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Monday, June 13, 2011

A wee bit of a rant...

It's my policy to abstain from reading my reviews as much as possible. It's not because I don't care—it's because I care too much! I think it's really hard to do authentic work if you're always obsessing about what other people think about your writing, just like it's really hard to be an authentic person if you're always obsessing about other people's opinions of you!

But recently I stumbled across a semi-review (I say "semi" because it wasn't actually a review of my new book, Liesl & Po, which the author of the review had not read, but more of a review of my whole career thus far and Personhood) that I thought deserved a response. The author of the Semi-Review criticized me for genre hopping, and specifically seemed irritated that—after jumping from contemporary YA (Before I Fall) to YA dystopia/fantasy (Delirium)—I should now be so brazen as to "think" I can write middle-grade (Liesl & Po, coming out this October).

Well, you know what? She's right! I DO think I can. Maybe I read the story of The Little Engine That Could one too many times when I was a child, but I believe that if I work hard enough at something, I will eventually be able to achieve it.

Sorry, lady! That's just my sty-lo.

The Semi-Review also exhorted me to stick with what I already know how to do—i.e., contemporary fiction in the style of Before I Fall. This is problematic on a few different levels. First of all, it's arbitrary, by those standards, to say that I know how to do contemporary YA well. I only wrote one contemporary YA book—what if I ONLY know how to write contemporary YA books about a high school senior named Samantha Kingston who dies and relives the day of her death multiple times? Should I just kill poor Sam off another half dozen times?

Second of all, I was twenty-five when I wrote Before I Fall. Should I assume it is the best, and the only, thing I can ever achieve in my life? How can I possibly know what else I'm good at, unless I try a variety of things? If people never tried anything new—including things they might risk failing at—they would never learn to ride bikes, play tennis, SPEAK, kiss, do cannonballs into a pool…they would never learn ANYTHING! C'mon, now.

Doing something I'm already good at over and over sounds like a great big SNOOZE. I am writing because I love writing. I want to push myself, always, to be better and better at it. I think about craft and narrative; I read voraciously; I dream about writing and think about writing when I run and when I shower and when I eat and when I'm out at parties. I will write books that are good. I will write books that are not. I will—maybe, maybe!—get out a book or two that is great. But I will never find greatness if I am unwilling to embrace failure, too.

So anyway, thank you for your opinion. I really do value and respect it; in the immortal words of the cast of the Jersey Shore, it's important that You Do You.

I'm gonna do me…and honestly, I hope I don't yet know all of the things that doing me entails. In fact, I hope I never stop learning.

35 comments:

Lydia Sharp said...

This is a beautiful response to such an ugly comment.

Jess said...

Wonderful response. Some people are so 'ugh'

Miranda Hardy said...

I applaud you for your well thought out response. I am a huge fan of your style and it would be a shame to limit it to only one genre. Many people should be exposed to your wonderful work.

Elleira said...

You should rant more! I like your rants.
Like warm pants.
:S

Kendall said...

You are an inspiration. Thank you for not letting this ugly review go, but for standing up for yourself. You're awesome!

Safari Poet said...

How dare you have the audacity to be multifaceted and not limiting yourself to one genre :-)

Great response!

Eleni @ La Femme Readers said...

Lauren, you are a breathe of fresh air in the YA genre. Don't let anyone's words ever bring you down. I NEVER read middle grade fiction, but when I saw your Liesl & Po book was available at BEA, I jumped on it. You know why? Because it's written by you, so it should be just as amazing as your other two YA books. You just might open my mind when it comes to reading that genre, you are that good my lady! You are awesome and a huge inspiration to many readers and writers. Keep on being your great self because whatever you are doing is working for ya!

Your devoted reader and Brooklynite,
Eleni
La Femme Readers

Vivienne said...

How boring it would be to be labelled as only being capable of doing one thing. We love your originality and that your audience will be able to enjoy your books at any age. Take the English author Anne Fine, she writes for many different age groups and she is one of the most loved and most prolific writers in the UK. You carry on doing what your doing and we will always love you for it.

Blaire Kensley said...

*drops the mic* Boom.

JKat said...

I think you should be allowed to jump genres. Sure, I basically wanted another equivalent of Before I Fall when I went out & bought Delirium, and while it wasn't, I still really, really loved it. I was happy with both books. It's good to be versatile. One of these days, the bottom is going to fall out of specific markets for books, and the writers who can adapt will be the most successful.

Jen @ A Book and a Latte said...

I'm glad you chose to rant, and thank the stars that you didn't stick to only YA contemporary! I absolutely LOVED Delirium. It's apparent in your books that you think about writing in all the big and little moments of the day. It's your ability to put words to emotions that constantly surprises me. I'm looking forward to Liesl & Po and Pandemonium! ~ Jen @ A Book and a Latte

Mickey @ imabookshark said...

Good for you! You do what you do and your real fans will keep reading :o)

Mickey @ imabookshark

extraordimary said...

I think expecting an author to write only ONE genre is akin to telling someone that he or she should only READ one genre. I love when authors try different things in the same way I love jumping from romance to YA to mystery to whatever else. I actually commend authors for trying something new; the transition may not always work or it may not produce a book of brilliance but it takes a lot of thought and work to seamlessly move from, in your case, contemporary YA to dystopian YA and still have them be fresh, gorgeous reads. So many authors go from YA to Adult or Adult to YA and I applaud them as well.

Though you say you don't often read your reviews, I'm glad you read this one and commented on it. I feel like I shouldn't be surprised that people (generally speaking) have an issue on genre-jumping but I have to admit that I am. In my mind, an author who writes well has the ability to write well in various genres - so why not try it?

A Kellan Mueller said...

It is my opinion that people care about genre too much and care about putting people in little boxes that make them comfortable. I personally believe it does a huge disservice to literature and a completely misunderstanding of the creative process and how stories are not only born, but how they are developed and how they come alive. As a reader, I am just as insulted by what was stated about you and I question if the author of that semi-review is actually a fan of literature and holds respect for the incredible amount of work that goes into creating it or if she is simply in love with a genre.

Hero Cagney said...

I've always heard that if you write kid lit, whether it be MG or YA, that genre hopping is perfectly acceptable. I can't imagine being trapped into only writing paranormal forever. I have too many other crazy ideas for that. Good, is good, is good, no matter what the genre...and your writing is good. And that's good enough for me. : )

Sara Bee said...

Bravo!

Lisa Tawn Bergren said...

Huh. I always thought it was just the publishers that got cranky with genre hopping, because it makes you hard to market...Perhaps that reviewer was just having a very hard day and that put her over the edge? In any case, Keep Calm and Carry On, as the Brits say. You're doing a brilliant job. --@LisaTBergren

Suzanne Young said...

Genre hopping is awesome and I'm already hearing amazing things about L&P! You can do it all! :-)

Library Gal said...

Lauren, you are so flippin talented that you could write a phone directory and I'd read it and buy copies for all of my friends......

witchoftheatregoing said...

A+ Classy response to a really awful comment. <3 Don't listen to people like that - you're above them!

courtneywrites said...

Your particular sty-lo is just one of many things I love and admire about you.

Paigeewa said...

That reviewer is ridiculous. There's nothing wrong with genre hopping because I, personally, write whatever I am inspired to write regardless of genre! And I can imagine it'd get boring to always write in one area when you have a really good idea that belongs in another.

Meg @ A Bookish Affair said...

If you're a good writer (and you are), you can write whatever you want!

Em said...

I appreciate genre-hoppers and little engines too. It's always fun to see where you'll go next!

Lu said...

Great response!

Maybe you should do a Horror next :)

Beth S. said...

I am always in awe of authors who can be so versatile with their genres and audiences and who manage to do it well. I'm sure you'll find that most people do not share the opinion of that one crabbypants.

Gina Blechman said...

Great rant. I was just arguing about this the other day as a matter of fact. For some strange reason, people seem to get their panties in a bunch any time someone mentions trying something new. (But what about your audience? But what about blah, blah, blah.) Thanks for kicking ass and taking names.

<3 Gina Blechman

LinWash said...

Wow. If genre-hopping is a crime, I guess Neil Gaiman and many other authors would be arrested by now. How sad that someone thinks an author is only allowed one genre. I'm glad you wrote a middle grade novel, because I'll buy it like I bought Delirium and Before I Fall. And if you switch to adult fiction, I'm so there with you too! But I'd like to see you tackle a graphic novel first.

Julia :) said...

Wow I can't believe someone actually wrote that about you! As if genre hopping is bad? Or going from YA to Middle Grade? Seriously? That's just ridiculous. That's like telling someone "Oh well you already speak English, how dumb of you to want to go out and speak Spanish as well." It may be that some authors only write one genre, but that doesn't mean all authors have to do that!

Bethany Neal said...

The idea that an author has to stick to one genre is absolutely absurd! I can't imagine writing the same type of book over and over for an entire lifelong career--actually I can, and it's boring!

Genre hop all you want, L. Not that you need my blessing, but I encourage all your writing endeavors whatever they may end up being. Rant justified.

Michele L said...

Lauren...You are by far my favorite author..and you have an incredible mind. A mind like that needs to be challenged! You GO girl!!!

Bee said...

Lauren, I love your versatility! Never give up on that, no matter who says what. I would love to do what you do - explore all kinds of writings, even screen-writing if that's possible.

And I'm so excited about Liesl and Po. It arrived in my mailbox a couple of days ago and it's lovely.

Alwyn said...

This is my favourite post ever. Awesome and incredibly inspiring without even a hint of triteness. *bookmarks*

Peony said...

This was an awesome post! And such a good response to a not so good comment. I love your books, keep writing even if that means genre hopping. After all, what's the fun in sticking to just one thing?

Casey (The Bookish Type) said...

Wow. I am flabbergasted by some people's audacity. I think this was a very classy response. You keep doing you, Lauren.

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