I’ve been thinking about wishes (which isn’t quite the same as actually wishing). Specifically, I’ve been thinking about what we call wish fulfillment stories. These are stories in which the author writes a successful conclusion to her own inner fantasies. The most obvious wish fulfillment stories are romance novels, a denigrated genre if ever there was one. Pronouncements are made with supercilious distain: that’s not literature or it’s just a love story or that’s impossible.
I think Kelly Jensen nails it when she observes that the biggest wish fulfilled in romance novels is female pleasure. Consider that for a moment (and maybe read this essay by Lili Loofbourow about how the metrics for good/bad sex are so different for women than for men). It is merely a wish—a wish with all the unrealistic hopefulness that implies—for a woman to seek and satisfy her own needs for intimate pleasure. That’s impossible.
In the last year I wrote the draft of a new novel that I crammed full of things I love. Things like David Bowie and cosplay, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and taco carts, Jeff Goldblum and aerial silks. I wrote a book that made me happy, a book about friends that take care of each other and people who get along even though they are really different.
The entire book is pure wish fulfillment.
It wishes inclusion and respect.
It wishes tolerance and love.
It wishes the elevation of our best selves.
It wishes hope.
It wishes a extended hand.
It wishes glitter and bonfires on the beach.
Writing it was an escape from real life, a personal pleasure, exactly like a romance novel (but mine isn’t a romance novel FYI). Now I have to revise it, and here’s the problem: I write contemporary, realistic fiction, and this book wishes the opposite of what I see every day in the news. Most of the big issues I need to resolve in this draft are a direct result of this conflict between the world I want and the world I see. This is a harder issue to resolve than a hitch in the plot or an inconsistent character arc. This is big philosophical stuff.
I don’t have the answers right now about how to fix this novel, but I do know one thing for sure—there’s nothing wrong with wishing the world were different. I believe it’s called hope.
Tell me, what are you wishing for these days?
As the release date for my newest nonfiction title SNEAKER CENTURY approaches, reviews are starting to come in.
Exhilarating? Also Yes.
It’s exciting to know that real live humans will be reading my book soon. I had a ton of fun writing this one. It’s nice to know that Kirkus thought it was good (other than the personal trauma of the 1970s jogging boom, which I totally understand). If you are a blogger, reviewer, teacher, librarian, or bookseller, I can send you a pre-approved link to the digital ARC on NetGalley. Just drop me a quick note.
Anyway… here’s what Kirkus had to say!
A comprehensive look at the rise of sneakers in American culture. Exploring a narrow field that nevertheless yields plenty of interest, the author shines a light on several aspects of sneaker culture. Topics range from the footwear’s early development in the early 19th century to its rise in popularity that coincides with the rise of the American teenager. The book’s layout augments the text with colorful infographics and various small sidebars that, while not necessary to the historical narrative, are well worth highlighting on their own. Discussions of the shoe’s rise to fame in the 1950s and resurgence in the 1980s (both thanks to popular figures like James Dean, Steve McQueen, Run-D.M.C. and Michael Jordan) are the best bits. A portion regarding Olympic runners and shady endorsement dealings makes for another amusing section. A discussion of the global economics of shoe manufacturing arrives a bit too late in the book to capture readers’ interest, and it doesn’t help that this section is much less elaborate than all those that came before it. Another lesser moment is a look back at the 1970s fad of “jogging,” something no one wants to be reminded of. An illuminating and amusing look at a subject with much more history than one might expect. (Nonfiction. 12-16)
This past weekend I was lucky enough to meet Lin Oliver and Steve Mooser, the founders of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, at a regional SCBWI conference.
SCBWI is a very unusual professional organization because it serves both amateur/new writers and illustrators as well as established professionals, which means SCBWI wears a lot of hats.
In one session, Lin Oliver talked about all the things that SCBWI does for writers and illustrators. The list was incredible–especially if you consider that membership is only $70 a year. FYI this is a blatant (albeit unsolicited) promotional blog that urges, insists, and shoves you toward joining SCBWI if you haven’t already.
Why you ask? Well…
1. You’ll have access to a bunch of publications that demystify the publishing process, detail what various publishing houses and editors are looking for, guide you to book fairs, agents, and educational publishers, and articles about every aspect of the business.
2. You can network through discussion boards, newsletters, conferences, and critique groups.
3. Published authors and illustrators can participate in book launch parties, blog tours, speakers bureaus, and marketing collectives.
4. There is a dedicated staff committed to your success as a creative person.
5. You’ll find your people both regionally and around the world. That’s priceless!
So get to it! Join the fun!