2004-01-26 - 11:31 a.m.
I just finished reading White Oleander which I borrowed from a good friend who recommended it. After about the third chapter I had commented to my husband, "I feel like I'm reading one of the hundreds of Joyce Carol Oates stories.... and while I like them, and I like this- its more of the same." My opinion of the book did improve as I read on and it fully captured my curiosity. Yet at it closure I was left with the feeling that its a shame that it is PREDICTABLE what will sell! I feel like if I WANTED to I COULD just sell out and write marketable stories copying those overdone themes and styles. OF course there MUST be an affair in the story... that a recurring event in Oates many stories of women's self demise. The author Janet Fitch is a wonderful writer, although I found her charatcterization of the artist as necessarily emerged in the world of drugs and irresponsibile loss of self in the act of creating to be the very thing I rebel against! (Despite my study of Poe who I think brilliantly explored those themes). Anyway, at the end of the book there was an interview with Janet Fitch in which she talks of her influences- and lo and behold mentioned that she always sent her short storys to Ontario Review as Joyce Carol Oates is the assistant editor there. It made me laugh, and feel somewhat smugly vindicated as I could pick out the influence almost immediately upon reading.
In any case, I am insrired by the fact that Janet Fitch wrote for 12 years, mailing her work out, BEFORE her first published piece saw the light of day! That's inspiring to me. It even makes me want to re-write the story I lost on my computer the week before last, although this time I think I'll throw in some of those literary conventions OTHER people love.... make the artist get high once, or have an affair-- or some other predictable thing that will reek of familiarity, and perhaps COMFORT in its deJa Vu affect, so just MAYBE my story will pass the desk of Joyce Carol Oates rather than merely an intern at the Ontario Review. I suppose the interns know when to identify what would be deemed "publishable" and when to return the GOOD stuff back to the writer who just don't get the mainstream market. Sex and drugs still sell.
Anyway, in all honesty, I am oddly inspired by this.... as it seems easy to copy someone's style, though not ADMIRABLE, it would still be FUN to get published. What scares me is that I think it will be the CRAP that I write that first gets published. However its like any other career, you hae to first do the shitty job and get recognition before you REALLY get the respect and freedom to be truly creative and do what you want. So I see this as the equivalent of working as a cashier.... and hey I DID make it to Assistant Store Manager of that supermarket...
Its the equivalent of working the night shift cleaning toilets.. which I did.... and then worked my way up to Manager of a crew of 30 staff in a group home.
So for now, I can rework my story, and abandon just SOME of my ideals and throw in a bit of the fluff as a stepping stone. We'll see if it works.
It truly DOES feel like I am playing a game in a way.
Its been said you get published one of two ways: either do something completely novel exceptionally well, or do what everyone else is doing exceptionally well.
At this point I would be happy with EITHER of those paths to publication. Then once there I believe creativity can REALLY thrive and perhaps actually be shared.