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The Space Marked “Other”

One of the highlights for October was the annual Ozark Creative Writers conference, held in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.  It was an informative weekend filled with writers from as far away as Arizona and Oregon, and featured 39-year published author and creator of “Rambo”, David Morrell.

Commenting on his unusual longevity in the publishing world, Mr. Morrell stated, “The average author’s career lasts 15-20 years – largely because a writer often finds a format that works for them, and then does it over and over until both they and their readers tire of it.  He then went on to recap the last hundred years or so of book printing history (more about that later).

My favorite sentiment from Mr. Morrell was, “There are no inferior genres, only inferior authors.”  That was a refreshing point of view in an industry that often seeks to pigeonhole writers into an imagined hierarchy of what constitutes “good” writing.

Perhaps it struck a nerve with me because a typical question asked of a writer – especially at writers’ conferences – is “what do you write?”  My initial response, which I generally am able to keep to myself, is ‘whatever I can get away with’.  That’s because I enjoy writing a variety of things, and am generally so tickled that people actually pay for it.

So the next choice in responses is to consider who I’m speaking with and answer accordingly.  I’m an education writer.  I write non-fiction.  I love mysteries.  Sometimes the snobbier types are referring to what you’ve published, which may be entirely different from what you write, especially for those who have to pay the bills.  Of course, I understand that most people are just looking for a hook to hang your name on, a method of identifying this new face in a confusing sea of strangers.  Still…

Books - bookcase top shelf

I find the question similar to that insulting section of a form that asks if I am caucasian, african-american, asian, native american, or a purple-people-eater.  I’m human.  Isn’t that enough?  I’m a writer.  No further categorization required.

I’m also a fan of good books.  Period.  My favorites are filed under sci-fi, romance, western, contemporary, classic, biography, childrens, and memoir.  A story told well – in any genre – is a story that translates to everyone.  And that is something that transcends genre.

So I might be writing a children’s book…and a thriller…and a historical saga.  And I hope they will just be good stories – however Dewey decides to classify them.  So I’m not going to ask what you write.  I’d just like to know what are your writing NOW?

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7 thoughts on “The Space Marked “Other”

  1. Up early Karen, good post…I also took away a lot from David Morrell’s talk.

    I’m writing two novels. One is modern fiction based on what the oil companies are doing to the environment with natural gas mining. The other is more of a modern western. Not in time, still 1895, only in the writing style I use.

    • Now that’s diverse! (Unless the western somehow provides history for the oil company book – are there any oil derricks in your western?)
      Thanks for posting!

  2. Dear Karen,

    I am writing a five novel action adventure series about a man who speaks for the oceans of the world. Thank you for asking.

    Love your post.


    Doug (Fellow Purple People Eater.)

    • Thanks for posting, Doug. And why five volumes? One for each ocean? And what about the “seven seas”? haha Just kidding – it sounds interesting, and I can’t wait to see what you do with it!

      • Hi Karen,

        In D.T. Rhysing’s (series protagonist) world there is just one ocean and it spans the entire globe. The land and the people that live on it are despoilers of his home or unwitting accomplices of the former. The five books will tell the following stories: Origin of D.T. Rhysing, his exile at sea, construction of habitat, war for control of the oceans and his final voyage. I hope one day you will be able to read them all.



  3. That’s a good column, Karen, and I could not agree more. I write the things I’m interested in at the time I’m writing. I had a good conversation a couple of days ago with a certain person who had a single self-published book and admitted to not having a desire to ‘write’ but only to ‘sell’. She has no interest in writing anything else. She only put together the one volume to see if she could make money. I say, it might be nice to get some kind of monetary return but the joy of the writing is what I crave more than anything and the response of the reader is the wonderful frosting on the cake!

    • That’s about as funny as hearing people who go into teaching to make money! Nobody does this for the cash – how silly! It’s too bad she couldn’t have gone to work in the sales department for a publishing company, rather than waste her time writing something she wasn’t passionate about.

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