Sunday, August 15, 2010

Welcome to Girlfriends Book Club

I recently started an MFA program. A male instructor read my first chapter, saying, “Do you realize that the only audience for your fiction is women?”


It was clear by his tone he thought I was traveling down a dark and desolate road. Writing just for women? Unthinkable.

Just in case his first comment went over my head, he rattled the pages of my manuscript saying, “This is… parlor fiction.”

Had I somehow accidentally time -traveled back to the nineteenth century? Was I wearing a whale bone corset? Were there horses tethered outside? No. I noticed my fellow students were pecking away at the keyboards of their laptop. Still in the present day.

“And another thing,” he continued. “In the second paragraph, you mention how nicely a man fills out the seat of his blue jeans. I find that disturbingly sexist and offensive.”

Heh. As if men writers never write about women’s bodies. Have you ever heard of John Updike? Vladimir Nabokov? Nearly every male writer that’s ever lived?

Truth is, sometimes it feels like it's still the nineteenth century when it comes to women’s fiction. Even though women read twice as many books as men, writing for women is considered a lesser art form than writing for men. Especially in the academic community. Female writers aren’t reviewed nearly as much as men writers. Their writing isn’t as well respected. A woman writer has never made the cover of Time. Shoot. Even Oprah has been dissing them for the last few years.

Will this blog change any of that?

Nah.

Will this blog celebrate women's fiction?

Yes!

Welcome to the Girlfriends Book Club. We’re a group blog of 35 women authors. We’ll be taking turns blogging Monday through Friday. During the weekends, we’ll sometimes have guest bloggers and other news. This is the place to hang out if you’re a reader or writer of fiction aimed primarily at women.

The Girlfriends Book Club evolved from Girlfriend Cyber Circuit, a virtual tour of thirty-some women writers. The GCC started five years ago when blog tours were still a novelty, and it was so well-known around the Internet that it got some ink in The Village Voice and New York Times. The GCC for YA authors is still plugging along.

Most of the members of the GCC have been blogging their hearts out for years and some we’re getting burned-out by blogging daily. None of us wanted to lose the community feel of the GCC, so it made sense to start a group blog. We hope you will stop by and visit us regularly.


P.S. One of our blog topics this cycle is favorite summer reads. Since I’m in an MFA program, I read a couple of classics: Catcher in the Rye. (Loved it), and Great Gatsby (meh). I also adored Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. It’s a series of linked stories and took a while to get into, but it’s really wonderful. If you haven’t discovered the amazing Ms. Strout, I suggest you start off with Amy and Isabelle and be prepared to have the top of your head blown off; it’s that good.

I also loved Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok. It’s about a young Korean women who comes to NYC in the nineties with her mother and they end up living in an unheated flat and working in a sweat shop. It’s my best read this summer and has become an all-time favorite. What was your favorite read this summer?



About me: I’m the author of the Bottom Dollar Girl series, co-author of Sweet Potato Queen’s First Big-Novel, and most recently Earthly Pleasures under the pen name Karen Neches. Currently I’m enrolled in an MFA program (Despite poking fun at it, I’m loving it and learning a lot!) and working on my thesis novel, which is a departure from what I usually write. Visit me at http://www.karenneches.com/  

48 comments:

  1. Karen,
    Our taste in books must run similiar. I'm a big fan of The Cathcher in the Rye. The Great Gatsby? Not so much;)

    I recently read A Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch (he writes almost as well as a woman)- nice little Sherlock Holmes style mystery. I'll have to bump Girl in Translation up my TBR list!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I definitely need to reread Catcher--it's been much too long. I do love Gatsby, but maybe because I taught it for years.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Well, I'm definitely in minority, Judy, as far as the Great Gatsby is concerned. People love it. One of my teachers said it's the perfect novel. I'll bet it's a fun novel to teach though, with all its themes and symbolism.

    I'll check out Charles Finch, Maria.

    ReplyDelete
  4. It's all about the green light, Karin!

    ReplyDelete
  5. What a fabulous opening post, Karin ;). And, yeah, I've been in a few classes with instructors like that, too...

    ReplyDelete
  6. I have to agree with Marilyn--Fabulous opening post. Love seeing all the familiar names on the blogger list. Looking forward to hearing from them, and making new friends.
    Special shout out to Kristen, who shared the news about the Girlfriends Book Club. Many thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks, Marilyn and Leigh for the compliment.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Karin! What a wonderful way to begin this blog-- you've got me excited already (and have really raised the bar for my post this Friday....).

    But seriously, HOW ARE YOU NOT IN LOVE WITH THE GREAT GATSBY?! I re-read that one all the time. I just die every time Gatsby says: "Your wife doesn't love you." Just kills me.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks, Brenda. I think I don't love Great Gatsby because I didn't connect with the characters. I think they're fascinating in many ways but I don't like them.

    But you're right. That's an awesome scene.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Karin, I'm so glad to hear about your MFA program. I graduated from mine two years ago and it was an amazing ride. I had the unusual experience of getting my two-book deal from St. Martin's Press right when I started the program. Some students asked me if I were going to quit. It never crossed my mind. I learned so much about writing and literature that I know has made me a better writer.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Woot! That a great kickoff. Excellent, Karin! I'm so stoked to be a part of this.

    My favorite read this summer was Susan Henderson's UP FROM THE BLUE, a debut novel coming out in a few weeks.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Love, love, love this post! I'm off to tweet about it.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Great post, Karin! I'm excited to be a part of this new group blog.

    I just started Girl In Translation and LOVE it.

    ReplyDelete
  14. This is so exciting!! I've added you to my Google Reader.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Parlor fiction...gah! I'm not sure how I would've responded had someone said that to me.

    Looking forward to getting to know you.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Catcher in the Rye is the best. I get something new out of it each time I teach it. What program are you in? I will post a link to this on fbook. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hi, Karin... nice to find you over here as you pass the baton to Kathy Patrick for A Good Blog is Hard to Find:-) My "parlor fiction" read this summer is Virginia Woolf's "Mrs. Dalloway." This was preceded by new author, Amy Bourret's, "Mothers & Other Liars." Next up? Anne Lamott's "Imperfect Birds." As hot as it's been this summer, I'm enjoying the parlor myself!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Congratulations Girlfriends, Karin has you off and running with a terrific post on, ahem, what do men know? ;)

    ReplyDelete
  19. Thanks everyone. Susan! Glad to see that you've stopped by. I'll look for that book, Ellen. Nice to hear you're loving Girl In Translation. I've been tellibg everyone about it. Wendy, I'm sooo glad I'm doing the MFA.It's taught me so much. I'm at a program in Spartanburg SC at Converse College. It's amazing.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Melissa Senate, that GIT comment was meant for you. BTW, I saw your cover recently. Gorgeous!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Wonderful kick-off post, Karin! I'm so happy to be a part of this very cool group, spreading the love of women's fic books. There are so many amazing authors out there and such a wide variety of voices, styles, and subject matter--how can anyone still lump it all together and call it "parlor fiction" (shudder!). As for what I'm reading this summer, I'm right in the middle of the lovely Marilyn Brant's ARC for FRIDAY MORNINGS AT NINE. It's as fab as I imagined! And THE PARTICULAR SADNESS OF LEMON CAKE is on my teetering TBR pile next. Wish I could just read faster!

    ReplyDelete
  22. Forgot to mention about summer reading...Am enjoying "Dead Love," a book that combines a thriller with Japanese culture and zombies. Still to read, "If You Follow Me" by Malena Watrous, Nick Hornby's latest and want to check out Allegra Goodman's "The Cookbook Collector." Maybe I'll catch up when I'm vacation at the end of August.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Ack! It's Monday and I'm spaced. Forgot to mention the author of "Dead Love": Linda Watanabe McFerrin.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Karin, I'm with you about the characters in TGG. The writing is beautiful, but I just can't get into the characters. Funny, there's an entire discussion of TGG in chapter 3 my next book which comes out in December;)

    ReplyDelete
  25. Thanks, Beth and Melissa C. for facebooking. I appreciate it. I'll be interested to know what you thing of the Aimee Bender book, Susan. I read it also.

    Dead Love sounds fabulous, Wendy.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Love the new blog! What a great idea. My best read so far this summer was STILL MISSING by Chevy Stevens. Chilling.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Ok, excellent post! I can't wait to see the fun and the best of women writers on here!

    ReplyDelete
  28. I'll be sure and check it out, Maria. Love that title: Boyfriend of the Month Club! I've been wanting to read Still Missing, Maureen. Another great read I forgot to mention is Love in Mid Air by Kim Wright.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Parlor fiction?! Wow. I liked Gatsby, actually. I just finished a very good book called Playing the Hand You're Dealt by Trice Hickman and it was definitely written for women. A romance, even. Horrors!

    ReplyDelete
  30. Gatsby is one of those books that the further away from high school and all the enforced symbolism the better a like it. That aside, if women read and buy the most fiction why is male fiction defined as "normal" and women's fiction defined as a subgenre? Doesn't seem to add up. However, just to prove I'm not making sexist comments (because of course we women should be held to a higher standard than our male counter parts), I'll nominate Jedediah Berry's "The Manual of Detection" as my favorite read of the summer .

    ReplyDelete
  31. I'm still drooling over the shoes you posted - and cannot wait to pick up Girl in Translation. Might also have to pick up those shoes!

    ReplyDelete
  32. Good point, Bethany, about the subgenre of women's fiction. There's a similar bias in the movie business. The studios are always surprised when films aimed at women are hits.

    Glad you approve of the shoes, Sarah. I was thinking about art for the post and what can I say, shoes came to mind. Not to encourage any stereotypes or anything :)

    ReplyDelete
  33. I see some of my favorite authors on this blog roll, and I can't wait to see what you gals post! Best of luck with your new venture!

    ReplyDelete
  34. Karin! What a fantastic first post. I loved it. I too, really enjoyed Olive Kitteridge and had a similar experience as it took me a while to warm up to the book. And Catcher In The Rye? Wow, it is right up there for me with To Kill A Mockingbird.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Thanks so much, Maggie. I'm reading To Kill A Mockingbbird next.It's the 50th anniversary!

    ReplyDelete
  36. I'm sorry to hear about your experience with your prof. I hope you're able to provide him with marketplace facts that will educate him about who book buyers really are and what they read.

    I was very fortunate that when I got my MA in English my professors were all quite supportive of the fact that I was writing Romance.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Two words Karin. You rock! And here are some more words. This is such a wonderful idea and an even better launch. Together we will introduce readers to fabulous fiction and the authors who make it all happen. Brava!!!

    ReplyDelete
  38. Hi Carolyn. I'm glad you didn't have to deal with that. I know I was taken by surprise. Thanks, Saralee. I'm really excited about this launch. We've started off with a bang tanks to awesome girlfriends. All of you rock!

    ReplyDelete
  39. I'm so excited about this! What a great blog! I've been looking for a gathering women's fiction writers and now here you are! YAY!

    I've applied for an MFA program that starts in January and am now waiting to hear if I've been accepted. I never thought about having that kind of prejudice.

    Anyway - love the post, and those shoes are kickin'!!

    ReplyDelete
  40. I do love "Gatsby" but if you're not a fan, and haven't read "Tender is the Night" by Fitzgerald, try it. In fact, it's my favorite even though I don't think it got the best reviews.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Haven't women always been able to appreciate and understand the male perspective but not vice-versa? And why would attitudes towards literature be any different than in pretty much any area - the female is associated with home and hearth and is intrinsically deemed less important than the outward-looking male. I don't what it will take to change this...

    I just finished reading Isabel Allende's The Island Beneath the Sea about the Haitian struggle for independence from the POVs of a female slave and her owner...loved it!

    ReplyDelete
  42. Thanks, anon. I'll give Fitzgerald another whirl.

    ReplyDelete
  43. This is a fabulous idea for a blog and what a great line up of writers! Good luck. Oh, and I agree, you'll probably love 'Tender is the Night.'

    ReplyDelete
  44. "Olive Kitteridge" is terrific. Loved the form -- a novel in stories -- and Elizabeth Strout's writing. And her courage in writing about a not-always-admirable woman. Don't we all have -- and perhaps fear a bit -- an inner Olive?

    Congrats on the new blog - looking forward to more posts!

    Leslie

    ReplyDelete
  45. It did take courage, Leslie and it paid off. Strout was amazing at making Olive sympathetic and compelling. And yes, I think everyone has a little Olive in them whetther they want to admit it or not.

    ReplyDelete
  46. Hey Karin! LOVE the new blog. Would have walked out of the man's class. Pretentious a**. Hooray for women's fiction and, er, women!!

    ReplyDelete
  47. OMG I am coming in here a bit late but Huzzah to Karin and I, personally, kind of like the term 'parlor fiction.' I love parlors. We have one that is also known as the 'cocktail' room. All good things happen in parlors, aka, salons.

    Just finished Legend of A Suicide by David Vann who recently taught in our MFA program at Florida State. It was something like Olive Kitteredge. Our book club is going to SKYPE with him on August 26th...

    Oh, and we (my book club) are all women. Sometimes we slum and read a book by a man, just because we don't think having an extra appendage should really disqualify someone from writing good stuf...though with all that testosterone running around, it's amazing they can still manage to string two words together. Poor things.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Better late to the party than never arriving? I found the blog just today, a few too many past posts to read, but oh so many delicious tales I must read!!
    I love this concept, and thank you for allowing me a peek into a writers mind and life.

    ReplyDelete