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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Secrets of the Zona Rosa: How Writing (and Sisterhood) Can Change Women's Lives by Rosemary Daniell (Henry Holt and Co) for many years feminist writing workshops have become common among women writers. Daniell’s workshop bristles with good humor and empowering constructive criticism for writers at all stages of development.  She is southern, unabashedly so, up bubbling with emotional honesty and empathy for the paradoxes of the heart. Secrets of the Zona Rosa is not only an advertisement for her many workshops but also a useful primer on how to integrate living with effective writing. Daniell’s book not only succeeds as a how-to but also works as an inspiring read.  If you ever get gloomy about needing help to continue writing then these pages are a place to go for some happy time out and renewal.

For more than twenty-four years, Rosemary Daniell—Southern belle, successful writer, and tireless champion of female empowerment—has led Zona Rosa, a writing workshop for women that's founded on the premise that writing can be not only a creative challenge but a tool for healing. Here, she shares the secrets of Zona Rosa®: practical advice and home-grown "Exorcises" that help you face and think through writing issues, and life in general. You'll learn how to avoid the "13 (Possible) Boo Boos" that plague everyone’s writing. You'll bring yourself to "Write About the Thing I Most Don't Want to Write About" and will learn how facing the difficult past can lead to breakthroughs. You'll discover "The Emotional Tai Chi of Getting Your Work Out There," with suggestions for painlessly sending your work into the world.
Along the way, you’ll meet some of the many women who've improved their writing—and lives—through the sisterhood, constructive advice, and wacky fun of Zona Rosa®. And you'll be inspired by Daniell herself, who's weathered personal tragedy, bad love, and her own writing issues to come out singing. Secrets of the Zona Rosa is essential reading for any woman who writes—and who's lived.

Excerpt: What is the Zona Rosa? And what does it mean? These are the questions people ask me more often than any others. Since we in Zona Rosa were originally four women, getting together to talk about writing and life, on the surface it simply means the “feminine zone.” Our name came from a quarter in Mexico City, reminding me when I first heard it of a name for a female rock group. But if you think for a minute, you realize that it indicates more, that the rosa has been a part of us from our beginnings. And if you look inside yourself, at your inner lips or even more intimate parts—as many women did during the ’70s—you see that all women are created pink, with a special relationship to that color. “Always wear shades that occur naturally in the body,” a makeup artist once advised, and pink is one of those shades, most notably in that organ Eve Ensler enshrined in The Vagina Monologues, and, even in the most repressive of times, through the sensuousness of a pair of full rosy lips, whether assisted or not by Tangee or Revlon. “I was shown around Tutankhamen’s tomb in the 1920s. I saw this wonderful pink on the walls and the artifacts. I was so impressed that I vowed to wear it for the rest of my life,” wrote mega-romance writer, Barbara Cartland. “Pink is the navy blue of India,” declared Diana Vreeland, the famous editor of Vogue, who, when she became blind shortly before her death in 1989, said it was the result of looking at too many beautiful things. I, too, have had a lifelong romance with the terra rosa, just as I have had with experience, knowledge, and the letter Z. Each spring, the city of Savannah, where I live, and which I always describe in my writing as a woman, is blanketed in luscious pink azaleas—and then there are their counterpoints, the pale crape myrtle, the aptly named fuchsia, the roses that live up to their name, the hydrangea turned roseate by a nail judiciously embedded in the soil beneath. In France, cherries are termed cerises, surely a prettier, pinker word. The Zona Rosa is six beautiful midlife women wearing pink ruffled bathing caps, swimming nude in a synchronized flower design in the south of that country. At Codolle, Paris’s and perhaps the world’s poshest lingerie atelier, proprietor Poupie Codolle has created petale de rose, “the most heavenly pink in the world,” according to freelance writer Daisy Garnett, who willingly shelled out over 555 euros (or $629) for a bra made for her in that luxe tint. And isn’t the soft pink cheek the part of a baby we want most to touch? Intuitionist Julia Griffin describes the heart chakra as a pink light, exuding beauty and love. Wouldn’t Eve—being smart and a woman—have eaten the apple anyway, rosy globe that it was, hanging within easy reach, no matter the price, and even without the snake to egg her on? Pink is the opposite of fundamentalism of any kind, which would outlaw it if it could, and which finds that all the veils in the world can’t subdue its charms. Yet there are still those, even among the enlightened, who would keep us naive, fear-bound, innocent of our strength, of our radiance within. “She writes about the labia-pink South,” a well-known writer said, quoting a phrase from my work in the Washington Post, forgetting that it was in the rosa that his own book had been nurtured—not to speak of the fact that he, like each of us, slid into this life out from between the slick pink walls of a woman gracious enough to give him birth. For while men may land on the moon, plot new and better ways to destroy one another, and generally strut their stuff, Norman Mailer–style—not admitting for a moment that it is from their feminine side, their anima, that their better books and paintings evolve—it is still up to women to give comfort and life. “Nothing can soothe the soul but the senses,” wrote Oscar Wilde, who surely knew, and while other words also denote the salves with which we ease our way—bath, bed, chocolate, silk, scent, fur—it falls to this shade, this vibrant inner passage, to define the ultimate, the primary, in richness, fecundity, pleasure. So what is the Zona Rosa? It is the pièce de résistance, the zone where all things female are not only allowed but prevail; where women tell their truths, truths men beg entry to hear, or at times, simply beg to enter. Or it is as easy, as accessible, as my five-year-old great-niece, Faye, twirling in a pink feather boa, already in possession of her considerable powers. So what does it mean that you are now entering the Zona Rosa? It means Beware, for whether you are man or woman, you are about to be immersed in that region where you will be in danger of seeing in new ways, of looking through rose-colored glasses, even of creating art.

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