I attended a couple of sessions at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival yesterday – both with a focus on women’s fiction, women in fiction and women writers. The first discussed lit vs genre and dealt primarily with erotica. My take home from the debate was that writing good sex does not mean mind-blowing multiple orgasms and lithe bodies a la Hollywood, but rather entails honesty and intimacy which leads the reader on a more organic experience that exposes character rather than physical attributes.
The second discussion was around women’s fiction. What is it? Why is it distinct from fiction in general? Is there men’s fiction? Is women’s fiction less worthy than fiction written by men, about men or for men? According to some of the statistics that were given out during the debate – yes, women’s writing seems to be less valued. We learned, with no great surprise, that the vast majority of writing prizes around the world are awarded to male writers. However, the panellists agreed that perhaps the industry is changing. We can only hope.
It did make me think about my own writing and who I write for. I generally write for me , or women like me. Perhaps stories for younger women too. I write stories which I would like to read, about characters I can either relate to or have met or want to understand better. And now with my teen novel, young people of both genders.
The term chick lit came up in the discussion and I think, although I dislike the label, that is probably where my novel Que Sera Sera would fit. Chick lit was characterised as a genre where a woman is ‘saved’ from her predicament by a man. I baulked at this. Is my independent young woman protagonist rescued by a knight in shining armour? Yeurgh!
When I had ruminated some more I saw that both my female and male lead ‘rescued’ each other, for want of a better term. Yes, they become romantically involved but together they overcome their personal conflicts. Equality in partnership. Each gives the other more than they can give themselves . And isn’t that what love is all about?