Heads up: I recently decided to allow myself a little more flexibility within writercize. I often find inspiration strikes for a blog post, but it doesn't quite fit in with the writercize theme, so I paralyze both the thought and the blog. Therefore, I hereby allow myself to post the occasional opinion and/or reflection on the writing life as I see fit to indulge. I have updated my 'writercize in a nutshell' description accordingly through one additional paragraph.
Here you are: "The site will also be peppered with a few opinions here and there as
well as insight on the growing pains and highlights associated with a
burgeoning writing career. Please bear with me. It's my blog, so I get
to indulge my ego every once in a while. Right?"
(See it along the right hand side there? Man, I love the power of sidebar.)
Now, onto the topic at hand. Genres. Without a writercize at the end. (Eek. Can I really do this?)
Here's the thing about genres. They kind of freak me out. They're like labels. Sticky little labels that tell the world who we are and what we are meant to write. She writes romance. He writes horror. She writes board books. Sure, they help land an agent and define a readership, but they also feel a little like shackles - or unspoken glass ceilings.
I will be perfectly honest - I don't especially like labels for myself. I find them sort of, well, confining. And I don't much like to be confined. Look at my Facebook labels - I chose "independent" for political views and "an amalgam of sorts" for religious views. I do quite enjoy the label "writer" to be honest. That is one label I'll be happy to hang on to for a bit. And I love "Mom." But should anyone begin to pigeonhole me by a label and attempt to relegate me to the land of the like-minded, I shall break away screaming my little head off.
I get why they are important. I get why they may be comfortable to some. Once a genre is selected, the mind can focus on the most appropriate story lines, and networking can occur within a familiar zone. Agents and publishers can follow established routines and marketing campaigns to get books into the hands of the most likely readers. It all makes sense. It truly does. But it still gives me chills.
Nutschell, my good friend over at The Writing Nut, tells a story of how she decided to write a memoir a few years ago. Memoirs were hot, and she felt like she could tell the story of her life. She sat, and sat, and sat. For more than a year. And she had nothing on the page to show for it. She had backed herself into a corner with the wrong genre. A memoir was not living in her soul. Finally, one day, she looked at her shelf, and saw it was filled with YA and fantasy. That was what she loved to read, and that was what she was meant to write. She found her genre, which she now states proudly as she works on her second manuscript and leads the non-profit children's writing group, Children's Book Writers of Los Angeles.
I joined CBW-LA a few years ago, as a stay-at-home mom tired of reading drab stories to my kids, and longing for a chance to harness my first dream career in life and write. I felt that I had the responsibility to give myself that chance. Since I didn't have the time as an SAHM (those labels again!) to twin toddlers, I thought I could join and start writing picture books. I really like picture books - they were one of my first loves growing up. I admired the authors who would visit my school and sign my books. I would really like to publish a picture book. But, I am not a naturally born story-teller with visions of characters and plots dancing in my head shouting for a turn on the page. And from that standpoint, picture books are hard. They need inspiration. I need inspiration. As I wade through manuscripts and half finished stories, I see that my inspiration is education. I will never be able to create a story that is whimsical and just for fun. My stories will always serve a purpose - to teach a child about a love of writing or a topic that may be slightly uncomfortable or nebulous to teach without a book. I am coming to understand that, and I am pleased with that distinction in my mind.
Most of the time, when I write, it is for our local weekly newspaper. I work as a freelance journalist and cover city government, school news and features. It is far and away the best way to get to know a city in the world. (My humble opinion.) I do not opine in the newspaper. I simply tell facts. I conduct interviews. And do a ton of research. And in the end, I attempt to tell the facts as a story, a riveting account that draws a reader into the subject and educates the reader as fully as possible within an 800-word limit.
Looking forward, first and foremost, I want to continue my life as a journalist. Because, hey, that's my connection to local life and that's my consistent bread and butter. And I do want to write for children. And I do want to write for adults. And I do want to tell real stories in a fresh, new way. And I think I finally found my label, my genre, that will allow me to do this.
My label, my genre, is called "creative nonfiction."
Creative nonfiction is defined by Lee Gutkind, founder of Creative Nonfiction magazine, as "true stories, well told." He writes: "The words “creative” and “nonﬁction” describe the form. The word
“creative” refers to the use of literary craft, the techniques ﬁction
writers, playwrights, and poets employ to present nonﬁction—factually
accurate prose about real people and events—in a compelling, vivid,
dramatic manner. The goal is to make nonﬁction stories read like ﬁction
so that your readers are as enthralled by fact as they are by fantasy."
This is my genre. This is my purpose as a writer. This fits me like a glove. Creative nonfiction. I'm so happy to have finally found you.