Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Review for Beth Winokur's The Willing Stone children's chapter book

Abby and her younger brother, Dean, along with their parents, have moved from California to Washington State to live with their grandparents. First, Granddad unloads about “The Folk,” a strange people living in the forest, even a ‘trickster’ crocodile that he warns Abby about. Of course Abby, facing a new school, new environment and trying to make new friends, has her own problems to deal with. Naturally, she wants to fit in. However, reality intervenes and she is almost fated to be friends with the school’s outcast, Sofia, otherwise known as ‘Bug-Girl.’ From there, Abby is off on a spectacular, fantasy adventure.Show more

One of the hardest things for many children’s authors is the presentation of serious material in an enjoyable manner. The trick is not to be pedantic. Beth Winokur pulls this off flawlessly. Themes of friendship, loyalty, nature, and even death (fantasy) are touched upon. Other themes of dislocation, fear, school pressure, and to a degree, bullying are all skillfully disguised in a thrilling adventure.
The Willing Stone features a magical and fantastic storyline, filled with positive messages for middle graders.
A terrific book, don't miss it.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Why I Write About Strong Women Characters

In a speech for the group Equality Now, Joss Whedon, author of  Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Avengers, told the audience that the most common question he’s asked is, "Why do you always write these strong women characters?" One of the answers he gave really stuck with me. "How is this even a question? Why aren't you asking a hundred other guys why they don't?"

He’s right.

Both of my most popular characters are strong women, so I’ve been asked the question dozens of times. In fact, I have a television interview next week and I’m sure I’ll be asked it again.

For my part, I want strong females in my stories that truly represent women, women who are tough but warm and sensitive, able to kick ass, and refuse to quit. Jillian Varela in Rare Justice and The Game’s End, as well as Terra Vonn in The Fountain of the Earth are both such characters.   They do what has to be done, but at the same time, they aren't overly mannish women. They can be thoroughly feminine. It amazes me that for some reason, a lot of male writers seem to be unable or unwilling to write women as human beings.

Pick up most novels or watch a recent movie and see if it passes the extremely simple Bechdel test.

1.                  It has to have at least two (named) women in it,

2.                  who talk to each other,

3.                  about something besides a man

You would be amazed how many movies and books fail this example of gender bias.

I’ve always felt that strong female characters should be written just as you would a male character. She needs to be a complex human being, with her own fears, strengths, goals, flaws, complexities, and weaknesses. These women not some stereotypical sex object. She shouldn’t be perfect or put on a pedestal since everyone makes mistakes. And she should make her own decisions, trusting that she’s made the right choice.

It's all about creating female protagonists who are real people. It might be easier to create some knuckle-headed teenager than a fully formed, integral character, but it isn’t honest, and it certainly isn’t right. 

So at the end of the day, why do I write these strong female characters? The answer is easy. I just don’t know any other way to do it.

Available in eBook and trade paper - THE FOUNTAIN OF THE EARTH, Book one of the Fountain of the Earth series.

Available in in eBook - STREET CRIMES -