Belinda Nicoll (My Rite of Passage) tagged me in this challenge to answer ten questions about a work in progress. Here are my responses. Thanks for tagging me, Belinda!
What is the title of your WIP?
I don’t have a title yet. I’m not done writing, and a title hasn’t made itself apparent, nor have I concentrated on discovering one.
What is your WIP?
A book of short stories about women and personal power.
Where did the idea for the WIP come from?
I write non-fiction about race and culture, and I have always had a special interest in women and power or lack of power. Once a psychic told me I am a very feminine soul, and I believe that. I always felt very feminine. I don’t consider that a weakness but a strength.
I am of the generation of women who entered the workforce in large numbers in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I saw and experienced so much sexual harassment. One of my undergraduate professor’s wrote a reference letter that said, “Dianne will be a pretty addition to any office.” Someone in the career services department was smart enough and progressive enough to clue me in, and I had the letter tossed. We didn’t have a name for sexual harassment back then, but we knew it when we experienced it, and we persevered in spite of it.
I think about the power we own as women: the power of procreation, the power to choose what we think is right and best for us and those we love, the power to make choices about our bodies, and the power to make societal change. I think of feminism and what we hoped for, how we envisioned it, and I wonder how to interpret and view the backlash I see in a very sexualized, object-oriented culture where both women and men struggle to define themselves and their roles. I wanted to play with all of those concepts and see where they would take me.
What genre would your WIP fall under?
It is feminist fiction.
Which actors would you use to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I love movies and actors – I could watch movies all day and not get bored. I know because I’ve done it many times. It would be hard to choose amongst so many actors and I would be honored that anyone of them would choose to play one of my characters. I’d like to be in on the auditions. Maybe I could throw a few lines at them.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your WIP?
These are stories about women discovering their personal power and how to use that power to develop self-love and acceptance and to negotiate their way in life and society.
Is your WIP published or represented?
No, I have ambivalent feelings about the state of publishing, a capitalist endeavor. I think it’s become like reality TV. It’s all about marketing and what sells, not necessarily about the writing or the message. I am strongly considering self-publishing. I’ve never been a joiner, and I can feel myself pulling away, feeling uncomfortable with the whole process, not wanting to compromise my personal ethics and values for a publishing contract, and wanting to have control of the process. Self-publishing may be the great equalizer for writers, but I'm not sure about that either.
How long did it take you to write?
Literally years, because I wrote two of the stories a long, long time ago, took them out recently, dusted them off, and revised them. The other two are new, one still very much in the works and the other at the revision stage. I may write a fifth – a kernel of a story is germinating. My process is very “inside my head” and then when I am ready to write, the whole thing pours out as fast as I can type. Then I go back, revise, build, and restructure.
What other WIPs in your genre would you compare it to?
I hate to compare myself or my work to anyone else or his/her work. I’m too insecure for that, but I also think that we should not place more value on any one piece of art over another anymore than we should place different value on individuals. Every story is valid and has a place in the human collective. Writing ability varies, and so do personal aesthetics and the leanings of mainstream culture, but should those things make any one story less worthy of being told than another?
Which authors inspired you to write this WIP?
Surprise, I love detective, police, and mystery novels: James Kellerman, Walter Mosley, Michael Connelly, and James Patterson are favorite authors in that genre. I enjoy very visual and visceral writers, too. Toni Morrison comes to mind. I can read her books over and over. I’m reading Craig Johnson’s Longmire novels right now – I just love his characterizations, his word choices, how he is miserly with his words, but they are so rich, and how his writing is sensual. I like how he delves into cultural differences and how two different cultures interact, especially when they’ve had a violent, distrustful history.
Really, I enjoy just about every book I read, because I love being in the moment of the story, wrapped up in it, experiencing it through another’s eyes. I enjoy the unique way the writer has chosen to tell the story. All of the written and oral stories I’ve heard over the years have inspired me. Stories and reading were my ways of escaping as a child, growing up in an alcoholic, interethnic home where there were many arguments and lots of chaos.
Tell us anything else that might pique our interest in this project.
I think it’s time to assess how far we’ve come in this new age of feminism. In some ways, we have regressed, and I worry about young women. In other ways, young women demonstrate strengths I certainly feel I never had. We have a long way to go, though, in so many ways. We need to acknowledge that there are many ways an individual can live a feminist life. We need to accept and embrace those disparities that can arise due to class and cultural differences as well as individual temperaments and personalities. We need to be inclusive rather than exclusive. We have a long way to go, too, in the areas of access to education, career opportunities, childcare, health care, and reproductive rights.
I also believe a lot of young men today are distracted and unmotivated, and maybe a part of it has to do with the fact that feminists did not consider in a meaningful way how to help men redefine and adapt to new roles as women changed or expanded theirs. I don’t think we did enough to help couples navigate and build relationships as equal partners. I don’t think we came to terms with the fact that it’s okay that men and women are different, whether it is nature or nurture that creates the differences, but we can still be equal. Equality does not mean being the same, and we need to root for equality and self-actualization of all people.
There is a long continuum of gender identification, and an individual can fall anywhere along that continuum from very masculine to very feminine. We can work to understand and change socially defined gender roles and embrace the complexity of gender individuality. That way, everyone, no matter how one self identifies, can feel comfortable instead of feeling societal pressure to change inherent traits in order to feel “normal” and accepted by others.