Why Being a Woman in Horror is a Triumph

TODAY’S BREW: Butter Rum from Target, one of my favorites. (If you have not had Target coffee, well let me just tell you.)

By Julie 

IT’S FEBRURARY, has been for 16 days, and once again I’m ashamed to do this:

“CRAP, IT’S WOMEN IN HORROR MONTH!”

Every year I want to do a GIANT THING for Women in Horror Month and every year I don’t get to it. And isn’t that just a metaphor for women in horror right there? We may be thought of as horror authors but the feat of being a woman in the horror genre isn’t celebrated widely, and at worst we might be considered kind of a pity pick in the Boys’ Club.

But the reason Women in Horror Month gets neglected by ME of all people every year is because of the same reason why women in horror all over the world are viewed as secondary in the genre:

Because we’re women first.

Women who are mothers with so many hats to wear that are all of equal importance that we need more heads to put them on.

We constantly hear about self-care because women forget all the time to take care of themselves, as busy as we are taking care of everyone else. *cue eyeroll by a bunch of men, YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE* *and even if there is no eyeroll WE FEEL LIKE IT. We feel like we should be able to handle all of it and that we’re just bitching*

The AMAZING thing about women in horror to me is that we switch gears every second of the day. Every day I go from being kick some frigging ass mental health advocate for both my children, one with anxiety and the other with bipolar disorder and OCD, to doing the family’s laundry, taking care of all my lizards, taking care of my mom who’s alone now, doing the food shopping, the Other Stuff shopping, all three meals, picking the youngest up at school every day, running to therapists’ appointments 4 times a week sometimes, doing homework with two kids who have disorders, running the book fair, teacher conferences, going to the park, spending family time (which I feel the need to make A MAJOR EVENT every day), handling the oddly frequent flat tires and other car issues which had me driving my husband to and from work every day for weeks, running the school store, editing for clients…. The list is neverending and gets switched up all damn day.

Then I sit down after being Mom of the Year and LET’S WRITE ABOUT VISCERA AND THE MOST VILE OF HUMANITY AND MONSTERS AND EVIL.

How does a person just get into that headspace after a day like this? Or more often, DURING the day. I’m usually answering math questions (not my forte), and watching over some thing I’m burning in the oven as I write.

Then let’s talk about promoting my work and the utter failure that is because I just plain don’t have time.

EVERY WOMAN IN HORROR HAS A VARIATION OF THIS. EVERY WOMAN HAS A VARIATION OF THIS.

I shame myself a bit right now, because in my head I’m saying, Well, men have things to do too, and Switching gears and being the world’s greatest caretaker then turning around to be the most gruesome and disturbing imagination the horror community has ever seen is like, not that big of a deal. And I think to myself how I’ve never been treated as a girl in the Boys’ Club, and how being a woman in horror is no different than being a man in horror. I tend to undercut that I have difficulties to overcome because of my gender in this profession. But it’s not true. I do have difficulties that I don’t recognize, that I brush over, that I don’t hear about. And as a strong woman, I’m the one who could have a leg sawed off and say, “I was looking for a way to lose weight and THERE IT IS.”

Put-a-Smile-on-Your-Face-While-You-Nurture-the-World-and-Handle-More-Emotional-Burden-Than-Anyone-Ever-Should-and-Be-Pretty-While-You-Do-It-But-We’ll-Still-Call-You-Fragile-Because-Your-Muscles-Aren’t-Visibly-Monstrous is a mantle women have had to hold for, well, ever. To be groomed into this be pretty and shut up vision that we have seems to by nature work against writing horror. Blood, guts, perversion, disturbing and provocative terror that undercuts the most base moral ground doesn’t really coincide with this:

fifties housewife

To think that this woman might ever have say, cannibalism and zombies on the brain seems implausible. But hell, we came from somewhere, didn’t we?

These days you’ll find me just as often helping a PTA bake sale (and still feeling guilty I don’t do more for them) as I am reading something blood-curdling. The interesting thing about it is that–get ready for it–

WOMEN ARE MORE THAN ONE THING.

We’re capable of being powerful and the best at everything we want to do, especially the things society doesn’t think we can do. I think every woman has a rebel streak somewhere that wants to just goddamn show everyone that she’s a war goddess as she shops at Market Basket. It’s that struggle young mothers have where they lose themselves in being just Mommy. It’s the struggle of the woman who wants to be the perfect wife but has a dark side that shames her. It’s the struggle of the woman who doesn’t think the same way as the other parents at the playground. It’s the struggle of the woman who’ll be the trophy wife regardless of her capabilities. We’re fighters, every one of us. The women who write horror take that struggle and smash it onto paper and smile with a mouthful of teeth at any man who dares to question it.

Write what scares you. Be the monster you want to see. Read horror written by women.

Doing Things About Literacy With Julie

TODAY’S BREW: Pumpkin Peppermint Gingerbread. It’s mid-season, what do you want from me?

By Julie 

I had the extraordinary pleasure of participating in our Community Literacy Night hosted by my Bennett’s middle school on Thursday, and let me tell you, I loved it.

Pretty sure I was the only author with a child in that middle school present, and as you know, I take literacy as seriously as a heart attack. Hence, three Scholastic Book Fairs a year at Hedge Elementary, where last year…

In a school of less than 200 kids

In the lowest income neighborhood in Plymouth

In the school with the highest percentage of children with English as a second language

In a community that doesn’t even get a BUS

WE SENT HOME NEARLY 1,500 BOOKS FROM THOSE BOOK FAIRS ALONE. 

The Book Fair has become such an event at this little school that the kids just see me and start asking when it’s coming. And they see me a lot. Sometimes I haven’t even recovered from the last fair yet.

The last book fair looked like THIS:

 

Not pictured: endless mushrooms, fairy lights, the Adopt An Enchanted Animal Fundraiser, the Fairy Photo Booth…

Have I mentioned my book fair team is UNBELIEVABLE?

In any case, when the opportunity to be a part of a literacy event for the town and all of its many schools came up, AND was at the school where I went and Bennett just started at in September, I jumped down their throats and clung to their tracheas. Community literacy is hugely important to me (and should be to you), and I really prioritize making a mark at my children’s schools. It’s great for them, great for me, and if I’m being braggardly, great for the school.

Great readers insert themselves into understanding other viewpoints and ways of life. They seek to understand other people’s reasons and mistakes and priorities. They want to know about other people and places, real or imagined. Readers bridge gaps in differences. Readers open their hearts because they know how to listen and think beyond themselves. That’s where acceptance, tolerance, celebration of others begins. Kids who read promise us a better future. I want to help make that happen.

Community Literacy Night was so cool. A bunch of authors were there, a bunch of kids from one of the high schools ran a café, there was live music from the band ever 15 minutes, the planetarium did shows… The best part for me though was the many middle and high school kids that helped run the event. Getting to talk to these kids just made my entire dream come into perspective. You know, this thing wasn’t a “book signing,” it was about literacy. Writing, reading, inspiring growth in those things.

I GET STUPID SHY TAKING PICTURES AT EVENTS, so mine are all bad. I don’t just mean selfies… I get shy taking ANY pictures. It’s the silliest thing in the world. But trust me, that sign has my name on it and I was there.

literacy night 2

That little stack of books in the middle with the ribbons around them are 5 copies of THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS that I put research and inspiration and personal notes throughout, hoping they’ll inspire some kid to be who they need to be. (I still have a couple! Message me if you think you’d like one!)

I made these damn cookies for days! They say “Reach higher. Don’t let the stars stand in your way.” (Because inspiring as all hell. And because stars. Like Witch of Stars. Buy my book.)

literacy night 4

Here I am, looking partly drunk and partly sweaty and partly as if I’ve eaten many of those cookies myself. But I’m talking to this lady who is worked her tail off to write a book and is afraid of publishing. And I’ll tell you what I told her: YOU ALREADY DID THE HARD PART. YOU’RE A HERO. YOU WROTE A BOOK. But are you gonna listen to a lady who looks that drunk?

literacy night 6

You can see my book fair All For Books donation box loud and clear because that Scholastic program is amazing. 100% of collections go straight to buying books for kids who can’t get their own at our book fair, and Scholastic matches our collections for another school in need on top of it. Wonderful.

This here is the organized chaos I threw together about writing, and I have to tell you, I think it’s pretty cool. A pile of hand-drawn pictures, post-its, 5 subject notebooks, crossed out garbage and highlighted trash… ART CAN BE A MESS. There is no process aside from finding your own. And you can see my pretty stack of THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS over there. (I kept THE HARPY hidden because kids.)

literacy night3

Getting to talk to all the kids who write and have questions about writing was KILLER. They’ve got direction and they’re not afraid, and they TRY. I’m such a freak I gave a couple of them my phone number to text me questions. NOT WEIRD AT ALL. But what’s important is that I made my passion matter.

This is my catchphrase now. I say it all the time, I write it all over the place and now it’s like my “did I do that?”

MAKE YOUR PASSION MATTER. I love reading and writing and kids. THROW THEM ALL TOGETHER AND BOOM, LITERACY SANDWICH. I think I have something to say. I think what I put out into the world matters. I make sure it does, dammit. So I run creative writing classes when I can at the elementary school, and I give advice, and I run the book fairs, and this year I plan to focus more on doing in person events than anything else, because this is the stuff that makes a better world.

Anyway, I have all the answers and stuff, so hit me up if you want to know how to be awesome, I guess.

Truly though, thank you all for helping me make my passion matter. Without your support, writing books would always be an expensive hobby and not my life.

Because of the interest I had in THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS there’s going to be a countdown sale on the Kindle version for $1.99! Starting November 6th for 3 days! I’ll post more about that next time, because these characters have a lot to say. It’s a witch book, but it’s about oppressive families. The heroes have been abused, slut-shamed, silenced, have undiagnosed disorders… There’s a lot about them that SPEAKS, and I’m proud of it. Go check it out  HERE.

61NZfQ1WokLAnd if you’d like a hard copy sent to you with my notes inside, signed by me, one of only 5 proof copies, hit me up.

Talk soon, but until then, be awesome. Be you.