Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Bad Girl Blogger, That's Me

I'm writing a book, Becoming a Bad Girl: My Pursuit of Wicked Women. I may be getting ahead of myself--I'm calling it a book, but it's not published. What I mean to say is, I have a story to tell, and it's important to me that I tell it. My written thoughts all revolve around a theme, and the telling is going to require pages and pages--what people think of as a book. Bad girls are a subject I've been thinking about for a long time, and now I want people to know about my story. I'm a writer in search of an audience.

I'm still trying to figure out if I think it's fun and magical to write. That's my ideal. But a lot of times it's work. Why is it that every time I go back to something I've written, I think it needs more polishing? Today I'm feeling that writing is very hard, and you have to keep your wits about you with every word you put down. My story is one of reinvention, and as I tell my story of self-reinvention, I keep reshaping what it is I'm trying to say. Here is how I currently describe what my book's about:

Born and bred in Chicago, I was a nice Midwestern girl—a good girl—who had always followed the rules and listened to what my family and friends told me to do. Even as a fun-loving single woman pursuing a career in New York, I had diligently paid my dues and waited patiently for recognition from both men and my employers. Where did this leave me? Forty years old—I wasn’t so young anymore—and grappling with the misfortunes of a discontented heart. The end of my loveless marriage had left me with no man, no child, no job and no home. In the sweepstakes of American life on the cusp of a new millennium, I was a loser, a big zero—less than zero, actually, when you count in my credit card debt.

But I radically turned my life around and regained my lost happiness. How? By running away to England and France and studying the lives of the most notorious women in history. Bad girls. Specifically, I was looking for the most rebellious, independent, sexy, adventurous, egotistical, charming, manipulative, self-sufficient and promiscuous women I could possibly find. After an extensive search, here's who I found:

Original bad girl the Empress Theodora of Constantinople

Courtesan extraordinaire Ninon de Lenclos

Proudly bigamous Duchess Elizabeth Chudleigh

Whip-cracking gold-digger Lola Montez

Free-loving and first-ever female candidate for US President Victoria Woodhull

Celebrated Victorian whore Catherine Walters

Hashish-smoking war correspondent Isabelle Eberhardt

Booze-swilling, bar-fighting blues diva Bessie Smith

Iconic actress and hell-raiser Mae West

Swedish actress and hell-raiser Mai Zetterling

And, of course, Catherine the Great

Becoming a Bad Girl: My Pursuit of Wicked Women is a book only I could write. It’s the story of what happened to me as I traveled in England and France, and how I tussled with the lives and loves of eleven truly outrageous women from the past. I immerse myself in their stories and try to live like them for a while—sometimes learning essential lessons and sometimes making ridiculous mistakes—and I emerge healed and full of spirit.

Not only does the drama play off me, it has the added advantage of being true. During the time my story takes place, I reclaim my inner bad girl as I get a divorce, cry my eyes out, travel alone and restlessly, live out of a suitcase, lose twenty pounds, curse a lot, drink too much, improve my French, become financially independent, accept my child-free existence, call myself an artist, flirt for the fun of it, and fall in love with a man seventeen years younger than me.

Part memoir, part biography, my book features me as the main character during the last five years of my life, with each bad girl making an appearance as an unconventional teacher and idiosyncratic guide over the course of my narrative. I ask myself, “What if?” and “What would the bad girls do?” I explore each life and try to learn from it, thinking about what a bad girl is and how she got that way, and then I turn the same questions on myself.

13 comments:

chrissy said...

Joyce, the book sounds awesome. I think most women could use a little bit of the bad girl outlook. I'll get busy spreading the word.

peggy said...

Joyce, how come all these bad girls are either royalty, entertainers or from the upper classes? Are there any "ordinary bad girls" we can look up to or seek guidance from?

peggy said...

By the way, that last post was my first post on a blog. I hope I am doing this right. Chrissy -- glad to see you here. Up early, too, I see. How is your "good boy"?

Leela said...

Joyce- I say let's have a drink and talk about writing soon. How about this week?-Tom (Not Leela)

Hutch said...

One more comment from Tom, about drinking. I actually find I write a teensy bit more interestingly when I have about half a drink in me. No more. And I usually prefer 2 cups of coffee instead. But then again, I'm not wordsmithing that much, I'm trying to look for looser, stranger images. I do this strip Hutch Owen and I tend to be my own worst enemy sometimes. I take everything too seriously. I think too slowly. I don't trust instincts. So the drink helps. I'm a lousy humorist. (But a good drinker!)

(Current favorite drink: Bombay Saffire Martini (actually, it would be made with Hendrick's gin, but I don't have any around.))

bethy said...

Joyce! How exciting...I can't wait to read the whole bad girl story. As I've chosen the good girl lifestyle, I need vicarious pleasures to spice up my free time in suburbia (while Zoe is in the gymnastics class). Or, I could always go back to knitting that sweater. Hats off to you, and I wish you the best of luck getting it published!

Joyce Hanson said...

Hi, everybody. Thanks so much for your comments.
Chrissy--I'm really glad you've seen my blog and are thinking about it. I'm struggling to be honest, but I don't want to think too much about how I'm going public with some of my dark secrets, because it might prevent me from telling the truth.
Peggy--I asked myself the same question about why it was so hard to find information about bad girls who weren't royalty, entertainers, or from the upper classes. Maybe because they never were in the public eye or the subject of a chronicled scandal. Maybe that's why I, a fairly average woman, am telling my own experience.
And Bethy--great to hear from you!

KAT said...

Sounds Exactly like me...my bad girl...who I really am... is coming out! I'm glad I found you!

...Kat...

Joyce Hanson said...

I'm glad you found me, too, Kat. Are you a Capricorn, by any chance? That's my sign, and it's said that we age backwards.

Miss Unconventional, The Wicked Bitch said...

Was the book ever published?

Joyce Hanson said...

Nope, never published! Not for lack of trying, though. My agent brought it round to publishers and we had some nibbles, but...nada. Too bad. Why? Are you a publisher? Care to publish Bad Girls? Hee hee.

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evision said...
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