One of the biggest writing issues I have ever had came in form of a teacher I had in my junior year of college, by the name of Leslee. When I first saw her and did the initial girl thing of judging a book by its cover, I thought she would be open minded and very helpful to my writing. I mean how many 70 or so year old teachers do you see walking around with grey dread locks down to their waist and entire arm sleeve tattoos going all the way down to their hands. Upon first glance, I thought that this indicated that she was not only a bit of a hippie, but open to new things…concerning writing that is. She was, after all, my creative writing teacher.
One of the worst teachers I have ever had. And that is an accomplishment, because there have been some awful ones over the years… including that 5th grade teacher who told me in front of the whole class that I couldn’t come up to her and ask questions ever again until I learned to talk like a woman (unbeknownst to her, I actually have a vocal disability. My vocal cords are damaged causing me to often sound like I lost my voice).
When I turned in my first short story, I was pretty excited about it. It was the longest story I had ever written up until that point, and I couldn’t wait to see what she thought. Now I wish I had dropped the class before ever trying. It was a thriller/crime type of story. She slapped on the front page in red ink, “Oh, a genre story!” My face kinda went like this: o.O
Not only that, but she refused to even give it a grade, “because it would be too detrimental to my confidence for the remainder of the semester.”
This was my first encounter with “genre prejudice,” as I like to call it. I had never known until then that genre was considered the reality TV of the literary world and was ultimately viewed as trash fiction. But here is the conclusion I came up with. I never walk into a book store and look for the most “literary” book I can find. In my mind, those books have their place. In a classroom boring students to death. Ha! Just kidding. I know lots of people love their literary stories, and I have read a few over the years that absolutely swept me away. But the bottom line is, when people go to a airport book store to find something entertaining for the flight, they want just that. Something entertaining! And that is what I enjoy writing.
Leslee was so damaging to my confidence as a writer, that I spent the next three years fighting off the worst case of writers block in my life. And it wasn’t because I didn’t want to write, or because I couldn’t figure out what happens next in a story. It was because some woman convinced me that the kind of writing I like to create isn’t worth anyone’s time. It wasn’t until I realized that “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hunger Games” and “Harry Potter” are all genre fiction and extraordinarily popular that I figured it out. She was full of shit.
After an entire semester of fighting with this woman (because I was too deep into the semester to drop the class and lose the money), my confidence in my abilities were shot. Four years later, I got my work published on my own. Maybe that says more about my determination than her opinions on what constitutes as REAL writing.
Has a teacher or anyone you know put down your writing because of the genre you chose to write in? Am I the only one who experienced this kind of prejudice against genre fiction?
If not, just know that you are not alone. Write what you love, love what you write, and have fun with it. If we were all meant to write new and improved versions of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” (no offense to Harper Lee), the reading world would be a boring place.