First Cup of Coffee – May 19, 2023

A roundup of my travels and socializing: Nebula Conference, the Santa Fe International Literary Festival, New Mexico Writers, literary snobbery, tail-sniffing, and repping genre writers who keep the industry going!

First Cup of Coffee – August 29, 2022

I’m back from Bubonicon with tales about pronouncing names correctly, the importance of normalizing giving pronouns, and the pervasive tail-sniffing among authors and how that leads to sycophantic behavior.

Good morning, everyone! This is Jeffe Kennedy author of epic fantasy romance I’m here with my first cup of coffee just delicious. Ah today is monday. August um, Twenty Ninth August Twenty Ninth how that happened almost the end of August are you ready are you ready for it. I love that song of Taylor Swift’s I feel like I’m I feel like I should make a ah unpopular opinions about Taylor Swift videos Tiktok because I love are you ready for it actually it’s um, the title is …ready for it. I’m pitching fallen grapes from the chair. The table.

So um, how are all of you? I am um back from Bubonicon good weekend at Bubonicon not many people there but a lot of people that I hadn’t seen since pre pandemicdeic so it was good. But and I think it was a good warm up for world con I leave for that early Wednesday morning. So probably no podcasts Thursday and Friday this week unless I get a wild hair to do a guest I am hoping to write. And my hotel room in the mornings before the comfort starts. Um, because my first gigs on Thursday and Friday aren’t until like 1011 in the morning so hoping to get those words in wish me luck. Ah. I did write a little bit at Bubonicon had a lot of good conversations with people that it’s nice to have the in-person conversations and so I came back with my head full of many things which is great. Ah, that’s what we want from a conference and I have. Thoughts for all of you. Um I have a lot of thoughts more than I will get to today. We’ll see if I get to them through today and tomorrow so so several stories coming away from the conference one was and.

And this is admittedly a small local conference but they have um done in Albuquerque they have deaths of honor that they fly in and you know pay for them to be there that there are good. Um, honest con that way.

And they um you know so they had an artist guest of honor a writer a guest of honor they had a toast masterster so I don’t know exactly the um arrangements the toast master was from up in Denver which is a. A reasonable drive five six hour drive and and I was on a panel with um, both the artist. Well actually all of them. Um, Rae Carson was the writer guest of honor and she was delightful. Why a fantasy type stuff. Um. Really great to meet her. She was um, very personable, really wanting to chat and meet people. So so that was great I I loved that and the artist guest of honor was Chaz trying to think of chaz’s last name. Ah. Great guy from Denver also ah does a lot of book covers and he moderated a panel that I was on and so he did a great job also on that panel was um Lee Martinez who is ah was the toast master. And so at the opening ceremonies. The toast masterster reads all of the attending guests of honor and so this is ah this is my thing and this is nothing against well I guess it’s going to be against Lee personally a little bit ah in that if you are toastmaster.

For a conference. You basically have 1 job 1 job which is to lead the ceremonies leave things. It means that you need to practice the names ahead of time you know if they don’t give them to you ahead of time. You need to make sure that they give them to you ahead of time. Ah so Lee was holding the list of attending authors ah and looking at it clearly for the first time in his life. Ah, the way he was you know, unfolded it and squinted at it. Looking even momentarily intimidated by it which if you’re looking at something for the first time. Yeah, it’s it’s no fun to do it that way. Please practice ahead of time. Ah so he fumbled a few names. It’s alphabetical. So it’s coming down. I know that you know they he’s said um Darynda jones what’s he which he got slightly wrong. Ah which I was like how did they get Darynda wrong? and she said well they they get to the Y and they go Dary and then they don’t know what to do with the Nda and which is kind of funny. Nobody knows what to do with an NDA so I knew that I was going to be shortly after Darynda and so he squints at the sheet and he goes oh he says I’ve got a fifty fifty chance with this one and I know I’m gonna get it wrong. So of course it’s me right? and.

And he got it wrong. He says Jeff and so you know and I stand up and and because we were in the front row and I said yes you got it wrong because you know and he looked a little taken aback right? oh. And it’s like yes you got it wrong you you you have 1 job and you you screwed up, you know so I waved in everything and ah Craig Kissinger who’s one of the conference organizers said you know oh she’s the president of siffa you’re and that’s madam president to you and everything but I also you know. Craig should make sure that the toast master has the list in the pronunciations I don’t care how small the con is and it’s an interesting thing because I’ve obviously been dealing with this my entire life. Ah, how to pronounce my name. Ah what my pronouns are because. People who’ve never met me ah assume I’m a man they look at Jeff and and think I’m a man so for a very long time I would meet people and they would say oh I thought you were a man and I would be like no, not a man. So for a long time. My profile on like um, social media I had on there I am a woman a westerner and so I was actually pretty happy when I could just knix that and put she her on my pronouns and.

And I’m happy that there has been such a push for getting names right? and I don’t have a difficult to pronounce for westerners’ multicultural name you know I really feel for people of african origin and a api. Ah, who have names that westerners ah many of them won’t even try to pronounce. Ah, you know, mine’s just a quirky name but I’ve been grateful to be able to ride on those coattails to. Insist on getting my name and pronouns correct ah because it is important you know and the people who say it’s not important. Ah I don’t even know what to say about them. Ah, there are people who have never had that. Had people get it wrong and then act like it didn’t matter. Ah I responded to ah an email from a reader when I’ve not heard from in a long time and I why did she contact me I don’t remember. Ah, yeah, and we’d stopped following each other on social media because I had when Biden was declared president that he had won the election I had tweeted about it celebrating being very happy and she replied to me and said.

Sent me this screed on how the associated press doesn’t get to decide elections and you know and starting feeding me this. You know the claptrap about the election being stolen. So I I blocked her because don’t. Don’t cite misinformation and I will say that I had a very interesting conversation with another author this weekend who was someone who had voted for Trump because he thought that Trump was going to change a lot of the financial stuff of the government and he called himself. Ah a Trump Regrettor and I’d asked him what the watershed moment was for him. Ah when he decided that Trump was not going to do what he’s supposed to do and and interestingly he said well at first he was disappointed that Trump didn’t fulfill any of his promises of what he said he was going to do during the campaign which. Find kind of funny because it’s like I’m amazed that anybody thought that he would but when I asked. Well what was your watershed. He said it wasn’t a single moment he said but he said during the first impeachment when he used the executive power of his office to. Evade the law and encouraged people to refuse to respond to subpoenas. He said that’s that’s what we’re supposed to be here is for the rule of law and that that was the deferred.

You know it’s sort of that he said it was an accumulation and he said by the second impeachment he he was fully done. Um and and it was interesting because someone else who sat down mid-conversation. Ah really went off on him and ah you know about.

All the terrible things Trump had done to their marginalized family and everything and you know it’s like I don’t understand how that’s doing anything now to to scream at at people. It’s like you know and and people like he and he said he got conned and it’s like well. You know there are a lot of people who will argue with that and say you should have gotten conned but at this point I don’t care. Yeah, it’s like I just want to be able to have reasonable conversations about what happened and why it happened so anyway, this is all by way of saying that. Um. If. Someone’s going to feed me misinformation. Um I don’t want to hear it and I will block you. But if you want to have a conversation I’ll have a reasonable conversation. Ah so anyway, she also said in this email because I have my pronouns in my signature line which I think is great to do. Also. She said um, it always amuses me to see somebody include pronouns on their so signature line. Um, who’s one of the few people where you actually need to show you need to say she said because I know people mistake your name and.

And I thought well you know she’s trying to be nice and yet there’s that attitude again and so and she also asked me another question about another author which okay, fine 1 of my author friends I answered it but I wrote her back. Answering that question and then I said um I said yeah ah it is really great to be able to include my pronouns and have that be a normal etiquette thing now. Ah because yes people did mistake. my my chosen you know my preferred pronouns and gender and I said and that’s why we need to normalize this as part of polite behavior where we specify that regardless so it’s not only the people where there’s a question who have to do it listener. Did she reply to me. Oh she did not whatever so that’s see and I only got through one topic so far. Um, but yes so name pronunciations. Um.

Okay, I’m not going to talk about that one yet all right I mean I told this other story. So another thing that happened was there was an author that I saw actually a fairly newbie author too. Um.

Sometime Editor A Gal I’d met because she came to Santa Fe earlier this year so hadn’t seen her for good six months but ah and I’m trying not to give too many details here but we spent with. Dinner together a couple of times and I had counted us as if not friends at least friendly so I’d been sitting on the bar as I do and I had been drinking wine as I do and I saw her walk through the bar and she does not live anywhere near here. And I thought oh well she didn’t see me and I had no idea she was going to to be there. She wasn’t on the program. Nothing like that and and I couldn’t think of her name miaulpa you know here I am going on about name pronunciations pronouns and so forth I am. Bad at remembering names and especially like at the end of a conference day having had wine and I’m racking my brain and I asked the people to table with me I’m like do do you know her name. Do you remember her name and nobody else knew her but me and I thought well I I she didn’t see me so I definitely want to go. Up and say hello to her so she’s starting to come back through and so I go up and I say hello and I said hi it’s it’s Jeffie and she says I know she said I saw you over there and or know she she just said I know she said I know and I said and I’m sorry I can’t remember your name.

And I looked at her name tag because it was like kind of in a fold of her cloak and I was like oh you know and she said at the same time and I said yeah I’m so sorry I just couldn’t think of what it was um I had no idea you were going to be here and she said yeah yeah I decided to come through and um. She said I was actually in Santa Fe last month too and I said oh well, you know I I had no idea and she says um, she said? Yeah well I was sick and I oh I’m so sorry and all of this and um and I said well you know it’s so great that you’re here now and and she says um. Yeah, ah I’m trying to remember brigs. Oh my my video is freezing I wonder if that’s like doing it a lot catch catch catch. Hopefully that’s not annoying. Ah I’d say she said um.

I said well are you going to be. You know? Ah, she says I’m just here tonight and I said oh well are you’re going to be in Santa Fe for very long and she said well maybe um, she said I’m just there till like Wednesday and I said well you know if you want to get together and she’s like oh yeah, I have your number I’ll text you and she said but we have to go to dinner now. And ah and she’s with someone else I know um a fairly sort of 1 the old guard authors and I had already said hello to him and ah, you know we’d exchange greetings and for the first time at that conference and she says well we have to go to dinner now and I realize. That um, she’s going to dinner with another very famous author and it was um, you know it felt like a real brush off and and I didn’t think about it too much until later I told actually I was back in my room that room and I was thinking well was that kind of like the. Cut direct was it like I think that I’m not famous enough for her. Ah I it was kind of like oh I think um, it was there was a definite feel of I have better people to hang out with. And maybe that was just my perception but you know these conferences and writers’ events There is so much jockeying you know and and you all know I call it tail sniffing trying to figure out who the alphas are and.

There are some people who really seek out the highest profile most alpha people and and go with them. Um, you know, write their coattails and and it’s not a behavior I recognize. Because I think I’m very much on the side of that people are people that were all human beings and you know the success you have today is amazing and it may make you famous and wonderful today and you know and and those things go up and down success comes and goes. Ah. I have friends who are far more famous than I am um and and I’m friends with them because I enjoy their company and I went and I looked at her website just to like see what she was doing in everything and I saw that she had a ah photo real on our website. Of her post with various famous authors and like the famous author she was going to go have dinner with that night was prominently featured on her website in several photos with her and separately and and she had. I mean like this photo reel of her posed with different famous authors with their names on there and you know maybe that’s great marketing. Um, and I was just looking at this thinking that I’ve met.

Ah, probably every single one of those authors that she was posed with and I’ve never taken a selfie with any of them and to my knowledge I mean I’ve had pictures with some people I remember when I met um Gena Showwalter I got a picture with her because 1 of my sorority sisters asked me to. Ah, because well she wanted me to tell Gena how much she loved her books so I got a picture with Gena so I could send it to my friend. Um I I have pictures with other famous authors and I’ve never put them up on my website unless. Are people who are my friends and it’s like who are these are my friends that I was hanging out with and we were having fun. Um, so I’m not sure what to say about that. Um I was disappointed in this behavior and and I thought wow you know I kind of thought we were friends. But I guess not and no I didn’t remember her name. So maybe that’s telling. Um, yeah, it’s just um, it’s a funny thing. You know that these.

Professional relationships may be that you think that somebody is more of a friend than they are so so anyway those were a couple of thoughts from the conference this weekend I will share more later tomorrow and otherwise I’m going to go get to work. Hope you all have a wonderful Monday hope it kicks off a productive week. Um, that delivers what you need it to and I will talkck to you all tomorrow you allll take care bye bye.

First Cup of Coffee – July 8, 2022

I’m getting my new fountain installed today! Photo shows where it will be. Otherwise I’m discussing tail-sniffing, being made to feel inferior and other forms of intimidation, along with curation of what is “real” in a genre.

Good morning, everyone. This is Jeffe Kennedy author of epic fantasy romance here with my first cup of coffee. Ah, so good today is say it with me Friday woo woo woo July eighth exciting day here. In the Kennedy household because I am getting my new fountain installed d d um, it is ah they are coming at 9am I don’t know why say it this way I I do know why I I am um it feels fraught. To me and in a ridiculous way considering that this is something that I have wanted for 10 years and saved up my money for and is um, an expensive addition. But also value add to the landscape. So when I when I start feeling like this is a ah ah silly thing to spend money on David reassures me, he says that I always have ah, it’s very sweet to me. He says that I have really good taste and that I’m always very good about adding stuff that improves the value plus it will make us happy it um feels a little fraught in that I don’t know Dave I was talking to. My friend Kelly about this. She’s in town for one more day and I talked to David about it. Um, you know there’s just like all of this stuff about Can we get the equipment into the spot and you know like I put down the deposit on this. Six weeks ago and it’s been kind of a pain to get them to come and actually install the thing and um I don’t know they’re just kind of cantankerous about can they get to the spot you know and I did the call before you dig stuff. We did the measuring. You know it it all should be fine, but um I think I’m doing the thing where and I I hate that this bothers me but I don’t want to deal with the it’s kind of like the construction guys thing.

You know that I don’t want to deal with the look here little lady attitude and I’ve like been pre-stressing about it. Why do I care if they try to pull this shit on me I don’t know and Kelly pointed out that’s really not good customer service. And I’m feeling this way and she’s absolutely right? and David says he’ll handle it for me because he does speak construction guy. Um, so hopefully cross your fingers for me that it’s um I want this I wish it could be just fun and not. Stressful it maybe it will be it. It could be that I’m totally overthinking this which it would not be the first time right. So um to to do? Yeah I’ll be happy wouldn’t it say I just want it there for it to be done. Um, maybe if I were more of more naturally inclined to be a diva. It would be better. You know where I could just be like fucking put it where I want it be the princess. They imagined me to be um again I’m overthinking. So. Um, it’s interesting because I’ve been thinking more about you know how much tail sniffing there is in the industry and that’s what I call it and it was kind of amusing. I I used that phrase recently with somebody and they thought that I was like they’re like that’s such a great way to put it. That’s I’ve been calling it that since the very very beginning and my friend and I came up with it when we were. Um, newbie newbie writers and we would go to these writing events in our small town of Laramie Wyoming and and everybody there I mean a lot of people already knew each other but the people who didn’t know each other would all of the conversations would be like what do you write. And ah, where have you been published and and and you have to do that you have to like draw your mouth down and talk like yeah um and we started calling it tail sniffing because it was like when the writers would first meet each other. They all did.

Go round sniffing each other’s butts to figure out who’s the most alpha. And and it persists to this day and and I see it happen. It’s changed right since then because that was the early 90s and self publishing. Was not a thing I think when we first started I remember when I was in a crit group that came after this and I remember 1 of the gals telling us about the fabulous new website called Amazon where you could buy any book you want it? ah. So not only was self- publishing not really a thing unless somebody like I don’t know went to Kinko’s and ran off a hundred copies of their book and tried to get people to buy it? Um, but. You know it was um for there wasn’t even really much in the way of digital reading yet. It was um, you know bookstores was where it was at and it was all print and newsstance and now. A lot of the tale sniffing involves. You know like are you traditionally published. Are you self-published and and there are people in I think romance doesn’t do this as much. There are people in the science fiction and fantasy community that are heavily invested in being the curators of what is real science fiction and fantasy. What is good science fiction and fantasy. What is not good. What is vetted who’s important who is not you know I maybe this is a people are going to people thing. Ah and there’s a whole lot of the like the awards community is really invested in deciding who gets the awards. Who should be lauded and in some ways. It’s a response to the fact that some books are very popular with readers and others are not but there’s um, there’s this dichotomy between.

The books that are popularly read and the books that are considered award worthy and and there is a Venn diagram overlap of books that are award worthy and that are read by many people. But. It’s um. The and will let me sorry I’m I’m thinking as I speak which is never a good thing. Um there’s also you know like the that there’s still the idea that if you’re traditionally published that your books are inherently better. And it’s very difficult to get people to read and nominate self-published books for awards unless those ah awards are specifically for indie books and so like with Nebula awards we have discussed creating an award care category for self-published books. But there’s also a a feeling of like of ghettoizing self-p publishishing that way right? that separated you separated out. Um, and I’ve considered pushing for it and then I can’t decide if I really care. That much because in some ways I could get in trouble for saying that? Yeah I’m not going to say it well I’ll say this that um, that. Do awards contribute to sales is the eternal question and I have been interviewed on this topic before because when the pages of the mind won the Rita award people asked me if I thought that made a difference to the book sales and the thing is is I think it made a difference. Yes. Um, there was a lot of promo that that book got because of that and a lot of people are aware of that book I see it brought up frequently. Maybe not more than other books. But. Definitely a lot of people read it for that reason. Um, it’s not my highest earning book and there are many people who will say that that is the that is the only marker that matters right.

That’s the only part that matters is whether or not you spend spend the money whether or not the book earns the money and if you’re making a living as a writer. Um that is the bottom line I mean you do care most in a way about which ones are going to you know. Keep the lights on and pay the mortgage and one of the things that happens a whole lot in the indie circles and with the self- publishing writers is that they will become to some extent extremely focused on money. Ah, some of them being so intent on marketing and earning money that they say that they don’t care about anything else some of them even don’t care about like craft and that sort of thing you know with the whole idea of the minimum viable product and that’s a. Ah, subset for sure you know So It’s like um, but sometimes I think we comfort ourselves with that because I was ah in a conversation with someone who. I Think regards me as an upstart as not a real fantasy writer and I’ve talked about this before that. Um,, there’s ah, a section of the science fiction and fantasy writing community who believes that I do not write fantasy because there’s romance in it which. In which the romances the antimatter that cancels out all of the fantasy and even some of my friends sometimes who are more on the literary fantasy side of things um will suggest that I Write. You know, oh well, you could write a book more like this. It’s like yes, but I don’t want to. And I think that and I and I feel it in myself like when I am with this person who kind of considers me an upside upstart and not a real fantasy writer I think to myself. Well yes, but I’m making more money than he is um. Which I happen to know that I make more money for my writing than he does despite his storied career and it is a comfort to me because it’s like yes, but I have a I don’t know a marketable product right? So we tell ourselves these things.

You know to? Ah I I don’t know balance out the various aspects of success I have a friend who talked about you know like that we have different goal posts so short fiction writers tend to get very caught up in. Being published in particular publications because it confers a certain honor. Um, but it’s also very very difficult to make a living as a writer of short fiction because you just can’t you can’t make the money at it right. not enough not consistently um so then people those people will comfort themselves with well I may not be making as much money as x but I get these awards and I have this reputation my contribution to the canon. And if you’re very good. You can get your short fiction put together into a collection and sell the collection. So I’m not sure how I got on this or exactly where I’m going with it. It’s I think this is tied in with the in my head with the dealing with the construction guys and dealing with the um self-appointed curators. Of the genre in that they they both want and maybe it’s not fair to say that they want this but they both operate by keeping me off balance um or attempting to keep me off balance right? to. So that I will think that their opinion what they want is more important than what I want ah you know and I come back to that line from by Eleanor Roosevelt which I think is really important where she says no one can make you feel inferior without your permission. And and I do think that that is critical and it can be very difficult in the moment because people who throw their weight around in this way and and I should qualify that like the construction guy who’s coming. I think is the owner of the business I don’t really know because it was a woman who sold me the fountain and she just refers to John and it’s just kind of funny how they run the business and she says well John says and well John will and it’s like so who who is John.

John has gained this sort of semi mythical status in my head right? and she’s very concerned from the very beginning. She’s been very concerned about John being upset and so maybe that’s like transferred to me. It’s like oh well, we don’t want to upset John um. The other thing I know I’m circling between these two topics. It’s part of the brand here at first cup of coffee I did ask them to come out and look at the site I said when and you I work from home I’m here all the time you know, somebody’s out in our neighborhood stop by and look and see what you think and she said oh no, no, that won’t be necessary. John doesn’t need to do that. Well we’ll see what John thinks when John gets here. Um, which is better for me to have that strike attitude. Um, so yeah, there’s this Ah i. Can’t be made to feel like my books are less important than someone else’s books unless I agree to that? Um, but you know it can be difficult sometimes where you know it’s um. The self-appointed curators rely very heavily on getting us to believe that their opinion is correct and valid and important and do we think then I don’t know this particular person. I’ve read some of their work and it’s not the kind of fantasy I like and I could um I could go into why I don’t like it but I feel like that’s unfair. It’s not my not my cup of tea. But and I could even go so far as to say that I think it’s not good. But that’s me right? That’s my opinion. It’s um, oops hang on got something in my other. It’s um, it’s all the various kinds of gatekeeping and 1 way that people reassure themselves that what they’re writing. Is good and valid and worthy of respect is to find other stuff that they say is not as good and I think it’s hard when you’ve been a writer for a long time too and you see the industry changing you see other stuff becoming important. Ah, to people for whatever reason and you’re throwing out there well but this is why the old school thing is better. This is why this is the gold standard and these whippersnapppers today. Don’t know.

What they’re doing so I know this is something I circle a lot. Maybe it’s something that um I don’t know is it me? Maybe it’s just me. Ah. Or maybe it’s a maybe it’s a human thing you know where you’re always kind of looking at I don’t know maybe we’re always tail sniffing right? Who’s who’s got the um who’s got the sexiest anal glands this week but ah. To ah extend the analogy rather uncomfortably. So I’m almost out of time so I won’t go into I should make a note though because I do want to talk about um about some recent cages cases of plagiarism by. Very highfalutin authors and I think that this is related because I think that um sometimes authors who have a certain reputation to maintain end up like borrowing generously from other work in order to sustain that. I don’t know prestige… prestige is a thing right? You can’t put dollars on it but having prestige does help sell books. Um, it’s an interesting thing right? So all right? Well I’m going to go. And work on writing and I hope you all have a wonderful weekend and I will talk to you all on Monday you all take care bye bye.

Tail Sniffing

This time of year is all about purple in the garden. So soothing and lovely.

When I was starting out as a writer, my friends and I noticed the tail-sniffing right away. We were fresh and shiny-enthusiastic, delighted with ourselves, our work and thrilled that other people read what we wrote and talked about it. What had been a hidden desire became public identification. It was a giddy time, full of possibilities.

It soon became apparent, however, that some writers worry more about their position in the pack.

What do you write? is how they evaluate you. Really they want to know how prestigiously you’ve published. It’s not about the money; it’s about the attention. Unfortunately, this kind of professional jealousy just never quite goes away. Someone gets a great publishing contract, then worries that someone else is getting a better deal. You start out as shiny-enthusiastic friends and, after a few years go by, that bonding built on possibilities wears down under the weight of reality. After, we can’t all be the queen-diva. So the friendships fall away.

Some do, anyway.

What’s funny is, I don’t see seminars on dealing with professional jealousy in, say, environmental consulting. Or banking. Or software development. I think this is because those aren’t attention-based fields. The currency is money, not acquiring fans.

The thing is: I don’t think writing should be attention-based either.

So, how do you avoid professional jealousy? Start at home. Here are some rules I’m making for myself.

1) People who read my books are readers, not fans. Fan is from fanatic, which is “a person with an extreme and uncritical enthusiasm or zeal, as in religion or politics.” That doesn’t say reading to me.

2) I wanted to become a writer because I thought that would be an ideal way to make a living. I can tell stories and be paid for it. If I wanted to be a celebrity, I could have chosen another career.

3) The writing isn’t about me. It’s about the story. If it becomes about me, I’m doing something wrong.

4) Jealousy is a sign of insecurity. If I feel jealous about someone else’s deal, editor, agent, etc., I need to look at myself and at why I’m feeling insecure.

5) Focus on controlling the things I can. I can control what and how much I write. I can make it the best I can. Pretty much everything else is up to the winds and how they blow. There’s a freedom in that, if I let it be.

I’m working on more rules, but what about you all? Any more to offer?

Do Blond Genre-Writers Have More Fun?

I noticed this at the RWA convention, too: genre writers are way more fun than the literary ones.

As a general rule.

Sure, there’s some competitiveness and there are the divas. There’s a bit of division between the published authors and the “aspiring” ones. (Yes, it says so on our nametags.) But the published writers are so interested to talk to the lowly aspiring ones. I just spend 2.5 hours at the author book fair, talking to everyone on god’s green earth. At least it felt like it. There were purportedly about 300 authors signing, in long rows, each with their displays and stacks of books. And nearly everyone I talked to spotted the “aspiring” on my tag and asked me what I write. In a genuinely interested way; no tail-sniffing involved.

My writer-friend, Chavawn Kelley, invented that term back in 1996 when she and I first started attending readings. We met in a class, Essays on Self and Place, taught by a visiting writer to the University of Wyoming, Don Snow, then editor of Northern Lights Magazine. And we attended a few university-sponsored events. Readings by various writers passing through, that kind of thing. At those, every other person would ask the same pair of questions: are you a writer? what have you published? Chavawn compared it to a pack of dogs, sniffing each others’ tails to determine who was alpha.

Granted the first question was necessary in that setting, since our tags didn’t say. But the second was said as a kind of challenge. A kind of are-you-anyone-I-should-pay-attention-to question.

I’ve since become better able to answer those questions. I’ve been publishing as an essayist for 12 years now. I have a certain amount of cred that keeps me from being at the bottom of the pack, anyway.

But while it’s kind of lowering to be back to “aspiring,” (RWA doesn’t consider you published unless you’re published in the genre, which I find an annoying double-standard) I love that the genre writers manage to ditch the condescension. They are enthusiastic and encouraging.

It makes me wonder about the literary clenched-sphincter.

It makes me think it’s all about money. The old saw that the fights in academia are so fierce because the stakes are so low. In genre, there’s a convivial quality, an idea that the more people who are writing it, the more there is for a growing audience. The market share for romantic fiction is huge. And getting huger.

Or it could all just be that all of these people are pretty much writing about sex all the time. That’s got to make anyone happy.