A story is not a life condensed, but a moment expanded

A story is not a life condensed, but a moment expanded.

That is my theory, having written a novel for children. I have learned so many things writing this book with my husband that I feel like no matter what happens, if no one else reads it, or if I’m the next J.K. Rowling, I am forever changed. And just that, by the way, is something I’ve learned. Art is about process, not the result. It’s so strange to take a round-about route and end up at all the cliches. But here’s what I’ve leaned about cliches, you’ve got to get there your own way, to feel it, and that’s the only way they’re true for you.

I’ve written a fantasy/ adventure starring two female protagonists, with male and female supporting characters, but probably more females than males. My book is a book about girls for all kids.

I wrote this book because I’m sick of seeing so many stories for kids where girls are on the sidelines, sexualized, and stuck in supporting roles; where if you read a story where a girl is the main character, she is often surrounded by males; because while “buddy” narratives starring males abound, there are few stories where two girls come together to save the world. I wrote it because I wanted my children to see more girls taking risks, having adventures, changing, and growing. I wrote this story because four years ago, my husband suggested I stop complaining about what’s not out there and write. I wrote it because I wanted to walk my talk. I wrote it because I’m a writer. I wrote it because I’m madly in love with my husband, and this is a story he started to tell our daughters. I wrote it because I wanted to create something with him.

Here are just some of the things I’ve learned from the writing of it: Contrary to popular belief, to be a writer, at least for me, at least for me to write fiction, I’ve got to be an optimist. I’ve run into so many plot problems, I wanted to throw up my hands and say: there’s no way out of this! But there is always a way. I’ve learned how to find creative solutions in my work, and from this repetitive experience, I’ve learned how to find creative solutions in my real life. I’ve had to learn to be resilient. I need grit. The reason I started Reel Girl is because fantasy creates reality in an endless loop. If we can’t imagine equality, we can’t create it. Creating your own story not only creates your own reality in the book, but also teaches you the possibility of creating your own realities in life. This is liberating on so many levels. So many of us have grown up with family narratives with the good guys and the bad guys, the heroes and the villains, repeated and repeated and repeated. Now, I think part of really growing up is telling your own story, being the narrator of your own life.

I didn’t understand the purpose drama in stories. Bad things have to happen to your protagonist. Does that mean we want bad things to happen in life? We need excitement, trauma blah blah blah (and this goes back to “writers/ artists are depressed, unhappy, sick” etc) Now I believe that the adventure is an emotional metaphor. For me, cleaning out my closet is a huge Sisyphean task, but I can’t write a story about that, it would be boring. So I pick a metaphor everyone can relate to. In real life, just for a moment, I feel like my world is falling apart from something small, like I lose my keys. I feel like I’ve been abandoned. It’s a mini-panic attack, a second. If I were to write a story about the feeling, it would involve losing something major and important, a magical golden locket. I’ve come to believe that health is experiencing your emotions, fully and openly, and then releasing them. I don’t mean openly as in catharsis, telling everyone how you feel. That’s often inappropriate. I mean being open to your own emotions, how they feel for you. Getting out of a shower or getting out of bed can feel like a huge transition. A story is all about transition, that moment, something we experience countless times, every day but we block it out, because it’s too scary to be present, to be in our bodies, to be alive. Writing this story has taught be how to be alive in every moment or at least aspire to be.

Finally, I’ve learned, contrary to popular belief, that happiness is insightful.

2 kids home sick, get ready for a stream of blogs

Hi all,

I’m desperately trying to complete the middle grade fantasy-adventure I’m writing with my husband, thus I’ve hardly blogged for the past month. I think that’s a record of apathy for me, given my blogging addiction. There’s so much I wanted to post about including the new releases I saw with my kids: Annie, Selma, and Into the Woods; we streamed Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken; I read and loved Brooke Shields excellent memoir There Was A Little Girl about growing up with an alcoholic parent. At this point, I’ll have to skip my annual frustration about gendered Christmas and sexist specials (This year my kids and I all cracked up watching Rudolph when the dad tells the mom she can’t go look for her lost kid because “it’s man’s work.” I do feel grateful my children are at least aware of this bullshit, that I’ve done my best to help them get that even if its normal to see sexism, it shouldn’t be.) Right now, I’m reading Watership Down, I talked my 11 year old into getting the book because she just got a rabbit, but I stole it from her. I’m on Chapter 7 and not one– NOT ONE– female rabbit has had a speaking part, and that includes legends of rabbit mythology the rabbits tell each other. The author, Richard Adams, writes in his introduction that Watership Down started as a story he told his two daughters. Two daughters! And no female characters. WTF? Please don’t tell me the rabbit world is “naturally” a patriarchy. These rabbits can speak English but we can’t imagine gender equality for them? And they worship male gods? ARGH. But wait– all I wanted to write in this blog is I have 2 kids home sick. We are stationed in front of the TV watching “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” on PBS (after just watching Curious George. Next will be “Cat in the Hat” all shows starring males with male characters in the title.) So that’s my excuse for blogging today. I’m going to try and catch up.

Reel Girl going on vacation!

I’m going on vacation with my family. You may have noticed I haven’t been blogging that much lately because I’ve been using all my free time to try and get ready to go. My goal is to stay off the internet while I’m gone and just hang with my husband and kids, but we’ll see how that goes. Have a great summer. See you in August.

Margot

Continue the conversation and ‘like’ Reel Girl on Facebook

Hey Reel Girl readers,

Reel Girl is at 1,599 likes and that number is killing me, like an itch I need to scratch. Please help my OCD and “like” Reel Girl. There are many posts up on Facebook and conversations there that don’t happen here on the blog. I’d love you to be a part of all that.

If you’ve already liked Reel Girl and would like to recommend it to someone, please share the link.

Thank you!

Margot

Reel Girl summer slowdown to write book

You may have noticed that I haven’t been quite as obsessive about blogging as usual. Though it kills me to do it at 997 Facebook Likes (because I really would like to get a nice, even, lovely 1,000) I’ve gone deep into Fairyworld.

Most of you know that I’m writing a Middle Grade fantasy book. I’ve been working on this story for about two years and I’m about 2/3 done with the draft. Though I write everyday, when I blog, its hard for my mental energy not get stuck in the news. I don’t know if you’ve found this is true, but since becoming a mom, I need to be choose carefully where I focus my brain cells. Never have I been more aware that the space in my head is so limited. Between work and drama, schedules and crises, I have no extra bandwith (is there a better tech term? That one kept coming up when my blog was crashing and crashing, which is how I feel.)

In a way, it’s nice to be aware of limits, like the good feeling you get when you clean out the garage. I have no space for junk. Frankly, I don’t even have a garage, just tiny, flat closets in this rickety 1911 Victorian.

I don’t think blogging is junk by the way. I think it’s changing the world. I honestly don’t even know how I personally managed to sane before blogging (not to mention using the internet to connect with people who understood what I was saying and didn’t argue with me before I could complete a sentence.) It’s just I have to finish this book. For the summer, every hour is scheduled, all brain cells are committed, and this damn thing is going to get done.

I will be blogging now and then, and I do have scheduled in MG reading time, so I hope to get reviews to you. I’ll also be seeing movies with my kids that I’ll blog about. Please use this blog, Reel Girl’s FB page and Twitter feed to connect, post, and speak about issues.

Have a great summer!

Margot

Reel Girl gets brown eyes

The image of Reel Girl was created by the artist Cynthia Rodgers AKA Theamat who I discovered after seeing her Wonder Woman with no pants comic. Reel Girl’s face is a composite of these photos of my 3 daughters. She has my oldest daughters angry eyes shown here:

Lucy

my second daughter’s spec of a smile

alice

and my third daughters wild curls.

rose

So here’s the banner.

reelgirl2.gif

But after a month or so with that blue-eyed image, I’ve decided to go with the the brown eye color of my second daughter and me. If you read Reel Girl, you know that as a brown-haired, brown-eyed child, I was endlessly annoyed by the ubiquity of blond, blue-eyed heroines. I still am. Here is me.

me

I hate reading a book I otherwise adore, Ramona, where the protagonist complains about her “boring” brown hair and brown eyes. I especially hate reading this part to my brown-haired, brown-eyed daughter. So fuck that. This is my blog, after all, and so Reel Girl gets brown eyes.

I also like brown eyes on Reel Girl because though her look is based on images of my three Caucasian daughters, brown-eyes make her a little more ethnically ambiguous. So here’s the new Reel Girl and feel free to name your favorite brown-eyed heroines here. I’m collecting.

browneyes.gif

Reel Girl and typos

Just wanted to say sorry for all the typos on Reel Girl. This is the deal. I have little time to blog, and so I blog very fast. Usually, I’ve been thinking about what I want to write when I’m driving my car, up in the middle of the night, or pushing my kid on the swing. By the time I get to the keyboard, my ideas are clear but time is fleeting. Mostly, I work on my book when I’m alone in the house but I sneak off to blog by stealing minutes when my kids and my husband are around. Invariably, while I’m writing, someone is screaming for me or there is something else I need to be doing.

I’ve tried to save drafts for later when I can proofread them, but I’ve learned that those posts never go up. For me, blogging seems to be a combination of obsessively thought out ideas that are finally shared compulsively and impulsively. Once the blog has been posted, unlike one that hasn’t been, I do go back and proofread because it’s out there for everyone to see. My pride won’t let me leave up “higher” when I meant to write “hire.”

Sometimes I give myself a hard time about this fast and sloppy style of writing. No matter how important what you’re saying is, if you spell it wrong, it can look stupid. But, as I wrote, the fast posting in fits and spurts is the only way I am able to blog in way that is fulfilling and useful. Also, that’s what kind of cool about blogging, especially if in other areas of your life, including writing, you’ve got to be exact and fastidious.

I’m posting this without re-reading and will probably be revisiting when I find a minute or two again in the day to check all the typos.

Thanks for reading and your patience.

Margot

14 yr old girl writes when she calls out sexism, people call her bonkers

I get a lot of people telling me the issues that I blog about are stupid, irrelevant, or don’t exist at all and how miserable my children must be to have me as a mother. Then, once in a while, I get a comment like this from Jessica. Thank you, Jessica! You rock.

Hello, I’m only 14 but I’m just commenting here to express how so so so grateful and relieved I am to FINALLY find out that I’m not the only one who pays attention to all the sexism that is really all around us, even when everyone else I know thinks I’m over reacting and have gone bonkers. Especially people my age.
Whenever my little sister turns on the TV to watch cartoons, I can’t help but start counting how many female characters there are, yet only to groan in frustration afterwards because there are always more male characters. And the main characters are never females. That is, unless the show’s target audience are girls.
Or whenever I read a book, or watch a movie. It’s always the same. Always.
Even the fact that we’re supposed to use our Dad’s surname as our own, instead of our Mom’s.
I feel truly angry about all this. I wish there were something I could do.
Yet I’ve learned keep it to myself, because whenever I tell someone, anyone, they just roll their eyes like I’m crazy. I’m just a stupid little girl. No one takes it seriously. No one takes ME seriously But they should. Because all this has to change.
It’s really sad how other girls/women don’t even seem to care. I honestly don’t understand. How could anyone think that sexism is “gone”?!
Anyway, I’m so grateful that I have found this blog. Thank you so much. I’m sure you are a very, very good mum.

Thank you again,
Jessica

Reel Girl goes around the web!

The good news is that three of my absolute favorite sites on the internet– Women and Hollywood, Jezebel, and Miss Representation– linked to and posted about Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies in 2013.

The bad news is Reel Girl ran out of bandwith not once, but twice. ARGH.

The good news is the sexist posters from kids movies are back up. If you haven’t seen them, you can look now.

You should also check out Laura Beck’s post on Jezebel. She writes about the bad influence the limited representations of females has on kids:

As for how it leaves girls feeling, this is probably something many of us can relate to. As a child, I strived for the perfection of a Disney Princess, perhaps subconsciously knowing I’d never achieve that, I started imagining myself in the shoes of more adventurous male characters. I’ve talked to many women who’ve had similar experiences, this sort of transference. Lacking decent female role models, it’s not surprising many girls live stories through the eyes of boys and men.

There’s a passage in Margaret Cho’s hilarious 2002 autobiography I’m the One That I Want that talks about this in terms of race. This is paraphrased, but she basically says that, as a young girls, she couldn’t wait to grow up and become white like everyone on TV. Heartbreaking, and I think this experience resonates with many people. When you don’t see yourself reflected in media, you push yourself into it.

Beck also goes on to tell a creepy but unsurprising story:

Now, a personal anecdote. I have a friend who’s a writer working in children’s TV. She’s constantly taking meetings and pitching stories, and she told me when she first started in the business, she pitched stories with girl leads. However, after being told to change the protagonist to a male character more than a few times — and once being told to actually turn the movie into a live action rom com for adult women!? — she now pitches almost entirely male-driven stories. And guess what? She’s selling.

What is surprising is that so many people buy the bullshit line: “Girls will see movies about boys, but boys won’t see movies about girls.”

How can we see cool movies about girls when no one will make them?