for teaching me the latest tricks of the trade--in blogging, of course. I love E's voice and I bet you will too! And btw, the new season of GossipGirl premieres April 21. - GWP

The Gossip About Those GossipGirl Ads

I was taking a leisurely jaunt in Manhattan when I first came across the controversial GossipGirl ads that have created so much buzz for this CW show. Promoting this TV series based on the popular teen books about an elite prep school, the advertisements I saw were poster-size and plastered all over a construction site. My response? OMFG, for sure. And WTF, too.

Now my reaction to these ads is not negative because I am prudish or "sex-shaming." I'm just struck by how "soft-core" these mainstream images are. Like Ariel Levy, I'm concerned about how "pornified" society seems to be these days. But my take on the consequences of this "pop culture gone wild" is more in line with the views of Jessica Valenti. As Jessica smartly states in her book Full Frontal Feminism,
I think that while the fast-growing focus on sexuality [in popular culture] certainly has the potential to be dangerous for young women, it's not necessarily all bad. What is bad is that young women seem to be confronted with too few choices and too many wagging fingers...We're all trapped by the limiting version of sexuality that's put out there - a sexuality that caters almost exclusively to men.
Jessica goes on to make a call for young women to critically engage with mainstream images promoting an impossible and often unattractive version of female sexuality and to then make informed decisions about their own sexual lives.

I think that the GossipGirl ad campaign is a perfect example of the type of analysis Jessica advocates. What is going on in these ads? Is it just a shameless use of sex to sell an already racy series? Is female pleasure exploited or privileged by featuring an actress's "o-face"? What's up with the social mores contradiction of this television show being marketed to the very same American teenagers who are being taught abstinence-only sex ed. in school? WTF, you know?

Luckily, feminist thinker/scholars like Levy, Valenti, and Kathleen Sweeney, and our very own Girl With Pen are writing about these issues - and bringing more to the conversation than just WTF.

Some Recommended Reads:
-On "raunch" culture: Ariel Levy's Female Chauvinist Pigs
-On feminism and activism today: Jessica Valenti's Full Frontal Feminism
-Girls, girls, girls: Kathleen Sweeney's Maiden USA: Girl Icons Come of Age
-Blogging about girlhood: Patti Binder's What's Good for Girls
-For some female-friendly, sex-positive inspiration: Rachel Krammer Brussel's Dirty Girls: Erotica for Women

Share your recs and takes in the comments section, too!

Cross-posted at A Blog Without a Bicycle

Image Cred

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Pay Gap? What Pay Gap?

Quick note, late to the table: As Gordon E. Finley of the Washington Times reported a while back, a headline by Reuters on Nov. 7 was startling and certainly newsworthy: "Female U.S. corporate directors out-earn men: study." And empirically incorrect. What gives? Read the rest.

Power Women Caught on Tape

This just in from the International Museum of Women:

Women, Power and Politics global online exhibition debuts its top 10-plus recommended films by and about powerful women. Through documentaries, features and even a TV miniseries, you'll meet everyone from presidents to factory workers and show-stopping great-grandmothers. Grab some popcorn. Invite some friends. Start renting the top picks in our Film List.

If you love film, don't miss the unprecedented footage of two Iron Ladies in action now playing in our April focus What does Power Look Like? Watch Chile's SeƱora Presidenta Michelle Bachelet in Spanish as she puts critics in their place. Be inspired to Follow the Leader of Liberia: the no-nonsense Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

Let the inspiration continue through the stories of five women across the globe who gained First Money, Then Power with the assistance of CARE microcredit programs. CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty with a special focus on working alongside poor women. To learn just how economics affects women's power, tour this month's map Working for Wages.

Book Smarts - This Week's Q&A

I'm subverting blog post/comment convention in order to share the Q&A that's been going on in comments on Laura's inaugural post here this past week (Book Smarts), because the questions GWP readers posted so far are ones I hear a lot, and I know everyone's going to benefit from Laura's responses. Have at it! And please feel free to post in comments book publishing industry related topics you'd like to Laura to address in a future post. - GWP

Blogger Ralphie said...
That marketing thing is difficult. Is it really true that the authors of all those terrific, sensitive, gorgeous-writing-filled books I read were out there "selling themselves" to get their first book published? I guess so, but it all just seems so... sad.

Blogger LauraM said...

I entirely agree, Ralphie. Marketing CAN be hard, and luckily for all of us, there are still editors and agents in this industry who are committed to finding those terrific, sensitive, gorgeous-writing projects without needing all the buzz. But the reality of book publishing is that it's a narrow-margin enterprise. Want to guess how many books actually earn a profit for the author and publisher? It's fewer than you think, and the pressure is on editors to champion the books that will make money, not lose it. So if you can offer your editor terrific, sensitive, gorgeous writing AND a solid marketing pitch, then you’ll have a huge advantage. And take heart—these days, having a web presence is very easy, and that’s a great first start to creating a platform for yourself. Start a blog, post on others’ blogs, be active in your writing. Let the rest follow from there. —Laura

Blogger Jay said...
Great advice, thanks! It's a bit daunting to go back to my proposal and give it the overhaul you suggest but I can see how your suggestions will make it so much better. Do you think it's worth hiring a professional look over/edit the proposal before I submit it?

Blogger Ericka said...
My problem has been Right Freeway, Wrong Lane. I've been in the "industry" a long time, a solid midlist nonfiction writer. And, I'm good at the marketing thing -- I have website, blog, lots of PR experience and reading experience and radio and even TV -- but my career has largely been for my non-fiction. And now I'm about to send my LITERARY NOVEL out there (in a month or so) and I fear that all that experience in the non-fiction realm won't translate to the literary world. My "platform" has been parenting writing, and my novel is not that. (Though it is family-based.) Suggestions for how to spin my experience? I'm afraid it will seem like Apples and Oranges.

Blogger Caroline said...
This is so helpful to read right now, Laura, and I'm sure I'll have questions for your future posts! As you know, I sold (modestly) one book, but now I'm working on something I'm hoping will have a broader audience, and your tips about presenting the proposal are perfectly timed for me. I'll keep checking in for more!

Blogger LauraM said...
Hi Caroline, I'm so happy you posted! How are you, and how is your book coming along? I'd love to hear. And do ask any questions, I promise I'll answer them if I can.

Ericka, hi! You know, I think you're underestimating the value of having had previously published books, even if they are in a different category. The trick is to use those books to show that you have a solid foundation as a publisher writer. Make sure that your bio includes any and all positive reviews, blurbs, and media coverage for anything you've published before. And keep in mind that unless it's a very high-level editor who is looking at your work, it's not likely anyone is going to expect you to have had previous bestsellers. Midlist is a good place to be ... dependable, successful. Just replace "midlist" with "backlist" (read: My books are STILL selling even after several years!), and you'll be surprised what kind of attention that can get you. —L

Image cred

Generational Stretch Marks

Blogger Amy Tiemann (aka Mojo Mom) has an excellent piece up over at Women's eNews this week, titled "Obama v. Clinton Puts Stretch Marks on Sisterhood", which beings:
"Sisterhood" bound women together during the second wave of feminism in the 1970s.

Fast-forward three decades, and it is time to start asking ourselves what happens when you try to stretch sisterhood across a generational divide and then push and pull it between the campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Answer: serious stretch marks.
I couldn't agree more (and kinda wish she had cited my book or Courtney and my WaPo oped somewhere--oops--down ego, down) when Amy writes:
Ten years from now we could look back on the arguments about Clinton v. Obama as the wedge that emphasized a generational divide, to the detriment of all women.

The Mother-Daughter dynamic illuminates a power differential. In many ways the Mothers have the upper hand. They control the largest established organizations, the purse strings of foundation grants. By excluding younger women's definitions of feminism, however, the Mothers are short-circuiting their power.

The Mothers need to remember that they need the Daughters as well.

Gen-Xers such as myself are no longer children; we're reaching our 40s now. Not only do we represent the future, we are the bridge to the millennial generation who will clean up after all of us.


And speaking of intergenerational, the WomenGirlsLadies crew can't wait til tomorrow, when we'll be conversing on this very topic and more over at Harvard, on the heels of that interesting conference on feminism over there the other week with Camille Paglia, Katie Roiphe, Christina Hoff Sommers and others. Perhaps we might all be together on a stage sometime cause that sure would be an interesting conversation.

(Thanks to Joanne over at PunditMom for the heads up on Amy's piece!)

Homage

I'm posting this cause I dig the cover. It's a book published in 2006 called A Woman for President: The Story of Victoria Woodhull, and it "brings a fascinating character from history to schoolchildren." And in case folks are wondering who the Woodhull Institute is named for and all.

Leading Like a Girl

Check out this must-read piece from Marie Wilson over at HuffPo, called "Leading Like a Girl: For Men Only?", which concludes:
I am on a crusade to have women risk revealing their authentic selves. As a group who bring important attributes to leadership, who can also be tough and in control, women's leadership, having been honed at the foot on the table, has lessons and positive possibilities for us all. We have made it safe for men to play like the girls. Now is the time to claim our own ability to do the same.

Along the way, Marie touches on men's and women's investing styles and the gendering of political leadership styles. One of the smartest slants on these topics I've read in a while. Thank you Marie. (And thank you to Catalyst's Laura Sabattini for the heads up!)

EVENT: What-is-Feminism Conference @ Columbia

The Institute for Research on Women and Gender at Columbia University announces a fall conference:

"What is Feminist Politics Now? Local and Global, "19-20 September, 2008

The conference will explore:
- The changing meanings of feminism, and its goals (intellectual,social and political) in a global context: to examine whether these meanings can any longer be contained within the rubric of common social agendas.
- Emerging social movements within the United States and beyond, including those that foster the collective interests of women across national, class, religious, and racial borders; the common interests of women and men; and those that call for greater individual autonomy.
- Questions about how women within the post-industrial west can effectively relate to, and remain engaged with, issues that arise from diverse locations and affect differently situated women in different ways.

More info coming soon here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Canadian Blogger Probes Manliness

Thanks to Broadsheet, I just discovered this new blog called Act Like a Man. by Edward Keenan, a writer for The Walrus (Canada's New Yorker). Here's his inaugural post, from March. And here's what Jezebel has to say. Thoughts? And hey, I'm currently compiling a list of "man blogs"--blogs by men, exploring masculinity--so if you see one you think I might not know about, I'd be so grateful for the heads up!

This. Pisses. Me. Off.

Nuf said.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Of Taxes and "Family Values"

HAPPY APRIL 15 everyone! So Americans tend to think we're better off than families in most other industrial countries because we pay lower income taxes. Right? NOT! As CCF reminds us today, when we factor in the higher amount Americans pay for health care, child care, and education, the comparison is not always in our favor. Where do American families' tax dollars go and what family "value" they get in return?

For every $100 in income tax:
* $32 goes to national defense
* $19 goes to interest on the national debt
* $15 goes to supplemental programs such as TANF, child tax credits, and
farm subsidies
* $14 goes to health
* $6 goes to education, employment, and social services
* $4 goes to transportation
* $2 goes to administration of justice
* $2 goes to environment and natural resources
* $2 goes to international affairs
* $1 goes to community and regional development
* $1 goes to agriculture
* $1 goes to science, space, and technology
* $1 goes to the commerce and housing fund

Even at their height, the financial benefits of the last decade's tax cuts for middle class families never equaled the financial benefits that citizens of many other countries receive in the form of monthly child allowances, universal health care, subsidized parental leaves and child care, and college assistance.

In most of Western Europe, citizens enjoy the right to near-universal health care. They do not have to forego routine care for financial reasons, and are not financially wiped out by catastrophic health emergencies. In America, this occurs frequently enough that one-quarter of financial bankruptcies originate in medical problems not covered by insurance. What's more, of course, every other industrial nation in Western Europe, and most of the rest of the world as well, provides paid maternity leave, and in some cases paid paternity leave as well. In Belgium, free early childhood education is available to all children starting at the age of 2 ½.

Now that's some family values. But wait--before we all head off to Canada or Sweden, I think we'd better stick around to see how our election plays out. One can still hope for a president who truly values families, which I think both the Democrats running honestly do. Did anyone hear the latest about McCain calling his wife a c---? Family values starts at home, John. Remember that, dude.

V-Day to the 10th

Sadly I couldn't be there. If anyone who was would like to blog about it here and tell us what it was like, send me an email at girlwpen@yahoo.com!

The Motherhood Penalty

The Guardian has a great piece up today by Polly Toynbee, "Girlification is Destroying All the Hope We Felt in 1968." By "girlification," Toynbee means pink princessification. I love neologisms on a Tuesday morning.

The article comes on the heels of an announcement from the UK's Office for National Statistics yesterday, which reported that UK women in their 40s earn 20% less per hour than their male counterparts. Explains Toynbee, "This is the motherhood penalty - and the more children a woman has, the wider the gap. Young women start out earning almost the same, deluded by beating boys at exams. Motherhood knocks most out of the running."

The piece goes on to ask, "so, what's new?," noting that 2008 is a year for reflection for her generation of women (aka second wave): "What happened in 1968? What really changed? The year of riots saw feminism ignite too, a year hazed in an illusory miasma that nothing would be the same again - but of course it was."

Depressing. But just in case you aren't depressed enough, Toynbee reminds us too that only 24% of parliamentary seats in the EU are occupied by women, 20% in the UK; and that 90% of top EU company boards are men. Women dominate primary school teaching, men run universities. The UK has the largest pay gap.

On the upside, Spain's new cabinet is 50% female. GO SPAIN! And for more on the connection between pinkification and the mommy gap, read the rest here.

Event: Girls Write Now Spring Reading

On June 8, the new Tribeca Barnes & Noble will become a teen literary hotspot as Girls Write Now - which, I kvell, is featured prominently in yesterday's New York Times - takes it over. Celebrity host Amanda Diva (Def Poetry Jam, HipHopNation, MTV2, Floetry), will turn the downtown bookstore into a showcase for a collection of powerful new poems, stories and essays that reflect an electrifying community of girl writers spanning often hard-and-fast lines of race, age, economics and geography in NYC. For those not yet familiar with GWN, they (we! I'm on the Advisory Board) are New York City's premier mentoring and creative writing organization for teen girls.

A just quick note on Amanda Diva: talk about crossover. This accomplished poet, journalist, singer, rapper, and radio & television personality is also a scholar, with a Master's degree in African-American Studies. For more, check out DivaSpeakTV.blogspot.com and Youtube.com/ImAmandaDiva.

See you there!

June 8
4-6PM
Barnes and Noble
97 Warren Street, NYC

Monday, April 14, 2008

WomenGirlsLadies Take It to Harvard

A podcast of our panel at Central Michigan University ("WomenGirlsLadies: A FRESH Conversation Across Generations") is now live. And we're taking the conversation next to Harvard this Friday, so if you're in the area, please do come!

April 18, 3-5pm
Harvard Hall 20

For more info, please contact the Harvard College Women's Center. We'll also be posting notes from the road over at WomenGirlsLadies.

(The photo, L-R: Tara Sathoff-Wells, Central Michigan University Director of Women's Studies; the four WomenGirlsLadies--Gloria Feldt, me, Courtney Martin, and Kristal Brent Zook; and my new dear friend, CMU Professor Jill Taft Kaufman.)

Book Smarts - A New Regular Feature at GWP!

Hi, Laura Mazer here. As Deborah mentioned, I’m a longtime editor and book consultant, and I'm very happy to be joining the crew over here in the girlwithpendom! Deborah has asked me if I’d answer some questions for her readers, and I will do my best. Starting with this first one Deborah has tossed out, which is a great one: What do editors really look for in book proposals?

Well, let's start out with the obvious: gorgeous writing, a fascinating book idea, more gorgeous writing. But of course. However, before I let those things get me invested in your book, I’m going to want to know 4 things:

1. Are you a Mac or a PC? Or, what's your authorial sensibility, your creative look and feel? Consider: Your proposal is your client deliverable. Are you going to give it to me single-spaced, Times New Roman 10, no subheads, no cover page? I get word-wall weary really, really fast, so I love when authors take it up a level—by boxing essential facts and impressive quotes, using subheads to draw attention to important sections, and writing in a voice that represents the book's narrative itself. If I see that a writer has put creative energy into the complete development of her proposal, I'll know she understands (though she may not actually celebrate—fair enough) that to succeed in our contemporary marketplace of ideas, it takes more than interesting words, or smart words, or important words, or gorgeous words.

2. Is your bio degradable? Your author profile can be even more important than your pitch and your writing sample. It tells the reader if you've been test-driven in the marketplace. Have you been published before, either with a previous book or in magazines, newspapers, or visible blogs? What's the big picture of your career: Is your book topic a whim or a cause? Can you articulate your expertise and your ideas in an accessible, reliable manner? Impress me with whatever you've got that's impressive about you—even if it's not directly tied to your subject. Show me you’re worth investing in.

3. What's your mantra? What's your "thing," your sexy sell, your elevator pitch, your conceit? Put it right there at the top of your proposal in three sentences or less, in a way that can make me think right away: "Yeah, sure, I see that! Cool." If you can nail your book description, really Ezra Pound it into the ground, you'll have a much better chance of hooking an editor's attention from the get-go. Editors—and agents, for that matter—have scary-big piles of manuscripts to review, so it's not likely they'll stick around for Vague or Complicated. And yes, go ahead and get your Hollywood on, you can definitely compare your book to others, as in, "It's like Eat Pray Love but set in Canada and drawn as a graphic novel." "It's like Rebecca Walker's Black, White, and Jewish but funny and with a sub-theme about CIA corruption." Etc.

4. Where's the ammo? We eds need big guns. In other words, some serious data points supporting your project's creative and monetary potential. Your editor is probably going to have to champion you and your book to a whole lot of people before she can offer you a contract, so give her as many selling points as possible. What comparative books have performed well, proving this is a popular topic? How big is your target readership, and how will your publicist reach those readers? Examples: If you're writing a parenting book, include a complete list of parenting magazines, websites, specialty baby stores, and other outlets that reach your audience. If your book is a sci-fi novel, include a complete list of all sci-fi conferences where your readers will congregate. Think like a marketer, and help your editor to do the same on your behalf. (Here's one more tip: Make it clear you're willing to pound the pavement to promote your book. Plenty of authors go AWOL after the book ships to the printer, and that's a drag for the marketing department, which is counting on you to be out there advocating for your work.)

On that note, I'll sign off. Readers: Send me your questions in comments! I want to hear what you're thinking about.

Cheers til next time,
Laura

Shout It from the Rooftops

I just wanted to send a shout out to all the commenters on Samantha's guest post on Friday, "Feminist Awakening at 14, and to those who cross-posted! I'm hoping to coax a few more posts from Sam, because, as I think ya'll agree, she's dynamite (as are the other writers of Writopia Lab). Sam's post was picked up around the blogosphere, and I wanted to share tidbits from the commentary:

Nancy Gruver, at orb28 blog: "Samantha's post reminded me that, even if teenagers can't vote yet, they can still have a big impact on politics by speaking up."

Gloria Feldt, at HeartFeldt Politics Blog: "It's always intriguing to learn how political opinions are formed, and this young women clearly has a mind of her own--and better yet, she talks publicly about what she believes."

Patti Binder, of What's Good for Girls blog: "Stand up and shout it from the roof tops-- your message, your voice needs to be out there!"

El Profe of Political Observations: "An extraordinarily well thought-out piece filled with sensitivity, nuance, intelligence and hopefulness for the recovery of our browbeaten nation. Samantha is a person of insight. New voices such as hers are what will be needed in the world that she is inheriting. Bravo Samantha."

So Sam...when can we at GWP expect your next piece?! Your readership awaits :)

Friday, April 11, 2008

GUEST POST: Feminist Awakening at 14

Samantha French, age 14, is a student at Writopia Lab,, a writing enrichment program located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. She's written an incredible piece for Girl with Pen and though it's longer than the usual fare and I still haven't figured out how to do jumps (help, anyone?!), I'm publishing it in full because it's just so well written. Go Sam. Did I mention Sam's 14?! Here she is. -GWP

As we all know, the buzz around America’s college campuses is Barack Obama and how he represents change for America. According to the media, he has overwhelming appeal to the country’s so-called “youth.” And it’s true. The phrase “yes we can” is being inhaled faster than pot brownies and Jell-O shots at a frat party. However, what the media seems to be consistently ignoring is the opinions of the country’s real, good old-fashioned, disenfranchised youth: high school students. Who are almost unanimously pro-Hilary.

OK, so I’m dreaming.

As a female freshman in Bard High School Early College, one of New York’s more liberal high schools where nearly two-thirds of the student body are females, there is not huge support for Hillary, which makes me sad. Many people at Bard, both male and female, support Obama because they are “tired of the Clintons” (a notion which they have obviously been fed by their parents. Think about it: the last time a Clinton was in office they were eight at the very most).

At first, I agreed with them. My dad’s a die-hard Obama supporter and so are a lot of my friends. But the turning point came for me when I saw how upset and truly devoted Hillary was to the race after her defeat at the Iowa caucus. The moment that the cameras revealed her sad eyes, I realized that I was seeing in her something rarely seen in any presidential candidate: a human being. While my father continued to be very pro-Obama (re-recording Twisted Sister’s “I Wanna Rock,” titled, I Want Barak,)—and put pressure on me to agree with him—I felt a connection with Hillary after that night.

A “conversation” with a boy in my English class the next day clinched it for me. At 9:00AM, the morning after Hillary’s Iowa defeat, I came into my English classroom and sat at the table, looking around at my fellow students, their tired eyes skimming the pages of the New York Times or finishing up homework at the last minute, some finishing their Dunkin Donuts coffee.

Suddenly, I found myself in a debate with other kids about the caucus the previous night and who was for whom. Our teacher was quick to join in, turning it into a discussion which lasted for a good part of the class. The conversation turned to the obvious gender/race issue and one boy was quick to raise his hand when the question of what we thought about a female president came up.

“Well,” he said. “Because she’s a woman, it’s likely that she won’t really be able to perform her duties at ‘that time of the month.’”

Hold on. Rewind… OK, what did he just say?

The girls in my class instantly reacted with high-pitched comebacks and shouting. My friend stood on her chair and said rather loudly, “OH MY GOD COULD YOU GET MORE UN-P.C. PLEASE?” Another girl shouted: “I get my period too, but I come to school every day! I walk up and down stairs!” There was so much noise that I could barely get what I was saying out, so I stood up on my chair and screamed: “SERIOUSLY JUST SHUT UP. I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY AND IT’D BE NICE IF YOU ALL COULD HEAR ME!” The class instantly became silent.

“OK, so,” I took a deep breath and sat back down. “Hillary is probably post-menopausal so that is a completely invalid argument.” A chorus of agreement sounded from the girls.

The boy, who was recovering from all the screaming, replied defensively. “Well, it was my grandma who said that about Hillary.”

“And your grandmother’s how old?”

“80-something.”

“Your grandmother grew up in a society where women were seen as housewives and probably the last time she went through a menstrual cycle was in the 1970’s when women were still fighting for their rights!”

It was the moment that those words came out of my mouth that I realized I was totally pro-Hillary. Everything my father had instilled in me about Barack Obama melted away. Though I still care about the policies presented by each candidate, it ended up coming down to something bigger. It became about realizing the importance of taking a feminist stance in modern America and how important Hillary’s campaign is to feminist history. Not only do I agree with her healthcare policy and her method to get out of Iraq, but I also feel that she is hugely inspiring.

Since my “feminist awakening” as I guess you could call it, I have signed up for Hillary’s website and watch coverage of her rallies. Just today, I watched a video of a rally of hers in North Carolina where Hillary spoke to a huge audience of predominantly women. When she was taking questions, a young boy told her that both of his grandparents had died of heart disease. He asked her what she planned to do to prevent that from happening. She smiled warmly and promised the boy and the rest of the audience that if she were to be elected she would fight for equal health coverage and protection from such diseases. It is moments like that that make me feel that Hillary would be an amazing president; I believe her historical commitment to health care together with her maternal, relatable qualities would benefit America greatly.

My friends try to convince me to switch to being pro-Obama, and though I may sway a little at times, I’ll get an e-mail from the Hillary campaign or read an article about her and it reminds me of why I love Hillary so much: she has a genuine connection with the people. She is kind of like a mother-figure in that she is very compassionate and approachable, but also very powerful

My generation has witnessed turmoil and corruption during Bush’s terms as president. What we need now is a bad ass mom (with a bad ass track record) to whip this country back into shape.