After 13+ years of journaling, here’s what I’ve learned

I’ve kept a journal since the start of 8th grade.

Well, actually, I’ve kept a total of 20 journals since the start of 8th grade.

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19 pictured. (Fall 2015- Winter 2016 is at my other place.)

Before Fall 2004, like a lot of people, I’d dabbled. I’d journal for a few weeks and then lose interest.

So, how have I stuck with it for almost 14 years?

Tip #1: Start small 

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My first journal was tiny

In all seriousness, I think a lot of people struggle when they try to write every day. It’s a bit like dieting. If you miss a day (or eat a donut) it can feel like you’ve failed. You might catch yourself thinking, what’s the point? So you stop. I did. I tried several times before I had an epiphany:

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You haven’t failed if you don’t give up. Most of the time I try to write once a week. There have been times when it’s more like once a month (or once every two). I just make sure I come back to it. I let myself off the hook for the time I missed and keep going.

Besides, it doesn’t have to be a long entry. Sometimes I write a page or even just a paragraph. If I’m writing about something big, I might scrawl four-six pages.

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The journals above have at least one travel entry in them^

The only time I write every day is when I’m on a trip and don’t want to forget. (Even then, the “writing” is usually scribbled in a tiny spiral bound notebook I keep in my purse when I travel. I put it in the journal when I get time.)

Tip #2: Use ballpoint pen (or pencil)

I learned this one the hard way. After years of writing with fun gel pens, markers, and rollerballs, a water bottle spilled all over my journal during a high school camping trip. Weeks of entries were destroyed.

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You can see some of the runny ink….

Ballpoint pen doesn’t run. Pencil doesn’t either, but the colors aren’t as much fun. Hopefully you won’t see your work ruined like mine was.

Tip #3: Buy spiral bound notebooks (or spend some $$$)

Only half of mine have been spiral bound. (Two have a hidden spiral.) Of the ones that aren’t, half of those have a broken spine.

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All my high school journals. The three normal books have broken spines.

By the time you reach the end of a regular journal, it’s going to start breaking. The pages separate from the binding and, after a decade has gone by, the glue has pretty much given up.

So why don’t I always use spiral bound? Honestly, they aren’t as common. Besides, the vast majority of my journals have been given to me as gifts. (If you have a known hobby or collection it becomes the go-to gift.)

Sometimes the bindings aren’t terrible. The nicest ones I’ve had have held up pretty well. If it’s cheap…well, you get what you pay for.

Tip #4: Choose a journal you like

Forget about trends. If you like it, get it. One of the main reasons I’ve stuck with journaling is that I do it for myself.

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All of my college journals

I love patterned pages and pretty covers. While there’s something to be said for continuity, I love that all of my journals are different. My life has changed dramatically in the years since 8th grade…why shouldn’t my journals change too?

Bottom line: There’s no right or wrong way to journal 

For me, my journals are part time capsule, part therapist. It’s a place to process events and work through decisions. If it’s a really big decision, I talk to my friends too, but the journal is a good first place to start thinking through all my options. Besides…no journal is going to ask you to stop talking about your crush.

I do, however, suggest not going the Bridget Jones’s Diary route. Unless you are very sure nobody else will ever read it, don’t write anything too terribly cruel.

Mark Darcy was much cooler about the whole thing than anybody I’ve met

Sometimes I draw or tape things into my journals. When I worked in outdoor education, I taped in feathers I found.

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Little Guy may have heard about the birds…

Other times I add quotes that seem particularly meaningful. I’ve transcribed entire poems when the mood strikes me. I’ve also written down travel tips and kept track of the books I’ve read.

Are some of the early ones embarrassing? Yes. Absolutely.

But emotions fade and it can be healthy to remember. I love being able to look back on my journals. They’ve covered the very best and most painful moments of the last 13+ years. Remembering how it felt to be in high school has helped make me a better teacher. Even when I’ve been so stressed I haven’t been able to work on my other writing, journaling has helped me keep writing something.

Feel free to add your own thoughts or tips about journaling in the comments 🙂 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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5 reasons why Black Panther deserved to get more money than Star Wars

When I first heard of Black Panther a year or two ago, I confess: I was not excited.

I’d been feeling burned out on comic book movies. (With Wonder Woman and Jason Momoa’s upcoming Aquaman as the recent exceptions.)

In the Marvel Universe, I hadn’t seen Civil War, the latest Thor, Dr. Strange, Ant Man, Spiderman: Homecoming, Guardians Vol. 2, or anything later than Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Because it’s felt like we’re getting a solo movie for all of these^

…at least all the dudes.

Since I’ve never been a comic fan–if the library didn’t have it, I probably didn’t read it–I had never even heard of the Black Panther. But I saw a real trailer and realized that in a “hero” saturated landscape, this was a movie worth seeing.

There have been many excellent articles written about it (the attached link has five from Colorlines) and what the movie means in a broader cinematic and cultural context. Here are several reasons why I personally loved it and think it deserved more money than Star Wars.

(The following is as non-spoilery as possible, but I hope you’ve already seen it.)

Healthy Masculinity

T’Challa is a good man. (Which is NOT the same as being a “nice guy.”) He listens to and respects the women in his life.  He treats his enemies with innate decency. Most impressively of all, T’Challa has the courage to tell his hero when his hero was in the wrong.

The word that comes to mind is “gentle.” (Which is amazing considering the amount of hand-to-hand combat in the movie.) He is not less of a man, or less of a leader, for being kind. While morality is often treated as a crutch in movies, his conscience and goodness are a large part of the reason why people are willing to follow him. Chadwick Boseman deserves lots of kudos; he played T’Challa with grace, self-possession, and humor.

With the recent #Time’sUp and #MeToo movements becoming part of the Hollywood consciousness, a hero like Black Panther/T’Challa is exactly the sort of man I’d like to see more of on the big screen.

Complex Women of Color 

Oh my god, the women in this movie. Yes x1000. That casting director should get hired a lot more often.

In order: Shuri, a technical genius. Nakia, a spy risking her life to help African women. General Okaye. Queen Ramonda.

Thought one during the movie: I would follow Okoye into battle.

Thought two: if you could vote for somebody to become queen, then I vote Angela Bassett should be queen of everything, forever.

Yes, these women are so beautiful it’s a bit like staring directly at the sun. (Wakanda’s gene pool is phenomenal.) What I truly love about their characters is how strong and multi-faceted they all are. They talk about loyalty, duty, and family. They make jokes. They feel like real people. Which is…not as typical as it should be.

 

It was just so damn pretty 

The saturated color, the costumes, the actors, the setting…it was all stunning. The effects were beautiful too. And the musical score added to the overall ambiance.

New mental vacation spot^

Timely message 

The main conflict is isolationism (the traditional Wakandan stance) versus globalism. In a world with Nationalism on the rise, it felt like an appropriate conflict. Can you turn inward and ignore the troubles of your neighbors?

How much do we truly owe one another?

Colonization led to many horrible inequities that still exist today. While a nuanced discussion of such a huge topic is a bit much to expect from a blockbuster–much less one based on a comic book–this one is a great conversation starter.

This felt fresh

As I said before, Star Wars felt like a retread. It didn’t really go anywhere new this time around. (Sad to say for such an initially ground-breaking franchise.)

There are times when it feels like every movie coming out takes place in America and stars attractive cisgender, straight, white men. When women are included they’re usually both white and poorly drawn caricatures. Rarely do female characters resemble any of the brilliant, funny, and fierce women I have met in my life. People of color are often relegated to the sidekick role or feel like a token character.

It’s boring and I’m over it.

That must have been intentional. It’s too funny not to have been a casting choice.

Dear Hollywood: people will obviously pay lots (and lots) of money to see movies starring people of color. People want to see movies that are well-written and well-acted.  People also like to watch movies that don’t feel 100% like a movie they’ve seen before. This shouldn’t be a surprise.

because I want to see more scenes like this:

Miscellaneous points

What was going on with Martin Freeman’s accent? Why couldn’t he have been an MI6 agent instead of CIA? It was distracting.

As someone in the STEM field who has worked in educational outreach/ nonprofits, the outreach scene was poignant. Fighting may create change, but a more positive and lasting change comes from empowering people to build better futures for themselves. Globally, education is the best tool we have to do that.

I loved T’Challa and Shuri’s relationship. That scene in the lab was hilarious and the sibling dynamic felt very true-to-life.

There you have it. I might not have been excited at first, but I’m singing a different tune now:

Reading Challenge: 12 books

Whenever I go to the library, I think of this:

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Most of the books I choose fall into the “female author” or “a book with magic” categories, so I’m not mentioning those. (Besides, quite a few of the most popular authors in the world are women, so I’m not sure why “male author” wasn’t on this list as well.) Many of the other qualities I look for don’t really fit into this list.

With that said, here are 12 books I read last year that fit into one (or more) of those categories.

#1

A book of short stories/ A book more than 100 years old 

The Complete Fairy Tales by Charles Perrault, trans. Christopher Betts

Verdict: This definitely fits into the older than 100 years category! First published in France in 1697, this included some of the first “fairy tales” including ones that would later become known as Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Puss in Boots, and Sleeping Beauty.

It was fun reading these original stories–although some are seriously disturbing–and I liked the historical notes that accompanied each one. I’m glad I gave this one a try.

#2

A book your mom loves/ a book from your childhood

The X Wing Series (Rogue Squadron and Wraith Squadron), Michael Stackpole and Aaron Allston

Verdict: I’ve always loved this one. My mother used to read out the funny bits to my sister and me when we were kids so it always holds a special place in my heart. I re-read all nine in January. The Rogue Squadron books (Michael Stackpole) have the more heroic characters, but the Wraith Squadron books (Aaron Allston) are funnier.

 

#3

A book by an author you love/ A book published this year

My (Not So) Perfect Life, Sophie Kinsella

Verdict: I always devour her books in one sitting, even though that always makes my eyes go a little blurry because they aren’t short. This one came out in February 2017. While I’ve enjoyed her others, this one really rang true and the main character was a lovable screw up. Very sweet.

#4

A book you own but have never read/ A memoir

A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold

Verdict: My boss gave me this as a present two years ago…I finally read it in May. She’d said it was one everyone interested in ecology should read. While it was clearly written in a different time, it was haunting in the best way.

#5

A book that made you cry

The House of Memories, Monica McInerney

Verdict: Her books follow a predictable pattern, but the characters are likable enough that it gets me EVERY TIME. Besides, throw in a toddler dying in a tragic accident and I may have wiped away a tear or two. Or three. (Ditto for At Home with the Templetons, which I also read this year.)

#6

A popular author’s first book/ A book that became a movie

Interview with a Vampire, Anne Rice

Verdict: Who knew immortality was such a drag? Seriously, the quote above isn’t even one of the whiniest. This one was compelling enough to inspire a movie staring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, but…sheesh. I read this after catching the movie on TV one night. Stick with the movie.

#7

A nonfiction book

Fireflies, Honey, and Silk, Gilbert Waldbauer

Verdict: I loved this book. It was an interesting look at how insects are part of cultures and commerce around the world. I kept telling people strange insect facts for weeks afterwards.

I read a lot of nonfiction this year actually, mostly science and literature related. The Theory of Everything, Poseidon’s SteedThe Origin of Feces (no, that isn’t a typo), and The Biology of Normal were all interesting as well.

 

#8

A book turned into a TV show

Queen Sugar, Natalie Baszile

Verdict: Seeing the promos for the show made me reach for this in the library. Her writing is gorgeous. At the same time, so much kept going wrong for the main character that I almost stopped reading. I’m glad I stuck with it.

 

#9

A book set in a different country/ a book by an author you’ve never read

The Bookshop on the Corner, Jenny Colgan

Verdict: This one was as comforting as a cup of tea. It’s a book about the power of stories and starting over. It was exactly what I needed to read at the time.

#10

A book with a color in the title

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, Lauren Willig

Verdict: This one was fun. I read The Scarlet Pimpernel a little over a year ago and this one uses it as a springboard. I’ve since read the next five books in the series. While the historical part of the stories are fun–each story focuses on different characters involved in espionage in the early 1800s–I’ve started to actively dislike the modern day lead. (Luckily she’s only a minor part of each book.) There’s a romance component, but it’s generally pretty mild.

#11

A book with a love triangle/ A nonfiction book

Uncommon Arrangements, Katie Roiphe

Verdict: I talked about this book with everyone I came in contact with for weeks. The title isn’t the best, but this was a fascinating look at the unusual romantic relationships of famous literary/ artistic figures. It features multiple love triangles. Vanessa Bell (Virginia Woolf’s sister) was one of the strangest. (She shared a house with her husband and a gay man who was her artistic soulmate/ occasional lover/ father of her daughter for 40 YEARS.)

#12

A book set during Christmas (sorta)/ A book with a one-word title

Hogfather, Terry Pratchett

Verdict: While this isn’t one of my favorite Discworld novels, I hadn’t read it in a long time and it seemed fitting. It features Death masquerading as the Discworld version of Santa–with a sleigh pulled by four giant hogs–his granddaughter trying to track down a tooth fairy, and a villain named Mr. Teatime.

2017 book total: somewhere around 70?

I have over 60 titles in the lists from my journal, but I wasn’t keeping very good records around the time my grandfather got sick and didn’t write down most of what I read in June/ July/ August.

2018: The year ahead

I’m looking forward to reading and writing more in the next 12 months. (I’ll also try to be better about my record keeping this year.)

As we come to the end of our first week in January, I’d like to leave you with the following thought and one of my favorite quotes:

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This one’s for you

It is so hard to start again. But at some point, it’s time to say: 

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As I try in the dwindling days of the year to do what I set out to at the start, I have been reading through my old writing. 

One page stuck with me. I wrote it for myself during a low point years ago and now I’ve re-written it for you: 

You are unforgettable.

You do not pass unseen through the world or the room. You are funny and keenly intelligent and a good friend. You should not apologize for being yourself.

If anybody does not see you, then that is their loss. If they are willing to let you fade from their lives and their memories, then they are not worth a single second of your concern or time. (This does not mean you should not be the first to reach out when you miss someone. It’s a reminder that you should stop trying to matter to people who don’t, and will never, care.)

Don’t worry about them. Focus on being amazing—pursuing your passions and building the best life you can. Find the people who think you’re wonderful. You can be happy. You will be.

So, stop trying to fade into the background because it’s safer. You’re worth noticing.

Be bold. Be brave. Be unforgettable.

 

 

Postcard from Mexico

Before last Friday, I hadn’t left the country since 2014.

But, when an old friend invited me to her wedding, I bought a ticket. The timing was finally good. The last few years have been a whirlwind–I’ve lived in four different cities across California and have held six different jobs–but now things appear to be (relatively) stable.

I packed everything I needed in one backpack.

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Which was easier to handle than this, happily.

What do you really need besides toiletries, clean underwear, and a few fresh shirts? (And some dress clothes in the case of a wedding.) Besides, if you can pack everything you need in one carry-on, you don’t have to worry about baggage claim.

Monterrey was beautiful with all of its unusual looking mountains. My friend’s wedding was tons of fun. We danced from late afternoon until the bus finally left at 1am. While my Spanish is definitely rusty, I learned a bunch of new music while I danced and chatted with her friends. It was a wonderful, exhausting trip. DSCF5351.JPG

The bridge and groom’s table with the dance floor in back

Traveling can be expensive and stressful. That said, I’m always glad that I’ve gone outside of my comfort zone and seen something new. I’m excited to travel more in the new year and continue expanding my world.

This trip reminded me of one of my old stories. I’ve always loved travel writing and sci-fi. One night I decided to write something that was a bit of both:

10 Travel Tips from a Resident Alien

 About the columnist: She is an artist originally from the Aratzi quadrant. After a vacation to Earth 223 years ago, she fell in love with it and eventually decided to stay. For the past 75 years she has lived in California, which she says is practically another planet anyway. She frequently writes columns to help intergalactic tourists get the most out of their visit.

  1. Choose your disguise carefully. If you want to have a smooth trip to Earth, research before you go and pick whatever pigmentation is highly regarded where you are headed. In my experience, humans seem to like other humans that look like them. Some even have absurd reactions based on something as inconsequential as melanin content. (I know, I know, but you must remember that humanity is a backward race.)Image result for i've gone native slitheen
  2. Pace yourself when trying the local cuisine. Ask yourself the following questions: a) can you physically consume it? b) Should you? Remember that the answers are not always one and the same. There are certain places where frying is the go-to mode of cooking, but your arteries will not thank you if you choose to eat that exclusively. More than one of your fellow beings has died thinking that “all you can eat” is a challenge.
  3. Don’t pollute. The humans have got this one covered. You don’t need to help damage their planet. Remember: leave no trace. Nobody should know that you were ever here.
  4. When flying, remain invisible. If your cloaking mechanism is damaged, please stay away from scientific monitoring stations. When flying through inhabited areas, at the very least employ the “jitter” technique to keep any humans from getting a clear photograph of you. (If you can’t disguise yourself as a human, Divians—known here as “yetis” or “bigfoot”—have adapted this technology in an easy to wear device for disguise when out and about. My dear friend Nessie swears by it.) And, seriously, resist the temptation to pick up drunks and draw circles in fields. I know it’s fun, but you can get in serious trouble with the authorities upon returning back to your home system.Image result for blurry ufo
  5. Don’t just stay with other aliens. If you only interact with your own species, you’re not experiencing all this destination has to offer. It’s already off the beaten path, so kudos to you for doing something adventurous. Might as well go all the way. With that said:
  6. Keep your probe in your pants. We have a bad rep here already, let’s not make it worse. If you absolutely must, please use protection. There are some disgusting diseases out there that some of you can catch, which makes for an embarrassing visit to the clinic when you get home.
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  7. Try a new religion. Humans have so many! On my first visit, I was picking up religions left and right. Then I realized all of them say that their god/book/interpretation of the unknowable universe is the best. Even so, it’s an illuminating experience to visit a place of worship, whatever religion it might be. Faith is very human. So is hurting or killing each other for their beliefs, which leads me to my next point:
  8. Know where to go for help. Area 51 is a good facility to start. It’s one of the best places I’ve found that’s equipped to handle crash landings. On either pole there are also emergency services. Look up contact information ahead of time. For some reason there isn’t a unified number to call, which I’m convinced is a way to keep tourists from getting help. Image result for area 51If, however, it’s something you can handle on your own, don’t forget to:
  9. Set it to stun. You’re not allowed to vaporize anyone. Sometimes humans are terrifying–if you have any doubt, check out what they do to each other in your Loneliest Planet guidebook (it’s in the section titled “AHHH!”)–but you’re still not allowed to turn them into free-floating atoms. The same applies to rampaging bears, hungry sharks, giant spiders, and teenagers. If you use your stun setting however, the creature that’s frightening you will simply wake up with a bit of a headache. As an added bonus, you won’t be brought up on murder charges by the intergalactic courts.
  10. See as much as you possibly can. For all of the horrifying things that humans do to each other and the world around them, there’s a lot to appreciate here. There is so much life on this planet, from the enormous to the microscopic. Visit the bottom of the ocean where the life-forms glow, walk across the shifting sands in one of the vast deserts, trek through snowcapped mountains that scrape the sky, wander through rainforests…or simply stay for a sunset. Earth is a beautiful planet. Enjoy your time here.

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SEX! and other scary things to talk about with kids

Ever heard of the cocktail effect? It’s one of the few things I remember from Psychology. Apparently, even in loud spaces, we’re really good at tuning into our name and anytime someone mentions sex.

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By day, I teach Biology. Which means, this spring I will have the dubious honor of teaching my students part of the sex ed curriculum.

Now, the reaction of most adults when asked to talk to kids about sex is something like this:

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Or this:

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It’s also a Catholic school…run by nuns. One of my biggest worries was that I would be limited to giving the same lesson delivered by the P.E. teacher in Mean Girls:

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We had our first meeting about it this week and, luckily, they defend giving kids medically accurate information.

I also went to a great talk about sex education. The woman had several tips for parents to talk to their kids about sex.

Best tip: Talk to them in the car

It’s perfect. Both people can look straight ahead and nobody can get out.

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This girl is probably texting her friends to complain

But what about for teachers? I don’t have a car that big.

Luckily, she had suggestions for us too.

Kids get mixed messages all the time

It doesn’t matter so much if you are sharing something different from what their parents have told them. (Or their religion) They’re used to it.

Sex is everywhere. It’s all over the things they watch and read.

When I was in high school, Gossip Girl was incredibly popular. Aside from the drugs and ridiculous levels of underage drinking (in bars! I’m 26 and still get carded) there was so much sleeping around, the show could have been a lesson in how sexually transmitted diseases spread.

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100% accurate representation of high school….

Lots of my students now like Grey’s Anatomy

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Definitely the people you want in charge of your health care

Most of them love Riverdale:

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Which is like a more murdery, small town version of Gossip Girl

And let’s not even get into Game of Thrones….

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The best thing any of us can really do is to help our students learn to think critically about what they see and hear. Sharing good sources of information helps too. 

I think of one the funniest pieces of advice I heard was that reality is somewhere between porn and romance novels.

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Scene from The Duff and also how I imagined all pornos start^

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From Outlander, originally a historical romance novel

Because, for most people:

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Teens have questions. (Lots of them!)

I’ve already gotten interesting questions about sexuality & herpes. Neither one of those had anything to do with our topic. I can only imagine how many they’ll ask when they have the forum.

They deserve to get the best answers I can give them. So I’m going to keep learning and thinking about how I can present the information in the least cringe-worthy way.

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Did you have a particularly good (or bad) sex ed program? Are there any other subjects you find especially scary to talk to teens/ adults about?

 

 

 

 

 

Consent is everything: let’s fix fiction

My social media accounts have been genuinely depressing this weekend. It seems that almost everyone I’ve ever met has been posting #MeToo to say that they have been subjected to sexual harassment and assault.

It’s horrifying. Before this, I’d known of several friends who had been assaulted. Those were simply the people who confided in me–I knew the likelihood was that more of my friends and acquaintances had suffered from various forms of sexual violence and had not talked about it to me. Now I know.

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I have stories of being made to feel uncomfortable and unsafe, of course, but I have been luckier than most women of my acquaintance. In fact, that’s the only difference between the women saying #MeToo and me. That’s it.

Nobody should have to say #MeToo. Assault shouldn’t happen to anyone. Harassment shouldn’t happen to anyone. Which means we need to change the culture that accepts this as a part of life.

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And going full Amazon on creeps isn’t really doable

There have been a lot of people talking about how to change the belief that men are entitled to women’s bodies. This article calling on men to picture “The Rock” in situations with women in the office was funny, but the apparent need for it is disturbing in the extreme. Why is it so hard to realize that women are human?

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…with few possible exceptions

Since fiction is part of our culture, our fiction needs to change too.

3 Places to Start

#1 Create worlds without violence towards women

Game of Thrones has long been accused of gratuitous violence, particularly violence towards women. George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire is even worse in that regard. I started reading the series my senior year and stopped once I realized how much rape was involved. (Seriously, my thesis was less depressing.) He’s tried to defend its inclusion by saying the story is based on The War of the Roses.

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Yep, 100% historical accuracy

Particularly if you are making a historical drama with fantasy elements, why include rape and assault at all? There are many historical terrors you can pull on to show that life is awful if that’s what you’re going for: disease, famine, war, terrifying medical care, dangerous traveling conditions, ice ages, natural disasters….

#2 Don’t use sexual violence as a plot device 

Outlander is the name of an enormously popular series of books and a very popular series.

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I have a few theories why….

While it flips some of the more overused tropes in romance novels–the man is the virgin in this one when they meet instead of the woman and it shows that woman can also instigate/want/enjoy sex–it does have a serious stumbling block.

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Although the problem definitely isn’t chemistry

Rape, or the threat of rape, is virtually ever-present. Sexual assault is trotted out as a way to show that people are bad, that the main characters are desirable, gives characters a chance to be heroic, or is used to drive the story forward. (There are also some very strange and disturbing homophobic undertones as well, with gay men frequently serving as villains.) It is used so often that it becomes repetitive, which is disturbing all on its own.

Yes, sexual violence was even more prevalent and entrenched in “ye olden days,” but that isn’t an excuse to use it as a plot device.

#3 Remember the rules of consent 

Romance novels, particularly of the historical variety, often depict a virginal female character meeting some hyper-masculine character who sweeps away her protests and introduces her to multiple orgasms. (Oh, and she’ll probably be pregnant by the end, because he almost never introduces her to contraception.)

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This is one of the tamest covers I’ve seen

It’s easy to make fun of historical romances. They’re derided as “bodice rippers” and have ridiculous covers 9 times out of 10. The disturbing tropes aren’t limited to that part of the genre:

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Here’s looking at you, kid

Now, romance novels are primarily written by women, for women, so what’s with the horrible message? No doesn’t mean “convince me.” No doesn’t mean “yes.” No quite literally means no. It’s one of the first words most children learn. It really doesn’t have multiple meanings.

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The idea of romance novels is a healthy one. At their best, they provide a safe space to explore fantasies. But reinforcing the idea that women have to be the voice of sexual restraint and never say yes is not even remotely healthy for anyone.

There has been pushback against some of those major tropes and consent is being more widely discussed in romance novels. To recap:

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Changing our fiction is one small step in our battle to change the world, but it is important and it does matter.  We know sexual violence is a problem–let’s stamp it out wherever it appears. Nobody should have to say #MeToo. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fight scenes & terrible proposals (Pride & Prejudice Adaptations, ranked)

Jane Austen has been inspiring people for centuries. While the dances are different, her characters and plots have never gone out of style.

Case in point, I just finished reading a modern take on Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid. It wasn’t the best–it developed a weirdly homophobic vibe at the end there–but it got me thinking about other adaptations I’ve seen.

…there have been a lot of them. They haven’t all been fabulous–looking at you strange Mormon version of P&P–but some of them are amazingly good.

Here are three of the best:

Pride + Prejudice + Zombies  (2016) 

I finally saw the movie this week. I’d never wanted to read the book–it was written by someone who inserted zombies whenever they felt the story was slow–but the trailer made me think the movie would be better.

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What makes the movie different?

The characters are great! Sure, this Mr. Darcy sounds like he’s been gargling gravel…

…but he makes for a fun, leather-clad version of the character.

There’s also a terrifically campy Lena Headey as Lady Catherine–the best zombie hunter in this world–as well as restrained performances from Charles Dance and Sally Philips as Mr & Mrs Bennet. (This is actually the most realistic version of  Mrs. Bennet I’ve ever seen.) Matt Smith creates a hilarious, less oily, but still unpleasant version of Mr. Collins.

The Bennet girls are wonderful. I’d have happily watched a miniseries of this to see more of all of them. They whole group is great and Lily James plays a beautiful & badass Elizabeth.

Dancing. Slaying zombies. All in a night’s work.

The moment he sees her fight, Darcy starts singing her praises.

 

This also features by far my favorite version of the first proposal. After Darcy insults her entire family and brags about breaking up Jane & Bingley, Elizabeth kicks him into a table.

Then they have a hilarious & sexually charged fight

Screaming, “SHE’S SHY!”

The writing is funny and it’s truly an homage to the story. In fact, most of the best moments in the book are present here and there are lots of nods to long-time Austen fans.

Just two girls getting ready for the dance….

It isn’t perfect and would probably have made a better mini-series than movie so they could have expanded the plot a bit more, but it’s definitely worth watching.

Austenland (2013)

This is another one where the movie is better than its book counterpart. (The Austenland book, not Pride & Prejudice.)

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A woman, named Jane, is obsessed with Pride & Prejudice. So, she uses her savings to travel to the Austenland theme park in England.

There, she discovers that stepping into her fantasy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. She also has a sweet love story with the resident Mr. Darcy, decides to take charge of her own story, and gains some perspective along the way.

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Oh, did I mention it’s really funny?

“Hot in Herre” by Nelly. The perfect period-appropriate song.

It’s another movie for fans of the original stories. (JJ Field was even in the BBC version of Northanger Abbey.) It offers amateur theatricals, dances, and lots of silly fun.

Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)

This is one of my all-time favorite Austen adaptations.

Helen Fielding famously wrote her Mark Darcy character with another Mr. Darcy in mind: Colin Firth from the BBC version of Pride & Prejudice. When her book was adapted to the big screen, he actually played the character! #lifegoals

Bridget isn’t as put together as her inspiration, but she’s fun and relatable.

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Yes, there are cringe-worthy embarrassing moments–and one hilarious fight scene set to “It’s Raining Men”–but it also contains a truly sweet love story.

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*Swoon*

It’s a fun movie to watch with friends. (Side note: Sally Philips, Mrs. Bennet from Pride + Prejudice + Zombies, also plays Bridget’s foul-mouthed friend in this movie.)

So, there you have it. That’s my list of the three best Pride & Prejudice adaptations…ones that don’t strictly stick to the book anyway.

What’s your favorite adaptation?

 

3 steps to take when you’ve made a mistake

I’ve made a lot of mistakes.

Sometimes they’ve been big–like choosing the wrong place to live, accepting a job that’s not a good fit, or hurting someone I love. Other times they’re little–like ordering the weirdest dish on the menu or spending all night watching TV when I know I should be doing something else.

Hell, I’ve made a lot of mistakes lately.

Unfortunately, without the benefit of a crystal ball, there’s no getting away from the fact I’m going to make more of them in my life.

It’s scary to realize you’ve made a mistake.

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Luckily, it’s your decision.

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….hiding under a rock is rarely the right answer

So, what can you do?

Step 1: Own up

Admitting it is the first step. (Isn’t that a thing people say in AA? Or is that just what people say in movies/ TV shows where they go to AA?)

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Nothing will get better if you keep pretending nothing is wrong.

So you screwed up. You’re human. You’re also alive if you’re reading this…which means you have the chance to fix it.

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I’m quite sure Winston Churchill made plenty of mistakes

Happily, that’s not why we remember him

Step 2: Make a plan 

Have you heard that saying: “You’ve made your bed, now lie in it.” I can understand the idea behind that, but there’s no reason to wallow in it. To belabor that bed analogy…wake up. Find a new bed. Build a better one.

Recently, I was looking into getting a story published. It’s one that I love and believe in, even after several rejections. As a was researching agents, I stumbled across this handy post  all about the mistakes to avoid making at the beginning of a story. Apparently, they’re really common for new writers.

Well, my blood ran a bit cold when I realized I’ve made all of them. (Go big or go home, right?) Not in the same story, but stories written across several years. Turns out I was probably turning off my audience (agents) at the start, before they even got into the good stuff.

Realizing I’d made mistakes that big and for that long…I’m ashamed to admit, but I let derail me for a while.

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I’m either the train or Ant Man in this gif, take your pic Continue reading