Friday, May 17, 2013

Creating a Female Superhero Challenge #CAFSC

I was trying to keep this contest a secret until I officially announced it on June 1st. Why June 1st? Well, I have some other projects going on right now (like the creation of the anthology of fractured fairy tales for the Chapter Book Challenge), and I thought June 1st would be easier for me. 

The problem with keeping this contest a secret until June is that, while I am good at keeping other people's secrets, I am terrible at keeping my own. And this is a project that has me too excited to keep to myself! Because of this, I was leaving hints all over the place, especially when I started telling people about my disgust with the lack of really riveting female superheroes in current media and about the female superhero I am creating and writing a story for at this time. (Okay, I admit that there are quite a few really cool female superheroes out there, but they don't get the media attention that the male superheroes do. How many female superhero toys can you find out there? How many female superhero t-shirts and other gift merchandise are easily available? And even the movies put a lot of focus on the men. Also, don't even get me started on the way a lot of comic book female superheroes DRESS!)

I have daughters, five of them. And I want them to feel like they can achieve anything in life that they put their minds to. I want them to know that they are STRONG. I want them to respect themselves and believe in themselves.I also have sons, two of them. And while I want them to grow up knowing that they are strong and capable and able of achieving their own dreams, I want them to also know that women are as capable of achieving great things as men are and that both women and men have equal value in our world. I want them to respect women.

This is where my dilemma with the lack of female superheroes comes into the picture. Last year, I ran a small flash fiction contest asking the contributors to write princess stories but stories about strong princesses, to buck the stereotype and write something about strong girls and women. The winning story, a story about little girls arguing about how their doll princesses should dress, called "My Princess Wears a Superhero Cape" by Melissa Gijsbers, was a wonderful example about the limitations of gender stereotypes. (Melissa has changed the story a great deal since the contest and is currently trying to get a publisher for it as a children's picture book. I hope she succeeds as I would love to buy her book for my own children.)

Ever since then, the idea for this challenge has been brewing inside of me. About six weeks ago, I decided exactly what this challenge was going to entail. I originally had no plans on it going past being anything but a fun challenge with a prize for the winner. But then some of my friends, guessing what I was going to do, suggested I do more with this contest. They suggested an anthology be created with the entries, to be sold to raise money for a charity for girls.

Before I tell you about the details of the challenge, let me tell you about the charity idea. I have no idea what charity to contribute to. So if we are going to do this, I need your help deciding which charity we should donate to. Here is a list of charities that benefit girls.

Spark Summit

From the site:
"SPARK is a girl-fueled activist movement to demand an end to the sexualization of women and girls in media. We're collaborating with hundreds of girls 13-22 and more than 60 national organizations to reject the commodified, sexualized images of girls in media and support the development of girls' healthy sexuality and self-esteem."

Because I Am a Girl

From the website: "
"Because I am a Girl is a global initiative to end gender inequality, promote girls’ rights and lift millions of girls – and everyone around them – out of poverty.
Girls in the poorest regions of the world are among the most disadvantaged people on the planet. They are more likely to live in poverty, more likely to be denied access to education, more likely to be denied medical care, and more likely to be malnourished, simply because they’re girls. And yet, studies show that if you give a girl enough to eat, an education and a safe environment, she’ll work to raise the standard of living for herself, her family and her community.

 We operate a wide range of programs worldwide to improve the status of girls and give them equal access to health care, education, protection, independence, and an opportunity to participate in society.

Our State of the Worlds Girls report series is an ongoing investigation to shine the light on specific barriers to young girls’ development and their access to basic human rights."
Girl, Inc.

From the website:

"Girls Inc. inspires all girls to be strong, smart, and boldSM through life-changing programs and experiences that help girls navigate gender, economic, and social barriers. Research-based curricula, delivered by trained, mentoring professionals in a positive all-girl environment equip girls to achieve academically; lead healthy and physically active lives; manage money; navigate media messages; and discover an interest in science, technology, engineering, and math. The network of local Girls Inc. nonprofit organizations serves 125,000 girls ages 6 - 18 annually across the United States and Canada."

Girls Leadership Institute

From the website:

"The Girls Leadership Institute inspires girls to be true to themselves. We teach the practices of emotional intelligence, assertive self-expression and healthy relationships, giving girls the skills and confidence to live as leaders.

For ten years, the Girls Leadership Institute (GLI) has awakened thousands of girls to a life of authentic leadership.  Co-founded by bestselling author and girl-expert Rachel Simmons, we are a national nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization providing transformational programs to girls, their parents, and their educational communities.

At GLI, we offer camps and workshops designed to teach girls, educators and parents the core practices of emotional intelligence, healthy relationships, and assertive self-expression. Taught by professional, salaried instructors, all GLI programs use interactive lessons and theatre-based techniques to help girls connect with their emotions and practice the tools of building healthy, authentic relationships. The courses are age-appropriate and progressive, following girls’ developmental needs from grade school through high school."
These are the suggested charities to make the contributions go toward, but if you know of others, please let me know in the comments (or in your entry).

Now, let me explain the contest to you.

Creating a Female Superhero Challenge

First off, you need to create a character. She is female and superhero, but what she looks like, what her powers are, what she wears and what kind of personality she has is all up to you. Start by outlining these specific things:

Name of female superhero:

Name of human alter ego, if different:

Superhero Appearance (hair, eyes, body type, etc.):

Human alter ego appearance (if she has an alter ego):



Brief description of how the superheroine gets her powers (i.e. born with them, radioactive accident, mad scientist experiments on her, etc.):


Anything else important:

Once you have filled these details in, write a flash fiction or short story, no less than 300 words long and no longer than 1,000 words, that is a complete scene. This scene can be one that shows how your character develops her powers, how she becomes a superhero. It can be a fight scene, showing how she uses her powers. It can be a romance scene (PG, please) showing how she interacts with her love interest (if she has one). It can be anything you want it to be that shows some aspect of your character, something important to her life. It doesn't have to be a complete story, but it must be a complete scene. Think of it as if you have your own TV series dedicated to your superhero, and this short story is one episode of the series. (That suggests it should at least have an end to the scene, even though everyone watching/reading knows that the story continues.)

At the beginning of the page, before starting the list, type your name and the word count. Then type the word "anthology:" and add "yes" or "no" to let me know whether or not you want your submission included in the anthology. If we create the anthology, the proceeds will go to one of the charities. So if you say "yes" to the anthology, then please type underneath it the name of the charity that you would vote for, either one of the ones listed above or a different charity for girls. (The charity with the most votes will be the one chosen.)

Now, there is one more thing that, if this does become an anthology (print and ebook), would be great. Pictures of the superheroes. So, once the contest ends, if there are enough entries for an anthology, I am going to ask if anyone would like to donate drawings of the superheroes using the stories as drawing guides. The drawing need to be comic-book style. And it doesn't need to be just one person creating the artwork. (Yes, you can donate a drawing done by you of your character.)

The contest is meant to be fun. The anthology is going to be a major undertaking though. I'm still very excited about it, and I hope you are too!

The challenge begins on June 1st and runs through June 30th. The winner will be announced on August 7th.

Prizes:1st Prize:

- A trophy, proclaiming you the winner of the "Creating a Female Superhero Challenge"
- A print copy of  "The Everything Guide to Writing Graphic Novels: From superheroes to manga - all you need to start creating your own graphic works" by Mark Ellis and Melissa Martin-Ellis

2nd prize:
 - A Superhero Writer t-shirt

3rd prize:

 - A Superhero Writer mug

I want you to take your time creating your superhero. That's why I am giving you a whole month to submit and two weeks before submissions begin to prepare. Make your submission as creative and powerful as you possibly can make it. How to submit: Post your submission to your blog and link it in the linky that will be added to this post on June 1st. If you do not have a blog of your own, let me know by e-mailing me or messaging me through Facebook, and I will post your submission in my own blog under your name. Submissions will close on midnight, June 30th.

Good luck!

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Thursday, May 2, 2013

What's Stopping You From Achieving Your Dreams As a Writer? #IWSG

This is my fifth monthly Insecure Writer's Support Group post. The IWSG is hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh. The purpose of the IWSG is:
 "to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!"
My husband has recently asked me when I'm going to start submitting my book to agents and publishers. Or when I am going to self-publish it. I think he was just trying to subtly point out to me that at some point, I have to let go of my insecurity enough to start sharing my stories. I don't have a problem with sharing my short stories or my flash fiction pieces. I get nervous about my novels though.

And because of this, I keep putting off the editing and revising of these novels. Then, when people offer to critique, I can truthfully tell them that it's "not ready yet." But at the rate I am going, using procrastination and self-doubt as excuses, I will never get my books published.

I read a lot. And because of this, I have read some really great books, which make me feel like my writing is inadequate (i.e. How will I ever write this well?) and some really awful books. I've also read some books that have potential, but are clearly written by amateurs, people who published too soon, before their books were really ready. When I read these, I wonder if my books are any better. (i.e. What if this is as good my stories get? What if I let others read my stories and they think the same way about my books as I think about these books?)

But if I keep using excuses, if I keep letting laziness (procrastination) and fear keep me from pushing onward with my books, I will NEVER get them published, and getting my books published, having books that people read and love, is my dream. I have fought to achieve a dream before that others thought was impossible (losing 145+ lbs), and I succeeded. so why should I put any less effort and drive and dedication into pursuing this dream?

The answer is I shouldn't. I should be just as dedicated, work just as hard and go after this dream just as much as I went after that other dream. And you should too.

What is it that you are letting keep you from your dream? Is it worth it?