In the writing room right now ...

In the writing room right now ... I have taken down the brown "butcher" paper that held ideas, photos, drawings, and my hand-drawn maps and plot outlines for the past five or six books. I've placed all those items into three-ring binders, and cleared the deck for paintings and photographs that involve courage, as I move forward in GHOSTKEEPER, the new novel set in Lyndonville, Vermont. My 1850 Vermont adventure THE LONG SHADOW is under contract with Five Star/Cengage -- I will give you a publication date as soon as I know! Scribbling lots of poems, too. And there's a possible route to publication of the "Vermont Nancy Drew" novel I built on Wattpad (see right-hand column). Yes, I guess I do like multi-tasking! How about you?

Friday, March 8, 2019

Virginia Woolf, Vermont's Alison Bechdel, and ... Me?

Mom and me ... way back when.
My mom died suddenly, at the appallingly young age of 53, not quite done with child-raising. So in a real sense, I didn't get to see who she might have grown into as an independent woman. I picture her taking up oil painting seriously, and going to amazing lectures, and expanding the new career she'd started, creating recreational crafts at a local nursing home.

I imagine now things we might have started to do together, too: She would have adored 12-Step group meetings, for instance, I'm sure of it! (All those stories ... ) Schmoozed excitedly at Sisters in Crime gatherings. Hosted a book club (or two!). Maybe we would have taken some trips as "just the two of us," too.

Most of all, I wonder how she would have adapted to today's feminism. She was always, at heart, a woman who didn't stand for discrimination. But in her time (she was born in 1927), marriage was WAY different, and so was employment.

Still, I am certain she'd be calling (and e-mailing and Facebooking) all her friends near and far about the "Break the Bechdel with Strong Female Characters" badge that landed on my mystery, ALL THAT GLITTERS, this winter. I'm elated that this "syndicate" on Inkshares chose my teen sleuth mystery set in Vermont for the honor. Here's the reason:
All that Glitters hooks you in the first paragraph and doesn't let go! Beth Kanell has crafted a main character who feels real from the first page, and has already introduced a mother whose voice is all her own-- and certainly someone to reckon with! We can't wait to follow Lucky as she tracks down the person who shot her father, with the help of her two friends who also already show great potential for fully developed roles!
(Pre-order link at end.)
With my eager, curious mother in mind, I've been trying to figure out how to explain this award. It's about a "test" named for Vermont graphic artist Alison Bechdel (who's said she wished it were the Bechdel-Wallace Test, because it came up on conversation of two people). And in turn, she was thinking about Virginia Woolf's comments in Woolf's 1929 essay A Room of One's Own:
All these relationships between women, I thought, rapidly recalling the splendid gallery of fictitious women, are too simple. ... And I tried to remember any case in the course of my reading where two women are represented as friends. ... They are now and then mothers and daughters. But almost without exception they are shown in their relation to men. It was strange to think that all the great women of fiction were, until Jane Austen's day, not only seen by the other sex, but seen only in relation to the other sex. And how small a part of a woman's life is that...
To run the "test" today, you look at a film or novel this way, which originally applied to a movie in Bechdel's comic strip:
  1. The movie has to have at least two women in it,
  2. who talk to each other,
  3. about something besides a man.
 Well, yeah. I mean, sure. I mean, isn't that a big part of what a "girl sleuth" is doing, in the best books? Nancy Drew didn't talk with her sort-of boyfriend Ned much -- she confabbed with her "chums" Bess and George (both of them young women like here). And although Flavia de Luce, my favorite recent "girl" sleuth, depends on her dad's assistant to help her think through how to use her amazing science skills, her most important discussions are with the other women in her home.

It's not that we sleuth typed don't enjoy all of life -- but, as the Grand Sophy emphasized in a Georgette Heyer novel that I adored in my younger years ... there's a time and place to pay attention to some things (like what you're going to wear). And another time and place to focus on what needs to be solved.

Come to think of it, when Sherlock Holmes focused on "that woman" in his life, his detecting skills weren't quite as good, right?

Mom would have completely understood.

PS - Ready to pre-order your first-edition copy of ALL THAT GLITTERS? It's the first in a series of eight, and I bet each of them will make a good run for the Strong (and Smart and Sassy) Women category. We need to line up 750 orders to get this into print, so it really matters when you opt for a copy (or the special for three, which puts you into the published book as a sponsor!). It's easy to pre-order, just click here.


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