Monday, February 24, 2014

If J.K. Rowling Cares About Writing, She Should Keep Doing It

This morning, I read an article. To say the article offended me is putting it lightly. It not only targeted me as a reader, writer, and parent, but embarrassed me as a professional. It is Ms. Shepherd's right to express her opinion and I respect that right. If she wanted to garner herself attention, she has done it. If she wanted to create a stir, she has succeed. Yet, a byproduct of this article is she has successfully dug a deeper hole for all us "desperate" writers she claims to care about.

I am nothing when compared to Ms. Shepherd. I am an untested writer. I am a Community College graduate with a two year degree in Creative Writing. I cannot boast that I'm a writer for a big name publication or add copyeditor to my byline. In fact, it's more than likely there will be a typo in this post. Furthermore, not only do I read young adult novels, but I'm a huge fan of the middle grade genre and I obsessively read comic books. Added to that, I write YA contemporary coming of age romance. You know, the genre even self-respecting young adult fans find too fluffy.

However, maybe these credentials make me better qualified to speak to the issues Ms. Shepherd raises in her article. Maybe as a nobody, who can't even imagine the joys of selling a mere 1,500 books let alone getting an agent to consider representing me, I have the right to raise my hand and humbly say, I completely and respectfully disagree. 

Here's why:

1. Nobody has the right to dictate what I can and cannot read.
For me, this is a no-brainer. Yet, time and time again, I've been told I should not read a novel because I'm an adult. I don't judge others for their reading habits. I read for enjoyment, not to impress others, not to show off how smart or well read I am. I read because I love to read. Anyone who has a problem with that, anyone who wants to judge me for that needs to evaluate why they feel so threatened by someone else's reading habits. 

2. I am not threatened by J.K. Rowling.
She is a person who wrote a series I heartily enjoyed. With all her money, with all her fame, I do not envy her. And I do not wish her to stop writing so I can get in on her action. In fact, I hope she continues to write. Her personal story is inspirational. Her generosity toward the community and her fans is noteworthy. I respect her as a fellow human being and wish her well. 

3. If I could, I'd buy all the books in the world.
The main point in the article seems to be: Go back to your Potter fiction, Ms. Rowling, so us real fiction writers can sell some books. 

To this I say, huh? 

As an avid reader, who boasts a reading habit of no less than a hundred books a year, there has never been a moment when I've thought:

"Whelp, I'm booked out. No more book shopping for me!" 

In fact, normally I'll like an author, read all their books obsessively then seek out other books that are similar in nature. It's like a downward spiral into madness that bleeds my pockets dry and leaves me rocking in a corner, surrounded by books, while begging for mercy. 

Why bemoan that a popular, well-loved, respected author has decided to give your specific genre a whirl when you could embrace her in your community? 

4. I'm not writing to be famous and neither should you.
Call me naive. I. Don't. Care. If you are writing to be famous, if you're treating this like some sort of race, then you will end up writing bitter articles that not only alienate and offend readers, but pigeonhole you as a whiner who is jealous of those more successful than yourself. It works the same way when popular authors target untested writers as unimportant and make jokes about them on social media. Or published authors mock self-published authors and call them fake. Or, on the other hand, when self-published authors call agented authors sellouts. Or worse, when unpublished/un-agented writers send nasty tweets to authors. It's all disgusting. It all smacks of jealousy and discord. 

5. This is not a race. It's writing.
And there it is, the simplest truth of all. So, I'm going to say it one more time in bold:

This is not a race. It's writing. 

I'm going to be frank, when I started out two years ago as an innocent long time lover of books with a freshly minted associates in Creative Writing and a newly finished manuscript in my hot little hands, the cattiness within the writing community made me sick.

I've been a reader since I was a kid. Before Twitter and GoodReads and Facebook and widespread author signings and BEA and book blogs, I was in awe of writers. I wanted to be one. I wanted to connect with readers. I wanted to share in the conversation. I wanted to be apart of that magical world in which words were used to express a person's heart and soul. I never thought to hate a writer. I never thought to envy another person's words. 

It wasn't until I step out of my bubble that I realized there were some writers who felt this was a race. Writer who perceived the successes of others as a hinderance to their own career. Writers who only wrote to be famous. Writers who laughed and mocked others. Writers who felt better than their fellow writers. 

And there was a moment when I asked myself, do I really want to be apart of this? Do I really want to be apart of someone else's pointless race?

And that's when I decided not to play the game. That's when I decided to rejoice in the successes of others, embrace my journey as my own, and not be afraid of failure. But most importantly, to never compare myself to others.

See, when we point fingers, when we play the "I'm better than you card," we hurt our community. We alienate our readers. And we all become laughingstocks. 

Here's my plead to Ms. Shepherd:

I understand you believe you are helping all us little guys. I know you feel justified in asking a millionaire to step aside and stop hogging the limelight. I get that you feel adults who read young adult and middle grade novels aren't stimulating their mind and, by extension, are possibly dumber than adults who read more (in your opinion) challenging books. But what I don't think you understand is you don't have the right to judge me as a person based on what I read. You don't have the right to assume you know what's best for writers in general. You don't have the right to ask a writer, no matter how terrible you perceive their book to be, to step aside. And you should listen to your friends when they say, "that is a terrible idea." Because, as good as it feels to stick it to the man, you'll always end up with sour grapes all over your face. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Know Thyself

Listen. I'm not going to tell you how to write. There is plenty of amazing (and not so amazing) advice floating around the internet. Lots of fish in the preverbal sea handing out helpful tips and sage guidance on the do's and don'ts of writing.

If I was to give writerly tips, they would be:
a. Metaphors are seductive. Learn how to say no to them.
b. Look up the definitions of mumble and mutter.
c. For the love of God, use ... sparingly.
d. Readers are your friends. Listen to them.
c. Never take writing advice from me.

What I do have in my back pocket to share is a little word to the wise. Advice that just might help you leapfrog years upon years of grueling indecisiveness as a writer. Hell, possibly as a person. 

What's this wellspring of knowledge I'm bringing to the party?

Here it comes. 
It's a doozy. 
You ready for it?
I could stop right here because y'all are like,
Yep, totally get it, Ang.
Know thyself.
I'll get on it right about now-ish.

The real question is:

Why bring up something so simple, something so cliche it's on every Hallmark card from here to Timbuktu (and I would know because I'm an ex-Hallmark employee)?

As simple as this may seem, as ridiculous as it might feel to bring it up, until a few months ago, I did not know myself as a writer. I didn't really know what it was I wanted out of this crazy joyride. I did not know what my expectations were or even my goals. I sort of adopted the status quo's mantra and got caught up in the whirlwind of social media.

It wasn't until I woke up from a serious bout of depression that I started asking myself what the hell I was even doing. This question helped me realize some important facts about myself.

1. I work at a slower pace than most writers.

Why? Well, it could be due to the five year old who, at this exact moment, is examining my ear for Purple Cauliflower People who are trying to eat my brain. Or maybe it's because I'm slightly OCD. And while I write at a neck breaking speed when inspiration smacks me in the face, for the most part, I'm slowly going the way of the buffalo. And you know what? That's okay. This isn't a race. It's writing. Oddly enough, there is a difference.

2. I really don't want to be popular.

Hey. I saw that eye roll. I know what you're thinking, everyone says that. But, I swear, it's the truth. The thought of doing an author signing gives me the heebie-jeebies. The whole time I would be wondering a. why people would want me to deface their books and b. which of these crazy bastards is going to eat my soul. Ladies and gents, I like my house. It's safe. It's climate controlled. And I can wear my pajama pants all day long without being judged. Why would I want to leave it?

3. I want to be patient as I seek publication.

I'm not just looking to be published. I'm not just looking for a quick ride to fame and fortune. I'm one of those ridiculous people who has something to say and wants to share it because they are oh. so. important. and everyone needs to listen to them. I'm a reader. I love books. I love connecting with characters. As a writer, I want to connect with my readers through my characters and make them cry and laugh and swoon. That is more important to me than money or fame or people wanting to rush off to see a movie based on my book. And OhMyGOSH, please understand, there is nothing wrong with fame and money and books to movies. I fully support it on a daily basis as I fangirl like a freak, throwing my money away on books and swag and midnight showings. I just don't care if it happens to me. Would I turn my nose at money and fame and all the jazz? I don't know. But I highly doubt I'll ever be faced with the decision so why focus on something that truly isn't important to me? Which leads to--

4. I'm not interested in money or popularity or fame and I've got plenty of time to strengthen my skillz of a writer, so why am I freaking out so much?

5. I just want to write a book worth publishing.

Plain and simple. If that's my goal, why worry about when it happens and instead work toward making it happen.

And just like that, I know myself.
I know who I am.
What I'm working toward.
I can throw out all the unnecessary pressure I've placed on myself.
I can focus on improving as a writer,
while taking steps toward publication at my own pace.
I can be happy for those around me who are finding success
and find hope and joy in their milestones verses stress and envy.
I realize this is not a race or a contest.
This is my job.

As a writer, I am guilty of looking to others to set my pace and goals. As a writer, I am guilty of feeling overwhelmed by the pressure to race toward a finish line I can't even see. As a writer, I have not taken the time to establish my own personal goals. As a writer, I have not known myself and this has hurt me. 

Know yourself, my friends. If you want to be a popular author who makes the big bucks, know that, embrace that, and tailor your goals to fit that desire accordingly. If you want to see your name on a book cover at all cost, know that about yourself and make it happen. Don't feel bad or shy or fearful or envious. Be honest. Be frank. Be fearless. 

In the words of Buddha:
The only real failure in life is not to be true to the best one knows.
Be true to yourself, my friends. Trust me on this. Life is too short to be dishonest with yourself.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Ang Reads: The January Edition

January is over, folks.
Just. Like. That.
Every year, I attempt to write an end of the year bookish review.
Yet, every December, I can't remember what the heck I even read.
Too many books.
Not enough brain cells.
Thus, THE PLAN was formed.
(But really, what's life without PLANS.)
Each month I'll post what I've read.
Tell you what I loved the most.
And by the end of the year,
 I *might* actually be able
to pick a favorite.
Ideals of grandeur?
Ain't no doubt,
but let's roll with it.
Without further ado, I give you, my January reads.
(a * denotes it's a reread)
6. The Fault in Our Stars
(click here for a review)

Ain't they purdy?

Since you're forcing me to play favorites,
I'd have to pick:
 Oh. My. Gosh.
But really.
This book had me rolling on the floor
and swooning left and right
and overall I LOVED this book.
If you like yourself some chick lit,
don't walk, RUN to the store,
and pick up this wonderment.
You shall not regret this choice.
Pinky promise.

IF, however, chick lit ain't your thang then
*maybe* you're looking for a supernatural
adventure story with a creepy twist!
If so, look no further than:
Hollow City is the sequel to
Miss. Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children.
I adored the first book.
In fact, back in 2011,
 I wrote the epic fangirl of fangirling reviews.
Let me put this out there,
I'm a standalone kind of gal.
I'm not very patient with on going series
that take five billion years to read.
Normally, it's tough to sell me on the positives of a second book.
I get ragey & cranky & start screaming
about the integrity of the story &
will they please stop trying to bleed me of all my money
& blah blah blah blah... boooooring.
Having said that,
Hollow City is not only an amazing book
but it is BETTER THAN it's predecessor in all aspect.
And it's got me so excited about the third book
I want to stab myself in the eyeball.

on that note,
ENOUGH about me.

What have you read so far this year?
And recommendations?
Did you read any of these books?
You know you wanna.