Happy Friday! Today, Write On! speaks with writer, blogger, and marketing consultant Melissa Silverstein. She specializes in the area of women issues, with an emphasis on women and Hollywood. Her blog Women & Hollywood has become a respected site for issues related to feminism and pop culture. In 2008 it was named by More magazine as one of the “blogs to watch,” and in 2009 it was named “Best Hollywood Blog” by totalfilm.com. She is also an entertainment correspondent for wowOwow.
How did you start writing?
I started writing relatively recently, when I realized that I had something unique to say. It was about 10 years ago when I took my first writing class and I dabbled in non-fiction. I worked on a book proposal on women and hollywood before I started blogging, but it wasn’t ready. Now I’ve been blogging for a year and a half, and am back working on my book proposal.
How did you get into the “Women & Hollywood” niche?
I have always been a pop culture freak. I have also always been interested in feminist issues and have worked at women’s organizations. I realized through the blog that I could combine my two passions: feminism and pop culture. This is the perfect niche for me because I am not interested in writing about gossip and I am not really interested in only writing reviews. I want the blog to cause people to question the pop culture they are being fed and to remember that we don’t have to support movies that treat women poorly, and more importantly that we MUST support movies that are pro-women. It makes a difference.
Is it an asset or a challenge to be writing your column from New York?
It’s both a challenge and an asset to write from NY. The challenge is that I don’t have any real sources in Hollywood feeding me information. I don’t really know what it’s like to work in the town and what it’s like for women to be women in a male-dominated business. However, the asset is that I’m an outsider. I’m able to comment and criticize the system because I don’t work and live in it.
What challenges do you find writing about “Women & Hollywood”? The benefits?
The challenges are that a lot of the times there is bad news to report and that gets depressing after a while. Things are bad for women and they don’t seem to be getting any better. The film business may be doing great, but there are still so few films that star women and there aren’t enough women working behind the scenes. I also find my beat kind of lonely. I still feel that there are very few women out there who care about and think about women and film. It’s a problem..
The benefits are the comments I see on my site, the feedback I get from people I meet at conferences, and the fact that I have now heard people repeat back things I have written. I am thrilled by the conversations we are having and that we are making waves and agitating for change.
How important is finding a writing niche?
Your niche is key. But understand that when you are a niche blog you won’t get tons of readers. Gossip breeds readers. I’m not interested in that. I am interested in writing substantive pieces and I have come to terms with the fact that I will be read by a select group of people. Blogging is hard work. You have to be passionate and committed. If you don’t have the passion, you shouldn’t do it at all. It’s not worth it.
I love the immediacy of the medium. I love that people read my work. I love that people disagree with me and challenge me. I love that it has made me a better writer and thinker about everything. I love that I can get so much done in such a short amount of time.
Any advice for writers?
Don’t take short cuts. Just because it’s a blog doesn’t mean that the writing can and should stink. The writing and the ideas are what gets people coming back. Always spell check. Read your posts before you hit publish and then again after they are up. I always find mistakes.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?
Trust yourself and your voice. If you do that, you will be fine.