Square One

That’s is where I am again. All those rejections? Meaningless.

You see, I have done a major rewrite of the book, and now I get to send out queries to all those agents again.

When the idea for this book first came to me, the protagonist was a girl. As the story developed, it felt more natural to make it a boy, so early on, I switched. I think I had only written the first chapter before I made that change. Looking back, it was my age that made it natural to want a boy in the character because they liked science. My worldview and the time I grew up in, made my instinct incorrect for today’s world.

As I researched agents, I kept finding they wanted girls who fight with swords or girls who like science. I have a girl in the book who plays a major role, and if agents had had the patience to see my story through, would have discovered in many ways, the story was more about her arc. But unfortunately, she did fit the stereotypical girl’s role — a dreamer who didn’t like science.

So finally, after having these thoughts niggle at my brain for quite some time, they burst through while I was in the shower and took solid form. This often happens. Not sure why. But I suddenly knew I needed to reverse my two main characters. That led to an entire weekend of flipping genders, which means flipping pronouns that sneak in there everywhere. There was also the need to evaluate each scene to see if it still rang true. Surprisingly, there was very little that needed rewriting. And actually, it’s an interesting trick to short circuit my age-related biases — write a stronger boy character, then simply turn him into a girl. It will be tricky as I keep writing to keep that same strong, adventurous character consistent. I have no doubt I can do it.

I like how the rewritten story reads. I like some new possibilities for the story. It’s a very good rewrite. I’ve now got a girl who likes science and fights with swords. Plus a good story to tell. I’m feeling more hopeful.

Additionally, some reading has led me to new query letter knowledge. One author suggested hiring a junior agent to write your letter. They often offer this service to supplement their income. Since they are the ones who read query letters and make recommendations to the agents, they know what works and what doesn’t. Once I feel confident that the manuscript is ready, I will hire someone to write my letter and begin the query process again.

So here I am, back at square one with a fresh manuscript and a whole lot of hope. It’s not a terrible place to be.

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The Best and Worst of Times

How many times have I heard the first line of A Tale of Two Cities? I always thought I knew what it meant, but now I feel it in my bones.

For those of us who see the big picture, the last few months have been difficult. It’s been like watching a slow motion train wreck. We see the tracks are laid straight towards a mountainside, and yet everyone on the train is celebrating because they think they’re finally going somewhere. We screamed. We hollered. We jumped up and down and waved our hands, trying to stop the train before it slams into the wall, and for that we were ignored and ridiculed.

The right had to make up garbage to fear about Obama – He’s a secret Muslim from Kenya who is going to bring sharia law to the US, take our guns, create death panels to kill our parents, and build FEMA camps to put all his enemies in. Despite us being the creative types, liberals didn’t have to imagine any fears of 45. He laid out his vision for this country, which included taking away people’s health care with no idea how to replace it, banning people for the accident of their place of birth and religion, and if not banning them, then making them register so that when the country needs to deal with them, they know just where to find them. He at one point wanted to punish women who have faced a difficult decision about a pregnancy, and made the choice HE thinks is wrong, because we women should all be subjected to what HE thinks. He thinks the environment is only there to be raped and profited from by big business. And he wants to turn us into a nation with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, a country that only thinks of itself and doesn’t care if we destroy other economies as long as we WIN! He has vowed to bring back torture, a policy that has never provided any actionable intelligence, but has created many, many enemies and endangered our troops. And as a cherry on top of the cake, he thinks nuclear weapons should be used if we have them.

He is a walking, talking, dystopian nightmare.

The damage these policies will do is immense and doesn’t take into account the damage that will be done by the policies of those pulling his strings. Those around him have learned it’s easy to control little donny… praise him and he’ll think you’re brilliant and listen to all your ideas. Criticize him and you’re going to be ridiculed, abused, and discarded. So, you want to privatize programs Americans have paid in to, and deserve to draw from… Paul Ryan just whispers sweet nothings in his ear, and voila… they’re working on plans to do away with the social safety net, despite 45’s promise to leave it alone. Easy peasy. He’s a puppet whose strings are pulled so easily.

We are becoming isolated in the world. Allies are not sharing intelligence. Trade deals are evaporating and becoming more difficult. If he continues on this path, we could face sanctions. Let’s hope it doesn’t go far enough that some other country decides we need regime change.

The despair is palpable among those who still believe in the promise of America – that all men (and women) are created equal and have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Not just those who look alike, think alike, love alike, and pray alike. All! Instead we’ve watched him dismantle the policies that protect our people and the environment. There are Nazis in the White House forming policy. I’ve tried to reach out for common understanding with the other side and the response seems to be, “We won, you lost. We’re right, you’re wrong. We don’t care about understanding.” So much for uniting the country. 45 is beginning to appear mentally unstable, and we’ve given that man the nuclear codes. I’ve heard silver-haired Americans say, “I’ve never been scared for my country like this before” and they lived through WWII. It feels like the worst of times.

Yet, despite this, it also the best of times. The Women’s March kicked it off. There is power in connection. There is power in unity. There is power in love. We who marched were drawn by the connection, unity, and love, then left completely empowered. We found our voice together. We found our purpose together. The sniping by the right couldn’t even take a dent out of it, probably because their criticisms were so off-base, and also because it was easy to see a tinge of exclusion and jealousy in their words. It’s okay. They enjoy their somewhat equal status because women like us marched for them, also with the criticism of conservative women of the time. Their granddaughters will thank us.

And our show of resistance led to the defiance of National Park employees, as well as other federal employees. Watching the rebellion grow was inspiring! It gave me hope like nothing else. The tyrant can sit in his high tower and issue all the decrees he wants, but if nobody follows them, he is nothing but a silly gas bag.

His most odious act so far, choosing to refuse the entry of refugees and others on National Holocaust Remembrance Day (but only from Muslim countries where he doesn’t do business) felt like a directive coming straight from Bannon and the alt-right(Nazis). It felt like a gut punch. And then we, the people, mobilized. The connections we’ve made allowed protests to spontaneously break out across the country in airport after airport. Americans of every color, size, and religious belief, stood side by side in defense of Iraqi translators, visiting relatives, and refugees who had spent two years being vetted, and were finally on the verge of safety.  The ACLU became our voice in the courts and stopped that atrocity for now.

The worst of times have woken us up to rediscover our connection to each other. It’s hammered in the lesson that democracy is not a spectator sport. We can’t just sit back and let politicians handle things. Without any leadership, we are bypassing the parties and finding each other and our power. We are talking. We are formulating plans. We are on the move. We are united. We are one. It is the best of times.

At our march, one speaker acknowledged that we were able to march that day because we stood on the shoulders of those who came before us. We called out their names in remembrance of their sacrifices. Standing there, I realized it was my turn to provide a place for future generations of women to stand. Our shoulders are needed. We have some very dark days ahead. The struggle is hardly won, but we know we will win because as MLK said, the arc of the moral universe is long, but it inevitably bends toward justice. There will be losses and casualties ahead, yet I see hope. And rebellions are built on hope.

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Inauguration

I have been wrestling with myself as to whether or not to write this post. It’s a very difficult topic for me and involves memories that are shameful. I don’t like to talk about this, because part of me never wanted to let them know they got to me… that they hurt me… but they did.

Every woman wants to have been the cheerleader, homecoming queen, the popular girl with lots of boyfriends. Nobody wants to admit to being the goat – the one targeted and bullied, who spent their school years isolated and ostracized. Yet, if I’m telling my story truthfully, I was the later. Smart, introverted, overweight, and from a family thought of as a bunch of goody-two-shoes, I was the perfect target, and even those who didn’t actively participate, did nothing to defend me, because as long as the bullies were pointed at me, they were safe.  At a time when a child is trying to understand who they are and how they fit into the world, I got a very clear message. The answer to those questions were, 1) you are unlikable and 2) you fit in nowhere. That was the concrete that got poured into my foundation.

In the midst of all those years of utter hell and the destruction of my self worth, there was one bully that stood out. He had issues with my older brother, but obviously found me to be a far easier target. He went out of his way to make my life miserable on a regular basis. One day he grabbed me by the collar and shoved me up against the bleachers, accusing me of snitching to my parents. This was a 17 year old boy, shoving a 14 year old girl up against the bleachers. I had no idea what he was talking about and eventually he believed me, but he threatened me with violence if he found out differently. Despite the gym being full of people on lunch hour, not one person stepped in to help.

These bullying experiences had a lasting effect. I may look like everyone else. I go through life doing most of the same things as everyone else, but that’s just a projected image on the outside of the thick and high walls that protect me. Inside, past my defences, there are broken gaping holes of insecurity and anxiety, and a sense of never belonging. That is the damage of bullying. Damage that never heals.

It’s what makes me so aware of bullies when I see them. When Celebrity Apprentice first started I found it amusing. Then I saw a documentary called “You’ve Been Trumped” and watched Trump use his power and money to destroy the livelihood of a farmer, not unlike my father, simply because he wanted that man’s family farm and wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. It was sickening. Trump was a bully through and through. I never watched Celebrity Apprentice again, but I did watch him bully people in twitter feuds. I saw him reduce women’s worth, even his daughters, to a set of physical attributes he found pleasing. We’ve listened to him brag about how his power allows him to assault women. During the election he engaged in typical bullying behavior of assigning a nickname and then repeating it so often that eventually so does everyone else. It didn’t matter if it was accurate, it stuck. Anyone who praises him, he loves. Anyone who criticizes him, is attacked. And anyone who can’t see that this man is a bully has their eyes willfully shut. Yet once again, I watched people close their eyes and line up behind him, because at least his bullying is pointed elsewhere, and he’ll leave them alone. It’s hard not to take it personally when friends and family choose to support the bully.

So, at this point you may be wondering, “What does all this have to do with the Inauguration? You know, your title.” For that I have to go back again to my high school bully. When my bully was leaving school, all the students were called to the gymnasium for a mandatory assembly to watch him be inducted into the military. I sat on the bleachers, the very ones he had shoved me up against, and listened as military officers and school administrators gave speeches about what a good man and patriot he was for enlisting. I wanted to vomit. I wanted to scream. He wasn’t any of the things they were saying. He was abusive, he was a bully, and he was being rewarded for it.

I was forced to watch back then, but I will not watch this time. I will not watch a bully be praised. I will not watch a bully win. So, call me unpatriotic if you want, but I will NOT watch the inauguration.You go right ahead and watch a truly awful human being take over the reins of this country, but I will not.

For me, and hopefully for others who have been wounded by bullies, I would like us to make 1/20 about our own inauguration. Let’s inaugurate in a new era. An era where we reclaim our self worth. One where bullies from the past lose their power over us, because we finally choose to stand up to this bully and fight for those he would harm, even though no one did that for us.

So the day of the inauguration, my TV will be off, and the day after, I’ll be marching with hundreds of other women in my city and millions across this nation. We will not let this bully, who now is the most powerful man in the world, do the kind of damage to others that has been done to us.

Because my bully did teach me one valuable lesson. During one confrontation he had his fist back ready to strike because I refused to get out of his sight. I don’t know where I found the courage, but I stood, unmoving, and stared him down. After a few tense moment, he turned, walked away, and never really bothered me again.

If we stand up to Trump, he will back down. Bullies always do.

 

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Sexism

There is much I could share about the editing process of my book, but there’s a more important topic on my mind today.

Sexism.

Yesterday’s Humans of New York post has sent ripples through the internet. Please read it if you haven’t. Try to forget who it is about. Just listen to her story.

As a young woman, I never really thought about sexism, and didn’t really see it as an issue. When I arrived in Hollywood, I began to see things differently. When I applied to be a teleprompter operator, I was flat out told that it wasn’t a woman’s job, because you had to carry heavy equipment and have mechanical ability to trouble-shoot problems. I convinced him to let me observe a shoot. The male prompter operator was not so sexist, and offered to train me on the job. He reported back that I was good, and the man who discouraged me would get past his stereotypes and hire me. A year later he told me, “From now on I’m going to hire more women, because you do a great job, there’s not so much ego, and you get along with clients so much better.” Granted, this was still subtle sexism, because I had been trained as a woman to be submissive and he liked it. Still, it opened a door, and today there are many, many women in the job. In fact, today it might be considered more of a woman’s job.

However, going out on shoots, I still got a lot of men on the crew saying, “Honey, (or sweetie) can I help you carry that?”  At first it annoyed me, and then one day I realized, if they’re so stupid to want to do my work, let them. Though, after a few days on a job, when the men saw how strong, smart, and competent I was, not only did the offers of help stop, but so did the condescending titles. Very often friendships could then begin.

When I landed a network job, my supervisor, who was a woman, talked about the sexism in television and at the networks. I scoffed. Surely talent and hard work would overcome. Wouldn’t they want the best person in the job?

The resounding answer to that was, “NO!”

Hollywood, in general, could care less about talent. Half of the graduates from film school are women, yet less than 2% of major films are directed by women. You see, when those in charge are men, and their favorite after-work activity is going to a strip club together, or maybe if they’re a little more evolved, the cigar bar, there is no opportunity to bond with anyone other than men. And when a position opens up, who do you think the man in power is going to hire… the quiet, hard-working, efficient employee they don’t really know or the guy they’ve misogynistically bonded with after work? Women are fine to have around, as long as they stay in their place, and make their superiors look good.

And then there’s the other messages women get. I was once told, “You’re so dramatic!” And when my response was to glare back, he added, “What? That wasn’t an insult.”

Right.

Because we so often hear men saying, “You know what I love? A dramatic woman.” No, that was a not-so-subtle way to tell me to control my emotions and be more acceptable to men.

Then there was the time I watched a group of male coworkers smugly patting themselves on the back for “playing the game” and getting ahead. They weren’t feeling proud of their talent, hard work, or creativity. No, they were suck-ups, and thought that was awesome. Inside I was laughing because not five minutes before they were complaining about the person in charge who had done the same thing. No experience, no real talent for the job, but he sucked his way up to the top, and was now in charge.

And people wonder why there’s nothing but super-hero movies and remakes coming out of Hollywood these days.

I don’t.

For too long men have been the default standard and women had to contort ourselves and measure up to them. Men won’t admit this; much like conservative whites can’t see that their culture is the default standard, and minorities have to contort themselves to try to measure up and fit in.

There’s a part of me that is taking great pleasure in being alive at this time in history, as women come into their power and stop looking to men for permission to do so. I remember one of my bosses complaining about how he felt marginalized and unrepresented. Oh, poor baby. For the past few years you haven’t felt like a king in his castle. Try it for a few thousands years, then get back to us.

So men… your time is over and ours is coming. At least you’ll benefit from the fact that we have a lot less ego, and get along with people better. And maybe if you meet our standards, we’ll even give you the respect and equality you never gave us.

 

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