Revenge Of The Frat Boys
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 Imagine that: the New York Times reports that females at the esteemed Harvard Business School are less likely to thrive than their male classmates. Despite having equal or superior academic skills, a distressing number of women fall short on classroom participation—the subjective assessment that comprises 50% of their grades.

To its credit, Harvard has devised a number of well-intentioned academic interventions to reverse this trend. Most are doomed to fail. It is a law of nature, universally observed, that high stakes competition encourages an assorted bag of dirty tricks and exclusionary practices especially amongst the “Masters of the Universe” types that populate elite business schools. Official sanctions are a palliative that will ultimately send these chest-thumpers underground to snicker with like-minded members of their ‘secret societies’.

I propose a different tact, one that sends an unequivocal message to both genders. Women have to toughen up and fight for their place at the table. Far too many of them have assumed that “feminism” is some quaint concept spoken fondly about by their addled moms and grandmas. Many young women refuse to identify themselves with it, and openly state that the battles have already been won. REALLY?

Being a “nice” girl ensures that you will curry favor with a certain type of man who may date you but rarely chooses to hire and promote you. Speaking up (or out) poses risks but it also confers benefits such as self-respect, leadership, and yes, a better grade for “class participation”. I am unsympathetic to claims that women are “intimidated” by sneering classmates who challenge or ignore them. This is the real world, ladies, especially for those of you who actually enter the fray whether in the financial jungles or the boardroom.

One can be comforted by the knowledge that many of these superannuated Frat boys will be indicted, imprisoned, or lopped off the evolutionary chart in the decades to come—hoist on their own noxious petard.

Courage under fire never comes easily but taking responsibility for one’s own life is part of the deal. Just ask those soldiers (male and female) who risk their lives daily for the rest of us.

Female applicants must gird their lady parts for the battles ahead. By clarifying their personal and professional goals and calmly assessing their willingness to fight the good fight, they may just reverse the current trend.

Stop waiting for a savior—gallantry died long ago.

 

10 MINUTE TIPS FOR WRITERS
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I have delivered literally thousands of speeches/presentations over my career. In my former life, I taught aspiring Executives how to maximize their public appearances. (Disclaimer: I never taught them line dancing or encouraged participation in poorly scripted videos.) Consider this advice when you market your book.

 Dos and Don’ts

1 – The Joke’s on you. (Don’t start with a joke unless your routinely do stand-up comedy. You’ll be memorable for the wrong reasons)

2 – Don’t imagine everyone in the room is naked to dissipate your nervousness.  (REALLY! Look around this room. Would you really like to see most/any/all of your colleagues au natural?)

3 – Unless you are specifically reading from your novel DON”T READ! SPEAK to your audience. Use keywords on an index card if you must but not FULL SENTENCES.  You’ll bore them into a stupor, possibly an irreversible coma. There are civil and criminal penalties for this offense.

4 – Humor is an especially effective tool when giving a presentation but only if it is NATURAL to you.  Your goal is to make you AUDIENCE relax, have fun, and hear your message. Determine your own style and go with it.

5 – Read your audience—If they’re nodding off, it’s time to change tactics, or conclude your talk. Remember: leave them wanting more.

6 – Tip for the ladies: AVOID those little bitty, tentative voices that lack authority. You’re selling your product and yourself— confidence breeds acceptance by others.

7 – Tip for the gents: AVOID being pompous, especially in an all female audience. Don’t play the big man—Don’t take yourself too seriously—CALCULATED HUMILITY builds audience rapport.

8 – Move around the room a bit if you can—don’t stay glued to a podium. It relaxes you and your audience.

9 – Avoid sexist or other controversial uses of language. It interferes with your message, and you’re there to give a clear, unambiguous sales pitch for you & your product. Keep Mr. Hyde chained up at home while you play Dr. Jeckyll.

10 – HAVE FUN—If you enjoy yourself so will they. It also builds confidence and enhances your authority with an audience when they see that you have mastery of your subject.

THE IMMIGRANT QUANDARY
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The Boston Marathon tragedy has prompted knee jerk responses as well as thoughtful, nuanced discussions of immigration policy. When confronted with unspeakable evil, rational thought is often the first casualty. It’s tempting and even comforting to cocoon ourselves in familiar things and spout Nativist sentiments—Until we pause, take a breath, and look around us.

 Today’s Boston Globe recounted the events leading up to the capture of the miscreants. (I refuse to say alleged since the survivor has already confessed.) I was stunned by the surnames of first responders, police officers, and others who exhibited exceptional bravery in time of crisis. Irish, Italian, Polish, Hispanic—a veritable league of nations and races that reflects the strength and vitality of our great nation. Ironically, it was an immigrant from China who eluded the terrorists when they hijacked his vehicle, and sounded the final alarm.

 My point: they are the true face of immigration, normal Americans with shared values who seek to help not hurt their community, to build, not to destroy. We have escaped the stagnation and decline faced by other nations in part because of them. The influx of talents, ideas and zeal from other cultures continually revitalizes America. We are better because of them, and our values are a constant rebuke to extremists everywhere.

BANISH THE NICE GIRLS
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All their lives, women are urged to play fair and be “nice”. Often that is code for ‘don’t rock the boat’, or ‘know your place.’ Today with the passing of Margaret Thatcher the world lost a trailblazing feminist who showed us all that while niceness and popularity have their place, they are often irrelevant obstacles for women seeking to make their mark.

Lady Thatcher might well recoil from being labeled a feminist, but in the truest sense of that word, she embodied the triumph of courage and ability over gender stereotypes. She showed class conscious Brits that leadership was not the preserve of the monied elite, and forever laid to rest the belief that women were too timid, and weak to chart their nation’s destiny.

While the debate still rages in America over ‘having it all’, and ‘leaning in’, Mrs. Thatcher showed us how to do both. Wife, Oxford grad, mother of twins, chemist, barrister and awesome competitor, she neither asked for nor expected special consideration. She faced a barrage of fierce sometimes-vicious criticism, and soldiered on.

Women (and men) of all political stripes should identify with and learn from this iconic figure who embodied qualities not often seen on the public stage. How refreshing in an age of plastic politicos who rule by opinion polls and regurgitate meaningless pabulum to find someone willing to state her views and stand by them, despite the blowback. As the current debates over gun control and the budget illustrate, few of our current elected officials display that type of courage.

It is tempting to dismiss Margaret Thatcher as an irrelevant relic of the Cold War best consigned to the dustbin of history. I submit however, that her courage, grit and patriotism transcend time and provide important lessons to us all.

Was the ‘iron lady’ a nice girl? Heavens no! She was a role model in the best sense of the word.

Godspeed, Mrs. Thatcher. RIP

Mirror Mirror
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MIRROR, MIRROR

 Are all observations about appearance off the table in our politically correct society? President Obama recently stepped into a buzz saw by noting what was clear to anyone with eyes: California’s Attorney General is one beautiful woman. Immediately the chorus of protest arose (mostly from women’s groups), about objectifying females and devaluing their professional attainments.

As a card-carrying feminist and author who has fought and won those battles, I have a different view. Appreciating beauty is a gender-neutral trait that is also a fact of life. Gorgeous women and sizzling men raise our thermostats to boiling and make even the monogamous among us sit up and take notice. We experienced that phenomenon in Massachusetts recently with the senatorial candidacy of Scott Brown, a respected attorney, legislator and astoundingly handsome guy who once posed for Cosmo. People noticed and that’s not wrong.

My novels are categorized as romantic suspense and I happily subscribe to the formula that the protagonists will ALWAYS include an attractive woman and an especially hot guy. Naturally, the hero is also brilliant, successful and fabulously wealthy, just like the men one meets every day. In speaking with readers of all ages, I find that my mostly female audience expects and appreciates male beauty. After all, reading transports us into a land where fantasy becomes reality for at least a short while. We all need a chance to dream. Reality pummels you every time you stand in line or use public transportation, and very often it’s not pretty.

To those who lament the tendency of men (and women), to celebrate physical perfection, I say this: Get over it! It’s normal to acknowledge everything a person brings to the table in both form and substance. Let’s keep that in perspective and discuss the things that really count.

“Empty-Nest Nuttiness”
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I try not to overreact. Truly, I do. But when I see yet another publication lament about “bereft empty-nesters” (always women, may I add), I go CRAZY! Today’s Boston GLobe waxes on about women, “even those who worked full-time” who feel desolate when in the natural course of events, their children strike out on their own. It implies–hell, it outright states–that these unfortunate females have no more purpose in life now that their maternal duties have waned. I recognize that PARENTS may indeed long for and miss having their children close at hand.That’s a good thing, and not exclusively the domain of a female. But stable families forge bonds between parent and child that will never be eroded. I’ve heard far more grumbling about the “boom-erang” generation that returns to the nest.
Face facts: life has stages. That means change, growth and evolution. Don’t fight it–embrace it. And don’t consign all mothers to the group of aimless souls who bemoan the “Empty nest”. While you’re at it, please pledge never to use that absurd, essentially sexist phrase ever again.

Middle-Age Crazy
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What makes men of a certain age lose control of their senses and behave like callow youths? Since 60 is the new 40, I’m covering a lot of territory here. At the risk of sounding sexist, I contend that women are far too sensible to engage in pathetic, mirth-inducing attempts to recapture their youthwith a far younger partner. Leering, flirting and fantasizing may be fine in fiction or in private, but when exposed to the merciless light of day it is sad and potentially dangerous. Some not so innocent young women, from the Zumba instructor to the liquor clerk, draw a bead on vulnerable men with everything to lose.What follows may lead to humiliation, ruination, & occasionally, tragedy. Here’s my advice for guys seeking to recapture their lost youth. FORGET IT!

Tedium and Triumph-A Mixed Bag
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2.0 out of 5 stars, February 15, 2013
ByArlene Kay (Cape Cod Massachusetts)

 

This review is from: Gone Girl: A Novel (Hardcover)

I was eager to read GONE GIRL, the fabulously successful novel by Gillian FLynn. Frankly, as a writer myself, I find there is much to learn from most best sellers, even ones outside my own genre. The verdict on GONE GIRL is decidedly mixed. Flynn’s descriptive powers and character building are excellent as is her dialogue. She infused both Nick and Amy (the POV stars) with strong voices and provides enough details about their proclivities and flaws to hook the reader. Initially. Midway through this novel (not really a mystery, folks), I felt restless and wanted it to end already. GONE GIRL is at best a psychological study, an intense and overlong look at the implosion of a marriage.
Although neither character was perfect (who is?), my sympathies resided with Amy. Nick is the type of smug bounder who populates both fiction and true crime accounts. There’s a very Scott Peterson-ish tinge to this superficial, essential stupid fellow who has been indulged by women all his life. I also found Amy’s passivity unconvincing in a woman who spent her life on the upper fringes of Manhattan society. Move to MISSOURI? Come on, no man is worth that. Better to do hard time in an east coast prison.
For the reader who enjoys wallowing in the mind of a protagonist, GONE GIRL should be a satisfying read. I fail to see how any mystery reader could be satisfied with a plot that is so trite you can see it coming early on in the book.

Social Media
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Is using Social Media optional or obligatory for authors? Check out the NYTimes article 2/13/12 for some sobering facts. Like it or not, Twitter, FB, Goodreads, Amazon, etc. are permanent guests for anyone trying to market books. Naturally, a website and blog are also de rigour. I liken it to granite countertops–once only seen in high-end properties, now an expectation even in the most humble homes. Most publishers now demand that you have and ACTIVELY PARTICIPATE in social media.They are considered to be sales vehicles even though the metrics lag far behind. I say get with the program. If the Renaissance greats had access to our communication devices, just consider what Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Machiavelli and their peers would have produced!

Pride And Prejudice
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Today marks 200 years since one of the truly great literary romances was published. I re-read PRIDE AND PREJUDICE every year, just to remind myself what inspired writing sounds like. N.B.–All your frustrated novelists–several publishers turned Jane Austen down when she submitted this masterpiece. There’s hope for us all!