Sunday, January 6, 2008

St. Francis Receiving the Stigma

If I had a motto, it would be, "Okay, but, seriously."

So. Okay. But. Seriously.

Sophie and I are the same age, live in the same county, and are both halfies of some kind. And we're both basically beasts. But that's mostly where the similarities end.

While Sophie's writing about faeries, I'm writing about eating disorders. While she's writing about fairy-dust-drugs, I'm writing about actual drugs. When she's writing about explosions, I'm writing about the families of the people who are killed in those explosions, trying to put their lives back together.

I'm not trying to qualify myself over Soph's. Just the freakin opposite. But that's the stigma.

There's this stigma that it's easier to write fantasy, sci fi, chick lit, than it is to write anything edgy. As someone who's always fallen more to the realistic-edgy side, I've definitely seen my literary brethren sticking up their noses at any manuscripts that don't include mental trauma, car crashes, and child abuse.

I'm exaggerating, obviously, but bear with me for a second.









Okay. But. Seriously.


I've had agents tell me my prose is too dark. I've had beta readers tell me my prose is too dark. Hell, I'm surprised my cats aren't telling me my prose is too dark. It's not a problem with every manuscript, and it's not a problem with every agent, but it's a problem that's there.

And the truth is, being dark is easy.

I'm a teenager. Let's be honest, here. Life isn't a bowl of cherries.

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is lighten up.

And there's a stigma. There's the idea that people like Sophie, who write fantasy, and people like Madeleine and Megan, who write chick-lit YA (is that offensive? Hope not) aren't real writers. That they don't work as hard, or appreciate the craft as much, as someone who writes straight-up literary. Straight-up real life.

And I sort of have to question when real life became better than fantasy. When real life became better than anything.

I'm not immune to it, though. I've got one manuscript I couldn't finish because it was science fiction, and I couldn't reconcile my literary side with the part of me that wanted to write this manuscript. I couldn't bring myself to write science fiction. And I've got one manuscript that has a maybe-angel in it, and even querying it as Suburban Fantasy (made that up...cute, eh?) was difficult for me. I'll admit to magical realism every once in a while, but I practically got hives when I wrote my introductory post and admitted my stuff has fantasy elements.

But it does. And if I didn't feel that pressure...the pressure that if it's light, it's not important, and if it's fantasy, it's not real, keeps me from writing certain things, and keeps me from querying manuscripts in a way that would be most productive for them. Because even though I know it's real writing...I don't feel it.

So I guess Sophie and I have more in common than I thought. We both live in the same town. We're both sixteen. We're both halfies. And we both write fan...

Nope. Can't say it.


<3 hannah

20 comments:

Haphazard said...

No! Hannah!

I thought I was your opposite...

You're tearing out my insides. You broke my heart, Hannah. You broke my heart.

AmandaKMorgan said...

Me encanta, Shady. :)

Meggy said...

Aww, cute post, Shady. It's nice to see someone so brilliantly literary (man, I could never do that)defending us lighter, genre writers!

And chick-lit YA isn't offensive at all, because that is what it is. Or YA romantic comedy. And labels of that sort.

Jordan said...

Shady, why do you think there is a stigma surrounding genre writing? I mean, it must have some basis, it's not some mass delusion.

How do you think writers should rise above the stigma, or perhaps even use it to their advantage?

hannah said...

I think it definitely exists in YA. Fantasy and Sci Fi are shelved separately from mainstream. And people who read fantasy often only read only fantasy, and people who read only mainstream often read only mainstream.

I'm definitely not saying always, but I'm saying it definitely happens.

And I think crossover books are the answer.

Madeleine said...

Haha, great post, Hannah.

And I don't really write chick-lit anymore, for your information. My stuff is dark. And edgy. And filled with clothes descriptions.

IN THE DARKEST, EDGIEST WAY, MIND.

hannah said...

my mistake, then ;)

Jordan said...

Shady/Hannah, you give me idea for my first post...

Andrew Carmichael said...

Shady,

In every bookstore I've been to, all YA is together...mainstream, edgy, chicklit, high fantasy, soft sci-fi...all of it is in the teens/YA section. I've never seen it seperated except in adult lit.

hannah said...

Really?? Intense.

Fantasy section is separate at my Borders and my Barnes and Noble. And my other Borders.

Andrew Carmichael said...

That kind of sucks. Maybe it's a PA thing?

Though, the bookstores in South Carolina were like the ones here. So are the ones in France (well, the FNAC in La Defense, at least...). Your bookstores need to get with the picture...

I'll write letters.

Sophie W. said...

OH, HANNAH.

You've given me a reason to live! My writing is writing after all!

Just kidding.

Okay. But. Seriously.

I really like this post. :) I wish you had talked about it on a deeper level, but whatever.

Also, I've found that all YA books are shelved in the same place, too.

hannah said...

I guess D.C. is just ridiculous.

I didn't go into it deeply enough? haha, I never know when to stop. I can always write more about it at some later date, should it be appropriate. Or whatever. I just woke up. haha

Jordan said...

They're shelved separately in Georgia. Makes it difficult to find things. Sometimes I wish EVERYTHING was shelved together...

That is a bit unrealistic of me.

Sophie W. said...

What I want is a section that reads: Stuff Sophie Wants to Buy.

The rest can go away. :D

Andrew Carmichael said...

What is with the crazy inconsistancies in shelving? I thought there were rules about this, or something...

Vanessa Concannon said...

Yeah, good post, and I can definitely make some kind of response to it...I have the same issues about writing revisionist myths, from time to time. No literary merit/yes literary merit.

YA is separate at every store I've ever been to, and genres are mixed within that.

Dreamer3702 said...

AMEN! Seriously though, I've dealt with this stigma for a long time. I've taken several writing classes. I was always the best at the writing exercises. Everyone thought so and always wanted my help. Yet, when I turned worked on a fantasy piece for my final, I suddenly wasn't any good. People honesty told me I was wasting my time on fantasy and how dare I say it was harder to write than lit.

END RANT

So, your post rocks.

Sage said...

They're always together at the B&N and Borders here too. Actually, I think in San Diego, I had trouble finding a recommendation by Sophie 'cuz the YA fantasy was on the other side of the same bookcase. But a lot of the popular stuff was fantasy too, so I hadn't realized that the authors would restart alphabetically.

Either way, the YA stuff is all together, and in a very small section, which is sad.

Andrew Carmichael said...

dreamer, I know exactly what you mean.

I took a fiction class and workshopped an urban fantasy peice. The only comment was "It's exactly like all the others." Oh, and there was, "You know this is genre, right?" And I was like, um, yes.....

It was awkward, to say the least. But I wasn't previously aware that I was supposed to do literary only. Which I now know...and probably won't abide to, because I'm a rebel!