The Necessary Genre: Chicklit

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Also known as “chick literature,” chicklit was created in the ‘90s. It reached its peak in the late ‘90s/early ‘00s, mainly following middle-class white women. The plot normally follows these female character’s lives with a humorous and light-hearted story about ordinary troubles in womanhood – sometimes focusing on the romantic relationships, female friendships, and issues in the work place. As a genre that seemed to be “for women, by women”, men took their turn in writing their own versions of what chicklit seemed to be as well.

Unfortunately, chicklit is not as popular as it once was. In a day and age where the gender divide is slowly being demolished, titles published with a label like chicklit aren’t taken as seriously as say… a romcom with a shapeshifter billionaire lover who falls for the mail-order bride, who just so happens to be pregnant with his baby from a forgotten encounter. The romance market has become so oversaturated that readers are more drawn to unique characters with unique story lines. It’s also hard for chicklit to hold up against a classic horror from someone like Stephen King.

Don’t get me wrong, we all love a classic or creative story – but what about a story about everyday life?  To me, that is what chicklit is all about. It’s also the very reason that chicklit will always be necessary. Chicklit not only brings normalcy to an anything-goes literary market, but it also serves as a safe place  for women who need a place to escape and not feel alone in the issues of their everyday lives. Most chicklit plots are more relatable than any other novel (since, you know…shapeshifter lovers are pretty hard to find nowadays). Chicklit reminds its readers that they aren’t the only one with romantic strife, back stabbing girlfriends, or work place drama. Writers in the chicklit genre often write based on experience. So, if the story was penned then there is at least one other person out there experiencing something similar to you and that goes a long in way in making a scary world seem more friendly. And trust me, there are many more women experiencing the same thing, not just one.  Women’s fiction, feminist authors, chicklit titles … they’re all needed now more than ever.

So, I encourage you to pick up a chicklit at your local bookstore or download a quick read through your Kindle. If you are feeling really empowered, maybe even take your fingers to the keyboard of your computer and create your own work for women because we can certainly use it. The literary market needs more strong female leads who don’t fight misogyny that has been internally brewing since her birth. We need more female CEOs of multi-billion-dollar companies, we need more average 20-somethings who are climbing the social ladder by NOT sleeping with anyone but perhaps by just being a decent human being with a sparkling personality.

Who knows, maybe it’ll get picked up for a movie deal and Beyonce is cast as your main lady squeeze. We can all dream, right?

Amazon’s Kindle in Motion

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If you haven’t heard of Kindle in Motion (KiM) yet, it’s the newest bit of technology introduced by Amazon. KiM includes art, animation, and/or video to assist in the storytelling of a book. In the select novels that have been incorporated into KiM, the art and animation have been used for the fairy tale and classical retellings while video (using actors) are used more for the contemporary books. KiM is compatible with most devices (phones, tablets, and eReaders) and there is an option to turn off the “motion.”

To grasp an idea of what Amazon has invested in, I chose to read one of the titles- The Protectors by Alison Stine. This book, based on magic realism, includes all forms of interaction incorporated with Kindle in Motion (art, animation and video). I purchased the book for my iPhone but downloaded the book onto an iPad to compare the two reading platforms. Between these two devices, the only difference was the size of the screen. With the phone edition, some of the lettering had been squeezed into the format to the slightest extent. For the tablet format, everything was spaced evenly and the quality of the motion content was better.

As a consumer, the best part about KiM is there isn’t an additional charge to activate the motion in the book. If the technology isn’t your cup of tea, switch it off and return to the basic reading format. Depending on which is purchased, there are countless images that are incorporated into the novel. In Stine’s book, the graffiti aspect of the plot is assisted with the images, adding to the aesthetic.

 

If you want to create more stimulation and interaction with your readers, an author may want to consider expanding into KiM. It’s new technology, making it appealing to readers, even some who may not enjoy reading altogether. The downfall about this new interactive technology is the fact that it is so new. With nearly a year under their belt and very few original titles incorporated, it may take some time before it becomes popular. One of the better aspects of “motion” is the “full-bleed” format. This allows for there not to be forced margins.

So, how does this all relate to you as an author? It can potentially make your book more aesthetically appealing to readers, perhaps bringing some new readers to you simply for the fact that they want to give KiM a try. It might also gain you some extra revenue from people who don’t normally read books or from people who have trouble reading. Having a visual element might make the whole reading experience easier for people who struggle with it or don’t enjoy it. It is also nice to see that the animation and video improvise the storytelling. If done right, all these elements complement each other nicely and make for a whole different experience than we are typically used to, which can be refreshing. Although both a pro and a con, KiM allows authors to utilize their own vision when picking the images they wish to portray to their readers. KiM is another tool that an author can use to effectively communicate with their readers.  At the same time, this can potentially limit the readers own imagination which is one of the best things about reading.

KiM could be a complete game changer for non-readers or a nice change of pace for avid readers. But, it’s definitely not for everyone and I can understand why someone wouldn’t like it. It has a long way to go before it becomes main stream, but I am glad I gave it a try.

Write on.

The Publishing Journey: One of Many To Come

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If you’re new to the publishing world, it’s alright to feel completely overwhelmed and lost at times. The publishing world can often feel like a foreign country to beginners or sometimes even its own planet. All the greatest writers had to start somewhere before they became a published author, and trust me they all felt the exact same way you are. At least now we have Google to guide us, right?

The business of publishing is quite interesting from the outside looking in, but if you haven’t had the opportunity to publish your first novel, you may be a little weary of what to do and where to go. The intimidation (and/or high level of anxiety) of sending your manuscript to a literary agency or one of the big five publishers should not discourage you. It’s an exciting time to finally be able to bring your hard work to life. At HRM, we develop submission plans for our authors that would best showcase their work while making sure we target the best potential editors for a successful deal. We have constructed a list of things that we keep in mind when searching for publishers for our authors. Perhaps this will make the submission process tad bit less scary: Who’s going to be YOUR target? Before you even start the submission process, you need to reflect on the manuscript you’ve produced. You probably thought about it before writing it, but if you haven’t, ask yourself: who would I want to read my masterpiece? What genre can I market this book as? These few questions can help narrow down the search in publishing options.

  1. Be aware of your online presence! In this technology-based era, publishing has turned towards audio, e-books, and other new forms of reading options. As for authors, becoming more active online can help you grow a fanbase much better than word-of-mouth (although that definitely still happens too). This helps publishers see how popular you are amongst peers/fans. If you already have a built in fan base, that’s a huge plus for publishers.
  2. Know how publishing houses work… Each house is different. Sometimes they market to a certain age group or focus on publishing a particular genre. Search the publishing house website for their company goal; therefore you can compare your own goals as a writer to those of the house.
  3. Check the performance of the house… Once you’ve narrowed down a list of publishers you envision yourself publishing with, research some previously published books by these particular publishers and how well they sold. See if they marketed the book correctly online as well as how they presented the book to the public.
  4. If you need help with PR, check out the houses PR department. If online presence has been a struggle for you, a publisher’s PR department is going to be important to you. When you’re checking the performance of the house on their social media accounts, check what they post about, how people react to it, and if it is done effectively. If nothing else, it can assist in your own social media brand and following.
  5. Don’t feel discouraged from rejection! If there is one thing you should expect in any industry, it is rejection. Accepting your defeat doesn’t mean you’ve given up…it just means you’re onto the next, and hopefully better, one!
  6. Last, but not least…HAVE OTHER PUBLISHING OPTIONS!!!!! Sending your manuscript to ONE publisher makes landing a publishing deal impossible. Send your manuscript to ten, maybe even twenty possible publishers, and see what kind of reaction you get from there. If you don’t receive any bites, do a second or even third round of submissions. Finding the right editor for your work is a formula that could take months or years to figure out. Be prepared to explore other options, even if it’s a completely different route than you had originally planned.  Stepping stones will always assist in you getting to your end goal, even if it takes a few extra steps along the way.

Colors Of Literature

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With Children’s/YA literature becoming increasingly popular, the integration of color within the literature presented to this target audience has slowly grown. Targeting children and young adults about cultural differences encourages open-mindedness and fosters open conversation.

Children’s and YA literature that includes topics of race and ethnicity provide a range of learning tools, such as  teaching cultural authenticity. This type of authenticity imitates the beliefs and values of a specific cultural group, including language and everyday life details. The youth’s self-concept can be improvised and self-realization is brought to light to help their young minds sense of self become more aware. It also helps them to learn about and celebrate the differences of those around them. Given that younger minds are molded far easier than developed minds, multicultural literature provides insight about other cultures that these young children might not be familiar with or might know nothing about.. It’s a way for young readers to learn the difference between culture general behaviors (the idea of broad principles) and culture specific behaviors (actions or patterns only performed by certain cultures).

In just children’s literature alone, we are seeing growth in multicultural literature and color:

2015 STATS:

American Indians/First Nations: 0.9%
Latinx: 2.4%
Asian Pacifics/Pacific Americans: 3.3%
African/African American: 7.6%
Animals/Trucks/etc.: 12.5%
White: 73.3%

We Need Diverse Books is a grassroots organization working to make the necessary changes in the publishing industry to help enrich the lives of all young children and to create as many learning possibilities as they can through reading.

A Man & His Romance

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Romance. It’s the genre that dates as far back as Ancient Greece. Today, the genre has become so complex that is it now broken down into many subgenres. Sometimes it feels as if we are discovering a new ‘type’ of romance novel daily.  It is a genre which has historically targeted women readers, written by mostly women authors.

Despite the stagnant nature of the romance genre for thousands of decades, times are certainly changing and we are starting to see a shift in the composition of romance readers and authors. We are starting to see that there are many men who enjoy reading and writing romance novels too.

Very seldom have men taken to writing in the romance genre and have been successful under their own names. Just like women, pseudonyms have appealed to authors because a new name enables them to become someone they aren’t. Think of Leigh Greenwood, Beatrice Parker, Jessica Blair, Madeleine Brent, and Emma Darcy – yep! These female pennames are actually men (or men and women teaming together to write the perfect novel) and this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Of course there are a few exceptions – Nicholas Sparks, Dean Koontz, John Greene, Sylvain Reynard and many more male authors have found success in writing romance novels under their own names.

There are many men out there who have declared their love for the romance genre and we want more to follow their lead. An interview with one individual focused on the connection he had with a military romance he had randomly picked up. He claims the romance between the lead lovers helped him to gain insight about women and how to spice things up.

If you are a romance author looking to gain more of a male following, think about making your male protagonists more realistic characters in order to make them more relatable to the everyday man. In the same light, some suggest that taking a unisex author name leaving you ambiguous to readers which might entice more male readers to give the book and genre a chance. The male reader from the interview brought to light how many romance clichés have been overused. To create a unique story and grab some new readers, consider blending a few clichés that you rarely see complimenting each other. Something different might just attract different readers. Similar to our post about romance tropes, the successful mixture of tropes has proved to create a unique telling of the “same ol’ tale.”

Good luck and write on!

You’re Not Easy To Forget

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When a writer creates a fictional universe, they produce characters of all different types. Whether the character is our main protagonist or the anti-hero, we indulge in their world with the help of the writer. There are plenty of characters many readers have found memorable, most often they are the ones who deviate from social norms and our expectations. Readers notice recognition, personality, humanity, enrichment, and pain in these characters giving them a more relatable quality than others.

The characters we meet along our reading journeys stick with us for months and years to come, perhaps even for the rest of our lives. We all have different reasons for gravitating towards particular characters. What attracts one reader might repel another. We highlighted a few of our most memorable characters, the ones who have made  the biggest impact on our minds and reading journey:

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  • Christopher Boone from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

    Disclaimer
    : He is not a representation for everyone who has been diagnosed with some form of autism, he is simply Christopher Boone.This fifteen year old exposes readers to autism through a first-person narrative. Interestingly, he has characteristics that one would find contradictory such as being brilliant yet clueless, sweet and then sour, sensitive but insensitive. Christopher Boone has set himself on a journey, not only to find the killer of Wellington the dog, but also to discover truths about himself and the world around him and how to cope with them.
  • Severus Snape from Harry Potter Series

    Considering the most recent celebration of Harry Potter’s twenty year anniversary, we needed to pick one of our favorite characters from the series. From the first novel, we only saw Snape to be the bad professor at Hogwarts. Later on in the series, we start to see him as a misunderstood figure we learn to love. He always seemed to be more intelligent, observant, and competent about the students and their problems far more than any other professor.

  • Yunior de la Casas from Drown &This Is How You Lose Her

    Junot Diaz’s recurring character, Yunior, never ceases to amaze us. He invites non-Latinos to see the stereotypes of the Latino culture. Yunior will always embody more than a simple plot in the stories he tells, whether you are reading Drown or This Is How You Lose Her. Diaz uses the first-person narrative with Yunior to make the story-telling more intimate for readers. He creates an attitude for Yunior that gets readers thinking, “Geez, I hate him. But I love him.”

  • Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby

    Of course this man would make our list. We’ve all known Jay for quite a while! After 92 years, why is Jay Gatsby still in our thoughts and in our hearts? This man is rich, he’s made sketchy deals, he has a questionable background, but he looks beyond all of that and cares about love. Fitzgerald intended for Gatsby to be surrounded by a cloud of mystery even to this day, Gatsby is still utterly dreamy.

  • Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games

    Katniss Everdeen stands amongst the four other men on our list as one of the most memorable female characters in the fiction world. She becomes a young woman right before our eyes, taking on plenty of roles during her time in Suzanne Collins’ world. We’ll always remember the struggle of love between her, Peeta, and Gale. We can never forget her as the fearless warrior in the games either. Katniss stands as a provider, survivor, celebrity, girl on fire, and love object…how could we forget her?