Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Death of a Term

I've been told--well, I read--that the term "Chick Lit" is dead. The following comes from the BookEnds, LCC - A Literary Agent blog:

I have two manuscripts ready to be fine tuned: A mystery with chick lit voice, and a romantic suspense. I really like both stories, but I keep hearing chick lit is dead. Should I concentrate on the romantic suspense?

Yes, chick lit is dead. I would advise anyone who has a desire to write in the category formerly known as chick lit to wipe that terminology from your dictionary. Now that you’ve done that, let me tell you what you are writing. Funny women’s fiction, light women’s fiction, or fun women’s fiction. And after all that is said I am here to tell you that there is actually an audience for chick lit mysteries. Not just a readership, but an audience of editors. I think in this case you’ve got a light, funny mystery and should feel free to continue
with both.
Speak Coffee pointed this out to me in her blog and at first I felt the need to lament. I thought the stories themselves were dead. I wanted to sit in a corner clutching my little novels to my chest, promising my lovely ladies (Estela, Daisy, Zoe, and Moo) that they weren't obsolete and insignificant to the reading/publishing world. Someone would want to buy them! Now I realize that it's just semantics. The name of the genre/category/imprint is changing (slowly, I think). Perhaps to something less offensive? Something that isn't cringed at? Something that isn't automatically dismissed by "seirous folks" as easy, unsellable fluff.

[Blogger's Note: I'll be the first to admit that my current novels aren't challenging to the reader. I didn't write them to challenge thoughts and beliefs. I wrote them to be entertaining, light, fun, and emotional. I always want deep emotion to be felt in my stories. But are they "deep thinkers"? Hell no!]

So, for BookEnd agents, the term itself is dead. They now call it "humorous women's fiction" (not sure how I feel about the unnecessarily long title--why not just keep it women's fiction? or "Girly Fun!" haha, just kidding). BookEnds represents a cute little mystery series that sounds sorta chick-lit-y to me. The first novel is Dying to Be Thin - A Fat City Mystery, which I'm really looking forward to finding, buying, and reading. Call it what you will--it's chick lit (I'm using the term loosely here) with a little death thrown in.

So... I'm all for changing the name if it helps agents sell their clients novels and reduces the gag reflex some have when they're handed a novel with a "chick lit voice." Because there is still an audience that yearns for fluff and easy-reads. How else would Meg Cabot, Sophie Kinsella, and many others remain on the bestseller lists? (All good writers, IMO, so I'm not knocking them for writing fluffy tales that I buy and enjoy VERY much.)


I suppose in a few months it won't really matter. In a few months I'll shut the feel-good chick lit (CL) (oops... I mean "fun/humorous women's fiction") side of my brain off and start working on "serious" stuff. Which probably means a death of some sort. I don't know why all of my "literary" work revolves around some type of sadness, death, or seriously bothersome topics like molestation. I think my brain rationalizes those topics as "dark and moody" thus not light-hearted and romantic. It will amaze me if I can pull off a literary romance that doesn't fall into the CL voice. I probably could if I changed the definition of "serious" in my head. I'm going to try to tackle an untapped portion of my imagination and writing style while studying at UNH. I doubt my fellow MFAers will read anything remotely close to the stories I'm working on now. I have a few ideas roaming around in my head and scribbled into little notebooks--very random ideas that may not go anywhere.

In the end, students in my workshops will probably have to read about fat girls. I know a few things about fat girls. A title for a novel (perhaps my dissertation?!) popped into my head last night and I really think I could make work. It's a story about a girl's success/failure at loving herself. I don't want the story to be like all other stories out there regarding big girls--I'll have to find a unique twist and I'm not sure what that is yet. For now, the title's stuck in my head. We'll see if it comes to fruition. That and the idea I had about the exhibitionist lawnmower rider--a young girl's coming of age story. :)

Interesting Articles on Chick Lit:
Chick lit, for better or worse, is here to stay
This is Not Chick Lit
THIS IS CHICK LIT: Sick Of Being Kicked Around
How the Slapper Became the Saluted: An Alternative Insight into the Chick-Lit Genre.
A feminist fights back against 'chick lit' label


Margosita said...

I think I agree with Speak Coffee's analysis of Chick Lit. Good writing shouldn't have to have a label. It really shouldn't have to have a sexist label that limits its audience. If Estela, Daisy, Zoe and Moo are good characters with compelling stories I think they'll find their home, no matter what we choose to call it.

And actually, I object to labels like "humorous women's literature" and the like, as well. As if women could or should only write for other women! Or as if strong, compelling female characters wouldn't appeal to men, the big dumb apes. I think we should give both women and men a little more credit.

Taggie7 said...

Very good points! Es, Moo, Daisy and Zoe tell compelling stories and I hope that they do find a home of their own!

Speak Coffee said...

At first I thought you were going to post a eulogy! lol! But this was much more upbeat. I'm glad to hear that Es, Moo, Daisy and Zoe will have a home even if it has to be called something else to be marketed. And in the end the sales part of it is just sales - like margosita said, and you too I think, it's all about a compelling story. I wonder if you'll switch back and forth between the light and dark sides of your writing or if you'll find something else in there. Some of the best things I've ever read weren't what would be considered literary fiction and I think that has to do with the "compelling story" part of it. but now i'm just rambling ...


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