Brooke Warner has created She Writes Press which empowers women writers acting on the belief that writing is life- and world-changing for women and girls. Her aim is to help more women bring their books to completion, and to successfully shepherd more books by women into the wider world. She and Tracey Barnes Priestly will be Val Muchowski’s guests on Women’s Voices on June 10th at 7 pm on KZYX & Z. Barnes Priestly, a award winning syndicated columnist, has written Duck Pond Epiphany, a novel filled with second chances. Both will be appearing in Mendocino on June 19th as part of Women’s Night at Gallery Bookstore. LISTEN TO THE PROGRAM.
This post is putting the horse before the cart in a way. On Thursday, May 23, the following post went out in the She Writes newsletter:
If you lost your baby mere weeks before it was to be born, what would you do? Perhaps more importantly, what would it do to you?
Return to Zero is the first film ever created with stillbirth as its central theme. It has an amazing cast (Minnie Driver, Paul Adelstein, Alfred Molina, Kathy Baker, and more), but it’s still lacking distribution. So, in an effort to get this amazing film–based on a true story–into theaters, we here at She Writes are asking you not for money, but for a promise: that you will go to see it opening weekend when it shows in your community. Will you make the pledge to help this important film get off the ground? Click here to get an inside look at the movie–and then click here to make the pledge!
And now for a bit of context and why I care about this film. After Sean Hanish, the writer and director of this film, went through the experience of losing his full-term son in utero just days before the baby’s due date, he made a commitment to himself that he would write this story. But it’s not the kind of story that’s easy to process, or that screams “blockbuster.”
Sean and his wife lost their son, Norbert, in 2005. I started working with Sean in 2008. Back then he was working on another script, one I hope will someday see the light of day as well. But always in the back of his mind was this story of loss, the hard story he knew would be gut-wrenching and excruciating to write, but the story he had to write.
Sean’s journey to write this film is one that many She Writers can relate to. He quit his job to pursue his dream to get the film made. No one rallied behind it. No one greenlighted it. No studio, big or small, jumped on board to say they thought it was a great idea. Far from it. If anything this film would be a downer, a story about losing a child before it was born and what happens to a couple in the wake of tragedy.
It was a slow unfolding of support, starting with Alfred Molina and building a lot of steam once Minnie Driver signed on for the lead role. I have championed this story from Day 1 for its raw authenticity and honesty. I am honored now to be a team leader on the film. I have donated money to the Kickstarter campaign twice and will continue to work in whatever ways I can to bring awareness about the film to a larger audience. I have not experienced child loss, but I know so many women who have, and I understand that it’s an issue that has not been given enough attention in our culture.
This film is deeply personal and gripping and moving. It’s a woman’s story, with a strong lead in Minnie Driver. It’s also a success story, in that Sean never gave up on his dream of seeing this film through to completion. I hope that the She Writes community can play a small role in helping this film get distribution. Film, just like publishing, is a tough tough industry. The idea that a tragic story is something people won’t turn out for is a concept that’s carried through both industries, and it makes me hate the term “commercial.” If the truth of what we experience is limited and stifled and placed in a box, then most of what trickles down to us—in books and in films—is going to be limited and stifled and placed in a box.
I’m excited here to be in the position to be a change agent. Please sign the Return to Zero pledge, which simply states that you will go out and see the movie if it makes it to your local theater. We can take a stand and demand to see stories that mirror our own lives. And if you’re a person who’s been personally impacted by child loss—or simply want to support the film because, like me, you’re inspired by what Sean is doing—please consider becoming a local team leader. Details are here.
Thanks for joining me in support of Return to Zero.
A few weeks ago, Girls Write Now held its first-ever annual benefit and awards. It was a perfect evening–as authentic, inspirational and moving as the organization, and worthy of the girls and the wonderful professional women writers who serve as their mentors (like Alice Canick, pictured with her mentee, Paldon Dolma, here). As the board chair, I was asked to say a few words. But how could I convey the critical importance of this organization to the people in the room in just a few words? I decided to do it by asking two questions. First, ”Who in this room has had a mentor who changed his or her life?” There was a show of hands, but by no means the majority of the attendees had been so lucky. Second I asked, “Who in this room wishes she had?” The show of hands, then, was unanimous.
I have been lucky to have several mentors who have changed my life, but the one who was probably the most significant, the one who really created a fork in my path through life and sent me down the road less traveled as a writer, in particular, was the late Diane Middlebrook. I have written about Diane here before, but thinking of her again in the context of Girls Write Now made me want to ask a similar question of She Writers.
Did you (or do you) have a mentor who changed your life? Or do you still wish you did?
One of Diane’s most lasting legacies to me was the salon of women writers we founded together in London, which still exists (and met recently, in fact) in London and in New York City, too. I host it with Nancy K. Miller, who Diane introduced me to ten years ago now, and who I regard as another mentor as well as a dear friend. Here at She Writes, I try to pay their tremendous generosity and guidance forward in some little way every single day. Because when a girl, or a woman, sets out to write, it can make a tremendous difference to have somebody she respects say to her, “Yes! You ARE a writer, and don’t let anybody tell you differently!” It isn’t an easy thing to believe about yourself, when you are just starting out, whether you are thirteen or eighty-five.
So please, take a minute to pay tribute to the mentors in your life by commenting here — and, if you are feeling really inspired, take a minute to stop by a fellow She Writers website or blog and say, “Yes!” to her today, too.
PS: If you live in New York City and would like to become a mentor for Girls Write Now, the application deadline has just been extended to June 15th — you can get all the information here!)
Have any of you read P.G. Wodehouse? I am devouring the Jeeves books right now (on “The Inimitable Jeeves” and just finished “Right Ho, Jeeves”), and one of the most delicious things about these books, which are like crack if you are a fan of British humor, is the names. Gussie Fink Nottle. Bingo Little. G. D’Arcy “Stilton” Cheesewright. Tuppy Glossop. Bertram Wooster. And, of course, Jeeves. I consider J.K. Rowling another more recent master of the art, with names that almost eliminate the need for introductions for her characters: Bellatrix Lestrange, Albus Dumbledore, Draco Malfoy, Dudley Dursley.
The names of the character in the novel I’m working on are more of the “I browsed the student-directory of my kids’ school” variety. I am terrible at making up names. But in some cases–or for some kinds of books–I think the names matter less than in others. My book is set in contemporary New York, and my main character, in many ways, is meant to be a kind of every-woman: giving her a silly or unusual name wouldn’t work. On the other hand, Harry Potter is just the right name for a extraordinary/ordinary English boy, and I’m glad, for instance, that Rowling didn’t name him Charles Smith. (Though of course if she had, I might now think that was just the thing…though no, I don’t think I would.)
So I’d like to know — what are some of your favorite names of characters from literature? And, if you are a fiction writer, what are some of your favorite names of the characters in your own books?
I do have one name in my novel I’m proud of — it’s the name I’ve given to the fictional physicist who invents…well I can’t say more or I’ll give too much away. But her name is Dr. Diane Sexton. She’s named for my mentor and friend the late Diane Middlebrook, who wrote an award-winning biography of the poet Anne Sexton. The real Diane was not a physicist, but of the fictional Diane, who retains much of her daring, panache, and brilliant determination, I believe she would have been proud.