Women’s Fiction, etc.

An ongoing discussion for readers/writers of Women’s Fiction

Archive for April, 2008

Harris Poll on “Your favorite book”

I read on Publisher’s Lunch yesterday that Harris International did a poll of American adults and asked, “What is your favorite book of all time?”  The answers:

1.      The Bible

2.       Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell

3.       Lord of the Rings (series), by J.R.R. Tolkien

4.      Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling

5.      The Stand, by Stephen King

6.      The DaVinci Code, by Dan Brown

7.      To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

8.      Angels and Demons, by Dan Brown

9.      Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand

10.  Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

Wow, I was shocked – first, because 4 of my top 4 favorites were there (2,5,7& 9).  Second, because there wasn’t one “literary work” listed (not counting the bible – I don’t know how to categorize that).

In my humble opinion, his tells us several things about the American reader:  First, obviously reading is not dead.  The fact that none of these were comics tells us people are still reading, and not at a low level either.  They didn’t publish the demographics, so I don’t know whom they asked, but Harris is an esteemed poll, so I’m going to assume it was a true cross-section of the population.

Next, in spite of critics, ivory-tower professors and snobs, “literary works” aren’t as well loved as a good, a old-fashioned yarn.  After all, I don’t see Faulkner or Hemmingway on that list – not even Jane Austen!   What I see all the above have in common is that they’re great stories, told in a colorful and straightforward manner.  I’ve always had the secret belief that “literary fiction” (apologies to my friend Ann who swears the term doesn’t exist) is what people buy as a “coffee table book” to leave around the house to impress their friends with what they’re reading (but don’t). 

Now don’t misunderstand me, I really enjoy Steinbeck, Twain, Dickens and others.  I’m just saying that they don’t make my top ten list, and obviously not others’ either.  What’s wrong with popular fiction?  What’s wrong with admitting you read Harlequin?  I’ll admit to cringing at taking a “bodice ripper” to the beach to read.  Hey, given the stats on how many books the average American reads per year, shouldn’t we be happy they are reading anything? 

Read what you like – proudly.


Wandering musings on writing

I attended a one-day conference last weekend – Literary Orange.  If you live in the Southern California area, I highly recommend it.  I attend anything locally I can find, mostly for the inspiration I find there.  Writing is such a solitary endeavor that I enjoy the opportunity to hang out with people who “get,” writing.

The keynote speaker was Elizabeth George.  She gave insights into her creative process that were fascinating.  She said something that stuck with me. 

“I don’t know what I think until I write it down.”

I had never thought of it that way, but I realize this is true for me as well.  Some days after I read what I’ve written – an emotion or opinion of a character – I realize that I didn’t know that I knew what they knew!  It somehow solidifies a random thought, and feels like a puzzle piece falling into place, and I see things differently.  Love it when that happens! 

Writing (as in life) is all about focus.   I think what you chose to write about gives insight into what you’re focusing on.   This reminds me of a very wise thing I heard from a Native American over the summer.  My husband and I were on a bicycle vacation through New Mexico, and visited the Acoma “Sky City” pueblo.  The following quote was from our guide.

“Our culture is an oral one, and we ask that while you are here that you don’t write, tape or otherwise record anything while you are on the mesa.  We ask this not because we do not want you to have it – we believe that through listening only, you will take with you that which speaks to you.”

I believe that we all take along that which speaks to us – and what we chose tells us something about ourselves, doesn’t it?



A wonderful idea…

A friend referred me to a great blog – http://thefirstbook.wordpress.com/

The blogger interviews first time authors.  What a great idea!   Helpful for the author as a free plug for their work, helpful for aspiring authors (if only as a reminder that there are sucess stories) and those looking for a new read. 

I thought I’d try to do the same to promote women’s fiction authors.  I’m going to see what I can find, and some first time authors to interview for this blog.  Check back – coming soon!


What I’m Reading….

The novel I’m reading now is a good example of the difference between Romance and Women’s Fiction (and a darned good read besides!)  It’s Jo-Ann Mapson’s The Owl & Moon Cafe.

As in a romance novel, I knew in the first ten pages who the primary heroine’s man would end up to be, and the secondary character’s by page 70.  So why keep reading?  The world she weaves is complex and vivid, the characters real to life.  I want to know what happens…

Will the awkward teenager ever fit in?  Will the grandmother overcome Leukemia?  Will she fall again for the love of her youth (who just happens to be the father of her daughter).  To read this, it sounds like a soap opera – but thanks to the author’s rich writing style it feels more like…life.

I know it will all work out in the end – even if the grandmother dies.  This is why I am a constant reader of this genre; it’s real and mature enough to hold my interest, but it feels “safe” enough to immerse myself in.  What do I mean by “safe”? 

I don’t usually to go to the movies.  It’s two hours where I’m sucked into a story, and it doesn’t always end well.  “Steel Magnolias” just tore me up.  I guess I allow myself to get too involved, and can be really effected by the outcome.  With women’s fiction, the stories are true to life, but are concluded in such a way that even if there’s a sad ending, the writer lets you down easy. 

Hello world!

Yay – I’ve entered (allbeit with trepidation) the blogosphere!  Please chalk up any errors in format or etiquette you may notice to ignorance on my part…I’ll attempt to get up to speed quickly.

What’s this blog about?  Well, for starters anyway – Women’s Fiction.  I’ve noticed that there is a ton of info out on the net about the Romance genre, but not much about Women’s Fiction.  I think the distinction is important to those who read it, so this is my attempt to fill the void.

What is Women’s Fiction?  If you Google it, you’ll find a few definitions, but the one I like best is:

Women’s fiction is just that: fiction about women’s issues for a female readership. However, it is not the same as chick lit or romance. While utilizing literary prose, women’s fiction is very commercial in its appeal. Its characters are often women attempting to overcome both personal and external adversity.  The mature depth and tone of their development within women’s fiction set them apart from other genre classifications.

My sincere apologies to the author of the above – I am not finding the source to give credit.  The nuance, I believe is in the focus.  Romance (and all subgenres-chit lit, Regency, Westerns, etc) are ulitmately about a romantic  relationship between two individuals.Women’s fiction may contain elements of romance, but that’s not the main focus – it’s about a woman’s struggle to overcome adversity, and that, to me is endlessly facinating. 

I foresee this as being an intertactive discussion, so anyone stopping by, please feel free to comment – the more the merrier!