The Scary World of Genre Confusion

While attending the Pikes Peak Writers Conference last weekend, I came to a startling discovery. My manuscript, the one I have loved and nurtured since the very first words were typed out, was suffering from a serious case of genre confusion. At first, I was in denial. There was no way it was genre confused. I knew what it was. And so did it. But I was wrong. I finally had to admit that we both were a bit lost.

Genre confusion can be a scary and unsettling time. No one wants to face the reality that the manuscript that they thought they knew is not the one sitting on the computer in front of them. Was it Women’s Fiction? Or Young Adult? Or I had I unknowingly wandered into the nebulous new world known as New Adult? *Gasp*

When I started querying my manuscript, I sent it out as Women’s Fiction. I suspected that it had some identity issues that hadn’t really been clarified, but I thought if I just pushed it in the direction I wanted it to go, it would eventually find its way down that path. How wrong I was.

Here’s the dilemma: My protagonist is 18, which is borderline Young Adult. The bulk of the story takes place during her freshman year of college (still a little old for YA). And it deals with a variety of women’s issues. My manuscript seemed to be identifying as Women’s Fiction, so that’s how I labeled it. However, during the conference, several industry professionals informed me that it wasn’t Women’s Fiction. It was Young Adult. Okay. That made sense. I could see that my story was tending to lean that way, so when I met with an agent to pitch my novel on Saturday, I pitched it as Young Adult. But that agent told me that she thought it fit more into the New Adult category.

I was lost and scared. How was I supposed to find the right path for my manuscript when I couldn’t even identify its genre? So which is it? And does it matter? I know my manuscript, and at its heart, it is a good manuscript. But, alas, some people do care how my manuscript identifies. So here is a quick list of definitions according to Wikipedia (because we all know they’re the most accurate source of information.)

Young Adult: Literature written about or marketed toward ages 12-18 (though some publishers will expand that to include up to age 25.)

Women’s Fiction: Books that are marketed toward women.

New Adult: I describe new adult as bridging the gap between YA and Mainstream Fiction. It covers the time between high school graduation and true adulthood. So early 20’s, etc. Unfortunately, though this seems like the most likely fit for my manuscript, it is not recognized by many agents and publishers. Some think it’s just a flash in the pan or a marketing technique. But it is a real thing, my friends. My manuscript is living (or not so living) proof that New Adult does exist.

So now you’ve had your high school English lesson for the day (and don’t tell me you didn’t like it). Now it’s time to join me in the fight. New Adult is gaining traction as a recognized sub-genre, but it needs your help. It needs awareness! Someone needs to design a ribbon that everyone can post on their Facebook profile to raise awareness for this struggling sub-genre. Feel free to donate money. Or at the very least, share my blog.

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Dakoda’s Fight

I’m going to take a break from my usual style of blogging today to ask that you all keep my friend’s little boy Dakoda in your thoughts and prayers.

I met Dakoda when he was around 9 months old. He was a happy, smiling little boy with huge cheeks, and he was only a month older than my daughter. A few months later, that happy little boy was diagnosed with cancer. The doctors found a Rhabdomyocarcoma, which is a tumor in the soft tissue. Dakoda’s was located in his pelvis.

Dakoda’s first birthday was spent at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City. He underwent a year of treatment. Chemo and radiation. IVs and tubes being stuck out of his body. He lost his hair. And through it all, Dakoda never stopped smiling. His Facebook page is full of pictures of him smiling and playing despite the tubes.

Last summer, Dakoda finished his year of treatment. He finally got to have the tube removed from his nose, and the line taken out of his chest. He was finally able to take a bath and go swimming, play with other kids his age, be a normal two-year-old little boy.

Since then, Dakoda has been undergoing regular scans to keep an eye on the remaining tumor. The doctors didn’t know whether it was just dead tissue or if the cancer was still lurking. For the first few sets of scans, things looked good. Nothing was changing. While it wasn’t shrinking, it wasn’t growing either. However, at Dakoda’s most recent set of scans, there was some change in the tumor. Today, little warrior Dakoda is undergoing surgery to do a biopsy of the tumor. There is a chance that it’s just fibrous scar tissue, but there’s also a chance that the tumor could be growing again.

So please, even though you may not know me, share this post. Share Dakoda’s fight. Because right now, this little boy can use all the positive thoughts, prayers and healing energy that we can muster for him.

https://www.facebook.com/dakodasfight

An Ode to the Writer’s Conference

Before long, I will be heading out on an epic journey across the country. Okay, so it’s really only across the state of Colorado, but with two young kids fighting in the back seat, it might as well be a trip to the moon. Anyway, I am heading to a writer’s conference in Colorado Springs. For those of you unfamiliar with the world of writing, there will be lots of workshops on writing, publishing, and everything in between. I will also be able to meet with at least one literary agent and pitch my novel directly to her. I’m excited, but also terribly nervous. I used to be great at public speaking, but it isn’t something I’ve had a lot of practice with since . . . high school? Anyway, the impending conference inspired me to write a poem. So here it goes:

The Night Before the Conference

‘Twas the night before the conference
And all through the house,
The only sounds were the clicking
Of my keyboard and mouse.

I should have been nestled
All snug in my bed,
While dreams of landing an agent
Danced in my head.

My husband was sacked out,
His snores deafening.
I slipped out of bed
To check one last thing.

Was my manuscript finished?
My editing done.
Was my storyline good enough
To sell to someone?

I practiced my pitch
Without missing a beat.
Would it be good enough
The avoid the taste of defeat?

I reread my first chapter.
Questioning every word choice.
Were my characters likeable?
Did I have a strong voice?

Then from my desktop
There arose such a clatter.
I sprang from my desk chair
To see what was the matter.

My computer was smoking
With a dreadful screeching sound
Akin to hundreds of demons
Dragging rusty chains on the ground.

I clicked my mouse swiftly,
Willing my work to be saved.
But my screen went as dark 
As the mouth of a cave.

I screamed and I cussed,
Threw the mouse at the wall.
Had I backed everything up?
Or had I just lost it all?

I wanted to cry.
There was nothing left I could do.
All those years worth of work
Had just went kaboom.

I awoke with a start
My head on the desk.
A puddle of drool
Wrapping around the A and the S.

My mouse cursor was blinking.
My manuscript was right there.
A tear ran down my cheek,
The only remnant of my scare.

I quickly emailed the file
To myself and ten friends
In an effort to avoid 
Having that scare again.

Then I climbed up the stairs,
And shut off the light.
Happy conference to all
I hope your pitch goes just right.

An Interview with Steph Davis

One of the cool things about my freelance job writing for the local newspaper is that I get to meet people that I wouldn’t otherwise. I’ve interviewed and talked with lots of really interesting people through the last few years. Last week the editor emailed me and asked if I could interview Steph Davis. Steph is an internationally known, professional rock climber and a twice published author. I was excited about doing the interview, but nervous too.

Steph is basically a rockstar in the rock climbing community. She has been the first woman to free solo several routes that would make many climbers quiver even with ropes. After an incident in 2006, her life began to unravel. Her major sponsors pulled their sponsorships, her marriage was falling apart, and she found herself unable to enjoy climbing anymore.

So Steph did what any rational, sane person would do. She jumped out of a plane. Steph’s memoir, Learning to Fly, was released on April 2, and it’s all about her learning to face her fears and put her life back together through skydiving and BASE jumping. The book itself is a great read, and after sitting down and talking with Steph, she’s an amazing person. Even though I had a terrible cold that probably made me sound like I was dying, she sat and talked with me for almost two hours.

We talked about getting her book published, her new career ventures in town, and dogs. Because who doesn’t love dogs? Steph was even kind enough to give me the name of her literary agent to see if he was interested in my current novel-in-progress.

If you’re interested in reading more about my interview with Steph, you can check out my article by clicking the title of this post.

Just say no

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Over the last few weeks I’ve devoted a significant amount of my time to researching literary agents. I’ve been stalking their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. I’ve been reading blogs. Anything I can do to help navigate my way through the process. During that time, I’ve seen quite a few people complaining about the industry standard of form rejection letters, or in a lot of cases, no response at all if they’re not interested. A lot of people don’t understand it, but I’m finally starting to get it.

I could never make it in the world of a literary agent for two main reasons. For one, as I discussed in my blog on rejection, I am terrified of calling people on the phone. (It’s seriously giving me palpitations just thinking about it. They certainly couldn’t be caused by my breakfast of coffee and cough drops.) But most importantly, I’m really bad at telling people no.

I’m not sure where it comes from. Maybe it’s an innate desire to make people happy. Maybe it’s a reflection on my own fear of being disappointed. I don’t know what it is, but when someone approaches me face to face and asks me to do something, it’s really, really hard for me to tell them no. When we went to Las Vegas a few years ago, the guys were standing along the strip handing out cards that advertised “escorts” or exotic dancers. I wasn’t looking for company, but I still took all the cards that were offered to me. I mean, these guys were just doing their job. (Of course, Jason and I turned them into a trading card game, but that’s not the point.) A few months ago, one of those scammy magazine salesmen came by the house. I knew it was a scam, but the guy was so enthusiastic and upbeat that I had a hard time telling him no. So I gave him $10 as a “donation” so that I didn’t have to cancel my credit cards. Pathetic, I know.

That is where I would get myself into trouble. Literary agents have to be willing to say no. Yes, there are a lot of great, undiscovered books out there. But there are also some really bad ones. (In fact, I just finished one that fell in this category, despite its existence on the NYT Bestsellers list.) If an agent offered to represent everyone, they’d be totally overwhelmed and no one in the industry would have an ounce of respect for them. You can’t go around offering a subpar product and expect people to bite. Yet every time you turn down, your crushing a little bit of someone’s soul. (Might be a slight exaggeration, but it certainly feels like it sometimes.)

There are only so many ways to creatively tell someone you’re not interested. There’s another blog where the author likens his rejection letters to love letters. His blog can be found here: http://rejectionloveletters.com . The funny part is the fact that it’s true. Especially when it comes to form letters, most agents have gone out of their way to let you down gently. And it’s easier to not have to explain it, because sometimes the explanation hurts worse than the actual no.

So I’ll take the form rejections. I’ll take the radio silence that means they’re not interested, even though I would love for someone to sit down and actually be honest with me about my work. What it comes down to is the fact that, as long as you have something to offer, there is someone out there for you. And sometimes, you just have to say no.