Author Archives: Writergurlny

About Writergurlny

I am Brooklyn, NY born and raised writer who needs writing to find sanity in an insane world. To quote Charlotte Bronte: “I'm just going to write because I cannot help it.”

Rodham Book Review

Life sometimes comes down to a series of choices. But the thing about these choices is that we never know where these choices will lead us.

Curtis Sittenfeld‘s new novel, Rodham, was released back in May. The book asks one basic question: what if Hillary Rodham has not married Bill Clinton? How would her life had turned out?

The book starts out when they are both students at Yale Law School in the 1970’s. Finding a nearly ideal partner in one another, their romantic relationship is on fire. After graduation, Hillary follows Bill back to Arkansas. But instead of marrying him, she ends the relationship.

Over the decades, Bill and Hillary will cross paths as she builds a career in politics and grapples with the same sexism that existed in her youth.

This book is brilliant. Balancing both the known facts and the what if question, Sittenfeld creates a narrative that feels completely organic. I was immediately sucked in and taken through an alternative history that could have happened, had things gone differently.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Feminism, History, Politics

Throwback Thursday: Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)

When a book (whether it is a traditional book or a comic book) is transferred to the big or small screen, it has to be much more than a soulless copy. Whatever qualities made the book successful, those qualities must be transferred to live action adaptation.

Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer hit theaters in 2007. The sequel to Fantastic Four (2005), the film adds to the world of this narrative by introducing the characters and the audience to the Silver Surfer (voiced by Laurence Fisburne and physically played by Doug Jones). Sent by Galactus, the Surfer arrives on Earth to warn of it’s residence of his master’s impending arrival and our destruction. It is up to the Fantastic Four to save the day and ensure that the planet remains intact.

Though it is slightly better than it’s predecessor, this is far from the best comic book movie ever made. Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer is the type of film one watches on a lazy weekend afternoon when you need to something, but don’t want to leave the house.

Do I recommend it? I am leaning toward maybe with a possibility of a no.

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Filed under Movie Review, Movies, Throwback Thursday

Israel Sends Aid to Beirut in Spite of Threats of Destruction

There are two sides to humanity. There are ways in which we are different (which is not all that bad). There are also ways in which are we similar.

One of the ways in which we are similar is how we are instructed to treat one other. The Golden Rule aka “Do to no one what you yourself dislike.” exists in multiple religious texts from a variety of belief systems.

Yesterday, a building filled with chemicals exploded in Beirut. As of tonight, 100 people died from the explosion, thousands are injured and many more are homeless.

In response, other countries have sent humanitarian aid and support. Among those countries is Israel. Yes, Israel.

In spite of the constant threat of destruction by Hezbollah, the Israelis put whatever enmity and bad blood they have aside to help the victims.

That is the Israel that I know and love. Perhaps you should get to know her as I do.

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Filed under International News, World News

Thoughts on Ticked Off Vic: Elected Officials Who Think They’re the Ruling Class

The purpose of democracy is to ensure that the voice of the average citizen is heard. There is no aristocratic type hierarchy in which a ruler and the wealthy classes are more important than the average person on the street.

At least that is the idea.

The latest news from Washington D.C. is that the traditional Congressional August recess has left a few unresolved issues on the table. One of these is whether or not to continue to send an additional $600 a week in unemployment to those who are still jobless due to Covid-19. I have a few opinions on the topic, but I will let Vic DiBitetto (Ticked Off Vic) share his perspective. The nail has been hit on the head.

As usual, his videos contain language that might be offensive to some people.

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Filed under National News, Politics

“It is What it is”-How POTUS Responds to Covid-19

Difficult times often reveal who a person is. How they respond to the crisis unfolding in front of them speaks volumes.

Since Covid-19 made itself a little too comfortable in the United States earlier this year, the economy has gone down the drain and over 150,00 Americans have lost their lives.

And what is the response of POTUS to this double calamity?

“is what it is” 

If doesn’t piss you off, I don’t what to say. Not only is this man incompetent, he doesn’t give two sh*ts about the country. He only cares about number one.

Over the last three years, he has given us plenty of reasons to question if he can do the job the American voters hired him to do. If one was to list the reasons why he is incapable, this statement would be in the top five, if not number one.

P.S. If you have not seen the Jonathan Swan interview, I highly recommend that you do so. It is an SNL skit in the making.

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Filed under National News, Politics, Television

Bronte’s Mistress-Author Q&A with Finola Austin

Among Bronte fans, Lydia Robinson is seen as a controversial figure. Employing both Anne and Branwell as a governess and a tutor respectively, Lydia appeared to dutifully follow the rules of both gender and class that ruled women of the Victorian era. She was also having an alleged affair with Branwell. Bronte’s Mistress, the debut novel by Finola Austin, gives Lydia the voice that fans of the Bronte’s have yet to hear.

I’m looking forward to the novel and I am thrilled that Finola will be answering a few questions.

AB: What drew you to the Brontes and more specifically, Lydia’s story?

FA: I have always loved Victorian literature. I grew up reading the novels of writers such as Charles Dickens, the Brontes, George Eliot, and Thomas Hardy, and studied Classics & English as an undergraduate at the University of Oxford. I then stayed on at Oxford to complete a Masters in English Literature, 1800-1914. My dissertation was on the works of Victorian sensation novelists Mary Elizabeth Braddon and Wilkie Collins, but I also wrote an essay on student/teacher attraction in the novels of Charlotte Bronte as part of my graduate studies.

I was drawn to Lydia’s story in 2016 when I finally read Elizabeth Gaskell’s The Life of Charlotte Bronte (the first Bronte biography). It was a book I’d been meaning to read for a very long time. Gaskell describes Lydia as a “profligate woman,” who “tempted” Branwell into sin. I was enthralled by the scandal and controversy (Lydia threatened to sue Gaskell for libel), as well as by the Bronte connection. I just knew this was a story I had to tell.

AB: When did you read your first Bronte novel and what was your impression of that first book?

FA: My first Bronte novel was Jane Eyre and it was read to me by my mother, when I was pretty young—I’d guess I was seven or eight at the time? I loved the book, especially the early sections set during Jane’s horrific schooldays. But, even as a child, I had questions. I didn’t think I’d have been as good as Jane, refusing to live in sin with Rochester, and I thought Jane was very judgmental, especially of Blanche Ingram. Wasn’t she just trying to make her own way as Jane was?

AB: Do you have a favorite Bronte novel?

FA: Jane Eyre is probably still my favorite, though I also love Charlotte’s Villette.

AB: You spent a year researching the novel. Can you describe your experience with the research and how that changed your impression of the characters along the way?

FA:  My full research process is detailed in my Author’s Note at the end of my novel, so no spoilers here, but I will say it was extensive. A huge focus was understanding the lives of Lydia’s servants better, and this was an area where my research went beyond a lot of what has been done by Bronte scholars through the years. The most fun part of my research was visiting Yorkshire. I found it quite emotional to see the graves of many of the Robinson family and their neighbors, and to visit the Monk’s House, the building where Branwell once slept.

My research gave me a much fuller understanding of my characters. For the servants, it told me what roles they played in Thorp Green Hall, who their loved ones were, and what happened to them after the disbandment of the Robinson household. When it comes to Lydia, in my work in the archives of the Bronte Parsonage Museum, I held 1) an inventory of her furniture, allowing me to picture the objects that surrounded her; 2) eighteen letters in her hand, giving me her distinctive sign-off, “yours very truly,” which I use throughout the book; and 3) her husband’s accounts book, which is important to the plot of my novel.

AB: The hardest thing for a historical novel to do is to balance the history with the fictional narrative. How did you stay true to the history of your subjects while making the story palatable for modern readers?

FA: Bronte’s Mistress, unlike many historical novels, has a very quiet backdrop—this is rural Yorkshire, not Dickensian London.  Wars and politics are distant concerns to the Robinsons and their peers. This makes the balancing act of history and narrative a little easier than if I was writing characters on a grand historical stage.

Bronte’s Mistress is also written in first person, so I hope Lydia’s voice is what readers find compelling. Through it, we can cut through the formalities of Victorian middle-class existence and get to what’s human, timeless and universal—the voice inside us.

AB: Did you have any expectations about Lydia when you started the research or were you open to whatever information you were able to locate?

FA: I held myself to a very high standard, when it came to the accuracy of my story. By that I mean that everything that happens in Bronte’s Mistress is something I think could have happened, based on all the facts currently at our disposal. Where the fiction piece comes in is in exploring what characters thought, felt and said.  What I was looking for when researching the novel was dramatic possibility. I searched for the places that the historical record was silent and looked to create something beautiful in that void.

AB: How do you think Bronte fans will react to your novel?

FA: I hope fellow Bronte fans will discover the more subtle references to the works of all three Bronte sisters in my novel! These were fun to include and are little Easter eggs for you. I also think they’ll be excited to see Branwell and Anne, the overlooked siblings, foregrounded in this novel. Their time at Thorp Green Hall was very important to both of them—to Branwell’s deteriorating mental state and to Anne’s development as a talented novelist.

AB: If you were casting the movie version of the book, which actors would you ideally cast?

FA: This is a question I can never answer. My characters are like real people to me in my mind, so they don’t resemble actors (though of course I’d be thrilled to see them portrayed on screen!). One thing I do know is I that I would want an actor of the right age to be cast as Lydia. Lydia is forty-three at the start of my novel, and forty-eight by the end. She’s not the typical historical fiction heroine, who seems to be rarely older than twenty-one! There’s such a problem with women actors disappearing from the film industry when they’re deemed “too old” to be the romantic lead, but “too young” to be the matriarch. I think this would be a fantastic role for an actress in this, all too often, invisible decade.

AB: In your novel, Lydia Robinson could be interpreted is a more empathetic or even feminist character than Bronte lore implies. Was this your intention or did her character change as you were writing and researching?

FA: Lydia is no saint. She’s flawed—by turns, self-centered, petty, and oblivious to the emotions of those around her. And, even if in some ways she’s a feminist, straining against the strictures of nineteenth-century womanhood, she’s definitely a “bad feminist.” She is classist; she pretends to be against slavery for attention at a dinner party; and she is horrified when another character tells her they are attracted to people of the same sex. But, despite all of this, I hope that readers can have empathy for Lydia and her impossible situation. She’s been raised to do one thing—marry and produce children. She’s done that and she’s facing the question “now what?” Her husband is cold and uncaring. She has no recourse to divorce. She’s doomed to a life without sex, freedom, or excitement. I see Bronte’s Mistress as an exploration of the extreme claustrophobia of upper middle-class women’s lives in the period, and of the ways many women perpetrated misogyny, while also suffering from the consequences of it themselves.

AB: This is your first published novel. What advice do you have for aspiring novelists?

FA: Read constantly and critically. Join a writing group for feedback. Write an outline. Don’t use filter words. Finish the books you start.

Bronte’s Mistress will be released on August 4th. Find Finola Austin on social media on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

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Filed under Anne Bronte, Book Review, Books, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, Feminism, History

Writers, Do You Have a Cut Page?

Ask any writer and they will tell you that the hardest part of writing is editing. Otherwise known as killing your darlings, it is much more difficult the just deleting or scratching out areas of the text that need to fixed or removed completely. It is destroying the work that the writer has put blood, sweat and tears into.

Unfortunately, it is part of the writing process, whether we like it or not.

Enter the cut page.

I’ve had cut pages for the last few years and I find them to be helpful. The cut page is a separate document from the document that contains your story. Instead of permanently deleting text that was removed during the editing process, it is saved to perhaps be used at a later date.

Below is an example of the cut page from the story I am presently working on.

One of the things I have learned is that every writer has their own style and their own way of working. For me, that includes having a cut page.

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Seth Rogen is Wrong About Israel

There are far too many myths and lies about Israel for my taste. The problem with these myths and lies becomes worse when they come out of the lips of my fellow Jews.

Recently, actor Seth Rogen was a guest on the podcast WTF with Marc Maron. Both Rogen and Maron are Jewish. While talking about Israel, Rogen made the following statement:

“as a Jewish person,..I was fed a huge amount of lies about Israel…You know, they never tell you that […] there were people there. They make it seem like it was just sitting there.”

Anyone who regularly reads this blog knows how I feel about Israel. I have visited twice and hope to visit a third time at some point in the future. It is a beautiful country with warm people and delicious food. However, that does not mean that I agree with everything that is said and done over there.

The issue I take with Rogen’s comment is that it gives those with antisemitic views the permission to make a similar statement.

If Rogen does not agree with the decisions made by the Israeli government, that is one thing. He is, like all of us, entitled to his opinion. But to publicly make a general assertion without consideration of the facts is another thing entirely and just plain wrong.

We live in a world in which hate and racism have a firm hold on us. The only way to break that hold is to speak the truth and be willing to listen to one another. Unfortunately, Rogen’s declaration only added fuel to the fire that is hate and racism.

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Filed under International News, World News

Barry Movie Review

Our college years are for many, the formative years of our lives. The transition between young adulthood and adulthood, these four years will forever have an impact on the rest of our lives.

Barry premiered in 2016 on Netflix. In 1981, future President Barack Obama is an undergrad at Columbia University in New York City. While dating fellow student Charlotte (Anya Taylor-Joy), he is faced with the existential crisis of figuring out who he is as a human being. As one of the few students of color who is dating a white woman, he is the recipient of subtle and not so subtle reactions. If that was not enough, the lack of a relationship with his father weighs heavily on his decisions.

I really enjoyed the movie. We all know the man who was President for eight years. The introduction of the the younger Barack Obama was a revelation. I don’t know about anyone else, but college was not just about the education and the degree. It was about the emotional experience of growing up and figuring out who I am on my own terms.

His journey in this film hit home because I remember going through the same things when I was in college.

I recommend it.

Barry is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Filed under Movie Review, Movies, Netflix, New York City, Politics

The Ultimate Social Media Hypocrisy: Iran, Twitter, & Israel

When the Internet and social media took off decades ago, they both seemed to be a beacon of freedom of speech and communication. We would speak to and (virtually) meet people who we might otherwise not meet and become a better world.

But while the technology has changed, the world has not.

While the social media giants claim that they are all for freedom of expression, they continue to ignore the elephant in the room. That elephant is racism and antisemitism that continually flows from various tweets and posts.

Twitter, while claiming that hate speech is not allowed on the platform, does not prevent Iranian officials from threatening Israel with annihilation via tweets.

I wish it was easy to remove ourselves from social media. But, they are so much of a part of lives that to do so would be akin to cutting off a limb. The only solution is that the people who run the social media platforms follow through on their terms of service. The question is, will they?

Probably not.

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Filed under International News, World News