Posts Tagged ‘writing



25
Jun
14

Here’s to the ladies who punch …

Here’s to the ladies who punch …

A History Of Women's Boxing

Today’s my big day.

The culmination of over two years of work on my new book, A History Of Women’s Boxing.

I get to strut my stuff in the ring at Gleason’s Gym and speak to an audience of assembled friends about the courage, bravery and pure gumption that women have shown for the past three hundred years each time they’ve donned the gloves. Oh yes, and smile a lot, sign books and jump around with glee!

It’ll be a moment to savor — though I admit to a plethora of doubts:  Did I get everything right? Did I forget someone? Did I make the point about pushing social and legal boundaries enough? Will the reader understand just how brave it was for a young and plucky Barbara Buttrick to insist that she had the right to box in 1949?

The historian’s lament plagues me a bit too. There’s never enough time or materials or opportunities to interview — except perhaps if the historian is Robert Caro, be still my historian’s heart.

The writing process is also a marathon battle — reminiscent of the endless rounds of the bare knuckle boxing era.  If we consider that there are “championship rounds in boxing” — of which Layla McCarter knows a thing or two having insisted on the right to fight 12 three-minute rounds more than once —  plowing through a writing project that is voluminous in the best sense nonetheless gets very, very tough as it heads towards the final chapters.  In my case I overwrote by about two hundred pages, which necessitated a mad scramble to cut, cut, cut. Talk about taking shots — those words were my children, and in my “humble” opinion, the points made were as important as any in the final cut of book, but like any gut shot, one sucks it up and moves on because that’s what happens.

If the writing was at times an arduous task, the overriding sensation, however, was one of deep, deep respect for the women who ply their trade as boxers — such that the project became a true labor of love.  Just the act of climbing through the ropes is, in my estimation, a resounding statement of defiance against the strictures that continue to be imposed on women as they go about their work-a-day worlds — nevermind what that meant in the 1970s when women took to the courts to gain the right box.

It still boggles the mind that women’s amateur fighting was virtually illegal in the United States until 1993 when a young 16-year-old girl named Dallas Malloy sued for the right to compete, not to mention Dee Hamaguchi who opened up the right for women to fight in New York’s Golden Gloves in 1995.

I mean what was that? Amateur boxing was illegal which meant women had no safe means of learning to compete other than to turn pro? Hmmm.

I’ll add that the quickest way to become a feminist is to take on a history of women’s anything project.  Talk about a wake up call! Wow!

Gussie Freeman

As I wrote the book, I admit to having favorites, women like Belle Martell who not only was the first licensed referee in the state of California, but who was also a promoter for amateur fights, took the tickets and then jumped in the ring in a ball gown to announce the bouts–the first women to do so. Belle also tried really hard to promote women in the ring in the early 1950s with the idea that they’d save a sport that was dying on the vine due to television. Gussie Freeman was another one. Talk about a character, she boxed briefly in the 1890s, but made such an impression people still remembered her 50 years later.

Dixie Dugan

When I was a kid, our history textbooks consisted of stories of kings and queens, generals and presidents, with very little about the men and women whose lives collectively swayed the shape of society as the centuries passed.

As a microcosm of society, the history of boxing provides an interesting perspective on social interactions between people, the power of popular culture and issues of race, class and the exploitation of labor. Throwing women into that mix provides a more nuanced understanding of those same issues. For one, women’s spectatorship became an important ingredient in developing boxing as a sport from the 1790s on!

The image of a woman in boxing gloves also became a potent symbol of the changing place of women in western society at points in history, most notably in the period between 1880s and the end of World War II when the place of women was upended in a clear line.

That we still question the place of women in the ring today is just as telling. Yes, there were and are those who object to boxing period no matter who contests the fight, but the notion that female boxing is an anathema still seems to finds its place in the conversation about the sport, which goes to the heart of the argument about the “place” of women in society. Ugh …  still?

Regardless, women push through it all anyway and climb through the ropes knowing their muscles have been honed into perfect boxing shape to leave it all in the ring having given their very best.

All I can say is that I am very, very proud to have contributed in some way to sing their praises.  And yep, here’s to the ladies who punch!

Links to purchase the book:

Barnes and Noble.com 

Amazon.com

03
Mar
14

Moments in time …

Moments in time …

Snow on the morning of March 3, 2014

New York City has been sparred the brunt of a huge snow storm system that has hit a lot of other places across the country pretty hard. We count ourselves lucky on that one and otherwise cling to the notion that Spring really is a mere few weeks away.

Elsewhere in the world individuals breathe a sigh of relief or cringe at what may befall them next. Certainly friends in Ukraine and Russia must be going through a myriad of emotions and fear as they sit on the brink of another of the world’s conflagrations in Crimea–the site of so much suffering in a prior war well over 150 years ago. Having been in places during times of strife, I can attest to the strangeness of going about one’s business while across town people are confronted with guns.

Lupita Nyongo'o Best Actress 2014, APWatching the Oscars last night along with some billion others on the planet was a moment to savor fantasy and dreams as pretty men and pretty ladies adorned the images in pretty clothes, dripping with pretty jewels.

How marvelous that we could all take a collective time out from our troubles to savor Pink in pink and Ellen hocking the rich and powerful for pizza money.

Best of all were the wins and none more than lovely Lupita Nyong’o whose speech was uplifting and full of hope. “When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every child, no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid,” she said.

That is something to savor on a Monday morning when besnowed or not, troubled or fantastically happy, we chase our best selves as Matthew McConaughey implored us to do.

May all your wishes come true.

17
Feb
14

A day off …

A day off …

photo 1-2

A daily something, whether it’s work, going for a run, posting a blog piece or any of a myriad of things can bring a nice bit of order to the day–or act as a set of moments for oneself and oneself alone.

Even with that daily something, it is sometimes nice to have a day off!

Yesterday was just such a day for me–when somewhere late in the evening I realized I hadn’t blogged for the day. Yes, I could have rushed it, but the truth was–it was okay.

Sometimes that break is what we need to kick start something new.

Today, my actual day off from work (the President’s Day holiday), turned out to be a gift of another kind — one extra day at the gym.

I saw friends I rarely run into — and had another chance to box at a leisurely pace, this time going into the ring with boxing trainer, Darius Forde. With Lennox Blackmoore in my corner to coach me through it, I worked through all sorts of issues in the ring offensively and defensively — plus the different looks that Darius showed me.

The rounds on the heavy bag and upper cut bag afterwards were also something a little bit new as I worked through different boxing problems I experienced in the ring.

It got me to thinking that it’s what makes the best part of any day — working through a problem from a different angle. Rather like a piece of art — we get to enrich ourselves by creatively thinking through how best to make something work before moving along.

At any rate, as official day’s off go, it was pretty wonderful.

27
Jan
14

Sometimes only a chocolate cupcake with mocha icing will do …

Sometimes only a chocolate cupcake with mocha icing will do …

Chocolate Cupcake with Mocha Icing

Or sometimes two, along with a really good cup of coffee and the sense that whatever ails will pass.

I’m recuperating from the sneezing, running nose, sore throat, coughing and general malaise that goes with the territory of a winter cold.

The Tardis - Dr. WhoA box of tissues, a package of cherry-flavored sugar-free cough drops, countless draining with the netty pot and several episodes of Dr. Who later (finished series six and halfway through seven), I’m beginning to bounce back, albeit having missed two of my three gym days for the week, and what with the snow, no running.

I know, I know, cup cakes are the LAST thing I need having not worked out since last Monday, however, the calls to the soul of a perfectly formed chocolate cupcake (or two–GERD be damned) sometimes just overrules all possible objections.

And tomorrow is another day.

One thing good that came out of my Dr. Who binge (not to mention having watched The Expendables 2, Red Dawn (the remake), and Olympus Has Fallen — yep serious B-movie trashy, action-packed, shoot-em-ups), was the realization that I’d truly over done it, which prompted me to actually write last night. Well not exactly write, but edit and think through material I’d written a year ago (dare I say on the way towards a novel?) — along with an insight or two that gave me a new sense of the work as well as a few added paragraphs.

Olivetti Underwood TypewriterI guess it’s all a long way of saying that while not exactly a new project, I may well have tapped into a fresh perspective, that will see me “bend-it-like-Beckham” into something with a bit of wow for myself because it screams out into new territory layered on top of stuff I’ve written about off and on for years.

Not too sound mysterious, but in the scheme of things, writers tend to revisit the questions over and over (at least this writer does), and to find a new angle for those questions opens up all sorts of possibilities.

The coming weeks will tell as I begin to settle into some sort of writing schedule for the work — and also tease out how to better plan out the blog with days for pure reportage and other days for the general stream of freely written thoughts.

I’d also like to thank everyone for hanging in with me! It seems I’ve hit 400,246 all time views–an extraordinary feat in my estimation with all of you to thank for it, because let me tell you, when I started back in October 2010, I never thought I’d see a 1,000 visits!

It really has been an incredible honor to write about women’s boxing from every angle I can think of–and then to have folks stop by to read what I’ve been up to just adds to how joyous this all makes me feel.

So kudos to all of you for sharing in my daily something — even when I can’t make the daily part of it all!

13
Jan
14

Patti’s porch …

Patti’s porch …

Patti's porch ...

My friend Patti’s porch in Williamsville, Vermont, is one of those places in the world that forms still life images that are indelible.

I’ve sat on it, in winter and summer, spring and fall, but it never quite leaves me.

Red Keds, April 2013

When I was there last, the remaining vestiges of winter were still apparent. And yet I gamely insisted on wearing my summer Keds, despite the mud.

As a writer’s retreat, it was a perfect place with just the right amount of mist to shroud me as I strung together the words I needed to propel me that much further into my book, A History Of Women’s Boxing.

Yellow Barn in the Mist, April 2013, Credit: Malissa Smith

Now that it’s actually sitting with the publisher, I carry the images from Patti’s porch as some sort of proof that writing is a labor of love, no matter what its purpose.

Yellow Barn Close Up, April 2010

A road to travel.

Maybe to arrive some place and maybe not.

02
Jan
14

the second day …

The Second Day …

Quetico-Superior Park, Akron Fossils.com

With the pomp and circumstance of New Year’s celebrations having been cleared away–it’s the second day when reality hits and all the resolutions come into focus.  Yep, one *does* need to make good on going to the gym, drinking decaffeinated coffee, losing those ten pounds by March 1st or keeping a daily blog!

It’s also very easy to cheat it on the first day. Hey, perhaps one was hung over, or played the old “it’s a holiday” stratagem, but on the second day any available excuses are o-v-e-r and it is time to deliver–even if it only feels as if it is mist on the water.

And that is it.

When one begins something new it does feel rather foggy for a time. One has the clarity of strategic vision, but the way forward may not be as clear cut. One still has to perform the actual design of whatever it is one intends.

Many things feel that way, whether it is tackling a book, starting a new pottery series, ordering a decaff latte, or hauling oneself to the boxing gym after what feels like a months’ long hiatus.

The beauty of new beginnings is that it affords all of us the opportunity to put our reconstituted selves into action. And while it doesn’t have to begin on the first day–or frankly even the second–the point is to consider that the  “new year” is a nice way to mark the changes one wants to put in place.

Bon chance!

 

24
Dec
13

Merry xmas eve ….

Merry xmas eve …

Miracle-On-34th-Street-1947-5-300x168

It’s been the most delightful of evenings.

The tree is up and lighted. The dining table cleared. Family happily ensconced with the prodigal daughter aching for the morning when she can tear through her many brightly wrapped packages.

There is something wonderful about seeing one’s 14-year-old still so excited about what Santa will bring!

I admit to a bit of excitement myself mostly because Jewish pagan that I am my investment in the holiday has its own crazy sort of quality to it that is devoid of religion–yet tied to the ideas of joy, peace and giving.

Having reclaimed the living room from writing space (the couch was my literary island for weeks at a time when I wasn’t in the basement of the Dean Street Starbucks in Brooklyn) to actual place where the family can gather, I am feeling a rising crescendo of anticipation, not so much about what loot I’ll net, but at the thought of the twinkle in my family’s eyes when they uncover the secrets within the paper, ribbons and bows that festoon their presents.

I guess that’s what it’s always about in the end. Thinking of the one thing that can bring absolute joy to another.  Sometimes it is something as simple as a favorite food or the special hot chocolate that accompanies breakfast or perhaps a kind word said at just the right moment.

It all puts in mind the months I traveled through Asia on my own. I traveled light having figured out that each thing I brought with me meant that it had to be schlepped on my back–and after a while I shedded possessions as a snake would its skin, growing a new self that would only carry things that could have several uses, trading as I went for books and other nice to haves that I carried one at a time.

I also came to embrace things for what they were: moments in time that were unique and unlike any other. These experiences were serial in nature and while time certainly didn’t stand still–the days always felt longer because my experience of them was so complete.

Christmas is like that for me. It is full and every second of it feels kind of precious. A true day off from the work-a-day world where so much of it goes by without thinking, I find in the tiny red, gold, blue and green lights of the tree a kind of magic that makes me feel very alive.

Sure, the spell will be broken–but for the moment I feel at one with Santa as he drops off presents in Georgetown, Guyana.

Please accept my very best wishes to all of your this very lovely holiday night!




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© Malissa Smith and Girlboxing, 2010-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Malissa Smith and Girlboxing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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