Expectations and the Heart of the Writer

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Or, so says Carson McCullers. I think it is no coincidence that when I thought of the content of today’s post, I thought of the title of that book. But it was another book I had in mind when I wanted to touch on today’s topic. WHEN EVERYTHING FEELS LIKE THE MOVIES is the book I wanted to bring up. But in borrowing the title of McCullers’s classic, I realized that her book also applies to the subject at hand.

Take this excerpt from the Wiki page for The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (henceforth referred to as THIALH):

When published, the novel created a literary sensation, enjoying a meteoric rise to the top of the bestseller lists in 1940; it was the first in a string of works by McCullers that give voice to those who are rejected, forgotten, mistreated or oppressed.

Now, from what I recall THIALH was an extraordinary read. Admittedly, it’s been a few years now (perhaps decades) since I last delved into it. But it speaks to what I had in mind in the same way When Everything Feels Like the Movies (henceforth referred to as WEFLTM) speaks to it.

It would seem that there is, at times, an expectation of the writer to perhaps write the story that wants to be read by the masses. Be it the latest fad, trend, hashtagable getbehindable cause, or what have you. That expectation often feels a bit white bread in nature. Don’t interrupt the status quo. Don’t shake the foundations. Don’t deride the sleeping village that does not want to be awoken.

And then along comes a delightful little dish like WEFLTM or THIALH, books that challenge the envelope of comfort-ability. Books that break down walls and cause discussion. Books that people rail against. When I get the extreme pleasure of reading such a book, I am immediately grateful for the courage of the author, the agent, the editors, the publisher… The author has decided to write the story that was in their heart. The rest of the chain decided to embrace, love, champion the story.

It shouldn’t be a brave thing to write on a subject matter, concept, or theme that speaks to you. A great story trumps all other considerations. If you have a story inside you, don’t check on outside influences for permissions or viability before telling it. Sure it’s a risk to tell the story your way. It may not be the story that the world is looking for at the moment, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tell it. Maybe the world will fall in love with the story they didn’t know they wanted to read.

Sure, you risk telling a story that may never see the light of day in the publication world. Even then it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tell it. Every time a writer sits down to tell a story they are taking a risk. Why take a risk on the latest trend? Why take a risk on an expectation? Listen to your heart. It may very well be a lonely hunter…but it is also who you are. It’s where you live, wherein you will discover your authenticity.

If you write for ‘the man‘ you run the risk of inauthentic voice, of grasping for the hot trend. Trailblazers like Raziel Reid and Carson McCullers are trailblazers not because they were selling something that wasn’t already there in all its neon glory in the real world. They are/were trailblazers because they don’t/didn’t give a damn about anything but telling the story that spoke to them. They stepped on lines, crossed borders, took risks with topics and subjects as an aside to storytelling…not in order to shock or dismay or discomfort the bookburning crowd.

I think of what could have happened with WEFLTM, if someone didn’t take a chance on its perceived vulgarity, and I cringe. Some rallied against it, saying it was NOT Young Adult (personally, I challenge their understanding of the young adult market…and of young adults in general). I mean, it was the most authentic YOUNG ADULT voice I think I ever read. When it was nominated for CANADA READS and the GOVERNOR GENERAL’S AWARD…that’s all the validation the author, agent, publisher needed. They all took risks with that book and all the risks paid off. Why? Not because it crossed the line, not because it shocked, not because it was obscene (as some would have you believe), but because it was a damn fine story! One of the best young adult novels I have ever read.

What happened after the GG nomination was just noise. Ignorant people being affronted is as age-old as Puritanicalism itself. I, for one, am ecstatic that Raziel Reid walked the walk. They had a story to tell and they told it. It was the heart of a writer who wrote that story, not expectation. Expectation might have wanted a story like WEFLTM…but I’m betting dollars to donuts that that just is not the case. Expectation doesn’t like to take chances. Sure, it loves high concept and something new…but edgy and raw? Probably not so much. But sometimes it’s the books that come out of nowhere that impact the reader the most. There was a big gaping hole in the young adult market that was just screaming to be filled by When Everything Feels Like the Movies. I’m thrilled that Reid wrote the story they imagined in their heart, come what may. Reid knew its validity as a YA story…just as the publisher understood the same. Is that courageous? Maybe…more like authenticity firing on all synapses, if you ask me. They all just knew.

In short, I guess what I am trying to say, is to be a fearless writer. Don’t consider your subject matter above your story. Don’t not write something because you’re afraid to tackle a hot-button issue. Don’t look for the trend and then write to it (if you know anything about trends and publishing, you already know that the trend in the marketplace is a year or two or three away from the trend at the agent/publisher level…so it’s virtually impossible to strike out at the beginning of a trend unless you already wrote the book and arrived on the first wave of the trend).

Take a look at the synopsis of WEFLTM:

School is just like a film set: there’s The Crew, who make things happen, The Extras who fill the empty desks, and The Movie Stars, whom everyone wants tagged in their Facebook photos. But Jude doesn’t fit in. He’s not part of The Crew because he isn’t about to do anything unless it’s court-appointed; he’s not an Extra because nothing about him is anonymous; and he’s not a Movie Star because even though everyone know his name like an A-lister, he isn’t invited to the cool parties. As the director calls action, Jude is the flamer that lights the set on fire.

Before everything turns to ashes from the resulting inferno, Jude drags his best friend Angela off the casting couch and into enough melodrama to incite the paparazzi, all while trying to fend off the haters and win the heart of his favourite co-star Luke Morris. It’s a total train wreck!

But train wrecks always make the front page.

TRAIN WRECKS ALWAYS MAKE THE FRONT PAGE. But stories told exquisitely are not always about shock-value, even though they may shock. Sometimes, they just catch a thing in its spotlight at just the right moment. Do you have a story you’re afraid/nervous to tell? You’ll never know if it’s good enough, if you don’t write it. Courage in writing is just a matter of following your heart…and ignoring the expectations of others. It’s your story. Don’t let others tell you it won’t fly before you even get it out. You never know unless you try.

From my review of WEFLTM:

When Everything Feels Like the Movies is essentially the story of a teen who is larger than the small town that could never truly contain them. What sets it aside from other stories about breaking out of the small and into the limelight is that the character who is struggling to be contained is trans. Jude (Judy) deals with bigotry at every turn…including at home. But she is still able to dream big and have such lofty glamorous goals for herself. Her almost vulgar egoism and arrogance is a delight. Where it should turn a reader off, it endears her to them. We see the raw vulnerability in her swaggering confidence and self-love. True sarcasm comes not from pride, but from the shaky ego that wants to emulate pride. Jude is such a flawlessly written flawed character. He will remain one of my favourite characters for a long time to come.

Read the full review of WEFLTM HERE at Try This Book On For Size

G. Donald Cribbs – Debut Author of Young Adult Fiction!

There’s an upcoming YA Lit release that I’m very excited about! Even though I’ve already read the novel from cover to cover. What I’m excited about is that it will be available for others to read. I’m also excited about the topic it covers…because it’s a topic I’m quite passionate about. THE PACKING HOUSE releases on Monday January 18th, 2016. It’s the debut novel by G. Donald Cribbs. Cribbs is the author of young adult fiction. I’m counting on him to continue on this path of YA Lit author…and I’m looking forward to reading his future offerings. But first, THE PACKING HOUSE!

I had the pleasure of interviewing Donald for my book blog, TRY THIS BOOK ON FOR SIZE. That interview went live today, in anticipation of his upcoming novel release. In the interview, Donald covers an array of things…but most importantly, he discusses CSA (Childhood Sexual Abuse). Without giving away too much of the novel, this is a topic explored in The Packing House. Here’s the book blurb:

THE PACKING HOUSEWhen sixteen-year-old Joel Scrivener has a raging nightmare in study hall and someone records it on their phone, he awakens to a living nightmare where everyone knows the secret he’s avoided for ten years. Reeling from a series of bullying incidents posted on YouTube and an ill-timed mid-year move, Joel takes to the woods, leaving the bullies and his broken home behind. However, life as a runaway isn’t easy. Joel finds it difficult to navigate break-ins, wrestle hallucinations, and elude capture. He races to figure out who his dream-world attacker could be, piecing clues together with flashes of remembered images that play endlessly inside his head. Besides these images, the one constant thought occupying Joel’s mind is Amber Walker, the girl he’s been in love with for years. Amber sees little beyond the broken boy Joel has become, despite the letters they’ve written back and forth to each other. But Joel is stronger and more resilient than he looks, and it’s time he convinces Amber of this fact, before he runs out of chances with her for good.

ThePackingHouseFinalCover

The Stunning Debut YA Novel from G. Donald Cribbs

To read my interview with G. Donald Cribbs, please visit my book blog at TRY THIS BOOK ON FOR SIZE.

Pre-Order The Packing House from Amazon NOW by Clicking on the cover below:

ThePackingHouseFinalCover

G. Donald Cribbs BIO:

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G. Donald Cribbs has written and published poetry and short stories since high school. Donald is a graduate of Messiah College in English and Education, and is currently a graduate student in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. He and his wife and four boys reside in central Pennsylvania where the author is hard at work on his next book, the sequel to his debut novel, THE PACKING HOUSE (January 18, 2016), by Booktrope Editions. Having lived and traveled abroad in England, France, Belgium, Germany, China and Thailand (you can guess where he lived and where he visited), the author loves languages and how they connect us all. Coffee and Nutella are a close second.

THE PACKING HOUSE DROPS JANUARY 18, 2016! LOOK FOR IT THEN!

#YASaves #BooksSaveLives With Faith We Can Move Mountains…

Just what makes that little old ant think he’ll move that rubber tree plant? Anyone knows an ant can’t move a rubber tree plant.

If you were alive in the ’70s you will remember Laverne & Shirley singing that song…possibly even more than you would remember Frank Sinatra singing it. You see…it was their TRUE theme song. Not the show’s theme song, but Laverne & Shirley’s theme song. Whenever anything seemed hopeless, one of the two would remind the other that anything is possible. Laverne would start the first few lines to spur on the defeated Shirley…and within a couple lines Shirley would catch the bug and come to believe it…soon they’d be singing in unison…

HE’S GOT HIGH HOPES!

And high hopes? Well, they were enough. High hopes would see the girls through all their trials and tribulations. And as a kid watching my favourite show, I’d buy into it. I’d feel their hope…and the ant’s hope. I always knew an ant could move a rubber tree plant. IF he tried hard enough.

My high hopes as a writer have ALWAYS been— SAVE ONE PERSON.

That’s it. Make one single solitary reader walk away from my novel lifted. Saved. Understood. I truly believe that we can spark change in fiction.

This past weekend I submitted my newest novel, PRIDE MUST BE A PLACE, to my agent. I’m hopeful that the message in this new novel is heard by someone who needs to hear it. #YASaves and #BooksSaveLives We have to believe this. Why else do we write?

Cover Reveal! BURN BABY BURN BABY Now Has a Cover!

My new publisher, CURIOSITY QUILLS PRESS, have outdone themselves! Cover artist Eugene Teplitsky has come up with the most perfect cover for my upcoming novel, BURN BABY BURN BABY! I absolutely love it.

TITLE: Burn Baby Burn Baby, by Kevin Craig

GENRE: Contemporary, Young-Adult

PUBLISHER: Curiosity Quills Press

DATE OF RELEASE: December 11, 2014

Cover Artist: Eugene Teplitsky

Without further ado, here’s the cover:

Burn Baby Burn 1000It doesn’t hit bookstores until DECEMBER 11th, but the great news is YOU CAN ORDER BURN BABY BURN BABY TODAY! It’s on PRE-ORDER at Amazon! If you pre-order now, it will magically appear on your Amazon Kindle devices on the morning of December 11th…ready for you to read on release day!

PRE-ORDER BURN BABY BURN BABY TODAY!

A HUGE thank you to Eugene for capturing Burn Baby so perfectly! I LOVE this cover! And thanks to Curiosity Press and my wonder agent, Stacey Donaghy, too! (-:

TODAY I’m going to ask you, my readers, if you could please share this cover on social media. I’d love to get the word out there! Thanks in advance.

Click this Kindle cover to go directly to Amazon to Pre-Order your copy of Burn Baby Burn Baby!

Click this Kindle cover to go directly to Amazon to Pre-Order your copy of Burn Baby Burn Baby!

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