The Quotable Nerdy Chick: Bella Abzug

File:Bella Abzug 1971-11-30.jpgWhen Bella Abzug was 13, her father died. There was no one to say the Mourner’s Kaddish for him in synagogue because that was the responsibility of the sons of the deceased — and Bella’s father didn’t have any sons. So Bella defied her community and said the prayers herself. It was one of her first feminist actions.

The daughter of Russian-Jewish immigrants, Bella started giving speeches about causes that were important to her in her childhood — speaking out in subways because she had no other pulpit. Over the course of her life, however, Bella found greater stages to stand on and larger audiences to listen to her words. including the House of Representatives, where she served from 1971 to 1977. She supported civil rights and women’s rights, and changed the world for the better.

Quotes from Bella Abzug:

  • “We are coming down from our pedestal and up from the laundry room. We want an equal share in government and we mean to get it.”
  • “Women have been trained to speak softly and carry a lipstick. Those days are over.”
  • “The test for whether or not you can hold a job should not be the arrangement of your chromosomes.”
  • “Women have been and are prejudiced, narrow minded, reactionary, even violent. Some women. They, of course, have a right to vote and a right to run for office. I will defend that right, but I will not support them or vote for them.”
  • “They used to give us a day–it was called International Women’s Day. In 1975 they gave us a year, the Year of the Woman. Then from 1975 to 1985 they gave us a decade, the Decade of the Woman. I said at the time, who knows, if we behave they may let us into the whole thing. Well, we didn’t behave and here we are.”
  • “All of the men on my staff can type.”

Learn more about Bella HERE.


I Can Make That!

Okay Nerdy Chicks. You know that feeling you have when you see something in a store and the first thing that pops into your mind is, “I can make that!” And the second thing is, “I’ll save money doing it!” If you are one of those people, you are definitely a nerdy chick…  and  this post is for you.

With Halloween is right around the proverbial corner, now seems like a good time to talk about a particularly successful project I completed about two years ago.

  •  All by itself, it has brought hundreds and hundreds of people to CRAFTY CRAFTS, the craft blog I run with my daughter.
  •  It has been copied and worn by a teacher in a Halloween parade in Sewell, NJ.
  • It has won a Halloween Costume Contest judged by the mayor of the booming metropolis where we live.
  •  It is…

 The Hippie Vest.

And we (my daughter and I) made it ourselves.

Sometimes being a Nerdy Chick means making your own costumes, or your own birthday cakes. Sometimes it means thinking you don’t want to pay for something because you assume you can make that something better yourself.

Sometimes you are wrong about the previous assumption.

But not in the case of the Hippie Vest. The Hippie Vest rocks. It was created from a $2.50 brown fleece blanket, iron-on patches, a needle, and a pair of scissors. It didn’t take long to make. But long it will dwell on the Internet, and bring hits to the craft blog, especially around Halloween.

Long live The Hippie Vest! I wish all of my ideas were this good.

To find out how to make The Hippie Vest, click HERE.

And if you’ve ever taken the “I can make that!” challenge, tell us how it turned out in a comment! 

What Happens in High School…The True Distance Between Things

Me, then

I’m sure you’ll find this impossible to believe, but when I was in high school, I was NOT a cheerleader, or a basketball star, or on the homecoming court (in fact, to this day, I’m not entirely sure what homecoming is all about). Don’t get me wrong — I did plenty of things. Orchestra. National Honor Society. French Club. Class Valedictorian. But those things that most people consider cool? Not so much. And because of that, I often felt like I was on the outside, looking in — like there was an insurmountable distance between me and the kids who were the stars of high school. That I would never — could never — be just like them.

When I left for college, one of the things I was excited about was that I wouldn’t have to face the reality of that insurmountable distance any longer. (Out of sight, out of mind, right?) What I wasn’t prepared for was the realization that the distance I despaired over was really less about reality than about perception. And yet, that’s exactly what has happened.

Something happened a few months ago that really drove this home for me. I was standing in the security line at the Philadelphia airport, about to fly out for a speaking engagement. Up in front of me, I saw someone who looked familiar. It took a minute, but then I realized I was looking at a blast from the past.

Me, now

Years ago, back in high school, there was a guy who was the consummate high school star. He was good looking, played three different sports, had been recruited by a gazillion colleges long before his senior year. And he was even fairly smart (I remember that he cheated off me in a few classes, which means he was in my advanced classes). I didn’t have a real crush on him, but it’s probably fair to say that neither I nor any other girl in my class would have said no if he wanted a prom date (for the record, he didn’t ask me). And that guy — who was the furthest away of that distant crowd of stars — was standing right in front of me.

And you know what? He looked completely normal.

I remember he was with his family, a wife and a gaggle of kids. They had on a bunch of Disney gear and were probably on their way to Florida for a family vacation — the same vacation I’ve taken my family on. If I hadn’t looked twice, I would never have noticed that he had been one of my classmates. And even looking twice, I couldn’t tell if he was a doctor, or a plumber, or a teacher, or a contemporary sculptor. He just looked like a regular person. A regular person, just like me.

As cool as it was to realize that the distance between me and Mr. High School was nonexistent, do you know what was cooler? This ordinary-looking guy — with kids tugging at his rumpled T-shirt, with wrinkles and slightly thinning hair, who looked like he could use an extra hour of sleep and an extra hour at the gym — this guy looked happy. Really, really happy.

Somehow, Mr. High School and I ended up in the same place. Because I’m pretty ordinary. I’ve got wrinkles and slightly thinning hair. I could use an extra hour of sleep and a couple extra hours at the gym. And I’m happy. Really, really happy.

Maybe I was never on the outside in high school. Maybe, just maybe, the circle was bigger than I let myself believe it was. Or maybe, it doesn’t matter, because life is long, and we all get there.

The Quotable Nerdy Chick: Barbara McClintock

Barbara McClintock (1902 – 1992) was an American Geneticist. She originated the study of genetics in corn cells. Although her peers were initially skeptical about her work, McClintock went to win the Lasker Prize for her work, which was followed by her receipt of the Nobel Prize in 1983. Her quotes reveal a woman with enthusiasm for her ideas and joy with her work. Perhaps this is the secret to her success! To find out more about Barbara McClintock, click HERE.

  • I was just so interested in what I was doing I could hardly wait to get up in the morning and get at it. One of my friends, a geneticist, said I was a child, because only children can’t wait to get up in the morning to get at what they want to do.
  • If you know you’re right, you don’t care. You know that sooner or later, it will come out in the wash.
  • The prize is such an extraordinary honor. It might seem unfair, however, to reward a person for having so much pleasure over the years, asking the maize plant to solve specific problems and then watching its responses.
  • Plants are extraordinary. For instance … if you pinch a leaf of a plant you set off electrical impulse. You can’t touch a plant without setting off an electrical impulse … There is no question that plants have all kinds of sensitivities. They do a lot of responding to an environment. They can do almost anything you can think of.
  • It never occurred to me that there was going to be any stumbling block. Not that I had the answer, but [I had] the joy of going at it. When you have that joy, you do the right experiments. You let the material tell you where to go, and it tells you at every step what the next has to be because you’re integrating with an overall brand new pattern in mind.
  • With the tools and the knowledge, I could turn a developing snail’s egg into an elephant. It is not so much a matter of chemicals because snails and elephants do not differ that much; it is a matter of timing the action of genes.

I love that first quote! It doesn’t happen every day, but there are some days when I’m so excited about a project that I just can’t wait to get to it!



Cackle Fruit and Booty

Ahoy there nerdy wenches! I can’t believe we almost let International Talk Like A Pirate Day go without mention. It wasn’t that long ago that I was leading pirate games (which included a race to translate sentences written in Pirate slang into modern English) to third grade landlubbers. I’m not sure how  much they liked the aforementioned game, but they loved the hats and stick-on mustaches!

Anyway, Nerdy Chicks Rule seems a great place to salute female pirates like Anne Bonny, Mary Read, and  Grace O’Malley, who claimed pirate fame despite strict rules against allowing females aboard pirate vessels.  Hmmm. While it’s true they were groundbreaking… uh… seabreaking… maybe they weren’t so nerdy. 

But here’s one who is. I have to give a shout out to Princess Bea of Pirate Princess by fellow blogger Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen. When I looked on my shelf and saw this book I realized I had almost let the most important pirate day of the year slip by without saluting Bea. She’s quite nerdy, a pampered princess who knows what she wants and has the guts to go after it. But Bea has never lifted a finger in her life, so she has no skills to contribute to a pirate crew. Luckily she discovers a valuable skill that doesn’t involve fingers.  I’ve known Princess Bea ever since she was just a character in a manuscript, before she was discovered by Harper Collins and delivered to the hands of young readers, and I’ve always thought she was great!

When I decided to write this post I called Sudipta and asked her what inspired her to write about a princess turned pirate. She said, “I wanted to write about a character who could do what she wanted no matter how unlikely it seemed.”

I also asked a question my daughter has been wondering. Did Bea get her name because Sudipta’s daughters both have names that begin with B?  Sudipta’s answer: “I named her Bea because it rhymes with Sea.”

Ah well, not every author answer can be inspiring. But Pirate Princess is!

Do you have a favorite pirate term? There are a ton of great piratey words out there. My favorite term: cackle fruit. Know what it is? Here’s a hint: it comes from a chicken.

Sudipta’s favorite term is booty. Actually, she tried to think of a better term as soon as the word was out of her mouth, but couldn’t. To be fair, I think if pirate terms were electable by the public, booty would win!

Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day!


Psst! Not too late to enter to win a copy of Saying Goodbye! Click here for details!

Jocelyn Rish: Award Winning Writer and Filmmaker

I met writer and filmmaker Jocelyn Rish at an SCBWI Carolina’s conference. I was immediately struck by how modest she was despite the fact that she had recently won two major (but very different) awards for her writing. In 2009 she won the Highlights Fiction contest, a very big deal in the children’s writing world. Then she won a generous grant from the SC Film Commission to fund making her award winning story Saying Goodbye (another award!) into a film. Impressive, right?

This past spring I was thrilled to be able to watch Saying Goodbye, which Jocelyn produced with her brother Brian Rishat the Beaufort Film Festival. It is a sweet and funny movie. (You can enter for a chance to win a copy below.)

 Jocelyn graduated from Duke University with a major in psychology and a minor in computer science. She is simultaneously working on two novels and her filmmaking. Thanks for joining us today Jocelyn to answer questions about writing for film, and being nerdy! 

If you could give your middle school or high school self one piece of advice, what would it be? You know that little voice in your head – the one that keeps whispering at you to quit being so scared? LISTEN TO IT! It’s trying to keep you from torturing yourself with the “what if” game years down the road. Be brave, be bold. 

How can I get a little voice in my head that tells me to quit being scared? I need one of those! Just kidding, the last thing I need is another voice in my head. Do you have a favorite way to flaunt your brain power?I love using big words. I’m actually kind of obnoxious about it, even though I don’t mean to be, they just pop out before I can stop them. And now I’m making it worse by learning a new word each day and using it to write a tweet tale on twitter. If you want to play along, come find us at the hashtag #15tt.

You won the Highlights fiction contest a few years ago. Now you are winning awards for your short film. What are some 

differences between writing for children and writing for film? The biggest difference is in HOW you tell the story, and I don’t mean format, although that is a big difference too. When writing a story people will read (children or adults), you have a lot more freedom. You can describe things using all five of the senses. You can explore what the characters are thinking and feeling. But when you’re writing for film, if it can’t be seen or heard, then it doesn’t happen. You can’t describe the way the tang of fresh cut grass reminds the protagonist of picnics with her dad, or that these memories make her sad because her dog ran away during one of these picnics. Unless you go the easy route with a voiceover, you have to figure out other ways to convey these thoughts and feelings (plus hope the actors are strong enough to express complex emotions visually).

My short film Saying Goodbye was actually a short story first, written from close third person POV, focusing on the protagonist’s thoughts about what was happening around her. My brother Brian and I worked together to translate it to a screenplay, and it was a definite challenge – we ended up using flashbacks and switching some of her internal dialog to actual dialog. If you’re interested, you can do a comparison yourself – the original short story is here: and the film is available to watch for free here:

Thanks for offering the comparison!  Did anything unexpected and wonderful happen to you while writing the script for, and filming Saying Goodbye? The main character of Alma was based on my maternal grandmother, who had passed away in a nursing home a few months before I wrote the short story, so writing it helped me feel more at peace with her passing. And so many wonderful things happened while filming that I could write pages and pages about it, but I’ll pick two:

One, we filmed in an actual assisted living community and the residents and staff were warm and welcoming and sooooo excited to be extras in the movie. They were very inspiring and exemplified the “carpe diem” spirit we tried to convey in the film. We had a special screening for them when the movie was finished, and I still get teary thinking about their reactions to seeing themselves on the big screen.

Two, as part of the grant we won from the SC Film Commission, we worked with students at The University of South Carolina and Trident Technical College. These students were dedicated and talented and so much fun to work with. I now refer to them (all nineteen of them!) as my babies, and I’ve been so proud as they’ve gone on to work on shows like The Vampire Diaries, Drop Dead Diva, Army Wives, and several Hollywood movies.

I can understand your pride. It is great to see the ripple effect of your work. So do you have plans for future films? We recently finished our second film High Heels & Hoodoo, which is a complete 180 from Saying Goodbye. It’s a supernatural story that’s part spooky, part funny. We’re just now starting the film festival circuit with this one. After that, I’m not sure. My brother and I have talked about trying a feature film next, but that will involve raising a lot of money, so we’re still debating our next step.

How is brain power an asset to your career? On the writing side of my career, my brain power turned me into a story sponge. I grew up as a mega bookworm (which is a subspecies of a nerdy chick, right?), and I absorbed so many lessons about story structure and characterization and the crafting of words from reading. Now many of these aspects of storytelling are like second nature, so I can let my creative side take over when I write.

As for my career as a film producer (can I call it that if no one is paying me?), the most important thing is organization. There are so many moving parts that a producer is kind of like a plate spinner – and if one plate gets neglected, they all come crashing down. So this is where I get to indulge my not-so-secret love of spreadsheets. From budgets to actor availability to which props are needed for a scene, I track everything in spreadsheets in all their tab-filled, color-coded glory.

I know there will be more award winning fiction and films in your future, Jocelyn, and I look forward to experiencing both!

 To find out more about Jocelyn, visit her website, or follow her on Twitter. You can find out more about her movie, Saying Goodbye, here. More on her movie High Heels and Hoodoo can be found here.  

Jocelyn has offered to send a copy of a DVD of Saying Goodbye! All you have to do to enter to win the DVD, which contains outtakes and more, is leave a comment! Contest ends at midnight on September 23 and a winner will be selected using on Monday, September 24.  

Have a peek at the movie trailer here! Don’t forget to comment.


The Quotable Nerdy Chick: Virginia Woolf

File:Cameron julia jackson.jpgWhen I read A Room of One’s Own in college, I truly believed Virginia Woolf was talking directly to me. In fact, when I lived in London, I would sometimes walk by her childhood home at  at 22 Hyde Park Gate in Kensington, in the hopes that inspiration would wash over me. One of the greatest novelists of the twentieth century, Virginia is both extremely nerdy and completely quotable.



Quotes from Virginia Woolf:

  • “For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.”
  • “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
  • “Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works.”
  • “Women have served all these centuries as looking glasses possessing the power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size.”
  • “If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.”

Learn more about Virgina HERE.

O’Keefe Country

Back in May, I highlighted quotes from Georgia O’Keefe, the first American female painter to achieve national recognition. I’ve long been a fan of O’Keefe’s work, probably because my mother, a painter herself, introduced me to O’Keefe’s color-filled renditions of flowers and landscapes when I was growing up.

This summer, I had a chance to visit the vistas that inspired O’Keefe, and I’ve been meaning to write about it ever since! In July, we traveled to Santa Fe, New Mexico, home of the Georgia O’Keefe museum. The museum houses some of O’Keefe’s most famous works, and also artifacts from her life. There, you can read letters she wrote to her husband Alfred Stieglitz about the beauty of New Mexico and the pull the countryside there had on her. You can also see the camping equipment she used when she wanted to travel off the beaten path to paint different scenery. The museum shows films that describe the struggles O’Keefe had with art critics, and how they wanted to attribute her gorgeous painting of flowers to sexuality, when she just wanted to show the beauty of the flower by magnifying it with paper and paints. Critics of the O’Keefe museum say that there is not enough of her work represented there. But really, can we ever see enough of her work? Take a peek at some of the works the museum houses HERE.

We also traveled away from Santa Fe to the Ghost Ranch, made famous in part by O’Keefe’s long stays there. She fell in love with the place, and spent many years working and painting there. The Ghost Ranch logo, in fact, was designed after a cow skull painting of O’Keefe’s. We were told that the skull pictured above, which hangs from an old adobe home at the Ghost Ranch, was the skull O’Keefe painted… but we’re a little dubious about that.

My children at the Ghost Ranch

The red clay canyons and sky-scraper like formations make the Ghost Ranch a place like no other, and visiting there,  it was easy to see why she found the landscape and the clear blue sky inspiring. Even if you’ve never been to the Ghost Ranch, you’ve probably seen it. Ever watched Cowboys and Aliens or City Slickers? How about Silverado or Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull? If you have, you’ve seen the Ghost Ranch. Because it  offers acres and acres of pristine land, it is frequently used by filmmakers.

Today the Ghost Ranch is still used by writers and artists as a retreat for working, but also for teaching. What inspired O’Keefe continues to inspire.

We saw other amazing things on our vacation. But walking in O’Keefe country gave me a greater appreciation for not only the talent of Georgia O’Keefe, but also the extreme sacrifices she made as a woman of her day to leave New York and move to New Mexico for the sake of her art.

View from the Ghost Ranch

The Quotable Nerdy Chick: Pattie Maes

I first heard of Pattie Maes in 1997 in the most unlikely place – the pages of People Magazine’s Most Beautiful People edition. The reason she stood out was because she was not an actress or a movie star – Pattie was then an associate professor at the MIT Media Laboratory. Instantly, I thought, here’s a woman who has it all – smart, successful, beautiful, and visionary. Pretty much the epitome of the Nerdy Chick.

Currently, Pattie is the director of the Media Lab’s Fluid Interfaces group (which she founded) and the associate Department Head for the Media, Arts and Sciences Department (which all means that at science juggernaut MIT, Pattie is a mover and shaker). Her research is on the interaction between humans and computers and how computers can help us be smarter, something she calls “intelligence augmentation.” In other words, she isn’t just studying science – she’s creating new fields that other people haven’t imagined.

Quotes from Pattie Maes:

  • [On her life motto] “I am just being playful. I like working hard and having fun. It is really my hobby rather than work. In our team it is all about staying playful, open-minded and silly. It’s about taking risks and trying to never grow up. We just have fun.”
  • “We like to invent new disciplines or look at new problems, and invent bandwagons rather than jump on them.”
  • “We are a social species, and we can benefit from each other’s intelligence and each other’s problem solving.”
  • “I try to eat healthy, but being Belgian, I’m also addicted to chocolate.”

Learn more about Pattie HERE.

Celebrating Malcolm at Midnight

Yesterday saw the debut day of W. H. Beck’s middle grade novel Malcolm at Midnight. When W.H. Beck was interviewed here earlier this year, a trailer for this cute mystery wasn’t available yet. So we thought we’d celebrate Malcolm’s release by sharing the trailer today. It showcases the great artwork of Malcolm’s illustrator, Brian Lies. Take a look:


And here’s my favorite question from the W. H. Beck interview because she shares some of the interesting things she learned about rats during the writing process:

Did you do any particular research when writing Malcolm at Midnight? For being a funny mystery starring a talking rat, I did a lot of research for Malcolm! First of all, I’ve never had a rat as a pet, so I had to learn about rats—what they could do (swim through plumbing!), their strengths (resilience) and weaknesses (food). It was really fun to twist those around into Malcolm’s character traits and actions. The same was true for the classroom pets’ “slang.” I figured that if food was really important to them, then their vocabulary would reflect that. So I got to get out my trusty thesaurus and looked up alternate words for eating and snacks and crumbs and turn them into sayings the animals could use.

Working with an illustrator (Brian Lies) also opened up a whole new level of research for me. Malcolm at Midnight is set in an old school, and when I write, I like to use a lot of visuals, so I spent way more time than I needed to clicking around on the internet, looking at aging schools and clock towers. But this all came in handy later on, when Brian had questions about the school’s layout. I forwarded him a lot of my links and sketches and photos for his illustrations.

And finally, because I’m a nerdy chick, I did a lot of research in planning and plotting a successful mystery—what parts are necessary? How do you hide the clues in plain sight? I really loved learning about how to fit the pieces of the story together.

To see the whole interview click HERE.

I met W.H. Beck at the Chautauqua Writer’s Workshop in 2004, the same time I  met  fellow blogger Sudipta. It is always exciting to see an author welcome a book into the world. But when that author is someone you count as a friend, it is especially exciting. So we’re very happy about this release! Here’s to Malcolm at Midnight! May his journey be a long one!