This Is Not Chick Lit: Original Stories by America’s Best Women Writers, edited by Elizabeth Merrick, has been sitting sadly in my bookshelf for more than a year before I finally picked it up.
I’m thankful I brought it along on a media coverage and that I finally read it (an ex sent it to me on my birthday last year) because reading it inspired me to write, not another chick lit, but something more meaty, serious, and thought-provoking.
One of the stories I distinctly remember from this selection is “Selling the General” by Jennifer Egan, because it’s a storyline I can relate with. The female character, Dolly, runs a PR agency and is offered a hefty amount to do crisis PR for a South American dictator whose government had slaughtered masses. I loved the snappy dialogue, and while its New York setting and allusion to brand names and private schools for girls might mislead you into thinking this is part of the Gossip Girl series, it’s not.
(Did I mention that I was once a publicist for a former defense secretary? I lasted a little more than a month–not because I didn’t like him. I’ve sworn not to get involved with politics ever.)
The names of the authors don’t ring a bell, but what they’re doing–going out there to give readers something better– is admirable. As editor Elizabeth Merrick writes in her introduction, these are “female writers pushing the envelope of serious writing with depth and humor.” I’ve never written a short story before, but after reading this book, I think I’d like to try my hand at it.
1. I can’t concentrate on writing when my hands are dry. So I always have a bottle of lotion within reach. Sometimes when I’m thinking, I reach out for some lotion and rub it on my hands.
2. I can’t start writing without a cup of coffee. It’s a bad habit, especially since the coffee dispenser in the office has an ultra-sweet mix, and most days I end up having three.
3. I need to brush my teeth before writing. It’s strange, but I just like the idea.
4. At home, I need to take a shower before I write. I think being fresh gives my mind a fresh outlook as well.
5. I need to tie my hair back. I’m such an obsessive-compulsive writer, that I can’t concentrate when my hair is down.
Do you have any peculiar writing habits?
I have never been as inspired to write than I have been of late, and let me tell you, it’s difficult to squeeze in some writing when you have a demanding full-time job and two other regular projects that need a lot of babysitting. I wish I could afford to get away for a month to do some writing–no blogs, no e-mail campaigns, no media coverages. Just writing down the stories that have been germinating in my mind for years now.
I envy Danton Remoto, who went off to a Scotland castle to write his novel.
My biggest wish these days? It’s to have this cottage somewhere in Tagaytay, where I’m surrounded by lush foliage, and I wake up to home-brewed coffee with J serving me breakfast. And I can spend the entire day writing and writing and writing. Or he and I can go out for a walk and bring a good book to read (maybe David Sedaris). I have no need for a phone. An Internet and a high-powered laptop will do, and I’m a happy writer.