Category Archives: Writing

Jane Lives On

201 years ago yesterday, Jane Austen left this Earth.

In her lifetime, she published four completed novels: Sense And Sensibility, Pride And Prejudice, Mansfield Park And Emma. Persuasion, her last completed novel and Northanger Abbey, her first completed novel were published posthumously.

I sometimes wonder if she had any inkling of her pending immortality. Though her mortal bones have long since returned to the Earth, her name lives on. She is as famous as any contemporary author. Her books are read for pleasure and for academic purposes. There have been more than a few film, television and stage adaptations of her works (some which are better than others) and while many modern authors have tried to replicate Jane’s style as a writer, only a handful have succeeded in doing so.

Her work lives on because they still speak to us 200 years later. Above all else, she wrote about the human condition and the ordinary experiences that we all live through.

Wherever you are Jane, thank you.

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Filed under Books, Emma, Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Writing

I Really, Really Dislike Radio Silence

Some of my regular readers may know that on top of my day job, I am a freelance writer.

Applying for freelancing jobs, especially for content and article writing, is essentially the same process as any standard job hunt. You submit all of the necessary information and hope that the publication will accept your work, or at least the possibility of your work.

Like any job hunt, it is a proven fact that one will not get a response about most of the jobs that they apply for.  I’ve been in the job market long enough to understand that when I apply for jobs, I will only receive a response back on a handful of them. The same goes for freelancing. At best, I may get a form letter, thanking me for my submission and advising of the potential time it will take for the publication to get back to me. At worst, I get radio silence, which I really, really dislike.

Recently, I submitted two pieces to two different publications. Both have published my work in the past. One of the publications immediately got back to me saying that they were publishing the story I submitted. The other publication initially requested changes. I did so and submitted the updated document as requested. Between both publications, I had to contact them four times before receiving confirmation there is a tentative ETA for both stories being published.

I get it, I really do. They have an editorial calendar and multiple writers whose stories they will be publishing. It’s a process to put together a daily or weekly publication.

I just wish some publishers would be more consistent when it comes to communication with their writers. I would rather a hard no right away, than wonder for weeks or months on end if a) they got my story and b) if they will actually be publishing my work.

I just wonder if it would be too much to ask for some more consistent communication between some publications and their writers.

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Thoughts On The 20th Anniversary Of Sex and the City

For most of human history, women’s voices have either been muted or silenced all together. Through generations of struggle, women have come very far in a very short time.

One of the markers of this change is Sex and the City. This week, the show is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Set in New York City, Sex and the City or SATC tells the story about the lives of four single women. Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker), the program’s protagonist, is a writer who writes a column about sex and love based on her own life. She is best friends with Miranda Hobbes (Cynthia Nixon), an type-A lawyer, Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall), a publicist who has been around the block and Charlotte York (Kristin Davis), a traditionalist who works as an art dealer.

I very much appreciate the groundbreaking aspects of SATC. While the women had quite a few boyfriends, the men were secondary. The women and their friendship was primary. I also very much appreciate that the characters were sexually active and treated it as a natural part of adulthood instead of being ashamed of their actions. No subject was off the table with these women, they talked about issues that everyday women talk about with their friends.

However, I should point out that there are a few chinks in the armor when it comes to SATC.

  • While Carrie’s apartment was beautiful, it was a fantasy. Most writers would not be able to afford that apartment in real life.
  • The lack of people of color.
  • The fact that all of the leading actresses were a little too skinny.
  • The hookup culture that permeated the love lives of the characters. There are many women who would prefer wait to sleep with their dates or their significant others.
  • The New York City that is presented in SATC has a very glossy feel to it. The New York City that I know is a little grittier and not as pretty.
  • In the end, Carrie still lived out the traditional happy ending when she and Mr. Big (Chris Noth) finally made it official.

While SATC was not completely true to life, it was still a huge step forward when it came to how women were portrayed on television. For that reason alone, SATC will live on forever in the heart and minds of the fans and television viewers everywhere.

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Filed under Feminism, New York City, Television, Thoughts On...., Writing

Thoughts On The Passing Of Philip Roth

Every genre has their own icon. Philip Roth was one of the icons of modern fiction by Jewish authors or fiction about Jewish characters. He passed away yesterday at the age of 85.

My favorite Philip Roth novel is The Plot Against America.

In the novel, Roth re-wrote history. In 1940, FDR lost the presidential election to Charles Lindbergh. Soon after taking office, Lindbergh not only blamed the Jews for America’s ills, but also negotiated a sort of peace with Germany. The Jews in America, who thought they were safe from the racist, anti-Semitic world that their European brethren lived will soon discover that they will soon be no better off than the Jews of Europe.

We read and re-reading Philip Roth because, like all great writers, he has a way of speaking directly to his readers, regardless of their religious or cultural background.

As they say in our mutual religion, may his memory be a blessing. Not only to those who knew him on a personal level, but also to the millions who have read and loved his books over the years.

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Just the Funny Parts: … And a Few Hard Truths About Sneaking into the Hollywood Boys’ Club Book Review

It’s no secret that the entertainment industry, like most industries is still a boys club.  While women are making incredible strides, we are still far from gender equality.

Nell Scovell has been a television writer for thirty years, working behind the scenes on numerous television shows. Her new memoir, Just the Funny Parts: … And a Few Hard Truths About Sneaking into the Hollywood Boys’ Club, is about her career in Hollywood and how more often than not, she was the only female in the writers room.

I really enjoyed this memoir. Without getting on a soapbox, Ms. Scovell writes about the discrimination she experienced and how there is a glimmer of light in the darkness of gender disparity in Hollywood.

I recommend it.

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Little Women Character Review: Jo March

*Warning: This post contains spoilers in regards to the narrative and characters from the book Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Read at your own risk if you have not read the book or have seen any of the adaptations.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Little Women to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

For most of human history, there was a certain expectation of how women ought to behave. But even with the weight of those expectations, there are always a few women who have the courage or the instinct to follow their gut instead of blindly following the rules.

Jo March is one of these women.

Jo is the second eldest of the four March sisters. She is a tomboy, she is outspoken to the point of being temperamental at times and is far from ladylike. If she had her way, she would have been born a boy instead of a girl. She also wants to be a writer.

The reader meets Jo when she is in her mid-teens. At that point in her life, like many teenagers, she is rebelling against everything around her. She wants to be a boy and enjoy the freedoms that a boy has. Instead, she is a girl and bound to rules of what it is to be a girl. She alternatively fights and loves her sisters, while receiving sage advice from her mother.

Jo is best friends with Laurie, the boy next door. While on the surface, he would be a good match for her, but Jo knows in her heart that it would not be a happy marriage.

In the end, Jo is not only content in her own skin, but also finds happiness with Professor Bhaer, a German professor who she meets while briefly living in New York.

To sum it up: Sometimes the journey of a character is simple recipe: self-confidence and the instinct to follow what you know is right instead of just following the crowd. Over the course of the book, Jo grows from a young girl itching to find her place in the world to a woman who has not only found that place, but has also found the confidence to be herself. That is a journey that is both memorable and worth watching. It’s no wonder that Jo March is character the reader and audiences are still drawn to more than a century after they were first introduced to her.

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Filed under Books, Character Review, Feminism, History, New York City, Writing

The Story Question AKA Why Should Someone Else Care About Your Story

Of all of the basic elements that make up a successful narrative, the most important one to my mind is the story question.

Today I started reading a book and by the beginning of the second chapter, I felt like I couldn’t go on. The writer had yet to ask the story question.

In a nutshell, the story question grinds down the narrative down to a sentence or two.

I.E.

  • Star Wars: Can a small band of rebels destroy an evil empire?
  • Pride and Prejudice: Elizabeth Bennet must marry because she has a small inheritance and no brother to inherit directly from her father. But she will give into the pressure to marry or will she marry for love?
  • Jane Eyre: Can an orphaned young woman remain true to herself and not change to please others?

But, even with a great story question, the key is to ask the story very question early in the story.

I.E.

  • Star Wars: The opening scene is that of the Empire’s warship closing on a ship they believe belongs to the rebellion.
  • Pride and Prejudice: Elizabeth Bennet is the second oldest of five daughters in a family that is without a direct male heir. Her mother is crowing about their new neighbor, a young man who is single and reputed to be wealthy.
  • Jane Eyre: Jane Eyre is an orphan, living with relations who abuse her. She is reading a book and trying to hide from her cousins who frequently mock and bully her.

In creating my own fiction and critiquing fiction by other writers, I have learned that the story question is the most important question that is not only asked by the writer, but by the reader. In my experience, if the question is not asked properly and early on, it is likely to be lost in the narrative. If it is lost in the narrative, the reader or audience may never find it and walk away.

That is the last thing any writer wants.

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Filed under Books, Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Writing

Thoughts On The Roseanne Controversy

*Warning: This post contain spoilers regarding last week’s Roseanne premiere, as well as a spoiler from the original series. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the episode. 

The reboot of Roseanne premiered last week to critical acclaim, love from the audience and ratings that are a dream for any television show.

With the love from the critics and the audiences comes a bit of controversy. It was a shock to some audiences that Roseanne Conner not only voted for you know who, but proudly flaunts it, especially in the face of her sister Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) whose equally proudly flaunts that she voted for Hillary Clinton.

It’s also necessary to point out that Barr herself voted for you know who, but that is a topic for another time.

Some viewers were outraged that Roseanne (the character, not the actor) voted for you know who. Other viewers were more than pleased with revelation.

My feeling is that as much as I would have loved for Roseanne to have been a Hillary supporter, the writer in me knows that it was the right decision in terms of the politics of the character. Roseanne Conner is not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination (despite the fact that the Conners won the lottery towards the end of the run of the original series). She is still a working class wife and mother, trying to get by as best she can. One of the reason, unfortunately, that you know who won, is that he spoke directly to the needs of the working class, aka the Conners.

Only time will tell if Roseanne changes her mind. But what I liked about the episode was how Roseanne and Jackie were able to come together as sisters, even if they disagree on certain political views.  If they can come together on-screen, then perhaps Americans as a whole can come together, even if we disagree on the issues.

 

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Filed under Politics, Television, Writing

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Movie Trailer

The translation from the page to the silver screen is often a dicey one. Especially for a beloved book.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer was originally published in 2009. In 1946, Juliet Ashton is a writer looking for next subject. She received a letter from a man living on the island of Guernsey, whose residents survived German occupation during World War II.

Recently, the trailer for the film adaptation was released.

While I could not get through the book, the movie looks very interesting. One of the appealing aspects of the movie (for me at least) is a mini-Downton Abbey reunion. Lily James, Penelope Wilton, Matthew Goode and Jessica Brown Findlay are all part of the cast. While the film will not hit US theaters until later in the year, I can only hope that the film delivers on the promises in the trailer.

 

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Filed under Books, Downton Abbey, History, Movies, Writing

Small Steps

A wise person once said that easy reading is hard writing.

I couldn’t agree more.

In the fall of 2016, I started writing a novel. Unfortunately, I am not as far along as I thought I would be. Most novels start at about 80,000 words. As of this week, I am up about 21,000 words.

Life, a full-time job, my freelancing work and the easy access to social media often pushes my novel down to the list of priorities.

But this past week, I made a choice. I made a choice to make small steps to complete my novel. Every night I spent a few minutes working on the novel via the notes I received from my writing group.

It’s not easy and often requires making editing choices that I would prefer not to make, however, the choices are necessary.

I know that the first draft will not be done for quite a while. However, I am confident that the small steps I am making will one day lead to a complete novel.

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