In November, I attended a writing workshop in Tulsa. It was small, intimate, filled with highly successful authors in a variety of subjects, college students, and a few people like me. The Writing Well Workshop was the first of its kind in the area and I am holding out hope that it becomes an annual occurrence because I came away from this event with a renewed sense of purpose, creativity, and motivation.
I felt validated as a genre writer.
This is so important to me. In college, genre (fantasy and sci-fi in particular) was dismissed. Actually, it was forbidden. As a wide-eyed freshman who had been writing about hollywood monsters for most of her life, I was devastated. I was disillusioned. I stopped writing what was in my heart. What I had a real passion for. What came easy to me. I’m not saying I didn’t learn anything–I learned a lot writing literary and conventional fiction–but I was stifled. I stuffed down my desire to turn my characters into monsters and killers and sometimes I think that I injured my talent, bruised it.
Later, largely because my graduate program didn’t put such restrictions on my work, I hesitantly returned to my roots. My (creative) master’s thesis was still non-fantasy fiction as was most of what I put out on the internet, but my head swam with old tales I had always loved. I wrote my first book, a young adult, werewolf, novella in the few years following graduation.
And you know what I’m doing now? I’m writing a vampire book. Holy crap, did i just admit that? Listen, I admit that sort of thing to no one. Not even kindly strangers. I have always waved people away with the “oh, it’s kind of a fantasy thing.” When it comes right down to it, my current project is a vampire book and why should I be ashamed to admit that?
Because now it’s trendy. Because now TWILIGHT flashes across their brain when I say vampire and I am dismissed as writing whiny, emo, teen fiction by some of the general public. The rest of the general public also dismisses me but claims I am writing to the popular and by golly, they have seen it all before.
Literature students have also seen it all before, well, more like read it all before. Fellow writers dismiss me as a hack. Literary journals and publishing housing won’t even read past the cover letter. It all just hurts.
But at the workshop, I realized that what I want to write is valid. Genre fiction is valid. Genre fiction is good. Vampire novels can be literary but so what if it isn’t? I have to be authentic to myself. That’s when the best words get put on the page. When I care about something, when I am passionate about something, it’s actually going to get done. And so what if vampires have been done before? Isn’t there some literary theory out there that basically says there are no more original stories? It doesn’t matter, because as I learned from Sasha Martin, I am contributing to a conversation. My book is an answer, a love song, to all the vampire books I loved as a young adult.