“Do you really want to write a beach book?”
was the question posed to me by an international best-selling crime fiction novelist in her writing workshop where participants read a few pages of their works in progress.
Her tone was accusatory.
Honestly, I felt like I’d just been slapped.
Hard. On both cheeks.
I’ve no doubt my face colored.
I was crestfallen. Every writer hopes for approval from authors they admire. Or at least, constructive criticism.
I felt judged as lacking.
I felt publicly shamed.
I don’t even know if I answered her.
I was just doing everything in my power to keep from bursting into tears.
I tried very hard to hear what she was saying as meaningful feedback.
But she wasn’t critiquing my writing, but the content of my writing.
What I hadn’t realized at the time, was I was running into the great divide, previously unknown to me–
Literary versus Genre Fiction.
And genre fiction, like my romantic time travel adventure novel, according to her was not worthy of wasting time writing.
(And isn’t crime fiction, genre fiction too? Well, not hers I guess.)
I’ve been writing poetry since I could hold a crayon. But that was okay, because poetry is considered literary?
Call me naive, but I didn’t realize there was such animosity between literary writers and genre writers.
To me, good writing is good writing.
And I’ve always read both literary and genre fiction without placing any value judgment on the worthiness of either.
I like what I like. And I like a good story.
I like books that transport me to other worlds, other lives, other experiences than my own.
Books that make me think, and feel, and understand something new.
Books that take me out of my own mental anguish and bring joy.
Both literary and genre fiction can do those things.
So why decide one type of writing is better or more worthy than the other?
Why is only “literary” worthy or merit
who defines what is literary and what isn’t?
I wish I had stood up to that author.
I wish I had said, “All writing matters.”
I wish I could go back in time, and say to that author who shamed me,
“Yes, I really want to write a beach book.”
And now I have.
I wrote the book I needed and wanted to write.
And I’m glad I did. Hopefully, some readers will be too.