Friday, March 30, 2007

Why it's great to be a girl...

After the Avril-gate that erupted after the last post, I got called a lesbo, a feminazi and a retard, among other things. None of which persauded me to see the error of my Avril-disapproving ways. And FYI, words are never meaningless especially in a pop song, which is why I can be moved to tears when I listen to a 3 minute slice of pop perfection.

But what really disheartened and disappointed me was that my post was about standing up for other girls and why we shouldn't hate on them. And instead I get hated on in the most ungirlfriendly terms. I realised the unpleasant truth that our biggest enemies can be other girls when we should all be sticking up for each other, and agreeing to disagree about corporate puppets co-opting our culture so they can shift more units.

So to get the nasty taste out of my mouth, I compiled a list of all the things I think are great about being a girl, from the serious to the frivolous. You can add your own in the comments. It's fun. And I'm so over the whole Avril thing - this week I'm mostly incensed about carbon emissions, so offload your hate somewhere else, because I have a delete option and I know how to use it.


Because we’re made of sugar and spice and all things nice.

Because we can talk for hours about nothing at all or debate environmental issues if we feel like it.

Because nail varnish looks better on us.

Because we get to benefit from being the daughters and grand-daughters of feminists.

Because we always have the last word.

Because pink is a viable colour choice.

Because no-one can ever say to us, “Stop acting like a girl.”

Because it’s physically impossible for us to ignore a ringing phone.

Because we’re statistically smarter (as well as just about every other kind of smarter) than boys

Because we can scream very loud, very frequently.

Because we can have babies if we really want to. But only if we want to.

Because we can wear vintage dresses.

Because we number such illustrious personages as Dorothy Parker, Elizabeth 1, Beth Ditto and Marie Curie among out ranks.

Because we get to have the most amazing girls as our friends.

Because we experiment with eye shadows not drugs.

Because we live in an age where there is Marc Jacobs and Primark.

Because if all else fails, we can always accessorise with a smile.

Because we have fantastic role models all around us from Lisa Simpson to Hillary Clinton.

Because we know that 99% of all pop songs are written about us.

Because together we're strong.

Because the only reason that boys don't think we're funny is because our sense of humour is way more sophisticated than fart jokes.

Because we know the cathartic benefits of a good weep and a bucketload of chocolate.

Because no one and nothing can stop us from being who we want to be.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Why fling this filth at our pop kids?

Busy. So very busy. With a bigass freelance commission and book-writing. I'm behind on everything and have a ton of outstanding messages on MySpace that I may get round to replying to one of these days. At this precise moment in time I'm waiting for someone to come round and turn off my leccy so he can install a fetching new kitchen light and take the kitchen door off so I can actually shift my 1940's dresser in there. It's going to be a wonderful moment when I can finally arrange my limited edition Andy Warhol glasses where people can actually see them.

Despite the general chaos and mounting deadlines, I did just want to rant about Avril Lavigne. She's not someone I have a lot of time for and her 'music' says nothing to me about my life. Also, I'm not buying the disaffected loner girl thing. When I was 16, I listened to Patti Smith, then Kristin Hersh and Courtney Love who wrote songs about what it was really like to be a mixed-up girl in a world that didn't like the mixed up. But I have to say that Ms Lavigne's new single, Girlfriend, has really got my hackles rising.

Hey Hey You You
I know that you like me
No way No way
No, it's not a secret
Hey Hey You You
I want to be your girlfriend

I can see the way
I see the way
You look at me
And even when you look away
I know you think of me
I know you talk about me all the time
again and again

So come over here
and tell me what I wanna hear
Better, yet, make your girlfriend disappear
I don't wanna hear you say her name
ever again


She's like so whatever
And you can do so much better

OK, it's catchy as a classroom of nits but the sentiment of the song is so un-girl-friendly that it makes me depressed. Avril Lavigne is just another cookie-cutter blonde starlet and all the carefully chosen Torrid-esque accessories and the fact that she can play three chords on her guitar doesn't change that. Because I think a girl who cared about her music and wanted it out in the world to change people's lives would use her powers for good. And slagging off other girls for daring to date boys who are cute is wrong. A whole damn load of wrong.

I'm not a riot grrrl (do they even exist any more?) I'm a feminist. I'm all about sticking up for girls, giving them a voice, inspiring and being inspired by girlkind. I don't always get it right but I think one of the most fundamental rules about being a girl is that you don't hate on other girls or steal their boyfriends or do other skeevy stuff that reflects badly on the rest of us.

And that's why this song royally pisses me off. God, don't even get me started on the video....

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Are you a British internet superstar aged between 15 to 24?

• Do you spend all your time flitting between your Facebook, MySpace, Flickr account and Livejournal?
• Do you have your own website?
• Have you ever been recognised on the street because someone's seen your picture online?
• Do you run a messageboard or forum?
• Do you have an MP3 blog?
• Do you post pictures of your daily outfits?
• Have you ever dumped a boyfriend by changing the relationship status to single on your Facebook?
• Do you have more than a 1000 friends on your MySpace?

If the answer is 'yes' to more than two of these questions, I'd love to hear from you.

I'm writing a feature for a Sunday newspaper supplement about teenage girls and their internet usage; what they get up to online, what they blog about and their experiences both good and bad, whether they worry about who's reading their blogs or MySpaces, how important their online privacy is and simply, what do they love about the interpipe?

Alternately, I'm also looking for someone who's only just dipping a toe into the online world.

Like, I say, you must be in the UK, aged between 15 and 24 and female and willing to be interviewed in person or on the phone. We may also need to photograph you. (And if you're under 16, then you must get parental permission, them's the breaks!)

If you're interested, please leave a comment with your age, your email addy and a brief description of your online habits.


Sarra x

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Research 101

Happy Sunday to you my little darlings

It's very soggy, chilled and grey here in London. I wish Spring would just hurry up and sprung already.

As ever, thanks for all your comments, particularly about my new series Fashionistas. I can't wait for you to read the first book when it comes out in June. Or is it July? I never can remember! And thanks for all your other comments, though I have to remind you that leaving a comment here or at MySpace is the best way to contact me. If you do manage to dig out my email addy, I send back a pre-written email, which is a bit of a FAQ and also a reminder that this blog or MySpace are the official ways to contact me. While I'm on a reminding tip, there are a list of tags on this blog that will direct you to previous posts on writing tips, why there will never be a sequel to Diary Of A Crush and all sorts of other exciting topics. And links to all my interviews on the interpipe.

So at the moment I'm hard at work on the third book in the Fashionstas series, Irina, all about a surly Russian model, which is proving a great way to channel my aggression as I stick to my 2500 daily word quota.

It occurs to me that I haven't talked about the writing process for ages so I thought I'd do a post about research and how important it is to a writer. Being neither Russian or a model (and in this case, never having visited Japan which takes up a significant few chapters), to write this book and make it convincing meant that I had to do a lot of research. In an ideal world, I'd make enough money and have such great connections that I could just jump on a plane to Moscow or Tokyo or call Kate Moss for a little chat, but I don't so here are the less glam tricks of my trade.


I'm really lucky that I have a lot of contacts in the fashion industry so I've been going out for coffee with people who know more about this stuff than I do. (A little tip, I bought this little gizmo that I stick into my iPod, which turns it into a voice recorder.) My good friend Jill Wanless gave me loads of great stuff about modelling and what happens behind the scenes on fashion shoots. I was shocked that all the dramatic scenes I came up with weren't half as outlandish as some of the things that actually go on. I'm also incredibly lucky to know Iain R Webb, a really influentilal fashion writer and living legend. Iain actually worked for Russian Vogue and has visited Moscow so could give me a first hand account that I just couldn't get from my Rough Guide To Moscow. It's also been really helpful to be able to phone Jill up and ask inane questions like, "Is there anything that models usually take to go-sees?" Or "Could a size 10 girl realistically be a successful model?" I have to say that all my years of workong on fashion magazines and being bored stupid at photo shoots were also invaluable as I could use tons of things that actually happened that I've been saving up for ages.


I love the internet. You're all too young to remember life before it but it involved going to libraries and wading through card indexes or using cuttings agencies and still not finding what you were looking for. Google is a writer's best friend. Thanks to Google I could find out the time difference between here and Russia and how long the flight takes. Where the Prada in Moscow is and what does the street look like? Even what MacDonalds tastes like in Tokyo! I have to confess I get a bit eye-rolly when I get emails and messages, usually on book reports, asking me tons of questions and usually ending with the words, "I couldn't find anything about you on the internet!" In a fraction of the time, they could have put "sarra manning" in a google search and found out everything they neded to know, which is what I tell them to do when I reply!

My favourite two research webby tools are Wikipedia, which pretty much has the facts on anything and everything. Someone's even Wiki-ed me! My other must-have is the bookmark site delicious. When I find a site or an online article (even a cookie recipe) that I know I'll need at a later date, I just click on the button I've installed on my toolbar and bookmark the site, but I can also organise all my bookmarks into tags like 'Russia' or 'Fashionistas'.


I think peple can be really up themselves about research. It can be fun too! Fr'instance I got to re-watch Lost In Translation to actually see what Tokyo was like and watched the special 'making of' feature on the DVD too. Hey, it gave me lots of colour that I could put into the book as well so who's to say that it's not proper research? I also watched a way dark film called Lilya 4 ever, which was a great insight into the seedy side of post-Soviet Russia. What's weird is that all of a sudden everything you watch is relevant. Like, this week's episode of UK teen drama Skins saw them going off on a school visit to Russia, while there's that really annoying Russian girl on the new series of ANTM! When I was writing the second book, Hadley, about a former child star turned partying club kid, there were bits of gossip I read on celeb blogs that went straight into the book, including the fantastic quote, "Urgh, don't talk to me like I'm a normal person!" I guess Hadley is based on a composite of maybe three or four different celebrities and the crazy shit that they got up to while I was working on the book was absolute writer's gold.

Something else I've always done is have a big stack of magazine articles in a folder - for the last 18 months that I've been writing Fashionstas, I've kept every interview I've found with a model, or a feature on the fashion industry, or the New York club scene or 'internet It girl' Cory Kennedy. Though I've stopped reading pieces on the size zero debate because, hello, so over it.


I've also been listening to The Research a lot! But I think the two things may be unconnected.

Love Sarra x