As we begin the first week of Women’s History Month, I’m interested in understanding more about Chick Lit and Women’s Fiction, and their histories. I don’t typically read either genre… I don’t think… so I want to know more about both of these genres and what exactly it is that designates a piece of writing as “Chick Lit” or “Women’s Fiction.” And what better way to do that than by attempting to write a sample of one or the other (or both?) myself. After learning more about what each genre entails, of course.
I’m hoping this week’s writing prompt (Write a Few Paragraphs or More Of Chick Lit or Women’s Fiction… After Learning More About Each Genre) will help me check my own likely subliminal and subtle yet not-so-subtle passive-aggressive, misogynistic assumptions and biases about what Chick Lit and Women’s Fiction are— at the very door to the vault of our “literary canon,” where only what’s deemed as “valuable” in society and academia is let in, revered, saved, and preserved.
What prompted me to create this writing prompt? A couple of things that happened just last year, I suppose. But I’m sure my innate curiosity and annoying yet persistent and trustworthy insistence on questioning my own assumptions and beliefs about the things that I read and write— especially those things written by women— had something to do with it too.
Before last year I avoided romance novels like the plague (a genre with too many stereotypes and tropes and assumptions and subgenres to list here). And that was probably due to a mixture of my own academic experiences and indoctrination, as well as a personal preference for women in stories who are their own heroes and do their own rescuing. But then two things occurred, forever changing my assumptions about what a romance novel is and entails.
The first thing that occurred: I read Beach Read, a romance novel by Emily Henry. I picked it up after it received rave reviews, and after I realized I never read romance novels and needed to continually evaluate and challenge my own reading habits.
The novel is about two writers who fall for each other while engaging in a writing competition with each other, where they switch the genres they typically write, with the female character working to write the next “great American novel” instead of her usual romance novels and the male character writing a romance novel instead of writing another novel with Hemingway-Kerouac-style tropes.
Throughout the novel, Henry confronts the stereotypes and tropes female romance authors experience and work with on a regular basis, and more importantly, how their work is continually devalued and overlooked in society. And luckily for readers, she does so in a very amusing way.
But before reading this novel, I never even imagined that that was what I was doing—devaluing and discarding women’s writing work as real work— when I so easily discarded romance novels as unworthy of reading or buying.
Here are a couple of notable passages from the book:
“…It made me feel like people thought my career was a fluke. Like I’d sneezed and a romance novel came out.
And then there were the people who acted like we were in on some secret joke together when, after a conversation about Art or Politics, they found out I wrote upbeat women’s fiction: Whatever pays the bills, right? they’d say, practically begging me to confirm I didn’t want to write books about women or love.”Page 33. Beach Read by Emily Henry
“I knew that choreography well. He could love-struck pirates and werewolves me all he wanted, but when it came down to it, Augustus Everett was still pacing in the dark, making shit up like the rest of us.”Page 46. Beach Read by Emily Henry
The second thing that occurred last year that made me rethink my assumptions about what a romance novel is and entails: I discovered voting rights activist and complete governing powerhouse, Stacey Abrams, wrote eight romance novels under the pen name Selena Montgomery. And she has a new political thriller, While Justice Sleeps, coming out later this year, for those who are interested. Here’s what she said when asked about her career:
“’The act of writing is integral to who I am … I’m a writer, a politician, a tax attorney, a civic leader and an entrepreneur. I am proud of what I’ve accomplished.’”The Oprah Magazine. Stacey Abrams Has Written 8 Romance Novels Under the Name “Selena Montgomery”
After those two experiences, I’m also left wondering: What are my assumptions about Chick Lit and Women’s Fiction? Do I actually know what they are all about? And when I do learn more about what they are about, what would my own version of Chick Lit or Women’s Fiction look like?
Stay tuned for the draft of my few paragraphs (or more) or Chick Lit or Women’s Fiction. It’ll be posted on the blog on Friday.
Write your own excerpt of Chick Lit or Women’s Fiction this week too and share a link to it in the comments of a Daily Drafts & Dialogues post. Or tag me @kecreighton on social: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Medium.
Be sure to subscribe to Daily Drafts & Dialogues posts to get more inspiration as you complete this week’s writing prompt, and to be notified of future writing prompts that will be shared every week on Monday.
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