Yesterday I spent the afternoon at a workshop run by the UWSP English Department’s ACORN (A Chance tO Read in compaNy) program. The ACORN book this year is Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood, and the workshop sessions I attended were Tomoko Kuribayashi’s lecture on Margaret Atwood, Per Henningsgaard’s lecture on the role of colonialism in Alias Grace, and Sarah Pogell’s lecture on nineteenth century psychology.
The workshop was fabulous. The UWSP faculty were knowledgeable and interesting, and the topics fascinating. The day was fun and got me excited about literature again . . . . and made me question myself as a writer.
I began my first novel, Charlotte’s Inheritance, while I was in graduate school: taking literature classes, discussing literature, analyzing literature. I was immersed in the literary world. The idea of Syncopation came to me during the same time period, though I wrote it after I’d finished school. These books reflect my mind at that time.
I don’t want to say that my novels are in the same class as the novels of Margaret Atwood or Tracy Chevalier or A.S. Byatt, but they are heavily influenced by these writers. Charlotte’s Inheritance and Syncopation have themes and layers and complicated characters. They could be studied. I’ve spent many years trying to get them published, and a common criticism from agents and editors is that they are “too literary” for such-and-such a publisher’s list.
I’m a practical person. I want to be a published writer; I want to have an actual career as a writer. So, I’ve decided to write more light-weight novels in the hopes that this is what the publishing world is willing to publish—something like The Stolen Goldin Violin. I wrote this with / for my family with no illusions as to it having literary merit. The Stolen Goldin Violin is a quick, light, fun read.
In the past two years, I’ve gotten excited by a few ideas for light-weight books (see my previous blog postings), but after a little time, I find myself uninspired. This didn’t happen with either of my first two novels. I had slumps, but these stories were forged by a fire within me that raged until the story was out.
I don’t want to spend more years of my life pouring my soul into a literary novel which will never be published, read only by a few close friends. I’m not a literary snob. I read everything. I like fluff and didn’t expect to have trouble writing fluff.
Recently I’m just so uninspired, and I guess I’m just trying to figure out why . . . .