I sent my submission to Queer Feminine Affinities off today. It's longer than the longest piece I've ever posted on this blog: ‘Sissies, Trannies, and Jeffreys’ was 2025 words. This one is half as long again and took months of reading and an indeterminate time writing – two rough, "working" drafts; 250 copied-out passages of various lengths (from 17 books), reduced to 143 usable quotes arranged by theme; three full, printed drafts (the first 4118 words) each then edited; and finally, the submitted draft (3098 words) containing 57 stripped-down quotes. (My thanks to Lynn Jones for reading it through and providing thorough and helpful feedback.)
I just hope the editors won't mind the 98 extra words (above the stated maximum of 3000) too much, and that the manuscript won't suffer this fate: “If they said maximum, assume they mean it and will bin it if wordcount any higher” (as one friend tweeted me). Deleting over 1000 words was hard enough; I got stuck on the last 98. But trying to bring the word count down was very useful. A set maximum forces you to be rigorous (ruthless, even) and tightens up your writing considerably. In this age of blockbuster novels, there's a whole load of flabby writing around. Ursula Le Guin can say more in 150 pages than most (genre-equivalent) authors can say in 600 or 700. Perhaps authors should be set limits: this many pages and not one page more or it goes in the bin!
As for my piece, maybe I'll get to post it on here, maybe not. Certainly, if it's rejected. In the meantime, here are three (of the 250) passages copied out in my research. I posted these on the Angels forum to see whether anyone could relate to them. (Answer: Yes.) They're all from ‘The Femme Mystique’ (ed. Lesléa Newman; Alyson Publications, Boston 1995). Parts of two of them made the draft sent in.
Mmmm-hmmm, she can hold her breath longer than anyone I know, this other me. This inside girl who won't insist on being called Woman. Just when I think she's gone for good she comes back with a vengeance, and each time reasserts herself with a little more self-assurance. Looking me in the eye and saying, “I'm not going to put up with your being disgusted with me and embarrassed by me. You might as well love me, because I'm not going to leave you.”
— A.J. Potter, in ‘French Fries and Fingernail Polish’ (p183).
Being femme means that I enjoy expressing myself sometimes in ways our society considers feminine. On occasions I'll wear dresses, makeup, and heels, and have fun with my femininity. Other times I grow tired of making myself up and instead enjoy jeans, sweatshirts, and sneakers. Even though these latter times tend to outnumber the former, I am still femme. So then what does being femme mean? To me it means both accepting and rejecting society's definition of femininity, questioning the parts that don't fit and rejoicing in the parts that do. It means choosing how I want to be and who I am, and knowing that the choice is mine alone. It means I can be as feminine as I want, but that I don't have to be.
— Christy Cramer, in ‘Being Femme’ (p275/276).
Does it all start with closets? When I was a teenager, I would go into my mother's closet when she was out and try on her clothes. She had a strapless long-line bra with a dozen tiny hooks and eyes down the back. The cups were so stiff they stood up by themselves. I didn't need tits to fill them. Hooking myself into the bra was my favourite part of the dress-up, slowly, painstakingly fixing the look onto my body, becoming the woman to be looked at, clasping myself into my own vision of desire. Becoming the object of my own gaze, I'd slip my mother's black low-cut cocktail dress on over the bra, or her sleeveless gold lamé jumpsuit. Posing for the mirror, constructing the look that spelled sex to me.
— Wendy Frost, in ‘Queen Femme’ (p305).
I can relate to what these three women (femmes) are writing for sure.