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Friday, November 20, 2015

Why We Love Reading about Strong Women by Ursula Wong

Welcome to Friday Features! Maybe it's the fact that my guest grew up on a dairy farm that first sparked my interest. But a dairy girl turned author? I had to learn more. Once Ursula Wong and I began talking, I recognized a certain resolve and thought you'd like to meet her, too.  I asked Ursula to share her thoughts on "strong women." This is what she had to say:

Why We Love Reading about Strong Women by Ursula Wong

I love the conviction of women who are resolved to overcome bad situations, but does it mean that strong women appeal to us because we think they’re unique?  Does that say something about what we expect of ourselves and what we expect of women both in life and in what we read?

I write about women who overcome tremendous odds with creativity and hidden strength. To see how other writers were handling the subject, I did a Google search for ‘strong female literary characters’ and came up with a few surprises.

First, there were many lists and they were long.

Secondly, the lists didn’t have a lot of overlap. Perhaps too many novels exist for one set of ‘strong women’ tastes.

I noticed that some of the stories have been around for a while.  Lizzie Bennett in Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice wows us with her wit and mindfulness.  Charlotte Bronte’s ever-constant Jane Eyre builds strength over many bad situations. Don’t forget the nutty Miss Havisham from Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations who showed strength of conviction even though it involved waiting for her fiancé to show up.
Stories about strong girls also made the lists including the brilliant Matilda by Roald Dahl, Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery, and Meg Mury from the wonderful A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle.

The lists also had many contemporary entries. Lisbeth Salander from Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a power-house. Katniss shows spectacular survival strength in Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Don’t forget Jessica Wyeth in TheCharity and The Troubles by Connie Johnson Hambley, and my own Lily Phelps in Purple Trees as two more examples of women struggling against terrible odds.

My personal all-time favorite is Janie Crawford in Their Eyes Were Watching God by ZoraHurston, for discovering her power by listening to her heart.

I don’t think strong women are unusual either in stories or in life. Sometimes, I think we don’t recognize our strength, and perhaps minimize it, thinking if I can do something, anyone can. I also think that stories of strong women will remain popular because of the different ways we solve our problems, so I’ll continue writing about them, and even aspire to be one.


Ursula Wong, author of "Purple Trees"
Ursula grew up on a dairy farm in central Massachusetts, and became a high tech engineer. Her stories have appeared in Everyday Fiction, Spinetingler Magazine, and the popular anthologies Insanity Tales and Insanity Tales II: The Sense of Fear. She runs the Nashua chapter of the New Hampshire Writer’s Project, and is Marketing Director of The Storyside Consortium, a publishing cooperative.

Her award-winning debut novel, Purple Trees, portrays rural New England life in the story of a naïve girl who must grow up fast to find work and build a future, when the weight of the past threatens everything she loves.

Ursula taps her Lithuanian heritage in her upcoming novel, Amber Wolf, a saga of love and war. Destitute after her mother is killed by Russian soldiers in 1944, young Ludmelia Kudirka joins farmers who are fighting for freedom in a David-and-Goliath struggle against the mighty Soviet war machine. Amber Wolf  will be available in 2016.

Visit Ursula’s popular Reaching Readers Blog on her website ( and signup for monthly mini-stories. Pin Ursula on Pinterest, and like her on Facebook.


FRIDAY FEATURES is a steady presence on Out of the Fog where I explore the concept of "strong women." Who are they? What makes them strong? How do we see them in writing and/or in business? If you're an author, what is their place in the world of thrillers of mysteries? If you're in business, how is the working environment impacted by the presence of a "strong woman" and how are they seen as leaders and team members? If you're an emerging strong woman, tell us about your journey. Have other questions you find compelling? Ask away and I'll post the answers here. 

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