Sunday, February 2, 2014

Imbolc and the power of older women.

The Wheel of the Year keeps turning, and so here we are at Imbolc again. I talked about some of the folklore about Imbolc last year, and some fun facts about Brighid the year before. This year, I'd like to talk a little bit more about Brighid and what She may mean to us women writers of a certain age.

Wicca loves its Triple Goddesses -- typically Maiden, Mother, and Crone -- and it tends to cast as many goddesses as it can into that mold. Brighid got the treatment early on. She's considered to be the goddess of poets, childbirth, and metalsmiths, so hey, there's your three-in-one, right? That makes Her a triple goddess, right?

Lots of people think so, but I don't necessarily agree. Mortal women are multi-talented, after all. Why can't a goddess be the patron (matron?) of multiple disciplines without somebody suggesting She should be split into multiple beings? Especially when gods don't get the same treatment. Lugh's good at everything -- He, too, is a patron of poets, among other things -- but I've never heard anybody suggest He should be called a Bazillion-fold God.

Anyway. The point is Brighid wears multiple hats and is backed by a wealth of experience. That's what makes Her so easy to relate to, in my opinion; She's so much like us mere mortal women in that way, particularly as we get older and have more, and more varied, experiences under our belts. It makes perfect sense to me that a single goddess could raise a child while at the same time writing interesting prose and hammering out practical, tangible objects -- because here on Earth, women do it every day.

Yet often, we don't get credit for all we do -- particularly once we hit middle age. Too many times, still, only young, attractive women get any attention. Fay Weldon wrote a piece for the New York Times this week in which she talks about how writers are still advised not to write stories featuring women in their 50s. Sure, the bulk of the book-buying public is made up of those women, but the conventional wisdom is that they -- we -- don't want to read about ourselves as we are.
[T]hey like to identify with themselves when young and beautiful, when sexual power and adventures were for the taking and life was fun — not as they are now, with bulging hips and crepey necks. Why wouldn’t they?
Really? Maybe I'm an outlier in this, as I am in much of the rest of popular culture. But personally, I'm pretty tired of reading about teen and twentysomething protagonists who are just figuring out their way in the world. That's why Naomi was in her mid-30s in the Pipe Woman Chronicles, and why Tess and Sue in Land, Sea, Sky are close to 30. I think women who have seen something of life are much more interesting to read about -- and to write about, too.

Huh. It just occurred to me that when I get around to telling Sage's story, Naomi will be in her mid-50s and Joseph will be pushing 60. I knew they'd be an old married couple, but...huh.

Anyway, Weldon goes on to offer hope to middle-aged women writers: once you push through to 80, she says, the publishing establishment will be interested in you again: "so old as to seem ageless, sexless as a sage." Sounds appealing, doesn't it? In the meantime, she advises us women of a certain age to consider going indie:
Meanwhile the female writer still going through the doldrums of middle age should look at the advent of the e-book as a blessing. It is such an anonymous medium. The writer can be from anywhere and as old or young as she likes. The quality of the text emerges without frills, without the photo on the back of the book. And, should you e-publish yourself, with any luck a “proper” publisher, impressed by your skill and panache, will turn it into a book as we once knew it, indifferent to your age.
I think her last sentence is a little out of touch; "proper" publishers today are flailing, and "a book as we once knew it" doesn't really happen any more. But as for indie publishing being a blessing for women of a certain age? With that, I heartily agree.

***
Undertow is back from my editor -- huzzah! We're on track for publication in mid-March or so. I'll send a newsletter update pretty soon.

Also, the Indies Unlimited 2013 Flash Fiction Anthology is available now, and I've got a piece in it again this year. And there's been some discussion amongst my BookGoodies pals about doing another anthology -- this one geared toward summer. Stay tuned for more info on that.

Winter's on the downhill run. Happy Imbolc, everybody!
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