After my reading at booQfest, I found myself in an interesting conversation with one of the women who had stayed to listen.
I’m not entirely sure how we got to this, but the topic of genre arose.
There are many successful authors in many different genres, from Romance and Fantasy to Horror and Thriller. However, there are also a large number of multi-genre authors.
As an avid multi-genre reader, it makes sense to me that I would wish to explore different styles in my own writing. Many well established authors we associate with genre fiction have written across the board. One of the best known is perhaps Stephen King. He’s known as a horror writer, but his collection Different Seasons proves his versatility.
Similarly, I look at J. K. Rowling and wonder whether her latest, non-Harry Potter, novel would have received the lukewarm reviews it has had it not been written by her. Jasper Fforde received a comparable reception when he departed from the Thursday Next series for Shades of Grey (not fifty!). In confounding his readers’ expectation of what they thought he should write, he split the deck. The Powers That Be know this, and play to strong genre markets.
It’s sort of the equivalent of being typecast as an actor. In my opinion, this isn’t healthy for a writer. Writing, like acting, is an art of facets. We have many of them. To pin that down and say ‘from now on, one must only write this,’ is unhealthy for those who, like myself, think eclectically.
E. L. Doctorow understood this when he asserted that, ‘writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.’
I rebelled in my collection of short stories, Splintered Door, writing each one in a different style, just to see whether I could.
Another topic I lamented with this poor, ear-bashed, individual, was the issue of the ‘instant’. It’s well known today that fame and fortune come instantly. It’s a number one X-Factor hit, or it’s nothing. That isn’t natural either. Aged one, did you wake up one morning reciting Blake?
No. No one does. How we get from A (Amateur) to B (Believable) is a learning process, no different from learning to speak, learning to read or learning to walk. As a society, we currently place questionably little weight on the arts, or on artists. Writing is an art. Yet you either have a bestseller, or you don’t. You’re either on the three-for-two shelf, or you’re in the slush pile. The onus is placed on the individual to shine, and to shine in the marketplace. Whereas I would argue that the emphasis should be on the process. On teaching the processes, plural, of writing; of good literature; of involving people in the art form and, importantly, of recognising and applauding effort, even if it doesn’t result in popularly acclaimed success.
I am a writer at the beginning of my career. Thankfully, that’s likely to be a fairly lengthy career. The Society of Authors still gives me a young person’s discount until I’m thirty-five.
I am aware that I’m still finding my feet, and my style. I’m learning. Yet I would hate to think that, in admitting this, I admonish the work I have done to date.
Whilst working in Armenia, a friend introduced me to Cross Stones. These are carvings of intricate crosses in large rocks. “Every one is slightly different,” she said. “No two are the same. This is God’s way of showing that nothing in the world is perfect; that there is beauty in imperfection. ”
It is the same with stories. There is no such thing as a perfect story, because there has never been a story written that everybody has agreed to be fantastic. All stories are different, even the printed word to those who read it. Yet all stories are complete in themselves.
Day #7: Celebrate the creative process as much, if not more, than the end result.
Marion Grace Woolley studied at the British Record Industry Trust (BRIT) School of Performing Arts, Croydon. After obtaining an MA in Language & Communication Research from the University of Cardiff, she declared that she'd had enough of academia and decided to run away to Africa.
Balancing her creative impulses with a career in International Development, she worked and travelled across Africa, Australia, Armenia, and a few other places beginning with 'A'. In 2009, Marion helped to oversee the publication of the first Dictionary of Amarenga y'Ikinyarwanda (Rwandan Sign Language). A project of which she was immensely proud to have been a part.