World's Oldest Fledgling

The blog of Stephanie Wardrop, Y A Author

“Who the frig am I?”: Bob’s Burgers and T(w)een Desire

 

This post is an example of what you’re missing if you haven’t moved with me to my new blog. Join me!

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I‘ve said it in previous blog posts before: few groups on this earth are treated with less respect, are seen as less consequential, than adolescent and prepubescent girls. In news media and popular culture, female teens and tweens are mocked as, at best mindless consumers of mass-produced crap or, worse, as boy-hungry predators using the smartphones surgically grafted to their manicured hands to plot their next move. Even media aimed at adolescent girls presents them this way, from television shows like Nicks’ Life with Boys to news stories and comedy bits that berate them for their taste in music (though SNL‘s skit with Paul Rudd as an adult male One Direction fanatic was pretty hilarious). These degrading depictions of young women are one reason why I think Young Adult fiction is so important in presenting more empowering images to female readers. But I’ve also found a TV show – however unlikely it may seem – that presents adolescent girls with admirable complexity: Fox’s cartoon Bob’s Burgers.

Bob’s Burgers has aired for four seasons now and is increasing in popularity. I counted twenty fan Tumblrs this morning devoted to the show, and that’s not including those created by Fox or the show’s writers or Bento Box Entertainment, the producers of the show. Time magazine named Bob’s Burgers one of the top ten television shows of 2o13. The show follows the Belcher family, owners of a struggling burger diner, and much of the fandom  centers on the Belcher daughters, 13-year-old Tina and 9-year-old Louise. On the surface, they couldn’t be more different. Awkward and angst-y,

Tina_render Tina represents every cliche about adolescent girls. She has a huge crush on her neighbor, for example, and believes with all of her heart that if she does not kiss Jimmy Junior underneath a disco ball at her thirteenth birthday party her life will be ruined. (And one of the great things about the show is that, as impoverished as this may seem to us as a life’s dream, her family respects it. In fact, her father, Bob, takes on a second job and a whole lot of humiliation from rival restauranteur Jimmy Pesto Senior just to make it happen).

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Louise seems like the perfect foil to her sister. Cynical and possibly sociopathic, Louise rejects everything the culture tells her she should be as a girl, whether it’s slumber parties or leg shaving or being nice to people. So when Louise is “forced” to go to with Tina to see Boyz 4 Now perform, she’s filled with the same disdain for boy bands and their screaming fans that most people are. Originally airing April 18, 2013 the “Boyz 4 Now” episode, however, treats both boy bands and their young female fans with more respect than most popular texts. The episode opens with a snippet of the Boyz 4 Now video that begins with the band singing in a mine until they break through the wall of a t(w)een girl’s bedroom to offer a big shiny diamond (and their devotion). The lyrics are wonderfully stupid (“Be mine/Coal mine” ) and manage to at once make fun of the inanity of many boy band songs (written by adult men) and acknowledge that however cynically, they speak to what young women (and all, people, when you get down to it) really want: to be noticed and respected, to be deemed important and worthy of attention. The song that closes out the episode, “Interested”, makes this even more clear with these lyrics:

I want to hear your secrets, I’m so interested in you!
What did you have for lunch today? Tell me breakfast too!
Which friends are you mad at girl? What size are your shoes?
You just went to the bathroom; number one or number two?
I want to know everything, everything about you!
I want to hear your secrets, I’m so interested in you!
Even if its not a secret, tell me that stuff too!
Details! I want to know details!
What’s your dad’s name?
Details! And your mom’s?
Details! Any allergies?
Details! How was prom?
Interesting, so interesting…

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The show has great fun with the simplicity (even cynicism) of boy band lyrics as well as the corporate construction of boy band members’ identities, which Tina shares with Louise in an effort to get her to understand. There’s Griffin, “the hot one. He’s super extreme. His dog is a wolf,” Tina explains, and “Allen, cute but super-shy” and “Matt, moody and a little older, seventeen, I think,”* and, finally, BooBoo, the blond baby of the group, whom we discover later does not yet weigh eighty pounds and therefore must use a booster seat in the tour bus. The band thus covers every membership cliche from at least the age of the Beatles: cute one, shy one, moody one, dangerous one. Louise is not impressed. And she hates that the screaming starts in the parking lot, musing, “No wonder no one likes women.” “What’s wrong with all of you?” she berates the frenzied girls in the arena. “They’re just boys.”  “Boys?!” a girl responds with such delight and horror, her emotions ratcheted up so high, that she immediately vomits.

“There’s a lot of puberty” in that arena, Louise concludes, and it’s something she wants no part of.  And why should she, if puberty – and by extension sexual desire – renders adolescent females into gibbering, screaming, vomiting creatures with no self-control? But what other outlet is there for adolescent hormones? And one of the lessons of this episode is that like or not, puberty is inevitable. And when it hits you, it’s bittersweet at best and there’s no turning back.

Because even Louise gets sucked into it. She watches the boys enter from above on harnesses, hoping the show has “the kind [of lasers] that slice people in half,” but when BooBoo removes his helmet as he sails in on a scooter and asks, “Who let all the pretty girls in here?”, Louise is toast. She has, to use the Althusserian term, been hailed as a subject in this discourse. She has been, against her will and her own judgement, touched by her first feelings of desire and indoctrinated into the world of corporate-produced fan girldom. She begins screaming like the other girls, ecstatic, yet aware that something profound and disturbing has been forever altered within her. “Who the frig am I?” she asks, and it may be a question she spends the rest of her life answering.

Suddenly she’s singing along with the lyrics (“Tell me about every single time you cried/Oh, the first time when your goldfish died”) and wants to know more about BooBoo, wants to “do things” for BooBoo even if she has no earthly idea what those things might be. And that is the agony and the ecstasy of an adolescent crush. It has you in its grip and you don’t know what to do, especially at that age, when you just have a vague idea that it would be pleasant to be around the object of your desire, like, all the time. It’s especially wrenching for Louise who is usually so contemptuous of desire and the things teen girls desire. She has no idea what to do except to want to “slap [BooBoo's] hideous beautiful face” for making her feel this way.

They try to get backstage, which is not easy to do despite the presumed promise in the lyrics to “Girl, You Don’t Need a Backstage Pass.” The security guard recognizes both their dimly perceived but incredibly acute need as well as his duty to protect the boyz. “I get it,” he says. “I’d love to let you in. I see the pain in your faces. That pain never goes away. It only gets worse. Don’t get older.” And with those funny but heartbreaking lines, Bob’s Burgers “gets it”, too. I’m not saying that once you get your first crush you become a slave to your hormones for the rest of your life, but it does seem to mark an important and irretrievable step from childhood to the adulthood. As a cartoon character, Louise gets to continue being who she is, wearing her pink rabbit ears hat and “messing with people”, but she’s developed a new respect for Tina’s ability to withstand crushes. The past three hours, she realizes, nearly killed her, whereas Tina “has a crush on almost every boy” she knows.  “How are you still alive?” Louise marvels and insists that she ‘s glad she got this over with and is done with crushing forever. Tina, more sanguine in these things, says, “For your sake, I hope you’re right. But if you’re not, you know where I live.” Louise goes to sleep with a photo of BooBoo, which she lovingly slaps, under her pillow.

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Beneath its often anarchic humor, Bob’s Burgers takes t(w)een girl culture seriously. It makes fun of boy bands, sure, yet acknowledges that perhaps the boys in those bands have genuine affection and respect for their fans (BooBoo only gets slapped on the tour bus by Louise because he’s trying to speak to her, to listen to what she has to say, but is strapped into his booster seat and can’t escape). More importantly, it takes the desires of the t(w)een fans seriously, and not just sexual desires, but the desire to be recognized as important, as consequential in the world, as worthy. And it presents, through Louise, the terror a girl can experience when she succumbs to what nearly every pop culture artifact presents as her womanly destiny: attraction to a man. (And we know from fairy tales and Disney movies, if we watch critically enough as Louise does, what the attraction often leads to for girls: self-annihilation of sorts. Even in the Disneyfied film version of Hans Christian Anderson’s tale, the little mermaid has to give up her voice and her home to gain her man.)

I have a daughter who’s a One Direction fan and she takes some crap for it from people who think the music is lame and the boys are manufactured and disposable. I won’t argue with those aspersions, much, but I want to take seriously what she and her friends and so many other girls like her find in the music and the images. And Bob’s Burgers presents a pretty good picture of it: desire, excitement, reassurance, identity, and possibility.

* The joke here is that Louise is correct in suspecting he is much older. “Maybe his mustache is seventeen,” she snarks, “but he’s ninety.”

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Happy New Year! I’ve moved!

2014_and_fireworks I’m at my shiny new blog now, Stephanie Wardrop, YA Writer, and hope to see you there soon! Just follow the link.

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The fledgling takes flight: my first year as a “real” writer

320px-Bird_in_flight_line_drawing_artWhen I started this blog a little over a year ago, I named it for what I felt like: the world’s oldest fledgling. Here I was, an acknowledged grownup, a degreed professional, but as a writer I was just starting to peek out of the nest.  I knew that as a soon-to-be published author I should have a platform to (ick!) promote myself, my book, my “brand”, but I felt like creating a blog for a book and a career that did not yet officially exist would be the height of hubris. Surely the publishing gods would smite me down for such presumption. But a year later, here I am.  Bird_Nest_in_Tree

It’s been an amazing year of milestones. First book birthday. First cover reveal. First reviews. First Facebook “like” on the author page that could not be traced back to family, friends, friends of family or friends, or former students. Swoon Romance has published three of the four e-novellas in the Snark and Circumstance series and accepted the sequel. I still feel like a fledgling, but I suspect I always will. There’s always so much more to learn, to do, to become.

So in the spirit of growth, I’m signing off from this blog and inaugurating a new “big girl blog” at stephaniewardrop.com in January. First, I’ll post a series of pep talks, advice, and shared experience for those who are going to make 2014 the year they become “real” writers. After that I’ll have reviews (can’t wait to talk Allegiant), pop culture analyses like those on my first blog smellsliket(w)eenspirit, and fun stuff like games and quizzes for Team Snark players. Please join me there in the new year.

But for now, I want to sign off by thanking everyone who made this first year as a published writer so special (and even possible):

*my parents for raising me in a house filled with books (true confession: I faked being sick at least once so I could stay home, lie in your bed, and stare at all the titles on the shelves)

*my husband and kids for being proud of and patient with me and my often distracted focus

*my publisher, editors, and especially Mandy Schoen for thinking that this Snark  book could even be a thing

*my friends who were so genuinely excited for me, especially those who bid to be characters in the Boston Strong/One Fund Boston auction and Kelly Haggard Olson for making the Snark necklace that helped raise money for lymphoma/leukemia research

*and last, but never least in my heart, everyone who read the books and especially those of you who took the time to post a review on a blog, Amazon, or Goodreads. You’ll never know how much this means to me.

See you next year!

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what we lost with ned vizzini

I’m at a loss to say anything eloquent or right about hearing about the death by suicide today of YA writer Ned Vizzini, but I’m going to attempt to say something anyway. I admire his work so much not just because he was a wonderful (YA) writer but because he talked about suicide and depression so honestly, so warmly, and even with such humor. And writing about depression, I have found, is almost as hard as living with it. This fact has been hammered home to me in the past few weeks as I try to write about what it is like to be a depressed, suicidal, or mentally ill young person, but I’m going to keep trying. Because somebody has to do it, and now one of the most eloquent voices on the subject has silenced himself.

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When I first heard the news I felt sorrow come over me like a wave, and that tingling started in the corner of my eyes and in my nostrils that means I’m about to cry. And then I felt something else: terror. His death reminded me of the thing we “recovering” depressed people can never quite forget – the best you can do, sometimes, is stay one or two steps ahead of the beast. And too often we fail to do that. I was reminded, again, that no matter how even-keeled, even (dare I say it) happy I feel now, depression is always lurking somewhere in the corner of my brain, threatening to take over. It’s an imperfect analogy but it must be a little like being in remission for cancer, or being an alcoholic and knowing that you’re always in recovery, that you never really “beat” alcoholism. Depression is like that, too.  Vizzini captured it so well in a line from his most famous work, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, when a character contemplates jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge: “There wasn’t anything to keep you from falling off, just your hands and your own will.” Sometimes your will just isn’t enough.  Sometimes your will fails.

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Which is why I understand, and want others to understand, what a lot of people won’t when they read the obituaries for Ned Vizzini. On the surface, he looked like he had it pretty good. Best selling, critically acclaimed novels, promising projects in the works. But the thing that’s so hard for the non-depressed to understand –  it’s what makes us depressives sound like a bunch of whiners who need a good butt kicking sometimes – is that our mental state often has nothing to do with the way things are objectively but how they seem to us. What looks like a spectacular win on the outside can feel like a crushing blow, or evidence that we’re just fooling the world into thinking we’re really smart or talented and eventually the world will figure out we’ve scammed them and get really pissed off at us (or maybe that’s just my own personal mental hell). This twisted view means the depressed person has to bear, in addition to a crippling depression, the shame of being depressed, of not knowing how good they have it or of not feeling sufficiently grateful. A line from Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited struck me when I was a depressed teenager and when I recall it, it can still make me up crumple up like a Kleenex inside: “He was ashamed to be unhappy.” 

Better than Waugh, I think, Ned Vizzini captured that shame and managed to do it with such grace and honesty and humor. And as I said before, somebody needs to do that, especially now, especially for young people. According to Psych Central, “It is estimated that about 10 to 15 percent of children/teens are depressed at any given time. Research indicates that one of every four adolescents will have an episode of major depression during high school with the average age of onset being 14 years!” I’m going to keep trying to capture the experience of living with depression in my own work in progress, but I’ll never replace what Vizzini might have done had he lived to keep writing. I wish him peace wherever he is, wherever it is that we go after this life. I have to believe there is something more.

what i’m reading (as cosmic coincidence would have it):

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what i’m listening to:

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Next week I’ll wrap up my first year as a published writer here to offer my thanks to all who made it possible. 

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Indie Ignites Twelve Days of Christmas Giveaway!

Over at Indie Ignites’ blog, we’re having a monster rafflecopter giveaway to celebrate the season!  I’ve copied my post below to give you a little taste of what you can read about, but go follow that link above to enter for lots and lots of great prizes!

 

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I’ll have the (Christmas) special

 I’m honored to be the first to post for the INDIE IGNITES TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS.
As the senior member of Indie Ignites (I think), I’m going to tell you young folks a little story of Christmas past. It goes all the way back to the days before blu-ray, before DVDs, even before VCRs – before cable TV, even. Yes, television used to come to us on four, maybe five stations, the three national networks and a couple of crappy local stations that played mostly local talent shows and horror movies (though I fondly recall one that had the Super G races, in which gerbils raced each other live, or even Dialing for Dollars, on which a host would call people during commercial breaks and give out prizes to those watching the movie.) Those were the days, kids.
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And the most magical part of the television viewing year was Christmas with its much-anticipated Christmas specials. They were only on once a year, so you had to study TV Guide to make sure you got the right night, because if you missed Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town you were stone out of luck. You just had to wait another 360 days to catch it again.
My favorites were The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and A Charlie Brown Christmas. I was always bathed, in my jammies, and right in front of the set on those special nights, and I didn’t even mind if they pre-empted The Brady Bunch. (Can you tell how old I am yet?).  I think my first crush on a fictional character was on Linus, despite his unfortunate hair.  He was thoughtful and had a spiritual quality I really admired even then. Plus his last name is “Van Pelt.” How cool is that? And to this day, whenever I am in a situation that calls for dancing, I imitate the side-to-side sort of pogo that Charlie and his friends did onstage at the Christmas pageant, hoping that it looks kind of cool and retro and ironic and not evidence that I have all the grace of a crippled donkey. (I could not find a free-use image from the special, but here is a Charlie Brown latte, which is almost as good):

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Charlie Brown latte, Christopher from San Francisco, July 9, 2012 http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Charlie_Brown!_(7539446408).jpg

Unlike my own children, I was never scared of the Grinch. As a kid, I found his underbite kind of charming, though I cried whenever he mistreated Max, who had to be the sweetest little cartoon dog in history.  As an adult, I still love this special because it’s about the holiday being about love and not material goods, my daughter bore an uncanny resemblance to Cindy Lou Hoo as an infant (though, mercifully, without the antennae), and because as a veg*n I appreciate the sly anti-meat critique in the serving of the “roast beast.” Plus, I live in Dr. Seuss’ hometown now (in fact, his wife grew up just down the street from here) and I like to visit Springfield Museum Quadrangle’s Sculpture Garden to hang out with a bronze Grinch and Max. I could not find a photo of that that I could post without risking copyright infringement, but here is a pretty awesome sand sculpture Grinch:

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http://www.flickr.com/photos/cayobo/5293971507/

You don’t need to snow in Key West to make a festive holidaysnowsandman.

And you don’t need snow either to win some holiday presents. Just enter the Rafflecopter giveaway here! Best of luck and have the happiest of  holidays!

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Three Debs Reflect

While we didn’t actually get to dress like this and practice our curtsies, some of the ladies of Indie Ignites became Author Debutantes in 2013. We published our first books and for the first time could call ourselves AUTHORS. So as this auspicious year comes to a close, I thought it would be fun to ask some of my fellow Indie Debs to talk about the experience of launching yourself into the world as a writer. Here’s what they had to say, below, but, first, MEET OUR DEBS

JC EMERY released her first novel,

 which is also the first in a series (MEN WITH BADGES). She self-published this as well as her debut novels in the BAYONET SCARS series. It’s been a very productive year for JC!

LISA BASSO also debuted with the first in a series; the novel

 kicks off the trilogy THE ANGEL SIGHT SERIES. She’s published with Swoon Romance.

I, STEPHANIE WARDROP, brought out the first three in a series of YA e-novellas based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The first installment was

published by Swoon. The last installment releases in January of 2014.

RELEASE WEEK AND BEYOND

I spent so much time worrying about the writing that I didn’t really put much thought into what it would be like when the book actually came out (I was just so relieved that it did!). Lisa Basso and I both had blog tours, so we were in the enviable but chaotic position of having to write twenty-plus completely fabulous blog posts in a few weeks. “It was crazy,” Lisa says. “I didn’t have much time to celebrate [that first week, but after that], man was that sweet.”  JC had to figure out how to market her book on her own (and let me tell you, she has gotten very good at it), so her release week was “quiet.”

But once the book was out and people were actually reading it (squeeeee!), things started to happen. For me, people I hadn’t been in contact with for years looked me up on Facebook and everyone was amazingly proud of me and very sweet about congratulating me.  Publishing a book is a big deal to people and it’s really gratifying to have had so many people happy for me.  I also suddenly got to meet (virtually) a whole group of other writers and wonderful bloggers.  Lisa agrees, saying. “I’ve gotten to know so many amazing bloggers, authors, and book lovers I never would have had the pleasure of meeting otherwise. Including the amazing ladies of Indie Ignites.” Right back at ya, Lisa!

JC had a few more twists and turns in her year-long journey. I’ll let her tell it to you straight, but if you go to Amazon or any other site selling books, you’ll see it has a happy ending: Through a strange twist of events, my first book ended up being free for five

months (which I talk about here). It was (in my opinion) a really good thing

for my career. It let people know that I’m here, but it also meant that I was

giving away my work for several months. Because of a shoestring budget, I

wasn’t able to do certain things until my fourth book (Ride, which debuted

October 25th

months for me to consider myself a published author. I kept making excuses

for how it wasn’t really real yet. I even made my mom wait until I was

enough of a success to tell my family. I just didn’t want to fail in front of them,

and since I had very low expectations, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with

what I’ve been able to do.

) like a formal blog tour, cover reveal, etc. It actually took several

BEST PART OF BECOMING A PUBLISHED AUTHOR FOR THE FIRST TIME

JC said “I felt brave. A lot of people thought I shouldn’t publish at all, let alone self-publish . . . I’ve always wanted to be my own boss, and I didn’t know that I’d ever be able to make enough money off of a business to truly work for myself . . . but for now I can say that I made my dreams come true in 2013.”

For Lisa, the best part was, “hands down, being contacted by a reader who loved my book. There’s nothing like it.”

 

WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY NOW IF YOU COULD?

It seems that we’d do it all over again if we had the chance.  JC said “Were there things I could have done better? Absolutely. I made mistakes—

big mistakes—but I wouldn’t want to have done a single thing differently. For

the first time in my life I showed myself how truly capable I am. I’ve worked

harder, taken more risks, and have ventured into areas I didn’t know possible

this year. 2013 has been the best year ever and I wouldn’t change a single

thing.”

Lisa had some good advice for newbie authors that I’ll share verbatim: “If I could do anything differently, I would keep a journal of the things that came up after I signed

my contract. I’d log how many hours I wrote, edited, and promoted each day.” Especially if you are trying to figure out if you can really “afford” to do this, even if you are not planning on quitting your day job any time soon, it’s probably a good idea to keep track of all the hours you put into everything in addition to the writing, the marketing, blogging, interviewing, and, with a little luck, red carpet-walking when you sell your book to Hollywood. Hey, ’tis the season to dream big! And this past year, many of our dreams have already come true.

Buy Marital Bitch at  http://www.amazon.com/Marital-Bitch-Men-Badges-ebook/dp/B00B687AX0/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1371196872&sr=1-2A Shimmer of Angels at http://www.amazon.com/Shimmer-Angels-Angel-Sight-Series/dp/0985029439/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1386208596&sr=8-1&keywords=a+shimmer+of+angels, and the Snark and Circumstance series at  http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_13?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=snark+and+circumstance&sprefix=snark+and+cir%2Caps%2C245  . They make excellent holiday gifts :).

This was originally posted on the Indie Ignites blog.

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I’m Not Stagnant – I’m Vernalizing

WIP It Wednesdays: When No Work’s in Progress

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Sometimes the right words come along when you need them.

I have been flagellating myself a lot lately for not writing anything but comments on student papers and the occasional blog post for over a month now. I tried to reignite my work in progress yesterday, and if my writing had made a sound, the neighbors would have heard the tortured screech of a rusty chainsaw cutting nothing and breaking down repeatedly – and they would have called the police, thinking something horrific was going on inside my house. I deleted everything I wrote and went for a walk, heavy with the feeling that I WOULD NEVER AGAIN BE ABLE TO WRITE ANYTHING. EVER. AGAIN.

And then I remembered a Tumblr post I had glanced at that talked about dormancy in creativity, so I Googled “dormancy and creativity” and found this wonderful sermon by Reverend Myke Johnson. He points out that “there are many plants in our landscape that will not flower without going through a time of cold.” This is called “‘vernalizing’” and artists do it just as plants do (and doesn’t “vernalizing” sound a whole lot better than “blocked”?) Image

He paraphrases Julia Alvarez, one of my favorite writers, and her assertion that her process is similar to the Greek myth of Persephone. Like Persephone, Alavrez says she has to go into the “underworld” for a period before approaching a new project. She’s accepted and even welcomes the “darkness” she has to face to create again; she knows she will write again, just as Persephone always reemerged in springtime.

It’s helping me right now to think that I am not hopelessly stagnating. Maybe I am just in tune with nature. I look outside and the world has gone cold and grey and, apparently, dead or sleeping. But I know that it’s not. I know that in a few months the grass will be greener and the trees alive with blossoms. I’ll rise again, as well – and hopefully well before springtime.

Before coming across this advice, I had two methods of my own to keep my sanity and confidence in these times of vernalization, and I’ll end by sharing them, in the hope that they may help someone else.

One:  When in doubt, walk. I am a big believer in walking as a form of meditation; even as I have Lady Gaga’s “Applause” in my earbuds, I am thinking more clearly and sometimes the answers come to me. (The endorphins help, too). And, underneath the insistent bass of my iTunes playlist, I hear other things. Last week I heard the voice of a character in another work in progress, one I set aside over a year ago. But there she was, talking to me, telling me she wanted to come back, and I am going to listen to her. I’m putting aside my stalled work in progress because there’s another story tugging on my elbow right now, and I want to honor that (how’s that for Romantic artsy-fartsy mysticism?)

Which brings me to two: I always have a couple of projects in the pipeline that I can turn to when I get stalled on what I’m working on. I used to think that this was evidence of my infantile attention span, but it has actually proven to be sanity-saving for me. Instead of despairing entirely that this WIP will never get done, I can set it aside and pick up another and carve away at that for awhile. I have a full draft of it, and I knew it needed some major reorganization but I dreaded that. Not any more.  I[‘m ready for it now. So as soon as this semester ends, I’m back to the book I set aside to send Snark and Circumstance on one last round of queries (which turned out pretty well in the end!). I’ll let you know what happens. 

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Advice for Vegans on this Most Carnivorous of Holidays . . .

from Georgiana Barrett of Snark and Circumstance.  Note: all opinions below are Georgia’s and do not necessarily represent those of this blog or its proprietors).

After seventeen Thanksgivings – and three of them as a vegan – I have learned a thing or to about how to survive this most meatcentric of holidays. ImageSure, meals are a huge part of most holidays, but Thanksgiving is unique in that its very reason for being rests on having a bird carcass on the dinner table.

My advice can be summed up in four words:

Just be cool about it.

I know it’s not easy to do when your home takes on the aroma of a charnel house. I don’t know why meat eaters can’t understand how gross it is to the non-carnivorous to smell an animal’s flesh roasting. And don’t try explaining to your mom or aunt or whoever the cook is that they would find it utterly revolting if you went out on the street and found some roadkill – a woodchuck, maybe- then stuck it in the oven and cranked the heat up to 450. I can tell you from my own experience that this does not persuade anybody. So, after you’ve gone over the river and through the woods,  even if the smell of grandmother’s house makes you want to barf up everything you’ve ever eaten, keep it to yourself. (Though maybe you could bring a wonderfully scented candle* as a hostess gift and insist on lighting it, but I have to tell you, turkey smell is pretty pervasive so this might not work.) Turkey meat, it seems, makes some people really happy, so I’ve learned to just let them eat and I try to be as inconspicuous as possible as I stick to the sweet potatoes (vegan marshmallows, anyone?) and these little onions my mom makes every year. Not to mention the cranberry sauce, which I think should actually be on the table more than once a year because it is tasty and if you get the canned kind, it has those funky ridges in the middle and retains its can shape in a way that is more fun (and vegan) than jello.

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But they say the best way to people’s hearts is through their stomachs – you can reach their brains this way, too, by providing a delicious vegan alternative to the bird that will show people that veg*n food does not have to look like a plate of tree bark. I make a tofu turkey that even my sister Cassie admits is pretty good, especially smothered in mushroom gravy – though as she has been known to live for weeks on Diet Coke and Funyuns hers may not be the gourmet’s opinion you’re looking for.

GEORGIA BARRETT’S IT’S-TOFU-NOT-A-TURKEY RECIPE:

Make some stuffing (saute onion, celery, and seasonings.  Add bread cubes and some broth, like Un-chicken or vegetable). Spray oil on the bottom of a casserole and put the stuffing in a layer on the bottom. In another bowl, mush up two blocks of tofu

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with some sesame oil, soy sauce, and seasonings (poultry seasoning works nicely).  Spread it onto the top of the stuffing and then “baste” with a mixture of soy sauce and sesame oil.  Pop in the oven and baste with more of the mixture every so often (you can use a turkey baster, unless it’s slick with bird juice).  I think I bake it at about 350 for maybe an hour? I adapted the recipe from one in a PETA cookbook, Imageso check that out for more specifics  I swear to you it’s good — and even better as leftovers. Give it a try and you’ll be glad you did.

So will all the turkeys.

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And for more great recipes, often super easy with no exotic ingredients you need a plane ticket to procure, check out my Pinterest board on Stephanie Wardrop YA Author’s account!

Happy holidays!

*Have you seen these bacon candles?

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What is wrong with people? Even if you loved bacon, wouldn’t these make you hungry all the time you were burning them?

Georgia is a vegan baker and the heroine of a modern YA version of Pride and Prejudice,the e-novella series Snark and Circumstance, available at Amazon, Kobo*, and Barnes and Noble.

     *Kobo links: Snark , Charm, and Pride and Prep School.

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Go Catch CATCHING FIRE

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Brief notes on Catching Fire, the second in the Hunger Games series:

It’s a bit longer than the first because it covers almost everything in the book. I could only think of one or two very minor elements that were skipped (such as Katniss’ bogus talent to display on the Victory Tour).

The Victory Tour is subtly chilling, and I couldn’t help but think about how Jennifer Lawrence’s real life ever since the first HG movie came out and she won the Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook must have felt like Katniss’ tour . She’s dressed up, paraded around, and has people scream at her as a symbol of all sorts of things.  I don’t blame her for freaking out a bit. Check out this clip from Jezebel. JLaw for Queen of the Universe.

The costumes are even better in this installment, and, as has been much reported, more varied in their fabulousness. Cinna’s mockingjay wedding dress is fabu, and Effie’s butterfly outfit is worth the price of the movie ticket.

Speaking of Effie, the moment when she breaks, finally recognizing that the games are not really fun or fabulous but cruel and senseless, marks Elizabeth Banks as an unexpected master of subtlety. There’s a little less Haymitch than before, but Woody Harrelson still rocks, and Philip Seymour Hoffman gets more to do than Plutarch did in the book – there are more scenes of him playing his double game, throwing a “wrinkle” into both President Snow’s plans and the Quarter Quell.  The casting for this installment of the series was spot-on all around, with Jeffrey Wright as a smart, sophisticated, frightened Beete; Lynn Cohen as a sweet, brave, and utterly dignified Mags, walking into the fog for the cause; a hunky but tormented Finnick in Sam Claflin; and a tough-as-nails axe-wielding Johanna played by Jenna Malone. The elevator scene is really funny.

At the 3:00 show I saw, there were at least as many boys in the audience as there were girls, and of all ages. There were older couples, groups of young girls, families with smallish children – it has wide appeal, clearly. Though the day has not yet come when there are no longer “boy” books and “girl” books and debate still wages over whether a boy can or should read a girl book, at least this film adaptation of a “girl” book has crossed over. Because there are strong characters, both male and female, and a complex, engrossing story. And that’s what should matter.

Buttercup the cat is still a jerk.

Like Katniss, you may find it harder, after watching the film, to cheer exclusively for Team Gale or Team Peeta.

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Go see it and tell me what you think. Just remember who the real enemy is (exorbitant popcorn prices?) And weigh in on the newest Jezebel debate, please.  No, not whether Catching Fire is a rip-off of The Empire Strikes Back. On whether Peeta is dumb.

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Crushin’ on a character

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He’s seventeen years old and I suspect his birthday is in early November (he has a lot of Scorpio traits, at least). He’s tall, dark of hair and eye, and possesses strong facial features. He’s smart, sarcastic, snotty at times, and generally convinced that he’s right about just about everything.  But he’s also loyal once you’ve won his respect, generous, funny, a great writer, and a surprisingly good kisser. I have a crush on him.

Even though I made him up and he does, not in fact, exist. But if he did, and I were seventeen again and in Michael Endicott’s orbit, I would probably make a fool of myself to try to get his attention.

 

If you’re a romance writer, you know what I mean. Crushing on your characters is an occupational hazard, and pretty harmless, especially when you consider other occupations’ hazards, like black lung or severed limbs or carpal tunnel syndrome (though we writers get that one, too). If you’re not a writer, you may not be aware of just how a-litte-in-love we writers are with our creations. I know some writers, creators of wonderful, hunky, godlike heroes who give their male romantic leads Twitter accounts so they seem that much more real (and able to interact with the readers who are crushing on them). And to hear Robert Pattinson tell it, Stephenie Meyer was downright creepy in her devotion to Edward Cullen, though I don’t listen to anything R-Pats has to say and don’t know anyone who does any more.

But we writers are not jealous girlfriends. We love when a reader finds our romantic lead just as swoon-worthy as we do. At least, my heart fills with glee when a reviewer of one of the Snark novellas gets sooooo mad at Georgia for being mean to Michael. I can’t think of a higher compliment for a writer than realizing that their writing has had the exact emotional effect on readers that they were envisioning. So I don’t get mad at all if some reader somewhere wants a little piece of Michael for him/herself – now that would be creepy! Since he exists as much in the minds of the reader as he does anyplace else, there’s plenty of him to go around. And while he’s a modest guy, I know for a fact he would be awfully flattered to think that somewhere somebody with an e-reader is imagining what he’s doing right now.

And you can even imagine that he looks like anyone you want him to. I mean no disrespect to my publisher or the great people who design the covers my series, (because they are awesome as you can see below) but Michael does not look like this guy

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or this guy

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But you can imagine he looks  any way you want. Because he belongs to his readers at least as much as he belongs to me.  Writers are pretty invested in their characters and love when readers get invested in them, too.

In some ways, Michael also belongs to Jane Austen, I suppose, since the Snark series is a modern take on Pride and Prejudice and Michael is a contemporary teenaged Mr. Darcy. So as a little tribute to his ancestor – and to everyone’s favorite scene in the BBC version of Austen’s novel – I made Michael wet in the last scene.  (He’s not coming out of a lake on his estate, but emerges, dripping, from a friend’s pool).

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It’s my little “easter egg”, of sorts. And I can assure you that, like Colin Firth, Michael looks pretty good wet. I’ll leave that to your imagination, too.

PS: Someone loved the P&P tv miniseries scene so much they made a statue! Check it out here. But apparently, that wasn’t even Mr. Firth in the wet shirt anyway. Click here to have your illusions shattered.

 

what i’m listening to 

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What I’m reading

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