Monday, February 4, 2013

Life's Not Fair and Then You Die

It has been an interesting week. First off, I'm going to be a panelist for "Life, the Universe, and Everything", a science fiction/fantasy writing convention in Utah. It's kind of a big deal, and I'm thrilled. I'm on a panel about why The Hunger Games is so popular. You might see a posting on this subject, after the convention. I'm hoping people come to the panel.

The sneak peek of my novel is still up at TM Publishing's website, though under Past Issues now. Here's a quick link to it, because I like you and because I want people to read my story. In the foreword of the magazine, my editor described my novel as displaying "a stunning, magical America you might wish you could live in." That makes me feel really good. More, perhaps, than I should.

But I might need all the good feelings I can get in the next few days. I'm coming up on some workshops in my poetry and creative nonfiction classes, and am getting frustrated that neither has the same rigidity of fiction. I miss the simplicity of plot lines, character development, and clear prose. Never thought you'd hear that said, huh? If you think analyzing poetry can be tricky, try critiquing it. If you think it's hard to critique it, try writing it, anticipating the critiques of people who know how to write poetry. Nonfiction is easier for me, since it's a work of prose and not poetry, but since one essay is perfectly structured and another is a perfect mess, organizationally, and both are genius works I have no idea what I'm doing.

That's the motto of this semester: I have no idea what I'm doing.

But I don't think it's entirely my fault. I had a class where we talked about avant-garde and postmodern poetry. Basically, if it looks nothing like poetry and makes you sweat to read it, it's considered "inspired" and "brilliant." If it's accessible and pleasing, it's mediocre and outdated. Granted, this is a caricature of current ideas, but I couldn't make it if there was no truth in what I see. I could make a poem out of a string of memes and it would fit right into avant-garde poetry. I'm getting a little sick of shooting in the dark when trying to write good poetry, since I refuse to abide by the rules of what I dislike.

We'll see how I feel about this after my workshop. But this is a problem I ran into when I applied to grad school, and then in most classes I take while I'm here. I think a valid artistic code of conduct is: "I do what I want." However, I keep finding antipathy toward my YA science fiction and fantasy. Apparently it's not artistic enough, it's selling out, and if there's even a chance of my work becoming popular it must mean I'm trying hard enough.

I heard a YA writer speak who also teaches on the university level, and he gets comments from the other professors about how "popular" he is. He said it wasn't a compliment. There is this idea that anything that is well-liked and accessible isn't pushing the limits and thus isn't real art. I struggle with this on both sides; I definitely love a good story where my brain gets a work-out, to the point of condemning other works. On the other hand, I don't write literary fiction, at least, not in the typical way. I think my fantasy can be just as literary as realistic fiction. In any case, it's what I love to do.

If I enjoy my writing, it's not good enough. If I am bored and pained by what I write, it's exactly what postmodernism demands of me. Life's not fair and then you die. Or, in my case, you work hard, receive little validation for your work, and then you graduate.

I believe unfairness is treated in the next life, and I guess this applies to the grad school analogy. After I graduate, I will write what I want. I can write my teenage epic hero tales without penance. I can block out sword fights and hike and go on adventures and call it valid research (the best part of writing!). I was talking to another YA writer, and we decided that it doesn't matter if we get sniffed at for our writing. We can live happily with the knowledge that our books will actually get read and enjoyed by many people.

Take that, postmodernism!

1 comment:

  1. hear hear! I can only imagine how incredibly frustrating that environment must be >>