On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of attending the “Fight Like a Girl” panel. The event was put on by Boston Glow, an organization that fosters opportunities for women of all ages to become empowered community leaders and active world citizens. Their latest endeavor is a scholarship contest encouraging young women to come up with local creative initiatives.
“Fight Like a Girl” was a panel of authors, many of whom debuted in 2012, discussing what it means to be a strong girl in young adult and middle grade fiction.
Strong women and girls in literature and the media is something I often talk about with friends, colleagues, and people with ears. It’s what I’m most passionate about as a writer. I’ve been holding off on posting on the topic because there are so many things I want to say, so let these authors say it for me.
AC Gaughen, author of Scarlet, was our moderator that evening. The discussion covered strong females, diversity in fiction, and even some tips on craft for the writers that were in attendance.
Middle Grade Authors, 5-7PM
The theme of the middle grade novels featured was decisions.
“[These characters] come to a point where they have to come to a decision. ‘Am I going to fight for the life that I want?’” –Jennifer C. Carson
“There are several different answers to any one question… There have been strong characters of every gender, culture, and era. Break the boundaries.” –Padma Venkatraman
“These books are fictional but the emotions ring true.” –Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Differences are okay. “It’s okay to be the kid who reads.” –Ellen Booraem
Lynda Hunt is launching Booktrain, a program to get books into the hands of foster kids. If you would like to make donations or know any social workers who’d like to get involved, go here.
Ellen Booraem, Small Persons with Wings
Erin Dionne, Confessions of an Accidental Band Geek
Lynda Mullaly Hunt, One for the Murphys
Jennifer C. Carson, Hapenny Magick
Padma Venkatraman, Climbing the Stairs & Island’s End
Young Adult, 7-9PM
The theme of our YA selections was outsiders. Young women on the outskirts of their own society or a new culture and how facing it played a role in finding their strength.
AC: What are your strengths and challenges as a writer?
“My favorite part is finding a puzzle and watching their journey to find their way out of the puzzle.” –Terry Farish
“It’s a long process of learning how to be selective.” Diana Renn said she does kitchen sink writing and has to train herself not to do too much at once.
Gina Damico said her strength was in being over the top, but sometimes she has to tone it down. “This is no time for light humor, there’s a body on the ground!”
AC: What are teen’s reactions to your stories?
“That you can embrace your own interests and find strength in them.” –Diana Renn
“You can make a mistake, even a really big mistake and it will be okay.” –Susan Carlton
“You can identify even with a vastly different story.” –A.J. Paquette
AC: What does it mean to be a strong girl? How do you write these characters?
“Imagine better for yourself. Imagine stronger for yourself.” –Terry Farish
“Don’t be afraid to give your characters hardship. Life is hard.” –A.J. Paquette
“These are the things that make us into the character at the end of the book.” –A.C. Gaughen
“Walk the line between strength and weakness.” -Gina Damico
During Q and A, I brought out the big guns, since it was a question we had been brushing up against all night.
I know this is probably not a short answer but how do you get the courage to write outside your own culture?
“Research as best you can, then research more.” Diana Renn, on writing Toyko Heist which takes place in the US and Japan.
“In every way that I could, I tried to bring accuracy in.” –A.J. Paquette, Nowhere Girl set in Thailand.
“How dare I write this narrative of a woman from the Sudan in the first person? How dare I? I had no choice. I had to write it. I just wrote it and worried about the consequences afterwards.” –Terry Farish, The Good Braider.
In conclusion, I totally killed my book budget for the month supporting these great authors. Strong girls in the media and in the world is a mission I believe in and I get the benefit of reading some excellent stories.