The Quotable Nerdy Chick: Joyce Banda

Photo credit: Lindsay Mgbor/Department for International Development

Photo credit: Lindsay Mgbor/Department for International Development


In 2009, a former secretary named Joyce Banda became the first female vice president of the country of Malawi. That itself is an amazing accomplishment, but Joyce is an amazing woman — she followed this up in 2012 by becoming the first female president of Malawi (and only the second woman to be elected president of an African country).

Committed to her citizens, especially the women of Malawi, Joyce has spent years working both in and out of politics to improve living conditions in her country. She is the founder of several organizations such as the Joyce Banda Foundation for Better Education, the Young Women Leaders Network, National Association of Business Women and the Hunger Project in Malawi. In 2006, she was given the International Award for the Health and Dignity of Women by the Americans for United Nations Population Fund for her dedication to the rights of the women of Malawi. Notably, even as president Joyce does not consider herself above her fellow citizens and she is willing to share in their struggles in real ways. When Malawi had to implement austerity measures in 2012 to try to get the country’s economy back on track, Joyce herself took a voluntary 30% cut in her salary.

Quotes from Joyce Banda:

  • “Africa is changing…and we are doing better than most countries. America is still struggling to put a woman in the White House, but we have two, so we’re doing fine.”
  • “It is only when a women is economically empowered that she can negotiate at household level with her husband about the number of children that body of hers can have.”
  • “I had three children, in an abusive marriage. And then finally I said, no. I have to walk out. For the sake of my children… So for me when I talk about the importance of economic empowerment of women, it’s because I tried it.”
  • “I want all of us to move into the future with hope and with the spirit of oneness and unity… I hope we shall stand united and I hope that as a God-fearing nation we allow God to come before us, because if we don’t do that then we have failed.”

Learn more about Joyce Banda here.

Permission to do Nothing, Sir!

Here's a photo of my ceiling. Feel free to stare at it.

Here’s a photo of my ceiling. Feel free to stare at it.

If there’s one thing I never do, it’s nothing. It seems like I just can’t do nothing right. I mean, I am ALWAYS doing something.  I’m writing, I’m folding clothes, I’m making plans, I’m walking the dog, I’m creating something out of paint, paper, beads, wire. I can’t sit still. This is the truth. But my housekeeping tells a different story.

Looking around my cluttered abode, you’d think I’ve mastered the art of doing nothing. There’s so much undone stuff at my house, you might ask yourself does she ever do anything?  Yes, I do. All of the time.  It’s nothing I don’t do.

Why? Why do I feel like I have to be busy all of the time? Could it be cultural? Does anyone else have this problem? When my son was in elementary school, I walked into the living room and found him lying on the floor, looking up. I asked him what he was doing. “Staring at the ceiling,” he said.

“Get up and go do something!” I commanded. Why?

When I later told my good friend about this, she laughed in my face. She said, “I just read an article about how we push our children too much and don’t let them lay around and look at the ceiling anymore.”

Oof. Not my finest moment as a mom. That ten year old boy who was thinking who-knows-what when I told him to stop staring at the ceiling, will think completely different things now, seven years later, when he looks up. The moment of idle contemplation I interrupted is forever gone.

It has been a hard couple of weeks for me physically, mentally and emotionally.  I honestly feel like I’ve been running on a treadmill for five and a half weeks straight. I stepped off of that treadmill Monday, exhausted.  So Monday night I asked my husband “Is it okay if I don’t do ANYTHING tonight?” That’s right. I feel so guilty about doing nothing; I have to ask permission to do it.

He looked at me like I was crazy. So I attempted to relax on the couch and watch an episode of Sherlock. (Watching TV counts as nothing, right?)

But I was fidgety. So I wrote this blog post while watching.

Shoot. I stink at nothing. I just can’t do nothing right.

Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day! Wow. We need a celebration like this right now. Let’s look away from human nature for a minute and look up to Mother Nature. She’s amazing, isn’t she?

A few weeks ago, while mired in deadlines and family emergencies, I got something wonderful in the mail that I haven’t had time to celebrate. Well today is the perfect day to celebrate it.  Here it is:

Forest Has a Song framed by my live oak tree!

Forest Has a Song framed by my live oak tree!

My friend Amy Ludwig Vanderwater’s debut book, Forest Has A Song! It is an absolutely gorgeous book of poetry celebrating a child’s discovery of nature’s many facets as she explores a forest. We see her marvel at life as she observes ferns unfurling, spiders knitting, and tree frogs serenading, and observing death in a fossil and a pile of bones. Forest Has A Song is a celebration of observation as well as nature! (Robbin Gourley’s water color images make it a celebration of color, too.)

I asked Amy to express the best Earth Day message A Forest Has A Song offers us and she did!

Go outside, just to be there. Walk. Listen. Let our beautiful planet sink into your very bones. Enjoy the mysteries. Remember who you are.

Thank you, Amy! I hope everyone will take a minute to do that today!

We’re also happy to feature a poem Amy wrote for Earth Day. It is, after all, National Poetry Month.

Mother Earth's Wish

I can think of many more things to say about Earth Day.  About how much I love the twisting branches of the oaks in my yard, how if I walk a block in any direction I run into marches full of tall grass, scuttling crabs, and speckled with graceful long-necked birds, and how tree frogs cling to my office window every night of the summer. But… well, go out there and see what you can for yourself! Thanks again Amy for sharing your love of nature through your poems! (You can all expect a proper interview with Amy soon.)

To read a poem from Forest Has a Song and link to some of Robbin Gourley’s sketches, click HERE.  To see more about Amy’s Earth Day celebration click HERE.

*We also want to celebrate how another Nerdy Chick Interviewee is involved in Earth Day. Flori Pate’s banner was chosen for the Discovery home page today. See it live HERE.


Happy Earth Day everyone!

Quotes to Give You Hope

I wasn’t very long ago that my co-blogger wrote about being hard-hit by the news and needing to find HOPE.  And here we are again, many of us with hearts bleeding for Boston and Texas and other places around the world where despair rages. As long as we keep getting news, we’ll never have a shortage of despair, it seems. And as long as we have despair, we’ll need to cling to hope. So instead of our usual Quotable Nerdy Chick Feature, this week I wanted to share what some great people have said hope.

Alexandre Dumas:

There is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more. He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness. We must of felt what it is to die … that we may appreciate the enjoyments of life.  — Alexandre Dumas


Emily Dickinson:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.


J.R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings :

The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places. But still there is much that is fair. And though in all lands, love is now mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps, the greater.


Martin Luther King Jr. :

“Only in the darkness can you see the stars.”


Michelle Obama :

You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all of the world’s problems at once but don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.


 Langston Hughes:

Hold fast to dreams,
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird,
That cannot fly.


Sunsets like this one in Beaufort somehow give me hope.

Sunsets like this one in Beaufort somehow give me hope.


Kat Yeh: Mad Scribbles, Big Feet

297310_10150320631406460_1375238351_nA couple years ago, Kat Yeh and I were attending the same writer’s conference. I was in the middle of a conversation with a well-respected agent, when Kat walked by. Immediately, the person I was speaking to went silent and his eyes followed Kat as she walked away. When he finally remembered that he was supposed to be speaking to me, he turned back, shrugged, and said, “She’s very striking.” The funny thing is that this guy had no idea that, as striking as Kat is from across the room, she is so much more so in person. Kat has a warm and endearing personality that has you laughing and feeling like you’ve known her for years, even when you first meet. This explains why I’ve spilled so many secrets to her despite our relatively short friendship!

Magic-Brush-Yeh-Kat-9780802721792You're Lovable to MeKat is a graduate of Villanova University and she worked in sports marketing for many years before discovering she really is a wonderfully talented writer who needs to be putting books into the world for the rest of us to read. She is the author of the picture books YOU’RE LOVABLE TO ME (Random House Books for Young Readers) and THE MAGIC BRUSH A story of love, family and Chinese Characters (Walker Books for Young Readers) and the forthcoming novel, THE TRUTH ABOUT TWINKIE PIE (Little Brown BYR, coming 2014). She’s also the recipient of the 2012 SCBWI Sue Alexander Most Promising New Work Award.

Thank you, Kat, for joining us today on Nerdy Chicks Rule. Let’s get started! If you could give your middle school or high school self one piece of advice, what would it be?

I actually think I received the perfect piece of advice already at that age (though I was not really able to figure out how to use it till much later) A dear and wise-beyond-her -years friend gave me a little card with a tiny painting and the quote: “Being myself includes taking risks with myself, taking risks with my behavior so that I can see how it is I want to be” I think we were 13 or 14 at the time. She knew I was struggling and feeling stuck, so she made the card for me. I still have it.

And I wish I could honestly say I have other advice that I would give myself, but I kind of feel that all that stumbling and confusion was sort of necessary. Even the big plastic glasses and ill-advised outfit choice for my first 9th grade dance (brown cowl neck sweater and full-length a-line plaid skirt). I wouldn’t change any of it. But maybe I’d just go back and give myself a big hug.

If it makes you feel better, I never even went to my 9th grade dance (though had I gone, I’m sure my wardrobe choice would have been equally unfortunate). Let’s move on…You’re one of my favorite authors!

Funny, you’re one of mine 🙂


Here are the Nerdy Chicks with Kat (and Joyce Wan) in Princeton (after that conference where Kat was declared “striking”)

My favorite things to read…Books that lush and literary and brave and unapologetic and a little bit strange and completely committed to the world they create: example anything by Franny Billingsley.

 How do you see the books that are being published today as helping to empower girls to be smart (or, as we like to call it, nerdy)?

I don’t think it is necessarily about what is being published today as much as it is about allowing a pretty free reign. Showing a lot of options, but then letting them make their own reading choices – and THEN being there to talk. Answer questions (or even better come up with more questions together!). Start discussions. Think of alternate endings. Be stumped. Be frustrated. Be in love. Then wonder and wonder and talk about why you both are feeling all these things. I love the George Carlin quote:  “Don’t just teach your children to read…Teach them to question what they read. Teach them to question everything.”

That is a terrific quote from a fairly smart (and nerdy!) man. But we’re called Nerdy Chicks Rule, so let’s re-focus on girls…Tell us about a fictitious nerdy chick you admire and why you admire her.

Is it too typical to say Jo March? I don’t think that I was ever as brave as she was as a teen, but I wanted to be. And of course, I always connected to her passion for reading and her utter desperate Need To Be a Writer – as well as her big feet and awkwardness and temper and fierce love and mad scribbling.

Your feet are not big! (Well, at least, not that big.) Moving on, though…What’s something you like to do that might be considered a little bit nerdy, but is actually really fun?

I love, love spending hours in used book stores or in the used book section of my local indy. Looking for old art books. Hidden overlooked early editions of favorites. I love finding books with quirky titles and wonderful content. It’s like a treasure hunt. I recently found a ratty copy of a book titled, LOVE & DROLLERY – A SELECTION OF AMATORY, MERRY AND SATIRICAL VERSE OF THE 17TH CENTURY for $7. Happiness.

That was totally going to be the title of my next book! I guess that’s why I should do more market research, especially in used book stores. You’ve convinced me to follow in your (normal-sized) footsteps! Now, what is one of your favorite achievements that you can credit to being a nerdy chick?

easy: without a doubt, it is only when being absolutely myself (and therefore, embracing the nerdy in me) that I have been able to Find & Be Found and Get & Be Gotten by like-minded souls who have become life friends.

527286_10151155108171460_496397820_nI love the way you describe that: Find & Be Found and Get & Be Gotten. Beautiful. Guess that’s why you’re an award-winning author, huh? 🙂

Now, for the fun part: if someone gave you $75 and you could only spend it on you, what would you do with it?

That’s hard. As a mom, I tend not to think about spending money on myself. I’d probably buy drinks and a load of appetizers somewhere yummy (and hopefully with music) where a friend and I could have long, leisurely talk-ish time together.

And, finally, can you tell us one thing you buy at the grocery store that you cannot live without?

For several months now it’s been baby arugula. I know – it’s not glamorous or decadent, but it makes me crazy. All dark and peppery and perfect.

Thank you again, Kat! If you want to find out more about the fabulous and fashionable Kat Yeh, visit her at (still under construction, but coming soon!) and follow her on Twitter: @yehface

The Quotable Nerdy Chick: Vera Wang

verawang1Vera Wang (b. 1949) is an American fashion designer. A former figure skater, she started her design career in 1971 with Vogue magazine and then worked as a design director for Ralph Lauren.  Wang has been awarded many honors including being named Womenswear Designer of the Year by The Council of Fashion Designers of America. Celebrities such as Halle Berry and Meg Ryan have worn her designs. To learn more about this fabulous designer click HERE.

Vera Wang Quotes:

  • Ready-to-wear is what I’ve wanted to do since the beginning…I’m not a girl who spends my life in a ballgown
  • A woman is never sexier than when she is comfortable in her clothes.
  • As the mother of two daughters, I have great respect for women. And I don’t ever want to lose that.
  • Design is about point of view, and there should be some sort of woman or lifestyle or attitude in one’s head as a designer.
  • When you have a passion for something then you tend not only to be better at it, but you work harder at it too.

Every time I see a Vera Wang dress I love it. What an eye for line she has! And I agree with what she says about passion too….

Real Life: Virtual Disappearance

Every Easter my family decorates blown eggs. My daughter made this one for me. Look familiar?

Every Easter my family decorates blown eggs. My daughter made this one for me. Look familiar?

Is it possible to miss an inanimate object? Because I have missed you, Nerdy Chicks Rule. Maybe it isn’t possible to call a blog inanimate when its followers, likes, and comments breathe life into it. I only know that I have missed being here, and interacting with you and that my sudden failure to post has not been by choice.

The past few weeks have taken me on a harrowing journey – one that included traveling hours from home and spending many nights in a Ronald McDonald House. During these weeks, I’ve had to hang on to the real world so tightly that I’ve all but disappeared from the virtual world.

But the journey was not without hope and promise. I met many wonderful people along the way. Inspirational parents whose road is more treacherous than mine, and who somehow manage to travel it with smiles on their faces and joy in their hearts. Brilliant doctors who have devoted their lives to making the lives of others better. Children who brim with enthusiasm, despite having to face obstacles unimaginable to most of us.

It is good to be back, even if I can already tell that the road ahead is full of potholes. I feel equipped to travel it now, knowing I will meet inspiration, brilliance, joy, and enthusiasm along the way.


I will be returning Friday with our normal Quotable Nerdy Chick feature! Until then I’ll be furiously working on revising THE BOY PREDICTION to the specifications of my brilliant and insightful editor. 😀