3.28.2005

The brilliant Sara Zuiderveen pointed me to Edward Champion's Return of Tannenhaus Watch, which again is pleasing me in quite the same way as these past few links people have been sending along: the discussion of the need for women writers in positions of authority seems to be building momentum. Edward is checking on the NYT Book Review, because some of us are so depressed by its gender stats that we can't even read it anymore:
Three of the five fiction reviews are written by women. Meanwhile, only one of the eight nonfiction reviews is penned by a female.

We're extremely bothered by Tanenhaus's continuing inability to pair women up with nonfiction books. By contrast, a quick look over at this Sunday's Washington Post Book World section sees women covering two memoirs and a family history (along with several fiction titles). While the troubling problem of women reviewers relegated to fiction and memoirs cuts across the board (for fuck's sake, why can't a woman tackle that unwieldy Galbrieth biography?), we're still scratching our heads over why Sam Tanenhaus, despite being the editor of one of the most promiment weekly book review sectiosn in the United States, can't ferret out the females.

This isn't exactly rocket science. It doesn't even take much in the way of rumination. Here's a few ideas that come immediately to mind: Jane Juska reviewing a nonfiction book about aging or sexuality, the genteel Katha Pollitt trying to figure out the state of comics, Molly Ivins covering Michael Savage's Liberalism is a Mental Disorder from a medical perspective, Dorothy Allison seeing if Jeannette Angell's Callgirl has streetcred, or just about any brave voice daring to cover Laurel Leff's forthcoming Buried by the Times: The Holocaust and America's Most Important Newspaper (which is in fact highly critical of the Gray Lady). Wouldn't that be a book review section worth reading? And wouldn't this be a great way to balance off the out-of-control male-to-female ratio while presenting stirring nonfiction coverage to a national audience?
xo
Elizabeth

3.25.2005

Editors' note: Writer Paula Kamen will be guest-blogging here on Fridays in March.

WELL, EVEN ULYSSES S. GRANT GETS HEADACHES!

Speaking of the ups and downs of the author's endless pursuit of external validation, I was both entertained and aghast at a mention of my book in the NY Times today, in an article on the cover of the Weekend Arts section.

The good news, they spelled my name right. And the bad news: Critic William Grimes used my book All in My Head, about a decade-long headache, as an example in a list of memoirs on topics that "don't warrant" memoirs being written about them.

In contrast, in an example of the fresh and socially relevant voices who SHOULD write memoirs, he mentions Ulysess S. Grant. 

But, ironically, Ulysses S. Grant was a famous headache sufferer! He wrote himself in his memoirs in detail about his "sick headache" that he had on the eve of the South's surrender!  His story is used as an example today in medical texts on the topic. So I'm sure that if he were alive today, he'd be first in line to buy my book on the topic!

But yes, I do see Grimes' point, that sometimes enough is enough and bellygazing can be annoying, but also argue that a lot of the memoirs he lists serve as useful jumping off points to indeed talk about bigger issues. It's not all just about "me." The personal becomes political. I talk about the larger problem of chronic pain and the lack of good treatment for it. Wendy McClure, whom he also mentions in the list of memoirs for her book Not the New Me, talks about greater issues of body image. 

Interestingly, like many women writers, both of us write about internal problems, that don't play out as grandly against the landscape as the Surrender at Appatomax (sp?).

(Another pet peeve: critics reviewing books without reading them. Not able to tell if they are ironic or in part journalistic.)

Well, at least infodad.com likes me....
Editors' note: Writer Paula Kamen will be guest-blogging here on Fridays in March.

STARLET FEVER

This has nothing to do with literature, at least directly. For weeks now, I've been hooked on reality show The Starlet on the WB (making history as the first person over 30 to watch that channel), shown Tuesdays at 9 pm Eastern Time. A reason is that my friend's cousin Katie (the sunny blonde one from Chicago) is on it, and is now in the final 4 contestants!!!!  I tell you, the experience of reality TV is so much more engaging when you know a person competing, because then it seems more....real. I have gotten a kick out of her being very open about her ambition, and how she never fails to alienate the other contestants. Please pray with me that she shall win.

It's fascinating because it does show a lot about the process of becoming an actor, which I'm very interested in. Each show gives them a practical challenge that real actors would face: doing an awkward kissing scene, hawking a product on a commercial, doing a screen test with an emotional scene.

It's been so inspiring that I've started to imagine producing my own reality show for book authors. It would surely attract fresh fledgling writers like those "starlet" hopefuls -- all hoping to skip the years of drudgery and risk required by the typical career trajectory to get to the top.  The weekly challenges, also reflecting the real life lives of authors, could include: find the most cunning agent with a few slim referrals, beg/stalk acquaintances for blurbs, relate book topic to assorted current events, finance own 5-city book tour on less than $200, etc. I can't think of who would the larger-than-life fate-changing host, to be the  Faye Dunaway-like figure of the Starlet (or Donald Trump of The Apprentice). Maybe Judith Shulevitz of the New York Times Book Review?  I'm open to suggestions......
Editors' note: Writer Paula Kamen will be guest-blogging here on Fridays in March.

In a Bipolar Author Disorder fashion, I will give a rambling and somewhat disconnected report of literary happenings of the past week in my world:

--Speaking of Sick Lit, last week I met Christa Donner, the editor of the clever  Chicago-based 'zine, Ladyfriend: For Ladies and their Friends.
It addresses the still-under written-about topic of female friendships. The current issue, #8, has a health theme. A lot of stuff I didn't know about, such as someone getting an operation to remove a too-thick hymen, and someone getting a worm lodged in their brain from a trip to Madagascar. It also features a helpful map of "weird medical attractions across America." I hope to visit the featured Museum of Questionable Medical Devices when I get to Minneapolis/Saint Paul next week.

--Also on that vein, I was just interviewed by stellar writing teacher Deborah Emin for her website.

We talked about the outlining side of the writing process, specifically about how writing plays and learning about what makes "drama" can come in use in a memoir. (not up as of this writing but it will be soon). I enjoyed reading her own essay, "Why I decided to stop being a schizophrenic after 50" in the first issue of the new urban publication NYCPlus, for folks over 50 (where the hipsters go when the AARP newsletter won't cut it).

--And not speaking of anything even remotely diagnosable on the DSM IV chart, tonight I saw Marilyn Abildskov, another writer/writing teacher (visiting from San Francisco), read at Women and Children First. She entertained the crowd with her literary yet interestingly steamy memoir, The Men in My Country,about her years living and teaching in Japan.  It should win an award just for the great cover art, featuring cute little men made of origami.
Editors' note: Writer Paula Kamen will be guest-blogging here on Fridays in March.

BIPOLAR AUTHOR DISORDER: NO CURE WANTED

I have been writing about the genre of "sick lit" very seriously so far, but I think I've been dwelling on it too much, because I'm now coming down with a brand new (surprisingly common yet undiscussed) disorder. I noticed it tonight when I bumped into another author in a cafe, and started to talk manically, and only in short easily digestible sound bytes, no matter how complex the topic.  I was "on" to an extreme --- and I couldn't stop bringing up the social relevance of MY BOOK. Every social event, every issue in the news, every headline totally related to my book. Vioxx -- that relates. Terry Schiavo -- that relates. Britney's possible pregnancy -- that too.

I then sat down and realized that I had never left that "interview" phase from a media thing I did this afternoon, hours earlier.  My neurology was now rewired for single-minded Chatty-Cathy self promotion.

In other words, I had Bipolar Author Disorder (BAD). The problem, though, I thought, is that it's not a "disorder." A disorder is something you usually try to avoid. To an author, BAD is a "normative" and even desirable state, that one intentionally works oneself into. If one does the book process right (writing quietly shielded from distraction, and then promoting fearlessly), you actually make yourself become bipolar, at least temporarily. Bipolar Author Disorder actually describes the optimal extremes of mental function that make for a successful book, critically and commercially.

Instead of taking medication to quell it, I can see others training themselves to intentionally acquire it. I remembered the Times article from Tuesday about some people with milder forms of hypomania (being bipolar lite, or maybe "bipolar curious") actually being MORE successful than others and wondered if this was at all related.

Here is the other side of it -- just as disturbing, and just as desirable. Before this month, for many months, I had intentionally cycled myself down to the polar opposite stage, to the "depressive" or excessively introspective and solitary writing stage. During that time, I had the long, steady, unflappable attention span of a Buddhist monk on Ritalin. I often didn't feel like going out and socializing, especially after a day of peaceful rumination, of foraging through my brain matter for the minute details of an event I had barely remembered even happening in the first place before that day, and then pondering the greater meaning of the event as it pertained to the book's larger themes and to humanity itself. And then turning over in my mind multiple ways to convey and phrase it, either directly or with nuance or a symbol or two. But I didn't complain.  I didn't feel loneliness -- just the joy of solitude, of harmoniously flowing with the unceremonial waves of the creative process, wanting nothing more out of life.

But now, as I'm right in the middle of the manic phase, it's all about the external. But not about the classic stimuli the classic bipolar people stereotypically crave -- like sex and shopping.  It's more about affirmation from others. Did the reviewer like my book? Did my friend like the book? Why did that person give it zero stars on Amazon and fuck up my average star rating, that before was a full 5?  (Like with my last book....)

Did that person just think I'm a jerk, an exhibitionist, a prude, underrated, overrated, offensive, funny, sad?

Which is worse? Which is better? I don't know. All I can say definitively is: please don't give me any medication for it, because it's really helping my career.

3.24.2005

Seattle poet, fiction writer, and editor Jenny Scott points us to this important article at Editor & Publisher, on why there aren't more women Op-Ed writers:
Patrisia Gonzales, who co-writes a Universal Press Syndicate column with Roberto Rodriguez, said: "I hate to generalize about this, but here goes. ... Men make most of the decisions about who's hired as a columnist or who's accepted as having 'authority' to write. There are untold numbers of women and people of color whose ideas are cutting edge and 'outside of the box'; unfortunately, they rarely make it into the commentary pages on a regular basis."

Gonzales added: "The women and people of color who write with complexity may not fit into easily marketable niches. There are still editors who want us to fit into their ideas of who we are and how we should think. Now, in this era of war and largely unquestioning acceptance of our government's policies at home and abroad, there's an even greater need for women's voices who challenge unacceptable behavior as normal and justified."
This article gives me hope: a discussion is starting, and Planet Cupcake is well on its way. It's so fascinating--the numbers in these places of authority (literary magazines, op-ed pages) seem to always hover around a magical 21-23 percent women writers--that's what we're finding in our research into the New Yorker, etc.

My theory is that an 80-20 breakdown is the ratio that remains invisible to someone who's not a woman writer or Cupcake convert accustomed to counting bylines. For whatever reason, this ratio doesn't seem egregious unless you have been educated, whether through years of being a woman writer or listening to women writers talk about their careers, or through Cupcake, to question why so few women are granted the authority, the byline, the paycheck. Harpers, say, or those really bad weeks at the NYT Book Review, for example, do stand out more to the naked eye--if it's under ten percent, people notice.

Jenny also recommends checking out Michael Kinsley in the LA Times. The article is called: Girl Problems In Op-Ed Land. Something's brewing, my Cupcakes. Or baking, I should say. Get your frosting ready.

xo
Elizabeth
So, as you may know, Bjork has this tendency to run around and say she's not a feminist. But check her out in the Observer (thanks Rachel for sending the link):
'It's interesting for me to bring up a girl. You go to the toy store and the female characters there - Cinderella, the lady in Beauty and the Beast - their major task is to find Prince Charming. And I'm like, wait a minute - it's 2005! We've fought so hard to have a say, and not just live through our partners, and yet you're still seeing two-year-old girls with this message pushed at them that the only important thing is to find this amazing dress so that the guy will want you. It's something my mum pointed out to me when I was little - so much that I almost threw up - but she's right.'

She's open about the problems of balancing family and work. 'It's incredible how nature sets females up to take care of people, and yet it is tricky for them to take care of themselves.' Slightly to her astonishment she is becoming interested in women's rights. Because of her mother's own militancy - 'she wouldn't enter the kitchen, I mean come on' - she reacted the other way, adoring housework, knitting and sewing.

But recently, 'I have been noticing how much harder it is for me and my girlfriends to juggle things than it is for men. In the 1990s, there was a lot of optimism: we thought we'd finally sorted out equal rights for men and women ... and then suddenly it just crashed. I think this is my first time in all the hundreds of interviews I've done, that I've actually jumped on the feminist bandwagon. In the past I always wanted to change the subject. But I think now it's time to bring up all these issues. I wish it wasn't, but I'll do it, I'm up for doing the dirty work!'
xo
Elizabeth
Well will you look at Lauren go? You should, because I'm fairly certain you'll be working for her one day soon. She is the best. Except that she fed me a really delicious actual cupcake at Sugar Sweet Sunshine this morning and then I was wearing mis-matched prints (from Target and TJMaxx respectively, though that was the least of the problems involved) and being a cranky bloodsugar lunatic on the phone by mid-afternoon when I finally remembered the whole protein thing.

But it was worth it. It was this super rich chocolate with a Hockney-hue of aqua icing. Perfect.

I'm out of town for the rest of this week, researching novel #2, which is a prequel to novel #1 (I did work at Skywalker Ranch one summer back in the early nineties, this may explain). Does that excuse my bad-bloggerness? It might actually be novel #3, because this music executive/Juarez, Mexico/quantum physics/groupie-bullshit thang might be next in line. I love having lots of options. But it's way too early in the game, especially for the prequel, to chitchat. Ridiculous to, in fact. I'll tell you later. In the meantime, I am so looking forward to Paula's guestblog tomorrow.

xo
Elizabeth

3.23.2005

Oooh what a full dance card I've had this week! Je regret not checking in with you more frequently, but between the usual hot dates and lots of work for some freelance clients with hotly-anticipated new fiction coming out in about a minute, I haven't had as much time as one might to prefer to blog the revolution lately.

Enjoyed a lovely lunch with Kevin Smokler on Monday (look for his intriguing new book in stores later this spring), and then coffee with v. cool Trigger magazine editor Liberation Iannillo (note: they're always looking for writers with a sharp eye and an even sharper tongue; East Village obsession a plus). Morning meeting with Ms. Merrick at Sugar Sweet Sunshine today (absolutely had to check it out after much praise from the always in-the-know Rachel Kramer Bussel, (Cupcake, Sept. '04)), followed by a spectacularly fun lunch with Emma Garman (Cupcake, Sept. '04), who just so happens to have a scandalous piece up on Mediabistro today -- literary conspiracy theorists, definitely take note. It's, shall we say, a doozy. Tomorrow I'll be having lunch with Maud (Cupcake, June '04), who recently reviewed AL Kennedy's latest for Newsday with her characteristic flair to spare...

Came home to some ultrafabulous news that I'll share at a later date and also, a piece I recently wrote is getting linked all over the place! Except for the weather here in New York this afternoon (it's March -- where's spring already? Fortunately, I'll be getting all the tulips I can take on a quick jaunt to Amsterdam + Antwerp the week after next...), it's all divine, divine, divine.

Off to meet someone else darling and get yummy Ethiopian food for dinner. Delish! Much more tk.

xoox,
Lauren

PS Delighted to hear, via Beatrice, that Rene Steinke gives good party! We can't wait 'til she reads at the next Cupcake on April 13!

PPS Do take a peek at the Smart Set this week, simply bursting at the seams event-wise, with much fabulousness and ado around town!

3.22.2005

HOT DATE: TONIGHT!

"Under Her Skin: How Girls Experience Race in America
Tuesday, March 22, 2005

7PM @ Bluestockings, 172 Allen Street (Between Stanton and Rivington), 212.777.6028, FREE

Under Her Skin: How Girls Experience Race in America is an anthology of essays by women that explore through a child's lens the sometimes savage, sometimes innocent, and always complex, ways in which race shapes American lives and families. Including the perspectives of women of color, white women, and those caught in between, Under Her Skin traces themes related to double lives, fear, envy, lineage, and family, broadening our understanding of the often-painful subject of racial difference.

Editor Pooja Makhijani is joined by contributors Sejal Shah, B. Lois Wadas, and Karen Elias, who will read from their own essays in this book showcasing the depth and breadth of women’s experiences. Girlhood is painful in any case, and with the overlay of ethnic and color differences, it’s almost impossible.

Directions: 1 block south of the F train's 1st Avenue stop and just 5 blocks from the JMZ-line's Essex/Delancey Steet stop."

-Lauren

3.21.2005

This review of our recent Cupcake reading with Megan Kelso and Ariel Bordeaux is so kick ass!

And *dude*, you are not becoming a sissy. I get that there's this thing about digging a feminist reading series, but there are a quite a few men doing just that at Cupcake every month.

Besides, that guy in the womens' studies classes -- he's kind of figured it out, right? Because last time I checked, representing the male minority in a room full of foxy, tuned-in women was a pretty smooth move in anybody's playbook.

See you on the 13th, Jack? We certainly hope so!

xo,
Lauren
I LOVE the sound of SMUT, the new weekly series at Galapagos, and they are hungry for smart, sexy submissions:
HIGH-RISK READING AND PERFORMANCE SERIES AT GALAPAGOS IN WILLIAMSBURG:

SUBMISSIONS: SMUT is currently accepting submissions appx. 15 minutes in length from writers and performers.

Appropriate smutty material might include:
- Readings (read by authors or performed by actors)
- Performance Art
- Multimedia
- Comedy
- Live Music
- Racy lectures, Powerpoint presentations, debates, personal narratives, interpretive dances, and so on

The series has jumped off to a really successful start.  We've presented performance artists Neal Medlyn and Taylor Mac, erotic literary talents such as Toni Bentley and Polly Frost, and irreverent comedians such as Chelsea Peretti and Dan Fishback to much acclaim.  Future performances include appearances by Rachel Bussel, Abby Ehman, Elise Miller, and Ixion Burlesque.

Appropriate submission materials for all artists MAY include: texts, video, CD, DVD, press releases and press clippings, raw ideas, etc.  Be sure to attach a brief description of the work or works you are proposing for consideration.

Please mail your SMUTTY materials and ideas ASAP to:

Travis Chamberlain, Booking
c/o GALAPAGOS ART SPACE
70 N. 6TH St. (just off the Bedford Ave. L Train stop)
Brooklyn, NY 11211

AND send a SMUTTY query
Sounds smashing! As a matter of fact, it's Monday, so the next edition is tonight -- go check it out!

xoox,
Lauren
So yes, it's Monday: time for a memo on the Satanists. No?

LA writer-to-watch Shana Ting Lipton on a certain variety of the dark aspects of the DNA of Southern California.

xo
Eliz.

3.20.2005

I feel so very lucky to have Paula guest-blogging here on Fridays. What a treat. Thank you Paula!

xo
Elizabeth

3.18.2005

Editors' note: Writer Paula Kamen will be guest-blogging here on Fridays in March.

I WAS A TEENAGE FEMINIST

Congrats to Brooklynite Therese Shechter for the successful TV debut of her film, "I Was a Teenage Feminist" -- on Canadian television last week, re-airing on April 5 and 10.

"If you missed the revolution, filmmaker Therese Shechter's I Was A Teenage Feminist is a refresher course in Feminism 101," said the Toronto Star, March 7, 2005. (I'd get you the URL, but it's the kind of article you have to pay for....It should be on the Trixie Films website soon)

The film, for which I consulted, is about her quest to recapture the exuberance and promise of the women's movement that she felt growing up in the 1970s. She talks to prominent second wave feminists, such as Letty Cottin Pogrebin and Gloria Steinem, as well as third wavers (like the editors of Bust and Brooklyn-based media critic Jennifer Pozner, the head of the new advocacy organization, Women in Media and News), covers young feminist events, and reflects on her own life choices.  There is also some good nostalgia on the indelible spell cast by "Free to Be You and Me." The result is that she does find a women's movement, but in different forms than you would expect.

"I'm getting lots of emails from women who are vowing to change their lives after seeing the film (calling themselves feminists, getting politically active, thinking about women's history...)," she says.

The film will be showing in Chicago June 11th as part of Chicago Filmmakers Pride Month programming. Her company, Trixie Films, is working on international TV distribution and more theatrical and educational screenings in the US.

This is a very funny and provocative film, but I'm most looking forward to her next one, "How I Learned to Speak Turkish," on her personal travels and single-woman adventures in Turkey. Specifically, she describes it as seeking to "understand the psyche and sociology of Turkish males from the first-person vantage-point of a modern American woman." A breakthrough in Jewish/Muslim relations! To see a trailer for the film, go here.
Editors' note: Writer Paula Kamen will be guest-blogging here on Fridays in March.

SICK LIT OFFERINGS FOR EVERY POSSIBLE DEVIANCE AND DYSFUNCTION:

In doing this work over the past few years, I've come across some amazing and very helpful books on this topic that are often off radar -- all dealing with the theme of what I call "tired girls," or women with invisible disabilities. Here are some highlights:

FOR FEMINIST THEORY WONKS: The Rejected Body: Feminist Philosophical Reflections on Disability (Routledge, 1996) by Canadian theorist Susan Wendell rocked my world. Although the author is a noted feminist philosopher, the book is very clearly written and easy to read, even in a few sittings. She combines scholarly thought and insight from her own chronic fatigue syndrome to discuss and formulate relevant feminist theory on invisible disability -- and the concept of "making friends" with your body. Basically, she discusses the challenge to recognize the "negative" or "weak" parts of women's bodies as a part of our human reality, not necessarily always glorifying the body as a source of "truth."

FOR DRUGGIES: I met Jonathan Michel Metzl, a University of Michigan women's studies professor and psychiatrist, at a conference on the social meanings of "Depression" last year at the University of Chicago. In his new book, Prozac on the Couch (Duke, 2004), he analyzes some of the gender-bias involved behind some (not all) prescribing of antidepressants to women. He argues that drugs are not necessarily gender neutral in meaning and always purely "scientific" --  and should be criticized with a gender critique, just like Freud. Some examples are ironic, in retrospect, like a very prominent 1970s medical-journal ad for Valium with the headline "35 and Single," blaming depression on the horn-rimmed-glasses-wearing female patient's lack of gender-norm conformity. (However, as I always say, if you need those meds, take 'em! Depression is a real biological thing.)

FOR COMIX FANS: Suzy Becker poignantly describes her harrowing brain tumor surgery and recovery in I Had Brain Surgery, What's Your Excuse? (Workman, 2004). It's like a book-length version of the 1992 comic that I just bought online, Wimmin's Comix #17, "the kvetch issue," edited by Caryn Leschen (aka Aunt Violet), that showcases a variety of women comics artists talking about problems without easy answers.

FOR THOSE DEALING WITH (AND TRYING TO ACCEPT) CHRONIC PAIN: Three
self-published accounts by women about mostly female ailments, which include:

--A Pained Life: A Chronic Pain Journey, by Carol Jay Levy, on trigeminal neuralgia, one of the most painful syndromes known to humankind

-- I Will Not Complain by Hazel Lucretia Reese (on chronic daily headache) by a retired telephone company worker who has overcome immense struggles.  (In contrast, my motto is: "I Shall Complain.")

--Live Well With Chronic Pain by a doctor, Liza H. Leal, who suffers herself from rheumatoid arthritis.

AND, last but not least, I recommend to chronic pain sufferers as a necessary coping tool the non-slick book: From Patient to Person: First Steps, a workbook for dealing with chronic pain.

It includes common-sense anxiety-decreasing management advice, which isn't always obvious to those in the middle of their worst suffering and resulting life turmoil. It's published by the American Chronic Pain  Association, theacpa.org, where you can order it. Like other good books on the topic, Step #1 is acceptance. That doesn't mean "giving up," but for the time being going on with life the best way you can, despite imperfections.
Editors' note: Writer Paula Kamen will be guest-blogging here on Fridays in March.

MORE ON SICK LIT: JESUS SAVE ME (FROM MY HEADACHES)

As I wrote on March 3 (where I delivered my Sick Lit Manifesto), I'm on a mission to frame "sick lit" as a feminist issue. That means to look at how chronic pain and fatigue hit women more -- and critically examine why they are so stigmatized. As a way to fight back, a first step is openness, in writing about it, to demystify illness and reveal it as just an ordinary part of the human experience. (Speaking up is NOT the answer in itself, as I'd like dollars$$$$ put toward actually researching and treating these problems -- but it's a helluva good start.)

So I was happy in the past week that early coverage of my book, All in My Head,  picked up on that feminist thread. And that was in all sorts of publications. I was most amazed by the review by associate editor Agnieszka Tennant in Christianity Today, which listed my book as "pick of the week."

Praise Jesus! (And if I thought he'd get rid of my migraines, I'd convert in a snap.)

Another review that well explained pain as a feminist issue was in the Chicago Reader (not available at Reader site, but I have the text on my site) by Martha Bayne. (She is formerly an editor of Maxine, a Bitch/Bustish 3rd-wavish type magazine that was based here in Chicago, with a literary slant).

I appreciate her bringing up the term "neurosomatic," which contrasts with the term "psychosomatic" (all in your head), to show that neurology (specifically an improper processing of input by the brain) is being found to be behind many women's "invisible" illnesses.  So there.

3.17.2005

This photo that our pal liberation took of the divine ms. love a year ago is worth about a thousand words right now...

Happy almost-weekend, cupcakes!

xoxo,
Lauren
Katha Pollitt has a great piece in The Nation on the dearth of women opinion writers in the media, and Editor & Publisher offers an analytical look at the issue from the business side.

-Lauren

3.16.2005

Hey everybody. I miss you so much I'm blogging from the Fort Myers airport. I had a gorgeous vaca, thank you very much, and even this little flight delay isn't making me too grumpy. Itunes fixes a lot. Itunes and chocolate. Also, last night I ate in a restaurant that had its own dry ice machine. I'm wondering how my landlord would feel about one of those in my living room? A good excuse for a party, no?

Anyway, check it out: Grace Paley's new publishing house, Glad Day Books. Did you know about this? Neither did I.

Writer Leora Skolkin Smith wrote to wise us up to this lovely endeavor. She says that Paley invested her own money and energy to create Glad Day because she was so displeased with the current state of publishing. How amazing! Grace Paley, in general, is such an inspiration to us here at Cupcake, of course. Thanks Leora!

xo
Elizabeth
Mark your calendars for an absolutely unmissable event, as the currently ultra en fuego Jami Attenberg reads at Barbes tomorrow night: Thursday, March 17 @ 7PM, FREE, with Ayun Halliday and E. Lockhart. Hosted by Jackie Corley and Nicole Hughes. Sounds divine!

xoxo,
Lauren
EVENT: THE LOWER EASTSIDE GIRLS CLUB opening of "CHARMED" at The Lower Eastside Girls Club Art+Community Gallery

Thursday, March 17th 5-8pm

Charmed is a group exhibition of diverse women artists at the Art+Community Gallery at the Lower Eastside Girls Club, 56 East 1st Street between First and Second Avenues.

Charmed is curated by Michael St. John and Jason Duval with the participation of The Lower Eastside Girls Club’s Curatorial Training Program. Participants in the Curatorial Training Program learn about all aspects of running a gallery by meeting with artists, professional gallery owners and curators. The girls will curate their own show at The Art+Community Gallery in May.

Charmed features the work of Nancy Spero, Mary-Beth Gregg, Nicole Cherubini, Kirsten Deirup, Alex McQuilkin, Bethany Fancher, Judith Linhares, Karen Shaw, Julia Bezgin, Dianne Blell, Carol Cole, Elizabeth Deull, and Gina Magid.

Charmed will appear in the Art+Community Gallery from March 17th-April 16th. The gallery is open on Saturdays from 12 to 6pm or by appointment, 212-982-1633.


-Lauren
I just got back from a few days in Los Angeles, and as you can imagine, I am feeling a little overwhelmed by the detritus of the information age of the moment (and thinking creative strategies, like this one, are the way to go). I had a wonderful time and saw lots of fabulous people, including Mark Sarvas of The Elegant Variation, who I met in person (finally!).

I was killing time in the airport and bought Life & Style Weekly for a quarter at the newstand. I particularly loved that in a 50-word or so review of Project Greenlight, the reviewer used a significant chunk of available copy to note the following: "One complaint: There are no women on the show! Hollywood may be a boys' club, but this is ridiculous." Awesome.

xoox,
Lauren

3.13.2005

I knew I was in for a bit of a moment when I saw the link on the Times online: Dish It Out, Ladies

Maureen Dowd, what a Cupcake:
While a man writing a column taking on the powerful may be seen as authoritative, a woman doing the same thing may be seen as castrating. If a man writes a scathing piece about men in power, it's seen as his job; a woman can be cast as an emasculating man-hater. I'm often asked how I can be so "mean" - a question that Tom Friedman, who writes plenty of tough columns, doesn't get.

Even the metaphors used to describe my column play into the castration theme: my scalpel, my cutting barbs, razor-sharp hatchet, Clinton-skewering and Bush-whacking. "Does she," The L.A. Times's Patt Morrison wondered, "write on a computer or a Ronco Slicer and Dicer?"
Now if her bosses would just take a hint, and get their numbers up in the Book Review and the Times Magazine.

Beyond that, I am on vacation until Thursday. I thought I'd send you my vacation reading list, just in case you're planning on hiding in your apartment until your taxes are due and want some tips:

Ariel Bordeaux: Raisin Pie

Megan Kelso: Queen of the Black Black, Artichoke Tales

Susann Cokal: Breath and Bones (out from Unbridled Books, a small press in Colorado that I'm finding quite intriguing)

Gayle Brandeis: Fruitflesh and The Book of Dead Birds (complete with blurb from Toni Morrison, something I can't remember seeing since Erdrich's Love Medicine published more than 20 years ago. . . )

Lauren will be back on Tuesday, my gorgeous Cupcakes, and I'll see you Friday.

xo
Elizabeth

3.11.2005

Editors' note: Writer Paula Kamen will be guest-blogging here on Fridays in March.

IRIS CHANG (1968-2004)
By Paula Kamen

Speaking of tackling unpleasant subjects and shunning stigmas, I wanted to announce a Chicago memorial this Saturday for my college friend Iris Chang, who committed suicide last November in San Jose at the age of 36.  She was the bestselling author of the eye-opening The Rape of Nanking, about atrocities committed against the Chinese during World War II (with which many other survivors of atrocity, including the Holocaust, identified).

She wrote two other questioning journalistic books related to Asians in America:  The Thread of the Silkworm and The Chinese in America: A History.  (In other words, in her big-picture view of the world beyond herself, she was the OPPOSITE of chick lit!)

In her esteemed career, she was able to challenge entire governments, but she lost her recent battle with mental illness, a more formidable enemy.

I will be speaking at the memorial, giving a version of a eulogy I wrote about her for Salon.com.

(Salon may make you watch a Cadillac commercial first, before you can read it, so I apologize.)

Her death is still a shock, since she was one of the most brave, vibrant and talented people I have ever known. She was always inspiring me and others with her nervy-to-the-point-of-offending people ambition and sense of "thinking big" with one's writing.

CHICAGO MEMORIAL:
Date: 3-12-05
Place: Chinese Community Center of Chicago
250 W. 22nd Place, Chicago
2 pm
Editors' note: Writer Paula Kamen will be guest-blogging here on Fridays in March.

LITERARY MAMA
By Paula Kamen

Another follow up to last week's blog about women coming out about "weakness" -- which I think is the last taboo to write about. I got an interesting email from Philadelphia-based writer Andi Buchanan, the author of the memoir Mother Shock: Loving Every (Other) Minute of It (Seal Press, 2003). 

She is also the managing editor of literarymama.com, which also gives the unvarnished truth about mothering. She shared with me an essay, "The Plant," she recently ran there on her own (thankfully over) bout with chronic fatigue and pain and told me how strangely uncomfortable it was for her to write about the subject, even after very openly tackling the intimacies of motherhood, for better and for worse:
Although I write creative nonfiction about my own life pretty much all the time (my book "Mother Shock" was all about my journey through the culture shock of new motherhood), it was a little terrifying to write even a little about what having chronic fatigue syndrome and chronic pain was like for me -- mostly because when I was sick I had to fight so hard against it, to prove myself as being strong, not some silly weak girl giving herself over to illness and hiding behind pain because she couldn't deal with her life.

Editors' note: Writer Paula Kamen will be guest-blogging here on Fridays in March.

HERETIC IN THE AMERICAN GIRL CATHEDRAL
By Paula Kamen

First, I want to follow up on last Friday's blogging. With true genius and dexterity, this entry bridges the gap between my reading in April and the March Cupcake program.

I forgot to mention another feminist-oriented Chicago authoress I came across at my reading last week, Punk Planet Associated Publisher Anne Elizabeth Moore, whose recent book Hey Kidz! Buy This Book: A Radical Primer on Corporate and Governmental Propaganda (Soft Skull Press), was illustrated by Megan Kelso (a March Cupcaker). Check it out at heykidz.org. She also blogs regularly to the socially minded adolescent at pocketfullofwishes.blogspot.com.

There she reprints her current article from In These Times about her recent one-woman insurgency to incite feminist dialogue at the American Girl Place on Michigan Avenue. It's sort of like the Vatican, that place, which is so powerful and hallowed that it really should be its own city-state. When visiting Chicago or New York, I recommend peeking in for the spectacle of it all. It's so seductive that I myself almost walked out with $200 worth of mini petticoats and bonnets from the colonial era.

3.10.2005

What a gorgeous Cupcake we had with Megan Kelso and Ariel Bordeaux last night. Just exquisite. Megan introduced us to her world of artichoke people--amazing slides of her work backed up by a perfect soundtrack of Sigur Ros. Ariel brought us to Maple Valley, where a sweet little old lady may or may not have burnt down a library--quite a mystery!

Next month: April 13, featuring Rene Steinke, author of the new novel Holy Skirts, and Paula Kamen, author of the nonfiction work All In My Head. Don't miss it.

xo
Elizabeth

and P.S.: The only writer ever to be a repeat Cupcake, our beloved Jami Attenberg, just sold her book of short stories to Crown! Do your backflips! Sing a song! We are surely doing that over here (we need it--when is spring coming anyway?). I'm doubly pleased because I got to see the stories this fall in one of the private workshops I teach in Brooklyn--I am so proud to have had Jami as a student. (New rounds of workshops starting up April 4, filling fast. Email me for current info: emerrick at gmail dot com).

3.09.2005

Fred Durst loves Gawker, and Gawker loves Cupcake.

...We definitely come out ahead on that one.

See you tonight!

XOXO,
Lauren
BITCH BETTER GET ME SOMETHING GOOD

Oooh, and it will! Check out this online sale:
Lovely friends, Just a reminder that our first-ever online auction is live! Check it out at http://stores.ebay.com/Bitch-Magazine

You'll find beautiful art from Lynda Barry, Alison Bechdel, Rebecca McBride, Hugh D'Andrade, our very own Andi Zeisler, and other amazingly talented folks. And signed books, posters, singles and whatnot from Trina Robbins, the Guerrilla Girls, and Nellie McKay. And merch from Lunapads, Dafridge, and Sticker Sisters. And tarot readings, hand-knit accessories, home-cooked meals, packing tips, snarky commentary, tiny wooden hands, and more from Bitch staff, Michelle Tea, Laura Fraser, Pamela Ribon, and other people you know and love.

Bidding closes at 3 p.m. Pacific time on Sunday, March 13, so get on over and get shopping!
Bitch is so best, and this sounds like a fun, fabulous way to support everyone's favorite feminist response to pop culture!

At any rate, it's a more appealing fundraising development than the latest scoop that Girl Scout cookies are some seriously junky food.

-Lauren

3.08.2005

Perfectly succinct and I couldn't have said it better myself: thank you, Jessa!

xo,
Lauren
So how are excited are we for tomorrow night's installment of la vida Cupcake, which has been shortlisted all over the place? So very:

FUNNY PAGES
The Cupcake series of readings by women tonight features two graphic novelists, whose work will be projected while being read. Megan Kelso's mid-90's comic book "Girlhero" was a sassy feminist treatise; for the last few years, she's been serializing a long work called "Artichoke Tales." Ariel Bordeaux has a similar story; she now delivers irregular installments of "Raisin Pie.
[via NYT's "The Guide"]

...and...

Somewhere out there a 15-year-old girl likes to draw pictures of herself and her friends and tell funny, meaningful stories — and she's wondering if she's weird. But once she discovers the refined, incredibly direct (think Julie Doucet) comic books of Megan Kelso (Girlhero and Artichoke Tales), and sees how Ariel Bordeaux manages to find humor in the mundane in her Raisin Pie series, she's going to realize that she's just fine. Kelso and Bordeaux present multimedia readings as part of the inspirational (and always on point) Cupcake series, a perfect night for those of us still wondering after all this time. (JA) [via Flavorpill]

xoxo,
Lauren
HOT TOPICS

Stanford's New "B" as in Boy School [via Jen Bekman's excellent UnBeige]

The New York Times Magazine: Questions for Martha Burk -- "Women's Work"

Pippi Longstocking: Swedish rebel and feminist role model

-Lauren

3.04.2005

Editors' note: Paula Kamen will be guest-blogging at the Cupcake blog on Fridays this month.

By Paula Kamen:

CHICAGO BOOKS

So, the reading for my book All in My Head at Women & Children First Bookstore in Chicago and the party afterward did go very well last night. At least measured in volumes of food consumed. The restaurant owner commented he had never seen such a ravenous crowd attack a buffet table. I can't figure out why, except for the glut of freelance writers and Jewish people.

Needless to say, all the Glitterati, Beautiful People, and Intelligentsia were there, in droves.

I want to point out a few there who have new books out worth checking out:

Kari Lyderson, prolific progressive journalist: Out of the Sea and Into the Fire, about Latin American-US immigration in the age of globalization. A unique view of both the greater policy and the intimate lives of those struggling behind the scenes, from shanties of border towns to neighborhoods in Chicago. To read an interview from LiP Magazine: click here.

She's also a very nice person.

AND

Wendy McClure, Bust columnist, getting ready for the tour for her book, I'm Not the New Me, with anti-dieting tips and observations of the "absurdity of weight loss culture."

You may also know her from her website, Pound. I don't know her that well, but assume from talking to her a few times that she's a very nice person (unless it was all an act).
Editors' note: Paula Kamen will be guest-blogging at the Cupcake blog on Fridays this month.

By Paula Kamen:

On a lighter note....I've been getting a lot of questions about alternative medicine, which I think can be very helpful. I definitely use massage, yoga and acupuncture to "take the edge off" pain (although they have not been "cure alls" for me, as would be expected for someone with constant pain, which is harder to treat).

A challenge is that we need to be as critical of "holistic" providers as we are of Western Medicine. Just because someone can quote Lau Tzu and tells you to "love yourself," that doesn't always mean that they have your best interest at heart.  Without proper caution, you can be hoodwinked -- and even harmed. So I've made up the following handy tips:

GETTING THE MIND/BODY CONNECTION --
WHILE AVOIDING THE MIND/WALLET CONNECTION

TEN RED FLAGS:
1) If there are live animals running around. This happened to me at a cranial-sacral therapist in Uptown (in Chicago) who has pet dogs. (But sometimes this is OK; I did interview one woman who went to a neurology clinic in Russia, which had a good excuse for the many cats on location: "If we didn't have cats, we would have mice," she was told.)

2) If the "healer" practices out of a location which has a NON-MEDICAL primary purpose. I experienced this in a grocery store in Chinatown, and a chiropractor's office in the back of an insurance office in Skokie. And the offices of naprapaths in a crumbling Victorian home in Madison, Wisconsin, and a rented office in an empty Evanston bank building.

3) If you have to pay in cash. Not professional.

4) If the provider wants you to come back for repeated visits despite no apparent help of the treatment.

5) If the provider promises TOO MUCH. A sign of credibility is of a "healer" recognizing the complexity of chronic problems. At best, many can only relieve pain a notch or temporarily, not CURE it totally. If they are too confident, promising total healing in a short time, they are either deluded or crooked. I don't know which is worse.

6) If the provider wants to be your "friend." This is especially dangerous with any kind of therapist. You need a professional separation of roles. This can blur judgment on both sides. As the saying goes: "Your friend is not your therapist, and your therapist is not your friend."

7) If they think the key to total health and wellness is to avoid dairy products. For some people it's true, but I feel that dairy is a convenient scapegoat. If only it were that easy....

8) If they make you take any extreme diet changes, like cutting out ALL grains. Or ONLY eating powdered supplements or protein bars (that they sell you).

9) If they put too much emphasis on how you can achieve total wellness with a complex chronic problem by just changing your attitude.  Yes, attitude can count, but often such providers blame the patients for "emotional blocks" keeping them sick. The result is increased guilt and shame.

10) If they are against ALL drugs, including ones that you need for your basic functioning, such as antidepressants, anti-seizure medications insulin, blood-pressure medication, etc. Don't feel guilty if a drug works for you and makes your life better. It's not a moral failing or weakness to take a prescription drug. Just because something is "herbal," that doesn't mean that it's safe and better than a drug (especially an old one, that has been out and proven for years).
Editors' note: Paula Kamen will be guest-blogging at the Cupcake blog on Fridays this month.

A 'SICK LIT' MANIFESTO
"I am woman, hear me kvetch."
By Paula Kamen

First, as your guest cupcake blogger during Fridays in March, let me state my objectives here as plainly as possible. No hidden agendas. Only unabashedly open agendas.

As you might expect, during my time here, I hope to serve as a Chicago literary correspondent, report about some splendid books I've picked up lately without huge corporate PR machineries behind them, and, needless to say, shamelessly promote my own new book, All in My Head, every chance I get.
 
But, more importantly, I'm on a mission to recognize an entire emerging genre of "sick lit." 
       
(Please do not confuse this with that other genre of chick lit. Mine involves less late-night eating of chocolate-chip dough and fewer couched Jane Austen references.)
         
"Sick lit," as I've termed it, is women fighting shame and isolation through telling their stories about "invisible" illness. Sometimes in a literary way, sometimes through memoir, sometimes with reporting added (like yours truly).
   
Some examples of what I'm talking about:

· Elizabeth Wurtzel's Prozac Nation on depression in 1994. A groundbreaker.

· Lizzie Simon's Detour: My Bipolar Roadtrip in 4-D, from 2002

· Seabisquit author Laura Hillenbrand on her chronic fatigue syndrome in her 2003 New Yorker essay.

· Susanna Kaysen discussing vaginal pain (vulvodynia) in The Camera My Mother Gave Me(2001).

· On a less literary note, I'd incluce Jane Pauley discussing bipolar disorder in a new book (although I'd automatically assume that anyone perky enough to host a morning TV show is bipolar, and that would not be a major revelation).

· Hell, I'm no snob. I'd even add Marie Osmond and Brooke Shields to that about postpartum depression.

Of course, I have some doubts in even bringing up this topic. I'm sure that like with other genres, some writers here are weaker and more self-indulgent than others. Some suck, in fact. And a book is NOT necessarily "good" just because it contains a personal health revelation. And I do recognize the danger of any genre (like black studies, lesbian studies, chick lit, etc) to marginalize a good writer, especially a more literary one. Actually, I'd like to be recognized as a "good writer" with this book, rather than a political activist.
      
Then why take this risk of even discussing "sick lit"?
       
I see this genre as relevant to recognize and validate a greater Third Wave (postboomer feminism) phenomenon, something you wouldn't have seen even 20 years ago, of women "coming out" out about illness. They see it as a fact of life, as part of the diversity of humans -- and less about something that reveals a deviant "moral weakness" of theirs. And we need this type of openness to relieve the isolation of individual women, and then help everyone else see their stake in this issue, to organize for better treatment and research.
      
In contrast, until now, we've had good reason not to talk about such neurological dirty laundry. Thirty years ago, during the height of the Second Wave of feminism, we had pressure to always "be strong"--thereby countering centuries of propaganda against women that they were ONLY weak and pathetic (and so they don't deserve to vote or go to college). A major drive in the 1970s was to prove women as physically strong, such as able to play sports like hero Billie Jean King, or able to go through childbirth without major medical procedures. "I am woman, hear me roar!" was the motto.

But, this single-minded focus on women's bodies as "truth" ignored a major reality, that women are more likely to have chronic pain (and fatigue). Some of that is indeed a result of the environment (like the stress of handling Mr. Patriarchy and being in a repetitive job like data entry)--but it's also partly neurological.  This has been shown in recent years by very advanced and fancy types of brain scans, like PET scans and functional MRIs. We have "proof" now.

In reality, as I was very surprised to find out while researching my own book, pain is a women's issue. Women have more intense pain, more frequent pain, and are more likely to have pain in multiple places on the body. Most pain disorders are mainly suffered by women, including migraine, chronic daily headache (my thing), fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, TMJ, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome(pots), and other disorders with very unappealing names.  But because they are neurological (and invisible) they have all taken on shameful meanings as mainly psychosomatic. (Thanks, Freud.) Like, Susanna Kaysen would NEVER have talked about vaginal pain before 10 years ago because of all the sexual meanings attached to it; in talking about her pain she would have been basically broadcasting the world the message: "I have sexual hangups!"

So now I'm on a mission to frame chronic pain and fatigue (women's physical weaknesses) as a Third Wave issue, just like other "unPC" topics--like not belittling "the feminine" (wearing lipstick, baking, nail polish, knitting, etc.), acknowledging sisterhood as not always transcendant  (as discussed in Woman's Inhumanity to Woman, Queen Bees and Wannabes, Odd Girl Out), and the sexual (bisexuality, the transgendered, using porn, being in porn).

And this mission, believe it or not, is mainly non-ideological. Our bodies and sexual preferences, after all, don't necessarily always follow politics of who we should be. That's a major Third Wave point, right there. And 40 years after the start of the modern women's movement, we're in a stronger and more secure place to talk about these issues. We know that we have the right to be human (flawed, just like men), and still deserve equal rights. We're neither hysterics (as the sexists said) nor wonder women (as the feminists have said). After all, as I just found out, the actress who played Wonder Woman on TV, Lynda Carter, herself has come out with chronic pain!

(I also want to clarify that I'm not saying that ALL women are weak, being as reductive as your typical Harvard president. There is tremendous variation, and men have their disproportiate share of other problems, like being autistic, schizophrenic, homicidal, suicidal, alcoholic, etc.)

More soon, in less propaganda-like form, about my journey to "come out" with chronic pain, which has just begun with my tour, that started yesterday (May 3) at Women and Children First in Chicago.
A few of my favorite things: Sara Z on Bjork and Gloria Steinem and Tori and PJ Harvey and thinking about why it's still so weirdly threatening to use the word feminist. Do check it out.

xo
Elizabeth

3.03.2005

MAKE A PASS ON THIS ONE:

I was downtown this evening and stopped in at Bluestockings to browse, where I came across Hey, 4-Eyes!, which is basically my favorite zine ever and I have an absolutely crazy crush on it.

There isn't any content available online, but here's an idea: Articles about glasses, essays about glasses, comics about glasses. The most wonderful cultural ephemera related to eyeglasses imaginable. A gorgeous cover. A sweet, smart tribute to Altina Saunders, designer of the Harlequin, aka "cateye" frame, which earned her an American Design Award in 1940.

Hey, 4-Eyes! is edited by Robyn Chapman, who also created this groovy Bookslut t-shirt design.

The world's most darling little zine costs just seven dollars, and is worth every penny. I highly recommend stopping by Bluestockings, or giving them a call -- 212.777.6028 -- to order a copy today.

ALSO: Cupcake is this Wednesday, featuring the graphic talents of comic book artistes Megan Kelso and Ariel Bordeaux.

AND: Jessica Lee Jernigan has been blogging up a storm about girls who wear glasses.

XOXO,
Lauren
"Some creative fellas talk about the female artists who have most influenced their work," at Venus.
Kyle Fischer
Guitarist and vocalist, Rainer Maria

That's easy: Edna St. Vincent Millay. I found a copy of her amazing book Fatal Interview while I was writing my second record, Black Milk (forthcoming). I was completely riveted by the way she conflated metaphors of love and death. It was having someone say exactly what you'd always tried to, in some irretrievably lost language. Nobody writes like that anymore.

Jamie Stewart
Vocalist, Xiu Xiu

The author Sandra Cisneros. She uses the most direct — and, to a certain extent, even simple — language to, without interpretation or pomp, tell about the tiniest but most devastating and intense childhood moments. She allows a two-page short story to cut your heart to pieces but make you feel understood and hopeful.

David Bazan
Pedro the Lion

Flannery O'Connor (writer, Wise Blood). [She’s] a conflicted Southern Catholic with a strong, original, morbid, and unsentimental voice.
Well...those are some pretty rock 'n' roll writers, esp. Edna St. V....

-Lauren
As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I am so excited to read Rene Steinke's Holy Skirts. It's reviewed in the current issue of The Believer:
Fortunately, and perhaps in spite of these generic challenges, where Holy Skirts succeeds most brilliantly (and most truthfully) is in its evocation of the evolution of an artistic self. Elsa’s journey is so clearly rooted in her “wanting to pay closer attention”; her career aspirations and love affairs so completely wedded to her notions of intellect—“a spiritual property, an instinct developed until it comes to one’s consciousness”—that her story, in Steinke’s able hands, becomes less linear than concentric. Although time marches forward, Elsa’s consciousness as a woman and artist ripples and rages towards her very core. In the course of the novel, she becomes more real to both herself and the reader, which makes for the best kind of character-driven page-turner.
I think we could all use a little bit of that these days...

-Lauren
Every time I go to Maryland, my mother, who manages a day spa, gives me half a dozen magazines to read on the trip back to New York. It seems that magazines, eager to get in front of the consumption-oriented eyes of her manicure-drying audience, just get sent to the spa en masse.

My mother, being a nice Southern lady, rejects quite a number of them on the basis of what she perceives to be their vulgarity (e.g. the word "sex" on the cover), and so she sets them aside for me. I suppose this is because I curse a lot, still smoke around my parents (even though formally I quit years ago) and talk about social equality and universal health care plans at the dinner table. Anyway, the weekend before last, I came back stacked.

My roommate came home tonight and asked me if I wanted a copy of Harper's Bazaar. It seems her mother thought she was buying Harper's, and was pretty displeased with the mix-up. I replied that I probably couldn't take it off her hands as I had just gotten a bunch of magazines from my mother, felt about 15% less smarter, and didn't know how I would regenerate all the brain cells I burned reading about Gwen Stefani's skinny new ass.

Fortunately, I just checked in with ms.musings, which I hadn't read in a few days. I immediately felt -- dare I say it? -- at least 15% brainier, and I can't recommend a visit highly enough if you haven't stopped by lately for the latest feminist news and views.

xo,
Lauren

3.02.2005

Hey everybody, it's Elizabeth here. I know I've been sort of a bad blogger lately--I've been doing all sorts of tedious things with the very end stages of getting my book to the printer. It's really exciting, but it's sad too--I was emotional all weekend and couldn't figure out why. People keep telling me it's because it's like giving birth--but honestly, that magic with this book was many years ago. It feels much more like sending the kid off to college.

Like: I get to have that space in my house back!
Like: I know this is a major moment of transition, but right now we just have to find the goddamn precisely right extra-long sheets, shower caddy, and backpack.

That's what this proofreading, tab- and indent-checking last phase feels like--a line of SUV's outside an ugly dorm, parental energy obsessing over last minute details.

But now I get to I don't know, have some whirlwind trip to Europe or have an affair or something. Right?

Anyway, that's why the blogging has been light.

Also--very exciting new rounds of workshops are starting--if you're interested, my Foundation course starts 4/4 and my new, 10-week novella course starts 4/5 (that one you have to apply for). I'm looking for someone to barter web design for class time or even one-on-one writing/creativity consultation: my workshops and my new indie press, Demimonde Books, both need basic websites and I am clueless. Clueless, darlings, but let me pick you out a shower caddy or organize your indents and your tabs . . .

If you're capable and interested, let me know: emerrick at gmail dot com

xo
Elizabeth

3.01.2005

I know that many of you are members of the Emerging Writers Network, but if you're not, do consider signing up! It's a totally free service provided by the dedicated Dan Wickett and you can get the warm fuzzies from being part of a wonderful community of talented folks (and scoops on writers-to-watch).

I found the latest email to be so valuable and full of insight that I'm pasting it in full here. You can sign up for the newsletter at emergingwriters.net:
Some big things going on - follow up on the Million Writers Award, a new short story contest, an EWN member comes in 2nd in an Atlantic Monthly contest, and the new Poets & Writers is on stands!
_____

StorySouth's Million Writers Award for Best Online Story of 2004 has announced their top ten stories. Congratulations go out to all, but especially Jai Clare and Richard Grayson, both of whom are EWN members. The link at the end of the list leads to
where you can place your vote between now and the 31st!

o Terry Bisson "Super 8" (Scifiction.com)
o Jai Clare "Bone on Bone" (Agni)
o Xujun Eberlein "Second Encounter" (Paumanok Review)
o Alicia Gifford "Toggling the Switch" (Narrative Magazine)
o Richard Grayson "Branch Libraries of Southeastern Brooklyn" (Fiction Warehouse)
o Trebor Healey "The Mercy Seat" (Blithe House Quarterly)
o Dave Housley "Ryan Seacrest Is Famous" (Barrelhouse)
o Joan Shaddox Isom "Remade Tobacco" (Eclectica Magazine)
o Corey Mesler "Madame Sabat's Grave" (Pindeldyboz)
o Chika Unigwe "Dreams" (Eclectica Magazine)

To read the stories and to vote for your favorite, go right here.

_____

Ann Arbor Book Festival announces a SHORT STORY CONTEST

There will be a cash prize as well as having your story published in HOBART for the winner of the annual Ann Arbor Book Festival Short Story Contest. Entries for original short stories will be taken starting now, which is sort of in conjunction with the 2nd Annual BookFestival in Ann Arbor, MI. Entry fee $10; deadline Aug. 1, 2005. The Guest Judge is Jonathan Ames. The winner will be announced at Fall Fundraiser Event for the Book Festival, date TBD.

Submit entries to:

Shaman Drum Bookshop
311-315 S. State St.
Ann Arbor MI 48104
c/o Ann Arbor BookFestival

aabookfestival.org
hobartpulp.com
_____

Kyle Minor has recently been awarded 2nd place by Atlantic Monthly for their student non-fiction contest. A detailed press release from Ohio State University can be read here.
_____

The new Poets & Writers has just come out and it is full of EWN goodness:

There's an article about Rattawut Lapcharoensap, as well as an interview with Ted Kooser (yes, these should seem familiar, the EWN covered them last month!).

There's also a great column on Low Residence MFA Programs by EWN'er Erika Dreifus.

Three EWN members were also noted for having received awards recently:

Ruth L. Schwartz has won the Autumn House poetry contest for her collection, Dear Good Naked Morning; Chimamanda Adichie won the Hurston/Wright Foundation Award for Debut Fiction for Purple Hibiscus; and Tracy Daughtery won the Oregon Arts, Inc. Ken Kesey Award for the Novel for Axeman's Jazz.
_____

There should be a new BRC much later tonight/early tomorrow morning with a review of Sam Lipsyte's Home Land and an interview with Sam himself.

Enjoy,
Dan Wickett
So fabulous -- join today!

-Lauren
Currently reading: From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers. Noted:
Fairy tale offers a case where the very contempt for women opened an opportunity for them to exercise their wit and communicate their ideas: women's care for children, the prevailing disregard for both groups, and their presumed identity with the simple folk, the common people, handed them fairy tales as a different kind of nursery, where they might set up their own seedlings and plant out their own flowers.
It's an intriguing book, as I'm into all that at the moment.

Also: I saw this once and then forgot about it, but it suddenly sprang to mind as I wrote this post. A.S. Byatt will be at Lincoln Center Barnes and Noble on March 4, at 7pm, presumably to promote the paperback version of her deliciously dark and absolutely enchanting Little Black Book of Stories.

-Lauren
For all of you media-obsessed NYC Cupcakes, I highly recommend Ellen Gallagher's DeLuxe show at the Whitney. Tons more information is right here.

Noted: "This work is so complex that it will take a few years for a lot of printmaking to catch up with it," said David Kiehl, the print curator at the Whitney, which reserved the first copy of the work. "Ellen has something to say, and how she is saying it is stretching the medium."

From the Whitney's website:
Ellen Gallagher : DeLuxe, on view January 27 – May 15, 2005

In this group of sixty works, the debut of an important portfolio by a major artist, Ellen Gallagher modifies and elaborates illustrations and advertisements culled from the pages of popular mid-century African-American magazines such as Ebony and Sepia. Her work defies easy description as it explores the very notion of transformation and challenges the conventional assumptions we make about beauty and color, and about printmaking itself. In DeLuxe Gallagher continues, as she has in much of her work, to entice the viewer into dialogues that investigate and reinvigorate our contemporary ideas about race, identity, and historical traditions.
It's totally dynamite.

-Lauren
We are always talking about how fewer women get bylines in the upper eschelons of American arts and letters, but at some point the analysis has to advance far beyond that, and to really parse apart what that actually means. I don't necessarily have the answers, but one of the things that I'm interested in at the moment is the idea of a feminist approach to economics (which, I'd like to note, I never heard once in four years of economics classes):
What are the questions that feminist economics is asking?

I think that many feminists are concerning themselves with these issues of women and work and labor markers, issues that have to do with women in the economy. But I think that that there are also many feminist economists that are trying to rethink economic theory and go beyond critiquing neoclassical theory and put together an alternative approach for maybe even a new vocabulary that we can use to think about some of the traditional issues such as the meaning of value, productivity, and human satisfaction. The whole idea of production distribution and consumption has been expanded by ecological economists. You produce, distribute, consume a good and then either it gets recycled around into different productions or something else happens to it. All of this takes place within a limited ecological reality. You have to consider the economy as not an open but a closed system. There is a parallel way in which the feminist economists are starting to think about the social context in which the economy is situated. You cannot continue to exploit women and the underclass, there is a limit to how you can treat people and still have the same continuum. So I see a lot of parallels between the environmental and feminist critique of neoclassical economics and their alternatives to the consumer culture that enhance and build on the new ideas that are coming out of both fields.
From Interviews with Feminist Economists.

-Lauren

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