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AFTER THE FALL
"A wrenching, emotional read and an intense conversation starter about issues of sexual consent."
debut novel coming 1.24.17
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March 22, 2017

Badass Ladies You Should Know: Alice Driver

Kate Hart
Alice Driver making a film in Juarez - photo credit Julián Cardona
In January, I got to interview sommelier Rachel Speckan, an old friend from high school. Her family must have some killer genes, because this month I have the honor of profiling her cousin, Dr. Alice Driver, a photojournalist whose work I've admired for a long time. Alice uses her prodigious talents to benefit marginalized populations, fight for intersectional feminism, and shine a light on injustice at a time when doing so is becoming more dangerous by the day.


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The cover of More or Less Dead: Feminicide, Haunting, and the Ethics of Representation in Mexico (University of Arizona 2015) by Alice Driver
Kate: Describe your career(s) and/or current projects. What path(s) and passions led you there?

Alice: I have two fellowships to support my current writing and photography projects on Central American migrants traveling through Mexico, a Restorative Narrative Fellowship from Images of Voices and Hope and a Foreign Policy Interrupted Fellowship. At a time when the United States has embraced particularly hateful, vitriolic rhetoric against immigrants with a focus on Mexico, I feel that it is essential for me to use my photography and bilingual writing skills to tell narratives that highlight the strength, resilience and humanity of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. My project will take me to migrant shelters in Juarez, Oaxaca, and Tapachula, Mexico where I will focus on telling the stories of women and transgender migrants.


Kate: Do you have any (other) creative outlets? How do they influence/affect your main work (if at all)? 

Alice: At any given time, I am juggling several creative projects. If anything, the difficulty for me is that I want to turn everything in my life into a project. I am working on a co-authored book about the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi with Civil Rights leader Mary King, and I recently translated a book by Mexican journalist Julián Cardona into English. I would like to make another short documentary if I can raise the funds.


black and white portrait of Alice Driver by Sung Park
Kate: What's your biggest challenge?

Alice: The biggest challenge is balancing my creative life and making money.


Kate: Tell us about a time that you bounced back from failure.

Alice: I fail all the time – freelance writing is 99% rejection. For every fellowship I’ve gotten, I’ve been rejected from 30. Learning not to take rejection personally has been a difficult but important lesson. And keep doing the work, because the work is what matters.


Kate: What's the best compliment you've ever gotten? 

Alice: Poet Nikky Finney, who was my professor in college in 2001, wrote me in 2015, "So much of the world needs the muscle found in true words. Please keep sending what your head and belly make as one loaf."


"Muerte el macho" street art in Mexico City - photo by Alice Driver
Kate: Did you have any defining moments that galvanized your understanding of and/or commitment to feminism? How does it inform/inspire your work?

Alice: I was raised a feminist. My mom has always been outspoken about social justice issues, and she is funny and a real force to reckon with. The injustice of daily life moves me to continue my feminist work, because I see how women I know, including myself, are marginalized and discredited, as well as paid less than their male colleagues.


Kate: What are the best ways to support other women?

Alice: I believe that rising tide lift all boats, and I try to support other women by celebrating their work and their lives. In practical terms, I interview women, recommend them as experts, share their work, and try to increase the participation and visibility of women in my field.


KateLightning round -- tell us what you’re…    

reading: I’m reading The Sport of Kings by CE Morgan and The Heart of the Artichoke by Elena Poniatowska (who, coincidentally, I met in Mexico City recently)
watching: Samantha Bee
listening to: Julie Byrne
eating:  Gorditas, tacos, mamey milkshakes
wearing: Superman converse (Wonder Woman was sold out)
wishing for: equality
wanting: to collaborate on more projects with photographers and videographers who I admire
loving: Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer


Alice Driver fly fishing on assignment - Mulberry River, Oark, Arkansas
Kate: Who are some other badass ladies we need to know & why? 

Alice: Roxane Gay is one of my favorite writers, both for how genuine she is and how open and funny.

Elizabeth Plank is a media goddess – brilliant, funny and she does a lot of good work supporting disability rights.


Kate: What is your advice to aspiring badasses?

Alice: Do the work and be persistent. Don’t overthink.


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Badass Ladies You Should Know logo
Dr. Alice Driver is a bilingual photojournalist based in Mexico City. Driver received a 2017 Images and Voices of Hope Restorative Narrative Fellowship to support her work on a project about women and transgender migrants in Mexico, and she is also a 2017 Foreign Policy Interrupted Fellow.

She is the author of More or Less Dead: Feminicide, Haunting, and the Ethics of Representation in Mexico (University of Arizona 2015), a book which she completed as part of her postdoctoral fellowship at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in Mexico City.

Driver's writing and documentary photography have been featured in The New York Times, Oxford American, National Geographic, The World Policy Journal, The Guardian, The Texas Observer, Al Jazeera English, Pacific Standard, and Ms. Magazine. She has interviewed and/or worked with foreign policy analyst Anne-Marie Slaughter, actress Lena Dunham, chef Andrew Zimmern, novelist NoViolet Bulawayo, and Emmy-winning writer Moira Walley-Beckett. She has a forthcoming book chapter on Mexico with Oxford University Press.

twitter  //  facebook  //  instagram


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February 8, 2017

Badass Ladies You Should Know: Jen Baquial

Kate Hart
My fiancée (KT Ballantine, current Sirens Vice President) and I during the moment of silence before NYC Pride March 2016, Orlando was at the front of all of our minds during that time."
Remember that article that went viral a few months ago, about the motorcycle gang that delivers breast milk in NYC? Everyone from the New York Post to the New York Times covered the Sirens Women's Motorcycle Club of New York City -- and it just so happens that their president, Jen Baquial, is an Arkansas native and a friend of another Badass Lady, actress Ashley Atkinson.

One Facebook connection later and I get the honor of sharing this in-depth look at how Jen went from life in Little Rock to leading such a badass group.

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Group club shot out at Floyd Bennett Field where we practice before riding season officially kicks off, Mojo present that day

Kate: Describe your career(s) and/or current projects. What path(s) and passions led you there?

Jen:  The job that pays the bills is industrial automation and electrical engineering.  My mother would describe me as the kid who always took things apart to see how they work, and that curiosity definitely led me to my engineering career today.

My greatest passion in life right now, though, and what I am most proud of is being president of the Sirens Women’s Motorcycle Club of New York City, an organization that has a 30 year herstory in New York City leading the NYC Pride March.  It has been my goal to grow the club’s membership and focus on community service.  I really believe that even though we are a small group, every little bit of service we can do is totally worth it.  I always try to stress that we should help in the areas that we care about the most, and so any member or pledge that notices a need somewhere can bring it to the club and we do whatever we can to help.  Whether it’s delivering donor breast milk from the New York Milk Bank to a NICU or collecting clothing for local people in need or mentoring a woman who wants to learn to ride a motorcycle, the Sirens will try to find ways to support and strengthen women in our community.  Riding our motorcycles together gives us immense joy, but doing service in the community together gives us greater purpose.


"My friend and current Sirens Treasurer, Kim Wetzel, and I at NYC Pride March"
Kate: What's your biggest challenge?

Jen:  Professionally, my biggest challenge has always been “sitting at the table” with men and having to skillfully be assertive without being perceived as pushy or bossy.  I’ve had many encounters with men in the field and in the office where my knowledge or skillset has been questioned or challenged for no other reason, at least that I feel, other than the fact that I am a woman.  I’m not afraid of admitting that my own insecurity can play a part in this, but I often think how I would be perceived if I were a man or a more feminine presenting woman.  Being an assertive woman doesn’t play out in the same way that being an assertive man does, and I work hard to navigate professional confrontations so as not to jeopardize project success.

I think this is why I cherish my work with the Sirens so much.  I never have to feel that sort of pressure in the club.  We are a family, and we empower each other in a way that isn’t full of gendered expectations or insecurities.  We do interact with male motorcyclists in the community and also have moments where we are challenged in the community at large, but as a group we strengthen and empower each other.  That fuels our confidence in the way we ride, the way we carry ourselves, and ultimately the way we are respected by other motorcyclists in general.


Sirens colors
Kate: Tell us about a time that you bounced back from failure.

Jen:  Life in my early twenties was particularly difficult for me. That internal struggle I was talking about gripped me so hard that I dropped out of college and fell into a drug addiction.  There were so many times I would think, this would all be easier if I just floated away.  One morning after a long night of not sleeping, I looked in the mirror at myself and said, “Okay, not today.  I won’t let myself go like this.”  I left town and got clean on my own cold turkey.  Five years after being sober, I had enough strength to finally come out to my parents.  It was the hardest moment of my life, but it felt like I had suddenly gotten rid of 10 tons of bricks I had been carrying on my back since I was a kid.  In that moment, I knew I had to be prepared for however my parents would react.  I’m not going to say it was beautiful and amazing, but I am lucky it wasn’t as bad as I know it has been for others.  I love my parents, and I know they love me.  I respect them enough to give them the time they need to figure out their feelings.  Will they attend my wedding?  I’m not 100% sure they are ready for that, and I’m okay with it.  It’s hard to say what they have a harder time with, me being a lesbian or me riding a motorcycle, haha!



"My funny attempt at a pinup shot on my motorcycle.  See how I coquettishly hide my face behind my helmet?  Hahah!"
Kate: What's the best compliment you've ever gotten? Or Tell us something that makes you proud.

Jen:  I think I’m pretty normal, like most people, and find compliments hard to take and respond to.  Honestly, my favorite compliments come from little girls.  When a child sees me and says things like, “Wow, you ride that motorcycle?” and look at me like they are logging in their mind that they can do it too someday, that makes me so happy.  I have a niece that said to me one time, “Aunt Jen, I like you because you wear whatever you like and you don’t care if it’s supposed to be boys’ clothes.”  I explained to her that the idea of boys and girls clothes don’t make a whole lot of sense to me and that people should wear whatever makes them feel good.  The smile on her face as I handed her a child size leather motorcycle vest for her birthday was totally priceless.


Group club shot from Babes Ride Out East Coast, an all women motorcycle camping event
Kate: What's your best experience on a motorcycle?

Jen: In June of 2010 I got laid off of my job at Anheuser-Busch.  I figured I needed a little life reset, so I took 3 months on the road with my dog Mojo (he has a special seat he rides in) and traveled back and forth across the country on my Harley.  It was the ultimate freedom.  I stopped all over the country and visited friends from every time in my life.  Being alone, well aside from Mojo, on the open road gave me time to reflect on what’s important in life and breathe knowing that everything I experienced up to that point just made me who I am and I love that woman.  I ended up making Brooklyn my landing point at the end of my journey, and I knew at that I had found home.  I have so many stories from that trip.  If I was a writer, I’d have a book.


Kate: What are the best ways to support other women?

Jen:  Mentor, employ, and engage.


Kate: Who are some other badass ladies we need to know & why? 

Jen:  All of my Siren sisters are badass ladies!


GIVEAWAY!

US only
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Jen's bio:
I grew up in Little Rock, AR, the daughter of Filipino immigrants.  My parents taught me that hard work and respect would get me far.  I was raised in the Roman Catholic faith and internally struggled with my identity throughout my entire childhood.  It’s not an easy thing to be indirectly told by all of your adult influences that who you are inside is wrong.  It fueled a lot of low self-esteem issues for me as a child, so it made sense that all I could do was bury myself in academics and sports to find other ways to gain approval and hide who I knew I was inside.  If the child I was then knew that I could be a part of a group like the Sirens Women’s Motorcycle Club of New York City, my days and nights would have been a whole lot easier.  I am proud of all of my academic and professional accomplishments, but I am most proud of having finally found a way to be comfortable in my own skin and love who I am inside and out.  That was a 35 year project, haha!  Anyway, I’ve been in the engineering industry for 10 years and have been motorcycling, at least legally, for about that long.

Sirens website  //  Sirens Facebook



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January 24, 2017

The Big Day and a Big Chance

Kate Hart


Today's the day! After seven years of work, After the Fall finally hits shelves. I'm sure there are lots of wise and pithy things I could say about the process, the book itself, and my hopes for the future, but to be honest, my brain is mostly taken up with a high pitched whirring noise and the occasional realization that I forgot to buy plates for my launch party.

If by chance you are in the vicinity of Fayetteville, Arkansas, I'd love to see you said launch party: 6pm at Nightbird Books on Dickson Street. If you have a chance to mention the book on social media today, it'd be much appreciated. But most importantly: Some dear friends have joined forces to turn my release day into a chance to do good. They'll be matching donations to RAINN up to $4000, giving us a chance to raise at least $8000 for sexual assault survivors!

Just go to fundraise.rainn.org/afterthefall and make your contribution, and at the end of the day, the ladies listed on that page will double the total (up to the $4K limit). If you can't contribute but still want to help, signal boost the fundraiser using the hashtag #afterthefall and share some of your favorite feminist reads. Every bit helps.

 As for the book itself, you can find it all the usual places:
amazon  //  barnes & noble  //  booksamillion  //  indiebound  //  nightbird books (signed copies available)

Thank you so much for your support, today and over the past half a decade or so, and for helping to fight against rape culture and sexual assault.


January 19, 2017

Badass Ladies You Should Know: Rachel Speckan

Kate Hart
One of the best things about the Badass Ladies series is learning about fields I know nothing of. Today, I'm happy to feature Rachel Speckan, a Chicago sommelier and a friend of mine since our high school literary magazine days. Rachel is one of a growing group of women wine experts in a field traditionally dominated by men,  a challenging career that she balances with the care of two small children and a fierce Ultimate Frisbee game.

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rachel speckan holding a bottle of wine
Kate: Describe your career(s) and/or current projects. What path(s) and passions led you there?

Rachel: Madness. But, I thrive in the energy of the frenzy and the busy.

Professionally, I am six months into a new position, which brings projections, reviews, and evaluation. Stepping into the role of National Beverage Director with City Winery has launched my career responsibilities to cover all current locations and be present in the planning and implementation of openings. I have been traveling often and keeping a finger on the vibrant pulse of each location, coordinating with local teams and national contacts and partners, alike.

Personally, I am literally expecting a new (second) baby any moment and we just relocated to a new home in a new town. [editor's note: new baby is here; she and Rachel are both doing well!]

Balancing work, home, fun and health is a constant battle. But, I am passionate about all of the endeavors.

I thoroughly believe that the nature of my childhood in the landscape of rural Arkansas and a deep connection to education has been a driving force throughout my life path. I relish in creating and savoring experiences that integrate culture, food, wine and people.


rachel hiking with son in back carrier
Kate: Do you have any (other) creative outlets? How do they influence/affect your main work (if at all)? 

Rachel: Playing competitive sports is my creative outlet. Although my participation in organized athletics and contact sports is fairly limited currently, I really love the connection to the team, game strategy and physical endurance.

Outdoor adventures, when I am able to partake, are also a refreshing and exciting outlet for myself and the family!


Kate: What's your biggest challenge?

Rachel: I struggle, hard, against taking a moment to breathe. Relaxing is honestly a real problem for me. This affects both work and home. I am always pushing harder, further, faster. Literally, I have to force myself to slow down and enjoy doing nothing, not making a plan, putting down the list and being unorganized. I am constantly filling the calendar with commitments in hopes of creating more opportunities, better experiences, and deeper connections. However, I am truly working on slowing down, focusing, and being comfortable relaxing. Relying upon the village of friends and family to nurture and support me!



Rachel's advanced sommelier certificateKate: Tell us about a time that you bounced back from failure.

Rachel: An important component of my career in wine has been my involvement in both educating and learning about wine. I have been immersed in the pursuit of the ‘pin,’ or, rather, higher education in sales and service through the Court of Master Sommeliers for the past several years. This program is an intensive evaluation in all aspects of the beverage and service industry. The standards are ever evolving and the margin for error is slim. Preparation is required and constant studying in theory, tasting and practical service dictate success. Style, grace, and personal composure are also key components.

I have dedicated years to learning, educating, mentoring, and challenging myself through the system. Each step is exponentially more difficult and demanding than the preceding. Each attempt at each level is an incredible experience bound up in confidence and anxiety, preparation and pleasure and pain, successes and subsequent failures.

Following a failed attempt at sitting the Advanced Exam in Portland in 2015, I threw myself full force into deeper study, more intense education, more tasting, Skype sessions, larger scope of mentoring and an expanded network of mentors. With the perspective of gaining experience and becoming a stronger beverage professional, learning from failure and really looking squarely at my particular areas of weakness and honing in on pursuing and probing the soft spots, I sat the exam again in Portland in early 2016. The process was exhausting and exhilarating and ultimately successful. I was trembling and terrified the entire way through, but projected confidence, cool, and savvy for the winepin win at the end of the process.

Through a brief bout of tears and angst sprung strength and fierceness. I became a better sommelier, wine educator and beverage director through the process and experience. This failure was part of the success.


Kate: What's the best compliment you've ever gotten?

Rachel: Unfortunately, I do not take compliments well. I often deflect or simply do not know how to truly accept a compliment. However, what has filled up my cup with happiness recently is sincere feedback that I have played a pivotal role in the direct professional success of other individuals...and that I am a valued mentor and friend.



rachel in a sunny vineyard Kate: Did you have any defining moments that galvanized your understanding of and/or commitment to feminism? How does it inform/inspire your work? 

Rachel: I am not certain that I made a conscious decision to be a feminist. The entire concept seems like a given to me, and, I have lived my life as such. I believe this is directly related to my upbringing and strong women leaders in my personal and professional life.

I realize, now, though, the consistent and steady dedication to feminism that is required in my everyday endeavors. Professionally, I have faced issues with being labeled as aggressive or coming on too strongly, experienced being talked over or interrupted, watched as promotions were rewarded or compensation unevenly distributed. This has certainly galvanized my understanding and commitment toward a balanced and fair approach toward others and strength in my behavior and altered (many times) the direction of my chosen path.


Kate: What are the best ways to support other women?

Rachel: I have thus created a supportive network for mentoring women specifically and fostering an environment that is uplifting, composed of men and women that are mutually respectful, lift each other up, challenge each other in healthy ways, and push forward together. I suppose that I have cultivated a reputation for hiring, developing and fostering women wine professionals and serious women’s ultimate athletes. My approach is to create a challenging environment that encourages women to develop skills, maximize assets while minimizing (and addressing) weaknesses, and reach for higher, further, more ambitious end goals.


Kate: Who are some badass ladies we need to know? 

Rachel:



Kate: What is your advice to aspiring badasses?

Rachel: Celebrate the experience! Embrace madness. Let others help you, but, share your strength. Never stop learning. Never stop teaching. And, simply ROCK it.


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badass ladies you should know logo
Rachel Speckan is the National Wine Director at City Winery. After many years immersed in the industry of all things boozy, Rachel is thoroughly dedicated to being the ultimate wine geek, with a good dose of sales savvy and super polished service and etiquette. She has traveled extensively, collecting vineyard rocks, eating local specialties, and drinking wine around the world in all the places.

With a special place in her heart for edgy California winemakers, dusty Italian reds, lush and stony Savennieres, and funky American microbrews, Rachel brings a dynamic, delicious, and well balanced professional approach. Rachel is incessantly drinking wine, talking about drinking, encouraging others to drink, teaching about drinking, writing about drinking and eating adventures, drinking, tasting, researching, and talking about drinking. Although she dabbles in a wide spectrum of captivating and experimental beverage, Rachel's true love is traditional, and, yet innovative wines with character. She is thrilled to work in a functional winery setting, rock out with musicians, but also teach courses and host wildly exciting wine events at City Winery!

She is deeply entrenched in research and training in the Court of Master Sommeliers, as well as holding an Advanced Certificate from the WSET, and is also involved with the Cicerone Certification Program.

To throw it way back, Rachel grew up on a farm in Arkansas, with serious roots to the land and sense of place. She continues to search out and align with winemakers, athletes, and all the folks that share a similar vision. Rachel holds a Master's degree from the University of Chicago, and, as a cultural anthropologist by educational training and curious by disposition, she is on a mission to research and taste all things fermented and, in turn, share the love and knowledge with fellow wine lovers, explore and approach challenges with relish and fervor!

website 

other interviews with Rachel:
sommtalks  //  chicagoist  //  timeout  //  fooditor  //  chicago tribune


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January 11, 2017

Badass Ladies You Should Know: Veronica Roth

Kate Hart
I know, I know. You already know Veronica Roth. You know she's the author of the Divergent series, a book she wrote during college, that's sold multiple millions of copies and stayed on the NYT bestseller list for years. You know the series was made into movies, and you probably know that her next book, Carve the Mark, is releasing next week as one of the most anticipated books of 2017.

But although I greatly admire the way Veronica has handled her unexpected success and resultant fame, that's not why I asked her for an interview. What makes Veronica a true badass is that despite leading a busier life than almost anybody, she's still the kind of person that, say, sends you a stuffed brain to hold when the one in your head is acting up. She's the kind of friend who texts you while you sit in the surgery waiting room, telling you silly jokes to help keep you calm. She's the kind of friend who uses her success to promote the work and causes of people she cares about -- and though she might kill me for mentioning this, she's the kind of person who shares her wealth privately behind the scenes, because she's not interested in cookies or attention for doing the right thing.

I'm glad to call her a friend, and grateful that she's shared her thoughts for this project.

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Kate: Describe your career(s) and/or current projects. What path(s) and passions led you there?

Veronica: I’ve been writing for fun since I was a kid, maybe 10 or 11 years old. It wasn’t until college that I thought of it as something I could do for a job—and even then, I knew how hard it was to get published, so my official plan was to be a freelance copyeditor or proofreader, since I did that part-time while I was in school. But sometimes you’re just in the right place at the right time—or rather, sometimes you just have the right manuscript with the right people at the right time! I sold my first book, Divergent, a couple months before I walked at my graduation.

But the path that led me to Carve the Mark was basically just me, playing around with a story I found interesting, after the Divergent series was finished. I felt like I had finally shed the lingering shame that had surrounded my love of YA books and sci-fi/fantasy and all the delightful tropes therein, and I don’t know, I just charged into the story with joy and filled it with all the things I liked: space! Training montages! Family drama! Burgeoning female friendships! Weird mystery substances! The “people with powers” trope! The “girl used as weapon gains her own agency” trope! Alien languages! Space gladiators!

It was a powerful feeling.

covers of Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant, and Carve the Mark


veronica's fist punching a kickboxing bag
Kate: Do you have any (other) creative outlets? How do they influence/affect your main work (if at all)?

Veronica: Honestly, I am frustratingly single-minded. Writing was always my hobby—I crammed it into all the empty spaces in my life while I was in school!—so when it became my job, I had no hobbies to speak of, and I still don’t. I read, but that’s pretty standard for a writer. And it’s not creative, but I do love to exercise. I started kickboxing last year and I love it. Running, too.



Kate: What's your biggest challenge?

Veronica: I’m anxious! The diagnosed, medicated kind of anxious. So sometimes my biggest challenge is not obsessively checking WebMD, or not falling asleep in the middle of the day so I can avoid the things that stress me out, or having a conversation with more than one person over the course of an evening. Some days I feel really strong, like I can handle anything, and some days I’m completely helpless and can’t work and feel like a waste of space. Medication gives me more of the former days than the latter, these days, and that’s amazing. God bless you, chemicals.



sarah enni, kate hart, kirsten hubbard, veronica roth, and debra driza at YALLWEST 2015Kate: Tell us about a time that you bounced back from failure.

Veronica: I have to tell you, I always feel like such a fraud talking about failure when I’ve been so fortunate, and really had very little to overcome to get where I am—being a straight white able-bodied woman from an upper class background in America is a pretty sweet deal, guys.

But I guess that just means redefining failure, because one of the things I think was a big failure of mine was a failure of sensitivity. I wrote a pretty careless sexual assault scene in Divergent, and one day I went on the Internet to discover that someone had pointed that out, pretty publicly. Digging deeper, I discovered that other people had had a problem with it, too. I wrestled for awhile about what to do about it, and ultimately I decided it was best to just own up to it. I wrote a blog post describing as honestly as possible what was wrong with the scene and what I had learned since I wrote it.

And this is the important thing, the thing I feel like we don’t believe enough in our culture: when you just acknowledge how you messed up and don’t try to make excuses, people are receptive to that. The world can be a very hostile place, don’t get me wrong. But the mistake a lot of people make when they fail the way I did is trying to hide it or downplay it. We all make mistakes; everyone knows that. But a sincere confession is good for the heart.



kirsten hubbard, veronica roth, and kate hart at ALA 2011
Kate: What's the best compliment you've ever gotten?

Veronica: I don’t receive compliments very well, to be honest—they make me want to disappear into a hole in the ground, so I’m not terribly gracious in my reaction to them. But I am proud of the person I’ve become. I think I’m pretty honest, and kind, and I try to support other people as much as I can. It’s hard to say this! Why is it so hard to say what we like about ourselves?



Kate: Did you have any defining moments that galvanized your understanding of and/or commitment to feminism? How does it inform/inspire your work? 

Veronica: Honestly, I think I’ve been through a bit of a feminist tornado in the past ten years. In high school I was one of those people who identified as “not like other girls,” who had negative feelings about female friendship. I certainly wouldn’t have called myself a feminist. Then, in college, I realized that I had female friendships that didn’t involve gossip, or competitiveness, or passive aggressiveness—all the things that I believed defined female friendships before then. It’s pretty hard to be a feminist if you’ve been culturally conditioned to hate your own gender, right? So God, am I grateful for the supportive, smart, and generous women who made me love being a woman.

I’ve been learning since then. Recently the biggest revelation I had came courtesy of Sumayyah Daud, which encouraged me to listen before I talk over people who experience marginalization in a different way (and, let’s be real, in a much greater way) than I do. That doesn’t mean not taking action. It means directing your efforts to boost marginalized voices and platforms, not your own. And most of the time, I still have no clue how to do that. But I try to be patient with myself, and with other people. We’re all fumbling for the light switch here.


sarah enni, kristin otts, kristin halbrook, phoebe north, somaiya daud, kate hart, kirsten hubbard, amy lukavics, veronica roth, and kody keplinger in seattle 2013
Kate: What are the best ways to support other women?

Veronica: Listen to them. Celebrate their accomplishments, even if the small, dark parts of you feel envious. Help—if they ask. Be present if they don’t.


Kate: Who are some badass ladies we should know, and why?

Veronica: Margaret Stohl – she’s an author of some great books, but she’d be the first one to say “who cares?” to that identifier. She co-founded my favorite YA-focused book festival in the country, Yallfest, and its sister festival, Yallwest, where she arranged transportation, a free meal, and a free book for kids from low income areas to come in. She often finds herself to be one of the only female voices in the room with other Marvel types, now that she’s writing Captain Marvel comics. She does a lot of work with Facing History in Los Angeles, an organization that seeks to increase students’ understanding of bigotry and prejudice. I want people to know these things about her because she really hates to talk herself up, so you might never have understood how great she is otherwise.

Sarah Enni – Sarah is one of the most talented writers whose work you haven’t gotten to read yet, but she has a short story in the upcoming anthology Because You Love To Hate Me: 13 Tales of Villainy. She also does a podcast called First Draft where she interviews writers about their craft, and she’s one of the best question-askers I’ve ever encountered, a skill I very much admire and want to cultivate. [Sarah's Badass Ladies profile is here!]

Somaiya Daud – Somaiya is another “one of the most talented writers whose work you haven’t gotten to read yet”. Her book Mirage, which is Moroccan space royalty wonderfulness, comes out in 2018, but in the meantime you should probably follow her on Twitter at @somaiyadaud. She is very smart. So smart I’d really like to crawl into her brain and live there forever, subsisting only on wisdom.

Emily Graslie – my fellow Chicagoan who works at the Field Museum, has a youtube channel called The Brain Scoop where she will get you Interested In The World Around You and make you put up the praise hands emoji for WOMEN IN STEM!


Kate: What is your advice to aspiring badasses?

Veronica: Take one step toward what you want. That’s all you need to do right now—one call to a therapist, one page of writing in your book, one job application, one conversation. Step until you’re just a little bit uncomfortable, and after you’ve recovered, step again. A badass knows what she wants and goes after it. But that doesn’t mean she always feels like a badass or can grab it all at once, and that is okay.

And for fuck’s sake, be kind to yourself.


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Veronica Roth is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Divergent series, as well as the upcoming book Carve the Mark. She lives with her husband and dog in Chicago, Illinois.

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