Posted by: jeannineatkins | March 3, 2014

Women in Print

It was lovely to see friends and girls I didn’t know but were decked in ladybug boots, puffy pink jackets, or Girl Scout vests at The Odyssey Bookshop yesterday, where, in honor of Women’s History Month, I was part of a panel focused on writing about women.  Jane Yolen, who is celebrating fifty years of publishing, and her daughter, Heidi Stemple, spoke about collaborating on Bad Girls: Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, Thieves & Other Female Villains. Jane also spoke about her passion for folklore and the tradition of reinventing fairy tales, and how by writing a book such as The Curse of the Thirteenth Fey: The True Tale of Sleeping Beauty, she learned more about the story and more about herself.  Burleigh Mutén talked about what inspired her to showcase a more playful, nature-loving side of Emily Dickinson in her verse novel, Miss Emily. We all discussed the layers of research and revision, the need to go down lots of unfruitful paths while ferreting out material, and create more roads to nowhere as we draft, then explore of all of these for just the parts we need.


The final question from our host, Hannah Mouschabeck, was: Who is your favorite woman from history? But we love so many! One. Jane said within the world of politics, it would be Eleanor Roosevelt. Heidi went for Mata Hari, even though, she said, she wasn’t really a very good spy. Burleigh said Artemis. And I chose my Grandmère, who wasn’t famous, but inspired me with the way she loved painting even though her work wasn’t known beyond her family and friends.


Afterward we signed books, always fun, but the highlight for me was meeting the daughter of a former student, who came not just to be inspired, but arrived with a book she’d already written, and gave it to me. Phoebe’s note here shows a scientist and a princess, or a princess scientist. It was great to nod to the past, and glimpse, through Phoebe, a glorious future.



  1. A lovely gathering of writers and readers–wish that I could’ve heard firsthand the part where each writer acknowledged the contributions of their favorite women to present day and future!

    Speaking of which…How much do I love the bottom picture? You are beaming, both of you, and your smiles are contagious.

    • So fascinating to glimpse the wells of wisdom in my companions at the table and those in the folding chairs before us. I did leave wanting more. One woman came up to tell me about her great-grandmother as a font of nurturing wisdom. She opened her arms, then embraced herself, as if this woman was there, and said how she feels her presence when she writes. Then her friend tugged her arm and said, Um, there’s a line behind you. One moves one. But hope such feelings find new places to go.

  2. Oh my, a salute to your grandmere and a book from Phoebe! What about you, Jeannine? What were the nature of your remarks?

    • Thank you, Sarah! I did speak of my Grandmere in speaking of research as a treasure hunt, and attics where there’s so much stuff, but you have to find the few small things that speak just to you. Then convey the fact, but leave some mystery, too: there’s the poetry. xo

  3. I wish I’d been there! Love the last photo, too, so much smiling! And that sweet princess-scientist! I wish I’d heard you, speaking about family influences, and Jane, speaking about a fairy tale that changed her. It must have been magical!

    • It was fun, with a girl in the front row who squealed “ooh!” at appropriate moments, and another wearing a robotics badge that her proud mom pointed out to me, and caring dads and brothers. Jane has given entire talks on fairy tales, and never hits the bottom of her knowledge. Ruth Sanderson later spoke in a tribute to Jane about all she’s given her (though she still awaits the magic cape). And I was happy to leave with Burleigh’s Miss Emily, which I read years ago as a manuscript.

  4. This sounds like quite the most special of times for you and your panel and then the audience, Jeannine. I met Jane and Heidi at NCTE, so special for me, & Jane & I just talked about children-delightful. I enjoyed this small summary of your time and the pictures are special too. Thanks much!

    • Thank you, Linda. Jane and Heidi each alone are special, and quite extraordinary to see working together. Re their Bad Girls book, Jane said that she was always considering context, whereas Heidi is more ready to say, Hey, she was just bad. And Jane, with true tenderness, said Heidi is one of her most severe editors.

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