A chick lit writer talks about her muses. . .~ By Melina Kantor Some people have nightmares in their closets. Some people have boys in their basements (and not in a serial killer way). My basement, however, has a diva infestation. I’ve never seen them, but here’s a picture of their ancestors, The Nine Muses:
The divas live in a private section of the basement that I never get to see, and are way more girlie than I. They decorate with daffodils, gerbera daisies, and a lot of pink. They’ve stocked up on champagne, tiaras, boas, and big squishy chairs. They have really fast Internet that never, ever, ever goes out so they can order shoes, books and chocolate whenever they want. The divas sleep on mattresses with marshmallow-like pillow tops and feather beds, with Egyptian cotton sheets (the thread count, of course being about 1,015). When I moved from California to New York, the divas agreed to come, but they still insist on having café au lait and pain au chocolat flown in from Café Fanny in Berkeley every morning. Incidentally, the café’s delivery men are smoking hot, as were the moving men the divas hired to move their many belongings across the country. Their taste in music differs from mine. Yet, they have control of my iTunes account, so sometimes I find songs by the Bangles and The Cure on my iPhone, usually as part of a playlist for the book I’m working on, and I listen, happily. And they have a huge thing for glittery pens and flowery sticky notes. Whatever works, right? So that’s why my writing space is full of junk like this, and why my computer cover is pink. The deal is, I give the divas what they want, and do what they want, and in return, if they’re feeling happy, they shout messages up the stairs. Only I can hear them. What kind of messages do they send? Here are a few gems: “Your hero and heroine have to help a goat deliver her kid! Oh yeah, and while you’re at it, make it a breech birth. BTW, the goat’s having twins. You don’t know Jack about goat births? No worries. Get thyself to YouTube.” “Force your heroine to do karaoke! Trust us.” “You’re naming your heroine Polyhymnia, after the muse of sacred hymns and poetry. Just go with it. You can call her Polly. You have our permission to joke about how she wants a cracker. You’re welcome.” “Guess what?!? Your heroine’s ex just got engaged. Sucks to be her!” “Your hero and heroine are in the process of removing each other’s clothes. For the first time. Bwah ha ha. Oh, wait. Uh oh. The village is on fire! Did you hear us? There’s. A. Fire! They better get their clothes back on. NOW! So much for that.” And they absolutely love when my heart is broken. They sit back on their divans, basking in the schadenfreude. “You know the playlist that guy gave you? We know you want to delete it, but no! Your heroine has to listen to the one the song that breaks your heart, over and over again. Mel, don’t argue! We know that’s him playing bass. But in return, we’ll let you import a picture of said guy into your Scrivener file, and label it villain. You want to win NaNoWriMo, right? That’ll get you at least 7,000 words.” They were so right. Not only did I win NaNo the year I wrote that book, I wrote tissue worthy heartbreak scenes. The divas have one last special message they asked me to share with you: “We divas want to make it clear that chick lit is absolutely not dead. As long as there are muses, in diva form or otherwise, happily providing you chick lit writers with sparkling ideas, the genre will thrive. We muses have been around as long as people have been telling stories, and we’re here to stay. So listen to us, and keep writing.” How can you argue with that logic? And there you have it. For the writers among you: What are your muses like? For the non-writers among you: What inspires you and sparks your creativity? I’ve got to run. The divas are getting snappy. I’m supposed to be revising. Ciao! Melina writes contemporary women's fiction with a pinch of oregano and a dash of chutzpah. You can visit her at http://melinakantor.com.
What's so important about voice?
Agents and editors ask for voice by name.~ By Chris Bailey and Melina Kantor When asked what they hoped to find in a successful entry, a third of the final round judges for the 2010 Get Your Stiletto in the Door contest said voice topped their wish list. Young Adult final round judge Emilia Rhodes from Simon & Schuster says “a voice that sparkles” sets a winning entry apart from the rest. Editor Megan Records, Kensington Publishing Corp., one of the final round judges in the paranormal category, says she’s first attracted to a story by the voice. A final round judge in the Single Title category, Harper Collins Editor Amanda Bergeron says, “I will be looking for a strong voice." With that kind of demand, it makes sense to let your voice color your writing. In honor of the Stiletto contest and yesterday's discussion on voice, we thought we'd throw a little writing party and give you all a chance to show off your colorful voices with a small writing exercise:
Write a paragraph or short scene in which your protagonist is in a shoe store looking for the perfect pair of stilettos to wear to her ex-fiance's wedding. It's been a very long day, she's green with envy, her feet hurt and every pair of shoes she finds are either too expensive or don't fit.Don't think about voice while you're writing. Hopefully, by writing something quick with no strings attached (like worries about pacing, goals, character development, etc.) your voice will automatically shine through. Every person who does this exercise will have the story, but no two stories will sound alike. That's the beauty of voice. What did you discover about your voice? Are your sentences long or short? Did you write in first person or third person? Are there any words you love to use? Which lines do you think your readers (including critique partners, friends and family) would feel "are so you?" If you try this, leave a comment and let us know how it went! If you're feeling particularly brave, feel free to post some or all of your exercise.
There’s still time to give your manuscript a final polish! Enter the Stiletto contest electronically by midnight Saturday, Oct. 2.See http://chicklitwriters.com/home/get-your-stiletto-in-the-door for details.
New York Times bestselling author Shirley Jump, who teaches online writing classes when she’s not facing a deadline, says, “You have your own unique way of looking at the world, and that perspective bubbles over into the way you tell a story, relate a joke, comment on a play—almost anything you do or say is tinted with your views on the world, your perspectives, where you live and where you work.”At the end of a twisted quest for certainty, I arrived almost where I began. Just keep writing. Your distinctive voice will emerge. Share with us. What’s your view on voice? What steps did you go through to discover yours?
Well, chick lit fans. Have you had any luck finding your voice? What's worked for you?Please take our poll and share your thoughts in the comments!
~ Chris Bailey’s writing for hire has appeared online, in numerous U.S. newspapers and in mailboxes across the U.S. and Canada.
No Need to Check Your Brain at the Door: Chick Lit Gets ConsciousChick lit isn’t in the coffin yet. Women today are just demanding stories and characters as awesome and complex as they are. BY: Melissa De Silva
Chick lit is brainless. It’s frivolous. It’s dead. We’ve all heard the common slurs of detractors of the genre. But is it? The last time I checked, chick lit was about the experience of contemporary women – their career struggles, their challenges in navigating the minefield of dating, relationships and romance, and their friendships and family – mostly seen through the humorous, snappy personal lens of Every Woman.Says Kalidah Jamil, a court interpreter who counts Isabel Wolff and Sheila O'Flanaghan among her favourite chick lit authors, “I enjoy reading chick lit because it’s a delightful form of escapism. After a whole day at work, settling dinner, dishes, whatever, and finally getting the kids to bed, when I manage to squeeze in some time to read in the loo/bus, why would I want to read books on history/politics/philosophy or other cerebral stuff? I want sweet, funny stories about love and life.” Keeping it Real: Chick Lit as Awesome as We Are I think that the key to chick lit staying relevant to readers and enticing as a product category is simply for it not sell women short. What do I mean? Well, for example, lots of chick lit deals with men and relationships and there’s nothing wrong with that. These are crucial elements in our lives. But perhaps what publishers and other critics who claim that chick lit is dead (and brainless and vacuous and inane…) see is the barrage of pink-covered books pouring into the market that are crammed with cardboard characters who all seem to be obsessed with an identical (vacuous) goal: landing a date/ relationship/ diamond engagement ring so that things will end happily ever after. For most of the women I know (and having been a women’s magazine journalist for almost 10 years, I know a couple of women), this isn’t what their lives look like. It’s a whole lot bigger than some guy, no matter how great he might be, and includes jobs, friends, play, volunteering, sports, dogs, whatever. Sometimes chick lit reader Ahila Sonarajah, a human rights lawyer based in London, says, “The only stuff I've enjoyed is where it reflects modern day women and the funniness of being one, but doesn't pretend there are happy endings. I reckon Sex and the City is probably the best chick lit I've seen because it deals with the struggles of being independent, etc without pretending that a woman always ends up with the perfect man. Life is more complicated and often, being independent means you're not going to have the fairy tale life.” What Women (Really) Want So what chick lit critics may not realise is that most women aren’t tired of chick lit at all. They’re just demanding more from the genre, that it adapt to reflect the reality of their own lives, which involves a whole lot more than obsessing whether he will/he won’t __________ (fill in blank with desired romantic gesture). Because seriously, we have better things to do. And one of them is reading about the kind of woman who’s life is like ours, but funnier and more interesting, so we can be entertained* at the end of a long day. And maybe sometimes, besides laughing, we might cry a little, and even learn a thing or two about ourselves and that big thing called Life. *Being entertained doesn’t translate to reading about some bimbo whose life revolves around chasing men in between manicures and microdermabrasion sessions. …In the next post in the ‘Chick Lit Gets Conscious’ series: Hold the Bimbos, Please. Melissa De Silva is a freelance magazine journalist based in Singapore. She is currently working on a luxe-adventure chick lit novel set in Asia with an international cast of characters. When she isn't writing for work or play, she paints like a child and takes long walks in tropical parks, squirrel-spotting while trying to avoid evil, thuggish monkeys.
We’re going to be repeating that mantra quite a bit, for those in the back who routinely miss the memo.Chick lit is SO not dead. The stories and the characters we chick lit writers create are not only alive and well, they’re full of spirit, charm, and, most importantly, attitude. To start our discussion on the genre, we thought we’d share some of our thoughts on chick lit:
I read chick-lit because, let's face it, life can throw us some serious fast-balls and losing yourself in light reading focused on some fictional chick's life can often be WAY more fun. Similarly, I write chick-lit because 1) life has thrown ME some serious fast-balls and losing myself in writing about some fictional chick's life is often WAY more fun and 2) my writing focuses on strong yet vulnerable women trying to navigate a world they often cannot control and learning a lot about themselves in the process. And as I've been told time and time again, "write what you know." ~ Meredith Schorr
Chick lit characters are never depressing. If I need a dose of dysfunctional family, I can pick up the phone. I read and write to escape into an entertaining world where problems can be resolved and happily ever after achieved in 300 or so pages. ~ Chris Bailey
There was a time when chick lit was all about pink covers, lipstick, and shoes. In some cases, it still is, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But I love that these days, a chick lit heroine can wear stilettos, bunny slippers or work boots. She may be the life of the party, or feel more at home curled up on her couch with her dog. She can work in an office or a national park. What makes her a heroine is her attitude, her strength, and that we laugh with her, cry with her and follow her through whatever type of journey she may be on. ~ Melina Kantor
Where can you get a strong protagonist, with real issues, and look good while doing it? I love for my readers to feel what my heroine feels, live what my heroine lives, and walk away feeling good. With today's life issues, we need strong Chick Lit books to get us through the tough times smiling, and feeling good about our life. ~Tonya Kappes
Chick-Lit truly is all about "the attitude". And oh yeah, I've got plenty of that kinda sass and sage wisdom to share with y'all! Here's the scoop: as the beyond fabulous Lauren Baratz-Logsted said in her book THIS IS CHICK-LIT "Lits [i.e. literary writers] facing off against Chicks is nothing new. Indeed, the first instance I can find...is from Charlotte Bronte in 1848, on the topic of Miss Jane Austen." So bring it on, Bronte Lits. It's time to hear from today's Chick-Lit Chicks! ~ D.D. ScottSo, fellow chick lit fans. Why do you read / write / love chick lit? Please tell us in the comments! See you on September 21st! We’ll be discussing the “State of Chick Lit.” Trust us. You’ll want to be there. Possibly with your favorite chocolate and your coffee drink of choice. Until then, Sexy Sassy Smart Chick Lit Wishes! And don’t forget: Chick lit. It’s all about the attitude.