That’s right, June 21st, also known as the Summer Solstice, is the longest day and shortest night of the year, and the gateway to fun in the sun. It’s that time of year when I happily open my backyard office (aka The Adirondack Chair, or sometimes, if I’m lucky, The Hammock), and move my writing work outside. Oh yeah!
And this year, the Summer Solstice also happens to coincide with June’s Saturday Story Starter.
As those of you who have participated before know, Saturday Story Starter is purely for fun, just as a way to exercise those writing muscles (think of it as Heather’s Literary Gym). There are no prizes, only the simple joy of putting words on paper (well, OK, computer screen). Also, I won’t be offering critiques, just brief words of encouragement, but I will read all your entries, that I can promise! (And if you’d like to read some of the earlier stories that have been shared, click here and here and here and here and here and here and here to browse to your heart’s content.)
Before we get started, last month I promised you a real story to go along with May’s picture. Remember what it was?
This is my great-great-aunt Rebecca — or “Aunt Reb,” as she was always known in our family. She lived to the ripe old age of 105, all but the last bit of it on her own steam, in her own home. What a firecracker! She was my great-grandmother Sarah’s sister. They grew up, along with eight other brothers and sisters, on Nantucket island, off the coast of Massachusetts. Sarah and Reb were both redheads, and everyone on the island called them “those red-headed Smith girls.”
Rebecca was born in 1883. This picture of her was taken when she was about 16, right around the turn of the last century. I love how feisty she was, even then. I can imagine that it wasn’t considered very ladylike to ride a bicycle in 1900, even on freethinking Nantucket!
I also love the local color in the background — the sailors, the boats with their resting sails, and the American flag flying from the mast on the right. I can almost smell the salty breeze, can’t you? I love it that Rebecca is right in the thick of things there on the wharf, too. Her father, my great-great-grandfather, ran the livery stable on the island for many years. Maybe she’d ridden down from the family home on Center Street to visit him.
Tip of the week: Family photos tell stories. YOUR stories, stories that are part and parcel of who you are. Old photo albums are treasure troves, especially if you can get a parent or grandparent or great-grandparent or great-aunt or uncle to tell you the stories that go along with them. Write them down! And be sure and write down people’s names, dates, locations and tidbits on the back of old photos, so future treasure hunters will be able to piece the stories together, too…
OK, onward to our Story Starter. Here’s this month’s photo:
Isn’t this a FABULOUS building? This is what I WISH my backyard office looked like! (That’s me, lurking in the bottom right corner, vigorously wishing.) And yes, there’s a story to go along with this picture, but you’ll have to wait until next month to hear it.
Tell us about this house. Where is it located? Who built it? What does it look like inside? Who lives here? What do they do for a living? What events has this house seen in its day? Tell us its story…
Can you tell us a bit about how this book came about, Lori?
I’m a blogger for Huffington Post, and an acquisitions editor at Chicago Review Press “discovered” me there when she read a post I wrote about princess culture. She then went to my website and read more of my writing, and reached out to me to ask me to submit a book proposal to her on anything I wanted. I decided to write what I did because it was the most transformative experience of my parenting journey, and also of Charlotte’s childhood. I work in the girl empowerment space, with a special focus on media literacy, and I realized I could write about the kind of mother-daughter book club I would create *today* given the changes in girl culture and how much more difficult raising girls has become. I realized these clubs could serve as very practical media literacy tools on top of their traditional purposes of encouraging bonding, socializing and reading, and that moms really need more tools.
At what point did you decide to bring your daughter on board? Tell us about the inspiration for that and how the collaboration played out.
It was amazing! I thought it would be both fun and genuinely helpful to collaborate with Charlotte. I’ve always dreamed of writing with her. She is so incredibly talented, and wants to be a professional writer, so having her as a contributing author would 1) seriously make the book better, 2) be super fun to do, and 3) give her the credential of being a published author at a young age, as she pursues her own writing career. It played out so well. Her reflections at the end of the last 8 chapters really helped the book blossom and added the genuine perspective of a young woman, since I am 51! But also, she’s a great editor. I mean that in a couple ways. She’s a fantastic proofreader—much better than me—and she caught lots of small intakes. She’s a great developmental editor. We brainstormed all the chapters together, even though I did the research and writing on my own. She was in college double majoring in English and Anthropology, while holding down a part-time writing job for her college’s Communications Office (Mount Holyoke), and working on her own novel. So she was carrying quite a writing load! Her contributions to Her Next Chapter therefore needed to be small in scope, but she did weigh in on a lot of the decisions about content.
I love the “interactive” (for lack of a better word) nature of the book — the discussion questions, suggested activities, recommendations for books & movies, etc. Did you go into this project with a clear vision of the book’s design and mission, or did that evolve?
Some of both. It was my idea to broaden the scope of how a mother-daughter book club could function by adding options for movies and internet media (because lack of time is one of the reasons moms give for not doing these clubs, and movies/internet videos are very valuable media literacy tools that take less time than reading books; because some kids don’t want to read; because doing clubs is better than not doing them, so whatever it takes to make it easier or more appealing to more mothers and daughters!). It was my editor’s idea to add the extension activities, and that was easy for me. I made some of them up, and others were things I’d done or seen done or heard about while working in schools. The book and movie reviews I totally made up, and the same with the discussion questions. I just seemed to be able to do it! I absolutely wanted to book to be “interactive.” It’s more fun that way, and again, moms need concrete tools. Without them, many feel that doing a mother-daughter book club would be too hard.
I also love the book’s social consciousness. It’s so much more than just a “how-to” book for MDBC’s. You’ve really drilled right to the heart of so many issues that parents are facing as they raise girls (and boys, too!) today, from body image and bullying to gender stereotypes, safety, and more. I also love that you’ve included a chapter on the welfare of women around the world. Such important topics, all of them. How did you select what to include?
Originally there was going to be a 9th chapter on reproductive rights, but my editor and I decided it was too political (not that the rest of the book isn’t “political,” because it is, and that’s another conversation!) Also, there were not enough book and movie options for that topic that are age-appropriate. So the other 8 chapters I simply decided on by myself. I work in the girl empowerment space and these topics just seemed obvious to me. I’m a co-founder of the Brave Girls Alliance, a global think tank of girl empowerment experts and orgs that advocate for healthy media and products for girls. So, I live and breathe the challenges our girls are facing, and the 8 chapters covered the areas I’m most concerned about.
What are your hopes for the book?
Simple: to launch as many mother-daughter book clubs into the world as possible; to give mothers and other female role models the education and the tools needed to push back on our toxic media culture for girls and women; to change girlhood for the better.
Anything else you’d like to share with us?
There are two other books out there about mother-daughter book clubs and they are terrific. I recommend them in my book and quote the authors. But what makes Her Next Chapter different is that only 3 chapters are devoted to logistics of forming and running clubs, and that’s all I feel is needed. The bulk of the book dives into the “issues” and gives moms and girls *solutions* via very practical tools that can improve their lives as females. I feel this is what we need in a book about mother-daughter book clubs for 2014. We’ve simply got to find ways for moms and girls to talk about these difficult and tricky topics, and to do so as a village. It was important to me to focus more on that than on diving into the weeds and spending too much time talking about minutia of when/where/how to set up clubs. It’s really not that difficult, and I covered it well in three chapters, leaving the focus of the book on more important matters.
Thanks so much for joining us here today, Lori. I love knowing more about your wonderful book, and I wish you and Charlotte all the best with it! Click here to visit Lori’s website for more information about HER NEXT CHAPTER, including how to purchase it.
To read earlier In the Spotlight interviews with Chris Kurtz, click here, and with Susan Hill Long, click here, and with Sara Hoagland Hunter, click here.