I promised I'd write more about ICRS, and here I am forgetting about it already. It feels like Florida is months away, not mere days. And I haven't even been home a week! If I have mommy-brain this bad after two kids, can you imagine me after more? I once thought I was destined to be the mother of six. Six. I must have been insane in another life.
Anyway, on to the show. I could tell you about people I met, food I ate, and things I did, but what kept me up at night was the whole concept of a Christian market and my place in it. More to the point: I was struck by the discrepency between what seemed to be two camps of thinking. I'm not really sure how to classify them, but they felt distinct to me. Maybe the line is drawn between products that are inward-directed (books, music, etc. by Christians and specifically for Christians) and outward-directed (books, music, etc. by Christians for a larger audience). Maybe it comes down to a generational divide: Boomers vs. Gen-Xers (Gen-Y? I think I'm Gen-Y...). Whatever the distinction, it got me wondering: Am I meant to be a CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) author? Do I even fit in this market?
I don't want to imply that Christian fiction is prescriptive--though it may have been at one time, there are so many authors out there right now who are writing honest, edgy (I hate that word but can't think of a better one) books that blur the lines between secular and traditionally Christian fiction. But I'm not necessarily convinced that the Christian market is totally ready for it...
Case in point: I have received several emails from people saying that After the Leaves Fall and Summer Snow were not hopeful enough. They wanted a happier ending, a more dramatic (and complete) conversion, and more resolution to issues that I intentionally left unfinished. The tenor of my writing makes sense to me--the kind of books that I read are Amy Bloom's Away (breathtaking, by the way, in spite of being bleak), Kiran Desai's The Inheritance of Loss (didn't like that one as much, even though the title clued me in to exactly what the book would be), and Carol Sheild's Unless (yet another self-disclosing title). And they think my books aren't hopeful enough?!? :) But honestly, I can see where these readers are coming from. If you pick up one of my books expecting to encounter the same happily-ever-after ending that most CBA fiction is known for, your not going to find it. So... Am I a disappointment to CBA readers? Are my books a let-down because my readers want everything to be peachy in the end?
Of course, on the other hand I have also received numerous emails from people saying that my books were a breath of fresh air, something they could totally relate to because their own lives aren't the proverbial "bowl of cherries."
Who's right? Both? Neither? I guess the bottom line for me is, I felt like a bit of a stranger in a strange land at times during the convention. Almost apologetic: Here's my book, but I'm not sure you'll like it as I can see you're clutching an armload of homespun romances that lean more towards the escapist side of literature... Maybe I'd be a better fit in a secular market. But then again, I'm sure they'd think I was too Christian.
Maybe we need a new market altogether. A sort of evolving genre that captures the postmodern movement of our generation while embracing the hope and beauty of an unmistakably grace-filled life. An emergent-genre maybe, like the emergent church. Hmmm. I could get into that, I think. But since I'm not going to start my own publishing house, I guess the best I can do is keep writing what I write and hope that the people who were meant to read my stuff will find it--even if it's not quite Christian fiction, not quite Women's, not quite Literary, not quite Secular... I just hope it makes sense to somebody.