Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Guest Blog by Jess Riley

Today, I'm thrilled to host a guest blog by Jess Riley, whose debut novel, DRIVING SIDEWAYS, just hit the shelves. Isn't it a cute cover? Jess blogs every week over at The Debutante Ball, and on her own blog.

Take it away, Jess!


When Maureen graciously invited me to (okay, I probably shamelessly threw myself at her) guest-blog on Drunk Writer Talk, I nearly broke an ankle jumping at the chance. Drunk writers? Dishing about writing, publishing, and the vast differences between the two? Oh, few things could appeal to me more…

I was reading Maureen’s May 7 post (Writers Helping Writers) and have to add that I’ve been truly humbled by the generosity and support I’ve experienced from the writing community, and from friends and family. Watching my first novel being sent out into the world after 30 months in the publishing chute is quite surreal—it still doesn’t feel like it’s happening, actually. My emotions are all over the map. It has been a godsend to be able to share the journey with other writers going through the same experience.

I’ve had a few interviews so far, and I’ve explained the book to many people, and there’s always that point after they see the bare feet on the cover when you can see the bingo balls lining up in their minds and then? We have the winning question! “So how do you feel about writing chicklit?”

Frankly, I want to reclaim the word ‘chick.’ Like I want to reclaim the words ‘liberal,’ ‘feminist,’ and ‘styrofoam.’ Chicklit carries connotations of fluff and superficial pursuits. And though it helped me ‘Get my Stiletto in the Door,’ the very word also is persona non grata in the publishing world. Officially, NOBODY is writing chicklit anymore. (Or its life partner, ‘ladlit.’ Or ‘dicklit,’ if you’re feeling cheeky.)

Only many of us still are. It’s like we went underground. We’re all at a giant speakeasy, only instead of booze, you go for the chicklit. And well, maybe there’s still booze.

In certain circles, yes, I’m a chick. I like shoes, but I don’t like diamonds. I love to eat, I was once a little boy crazy, but I also subscribe to Mother Jones and once worked in a prison AND a cheese factory. (Guess which I liked more?)

To me, ‘chicklit’ is simply a catchy if somewhat maligned handle to convey that I wrote a story in which a young woman comes of age … while coming to terms with her own terminal illness, the suicide of her father, the absence of her mother, a strained relationship with her brother, and daily reminders that she is too sick to be as young as her friends. (I know, I know…it’s a barrel of laughs, really! Sicklit, is more like it. But actually, that makes me think of Chuck Palahniuk. And he may be a genre unto himself.)

Bottom line? You tell the story you want to tell, the way you want to tell it, and if someone likes it enough to pay you so they can share it with more readers, and if those readers like it, too? Well, you can’t ask for much more than that.

Other than maybe that pony you didn’t get in the second grade.


Molly O'Keefe said...

Hey Jess! I love it - the cover, the book, reclaiming the word chick -- all of it. (A friend of mine in college reclaimed the word whore and it seemed to me that it just meant she felt free to call me that all the time. It was weird.)

I think one of the great shames in romance the last few years is that the romance industry got a hold of these books and had to put a subgenre name on it. Of course then the industry turned around and drowned the subgenre - but the good books still do get published and I'm thrilled for you Jess!

Jess Riley said...

Hi Molly! Thanks for the well-wishes! Oh my goodness, I laughed out loud at your college friend's reclamation project...I had friends who did the same thing! :)

Anonymous said...

Love it too. Sicklit, made me chuckle out loud.
Can't wait to read it.
It is time to reclaim words, although not sure whore is the best place to start.
let's start with GENRE and go from there.

M. said...

hi jess - fantastic cover, haven't seen the kind of font in a long time, and the flipflops are fab. they work here (unlike on the feet of the most volatile designer judge on the british version of project runway, who totally discredited himself with them).

your brief description is fascinating. and i hear you on the genre thing - i never know how to classify mine.

hi maureen - what an astonishing list of emergent writer friends you have. on the strength of your reco i'll buy this, and can't wait to see whom you'll introduce next.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Yeah - maureen does have a secret life with much cooler writer friends. Sinead and I keep her drunk so she thinks we're smart!! Working so far. And, I agree her recommendations on these books are always spot on - I loved Unpredictable and Jess's book looks great too.

I'm with you Sinead -- reclaiming genre is a fantastic idea -- how do we do it?

Hey, Cook won!!?? Amazing. Thankfully, I respected him in my dreams.

Anonymous said...

love that Cook won. Love that he may not have really wanted to going into it, but by the end he seemed really happy.
Love him. I may be with you on this one, Molly. If only i could remember my dreams.

As for reclaiming genre. Talking about genre respectfully and proudly and not like we're the bastard child of literary fiction.
Standing up proudly and saying we write great books that have a defined ending and the best in genre stand up really well to the best in literary.

Or better still, getting rid of the term Genre altogether and just calling them books, some great, some not.
Because in the end, I don't care what genre it is. I just want to read great books.

Heidi the Hick said...

It is a great book cover!

I'm a chick. I admit it.


Kimber Chin said...

Jess, I also love the bit
about chicklit.
I get a kick out of labels
(being the whitest girl
you'll ever know
with the most ethnic last name).
It is a blast
having fun with them.

I really must watch more tv.
I must be the most boring person
on the face of the planet.

Danielle Younge-Ullman said...

I just want to chime in to say Driving Sideways is an GREAT book. Jess has such a unique voice and the story is wonderful.

And I love you drunkards, of course!

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