Originally published on 01.27.15 at The Stiletto Gang.
I had to laugh when I read Debra Goldstein’s post yesterday about football being “only a game”. I live in Washington State, which, in case you’re living in a hole, is home of the Seahawks, contenders the upcoming football high-holy day – the Super Bowl. Although, even when living in a hole, I’m fairly certain that you probably felt the Beast Quake or possibly Richard Sherman dropped by to tell you how awesome he is, and then probably stuck around to make pointedly blunt statements about the corruption in the NFL. Football may be only game, but tis the season for every football fan everywhere to lose their dang minds.
As I’m only an occasional football watcher I find most of the fan-actions a bit mystifying. Twelfth man flags decorate every building, a local tattoo parlor is offering a 12’s tattoo special and last game against the Packers the Seattle City Council banned cheese from the premises. Like Debra, I say, “But it’s only a game!” Not that I say that very loudly – my husband would glare at me.
But also like Debra, I identify with the way fans pour over every detail, dissect plays, and watch every report on the subject. A fan, no matter the subject, wants to know all about the thing they love. So I don’t wave a twelfth man flag, but the books on my shelf tell their own tales (pun intended). Anyone visiting my house knows where I stand on the topic of Lord of the Rings (pro) and the work of cover artist Thomas Canty (also pro) and Tintin (highly pro). I don’t have any tattoos, but I can quote The Walrus and The Carpenter – it’s tattooed on my brain. And as for cheese… no, sorry, I have nothing there. Cheese is never banned at my house and neither are books.
Am I the only “12th Man” uber book fan out there? What “flags” are flying on your bookshelf?
Writers, as far as I can tell, are people with too many stories stuffed in their heads. In order to stay sane, we have to get the stories out. It’s a good system; it ensures that only fictional people get murdered and that more every day girls get to marry princes. Writers are also, by and large, readers. So you’d think that we’d have an understanding of our own readers. But most of us are somewhat mystified as to why we have readers. The idea that someone would actually want to read any of my books is still surprising. I just make up stories and then… people actually read them. That’s crazy!
Don’t get me wrong; I think my stories are awesome. I think everyone should read them. But “everyone” is a rather abstract concept, with safety built into it’s very generality. On the other hand, a singular reader is frighteningly specific and frighteningly judgmental. Think of your day, and your telling this really funny story to your co-worker about your college roommate who once got so drunk that she projectile vomited into someone’s hair. Now picture your grandmother standing there listening. It kind of puts a crimp on you miming how your roommate popped out of her tube top, doesn’t it? That’s the power that a singular reader has to stymie a writer. The harsh judgment of a reader can make the creative wellspring dry up in a flash. Which is why every time a reader seeks me out to tell me that they enjoyed my book, I sincerely appreciate it. Each compliment is a bolster against the times when someone tells you they found a typo in your book or they don’t understand why you didn’t just make the main character a man. Thoughtful, lovely readers make all the difference to a writer. I may not always know they’ve given their time and money to reading one of my stories, but I will always try to give my readers a story worthy of their expenditure.
I was talking to a librarian the other day and she laughed when I said I thought librarians were like drug dealers. But they really are! They even target the little kids! Get them hooked on the picture books, next thing you know the kids are applying for library cards and mainlining Harry Potter, Divergent and TheTesting. Give it a few years and YA just won’t give the same buzz and the kids have to move on to bigger and bigger fiction. And that’s when the librarians start pushing the hardcore stuff – Faulkner, Atwood, Joyce. If you’re not careful your kid could end up reading the entire Lord of the Rings even though there’s a perfectly good director’s extended cut blue ray back home.
And just like pushers, librarians are extremely open-minded. They don’t care where you’ve come from. Rich, poor, or in between – all library cards are the same to them. (Unless it’s an out of state card, in which case you will have to pay the buck and get a local card.) They don’t even judge when all you want to read is Romance novels; they just point you toward the romance section and recommend new authors who also write in the kilt and dragon milieu. It’s a slippery slope, my friends. You go into the library for the videos and the free internet access and the next thing you know you’re reading and using words like “milieu.”
So, if that kind of blatant pushing of mind-expanding education is acceptable to you, then you should probably hug the next librarian you see. Just remember that the VIG on those late library books is due next week…