Allow us to introduce Kay Stephens, award-winning author and Lady Geek warrior against cyber bullying. Stephens has been working to promote and advocate for girls for more than 20 years as a nanny, camp counselor, mentor, teacher and program administrator for an all-girls science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) after school program.
When Stephens noticed the lack of girly-geek tween fiction, along with the appallingly frequent and hurtful cases of cyber bullying among middle school girls, she launched her novel "Ethel is Hot (LOL)." The story features the runty-but-cute 12-year-old Ethel F. Effelby, who goes to a science and leadership school in Maine. Ethel gets duped by an all-out cyber bullying campaign orchestrated by two girls looking for YouTube fame.
Stephens is proud to announce that her Kickstarter campaign for “Ethel is Hot (LOL)” has been fully funded! Thanks to all her fellow lady-geeks and supporters who made “Ethel is Hot (LOL)” possible. Stephens expects to have the novel ready for distribution early next year. Check after the holidays to get your hands on your own copy!
Check out Stephens’ interview with Being Geek Chic to discover her inspiration for “Ethel is Hot (LOL),” her advice for her 13-year-old self, and the title of Ethel’s memoir. Read on!
Q: What was your inspiration behind “Ethel is Hot (LOL)”?
A: I’m a fiction writer, but I’d never written a middle school/YA novel before. I think with all the stories about girls I’d been hearing in the news around that time being cyberbullied (2006-2007)—and adults having absolutely no clue about how cyberbullying worked—Ethel just came to me. It was a name my best friend in high school had made up—Ethel F. Effelby, and personified this kind of dorky-but-earnest character. The serious side, of course, is that she gets blindsided by certain cyberbullying tactics that few people understand—even today. I think her innocence getting crushed was something I needed other girls of this age to understand, to relate to, and most importantly, to empathize with. Ultimately, the tactics that happened to Ethel were further extrapolated and turned into a cyberbullying guide for adults a colleague and I created called Cyberslammed.
Q: When did you discover you were “geeky?”
A: You know, that wasn’t a term of pride when I was in middle and high school like it kind of is today. (And now I do my Mary Katherine Gallagher impression, get down on one knee and yell: “Star Wars rules!”) But you didn’t wear “Geek” so freely as a badge back then, not in the mid-1980s when all the John Hughes movies made the Geek the butt of the joke. I think being a Geek embodied all of the good things that weren’t cool then, such as: liking Monty Python and Mad Magazine, not wearing designer clothes, spending time in libraries, answering a teacher’s question earnestly, not sarcastically. Oh, and the glasses and braces also didn’t help. I didn’t bother jockeying for the popular position in middle or high school; it was too much trouble. So, I just kind of wore a lot of brown colors, stuck with my two only friends and waited it out.
Q: What advice would you give fellow lady geeks looking to break into the publishing industry?
A: With both of my books, I’ve had one foot in the traditional side and one in the self-publishing side of the industry and breaking into both is equally as difficult, I’m not gonna lie. A lot of people want the instant gratification of seeing their work in print, but neither the traditional publishing industry nor the self-publishing industry affords instant gratification. The former might entail years of rewrites and rejections while the latter requires you to literally learn from the ground up an entire business model before you self-publish. (And if you choose to go that route, take your time and invest in making the work the most polished and professional it can be—or risk earning the ire of fellow authors, for sloppy and quickly published books undermine the hard work indie authors have undergone over the years to be on the same playing field as traditionally pubbed authors.) /Rant over. If you have a book burning inside of you, write it. Authenticity and your level perseverance will be the measure of its success.
Q: What would you tell your 13-year-old self?
A: 1. Catholic school will ruin your fashion sense until you are 30; don’t sweat it.
2. Keep your eyes open, your guard up and your compassion sharp: there are other kids around you who are more scared and more vulnerable. They can use your help.
3. Invest your babysitting money in this stock called Apple Computers. Trust me.
Q: What would be the title of your memoir?
A: I’m a pretty private person, so it’s highly unlikely I’d write my own memoir. But if my alter-ego Ethel F. Effleby grew up, her memoir might be titled:
"Space Diapers and Other Indignities
Observations From a NASA Psychologist”
Photography credit: Jessica Graham
Emma Bauer is a Being Geek Chic Contributor. Clearly, she’s got great taste. She is a PR enthusiast, history scholar, tea drinker, fashion devotee, and of course, aspires to Be Geek Chic. Follow her on Twitter: @emmalynnbauer
My newest dystopian obsession is The Digital Web Series: H+. You guys. This shit is for real. Here’s episode one, but be prepared, because you might not even finish reading this post if you watch it.
Are you still here? I’m impressed. The first time I watched it I immediately engaged in a video binge session that ended way too late at night and only ended when the insides of my eyelids started sticking to my contact lenses.
I remember the first time I finished George Orwell’s 1984. I was curled up in my childhood bed (which had pink blankets - a fact that astounds me today) and I was breathless. My emotions were at level 99 out of 100. I was sad and angry and confused and frustrated and exhilarated and impressed and overwhelmed. I wasn’t used to a single book eliciting so many emotions.
I fell asleep and years passed and the emotions faded, but the fiction stuck. Why did the fiction stick? Because it wasn’t fiction at all. George Orwell wasn’t an author - he was a futurist. A time teller. A psychic.
I love dystopian fiction, because it’s like a warning song about the future that the vast majority of the public is ignoring and I feel like a special mage who can hear the tune above the newest Selena Gomez song.
Thanks for spending another year with us. Please accept my favorite kind of gift: a story from my heart.
Lulu Lee lived in a dwelling that could have been featured on a home television show about unusual houses. It was perfectly round with walls made of glass and high, high ceilings, which were conducive to letting light in, but known for allowing the occasional creature in as well.
Lulu Lee’s home had no doors, which was her father’s idea. When he bought the home, he thought, “how nice, I can keep track of my daughter so easily. I can see her unusual home from far away and even see inside her walls at all times of the day.”
At first, this gift seemed kind and generous - it was a home after all. But as time passed and Lulu Lee grew from teenager to grown woman, she began to wonder if her father actually gave her a prison. Surely her father never intended it that way? Or perhaps he did. For the world beyond her expansive front windows was much different from the world she knew. It was full of the unknown and if her father told her: “anything unknown was unknown for a reason.”
When the sky got dark and the air got chilly, Lulu Lee would dream of other places from her favorite chair in her peculiar home. It was a round chair that required excellent posture and a calm mind, because it had no back to rest upon. It was well suited to the space, however. It was especially helpful when it rained, because it floated on the accumulated liquid, allowing Lulu Lee to keep completely dry. Maybe this home was not a prison. Perhaps it was an even more dangerous place. Indeed, it seemed entirely plausible that this home was actually meant to hold the colored rains that poured down upon Lulu Lee day after day.
After one particularly strange afternoon, a new home was dropped off next door. This upset her father no doubt, because it now blocked his perfect view of her every move. Secretly, although she would never mutter it aloud, Lulu Lee was delighted at the arrival of this new structure and watched eagerly for any sign of its new tenants. This home was much more traditional, square with a slight taper upward. It was green, which was an unusual color for a home, although Lulu Lee didn’t know this, because her neighborhood was filled with unusual homes. However, it did have one thing in common with other homes - it had no roof. This seemed promising to Lulu Lee, because maybe her new neighbors could tell her what her father never did: why were their homes built this way?
Just as the thought crossed Lulu Lee’s mind, a white liquid began to pour from the sky. She would have said it was raining cats and dogs, but she had never met a cat or a dog, so she couldn’t attest to the accuracy of the phrase. This rain was far more intense than the usual shower in the area. The falling water seemed leave a scent behind. And while this would normally cause Lulu Lee great dismay, she was hopeful it would keep falling, because upon examination of the new neighbor’s home, she had a suspicion that her home was without a door for the same reason it was without a roof. Perhaps, the non-roof was in fact a door.
When she was sure everyone was sleeping, Lulu Lee took advantage of that afternoon’s particularly high rainfall to devise a plan. She was close enough to her non-roof that she could touch the very top of the walls of her home if she stood on her toes on her round chair. She thought she may just be able to climb out if she jumped. Lulu Lee worked up her confidence and bounced gingerly on the chair testing just how high she could rise without too much effort. Just as she leapt to reach the edge of the wall, she wondered, “what will I do once I’ve reached it?” But it was too late. She was already gripping the side of the wall with all her might and was left with two options:
Drop into the water and swim back to her chair OR crawl over the edge and finally escape.
Lulu Lee could not imagine going another day wondering what was beyond her home. It was too much to abide any longer. So she shimmied her leg, slowly and meticulously, followed by the other and then she held on tightly again. Then Lulu Lee had a thought: “perhaps if I shake my home, just slightly, the water will rise and it will throw the chair over the edge. And if the chair landed on the ground outside, I could safely let go of the wall’s edge and land on my perfectly donut shaped chair.”
Before she could second guess herself and worry about injury or her home landing right on top of her, Lulu Lee swung her little body as hard as she could into the side of the glass. At first there was no movement, except the shutter of her tiny body from the pain. But then as she swung a bit from the sheer inertia of the event, she felt her home move ever so slightly. And then the water moved ever so slightly. Afraid to lose this momentum, little Lulu Lee started swinging her legs as hard as she could, back and forth, until the water was tipping over the top of her home and dropping and splashing on the ground below.
After several minutes of extraordinary effort, the chair plunked to the ground. And just in time. For the rim of the walls where Lulu Lee’s delicate fingers were tightly gripped had become drenched and her grip had loosened. With a thump and a thud, she avoided disaster and nestled into the hole in the center of her chair. She hoped no one heard her screech as she flailed toward the ground, but after several breathless seconds, she was quite sure she was safe. No one heard her and she was free to explore all the things she had seen from inside her home’s glass walls.
That’s when it struck her. Or rather, didn’t. The rain was no longer falling. How could the rain only be falling over Lulu Lee’s home? Maybe it had stopped? Perhaps it was a quick sun shower? But it had rained so hard. It seemed unlikely it would be focused over only her dwelling.
As she sorted out the possible weather patterns, she realized the new green home seemed like a logical first stop to see if the showers had left moisture there.
Lulu Lee didn’t see a door to knock on on her new neighbor’s home. There were no windows to peak through. She was now certain this was yet another prison masquerading as a home. She had to get inside.
Before thinking about the consequences, Lulu Lee positioned her bulbous chair on the edge of the green structure and stood atop it. She reached her hands high, but even on the tips of her toes she couldn’t quite touch the top of the walls. She jumped once and then again until her fingers grasped the side of the green wall. She hoped she could swing one of her legs over the side, but the unusual angle of the walls made it difficult for her to achieve this. In a moment of true bravery, Lulu Lee pulled her body up with all her strength, closed her eyes and pushed her waist over the wall so that her head was positioned downward. With even the slightest wrong move, her head could be crushed by the impact of the fall below. She breathed slowly as she teetered with one half of her body over each edge.
Or maybe her head would not be crushed. Lulu Lee opened her eyes and noticed that the mysterious white rain had fallen in this home too. Here, there were 20, 30, maybe even 40 of her round chairs floating around in non-sensical patterns. How could this be? Who would own so many of Lulu Lee’s favorite chair? There was no one here that Lulu Lee could see. She allowed her body to drop into the water and as she rose to the surface, she got a slight taste of it. It was not water at all. It was milk.
In honor of her birthday, the Lady Geek of this week is the lovely Liz Giorgi!
You all know her through her cheeky, honest, and stylish writings on Being Geek Chic, but to me, she’s a career mentor, love oracle, personal stylist, and all-around life adviser. Jealous?
So happy birthday, Liz! And thank you for all of the wit and wisdom. Here’s to the fabulous years ahead!
Read on to get to know the birthday girl a little more:
Q: What has led you to your passion?
A: The transition into adulthood was really bumpy for me. I didn’t enjoy working 9 to 5. (I seem to be more productive late in the day…) I found that there were very few other “grown ups” who would admit to regularly thinking about the details of Dumbledore’s life or built LEGO sets on the weekends for the fun of it. And while writing was my profession, I wasn’t excited about writing anymore because it felt like a job I had to do. Big shock: because it was my job. Eventually, I realized that I was losing confidence in my ability as a writer. I had become formulaic. My copy had completely lost its way. Combine my depressed writing skills with my desire to geek the eff out and Being Geek Chic was born. The blog gave me the freedom to discuss how to bridge the gap between being a struggling grown-up and still loving the same things you did as a kid.
The best part is that I didn’t even know this blog would be my passion. I thought it would be a great hobby. Perhaps great hobbies are the best passions? Now, I think about it all day, every day.
Q: What inspires you in the world?
A: Science. Space. Things that we don’t know. Things that we know way the hell too much about.
For example, science writer Annie Murphy Paul wrote this piece called The Neuroscience of Your Brain on Fiction for the New York Times earlier this year and it’s still swirling around in my head. It’s the perfect example of the unlimited potential of our minds in both fiction and non-fiction realms. And perhaps what fascinates me most is that to our minds, there is an intersection there that informs our thoughts, feelings and perceptions. While Lev Grossman was imagining a new type of animangi in a fictional world, scientists in our physical world are mapping the shared genetics of humans and animals. If a brain could have an orgasm - this idea would give mine one.
Q: First time you realized you were “geeky?”
A: In the eighth grade I had an English teacher who had a real love of science fiction. She assigned both The Hobbit and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 that year and I loved both on a level that the other kids didn’t seem to appreciate. I went to the library and looked up other books that shared the same shelves and discovered George Orwell and Margaret Atwood. There really was no going back after that.
Q: What would you tell you 13-year-old self?
A: Don’t lose that master copy of your alien language. You will be thoroughly amused by it 13 years from now. Leaving high school early will be the best thing for your brain and your heart. It’s OK if you don’t understand economics - turns out we’ve bastardized it so much that most economists don’t understand it anymore either. Don’t throw away that glow in the dark Batman tee. You’ll never find one that cool again.
Q: “I admit it—I’ve never seen/read/experienced: ____”
A: The original Star Trek series. I’m just afraid to go down that road, because there is SOOO much to watch. However, the JJ Abrams movie was truly wonderful and beautiful, so maybe I’ll get around to it.
Post by Emma Bauer, who works as BGC’s official intern. Clearly, she’s got great taste. She is a PR enthusiast, history scholar, tea drinker, fashion devotee, and of course, aspires to Be Geek Chic. On twitter: @emmalynnbauer