Tag: memoir

5×5 International Women’s Month: Celebrating Amazing Female Authors

Welcome to the newest edition of 5×5, a series in which we ask five authors of similar backgrounds five questions. Today, we are talking with Sofia Fenichell, AM Scott, Collette McLafferty, Susanne Tedrick and Finola Austin in honor of international women’s month. These fantastic women write in genres across the board.

We have some exciting releases next month with Susanne Tedrick’s fascinating read, Woman of Color in Tech, that will help women of color learn the skills they’ll  need to succeed in (and revolutionize) a technical field and AM Scott’s science fiction, space opera in her last book from her Folding Space Series, Lightwave: Longshot.

Sofia Fenichell is an author and CEO of Mrs. Wordsmith, a children’s edtech company. Their most recent book, FLUSH! and 37 Essential House Ruleshelps children learn how to respect their homes, their parents, and themselves. With the added flair of vocabulary words on every page, great artwork and puns galore, kids and parents a like can laugh and learn from this read. It’s available to purchase now, through Mrs. Wordsmith.com. And it’s available for pre-order on Amazon to be shipped in June.

Finola Austin’s anticipated historical fiction novel, Bronte’s Mistress, will be having a summer release this August. It’s a steamy and captivating imagining of the affair, that is still some of the hottest literary tea out there.

Last but not least, we have Collette McLafferty. Her book, Confessions of a Bad, Ugly Singer, is a memoir in which she details her life in the music industry and how she had to deal with a huge lawsuit for signing a cover in a bar. This is a fascinating read, indeed.

Now, that we’ve met our authors, let’s get to the question and answers.

 

Image via Students’ Union Royal Holloway 

 

1. As a full time/part time writer, what is some advice you could give aspiring writers when things seem hopeless?

Collette McLafferty: I would say this to any writer feeling hopeless: You have to remember your voice is your gift and no one can take it away from you. There is no circumstance or rejection that can tear you away from a pen and paper, a laptop or hitting that “publish” button. At the same time, it’s okay to take a break once in a while. I’m a huge fan of “The Artist Date”, a once a week exercise from Julia Cameron’s book, “The Artist’s Way”. Go out get fresh air, see a movie, call up that old friend. Inspiration is like a fickle lover, it goes away sometimes, but it always comes back!

AM Scott: a. Join some of the online writing communities. By participating in some of the pitch parties on Twitter and the writing community built around those parties, I got some really valuable critiques before I published. They’re also very supportive—there’s always someone willing to encourage you. active, not in your house or at your job. I find hiking can jolt loose ideas and help me feel more optimistic .Hang in there—don’t quit. Even if you can’t afford to take classes or buy ads,there are free writing and marketing resources out there!

Finola Austin: Every word you write brings you closer to your goal of writing a novel, and, most importantly,every word you write makes your writing better. Some writers set daily word counts for themselves but this approach has never worked for me. I write when I can—early in the morning,late at night, on weekends, and frequently on airplanes. Rather than beating yourself up about what you can’t do, given the other demands being made on you by the rest of your life, focus on what you can achieve.

Sofia Fenichell: Being a writer is a calling. It’s a need that you have within you. Not everyone has it. You can’t really give up if you have that need. When things seem hopeless as a writer, you have no choice but to keep going in one way or another. So as you grow into being a writer, remember that the best writers are those that know how to listen and take feedback. Failure is your phoenix rising.

Susanne Tedrick: I would say the first step acknowledging the feelings that you are having. I think our society has conditioned people to either quickly get over or stifle negative feelings. Ignoring or pretending you don’t have negative feelings, including hopelessness, is much worse for your overall health. Accepting your feelings as they are and giving yourself the time and space to cry, talk to a good friend or therapist, additional rest, meditation,exercise or whatever method of (healthy) release you need, is the best first step in getting over hopelessness effectively. The second, important part is dissecting those feelings and challenging them. For example, if you’re saying to yourself “there’s no point in going on” or “I’m destined to fail” in the face of a setback, what substantive indicators do you have to back those assertions up? You may need the help of an impartial, trusted friend or advisor to offer a different, less emotionally charged perspective. 

 

2. Did you choose the genre you wanted to write in or did that genre choose you?

Colette McLafferty:To say my genre chose me would be an understatement! In 2014 I woke up to the headline “Singer Sued for Being Too Old and Ugly for P!NK Tribute Band” via The New York Post and watched in horror as this story went viral about me worldwide! I was really named in a $10,000,000 lawsuit, but it was between two men and had little to do with me. I spent the next two years in The Twilight Zone as I spent $15,000 fighting a lawsuit against a man I had never met while the mainstream media completely rewrote my identity. I wrote daily in a blog called, “Confessions of a Bad, Ugly Singer” which eventually became the title of my memoir. Before this event, most of my writing was short form music journalism and songwriting. The day I wrote “The End” on that final manuscript of “Confessions of a Bad, Ugly Singer” was the day I got my sanity back.

AM ScottLike many writers, I write what I read. I’ve been reading science fiction since I was a child, and my favorite subgenre is space opera, so writing it came naturally. But I started writing romance, because that’s what I read when I’m stressed. I was reading a “military” romance, but it was clear the author had never spoken to a military person, and I thought “I can do better than this!” Turns out I couldn’t, not at first. It took me a few years of writing before I felt comfortable publishing.

Finola Austin:A little bit of both. I’ve always loved nineteenth-century fiction, especially the works of the Bronte sisters and George Eliot, and my Masters degree focused on literature from the period. I didn’t want to be an academic as I couldn’t see the appeal of writing essays that only a few people in the world could understand. Instead historical fiction, for me, is a way of making the past accessible and visceral, and shining a light on the parallels between the then and the now.

Sofia FenichellThe genre of creating books for children definitely chose me! I wanted to help my own children fall in love with writing and become great writers. I could only see the value of writing going one way with the internet. But I was shocked by the poor quality of educational materials available for the  language-learning industry – poorly conceived, low-quality visuals, with many products that had very old copyright dates! The more I dug around, the more I realized that the sector was dominated by large publishing houses that underinvest in data-driven curation and high-quality content. All the investment and creativity was going into video games and entertainment. So, I was determined that Mrs Wordsmith would become the Pixar of Literacy.

Susanne Tedrick: The genre definitely chose me. Upon reflection on my own experiences in getting into tech – the successes, failures, and lessons learned – I realize that the sharing of this knowledge with the future women of color tech leaders was the book I was destined to write.

 

 

3. Who is your favorite author and why?

Collette McLaffertyMy favorite author will always be Louisa May Alcott. “Little Women” was the first book I picked out for myself. I found it at a garage sale. I was ten years old. I read the entire series including “Little Men” and “Jo’s Boys”. It was the first time in my life I connected to characters on the page and developed a long term relationship with them. I was an avid reader as a child. Sadly, during my teenage years I fell into a vortex of self esteem and body issues. Like many girls, I distanced myself from my interests and passions during this time. I stopped reading for a while. Louisa May Alcott represents a time in my life when I could show up to the page with curiosity and no sense of limitations. 

AM ScottOoh, that’s a hard question. I have a lot of favorites! But right now, my very favorite science fiction author is Julia Huni. Full disclosure here—she’s my developmental editor, and my sister, but her stories are full of fun and adventure.

Finola Austin: Two women novelists I very much admire are Mary Elizabeth Braddon, who wrote scandalous British novels classified as ‘sensation fiction’ in the nineteenth century, and Elizabeth Smart, the Canadian writer who wrote the beautiful By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept in 1945. Both women were incredibly talented. Both were also parents—Braddon had six children of her own and raised five stepchildren, while Smart was a single mother of four. I admire their writing, their grit and work ethic, and the fact that, for both, writing was an artform and a way to act as breadwinners for their families.

Sofia FenichellI like to read inspirational stories about people who defied the odds and retained their sense of humor, humility and integrity. My favorite author is Maya Angelou. I think we are at a point in humanity now where we all need to read more Maya Angelou. We need to hear from authors who make us think about our vulnerability and our unmitigated potential for growth. My favorite line from Dr. Angelou is “life loves the liver of it”; from Letter to My Daughter.

Susanne TedrickWriter and feminist activist Audre Lorde. I’ve found her poems and essays are always so powerful, thought-provoking and incredibly relevant today. It was through her writing that I came to understand intersectional feminism; while we may all identify as women,our race, class, sexuality and many other factors will ultimately shape what we experience in the world. No two women will experience life in the exact same way on gender alone.

 

4. As a female, do you think your gender/or how you choose to identify helps give you a different perspective in the world? And how has being an author helped you share that perspective?

Collette McLaffertyAs a female in the world, I constantly experience a lot that doesn’t fly with me. I see many whistles that need blowing and conversations that need to be had regarding the climate for women. When the mainstream media presented me to the public as a “bad, ugly singer” I realized my insecurities were not my own. They were taught to me and painstakingly marketed to me. As an author tackling this topic, I’ve had the opportunity to pull down the curtain and expose the multi million dollar business of shaming women for profit.  When I wrote the first draft of “Confessions” in 2014, it was before the “me too” and “time’s up” movement. I felt like a lone wolf of sorts. Now I’m part of a big, beautiful machine, that is disrupting the old narrative. There is a real opportunity to break the cycle, and it starts with the written word.

AM ScottI do have a different perspective than men—and many women too! This is my second career—I spent twenty years in the US Air Force as a space operations officer. It was a great career, but as a woman in a male-dominated profession, I had to fight against sexual discrimination. But think my background allows me to appeal to both sexes, because I understand the major issues of both, so my both my female and male characters ring true.

Finola AustinI’m going to speak in generalized terms here but, traditionally, girls have been raised to be highly attuned to the thoughts and feelings of those around them. We praise girls a lot for being ‘helpful’ and ‘kind’, rather than ‘brave’ or ‘daring.’ This kind of conditioning helps and hurts women as novelists. Having a honed sense of empathy is great for developing the interior monologue readers love to get access to when reading, and for unpacking interpersonal character dynamics. But women’s tendency to put themselves last, downplay their achievements, and shy away from risk can really hurt them when it comes to getting the damn novel written or promoting themselves once their books are ready to see the light of day. Again, this won’t hold true for everyone, but societal expectations can be hard to  overcome. Something that’s been amazing about sharing my writing with others is hearing that I’m not alone. Writing about some of the worst parts of being a woman has led to other women confiding in me, for instance about their unhappiness in their relationships, unpleasant sexual experiences, or ambivalent feelings towards motherhood.

Sofia FenichellYes definitely, I think being female and a Mom helped give me a particular perspective in the world. As the publisher of books for kids, I’m able to translate what I see going on in the world, into the eyes of my children. For example, we’ve just published a book called FLUSH! And 37 Essential House Rules which provides kids with the rules they need to become independent thinkers, visionaries, even renegades. Research also shows that kids who are able to accurately label their feelings, have more positive social interactions and perform better in school using their full range of vocabulary. Children who can think for themselves and respect their homes and the people around them go on to do unexpected and incredible things. We believe the home is a safe place where kids can test the boundaries and learn how to operate.Being an author helped me to conceive of this book as a way to equip kids with the language they need to take responsibility for themselves, laying the foundation for school and well beyond.”

Susanne TedrickBeing a woman, and specifically a Black woman, does give me a different perspective in the world. As part of a historically marginalized group, I see and feel the challenges Black women face in the world every day. Yet, Black women have learned to be incredibly resourceful and resilient in the face of any obstacle. It’s because of this that we’ve not only been able to survive but thrive in many domains. Being an author has allowed me to share this message of hope and perseverance with others. It can be hard,but it’s not impossible.

 

5. What is the best way, in your opinion, to celebrate Women’s History Month?

Collette McLafferty:The best way to celebrate Women’s History Month is to take a deep dive into your passions. Go out and find the women who not only made history but are the history makers of tomorrow. For me personally, I like to take a deep dive into the catalogues of female songwriters and performers  that are criminally underrated. Tracy Bonham is one of the best pop writers in my book and should have stayed on the charts. She hit #1 on the male dominated modern rock charts in the 90’s, a feat that was not repeated until Lorde cracked the code 17 years later with “Royals”. I’ll listen to the music of composer Maria Anna Mozart, who is often referred to as “Mozart’s Sister”.  I like to support groups like the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls. They formed at a time when females were actively discouraged from participating in the rock world. Since music is my passion, that is how I will celebrate. 

AM ScottI love highlighting the accomplishments of women in science, technology,education and math. Stories like “Hidden Figures” are a wonderful way to bring those women to the attention of young women and hopefully inspire them to STEM careers

Finola AustinMy answer to this one may seem pretty obvious, but, no matter your gender, read books written by women (or pre-order books by women that will be out soon!). Don’t just read novels by women from your country, or of your ethnicity, or who share experiences similar to your own. Seek out the stories you haven’t heard before and, when you find ones you love, share them with others.

Sofia Fenichell: The best way to celebrate Women’s History Month is to acknowledge the hard work that it takes to pursue a dream and to encourage our children to find their own dreams. Seize the opportunity to teach your children about what you do each day whether you’re a female author or a CEO . Find gentle ways to bring them on the journey with you. They not only will help unlock solutions, but they will thrive as a result. Children learn most by the example we lead. Recently I sat down with my daughter to read our new book in the Mrs. Wordsmith child development series called Flush! and 37 Other House Rules and when she laughed out loud, I knew we had created the right book.

Susanne TedrickI think the best way to celebrate is to honor and spotlight the women in your life or in your circle who are out there doing amazing things. Sharing their stories and more about how they’ve influenced and inspired you is a great way for others to learn about more amazing women who are making things happen.

 

Image via The United Nations

 

 

Featured Image via Bookstr

 

 

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Bookstr’s Three To Read This Week 03/13

Welcome back, book lovers! These are some scary times, with what seems like every major city taking drastic steps to limit the spread of a certain novel virus. Take some time out from the panic and take a look at our Three to Read. After all, with schools closing and people working from home, the books on our TBR lists finally have a shot at getting read! Settle down, brew a tea, and let’s get into it.

 

hot pick

The body politic

by Brian Platzer

The Body Politic: A Novel by [Platzer, Brian]

Synopsis:

New York City is still regaining its balance in the years following 9/11, when four twenty-somethings—Tess, Tazio, David, and Angelica—meet in a bar, each yearning for something: connection, recognition, a place in the world, a cause to believe in. Nearly fifteen years later, as their city recalibrates in the wake of the 2016 election, their bond has endured—but almost everything else has changed.

As freshmen at Cooper Union, Tess and Tazio were the ambitious, talented future of the art world—but by thirty-six, Tess is married to David, the mother of two young boys, and working as an understudy on Broadway. Kind and steady, David is everything Tess lacked in her own childhood—but a recent freak accident has left him with befuddling symptoms, and she’s still adjusting to her new role as caretaker.

Meanwhile, Tazio—who once had a knack for earning the kind of attention that Cooper Union students long for—has left the art world for a career in creative branding and politics. But in December 2016, fresh off the astonishing loss of his candidate, Tazio is adrift, and not even his gorgeous and accomplished fiancée, Angelica, seems able to get through to him. With tensions rising on the national stage, the four friends are forced to face the reality of their shared histories, especially a long-ago betrayal that has shaped every aspect of their friendship.

Why?

With the backdrop of societal uncertainty and political tyranny, this novel switches point of view periodically, introducing us to the inner workings of both the mind and human relationships. The novel has been praised for how it honestly – and brutally – hones in on the American political climate, which is particularly relevant in light of this year’s presidential race. It captures exactly how people felt during the trying times following two major events in history. The novel shows us just how linked our physical and emotional selves are to our political body. It is as insightful as it is truthful, and likely to resonate with a lot of readers, American or otherwise. 

“Brian Platzer has done something marvelous — transmuted the queasy early years of the Trump presidency into a novel that’s a delight to read. The Body Politic is a book about many things — what it means to be unwell, what it means to heal, how deep and strange friendships can be, and how hidden things never stay hidden for long. I was grateful for its engaging, empathetic company during these fractious times.” —Rachel Monroe, author of Savage Appetites

 

COFFEE SHOP READ

american animals 

by Eric Borsuk

American Animals: A True Crime Memoir by [Borsuk, Eric]

Synopsis:

American Animals is a coming-of-age crime memoir centered around three childhood friends: Warren, Spencer, and Eric. Disillusioned with freshman year of college, and determined to escape from their mundane Middle-American existences, the three hatch a plan to steal millions of dollars’ worth of artwork and rare manuscripts from a university museum. The story that unfolds is a gripping adventure of teenage rebellion, from page-turning meetings with black-market art dealers in Amsterdam, to the opulent galleries of Christie’s auction house in Rockefeller Center. American Animals ushers the reader along a gut-wrenching ride of adolescent self-destruction, providing a front-row seat to the inception, planning, and execution of the heist, while offering a rare glimpse into the evolution of a crime—all narrated by one of the perpetrators in a darkly comic, action-packed, true-crime caper.

Why?

This memoir is fascinating, largely due to its completely true story. Little imagination is needed to see the story, when you can watch the film of the same name, and digest the media coverage of the case itself. American Animals takes the age-old story of young rebellion and a search for more, and turns it on its head. Borsuk’s writing is darkly comedic and bizarre, sure to keep you hooked. Plus, the novel rings in at a concise 147 pages, making it quickly digestible. You’ll be racing to the end.

“American Animals is a book unlike any I’ve ever read. The twist and turns and audacity can lend themselves to incredulity, but at the heart of this book is a humanness that even those shaking their heads the most will have to recognize. Eric Borsuk’s work here is as daring as any heist.”– Jared Yates Sexton, author of The People Are Going To Rise Like The Waters Upon Your Shore: A Story of American Rage. 

 

dark horse

you let me in

by Camilla Bruce

You Let Me In by [Bruce, Camilla]

Synopsis:

Cassandra Tipp is dead…or is she?

After all, the notorious recluse and eccentric bestselling novelist has always been prone to flights of fancy—everyone in town remembers the shocking events leading up to Cassie’s infamous trial (she may have been acquitted, but the insanity defense only stretches so far).

Cassandra Tipp has left behind no body—just her massive fortune, and one final manuscript.

Then again, there are enough bodies in her past—her husband Tommy Tipp, whose mysterious disembowelment has never been solved, and a few years later, the shocking murder-suicide of her father and brother.

Cassandra Tipp will tell you a story—but it will come with a terrible price. What really happened, out there in the woods—and who has Cassie been protecting all along? Read on, if you dare…

Why?

This novel is a genre-bending mix of fairytale/folklore and mystery. It is frightening and thrilling all at once. Perfect for fans of Shirley Jackson, the story is unsettling and, at times, horrifying. It is a dark family drama that just so happens to have its fair share of evil faeries. You’ll be left guessing throughout the novel, making up your own assumptions, just to have them dashed at the next turn. The story is fast-paced and the fantasy elements set it apart from many other novels under the dark mystery umbrella. One thing is for sure, this is no bedtime story.

You Let Me In is a bewitching, beguiling, and deeply unsettling tale of one woman’s strange life. It will ensnare you from page one and keep you riveted until the end.” ―Caitlin Starling, author of The Luminous Dead.

all images via amazon, bookstr

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How About You Cook With This Book?

Are you interested in cooking?  Do you like non-fiction stories?  Well, if you like either one of those things (or both!), then take a look at a book written by Boris Fishman.  Within his new memoir, Savage Feast: Three Generations, Two Continents, and Dinner Table, Fishman uses cooking as a way to frame not only his story, but his family’s story.  It’s a family story, an immigrant story, a love story, and an amazing meal.  Fishman tries to explore two cultures in his book.  Savage Feast contains a revealing personal story and family memoir told through meals and recipes.

 

image via amazon

 

The book begins with Fishman’s childhood in Soviet Belarus (formerly part of the USSR), where good food was often worth more than money!  He describes how one dish brought his parents together and how years of Holocaust hunger left his grandmother with an obsession for bread bad enough that she always stockpiled five loaves.  Fishman’s grandmother was the cook, and his grandfather was the black marketer – he would supply Fishman’s grandmother with food.  The fact that this was going on allowed Fishman’s family to be not only provided-for, but protected during the horrible times of the Holocaust.

 

 

Despite the fact that Fishman’s family has a good amount of food, once they emigrate to the United States, they find out that food is more important than ever.  They have to figure out how to preserve their roots while shedding the trauma of the past.  Oksana, Fishman’s grandfather, shows him how they could preserve the family’s roots through ambrosial cooking.  He then tells the story of how his grandfather travelled around the United States in a quest for cooking. Along the way, Oksana’s many relationships with women, troubled to say the least, lead him to a soulmate.

 

image via stephanie kaltsas on harper colins

Fishman pays tribute to his family, his culture, and food in his memoir.  It initiates a conversation about identity, belonging, family, displacement, and love.  If you are interested in the book, you can get it at the link above.

 

 

featured image via the petite stag

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Hachette Controversy Update

You may recall our article from last week on the controversy over Hachette’s choice to publish a memoir from accused sexual abuser Woody Allen.

As of our last article, protests were merely hypothetical, but the book community did take a stand, and Hachette employees in New York and Boston even walked out in protest, according to the BBC.

Hachette’s initial reaction to objections from Allan’s own son, renown investigative journalist Ronan Farrow (see our original article for more on Farrow and his objections, as well as further background), was tepid at best, and even now, they have been reported as saying (see the BBC again), that they don’t cancel deals with authors lightly. Then again, many other publishers rejected Allen’s memoir outright, and Amazon canceled a four movie deal with the infamous director after the reemergence of abuse allegations.

The walk out, combined with apparent meetings with employees, seem to have convinced Hachette to cancel the book this week.

The memoir was set to come out in April, though announcement seems to have been delayed, and Farrow alleges the deal was hidden from him by the publisher, and the delay in announcement certainly pushed off protests, deliberately or not.

 

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Featured image via Fire