Saturday, October 27, 2007

The perils of fan-girling editors.

Once upon a time, a long time ago (we're talking "publishing" years here, which are like dog years but with fewer hopes) I got myself a girl-crush on the senior editor of a smallish NY house. I heard her speak good common sense at a conference, followed that up with an appointment during which she was kind, inspiring and hilariously funny, and came to believe she and I were a creative match made in heaven. So I submitted a novella to a contest with which she was associated and lo and behold! She liked my work. She liked it so much that she called me at home on Halloween afternoon in 2003. At the time, I was elbow-deep in a pumpkin and trying to keep the six-year-old from gutting herself with a carving knife, but I put it all on hold to talk to her. She was her usual charming self when she requested my novella, and I tricked-or-treated with stars in my eyes that year.

Sadly, that project was never meant to be for a number of reasons that don't matter much anymore. But I never lost my admiration and respect for this particular editor, and I still hope to work with her someday. I've never met another industry professional who's entertained or encouraged me as much...until recently when Paula Guran signed on as editor for Juno. I don't always agree with everything Paula has to say -- we will probably forever be at odds over the proper spelling of the word "wracked" -- but I find her blog posts and essays fascinating, and I appreciate her passion for books.

Paula's got an interview up at Reading in the Dark. It's chewy and juicy and controversial in the best way. My attention was caught by this quote in particular:

"There is the idea that "romance", which is read primarily by women, is of a lesser literary quality. And it is true. Not *all* romance, of course, but a lot of it. Plus a sizable number of romance readers want the same formula over and over; they don't want a higher quality. Before someone gets ticked off about me saying those things, let me point out that the same could be said of horror during its brief boom in the 80s. Most of it, but not all, was poor quality and, at the time, the public didn't seem to mind."

It interests me how, when discussing the lack of respect so many folks have for the romance genre, the finger is almost always pointed at an unfair bias or prejudice against women's fiction in general. Not very many people seem to be willing to say what Paula says above -- that a lot of the romance genre is, in fact, formulaic and not particularly well-written.

Look, I LOVE Twinkies, but I don't confuse them with fine French pastry. And from my point of view, an awful lot of our beloved genre leans toward the Twinkie side. Which is not to say Twinkies -- or formulaic romance written specifically for an audience that wants just that -- shouldn't exist. All hail the Twinkie, people. It's a junk food staple, and like the classic "girl-meets-boy, girl-loses-boy-through-Big-Misunderstanding, girl-gets-boy" romance trope, the Twinkie has a shelf-life of about a billion years. But nobody is going to give it any awards for either nutrition or gastronomic excellence, and you don't hear Hostess bitching about that, either. They don't need to bitch. They sell TWINKIES, and they get rich doing it. Respect and awards are for those who spend a lifetime creating the perfect Amaretto Torte.

And so long as Kinsale and Crusie and Viehl and a small host of others continue to craft the fine French pastry of the genre, I think we'll be fine.

So. I had a larger point, but now I'm hungry.

Oh, editors. The biggest drawback? I'm terrified to submit my work to my personal heroes of the publishing world. A disappointing outcome would be like receiving a form-letter rejection from St. Peter at the pearly gates. ("Dear Recently Deceased...Thank you for trying to get your pathetic self into Heaven. Unfortunately, your soul is not quite what we're looking for at this time. Thank you for considering us. Sincerely...") - Romance of Dubious Virtue


Blogger Alessia Brio said...

I adore your Twinkie analogy!

10/27/2007 9:55 AM  
Blogger Selah March said...

Thank you, Alessia! It came to me in a sugar rush. :p

10/27/2007 10:11 AM  
Blogger Eva Gale said...

You know-she's right. What's the point of denying it any longer?

I don't prefer Twinkies, they leave a paste at the top of my mouth that grosses me out. But I don't think their maker cares. They're selling crates full. I prefer creme caramel.

10/29/2007 9:55 AM  
Anonymous Barb said...

But you know... (you know what I'm going to say, right?) you try submitting work that's closer to French pastry and nine times out of ten, the editors will respond with, "We want more TWINKIES, dammit!!"

Almost as if they think the reading public can't handle the French pastries. Or creme brulée.


10/29/2007 11:49 AM  
Blogger Selah said...


You know, Barb, I LOVE a good Twinkie. But not as a steady diet.

Of course, I've never tried Twinkies as a steady diet, either, so...


10/29/2007 4:33 PM  
Anonymous Barb said...

Yes, my darling, but you are a woman of discerning taste and have the good sense to limit your Twinkie intake-- provided they're not wearing provacative pouts and cowboy hats.

Then, all bets are off.

10/29/2007 4:40 PM  
Blogger Selah said...

Shhh. You'll confuse people.

PASTRY. We're talking about PASTRY, dammit. And...and romance. NOT underage pretty boys from Dallas.

10/29/2007 4:42 PM  
Blogger Eva Gale said...

Ugh, you are right about submitting Twinkies. I wonder if you can make French Twinkie?

I can't remember the last time I read a Twinkie. Maybe I'll have to try a cowboy Twinkie.

10/30/2007 9:16 AM  
Blogger Eva Gale said...

You know--up until now I never had a desire to pick up a Juno despite wanting to cover my walls with their covers.

I now have three in my Amazon shopping cart.

10/30/2007 9:35 AM  
Blogger FerfeLaBat said...

That actually made sense to me! What a great way to put it. But - there are some who deep fry twinkies or dip them in chocolate because they are just never satisfied with a basic twinkie.

10/30/2007 7:10 PM  
Blogger Selah said...

Right, Ferfe. Complicate my beautiful, simple little metaphor, whydon'tcha? :p

11/01/2007 7:26 PM  

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