That’s right. I said it. So what you gonna do about it?
Last night, I was trying to get through my goal of editing 50 pages of my mystery novel while bawling over Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Before I go on my rant, I have to say that EM is probably one of the best “reality” shows on TV today. It actually DOES something other than being on and making asses out of people.
Anyway, I’m editing, watching, and then this commercial comes on for this new reality show; I think it’s called something like DANCING WITH THE STARS. The premise is this: they will pair stars with professional dancers, teach the stars how to dance, and then the star-dancer couples will compete and a panel of judges and YOU-AMERICA! will vote for the best pair.
I stopped writing. I could barely move. My already downtrodden mood was brought to the brink of Hell depths. I happened to be on AOL IM with my best friend, a great publicist and all around great gal, and I told her, “Reality TV and bad writing are going to destroy my career, the one I never really had in the first place.”
Well, she gets livid with me, as she always does, but I stand firm. I’ve been trying this TRYING TO GET PUBLISHED game for 10 years now. Got the lovely rejection wallpaper from a new Ralph Lauren collection to prove it. I’ve written, every day, for years. Bought all the books, sent queries and synopses and sample chapters, sent full scripts, packed up the rejections. I try to be eclectic, writing novels in several genres: mainstream, mystery, chick lit, lesbian, erotica, etc. I hone my craft by going into an MFA program and coming out of it with respect from my peers, my professors and others who have read my kick-ass thesis–now being called a novel. I have helped NUMEROUS people in their writing careers by editing their work, or by reading a scene, or by making a suggestion, or by teaching them the basic elements of writing, or by teaching them grammar. I have seen some of these people grab agents and even get books published and yet mine still rot in my laptop.
For years, I kept believing my time would come, and then last year, and editor made a comment that pulled together some “twinges” of thoughts I had been having about why I might not be getting published. The editor said that a novel of mine–I call it chick lit with a sexual twist, was greatly written. Had great characters, wonderful dialogue; it was funny and touching all at the same time; however, black people wouldn’t read it. It wasn’t what was IN for the black reading audience. So, the editor asked, “Does she (meaning me) write urban fiction?”
A few things are hugely wrong with this. One, I like to think of myself as a life writer. I write about universal things; yes, my main characters are typically black; however, many of the things my characters go through PEOPLE go through. Two, my stories are very multicultural. My characters do not live in a utopian society where there are just black people everywhere. That’s not realistic, so why would I do that to my characters? Three, why would this person ask the question if I write urban fiction when clearly, looking at my story, one could probably guess that I don’t write it? And why must all African American fiction be summed up by ONE genre?
I’m not knocking urban/street/hip hop fiction; in fact, I just edited several novels for a publishing house that are street novels, and I loved them. I just believe that the publishing industry needs to expand its vision on what is AA fiction and what can or can’t be sold. But that’s a problem with media in general. It finds something that’s popular and hot, and it grabs that thing and molests it better than any Law & Order: SVU episode could EVER do.
Street is hot–therefore, ghettoizing the black life (with no examples of the multi-faceted life that is the black experience) is the IN thing to do. I have had some “street life,” but that is not all that I am. We got enough books coming out for this genre…why not let us flood up the horror genre, the chick lit genre, the literary genre, the sci-fi genre? Believe me, there is a way to market everything to get
Just like street is hot, so too is reality TV. You can’t turn on the TV without seeing something crazy on TV. We have a flood of SURVIVOR-like shows. Bachelor. Fear Factor. I Married a Princess. Sheer
Where is the creativity in reality TV? The concepts are interesting and with my belief that reality TV isn’t even REAL, I will concede that there is creativity in the process.
However, what’s the point of writing a fresh, new novel, or an innovative movie or TV show script if what’s HOT is fake reality, rehashing of old shows (A “Dukes of Hazzard” movie?!?!?!?), and putting writers in a box?
Even Chick Lit, which could have falling to the wayside if it had stuck solely with the BRIDGET JONES’ type of novels, realized that the heroines of their books could be put into a variety of situations and genres.
*major sigh* I guess this rant is just my way of saying, I have a voice. I think it’s a good voice. I think it deserves to be heard…in its own way and not prepackaged to fit my color, fit the fake, or fit someone else’s already done story.
CaesarSalad w/ a Side of Republic
Wanda D. Hudson