Oh, to be a Unicorn

 I’m sharing  Kellye Garrett’s Facebook post as my guest post today. Hop over to her Facebook page (or  Missdemeanors’ Facebook page) to join the discussion. Graphic design by Leslie Lipps. She’s awesome. “Alexia had this made. My original plan was to post it with one of my trademark smart aleck comments like “my crew is more talented than yours.” But then I took another look at this ad and realized what it represents:

Seven extremely talented black women who love mystery novels enough to say “I’m going to write one and do everything I can to get it published in an industry that often refuses to acknowledge my existence besides being a victim or a sassy best friend.”

And somehow, some way, there is a little black girl out there right now who is going to see this and it’s going to make her write a book.

#blackgirlmagic for real.

I love my fellow unicorns.

P.S. My crew is more talented than yours.”   https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10156064468627945&id=546517944 

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Could you pass this test?

Have you heard of the Bechdel test? Recently I read an interesting article in Writer’s Digest by agent Laura Zats about how she applies the Bechdel test to potential future clients. Or future potential clients, as the case may be. The test measures how prominently women are represented in a manuscript, and specifically if women are represented in relationship to each other, as opposed to a relationship with a man.    You can only pass this test if your manuscript, or movie (which was where it first came into use):1. has two women in it2. who speak to each other3. about something other than a man. Zats explains, in the article, how she uses this test as a baseline for her requests. “Are your female characters drawn well enough to have their own motivations? If you’re sending five people to space in your sci-fi story, examine why none of them are women. Is it because there couldn’t be any? Are you inadvertently pitting women against each other instead of allowing them to have deep, supportive relationships.” I have to say, I find the whole topic intriguing and feel like I may be slightly ahead of curve on this one, as almost every novel I’ve written has featured strong friendships among women. In my Anne Boleyn novel, which is doing the rounds now, I actually made up a 21st century friend for Anne Boleyn. I’m convinced her life would have taken a different path had she had a woman in her corner.  What about you? Do you think this test has merit?

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Mystery women

On March 1, I’ll be speaking at  a feminist mystery writing panel at the Book Culture bookstore in NYC, with several of my fellow Miss Demeanors. Whenever I think about feminism, I think about my mother, who was a very reluctant feminist. My mother got married in 1955 and she embraced the whole suburban dream. She used to joke that she was one of the few people in the world who actually wanted to be a housewife. We lived near Levittown, Long Island, which was the epicenter of suburbia at that time.  My father worked as a display animator, which meant that he made mannequins move. You might have seen his work at the It’s a Small World ride at Disney World. Everything was going to plan, except that, when he turned 30, my father came down with a form of Multiple Sclerosis so virulent that within a few years he couldn’t move.  My mother found herself in desperate need of a job. We were blessed to have a business in the family and she got work there, but the experience taught her, and me, that no matter what your plans, a woman has got to be able to rely on herself. When writing my Maggie Dove mysteries, I was drawn to yet another woman whose life did not go to plan. Maggie Dove was a woman content with her life as a mother and wife. She thought she had everything all figured out, but then her life was jolted by tragedy and she had to build everything up all over again. She solved a mystery, started up a detective agency, made new friends. Took risks. If I had my life to do over, I would take many more risks than I have done, and yet I’m glad that now, as I hit my sixth decade, I’m not yet too old to take challenges. This January I went on the Women’s March, which was not at all the sort of thing I would have done in years past, but as I looked around at all the strong women around me, I thought how proud I was of all of us for speaking up, for taking a stand. My mother would have been right at the front of the line. Info about the panel:https://www.bookculture.com/event/112th-kelly-oliver-susan-breen-tracee-de-hahn-carrie-smith-cate-holahan

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Second chances

  As I go teetering into advanced middle age, I’m more and more conscious of the fact there’s a surprising amount of fun yet to be had. Instead of sitting around waiting for one of my children to produce a grandchild (not that that wouldn’t be a good thing!), I’m cavorting with the Miss Demeanors, going to conferences, discovering new drinks, writing an exciting new novel, getting into trouble, planning to march in Washington. In fact, I’m doing things I didn’t do when I was young because I worried too much about repercussions.  Or because I was exhausted.    One of the things I like about the protagonist of my mystery series, Maggie Dove, (I hope it’s okay that I like her!) is that she’s given me a chance to explore more deeply what getting a second chance means. It’s scary for Maggie. She’s set in her ways. She’s found a safe place  and doesn’t want to emerge from it, and yet, when she’s forced to come out of her shell, to solve a murder, she loves it. She becomes a Sunday School hellraiser, if such a thing is possible.  A person who has been a great second-chance role model to me is the great First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. She started off her life being a certain sort of person. A debutante, a society wife, a political wife. But then her husband got polio and everything in her life turned upside down. Although she was shy and insecure about her looks, she had to step out onto the political stage. She was a great advocate for women’s and civil rights during FDR’s presidency, and after he died, she continued as a diplomat. She also wrote a fabulous memoir, This is My Story. It’s one of my favorite books.  How about you? Are there any role models who inspire you?     

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