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. 

18 comments:

  1. Well done! Great response.

    But you forgot to mention that she hasn't even read a WORD of the author she was having a go at and judging others for reading! She even had the stupidity (or guts) to say it! The second I read that, I was no longer interested in anything she had to say - as many people won't be. I might cringe at the idea of 50 Shades, and people reading it, but unless I do actually read it (and I haven't summoned that willpower yet), I don't have the right to comment. I DID read Dan Brown, it was....iffy....but hell, more power to him. It worked!

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    1. Agree. As a diehard Harry Potter fan I wanted to spend this whole post raving like a madwoman about this fact alone, but I felt I should try to act like an adult. But please know in my heart, the fangirl inside me set the internet on fire. ;)

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    2. I have to admit to not reading a word of them - but I have the entire series on DVD!! LOL Llove them! - but once I see a film, I tend not to read the book, and often vice versa - but not exclusively. But I AM reading Beast Quest - fantasy series for 7+ - to my eldest son and loving every bit of it!!! My kids actually might get some kids they might not like, simply cuz I want to read them! LOL

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  2. Very well put. I'm all for everybody reading more, whether it's a manga comic, the novelization of the latest action movie, or bodice-ripping chest-heaving romance novel. To each their own, just keep reading something.

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    1. I agree 100%. I would NEVER judge another person's reading habits. Reading is an incredibly personal thing.

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  3. well said my friend. and with far fewer curse words than i would have used. :)

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    1. This version is heavily edited. If there's one thing I've learned, it's to be careful about what I say online, because it can always come back to bit you in the arse. ;)

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  4. This is a great post, Ang. I'm not going to be ashamed about what I like to read. I like to read a lot of things... And I can't imagine ever telling another writer NOT to write - it's like saying "Hey, you over there, stop breathing already, other people need air too!" There are so many great books and the funny thing is there can NEVER BE TOO MANY GREAT BOOKS. As writers we just have to do our best and put our work out there and hope people like it. Strangely, if THEY LIKE OTHER BOOKS, it actually makes it more likely they will like my book too!

    Also, I AM A TAG! OMG!

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    1. PREACH IT!
      p.s. Hell yeah you are!

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  5. I've not read the post to which you are replying, but I suspect it would make me angry as well.

    Your response, however, is brilliant. As an author I've learned that there are plenty of readers out there and a well crafted tale, properly edited, with a reasonable cover, will find them.

    I'm going to go read the article you mentioned now, because I'm sure sue I'll have more to say to her, than you, because it seems you've got it figured out.

    Good luck in your writing.

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    1. Here is the reply I left on the post. It should be noted that the writer, Lynn Shepherd, has several novels that are all poorly rated.

      "No struggling but relatively ambitious writer can possibly be anything other than envious."

      I must disagree. Envy is reserved for those who lack self-confidence and often talent. Envy is for the people who write books with ratings that hover in the mid 3 star range, that lack the skill to write well. Envy is NOT for the ambitious writer with skill.

      "It wasn't just that the hype was drearily excessive"

      How would you know if it was excessive or deserved?

      I stood in line at midnight, as an adult, waiting for book six and got to speak with a young woman (probably 14) and her father. She had read all previous books in the series no less than 15 times...each!

      I enjoyed the series, but not as much as that young woman. To her, I'm sure it wasn't excessive (or to me either), it was well deserved.

      "That book sucked the oxygen from the entire publishing and reading atmosphere."

      This is a stunningly short sighted view. A woman who makes kids (and adults) want to spend entire days reading is helping not hurting the business. Those folks will read other books.

      The people who are hurting the business are those who put out rubbish that gets nearly as many one star ratings as five star ratings. Please, could you write an article to encourage those people to step aside.

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  6. I hate elitist readers and writers. My daughter had a boyfriend, (who is now long gone!) who sneered at adults reading 'childrens' books, and looked down his nose at books under 500 pages...she sent him packing whilst reading a middle-grade book!
    This author's opinion on Huffpost only suceeds in coming across as envious and bitter...
    All who love writing should DO IT...and continue doing it, because it;s all we can do. We write because we have to!
    Great post Ang!

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  7. Brilliant post Ang! This is a madness that infects most of the arts in some way to some degree and it's just misery making. It always makes me sad when anyone thinks that one persons success somehow means there will be less for them or anyone else. It's such a poverty view of life and it's really soul crushing. It's been really wonderful to find so many supportive and exciting writers online who really understand that the more stories in the world the better the world.

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