Earlier this week, I hinted at some great news that had come my way. It’s official now, so time to share it with you: I’ve been invited to speak at BlogHer ’13 this year! In Chicago!
Actually, let me clear my throat …
I AM GOING TO BLOGHER, Y’ALL! AS A SPEAKER! IN CHICAGOOOO!
Every time I think about it, I do a little shimmy where I sit or stand and smile like a superstar. I’ve attended BlogHer twice — when it was in NYC — and both times I came away clicking my heels. The panels, the conversations, the connections, the friends (who I finally to met face-to-face), all of it fantastic. And now being invited to sit on a panel and experience this fine, fine gathering from a different angle? We’ve moved past the clicking of heels, man. Time to bust out the Cabbage Patch-Vogue-Robot-Drop It And Twerk move. I mean, what better time for all that glory, right?
My panel is: Writing – Pitch & Publish (Presentation: Turning Blog Posts into Published Essays/ Roundtable: Anatomy of A Story), and I can. not. wait!
Plus, I’ve had Chicago on my “Girl, Hurry Up And Get There Already” list of cities for far too long. There’s specific food with my name on it and fellow blogger-homies there with good times in hand just waiting to be shared.
Speaking of sharing, you can join the fun at BlogHer ’13! Just use promo code BH13SPKR for 20 percent discount on a Blogger Rate Full Conference pass: http://bit.ly/OvCqsL. If you do go, you MUST find me and say hello.
Wait, did you hear that? Awww, yeah … it’s the sweet sounds of a giveaway rolling up!
OK, so there’s a new movie coming out tomorrow called What Maisie Knew starring the fabulous Julianne Moore and dashing Alexander Skarsgard along with Steve Coogan and young Onata Aprile who makes her stellar film debut as “Maisie.” The movie is a “contemporary reimagining” of Henry James’ novel from 1897(!) with the same title. Told from of 6-year-old Maisie perspective, it’s about the fallout from her parents’ divorce and bitter custody battle over her.
Here’s the trailer:
When I first read about this film being made, I thought immediately of Kramer vs. Kramer. That was rough! I first saw that with my father as a child, and by the end of it, we were both practically weeping like babies.
Although What Maisie Knew is at times heartbreaking and difficult to watch, say film reviewers, it’s a captivating look at the price of innocence not lost, but unprotected.
In other words, take your tissues, people!
So, the giveaway … three lucky readers will receive:
- A WHAT MAISIE KNEW poster signed by star and (summertime HBO vampire!) Alexander Skarsgard
- An autographed copy of Julianne Moore’s newest children’s book from her Freckleface Strawberry Series
- WHAT MAISIE KNEW pens from Millennium Entertainment
All you have to do is leave a comment below to be entered into the giveaway. What other movies about children caught between bickering parents stuck in your mind, stayed with you like Kramer vs. Kramer did for me? Leave it below and you could be a winner!
I’ve been kind quiet the last few months. Figured I should check in and share a little bit about what’s been going on. Nothing crazy, just focused on writing. I’ve been writing my third novel and pushing hard to finish this month.
It’s real work, writing and telling stories, digging into why we do, who we love, what we want, all while keeping the reader lured into turning the pages. Add juggling motherhood, running a household and working my journo thing to that and you’ve got Life As We Know It staring right in the face.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how motherhood — versions of that first and fundamental relationship — has played out in my fiction writing. My debut novel, Earth’s Waters, is coming-of-age story about a young woman named Lily living in Barbados who is slowly drowning in paradise. She lives with Mother, an exacting old woman who is really her maternal grandmother. (Lily’s true mother ran off and left her when she was baby.) Mother works long days as hawker, selling fruits, vegetables and other goods in an open-air market and shares laughs with everyone except Lily. Instead she offers her only derision and directives. But Lily follows all of her orders, dutifully, trying extra hard to not allow Mother’s contempt for her really sink in.
Basically, that old woman is mean. And without spoiling what happens in the book, I’ll just say that Mother’s prickly edges never really soften. (Here’s an except from the book.)
It was fascinating and heartbreaking to write about this mother-daughter relationship, mainly because I wasn’t drawing on anything personal. I wasn’t even close to being a mother at the time. Thankfully, my relationship with my own mother is a stark opposite to what Lily suffers through.
My Mum is quite remarkable, actually. She’s incredibly loving and warm and endlessly supportive of me. We laugh a lot. We talk a lot. She’s special and spectacular. I guess that’s where the intrigue lies for me as a writer. Trying to walk in the shoes of someone who doesn’t have a mothering mother. It’s like visiting Mars for me. So foreign and strange.
In this latest novel, there’s another rocky mom-daughter relationship, but there’s a solid reason for that fracture.
I just keep coming back to mothers and daughters and the layers of stuff between them. I remember as a teenager, reading about Drew Barrymore’s strained relationship with her mother. It still makes me sad thinking about her and other like her, moving through this life with a living mother with whom they have no relationship (or a contentious one, at best).
Great topic as Mother’s Day draws near, Blades! But it’s been on my mind; thought I’d share.
Anyway, that’s where I am these days: in the woods (literally!) writing away. Of course, you can catch me when I come up for air — and to feed the wild turkeys — on Twitter or on MMM’s FB page. I hope to be finished with the manuscript by month’s end and back to the regularly scheduled programming at MMM … although, I will be working on a book proposal then. Sigh. I’ll be around!
I’ve written here before about friends and parenthood, and how the two interact (and sometimes not). So when a recent survey came out showing how new mothers found it easier to make friends, it made me think back to my own circle of “new mamas.” I wrote about it for xoJane. Here’s the piece in full:
There were 11 of us, each fitting into a unique slot. The Jokey One. The Weepy One. The Neurotic One. The Stylish To No End One. The “I Just Ate My Placenta In Pill Form” One.
I was the Zen Black One, as I was often called (the Zen part; black was a given). We were different in so many ways, but there was a common denominator: We were all mothers to newborns, and we were petrified.
When I joined the new moms group in Brooklyn, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t really care, truth told. After giving birth to an actual human being (by emergency C-section; its own horror movie) in the middle of winter, it was finally spring. With sore everything, vacationing hormones, no sleep, and a serious case of cabin fever, I needed to get some fresh air and see other adult faces, STAT.
We bonded quickly. As in, while walking out of that first meet-up, several of us opted to go for a walk with our mostly snoozy (victory!) babies in strollers and slings. We exchanged phone numbers and emails that day. We scheduled “regular” weekly walks. We hosted play dates (which, at that stage, meant nursing our babies, patting them down for naps and trading whispered “does yours do this” questions).
We arranged to be in the same Mom & Me yoga/movement/sing-a-long classes. We met for lunch and brunch and more walks around the neighborhoods. We were openly stalking each other, and it was OK because we were friends. New Mom Friends — a necessity, much like wide swaddling blankets and good, supportive bras.
It didn’t matter that in our BBL (before baby life), the chances of any of us crossing paths, much more forming friendships, were slim. There’s something about connecting over a shared experience, especially one as overwhelming and momentous as new parenthood, that makes forging friendships seem easier.
A recent study showed that it’s not only your hips that can widen after having a baby (gurrl), but also your social circle. Of the 2,000 women polled, 53 percent said it was “surprisingly easy” to make new friends once they had a baby. According to the research, women make an average of nine new friends when they have a baby. And the new pal pattern continues well into the first year of new mamahood, the survey said. Whereas child-free women typically have 13 friends, the number jumps to 22 once le bébé joins the party.
I’ve written a lot about the importance of having friends-to-the-end types (be it 22 or just two) who would go to war for you, homeys who are there no questions asked or judgments cast, ready to smear on the Vaseline and talking about “somebody hold my earrings.” And when you enter into the motherhood game, with all the self-doubts and guilt and uncertainty bubbling up inside, you need those people in your corner even more.
When I first read this survey, I’ll admit my eyes were slightly angling to the side.
“It’s not like the new mom friends really knew me,” I said, “not like Saada or Nikki or Kisha or Rob.”
They hadn’t seen me at my absolute worst only to champion me to better and back to my best like the true blood Home Team. These just-off-the-bench folks hadn’t grown up with me, weren’t familiar with my history, my narrative, and I didn’t know theirs. So we shared a stance on organic bananas and sleep training. Hardly the stuff of authentic, deep relationships, right?
But I was dead wrong.
With these women, there was more there than a fellowship through a shared experience. There was true kindness, genuine compassion and an investment in each other lives. We rallied, we cautioned, we cared, and many times we stood as the bright light at the end of a crazy-making tunnel, waving each other on: “Keep pressing forward, mama. You’re almost there!”
True, we don’t have the same level of contact now. We moved. Some of them moved too. Life happened. These days I might only chat with a couple moms from the Original 11 once or twice a year, but those friendships remain meaningful. They were real and important and essential.
And because of the time we spent, that first year of new babydom, facing down our fears together, I know without a blink of doubt that if I need to talk about anything, I can turn to one of these now-veteran mamas and she’ll offer the ear, the shoulder, the kindness, or the simple “Me too” to help me find my footing. And you can’t get more ride-or-die than that.
This post originally ran on xoJane.com.
I recently wrote a story for xoJane about how, across the board, manners are fading away. And with social media, smart phones and our overall busybusybusy lives, civility is circling the drain. Rudeness is The Thing right now, and it’s not going anywhere.
The surprising thing about the piece? Most of the comments. It seems people don’t want to hear about how rude we are. “Get over it, Grandma!” That was the tone of more than a couple of comments.
Here’s the piece in full below. Have a read and do let me know what you think…please. :-)
I called it “The Do Better Guides.” The idea — a hopeful campaign, really — was me writing a series of mini books offering tips, tools and intel to help us all improve on those small things that build on each other to become more meaningful, important, bigger things.
Things like: how to write a thank-you note; answer the phone like a professional; be a gracious host; not hold your cutlery like you’re playing an upright bass; and learn to use email like a reasonable adult. This was about formalities, yes, but also — and more decisively — it was about upgraded living, adding depth to our day-to-day through civility, kindness and grace.
The project never really went beyond incubator stage (I still have the green folder with pages of organized notes). My creative attention was drawn elsewhere. But the other reason it ended up in the back of my mental file cabinet was pretty simple: I felt it wasn’t necessary.
After all, this was early 2006. It was a year before the first iPhone came out; Twitter was maybe a month old; and Facebook was still exclusively for college kids. People already knew all about this digital decorum stuff. Right? Wrong.
Cut to today. Folks are walking into traffic and mall fountains because their eyes are glued to a small screen. I’ve lost count of the number of couples I’ve spied out at a restaurant sitting right across from each other, only a moody candle between them, and no one is talking. They both have their heads buried in their respective laps, fingering their phones.
And the intimate and wildly inappropriate details of strangers’ lives that I now know thanks to the yellular thing that just never went away — Bluetooth headsets be damned!
Online communication isn’t fairing too well either. According to a recent survey out of the UK, 78 percent of social media users say the rudeness levels have hit the virtual roof. Folks have fewer misgivings about throwing shade or virtual ’bows at someone, especially since you don’t have look them in the eye. Although, online beefs have crossed into the real world as well: one in five people surveyed admitted to cutting back on face-to-face with friends in “real life” after an online dust-up.
Manners, be they in the digital or regular old analogue world, are dissolving daily. By the time we reach the end of this decade, grunting and live-action emoticons will likely be all we have left.
In March there were at least five different blog posts or articles that rained down on email and voicemail etiquette, but not in the way you might expect. These pieces posited that our digital salutations and sentiments and niceties were not only unnecessary and disruptive, but also kind of rude.
New York Times columnist Nick Bilton kicked over the powder keg with his post on how leaving a voicemail instead of simply texting someone is downright impolite. Bilton also threw asking for directions and saying “thank you” in an email into the how rude! fire.
Then Slate jumped in, beefing about the way folks sign off on emails. Best, Yours sincerely, xoxo – time to kill them all, the post said. They are outdated and annoying.
Really, though? Are we that cranky and in such a collective rush that saying “hey” at the start of an email can actually be taken as an affront? The real world does not move at “Scandal” pace, friends. Let’s calm all the way down.
You can write an email using full and proper spellings (C U 2mrw? Nope.). You can answer the phone with “Hello, Jane here,” instead of “Yeah” or — truly the worst — “Whut.” You can get a note card and use a pen to write a short string of words that express your gratitude for a kind gift or gesture. You can keep the phone in your purse or pocket instead of on the dinner table. (And, by the way, you don’t have to Instagram every. single. plate. that is set before you at said table.)
You don’t have to make everything Social Media Moment. You can occasionally pick up the phone — or failing that — Skype/FaceTime or send a personal email to a homey, talk to them like they’re your friends for real, because they are.
You can get off the phone when you’re interacting with other humans — this includes cashiers, waiters and store clerks. You will never ever need to send that text while you’re driving. And there will never be a reason for you to use your speakerphone in shared spaces. You can do all of these simple things and still get on your grind, make that paper, find your truth, make it big, conquer the world, or whatever it is that is so very urgent.
Then late in March, the NYT ran another story about digital etiquette. But this one was highlighting the rising need for “old-fashioned protocols”since smart phones and social media have basically slaughtered grace and kindness. (xoJane’s Jane was even quoted in the piece: “Nice is very cool right now.” Finally!)
The story — in the Styles section, of course — points to a glut of good-manners gurus elbowing their way into Gen Y’s rude, little lives. They are coming at you with books, blogs, and on You Tube. Listen, there’s even a video tutorial teaching people how to shake hands. Explosion fist bumps and bro-hugs are not the way to roll into that biz meeting, young one.
It’s all a little hysterical — both definitions.
On one hand, I’m snickering at the level to which we’ve devolved. This next generation of kids will be able to create an app over a quick kale smoothie lunch, but don’t know how to look you in the eye to talk about it. But then I think, maybe not. There are other adults and parents who also believe that propriety still has a place in this Jetsons world and we’ll teach, instill, educate, and the kids (and adults) will indeed be all right.
Where do you stand on the manners front? Old fashioned or two-point-oh?