Playing Literary Games…

I’ve heard the moniker that being a literary writer is nothing like being a commercial writer. I can pretty much buy that. Back in college I took a bunch of writing classes while I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. One class short of a minor, no less, but never did quite get there. I’m actually rather grateful for this – because I’m pretty sure I would never be cut out to be the literary type.

Liz tells me I’ve got mad skillz in word smithery – maybe it’s true, but that’s not the same thing at all. I suspect I have a tendency to go a bit purple more than anything else. Even so, I noticed a rather distinct difference between myself and the rest of my fellow classmates in those classes. I cut my teeth on fantasy books growing up. Hell, I was reading Ogre, Ogre in 4th grade (and that’s what? the 8th book in the Xanth series? Piers Anthony was a definite staple in my reading diet) and David Eddings by 6th.

I had the feeling that first Creative Writing class was a mistake from the moment I stepped into it. We were supposed to talk about our favorite authors, and I sat there and listened to them gush over Flannary O’Connor and Hawthorne and Conrad. Now, don’t get me wrong – I took a really awesome class on dissecting the classics and how archetypes work within writing and I loved it…but is Hemingway my favorite writer? Do I choose him on a rainy afternoon over a big fat George R. R. Martin? Nope. (Although, I’ll do just about anything to read some Yeats. He wrote about faeries, after all.)

Point is, my turn came up and I said: Charles de Lint.

And I got a room of completely blank stares. Awkward? You bet.

It got worse when we had to read passages from our favorite stories. I got to listen to a rather interesting set of snorts and giggles as I read a bit of Freewheeling, and let the teacher hastily try to point out where the fantasy parts worked because of the realistic details that the author incorporated.

Meh.

And then the writing itself – I tried to bend my style into something literary and pretentious, but it just didn’t work out for me. I’m a fantasy girl at heart – I’m just no good at writing realistic type things. I find them boring and it shows.

So eventually I popped out a bit of a fantasy story – never got further than the first few chapters, but even the teacher agreed that *this* is what I should be writing. But then she started going on about how it was “just like Tolkien.” I don’t think I’ve ever stopped laughing. Okay – it’s like Tolkien in that it’s a fantasy…but that’s about it. I have to wonder if she’d ever actually *read* LotR, or just tossed me under the fantasy label.

I was disgusted enough about it that I pretty much stopped writing all together. I did attempt to look at going to graduate school for English, but thank God, they turned me down. (And rightfully so – I was out of my head trying to find out where I belonged.) Would have been a truly horrible decision on my part. In either case, I didn’t write anything else for nearly 12 years. I don’t know – maybe I needed a little more life experience to really try again. Maybe I was “finding myself.” Maybe I was just a lazy person who didn’t want to try.

I can’t really answer that question.

But I can’t help but want to put a special note in the first book I pub, dedicated to Ohio University for telling me I wouldn’t be a “good fit” for their graduate program.

And I’ll mean every word.

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4 Responses to Playing Literary Games…

  1. Kendris says:

    Literary, commercial…the distinctions mean nothing. What's important is writing what you want, what you feel. A writer who forces themself into a literary style to garner 'respect' is just as much of a sellout as someone who goes commercial just to get pubbed.

  2. mynfel says:

    True – but I remember talking to some woman writer out there and telling her what I wrote, and she kinda sniffed and was like, "Well, I write literary fantasy."

    Um. Ooookkkaay.

  3. Kendris says:

    WTF is literary fantasy?

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