Deb Kelly on Arts OR Crafts

Lately I’ve been in deep think about the term “Women’s Fiction.”  This is a description that I have used comfortably for years, without giving it much thought. It blankets thousands and thousands of books for which there is, to my knowledge, no other accepted genre terminology, and does exactly what a descriptive term is supposed to do, which is to say, leaves plenty of room to grow and stretch and change as the market changes. Best of all it is wildly inclusive. It includes anyone who writes a book a woman might read. Historical fiction, contemporary works, happy books, sad books, funny books, serious books, scary books and silly books.

If a woman would read your book, congratulations, you’re in. Women, in a statistical sense at least, read more than men. They buy more books. Therefore, calling your book Women’s Fiction is certainly no insult if you like selling books. And if some yahoos insist on using it as derogatory term or an excuse to dismiss a certain book without even taking a sniff between the covers, I say to those yahoos, stop being such sexist morons, yahoos. The onus is on the yahoos, is what I’m saying.

But what the hell does the term mean? Frankly, it means little. When people ask me what kind of book my book is and I reply, “It’s women’s fiction,” they look at me blankly. It doesn’t work like saying “it’s a mystery,” or “it’s a political thriller slash paranormal romance.” I have to keep going, to elaborate somehow, without telling them the entire plot of the book which I don’t think is what they’re asking. I usually say something completely obfuscating like, “It has an ocean on the cover,” or “it’s about feelings.” By the time I’m done talking usually both parties are thoroughly confused.

One time I was in the middle of one of these rambling descriptions when the listener said, “Ah, so you’re saying it’s not art.”

It was a weird comment. I mean, that was not what I was saying at all. But yeah, I don’t think of my book as art most of the time. I think of my writing as a craft and the books that result are books, not art. And why is this? It’s not like the word art itself has any magic in it. People call all kinds of things art. Cheese, for example. Dogs playing poker. This.

For me, for some reason, art just implies too much pressure. If I sat down at the keyboard with a mind to create art, I would probably get agitated and take an angry nap instead. To me, “art” is an end result, and “craft” is the thing you actually do to get the end result. And friends, craft is about all I can handle.

So what about you? Is your writing an art, or a craft? What about your books?

2 Replies to “Deb Kelly on Arts OR Crafts”

  1. “Ah, so you’re saying it’s not art.”

    For serious? Someone said this to you? I mean, when I tell people about my book, I’m the first to say, “Listen, it isn’t Ulysses.” But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth reading, and I feel like saying something isn’t art implies it is therefore lowbrow. Ugh. Like your writing, my writing is definitely more craft than art, but hey — there is value in craft!

  2. I thought I commented yesterday. There goes that author-brain again. I also thinking of writing as a craft—but I know it overlaps with art. Actually now my head hurts. Debut weeks are not art or craft, they are wondrous and fabulous but FREAKING EXHAUSTING.

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