Shining a Little Light

OK.  As some people have pointed out in the comment section, I don’t say much nice about myself.  This is true.  I have always been more comfortable with my negatives than my positives for many reasons.  However, even before reading <b>morzer’s</b> first comment today, I had been mulling over my next blog entry, this blog entry and about writing something positive.  Shocking, I know.  Surprised the hell out of me, too.

So, here’s the deal.  I took my first step to becoming an adult yesterday.  My fiction writing is very important to me.  I talked briefly about it at the party last Saturday, and I realized that I really miss it.  I have always looked at my ability to tell stories as a gift that was given to me.  I have characters living in my head most of the time, and they are the ones who narrate the stories–not me.  In fact, most of my best stories come to me intact, and I have to do very little tweaking on them once they are on paper.  Anyway, I went to Poets & Writers to look at the current crop of contests.   I found a few that I have decided to enter.  One is a Flash Fiction contest (under 1,000 words) due by the end of August.  I wrote a story in about an hour, and it was pretty good.  I looked through my archives (I have a shitload of old stories) and found two stories that fit the category and that were really fucking good.  Creepy as hell, one of them, but that’s only to be expected.

Then, I started reading other short stories of mine because the next contest is Glimmer Train’s (under 12,000 words), also due at the end of August.  Glimmer Train is an excellent and respected literary journal, and I will continue to submit to them even though there is no chance in hell they will publish me (I’m not literary enough for them).  Anyway, as I was reading my pieces, some that I have not looked at in years, I realized something:  I am a fucking good writer.  No, really, I mean it.  I used to say, “Well, I enjoy writing, and I think I have some talent for it, but, you know,” but really, y’all–I can flat-out write.

My strength is that I create such vivid characters.  In fact, when I re-read my pieces, I am most struck by the throwaway characters who only appear for a few scenes.  There are a few I would like to branch off into stories of their own.  Many times when I read novels, the people don’t seem real to me.  There have been threads over at TNC’s place about literature.  This one spawned this one.  I participated in both threads.   One thing that is simultaneously refreshing and frustrating about TNC’s place is that threads are pretty strictly topic-related.  There is some veering, to be sure, but not as much as, say, over at BJ.  This is refreshing because it keeps people on task and to the point.  It’s frustrating because there are often tangential threads that could belong on the original thread, but not really.

The reason I’m bringing this up is because these threads deal with what is considered the norm in literature.  White male.  Hell, it’s the norm for pretty much everything in our society.  Thus, we have fiction, and we have LGBT fiction or Asian American fiction.  Most people wanted all fiction lumped together.  I actually like the separate categories (or would if the implication wasn’t that the other is lesser) because I don’t particularly care to read white males.  Someone mentioned that with technology being what it is, soon we will have books in multiple categories, which I like.

People were talking about the Pulitzer Prize and how much weight does it really have with the average reader.  Many people pointed out that the little sticker on the book gives it cache.  One commenter even said that since she had so little time and usually went into a bookstore without really knowing what she wants, she’s apt to give a stickered book more consideration than a non-stickered one.

I didn’t get into it too much over there, but I am the exact opposite.  You know Oprah’s Book Club (also discussed over there)?  Well, in a used bookstore in SF, they have the anti-Oprah’s Book Club (books which will never be make it to Oprah’s Book Club).  I am the same way.  I am not drawn towards books with any kind of stickers on them.  In fact, I am less apt to pick up a book with an Oprah sticker on it or a Pulitzer sticker.  Anti-elite snobbery?  Hell, yeah.

Another mini-rant I went into over there is how certain trends must be followed.  In chick lit, it was the quirky twenty-something who was with Mr. Right Now and under-utilizing her talents.  She takes a journey to her soul throughout the book (with many amusing adventures along the way) and ends up finding the meaning of happiness–which usually included finding Mr. Right.   or Mr. Right Now turns out to be Mr. Right after all.  In addition, all the covers had women’s body parts on them.  A torso, a leg, an arm, an ass, but rarely a head.  It’s as if the women were interchangeable, and they really were.

I read a few of them, but I couldn’t connect at all to the characters.  It’s not just because it’s chick lit, either.  There are many authors who are considered serious (Wally Lamb and Dennis Lehane come to mind) whose novels also left me hollow.  I was in a Barnes & Noble the other day to pick up a birthday gift for my nephew.  I browsed through the fiction section just to see what was out there.  It all left me cold.

I feel the same way about many of the classics.  They are so far out of my realm and so not my world, they have little interest to me.  It’s probably why I also don’t care much for trad music or classic movies, either.

I have come to realize over the years that it’s the unusual that interests me.  My place is with the freaks and the oddballs, the misfits and the loners.  When I used to perform, I always had people thanking me for my work because they never knew that others felt that way, too.  My BA is in psychology, and I think I draw from my psych knowledge when I write.

My writing touches people.  It doesn’t matter that my characters are mainly Asian American females with fluid sexualities.  After reading an excerpt from an essay I wrote on what home meant to me, an African American man walked up to me and burst into tears.  He told me he was adopted by a white Christian couple, a Republican, and privately gay.  He thanked me profusely for my piece, and I ached for him.

As many of you know, I started this blog because I wish I had something like it to read when I was growing up.  When I write my fiction, I know it’s not going to appeal to the masses (though the movies might with all teh hawt sexing going on), and I made my peace with that a long time ago.  It’s the same with my tastes–they are odd, eclectic, and not very mainstream.

Non sequitur, tangentially:  I have found that there are people who take it personally if you don’t like a movie/book/song they love.  I have found this odd because I pretty much know that people in general are going to not like what I do.  Therefore, when someone says a movie I like is slow, dull, crappy, whatever, I don’t care.

The same is true with my fiction.  In my MA program, my cohorts didn’t quite get what I was trying to do.  Granted, some of the stuff I wrote was shit–that’s the nature of the beast.  However, I slowly realized that just because they didn’t like or get what I wrote, it didn’t mean that what I wrote was all shit.  It just meant different people have different tastes.  I had a small cohort group, so they weren’t really representative of the population in general.

My strengths as a writer:  My characters and my engaging plots.

My weaknesses:  Total lack of interest in scenery and descriptions.

But, I shouldn’t even label the weaknesses as such because it’s really a matter of style.

My writing:  Fuck, yeah!  I will never be considered mainstream or an author of literature, but so what?  I am a voice for the misfits and the freaks–and we shall be heard.

7 Responses to Shining a Little Light

  1. Batocchio, hey, welcome to my blog, man! Thanks for commenting, and thanks for the well wishes. True that to your second sentence. First draft is all about the flow, bay-bee!

    P.S. I should just call my blog BJ-lite and get it over with.

  2. Rock on with your literary self. =) Just remember us little people when you win all the contests and accolades. =)

    And if you win a Major Award, let us know if it’s “frah-jhee-lay!”

    (Ah hell…duh. You won’t get that reference. Never mind, I’m leaving it anyhow.)

  3. Hey MEH, I think it’s great that you are going for this, and I hope you gave yourself a smile and pat on the back for winning the first of many victories. Now, time for me to put California Dreaming on and start work on the bathroom.

  4. I’m fine with your weakness of scenery and stuff. I almost always just skip past that anyway. I think another strength is that you often go in unexpected directions or you keep the focus on something difficult.

    I’m glad to hear you’re submitting.

    After reading Wicked, Water for Elephants, and some other book I picked up at Target, I think I could write something better and that publishers are scared of anything interesting. So if stories aren’t getting the attention you want, I hope you’ll post them here.

  5. Eh, you’ve got a cool banner and good title – I’m assuming “MEH” has a double meaning in this case… And you spend plenty of time at TBogg’s, too… FWIW, I’ve been commenting more at other places while I finish up tardy posts. Nothing wrong with that. Keep your own place, spend time at friends’…

  6. Kel, do I know you? Your name rings a bell…have YOUR people call MY people, and we’ll do lunch. I Googled the term–very funny.

    morzer, ok, the image you suggested did make me smile. Thanks for that.

    Sis, I am, too, actually. I skip all that stuff as well. Thanks. I like to keep things fresh. And, yes. Their is a lot of shit that is out there–much of it that people don’t really like, but they are told they *should* like. And, I have another website that I will be using for my literary projects. I just have to get it up and running.

    Batocchio, I was actually joking. Most of my readers whom I don’t know personally followed me over here from BJ. I do not have the patience to do a political blog. Yep. BJ and TBogg are my two go-two blogs, along with WaMo and TNC. And, MEH are my initials, so I liked the concept. Finally, I like your avatar. Way cool.