Posts Tagged ‘Antonette Brotman’

by Antonette Brotman

Has anyone not been bitten? This vampire trend seems to be sucking in everyone. From the Twilight saga to televised shows like True Blood and Vampire Diaries, it seems there is no escape from this infecting movement.

Heather Brewer, author of The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod book series, continues to turn regular folk into minions with her stories, presence and outlook.

The 36-year-old writer appeared at the Magic Tree Bookstore in Oak Park on Feb. 18 to shed light on her life and creative work.

Though Brewer now lives in St Louis, Mo. with her family, she was raised in a small Michigan town with a population of 814. She was the unpopular kid growing up.

Looking like a vampire herself, Heather Brewer is the author of the popular book series, "The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod." Photo by Mimi Ragano.

“Even the adults didn’t like me,” she said. Being bullied made her who she is, one tough chick. Brewer stood before her audience, towering not much over five feet, dressed in Hot Topic black pants with silver chains and grommets.

Brewer’s popularity is growing, making the USA Today’s Best Seller List at number 69 and The New York Times Best Selling Series List at number 6.

At 12 years old, Brewer decided she wanted to be an author, but parents and other adults around her were discouraging. They told her to focus on getting a real job.

“I didn’t know what a real job was, but I knew I wanted nothing to do with it,” Brewer said.

The infamous question: above all else, what is the number one thing you would like to be? For Brewer, it meant being an author. And her husband said, “So be one.”

It was these three words that changed her life, and Brewer decided to follow her writing dreams.

This was when she started considering the possibility of getting published. Brewer sent out her work, and was rejected 248 times. The second time she was rejected 98 times before halting her submissions. This called for a reevaluation. She considered the popular phrase, “To write well, write what you know.” So she made a list of things she knew, which consisted of three things: what it is like to be unpopular, teenagers and vampires.

Each vampire smiley comes in a different color, representing a different book in the series. "Eighth Grade Bites" started with the red, "Ninth Grade Slays" is blue, "Tenth Grade Bleeds" is purple, "Eleventh Grade Burns" is orange and "Twelfth Grade Kills" is green. Photo by Mimi Ragano.

Her fascination with vampires stemmed from Count Chocula breakfast cereal, Sesame Street’s character The Count and, of course, the infamous Dracula himself.

“The moment I knew his name [was Vladimir Tod], I knew his whole story,” Brewer said. “And not just Eighth Grade Bites, but the whole series.”

Brewer felt that her writing “was right this time.” It only took her four months to write the entire first book. And she had seven offers by publishers for representation within the first week of sending submissions for publication.

The book sold and it all started when one person told her, “Yes.”

“Follow your dreams no matter what you do, and be sensible about it,” Brewer said.

Recently, Brewer returned to her middle school to give a talk. There, she was able to get vengeance on her former unpopularity because many of the kids she went to school with stuck around the town and had children of their own. It is those kids that are now reading and worshiping Brewer’s books, the sons and daughters of those who used to bully her.

Heather Brewer and fan Andre Marin (my brother) both sport Vlad gear. Fan wear is not yet available on Brewer's site, but the author holds online contests in which readers can win t-shirts and hoodies with the vampire smiley. Photo by Mimi Ragano.

Many of Brewer’s minions are curious as to how Brewer feels about the Twilight series. She said she liked the first book, but Brewer read the second and third books for the characters other than Bella because she “prefers strong female characters.” Brewer was dissatisfied with the last Twilight book, however.

“I despised it, and don’t recommend people read the Twilight series,” Brewer said. “It promotes dangerous ideas like, ‘girls, you need a man,’ or ‘it’s okay for your boyfriend to stalk you or physically abuse you.’ These messages are unacceptable, and I would say the same thing to Stephenie Meyer if she were here because if you have an opinion, you need to own it.”

Brewer is a strong advocate for reading and said she “love[s] books because there are so many different kinds.” For readers who can’t find a good book, she suggested going to bookstores and libraries to talk to the workers about what kinds of books they might enjoy.

Vladimir Tod begins the series in eighth grade and ends in his senior year of high school. After Eighth Grade Bites come the books Ninth Grade Slays, Tenth Grade Bleeds, Eleventh Grade Burns, and finally Twelfth Grade Kills. Twelfth Grade Kills is the only book that is not out yet, but its release date is Sept. 21, the same day the author turns 37.

Fans gathered to hear and meet Heather Brewer, author of all five Vladimir Tod vampire books. The last of the five, "Twelfth Grade Kills" is expected to hit the shelves Sept. 21, the author's birthday. Photo by Mimi Ragano

For additional information, please visit the Heather Brewer site.

Copyright 2010

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by Antonette Brotman

Chicago – “How much?” asked the lady in the Polish Triangle, picking up a porcelain chef figurine from between a box of pantry items and a pile of old clothes.

“It’s free. Everything is free,” voices answered. But she wasn’t accepting it as free. A container filled with change at her feet read, “Give if you want, take if you need.” She drew a dollar from her wallet, dropped it in with the other money and walked off, clutching her new trinket like a smuggler.

On Oct. 26 local activists brought their idle possessions together for barter at the Really Really Free Market (RRFM). They set up blankets to station themselves with their goods, and started looking around for things of interest to trade – for free.

Maggie Block and Zak Eveland dump a pile of clothes on a blanket to set up for the RRFM. Photo by Antonette Brotman.

Maggie Block and Zak Eveland dump a pile of clothes on a blanket to set up for the RRFM. Photo by Antonette Brotman.

Activist Maggie Block organized RRFM at the Polish Triangle located at the intersection of Division Street, Milwaukee Avenue and Ashland Avenue. The event was held in commemoration for Kirsten Brydum, a San Francisco activist, who was fatally shot this past September in New Orleans.

“We wanted to start a long-overdue RRFM in [Brydum’s] honor,” Block said. “And hopefully we can make this a more consistent thing.”

With the winter months approaching, RRFM events will be moved indoors until the spring, but the details have not yet been confirmed.

Not to be confused with standard charity, the RRFM is interactive sharing where everyone benefits. People can got rid of their no longer needed items and traded with other people for things they wanted.

“It’s a wonderland,” Shimer College liberal arts student David Brault said. “It’s a joke on the real market where you sell services for money. But here, I can sell my services for free.”

Many people provided services including massages, haircuts or music lessons. In addition there were also clothes, books, photos, paintings and posters. Brault drew free portraits for the event.

“It’s funny because it’s like, ‘oh, buy my thing! Buy my thing! But really, you’re giving it,” Brault said.

Priceless. Photo by Antonette Brotman.

Relaxing massage:zero dollars; Vegan baked goods: zero dollars; Trampoline, bike, color portrait, hand-me-downs, posters, music, books, all zero dollars. Refusing the capitalist society: Priceless. Photo by Antonette Brotman.

Rosy Phinick, an English major with a minor in Queer Studies at DePaul, baked all vegan apple pie cookies, chocolate chip cookies, brownies and banana bread. She heard of the market through Bash Back!, a radical trans/queer/anarcha-feminist group.

Bash Back! described themselves to their myspace as “an anti-assimilation, sex-positive, radical group of queers, transfolk, and feminists dedicated to eradicating heteronormativity, subverting binary gender norms, capitalism and attacking intersecting oppressions including but not limited to white supremacy, patriarchy, classism, ableism, sizeism and poverty inside and outside of the movement.”

Punk folk country based group The Rust Belt Ramblers provided free music, collaborating with others on guitar, vocals and percussion. They played the later half of the market and gave away CDs of their album, Cheer Up Champ.

While it was exciting to experience the diversity of everyone’s talents and services, for some, RRFM was just a good way to eliminate hoarded relics.

Leila Nations, a student at Truman College and Radical Cheerleader said they “got most of the stuff from [their] roommates. When we all moved in, we had excess [expletive deleted].”

Out-of-towners Loren Hall and girlfriend Sarah Lann used RRFM as an opportunity to get crafty. The couple picked up arctic cod liver oil to share with RRFM community. Though they live in Massachusetts, the travelers have been a part of several area activist events including Glamour Queer.

Bash Back! member Lily Wilcock tests out the bounce on a really really free trampoline. Photo by Antonette Brotman.

Bash Back! member Lily Wilcock tests out the bounce on a really really free trampoline. Photo by Antonette Brotman.

The activist community overlapped at RRFM. Food Not Bombs, a self-proclaimed revolutionary group that shares free food and protests poverty and war, showed and served up homemade vegan dishes. The group stood under a sign proclaiming “Comida No Migra” which means food does not migrate. The Radical Cheerleaders also made an appearance. Cheers like “Pervert” collected crowds and got everyone energized.

“We’re fed up, and we want change,” activist Lily Wilcock of Bash Back! said. The RRFM and Food Not Bombs are concerned with gentrification, police brutality and anti-assimilation, according to Wilcock.

“Above all, we don’t want to assimilate,” Wilcock said.

Though, it was everyone else who seemed to be assimilating to RRFM on Sunday. Many passersby stopped to inquire about what was going on, and upon discovering the freeness, some even loaded up grocery carts.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Wicker Park resident and RRFM bystander, Harry Callion said. “It’s good to see bartering still going on; it was the first money system in the world.”

RRFM participant Zak Eveland offered music lessons on basic guitar theory for free. The bike to his left now has a happy owner. Photo by Antonette Brotman.

RRFM participant Zak Eveland offered music lessons on basic guitar theory for free. The bike to his left now has a happy owner. Photo by Antonette Brotman.

Getting involved in future RRFM events can take either as much or as little preparation as you’re willing and capable of providing. One option is to collect unused goods from family and friends or to prepare a meal or instrument lesson. These are not last minute options because they take some planning beforehand.

Since no money is accepted for trade at the RRFM, things are given away instead of, and without, a monetary transaction. This means that even if you have nothing to share with the community, you won’t be excluded from the activities.

Copyright 2008

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