A Word with Writers Event: Mira Jacob and Kirstin Valdez Quade

June 14, 2015 § 3 Comments

June 15, 2015

The Sleepwalkers Guide to Dancing and Night at the Fiesta Books

The Sleepwalkers Guide to Dancing and Night at the Fiestas Books

I picked up two new books at Saturday’s A Word with Writers event, featuring Mira Jacob and Kirstin Valdez Quade, as part of a series sponsored by Bookworks to benefit the Albuquerque Public Library Foundation.

First the authors read excerpts from their books:

The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob:

“Amina wasn’t totally sure where one should be when one’s brother was being seduced, but she was pretty sure the backseat was not the right place.”

Night at the Fiestas by Kirstin Valdez Quade:

“Frances was pretending to be someone else, someone whose father was not the bus driver.”

During the Q&A that followed, I asked the question:

“I’ve read a lot of articles lately that discuss how even though there is a desire among readers for more diversity in books, there are still barriers to the publication of diverse books. Did either of you encounter these types of barriers in your publication process, and if so, what were they and how did you overcome them?”

Question for A Word with Writers Event on diversity in publishing.

Question for A Word with Writers Event on diversity in publishing. Yep, I wrote it down first.

Mira Jacob said that when she first started writing, she assumed that readers would only want stories from a white American viewpoint, so she wrote white American main characters. The stories were awful because they were not authentic for her. Once she started writing from a viewpoint that was true for her, (an Indian immigrant family adjusting to life in the U.S., including New Mexico!), readers were very receptive. She did add that when approached about a movie version of her book, the executives were worried that there weren’t enough Indians in America to constitute a good-sized audience. “What about everybody else in America?” Jacob said. “But that’s Hollywood.”

Mira Jacob signs "The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing" at A Word with Writers event sponsored by Bookworks to benefit the Albuquerque Public Library Foundation.

Mira Jacob signs “The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing” at A Word with Writers event sponsored by Bookworks to benefit the Albuquerque Public Library Foundation.

Kirstin Valdez Quade agreed that readers are by nature empathetic and want to read books from different cultures and ethnicities, but the publishing industry tends to be risk adverse, and anything non-white can be seen as a risk.

Kirstin Valdez Quade signs "Night at the Fiestas" at A Word with Writers event sponsored by Bookworks to benefit the Albuquerque Public Library Foundation.

Kirstin Valdez Quade signs “Night at the Fiestas” at A Word with Writers event sponsored by Bookworks to benefit the Albuquerque Public Library Foundation.

One extra tidbit that was super exciting for me, of must-cut-down-word-count fame: both Jacob and Quade tend to overwrite and then trim down, a lot. Jacob admitted her original draft of The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing was twice as long. Twice!

I’m in good company.

Weekend Reading: Not That Kind of Girl

May 4, 2015 § 2 Comments

May 4, 1015

I put a library hold on Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham because the book is on all kinds of “must read” lists and also because my actress/filmmaker friend Dia told me all about Dunham just before she became so well-known for her HBO series Girls. When a copy finally became available three months after I put it on hold, though, I sat down in the library to read the first few pages before I committed to checking it out. After all, I’m trying to get a submission ready. I have a crap ton of books on my to-read shelf. If I actually checked out this particular book, I would have to finish it in the next two weeks because forget trying to renew it. (There are currently 16 holds on 14 copies.)

Not That Kind of Girl book cover

I was sold at “But I want to tell my stories, and, more than that, I have to in order to stay sane.”

What made me get up out of the library chair and immediately go check the book out, though, was Dunham’s hope that her stories will, among other things, stop the reader from “thinking that it was your fault when the person you are dating suddenly backs away, intimidated by the clarity of your personal mission here on earth.”

Because I remembered all the dates that stopped happening and the relationships that ended shortly after the guy realized just how serious I am about this writing thing. And now I realized that it was okay.

It really is okay.

Weekend Reading: How to Be a Woman

March 30, 2015 § Leave a comment

March 30, 2015

I checked out How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran because it, along with My Horizontal Life, was on Buzzfeed’s 32 Books Guaranteed to Make You Laugh Out Loud.

How To Be A Woman

I was definitely trying to contain my giggling and snorting while reading this book at the pedicure salon. Moran’s essays on such subjects as the trap women have fallen into of spending time and money on waxing and wearing inadequate underwear are painfully hilarious:

“A man may think, I have a party next week. I’d better roughly scrub my face before I tootle on out the door.

A woman, on the other hand, will call up the calendar in her head—like the midair screens in Minority Report—and start a cycle of furious planning, based around hair management.”

Um, guilty. Only I get out my scary day planner.

“A case in point: a few months ago, I was on a crowded tube with a friend of mine, who gradually grew paler and quieter until she finally leaned forward and admitted that her knickers were so skimpy, her front bottom had eaten them entirely.  . . . Clearly, this is not right. Jesus Christ. Underpants like this need to be bombed back to the Stone Age. Batman doesn’t have to put up with this shit—why should we?”

Thank you. If a pair of panties doesn’t provide ass coverage, I ain’t buying it.

And here is my favorite bit on the ludicrousness of proclaiming to not be a feminist:

“What do you think feminism IS, ladies? What part of ‘liberation for women’ is not for you? Is it the freedom to vote? The right not to be owned by the man you marry? The campaign for equal pay? ‘Vogue’ by Madonna? Jeans? Did all that good shit GET ON YOUR NERVES?”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.



Weekend Reading: Eleanor and Park

March 9, 2015 § Leave a comment

March 9, 2015

It took me a couple of weeks to get through Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. There were so many parts in it that made me stop and stare into space. Thinking. Remembering. Feeling.


Like when Eleanor and Park are talking about comic books and mention Dazzler and I remember “Hey! I read Dazzler comics when I was a teenager. She was one of the X-Men?”

And when Eleanor and her family go to the grocery store and her mom buys them all day-old cream horns and I’m like “Wow. I remember the super poor days of heading straight for the cheap day-old pastry section of the grocery store bakery.”

Thinking, “Hey! Wasn’t that Smiths song ‘How Soon Is Now’ the theme song for Charmed?”

Speaking of music, that line:

“There was something about the music on that tape. It felt different. Like, it set her lungs and her stomach on edge. There was something exciting about it, and something nervous. It made Eleanor feel like everything, like the world, wasn’t what she’d thought it was. And that was a good thing. That was the greatest thing.”


Thinking about those moments where you see someone you really like and you want to say something but so much has happened between you and things got so weird and you’re young and self-conscious and don’t know what to say so you don’t say anything. And you kind of regret it for the rest of your life.

Feeling how important it is to find just that one person to make your miserable existence bearable, that one person who brings spark and joy to your life, and the outside affirmation that you’re special and wonderful and needed. And if you don’t find that, you’re screwed.

So, yeah. A couple of weeks. Thinking. Remembering. Feeling.

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