Have you read the Vandal? You should. Check him out here. I came across a post on the blog several days back from a guest blogger. I thought she was fantastic. She spoke truth in volumes. It was all about her journey towards discovering that there was no need to read what was considered ‘literary’ but what she needed to do was read what she liked. I completely related to her. When I was six or seven my standard for literary books were books without photos in them. That is why I tossed aside my Enid Blyton and Nancy Drew so that I could try my hand at reading ‘proper books’ without kiddie drawings. My mum recalls me taking forever trying to get through a chapter of Sidney Sheldon. I’ve never asked her if I actually made it through. I don’t think I’ve ever passed by the kiddie section in our Public Library to be honest. I used to pounce on unsuspecting people in the adult section to take out books that I was too young to borrow. It was an amazing day when I turned thirteen.
Except by then, I realized that there was a better standard for judging ‘literary books’. The Classics were books that intellectual persons read and well the Sweet Valley High books that I was so enarmoured with were total tosh. So I stared reading them. I put down the SVH books and the Enid Blyton books and I read the classics. It just so happened that I loved a bunch of them; Pride and Prejudice is still my favourite book of all time. Wuthering Heights is still my favourite romance of all time. I loved Shakespeare’s plays. I loved Charles Dickens. I loved Jane Eyre and the Caribbean equivalent of that particular novel Wild Sargasso Sea. It was an amazing thing that my cousin with whom I lived at the time was a Literature major so those books were at my disposal. Hell, I even read the Divine Comedy (this took me at least three years but I figured, it was good to be able say that I’ve read it so I tinkered on). But guess what? As much as I liked reading the Classics, I LOVED reading romance novels. I am not talking about Chick-lit mind you. I am talking about genuine traditional romances a la Harlequin, Silhouette and Mills and Boons. If I wanted to forget about my life and my worries those are the things I reached for. Then I discovered Sophie Kinsella, Marion Keyes and a bunch of other Chick-Lit authors and suddenly my Harlequins were challenged. But I hated admitting it to myself or others that I loved reading these types of books. If I’d take a book out with me, it would be a Classic or if I must, must read a non-classic in public it would be more to the tune of John Grisham, Sidney Sheldon or Patricia Cornwell. Somehow, a thriller seemed a lot more amenable to my rep than sappy romance novels. I wasn’t even seventeen yet, talk about identity crisis! Then suddenly it occurred to me that reading was to transport me where I wanted to be and I wanted to be smack dab in the middle of a Harlequin novel or some fun, flirty Bridget Jones Diary-esque Chick-lit. That, I realized, did not make me the wrong type of reader because there is no such thing as the right type of reader. There is also definitely no such thing as the wrong type of book. The right type of book is any book that allows you to suspend reality for a while and be engrossed in it.
If my battle with the appropriateness of reading material was hard, hell had no fury on the battle that raged within me about what I should write! I figured if I were to be taken seriously I needed to write about dark serious matters like illness, poverty, rape and child abuse. I still have a bunch of unfinished manuscripts sitting on my laptop on those very same subject matter. There is one particular book Still I Rise that was the default book for when someone finds out that I write and they asked me what I write about. I figured it sounded cool to rattle off about the absurdities of the legal system and their perception of rape victims than to say quite plainly, quite confidently that I write about psychics, demons, fairies, ghosts, doppelgängers and Tristles (a creature I made up myself). I’m now twenty one and over that (for the most part). When persons ask me what I write I tell them urban fantasy, when they press I go right into that list. In my experience though, people are never as impressed with urban fantasy as they are with the sad tale of rape and the legal system. I am really happy that I am at the point now where I just don’t care. I will write about what I want to write about and I will read what makes me happy. Life’s too short for anything but.
Needless to say I was extremely happy when I read the guest blog. But then, one particular nasty, vile person posing as an Anonymous poster left this comment:
People who don’t like classics, don’t know how to read. If you understand the social, historical, and personal context of a work, the beauty (and enjoyment) is unmissable. Romance and YA? Give me a break.
Guess what? I read romance and I love it, I write YA and I love it and I’m pretty sure I know how to read thank you very much. I pity him that he has to look down on other’s reading choices so that he can experience a bit of self validation. How sad! You know what they say about opening your mouth and removing all doubt that you are a fool… shame that Mr./Ms. Anonymous didn’t abide by that Classic rule.
Now this one has been brewing for a while to be honest. However, I was directed to a news article in the Guardian from Derek’s Twitter page (he’s the Vandal) and let’s say I was pushed over the ledge. There was no longer an option of putting it off, I needed to write this. The tile of the piece was Now Anyone Can ‘Write’ A Book… First Find Some Words. The author seems to want to shed light on the fact that there has been a spamming problem in the Kindle store. Got to love spammers don’t you? They always valiantly try to ruin a good thing. The comments section however became riddled with posts concerning the fact that Traditionally published authors are the only proper, true writers out there opposed to Self-Published Authors. One person made a comment thus:
I am a traditionally published author, and I was shocked when I was told by my agents that 99% of submissions they receive come from people ‘who can’t write.’
Presumably that 99% all thought their work was suitable for publication or else they wouldn’t have sent it in. I am amazed by the level of people’s self-belief – I would certainly never have had the confidence in my own writing had I not been told by agents and publishers that I was there.
They then went on to predict:
Presumably many of this 99% will now be tempted to put this material onto the market without any quality control
99% of the writers who submit cannot write? I find this to be total and utter (please excuse my language) bullshit. It doesn’t help that the poster seemed a bit self-satisfied with him or herself having been picked up by the first agent he queried to and being sold forthwith. However, I find it insane (I stand to be corrected… well no really) to suggest that 99 percent of the work sent in to agents are crap. They might end up in the slush pile but I am pretty sure they are various reasons. It doesn’t always mean that their work is crap. JK Rowling ended up in the slush pile several times. She took her “crappy” writing all the way to the bank. 99% of the work in the Kindle store aren’t posted from writers who cannot write. I know this – I have been making it a bit of a habit to read self-published books on Kindle because I find it complete and total utter rubbish that people think you must be published traditionally to be able to write. But guess what? I haven’t run across a hoard of horrible writers in the roughly hundred books I’ve bought via Amazon and now Smashwords: I’ve come across people like J.L Bryan, Ania Ahlborn, Derek Haines, Meg Jenson, Addison Moore (and a lot more persons I can’t put down now) suffice to say, these people are as far away from being unable to write as can be. To be honest I was tempted to ask the poster for the name of his book so that I could come to my conclusion about it. Because, make no bones about it, it is definitely sometimes the luck of the draw and nothing to do with talent. But deep down inside I believe these n ay-sayers know this.
It comes right back down to the lesson I learned with my reading, sometimes you just have to listen to your gut. Very often that is the only thing that matters.
END OF RANTS