Jul 5, 2013 by Jenna Zine

The Heat, starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, is a hilarious summer romp. It's also (yet another) example of the unshakeable sexism that continues to grip our society. The premise is great - a female-driven buddy/cop comedy with some of the funniest ladies around has been a longtime coming, and there's no one better for the job than these two. 

What's jarring is the situation that throws these two together. FBI agent Sarah Ashburn (Bullock) kicks ass at work, one-upping colleagues with ease thanks to her smarts and her tireless work ethic. It seems that she'd be a shoe-in for a promotion when a position opens, but instead she's told by her captain that there's a good chance she won't get the job because - hang on - her coworkers don't like her. He also accuses her of being arrogant about her job performance. Um - is he mistaking arrogance with pride? Is he forgetting the numerous times she solved cases (and put dangerous criminals behind bars) based on her resolve? Cases that the males on her crew weren't able to crack? But none of that matters because Sarah is tough. And when it comes to woman, tough equals unlikable  - and unlikable equal unacceptable behavior. Thusly she's sent into the field (where she meets McCarthy's character Sgt. Shannon Mullins), partly as punishment and partly as an "opportunity" to work on her people skills. Yes, that makes sense. She needs to work on her people skills so that she can better relate to the genteel, demure men of the FBI. They are a sensitive bunch, unable to labor under the firm leadership of anyone with a vagina who happens to do well at work by refusing to back down. Were all those bras really burned in vain? Pussies are indeed running amok - but it ain't Sarah or Shannon. 
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Jul 3, 2013 by Jenna Zine
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July is bringing independence in all kinds of ways, most notably (for writers) in the form of Camp NaNoWriMo. You may be asking, "What in the hell is that?" To which I say, "Excellent question, dear reader!" NaNoWriMo is a handy little acronym for National Novel Writing Month, which traditionally takes place in November - but those beloved taskmasters have thrown in July as an additional challenge. This is not a fear factor, attempt to survive in the woods with nothing but a bottle of water and a granola bar kind of challenge - though there is plenty of fear. At least for me. No, this is a camping at your desk kind of challenge. The calories burned will be in my brain as I strive to hit the 50,000 word mark by the end of the month. What will this prove? That I can round the corner on the final stretch for the rough draft of my novel. Believe me, my palms are as sweaty as if I was actually facing down a grizzly bear. It's go time - the moment of truth where I work my ass off to make my goal a reality. So stayed tuned, wish me luck - and keep your fingers crossed the only fear that gets in my way is not getting to my laptop quickly enough in the morning! xo
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Jun 20, 2013 by Jenna Zine
research-studies_000.jpgI'm writing my first novel. It's made for some of the greatest joy - and greatest hell - I've known. The days when I actually sit down, get in the flow, and create some hilarious dialogue? Those are heady moments. Other days are spent popping in and out of my chair, clinging to every distraction I can possibly justify. It turns out I can justify a lot - and my apartment is usually sparkling clean in testament to this fact. 

But, in the end, I keep writing. And, every once in awhile, I'm rewarded with a burst of creativity or an answer to a pesky plot problem. The great thing about the craft is, as much as it is in life, these things happen when we least expect them. Such was the setting when my husband and I randomly dropped into Clyde Common (a restaurant in downtown Portland) before seeing a film at the Living Room Theater. I had recently penned a scene where one of my characters is dining at Clyde Common. She gets in a fight with her husband and runs off to the bathroom to cry. (Good thing it's fiction - I had a lovely time there with my honey!) I had my character slipping into a stall to bawl, subsequently sitting in pee and having to use the hand dryer to dry the back of her pants. (Did I mention I'm penning a best seller?) While sipping a cocktail with Larry I suddenly realized, "Oh my gosh, I'm here! I should actually check out what the bathroom looks like." I excused myself, in the name of research. Imagine my surprise when I discovered the ladies room was exactly the opposite of how I'd described it. There are no stalls; it's two gender neutral rooms. Pop in, lock the door and have at it! And when it's time to wash your hands you'll find paper towels. Not a hand dryer in sight. 

My point? I didn't research, I assumed. I picked a popular Portland eatery, checked out their menu online and wove it into my novel. One of the hooks in my plot is the backdrop of the city of Portland. There are generous doses of history, people, places and things. I want those things to feel as vivid to the reader as they are to me when I experience them in real life. I want someone to come here, based on reading my novel. I want them to think, "Oh, that's where Amy had that crazy fight with James. That restaurant sounded cool. Let's go check it out." And, when my reader has to pee, I want them to have an authentic experience. I won't promise you a hand dryer when I'm really schilling paper towels. Even the tiniest detail will be as true as I can make it. I promise to research every bathroom in the Northwest if it means I get it right. And it's what I hope will make my sweet little Chick Lit novel great. 
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