Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

I can see how it happens now, the Twitter wars. In one of Douglas Adams’ Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books, can’t remember which one, we learn of the Krikkit Wars, where the peace-loving inhabitants of said planet end up reducing a whole galaxy to ashes (hence the rather distastefully named sporting trophy, the Ashes).

I got into a rage about a stupid article by a feminist journalist, who allowed herself to be used by a right-wing rag, for a piece which combined hypocritical titivation with self-righteous slut-shaming in a way that only such a cynical piece of toilet paper can.

I don’t know if Julie Bindel is vicious, reckless, cynical, gullible or just plain stupid. It was predictable they would use her that way. I suspect an inflated ego blinded her to the use they would make of her: why else would the Mail her a noted feminist? It aint because of the cogency of your argument. Sorry, love.

I stand by what I said about her article. But I got drawn into a much more blanket condemnation, in love with my own rhetorical declaration of war. In other words, I did exactly what I condemned her for.

I have been in conversation on Twitter with someone who describes herself as a radical feminist, with whom I have a lot of agreement. It’s caused me to reflect: is it fair to say all radical feminists are hateful?

She says they do good work for women, and once I allowed myself to think, I could recall lots of women who use that label about themselves and work tirelessly for rape crisis, women’s aid, against domestic violence and for lots of international causes. I lost a friend last year, a beautiful, loving woman who called herself a radical feminist, and whom it would be obscene to put in the same category as Bindel.

So to all those women who call themselves radical feminists and don’t attack women for their life choices, I apologise. I think your political analysis is wrong, but we can debate that. I think the ultimate logic of radical feminism is hatefulness, but that’s not the same as saying you are hateful. That’s like saying someone who is for immigration controls wants to burn down mosques or go on a killing spree like Anders Breivik. One may be the ultimate logic of the assumptions contained in the former, but that doesn’t mean they’re the same thing. And part of our debate would be to examine why I think one leads to the other, and to get you to abandon the former because of what it leads to.

So to all non-hating radical feminists out there, sorry, lets talk.But that does not mean a truce on the haters. To distinguish them I think we need a new term. In the ‘trans wars’, they came up with TERF: trans exclusionary radical feminist. So I’d propose WHERF: Women-Hating Radical Feminist, which is anyone who excludes from the category of women:

women whose sexual practices they don’t agree with (heterosexual, bisexual, role-playing lesbians, Butch/femme, ‘lipstick lesbians’, women who like porn, BDSM practitioners:);

women whose work they don’t approve of (sex workers, porn stars, lap-dancers);

women whose politics you don’t agree with (members of ‘male’ groups);

anyone not natural-born unambiguous-cis woman (trans, intersex, gender-fluid, gender-queer)…

Blimey, it’s exhausting just listing the exclusions. And I haven’t even started on exclusion-by-invisibility (women of colour, working class, disabled…

this could take a fucking long time

Anyway, if you exclude women on any of these grounds, you can fuck right off.

I give up on compiling the list, but women have been excluded either physically (trans women, sex workers) or by negating discourse (No woman likes porn; all PIV is rape…)

So non-exclusionary radfems lets talk.

WHERFs fuck off.

pornography — a genre that, incidentally, exclusively titillates men — LOL

I thought I’d mellowed, lapsed into a benign detached bemusement, thought my ranting days were over. But even the mellow me has limits. One provocation too far and I’m up shouting: “E-fucking-nough!”

It’s IWD and I’ve celebrated it for 40+ years. I’m broad-minded: if liberal hippies want local authority-funded face-painting and crystal healing, who am I to judge? Each to their own nonsense, I say. But there are limits.

When the Daily Mail – that bastion of women’s human rights – chooses to run a blatantly bi-phobic slut-shaming article by ‘feminist’ Julie Bindel, I think: WTF? It’s International women’s Day ffs! International Working Women’s Day of Solidarity, get out of my face you hateful bitch. And I choose those words advisedly.

In her article “Why I loathe lesbian chic,” Bindel choose to comment on model Clara Delavigne and her ‘lover’ actress Michelle Rodriguez. (Nice use of scare quotes there: always a good pointer of rational argument. “Delevingne, 21, has dated men such as One Direction’s Harry Styles but has been portrayed as inseparable from Rodriguez, who is 15 years her senior and who has also been out with men in the past.”

I know nothing about either of these women, but what a hateful piece of bitchy sniping – worthy of the worst celebrity gossip mag. Why the scare quotes? Has she less right to be her actual lover because she’s previously dated a man? And what’s with the “Delevingne, 21” and “ 15 years her senior”? Is she implying the older woman is a predator? Great bit of sexist stereotyping, sister! Or is it just he vacuous, gratuitous detail beloved of lazy journos?

Does any of this matter? They’re celebs, they’ve got PR, surely they can look after themselves.

Well, it does matter, precisely for the reason Bindel herself points out: the “impressionable young audience — some of whom are at an age when they may question their own sexuality”. What kind of message does her article give them?

Well, for starters, that there is no such thing as bisexuality. If you’ve dated a man, you can’t have a valid relationship with a woman; you can’t be lovers, only ‘lovers’ – phoney lipstick titillation for men. How fucking dare you, Julie Bindel? Did you think, for one second, the effect would have on the impressionable young woman who finds herself attracted to both men and women, or who, after dating a man, falls in love with a woman?

Do you know what it feels like to have your sexuality blanked and denied? Try to take that leap of imagination, Julie. Try to imagine being that young woman who come to question her desires, being told: you’ve got it wrong, there’s no such thing as what you’re feeling. What, you fancy boys and girls? No, you’re just doing it to tease your boyfriend.

Go on, Julie, search back in your memory. You were young once, you were uncertain, perhaps even a little shameful? How would it have felt to be told you don’t exist? Your love is only ‘love’, a pretend copy of the real thing. I hope you’re capable of feeling shame for what you told those young bisexual women.

And while we’re on the subject of shaming, what’s with the the Katy (“I kissed a girl”) Perry stuff? So she was briefly married to serial shagger Russell Brand? Does she deserve to be told about her actions – “such a sexual merry-go-round makes sex look temporary and trivial.” That’s slut-shaming in spades. And come to that, are we not allowed to have temporary sexual relationships? Is it Marriage-for-life with your first partner, or be damned to the hell of harmful, trivial stereotypes?

Now lets get to the most hilarious claim in the whole piece: “pornography — a genre that, incidentally, exclusively titillates men.” I’m not quoting this out of context or by sneaky clever selection. That remark, delivered with a throwaway incontestable assurance, should have her laughed out of any sane gathering. Porn is enjoyed “exclusively” by men. No woman likes pornography.

Are you mental, woman? I could produce dozens of women I know personally who do. And no, we aren’t all forced to look at it by our boyfriends, pimps, tyrannical husbands. This is the 21st century ffs. We can look it up all on our little ownsome. In fact, one change that I would note is that more women are accessing porn now from their own computers, now that they don’t have to venture into sleazy sexshops. Though some of us like the extra frisson we find a sleazy Soho den confers.

And what about those impressionable young women? Lets imagine, it’s easy if you try, a young woman who likes to look at pictures of other young women kissing. (I know I do.) imagine she finds other pics of them doing other things, and she finds these even more exciting, and she seeks them out. What will say to her? Get back, you slut, these are male fantasies of lesbians, you mustn’t like them, you mustn’t be aroused by them. What are you some kind of freak?

I’d be the first to admit that most porn is crap. Most everything is crap – books, films, newspaper articles. You’ve got to seek out the good stuff. It takes effort, and sometimes you’ll settle for the McDonalds’ meal the cheap supermarket chocolate: it’s better than nothing. It’s an unfortunate fact that the inexperienced will come across more crap. It takes a certain amount of discernment to wade through to the good stuff.

But if you humiliate them for even trying, if you tell them they’re freakish pseudo-men (because no woman likes porn), then you’ll deepen their confusion and silence their sexual self-expression. By all means point them to the good stuff, warn them to exercise some judgement, but stop with the shaming, eh?

 

PiBoIdMo

Posted: October 28, 2013 in Uncategorized

Image

I have just signed up to PiBoIdMo. The idea is to come up with 30 picture book ideas in a month. I was going to do NaNoWriMo but I’m off to Barcelona for an Improv Festival and then to London for my nephew’s wedding, so I suspect I’m only going to have little itty bits of time. A picture book idea a day strikes me as do-able. Lets see how it goes. I already have one: The Great Storm (that never was – up here).

The London Book Fair felt very different this year. Previously, print publishers ruled the roost and showcased their star authors (Hilary Mantel, and in YA, Anthony Horowitz and Patrick Ness). They were stridently denying the digital revolution would have any impact on ‘real’ books.

This year the Kobo logo was everywhere, and the Books Are My bag give-away sounded a very defensive note. People who buy real (print) books from real (bricks-and-mortar) bookshops are now a niche who need to distinguish themselves with special markers. Once that was all there was, now – Welcome to the Age of the Algorithm.

New Adult

As a YA author my focus was on YA as a genre and how to get visibility as an author in the new digital world, and the intersection of the two (blogging, niche branding).

Two seminars examined the new genre of New Adult (New and Opening Markets: Young adult, teen, new adult and crossover

New-Adults-Steamies-Crossed-Genres–Reinventing-Teen-Fiction). Was it just YA with added sex? Is it defined by who reads it or the age/ life stage of the protagonist (leaving home, first years of college)?

Authors seemed to feel that it was a marketing invention aimed at the 18-25 age group with outliers, bright aspiring younger readers and some 25-35s, settled with young families looking back nostalgically on their college years. Though Abbi Glines said she had met readers in their 70s. All agreed that, because of the age of the protagonist (16+) you could include more sex, but what was really the focus of interest was romance, relationships, independence and self-discovery. Twilight readers grown up, pushing into chicklit territory.

It also seems to be driven by an audience raised on tv (Girls, Skins)

Discoverability

On the author side the buzz word is discoverability. Self-publishing is now technically simple, but how do you get any sort of visibility as an author? A number of seminars addressed this (Successful-Self-Publishing; branding, and what authors need to know; Good Reads; Amazon CreateSpace and KDP). I found all these useful and will write up in more detail. The star turn, though, which made the whole visit worthwhile was Advanced Online Marketing for Authors. I will devote a whole page to the enthusiastic Joanna Penn’s tips. I’ve paid hundreds of pounds over the years for workshops and seminars on how to ‘break in’ but this was simply the best.

 

Blogging

Then there were the intersectional book bloggers, of whom the most prolific are YA readers, with publishers now knocking at their doors for reviews and coverage.

Inclusivity

Equal Measures: Achieving diversity and equality in children’s books has now become something of an institution at LBF. I was particularly interested in the issue of gender and LGBT representation. As one of the speakers pointed out the BT bit tends to get lost. Where are the bi and trans characters in YA fiction? The few that there are tend to come from the US. I’ll be asking for suggestions of UK YA books that present positive representations.

Pitching Your Project

Posted: March 9, 2012 in Uncategorized

I am republishing this post to give participants at my Pitching Your Book workshop an idea of what’s in store. the workshop is modelled on the one given by Northern Film and Media. First posted this Jan 2010.

This was a fantastic experience, a workshop at Northern Film and Media, supported by the Indie Training Fund. The trainer, Christina Burnett, has worked with the greats. I felt awed and a bit intimidated to be there at all.

Tip

Name check who you’ve worked with, who likes your work: it makes your audience sit up and take notice.

Of course, this goes against all one’s upbringing. We have what is called in the MoneySupermarket ad an overdeveloped cringe gland. Ugh! Do I have to? Are people really that superficial? Shouldn’t the work speak for itself? Yes; yes; yes; and no, it won’t get the chance. Shy bairns get nowt.

What the workshop, throughout the day, demonstrated by putting us in the position of commissioners, was that we all make those instantaneous judgements. Commissioners, and that includes editors, agents and anyone who is in a position to green light a project, will be wading through thousands of submissions. Your work won’t get a chance to speak for itself unless it get noticed in the first place.

What struck me immediately was the difference between writers and producers in this respect. We writers were all shrinking violets compared to the producers and directors. Well, we’ll just have to get over it.

Christina explained that there are generally three stages or forms of pitching: verbal, written, and audio-visual/ supporting material. I’ll deal with these in three separate articles

Procrastination challenge

Posted: March 9, 2012 in Uncategorized

Dear Mslexia,

I turned eagerly to the article from life coach Bekki Hill about procrastination. I was sorely disappointed. As a chronic procrastinator, I was looking for the ‘cures for procrastination’ promised on the cover. I am sure most of your readers – self-defined ‘women who write’ – would have expected tips on how to overcome their own procrastinating tendencies. They certainly wouldn’t have been satisfied with a punch-line that says: she never really wanted to write in the first place and she needs therapy for deep-seated psychological issues! I am sure there are cases which are inappropriate to be dealt with by a life coach, and that some would-be writers don’t want to write at all, but I question the value of such a case study in a magazine for women who do write.

My initial reaction was to throw the magazine aside, snorting “I could do better than that. I’ve read every book there is on the subject of procrastination, will-power and self-discipline.” So this is my challenge both to you and myself: let me write the article I (and thousands of other procrastinating writers) would like to have read. I am aware that ‘waiting for a reply to my query’ is among the top ten procrastinating strategies, I will commit in public, on my blog The Ticking Clock to undertake my own procrastination/ will-power challenge – over the course of 10 weeks I will test out prescriptions for overcoming procrastination, resisting distraction and other temptations.

 

This is a report I wrote after the Northern Film and Media Pitching Your Project workshop, which may be of interest to those attending the SSWAG Pitching Your Book workshop tomorrow:

There were 9 participants with 9 projects. We were given 9 minutes to read all 9 one-page proposals. We were to notice what struck us going through them all, and if any one stood out.

tell me less

This, for me, was the most eye-opening moment of the day. I looked at the 9 proposals before me. More than 9 pages: some people hadn’t kept to the limit. My overwhelming feeling was: tell me less.

I wanted some way to sift through the information coming at me. Christina’s words: give them what they need to know up front, I heartily endorse. Be clear. Suddenly the truth of that was borne in on me quite physically. I couldn’t see what I was looking at. Where’s the white space?

what I noticed

The difference between the verbal and the written pitches. The two that stood out on the verbal pitching would, if I’m honest, have gone in the bin on the strength of the written effort. One, for the spelling and grammar; the other, because it looked utterly boring – solid blocks of uninterrupted text.

Tip

Play to your strengths. If you’re a bubbly attractive presenter, but not so hot on your written pitch, get help on your weaker area. Spell-check and double check; run it past a writer friend; as with the verbals: practice, practice, practice.

Clarity and concision

My written pitch was commented on by half the participants as a model of clarity and concision. You can see it here. Don’t, though, copy it. It has its faults. And your pitch must represent your vision, your strengths.

I could claim credit for it, but really it’s the flip side of my lack of preparation. I was given a last-minute place on the workshop after someone dropped out. I had a few hours’ notice to create my one-page proposal. Less is more. The time limit concentrated my mind. I also emailed to find out what it should include and the preferred format.

Tip

Give them what they ask for, not more. If they say one-page, give them one page. If you don’t know what they want, ask – or look at their website. You can always point them to where they can look for more. Which brings me to:

CONTACT DETAILS

None of us put our details on our proposal. Always, always do this. (Unless it’s for a competition, in which case follow the Rules.) You’re not a secret agent. Every piece of paper or media that emanates from you should point straight back at you. You want them to know how to contact you, to see more, to arrange a meeting. On multi-page documents, put page numbers, title and some identifier in the footer.

Lay-out tips

  • no tiny fonts. 11 or 12 point for preference
  • don’t use Times Roman, sans serif fonts are easier to read, and more web-compliant
  • bold titles but don’t waste space with huge fonts in the title
  • use sub-heads for things you want to draw attention to
  • use bullet points or numbered lists
  • allow some white space
  • see below for the special rules for feature film scripts

Content tips

  • be concise: leave them wanting to know more
  • use hook-lines and images
  • have a clear premise
  • have an easy-to-read summary or synopsis
  • strong characters, vividly presented
  • read your summary for pace
  • if you have a ‘name’ on board, that will act as a hook
  • a clear lay-out should reflect a clear concept

Striking graphics

  • use colour, but test on a monochrome printer – your proposal may be photocopied and you still want it to be legible
  • for factual or entertainment programmes, use pictures, sketches and other graphics
  • for drama scripts, your words should paint the pictures
  • use your company logo or brand. Every proposal is a marketing opportunity

shortlist of thousands

Yes, you read that right. Channel 4 considered a shortlist of over a thousand for 46 programme slots. Commissioners receive thousands of submissions a year. This is what we’re up against. A minute to scan a proposal is probably quite generous.

what is it?

They are looking for this basic information: genre, length and format, number of episodes, channel, strand, slot on the schedule, audience.

who are you?

All contact details. If you are a company, who is the named contact person for the project?

Why are you the person/ people to do it? Can you deliver? What is your track record? For drama, the most important person is the writer. If you have a ‘name’ on board, use it.

can we afford it?

Always include a budget or at least a ball-park figure. They need to know what it will cost, and what sort of production values. If your budget is substantially over the norm, you need to justify it. If it is cheaper, then you can use it as a selling point (provided you can deliver on budget). Everyone loves a bargain.

always prepare for the best case

Dating books recommend you wear underwear that you wouldn’t mind being seen in by George Clooney. (I had to type that sentence very carefully: with George Clooney, in George Clooney, in with George Clooney, within George Clooney.)

Buyers are looking for something to fall in love with. Your project may be it.

FEATURE FILMS: special rules

Feature film scripts follow a rigid (and boring) format. If you deviate from it, you mark yourself out as an amateur. You can find out about film script formats in any screenwriting book.

Drama scripts also follow industry-standard formats. You can download a template from the BBC Writers Room.