Tag Archives: reading

Boys Don’t Cry: Sexism and Gender Representation in Publishing

15 Aug

I love reading to my niece. It’s one of my favorite things to do and last time I was at her house she picked a new book.

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It is the story of Duncan’s crayons who previously quit due to what they saw as unfair practices by Duncan. In this the crayon’s are all returning with tales of their adventures. We had a blast reading it until we got towards the end and I cringed. All the crayons in this book are clearly boys or otherwise ungendered. There is one exception.

Wait for it……

………….

……………

……………

The unused pink crayon. OF COURSE.

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In the pink crayon’s letter to Duncan she calls herself a “girl’s color” and laments the fact that Duncan has only used her once. Then she congratulates Duncan’s little sister for doing a good job of staying in the lines. Cause, you know, that’s what good little girls do.

They behave.

This is all highlighted in a really amazing article about children’s books on the Washington Post the other day. The whole thing is worth a read but the gist of it is that there a significant lack of girl representation in picture books, and that when there is, they are incredible sexist. The fact that publishing, on the whole, has a significant gender problem.

That J.K. Rowling has no middle initial but they gave her one so they could use just initials because how else were they going to sell a book to boys written by – *gasp* –  a woman!

I thought back to some of my favorite stories growing up and sure, I had Meg in Wrinkle in Time but her utter lack of self-confidence made her more of a pawn in her own story than anything else. In fact it is only through Calvin’s constant affirmations that she overcomes her insecurity. The boy tells her she can do it. So she believes it.

When I first decided to write a story about the last living descendant of Shakespeare, my main character was a boy.

I remember standing in the kitchen talking to my husband as he made dinner about my idea about this boy and his muse named Jonathan and how I wanted to incorporate Shakespare and Greek mythology when he looked at me and said, “Honey, why would you make your main character a boy? Why wouldn’t you make it a girl?”

It took someone else pointing it out before I realized that I had internalized that idea that the Hero is a Boy. So even as  a girl reader who grew up into a woman writer, I still initially went with a boy.

Maybe it’s because I grew up with this:

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and not this:

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But if my neice grows up to be a writer it will be different for her. I certainly hope so.  All the same, feminism fail, Ally.

But I didn’t forget that when I started my next book, This Is Sarah. The story started out as a ghost story – a boy haunted by his dead girlfriend and then warped into something very different – a boy broken by his girlfriend’s disappearance.

To Colin, I gave distinctly  “non-masculine” if not “feminine” traits:

  • He’s was very into his relationship with Sarah, to the point that he alienated friends.
  • She’s basically all he cares about.
  • He cries. A lot. Sobs really
  • He needs to see a therapist because he’s falling apart
  • He gets hysterical
  • And he fails the Bechdel test every single time.

He is raw and tender….traits that are steroetypically female but in actuality, as Wendi pointed out, typically human.

And as Jennie Yabroff said in her Washington Post piece:

As Monfried says, “When we read our children picture books, we’re saying, ‘There’s a world here that will give and give and give for the rest of your life.’ We should want to show our children that anybody can do anything.”

To which I’d add, we should want to show our kids that girls can be anything — and anything can be a girl.

Anything can be a girl. Because ultimately we all laugh and cry and mourn and love in similar ways. Far more similar than they are different.

Peace, love and starbursts,

Ally

Books are Coming! Books are Here! Books Books Books!

14 Jul

Howdy from the hot garbage smell that is Brooklyn in the summertime!

Yummy!

So real quick, couple of thank yous before we get to the nitty gritty on the books, books, books.

First off thanks to Anti-Heroin Chic for taking these three poems and to Your One Phone Call for this one. Speaking of poetry, I was incredibly sad to find out that Dead Snakes is no longer. It was a great site for writers and readers and Stephen was a tireless champion of all of our work. I can’t thank him enough for all the poems that he’s given a home to and for all the writers he’s introduced me to. I hope the archive stays up.

So books!

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Next Saturday the 23rd is the official book birthday for Better Luck Next Year. I am super excited for this book to be out in the world, not only because of the subject matter (stupid cancer) but because I think that the folks at Low Ghost helped to put together a really solid book out of the hot mess manuscript I sent them. In the meantime you can add it to your Goodreads To Be Read Pile (should be so inclined).

And if you’re on the fence, here’s what the (amazing) James Duncan of Hobo Camp had to say about it:

Malinenko is so simply eloquent and true that she makes the most personal of her trials too universal to resist, makes those midnight terrors so real you can feel your throat clenching as you pass from one stanza to stanza. I wept as I read her suffering the endless runaround as she searched for medical help, as she picked apart her life for the mistakes she might have made that brought this cancer to her body, as she searched her familial history for tell-tale signs too late to help, as she discussed buying a pizza with her husband on the way home from the hospital because that’s what a human being with or without cancer does when they have to keep on living, right? It is cliché maybe, but I’ll say it: I cried when I read her poetry, because it’s good and real and true and it hit home.

You can read the whole things here!

 

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If you’re in Pittsburgh please do come by the East End Book Exchange at 7:00 pm on Saturday July 23rd for some beers and some poetry and some stories about my boobs, and some possible rants about the “warrior myth.” It’ll be fun. Come.

Also! It’s the release of Jason Irwin’s A Blister of Stars which is a beautiful poetry book – and I’m so glad we’re paired together as it also deals with illness and physicality – and John Grochalski’s Wine Clerk. If you read his first book, The Librarian, then you know what an amazing character Rand Wyndam is and how funny John’s books are. Also, come on, this cover is sweet!

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Some things people have said:

John Grochalski’s is a line that extends back to Steinbeck and Sinclair and up through Fante and Bukowski. Wine Clerk is another brilliant evocation of how miserable the world can be and how surviving with a drink in a dive bar is our only shot at victory.

-Dave Newman, author of Raymond Carver Will Not Raise Our Children

You can preorder now!

 

Next up Epic Rite is including my chapbookI’ll Be So Still You Won’t Even Notice Me – in the Punk Chapbook Season Two. Basically for a paltry $40 you get 12 books of poetry. This is a good deal folks. You can pre-order that one too from the link above!

And finally I got this:

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It was made by the crazy talented Janne Karlsson from Sweden. Now I know how comic book writers feel. Drawings making words better. I’m completely overwhelmed with how cool this is. He also illustrated a poem of mine which will be out later this year.

So that’s about it. Again, if you’re in Pittsburgh please swing by for the book launch.

Peace love and starbursts,

Ally

 

 

Surprise Lake Camp, ready or not, here I come!

11 Jul

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So I’m sitting here making up my weekend supply list. Here’s what’s on it:

  • books to sell
  • buttons
  • fliers
  • copy to read from (duh!)
  • origami paper
  • directions for craft
  • directions TO camp
  • sample cyclop’s eye
  • sharpies
  • camera
  • DVDs of Big Bang Theory*
  • Everything else that I’m currently forgetting

*Those are for Trish the Dish (aka: Mom)

And I’m making this list because this weekend I’m going to Surprise Lake Camp to read from Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb to a bunch of 11 year olds FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER.

Nah, not nervous at all. What made you think that?

See the thing is I’ve never read fiction in public before. I’ve read poems, lots and lots and lots of poems but poems are different. They have a start and an end.

Start with the title.

End with the last period.

Done. A self-contained little nugget of thought and words and feelings.

But fiction starts at the title and keeps going for a long long long time. And I have no idea which part to read. The beginning when our heroine gets snatched and whisked away into her new life as the only living descendant of Shakespeare? The middle when she meets the cast of characters at the Belch Palace? When Marlowe gets pelted with tomatoes by a member of the Society and Noble Order of Bardolaters (aka: SNOBs)?  Or when she battles the Medusa, creating a manticore using Prometheus Ink?

Do you see my dilemma?

Sunday is Parent’s day where I’ll attempt to charm Moms and Dads into buying a copy of my book and Monday is the reading and craft project for the kids.

If you never hear from me again, assume I was devoured by rabid mythology loving 11 year olds.

I want this on my tombstone:

PS. In other news, my buddy Don Wentworth was interviewed. He’s a TREASURE TROVE of awesome and you should read it. You’ll learn something about writing, publishing or living gracefully. Probably all three.

On Kafka, Richter and Memories

1 Jul

 

I have a strange relationship with posthumously published pieces. In the one instance, I desperately want to read them. Especially if it’s an author I really like because then as a reader I get to momentarily undo their death and hear one last story.

On the other hand it feels like cheating. It wasn’t finished. It wasn’t supposed to be shared. Like splitting open their skull and sticking your fingers in there to see what’s what.

It’s just wrong.

And I feel even more strange about posthumously published journals. That’s like a sin on top of a sin. Writing that is only meant for the writer should stay that way, right? Except as a reader, I love to read journals. I love to know what they were thinking when they were working on some of my favorite stories. Virginia Woolf’s journals were as enjoyable as any of her novels.

Yet I still feel strange about it.

It’s akin to loving the rich earthy smell of a recently dug grave.

After Kafka died, Max Brod, Kafka’s literary director, published his journals in 1948 and then, in 1953, he published what is known as The Blue Octavo Notebooks. These were Kafka’s journals….but also not his journals. They were not a recording of the movements and musings of a person in their daily existence. Instead they’re little vignettes, unrelated at times yet not disjointed. A review I read described the Notebooks as a “bag of exquisite marbles.”

That’s about as close to the mark as anything I could come up with.

They were penned from 1917 to 1919 and instead of being in the quarto size journals that Kafka used for his daily journals they were octavo-sized (hence the name).

Here, I’ll give you a sample:

Everyone carries a room about inside him. This fact can even be proved by  means of the sense of hearing. If someone walks fast and on pricks up one’s ears and listens, say in the night, when everything round about is quiet, one hears, for instance the rattling of a mirror not quite firmly fastened to the wall.”

Beautiful, right?

Now that brings us to the video above, a piece entitled “On the Nature of Daylight”, by Max Richter from his album The Blue Notebooks which is music inspired by Kafka’s Blue Octavo Notebooks.

A second layer.

To read this collection AND listen to the music that was inspired by it has been an incredibly rich experience. The high lilting song of a violin, the clack of a typewriter and a woman (by the name of Tilda Swinton) reading the words of Franz Kafka 87 years after they had been written. Possibly written in secret. Possibly never meant to be shared.

And then in researching Kafka I discovered that while Kafka was writing the small sketches that would become the Blue Octavo he was reading Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling.

A third layer still….

How far back can we stretch here? What was Kierkegaard listening to when he wrote Fear and Trembling, what  was he reading? We can peel back the layers.

Secrets within secrets.

Stories behind stories.

It does strange things to a person. Both the album and the book feel so familiar to me as if I had read them before in another life and am just now remembering them for the first time.

Like an echo bouncing off Jupiter and coming back to me after such a long journey.

If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?

13 Jun

The title is an Einstein quote.

Put on your smarty glasses kids. We’re gonna talk about Research.

Suzzallo library of the University of Washington, Seattle WA

The reading room of the Suzzallo library of the University of Washington in Seattle, WA, was built in 1926 and has a Gothic interieur. Photography by Cap’n Surly Flickr.com

One of my favorite parts about writing a book is doing the research. When I was writing Lizzy I spent hours looking up mythological creatures and Shakespeare in the library. I used books like Barthe’s and the Encyclopedia of Imaginary Places and books on how keys were invented and books about Elizabethan England and it was tons of fun.

So for my new book, Palimpsest (which I’ve talked about a little here and here and here ) I present my currently reading or recently read research list:

There’s probably a few that I’m missing….

And I’ve also branched out into podcasts on topics that I want to include like time travel, and memory, how the universe came into existence and the multiverse and doppelgangers and how our brains are wired and… and… and…

You know, easy stuff.

So I discovered RadioLab which is my new obsession. They define themselves as a show about curiosity and that is without a doubt the simplest way to put it. Here a few of my favorites. All the descriptions are from the Radiolab website. I embedded what I could for your listening pleasure.

Memory and Forgetting  

This hour of Radiolab, a look behind the curtain of how memories are made…and forgotten. Remembering is an unstable and profoundly unreliable process–it’s easy come, easy go as we learn how true memories can be obliterated, and false ones added. And Oliver Sacks joins us to tell the story of an amnesiac whose love for his wife and music transcend his 7-second memory

Memory and Forgetting includes Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Rat, Adding Memory and Clive which are parsed out below.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Rat

What is a memory? Science writer Jonah Lehrer tells us is it’s a physical thing in the brain… not some ephemeral flash. It’s a concrete thing made of matter. And NYU neuroscientist Joe LeDoux, who studies fear memories in rats, tells us how with a one shock, one tone, and one drug injection, you can bust up this piece of matter, and prevent a rat from every making a memory. LeDoux’s research goes sci-fi, when he and his colleague Karim Nader start trying to erase memories. And Nader applies this research to humans suffering from PTSD.

(This podcast was what lead me to read Jonah Lehrer’s book, Proust was a Neuroscientist)

Clive

The story of a man who’s lost everything. Clive Wearing has what Oliver Sacks calls “the most severe case of amnesia ever documented.” Clive’s wife, Deborah Wearing, tells us the story along with Oliver Sacks. And they try to understand why, amidst so much forgetting, Clive remembers two things: Music and Love.

(This podcast is what lead me to read her book listed above, Forever Today)

Adding Memory

We start this section off with a question from writer Andrei Codrescu“where do computers get their extra memory from?” And then we take it literally. Can you add memories?Dr. Elizabeth Loftus says yes. She’s a psychologist in the department of Criminology, Law and Society at the University of California at Irvine, and her research shows that you can implant memories—wholly false memories—pretty easily into the brains of humans. Her work challenges the reliability of eye-witness testimony, and is so controversial that she once had to call the bomb squad. Then, producer Neda Pourangbrings us the story of finding a lost memory. Painter Joe Andoe incessantly paints huge canvasses of seemingly random images: horses, pastures, and – more recently – a girl with a particular about-to-say-something look on her face. He didn’t realize until recently that he’d been painting a day from his past, a fragment of an afternoon 30 years earlier.

The (Mutli) Universe(s)

Robert and Brian Greene discuss what’s beyond the horizon of our universe, what you might wear in infinite universes with finite pairs of designer shoes, and why the Universe and swiss cheese have more in common than you think.

Have you wondered if there is another you out there? Somewhere? Sitting in the same chair, reading the same blog post, wearing the same clothes and thinking the same thoughts? Well, Brian Greene says there must be one. Or two. Or lots and lots and lots and lots and… Why? You ask, well listen to Greene’s argument in this week’s podcast.

We are still furiously working on Season 5, so while you wait we bring you today’s podcast of a conversation between Robert Krulwich and Brian Greene, physics and mathematics professor and director of the Institute of Strings, Cosmology, and Astroparticle Physics at Columbia University. The interview is part of a series called ‘Giants of Science‘ hosted by venerable New York institution, the 92nd St Y.

(Brian Greene wrote Elegant Universe from the list above)

And of course never underestimate the power of Wine + Doctor Who = Mind Blown when it comes to ideas. Big ball of wibbley wobbley timey wimey….stuff.

Research is one of my favorite parts because it’s when my books and my desk get covered in post-it notes and ideas are popping up like little delicious bubbles all over the place and I drive my poor husband crazy talking about it. The hard part is mashing it all together. That’s the point when I start to think that maybe, just maybe, I’m not clever enough to pull this off!

Camp Visits, Lizzy on Sale, and Art, Oh My!

4 Jun

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Hi folks!

So some update-y things to share. First and foremost I’m so excited for my first Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb reading/author visit which is coming up this summer at Surprise Lake Camp!

Yup, I’m that excited.

So when the lovely folks at SLC invited me to come up and hang out and read some of Lizzy to the campers I jumped at the chance and figured the least I could do was give them a discount which I then figured, hey, everyone deserves a bit of a sale.

So, the print copy of Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb is officially ON SALE for 10.99 (though right now Amazon’s got it for less than $10! Yipee!)

You can BUY IT HERE.

So if there’s a kid in your life who likes adventure and mythology and plays and bad guys getting hit in the face with tomatoes, you know what to do. (i.e. click above, silly mortals!)

So aside from reading from Lizzy we’re going to do some crafts and have some giveaways and  I’ll sign some books and we’ll all hang out and hopefully everything will go according to plan. I will admit being a wee bit nervous about it. If I don’t return, assume I’ve been devoured by book -loving eleven year olds. There are worse ways to go.

What else?

I just recently learned about Bloomsbury Spark, the new imprint of Bloomsbury that is digital only. I think this is a pretty cool opportunity for new writers (and un-agented writers) to get their work in the hands of an esteemed publisher. They’re accepting submissions (25 to 60K words) in all genres of teen, YA and New Adult.

So writer friends, get writing. Clicky clicky here for more about Bloomsbury.

I chose to toss my hat in and took a break from revising Palimpsest to expand a short story I wrote a year ago about a teenage boy dealing with life after his girlfriend goes missing. Thus far it’s been a lot of fun – er, as fun as a depressing topic like that is. I’ve always liked the initial spark  of creation so the beginning of writing has always been my favorite part. Revising? Not so much. But right now it’s just fun to alternate between what I”m chipping down and what I’m building up.

Also, on top of that I’ve increased my 5 am writing mornings to 6 days a week. Last week was the first one and it was great (10K words in one week!) but I fear exhaustion will overtake me and I”ll be found drooling on my laptop muttering about how to get my hands on one of those Time Turners from Hogwarts.

If I don’t emerge from my writing closet, send unsweetened tea and a kitty.

And finally, ART stuff.

I want to preface this by saying that I am a fan of Amanda Palmer because I love her music and as I came to “know” her via twitter and her blog, I came to agree with many of her sentiments, especially about how losing our CAPACITY TO EMPATHIZE STRIPS US OF OUR HUMANITY

I think it’s something that doesn’t get enough air time hence the capitalizing.

Amanda Palmer recently did a talk at Grub Street’s 2013 “The Muse and the Marketplace. It’s worth a watch. The transcript is here.

Also, before I go on, Eve Bridburg who created Grub Street has really insightful things to say about it here.

So art. Capital A art.

I think the parts of this that really hit home, for me, personally are the aspects about connecting and about the garret. How do you get people into your garret?

How do you put yourself out there?

How do you share?

Granted this is after you’ve mustered up the courage to write something and mustered up the determination to actually do it every single day and then mustered up the courage to not give up and then finally you pulled something out of your hat.

Something from nothing.

Something from you.

And then you hold it up and say “Hey! Everybody look what I did!” and you find yourself surrounded by people who say “Hey! Everybody look what I did!” or “No, look what I did!” and then there you are, in the marketplace that Ms. Palmer talks about, huddling your poor baby to your chest hoping for the best.

So what do you do? To be honest, I don’t know. I know that the best thing you can possibly do is work until your fingers bleed and be honest and be you and work as hard as you can, and then work harder than that and make some sacrifices and some mistakes and then some brilliant mistakes.

Like they say in that baseball movie “If you build it, they will come.”

The best thing about publishing Lizzy was sharing it with other people, especially kids.

Making those connections.

“You ever notice that THIS looks like THIS.”

It’s an amazing, weird, fascinating time for artists. Jump in, kids. The water’s fine.

And super finally, today is a year since my girl’s been gone and B, I miss you like mad. Life in the Bunker just ain’t been the same. june 008

Vacation’s all I ever wanted

18 Feb

Hi! I’m been on vacation for eleven days (count em!) and it’s been fantastic. I did nothing. No kidding. No – Thing. Actually that’s not true – I went to the symphony and heard Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique and Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 and I went to the MoMA and saw Inventing Abstraction (which I didn’t really like. Sorry to all the abstract fans out there) and The Canyon by Rauschenberg (which was incredible) but other than that I did nothing.

I read on the couch for HOURS at a time.

I slept in.

I watched Star Wars (IV, V and VI because we pretend those first three never happened in this household).

I walked over the Brooklyn Bridge and picnicked in the park by City Hall.

And it was FANTASTIC.

But that’s all ending tomorrow and it’s back to early writing mornings. I might go into shock when the alarm goes off at 5:00 am.

So while I’ve had a lover-ly time off I need to do a bit of updating:

Got some reviews of Lizzy Speare which you can find here and here and here and also here. Needless to say I’m pretty psyched about them.

Was invited over to Lady D for an interview and then over at Alli’s World where I talk about writing advice – not from me obviously but from people much smarter than me.

and finally, I got invited to do a reading at a camp upstate this summer filled with 11 year olds. AAAHHH! I can’t wait and if they don’t eat me alive I’ll have wonderful stories to tell. I’m reading from Lizzy and doing an art project. So strap on your thinking helmets and help me come up with some Shakespearean related art projects that I can do.

And Finally Finally Finally – I proofed the print copy of Lizzy and it’s good to go. That means that all you kids who don’t have an ereader but wanted to read it can do so soon. It should be up on Amazon in a couple of days. I’ll post again when it’s there for real. Again shout out to Sara Gable for the incredible book design. Wait till you see the back, kids. It’s all hand-lettered and gorgeous. I’m so lucky to have talented people to work with.

For now, that is all.

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