Musings of an Inappropriate Woman

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Is Rachel Hills a One Direction fan? If so, thoughts on "fangirling" when you're not a "girl" anymore? ...Oh, p.s.: I fangirl about your writing ❤.

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Haha, kind of. I think they are adorable, and I like the very modern, laid back, self-effacing masculinity they embody. They seem like they would be fun to hang out with. Also: when I was 17, my friend Kate and I designed our perfect boyband which was pretty much One Direction manifest, so that’s pretty cool.

And it doesn’t hurt that Louis is the spitting image of the boy I had a crush on in my final year of high school, or that Mr Musings refers to Liam as “the one who looks like me” (er, him). And one of my friends made me One Direction cupcakes for my birthday party this year, after I wrote this article. So, I guess that’s a yes?

As for fangirling in general, I think at its heart it’s an expression of joy and appreciation. Of finding something you connect with and embracing it wholeheartedly. And while it may (and probably should) take a different form as an adult than it did when you were fifteen, I think it’s nice to tap into that youthful enthusiasm when it hits us.

One Direction don’t inspire quite that level of devotion in me (they’re more a passing interest), but Dair on the other hand? A million times yes.

(And thank you!)

Related: On One Direction and Teenage Bonding
Four episodes to go 

Hi! Could you recommend me some books that deal with intersectionality in feminism? Thanks in advance :)

Asked by

Good question! Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Ain’t I A Woman? by bell hooks
Talkin’ Up To The White Woman by Aileen Moreton-Robinson (she guest lectured a session in one of my undergraduate courses, and was confronting and amazing)
Feminism For Real ed Jessica Yee 
Colonize This: Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism ed Daisy Hernandez 
Women of Color and Feminism by Maythee Robbs 
Daughters of Suburbia: Growing Up White, Middle Class and Female by Lorraine Kenny 
And Finally We Meet: Intersections and Intersectionality Among Feminist Activists, Academics and Students ed Alice E. Ginsberg 

Given how prominent intersectionality is in online debates around feminism, though, I feel like there is a need for another book I haven’t been able to find yet. Something bold, big picture, modern, accessible and challenging: a Big Idea argument book, rather than another anthology. (Anthologies are great for getting a mix of voices out there, but they tend to be quite piecemeal.) 

Flavia? Latoya? You care to do the honours? Or can anyone recommend an existing book that fits that bill?

Hey there, I participated in your interviews for your book as was wondering what was happening with it and such? I hope it is going well and would like to know if or when something will be coming out? Take care, hope to hear from you soon

Asked by

Book is coming along well! I submitted at the end of March, now I’m working through edits, and I’m glad to say that my editor and I are very much on the same page (ahem). I can’t give you an exact publishing date right now, but I’m hoping mid-late 2014 (big publishers generally have at least a 9-12 month lead time on publishing once the manuscript is in final form). In the meantime, you can check out the TEDx talk I gave a few months back here, if you’re interested.

PS Now I’m trying to figure out who you are, based on your Tumblr.

Hey Rachel! This question seems a little too short for your Ask Rachel section. I was just curious, when you write do you try to think about how the readers will like it or do you just write what you want without thinking about anyone else? I write as if I'm writing a book to myself; would I like this as an anonymous reader? I was just curious about your perspective.

Asked by

Like most people who have come of age writing online (no? it’s just me?) I can’t help but think about how readers will respond to my work while I’m writing it.

I hear the voices of online commenters when I’m writing opinion pieces, and while writing my book, I was very conscious of the likely criticisms people are likely to make. That doesn’t mean that I change what I say, but it does mean that I am careful - sometimes too careful - about how I say it.

That said, I still value my own opinion of my work as much (often more) as I value other people’s. Like you, my aim is to publish work that I would want to read.

So, if I publish something I think is mediocre and other people like it, I’m happy with the result, but I still secretly think the work is mediocre. Or if I write something I think is really good (this, for example) and it falls like a tree in the forest that nobody hears, I still think it is awesome.

Ask Rachel: Should I self-publish?


Willow asks: I’ve been writing a book (a novel) for the past three years now. I expect to be finishing up within the next six months, which is very exciting, but I’m also starting to realize how little I know about this process. When I started writing, the plan was to self-publish, but now that the beginning of the publishing process is so much closer to where I am on this timeline, it’s harder to tell if this is the most practical option.

I want to have 100% creative control of my book, and I really like the idea of receiving 100% of the profit, but I’m not sure if I will be able to generate all the money I would need for the startup of that kind of thing, especially with no guarantee that my book will ever leave complete obscurity. Why did you choose to go through a publisher? Would you recommend that path, and what steps did you have to take to secure your book deal? I’m just a little out of my depth here so I was hoping you could shed a little light on this process for me.


Hi Willow. First of all, congratulations on being so close to finishing your book. It sounds fascinating, and I can’t wait to read it, whichever route you choose.

As I wrote in our email exchange, whether you decide to self-publish or traditionally publish depends on what you want to do with your book. Is the goal to get it out there so that people can read it? To reach the largest possible audience? To become the next Jennifer Egan or Zadie Smith? To just have the glorious (and sometimes heart-breaking) experience of having published a book?

For me, publishing The Sex Myth with a traditional publisher was a no-brainer. I wanted to write a Big Ideas Book that would change people’s hearts and minds, and I wanted to get it in front of as many people as possible. (Lofty goals, much?) I chose my publisher - or more accurately, I chose to slave my guts out to get the publisher I did, because let’s face it, it’s not like big publishers are banging on first-time authors’ doors begging to publish our work – because I thought they would put me in the best position to do that. They would offer me credibility. They would force me to do my best work, and draw attention to ways in which my work could be improved that I either would not have noticed or would have been too tired to tackle after finishing my manuscript (sometimes ceding a little bit of creative control is not a bad thing). They dominate the front tables at Barnes & Noble, and they have the connections to get my book plastered on the TV, the radio, newspapers and magazines for at least a week or two.

Now, it’s worth noting that the division between self-publishing and traditional publishing isn’t quite as clear cut as I’ve made it seem in the above paragraph. There are plenty of books that spend a couple of weeks on the front tables of Barnes & Noble and get written up in the New York Times that don’t make an impact at all, and get sent straight back from the bookstores to their publishers within a month of going to press. Mine may well end up being one of them. Even if my book ends up being a mammoth success beyond anyone’s expectations (say, I sell 1 million copies – does that even happen in ideas-based non-fiction?), that would still be but a small fraction of the reach of Fifty Shades of Grey, a book that was initially self-published. And traditional publishers certainly don’t do all the marketing work for you.

Still, the metrics are different. If I self-published my book and it did really well, it might reach, what, a couple of thousand people? And I say that as someone with a lot of journalist friends and contacts, and a sizeable readership on this blog. Realistically, I could end up reaching as few as a couple of hundred people (there is a big difference between people who like your work enough to subscribe to your blog, and people who like it enough to want to buy it). If my book “fails” with a traditional publisher, I’ll still reach the same number of people I would have in my best-case self-publishing scenario. And I’ll have been paid enough to have had something of a financial safety net for a couple of years.

All of this makes me sound very anti-self-publishing (or at least very pro-traditional publisher), and that’s not the case. The truth is that traditional publishing is hard. It is slow, you have to jump through lots and lots of hoops, and you put the matter of whether your work ever sees the light of day in some else’s hands. If you do choose to traditionally publish, you probably won’t see your book in bookstores (or on for another 2-3 years. And you may want to skip the pain and get your book out there for people to read as soon as possible.

Self-publishing is a great option for people who want to take control of their own creative path and make sure their writing gets read by someone, regardless of whether it fits the mould of what traditional publishers think will sell. It’s a great option for people with large and engaged existing online audiences, and whose book is closely aligned with the content they are publishing online. It’s a fantastic option, from a monetary perspective, for people who are writing self-help oriented content: people who write on how to be fitter, happier, more productive (this kind of content seems to do brilliantly on the internet). And it’s a great opportunity for very young, early career writers like you to learn more about how the publishing process works and experience it first-hand.

In the long-term, I suspect self-publishing is increasingly where book publishing will head. I’ll probably try it myself someday. (Arguably, I already have. I published my own first novel online when I was in high school – covering similar themes to your own, it would seem – and thoroughly enjoyed the process. It never occurred to me send it to a traditional publisher: I just wanted to get it straight into the hands of the people I was writing it for.)

So, what should you do? My first piece of advice, upon finishing your book, is to get a professional to assess your manuscript. It will cost you a couple of hundred dollars (and I understand that given you’re still in your teens, you’re probably not flush with cash), but it will give you a good indication of whether you’re ready to send your work to an agent if you decide to try your luck with a traditional publisher, and it means you’ll have a better book if you decide to publish yourself (trust me when I say that good editors and smart second opinions are invaluable – I wouldn’t have gotten my book deal without them). I highly recommend my writing coach, Brooke Warner, who has worked as an editor in a traditional publishing house and now helps guide writers through the self-publishing process, but whoever you go with, make sure you choose someone whose history as a writer and editor you respect and (this is so important!) someone who really knows the industry.

My other main piece of advice is to really get to know your options. As well as her coaching and manuscript assessment services, Brooke also provides cost-free advice to writers through her Facebook page, which will help you understand the publishing landscape better. I can also recommend The Unconventional Guide To Publishing, which offers a pretty comprehensive insight into both traditional and self-publishing. (NB: I have no financial relationship with either Brooke or Unconventional Guides, except for the fact that I hire Brooke.)

Whatever you choose, good luck, and like I said – I look forward to reading. And let me know if there’s anything else I can do to help or guide you.

Does anyone else have any advice or resources to offer Willow? Or experiences to share on self or traditional publishing?

Got a burning question you’d like me to answer? Click here or email me at

Related: She who tries, wins: How I got a book deal with a Big 5 publisher.
Why hiring a writing coach was the best $240 I ever spent
Ask Rachel: So, you want to get a book deal?