What’s my frequency, Kenneth? (Musings on genre)

Every second Sunday of the month is the Redwood Writers meeting, our region’s group for writers of all types. I look forward to them every single month, and always come away completely inspired – from rubbing elbows with a bunch of wonderful writers and authors, to hearing the wisdom and advice from our monthly speaker.

Today, as usual, I gathered a bunch of useful information to keep with me and improve on my skill. But it was something in the very beginning of the meeting that really stuck with me and got me thinking. The speaker asked the newcomers to stand up and say their name, and what they write. One person stood up and introduced themselves as a romance author. Another was a writer of mystery. Another wrote historical fiction. Another wrote poetry.

It got me thinking. What would I say if I had to stand in front of a crowd and sum up my writing with one label?

I’ll tell you one thing, it wouldn’t be easy. Let’s look at my published works.

My first book is “A Symphony of Cicadas,” a book that could be classified as both literary fiction and paranormal fantasy. I grapple with the genre all the time. If you follow the main character, Rachel, the story is paranormal fantasy, perhaps magical surrealism, as it follows her journey through the afterlife after she and her son died in a car accident. But truly, she is more of the narrator as she witnesses the lives of all those she left behind in the real world. Then it becomes more of a literary fiction novel. But as a whole, the story is about a family who is knocked off course by a devastating blow, and must somehow pick up all the pieces of a new kind of puzzle to be able to move forward.

The sequel, “Forever Thirteen,” continues this tale, but from the point of view of Rachel’s son, Joey. If you follow Joey, it is once again a paranormal fantasy/magical surrealism, but with a Young Adult edge. But once Joey gets past his own shock over losing his life, he becomes focused on his friend he left behind, a boy who goes downhill with the loss of his friend. Then it once again becomes more literary fiction, exploring the dynamics of his friend’s single parent household, the cruelty of kids at school, and the sucky, confusing age of thirteen.

P.S. Catch a sneak peek at the preview of Forever Thirteen here.

I wrote “Golf Balls, Eight Year Olds & Dual Paned Windows,” a collection of essays on single parenting, gathered from a column I used to write for the newspaper. It’s only the first of three I’ll have in this collection, as I’ll have a new collection of these essays coming out eventually, and end it with a full length memoir on our blended family (that may be out as early as next year).

I wrote a poetry book titled “Everything I Am Not Saying,” a collection of poetry that dapples in love, love’s loss, divorce, faith, single parenting, sadness, life…. It marks a time in my life when love escaped me, and the hurts were screaming to be written down on paper.

I have a rough draft, yet-to-be-named novel that I hope to have edited by the end of the year that tells the tale of two mothers that both suffer different kinds of tragedies that bring them together in one brief moment in time that changes them both forever.

Family, particularly the “underdog” family.  You know, single parent families, blended families, broken families, families trying to get their sh*t together… I think that’s my genre, or at least my frequency.

It’s hard for me to pinpoint myself as a certain kind of writer. I love writing. I love prose. I love writing that is so vivid, it paints a picture better than, well, a picture. I lean more toward literary fiction. But I’ve really enjoyed dappling in fantasy. I have another manuscript that could be classified as chick lit. I’d love to try my hand at a thriller or mystery. And I am so haunted by stuff that scares me, I think it might be kind of interesting to tackle horror.

But my passion is family – especially the kind that are overcoming struggle – because, as a former single mother and now a stepmom, that’s the biggest part of my life. It’s what I know. I know what it’s like to be in a marriage that ends. I know what it’s like to be the sole parent of two young kids. I know what it’s like to date as a single mother, and the messy side of blending a family. And I weave all of these themes into my books, taking bits and pieces of my life and intertwining them with fictional threads to create a brand new story about life, love, growth….

I write fiction. I also write real life. I am a poet, and an essay writer. I even dabble in Facebook statuses. 🙂

I am a writer.

The end.

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9 thoughts on “What’s my frequency, Kenneth? (Musings on genre)”

  1. Crissi,

    I am glad to know you are inspired by our meetings. One of my favorite aspects of belonging to the California Writers Club is that it is for writers of *all* genres. As the genre lines blend and blur so that it is difficult to pigeonhole stories into neat little boxes, I find that talking with writers of other genres helps to “cross-pollinate” creativity.

    I joined the CWC back in the early 1990s when I lived in Southern California. Back then, I was writing feminist essays and had wanted to write screenplays. Later when I moved to Northern California and re-joined CWC, (the Redwood branch), I was trying to reformat my master’s thesis into a non-fiction book. It was an interdisciplinary work looking at the origins and evolution of the cultural image of the cave man icon.

    In the 2000s I wrote a novel length Harry Potter fanfic which I used to test my own talent in fiction writing and to see if I had the stamina to write a novel length story. Yup! I even won the prize as the best novel length story on one fan site.

    Now I am writing the sequel to an epic historic fantasy set in the time of Charlemagne.

    Does that sound like an evolution of writing styles to you? It does to me. I also see it as learning my craft and using everything I have learned along the way as being a part of my tool kit.

    No bit of insight is wasted. It can be like a seed who is planted and waits for just the right opportunity to germinate and go on to bear fruit one day.

    I regret not having a chance to chat with you yesterday, but it is impossible to schmooze with everyone that I want to at the meeting since the time flies so quickly. Hopefully we will be able to schmooze at the next meeting or so.

    Until then, may your Muse treat you well,

    Linda C. McCabe

    1. That all makes perfect sense. Perhaps after a few years I can stand up in front of a group and say with certainty the exact type of writer I am. I could probably even say that now, to some degree. But I’m just having too much fun writing in general to pigeonhole myself into one genre. 🙂

      It was lovely seeing you yesterday, even if we didn’t get to chat. I may not be at the March meeting, but I’ll be there in April.

  2. Thanks for the thoughtful response to the whole genre-thing. I, too, was amazed at the clarity with which the visitors and new members announced their genre. My first novel was a blend of women’s fiction, lesbian fiction, and cozy-mystery. An editor once told me, “Never say your work is a blend of genres; it makes you sound unclear about your work.” Well, I’m perfectly clear. I write blended-genre fiction.

  3. Natalie Moon-Wainwright

    I was actually asked that question yesterday by one of our guests. I guess that’s fair, since we ask it of our guests! So I shrug my shoulders and say, “Let’s see, I write sermons, essays, I’ve done a children’s book and blogging, started a mystery, memoir…. Linda McCabe says, “That means you’re a diverse writer.” Yes, I’m diverse! 😉

  4. Great subject! I’m constantly trying to “name that genre”…like a quiz game!
    After two novels, I’ve discovered I write strong character fiction to challenge and inspire women in their own life journey.
    I found Redwood Writers back in 2008 and published my first novel in 2009 (Touch of Magenta) and second in 2013 (Something in Stone). It has been a marvelous journey made even more exciting by my friends and associates at Redwood!

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