A Happy Beginning: A (New) Letter to Emma Swan

I know I’ve already written one of these, but so much has happened in both Emma’s journey and mine since I wrote my first letter to her that I needed to write something new. This is also felt like the right way to say goodbye to a character who has meant so much to me. If you’re interested in writing a letter like this one to a female character who’s inspired you, this post has all the details about The Fan Mail Project! And if you’ve already written a letter to Emma (or any other character) but want to change any part of it, you can always send me an edited version at nerdygirlnotes@gmail.com!

once-upon-time601

Source: ibtimes.com

Dear Emma,

As I watched you and your husband step toward a portal to return home to live a happy life with your growing family, it hit me…

This might be the last thing I ever write about you.

I’ve written thousands of words about you over some of the most tumultuous years of my 20s, and as I approach this last post, I keep thinking about what could possibly sum up the journey we’ve been on together for more than half a decade.

When I started writing about your story, my entire life changed. I wrote things that reflected parts of myself I never imagined showing to the world. As I wrote about your discovery that there is bravery in vulnerability, I became a more vulnerable writer because I wanted to be brave like you. As I wrote about your story, I began to write my own story.

I found myself as I wrote about you finding yourself.

Needless to say, it’s a little intimidating to think of how I can put all that into a proper tribute. But because you taught me that opening your heart is the most heroic thing you can do, I’m going to try.

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It’s About What You Believe: A Letter to Diana of Themyscira (aka Wonder Woman)

This is the latest in my series of letters to inspirational female characters that will be compiled in a book alongside letters from my fellow fangirls and fanboys. If you are interested in being part of The Fan Mail Project, I’m still taking submissions on a case-by-case basis, and you can check out all the information here

WW poster

Source: rogerebert.com

Dear Diana,

I never thought I’d write a letter to you. Growing up, I didn’t read many comic books, so when I was getting ready to see Wonder Woman, I had only the slightest idea of what to expect. I thought you would kick ass and that your story would be empowering—not just for me, but for so many young girls who get to grow up now with your story as a part of their superhero movie pantheon—but I didn’t expect to see much of a reflection of myself in you.

You see, I’m not exactly built in the typical “strong female character” way. But then I discovered something amazing during my first viewing of Wonder Woman: neither are you. I sat down in that darkened movie theater and expected to see a woman whose strength would inspire me to want to be more like her, but what I ended up seeing was a woman whose strength has inspired me to want to be more fully myself.

“Strong” and “tough” are often synonyms, and, for most of my life, it’s been hard for me to see myself as strong because I’m about as far from tough as it gets. When it comes to how women are perceived—both in life and in the media—it’s typically the tough ones who become leaders, who earn people’s respect, and who get things done. No matter how often we tell women that vulnerability and openness can be a strength and not a weakness, it’s hard to believe when most female heroes in the media only smile when it’s a huge moment of character development and when most people in life are told more than once to “toughen up and stop being such a girl” when they openly display emotion.

For years now, one of the first phrases that comes to my mind when I’m asked to describe myself is “painfully sincere.” I think I was born without the ability to mask my true feelings about anything, and for decades, I’ve seen that as one of my greatest weaknesses. People have preyed on that part of me since I was a kid.

“They’re just saying that because they can tell they’re getting to you.”

“You’re an easy target. It’s fun to get you riled up.”

“Don’t let them know it bothers you, and they’ll stop.”

“You can’t hide that you’re mad at me. I can see it all over your face.”

“Katherine, your brow is furrowed. You must be confused by the assignment.”

“Calm down!”

“Why do you care so much?”

I spent so long hating that part of me—my emotional transparency, my painful (in more ways than one) sincerity. And then I saw you, and I saw how we were allowed to truly see you. I saw your indignation, your sadness, your childlike sense of wonder, your hope, your frustration, your joy, your desire, your confusion, and your conviction. You felt no shame in your emotions—whatever they were. You showed what you were feeling as you felt it, without ever feeling a need to hide your emotions or push them down to appear stronger or more in control.

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TV Time: Once Upon a Time 6.20

JENNIFER MORRISON, COLIN O'DONOGHUE

Source: telltaletv.com

Title The Song in Your Heart

Two-Sentence Summary When the Black Fairy challenges Emma on her wedding day and brings her back to a time when she felt alone, flashbacks reveal that her mother’s wish to help her find her happy ending gave her a song that she’s always carried with her, which helps her understand that she’s never truly been alone. After facing the Black Fairy, Emma is finally able to marry Killian—right before a new curse descends on Storybrooke.

Favorite Line “They say that a captain’s heart belongs to his ship, but with this ring, it now belongs to you.” (Killian)

My Thoughts Greetings, fellow Oncers! I’m coming to you from my hotel room at Walt Disney World’s lovely Contemporary Resort, where I’m enjoying a much-needed dose of magic this week. Typically, I try to avoid writing of any sort on my vacations since I do so much writing when I’m home, but I couldn’t leave the NGN Family without a place to talk about this episode. And after hearing the news of Jennifer Morrison’s departure from Once Upon a Time this morning, I also knew I couldn’t leave you without a space to talk about what she has meant to you, what Emma Swan has meant to you, and what you think is going to happen to the show without her should it be picked up for a seventh season.

I know that I am going to miss both Emma Swan as a character and Jennifer Morrison as an actor on my favorite television show more than I ever imagined before learning the news today. Writing about Emma’s journey completely changed me as a writer and as a woman, and meeting Morrison remains one of the highlights of my life as a fangirl. While I’m incredibly sad to lose this character (and am really hoping the show just ends instead of trying to go on without her), I’m so thankful for what Emma brought into my life—including most of you reading this. NGN became what it is today because of how much fun I’ve had writing about Emma’s journey and how much I’ve loved connecting with all of you about it.

A few members of the NGN Family have reached out to me today about writing a letter to Emma for The Fan Mail Project, and I wanted to let all of you know that you can definitely do so. I haven’t started putting together that part of the book yet, so please don’t shy away from writing something about this character if she’s meant something to you over the years. You can send them to nerdygirlnotes@gmail.com whenever inspiration strikes you. And if you already wrote to Emma but want to edit your letter, you can always do that, too. (Lord knows I’m going to be adding so much more to mine!)

But enough talk of endings…Let’s talk happy beginnings instead! Since I have to be up early to catch a flight on Soarin’ Around the World at EPCOT, I’ll leave most of the analysis up to you this week, but here are some discussion topics to get you started:

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Galentine’s Day Goals

Leslie Ann 617

Today we celebrate my favorite fictional-turned-real holiday: Galentine’s Day. Not only is today a day to eat waffles and drink mimosas, it is a day to celebrate the women in our lives. It is a day to celebrate female friendship, female mentorship, and female support systems.

Ladies celebrating ladies—what a novel, beautiful concept.

This year, it feels even more important to celebrate the power of women and the positive impact they have on our lives. As such, I’m reopening submissions for The Fan Mail Project for another month—with a deadline of March 13, 2017, at 9 p.m. EST. You can read all about the project and how you can contribute to it here, but the general gist of it is this: Write a letter to a female character who has inspired you in some way. Thank her for being a positive influence in your life or maybe in the life of someone you know and love. Share your story by sharing what she means to you.

That’s what The Fan Mail Project is all about—sharing our stories of courage, vulnerability, growth, struggle, and strength by sharing the stories of the female characters that helped us see our own beauty, power, and potential. And at a time in which so many people are actively trying to silence women and keep us from telling our stories and the stories of other women, it’s our job to persist in our stubborn belief that our stories matter.

We matter.

Throughout the process of compiling the letters that have already come in for The Fan Mail Project, I have been moved to tears more times than I can count by the beauty and bravery of every single person who has used their voice to take ownership of their story through their love for the stories of female characters from every corner of the media landscape. You are all my Galentines this year, inspiring me with your authenticity, your honesty, your openness, and your stubborn refusal to be anything but your most authentic self.

So this is your chance to join in the movement that has helped me—and I hope others—grow in incredible ways. If you wanted to write a letter but never found the time or the inspiration, this is your chance. If you wrote one (or more) but always wanted to write another, this is your chance. And if you already wrote a letter but want to add to it or change it to reflect the continuing relationships we all have with the fictional women who have imprinted on our hearts, this is your chance to do that, too. I know I have two letters I’d like to update myself and at least one more I’d like to write. For a while, I let the state of the world and the state of my own busy, stressful life keep me from the joy and hope that this project has given me for the last year and a half. My Galentine’s Day goal this year is to return to this project with bright eyes, a hopeful heart, and a renewed sense of purpose.

The world needs these letters and the stories they tell. The world needs our stories. But even more importantly, we need these stories. We need to remind ourselves today and always that we are just as amazing, strong, and inspiring as the fictional women we love so much.

So write your letter. Embrace your story. Tell the world that you have something to say and you won’t be kept from saying it.

Happy Galentine’s Day, friends. Let’s show the world what we can accomplish when we celebrate ladies not just today but every day.

“That Perfect Girl Is Gone”: A Letter to Elsa

This is the latest in my series of letters to inspirational female characters that will be compiled in a book alongside letters from my fellow fangirls and fanboys. If you are interested in being part of The Fan Mail Project, I’m still taking submissions on a case-by-case basis, and you can check out all the information here

elsa

Source: frozen.disney.com

Dear Elsa,

You weren’t around when I was growing up. Instead, I had a plethora of Disney princess role models who were all strong and kind and incredible in their own ways. I grew up with Belle teaching me to love books, Jasmine teaching me that I wasn’t a prize to be won, Pocahontas teaching me to follow my heart, and Mulan teaching me that I was just as capable and powerful as any man. I will always be thankful for the lessons they taught me, but a part of me will always wish that I could have grown up with you.

Those princesses were smart and fierce and courageous and…pretty close to perfect. And while it’s wonderful for little girls to grow up with an ideal image of all they can be, it’s also important for them to see that it’s okay to have moments when they’re not perfect princesses, even moments when they hurt people—not because they mean to, but because they are struggling with things that feel beyond their control. It’s important for them to know that every princess (or queen, in your case) is flawed, and that’s okay. It doesn’t make them unlovable or unforgivable; it makes them human.

So thank you for giving a new generation of girls something I didn’t have when I was little—a Disney princess who struggled with something internal rather than external, a Disney princess who lived out the conflict women often struggle with between the perfect image we feel we need to project and the messy reality of who we really are. The biggest fight many of these girls will face in their lives won’t be with some terrible villain; it will be with the darkest parts of themselves. And in you, those girls will see a champion, a symbol of their own ability to accept the parts of themselves they feel they’re supposed to hide and hate—and their ability to turn that acceptance into power.

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Let’s Go: A Letter to the Women of Ghostbusters

This is the latest in my series of letters to inspirational female characters that will be compiled in a book alongside letters from my fellow fangirls and fanboys. If you are interested in being part of The Fan Mail Project, I’m still taking submissions on a case-by-case basis, and you can check out all the information here

ghostbusters

Source: ghostbusters.com

Dear Erin, Abby, Patty, and Hotltzmann,

You made me cry. Normally, this would not be much of a surprise to anyone, but even my intensely emotional self can usually keep it together during action scenes in summer blockbusters. But there you were, battling ghosts, guns blazing, and I couldn’t help it. I thought of the millions of little girls who would watch that scene in the coming days, weeks, and years, and I felt so overwhelmingly grateful for the fact that they will grow up in a world where women like you get to save the day.

A group of girls will grow up with that image—four female friends fighting ghosts without any help from a man and without ever having their looks become the focus instead of their skills—being their introduction to action movies. They’ll grow up with that image stuck in their minds and written onto the fabric of their fangirl hearts, and that’s a kind of power that not even the strongest proton pack can produce.

That’s why all the talk about the four of you “ruining” people’s childhoods was such garbage. You can’t ruin a childhood that already happened. But you can help create a brighter childhood for a new generation of young girls. And that is exactly what you’ve done. Your purpose isn’t to create nostalgia for the past; it’s to create inspiration for the future.

The world you inhabit is a world where women fighting ghosts isn’t seen as a big deal. And that matters. (It’s also sadly far away from the world we actually inhabit.) If they only paid attention to the movie, young girls watching Ghostbusters might not ever think that there’s something atypical about you being heroes, and that’s how it should be. You’re treated as people and not as paragons of feminism or stereotypes of “strong female characters,” and it’s so important for girls to see a world where women aren’t defined by their gender or limited by it. You’re ghostbusters who just happen to be women, and that kind of normalcy in terms of the treatment of female heroes is so rare, which makes it so important.

That doesn’t mean, though, that you aren’t examples of how to overcome common problems women face throughout their lives. So much of your collective story is based on the fact that no one will take you seriously when you talk about what you believe and what you’ve seen. Even when you have proof, what you say makes people uncomfortable, so you’re belittled and ridiculed and painted as delusional. People try to silence you, but you stand your ground. Thank you for being an example of what it means to own your truth in a world that is often uncomfortable with women speaking out about what they know, what they believe, and what they’ve experienced.

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Fangirl Thursday: Change Is Good

I’m not normally someone who likes change, but sometimes change can be great.

Some of you have known this for a couple of weeks now (if you follow me on Twitter): I was promoted to an Associate Editorial Director position within the children’s publishing company I’ve worked for since I graduated from college. This is an incredibly exciting (and just a little bit anxiety-inducing) change in my life, allowing me to take on new responsibilities and grow not just as an editor but as a leader, which is what I’ve always wanted from a job.

What does that mean for NGN? Hopefully not much. But I do want to prepare you for the fact that it might mean posts showing up later than usual as I deal with my new workload. However, I promise to keep producing the kind of content that’s brought you to this site in the first place. It might just take a little longer than before for that content to be produced.

For a long time I wrestled with the idea of doing what I do here at NGN professionally, but over the last week or so I’ve done a lot of soul-searching. And I’ve come to the conclusion that I like things the way they are now. Would it be great to get paid for running NGN? Of course. Who wouldn’t like making money writing exactly what they want to write how they want to write it. But I’m not sure I’d love it this much if it were my actual job. So for now, I’m going to enjoy the fact that I have a paying job doing something I like and a website I run for my own enjoyment that by some miracle of the Internet has become something other people enjoy, too.

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Fangirl Thursday: Fan Mail Feelings

This past Monday was the deadline for letters for The Fan Mail Project, but it wasn’t the end of this project. If you still have letters you’d like to send to female characters who’ve inspired you or impacted your life in some way, you send still send them to me at nerdygirlnotes@gmail.com. I’ll still accept them for at least another few weeks as I work on the next phase of the project, so if you see this post and are wondering if you can still submit a letter, it wouldn’t hurt to send me an email and ask—chances are I’ll say yes!

Also, if at any point you decide you need to add something to or change something about your letter—maybe to reflect a change in that character’s story or your own story—please don’t hesitate to ask if you can. The editing process for books is quite long, so I’m certain there will be plenty of time for you to edit your own letters if you need to.

The next part of this process is in my hands. I’ll be putting the letters in an order that I feel ties the project together in the most cohesive way and writing some connecting essays to further explain the importance of not just the characters these letters were written to but the importance of the fans that wrote them. I want this book to be a celebration of what I believe fandom is at its very best—an uplifting marriage of the deeply personal and the inherently communal that helps those looking for a place to belong feel less alone—and I’m working on additional material for this book that honors that belief.

I promise to keep you all updated as I continue along in this process, and I ask for your patience as things continue to move along at an uncertain speed. I’m not sure how long it will take to turn your beautiful letters into a book you’ll actually be able to read and show off to the world, but I pledge to work as hard as I can to make it a reality and to keep you informed every step of the way. This summer will be spent shopping the manuscript around to potential publishers and agents, and it’s my most sincere hope that someone connects with and believes in this project the way so many of you have and takes a chance on publishing it.

Monday was a special day. It was a day filled with overwhelming gratitude and a deep sense of purpose. To all who’ve participated in this project so far and to all who are still working to finish your letters, thank you—from the bottom of my heart. The way you embraced this project with not just enthusiasm but open hearts, powerful vulnerability, and total honesty touched my heart in a way even I—with the high expectations I have for everything—didn’t see coming. Your bravery and passion are every bit as inspiring as any of the traits in any of the women you wrote about. You are shining examples of the brilliant, beautiful, and wonderfully unique people that are brought together by fandom. And I will do everything in my power to honor your trust, your belief in this project, and your incredible words by making The Fan Mail Project a reflection not just of me but of all of you who shared so much of yourself with me through your letters.

I knew when I started this project that I couldn’t do it alone—because the whole point of fandom is to connect with others and discover that we’re not alone. And while I’m about to start a part of this process that’s on my shoulders and only mine, it’s nice to know I’m still not alone.

Stronger Than She Knows: A Letter to Rey

TFA poster

In honor of today’s deadline for submissions for The Fan Mail Project, I wanted to share my latest letter for this project with all of you!

Dear Rey,

I’ve written a lot of letters for this project. I’ve written to characters who shaped my past and to characters who are helping me be my best self in the present. But you represent the future. So, while I have certainly discovered things about you while watching The Force Awakens that have inspired me personally, I’m not writing this letter for me.

I’m writing this letter for the little girls I saw in the movie theater around me all four times I saw The Force Awakens. I’m writing this for the girls too young to write you a letter of their own. I’m writing this for the girls too young to even write at all. And I’m writing this for the girls who aren’t even born yet but will someday be introduced to your story the way I was introduced to the original Star Wars trilogy as a child of only five or six.

When I was a little girl, I used to play Star Wars with my cousins on the playground near my grandparents’ house. While I always had fun pretending to be Princess Leia, so many of our games involved the boys “rescuing” me from the jungle gym that we imagined was the Death Star. There were times—even when pretending to be one of the strongest women in sci-fi—that I felt like I was just playing a small part in their imaginary adventures.

When I saw The Force Awakens for the first time, my initial reaction was to think of the little girl who would one day be playing this version of Star Wars on a playground with her cousins. And I was overwhelmed with gratitude on behalf of that little girl—whoever she may be. Because when that little girl pretends to be you, she’ll be the hero of her own story, and it’ll be the boys who are part of her adventures—not the other way around. That little girl will pretend she’s flying the Millennium Falcon. She’ll pretend she’s breaking out of her holding cell on her own. She’ll pretend to hold a lightsaber and use the Force. And none of those imaginary adventures will seem crazy to her, because she’ll have seen you do all those things. And when you see someone like you doing amazing things—no matter if it’s real or fictional—you begin to believe that you, too, can do amazing things.

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What Makes You Extraordinary: A Letter to Kate Beckett

This is the latest in my collection of letters to female characters who’ve inspired me throughout my life as a fangirl. If you have a character you’d like to write a letter to, click here for details about The Fan Mail Project—you have two weeks left to get your letters written!

Dreamworld

Source: Tumblr.com

Dear Beckett,

I’ve tried to start this letter no less than 10 times in 10 different ways. In fact, I’m sitting right now with tear tracks on my face because I’ve been trying to come up with the perfect way to start this letter for the last hour, and nothing’s felt right. I want this letter to be perfect because you mean so much to me. I want it to be the best letter I write for this project that was inspired in no small way by the impact you’ve had on my life.

But the start of this letter doesn’t have to be perfect—none of it has to be perfect. Because the biggest lesson you’ve taught me is that it’s okay to be imperfect; it’s okay to struggle, and it’s okay to admit that you’re struggling. Your story taught me to take the parts of myself that I see as weaknesses and make them strengths, to acknowledge that my imperfections and flaws are a part of me, and to use that acknowledgement to grow into a better and stronger version of myself. So if this tribute is flawed, that doesn’t mean it’s without value. You taught me that, and that lesson changed my life.

We’ve been on a long journey together, Beckett. I’ve watched Castle since the pilot episode, and I’ve admired your character just as long. From the start, I loved your confidence and competence, your inability to suffer fools, your hair, and your coat collection. You were the reason I bought my first pair of stilettos and my first trench coat. It was your picture I brought to the salon when I decided to get red highlights in my hair. And, thanks to you, I hardly ever go to Starbucks without ordering a skinny vanilla latte.

But something changed during Season Four of Castle. Your story became the story. You’d always been a hero, but the narrative was suddenly laser-focused on you becoming your own hero. And that story helped me reclaim my story. It helped me see myself as a protagonist and not just a supporting player in other people’s stories. In becoming your own hero, you taught me how to become my own hero.

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