Beauty of a Woman Blog Fest III: In Praise of the Selfie

Closeup decorative grunge vintage woman with beautiful long hair
This is my third year in a row participating in this celebration conceived by the lovely and talented blogger August McLaughlin. Inspired by Sam Levinson’s poem 
The Beauty of a Woman, which you can read on August’s blog here, the festival celebrates beauty, women feeling beautiful, aging gracefully, and that inner glow. And this year August (who is quickly becoming her own generation’s Susie Bright!) has introduced a #GirlBoner edition of the BOAW fest to celebrate not only the beautiful but the sexy. Check out August’s blog today through Wednesday March 3rd for posts, stories, prizes, and links to other great blogs!

The Beauty of a Selfie

photo 4So I am a little behind on the cultural phenomenon now engraved into the Oxford English Dictionary as THE word of 2013 and known by all teens and tweens as the selfie. Even as I type, my spell checker wants to correct selfie to selfish. But here’s the thing, I have come to embrace the selfie, and its near cousin the photo bomb, as mini-celebrations of girl beauty for two reasons: startling insights and pure entertainment.

The Insightful Selfie

Since I am a selfie novice, I haven’t yet entered the wild and wonderful world of filters and photoshopping with my efforts. In a throwback to Polaroid days, what the camera clicks is what you get. But I have learned the art of KADildayphoto1holding the phone high as I look up into it (to eliminate neck wrinkles) and slightly to the side (to minimize my elongated nose.) Here is the me close up and in everyday clothing. And, hey, she’s not half bad…an affirmation devoutly to be repeated. In fact, my “about me” picture on this blog is a selfie that I took on a day when my eldest had left PhotoBooth up on the Mac and I saw that my hair and makeup had held up to a long day of wrangling words and young ladies. Of course we all know that moment of horror when we look DOWN into the camera. But UNLIKE the Polaroid days of old, there is a delete button on the thing.

The Entertaining Selfie

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I have laughed a lot taking selfies with my daughters. My girls make faces, they goof off, they rarely smile in that contrived way achieved with the warning of a camera in your face. Selfie-taking is hysterical! No, really. Check out the photo bomb talent! I have also posed with my parents, my parents-in-law, my husband, and my dog (he’s particularly great at the selfie) but have not yet accosted any celebrities to see if they would be willing to step into my personal photo stream. (Yes, I’m talking to you Matt Damon!)

photo 3The truth is, selfies make me laugh, and in review, they comfort me somehow and make me look back at myself in a way that my mirror doesn’t. I acknowledge the potentially angst-ridden nightmare that perpetual selfie-taking represents for young girls who have not yet formed their sense of self and who seek external validation. Trouble lies that way. But I’m sticking with my personal claim that selfies are fun, selfies are fearless, and selfies are fabulous. And the girl in that photo? Well, she’s beautiful.

So I know you all take selfies…wanna share? :) Any selfie stories? Celebrity moments?

Don’t forget to check out the Beauty of a Woman BlogFest III at August McLauglin’s site. And you can see my previous two entries at BOAW I and BOAW II.

And a little more selfie link love:

Pusheen the Cat’s Guide to Selfies

Selfies Are Good For Girls by Rachel Simmons on Slate

Kecia’s Blog Analytics and A Manifesto

On 1 January of this brand spankin’ New Year of 2014, I posted WordPress’s clever analysis of my 2013 Blog Year in Review. Interestingly by comparison with 2012’s review, I lost momentum in 2013 on Kecia’s Blog: All I Want Is…Everything. I wrote/posted 28% fewer posts than in 2012 and garnered about 50% fewer views. My most popular post (Slainte: Toasting Jane Austen) was the same for 2013 as it was for 2012, possibly because of the search terms used to find it, which had to do withMcavoywelcometothepunch James McAvoy (what happened to him, anyway? Click on pic for 2013’s Welcome to the Punch) and Jane Austen movies. I have been fascinated by the IDEA of analytics since it was introduced to me as part of this WordPress blog and in development of my author website too. I say the IDEA of analytics because, really, who has time to actually DO analytics? The Wikipedia definition:

“Analytics is the discovery and communication of meaningful patterns in data. Especially valuable in areas rich with recorded information, analytics relies on the simultaneous application of statistics, computer programming and operations research to quantify performance. Analytics often favors data visualization to communicate insight.”

By data visualization, we are talking infographics. Visual display of data. You know, graphs and stuff. Here’s a great infographic on infographics from the professional digital marketers at Customer Magnetism:

What is an Infographic?
Created by Customer Magnetism, an award winning Digital Marketing Agency.

Obviously the clever folks at Customer Magnetism do analytics for business websites to create sophisticated marketing plans. Cool, right? But how does that effect this blog?

So now we come to the Manifesto. Or maybe it should be called a Mission Statement, which of course puts me in mind of the Jerry Maguire scene where he (or writer/director Cameron Crowe) pours his heart into The Things We Think And Do Not Say at the very beginning of the movie.

All this to say: why am I writing this blog? It has come down to really only two things. And thanks to a post from Dan Blank on how to Create Experiences For Your Readers for helping me hone in on these two reasons why I write anything, really.

First, for the writing itself. There is something about publishing one’s writing to the world that forces an excellence (or at least an attention to detail and topic) that all the navel gazing journaling in the world does not do for me. No matter how pretty the journal or smooth the gel ink pen, I find my writing to be best when I “put it out there.”

Second, for the connection. Why else would Jerry Maguire put it all on the line in his Mission Statement and then make 100 copies at Kinko’s to put in each inbox? He wanted to connect. And that’s it for me too.

As Jerry’s mentor, the original sports agent Dicky Fox put it:

“The key to this business is personal relationships.”

So it doesn’t really matter that my posts decreased and so did my views in 2013. If I managed to connect with one reader, I have made my own day! And I hope I have made that reader’s day too.

How about you, my readers, do you DO analytics? How about infographics? I would love to hear if you have a personal mission statement. Happy 2014!

2013 Blog Year In Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for my blog. Don’t we all just love stats? Check out what readers were reading on Kecia’s Blog in 2013.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,800 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 30 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Writing Alone and With Friends

Depositphotos_2499247_mSo, I did it again. I did not blog during the summer and because this now seems to be a trend (does two summers constitute a trend? See last year’s hiatus post.) I may actually SCHEDULE the time off next year! At any rate, I am back on the blog and will be presenting all the Friday Film, Link Love, and personal anecdotes (by far the most popular according to my reader survey) I can schedule. My intent is to get some more guest posters on here too.

I did get to thinking that writing is a very solitary occupation. I often sit for hours at my computer tapping away and I can go for days without any real interaction with humans other than the ones in my head and my family (and maybe the barista at Starbucks). To combat this tendency toward isolation, I have reached out to many different writing communities over the years (!) of my writing life, mostly online, and I have found acceptance, inspiration, and (wouldn’t you know it) friends. So I thought I would share those communities and what they have brought to my writing. Perhaps they will inspire you too!

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Romance Writers of America (RWA)    

I think of RWA as the grandmother of them all. I have belonged to this association since 2005, and I have been to four of their national conferences and one regional conference. Early on I joined an online community in RWA and found encouragement, critique, and a group of like-minded writers. The changes in publishing have caused changes in the organization, but at its heart I believe RWA has the writer’s best interests firmly in place. When I went to that first national conference in Dallas, I had the thought over and over: “Wow, these are my PEEPS.” :) Here is a snippet from their website on their misson:

Romance Writers of America® (RWA) is a nonprofit trade association whose mission is to advance the professional interests of career-focused romance writers through networking and advocacy. RWA works to support the efforts of its members to earn a living, to make a full-time career out of writing romance—or a part-time one that generously supplements his/her main income.

And some interesting statistics about the ROMANCE genre:

  • Women make up 91 percent of romance book buyers, and men make up 9 percent.
  • The U.S. romance book buyer is most likely to be aged between 30 and 54 years.
  • Romance book buyers are highly represented in the South.
  • The greatest percentage of romance book buyers (39 percent) have an income between $50,000 and $99,900.
  • According to RWA’s 2011 Romance Book Consumer survey, slightly more than half of survey respondents live with a spouse or significant other.
  • Forty-four percent of romance book buyers consider themselves “frequent readers” (read quite a few romances); 31 percent are “avid readers” (almost always reading a romance novel); and 25 percent are “occasional readers” (on and off, like when on vacation).
  • Readers have been reading romance for a long time: 41 percent of romance book buyers have been reading romance for 20 years or more.

bksp.4Backspace 

This organization has been around since 2005 and welcomes more than just one genre. I am fairly new to Backspace (joined in 2012) but I attended their national conference in May this year and found it tremendously helpful for its emphasis on professional feedback instead of “pitching” and also for its multi-genre perspective. Online, the value of Backspace is in the Forum. There is such a wealth of information there, you can get lost for days if you are so inclined.

Backspace is predicated on the idea of writers helping writers, which we accomplish by means of discussion forums, an online guest speaker program in which agents, acquisitions editors, and bestselling authors regularly conduct question and answer sessions with the group, advice and how-to articles from publishing experts on this website, as well as our real-world conferences and events.

logo_websitemain_WFWA

Women’s Fiction Writers Association     

A new (brand, spankin’ new! We launched just last week!) organization for which I (moi, yours truly) is the Workshops Coordinator. I will, in fact, be teaching a workshop next week (Writing the Middle). Here’s the guiding principle of this start up association:

Defining Women’s Fiction has proven as subjective as the types of books we prefer. For that reason, our guiding statement is broad and comprehensive: An inclusive organization of writers who create stories about a woman’s emotional journey. Our stories may have romance. Or they may not. They could be contemporary. Or historical. But what binds us together is the focus on a woman’s emotional journey.

Others There have been others, many others, in my search for community and encouragement on the writing road. A few more highlights: Kristen Lamb’s WANA (We Are Not Alone) International (I read Kristen’s Blog religiously), Dan Blank’s Build Your Author Platform course (I bonded with a fabulous group of writers during this 6-week online course that will challenge everything you think you know about yourself as a writer), the Romance Writing Certificate Course taught via McDaniel College by Jennifer Crusie (my latest challenging adventure and another really incredible group of writers!).

The point of all this is not just that I love to join writing groups and talk about books. :D The point is, writing IS a solitary occupation, but that doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. And sometimes you have to remind yourself of that fact.

What are your favorite professional groups and organizations? Why did you join? How do you contribute?

Friday Film: Sonja Henie, Scratch Spin Master

itsapleasurecoverThis week’s Friday Film is a somewhat obscure movie I picked up at my local library. The title of the film is It’s A Pleasure!, but the title has so little to do with the story, I think I like my title much better (see above). I can’t say I liked this film but I found it interesting for several reasons and I had to think for a while about how I could explain what it brought to the screen and why my little audience (consisting of myself and Second Daughter) was a) bored and b) fascinated, both at the same time.

Sonja Henie

Wow! Scratch the surface on Norwegian figure-skater-turned-actress Sonja Henie and come up with a young phenom, a batch of controversy, and a relentless ambition. Sonja competed in the very first Winter Olympics in 1924 at the age of 11, then won her first gold medal in 1928. She went on to win gold in 1932 and 1936, parlaying her skating success (and her father’s fur trade money and influence) into a Hollywood film career that showcased her ground-breaking skating talent while ignoring her lack of acting experience. She was, above all, a performer, and the Hollywood of the ’30s and early ’40s was perfectly fine with that as long as it made them money.

A complex figure, profiles of Sonja (Wikipedia and 1994 Lillehammer profile on YouTube) mention her sweetness, skating innovation, and star-power along with her vulgarity, her ruthlessness, and to varying degrees, her connections with the Nazi party and Adolf Hitler himself. At the 1936 Winter Olympics, Sonja drew criticism from detractors for greeting Der Fuhrer with the Fascist salute and shaking Hitler’s hand. Of course, Sonja was one of the most popular sports stars of the day, and it was SonjaandHitlerinevitable that she would meet and greet Adolf personally at the Olympic venue in Germany. However, rumors (now largely debunked) circulated about an alleged affair with Hitler, sparked by her acceptance of an invitation to his Birchtesgarten hideaway in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, home of the 1936 Winter Games. Nazi ties notwithstanding, Sonja and her skating led the arena of ice show entertainment, on screen and off, well into the 1950s.

The Movie

It’s A Pleasure! (MGM, 1945) serves up Sonja Henie in all of her skating star glory, but the convoluted plot drags her out of the spotlight as she struggles to convey her on-screen love for an unworthy, unlikeable hero. In the film she plays the role of unassuming show skater Chris Linden, who falls in love with rough-and-tumble hockey star Don, played by Michael O’Shea. Don’s drinking and fighting get in the way of his hockey playing, and when he punches a referee in a game, he is banned from his sport. Sonja/Chris takes up for him and offers him a stunt skating job in a new ice show. They fall in love and get married, but as Chris Linden’s star rises, her husband’s wanes. Finally his drinking and his involvement with calculating femme fatale Gale Fletcher, played by Marie McDonald, run him aground and he leaves Chris to her skating stardom. But a happily ever after ensues when, urged by friends, Chris reunites with a reformed Don, who has taken to coaching hockey for underprivileged boys.

The Post-War Propaganda Machine

it-s-a-pleasure-sonja-henie-1945Hollywood got behind the war effort in 1941 with movies that celebrated America and urged its citizens, particularly women and minorities, to get out and work. The most famous of these images was Rosie the Riveter. But by 1945 it was time to return to “traditional values” and free up jobs for men returning from war. Hollywood turned its efforts to a post-war blitz directed at  women working in traditionally male careers. It’s A Pleasure has all those messages and more. The movie could be titled Why Your Career Needs To Take A Back Seat to Your Drunk Philandering Husband. There is actually a scene where Don fake-hits Chris Linden, and they joke about how it’s all okay to a bystander who objects. Crazy. This, I think, is where Second Daughter dropped sync on the plot and asked me to fast forward to the skating scenes.

The Scratch Spin

The scratch spin is an upright spin where the free leg is crossed over the skating knee and then pushed down towards the ice. As the arms are pulled in towards the chest, a blur effect can be achieved if the spin is done fast. It is the most popular spin among figure skaters.

~By , About.com Guide

Used to the polished jumps and spins of Sonja Henie’s successors, we could point out the flaws in Sonja’s quirky toe pick runs and easy waltz jumps. I had to keep reminding Second that Sonja Henie was the first female skater to perform some of these skills in competition. Sonja Henie’s scratch spin, though, is peerless. We even used the super slow mo on the DVD player to see how she entered the spin. Cool.

Here’s a YouTube clip from the movie, so you can get an idea of her amazing level of mastery.

Sonja Henie Stats

First to use dance choreography in her free skate

First to sport the white boots and short skirts now ubiquitous in women’s figure skating

Won 3 consecutive Gold Medals and 10 consecutive World Championships

Practiced and performed as much as 7 hours a day

One of the ten wealthiest women in the world when she died of leukemia in 1969

Any Sonja Henie fans? Budding figure skaters? What do you think of films that push a message or agenda?

In Search of Revolution: Betsy Ross

us-flag-betsy-1We all know the story, or think we do, of how young Betsy Ross was a friend of George Washington and how she proposed a design for the first flag of the United States (pictured above in the 1898 painting by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris of Philadelphia). We know about her clever five-pointed star, which was both thrifty and elegant displayed on a blue background nestled next to the red and white stripes of the Thirteen United States. We have heard that she was a seamstress and an upholsterer, a patriot, and a woman of the Revolution. This is the Betsy Ross of legend. What the true historical record shows with reference to the First Flag and Betsy, nee Elizabeth Griscom, is perhaps not as clear cut, but Betsy’s legend lives on all the same.979843_10151611394147302_402434319_o

For me, Betsy Ross was a way into the early history of the United States. The grey-haired, motherly Martha Washington, and the New Englander Abigail Adams couldn’t hold my interest for long, but Betsy’s story spoke to me and somehow still does. Her youth, her courage, her cleverness. Whether or not her legend is based in fact or family lore, her story resonates.

1040687_10151683771257302_192087199_oI always insisted on stopping at her house in Philadelphia when we went “downtown” with friends to see the sights that were the seeds, the venues, of the Revolutionary War. I took my daughters to the Betsy Ross House in 2005, our only stop besides the Liberty Bell. My girls were young, but they remember the Betsy re-enactor who snipped a five-pointed star for each of them, and then showed them how to do it too. But why did her story resonate? And why does it still? I defer to Marla R. Miller, author and historian, who says in the introduction to her scholarly biography Betsy Ross and the Making of America:

“…coming to grips with Betsy Ross also reminds us that the Revolution’s success, taken in the broadest terms, hinged not just on eloquent political rhetoric or character displayed in combat, but also on Betsy Ross and thousands of people just like her—women and men who went to work every day and took pride in a job well done.”

Happy Independence Day!

Who are your heros of the Revolution? Do you like to imagine how it played out for “average” people like Betsy? Or do you prefer the grander words of the Founding Fathers?

Photo credits:

Betsy Sewing, Betsy Ross House

Exterior Betsy Ross House, G. Widman

Surveying You, My Reader, With Ice Cream

Always vote for principle–though you may vote alone–and you will cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.

~John Quincy Adams

So now that I have been blogging for a while and quite a few of you have been kind enough to join me here at Kecia’s Blog, I am interested in what you, my readers, wouldn’t mind seeing a little more of from me. If you have a moment, vote for your favorites in the form below. And here’s some ice cream for your trouble. :D Or gelato, if you prefer. You also can let me know in the comments what you’d REALLY like me to write about. And thanks!

choc ice cream cone