An Interview With A Really Cool Woman: Writer and Author Jessica Valenti
Jessica Valenti is someone I have admired from afar for a long time. She is an American blogger and feminist writer, founder of the Feministing in 2004. She is the author of four books on women’s issues, including Full Frontal Feminism (2007). Jessica is also a columnist at the Guardian who also named her as one of their “top 100 women” for her work to bring the feminist movement online. I think she’s f!cking fantastic.
1. Thanks for talking to me, Jessica. When writing, what do you do when you feel stuck?
I try to forgive myself for it. The worst habit when I’m feeling uninspired is that I can get into a shame spiral – feeling bad about not writing which in turn makes me feel too shitty to write! So if it’s not coming, I’ll stop for a little while and do something nice for myself – order in lunch, watch a quick trashy TV show – then try again.
2. How did it feel the first time you saw one of your books on the shelf?
The first time I saw Full Frontal Feminism in book form I was at a feminist conference and it was surreal – I was giddy. Once I was in LA and I saw a young woman reading The Purity Myth on an elevator. That was pretty random and awesome. I held myself back from saying anything but I really wanted to!
3. Do you ever read your books again after they’ve been published?
I do, only once though. Any more than that and I’d start obsessing about all of the things I want to change. That’s something I’ve always loved about writing online – your thoughts can continually move and grow in a way that they just can’t with a book. A book is stagnant, online writing is constantly moving and changing.
4. Do you read Amazon reviews or have Google Alerts of your name?
I don’t read reviews or Google Alerts – maybe once in a blue moon during a weak moment. It’s too distracting. I do read emails and Facebook messages though – and I get a lot of feedback about my books (both positive and negative) that way. I also like hearing from people in person more, like when I give a reading or a speech – it feels like a more human, natural exchange that way. And I’ve definitely gotten feedback that has made me rethink my position on issues or led me to change my writing. With FFF, in particular, I was lucky enough to be able to put out a new edition and update it.
5. Any advice for people looking for a literary agent/have their work represented?
I heard a piece of advice once that was pretty good for writers – check out the acknowledgements section of a book you like or that’s in the genre you’re interested in. Inevitably, someone thanks their agent – so that’s a good lead. I also think those of us who have been published owe it to other writers to be generous with our contacts and connections. It may sound trite, but I think trust – really intimate trust – is the most important thing in that agent/author relationship. You need to work with someone who isn’t just interested in your one project, but you as a person, and your entire career trajectory.
6. How involved were you in choosing the way your books looked?
In the beginning, I had very little to no input. As a first time author, you don’t really have much power. Now I have a bit more say, but at the end of the day it’s the publisher who is paying for cover, the designer, etc. It can be difficult when you have a very specific idea for how a book should look but the publisher is on a different page.
7. When book-writing do you use your phone notes, or any other strange places?
I’m super fragmented. I send myself a lot of emails in the middle of the night!
8. Do you let any of your family/friends read your material before it’s sent off?
My husband is my unofficial editor – he reads pretty much everything I write. He’s the smartest person I know so his input means a lot to me. Other than that, no! But I think with this latest book I’m writing – Sex Object – I may ask some friends to take a look because it’s so different than other things I’ve written.
9. Do you identify as a fangirl, and if so, who do you fangirl over?
Ha, I do! This is easy: Michelle Obama, Cheryl Strayed, Kathleen Hanna, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
10. For you, what’s was the best and worst thing about writing a book?
Best thing: Having the real thing in your hands for the first time.
Worst thing: Writing it.
Also – if you’re interested in more of Jessica’s work, my two favourite pieces of hers are She Who Dies With The Most Likes Wins? and My Big Feminist Wedding.
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