Women’s Fiction, etc.

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

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Maslowe and Hershey Kisses

Some of my best ideas come to me while I’m riding my bicycle.  I had an epiphany during a gorgeous Southern California ride yesterday.  One of those moments when several pieces fall into place for a major “Aha” moment – I love it when that happens!

 

For anyone who is not familiar with Maslowe, here’s the Reader’s Digest version:

 

In the 1930’s Abraham Maslowe put forward his “Hierarchy of Needs” concept to explain behavior.  His theory was that you strive to move toward the top of the list that follows:

 

                        Self-actualization

                        Esteem needs

                        Belonging needs

                        Safety needs

                        Physiological needs

 

This is summed up in one of my favorite songs, “Constant Craving” by K.D.Lang., but I digress.  You can’t move up the ladder until the lower need is met, as anyone who’s been on the lowest rung can attest to (been there myself at one dark period of my life.)

 

My husband and I were talking the other day on a completely different subject.  We were watching one of those obnoxious “Weight Loss Breakthrough” ads on TV, and he didn’t understand why people were so lazy; why they couldn’t lose weight and keep it off (he has more drive than most – he lost 50 lbs 5 years ago.)

 

Last piece to the puzzle; I’m a Weight Watchers member, and the talk this week was about creating goals to achieve weight loss.  Okay, stay with me here, because my theory works for anything you want to achieve, not just weight loss.

 

We’ve all heard the goal-setting advice; break a large goal into steps, and achieve those, and you’ll finally get to your ultimate goal/need.  Great.  On paper.  But if you’re like me, when you choose a large goal like losing 40 lbs, learning to knit, writing a book, whatever…you have pictured in your head what the ultimate goal will do for you.  You’re standing on stage, holding up the Oscar to the applause and adulation of the crowd.

 

Okay, I set smaller goals, but ultimately my eyes are on the applause, and my acceptance speech, and the smaller goals aren’t enough to get me excited.  Yeah, I’m making progress, but smaller goals also point out the amount of road I have left to get to my ultimate desire. 

 

I think this is why we fail.  After awhile, you just burn out.  The effort just doesn’t seem worth it, and we move on to the next thing we want.  But there are two problems with that.  First, the goal you’ve abandoned is the one you want most, or it wouldn’t have been your first effort, right?  Secondly, in spite of excuses you make to others, deep down, you know you’ve failed, and it hurts.  You feel guilty, which lowers your self-esteem and makes the next goal harder to achieve, because you don’t really trust yourself to do it.  After all, you let yourself down before, right?

 

One of my goals is to get stronger on the bike.  We’re going on a bicycle vacation in Utah this summer, and it involves mountains.  Okay, so I’m riding, trying to figure out how to get consistent with my training – I get lazy when I get home from work, and find other things to do that don’t involve sweat and pain. 

Suddenly, I’m distracted by a mockingbird’s song.  I notice that the temperature is perfect.  I look up, and the rolling hills have changed since the last time I rode this route; tawny grass stretches away forever.  I’m so absorbed by the joy of being alive and being out in nature that I don’t even realize I’ve toiled up a major hill – it didn’t hurt at all!

 

That’s the Hershey Kiss part.  Is it the high I’ll get on the podium?  No, not even close.  It’s just a moment’s sweetness on the tongue.  Okay, I’m mixing metaphors, but you get the gist – it’s about focus.  You need to really take the time to revel in the small goals.  Wallow in them.  They are the rest spots on the stairs to the podium.  If you don’t, you’re going to burn out and quit.

 

Besides, just ask an older actor with an Oscar on their mantel; they’ll tell you the evening was great, but what mattered to them was the journey.  Like Lennon said, “Life is what happens while we make other plans”.

 

The Hershey Kisses are the joy of life!  Savor them; I wish you many.

           

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Neophite Adventures

Inspiration has been elusive lately.  I haven’t been able to come up with a label for this blog, let alone finish the chapter I’ve been chipping out of stone the past couple of weeks.  For me, creativity comes from being outdoors, and with the Holiday weekend approaching, a road trip was in order!  For Gary and I, that’s motorcycle camping somewhere I can fly fish and he can bicycle his guts out.

We had reservations at Silver Lake – in the Sierras above Mammoth, but as of Thursday morning they had two inches of snow on the ground.  Brrrr.  I quickly reconnoitered, and was lucky – I got reservations in Kernville (in the mountains outside Bakersfield) at our favorite campground on the Kern River. 

We left Friday to sprinkles and stop ‘n go traffic through L.A., which graduated to a full-blown rainstorm at the Grapevine.  Pelting rain and 42 degrees.  We passed a wreck; a car had rolled, helicopter hovered, emergency vehicles flashing warnings to traffic. 

            Down the hill it was sunny and 72 degrees, and I looked back at the Mordor-like clouds sheeting rain – beautiful.  We rode an empty two lane happily through fields of grapes, alfalfa and groves of nut trees.  Odd clouds ahead though, with a tan horizon.  The wind picked up as we rode into a sandstorm!  Gary’s from West Texas, and has told me of them, but I never would have dreamed I’d see one in California. 

            Everything wet became mud, and my bright yellow motorcycle no longer was.  I sit writing this in “Cheryl’s Diner” Saturday morning drinking coffee, my point to this blog obscured by tangents. Then again, maybe not.

             Inspiration has returned, like the signs of spring I see all around me.  Starved for it?  Here’s a suggestion, go to www.smithmag.net/sixwordsThey have a challenge; describe your life in 6 words or less.  Sounds impossible, but once you get started, it’s like writing odd poetry.  The introspection tapped me directly in to my muse, and I created of a couple while riding in the rain.  The title to this blog isn’t just about writing…you’ve heard the term ‘old soul’?  That’s not me.  It may not be my first time, but you can still see the creases from the wrapper.

 

I think I can, I think…

Mistakes; life in disguise.

I learn slowly, remember long.

Hawk heart, unfortunately same size brain.

End comes, I go.  Smiling.

 

Give it a shot – you may not need an adventure to find inspiration!

 

RWA – A Shameless Plug

For any writers who may read this – I just wanted to recommend membership in a wonderful organization, Romance Writers of America.  Look it up online – chances are there’s a local chapter not far from you. 

 

First, let me say that membership is not restricted to Romance Writers.  I’ve met members in my chapter who write Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Westerns, etc.  I joined for several reasons:

·        Writing is, for the most part, a solitary endeavor.  My husband and friends support me, but none of them really understand my passion.  It’s amazing to attend a monthly meeting with 100 other people who do.

·        Education – we have speakers at every meeting, covering different aspects of writing: plot, characterization, dialog, etc.  I’ve learned so much –free!

·        Classes.  My chapter, as well as many others Nationwide put on low cost online classes.  Everything from Query writing to forensic facts… and lots in between.  You’re bound to find one that would help your writing.

·        National Annual conference.

·        Networking – when (not if) you get published, you have a ready-made network of readers, and buyers.

·        Recognition

 

I’ve even met an agent through my chapter to whom I’ve submitted a partial manuscript (fingers firmly crossed!)

All this in just four months of membership – believe me, I’ve sure gotten a “bang for my buck” of dues.  You may want to look into it!

 

 

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.

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!