On Perceived Snobbery

January 22, 2010 at 11:25 AM | Posted in Op-Ed, Writing, Writing Advice | 6 Comments

So my schedule this semester rocks. I’m taking two English classes – Myths of Britain and Intermediate Fiction I – an Arabic class that is turning out to be way cooler than I thought it was going to be, and my very last general curriculum requirements. It makes me ecstatic. Because after this semester (or so the hope goes) the only classes that I will be taking are classes that I want to take and am not required to take. I will be filling up my mind with all these lovely things that I want to fill my mind up with. Like I said – it makes me ecstatic.

But something about my creative writing class hasn’t been sitting well with me for the last couple of classes. I couldn’t figure it out, not for the life of me. My professor is pretty kick ass, my classmates are pretty amazing. There is nothing wrong with this class.

Except, you know, writers are snobs.

Now, before you all jump on me with all kinds of indignant shouts and protests, let me finish! Or correct myself. Writers have a reputation of being absolute snobs. When a person who is not a writer thinks of a writer, they imagine the starving artist, the person who has a superior insight into the human condition, the person who has been gifted by some divine light to put life on a page for all (or some) people to view with a renewed sense of being.

But I’m a writer, and I certainly am not any of those things. I have a talent (maybe) but I practice, a lot. I read, a lot. And I don’t think I have a superior insight into anything. I write what I know, what I feel and what I learn. I write what I imagine, what I fantasize and what I imagine other people fantasize. And I don’t like being put into a category that is elitist and snobby.

And that’s what bothers me most about this class. Because, accidentally (or purposely), the professor and my classmates have put themselves up on a pedestal. They have decreed (yes, it is a strong word) that they and their writing colleagues and better, in some form or another, than the common man. And that doesn’t sit well with me.

Do you guys ever feel that way? Am I weird to feel this way? Please – do tell!

Posted by Sumayyah (Cross posted to The Raven Desk)

Readers and Writers: a Blurring Boundary

September 7, 2009 at 7:16 PM | Posted in Op-Ed, Reading, Writing | 4 Comments

This weekend I attended DragonCon, a massive science fiction convention held annually in Atlanta, GA. While the intricate costumes and parody commercials on the DragonCon TV channel were highly entertaining, one of the most interesting aspects (at least for me) was the interplay between the authors, actors, and artists and their fans. In most of the writers’ panels I attended, the speakers would answer questions from a trained volunteer while audience members scribbled notes – it was rare for fans to ask questions, let alone engage the speakers in conversation. In many ways, these sessions mirrored the traditional writer-reader relationship: the author inscribes the words on the page, and the reader absorbs them and accepts them as “truth,” at least for fiction.

But the writer-reader relationship is changing. Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and online forums have made writers far more accessible to their audience. And when readers “interact” with fictional characters online, they are no longer mere passive observers to an author’s creation. In the future this shifting dynamic will almost undoubtedly lead to more interactive events and panels, but what else will it change? Could the very act and final product of writing morph into something new and collaborative?

I wish I could give you a concrete example of what I mean, but I’m not sure one exists yet. The first possibility that springs to mind is a customizable novel, with content that would adjust – through electronic profiles or other means – to make the main character more like the reader. Another is an online blog or forum by a character with content that would change as a reader moves through a novel (monitored electronically through an e-reader or another device) and gives feedback to questions and comments made by the protagonist.

Would this variety of supersized “Create Your Own Adventure” novel make reading a more interesting or engaging experience? Or would it disrupt the coherence of and emersion in an author’s unique world, at least at first? Either way, there is little doubt that the line between reading and writing will become increasingly blurred as technology continues to advance.

The Real Difference Between Us….

March 16, 2009 at 3:25 PM | Posted in Life, Op-Ed | 4 Comments
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I remember watching an interview with a teen writer. Several – in fact all of them – included one familiar question.

What is it like being a teen author?

Now, I am assuming here (not always a good thing) that these interviewers want to know what it is like being a successful teen versus being a successful adult. Instead of, say, being a teen writer in general. Just, “what is it like existing?” doesn’t feel like what they are asking. With that clarified, I would like to answer this question in two ways. One way is how I imagine these interviewers obviously want it answered. The other, in a more personal way that a lot of us here may identify with.

Being a teen gives us, basically, an advantage in the young adult market. We just know things. Adult writers will sometimes look at, say, their own kids, or the kids they teach or mentor or just come in contact with and say “They aren’t old enough to understand this,” or “I don’t want to introduce them to this,” or “they won’t be able to handle this.” Even worse, they will do a direct opposite. They will say “They may be kids but in this modern time they know everything” and then put in way too much sex, drug use, or language. Far more than necessary and far more than anyone, teen or adult, is comfortable with. As teens, we know what teen readers not only can handle, but what they want to handle and what they want in fiction for a good read. “What is it like being a teen writer?” It is like having an advantage over the adults. It is knowledge and experiences remembered. It is not looking at what other authors are putting into their books as a guideline for content but just knowing without a thought how far really is too far, what is interesting or catchy or in an opposite case what is too boring.

Secondly, I think the major difference for me is that we have more time. If you get into writing when you are ten, instead of forty, you have roughly thirty extra years on an adult to spend time doing what you love. You grow in talent, not faster, just earlier, and can spend up to sixty, seventy, eighty… ninety… years doing what you love instead of thirty, forty, fifty… I love that I have so many years ahead of me to write. I imagine when you all think of it you agree!

I would love to know what everyone else feels on this point. What do you feel when you hear the question “What is it like being a teen writer?”

~ Race

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