Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Categorized: Culture

It’s Squatter’s Rights Wednesday! Though, at this point, it’s more of a sublet than anything. I was planning on writing something snarky and funny today, but I woke up with the first sentence of this blog screaming in my head. Clearly, someone forgot to give my muse her decaf.

Naturally, though, we begin with the obligatory Denny Basenji picture.

Dear Leader is pensive this morning.

Please don’t worry that I am about to abandon the magnificent and wonderful tradition of this blog in staying the f*ck away from politics, etc. However, I found that the recent ugliness that claimed the life of an innocent woman raised a truly poignant, pertinent question for writers:

How do we as writers properly use ugly things?

Sure, a lot of us stay away from these topics or avoid writing in the genres that might land us in cultural minefields. But, we all reach a moment when our fingers pause over the keyboard as we wonder if we really should use that word, or describe a character with a particular label, or hint at a certain belief. It’s universal and unavoidable, really. Because when we are telling stories that mean something to us, that meaning is by nature complex and reflective of the entire spectrum from white to grey to black.

What are your intentions toward my novel, young man?

Writers are sneaky. We like to explore our vulnerabilities, controversial or dark thoughts, and unpopular opinions using the cloak-and-dagger of “plot” and “characters” and especially “the antagonist.”

This is absolutely the right thing to do. Our ability to slip in and out of disguise, to inhabit other lives and other worlds, is the Promethean gift to writers. Actors are similar to us, except they do it in a way that is physical and immediate. Whereas, we writers sip our tea, smile a little, and ponder if gutting the host with a cheese knife would leave enough forensic evidence for the pathologist to know that we were served camembert instead of brie.

This is all well and good.

Things become sticky when we fail to be honest with ourselves about our motivations. The ability to “shape shift” into our fiction comes with an equal measure of responsibility. We need to look at what we are saying and why we are saying it. Not just the general theme or message. We have to ask the hard questions of ourselves:

  • How did we get to this point in our lives where we need to write about this theme?
  • Could my message be seen from a different viewpoint? Can I accept that? Why or why not?
  • What does this message say about me as a person and what I believe and value?
  • Am I doing this to work off a grudge? Against whom or what? Why or why not?
  • Am I doing this so I can say things I am not normally allowed to say in society? Why or why not?

Notice that little phrase I keep using? “Why or why not?”

We can’t just stop at the first level of answers we give ourselves. If we are going to be authentic, honest, and meaningful, we must push ourselves to look unflinchingly at the truth – good, bad, ugly, and bad hair day – of who we truly are.

It is only when we are truthful about our own motivations that we can be meaningful…and careful when we handle ugly things.

You have the right to remain silent.

Writing difficult, ugly, and controversial things is a privilege, not a right. I mean, technically, yes, we have the First Amendment on our side. But, the moment we write something carelessly or thoughtlessly, we forfeit our alibi with our readers…and ourselves.

This is not about political correctness, identity politics, or anything like that. Those are incendiary labels that get shot back and forth in society like flaming tennis balls at the Wimbledon from hell.

This is about being honest with ourselves and doing the work to think through not just why we are writing something, but also tapping into our empathy to see if we are carelessly or thoughtlessly saying something that is needlessly hurtful to others.

That’s not to say that as writers, we can’t use stereotypes, prejudices, etc. We absolutely can – and often should. The difference is in our motivation and the care with which we do so.

Please note the second half of that sentence: the care with which we do so.

Because if the road to hell is paved with good intentions, thoughtful writing craft is the GPS of salvation. 

Handling ugly things requires the care and skill of a Ming dynasty vase collection curator. When we we use an ugly thing, we need to slow down, maybe even come to a full stop. This is a moment for analyzing what we are about to say, why we are saying it, which character/POV is saying it, why we chose that character/POV, what are that character’s motives and beliefs, and is this truly necessary to the story at that moment?

Ugly things are powerful. Ugly things evoke a visceral reaction in a reader that few other aspects of fiction can do. Ugly things can bring up ugly memories, traumas, deep fears, blistering rage, and gut-wrenching sorrow. Ugly things can turn the reader’s world upside down or make them face a world they had been hiding from.

This would be a moment to insert that old chestnut about absolute power corrupting absolutely. Sure, we as writers may not be making the kind of bank that a hedge fund manager or anesthesiologist makes, but we have the ability to haunt someone’s waking moments for weeks – if not months – after reading our words. That, my friends, is absolute power.

If we cannot or are unwilling to do the work to use our power responsibly and respectfully, then perhaps we should remain silent…

Speech therapy.

I have been toying with the idea of offering a class on this subject. I’d want it to be something where we really get into the weeds of how/when/not to use specific words, stereotypes, etc. However, it’s all too easy for a class like that to degenerate into a session of everyone complaining about the wrongs done to them as a person or as a writer. I include myself in this worry because this topic is a slippery slope. No, wait, it’s a glass slope covered in ice, with a layer of oil poured on top, and paved with banana skins for good measure.

Still, I think it might be something worth trying out. If you’d like to be part of this experiment, leave a comment and let me know!

***

For the month of AUGUST, for everyone who leaves a comment, I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

***

CATCH THE LAST CLASSES FOR AUGUST AND WATCH HERE FOR OUR WHOLE NEW LINE-UP OF SEPTEMBER CLASSES!

All classes come with a FREE recording!

We’ve added in classes on erotica/high heat romance, fantasy, how to write strong female characters and MORE! Classes with me, with USA Today Best-Selling Author Cait Reynolds and award-winning author and journalist Lisa-Hall Wilson. So click on a tile and sign up!

It’s Cait again! The coup might be over, but I have now assumed squatters rights on Kristen’s blog. The fun part is that you never know when I’m going to pop up and come at you with stuff that is unusual, unsettling, and occasionally unnatural.

Today, I’m going to talk about writing young adult (YA) fiction. In the past decade, YA has experienced a renaissance and earned ‘theme park money’ for some lucky authors (I’m looking at you, sparkly vampire lady). Some YA has become incredibly sophisticated and gone to really challenging places both with its characters and subject matter (hello, dystopian-commentary-on-society and too-young-and-in-love-to-die-from-cancer books).

On the other hand, there is some really, really, really bad YA out there. Bathetic. Trite. Cringe-worthy.

The question is, how do we avoid all the traps and pitfalls that lead us to commit atrocities (i.e. write books) that are doomed to dwell in the 400,000 rankings on Amazon?

When Writers Need to be Grounded

When I wrote Downcast, I periodically went through my old yearbooks, notes I used to pass back and forth with my friends in classes, my old diaries from the time, and even a few of the papers I wrote for classes and kept for whatever reason. There was a method to my madness, because it’s absolutely madness to want to go back and torment yourself with looking at your yearbook photo from freshman year. (Note: if I get ten comments or more on this post, I will upload a copy of my freshman year photo…that is how much I believe in the cause…or something like that…)

The reason I delved not once, but multiple times into the memories of the micro-dramas and nostalgic optimism of my own high school experience was because it forced me to be realistic about teenagers, even the smart, responsible ones like myself. No other characters come with so much conflict and so many interesting limits already built-in simply by virtue of their age.

Let’s just list out the ways in which we are constrained as writers in working with teenage characters:

  • Teenagers live at home with their parents or other legal guardian figure;
  • Teenagers attend school Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.;
  • Teenagers must face and deal with the same people every day (other students, teachers, etc.);
  • Teenagers may or may not be able to drive;
  • Teenagers have curfews at night;
  • Teenagers generally have a limited income (after-school job, chores, etc.); and,
  • Teenagers have only had so much life experience in their 14-18 years and therefore almost everything can be and is new for them.

Of course, as writers, we get to break all those rules and constraints if we want. However, as every teenager will tell you, breaking the rules has consequences. The convenience of doing so is a slippery slope of permissiveness, and each exception pulls the character a little further away from reality and being easily identifiable with by the reader. There has to be a really good reason to change one of the baseline constraints for a YA character, and just because we are too lazy to figure out how to work within that particular restriction.

One of the early beta critiques of Downcast complained that it was boring to have the characters going to school every day, that it was…wait for it…repetitive. While I took that particular critique and beta reader with a grain of salt, I didn’t entirely discount her opinion. I knew that given my plot and world-building, there was no reason for these students not to be in school. Instead, I took the idea of repetitiveness and pushed it, turning the school week into something that was inescapable and claustrophobic. The protagonist had to face her tormentors every single day. There was no reprieve, no “I don’t feel like going to work so I won’t” choice. Thus, when things break down the structure and routine, it’s not just a variation. It’s cataclysmic and amps up the tension in the plot.

Like OMG!

So, we’re writing YA. We need to be au courant with the vernacular, the fads, the apps (Vine is sooooo 2015), and the fandoms. However, we run the danger of forgetting we are the grown-ups in this situation.

What does that mean?

It means don’t dumb it down.

Just because we are writing for young adults, we are not automatically required to use words of only two syllables and simple sentence structures. We obviously want to hit the right balance between clarity and casualness, eliminating a lot of the ‘like’s’ and ‘um’s’ that pepper both adult and teenage conversation. That doesn’t preclude the use of a broader, richer vocabulary or taking advantage of the full range of grammatical tricks to create provocative, evocative prose.

While being careful to avoid the verbose pomposity of obstreperous troglodytes, there’s no reason we can’t use words that teenagers might be unfamiliar with, provided we do so naturally and with context that suggests the meaning of the word in a way that mimics the organic process of learning language. YA shouldn’t just be engaging and challenging in the concepts it presents. Teenagers that read YA are at an age where reading should be both a pleasure and a learning experience, driving emotional and intellectual growth.

Also, we need to make sure that the emotions, motivations, and decision-making processes of our characters are easily relatable but not carelessly simplistic. A lack of life experience doesn’t mean that teenagers don’t have complex psychologies (just ask anyone with a teenager), even if they don’t have the vocabulary yet to explain fully.

We must respect our readers, no matter their age, and in return, they will respect us…even if they are teenagers

The Bell May Have Rung, but Class is not Dismissed!

Well, actually, class hasn’t even started yet.

Not surprisingly, I have SO much more to say on YA fiction. Therefore, I am teaching a W.A.N.A. class on it. Here’s the class description and where you can sign up. It’s gonna be totally fun.

Class Title: OMG, Like How to Write Fleek YA
Instructor: Cait Reynolds
Price: $40 USD Standard
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: FRIDAY July 7th, 7:00 PM E.S.T. to 9:00 P.M. EST

As long as there are teenagers, there will be a demand for angst-ridden, unabashedly romantic YA fiction. Whether the story is paranormal, dystopian, fantasy, or everyday literary, YA demands the author walk a tightrope between realistically capturing the young adult voice and meeting some very grown-up standards in terms of plot, characters, and style.

Who wants to sound like a tax-paying grownup with a minivan pathetically trying to sound like a teen? Yeah. No one. But it happens ALL the time.

This class will discuss some of the critical issues in crafting a story and characters that truly resonate with the YA audience. Topics include:

  • Talking like a teenager without describing like a grown-up (or sounding like a dumb@$$)
  • Tip-toeing through the minefield of sex and swearing
  • Tropes, types, and technology
  • Techniques for getting in the mindset to write a YA POV
  • Teenage-level decision-making skills vs. Too-Dumb-to-Live decisions
REGISTER HERE!

 

****Just FYI, in an effort to combat spammers your comment won’t appear until I approve it, so don’t fret if it doesn’t appear right away.

Talk to me! And MAKE SURE to check out the classes below and sign up! Summer school! YAY!

For the month of JULY, for everyone who leaves a comment, I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

NEW CLASSES WITH CAIT REYNOLDS!

Obviously, I have my areas of expertise, but I’ve wanted for a long time to fill in some gaps on classes I could offer.

Cait Reynolds was my answer.

She is an unbelievable editor, mentor and teacher and a serious expert in these areas. She consults numerous very successful USA Today and NYTBS authors and I highly, highly recommend her classes.

      

  

OMG, Like How to Write On Fleek YA July 7th $40 with Cait Reynolds

Research for Historical Writing – Or, How not to Lose Six Hours on Pinterest July 8 $35 with Cait Reynolds

How to Dominate Your Sex Scenes (No Safe Words Here) July 14th $40 w/ Cait Reynolds

Shift Your Shifter Romance into High Gear July 15th $35 Basic/ $75 GOLD/ $125 PLATINUM

Gaskets and Gaiters: How to Create a Compelling Steampunk World July 21st $35 w/ Cait Reynolds 

Lasers & Dragons & Swords, Oh MY! World Building for Fantasy & Science Fiction July 28th w/ Cait Reynolds $35/ GOLD $75/ PLATINUM $125

Classes with MOI!

Plotting for Dummies July 13th $35 ($250 for GOLD)

Blogging for Authors July 20th $50 ($150 for GOLD)

Branding for Authors  July 27th $35

Classes with Lisa Hall-Wilson

Growing An Organic Platform On Facebook July 22nd $40

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Kenny Louie.
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Kenny Louie.

Today we are going to dive back into social media because who we are on-line impacts the odds of our success. Whether we like it or not, engaging on social media and cultivating a following is going to massively impact our professional success (or lack thereof).

In sales we had a saying, Fish where the fish are. Well my darlings, the fish are schooling on social media. When we are online we are not only engaging with the readers of today, we are cultivating future readers. This applies as much to the pre-published newbie as it does the internationally best-selling author.

We are wise to remember that we now have entire generations glued to smart phones and LinkedInInstaSnap, and if we don’t learn how to navigate these waters? Bad juju.

This said. Social media is an extraordinarily powerful tool that is too often treated like a toy.

Would we do that with a chainsaw? Treat it like a toy? Not use safety gear and chase friends and neighbors and joggers with it and fling it around laughing without a care? No, likely not. But that chainsaw only has around sixty teeth when the Internet has MILLIONS of teeth.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Dave Hosford
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Dave Hosford

Social media is more dangerous than a chainsaw when we handle it recklessly. If you don’t believe me, I think there is a position open for a new SNL writer. The Internet is filled with stories of even regular people who acted thoughtlessly on social media whose lives were then upended. They lost jobs, destroyed their reputations, and even had to go into hiding.

Is it fair? No. But fair is a weather condition.

Does this mean we are to be afraid of social media? Well no more than we would be afraid of a chainsaw or a car or a power drill. We don’t need to be afraid of any of these tools, but we do need to respect their power.

Going PRO

Image courtesy of Flikr Creative Commons
Image courtesy of Flikr Creative Commons

Whenever we decide we might one day sell our book, we are making a decision to be a professional. Being a professional comes with certain rules that don’t generally apply to regular people.

Additionally, all authors are in the business of sales and I can tell you that nothing helps sales like good old-fashioned networking. When I was in corporate sales, there was a reason we hobnobbed at golf events and cocktail parties and lunches. We were there to get to know one another on a more intimate level. Learn about each other, talk about topics of mutual interest (business or not and more often not).

It was these loose and casual connections that with time, became long-term business relationships and friendships. Our goal was to cultivate an atmosphere that left others saying, “I cannot wait to give her my business.” Or, even better, “I cannot wait to recommend her to others.”

Simple fact.

Most people buy from who they know and who they like.

They DO NOT buy from people who berate them and call them names.

Whouda thunk?

Social media is supposed to be social and it is governed by the same social rules as any in-person get-together. Feel free to ignore these rules, but they will have consequences.

If we are consistently name-calling, ranting, arguing and trolling, and posting stuff that creates a toxic atmosphere of anger and hysteria? Other people DO have the right to say, “No, not in my space.”

I love Facebook. I am friends with all kinds of people and have zero interest in living in an ideological echo chamber. I feel my diverse group of “friends” is what adds richness and depth to my life.

I enjoy seeing other viewpoints, even if I might not necessarily agree. I enjoy seeing people around me passionate in supporting what they love, even when it is a cause I don’t happen to share.

The problem is, we have become a culture addicted to outrage.

Generation Butthurt

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It has become more and more apparent over the past several years. Now? It is ridiculous. I see people who have no problem blasting others and going for the throats of anyone who dares have another opinion. Oh, but they all seem to have the skin of a grape.

They are offended all…the…time.

They have two speeds: Offensive and Offended.

So many people have just become a never-ending fountain of some new thing to be pissed off about. It never…frigging…stops.

I’m done.

Would we act this way in a workplace? You know, every day show up with petitions and corner people at the coffee machine and call them names? Utter insults so repugnant that bystanders cannot believe an adult actually said it?

And, if we did act this way, how long before we were fired?

If we were in sales, would be woo a potential client by screaming at him? By calling him a sexist pig?

If we owned a business, would we be able to grow that business if, every time a customer came in to see what we had to offer, we were enraged and yelling? Demanding they listen to our grievances?

Some of y’all might be laughing, but I see this all the time on social media. I just want to pull the author aside and tell them their FB page is their storefront and it is decorated with hate and hysteria. Is that what they were intending?

We all have a right to be offended and we should be offended. Being offended has its place and is it at the heart of all great social change. But offended all the time? Frankly, no one really wants to be around those people long-term. It costs us health, peace, friends and yes, even money. Most people won’t remember every detail of what we say or do, but…

People will always remember how we made them feel when in our company.

So when I post anything I always ask how that might make others feel. That is my litmus on-line.

My Feed is the Adult Table

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In the ten years I have been on Facebook I had never unfriended anyone because of their beliefs, even those beliefs that are vastly different than mine. I still won’t. I love your uniqueness and have no interest in making you a clone of me.

The world can barely handle ONE of me, LOL.

But over the past couple of months? I have begun setting firmer boundaries. At first I will unfollow people who are just constantly negative (no matter their beliefs) and only unfriend if I can’t seem to escape any other way.

I don’t want that in my feed. I see too much of this junk already. I go to the gym and every treadmill faces a WALL of nonstop news. I don’t know whether my heart rate is up because I’m keeping a good pace running or if I am furious at the news.

Thus, when I get on social media? I don’t want to be surrounded by relentless rage, a constant stream of negativity and hate.

My FB is the adult table. Adults can discuss and debate and talk without coming emotionally unhinged. Adults talk on a variety of subjects. Children whine and complain. Adults can see something they disagree with and move on. Children rant and rave and stuff digital peas up their noses.

I used to befriend everyone who said they were a writer and still do. But, if this person is then consistently acting unprofessional?  I don’t have time for amateur hour. I am only interested in interacting with other authors who value their own reputation and the reason is simple. If they don’t respect their own name and reputation, why would they respect mine? We can’t give what we don’t have.

Now when anyone sends me a request? I look at their feed first and see if this is the kind of positive and professional energy I want to incorporate into my life.

We Need to GROW UP

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Joel Kramer
Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Joel Kramer

I would love for every person using social media to do this, but every human on social media is not my concern. I am talking to authors who want to cultivate a platform filled with either readers, or at least with people who enrich their lives so they can write more books and better books.

Granted, I would love for every person who follows me on social media to buy my books, but selling books is not my sole purpose. I am on social media to reach out. To love and encourage and serve. To bring laughter and education. To brighten a dark day. I am also on social media to be fed and enriched and enlightened by others, but that only happens in the presence of respectful and thoughtful adults.

The same boundaries we place on children? Sadly, sometimes we need those on-line.

Courtesy of https://www.parentcoachplan.com/parenting-memes.php
Courtesy of https://www.parentcoachplan.com/parenting-memes.php

For those of you who might be feeling battered and war-weary on-line? You have a right to set boundaries. Gentle at first (unfollow) and if that doesn’t work? You do have the right to unfriend, to remove recalcitrant children and replace them with thoughtful grownups. We are authors not babysitters.

This is not censorship. Censorship is if we reported everyone we disagreed with to FB to get their page taken down. Setting boundaries is your right and it is necessary for emotional health.

Adults don’t mind posts here and there about politics, even when they disagree. They don’t mind a petition now and again. The DO mind a soap box getting planted on their heads every day. They are getting weary of armchair activists and they are quietly unfollowing and unfriending when we fail to be respectful.

I am so honored to serve all of you and I know each and every one of you will change the world. I hope you do and I can’t wait to see you do it!

What are your thoughts? I love hearing from you! What are your thoughts? Concerns?

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of JANUARY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

SIGN UP NOW FOR MY UPCOMING CLASSES!!! 

Remember that ALL CLASSES come with a FREE RECORDING so you can listen over and over. So even if you can’t make it in person? No excuses! 

All you need is an internet connection!

NEW CLASS!!!! How to Maximize Your Earning Potential as a Full-Time Author Learn from Hollywood Producer Joel Eisenberg in your HOME. This series is normally $400 but W.A.N.A. is offering it for $199.

Branding Master’s Class Series with Kristen Lamb THREE social media classes, ONE low price. Only $99. It is literally getting one class for FREE!!!! 

Craft Master’s Class Series with Kristen Lamb THREE craft classes, ONE low price. Only $89. One class is FREE!!!! Includes my new class The Art of Character.

Individual Classes with MOI!

Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter & Synopsis that SELLS January 28th

When your Name Alone Can SELL—Branding for Authors February 10th, 2017

Social Media for Authors February 11th, 2017

NEW CLASS!!!! The Art of Character January 27th, 2017

Blogging for Authors February 3rd

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on

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Today we are going to talk about something a bit different, but maybe this might inspire your fiction, because if the world changes guarantee you a writer was behind it 😉 .

As I was perusing Facebook Friday evening, I came across an article that gave me an odd reaction. It made me want to stand and cheer, yet at the same time, rail at the heavens for the unfairness of it all. Tim Gunn from Project Runway leveled his crosshairs on the fashion industry. OMG I so love him for doing it, too.

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A Plus-Sized Problem

According to Washington State University, there are over 100 million plus-sized women. The average woman now wears between a size 16 and a size 18 and yet plus sizes are almost never represented in fashion and if they are, the clothes are…ridiculous.

Most are passive-aggressive jabs at overweight women.

I am no longer a plus size, but I still recall the day I finally had to venture into the plus-sized section at a department store. I remember sinking into a corner and crying. I had always loved clothes but these weren’t clothes.

They were punishment.

In ways I still have this problem. The misogynist attitude of the fashion industry is all around. I am no longer plus size, but I am not a human stick either. I’m a healthy size 8-10-12-14-16.

Women will get that joke 😉 .

And I have…oh dear, this is so embarrassing. I actually have…I can’t believe I am admitting this. I have *whispers* …..boobs.

I KNOW! Right? Who would have thought that women actually come equipped with BOOBS?

And sorry, no, even Barbie would be crying these days because her shirts would runch up over her bust every time she moved her arms.

The fashion industry is not interested in Barbie. She still has girl parts…and cleavage snacks.

Even the mannequins can’t keep up.

Help those with no voice!
Uh-oh. Who gave the mannequin boobs?

The fashion industry is failing to appreciate that most of the women who need clothes actually have hit puberty. Many of us have even had children (sort of necessary for the continuing survival of the human race and all) and we have hips.

And I get well-meaning advice that I should ignore what is being elevated at “beautiful”, but the problem is that this distorted sense of what is “beautiful” affects what I am able to buy.

Seriously???
Shoot me.
Um, when did MATCHSTICKS become sexy?
Um, when did MATCHSTICKS become sexy?

When I have a selection of 42 variations of skinny jeans and shirts that ride up over my bust-line? It makes it tough to buy clothes. Of course, then I catch $#!* for living in yoga pants but nothing frigging fits.

It’s yet another passive-aggressive jab at aging women.

Older women just let themselves go.

All my life I have struggled because I wasn’t “thin enough,” and now I am no longer “young enough.”

Oh dear GOD! The horror! Kristen please stop. First you tell us you are female and now you are getting old? We can’t take it!

I know. I am so sorry.

Where are the Women?

Why can’t I be in a fashion magazine too? A real fashion magazine just for ME and my grown-up gal pals?

A magazine that doesn’t have me standing with a frying pan grinning over “Skinny Fried Chicken?” Or laughing at salad. What the hell is so funny about SALAD?

Maybe a forty or fifty-something woman might have amazing legs and love shoes. We still love mascara and buy it. Some of us even look pretty good in it.

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We love hair! Some of us a little too much. We are called Texans 😛 .

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Do we all have to be fawning over laundry detergent or adult diapers? Or grinning at yogurt? No wonder women are terrified of getting older. We disappear! Why is it that the only over-60 woman featured on the cover of Vanity Fair in a bustier used to be a man? Why not a sexy cover with Jessica Lange? Why does Lange get a turtleneck (1996) and Jenner get a bustier (2015)?

I see all these magazines geared toward the thirty and younger crowd, but the industry is virtually silent when it comes to the largest population in the country.

The one that is AGING.

In fashion, it’s no challenge to design clothes that flatter a teenage underweight flat-chested giantess. There are no “obstacles” *wink, wink* to work around. No wrinkles or a wider middle from having children.

Is it because us older gals might actually pose a challenge? We might make them think creatively, beyond sticking a bird cage in an up-do or a lampshade on our a$$?

Same with the articles. Seems to me it is far simpler to advise a twenty-something who’s never been married about sex and dating, than a forty-five-year-old who is out-earning her male counterparts and has grandchildren and an elderly parent to take care of.

Dare we talk about the fifty-something woman who likes sexting her…husband?

Oh no, Kristen. You have just gone too far.

Yes, I Want to Be Like Barbie

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Untouched photo. I’m almost 43…and love shiny things.

The world is obsessed with giving young girls role models, which is awesome. They need dolls that aren’t all about fashion, that are astronauts and police officers and doctors. GREAT! They need different body types. The New York Times was all gaga over Mattel creating dolls of different shapes and sizes and heights and ethnicities.

Okay, fashion industry. Could you take a hint from a DOLL company? Yes, I want to be like Barbie. She is finally allowed to be short, tall, fluffy, skinny, busty, or even have glasses. Maybe one day she will even be allowed to grow old (Hey, I can dream, right?).

We don’t grow out of needing role models.

Would women be Botoxing and cutting on themselves until they resembled a missing cast member of The Muppets if they had a healthy selection of women who were aging well to model after?

Most of us have no frigging clue how we are supposed to look for our age. We are surrounded by teenagers or models Photoshopped to resemble wrinkle-free teenagers. We are sold anti-aging serums by models who aren’t old enough to be using the product.

Hollywood will keep casting Jason Statham as an action hero until they have to use CGI to conceal his walker and orthopedic shoes, but what about Lucy Lawless? Why do we have Rocky XVI but no remake of Xena?

You want to see BEAUTIFUL women of all ages? Check out my Pinterest board Old Women Dressing and Behaving Badly.

MORE is Less

Want a good laugh? Peruse the magazines that are supposed to be speaking to mature women. Initially I was excited about MORE Magazine, because it was supposed to fill that gap and give women over 30 their own fashion magazine.

Unfortunately, when I picked up a print copy (among their first), I was crushed to realize it was just a Good Housekeeping retread. Lots of pictures of gardens and decorating and food and the only articles with actual older models revolved around how we could look younger and thinner.

I’m not kidding. And it hasn’t changed.

Check out the on-line Beauty Section. All kinds of articles about how to braid hair! Aaaand it’s just a bunch of twenty-year-olds with braids. ALL the articles have young models…unless you count the article about how to reverse aging naturally.

Bite me, More Magazine. Just bite me. Because anyone old enough to buy a house no longer wears braids.

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And O Magazine offers more of the same. Articles about all the best plastic surgery or how to dress around my “problem” of being too short or too busty.

Why is it MY problem and not the fashion industry’s problem?

Industry in Crisis

But then magazines complain, “No one is buying magazines anymore and the Internet and Pinterest and whine whine whine” Retailers complain and are closing stores at a record pace (I.e. Macy’s).

Is it the economy? Or are department stores and malls now ghost towns because retailers have nothing to offer us. They are all clamoring for the attention of the group with the lowest disposable income who are on Instagram instead of at the mall?

Tim Gunn is baffled at why designers are ignoring plus-sized women, and a potential 20+ BILLION dollar industry, but I am even more perplexed why they are ignoring women over 40.

And for those of us over 40 who are plus-sized? We…are…doomed.

We older women (all sizes) need more than the three currently available looks: Tragic Pole Dancer, DMV Employee and Woman at Church Who Brings Casseroles.

But it IS Changing

Part of why I wrote this blog is I saw THIS over the weekend and I am now madly, deeply in love with H&M. I want to be HER when I grow up.

OMG! YES!
OMG! YES!

H&M is also featuring a 60 year old swimsuit model!!!! Because apparently someone has figured out that women over 30 still wear SWIMSUITS! I am hoping this marks a meaningful shift because aging is a gift denied to many. If we take care of ourselves, we will spend DECADES being considered “old” unless we change things.

I want to be in love with my older face and older body. I want to embrace the curves I earned with bringing a son into the world. Pregnancy didn’t “wreck my figure,” it evolved it.

I want to enjoy my laugh lines not be attacking them with needles and lasers. I want to be able to look up to more women like Gillean McLeod who show me I will one day still be beautiful, just a different kind of beautiful.

Above everything, I want little girls to grow up and one day have permission to be women & to love being WOMEN.

What are your thoughts? Do you feel invisible? Are you excited about what H&M is doing? Would you love a Xena remake with Lucy? Would you love more fashion models who were mature women? Do you struggle with cleavage snacks? Are they considered calorie-free?

Can you think of some stories or characters who give us grown-up women heroes? I miss Golden Girls, personally. Hey, erotica authors. Y’all could give new meaning to “Hot Flash” 😀 .

And I know they do this crap to the men, too just differently. But if it makes the guys feel better, check out this Japanese runway model who is ALMOST EIGHTY! Hubby was ecstatic.

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of SEPTEMBER, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Check out the other NEW classes below! Including How to Write the Dreaded Synopsis/Query Letter! 

All W.A.N.A. classes are on-line and all you need is an internet connection. Recordings are included in the class price.

Upcoming Classes

NEW CLASS!

Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter & Synopsis that SELLS

You’ve written a novel and now are faced with the two most terrifying challenges all writers face. The query and the synopsis.

Query letters can be daunting. How do you sell yourself? Your work? How can you stand apart without including glitter in your letter?

***NOTE: DO NOT PUT GLITTER IN YOUR QUERY.

Good question. We will cover that and more!

But sometimes the query is not enough.

Most writers would rather cut their wrists with a spork than be forced to write the dreaded…synopsis. Yet, this is a valuable skills all writers should learn.

Sign up early for $10 OFF!!!

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist September 2nd–September 16th

All fiction must have a core antagonist. The antagonist is the reason for the story problem, but the term “antagonist” can be highly confusing. Without a proper grasp of how to use antagonists, the plot can become a wandering nightmare for the author and the reader.

This class will help you understand how to create solid story problems (even those writing literary fiction) and then give you the skills to layer conflict internally and externally.

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist Gold

This is a personal workshop to make sure you have a clear story problem. And, if you don’t? I’ll help you create one and tell the story you want to tell. This is done by phone/virtual classroom and by appointment. Expect to block off at least a couple hours.

Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line

September 7th

Log-lines are crucial for understanding the most important detail, “WHAT is the story ABOUT?” If we can’t answer this question in a single sentence? Brain surgery with a spork will be easier than writing a synopsis. Pitching? Querying? A nightmare. Revisions will also take far longer and can be grossly ineffective.

As authors, we tend to think that EVERY detail is important or others won’t “get” our story. Not the case.

If we aren’t pitching an agent, the log-line is incredibly beneficial for staying on track with a novel or even diagnosing serious flaws within the story before we’ve written an 80,000 word disaster. Perhaps the protagonist has no goal or a weak goal. Maybe the antagonist needs to be stronger or the story problem clearer.

In this one-hour workshop, I will walk you through how to encapsulate even the most epic of tales into that dreadful “elevator pitch.” We will cover the components of a strong log-line and learn red flags telling us when we need to dig deeper. The last hour of class we will workshop log-lines.

The first ten signups will be used as examples that we will workshop in the second hour of class. So get your log-line fixed for FREE by signing up ASAP.

Blogging for Authors

September 17th

Blogging is one of the most powerful forms of social media. Twitter could flitter and Facebook could fold but the blog will remain so long as we have an Internet. The blog has been going strong since the 90s and it’s one of the best ways to establish a brand and then harness the power of that brand to drive book sales.

The best part is, done properly, a blog plays to a writer’s strengths. Writers write.

The problem is too many writers don’t approach a blog properly and make all kinds of mistakes that eventually lead to blog abandonment. Many authors fail to understand that bloggers and author bloggers are two completely different creatures.

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

 

 

Jester Baby from Scarborough Faire
Jester Baby from Scarborough Faire

There is a lot of “stuff” going on in the world and many of us are hiding from our Facebook feeds. This is a scary blog to post (and is actually a repost) but I think maybe people need to hear what I am going to say…again.

LIGHTEN THE HELL UP!

It’s life and none of us are getting out alive.

This blog started when I ran across a post from Yahoo, Is America Starting to Target Thought Crime? In the past two years since I originally posted this, the emotions of our world have hit a boiling point. Remember that violence isn’t the only way to let off steam (though some unimaginative people seem to think it is). The other and preferable?

LAUGH.

Too Dangerous to Laugh

First, a little bit of history. In the days when monarchies were all the rage, there was one very powerful position some might not be aware of…the court jester. Every ruler had at least one jester and the jester was allowed to mock, poke fun and joke about those in power without repercussions.

The role of the jester was to offer honesty and perspective. Monarchs knew that being surrounded by too many Yes Men who feared reprisal was unwise and dangerous. The jester’s job was to ground rulers and keep them from getting too full of themselves.

I’ve been blessed to travel more than most people ever will, and not all my destinations were nice places. One thing every police state has in common is that no one has a sense of humor. Even innocent comments can be twisted into something dangerous because one is in a world where everyone is jockeying for even the slightest wedge of importance, even when it means bending the truth. Those closest can become “whistle-blowers” against crimes imagined or real. Hmmm, sounds familiar.

Charlie Chaplin. Image vie Wikimedia Commons
Charlie Chaplin. Image vie Wikimedia Commons

Public Pool Politics

Sadly, I’ve been at the other end of this. I love to laugh and relish in making others smile. Put me in a room and I’ll have them in stitches in less than five minutes. My teaching style has been compared to “If Robin Williams had taught writing.” When I was a kid I studied every comedic act down to the timing and tone of voice.

In 1999 I traveled with my best friend to live in a Palestinian refugee camp. Since my Arabic was less than stellar, it was tough. Syria, like all places, has its beauty. I loved the food and people and believed I’d made some friends.

One day, my guides took me to enjoy some recreation at the women’s pool where the hijab can be set aside to splash around and let loose. Being the only blonde many of these women had ever seen off a television, I was soon surrounded by eager friendly faces asking questions about my home, wanting to know about Texas and if I had a job.

In my broken Arabic I made jokes and got them to laugh. We parted ways and I was happy as a clam. The next day, my hosts warned me that it was too dangerous to return to the pool and to stay away. Apparently, one of the women had spread through the camp that I was talking smack about Assad Sr. (the ruling dictator of the time).

Errr?

I’d never even mentioned Assad. Yes, I was a naive Westerner but I wasn’t THAT stupid. My last weeks there were pretty scary and I’ve never been so relieved to be on a plane.

One pivotal lesson I took away from this experience is this:

A nation is only as free as its sense of humor.

When innocent remarks, observations or disagreements can be used against us? This is a MAJOR warning we are no longer in a free country. When certain groups are immune from criticism, jest or commentary? Houston, we have a problem.

The PC and EC Divide

I know the original purpose of political correctness was well-intended. I’m sure EC (empathetic correctness) has good intentions as well. But the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. I was a child of the 70s and 80s and often think it was a really golden time to grow up. My best friend from the age of six was an Egyptian Muslim (and we are still friends almost thirty years later).

Our neighborhood gang consisted of Charo (Mexican), Ngyuen (Vietnamese), and Regina (African American), Veenah (Indian), Cathy (Jewish), Elizabeth (Mexican), and Erica (Choctaw)…and none of us were aware of that.

We were friends who karate fought in the yard because Ngyuen was Asian and so he was supposed to be a Kung Fu master, right? Veenah helped with science and Charo taught us soccer, because Indians were smart and Mexicans were good at soccer.

Regina made us laugh because she was black and loud and fun and could Double Dutch so well we were sure she was a cyborg. Erica could decorate our hair with feathers and we could play Navy SEAL Indian Princess. Cathy declined to join us for Vacation Bible School because she was going to Jewish Camp (and we never understood why we couldn’t go to Jewish camp because the Jewish pool was AWESOME).

And all of this is racist and utterly politically incorrect.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Stephen Depolo.
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Stephen Depolo.

We never knew we might offend Charo by asking him to teach us to bounce a soccer ball on our knee. We never realized how we might damage Ngyuen by assuming he’d trained in a Shaolin temple and that we didn’t even have the right country.

I didn’t know I should have been ashamed to play Indian Princess with Erica or that I might hurt Regina by offering to share my slice of summer watermelon. I should have been aware that I might harm Veenah by asking for her help with my science project. In high school, perhaps I shouldn’t have asked my best friend and date to the Senior Prom, Donnie (gay), for fashion advice.

I was blissfully uneducated about how offensive I was.

We just loved each other, grew up loving each other and still love each other. Gihan (my Muslim friend) and I are still good friends and have been since 1981 (when Kristen had no Gaydar and was in love with George Michael *sighs*).

I still talk with Charo on FB and meet ever so often for dinner with other members of our gang. Erica invites me to birthday parties for her children. I was Ngyuen’s prom date when I was a junior and we only lost touch when he joined the Marines. I still go by his father’s house when I’m in the area even though his English hasn’t really improved since 1983…but he still loves me. Donnie and I talk long into the night when he isn’t exploring the world.

Land of the Free, Home of the Brave, Loyal, Friendly, Resilient MUTT

We grew up in an America of Mutts. I’m not saying that everything was roses and unicorn kisses, but we were American and America was stronger because we could blend all these cultures and races together. Children had this strange appreciation that we all bled the same color when we fell off the monkey bars. We cared less about the color of your skin and more about the color of your bike. They have BLUE????

We could tell the difference between a joke in love and someone being a racist bigot and Lord help the kid who crossed that line.

We were kids who wanted to roller-skate and who constructed ramps, guns, and swords out of every discarded piece of wood. In the glow of a streetlight everyone was pretty much the same color.

Bullfrogs ran from all of us.

No One’s Laughing Anymore

Image via Frank Selmo WANA Commons
Image via Frank Selmo WANA Commons

These days, I find myself less prone to joke or make conversation with others of a different ethnicity or culture because, bluntly, it’s exhausting and I always seem to screw it up. I find myself hedging everything I say, backpedaling, and struggling to remember my proper and approved PC vocabulary.

I once was trying to be polite when I referred to someone as Hispanic…only to be razed for the next half hour how this person was from Argentina and NOT Hispanic and I was a jerk for not knowing this. I referred to someone as African American only to get my tail handed to me that this person was from Jamaica and didn’t like that term and it figured a white girl would be so insensitive.

If someone is mixed race? *breaks down weeping*

When others make comments about me being a racist simply because I’m white and I point out that I actually have probably the most diverse group of friends anyone could ask for…well that’s precisely what a racist would say: “I have black friends.” But *stammering* I do have black, I mean African American I mean…oh, hell I give up.

This Affects ALL of U.S.

This isn’t a phenomena exclusive to “white people,” either. I remember my husband coming home from work distraught. He worked in Corporate America at the time. One of his team members was Mexican (as in her parents immigrated from Mexico and happily embraced the American Dream). Well, on Cinco de Mayo a fellow employee (also Mexican) asked her if she was going out to celebrate with “her people.” She gave him a genuinely confused look and said, “Huh? My people? I’m American.”

The next day she was being written up by Human Resources for being culturally insensitive. Her coworker found her offensive and turned her in. My husband was having to write out her defense. A MEXICAN female was in trouble for not being Mexican enough?

How does this make any SENSE?

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The real crisis in the country is we are laughing less and less. Everyone is special and fragile and needs to be handled with care. PC was to make us more sensitive and BOY did it work. Our nation has the skin of a grape. Self-importance is taking over like a malignant cancer. We walk on eggshells to avoid “offending” someone. We no longer can make mistakes. We are damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

For anyone reading this who is a “person of color” please try and talk to a “white” person. They probably aren’t a racist, they’re simply terrified they’ll say something stupid. And then being terrified we will say something stupid…we say something stupid.

So if we do say something stupid, just forgive us.

I AM the Reason for Many Blonde Jokes

Actual image of Kristen's Guardian Angel
Actual image of Kristen’s Guardian Angel

As much as I read about theoretical physics, math, politics, economics, I can be…well, an idiot. I drove my Honda for three years and all the while heard this weird whistling that I couldn’t get rid of. One night, I’m in a drive thru line and accidentally hit a button near the steering wheel and discovered my car had a sunroof *head desk*.

I once accidentally drove to MISSOURI.

Kill me now and keep me from breeding.

Just leaving all of this to say we need to laugh more. Because, come on, white people…THIS IS FUNNY!

I mean *sniffs* we do love cheese, but insensitive MUCH? 😛

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 11.17.08 AMThe world is amazing and fun but we have got to lighten UP. Yes, seek out legitimate injustice and crush it. I’ll be behind you a thousand percent.

But in the meantime….

Maybe we should all go outside and catch lightning bugs and make the longest Slip-And-Slide EVER. I get my lawn bags from Costco, so maybe we could make it reach DC ;).

I love all of you and thank you so much for blessing me with your thoughts and stories. I am a better person every day because of you. And know I was scared to write about this and that should speak volumes in itself.

But, I miss just being a kid. I don’t want to be an adult anymore.

If anyone reading this is an Ecuadorian Hassidic Jew, can we be friends? I don’t have an Ecuadorian Hassidic Jewish friend. Yes, you can dress me up but you can’t take me anywhere 😀 .

What are your thoughts? I love hearing from you, unless you have no sense of humor. Then might I recommend posting on AT&Ts Facebook page…

What are you? I’m a Scandinavian-Scottish-French-Huegenot-Sami-Cherokee. ADD THAT to your diversity portfolio!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of JUNE, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

May’s winner will be announced next time 😀 . I know I said this time but life happens and I am a writer and we lie.

Upcoming Classes

All W.A.N.A. classes are on-line and all you need is an internet connection. Recordings are included in the class price.

Again, I am trying something new and offering an open and interactive workshop. Is your first page strong enough to withstand the fire?

Battle of the First Pages

June 16th, 7-9 EST. Cost $25

This is an interactive experience similar to a gong show. We will upload the first page and I will “gong” when I would have stopped reading and explain why. We will explore what each writer has done right or even wrong or how the page could be better. This workshop is two hours long and limited seats available so get your spot as soon as you can!

So You Want to Write a Novel 

June 17th, 7-9 EST. Cost is $35

Just because we made As in high school or college English does not instantly qualify us to be great novelists. Writing a work that can span anywhere from 60,000 to 120,000+ words requires training. This class is for the person who is either considering writing a novel or who has written a novel(s) and is struggling.

We will cover the essentials of genre, plot, character, dialogue and prose. This class will provide you with the tools necessary to write lean and clean and keep revisions to a minimum.

Character & Plotting (NEW CLASS!)

June 24th, 2015 7:00-9:00 P.M. EST. Cost is $35

All great plots are birthed from character. The core plot problem should be the crucible that eventually reveals a hero in Act III. This means that characterization and plot are inextricably linked. Weak plot, weak character. Blasé character, blasé plot.

This class will teach you how to create dimensional characters and then how to plot from inner demons and flaws. Get inside the heads and hearts of your characters in a way that drives and tightens dramatic tension.

This is an excellent class for anyone who wants to learn how to plot faster and to add layers to their characters.

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook