(Pai and I in the kitchen preparing dinner)
Pai: So how was your meeting in Porto?
Me: Really great. It was so nice to connect with another writer working the system, climbing the publishing ladder. I really enjoyed her insights. We work very differently and in different genres.
Pai: Which isn’t a bad thing?
Me: Not at all. I think there are unique elements we can learn from each other and ideas and projects we can pass off to one another.
Pai: Which genre is her work?
Pai: Why what?
Me: YA… Young Adult.
Pai: Argh, you Americans and your acronyms. It’s like you‘re all in the army all the time.
Me: (giggles) A book is YA when the protagonist is between the ages of 13-18. It doesn’t mean the book is specifically for teens, but that it deals with the struggles and adventures of youth.
Pai: Such as sparkly vampires would be YA even though it felt like everyone every age read that book?
Me: Exactly. What I love about YA is that you have none of the patriarchal nonsense of Adult Fiction.
Pai: Right, the Chick-Lit dilemma.
Me: (sarcastically overly serious) Um, excuse me, in the interest of being more inclusive and less debasing the term is actually Women’s Fiction.
Pai: (oozing with facetiousness) My humble apology, authoress.
Me: Listen, genres are incredibly important! When you pitch your book you toss your plea onto a specific slush pile; get that pile wrong and…
Pai: You don’t get past the gatekeeper.
Me: (nodding) You must KNOW THY WORK! I write contemporary fiction, BUT my work thus far has a female protagonist and is written with a female voice, therefore according to mainstream publishing should be marked to a female audience so my work is considered Women’s Fiction, but there is no Men’s Fiction genre. Anything written with a male perspective without Sci-Fi, Fantasy, dystopian or elements a historical timeframe is simply Contemporary Fiction.
Pai: So because you’re a woman and wrote a book about a woman that is why you have this specific genre.
Me: Not because I am a woman women’s fiction is fuzzy and nuanced. Nicholas Sparks writes Women’s Fiction, but some people consider his work more Romance. Paulo Coelho is marketed within Women’s Fiction.
Pai: And Fifty Shades of Gray is Romance?
Me: No, Fifty Shades of Gray is Erotic Romance or Erotica.
Pai: What’s the difference between Romance and Erotica?
Me: Writing where the sexual content’s objective is to stimulate or arouse the reader is Erotica and Romance is writing where sex and courtship exist and are a part of the plot, but are written in more of a Hollywood-movie-montage vibe. Erotic Romance is a blend of both and was a term developed to help market some books out of the Harlequin Fabio- cover-modeled mass-marketed paperback trap and into a higher price point.
Pai: But doesn’t your book contain sex?
Me: Yes, but the plot isn’t driven by sex. My books employ a “self discovery” narrative so they fall into Contemporary Fiction, but because of all the aforementioned malarkey I will more likely get noticed if I toss them into Women’s Fiction slush (mimicking gagging because I deeply resent this genre trap).
Pai: So it is all about the amount of sex?
Me: No, well maybe, kinda, genre’s are a tangled web…
Hank: (sitting across the hall at the dinning room table) ARGH! YOU GUYS! YOU KNOW I CAN HEAR YOU. I am right here. I can hear everything.
(Pai and I lean to the left to be in full view of the doorway)
Me: What is wrong with our conversation? We’re talking about publishing.
Hank: You’re talking about sex.
Pai: Our conversation isn’t inappropriate and besides you’re ten.
Hank: I just… I don’t know. I guess… I mean, it isn’t, but I just…
Me: Just because you have zero interest in sex doesn’t mean it isn’t a major part of life for a lot of adults.
Hank: Oh, I know! Sex is everywhere. I guess, I mean, I get it, but I just sooooo don’t care and I am like STAWP TALKING all the time about it people! Like, on TV and songs and teenagers, all they talk about is sex and I just do not care. Like, there are more interesting things, you know?
Pai: But we aren’t talking about sex acts. We’re discussing how sex within the context of publishing leads to being separated, categorized and marginalized. This conversation is rather interesting.
Me: If sex never becomes interesting to you that is cool, but if it does know you can always talk to us about what you find attractive, but until just don’t engage.
Hank: I just don’t care.
Pai: Good, as I said you are ten. Sex is a part of adulthood and never anything to be ashamed of as long as sex is respectful and consensual.
Hank: I know, I know! I just don’t care!
Me: Then, my darling boy, employ the same methods I used when you were obsessed with Minecraft: just don’t listen and don’t engage! Change the subject or if you are distracted by a conversation you are not a part of…
Pai: Like now for instance.
Me: Simply turn your attention elsewhere. Apply your headphones, politely close a door or move to a less distracting area.
Hank: Sure. Yes. Can you please close the kitchen door so I can study and be less distracted?
Me: Our pleasure. Thank you for telling us we were disturbing your work.
Hank: (nodding, focus back on his books) Thanks.
Me: (closing the kitchen door) So, what were we talking about again?
Pai: Publishing, I think?
Me: (sigh) Right, anyway…