Stephanie M.

Stephanie M.

I'm a content writer and novelist who loves books, writing, theater, and my cat. I have published two novels and traveled to London and Paris.

Columnist II

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    Latest Articles


    Latest Topics


    Phoenix's Role in Top Gun: Maverick

    Top Gun: Maverick finally hit theaters after a pandemic-induced delay. The film is filled with nostalgia for fans of the original, and also carries some new material with a distinct 21st-century feel for its newest generation of fans. One such instance of this material is female pilot Phoenix, played by Monica Barbaro.

    In an interview, Barbaro stated that she enjoys Phoenix’s character, particularly that she is not a love interest for anyone, and that she is one of Maverick’s top co-pilots during the central mission. However, she is still the lone female pilot with any significant dialogue or character development in the film. Is this realistic considering the type of films the Top Gun franchise contains? Is Phoenix still a good representation of females in male-dominated fields, particularly the military? How would the movie have been different had she had more screen time? Discuss.

    • It could compare Phoenix's role in the film with Penny's. In my opinion, the first one adds to the female representation while the second sticks to the romantic partner of the protagonist. – Nathalie Moreira 1 week ago

    The Changing Relevance of Judy Blume

    A film version of the classic and often banned Judy Blume novel Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, is scheduled to hit theaters September 6, 2022. Not much is known about the plot itself, which raises a lot of questions. For instance, when the original book was published in the 1970s, it was unusual for children to be raised without religious affiliation, as Margaret is. Will this be the case for a Margaret of 2022? Will a 21st-century Margaret’s explorations of puberty be treated as scandalous?

    These and other questions bring up just how relevant Judy Blume’s coming-of-age story, as well as her other stories, such as the Fudge series, Blubber, and Deenie, still are. Millennial adults who grew up with them still consider Blume’s books classics and have introduced their own kids to them, and some Gen Z kids still read and enjoy them. However, Judy Blume doesn’t seem like quite the gold standard of coming-of-age stories she once was. Her plots don’t read as "cutting edge" because they’re not as controversial anymore. You could call them downright tame.

    Blume is definitely still relevant, but the question has become, just how relevant is she? In the case of Blume and her books, what does "relevant" mean? How is she similar to or different from today’s hottest middle-grade and young adult authors, and can she maintain her place as a classic author, or will her books eventually lapse into obscurity? Discuss.


      The Appeal of Wednesday Addams

      The original Addams Family series graced our televisions in the 1960s. The show was already an adaptation of Charles Addams’ successful comic strip, but has since spawned a series remake, a cartoon, two live-action movies, one animated movie, and a musical.

      Netflix is now set to stream yet another addition to the Addams canon. However, this one is a bit different, in that it focuses mainly on daughter Wednesday. This makes sense, as Wednesday seems to be one of the family’s more popular members. But, why is she? Does this have to do with Christina Ricci’s treatment of her in the live-action films? Is it her personality, or a way she stands out in her already unusual family? Explore these or other facets of Wednesday and her popularity. You might also consider comparing/contrasting Wednesday with similar unconventional female characters, to see whether they have or haven’t achieved Wednesday’s popularity.

        Taken by Lucinda (PM) 1 month ago.

        The Best Short Stories and Short Story Conventions

        Short stories form the backbone of almost any literature and creative writing class, either because students read or write them. Either way, they are analyzed–sometimes to the point of death, but we hope today’s literature students and teachers are moving past such tendencies.

        Of the myriad of short stories that exist, classic and contemporary, what are some that should belong in any canon? In particular, discuss contemporary stories or collections not getting attention right now, that should be. To go along with this, what are some universal themes, character traits, or tropes that make a short story "work" better than it would if it were written in longer form? Do some topics or themes lend themselves better to short form, and why?

        • I tend to favor the practicality of the short story for inducement to entertain, either personally or formally. Two titles in particular exemplify this viewpoint: The Lottery by Shirley Jackson and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. As you mention, the commentary on social norms that they bring to the fore have been exhaustively analysed. But, I think that they serve the greater purpose of shedding light on the quirks of society that are overlooked or simply ignored in the haste of the day. Furthermore, they can provide a conducive outlet for what would otherwise manifest in cold or violent indifference. At the very least, the short story can be an entry point into much lengthier and broader literature or a welcome reprieve from it. – L:Freire 3 years ago
        • The short story, the ancient art that we knew, is still written and written abundantly, but the lack of follow-up may make us think it is an art of extinction, and no longer exists only in the form of simple flashes here and there. In fact, I have been able to read in the past few months a large number of story collections, with different qualities and atmospheres. Enough on the things the writer wants to point out, and let the reader complete in his mind what he thinks the writer may have wanted to write. – rosejone 3 years ago
        • I personally never got too into short stories. I've always devoured novels, and all my book/article ideas seem to come in "long form." Seriously, I was telling people at age ten that my 50-page "masterpieces" were "novels." That said, there are a few short stories that have stuck with me for years, and if they can win me over, they can win anyone over. :) I wanted to know other people's opinions so I could try some more short stories. – Stephanie M. 3 years ago
        • I think if you're going to list some outstanding short stories, you can't go past 'Recitatif' by Toni Morrison! It demands the reader to judge their own assumptions about stories and storytelling. It is thus self-aware while simultaneously beautifully crafted, with strong characters and complex themes. It is this sense of completion yet ample room for the reader to draw their own conclusions that make it so successful as a short story. A short story must be satisfying as well as food for rumination, which 'Recitatif' certainly is. – bruna 2 months ago
        • Having just completed a college course on short story workshop, I feel like I have at least some qualification to speak on this topic. The short story is an interesting medium of art because the goal is to tell a story with a beginning, middle, and presumably, end, in a matter of pages. Despite the shorter length than a novel, I would say that writing a short story might in some cases be harder to write than a full-length novel because you have to pay more attention to detail; you have a limited amount of space to get through all the main points of your story, and every line needs to count. In some cases, you are basically writing a miniture novel without the freedom and conventions of a novel. – Sierra Refit 2 months ago

        Creation Stories and Creative Worldbuilding

        Every culture has some explanation for the creation of the world and its people. Some of these stories are tied to a religious faith, while others are more cultural or scientific in nature (i.e., the Big Bang theory). However, every creation story gives us a foundation on which to build a view of the world.

        Writers need these foundations as well, particularly if they’re coming up with completely new worlds and systems. This is common practice in genres like fantasy, sci-fi, and dystopian, to name a few.

        Examine how writers might use existing creation stories as templates or guidelines for their own worldbuilding. Discuss, for example, how creation stories can be useful whether a writer is using a religious system or not. What was created or prioritized first in a given writer’s world, and why? How are new things created, or are they? How is the creation or cessation of life handled? Are there anathemas, and what are those? Has the writer’s world undergone a major shift like original sin?

        • I feel like this is a good topic, though I'm finding it really broad. Could you maybe give a couple of references that talk about what you'd like to see in the article in order to give writers a jumping off point? – Siothrún 3 months ago
        • A great topic, even if there have been other's on this (as there are of every topic in literature) there is always a great range of opportunities for this topic to be developed in new and interesting ways. – Sarai Mannolini-Winwood 3 months ago
        • That's indeed a great topic, although there's a lot of ground to cover. Maybe narrowing it down to a field that hasn't been explored yet could be helpful? A reference in genres such as fantasy and dystopian could be used as an example: J. R. R. Tolkien is one with the lore of The Lord of the Rings, the Silmarillion. The world-building in his works can be a starting-point for the writer who's going to choose this topic. – Beaucephalis 3 months ago

        Reading Anne Frank at a New Stage of COVID

        When the COVID-19 pandemic began, a handful of writers found solace and inspiration in Anne Frank. PJ Grisar of the Jewish Daily Forward, essayist Leigh Stein, and others wrote about how "the world [looked] to Anne Frank" during the first wave of the crisis (Grisar) and how her experiences contrasted with and mirrored our own.

        Two years later, Anne Frank and her "mirror" have not gone away. Some continue looking to her for inspiration, while others, such as Robert F. Kennedy Jr., compare living as an unvaccinated American to living as a Holocaust victim, thereby stirring controversy and anger. But no matter how Anne Frank fits into the pandemic landscape, she remains a major part of it for many people.

        How do you think readings and discussions of Anne Frank’s diary will change as the pandemic enters a new stage and hopefully ends soon? Why do you think she resonates, even though comparing our situation to the Holocaust and Nazi Germany is rightfully offensive? Are there examples of classic or current fiction that could be read alongside Anne Frank as a study of the pandemic, lockdowns, and similar situations? Discuss.

        • Oooo I like this. I think adding the being cooped up inside and the antisemitic parallels to this article would really set it off. What we deal with is always compared to the past, but in this case, it’s usually in a wrong way and racist. Diving into this would be great and produce such a good story – mynameisarianna 5 months ago

        The Impact of the Princess Rap Battle

        Several years ago, YouTuber Whitney Avalon gave us a mashup not many people were expecting–Disney princesses competing against each other in rap battles. Some princesses, like Cinderella and Belle, competed alone, while others, like Rapunzel and Anna, competed as couples with their respective princes. Over time, Avalon expanded to Disney and non-Disney villains (Queen of Hearts vs. Wicked Witch of the West), and non-Disney heroines (Dorothy vs. Alice).

        The result was a series of memorable, humorous, and surprising videos that showed princesses and heroines in new lights and arguably made the rap battle and surrounding culture accessible to broader audiences. Until Whitney Avalon, it’s fairly unlikely that most of us, this writer included, ever pictured majority-white, extremely feminine princesses and heroines spitting clever, deep-cutting hip-hop lyrics.

        Discuss the impact and influence of the Princess Rap Battles, especially when compared to other battles of their type (ex.: Epic Rap Battles of History). Do you think these battles make rap and hip-hop more accessible to women, Disney fans, and other such audience, or does the term Princess Rap Battle pigeonhole them? It’s been awhile since the last Princess Rap Battle; what might Whitney Avalon do to improve on the content and bring new audiences in? What do these battles say about the structure and poetry of rap, hip-hop, and battles in general?


          Are Readers Burned Out on YA Dystopia?

          Recently, talk among book enthusiasts has circulated that YA dystopia has burned out. The genre is certainly huge, but whether it’s burned out, cliched, or tired in any way depends on whose books you read. Are there certain authors who give YA dystopia a burned out feel? Are there authors, or characters, who have brought fresh situations or themes to the genre? And if the genre is burned out right now, how might it be "revived?" Discuss.

          • YA Dystopia used to be such a huge genre in the 2000's up to 2016, when Veronica Roth's 'Allegiant' was released in the theatres. I used to re-read Suzanne Collins' 'Hunger Games' and watch the movies. Until it sort of all became really boring. The action of the plot was there, and so were the likable characters. It began to feel really negative, since the entirety of Dystopia was that the world was inevitably ending in some horrible way. Or the world had already ended and the harsh new reality of the world to come was a dystopia in itself. Since I've found myself reading YA Fantasy and New Adult Fantasy recently, I haven't read any YA Dystopia books, but if there was to be a revival of the genre, it has to be reimagined. No more oppressive governments and fight to the death situations. Something unique but altogether terrifying if it were to happen. – talonsx 10 months ago
          • This is an especially interesting topic considering the recent rise of dystopian shows, however more digestible for the general public and perhaps less confronting – Lily 8 months ago
          • I think it was certainly the fact that all the big books to come out at that time were fairly similar. They didn't really have anything meaningful to differentiate them. Also they created that book-to-film conveyer belt very quickly and I think that heightened their sameness. The oppression they were fighting against never really felt that serious, I guess in that way it worked for a while due to the youthful notion of being rebellious against anything. – limbamurphy 5 months ago
          • It could also be worth mentioning that in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and when there are extreme weather events, people may not feel like reading dystopia series because it is starting to read as too-real? That is something that has turned me away from the genre recently. – Jordan 4 months ago
          • One thing that should be kept in mind is that the young adults towards whom the genre was marketed in the 2000s to mid 2010s (the time when the genre was in full bloom, lots of new books coming out along with movie adaptations) have all grown up. I believe the Divergent series was what caused the downfall of the genre as it showed authors of that time that YA Dystopia has a formula and if that formula is followed with some minor tweaking the book is gonna be successful. The new YA Dystopia has a new audience which do not respond to the same old formula, so it is time to change the formula and create something different altogether perhaps – Blueberry 2 days ago
          • YA dystopia is dead; Hunger Games was such a unique concept that the others following it became similar and very lacklustre. But it is also becoming blurred what YA actually is as a genre. I think early on in its success YA was where books with young female protagonists go even though the subject matter wasn't suited for YA. *Ahem* Throne of Glass and A Court of Thorns and Roses. Now with the introduction of New Adult, the lines between what YA is has become extremely blurred. – hannahclairewrites 2 days ago

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          Latest Comments

          Stephanie M.

          Great to see this in the lineup. I appreciated the inclusion of the British version as well.

          Social Commentary in The Office
          Stephanie M.

          So glad to see Wednesday made the lineup, and I can’t wait to see her as a teen. I’m especially intrigued at the idea of a person that “normal” people think of as dark and sociopathic, saving them from a beast on a killing spree.

          The Appeal of Wednesday Addams
          Stephanie M.

          Nice work! This show sounds like a cross between Legends of the Hidden Temple and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, both of which I grew up on and enjoyed (though to be fair, I was way too young for the geography in WitWiCS. I just loved the gumshoe format).

          MythQuest and the Challenges of Creating Entertaining Educational Children's Programming
          Stephanie M.

          Ah, congratulations to you both. 🙂

          BookTok Influencers and Their Impact on the Publishing Industry
          Stephanie M.

          And that’s an extremely good point, or several. Thank you especially for pointing out the fallacy that “diversity only means LGBT and Black.” When you’re neither, but have other minority identities (characteristics? Demographics? How would you say that)? it can feel like no one sees you. I particularly struggle with the still-ingrained idea that, “Diversity means everything except disability–unless you’re sweet and smart enough to be inspirational. In that case, we do have a few books so you can get your pat on the head. Go on now.” UGH.

          BookTok Influencers and Their Impact on the Publishing Industry
          Stephanie M.

          I can imagine…I wish books had such a platform and presence when I was that age.

          BookTok Influencers and Their Impact on the Publishing Industry
          Stephanie M.

          So many good points, I hardly know where to begin. I think though, as an author myself, that section gave me the most to think about.

          BookTok Influencers and Their Impact on the Publishing Industry
          Stephanie M.

          Nice work! I especially appreciated your nods to the Greek classifications of love and Anakin’s saga as Faustian.

          Star Wars, Love, Loss & Redemption