Thursday Thirteen #69 — Strong Women


This is my 69th Thirteen. And we all know the obvious fun that the number 69 inspires. Unless you’ve got a partner who’s lousy at it.

Since it’s obvious to play with the concept of 69, I must be like Trevor and ignore the obvious. Therefore, I present something different this week.

My Booking Through Thursday post last week got me thinking. Bunnygirl and Thomma Lyn and I got into this discussion about the best women in fiction and how they’ve got strong personalities, but are told they are TOO strong to be published.

Needless to say, I want to fix that. I’m just not sure how. Let’s see if my thoughts on the subject give us any ideas.

Thirteen Thoughts About Strong, Fictional Women
1. I’m fascinated by the fact that this discussion happened just a few weeks before the Jewish holiday of Purim, which celebrates the story of Esther. Esther stood up to her husband the king, even though she faced death to do so. But it was her or all the Jews. How could a strong woman NOT take that risk?

2. A great novel about Esther, whose Hebrew name was Hadassah, is The Gilded Chamber, by Rebecca Kohn. See? Here’s an example of a strong woman character who made it into print. Even though she’s a historical figure. Maybe that doesn’t count.

3. As a child, I was inspired by women like Esther. I wanted to be a strong woman like her — and like Princess Leia. Leia was the first woman I’d ever seen who picked up a gun and held her own, in all arenas. She was tough. I wanted to grow up and be her.

4. I look at my own fictional characters and wonder if I’m fitting the bill, myself. Am I creating the sort of woman I want to be?

5. I think so. Kerri is an artist. She’s cool. She’s got it all, she knows it, she appreciates it. As any of you who were here earlier in the week saw, she’s got a past of her own that she had to overcome. Without bitterness. It’s one of the ways in which she’s similar to Trevor, who also has no bitterness toward his upbringing. If you can call it an upbringing.

6. Then there’s Chelle. Chelle grew up dirt poor and, without a college degree, found a way to wiggle into being a rock journalist. Sure, she writes for the city paper, not Rolling Stone or something, but she’s popular. Those of you who read her posts here on my blog know that she’s not afraid to say what’s on her mind.

7. I’ve got Val and Pam roaming around, too. Pam’s not ever going to be confused for being a strong woman, although in her way, she is. She can’t help it that Mitchell turns her into a simpering idiot. As for Val, she’s assertive when she’s comfortable. But as you may have noticed, she prefers to hang in the background.

8. However, none of those four women are math/science women, which is the sort of character Bunny and Thomma Lyn are looking for. That, of course, means a challenge for me.

9. You haven’t met Heather yet, but she might be someone I develop more, especially once I get Trevor’s Song into print. Yes, that’s a hint of things to come.

10. I’ve got an idea for a new character, named Aliyah, but nothing concrete yet. And even if I do flesh her out and write her story — which would have to center on her strength and her career — is there a point if I can’t get it published?

11. For Trevor and situations like this, I wonder what the strong approach is: self-publish and do it ALL myself (but also retain ALL control over my vision) or go for the traditional, royalty-paying publisher and the respect that is inherent with that pathway. I mean, anyone can self-publish in this day and age. But is giving up control a way of selling my vision out?

12. I have long dreamed of owning a publisher of my own. Yes, that’d get me in print, but it would also take care of situations like these. Lots of people in my comments last week — and as I visited others who participated in BTT — were all saying that they like strong women. They want more.

13. Without money, business acumen, time, and a million other things, this is only going to remain a dream. So the problem remains… How do we get strong women into print?

Anyone? Bueller?

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Hey! This was Post #400!



  1. Chuck

    March 5, 2008 7:57 pm

    I’d like to be a strong woman in print — some day. I get to finish my book first ;)BR/BR/Happy TT!

  2. marcia

    March 5, 2008 8:16 pm

    Happy TT

  3. susiej

    March 5, 2008 8:37 pm

    Ahhh, but the blog…we have power here!

  4. Open Grove Claudia

    March 5, 2008 8:56 pm

    Oh, you know… I think we all write characters that are better than us. My characters are stronger, braver – emotionally, and more forgiving. I read in David Maas’s book that this was normal.BR/BR/I do love Ester.BR/BR/Happy TT, Susan!BR/A HREF=”″ REL=”nofollow”My TT is about Art Candy./A

  5. bunnygirl

    March 5, 2008 9:08 pm

    You’ve raised lots of issues here!BR/BR/How to send our stories into the world is a highly personal decision and when our characters are begging to be turned loose, it’s hard to think in a businesslike way.BR/BR/As you know, I went hybrid. I used POD and blog for what was not likely to be salable to a traditional publisher. I’ve held back the stuff that I think has more market appeal. (And I need to get querying again. *sigh*)BR/BR/If it will get Trevor and the gang to ease up on you, do what I did with my IWill and Diana Adventures/I and put a little short story book out there via POD. It’s immensely satisfying and will shut your imaginary friends up for a bit so you can stay focused on getting their real story into traditional print.BR/BR/Or so say I. I haven’t succeeded at Step 2 of this plan, so if someone offers you a better plan or enough people say my idea sucks, listen to them, not me! :-)BR/BR/And FTR, it’s not so much a math/science gal I would like to see more of in fiction but just women who are strong and interesting in non-traditional ways. Such characters are out there but it seems that a lot of them end up choosing to give up their kick-butt lifestyle for a traditional female role of some sort by the end of the book. You read enough of these characters and you start to wonder if there’s a conspiracy or something.

  6. Breeni Books

    March 5, 2008 9:17 pm

    Oh my goodness, my kids are swooning over the fact you used a picture of Leia. They LOVE Star Wars (way more than any normal person should.)BR/BR/Happy TT!

  7. gdaybloke

    March 5, 2008 9:47 pm

    Princess Leia was so my dream woman when I was younger.. Ah, Carrie Fisher…BR/BR/A HREF=”” REL=”nofollow”Lost Hemisphere’s TT #5/A

  8. Joely Sue Burkhart

    March 5, 2008 10:39 pm

    Now a heroine who’s a mathematician I could probably write. Hmmm. Food for thought.

  9. ellen b

    March 5, 2008 11:29 pm

    I’ve enjoyed Dorothy Sayers who seems to be able to write in strong women in her books.

  10. Lori

    March 5, 2008 11:30 pm

    I have never heard of her but thanks for sharing. She sounds like quite a woman. Happy TT my friend and thanks for stopping by:) Its always great to see you.

  11. tommie

    March 5, 2008 11:32 pm

    i used to want to be Princess Leia!BR/BR/I like to think I am a strong woman….heck, I survived a 15 month deployment with two kids under 4! But reading about so many other really strong women makes me realize I just did what I had to do.

  12. crazy working mom

    March 5, 2008 11:46 pm

    Great job on this one! 🙂 BR/BR/Happy TT.

  13. pussreboots

    March 6, 2008 12:26 am

    My mom and my mother in law are both math gals. My mother in law also teaches physics so she’s got the science covered too. BR/BR/Happy TT.

  14. No Nonsense Girl

    March 6, 2008 12:39 am

    Love me some strong women. :)BR/BR/Happy Thursday 13. 🙂

  15. Nicole Austin

    March 6, 2008 12:48 am

    I love to read and write strong female characters. Heck, who wants to read about some frightened heroine who is afraid of her own shadow.BR/BR/Happy TT!

  16. Robin

    March 6, 2008 1:03 am

    I don’t know much about publishing, but I love the strong, multi-dimensional women you’ve created here.

  17. Florinda

    March 6, 2008 1:18 am

    I like how you organized your thoughts on this, but I don’t really have any answers. I do want to congratulate you on post #400, though!

  18. xakara

    March 6, 2008 1:21 am

    I think that there’s a place for strong women in fiction, smaller presses like Juno Books specialize in the strong female centered book. I think currently you see it more in urban fantasy and paranormal romance than any other genre but they are there and it’s spreading. BR/BR/On whether to retain complete control over your vision or to go a traditional (or semi-traditional) route, it’s too personal a question to address just in comments. I believe you have to do what you feel is right and what helps you with your dream for your work.BR/BR/If you ever want to email and talk about it, just let me know. :)BR/BR/Happy TTBR/BR/~X

  19. storyteller

    March 6, 2008 8:05 am

    I love the story of Ester … what a role model for the rest of us! As for why write if you can’t find a publisher … you need a manuscript when a publisher finds YOU!BR/Hugs and blessings,

  20. scooper

    March 6, 2008 9:50 am

    What a thoughtful TT. It’s nice to see you’re writing more than a character.

  21. Darla

    March 6, 2008 9:55 am

    Funny, it seem that most of the women I read about are strong–they all have their weaknesses, but then so do the men. There’s Eve Dallas, of course–definitely a butt-kicking heroine. Or for brainy-strength, there’s Noelle in Shannon Butcher’s INo Regrets/I, who doesn’t kick ass herself, but has some serious brains and knows how to use them. Or… actually, it would be easier to list the weak ones.BR/BR/Maybe it’s like my boys were commenting the other day–that there aren’t any stand-alone female action heroes in movies (unless they’re from comics or video games). The strong heroines are there, but there aren’t any female James Bonds. BR/BR/To tell you the truth, though, I prefer the strong heroine I’m already reading to the few I’ve read who try too hard: she looks like a supermodel, is tops in her scientific field, made millions on some discovery, and when she finds herself in a dangerous situation, proves instantly to be an expert in martial arts, marksmanship, and flying airplanes despite never having encountered any of these things before. I’d almost prefer the old TSTL heroines.

  22. Sanni

    March 6, 2008 10:05 am

    Happy 400th happy 69th, Susan!BR/BR/Keep on ROCKing us 😉

  23. Julia Smith

    March 6, 2008 11:00 am

    ‘Anyone? Bueller?’ – LOL! My husband and I say that one a lot.BR/BR/Strong women in fiction are everywhere. You just have to keep presenting them. Ignore the ones who take a pass on them by saying they’re too strong. Someone will love them as is.BR/BR/There’s a woman in my writing group who has an enormous collection of rejection letters – and her debut novel is coming out next month. So there.

  24. Tilly Greene

    March 6, 2008 11:21 am

    Hmmm, another thinker. I think with all the publishing houses there has to be one that fits you and your work. That said, I don’t think there is anything wrong with being self published – look at the kid who wrote Eragon, Christopher Palotini [sp?]. He self-published, an author’s son loved it and told his dad about it, the author went to his publishing house and said you need to sign this kid and now he’s on his 3rd book with a multi-million dollar contract and a movie. BR/BR/Personally I wouldn’t knock anything off the list, you just have to see what works for you :-)BR/BR/Oh yeah, isn’t it interesting how men of a certain age all think Princess Leia was gorgeous and get turned on by the donuts over the ear thing…could it be because she was a powerful figure and they don’t really want a woman who isn’t self-sufficient? Hmmm.

  25. She Became a Butterfly

    March 6, 2008 11:23 am

    thank you for posting this! if you’re interested, join my book lovers message board!BR/BR/

  26. Susan Helene Gottfried

    March 6, 2008 11:27 am

    Uhh, no thanks. I belong to a fabulous online book community, as well as the community here on my blog. BR/BR/I don’t need another message board, but wish you luck with it.

  27. Sandee (Comedy +)

    March 6, 2008 11:54 am

    I love to read, but writing is a whole different thing. I would love to, but I’m just not cut out for it. It wouldn’t be believable. Good luck. I love strong women. My fave is Nora Roberts writing as J.D. Robb. Have a great TT. 🙂

  28. Brittany

    March 6, 2008 12:06 pm

    Great T13! I am a fan of Ester as well!

  29. jennifer

    March 6, 2008 1:37 pm

    I like your refernce to Esther being a strong woman. I don’t know that I have ascended to that title yet. But I haven’t broken yet so, hey, that’s something right? Great post! Jennifer

  30. Julia

    March 6, 2008 3:45 pm

    Hey Susan – these are interesting list of female characters you have going, can’t wait to read about them. Of course I be far behind and need to catch up :)BR/BR/Happy TTs, I hope you have good Thursday and weekend ahead!BR/BR/Julia-Yen

  31. Kaige

    March 6, 2008 5:28 pm

    Great post, Susan. I’m always saying we need stronger female role models. I’m always disappointed when we finally get one in a show on TV like Buffy or Firefly and the powers that be decide it’s not getting enough eyeballs. Pffft. Quality over quantity, please?BR/BR/It really annoyed me when I realized the heroine in one story I wrote turned out to be a helpless twit and then the next the gal is an over the top wench. Must find that happy medium. What’s your secret?BR/BR/OH! And who said math and science were the only ways to have strong female chars? Pffft.

  32. Aline de Chevigny

    March 6, 2008 5:38 pm

    Well I suppose it all depends on what type of “print” you’re talking about.BR/You could go ebook to start and then in time go print. E-pubs would be easier to deal with in keeping your vision on track.BR/BR/You know where to find me if you have any questions LOLBR/BR/Aline

  33. Gwen Mitchell

    March 6, 2008 5:55 pm

    I dunno – I think it is trending that way, personally. And publishers seem to be catching on to this too. They are asking for heroines with ‘kickassitude’. Maybe it’s a genre thing – since I’m mostly into paranormals – but I’d like to see that trend continue. I like women who are women, but don’t need a man to take care of them. And I don’t think I’m alone. I guess what I’m saying is . . . there’s hope!

  34. Lesley

    March 6, 2008 5:57 pm

    I absolutely adore strong women. I just get annoyed reading stories about whiny little girls waiting for someone to ride up on a white horse and save them. Forget that! Give me a kick booty, sword toting chick with her very own horse.

  35. Celticlibrarian

    March 6, 2008 6:28 pm

    I was Esther for Halloween once, and Princess Leia certainly had a large impact on me. Joss Whedon would certainly agree about strong women.BR/BR/Personally, I think that you should fins a publisher for your book, because then I could get my library to buy it. (No, that’s not self-serving at all. *looks shifty*)

  36. Susan Helene Gottfried

    March 6, 2008 6:36 pm

    I’m not giving up quite yet, Celtic. Not quite yet.

  37. Corina

    March 6, 2008 6:47 pm

    I think strong women characters are vital in literature. And writers of strong women characters are equally vital.BR/BR/We should all get together and do this publishing company thing.

  38. Hootin' Anni

    March 6, 2008 8:14 pm

    Oh wow….these are super. What a great idea.

  39. Hootin' Anni

    March 6, 2008 8:14 pm

    Oh wow….these are super. What a great idea.

  40. Hootin' Anni

    March 6, 2008 8:14 pm

    Oh wow….these are super. What a great idea.

  41. Anonymous

    March 6, 2008 8:35 pm

    I have to agree with bunnygirl re: POD. It certainly sounds like a logical step to me. Get some stuff out there for the masses to enjoy and keep working on the other. 🙂 Bridget

  42. cajunvegan

    March 6, 2008 9:09 pm

    I cannot wait to hear more about the new character. BR/BR/I, too, love Esther and will be checking out that book. Thanks for sharing. BR/BR/How do you feel about standardized testing? I’ve posted 13 Anti-NCLB Sentiments to mark the end of a stressful testing week.BR/BR/Happy TT!

  43. tasha

    March 6, 2008 9:10 pm

    I see this was post #400 — yay!! Nice list, too! I wish I were a write — I think they have the power to change the world. Happy TT!

  44. Sarah

    March 6, 2008 10:03 pm

    I wanted to be Wonder woman when I was little! I loved her “truth” lasso.BR/BR/Thanks for stopping by~

  45. Jill

    March 6, 2008 10:59 pm

    Make kick-ass heroine that we cannot help ourself but read more about her!

  46. Nap Warden

    March 6, 2008 11:48 pm

    Great idea!

  47. Wylie Kinson

    March 7, 2008 1:34 am

    Oh boy – heavy topic for my tired brain at 12:35 am! I’m sure I’ll have an opinion by morning, but for now I’ll just say STRONG WOMEN ROCK!

  48. Thomma Lyn

    March 7, 2008 1:44 am

    Great, thought-provoking Thursday Thirteen! BR/BR/My strong, opinionated physicist-student character whom Beta readers love but who makes agents squirm is named Romilly. Trevor would probably like her. 🙂 She’s a firecracker. The novel she stars in is currently on submission to Kunati, a publisher who claims to like cutting edge fiction. We’ll see how they like Rom! BR/BR/And even if they like Rom, will they like her friend, Martha, who’s not only strong and opinionated and mathy-sciency, but she’s downright abrasive, and she caused a former critique partner of mine to become Iso/I offended by her strong views and her no-holds-barred manner of expressing them that he (yes, Ihe/I — I think that was a big part of his reaction) decided he no longer wanted to communicate with me. All because I refused to “change” Martha into someone he found more palatable.BR/BR/Heh.BR/BR/Now Ithat’s/I a strong woman. :)BR/BR/Another of my characters (in another novel) is vocal about her childfree choice, and again, that’s a big turnoff for agents and publishers, it seems. BR/BR/Bottom line: I agree with Bunny — fiction needs a wide variety of women characters who aren’t afraid to be non-conformists, who aren’t afraid of individuality, even if expressing their individuality means stepping clear of whatever (fill in the blank) role or personality that’s assumed solely because of their gender.

  49. Mrs. Brownstone @ XBOX Wife

    March 7, 2008 10:46 am

    Hey! You inspired me to do Thursday Thirteen. This is a good and true list!

  50. Toia

    March 7, 2008 9:30 pm

    Great post!! A strong woman is unstoppable. Have a great weekend!!BR/BR/Thanks for visiting!!

  51. Joy Renee

    March 9, 2008 4:44 pm

    Esther was one of my favs from waaaaay back. thanx for the tip on that novel, i hope our library has it.BR/BR/thanx for visiting my TT pics of our new library

  52. Marcia (MeeAugraphie)

    March 10, 2008 11:00 pm

    You find a strong woman with something to prove (and publishing experience or a quick learning curve) and talk her into starting a specialty publishing company – for women in fiction with personalities too strong to be published by the meek. Problem solved, now we just have to find her….

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