Welcome Wednesday guests for November:
11/05 Maya Corrigan's Five-Ingredient Mystery, By Cook or By Crook.
11/12 Death by Blue Water, a scuba-diving adventure-mystery by scuba-diving author, Kait Carson.
11/19 Susan Van Kirk--Three Can Keep A Secret.
11/26 Tagged for Death, a garage sale mystery by Sherry Harris.

Gloria Alden's latest publication is nonfiction. Boys Will Be Boys: The Joys and Terrors of Raising Boys. Edited by Cher'ley Grogg was recently released and available on Amazon. Gloria wrote three essays and two poems in her chapter included in the book.

Don't miss this month's release of Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays on October 7th, in which WWK bloggers Shari Randall ("Disco Donna") and E. B. Davis ("Compromised Circumstances") have short stories.

KM Rockwood's
short stories will appear in two anthologies released in October. They are: "The Lure of the Owl" in Swamp Mansion and Other Dark Stories, to be released as a ebook, and "Aunt Olga and the Werewolf" will be included in the third Creatures, Crimes and Creativity anthology release by Intrigue Publishing. at their conference in October.

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Are you willing to wear purple?


In Jenny Joseph’s poem, “When I am Old” she proclaims:

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat that doesn't go, and doesn't suit me, …

She continues documenting the nonstandard things she will do in her old age and ends with the thought that perhaps if she starts a bit now, people won’t be so shocked when she grows old and wears purple.

In my career as a consultant, I worked with business types who were almost uniformly conservative in their dress and politics. I soon mirrored the dress code with my blue pin-striped suits and tasteful ties. (I did wear a short-haired wig for a bit to cover my long hair, but that was only until I capitulated.)

It was akin to my being a light-skinned mulatto in the early 20th century who successfully “passed.” I swallowed my tongue when it came to politics and the denigration of all to the left of Attila the Hun. Others must have presumed that I agreed with them since I didn’t object to their worldview.

When I retired and started writing fiction, I maintained my consulting perspective of not ruffling feathers. Oh sure, I had personally given up reading and therefore supporting authors like Vince Flynn with what I perceive to be his “us (the U.S.) against them” view of the world; but I thought it would be inappropriate of me to interject my views into my fiction—or take stands in my blogs that might be offensive to potential readers.

Then I heard Barry Eisler speak at a writers’ conference. It was like the chime of a bell, calling me to center my thoughts. He challenged those of us who think differently from the Vince Flynns of the world to raise our authorial voices.

I had taken one little step in that regards with a short story I wrote, “MasterGardener” published in a 2008 anthology. One person in my critique group said, “Love the writing; hate the politics.” What I had not done then, and has taken me a bit of time to grapple with was deciding whether my writing should have a purpose greater than pure entertainment.

My conclusion is that some things I write solely for entertainment (my own and hopefully others), and that is fine. Even with that writing, I want to avoid easy characterizations based on stereotypes—particularly negative stereotypes. But if that were all I wrote, at the end of life I would feel I had not used my talents as well as I could.

Not that I expect to write the next Upton Sinclair The Jungle or be the next Charles Dickens. I am not that talented, but I want to write in such a way that I positively reinforce those who share my views. For those who do not share my views, perhaps I can tweak a tiny corner of their conscience just enough to make them consider my perspective.

What do you think? Do I have this all wrong? Should writing only be about entertaining readers? Or have you already donned your authorial purple clothes and are willing to stand out—to write to make a difference?

~ Jim

5 comments:

Linda Rodriguez said...

Excellent, thought-provoking post, Jim!

I have always thought that, if I was honest and authentic in whatever I wrote, my beliefs would be apparent without my having to beat the reader over the head with them. I think that's what's really behind the "art for art's sake--no politics" position. They hate being beat over the head.

I look at my poetry and my fiction, and I have to say I think readers would have an idea of where I stand on the important issues of the day, even though I don't write anything overtly political.

I think of other authors who do this, as well. Margaret Maron, Julia Spencer-Fleming, John Lescroart, Louise Penny, Nancy Pickard, Michael Connolly, Val McDermid, Deborah Crombie, many others. Without any didactic lecturing, they write so honestly about issues that one knows instantly where they stand.

James Montgomery Jackson said...

Linda,

You've made a key point: people do not wish to be bludgeoned with a political viewpoint (or at least one in which they disagree!)

That, as you note, does not mean our worldview cannot imbue our writing through our characters and their acts.

~ Jim

Gloria Alden said...

What a beautiful story, Jim. I was quite touched by it, and I could see you share my beliefs. I love the Pete Seeger song you mentioned. Indeed, I've been a great fan of his for many years as well as Woody Guthrie (before my time) and others of his ilk that follow on with their tradition.

I was too busy with small kids to march against the Viet Nam War, but I supported the movement. I did march against going into Iraq. I still think it was a major mistake and only esculated the problems in the Middle East.

Like Linda, I'm hoping my viewpoints subtly come out in my writing without being divisive with those who disagree with me politically. It must be one of the reasons I admire the mystery writers she does - at least the ones I've read. I'll have to read the others, too.

James Montgomery Jackson said...

Gloria,

I'm glad you enjoyed the story. I will admit that I still like to read it every once and a while.

~ Jim

Alyx Morgan said...

As I'm not one who enjoys reading books that have a "message," I doubt I'd want to write those kinds of books either, though I'd probably have a character here or there spout my ideals.

My blog, however, tends to lean toward the didactic or philosophical. It's not always intentional, but since I was told back in high school that my poetry tends to take a didactic bent, I guess I come by it naturally. :o)

Nice post, Jim. I say, Wear the Purple!