“What About the Boys?” by Sarah

The last twelve months have produced at least two amazing female-driven blockbusters (Star Wars: The Force Awakens and now Ghostbusters), and there are more to come. Putting it as politely as I can, this has led to many… colorful debates online about the value of female-driven scripts.

Isn’t it enough already?

Don’t girls have enough heroes now?

What about the boys?

Don’t BOYS need people to look up to?

The short answer is, yes. Of course boys need someone to look up to.

The longer answer is, no. It’s not enough. Women, people of color, and every other overlooked minority population needs more exposure. Diversity in entertainment is GOOD.

Let me explain my story a little.

Growing up, I wanted to be a boy.

Now, I did not want to be a boy because I had gender identity issues. I wanted to be a boy because from all the books I read and all the movies I saw, it looked to me like boys just got to have more FUN!

I loved everything swashbuckling and knightly. King Arthur was a personal favorite. I wanted to badly to be a knight of the round table. Why? BECAUSE THEY GOT SWORDS, DAMNIT! They got to save people and defeat dragons! They got to DO SOMETHING! What did Guinevere get to do? Cheat on her husband and basically destroy Paradise? How is THAT fun? (I’m speaking as a child saw the situation, of course there are more nuances to her character… but when you’re seeing it on screen as a child, this is what you see.)

I also loved Robin Hood. He was an archer! He could hit any bullseye from a million miles away. He stole from the rich and gave to the poor. He was a HERO!

What did Maid Marion get to do?

Fall in love.

Get kidnapped.

Yell and scream a lot.

Get saved.

That’s not me.

I never wanted that to be me.

The more I saw women being nothing but Damsels in Distress, the more I saw the MEN coming in to save them, the more I wanted to be a dude. Why wouldn’t I? If I was a boy, I would get to be the hero. I would get CHOICES. I would MATTER.

The only modern women I really saw in cinema were the stars of romantic comedies. I enjoyed these movies, but there weren’t women I wanted to be like. They weren’t HEROES. They essentially fell in love, and having a man in their life just fixed all their problems. I can barely even remember any of their names, they are completely interchangeable and generic. And that’s fine for what those films are, but when then those are the ONLY women I had to see on screen, there’s a problem.

The other women I saw on screen were the Bond Girl types, the femme fatals who existed to be leered at by men. The women who dripped with sexuality and betrayed everyone at the drop of a hat. What I learned as a child was that as a woman, I mattered only if a man wanted to make out with me. I mattered only if a man decided I mattered. If he didn’t pay attention to me, if I was (God Forbid!) ugly or undesirable, I wasn’t worth his time, and hence I wasn’t worth anyone’s time.

My value came from what men thought of me.

I didn’t like that.

I didn’t want to be a woman like that.

I wanted to be a boy.

James Bond was a boy, and he got fun toys and got to save the world.

How is that not better?

Whether intentional or not, as a child, these were the messages I took away from the stories that surrounded me.

Being a girl was inherently worse than being a boy.

Being a girl meant being passive and not getting to fight for anything.

Being a girl meant waiting to be rescued.

Being a girl meant falling in love with whatever guy paid the most attention to me.

Now, what about the boys? Are there negative messages bombarding boys? ABSOLUTELY. Is there toxic masculinity out there? You bet. Should this be fixed? YES!

But, boys have choices.

Boys have heroes.

Boys can be the hero.

When will it be enough?

When I don’t have to write this article explaining why it’s not enough.

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You Got Time (But We Don’t Got Time for You Piper): Orange is the New Black Season 4 Recap and Review – Episode 1 – Work that Body for Me

Plot Synopsis: Season 4 picks up right where season 3 left off, with the ladies of Litchfield celebrating their short-lived freedom in the lake.

Well, almost all of the ladies are enjoying their freedom.

Alex is being strangled in the garden shed.

We all cross our fingers and hope this is the end.

Unfortunately for the audience, Lolly saves her, in the process beating the guard to death. Uh-oh. Can you guess what the over-arching story of THIS season is going to be? Just when you thought there might be a season NOT revolving around Alex and Piper.

Anyway, Alex and Lolly bury the body. But not before chopping it up. Gross.

Piper has now decided she is “Gangsta. Like with an ‘a’.” She feels she has earned some respect, and she’s going to get it.

Of course, she’s still Piper. No one respects Piper.

Caputo gets a new batch of guards from Max to help replace the ones who walked out last season, leading to the lake voyage. They prison also got an influx of new prisoners, so there is a huge over-crowding issue. The guards from Max are some scary-ass dudes. The guards hired by Litchfield are under-trained, but the Max guards are INTENSE. Especially Piscatella, who Caputo immediately takes a shine to.

Romances are blooming all around. Soso and Poussey. Suzanne and her crazy fan, Kukudio. All are fighting for the title of “Who will they finally spend more time on than Alex and Piper?”, because we instantly like each of them more than Piper and Alex. Kukudio is clearly even crazier than Suzanne, and her nickname is Crazy Eyes.

No sign of Larry the entire episode.

Thank God.

There is also no sign of

Piper reads a Nick Horny book.

We don’t know which one.

Don’t take Nick Hornby away from me, Piper. I like him. I don’t want to have to hate him because of you.

There’s a new prisoner: Judy King, a cooking show magnate clearly based on a cross between Martha Stewart and Paula Deen. She gets stuck being processed while everyone else deals with the new influx of prisoners.

Piper tries to establish dominance with the new inmates.

She fails.

Of course she fails.

But she still manages to make us hate her.

Poor Poussey tries to talk to Judy King, her hero, but can’t get a word out. She’s adorable. And oh so gorgeous. Seriously. Who else makes sweats look that good?

I guess I should mention that the assassin that Lolly kills for Alex isn’t really dead, so Alex re-kills him. Frieda sees the body and helps them cut it up and bury it over the yard.

Analysis: Overall, not one of the strongest eps in the show’s history. No real classic moments, no real tension. Even the Alex killing the assassin scene, which should have been full of tension, fell pretty flat. The cutting up of the body came across as more unrealistic and “that would never happen in prison”, even a minimum security. I understand this series has a lot of those moments, but really. Honest to God, that shed is the worst. Why would prisoners be allowed unfettered access to ANY PLACE? Much less a freaking SHED with TOOLS THAT CAN CUT UP A BODY? I don’t see it happening.

Not much in the way of character development. No flashbacks. This episode really is just setting up the rest of the season, and it doesn’t do it all that well. If the bulk of the season is going to revolve around Alex and her body, then I’m not that interested.

None of the people or storylines we care about are being touched on. No mention of Sophia. Not much Red. Thankfully, we’re spared much of Daya, who has become kind of annoying over the last few seasons. She’s far from the wide-eyed, innocent, adorable woman who had a sweet romance in season 1. They really crapped on that romance.

We’ll have to wait to see what the rest of this season holds, but so far I’m not too optimistic.

Why Ed Rooney is Not The Secret Hero of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off by Sarah

The Internet loves nothing more than positing ridiculous fan theories about our favorite movies. Usually, these fan theories boil down to someone is actually dead and/or in a coma from a certain moment onward, and the rest of the movie is just a dream. With the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, however, there is a fan theory that I find deeply disturbing.
This fan theory basically states that Ed Rooney is actually the secret hero of the film. In this theory, Ferris is a sociopath-in-training, luring his friends to The Dark Side with no qualms about destroying their lives. He lies without remorse, steals, uses people, and seems to have little to no actual emotion about anything that happens. Ed Rooney, on the other hand, is the put-upon school administrator who is the only person who sees Bueller as he really is. He’s just a man trying to do his job, trying to save his students from the bad influence of a future serial killer.
Ferris Bueller, as a character, doesn’t hold up as well today as he did in the 80s. That’s undeniable. He comes off less as charming through modern eyes, and seems more like a spoiled, privileged brat. However, these character flaws do NOT make Ed Rooney the hero. Ed Rooney is in no way, shape, or form a good educator. He is not trying to do his job. Ed Rooney is a bad person, a bad educator, and a villain in every sense of the word.
“He’s just doing his job,” is the central argument of this fan theory. That would be all well and good, if anything he does is actually part of his job. Checking up on students who called out sick? Maybe. Speaking condescendingly to that student’s parent and heavily implying they are negligent and out of touch? Absolutely not. Besides, if he was so concerned with Ferris’s attendance, why did he wait until the ninth absent to call? Why not call on the eighth? Or the seventh? Or the sixth? The answer is simple: He didn’t call because he doesn’t actually care. He’s not out to help a student, he’s out to nail a kid he hates.
From the very first moment, the hatred Ed Rooney has towards Ferris is palpable. He can’t even say his name without spitting it like a viper. Disdain drips from every syllable. That is not the attitude of a good educator. His goal is not to help Ferris, as he makes clear time and time again. His eyes gleam with the thought of “bringing down Ferris Bueller”. His goal is to ruin his life, not to hold him accountable. Again, if the goal was accountability, where was the call to the parents on the eight previous absences? Rooney wants Ferris to fail, not just at school but at life. He wants him to get held back, to not get into college, to not have any success. This is not the attitude a man who is “just doing his job” should have. This is the attitude of a true villain.
When Rooney thinks the young man is on the phone pretending to be Sloane’s father, he says horribly inappropriate things to him, not because he doesn’t realize he’s speaking to a student but because he believes he is speaking to a teenager. There is no justification for ever speaking to a student like that. That is not an educator trying to do his job, that is an educator who has lost sight of any sense of purpose.
Additionally, Rooney shows little to no concern for any other student in his school outside of Ferris Bueller. When he personally witnesses Sloane kissing her “father” (actually Ferris) in a way that heavily suggests an incestuous relationship, his response is complete and utter indifference. “So that’s how it is in her family,” he shrugs and walks away, back to his life. He does not follow any of the standard abuse reporting procedures that every educator are required to follow, as mandated reporters. Rather than wasting his entire day tracking down a student whose parents have already given him an excuse for being absent, he should have been calling Child Protective Services. Educators can lose their jobs, their licenses, and potentially even serve jail sentences for ignoring signs of suspected abuse. That is part of your job, Ed Rooney. Do your job, sir.
If you’re still not convinces Ed Rooney isn’t the real hero of this film, also consider how many laws he actively breaks just to trap this one kid in one lie. Is Ferris Bueller the only student who has ever skipped school? Of course not. Has Ed Rooney gone after all of these students with equal fervor? Nothing in the movie indicates he has. He is focusing all of his ire on this one kid. Targeting a single student for extreme punishment is not “part of your job” as an educator. Letting personal feelings into your discipline practices is not “part of the job”. Breaking and entering, assault, and animal cruelty are not part of your job.
In short, if you don’t like Ferris Bueller as a character, that’s fine, but do not over-compensate by assigning positive attributes to Ed Rooney that don’t exist. Nothing about his character is reflective of an educator concerned with what is best for his students, or with being a good educator and doing his job at all.

 

 

How Harper Lee Helped Me Rediscover My Love of Reading

As a child, I was an avid reader. I gobbled up books like they were the last box of Girl Scout Cookies on the shelf. From an early age, I knew I wanted to do what these writers I admired did: I wanted to create characters that people fell in love with.

Before I was even in middle school, I was telling the world I was going to be a writer when I grew up.

So, I wrote.

And I read some more.

And I wrote some more after that.

Then, high school hit, and I was suddenly being compelled to read all these books for school, some of which I loved and some of which I hated. It didn’t really matter if I liked them or not, because the bottom line was I didn’t get to choose my reading material anymore. With so much homework, plus an after-school job and several school clubs, my personal reading time was drastically cut down for the first time in my life.

Once I got to college, life got even crazier and I quickly discovered that the hours I spent as a child absorbed in the pages of a novel were behind me. Perhaps forever. I didn’t have time to read the detective stories I loved so much, or the legal thrillers, or the romances. Any spare time I had was spent obsessively writing my first novel, which I completed over winter break my Freshman year of college.

I graduated from college and entered “The Real World” of job hunting and apartment finding, and for a few years it truly seemed to me that I would never be able to find enough time in a day to sit down with a cup of hot chocolate in front of a fire and just lose myself in a character I loved.

Until I picked up To Kill A Mocking Bird, mostly because it was on sale at a local bookstore.

Somehow, I had managed to get through both high school and college without being forced to read it for a class, and I cannot begin to tell you how glad I am that is the case. I didn’t have to worry about writing essays, answering test questions, and participating in forced discussions. I could just let the words wash over me like a comforting balm and absorb them at my own pace, in my own way.

And, I did just that.

I devoured it in a mere two days, a feat for me since I am normally a rather slow, methodical reader. I literally could not put it down. It wasn’t a page-turner in the way a mystery or a noir is, it was something more than that. I cared about Scout and her father and brother. I wanted to know what happened to them, but more than that, I wanted to help them. I wanted to reach into the pages of the book and just give then biggest hug in the world. I wanted to tell them everything was going to be okay. When it began to get hairy and danger was starting to close in around them, I wanted to protect them.

I had forgotten what that felt like.

I had forgotten how good it felt to be invested in fictional characters, to connect with an author in an authentic and passionate way, not because I was being forced to but because I wanted to. Down to my soul, I did not want that book to ever end.

Of course, it did end. All books must end sometime, but my love affair with reading had been rekindled, all thanks to a little girl named Jean Louise. I began to find ways to make time for reading for pleasure, as well as writing. I also discovered that the more I read, the better a writer I became. The two went together hand-in-hand.

So, thank you Scout.

Thank you, Atticus.

And, thank you, Harper Lee.

We will never forget you.

  • Sarah

How Long Do You Wait? by Amber Donahue

How long do you wait?

I haven’t exactly asked anyone, but nobody’s offering up advice. There aren’t any helpful Pinterest links or Buzzfeed articles. There’s no “7 Things You Must Do When Your Boyfriend is in a Coma (And 3 Things You Must NEVER Do).”

So I’ve been winging it. And it’s exhausting.

Work has been super accommodating, which is great but also makes me feel a little guilty that I’d been applying elsewhere. I’d never even got a callback, let alone an interview, and what had seemed like a bummer at the time turned out to be a blessing. I can’t even imagine having to process Percy’s accident with a new job where you’re learning new things and can’t take any days off. As it is, I’ve been able to change my schedule as needed, which has been a lifesaver, and I’m finally back into my regular hours.

I have a new routine, which is at once comforting and disturbing.I sleep at Percy’s during the week, and I walk Clarence in the morning and the evening. I visit the hospital before work and bring coffee for the nurses (at first because I had no idea how else to show my gratitude, but now it’s because we’ve become friendly), and I stop by again after work until visiting hours are over and I have to get home to walk the dog. On the weekends, I stay at my place, popping over to Percy’s only to walk and feed Clarence. Most of my clothes, my laptop, my slippers, my dirty laundry – most of my stuff is at Percy’s.

We weren’t at the living together stage – in fact, there’s a question as to the status of our relationship on that night – but I basically live there now. It helps that his apartment is nicer and that Clarence is fun and there are no roommates. Not that I hate my roommates or anything – they’ve been incredibly supportive throughout this whole thing, and even if they hadn’t liked Percy, who wouldn’t appreciate me paying rent and utilities and not living there much?

I am starting to wonder about the future, though.

How long do I pay for his apartment? His student loans? His cell phone? His car insurance? I mean, he wasn’t at fault for the accident, but I don’t want him to have a coverage gap. His car registration is up in two months. I’ve put his Netflix, his Hulu, his gym membership on hold. I’ve paid the minimums on his credit cards. I’ve spoken with his boss, Terry, and have monitored his online bank accounts, carefully watching his paychecks full of sick days roll in every other week. I don’t know how many sick days he has left, but I know at some point disability comes into play, at least I think it does. I haven’t done much research yet. And the other guy’s car insurance, that’s a whole mess I’ve been trying to sort through. I don’t know if that covers loss of income, too. I doubt it. It’ll probably barely cover hospitalization.

I’ve kept myself busy making spreadsheets and lists. I’ve reset passwords. I’ve written to utilities and talked with his landlord. It’s weird how quickly you can just sort of take over someone’s life.

His parents are dead (he lost his mother to cancer when he was ten, and his father died two years ago of a heart attack), but his friends and some co-workers visited the hospital at first. Especially because it was right around the holidays, and everyone was full of energy and kindness and high spirits. But as the days turned into weeks, then months, their visits slowed down and disappeared altogether.

I can’t blame them. There’s nothing more useless-feeling than visiting someone in a coma. You just sit there and talk to him, and he looks like he’s just pretending to sleep, but there are tubes and cords and IVs and beeping, and nobody’s that good of an actor. So you just have a crazy one-sided conversation about mundane, trivial shit that doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

But what else are you supposed to talk about? How irresponsible it is that a 33 year old single adult with no children and no family didn’t have a living will? I mean, I don’t either. It’s not something you think about in your early thirties unless you’re diagnosed with a disease, or maybe if you have kids. Percy didn’t have either, so why would he have a plan for something as happens-to-other-people as a car accident leading to a coma?

He wouldn’t.

So I’m stuck trying to figure out what he would’ve wanted.

I visit the hospital every day. And every day, the doctors tell me nothing’s changed. I can easily read the subtext beneath their updates. ‘The longer things stay the same, the more likely it is that he’s not coming back.’ And then the follow up ‘and even if he does come back, he might not come all the way back. He might not be the same.’

But I don’t want to think about that, so I focus on reading Yahoo! News articles aloud to Percy. God, he hates Yahoo! News. It’s always been a thing with us. I’m not defending their journalistic integrity, but I find myself strangely drawn to their stories.

Growing up, my mom used to say that I marched to the beat of my own drum. Percy always jokes that it’s a drum machine. I never truly understand that joke, but it cracks Percy up so I play along.

Now that it’s been over three months and the initial craziness of the situation has faded slightly, it hits me how much I miss him. I mean, we’d been dating for five months, and we’d fallen pretty hard for each other. We’d even joked, on more than one occasion, that we should just elope in Atlantic City one weekend. And then at the office on Monday, it’d be like “What’d you do this weekend?” and you could be all, “Oh, not much. Did some laundry, got married, went to a movie.”

Percy even talked about our children. He used to say it so matter-of-factly, like they already existed in our future. The timeline was already written, a foregone conclusion. Three kids, two boys and a girl. We’d talked about what names would be good – growing up a “Percival” meant he was intensely passionate and defensive about names – and where we would want to raise them. We never came to any conclusions on either topic (no child of mine is going to be named Jeremy), but it was always fun to discuss.

I knew he wanted a future with me. But I wasn’t sure, until that fight – our first real, major argument and it was so stupid– I wasn’t sure I wanted that future until it was taken away from me.

I mean, I’d already been pretty miserable, playing out the different scenarios in my head well before I received the phone call about the accident. We hadn’t talked for two days and it felt so… wrong. I felt like a piece was missing, like I was just “off.” I tried to picture how the days and years would play out. Would I ever feel normal again without him? 

The phone call just cemented what I’d already known in my heart: I was head over heels in love with this man. He annoyed me to no end, he teased me, and sure, at times I hated him a little, but my God did I love him. I loved that he could tell how I was feeling and what I was thinking with just one glance. I loved how he would wake up early to make coffee for us, even though he could’ve just set the timer on the coffee pot, just because he liked to slip back into bed, all chilled, and have me warm him up. I loved the look of concentration on his face when he was hard at work – setting up the new Playstation, making a special recipe, wrapping a present.

I loved that he’d made me a little corner of the bathroom countertop. He was very attentive, much more than I ever was, and so he’d even stocked it with brands I actually used. I loved how he’d whisper corny jokes in my ear and dare me not to laugh. I loved that he was thoughtful in bed, and good, too. Thanks to my series of previous boyfriends, I already knew how rare that was. But he was thoughtful and caring in all aspects of his life. He was good with Jenna’s kids, and Clarence was like a member of the family (not in a creepy way, though. He’s a very sweet and well-behaved dog). I loved how long it took him to pick a movie to watch on Netflix. I loved how Percy would give me a little wink from across a crowded room. Or that look he’d give me when he wanted to know if I was okay. I loved…him.

It’s been three months, six days, seventeen hours, and a handful of minutes. It feels like a lifetime, and it feels like just a moment.

Now I’m lounging on Percy’s couch, Clarence curled up at my feet. The TV’s on, but I’m not watching it. Instead, I’m trying to think of the last time we spoke – before the fight, because sometimes the flight is the thing that I remember most clearly. Five months without a single disagreement, and then a yelling match right before a coma. It isn’t fair.

I can’t remember.

When I get like this, I call Percy’s phone (which of course is sitting, silenced, on the table next to me) and listen to his voicemail greeting. It’s not like it’s profound or funny or anything – just a simple “Hey, you’ve reached Percy. Leave a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.” But it’s a comfort to hear his voice. The friendly drawl. The flustered way he rushes the “as soon as I can.”

I also have a stupid video taken during a night out with his friends. That one hurts more than helps, so I don’t watch it much anymore. It’s just a stupid karaoke night, but his friend Kyle takes the phone for a minute, and he catches this shot of Percy and me, just the two of us, beaming at each other like drunken idiots, and Percy reaches over almost all the way to kiss me, and then I kind of have to hop up to complete the kiss (because Percy’s so much taller than I am), and he grabs me and holds me up, and I bust out laughing but we’re still kissing, and laughing, and it just hurts.

It seems so long ago. It seems impossible.

Clarence starts to whine at my feet, a clear indication that he needs to go outside, and I begrudgingly get up from the warmth of the couch. I check my phone, and it’s much colder outside than I thought. Figures. My only warm clothes here are my flannel pajamas, and there’s still in the dirty laundry pile.

I stand for a moment and stare at Percy’s coat rack. He has that nice warm peacoat, and it probably even still smells like him.

Gingerly, I lift it from the hook and slip it over my shoulders. It’s heavy, but comfortable. It comes down almost to my knees, but I’m instantly enveloped in warmth and Percy’s cologne and body wash and nothing else matters.

I shut off the TV, clip on Clarence’s leash, tie a clean waste bag around it, and grab the keys.

It’s cold out, cold enough that my breath is almost visible. I shove my hand holding the keys into the warm pocket of Percy’s coat, and I hit something. My fingers automatically release the keys in the pocket and grab the object, pulling it out.

Clarence trots along ahead of me, carefully maneuvering down the stairs to the sidewalk. He tugs at the leash when he realizes I’ve stopped on the third step down.

It’s a box.

The kind of box that cheesy Hollywood movies and jewelry store commercials have taught me all about.

I stand there a moment, Clarence tugging desperately at the leash in my one hand, and me holding an engagement ring in the other.

Do I dare open it?

I carefully wrap my hand around the box and shove both back into the pocket. I walk down the stairs behind the dog, feeling funny.

It feels like snooping. My first month or so “living” at Percy’s, I felt like I was snooping all the time. We’d been dating for five months, but I hadn’t had any need to dig through his drawers or under his bed or in his nightstand. Not until the coma. It still felt like snooping, when I was trying to find his little notepad with his passwords, or change his bedsheets, or find his landlord’s address, but it felt like necessary snooping. Did I find some things that he probably never wanted me to see? Definitely. But he’d understand.

But this, this is something different.

As we round the block and Clarence stops to do his business, I wonder briefly if maybe the ring isn’t for me after all. Maybe a previous girlfriend? Maybe he’s holding it for a friend.

But we’d had the exes talk, and there was no mention of a recent relationship serious enough to warrant a ring in a winter coat. And any friend he was holding it for would’ve asked me about it when Percy went into the coma.

No, it had to be for me.

In the many hours since the accident, I’d wondered thousands of times whether he had wanted to get back together. Whether we were even “broken up” or were just giving each other time to cool down. Whether we would’ve realized how stupid it was to fight about where to go on vacation, and who always gets to pick what we do.

Whether we’d just be happy that we get to go anywhere and do anything together.

I like to think so. And it looks like Percy did, too.

Now, more than ever, I want to talk to him. I want him to wake up so I can tell him everything that’s been going on, and how sorry I am, and how much I’ve missed him.

By the time Clarence and I walk up the stairs back to Percy’s apartment, I’ve made up my mind. I’m not going to open the box. I’m not going to look at the ring he bought for me. It’s going to sit in the pocket of his peacoat. Waiting.

Because I want to be surprised. I want to hear him ask the question. I want to wait for him.

But how long do you wait when you realize you would’ve said yes?

Light Year by Sarah Hohman

It had been too damn long.

The thought kept pounding through Jill Silver’s mind as she struggled up the small but surprisingly steep hill. The ground was frozen solid beneath her feet, but there was no snow yet to blanket the gray world in a layer of soothing white.

As she reached the summit of her own private Mt. Kilimanjaro, she paused for a moment to look around and take in the natural beauty of the valley she was now master over. Stretched out beneath her, almost to the ends of the known world, was an ocean of barren brown trees mixed in with sporadic explosions of dark evergreens, their bare branches reaching for her like hundreds of eager servants bowing to her every command.

Growing up, she used to pretend this hill overlooked Narnia itself, where the White Witch had made it always winter but never Christmas. Or sometimes, she would imagine it was Robin Hood’s Sherwood Forest, or King Arthur’s Camelot. She would spend hours up here alone, having grand adventures no one else would understand, not as a damsel in distress waiting to be rescued by the hero, but as an equal and a warrior in her own right.

Today, that same feeling came swelling back in full force.

No question about it, she decided firmly, contentment settling over her body down to her blood and bones. It had simply been too damn long since she had been home.

Since they had been home, she realized, for some reason suddenly remembering she wasn’t alone on the journey this time.

Pulling her coat tighter around her body, Jill turned around to see what was keeping her sister. Maggie was just coming up over the crest of the hill, looking miserable.

“I just fell fifty times coming up this stupid hill,” Maggie grumbled as she drew closer, shouting to be heard over the howl of the wind. “No big deal.”

Maggie wiped her now mud-encrusted gloves off on her jeans while also taking in the view, though she was clearly far less awed and impressed by it than was her sister. Jill’s eyes fell on a good-sized fallen tree branch on the ground nearby, a perfect sword. It took every ounce of her will to not pick it up and start slaying dragons right then and there.

“At least Chicago has proper heat,” Maggie muttered. “And public transportation. And Uber.”

“Come on. Let’s go, Complain-y Pants,” Jill teased gently, nodding towards their destination just a few yards beyond. “It’s right over there.”

Maggie looked where she was indicating, the frown deepening on her face. “I know where it is. And I’m not a Complain-y Pants.”

“That’s what Mom used to call you when we were kids.”

“No, that’s what Mom used to call you!”

“Either way,” Jill shrugged, pushing ahead towards the large slab of granite marking the spot on the ground. “Would her majesty like to clean herself in a royal finger bowl before we continue? There is a dress code for this event, after all. ‘Formal Attire’, I believe the invitation said.”

Maggie immediately stopped fussing with her gloves, frowning sternly at her younger sister. “You’re not funny.”

“Oh, I am hilarious.” Jill waved her sister’s glare off carelessly, turning back to face the onslaught of icy wind. “Keep moving. Mom will appreciate my jokes.”

“She never did when she was alive.” Maggie’s words were almost lost, carried away by the infinite howling around them.

Jill simply snorted in reply, unperturbed by the mild jab. “That’s just a lie, and you know it.”

Now Maggie was smiling, too, as the shared memories began coming back.

Cold days, colder nights.

Sledding.

Hot chocolate.

Snowmen.

Typical Vermont childhood, almost idyllic in its simplicity.

The women pressed on towards their goal: an old elm tree, standing tall and stark against the barren world around it. Beneath the tree, under the protective branches that seemed to reach out to embrace it, was a single gravestone.

Jill reached it first, but Maggie was only a step or two behind. She slipped her gloved hand into her sister’s as she came alongside her, both of their eyes locked on the name on the grave before them.

MARGO GRACE SILVER

For an endless moment, neither of them spoke. Their lips parted in silence, but nothing needed to be said. Jill squeezed Maggie’s hand reassuringly. Maggie smiled and returned the gesture.

It would be obvious to anyone watching the scene that the two were sisters, even through the disguise of winter attire. They both shared the same soft blond hair sticking out from under their hats and the same sparkling brown eyes that wrinkled in the corners when they laughed and flashed with the fury of Hell itself when they were angry. They both shared their father’s thoughtful expressions and their mother’s surprisingly husky laugh and sharp wit. And in this moment, they both shared the same look of utter loss and heartbreak.

Jill spoke first, addressing the tombstone directly.

“Hi, Mom,” she whispered, finally dropping Maggie’s hand and giving a small wave. “We’re here. Sorry it’s been a while since we’ve stopped by.”

“A year,” Maggie corrected her without any real malice in her tone. As always, she simply had to keep the record straight. “It’s been a year since we’ve stopped by. To be exact.”

“It’s been a year for you,” Jill countered instinctively, that old knee-jerk argumentative streak rearing its head. “I’ve been home almost every weekend.”

“Yeah, to help Dad out. You haven’t been up here to see Mom in a year. Since we came together last time. Dad told me he hasn’t been since then, and I know you wouldn’t come here alone. None of us would.”

Jill opened her mouth to argue further, but closed it again when she realized her sister was right.

Damn her.

“Sorry it’s been a year,” Jill amended begrudgingly, turning back to their mother’s grave. “Dad’s going to come later to see you, don’t worry. We demanded he let us come first. Alone. You know, girl time.”

“We miss you,” Maggie added quickly, as if she had to get the thought off her chest before she exploded. “You’ve been gone for three years today, and that’s just too long, Mom.”

“Too damn long,” Jill murmured in agreement.

Both of their voices were beginning to crack, though neither of them acknowledged it. Inhaling deeply, Jill searched her mind and heart for everything she had kept bottled up for 365 excruciatingly long days.

“There’s so much going on I want to tell you about,” she said finally. “I’m going to be graduating soon, and I can’t believe you won’t be there to see it. God, I can’t tell you how many times I reach for my phone to call you, and sometimes I even dial–”

“You still dial her?” Maggie asked, surprised. “I thought I was the only one.”

“Every once in a while I will,” Jill admitted, wiping a frozen tear from her cheek. “I’ll scroll through my contacts and see her picture and click on it… I don’t know if I forget, or if I just want to forget… but I always drop the call before it connects. I don’t want to know who has the number now. If anyone does.”

“Don’t worry about it. I do the same thing.”

The women smiled at each other, a moment of sisterly bonding passing between them. Jill relished it. They hadn’t bonded like this in so long. After all, it hadn’t just been a year since she had been back home. It had been a year since she had seen her sister or her father.

Even as she had the realization, she couldn’t believe it.

There was ten years of age difference between them, Jill was twenty-one and Maggie was thirty-one, but that had just always made Maggie seem like a second younger, cooler mother to Jill. Growing up, they were inseparable until Maggie went away college. Even though they had their moments of petty sisterly squabbling, the love had always run deep between them. But now, Maggie lived in Chicago with her husband and new baby, and Jill attended college in Boston. There was a world between them, or at least half a continent. And now their mother was also gone, which somehow meant staying close was harder than ever. They had lost the adhesive that bound them together as a family.

“I’m sorry I didn’t keep in touch this year,” Jill murmured. “School is crazy. And then I had that internship over the summer–”

“I understand,” Maggie cut her off, refusing to shuffle all the blame to her younger sister. “You’re not the only one capable of making a phone call. I could have made more of an effort… I should have made more of an effort. But, with Kyle and now Sienna… well, you know how it goes.”

Maggie sighed quietly and let the thought just drift off into the ether, regret bridging the distance between them.

“Yeah, I know how it goes,” Jill finally agreed without much enthusiasm. Her eyes were drawn away from the tombstone for a brief moment, resting instead on the bare branches. In a few months, they would be covered in buds and fresh green life, but for now there was nothing around them but gray, cold death.

Finally, she looked back at her sister. “Remember when you would get me into R-rated movies?”

Maggie laughed. “Of course I remember. Mom and Dad freaked out when they found out. Tried to ban us both from all movies for the rest of our lives.”

Jill laughed, too, and for a moment they both could hear their mother echoing through their voices. “Yeah, that worked out real well.”

“I haven’t been to a movie since.”

“Me, neither.”

Maggie rubbed her gloved hands together rapidly, trying to produce some warmth. Her breath spread in a white cloud before them, reminding them of how cold they were, as if they could possibly forget.

“Let’s get back home,” Maggie suggested. “Mom will understand. She always said we’d catch our death of cold if we stayed up on the hill too long.”

“Okay,” Jill agreed, though she hesitated before actually moving. “I don’t want it to be another year before we see each other, Mags,” she said finally, her voice hushed and serious. “I don’t want it to be a year before we talk again.”

Maggie had already turned back to go down the hill again, but she paused when she heard her sister’s words. She slowly turned back around, unsure of what to say.

“Of course it won’t be another year,” she assured Jill, without much confidence.

“We said that last year at Christmas.”

“Did we?”

“You know we did. We promised to Skype, to Facebook, to see each other over the summer.”

“I know, I know,” Maggie agreed sadly. “We suck.”

“I don’t want to suck,” Jill told her firmly. “I want to be sisters. Like we used to be. I still need you, Mags. I don’t care if you’re thirty and old and you have a kid or whatever. I still need you to hug me sometimes and tell me everything is going to be okay. Okay?”

Maggie opened her mouth to speak, but no words came. She finally grabbed her sister up in a warm hug, a hug that could make them forget winter for that brief moment.

“You will always be my sister,” she whispered through the wind. “And I will always be here for you. And it won’t be another year. It can’t be another year, because that’s just too damn long.”

Jill nodded in agreement, burying her face in her sister’s shoulder. “Too damn long.”

What is an UpWrite Lady, Anyway?

You’ve heard the term now, you’ve seen the title of our website, maybe you’ve seen the hashtag on Twitter.

UpWriteLadies.

So, at this point, you might be asking yourself what, exactly, is an UpWrite Lady?

It’s a perfectly logical question, one I’ve spent the better part of the last few months thinking about.

Finally, I’ve come to some conclusions.

In short, the answer is… you.

You, just the way you are right in this moment, embody everything that is the philosophy of UpWriteLadies.

You’re here, at this silly little website that’s the result of years of work and toil of two women who are writers, and you’re not here because we’re so amazing.

You’re here because you’re amazing.

Even if I’ve never met you, I know you’re amazing because you’re a writer.

And being a writer is hard. On every level, it’s hard. It’s hard to start something new, it’s hard to finish something old, it’s hard to edit, hard to revise, hard to know when it’s the best it can possibly be.

You’re a writer, not because it’s always fun or enjoyable or easy, but because you’re compelled on some level to write.

Even if no one ever sees it.

Even if you’ll never be satisfied with it.

Even if it’s inconvenient and painful sometimes.

Still, you write.

Perhaps you write scribbling on a notebook during your lunch break from a retail job you hate.

Perhaps you write on a laptop in a coffee shop, the smells and sounds of the busy world around fading into nothing as you lose yourself in your keyboard.

Perhaps you write only in your mind, outlining your great novel that will never be completed.

The point is, you write.

Wherever, however, whenever, you write.

You don’t give up.

You don’t turn it off.

You don’t think it’s silly or pointless, because even if no one reads it just the act of writing itself is cathartic and healing.

You write for the joy of finding just the right word, just the right sentence, just the right description. You write because you can express yourself so much more eloquently on the page than you can in person, when you don’t have the opportunity for endless edits to get it just so.

And that’s why UpWriteLadies exists.

Writing is one of the most solitary things in the world you can do. Unless you’re in writer’s room on a sitcom or working with other reclusive, introverted people on a project, writing is all internal. It’s quiet. It’s lonely.

It doesn’t have to be lonely!

We at UpWriteLadies exist because Amber and I understand everything you’re going through. We understand what it’s like to procrastinate and put off writing because it’s just so much easier sometimes. We understand that all the good things in this world, family and friends and beauty and pain and everything in between, needs to be talked about. It needs to be expressed, and you are the one who needs to express it.

And we want to give you a place to express it.

We want to give you a place to be honored and encouraged, to be praised and lauded, and to praise and laud others who so richly deserve it.

There isn’t enough positivity and enough joy in this world. Maybe we can’t change the world, but we can change this corner of the Internet.

Our corner of the Internet.

Your corner of the Internet.

We can’t do it without you.

Because you’re amazing.

  • Sarah

Where Does Inspiration Come From?

Both as a writer and as a stand-up comedian, the question I get asked most often is definitely, “Where do you get your ideas from?”

That question always gives me pause, because I never quite know how to answer it in a fully satisfying way. The simple truth is I get my ideas from anywhere, and no where. My ideas are born of 31, almost 32, years of human experience. My ideas come from observing my friends and family, from thinking about how life should be in contrast to how it is, to asking myself ‘what if…?”, or simply because something makes me chuckle.

But all of that is just a beginning, because the cold, hard truth of the matter is that inspiration isn’t as simple as a spark. Not really. Not the good inspiration, anyway. Not inspiration that lasts long enough to inspire others.

Of course, any artist has moments of clarity. Moments when the Muse just seems to flow out of your pencil or paint brush or even your computer screen, and for that brief moment in time you are one with your art. It’s almost as if it’s being dictated to you and you are just a humble scribe, etching the image of the very face of God in some small way.

It’s amazing, isn’t it?

But, that’s not inspiration.

That’s a jumping-off point, and if that brief, fleeting moment of ecstasy is all you have to motivate you to create, to write, to dance, or to breathe, you will not get too far in the creative process. That is the high, but not the drug itself.

Inspiration is work.

Inspiration takes time and effort, especially when it comes to writing.

Real inspiration comes from hours of staring at the same sentence for hours on end, fretting over where to place that comma or period. It comes from debating what a character would do with a valued friend, passionately defending your view while listening to theirs. It comes from closing your eyes and forcing yourself to see something the way a character would see it, whether or not you happen to agree with it.

Real inspiration comes on the fifth or sixth draft, when suddenly you see everything you’ve worked on for months in a whole new light. A light that makes it all suddenly click somewhere in the back of your brain.

But, that click wasn’t handed to you on a silver platter.

You earned that click.

You earned it by battling through the blank page and the mocking, blinking cursor. Your earned it by refusing to back down when you couldn’t find the right word. You earned it by forgoing sleep, by turning off the TV and Internet so you can hear your own thoughts above the din.

You earned it, and that’s where the inspiration comes from.

  • Sarah

Welcome to UpWriteLadies!

Welcome to the first post on UpWriteLadies.com, a website designed to help female authors connect with each other and share their work.

Our goal is to support emerging and established writers in their search to find an audience, and to help connect an audience looking for good writing with some of the best writers in the world.

Every month, we will be sharing two stories submitted by our readers on our site. Our goal is to share one fiction and one non-fiction piece, but of course this will depend on what submissions we get. Sarah will pick one piece each month, and Amber will pick one. On the second and fourth Friday of each month, we will post the winning selections right here, along with a personal written review and a profile of the author.

We will also be posting our work, as well as blogposts about writing, art, current events, and anything else that we think might interest you.

If you want to participate and submit a piece, visit our Submission Guidelines page for more information.

Thanks, and keep writing!

  • Amber and Sarah