Event: Melbourne Writers Festival — In Conversation with Zoe Foster.

Former Cosmo and Harper’s Bazaar beauty writer turned “chick lit” novelist Zoe Foster has always been someone I’ve looked up to: since reading Comso from age 15, her and Mia Freedman are two writers I’ve tried to emulate, not so much career-wise but more style-wise.

Foster appeared at one of the first events of the Melbourne Writers Festival on Friday morning, in conversation with freelancer and Crikey literary columnist, Bethanie Blanchard.

Dressed in pink sparkly pants and looking flawless as usual, Foster, who now writes from home and whom I remember writing about spending a “working” holiday in New York City a few months (or maybe it was a year? Time flies!) ago, managed to make me believe that there is hope for me as a successful, stay-at-home writer yet.

Granted, Zoe writes the kind of prose I try to avoid: beauty and chick lit. Foster explained how she got the job as beauty editor of Cosmo because Freedman liked that Foster had no beauty knowledge whatsoever and that she’d be writing from a readers’ perspective. Zoe said she never reads the beauty pages, and I have to concur with her there: unless it’s written by Zoe, beauty is the most mundane thing in the world to me.

But where chick lit is concerned, Foster gave an anecdote from Puberty Blues author Kathy Lette who, when Foster told her that she writes in that genre, spat her drink out and said, “No, don’t ever call it that. It’s commercial first-person narrative.”

I have to admit, when I see that phrase or a book cover with a suspiciously chick litty-esque cover, I steer clear. However, when I heard Foster read from her latest effort, The Younger Man, the following morning at The Morning Read (from which the above photo was taken), along with the hilarious Sloane Crosley, I had a hankering to pick it up and give it a whirl. From the excerpt Zoe read, her fiction writing sounds exactly like her beauty columns for MamaMia and her dating advice for Cosmo.

But that’s something I have a whole different issue with: in this month’s Cosmo, Zoe advises not to make an effort in the early stages of courtship: it’s his job to chase you. Firstly, this advice doesn’t work for me because I much prefer the chase (maybe I should take some of Zoe’s advice and perhaps I wouldn’t be single!). And secondly, it’s a bit backwards, which Foster concedes to in the article. She also mentioned that she sometimes “cops a bit of shit” for her… traditional would be a nice way of putting it… views on dating.

Finally, another valuable thing I got out of the session was a glimpse into Zoe’s writing schedule and how she plans her day. While she doesn’t read in the genre she writes in whilst she’s in the drafting process lest she start writing another version of 50 Shades of Grey, she does get up at 6am to get a few hours of non-interrupted fiction time in before email, Twitter and other distractions hit. Ahh, I remember those days. You know, when I was bright eyed and bushy tailed and responsible. Interestingly, Zoe also favours a solitary drafting process in which she doesn’t let anyone read her work before the first draft is submitted to her editor. One conscientious audience member asked how, or more pertinently why, she only relies on herself and doesn’t seek outside insight. Zoe replied that she’s on her fourth novel at the moment, so she’d kind of an old hand and should know what she’s doing by this point. But also, I think, some people are just better at assessing their own work than others. I know I don’t like to have any input from anyone, or even tell people what I’m working on. Once it’s out there, I know it’s mine and mine only; good or bad. The writers’ life is a solitary one, after all.

Images via The Vine, MWF Flickr.

12 Posts of Christmas: In Defence of Mia Freedman.

In the spirit Christmas, I’ve decided to revisit some of my favourite posts of the year in the twelve days leading up to December 25th. 

You might remember back in July when Cadel Evans won the Tour de France, Mia Freedman said on the Today show that sportspeople aren’t heroes, and a shitstorm ensued. You can read the original post here.

Mia Freedman’s copped it pretty hard in the media the last couple of weeks, ever since her comments about Cadel Evans and sports stars being held up as heroes.

It’s no secret that Freedman is my idol, so I will go to bat for her til the cows come home. She’s the reason I became a writer. She’s the reason I did work experience at Cosmo. I share a lot of her views. Whether it’s just a happy coincidence, or I’ve shaped my views around hers (I started reading Cosmo at 15, a very impressionable age, so it’s more than likely the latter), I don’t know.

I’ve written about my love for Freedman, followed closely by formerGirlfriend and Cleo editor, and current Sunday Life editor, Sarah Oakes, numerous times, and how the incestuous nature of the magazine world ensures a similar writing and editing style from those who work together. Take Freedman and Zoë Foster, for example. Or Oakes and Girl with a Satchel’s Erica Bartle and Musings of an Inappropriate Woman’s Rachel Hills.

Speaking of Sunday Life, Freedman’s column last weekend solidified why she’s a woman after my own heart.

She wrote about spending time with her family, and how planning big events are always a disaster and it’s the little, “mundane moments” that are memorable.

But back to the issue at hand: sportspeople as heroes.

I agree wholeheartedly that sportsmen and women aren’t heroes. (I threw up in my mouth a little bit when Karl Stefanovic and Lisa Wilkinson stood for the national anthem after Evans won the Tour de France.) Yay, they can “swim fast”, “kick a ball with accuracy”, “run quickly” and “jump over high things”. But how does this make them heroes? It makes them superficial “heroes” or emblems of sporting events in which they did good, but not actual heroes. We can leave that title to soldiers, doctors, activists, social workers, firefighters and others who face death and social injustice to save lives and make the world a better place.

As Freedman reiterates:

“I roll my eyes every time another Australian of the Year is named and it’s a sportsperson. I cringe at the CONSTANT sycophancy and praise heaped on sportspeople and the way they are forever lauded as heroes… How does being highly physically capable make you a hero?”

I read somewhere that it is highly likely Evans will be named 2011’s Australian of the Year, so start warming up those eye sockets, Mia!

I brought this notion up with a coworker last week, who said doctors aren’t heroes just because they’re saving lives. But what about Doctors Without Borders, or doctors and nurses with the armed forces? “Well, that’s different,” he said. Why? Because they’re facing their own death whilst trying to prevent someone else’s? But sportspeople aren’t facing death (okay, sometimes they are), and their payoff is purely selfish.

Said coworker mentioned some AFL “hero” who, back in the ’70s (I think; don’t quote me on this), finished the grand final with a torn ligament and brought the premiership home. Some might call it heroism; others stupidity.

And I think the sportsperson=hero dichotomy is abhorrent, considering the extracurricular allegations levelled at some of them. Is Nick D’Arcy a hero for punching some guy and leaving him with irreparable facial damage? Are the Collingwood FC guys heroes for winning last year’s premiership, with some of them subsequently going on to allegedly sexually assault one or some groupies? How about the world class douchebag Brendan Fevola? Or Tiger Woods? O.J. Simpson? Hardly heroes.

Perhaps we should be looking to sportspeople like Glenn McGrath, who works tirelessly for his late wife’s breast cancer foundation. Or the Essendon FC, who work with schools to improve literacy. While not exactly heroes per se, at least they’re doing something other than hitting and kicking balls.

Freedman writes in a related piece:

“Sporting stars may have great physical skills but that’s all. They’re no smarter or better or nicer or more well intentioned than the average Australian. In fact, I would argue that generally (and of course this is a generalisation), they are less informed, less aware and less street smart than the average bear.

“This is because to become a great athlete, you have to spend many years from the time you are very young, refining your skills. That’s years swimming up and down a pool. Years running around a track. Years kicking a ball or hitting it with a bat.

“Years…

“I’m happy for anyone who CHOOSES to spend years of their life dedicated to their sport. Go for it. But let’s not pretend it’s a selfless or noble pursuit.

“Professional athletes do it for many reasons. Sponsorship dollars. Personal satisfaction. A desire to represent their country or be the best at swimming or kicking or hitting or whatever it is they’re good at.”

Without humiliating anyone, I find the “less informed, less aware and less street smart” contention is particularly true of one of my physically gifted friends.

While he has a Masters and is one of the most book-smart people I know, he admitted to me that until he was in his late teens, he was completely sheltered by his parents. So much so that he didn’t buy his first CD until around this age. Up to that point, he listened to whatever his parents wanted to listen to, because it was pretty much school, practice, competitions, and the only musical exposure he got was in the car on the way to said school, practice, competitions.

Now the kind of sports he plays aren’t exactly your true blue AFL or cricket (in fact, they’re so obscure I won’t mention them here at the risk of giving him away!), so he’s in another boat altogether: his sports would be, and have been, ridiculed by both your Aussie bogan and your highbrow cultured Australian.

Now, from what I’ve read, Cadel Evans is involved in other noble pursuits, like charity. Unfortunately, I think Freedman’s point was sullied by using Evans to bring it up on national television. Perhaps if she were talking about Stephanie Rice or Ben Cousins her contention would have been more well received. But that’s the risk you run when you voice an opinion that’s not of the norm.

And that’s why I love her. Sure, she got crapped on by most of Australia for making a valid point. But she was able to return to voicing her opinion on Today the same time the following week, joking about going into witness protection, but getting a haircut instead. She was able to find the humour in the situation, and see where she might have been wrong.

For the record, I don’t think she was wrong.

Related: In Defence of Mia Freedman.

Everything They Touch Turns to Gold.

Mama Mia: A Memoir of Mistakes, Magazines & Motherhood By Mia Freedman Review.

Mia Culpa: Confessions from the Watercooler of Life by Mia Freedman Review.

Elsewhere: [MamaMia] Cadel Evans: Is He a Hero?

[MamaMia] Cadel: Here’s What I Learned.

[MamaMia] Is Being Australian Really So Much About Gold Medals?

[MamaMia] Stephanie Rice. Enough With the Hero Worship.

[MamaMia] When Family Time is a Nightmare.

In Defence of Mia Freedman.

 

Mia Freedman’s copped it pretty hard in the media the last couple of weeks, ever since her comments about Cadel Evans and sports stars being held up as heroes.

It’s no secret that Freedman is my idol, so I will go to bat for her til the cows come home. She’s the reason I became a writer. She’s the reason I did work experience at Cosmo. I share a lot of her views. Whether it’s just a happy coincidence, or I’ve shaped my views around hers (I started reading Cosmo at 15, a very impressionable age, so it’s more than likely the latter), I don’t know.

I’ve written about my love for Freedman, followed closely by former Girlfriend and Cleo editor, and current Sunday Life editor, Sarah Oakes, numerous times, and how the incestuous nature of the magazine world ensures a similar writing and editing style from those who work together. Take Freedman and Zoë Foster, for example. Or Oakes and Girl with a Satchel’s Erica Bartle and Musings of an Inappropriate Woman’s Rachel Hills.

Speaking of Sunday Life, Freedman’s column last weekend solidified why she’s a woman after my own heart.

She wrote about spending time with her family, and how planning big events are always a disaster and it’s the little, “mundane moments” that are memorable.

But back to the issue at hand: sportspeople as heroes.

I agree wholeheartedly that sportsmen and women aren’t heroes. (I threw up in my mouth a little bit when Karl Stefanovic and Lisa Wilkinson stood for the national anthem after Evans won the Tour de France.) Yay, they can “swim fast”, “kick a ball with accuracy”, “run quickly” and “jump over high things”. But how does this make them heroes? It makes them superficial “heroes” or emblems of sporting events in which they did good, but not actual heroes. We can leave that title to soldiers, doctors, activists, social workers, firefighters and others who face death and social injustice to save lives and make the world a better place.

As Freedman reiterates:

“I roll my eyes every time another Australian of the Year is named and it’s a sportsperson. I cringe at the CONSTANT sycophancy and praise heaped on sportspeople and the way they are forever lauded as heroes… How does being highly physically capable make you a hero?”

I read somewhere that it is highly likely Evans will be named 2011’s Australian of the Year, so start warming up those eye sockets, Mia!

I brought this notion up with a coworker last week, who said doctors aren’t heroes just because they’re saving lives. But what about Doctors Without Borders, or doctors and nurses with the armed forces? “Well, that’s different,” he said. Why? Because they’re facing their own death whilst trying to prevent someone else’s? But sportspeople aren’t facing death (okay, sometimes they are), and their payoff is purely selfish.

Said coworker mentioned some AFL “hero” who, back in the ’70s (I think; don’t quote me on this), finished the grand final with a torn ligament and brought the premiership home. Some might call it heroism; others stupidity.

And I think the sportsperson=hero dichotomy is abhorrent, considering the extracurricular allegations levelled at some of them. Is Nick D’Arcy a hero for punching some guy and leaving him with irreparable facial damage? Are the Collingwood FC guys heroes for winning last year’s premiership, with some of them subsequently going on to allegedly sexually assault one or some groupies? How about the world class douchebag Brendan Fevola? Or Tiger Woods? O.J. Simpson? Hardly heroes.

Perhaps we should be looking to sportspeople like Glenn McGrath, who works tirelessly for his late wife’s breast cancer foundation. Or the Essendon FC, who work with schools to improve literacy. While not exactly heroes per se, at least they’re doing something other than hitting and kicking balls.

Freedman writes in a related piece:

“Sporting stars may have great physical skills but that’s all. They’re no smarter or better or nicer or more well intentioned than the average Australian. In fact, I would argue that generally (and of course this is a generalisation), they are less informed, less aware and less street smart than the average bear.

“This is because to become a great athlete, you have to spend many years from the time you are very young, refining your skills. That’s years swimming up and down a pool. Years running around a track. Years kicking a ball or hitting it with a bat.

“Years…

“I’m happy for anyone who CHOOSES to spend years of their life dedicated to their sport. Go for it. But let’s not pretend it’s a selfless or noble pursuit.

“Professional athletes do it for many reasons. Sponsorship dollars. Personal satisfaction. A desire to represent their country or be the best at swimming or kicking or hitting or whatever it is they’re good at.”

Without humiliating anyone, I find the “less informed, less aware and less street smart” contention is particularly true of one of my physically gifted friends.

While he has a Masters and is one of the most book-smart people I know, he admitted to me that until he was in his late teens, he was completely sheltered by his parents. So much so that he didn’t buy his first CD until around this age. Up to that point, he listened to whatever his parents wanted to listen to, because it was pretty much school, practice, competitions, and the only musical exposure he got was in the car on the way to said school, practice, competitions.

Now the kind of sports he plays aren’t exactly your true blue AFL or cricket (in fact, they’re so obscure I won’t mention them here at the risk of giving him away!), so he’s in another boat altogether: his sports would be, and have been, ridiculed by both your Aussie bogan and your highbrow cultured Australian.

Now, from what I’ve read, Cadel Evans is involved in other noble pursuits, like charity. Unfortunately, I think Freedman’s point was sullied by using Evans to bring it up on national television. Perhaps if she were talking about Stephanie Rice or Ben Cousins her contention would have been more well received. But that’s the risk you run when you voice an opinion that’s not of the norm.

And that’s why I love her. Sure, she got crapped on by most of Australia for making a valid point. But she was able to return to voicing her opinion on Today the same time the following week, joking about going into witness protection, but getting a haircut instead. She was able to find the humour in the situation, and see where she might have been wrong.

For the record, I don’t think she was wrong.

Related: Everything They Touch Turns to Gold.

Mama Mia: A Memoir of Mistakes, Magazines & Motherhood By Mia Freedman Review.

Mia Culpa: Confessions from the Watercooler of Life by Mia Freedman Review.

Elsewhere: [MamaMia] Cadel Evans: Is He a Hero?

[MamaMia] Cadel: Here’s What I Learned.

[MamaMia] Is Being Australian Really So Much About Gold Medals?

[MamaMia] Stephanie Rice. Enough With the Hero Worship.

[MamaMia] When Family Time is a Nightmare.

Image via ArtsHub.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

 

Eight-year-old yellow wunderkind Lisa Simpson has her own book club.

Sarah Ayoub addresses Eddie Maguire’s racist comments in The Sydney Morning Herald.

Paula Joye at Girl with a Satchel on declining mag circulation.

How Hugh Hefner got his groove back at The New York Times.

I never thought there was a “link between autism and vaccinations” until my sister told me the story of how her boyfriend’s brother went from normal, happy and healthy baby to severely disabled after a vaccination. That made me think differently. This article will challenge your beliefs either way.

If “at least 40% of your diet consists of pre-packaged food”, “you don’t sleep enough for proper brain function” and “your boss knows you’re gullible”, you most likely work a 16-hour workday.

On stripping (take two):

“… the brotherly succor would partially exist in the form of shared ambivalence. I would venture to say that this how a majority of men feel about strippers… Do I enjoy strippers? Not really. Do I frequent tithouses often? No. Nor have I any close friends who do… I think men would be willing to renounce strippers if women renounced the Sex and the City franchise. I mean cut all cords. Shit’s gotten out of hand. No reruns. None of the third-wave dime store psychology. A complete effacement out of pop culture. You’re not even allowed hearken back to the simpler days when it meant something to you. Do we have a deal?”

Speaking of Sex & the City, is there a double standard between the second movie and lad flick Get Him to the Greek?

Is it possible to be a feminist and like fashion, too?

“I still get thrilled and impressed by bold, lovely, and often expensive fashion. And I still feel like I’m a person of worth, whether I’m wearing vintage Chanel or ‘vintage’ sweatpants. But I can’t seem to reconcile these two (competing?) impulses; on the one hand, a value in ‘art for art’s sake[’], beauty, style, and other intangibles; on the other, an investment in valuing substance over style, actions over appearances, and real justice over flamboyant showmanship.”

“What Your Favourite Magazine Says About You (Part II).”

Zoë Foster espouses the benefits of the “Better Man, Better Dan” theory.

 

Images via The Lisa Simpson Book Club, The Frisky.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

How to “cure” a feminist.

Zoe Foster at her absolute best in her ode to “second day spaghetti”. Perhaps she should consider penning a food column in addition to relationship and beauty advice?

Overthinking It on the differences, but more so, similarities, of “California Gurls and California Girls”. One choice titbit: “The popsicle melting part means that California girls are sufficiently attractive that, under the right circumstances, they will cause men to ejaculate. Just in case Katy Perry didn’t make it obvious enough with her coy and artful wordplay, ‘popsicle’ means penis.”

More on Katy Perry and how she’s now claiming to be a gay icon. If you think back to her first song, before the success of “I Kissed a Girl” (“which panders to my least favourite cliché ever, that of the straight girls who make out at frat parties to turn on frat boys”), entitled “Ur So Gay”, it was insinuating that being gay “was the ultimate, be-all, end-all putdown to someone that treated her wrong.”

Matriarchy in Glee.

Also at Overthinking It, the likeability of male characters versus female characters is discussed. Hint: female characters aren’t likeable, even if the male characters they’re being compared to are sociopaths.

Jezebel on owning your sluthood:

“… Sluthood isn’t an action, it’s a state of mind.

“I’m telling you this because my sluthood saved me. Sluthood gave me the time and space to nurse a shattered heart. It gave me a place where I could exist in pieces, some of me craving touch, some of me still too tender to even expose to the light. Sluthood healed the part of me that felt my body and my desires were grotesque after two years in a libido-mismatched partnership. Now I felt hot, wanted, powerful. My desire and enthusiasm was an asset, not an unintended weapon.”

You go, girl!

Lifehacker offers up the “Top 10 Tips for Better Writing”.

Hugo Schwyzer on “The Problem With Being ‘Sexy But Not Sexual’”.

“The Televised Guide to Teen Girl Friendships”, featuring My So-Called Life, Full House and Popular.

Jezebel explains our (but not my) interest in the royal wedding by way of Disney:

“For me, an American pop-culture junkie, Prince William and Kate Middleton’s engagement means one thing: She gets to be a Princess. And seriously, some part of me, formed when I was three or four, believes that this means she will be dressed by birds, wear clothes sewn by tiny mice, and have woodland creatures as friends. Oh, sure, there’s a handsome Prince, but more important are the jewels! And the singing! And the castles! And the woodland creatures.”

Apparently positive people live longer. Good news for me, then!

“Do All of Us Need ‘The One’?” at The Ch!cktionary.

A rant on the annoyance of ignorance:

“… In our infoculture, it takes work not to expose yourself to interesting ideas, facts, news and points of view… the average person online spends seventy seconds a day reading online news. Ouch.”

New York, I Love Hate You:

“New York, I won’t miss your fierce morning halitosis exhaled from your subway grates along Third Avenue.

“I won’t miss you drooling on me from your high-rise air-conditioners in the burning heights of summer.

“I won’t miss how… to me you always smelled like Camel Lights, and warming urine, and the No. 14 busa perfume I never could quite embrace.

“New York, I’ll never forget how dating you made me so poor that when I wanted to read I had to unscrew a bulb from the bedroom and carry it to the living room.”

On the (Rest of the) Net.

“Benevolent” teen sexism versus “hostile” teen sexism at Psychology Today via Jezebel.

Also from Jezebel, “Facebook Tells You When You Will Break Up” via a handy little graph. I wonder how the graph would change to reflect Australian dating norms andmost interestinglyseasons.

The always hilarious Mia Freedman muses on “First World Problems”.

Gawker’s take on Gossip Girl’s “Juliet Doesn’t Live Here Anymore”, or more importantly, Chuck and Blair’s sex life:

“So, Blair and Chuck are totally mashing genitals against each other for pleasure, and everyone is throwing up all over the place because of it. Because it’s so gross. ‘Hey Blair, let me put my penis inside you behind those bushes.’ THROWUP. ‘Hey Chuck, why don’t you stimulate my vagina with your mouth some more.’ RETCH. ‘Oh my gosh, let’s pant and wheeze and sweat here in this limo because we just rubbed our genitalia together to the point of climax.’… IT’S GROSS, is what I’m saying… But they’re doing it anyway and that was a plot point. Absolutely nothing changed or developed in their fucking…”

Since when did Gossip Girl need a plot point, anyway? It’s a guilty pleasure and that’s the beauty of it.

This 2009 New Yorker article is suspiciously similar to a Law & Order: SVU episode from season 11. But it is a brilliantly haunting read about fire investigation, wrongful incarceration, execution and justice.

Defamer addresses Vanity Fair’s penchant for posthumous covers.

Ideologically Impure responds to Stephen Fry’s assertion that women don’t like/want/have sex as much as gay men:

“Because, Mr. Fry, do you know what happens to women who openly state they enjoy sex, who act in an overtly sexual manner, who admit to casual sex?

If they get raped, their rapist walks free.

“Because a woman saying she enjoys sex is obviously always up for it. And a woman who’s had casual sex in the past must not be fussy about who she fucks. And a woman who flirts is just ‘sending the wrong signals’ and completely gives up her right to say ‘no’.”

The allure of the Kindle, by Maggie Alderson.

The original “In Defence of Slut-O-Ween” and, in the same vein, The Stranger wishes us a (belated) “Happy Heteroween”.

Annabelle DeSisto, the girl who shut down the Situation on Jersey Shore, tells her side of the story on Best Week Ever:

“… He kept asking me if I wanted to change clothes, like to get into something more comfortable like pyjamas. And I was like ‘No’, and he was like ‘But you seem really uncomfortable in that dress, let’s just get you into pyjamas.’ I’m like, ‘Does everything you own have a rhinestone bulldog or dragon or Ed Hardy logo on it?’ And he’s like, ’Yeah, of course!’ And I was like, ‘Then I’m not changing clothes.’”

Sounds like a quintessential douchebag to me!

In defence of Kanye West:

“Part of Kanye’s curse is that after everyone chills out a little, we all realise he was just saying what everyone was thinking, and we were unfair to leap all over him…”

“What is Vampire Sex?” Effing hot, that’s what!

Shameless Wildfox plug: “13 ‘Mature’ Things to Do While Wearing Wildfox This Halloween”. I did just one of these things this Halloween. Can you guess which?

If you missed Zoe Foster’s “All Women Really Want is a Cup Of Fu*king Tea” relationship advice in Cosmo a few months ago, here it is again on her blog, via MamaMia.

Mick Foley pens his thoughts on Linda McMahon:

“… The concerns expressed in regard to WWE are valid onessubstance abuse problems, content issues, the troubling trend of pro-wrestlers dying way too young. But if Linda McMahon is going to be held personally accountable for every negative aspect of her family business, shouldn’t she be given personal credit for every positive aspect as well? Like the 5,000 wishes to children facing life threatening conditions WWE has granted over the last twenty five years, through ‘Make-a-Wish’ and other wish granting organisations? Or the ‘Tribute to the Troops’ tour that WWE has embarked on every year since 2003; spreading holiday cheer to service-members far from home, in remote bases in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait.”

When things are looking glum, take a look at this mantra from Gala Darling. Things aren’t that bad.