Because You’re Still Asking Me

This post is approximately 450 words. Some of them are Joss Whedon’s.

When people hear I’m writing a book, they’re usually curious about the story. Of those who survive the tempest of enthusiasm that results from a writer describing his work, many are surprised that I’ve chosen a thirteen-year-old girl as my hero. A quick glance confirms that, yes, that answer came from a forty-something man.

skeptical hippo

And while people are intrigued, I can tell that some are searching for a way to politely comment on the oddity of a forty-something man writing about a teenage girl. Yep, I get it. Looking at many movies, video games, and comic books of the last few decades, they can be forgiven for expecting that a fantasy story will feature manly men and scantily clad women in impractical armor. And while I admit I’ve enjoyed some of those things, the world doesn’t need more of them.

Quite the opposite: we need more tales about strong girls and women to counter the unnatural misogyny that pervades our culture. I believe so strongly in this, I’ve spent the last 18 months hunched over a keyboard, trying to bring these types of characters to life.

It reminds me of a meme featuring writer/director Joss Whedon. I’ve seen variations over the years, but they all say this:

Because you're still asking me that question

I love this quote. It speaks to the ridiculousness of the question and the mentality behind it. It’s not that idiots are asking, rather it’s people who aren’t thinking critically. To Joss, it’s like someone asking him how he walks across the room: he simply walks across the room. And people marvel at the novelty.

They marvel at the novelty of a strong female character. In the 21st century. Sigh.

The quote is probably nearing ubiquity, so I doubt people are still asking him. But the mentality hasn’t gone away. I see it online daily, and sometimes it seems like we’re going backwards as a society. It feels like people are desperate to hold onto an unfair gender advantage.

To combat this, we need more strong female characters in every kind of storytelling. I’m putting my money where my mouth is by devoting my book series to this. I want to contribute because it’s the right thing to do. I want to hand my nieces the first book and tell them I wrote this with them in mind. And I want to say the same thing to my sons and nephew.

I want my readers to understand, as Joss so eloquently put it, that “recognizing somebody else’s power does not diminish your own.”

Take 8 minutes to watch his wonderful speech:

 

–Mike

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© Michael Wallevand, June 2017

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Writing Exercise: Discovering Chris Cornell

This post is approximately 500 words. Occasionally, I write about artists who inspire me. I should probably do that more.

chris-cornell-3Today is a day much like one twenty-five years ago. I’m in blue jeans and flannel, and outside it feels like Autumn is being carried away by the harbinger winds of Winter. I’m listening to Soundgarden’s magnificent Badmotorfinger, though unlike today, in 1992 it was my first play-through, I was sitting in my freshman dorm room, and Chris Cornell was still alive.

I was fortunate to have a roommate who brought a large CD collection to college, and I recall pawing through discs to satisfy my ravenous appetite for music. I discovered three albums that I distinctly remember to this day: Steve Miller Band’s Greatest Hits (74-78), Metallica’s Master of Puppets, and Badmotorfinger.

 

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The Prince Influence 2 Me

This post is about 700 words.

I love the process of creating art. For me, it’s writing. I love hearing successful people talk about their own trials and influences. I could watch Inside The Actor’s Studio, Behind The Music, and the audio commentaries of movies for days. I’ve read Stephen King’s On Writing a dozen times. But I also love talking with fellow hopefuls about our own struggles.

Prince

It is in this spirit that I share a piece of myself tonight. I lost an idol today. A one-way friendship with a person unaware of my existence, although his music spoke to me as though he did.

Prince.

A single word that needs a million other words in definition. Fortunately for you, I’ll only use about 700 tonight. The words come slowly, but they come (heh, that sounds like a sentence Prince would approve of, so I’ll allow it).

He’s been one of my biggest influences and I’m staggered by his death today. I’m not a musician anymore, but consider myself a kindred creative spirit (albeit distantly related). When I say he was an inspiration, this isn’t an exaggeration or a lame attempt to connect my blog to the flood of news following his death. It’s a simple truth. Aside from family and Star Wars, I can’t think of anything else in my life that’s been as present or influential as Prince.

As I sat in stunned silence at work today, recalling fond music memories and trying to keep the void at bay, my writer’s brain started organizing thoughts. It occurred to me that I learned four very important things from him.

Prince2401141. Create limitless art. Man, he was fearless. His life seemed to be a constant experiment with music that resulted in beautiful, crazy, innovative, inspirational art. But it wasn’t only music. Look at his fashion over the years. The album covers for Dirty Mind and Lovesexy. He assembled musical groups. Created movies. He absorbed and synthesized musical styles, the results of which were distinctly Prince. His life was art and it knew no bounds.

2. Don’t compromise your beliefs. Whether the symbol-shaped middle finger he gave to Warner Music or his ongoing fight against digital music piracy, Prince stood strong for what he believed in, even if it cost him money. Perhaps more importantly, he knew who he was, what he needed to be, and when he needed to change. He reinvented the word reinvention. Despite this, we never questioned who Prince was – it was obvious. We might not have known what we’d see next, but we knew it would be 100% Prince.

3. Strive to master many different disciplines and styles. I just mentioned his style reinvention, so I’ll speak to his talent with instruments. It’s said that he sometimes showed a musician how he wanted them to play his song, the result of which would be the musician’s realization that he could play better than they could. I heard Tommy Barbarella of NPG say something similar on the radio today. He wasn’t just a brilliant lyricist with an incredible fashion sense. He was a multi-talented musician who was never restrained by the confines of definition or convention.

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