Think business, not harem (On being a small businesswomen/writer) -
Sometimes conversations with other writers are somewhere between enlightening & terrifying … bc clarity can be like that. This is an industry that doesn’t have a clear path (no internship or necessary coursework or degrees) OR a lot of job security. It’s also a changing industry. That means that…
This is partly from a facebook thread that I started yesterday. I began with a quote from The Bishop’s Wife book 3 (untitled and still very much in progress), from Linda Wallheim’s point of view as she is arguing with her husband:
"I spent most of my life raising children. It’s the thing I’m the best at in the whole world. I know how to teach a child to pick up his toys. I know how to keep a child from touching a hot stove. I know five different ways to bribe a child to sit on the potty until his first success. I know how to talk about dating. I know how to make a teenage boy see how to look at the world differently. I know how to teach compassion and hard work. I’m a mother, Kurt. This is what being a mother has made me. I’m good at this one thing, and around me, people keep saying that maybe it’s time for me to learn how to do something else. Go back to school. Get a degree in something so I can start a new stage in life.”
I got comments from several people who said that they were surprised to read about a mother who thought of herself as a “good mother.” The problem is that it sounds arrogant and possibly wrong-headed for any woman to think of herself as a good mother. This is probably true of any woman thinking of herself as good at anything—we’re supposed to be quiet and sit around waiting to be complimented by men, right? But motherhood in particular is fraught with this image of perfection. No real woman can live up to that, which is why Mother’s Day is so painful for women when it ought to be a celebration of all that they do and give in a way that makes them comfortable rather than making them feel like they can never live up.
I wrote: “I feel like one of the most important parts of mothering is showing kids that mothers are human, with strong and weak parts. This is vital, because our daughters will grow up to be mothers and we don’t want them to be afraid to be imperfect. Our sons will grow up to marry mothers (and possibly do mothering of their own) and they need to know what is a reasonable expectation. That is, not perfection. They will need to step in and help and not be afraid that they’re not perfect, either. Imperfection is part of perfect mothering.”
This idea that when you become a mother, you are endowed with some kind of angelic insight into your children, along with this perfect love that makes you capable of knowing how to do everything right, and the capacity to give and give until you are sucked dry—that is so unhealthy. Really good mothers ought to be pointing out their flaws left and right to their kids so that this horrible, angelic ideal of motherhood is good and well destroyed. When you give birth to a child, or adopt, or however you get your child, you aren’t promising never to do anything wrong. You are engaging in a special, lifetime relationship with someone else. You agree to share your self, good and bad, with someone else, to keep working things out, to compromise, negotiate, and love. And like with any other normal, human relationship, you will get things wrong. You will want to give up. You will question yourself and wonder if you should turn into someone else to make this work. You shouldn’t. You’re doing it just fine.
Another one of the problems of the angelic,perfect mother is that there are crappy mothers out there, but we so very rarely call them on it because of this bizarre ideal. That is, I think children want so much to pretend that their mother is good that they end up unable to see what real good mothering is. A good mother isn’t a mother who refuses to let you make your own decisions. She doesn’t smother you with love. She doesn’t nitpick you to perfection or make you wonder if you’re crazy. A good mother doesn’t make problems for you with a new spouse. A good mother doesn’t tell you all the things you’re doing wrong with your kids. Or at least a good mother doesn’t consistently to that stuff, and apologizes for it if you call her on it. There are no perfect mothers, but imperfect ones are the best kind.
"The final sense (if the plot has been a fine one) will not be of clues or chains, but of something aesthetically compact, something which might have been shown by the novelist straight away, only if he had shown it straight away it would never have become beautiful."
I think this is such a brilliant insight on what it is that mystery in a plot is for. Yes, we could just tell everything in a straight forward way, but the delay is part of what causes us to value something. And the ways in which the ending is connected to so many other things makes it bigger than it would otherwise have been.
When I started working on The Bishop’s Wife, one of the things I most wanted to do was to create a character who was a mother and a hero. This is done less often than you think. There are a lot of kick-ass heroines, but most of them don’t mother actively. I guess this may seem obvious, but having little children who cling to and depend on you can get in the way of guns blazing.
But what if you could do a great female hero who wasn’t a guns blazing type? My favorite mother-hero of this type is Cordelia Naismith, who is a former member of the Betan Expeditionary group and ends up rather unwillingly fighting a war, and then being captured. But once she gets married, she wants to settle down and have babies and be happy. Only the world doesn’t let her do that. Or she doesn’t let herself do that, depending on how you look at it. So she saves her new planet from civil war, and she saves her son at the same time. But she does this in part because she isn’t pregnant and she has a uterine replicator to make it possible for her to not have to deal with our real-world realities of pregnancy.
I wanted to write a mother-hero who is in our real world and has to deal with real world stuff. In particular, I wanted to write a story about a woman who is a mother in a culture in which motherhood is lionized and women are told that motherhood is their most important role. To wit, Mormonism (which is, in fact, my home religion).
It’s one thing when you’re a dad and can go off, guns blazing, sure that your wife and children are safe left behind. Even when you’re Jack Ryan or James Bond and your wife/kids are killed or threatened with death, you aren’t held to the same standard as I think a mother is. Yes, you deal with guilt the rest of your life for failing to protect them. But what happens to the reader audience if a mother lets her kids be threatened in that way. I think the series beginning with The Boy in the Suitcase is a great exploration of complex motherhood.
But in Mormonism, the religious overtones of motherhood matter even more. What if you’re a mother who isn’t a mother anymore, whose kids are grown up? What are you good for? Do you continue to hover over kids who don’t need you? Do you find people you do need you? What are your internal excuses or explanations for putting yourself in physical danger if you get involved in crime? What about when you start wondering about the underpinnings of Mormonism and the expectations of male and female roles? What if crime seems to be helped rather than hindered by the Mormon culture?
Anyway, these are some of the things I’m exploring with the character of Linda Wallheim, Bishop’s wife and 50-something mother of 5 boys whose last son is a senior in high school and soon to head off on a mission.
As women, we are taught to be tiny. To have small bodies, to never be imposing. The ideal of our gender are thin and childlike, hairless and dainty. We are defined by our bodies; defined by our control over them. We are taught to obsess over our physicality and to be repulsed by our desires and intelligences.
We are taught to walk scared late at night. We cradle our keys between our perfectly manicured fingers, walking gracefully like a baby antelope in a herd of lions. — Michelle K., The Truth About Growing Up A Woman. (via concept-of-karma)
It saddens me to see girls proudly declaring they’re not like other girls – especially when it’s 41,000 girls saying it in a chorus, never recognizing the contradiction. It’s taking a form of contempt for women – even a hatred for women – and internalizing it by saying, Yes, those girls are awful, but I’m special, I’m not like that, instead of stepping back and saying, This is a lie.
The real meaning of “I’m not like the other girls” is, I think, “I’m not the media’s image of what girls should be.” Well, very, very few of us are. Pop culture wants to tell us that we’re all shallow, backstabbing, appearance-obsessed shopaholics without a thought in our heads beyond cute boys and cuter handbags. It’s a lie – a flat-out lie – and we need to recognize it and say so instead of accepting that judgment as true for other girls, but not for you. —
“I’m not like the other girls”, Claudia Gray (via fantasticremus)
I was like this for a long time—I’m not a girl, not like other girls. Internalized misogyny.
(Source: birdwithapeopleface, via seananmcguire)
People don’t like love, they like that flittery flirty feeling. They don’t love love - love is sacrificial, love is ferocious, it’s not emotive. Our culture doesn’t love love, it loves the idea of love. It wants the emotion without paying anything for it. It’s ridiculous. — Matt Chandler (via degreeschelsius)
(Source: kristinrankin, via ecmock)
Many authors feel that this is the most annoying of the frequently asked questions of authors. They feel like it is like asking a surgeon where he gets his steady hands or asking a dentist how he knows which tooth to dril on. They evade it, ignore it, or flippantly answer that they get ideas from aliens. I’ve felt the same way on many occasions, but I was thinking yesterday that it might be helpful to expand a little on the truth.
I get my ideas from:
1. Books or other story forms that make me angry about a wrong turn I see has been taken, or angry at a bunch of assumptions about the story itself and who is interesting in it. This burns inside of me and pushes me to try to do it better myself.
2. Books or other story forms that I love so much that I want to pay tribute or duplicate in some sense what I see, but would like to make into my very own.
3. News events that make me ask, What If, this were to happen to me, or to my family. How would I feel?
4. Sometimes I just read a news story or an article in a magazine and think—this is cool! I want to revel in that coolness and share the experience with other people.
5. Something in my real life is so deeply a part of my psyche that I need to shape it and make it understandable with words.
That’s pretty much it for me. I’m sure that other authors have other reasons that they write. But you’ll notice that all of my reasons are emotional at base, which is why my stories are the way that they are. Cool ideas tend to matter less to me than characters who experience something that causes an emotional reaction that feels real.
My main point here is that if you experience emotions on a regular basis, you are experiencing story ideas. You can turn any emotion that you feel into a story. You just need a beginning, a middle, and an end. Writers aren’t these people who actually feel more than anyone else. They just know the tricks to flesh out those feelings into a story. Anyone can do it if they practice it.
I can’t tell you how many times I have talked to aspiring writers who have a big story they want to tell, but they’re afraid. Not that they aren’t good enough to tell the story (though that happens), but because they are afraid of offending people. Family. Friends. Co-workers. Old colleagues from school who might see themselves in certain portrayals.
This is what I have to say about it:
Get over it.
If you’re a writer, you’re going to offend people. Don’t do it casually. Don’t do it without it meaning something. Don’t do it just for fun. Do it when it matters, though. Do it to make a difference, to make people see themselves in a new light.
And just think about this:
As a woman (and all of the writers who are afraid of this are women that I’ve met), you offend people by:
1. Taking up space, air, and resources that could go to a man.
2. Having a thought in your head that wasn’t put there by someone else.
3. Wanting something more than what other people give you.
4. Daring to disagree.
5. Demanding your voice be heard.
6. Keeping a female writing name.
7. Changing a female name to a gender neutral name.
8. Using a male writing name.
9. Speaking about your book to men and women alike.
10. Not apologizing for everything you do.
Write what you were born to write. Write what you need to write.
Men and women differ in their language patterns; for example, research suggests that men interrupt women more than women do men (a finding that surprises most men but not most women). —
Analyzing English Grammar, Klammer, Schulz, & Della Volpe, p. 21
you guys my grammar book is sassy
(Source: katyrex, via ecmock)