Don’t die a hoarder of your words

Don't die a hoarder of your words

One of the best stories I’ve ever written sits unpublished in a Google Docs folder.

I reread it for the first time in a long time the other day.

I reported and wrote it more than a year ago for a magazine writing class that focused heavily on creating vivid scenes through powerful dialogue and concrete details. It had been a long time since I’d done that kind of writing, which I’d mostly only ever attempted in fiction, but I became obsessed with the process.

The story lent itself well to such detailed description. It took place in an impoverished desert town a couple hours outside of Los Angeles, where stray dogs dart in front of cars and the streets have names like “Avenue R.” My main source was a vigilante on a mission, a tough yet generous woman, but the central character of the story was a dangerous, evil man—and the cause of a lot of division in the small community.

When I opened this story for the first time in months (with the idea of possibly fictionalizing it), I expected all its flaws to immediately jump out and remind me why the sole editor I pitched it to rejected it. But instead, all I thought reading it was, “I can’t believe I didn’t send this around. What was wrong with me?” As many publications as there are out there, this story could have and would have found a home, I’m now sure.

This lack of follow-through upon the completion or near-completion of a piece of work is certainly not unique to me. How many writers at some point in their lives have abandoned a story halfway through, given up after getting rejected once, or never let their work see the light of day because it’s never quite perfect? My guess is every single one. After all, no one shits rainbows every time.

But how many writers continue this self-defeating behavior throughout their lives, limiting themselves to mediocre success at best, disappointment and disenchantment at worst? More than we could ever know or guess, all because they’re not letting themselves be vulnerable to rejection and criticism.

Everyone has their excuses. For me, it was that the story still had some minor flaws in the structure I was unsure of how to fix. I didn’t have access to expensive court documents that would’ve taken it up a notch. I was afraid that the story’s central character—the violent, evil man—might find and hurt me. These were all valid concerns, but they were lousy excuses for letting the story die.

The kicker? The day after I dug this file up again, a major newspaper ran their own version of the story. The same central character, the same facts, even some of the same sources I’d written about and reported on more than a year ago! I have a feeling life will keep cheerily providing such lessons as this if I don’t make some adjustments.

Luckily, that was not the last good story I will ever write. The same goes for anyone else who blew an opportunity or is simply in a rut. Because contrary to the irrational yet commonly held fear that creativity is a well that runs dry, there will always be more to tap into as long as we remain open to it. We can’t be fully receptive to it, though, if we keep the things we create to ourselves. What good is shielding our hearts and our words from scrutiny?

If you still need further convincing, just remember, there is plenty of terrible writing readily available on the internet that’s thoughtlessly published every day by people who don’t even consider themselves writers. That content machine just keeps chugging. Don’t let those voices be the majority.

Death doesn’t discriminate, and it’d be a damn shame to die hoarding our work.

So quit tweaking, fiddling, second-guessing, and giving up, and start pitching, publishing, promoting and celebrating your writing. If you don’t, who else will?

A reminder about resolutions

A reminder about resolutions
Happy 2016, writer ladies!

If you’re like me, you love the fresh start a new year offers but are wary of making resolutions just for the sake of announcing them to the world (and promptly forgetting them). Still, when everyone else in blog and Twitterland seems to be making bold promises, it’s hard not to feel like we should be pushing ourselves to do more.

For writers, it’s the pressure to interact constantly on social media. To write and publish an ebook—then give it away for free. To promote your blog posts 12x a day. To write every day and not make excuses because you will never be a real writer if you don’t.

Do you feel guilty yet?! And that’s just the everyday stuff—never mind New Year’s resolutions.

So how about instead of setting ourselves up for failure and guilt because of this social need to set grand intentions, we all agree on something first: Do what you want and need. But don’t do anything that won’t help your process as a writer and human person because of external pressures—real or perceived.

In fact, maybe the answer is to stop doing certain things instead of adding more to our plates.

Listen, I do think as writers it’s important that we engage with our communities, put ourselves out there, and consistently show up to the computer even when it’s hard. (Because if we gave up the second things became difficult, we’d all be this guy.)

But if social media or marketing or writing content for the sake of having content is stealing joy away from your process and existence as a writer, maybe, like, do less of it. Maybe that’s your New Year’s resolution: Less social media.

If it’s more you’re after, however, set goals that don’t feel like a chore, that offer a little wiggle room and make writing fun. Don’t let anyone else’s big plans affect how you make decisions for yourself. Focus on the important stuff: the writing.

Cool? Cool.

2016, you’re shaping up to be a fine year.

 

Writer Spotlight: Estelle Maskame

Writer Spotlight: Estelle Maskame

I’m so excited to introduce yet another teen author in the Writer Spotlight series—this time, Estelle Maskame, the 18-year-old author of the Did I Mention I Love You? trilogy. Growing up in Scotland, Estelle began writing about teens in faraway cities when she was just 13 and finished her DIMILY trilogy three years later. Estelle’s writing has garnered more than 4 million hits on Wattpad, and she’s amassed a huge Twitter following to boot. The third installment of her trilogy will be out in January.

Meet Estelle Maskame

Tell us about your upbringing and how you got into writing.

To put it simply, I wasn’t really good at anything else while growing up. Most of the people I went to school with were in dance schools or taking gymnastic classes or were on a football team, so it took me a while to figure out what I was good at and what I enjoyed.

Once a week at school we were required to do “storywriting” where we were usually given a prompt and were asked to work from there, writing a page or two. I could never write enough. Writing those short stories at school were my favorite time of the week, and I couldn’t get enough of it, so I began writing at home. I’d spend hours on end in my room, typing away on my laptop, crafting together short stories which gradually turned to novels. I was twelve when I decided that I wanted to be an author, and I’ve never looked back.

Your books are set in several different cities. Have you been to those places before, or did you do research? Describe your process of establishing setting and making it realistic.

I’ve never stepped foot in any of the cities mentioned throughout the trilogy. The last time I was in the U.S. was when I was seven, so I didn’t have that much knowledge about the country as a whole other than what I’d read in books or watched on TV. I honestly can’t count how many hours I’ve spent in total researching these cities over the past four and-a-half years!

There are so many small details that need to be looked into, and I try to be as accurate as I possibly can be, so it takes a long time. After I’ve researched what I can by scrolling through Wikipedia, Google maps, weather history and so on, I usually talk to people who live in the city just to verify that everything is correct.

Do you have a writing routine or process? How do you avoid getting stuck or burned out?

I don’t do anything fancy. I don’t create a plan, but rather I just start writing and see where it takes me. Sometimes I totally hit a wall after I’ve been writing for too long or if I’m writing an important scene that I’m trying too hard to make perfect, and I find that just stepping away and taking a break does wonders for me. I end up coming back later with a clear head.

You’ve talked about the darker side of success in the form of cyber bullying. How do you deal with the trolls and keep the negativity from affecting you and your work?

It used to really get to me when I was younger, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve learned that those who want to tear others down are the ones who have the problem, not me. I’m the one who was working hard and having fun and had pride in my work and was actually achieving something worthwhile, while they were the ones spending their time focusing on my life rather than their own. They weren’t gaining anything from making me feel bad, because I only worked harder to prove them wrong. Now that I’ve got my book deal, I feel like telling them, “Look at me now.” And it’s fair to say that it’s all gone quiet over on their end!

Describe what it felt like seeing your books in print for the first time. What went through your mind?

It was honestly the most overwhelming feeling in the world. Seeing the books in stores for the first time was what hit me the hardest, because it was always something I had dreamed about which I never thought would happen. Walking into a store and picking up something I wrote will forever be insane to me.

Writer Spotlight: Estelle Maskame

What can readers expect in the third installment of DIMILY? What do you love most about your third book?

The third book is different in the way that it focuses a lot more on the family as a whole this time rather than mainly just Tyler, Eden and their friends like the first two installments. The third book is very complicated and intense, I think, and it’s definitely a bumpy ride, but I like the way every scene plays out.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

John Green, Jennifer Niven, Rainbow Rowell and Lauren Oliver are just some of my favorite authors!

Do you plan on being a career writer? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I don’t tend to plan too far in advance into the future, mostly because things can change so easily, but ideally, yes. That would be another dream come true. And in ten years’ time, I like to think I’ll still be hunched over a laptop every day stringing sentences together. That would be nice.

What advice would you give to young writers?

I think a lot of young writers feel that their writing isn’t up to par or that they’re not taken seriously because they’re young. The most important thing when writing at this age is to keep on going, because this is when our writing is constantly changing and improving the most, so don’t worry if your writing isn’t yet up to the standard that you want it to be. I can’t even look back at the stories I wrote when I was 12 without cringing, but at the same time I’m proud of them because without writing them I would never have improved. Always be proud of what you write!

Young writers have the ability to write novels as unique and interesting as a person in their fifties could, so never think of your age as a setback, and don’t be afraid to get your work out there. I really do recommend posting online. It can seem terrifying to let strangers read your work, but on sites like Wattpad, people are never often negative. You’ll always find people who love your work and you never know who could be noticing it—a lot of writers get discovered online, and you could be one of them.

 

Thanks so much, Estelle, for stopping by, and congrats on the upcoming release of your latest book! If you enjoyed Estelle’s interview, please let her know in the comments, and don’t forget to follow her on Twitter.

 

ICYMI: Writer Spotlight on Anna Caltabiano

50 feminist books and authors to read

50 feminist books and authors to read | Witty Title Here

photo by Flickr user pamhule

Looking to jumpstart or continue your feminist education? This roundup of books is a pretty good start.

Below are 50 books by badass female authors who have all in their own way gone against the status quo. Though by no means comprehensive, this list ranges in genre and scope—including everything from poetry to memoir, 19th-century literature to 21st-century manifesto, and beyond.

Whether or not every woman on this list embraces the label “feminist,” every woman has in some way paved a path for the women who have come after them. These women gave a damn and used their talents as women and writers to make a difference. My only regret is that this list wasn’t twice as long, but then, I’d still be putting it together rather than making a dent in this list!

This roundup is in alphabetical order by author and includes either an excerpt from the book or a quote from a review.

So enjoy, and feel free to add books I missed in the comments. Like this list? Tweet about it.

1. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Nonfiction, 2014

Excerpt: “Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general—but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women.”

2. Infidel: My Life by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Nonfiction – memoir, 2006

“Narrated in clear, vigorous prose, it traces the author’s geographical journey from Mogadishu to Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Kenya, and her desperate flight to the Netherlands to escape an arranged marriage.” – NY Times

3. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Young adult fiction, 2004

“A frightening and sobering look at the cruelty and viciousness that pervade much of contemporary high school life.” – Kirkus

4. The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou

Poetry, 1994

Excerpt:

“You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.”

5. The Essential Ellen Willis, edited by Nona Willis Aronowitz

Nonfiction, 2014

“Edited by Willis’s daughter, it begins with a 1969 essay on Willis’s awakening to feminism and concludes with excerpts from an unfinished book exploring the ‘cultural unconscious in American politics.'” – NY Times

6. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Science fiction, 1985

“It has become a sort of tag for those writing about shifts towards policies aimed at controlling women, and especially women’s bodies and reproductive functions.” – The Guardian

7. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Fiction, 1847

Excerpt: “I am not an angel,’ I asserted; ‘and I will not be one till I die: I will be myself. Mr. Rochester, you must neither expect nor exact anything celestial of me – for you will not get it, any more than I shall get it of you: which I do not at all anticipate.”

8. The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Fiction, 1899

Excerpt: “She was becoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious self which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world.”

9. Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories by Sandra Cisneros

Fiction – short stories, 1991

“The stories are often about the romantic dreams of young girls longing to escape stifling small-town life who discover that things are not much different on the other side of the border.” – Library Journal

10. The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton

Poetry, 2012

“[This] may be the most important book of poetry to appear in years.” – Publishers Weekly

11. When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present by Gail Collins

Nonfiction, 2009

“Collins uses her great sense of revealing anecdotes, engaging personalities, representative case histories, resonant stories, and startling details to defamiliarize a decade we thought we remembered, and to show how truly far American women have come in every aspect of their lives.” – Huffington Post

12. The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir

Nonfiction, 1949

Excerpt: “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.”

13. The Hidden Face of Eve by Nawal El Saadawi

Nonfiction, 2006

“A powerful indictment of the treatment of women in many parts of the Middle East.” – Labour Herald

14. In Search of Islamic Feminism by Elizabeth Warnock Fernea

Nonfiction, 1998

“A remarkable, stereotype-shattering, gender-bending study of Middle Eastern women and their efforts to gain equality.” – Kirkus

15. Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference by Cordelia Fine

Nonfiction, 2010

Excerpt: “When the environment makes gender salient, there is a ripple effect on the mind. We start to think of ourselves in terms of our gender, and stereotypes and social expectations become more prominent in the mind. This can change self-perception, alter interests, debilitate or enhance ability, and trigger unintentional discrimination. In other words, the social context influences who you are, how you think and what you do.”

16. The Women’s Room by Marilyn French

Fiction, 1977

“A biting social commentary on an emotional world gone silently haywire, The Women’s Room is a modern classic that offers piercing insight into the social norms accepted so blindly and revered so completely.” – Goodreads

17. The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan

Nonfiction, 1963

Excerpt: “Over and over again, stories in women’s magazines insist that women can know fulfillment only at the moment of giving birth to a child. They deny the years when she can no longer look forward to giving birth, even if she repeats the act over and over again. In the feminine mystique, there is no other way for a woman to dream of creation or of the future. There is no other way she can even dream about herself, except as her children’s mother, her husband’s wife.”

18. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Nonfiction – essays, 2014

Excerpt: “It’s hard to be told to lighten up because if you lighten up any more, you’re going to float the fuck away.”

19. The Madwoman in the Attic by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar

Nonfiction, 1979

Excerpt: “A life of feminine submission, of ‘contemplative purity,’ is a life of silence, a life that has no pen and no story, while a life of female rebellion, of ‘significant action,’ is a life that must be silenced, a life whose monstrous pen tells a terrible story.”

20. The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer

Nonfiction, 1970

“The publication of Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch in 1970 was a landmark event, raising eyebrows and ire while creating a shock wave of recognition in women around the world with its steadfast assertion that sexual liberation is the key to women’s liberation.” – Amazon

21. The Sex Myth by Rachel Hills

Nonfiction, 2015

“Hills argues persuasively that when our value is tied to sexual desirability and performance, we live with a new kind of shame…The Sex Myth provides a clarifying framework for understanding new versions of old contradictions…Hills makes a smart argument against that strain of neo- or anti-feminism that would have women rebel against objectification by objectifying ourselves.” – NY Times

22. Ain’t I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism by bell hooks

Nonfiction, 1981

Excerpt: “If women want a feminist revolution—ours is a world that is crying out for feminist revolution—then we must assume responsibility for drawing women together in political solidarity. That means we must assume responsibility for eliminating all the forces that divide women.”

23. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Fiction, 1937

“A deeply soulful novel that comprehends love and cruelty, and separates the big people from the small of heart, without ever losing sympathy for those unfortunates who don’t know how to live properly.” – Zadie Smith

24. Cherry by Mary Karr

Nonfiction, 2000

“From Mary Karr comes this gorgeously written, often hilarious story of her tumultuous teens and sexual coming-of-age. Picking up where the bestselling The Liars’ Club left off, Karr dashes down the trail of her teen years with customary sass, only to run up against the paralyzing self-doubt of a girl in bloom.” – SF Chronicle

25. The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts by Maxine Hong Kingston

Nonfiction – memoir, 1976

“Like the ‘ghosts’ in its subtitle (the word refers to the white Americans around whom Kingston grew up in Sacramento), The Woman Warrior stubbornly refuses to be either entirely fictive or entirely real. Perhaps the second most remarkable thing about the book is that in its wake, the American literary world still seems to regard the tissue-thin boundary between memoir and fiction as absolute and inviolable.” – Slate

50 feminist books and authors to read | Witty TItle Here

26. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

Science fiction, 1969

“No single work did more to upend the genre’s conventions than The Left Hand of Darkness. In this novel, her fourth, Le Guin imagined a world whose human inhabitants have no fixed gender: their sexual roles are determined by context and express themselves only once every month.” – Paris Review

27. Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture by Ariel Levy

Nonfiction, 2005

Excerpt: “A tawdry, cartoonlike version of female sexuality has become so ubiquitous, it no longer seems particular. What we once regarded as a kind of sexual expression we now regard as sexuality.”

28. Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde

Nonfiction – essays and speeches, 1984

Excerpt: “Guilt is not a response to anger; it is a response to one’s own actions or lack of action. If it leads to change then it can be useful, since it is then no longer guilt but the beginning of knowledge. Yet all too often, guilt is just another name for impotence, for defensiveness destructive of communication; it becomes a device to protect ignorance and the continuation of things the way they are, the ultimate protection for changelessness.”

29. Sexual Politics by Kate Millett

Nonfiction, 1970

Excerpt: “Whatever the ‘real’ differences between the sexes may be, we are not likely to know them until the sexes are treated differently, that is alike.”

30. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

Fiction, 1908

Excerpt: “Oh, it’s delightful to have ambitions. I’m so glad I have such a lot. And there never seems to be any end to them— that’s the best of it. Just as soon as you attain to one ambition you see another one glittering higher up still. It does make life so interesting.”

31. How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

Nonfiction – memoir, 2011

Excerpt: “What is feminism? Simply the belief that women should be as free as men, however nuts, dim, deluded, badly dressed, fat, receding, lazy and smug they might be. Are you a feminist? Hahaha. Of course you are.”

32. The Diary Of Anaïs Nin by Anaïs Nin

Nonfiction – memoir, 1966

Excerpt: “I disregard the proportions, the measures, the tempo of the ordinary world. I refuse to live in the ordinary world as ordinary women. To enter ordinary relationships. I want ecstasy. I am a neurotic—in the sense that I live in my world. I will not adjust myself to the world. I am adjusted to myself.”

33. Fat Is a Feminist Issue by Susie Orbach

Nonfiction, 1978

“Orbach throws out old-fashioned notions of fat being the price one must pay for a life of greed and sloth. She proposes a vastly more complex thesis: namely, that gender inequality makes women fat.” – The Guardian

34. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

Fiction, 2013

“Many of the elements of Nao’s story—schoolgirl bullying, unemployed suicidal “salarymen,” kamikaze pilots—are among a Western reader’s most familiar images of Japan, but in Nao’s telling, refracted through Ruth’s musings, they become fresh and immediate, occasionally searingly painful.” – NY Times

35. Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and Revolution by Laurie Penny

Nonfiction, 2014

Excerpt: “This is one of the reasons why women, and particularly young women, have adapted particularly well to the way in which social media and the capitalisation of the social realm requires everyone to apply the logic of branding to our own lives in order to gain followers. We have always been encouraged to understand femininity as a form of branding, albeit one burnt into our flesh at birth.”

36. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Fiction, 1963

Excerpt: “I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.”

37. Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights by Katha Pollitt

Nonfiction, 2014

“Pollitt’s exploration of the hypocrisy of abortion opponents—including the ‘inverse relationship between support for abortion restrictions and support for programs that help low-income pregnant women, babies and children’—is so witheringly encyclopedic it will be an eye opener for those who have never darkened the door of a women’s studies classroom.” – NY Times

38. The Female Man by Joanna Russ

Science fiction, 1975

“It’s influenced William Gibson and been listed as one of the ten essential works of science fiction. Most importantly, Joanna Russ’s The Female Man is a suspenseful, surprising and darkly witty chronicle of what happens when Jeannine, Janet, Joanna, and Jael—four alternative selves from drastically different realities—meet.” – Goodreads

39. The Big Lie: Motherhood, Feminism, and the Reality of the Biological Clock by Tanya Selvaratnam

Nonfiction, 2014

“On one hand, it’s a critical inquiry into the world of reproductive technologies that have made it possible for women to have babies later and later in life. On another, it’s an examination of the cultural forces at play over the last 40-odd years that, Selvaratnam argues, have encouraged women to delay motherhood until they’re financially, professionally and emotionally ready. And on still another it is an angry, intimate account of Selvaratnam’s own struggle to have a child in her late 30s and early 40s—a struggle that led to multiple miscarriages, IVF, the discovery of and treatment for two rare cancers and, eventually, the end of her marriage.” – Chicago Tribune

40. Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls by Rachel Simmons

Nonfiction, 2002

“There is little sugar but lots of spice in journalist Rachel Simmons’s brave and brilliant book that skewers the stereotype of girls as the kinder, gentler gender. Odd Girl Out begins with the premise that girls are socialized to be sweet with a double bind: they must value friendships; but they must not express the anger that might destroy them. Lacking cultural permission to acknowledge conflict, girls develop what Simmons calls ‘a hidden culture of silent and indirect aggression.'” – Amazon

41. Just Kids by Patti Smith

Nonfiction – memoir, 2010

Excerpt: “I’m certain, as we filled down the great staircase, that I appeared the same as ever, a moping twelve years-old, all arms and legs. But secretly I knew I had been transformed, moved by the revelation that human beings create art, that to be an artist was to see what others could not.”

42. Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays by Zadie Smith

Nonfiction – essays, 2009

“Smith casts her acute eye over material both personal and cultural, with wonderfully engaging essays-some published here for the first time-on diverse topics including literature, movies, going to the Oscars, British comedy, family, feminism, Obama, Katharine Hepburn, and Anna Magnani.” – Goodreads

43. Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

Nonfiction – essays, 2014

Excerpt: “Men explain things to me, still. And no man has ever apologized for explaining, wrongly, things that I know and they don’t.”

44. Against Interpretation by Susan Sontag

Nonfiction – essays, 1966

Excerpt: “None of us can ever retrieve that innocence before all theory when art knew no need to justify itself, when one did not ask of a work of art what it said because one knew what it did. From now to the end of consciousness, we are stuck with the task of defending art.”

45. Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions by Gloria Steinem

Nonfiction – essays, 1983

“Steinem’s truly personal writing is here, from the humorous exposé ‘I Was a Playboy Bunny’ to the moving tribute to her mother “Ruth’s Song (Because She Could Not Sing It)” to prescient essays on female genital mutilation and the difference between erotica and pornography. The satirical and hilarious ‘If Men Could Menstruate’ alone is worth the price of admission. – Amazon

46. Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti

Nonfiction, 2007

Excerpt: “What’s the worst possible thing you can call a woman? You’re probably thinking of words like slut, whore, bitch, cunt, skank. Okay, now, what are the worst things you can call a guy? Fag, girl, bitch, pussy. Notice anything? The worst thing you can call a girl is a girl. The worst thing you can call a guy is a girl. Being a woman is the ultimate insult. Now tell me that’s not royally fucked up.”

47. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Fiction, 1982

“Alice Walker’s choice and effective handling of the epistolary style has enabled her to tell a poignant tale of women’s struggle for equality and independence without either the emotional excess of her previous novel ‘Meridian’ or the polemical excess of her short-story collection ‘You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down.'” – NY Times

48. Vagina: A New Biography by Naomi Wolfe

Nonfiction, 2012

“Exhilarating and groundbreaking, Vagina: A New Biography combines rigorous science, explained for lay readers, with cultural history and deeply personal considerations of the role of female desire in female identity, creativity, and confidence, from interviewees of all walks of life.” – Goodreads

49. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

Nonfiction, 1929

Excerpt: “Anything may happen when womanhood has ceased to be a protected occupation.”

50. Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women by Elizabeth Wurtzel

Nonfiction, 1998

Bitch is a brilliant tract on the history of manipulative female behavior. By looking at women who derive their power from their sexuality, Wurtzel offers a trenchant cultural critique of contemporary gender relations.” – Goodreads

 

What books would you add to this list? Leave your suggestions in the comments, and I just might do a part two to this post.

Like this roundup? Tweet about it!

Writer Spotlight: Anna Caltabiano

Writer Spotlight: Anna Caltabiano

Today’s interviewee is a teen author with a massive social media following. Anna Caltabiano is the author of The Seventh Miss Hatfield, All That is Red and the forthcoming The Time of the Clockmaker. Anna self-published her first book at just 14 and now, at 18, is in college pursuing a medical degree. Here, she talks about writing as a practice, working with editors and how she hopes a career in medicine will affect her writing.

Meet Anna Caltabiano

I understand you started writing because of a bet you had with your dad. Can you give us the backstory on that?

It’s a bit of a strange story, actually. I’m an only child, and normally every summer my dad does what a lot of parents of only children do—sign their kid up for summer camp so they don’t spend their summer being a couch potato. One summer, to escape summer camp, I told my parents that I was going to write a novel. I loved to write short stories, and I had always meant to write a novel someday, so I decided that that was as good a time as any. Of course, my dad said what any parent in their right mind would say: “Yeah, right.” I ended up parking myself right in the middle of the dining room table all summer to write the first draft of what would later become my first novel, All That is Red.

Have you developed a writing routine over the years? And how have you balanced writing with school?

I try to write a little every day. Of course, that doesn’t always happen. But I think of writing as something you practice. You can’t automatically become “good” at it. It’s something you get better at just by the sheer number of hours you spend on it. And what’s the best way to practice something? Doing a little of it each day.

Many of my classmates spend hours practicing their sport or running through lines for their musical. Writing is my activity. It’s not the only think I like to do, but it’s something that I love that I want to spend time practicing. I’m in an eight-year medical program in school, so I’m looking forward to learning about people in different ways. What better way to learn about the ins and outs of people than through studying and practicing medicine? I think what I will see and learn could only improve my writing.

Which part of storytelling do you love the most? What is the most challenging part?

My personal favorite part of writing is creating the dialogue. That’s where the storytelling becomes real for me; when characters have real dialogue, they become real people.

The most challenging part for me is writing the middle of the novel. I always start with the end of the novel in mind. Then I come up with a suitable beginning, and work forward by writing from start to finish. The middle is a wide-open mystery. I need to work through the story from beginning to end to find out what happens to the characters just as the reader works from beginning to end.

Can you describe what the process of publishing your first book was like? What did you learn during that process of working with editors and publishers?

I think that the most important part about being published is that you get to work with a professional editor. Their job is taking books that authors like me write, going through them in detail, and recommending how we can make them better. How lucky am I to have two world-class editors (one in London with Hachette and one in New York with HarperCollins) giving me advice on improving my books. Editors are often worried about hurting the feeling or confidence of writers by critiquing their books. I look at it totally differently. I am truly grateful to have such great editors spend time on helping my writing.

What about before you got your publishing deal—did you face rejection? If so, how did you deal with it and push past it?

Writing is very personal; you put down your own thoughts and emotions on the page, so when you get a rejection, it can sting a little. But what does one “no” really mean? All it means was that it was one “no” out of the way on your path to getting that one “yes” that could mean everything.

How was writing your first book at 14 different from writing your third book at 17?

Aside from the circumstances of writing my first book, which I previously mentioned, writing my third book was not that different from my first. Yes, it helps to do some basic planning, but in the end you cannot spend too much time diagramming and preparing to write. You just need to get down to the writing. Put pen to paper—or these days, fingers to the keyboard. Write every day. Don’t worry about being a perfectionist when writing—save perfectionism for when you are editing.

Anna Caltabiano

You’ve got a huge social media following, especially on Twitter. How did you build that? How important has it been to have that platform as an author?

I wrote my first book on a very sensitive, rarely discussed topic—self-harm, specifically cutting. Being a young teenager, and writing an allegorical novel on this topic, gained me immediate attention. I appeared on TV, in newspapers, and in various magazines, which, in turn, seemed to enhance my online following. Interacting online is incredibly important for an author these days, since social media has replaced bookstores and newspaper book reviews as the primary way that authors communicate with potential readers.

Do you intend to be a career writer/novelist? What would you like your life to look like in 10 years?

I plan to write the rest of my life. However, to be the best possible writer, you also need to experience life. Now, I am going through the college process, full of excitement, wonder, stimulation, exhaustion, and stress. Everything I do professionally and personally, everyone I meet, affects my writing.

I am studying medicine at Brown University. I plan to build a career in medicine and the mental health field, but I will always share this profession with my writing. In fact, I am sure that my professional and writing worlds will enhance each other and make me both a better doctor and a better writer.

What advice would you give to a young writer?

It’s easy to want to make things perfect—to sit in front of your computer or pad of paper and stare at it until the perfect words come to mind to write down. Writing rarely works that way. Put something down and tell yourself that you can—no, you should—change it later. Not only are you allowed to edit your own writing, you should; it makes you a better writer. If you wait for inspiration or perfection, you’ll be waiting a long time, maybe forever.

 

Thanks, Anna, for your thoughtful responses! If you enjoyed Anna’s interview—or if you have any questions—let her know in the comments. Don’t forget to follow Anna on Twitter.