Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Two Roads in a Writing Forest

Faced with two paths diverging in a writing forest right now. Both are long and hard work, but I cannot decide if I should walk down one before the other, or attempt both at the same time.
To my right is something emotional but cathartic, a memoir-based book about the story I've been trying to write since I was 12. It explains who I am, what I've done, and what I've come through to become the person you know today.
To my left is a fantasy based book (series?) that imagines our future in 1,000 years, and combines the political intrigue of Game of Thrones with a strong female lead (a la Kill Bill) with a sci-fi bent.
So ... the past or the future? Or both simultaneously?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Why Ew? And Other Notes on THE CLITORIS

"Yes, there is an on-line 'literary' magazine called (wait for it) 'Cliterature'. #fortheloveofgodkillme :( Ew!"

"Why ew?"

"I find the name distasteful."

"Why did you call our magazine "literary" with quotation marks? Does your distaste of the name question our quality?"

"Look, I didn't even tweet it to you, and in light of what happened today, what does it matter. Everyone has a right to their opinion." [Editor's Note: This conversation happened to occur on the day of the Boston Marathon bombing.]

"Just trying to learn more about your opinion, that's all."

"Sigh. It's just that 'clit' has been used in such a demeaning way. That's what bothered me, and from reading more about your magazine, it doesn't sound like it's pornographic at all."

"Thanks for sharing more. We do appreciate it."

Two months later, this Twitter conversation is still on my mind, for many reasons.
1. Clitoris is the scientific, medical term for a part of women's anatomy. No one expresses disgust or accuses anyone of being distasteful when words like penis, scrotum, or testicles.
2. Because of the name, and therefore the subject of Cliterature, someone passed judgement on the quality of a literary magazine without bothering to check out the website first. Once that did happen, it was admitted that it didn't "sound like pornography at all."

For the record, the clitoris contains over 8,000 nerve fibers (twice found on the head of a penis) and is the only body part (male or female) purely intended for pleasure. As Eve Ensler pointed out, "Who needs a handgun when you have a semi-automatic?"

So where, among the natural pleasure and power of the clitoris, does this "ew" belong? I am left to conclude: nowhere.

It was because of this conversation that I decided the theme of Cliterature's 29th volume would be THE CLITORIS. Let us reclaim the word and the body part and expunge the "ew" from the discourse.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

WOMEN AND GIRLS -- And Why It Matters

Few things get under my skin quite as deeply as language does. As a writer, it is always my mission to cut right to the heart of a matter with as few words as possible. Semantics get dismissed these days, but I've always believed that language betrays the true nature of a culture. Which is why when I see an adult woman being referred to as a "girl,"it bugs the crap out of me. Women are mature, capable adults able to make their own decisions. Girls are children, put simply, and to attribute this label to grown adults is insulting.

Think I'm making too much of a word choice? If an adult male is referred to as "boy," he is quick to make the correction to "I'm a man." Adult females do not hasten to make the distinction. It's worth pointing out that adult black men were referred to as "boys" in some U.S. states until well into adulthood and maturity; the connotation was that a black man will never be as mature or capable as a white man.

I find it telling that HBO's hit series, "Girls," find their biggest demographic draw among the middle-aged male audience. These twenty-somethings are flailing to find themselves in a post-recession world -- but so what? Why not tell a story of twenty-something women who are thriving in the same world? Lena Dunham may be the voice of a generation ... but not mine, sister. Some women of our generation work two or three jobs in order to pay bills, become independent from parents, and fulfill their dreams.

And maybe that's the point. Women are a threat because they get shit done. Girls are not a threat because they are immature children.

Let us explore the women and girls of the world in Cliterature's summer 2013 edition, WOMEN & GIRLS. To learn how to send in your submission, check out our website.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Notes on VIOLENCE, Or, The Hardest Blog Post I've Ever Written

As the editor of Cliterature, it is my responsibility to choose each theme for new issues as a way to focus the conversation surrounding women's sexuality. Some themes take me months, even years, to articulate in my own mind. Others come to me in a moment's notice. The latter was how VIOLENCE, our spring 2013 issue, was conceived. I could not help but notice the increase in statistics of violence against women. I also could not avoid the reports of the now infamous Delhi gang rape and the ensuing protests.

Sometimes when you are in an abusive situation, survival instincts kick in. There's the fight or flight response, but there's also the body's tendency to freeze. This freezing can have unintended and awful consequences; the proverbial deer in headlights is not unwilling but unable to move out of the way of the speeding car. At least, that was how I felt when my ex-boyfriend was abusing me.

It took me a long, long time to recognize and acknowledge the abuse. Our relationship had been marked by a series of breakups and reunions, and our last breakup came on a day in May when something deep inside me rose up and screamed "NO." And if not for one small thing, we might have been reunited once more and started the cycle all over again. That small thing is something most people take great pains to avoid: jury duty.

I was called. I went to the justice center. I was picked for a trial. And it was a domestic abuse case. Sitting in the jury box and listening to the testimony, I became increasingly uncomfortable with how closely these two strangers relationship mirrored my own. And in the end, I realized that we (the defendant, the victim, me, my ex) were all on the same path; my ex and I were just a mile or two behind these strangers.

VIOLENCE is much more than the slap of skin and muscle upon another's body. It is the malevolent, malicious, and intentional disruption of someone's emotional, mental, and psychological well-being. These can all escalate into physical abuse, and I consider myself incredibly lucky that our relationship never went to that level while it lasted. But it doesn't change the fear I felt when he would intentionally scare me (only so he could pull me close and comfort me) or the shame I felt as the man in my life put me down, degraded me, controlled me, and eroded my self-worth.

Healing only begins after we bring the hurt into the light. Let us explore VIOLENCE and women's sexuality in the light so that our wounds may begin to close.

Monday, September 10, 2012

A True Story from the Editing Room

I was reviewing the latest batch of submissions to Cliterature in preparation of the fall issue, NAMING. One in particular has stayed with me several days later and not for a good reason. Before finishing the second page of a short story, I had found three spelling errors that Spellcheck would even have caught. After the third, I sighed, closed the window, and marked rejection in my notes.

If a writer does not do me the courtesy of reading over his or her own work for simple spelling errors before sending it to me for publishing consideration, I withdraw the courtesy of reading the same work.

Some will understand this. Other will call me a bitch. Just make sure to Spellcheck the letter of complaint.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Where It Began: Notes on She Bears a King

Having written a novel about a gay Jesus celebrity and the woman he impregnates, I often get asked the question, "How did you come up with that idea?" It started one day when I was making a left-hand turn and the idea of having a one-night stand with Jesus Christ came into my mind. (Really, I can't explain this, but I get a lot of my best ideas while driving. I do find it interesting that the seed of a novel that explores the intersection of religion and celebrity culture in our nation while passing through a physical intersection.) When I first thought of "My One-Night Stand with Jesus" it brought up a sort of country song idea, a short narrative focused on a woman who spends the night in a hotel room facing her demons with nothing but the Bible by her side. That would never make it into the story itself, but the title was the seedling, not the first thing that popped into my head.

I went home and began making notes, exploring this idea of a one-night stand with Jesus and what it would be like. The result was what would become the first chapter of the novel, She Bears a King.  The last line of that chapter sets off the rest of the book when the protagonist announces to the reader that her period is late after sleeping with Jesus. After I finished writing "My One-Night Stand with Jesus," I couldn't move on from it like I did with other short stories. I kept spinning the idea more and more in my mind, weaving together more characters and nuances, always pursuing that eternal storytelling question: what happens next?

So I kept on writing. And writing. And learning about what happens to women when they are pregnant. And writing. And researching the Los Angeles area. And writing. And watching a lot of VH1. And writing. Until one day I was face with the eventual end of the pregnancy.

The birth scene in the published version of She Bears a King is a total rewrite of the original ending. The most shocking thing about the novel is I went to great lengths to make the published version far more mainstream appealing than the original draft. That's right. I toned this book down.

The end is what it is, but it's not. Even now, seven years after writing She Bears a King, I cannot stop thinking about the characters going about their daily lives, aging, changing, and breathing life into my imagination. There have been faint whispers and new seedlings that could pave the way for a sequel, as dangerous as that sounds. But this wouldn't be until far into the future, probably 2-3 projects down the road. In the meantime, I enjoy being tickled by the characters presence. It's like being visited by an old friend you once shared a very intense moment together.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

On Completing You Know Me, Etc Draft

This past week, I took some time off from work. Amongst other things, I spent my morning entirely focused and entrenched in You Know Me, Etc. Thursday morning, I finished the first draft.

Part of me is still in shock. I've been working on this project since 2006, and even though I've made it to a huge milestone, it's still sinking in. The other part of me is a little tired. I've been through the process before, and I know exactly how much work is still ahead of me in getting You Know Know Me. Etc into print. I plan to spend the next year or so editing, polishing, and making sure it's as close to being done as possible before releasing it into the print world.

Speaking of printing . . . I've been out of toner for two years, and never really needed to print anything until now. (I'm one of those strange creatures who needs to edit my own work on a page, not a screen.) So I made a special trip to my local office supplies store, ponied up money for toner and some paper . . . and the cartridge crapped out on me before I finished printing one copy of all the chapters. *sigh* As soon as it's printed and "real," I plan on posting a picture of it.

Having finished the first draft, I can now spend a bit more time and attention on my next writing project. In a nutshell, I will be working with a feminist revision of The Godfather. There is no title yet, and the characters are still amorphous blobs waiting to take shape, but the concept is there and I'm very excited about it!