Thursday, February 28, 2013

Review: Writer Mama: How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids

Writer Mama: How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids
Writer Mama: How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids by Christina Katz

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read Writer Mama by Christine Katz as part of a month-long writing course this February. Before reading it, I knew practically nothing about what it would take to be a freelance writer.

After reading it:
- I know what I want to write about and how to find audiences for what I have to say.
- I can write a query or cover letter
- I know how to write several different kinds of articles (how-to, list, personal essay, etc.)
- I have a good idea what I need to do do market myself
- I know how to keep track of my expenses for tax purposes
- I can in general can see how freelance writing could be a plausible source of income.

Katz provides clear instructions and examples in addition to immensely helpful exercises. If you're a mom (or dad) that is looking to bring in some extra cash through writing, this book is a fantastic place to start.

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Review: Anything for Jane: A Novel

Anything for Jane: A Novel
Anything for Jane: A Novel by Cheryl Mendelson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Anything for Jane is Cheryl Mendelson's the last installment in her Morningside Heights trilogy. While I loved the first book, Morningside Heights, and really liked Work, Love, Children, I have mixed feelings about this book. The plot is interesting and Mendelson again tackles class issues in New York City. I won't give any spoilers, but will just say that she took the story where I didn't think she would or could. I hadn't been so surprised by a book ending in quite awhile (good surprised? bad surprised?), and really had a difficult time putting this one down to, you know, sleep.

While Mendelson writes about the neighborhood I live in and love, I find her omniscient voice and detail a bit aggravating in this book. I'm not sure if her writing was less refined in this one, I cared about the characters less, or perhaps the story just couldn't carry the writing this time.

Final analysis: If you read and liked the first two in the Morningside Heights series, you should go and ahead and read it. It is nice to see old characters again, and the book was overall an enjoyable read.

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Writing, Writing, and More Writing

While I'm not technically enrolled in classes right now, I've been loosely working on my thesis for over a year. And by loosely working, I mean that I was very occasionally reading and taking notes until I changed my topic over the summer. Then I was working about once or twice a week here and there, until I finally kicked into high gear in November. Not a coincidence that this is when we were able to get a babysitter to hang with Felicity a few mornings a week, and I got more serious about carving out specific times when I get to leave the house and work.

I've been focusing my attention on an independent study that I never completed before we moved to New York. My professor was very gracious about the whole thing (I was pregnant and working and sick, so she just said to finish it whenever). I had a draft done in early January, waited over a month for the professor to look at it, and then basically rewrote almost all of it in the last 10 days. It's 28 pages long. I'm immensely proud of myself. I'm not going to claim it's the most polished thing I've produced, but it's a good solid paper with original theory.

And, the really great part is, after I get this thing in tomorrow (I have four hours of childcare in the
morning so I can put my finishing touches on it and get my annotated bibliography done), I get to focus on my thesis.

The background research is already done and I'm going to challenge myself to write for one hour every day, even on the days few days a week where I there isn't carved out time for me to work.

What is my thesis about, you ask?

Empowerment in mothering. I'm reading through mothering memoirs and looking at themes of empowerment, guilt, desire, and identity. After just writing almost thirty pages about empowerment and guilt in the second and third waves of feminism, I've feel like I have a running start. I originally was going to conduct a qualitative studies about feeding decisions of new mothers (in relation to guilt), but given that a) I want to finish my degree this summer at the latest, and b) once I am finished with my degree I can either start writing for money or find a job, a lady has to do what a lady has to do.

And, if current trends continue, I'll have a thesis that is 120 pages long instead of 80 pages. And my adviser will kill me. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Find of the Day: The Calorie Detective

Have five minutes? Watch the video:

I love that calorie counts are enforced in NYC and am glad to hear that most chain restaurants nationwide will be forced to give their counts as well. However, I had no idea that the given calorie counts aren't tested. I thought companies were at least being audited by the FDA on a semi-regular basis, just as the health department will show up unannounced and do a check.

Why have a law (and a good law at that) if it isn't going to be enforced?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Perfume Genius, Heteronormativity, and the Idea of Safety

I've been listening the album Put Your Back N 2 It by Perfume Genius (Mike Headras) on Spotify for a few months now and have been really enjoying it. I'll admit, it was usually on in the background and I didn't pay much attention to the words, just loved the overall sound and feeling of it.

I was on HuffPost today for whatever reason, and ended up clicking on a story about a gay porn star that committed suicide a few days ago in New York City (Arpad Miklos). As I was reading the story, it referenced a music video that Mr. Miklos performed in with Mike Headras. Of course I clicked on it, and it's beyond lovely and moving.

See what I mean?

HuffPost reported that this video had been banned from YouTube. The music video is up today (I hope you just watched it, or are about to watch it), and in following the in-text links from HuffPost, it looks like a 16-second promo for the album is what was actually banned from YouTube.

YouTube apparently banned the promo because it wasn't "family safe," writing the following:

"The ad has been disapproved because it violates our Adult Image/Video Content policy. Per this policy, video content, audio, static imagery, and site content must be family safe. Any ads that contain non family safe material are disapproved. I noted to the team that the people in the video are not entirely unclothed, but the overall feeling of the video is one of a more adult nature, including promoting mature sexual themes and what appears to be nude content. As such, the video is non family safe. In order to have this video ad approved, you will need to bring it into compliance with our policy."

Of course, as HuffPost pointed out, YouTube most likely would not have had an issue with the video if it featured a heterosexual couple instead of homosexual one.

I know, I know, this is old news (a whole year old, and I'm pretty sure internet years are like dog years). Even though this issue has since been resolved, the banning of a harmless promotion really irked me. I wrote about the potential harm of assuming heterosexuality two weeks ago (part of the overarching theme of heteronormativity we find ourselves in), and THIS is the result: the blindness that people and organizations have about putting heterosexuality over homosexuality, and marginalizing people that don't fit into nice little boxes of "masculine," "feminine," and "straight." (And really, is anyone 100% straight? I'm not.)

A quote from Headras:

"Why are straight women always walking with their hands in the back pocket of their boyfriends' jeans? Would I do that all the time too if I didn't have to think about it? Alan [Hadreas's boyfriend] and I hold hands in specific parts of the city and sometimes outside of those parts. But there is always a little 'catch'; no matter how much I think the shame and fear is gone, there is always a little something in the back of my mind. I am almost embarrassed sometimes when we are holding hands, and that fucking infuriates me. I can't even imagine that hesitation ever going away, and that makes me very sad."

Where do I feel safe? I feel safe almost everywhere. I feel safe in my apartment, in my parents' home, in my neighborhood, and really anywhere that Ian and I go together. I feel safe holding hands with him, even kissing or hugging him in public. I feel safe in my sexuality.

I find it saddening to imagine a world where none of that is true, or only bits and pieces are true. I have never had to "come out of the closet." I don't worry about my family rejecting me for wanting to have sex with the person I love. I don't worry about not being able to express the gender I identify with. I don't worry about being unable to find gainful employment because I'm open an openly straight person (I worry about finding gainful employment for other reasons!).

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Review: The Paris Wife

The Paris Wife
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read The Paris Wife with my book club this month. I started the novel without knowing anything about it, so was surprised when Ernest Hemingway popped up immediately. Sometimes I guess it helps to read a book jacket before starting something so you know what you're getting into!

I both loved and hated The Paris Wife. We all know that Ernest Hemingway was a sexist alcoholic, and not very likeable (read: JERK). On the one hand it was quite interesting to see an account from a lover's perspective - what attracted Hadley to Hemingway and what a magnetic person he could be. On the other hand, I wanted to wake Hadley up again and again, to say, "He's not worth your time or your sacrifice!"

This poor woman gave up everything for Hemingway, and while affectionate and passionate, he took and took from her, then disposed of her with quite a bit of callousness and cruelty. And she let him. She never stood up for herself for longer than a day or two, always caving to him because 'that's what love is'.

Towards the end of the novel Hadley admits that she was so subservient as both she and Hemingway had assertive, loud, and over-powering mothers, and she wanted to avoid becoming that. What she doesn't see is that Hemingway doesn't offer her another alternative besides the over-bearing wife or the doormat wife. There is no sense of partnership or mutual respect. Instead of 'loving too much,' it seems there was a hollowness to their love.

McLain is an interesting and engaging writer. She clearly did her research before writing The Paris Wife. The story did drag at points, or include seemingly unnecessary scenes for the plot, which seemed to beg for additional editing, but I think this was probably because McLain wanted to include as many of the recorded events and conversations as she could.

Four stars for the writing, two stars for the story (which equates me giving 2 stars to history I realize, I guess I can't help but hate Hemingway for being who he was).

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Friday, February 1, 2013

A Writing Course and Friday Update

I signed up for an online writing workshop specifically for stay-at-home moms. I know, it sounds a little silly, but I'm really excited about the whole thing! the workshop is through Writer's Digest and we officially started yesterday. By the end of February, I'll have written an essay and submitted it to a magazine of my choice with a cover letter. I'm thrilled.

Did any of you know I was interested in writing? I didn't know myself until we moved to New York, and Ian kept encouraging me to give it a try. I now have two book ideas: a starting guide to veganism, and a book about raising a daughter as a feminist. I also want to do a cookbook at some point, and my fabulous food-photographer friend that lives in Argentina promised she'd do the pictures (maybe she didn't know that I actually plan to write a cookbook at some point, but hey,  promise is a promise!).

My class is reading Writer Mama by Christine Katz. I'm only a chapter in but already finding it quite useful. Interested in writing, and a partial or full time stay-at-home mom? It's worth your $15, I promise.

 - - -

In unrelated news, Felicity is 14 months today and had three steps this morning, and my husband turned 30 this week. To celebrate his birthday, we're heading to Cafe Blossom, an awesome vegan restaurant in the Upper West Side, and I'm taking him to an Upright Citizens Brigade show afterwards. My, we're going to have such a lovely time.

And in seriously unrelated news, my never-ending headache is gone! I had the damned thing for over two months (and more migraines than usual), but simultaneously started a new medication and incorporating trace mineral drops into my diet and POOF, headache gone.

Personally, I think my body was short on magnesium, which also explains why I only got one headache over Christmas - I was obsessed taking my dad's chewy multi-vitamins twice a day. (They tasted like peaches, what can I say). So, I've also added a multi-vitamin back into my life, as well as an additional magnesium supplement.

I'm seriously a different person, I feel so much better.

That's all. Have a wonderful weekend readers!