Chick Authors, Respect is Not Guaranteed

I write chick lit and women’s fiction. Maybe even both, at the same time, when I’m feeling extra ambitious. Every so often, though, I’m reminded that what I do is considered rather trivial by some.

When I lived in San Francisco people assumed I wrote literary fiction or maybe quirky short stories. Now that I’m back in my native Los Angeles, folks naturally assume I’m a screenwriter. Because I’m honest and chances are that I might run into them again, I tell them the truth. I write commercial women’s fiction.

This piece of information is usually followed by that “Whahuh?” look you think only exists in broad comedies or cartoons. Then, because I’m trying to be helpful, I add that I write funny books, so they could be considered chick lit. And cue another “Whahuh?” look and me quickly changing the subject to the weather.

Once, a very literary type who I was forced to talk to at a very snooty party, actually asked if I write about chickens. I told him yes and excused myself to find the bathroom. Snooty Guy certainly wasn’t interested in hearing about chick lit and women’s fiction which is too bad for him because he could have learned something that night.  Like never piss off a chick lit writer because she’ll spit in your drink when you’re not looking.

There is a difference between chick lit and women’s fiction yet they’re very much the same. The goal of each is to tell the story of a woman or women and what differs is the way that it’s told. For me, chick lit is a bit cheeky and irreverent while women’s fiction can employ a more subtle use of humor. Both explore issues like divorce, even death, but the tone is just, you know, different. Having written both, everything from how I structure my chapters to the pace of my dialog is tailored to what kind of experience I’m aiming to give the reader. And, in the end, it’s up to the publisher to slap on a pink cover or not.

I’m not going to complain about the long hard slog women’s fiction and, even more so, chick lit authors have had to endure to be taken seriously, but it’s a fact. People feel justified in dismissing women who write for women because we are women who write for women.

I’m happy to write what I write and hope people enjoy it. And next time I see Snooty Guy, I’ll ask him if he ever got his 500 page brick published and will smirk when I hear he hasn’t. But, no, I won’t freshen up his drink unless he brings up chickens again.

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