Tag Archives: stuff i am looking at

Firestar and Presents for Girls

I have three nieces and I take shopping for their Christmas gifts pretty seriously. As the mother of only boys, I guess I’m working out a lot of my feminist angst directly through what I give to my female relatives. (I have feminist angst to spare for the boys, too, I promise.)

Last year around this time, knowing that my nieces love Star Wars, I went on a hunt for a Star Wars-related gift. I was dumb. I typed in “star wars + girl” into the Amazon search field. I don’t know what I was expecting to find – just that I wanted the consumer-driven/stuff-driven society I live in to blow my mind. What I found instead was a Halloween costume for Princess Leia’s bikini from Return of The Jedi. I was pissed, but I figured it was just that Amazon sucked. [Aside: I tried this again right now and things are a little better in 2013. I found R2D2 socks.]

r2d2 socks

Surely there would be other, better places to find what I needed. I tried A Mighty Girl and I tried Think Geek and no one had what I wanted. Which is maybe a harsh way to judge them, because I couldn’t really say what I was looking for. I didn’t want a cooking set, for heaven’s sake, or anything that revolved too much around traditional “women’s work” (although, now that I think about it, an Ewok-themed tea set of twigs and acorns with a spit for roasting Han Solo would have been awesome) and I didn’t want to get them a regular Star Wars toy like a light saber that came in pink. But I also didn’t want to give them regular Star Wars stuff made for any old kid, because my nieces are special. I wanted a Princess Leia playdoh head that squirted out buns and braids or a Lego set where you could build Cloud City. Darth Vader on a pony, maybe. A pony with a Darth head and black cape?

So maybe my problem was that Star Wars isn’t best judged on girl v. boy, and I think that’s a fair assessment. But I was still so, so disappointed to discover that the Star Wars universe and the shopping universe had not collided to make Niece Awesomeness In Star Wars Flavor. [ETA: You can actually buy a Cloud City lego set; it’s $1300 on ebay and it’s ugly.]

cloud city lego

This year, I tried again. One of my nieces dressed up as the super hero Firestar for Halloween and I thought it would be fun to find her something about Firestar for her Christmas present. Well, guess what? THERE ISN’T ANYTHING.

I know, I know, Firestar is not a one of the more famous super heroes. She was on Spiderman and His Amazing Friends circa 1980. But that stuff is on Netflix streaming now and is currently having a resurgence of popularity. There are books about Spiderman (there is everything about Spiderman, really; even in my house, where the love of Spiderman is pretty low, around broccoli level, we already have a Spiderman nightlight and a pair of Spiderman sunglasses). But no books about Firestar. I thought, again, maybe I was just not searching well.


Firestar says: “WTF?”

Marvel Comics, I discovered, has a whole line of comics for younger kids; no Firestar. No female super heroes at all. Online, they have comics featuring “The Power Pack” which is a group of kids with superpowers who follow around better known characters like Hulk. It’s nice and all, but it feels a little like when sugar cereal started being “fortified” with vitamins and minerals. Fine, thank you, not exactly what I wanted. Also, please to read this one about “The Avengers” and I dare you to find all four panels featuring Black Widow. Marvel even has a line of superhero early reader e-books; women superheroes are conspicuously absent from them all.

Here is where I get a little ranty. What. Is. Going. On? Whhhhhhy? Kaaaaaaaahn! Auntie Hulk smash!

Early reader books are supposed to be high interest and low skill, so that kids who are just starting out reading, or who are struggling to read on their own, can feel excited about picking up a book. I have really started to appreciate the “early reader” section of my library, because that is where all the character-based books are – the ones about Lightning McQueen or Peter Pan or Ariel or whomever. I still have wonder and amazement in my heart for traditional picture books, but after we got a very beautiful picture book at the library called Train to Somewhere, thinking it was about trains only to discover it was about orphans who were being adopted from a train – cue tears – sometimes I don’t want the mystery of an unknown entity; I just want to get a Monsters, Inc. reader and go home.

Early readers are designed to keep kids interested in books and reading, even if they cater to TV shows and movies. So … how come kids who love Spiderman can have a book that caters to their interest while kids who love Firestar or Wonder Woman or Storm cannot? I can’t imagine it’s because it costs a lot to write these books. I mean, just read a few; they sound like a robot put them together. Which is totally great for kids who are early readers, I’m not trying to knock these books.

It’s just that, if Marvel already owns the rights to Firestar, and they don’t need to invest a ton of money into a creative team to write a book about her, and they can publish-on-demand to fill a need or they can upload a Kindle version and don’t have to ship thousands of physical copies to bookstores anymore – WHY HAVEN’T THEY DONE IT?

Auntie Hulk angry. Auntie Hulk think maybe Marvel not care about nieces who love female super heroes.

I love this site about girls putting together their own super hero costumes. When I first saw it, I thought it was such a testament to creativity. I guess I didn’t realize girls do this because no one is making these costumes for them. No one is making these books for them. No one is making these super hero things they love, so they have to do it themselves.


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A Writing Life That Energizes You

I’m hopeful today. Some days, when I picture myself as a writer, I get really down in the dumps. I mean, doesn’t everyone think they are a writer? (I know, I know, everyone everyone doesn’t think this, but I have a feeling that like 80% of people dream of writing a book). And what makes me (or you) better than everyone else?

Ok, but see, today I am feeling hopeful. It’s because I read this: http://moneysavingmom.com/2013/09/how-to-balance-motherhood-blogging.html

Go on, I will wait for you to read it and get back to me.

Oh, you didn’t read it because you just want me to summarize it for you? Yeah. I get that way, too.

Crystal talks about how she went from stressed out while running a crazy popular blog, being a full time mom with toddlers, homeschooling, etc. to doing all those same things without the stress. Whaaa? But how? (In her defense, maybe her toddlers weren’t running into the street all the time or taking off their clothes the minute her back was turned. Like some people I know.)

  • She embraced her calling as a writer. She realized she likes doing, feels called to do it. That makes it legitimate, even if no one ever pays her for it and Terry Gross never wonders about her writing process. Heyyyyyy, maybe I can do that, too.
  • She decided a “healthy balance” in her life went in both directions. That means you make time for yourself the way you make time for other people. My favorite line in her article is this: “There are going to be days when the blog gets shelved for playing in the snow or caring for a sick child or reaching out to a needy friend. In the same way, it’s also okay if your kids occasionally have a PJ & Movie Saturday or you have your husband pick up carryout for dinner because you were holed up finishing a writing project.” Really. I love that. Pardon the analogy, but it means you can have dessert because you ate vegetables. Well, no, you must eat dessert because you ate vegetables. Skipping dessert would mean UNBALANCED LIFE. And who wants that. Just replace the word “blog” in her sentence with “novel” or whatever it is you want to work on. My brain went ding.
  • Say no. We have all heard that before. I am a big fan of “saying no,” but I think we all know how hard it is to implement. I would like to say no to the baby breaking dishes during breakfast this morning or to the toddler throwing up because he tried to eat too much bagel in one bite – sometimes you can’t say no. I guess this means we should all say no every time we have the opportunity, just to make up for all the times when we can’t, but I suppose that is not realistic, either. But I do like the way she says she is in charge of when she gets to say yes or no to a new obligation. That sounds like something I can get behind: I am in charge.

Why am I writing about this? Am I just giving myself my own pep talk in writing? Well, sure, BUT:

  • It’s almost October, which means
  • It’s almost November, which means
  • It’s almost time for National Novel Writing Month, better known as NaNoWriMo, when we all sit down and punch out a book before we fall into a post-Thanksgiving coma.

I skipped it last year because I was wearing a screaming infant while I potty trained a toddler. But this year feels pretty good. So, get your story ready. It’s only 1500 words a day.

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Mood Boards

I have been looking at this today:

33 Most Beautiful Abandoned Places in the World

and feeling sad that it is just pictures.  Each one is a story begging to be told.

There are a few extra pictures on this site:

22 Magical Mysterious Abandoned Places in the World

I used to make “mood boards” when I was in high school, when I wanted inspiration for stories or characters or places.  It was usually a folder filled with magazine clippings like Clinique ads. I guess I liked the earrings or the hairstyles or the dresses and thought I would use them for Princess So-and-So, or when Girl Pirate Blah-Blah sneaks into a coronation. I don’t recall actually using them.  Thinking back, the only thing I really remember is my mom asking me what was I collecting all this stuff for.  In a way that seemed like she thought maybe I was a hoarder.

For this and many other more important reasons (laziness!), I haven’t bothered with mood boards for a long time.  Stuff has lived in my head just fine, thank you. I feel like if I ever need some good inspiration, I will borrow from my friend Kate on Pinterest, because she keeps saving all these cool pictures.  She has good taste.  But a few of these pictures above made me wonder if I shouldn’t start up again. I mean, a few of them look like they would be great in a story about Girl Pirate.

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Bike Ride

This time of year, I miss riding my bike to work in the mornings.  At the time, I probably would not have said it was my favorite thing or even a “fun” thing — the ride home was all uphill and it was often hot.  But now that I can look back on it with the haze of time, I realize that my morning ride was maybe the best part of my day.  The air would be humid as I coasted down the hill from my neighborhood.  It would smell like trucks and exhaust and the highway … but in a good way.  The way I remember more interesting parts of the world smell.  I would keep my eyes on the traffic, hoping I would make it through another eleven mile ride without getting run over (I was always lucky).  Yes, I would get to the office a little sweaty, but I always felt refreshed by my contact with the world.

These days, I get to enjoy a different part of the day, the mid-morning hours when hardly anyone is home or outside, when the lines at the post office and the grocery store are short, when the coffeeshops are full.  There is a flavor to that part of the day that brings me back to sick days and going to school late because of an appointment, the feeling that you are witnessing the world almost alone.  But it’s not the same as the bike mornings.  Lately, those memories have me itching to get out for an early ride.

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