Tag Archives: women

2012 Litquake: Women Writing for Change

Litquake 2012

For those of you who missed my presentation, here’s the introduction of my discussion about women writing for change presented during the opening day of Litquake, as part of the Off the Richter Scale series:

A woman who writes for change is unafraid of taking on the challenges of the real world and exploring solutions through her writing. As a writer of women’s fiction, my stories tend to focus on how the larger world affects the character’s smaller world. For example, my latest novel, Out of Balance, grew out of my interest in how the Great Recession impacted women, particularly women forced into the workplace like my narrator, Beverly Mael, who was content being a stay-at-home wife and mother until her husband became unemployed.

Men lost 3 times as many jobs as women in 2009, according to Falling behind: the Impact of the Great Recession and the Budget Crisis on California’s Women and Their Families, published by the California Budget Project. This research coincides with a study conducted by Pew Research Center in 2010, in which 22 percent of women were found to out earn their husbands. This phenomenon is not limited to any socio-economic class. It is culturally pervasive. In the June 2012 issue of Allure magazine, actress Elizabeth Banks discusses what it feels like to be a woman who out earns her husband. “It’s not easy,” Banks says. “We’re the first generation to do it. And it’s very ingrained even in our DNA that men are hunter-gatherers who are meant to go off and provide. And that we are really meant to stay at home and have kids…We’re all figuring the same thing out.”

My interviews with women confirmed what Banks expressed: it is true that more women are employed and earning more than their male counterparts, but a lot of them feel ambivalent about their role as breadwinners. They no longer have the luxury to take a lower-paying job that’s more fulfilling or stay home and raise their children. They have to work. The men I spoke with are just as confused and disheartened by being thrown into the role of primary caretakers. They are learning how to be room parents and tutors and chauffeurs, chefs and housekeepers and bookkeepers. Both men and women have had their worlds thrown out of balance.

To discover how one couple adapted to their new roles, read Out of Balance, available in hardback, paperback, and e-book (Nook, Kindle, and other formats).

Eat, Breathe, Write

Most male readers assume I write from personal experience.  Why?  A lot of my fiction revolves around women’s issues.  One man read the back cover of Legs, which included my bio, and said, “You write about yourself.”  Since the heroine is a Realtor and I work as a Realtor, he assumed I was writing a thinly disguised autobiography.  That was hardly the case.  Another man read the summary of Out of Balance and said, “A former housewife. . .That must be you.”  Oh, how I wish!  Only in my wildest fantasies have I been a housewife.  These men would not assume I was writing about myself if my novels focused on male issues, such as men in the workplace or men on the hunt for true love.  They would, however, assume I was writing about a man I know, perhaps a husband, a brother, an uncle, a father, or a friend.

Most women, on the other hand, want to know how I find time to write.  A lot of the women who ask this question are also working women with families.  They get up early, stay up late, and always seem to be falling behind.  They want to know if there is a secret formula they can use to achieve their own dreams.  I tell these women I’ve been writing most of my life.  I published my first essay at the age of 10 and was paid $50.  Five years later, my first poem was published in a national magazine.  By the time I was 17, I was working as a reporter.  Writing is something I have done before I started working and before I had a family.  It’s as elemental as eating and sleeping.  I’m sure others have developed habits over the years that have become so much a part of  their lives that they take it for granted when people ask, “How do you do what you do?”

Finally, most of my writing ideas come from my observations of life, particularly anything odd or unusual or interesting.  For example, listening to a beauty school student talk about the challenges of learning the trade inspired the short story, “A Cut Above,” which is featured in my upcoming short story collection, The Human Act and Other Stories.  Twenty years ago, I puzzled over the mystery of point of view after reading a police report about an auto accident told from multiple bystanders.  Each person witnessed the same event, but each person described it so differently, it may as well have been a different accident.  For years, I wondered how one person’s facts could become another person’s fiction.  Eventually, I addressed this issue in the short story, “Out of Focus,” which is also included in The Human Act and Other Stories.

Sometimes a perfect storm happens where something so odd, unusual or interesting happens to me.  That’s when I write autobiographically.  And I’ll proudly say, “Yes, this is about me.”  But, unfortunately, that’s the only time no one asks.

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