Archive for June 2009

Highlights from NYC

I just got back from a three-week long “staycation” in New York City, where I visited with friends, house-sat, schlepped my four-year-old all over the city (and on every possible mode of transportation), connected with amazing collaborators, and soaked in the energy and inspiring vibe of what I consider to be the most awesome city around.

I was most excited to meet Michael Del Rosario, editor extraordinaire at Simon Pulse, and the person I’m working with on my forthcoming Romantic Comedy, Language of Love. This is my first time writing fiction – I’m so excited about the challenge and couldn’t be happier than to be working with my favorite publishers and such a great editor in Michael. My first draft is due August 1, so I’ll be cranking over the next few weeks.

While it’s great to be home and in my “space” and back with my husband and dog (who is happily sleeping under my desk as I type this), my trip reminded me of the importance of reconnecting, stretching yourself outside your comfort zone, and finding inspiration in new and out-of-the-box ways.

Here are a few pics from my trip, including a shot of Michael and I at our lunch; my son, Asher, and I checking out the dinosaurs at the Museum of Natural History; and a glimpse of the new (and strange) Times Square which now features lawn furniture strewn across Broadway (go figure…).

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Who Needs “Wife Camp?”

I just read an article online about a new camp in Montreal for 10-14 year old girls. This camp isn’t teaching girls how to be better soccer players or musicians, or even give girls a chance to take important and safe risks so they can gain confidence and create a strong self-esteem foundation.

Rather, Makeover Camp at the Lambda School of Music and Fine Arts is all about teaching young girls social refinement and how to be “ladies.” As in, “improve their posture, voice, table manners, conversation skills, wardrobe choices, makeup application, hostessing skills and music appreciation.” According to the camp’s website, their mission is “instilling confidence, social etiquette and grace in an atmosphere of fun and friendship.”

From the article:

“We see a lot of young ladies who can benefit from a makeover program,” said Angela Chan, director of Lambda and co-creator of the camp. “They need to develop their presence.” Marc McCreavy, an industrial designer and interior decorator, will teach the girls how to host events and decorate a table. “It’s important to learn about appropriate topics of conversation and appropriate attire,” he said.

Seriously? No wonder critics are dubbing Makeover Camp “Wife Camp.” I mean, did we just flash back to 1950?

While the creators of the camp insist their purpose is to instill confidence in young girls by teaching them how to be “appropriate,” this is a serious disconnect for me. To even teach young girls that there are certain ways to “be” and “act” seems like it would make girls feel less confident in simply being their imperfect, creative, wonderful selves.

If we really want to set girls up for success, why not focus on teaching them how to follow their passions, speak their minds, and know they are perfect just as they are? Now that’s one camp I would have liked to attend when I was younger…

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Women Playrights Have a Tougher Time Than Their Male Counterparts

An article in this morning’s New York Times highlights a recent research project which proved what women playwrights have always known: women playwrights have a tougher time getting their work staged and acted than men do.

But the research study also found a few things that surprised everyone, including the fact that it is women artistic directors and literary managers who are often the ones to blame for this reality. Researchers came to this conclusion after sending identical scripts to artistic directors and literary managers around the country. One half of the identical scripts had the name of a man on it as the writer, while the other half had the name of a woman. Overall, the same script with a woman’s name on it received significantly worse ratings than those with a man’s name on it when it was being rated by a woman artistic director/manager. Male artistic directors/managers rated the manuscripts the exact same.

So what’s at the root of this discrimination? There’s no way to know for sure, but the primary researcher, Emily Glassberg Sands, suggests that perhaps artistic directors who are women possess a greater awareness of the barriers female playwrights face, and therefore perceived their plays differently.

To add yet another layer to this surprising data is the fact that female-authored plays on stage during the research period actually made more money than shows written by men, selling 16% more tickets. Yet, better ticket sales didn’t mean that producers kept the shows running any longer than less profitable shows written by men, something that Emily pointed out as clear discrimination.

While I find the results of this study dismal to say the least, the fact that women artistic directors and literary managers so clearly discriminated against women playwrights without considering the merits of the work itself is, to me, the biggest disappointment. When institutionalized gender discrimination is at play, how are women ever going to truly gain equality in career opportunities and pay?

What’s your take on this study?

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Chris Brown’s Guilty Plea

The Chris Brown and Rihanna courtroom drama ended today when Chris Brown plead guilty to one count of felony assault stemming from his attack on Rihanna last February. Though he’ll officially be a convicted felon, Chris Brown’s plea guarantees he won’t be serving jail time anytime soon. Instead, he’ll be on probation for up to five years, have to serve six months of community service, and will be forced to stay 50 yards away from Rihanna (except at industry events, where he’ll have a 10 yard minimum).

While I’m not surprised with the essential slap on the wrist Chris Brown received, I am disappointed that the violent attack of a woman (celebrity or not) and consequent threat of death, is treated so lightly. The statistics clearly show that if a man hits a woman once, chances are he’s going to do it again. And seriously … isn’t this light punishment sending the message that it’s okay to physically abuse another person?

Unfortunately, teen dating violence is one issue that’s not going away anytime soon. According to a new study by Do Something, 50% of teens are personally affected by the issue of teen dating violence.

What is your reaction to the outcome of Chris Brown’s trial? Did the punishment fit the crime?

Check out this public service announcement created by Do Something to bring the issue of teen dating violence to light. The events in this video are loosely based on the report police took from Rihanna on that fateful night.

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The Problem with NYC Prep

I just watched a sneak peek of the new reality show on Bravo, NYC Prep, which premieres tomorrow night. Now, admittedly, I’m a reality show junkie. I love me some So You Think You Can Dance, American Idol, Project Runway, and yes, even The Hills and The Bachelor/Bachelorette. But I have a problem with NYC Prep.

The reality show follows the lives of a group of real NYC prep school students…kind of like Gossip Girl on steriods. Is there drama? Yes. Backstabbing? Yes. Drinking? Drugs? Casual sex? Yes, yes, and yes. Does this make for good entertainment? Of course it does.

But here’s my problem. The “stars” of this show are teenagers. Teenagers who are living out their lives, and experiencing their every high, and every inevitable low, on TV for the whole world to see. I shudder to think that the things I did in high school would ever be available for public consumption. While I had my moments of thoughtfulness and maturity, I also was plenty full of stupidity, selfishness, and ridiculousness. And yes, the teens starring in NYC Prep might believe they are all-knowing, mature, and aware of the possible effect their reality show stardom may have on their future, but seriously, the popularity of this show will ultimately be at their expense.

Why not a reality series about teens changing the world or being super athletes or overcoming difficult challenges? Can’t TV do better than another show that takes the most sensational aspects of teenhood and serves it up like a fast food combo meal?

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My apologies for the irregularity of posts and lack of images on my site in the past few weeks…I’ve been temporarily working out of New York and my Internet access has been spotty. I’m back in Seattle next week and will return to my regular Monday through Friday posts, complete with pictures, at that time!

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Girls and Computer Careers

A new study from the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) found that only 10% of girls thought majoring in computer science was a good idea versus 45% of boys. The study also found boys were more comfortable than girls doing things like learning a new software program, setting up a wireless network or even editing music or video on a computer.

The fact that fewer girls are pursuing careers in math, science, and technology isn’t news, but I still found these statistics surprising. So what is it about girls and computers that makes girls less likely to focus on technology in their learning? Is it lack of interest? Fear over being pegged a “nerd?”


The study found that girls don’t think computers are as “cool” as boys. They think of words like “boring,” “hard,” and “nerd” as being associated with computers, versus words like “design,” “games,” and “video” for boys.

“As long as teenagers believe that computer science is boring, difficult, anti-social, or doesn’t have much impact on solving the world’s problems, they’re unlikely to choose it for their future,” the study says.

The problem here is that more and more careers are going to be technology focused as we move into the future, and these shocking statistics are going to translate into a serious and growing gap in the opportunities women and men have in their careers down the road.

And I have to question whether or not girls really do think computers are boring and hard, or they’re just concerned about the way they are perceived by others, especially boys.

When I interviewed Kelly McCarthy, a female video game designer, for my book In Their Shoes, she explained that she was nervous about majoring in computer science mainly because there were so few women doing it at the time.

What are your thoughts? Do you like learning about technology or avoid it like the plague? Do you label other students who are into technology as computer nerds? And finally, what do you think is the way to get more girls interested in math, science, and technology careers?

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Can You Tell Your Life Story in Six Words?

As you know, I’m working on a series of teen-authored memoirs called Louder Than Words for HCI Books. So I was intrigued to read about SMITHTeens, a writing project featuring six-word memoirs written by teens.

That’s right. Your life story in six little words.

According to the website, SMITH is both a place for professional and never-before-published writers, artists, and photographers, bound together by a passion for storytelling.

Check out these six-word memoirs posted on the SMITHTeens website:

  • I haven’t learned from my past. – by Kaida
  • Maybe, hopefully, tomorrow will be different. – by Invisible Sunset
  • My dad won’t be at graduation. by Still Small, Still Searching

I love the idea of these little memoirs. When you’ve got only six words to tell your story, you’ve got to make every one count. Not an easy task, to say the least. Which makes me wonder what my six words would be?

Keeping my eye on the goal. Nah. Too boring and predictable. Maybe: Living every day in the moment. Yeah, I like the sound of that. That’s my goal, anyway… I hope someday that really is my life story!

So how about you? What would your six little words be?

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One Teen’s Incredible Journey

Navigating high school and making it all the way to graduation is a hard enough task even in the best of circumstances. That’s why I found the story of Candide Uwizeyimana so incredible and inspiring.

When Candide arrived in the U.S. from Africa as a refugee two years ago, she didn’t speak a word of English. And that wasn’t the only hurdle she had to overcome. Candide was a survivor of one of worst genocides in recent history, the mid-1990s genocide in the central African country of Rwanda. She was only five when she and her family fled the violence on foot in 1993, eventually being permanently separated from her parents and siblings. At times along her journey, she hoped for death (and came close to it more than once), thinking it must be better than the reality she was living.

She eventually ended up in a refugee camp in south Congo where she was moved into a camp orphanage. From there, she was fortunate enough to meet a family who took her in as one of their own and sent her to school. She was only nine years old. By the time she was in high school, her adopted family, trying to give her the best future they could, encouraged her to apply for refugee status with the United Nations so she could go to a developed country like the U.S. or Canada and be resettled.

And that’s how she ended up in Seattle shortly thereafter. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Congratulations to Candide on this incredible accomplishment. You are an inspiration to us all!

To read more about Candide’s amazing story, click here. To learn more about the Rwandan genocide, check out the movie , or read the powerful book by Philip Gourevitch.

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Girls on the Run Rocks

Girls on the RunYesterday, Girls on the Run in Seattle held its end-of-season 5K run. More than 150 third, fourth, and fifth grade girls around the city have been training for the run while learning about things like self-respect and how to have a healthy lifestyle. I used to coach Girls on the Run, but for the past few seasons I’ve been a “running buddy.” This means that I get the joy of being paired up with a fabulous girl for both the practice 5k and the big end-of-season event.

This year I ran with Deepa, an insightful, awesome fourth grader. Oh yeah, and she’s a great runner, too! I was so impressed by her focus and determination and strength… no wonder she won the Girls on the Run “future coach” award. As usual, I got all teary-eyed when we crossed the finish line…I know what a huge accomplishment running that 5K was to Deepa and to the other girls. How lucky am I to get to be a part of it and to soak up all of that positive girl energy?

Girls on the Run is offered in the fall and spring all across the U.S. If you’re interested in learning more about the program or how to get involved, visit the main website here and look for a chapter near you!

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