Sunday, June 24, 2012


I started to write this blog about my progress as a writer this week, but I made the mistake of watching/listening to Mad Men, Season One, and it started me thinking about the word, "progress".  You should know that I started watching Mad Men at the very end of season two, and so my understanding of the show has been limited to after Kennedy was shot.  Since the beginning of the summer, I've gone back to the beginning of the first season to get some background perspective on Matthew Weiner's fascinating characters.  I was struck with the progress that the female characters mark in the business world in the dawn of the 1960's juxtaposed with the lingering...hyper-femininity of the ideal 1950's woman.

Weiner could've so easily minimalized the female characters in this show, and instead, he gives them dynamic, interesting, tortured lives in and outside the office/home.  He illustrates the changing views about the roles women should play in the workplace and forces them into conflict with the old guard.  He does this masterfully, in many ways, through ALL his female characters, but I'm fascinated with Season One, Episode Six: "Babylon".  This episode was actually written by Andre & Maria Jacquemetton.

In it, Don's wife, Betty describes her long day at home waiting for Don so she can share intimacy with him.  Don, in turn, seeks out the counsel of Rachel, the owner of a chic department store, because both her beauty, business acumen, and Jewish-ness make her exotic to him - that, and she refuses to fall into bed with him.  Midge, Don's free-loving, hipster dish on the side, however, never waits for Don at all, she just takes pleasure from him and demands nothing, so long as he demands nothing from her. All the men in the office, and most particularly Roger, lust after the sharp-tongued, quick-witted, and worldly office manager, Joan.  She wears her femininity like a tight, red dress, using it to intimidate and seduce.  Finally, fresh-faced young Peggy is the one to take the biggest step forward in this episode, actually using her observations and ideas to help a client testing new lipstick colors when the other members of the secretarial pool flitted, flirted, and squealed over the free lipstick.  And yes, she and Rachel are considered the outsiders on the storyline.  Peggy offering up her honest opinion and suggesting a different approach to how sell lip color to women made the men in the office take notice, specifically Freddy, who commented, "It was like watching a dog play the piano."  We see the lipstick make a final appearance as Betty introduces their young daughter, Sally, to painted lips during a session of dress-up. 

Masterful writing.

Then, of course, Pixar's "Brave" came out this weekend.  It's attraction for a lot of people is that the heroine is not a helpless princess. In fact, the script makes a point of highlighting how independent and NOT in need of rescue the main character, Merida, is.  (grammatically, that's a terrible sentence, I apologize)  Lots and lots of my friends and acquaintances have been going to see it and taking their daughters, and everything I've heard says that this was the right movie and the right time to mark the kind of progress we want our daughters to make.

I look forward to seeing it next week with my niece.


A quick update on my writing life:

Did I meet my goal this week:  Yes, my goal was to continue to write for TeachersWrite! And I wrote 4 out of the 5 possible days for that.  My big goal was to continue working on my personal works in progress, and I've done pretty well with that, too.  I wrote a scene for "Marlon Grunt", and revised 3.5 chapters for "Secret Order". 

What's my goal next week:  My goal next week is to concentrate my time during TeachersWrite to finding the lesson aspect of the writing prompts to take back to my students next year.  I also would like to get 4-6 chapters of "Secret Order" revised.  I would like to finish my reading/commentary for Caffeine-Fueled Pages (my new online crit group, wotwot!) on Monday.

What was my pit this week:  Feeling like my writing was "selfish" - I've been getting feedback on my own writing, for my own purposes, when I felt like I should be looking for stronger ways to attach this to lesson planning for next year. I'm going to try to fix that this week, and if it doesn't work that well for me after this week, I'll stop feeling guilty for focusing on my writing. Also, I didn't participate in Thursday's quickwrite. I wasn't feeling the prompt.  I think it was just me.  I loved the idea of flipping the characters and the story, but I couldn't make myself do it.  I was too invested in my WIP's characters as they are now.  They offered a choice to use a fairytale, but I was in a revising groove and didn't want to break it.  So, I missed out, but I think I might go back and practice that as a brainstorming technique with my students for narrative ideas.  Also, I am jealous of all people who went to writing/reading things this weekend:  AllWrite 2012 in Indiana, ALA in California, and Words in the Woods in Springfield.

What was my victory:  Geoff Herbach, author of Stupid Fast, responded to my writing. I'm such a fangirl! It's not enough that I have Kate Messner and Gae Polisner and all my colleague teacher-writers commenting, I get all giddified and giggly when I get a pat on the back from an author that I've said, "I wish I'd written that," about. Also, kicked a hard chapter of SOEO in the butt this week, jump-started my revision-mobile, and blogged like a madwoman.  Go me.  Here is a picture of my revision-mobile:

Photographed by Simon GP Geoghegan, April 2007

Choose Kind.

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