SDFOB: Women Writing Fiction

And Finally – Women Writing Fiction

This seminar was by far the one I was most looking forward to! I read a lot of fiction written by women and I love it. Going in to the seminar, my anticipated “headliner” was Brit Bennet, author of The Mothers, that I read a few years ago when it was chosen as a Book of the Month Choice. It turns out she grew up right here in Oceanside!

However, I was definitely quick to judge when I predicted she would be the most impressive woman on this panel – the other two women blew me away and I want to share the author love for each of them!

T. Greenwood

Most Recent Novel: Rust & Stardust

Tammy (what T stands for — I had the hardest time finding her on Goodreads after the festival because she doesn’t go by Tammy!) was such a beautiful, artistic, creative, and passionate soul. I was so impressed by so many things about her, but first and foremost that she has published TWELVE novels!

I really just enjoyed her energy and her ability to give the uncomfortable answer. On the topic of “women’s fiction” where others didn’t like the title but didn’t want to start a war, she was so ready to say “I have a serious problem with it!” I loved that because I totally agree and never classify a novel as women’s fiction.

I also enjoyed hearing how she funded her work – she has had every job in the book from waitress, to retail, to coffee barista! Now she’s able to write her novels, teach writing at a local university, and mentor/ freelance edit for other authors.

It was such a pleasure to “meet” Tammy, and I’m looking forward to reading some of her twelve novels!

Michelle Gable

Most Recent Novel: The Summer I Met Jack

Michelle Gable was another author I am surprised I hadn’t heard of – her energy was contagious and I found myself wanting to be her best friend.

Some of the highlights of her answers include that she always sets her books in beautiful places so she can visit — her first book is titled A Paris Apartment — and she didn’t publish her first book until she was 40 years old (this blew me away because Michelle is so gorgeous and full of young energy. Not that there’s anything wrong with being over 40, but I never would have guessed her age!)

To fund her writing process (and life in general) Michelle worked for almost 20 years in finance. Her advice is that the best way to be a writer is to be busy — she said she’s actually finding is equally as hard to find time to write when she’s doing it full time as when she only had an hour a day but she was committed to that hour a day. As an engineer, I totally feel this sentiment!

The most passionate answer Michelle gave is that it’s easy to write strong women because she is one and she is surrounded by many. Just be listening to her speak you knew this was true – she spoke with so much passion, excitement, and confidence and I loved it!

And in terms of supporting others and giving back,  Michelle shared that she is an avid readers and reviews all the books she reads on Goodreads. She also pre-orders hardcover versions of debut authors. These are some excellent peeks in to how the industry works and some of the best ways to support authors, so I think we should all take a page out of Michelle’s book – figuratively of course.

Brit Bennet

Most Recent Novel: The Mothers

Brit was truly unique on this panel — she was by far the youngest, the only one to not have a children (yet), the only one to only have one book published so far, the only one to be able to write full time since publishing her first book, and the only one to have an absolute sensation of a debut.

Despite all of those comparisons, Brit showed wisdom beyond her years with each of her answers. In each round of questions, she would answer last and start by saying, “Yeah, what they said,” but then continue to blow me away with some of her answers. As I’m writing this in Portugal without my notebook, I can’t remember her exact words, but it’s important to know that Brit is wise, elequent, and so impressive in her modest confidence.

What I didn’t know when I read the Mothers was that she wrote that novel in graduate school!!! She had it picked up by a publisher (not to mention Book of the Month!) and therefore was able to go in her career as a full time author — a rarity in this industry!

While she only has one book out right now, I can’t wait to read what she writes next.

Final Thoughts

This panel did a few things for me — first and foremost, it inspired me to write a book (TBD if I’ll ever do it, but I would love to! More on that in a later post, probably)

Some of the common themes were that it’s hard to be a writer. Each of the author’s who have published more than one book shared that they’ve written way more books than they’ve had published. Brit Bennett is truly the exception here! They also shared that book tours are hard on the mind and the body (BB included here). Brit said even touring in her twenties was hard – she was so excited to visit friends in cities that she’d visit on her tour, but soon realized how exhausted she was and how much she just wanted to sleep when she arrived in a new city. I’ve heard others (Backman) speak about this, and even insist that his family join him on his most recent book tour, but he presented it more in the context of anxiety. Hearing from these women showed me that it’s really just hard to be an author and be on tour — it’s not the glamorous life we (well at least I) dream of.

Speaking of glamorous lives, each woman on the panel said that they watch and love Younger (my latest Hulu binge-watching show!) Their comments were that they’ve never seen publishers who are so attractive, so wealthy, or have such nice offices, but that they absolutely love watching it. Me too!!

Overall, this panel was my favorite of the day (clearly), and was both so inspiring and so informative.  I love knowing that each of the authors live (or grew up) in San Diego and intend to read their books and continue to support my local authors.

Have you read books by these three? Do you know which authors live in your city?

SDFOB: LGBTQ Fiction and Nonfiction

On August 25th, I attended the San Diego Festival of Books. It was my first ever Book Festival and I loved it! My favorite part, unexpectedly, was getting the chance to learn about so many local authors! So often in the book blog/bookstagram scene we hear about big presses and bestsellers, but it was great to hear about smaller indie authors and publishing houses, but also bestsellers living in our very own city! I loved that my first book festival was in a small city, and I definitely plan to attend again next year.

Over the coming days I’ll share a bit about each of the three seminars I attended – each were so unique!

Next Up – LGBTQ in Fiction and Nonfiction

LGBTQ literature has been such a growing genre over the past few years. It was celebrated in full this year in the book community — if you’re interested, NYC Book Girl did a great Pride Reads list.

Personally, I’ve been luke warm on the topic recently – not for any change of heart on the topic itself, but I’ve found that the “pride reads” I’ve been reading recently have been extremely over sexualized. I’m not a romance reader of any orientation (meaning I don’t really enjoy romance scenes of straight couples), but I do love a good rom-com story regardless of sexual orientation. My issue comes from the fact that I often find writers feel the need to create romance scenes in LGBTQ books more so than they would for straight couples. I find that weird and unnecessary. My main recent examples of this are Ohio and The Immortalists.

Anyway, all this is to say that I was really looking forward to an LGBTQ panel to discuss LBGTQ literature and maybe get an answer to my question of am I unconsicously being biased or is it weird that many LGBTQ books have very intense sex scenes. (If you have feelings on this please share in the comments!)

Ultimately, I didn’t get my question answered, nor was there really any stimulating conversation on the topic, but the two books presented were interesting and contained some food for thought. One small pet peeve (and maybe this is too intrusive of me) but I had hoped for a little more personal information from the authors on this very personal topic – were they gay? Either way, did that impact the way they approached their writing? What do they think of other pride books out there in the world? I just had so many questions, and expected a bit more from this panel.

Book 1: Harvey Milk – His Lives and Death by Lillian Faderman

Lillian was a joy to hear speak – she’s most well known for her book The Gay Revolution and has written twelve books, this being her latest.

In talking about this book, Lillian focused on the impact of Harvey Milk. His story (being the first out gay man elected to public office and soon thereafter being assassinated) is so well known, so, when she was approached about writing the book, she questioned whether there was anything new to add to the story. She ultimately decided that yes, there is more to be added, because so much of his impact has been felt between the publishing of previous biographies and now.

The personal San Diego tie in this seminar was that the first out lesbian elected official in San Diego was in the audience. Since that time, there has always been at least one out LGBTQ person elected to an office in San Diego and today there are many. It was interesting and personal to see these stories in real life, that may not have been possibly without the advancement of LGBTQ rights fought for by Harvey Milk.

One other interesting thing mentioned was that Lillian admitted that at first she fell in love with her subject. But as she got in to her writing process, she realized that she needed to write all of Harvey Milk, “warts” and all, to use her words.

If you’re looking for a well rounded biography of Harvey Milk – his best assets, worse qualities, and a thorough study of his impacts on today – I would definitely suggest you look in to this one!

Book 2: Scissors, Paper, Stone by Martha K. Davis

The next speaker, Martha, had a bit of a harder time getting her book through publication. She wrote this novel back in 1998 – that’s twenty years ago! At the time the LGBTQ movement wasn’t as active as it is now, nor was it as popular in mass market literature, so the book didn’t sell. She abandoned the book enough to write another novel, but never really let it go.

Martha stated that she didn’t want to go to a “lesbian” publishing house, and so she didn’t, but she also didn’t have much luck at the more main stream publishing houses. Ultimately, she got this book published by submitting it to a queer lit award from Red Hen Press and winning the contest! It took a lot of work, but this piece is finally published and Martha said, somewhat abashed, that she’s happy with it!

As a reader of diverse literature, I was surprised this book didn’t receive more attention – although I haven’t read it, so I can’t make any sweeping generalizations. The story is about a couple who adopt a Korean-American baby, and raise her lovingly through adulthood. The plot twist arises when the child grows up to discover that she is gay and wonders what this will mean for her. One of the artistic qualities that Martha displayed in the excerpt she read was about how being Korean-American is a difference that is celebrated and that maybe if being a lesbian were as openly accepted as being Korean-American, she wouldn’t feel so lonely.

I thought that was a great sentiment to frame a book around and I hope I get a chance to read this book in the future.

Final  Thoughts

Both of the authors had thoughts on lesbian publishing houses, and also LGBTQ/Women’s bookstores. They said that in terms of advancing LGBTQ writing, it’s harmful that women’s bookstores are disapearing across the US. As a borderline millenial, I had to admit I had never heard of a Women’s Bookstore and was kind of surprised at there being such a thing (and also a nostalgia for them). I think the key is to promote diverse books like these and get them in to the common bookstores that so many people are visiting!

Do you like the sound of these books? Do you often read LGBTQ literature?


SDFOB: Military Nonfiction

On August 25th, I attended the San Diego Festival of Books. It was my first ever Book Festival and I loved it! My favorite part, unexpectedly, was getting the chance to learn about so many local authors! So often in the book blog/bookstagram scene we hear about big presses and bestsellers, but it was great to hear about smaller indie authors and publishing houses, but also bestsellers living in our very own city! I loved that my first book festival was in a small city, and I definitely plan to attend again next year.

There were so many seminars I wanted to attend, but I ended up choosing three as to not max myself out. I was also aware of the fact that this was a weekend and I never want book blogging to feel like a job or an obligation, so I wanted to make sure I had fun the whole time. I definitely did and I wanted to share a little bit of information on the seminars with you!

Over the coming days I’ll share a bit about each of the three seminars I attended – each were so unique!

First up — Military Non Fiction

I’ve been really interested in Military nonfiction in the past year. It’s partially a result of living in San Diego, so close to a huge navy and marines base, but also just through reading different stories of different time periods. I’ve found that war has been such a backdrop for our life in the last century, and I’m so curious to learn more about it.

The books shared in this seminar were both remarkable — I ended up not buying them at the festival because this was the first lecture we attended and I felt like I was just being trigger happy, but then bought them both online because this seminar was so good.

BOOK 1: Saigon Kids by Les Arbuckle

You may know this story from another medium — the movie Good Morning, Vietnam? I’m not a movie buff, but everyone I’ve talked to since has told me they’ve seen the movie and that it does indeed feature a radio station in Saigon, Vietnam. The story here is that Les Arbuckle’s father was the guy who set up the Armed Forces Radio in Vietnam. (If you’ve seen the movie, Les let us in on the secret that the way Robin Williams said “Good Morning, Vietnam” was pretty different from how his dad said it, but both were equally entertaining!)

Les was 13 when his family moved in Saigon in 1963. There wasn’t a military base, but there was a large military presence. Les tells the story of his life there – hailing a cab for no money at all, attending the American Community School, and getting in to more trouble than his parents would ever like to hear about! (unfortunately they passed away quite young, so they weren’t around for the publishing of this book.)

It was forty years after his time in Saigon, that Les decided to write this books, but as he explained, he wrote from memory — to start he wrote down everything he remembered in no order at all, just let the memories flow. And then he put them in chronological order, and as he worked through that, other memories came to the surface. At first, Les wanted to write a screenplay, but he joked, he didn’t know how to write a screenplay! He didn’t know much about writing books either, but he made do. 🙂

I’m really excited to read Les’s book. I think it will be filled with humor, adventure, and also perspective.

BOOK 2: No Forgotten Fronts by Lisa Shapiro

This story is truly so unique and so San Diego. It is a compilation (with some helpful commentary) of letters that students who attended SDSU, and went on to fight in World War II, sent to a professor who asked them to keep in touch.

Beyond asking the students to keep in touch, Dr. Post, sent out a monthly newsletter. We all know military personel rarely stay in one place, but the miltary postal service is allegedly very good at forwarding mail, and Dr. Post was able to get in contact with her students very regularly and share news and updates!

Lisa read a few sections of her book, and described a few more, and each time she spoke, I had chills at the messages in her story and the realness that they projected. She told one story about the men who were sent to D-Day who didn’t know they were being sent there, and one student wrote “tough men had tears in their eyes” at seeing the statue at Normandy Beach, and as Lisa said, “they knew what they were fighting for.” Man, it still gets me. Just the courage and tenacity of these men who went willingly to war on the front lines.

What made this experience extra special was when the woman in front of me stood up and said, she wasn’t finished reading the book, but she had been friends with one of the students writing the letters for FORTY years. It meant the world to her to have this book published. As soon as Lisa had finished reacting and letting the reader know how much that meant to her, the woman across the aisle stood up and said that one of the students was her dad. She smiled while saying THANK YOU FOR WRITING THIS BOOK and that she had purchased ten copies. I loved experiencing this moment and it definitely pushed me over the edge to buying this book.

Final Thoughts

One point made during the panel to really differentiate between the two books was that “letters are written in the moment” versus a memoir that has more time to reflect. While this was said to increase the value of No Forgotten Fronts, I think it has equal value for Saigon Kids. A memoir of the early days of the American occupation of Vietnam with forty years of perspective is definitely something I’m here for!