Tag: non fiction

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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4 Writers More Irish Than a Pint of Guinness

Lá Fhéile Pádraig libh go léir! (law ay-la paw-drig liv guh lair). For those of you that don’t know, that’s Gaeilge (or, Irish) for Happy St. Patrick’s Day! While this year’s festivities are very unlike those that have come before, the day remains a celebration of all things Irish. Given Ireland’s rich literary history, the country has produced some incredible authors, four of which I’m about to divulge. I’m focusing on contemporary writers today, since I should hope we are all already familiar with the elite Joyce, Yeats, and Beckett gang.

 

via GIPHY

 

1. sally rooney

Image result for sally roney

image via elle

Sally Rooney is an Irish powerhouse right now. From Mayo, in the west of Ireland, Rooney has been “hailed as the first great millennial novelist for her stories of love and late capitalism”, according to The New Yorker. Rooney penned Normal People and Conversations With Friendsboth of which are currently in the process of adaptation by the BBC. Rooney writes from a perspective that is paradoxically both universal and yet specific to Irish consciousness. You can expect some allusions to the Irish landscape, or maybe to the Dublin University Rooney herself attended, but her writing has proven to be popular worldwide.

2. kevin barry

Image result for kevin barry writer

image via irish times

Kevin Barry is a best selling Irish author from Limerick. He is the writer behind City of Bohane, Beatlebone, and Night Boat to Tangier, for which he was long-listed in the Man Booker Prize. Alongside his successful novels, Barry has also written a number of short story collections, such as Dark Lies The IslandHis work is poetic and enthralling, encapsulating the knack for storytelling that many Irish people have at their disposal.

3. Emilie pine

Image result for emily pine

Emilie Pine is Associate Professor of Modern Drama at University College Dublin, and author of Notes to Self. The novel is a non-fiction collection of essays on the struggle of being female, through the varied lenses of addiction, menstruation, rape, and infertility. Pine is an incredibly revered lecturer at UCD, and her book has been topping charts the world over since its release.

4. paul murray

Image result for Paul Murray irish

image via culture ireland

Paul Murray is an Irish novelist, and the man behind titles such as Skippy Dies, An Evening of Long Goodbyes, and The Mark and The Void. His works have been nominated for a host of prestigious awards, such as the 2010 Costa Prize, The National Book Critics Circle Award, and the 2010 Booker Prize.

feature image via contiki

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The Bella Twins Announce Their First Memoir

The Bella Twins, Nikki and Brie Bella, best known for being WWE wrestlers and reality TV stars, recently announced that their memoir Incomparablewill be released May 5.

The memoir was co-written by the twins and tells the story of their individual lives. According to People magazine, “The raw, honest and revealing co-memoir that will follow their individual journeys ‘which began with loss, abuse, and plenty of rough times’.”

 

The book will serve as an inspiration to young girls and women to remind them that they can do anything they put their minds to.

The twins made their WWE debut in 2007, and have had very strong careers since. Besides being wrestlers, they star in Total Divas and Total Bellas, and founded Birdiebee clothing, Belle Radici, and Bonita Bonita Wines. Nikki Bella was also on season 25 of Dancing with the Stars.

 

Image via Splash News

Besides the announcement of the memoir, the Bella twins have had a very busy 2020 thus far. The two announced on Jan 29. that they were both pregnant, and due two weeks apart. Besides the book and the pregnancies, the Bella Twins are going to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame on April 2.

 

Featured image via Mandatory

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Non Fiction Reading Challenge 2019

5 Non-Fiction Books You Need to Read Right Now!

As 2019 continues on, we have a lot of book releases to look forward to. Heck, if you want to see the list of the top three books I can’t wait for, check out this list.
Thank you for clicking on that.

Now you might notice that one of those books, Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and The Last Trial of Harper Lee, is non-fiction. That book has not come out yet, but in honor of my anticipation here are five non-fiction books that have come out this year and are, above all, wonderful, eye opening, great reads.

Stephanie Land beside a cover of "The Maid"
Image Via Inlander
Released on January 22nd, Stephanie Land’s autobiography beautifully describes her life, post-eviction, as she recalls being tossed onto the street, working as a maid in houses she could never afford just to make ends meet and struggling with poverty. With dreams of moving to Montana, attending college, and becoming a full-time writer, Land’s life-long goals are always just out of reach, pushed back by childcare fees, heating bills, and rent. It’s a memoir that takes you through the underbelly of America. Gritty, soul-crushing, this is one for the masses to take heart.
Don’t believe me? Well, look at how the Nation states, “[i]n the end, her life does take a turn that sets her on the path to becoming a published author. But it is not a kind of fairy-tale twist so much as a gradual confluence of good luck.”
Cover of "When Death Becomes Life: Notes from a Transplant Surgeon" by Joshua D. Mezrich
Image Via Amazon
Released January 15th, Joshua D. Mezrich’s autobiography describes the tribulations and hardships of being a surgeon. Questions like “How much risk should a healthy person be allowed to take to save someone she loves?” or “Should a patient suffering from alcoholism receive a healthy liver?” are questions he faces on a daily basis, but nonetheless they are life changing.

A transplant surgeon by trade, the book opens with Dr. Mezrich, ferrying organs, getting aboard a small plane that winds up getting caught in a violent thunderstorm. The drama speaks for itself: not only are the passengers on the plane in danger, but the people who desperately wait for those organs are in danger of dying thanks to a storm they are far away from.

What’s going to happen? Read the book, but know that on CSL’s website Kevin Kovaleski, CSL Behring’s Senior Director and Therapeutic Area Strategy Team Lead-Transplant, said, “Mezrich’s book sheds light on a critical area of medicine, one that’s ready for advancements, innovations and breakthroughs”.

 

3. Becoming by Michelle Obama

Cover of "Becoming" by Michelle Obama

Image by Amazon

Despite its release on November 13, 2018, Michelle Obama’s autobiography is still going strong, and for good reason. The Guardian calls it “frequently funny,” Vanity Fare states, “surprisingly candid, richly emotional, and granularly detailed that it allows readers to feel exactly what Michelle herself felt at various moments in her life,” while the The New York Times noting that the book is more about motherhood than politics.

But I know what you’re asking: What’s my opinion? It’s great!

 

2. The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays by Esmé Weijun Wang

Esme Weijun Wang beside her book, "The Collected Schizophrenias"

Image Via The Paris REVIEW

The New York Times writes that “[i]n Wang’s kaleidoscopic essays, memoir has been shattered into sliding and overlapping pieces. . . . Her multifaceted arguments can be gratifyingly mind-expanding” and this book truly is mind-expanding. Winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize, this collection of essays has stories that will break your heart, make you cry, and teach you about living with mental illness, as noted by The Paris Review which writes how it “examines schizophrenia from historical, medical, social, and emotional perspectives, and looks at the myriad ways it is misunderstood, including by the psychiatric community and schizophrenics themselves.”

The book shows that living with mental illness isn’t pretty, isn’t horrifying, but at its core is completely human.

 

1.The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch

Image result for The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch amazon

Image Via Amazon

Released January 8th, this book details the foiled plot to murder George Washington. George Washington, in case you didn’t know, was this General guy who became President or something.

I kid. It’s actually remarkable.

Back in 1776, the governor of New York and the mayor of New York City conspired to assassinate George Washington. It might have worked too, if it weren’t for that pesky would-be counterfeiter and that iron mill foreman. It’s exciting and is something straight out of a movie. It would be unbelievable, if it wasn’t true. (Here’s the SparkNotes-esque version on History Channel for those who don’t like to read)

Don’t believe me? (Why? I trust you, George) National Public Radio says, “The First Conspiracy is an excellent book, enthralling and beyond fascinating, and it’s sure to delight both fans of thrillers and American history.”
Check it out.
Also check out Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and The Last Trial of Harper Lee when it hits bookshelves May 7th.
Featured Image Via Bookbub
Behrouz Boochani, author in exile

Detained Asylum Seeker Wins Australia’s Biggest Literary Prize, Remains Imprisoned

The winner of Australia’s most esteemed literary prize could not attend the ceremony.

Today, Kurdish Iranian writer Behrouz Boochani won the Victorian Prize for Literature for his book, No Friend But the MountainsComposed one text message at a time from an offshore detention center in Papua New Guinea, the novel has won a $25,000 and $100,000 prize in a country that denied this author refuge and continues to detain him.  One of Behrouz Boochani’s greatest achievements should highlight what many perceive as present-day Australia’s greatest shame.

 

Boochani looks out through a fence towards the open ocean

IMAGE VIA SBS NEWS

The experimental format of Boochani’s book was not an artistic decision—it was a necessity. While seeking refuge in Australia, the author was detained on Manus Island, a notorious offshore detention facility. Since he feared for his safety and the safety of his work, he wrote his novel entirely over WhatsApp messenger—and over the course of five years. He was right to be afraid: during his time at the detention center, he witnessed suicide attempts, riots, and murders. His phone was taken twice. “Imagine if I had written this book on paper,” Boochani said, “I would definitely have lost it.”

 

Boochani's novel, 'No Friend But the Mountains'

IMAGE VIA BLANK GC

Boochani might have won a significant sum, but money was never his aim in writing the book. Instead, he sought to share his experience of immigration and detention:

My main aim has always been for the people in Australia and around the world to understand deeply how this system has tortured innocent people on Manus and Nauru in a systematic way for almost six years. I hope this award will bring more attention to our situation and create change.

 

Image Via MO MAgazine

 

Although the detention camps have been legally closed, their continued existence bodes ill for Australia as a nation and for the people still left inside. LGBT+ people particular have suffered in these camps: in Papua New Guinea, homosexuality is still a crime. Gay men in the immigration detention facility can face up to fourteen years in prison. Boochani describes the camps as “barbaric.”

Boochani may have written the book to spread awareness of these cruelties, but, he admits, there was also another reason. Writing helped him to keep his humanity, his identity, he said. Writing was the thing that allowed him to survive.

 

Featured Image Via The Guardian