Monday, July 12, 2010

The faces of writing

Let's set up a scenario.

You're at a party. But not a wild party where people are doing keg stands and beating each other up with staves made of beer cans people making out on the sofa. More like one of those awkward coworker/step family/in-laws parties that make talking to a doorknob sound like a better night.

(Something like this)

So in a brief moment of mingling with others, the question is asked.

"So, what do you do in your spare time?"

Awkward situation more awkward. It's not awkward because of you, but because you know the moment you say that you're a young adult writer, their face turns from this :) to this : /

Why exactly? No one knows. It's a mystery.

It's also frustrating.

The stats on the young adult genre has shot up over 80% in the last two years. That's something to be proud to be a part of. Yet there are always those people that look at you like you've grown a third arm out of your stomach. Polite smile, averted eyes. End of convo and mingling leads to another person who does the same thing.

So naturally, I prefer to make my blog posts flooded with humorous pictures AND writerly knowledge.

With lolcats.

4 Faces From People When Telling Them You're A Writer

1.) The blank stare

No caption needed to explain this one.

2) The serious face

This is the most awkward of all as those piercing eyes stare into your soul, questioning your career decisions, and ready to leap into lecture mode.

Why didn't I go into business again, you ask? Uhh, I can't remember now over how small I'm feeling.

3) A genuine smile

These, for my personally, are rare. Not a lot of people are actually interested in hearing about anything past 'Young Adult Genre,' which is just plain sad. But there are the few that are respectful and attentive, actually interested in your story.

4) The laughing until they realize you're serious face

Worst. Face. Ever.

Nows the part where I ask readers if this has ever happened to them. What was the worst? Do you get it often or do most people seem to accept it easily?


Susan said...

What a great post! And it's SOOOO TRUE. I feel like such a doofus when I get asked, "So what do you *do*?"

When I reply, "Oh, I write novels. Young adult novels", the response is almost always #1 (the blank stare). Conversation derailed? Check. Desperate search for other people to talk to? Check.

Even my friends (who I know want to be supportive of my career choice) still give me the blank stare whenever I bring up my writing. This is always followed by a shoddy attempt to change the subject: "So, er, what are your thoughts on Girl Scout Cookies? Child labor or what?"

True story: I told a guy I'd just met that I wrote novels. He asked what they were about, so I fed him my WIP pitch line. Mind you, the pitch includes the word "walking dead."

"Walking dead?" he asked. "So like zombies?"

"Yeah, sort of like zombies." I picked imaginary lint off my shirtsleeve.

" write trash?"

I jerked my head up and blinked. "Pardon me?"

"You write trash. It's cool -- I like readin' trash. Brains!" He thrust out his hands and mimicked a zombie.

"" I scowled. "I don't think of my novel as trash."

"Well, it is, though." He grinned and smacked my arm. "Don't worry about it. Lots of people like trash."

"It's not trash," I growled, feeling my eye twitch. "It's a quality young adult novel that just happens to have walking corpses."

"Right," he said, dragging the word out.

"Yes, that's right." Then I turned into the Incredible Hulk, and he ran screaming from the room.

Erinn said...

Susan's story was awesome.

I normally say, "I write." Somehow when I drop the 'er' from the word it becomes something I do instead of something I am.

The conversation goes like this:

"I write." I say with a mix of pride and fear and yes desperation.

"Oh what do you write?"

"Novels mostly, YA and a adults."

"Have you been published?" I hate that question.

I hang my head in shame, "No, they're all sitting on my hard drive."

Person is looking bored and smug. "What are your books about?"

"Musicians mostly and retellings of Greek Mythology."

"Are you a musician?"

"No, I'm not Greek either."

Person has lost complete interest in me and moves away to the food.

I end up feeling like a shmuck.

Jamie B said...

Susan and Erinn - you guys have a lot of company here! Me for one. And the "Are you published?" question is a hellish nightmare, isn't it? Makes me glad I have my day job. Of course, when I say Command Center Strategist, I get the same confused looks, so I'm screwed either way! LOL

Sam said...

Ahem. Yeah, even as a young adult, telling people you like writing as a hobby is, um, difficult. Generally I don't; my friends that happen to know for whatever reason like to.
There's another classic reaction, though.

Person: Dude, really? I wrote a book once.

Me: -nods nervously-

Person: Yeah. I got two pages in before I got bored.

I've gotten that way more than anything else. Sigh.

Melody said...

You mean I'm not the only one who gets these faces?!?!

I think that should make me feel better.

I usually tell people that I "like to write books..." And I have come automatically mime writing with my hand so that they don't think I'm *riding*.

Oh? (Slightly interested.) "What do you write?"

"Teen novels, books for teens...young adult." (I've given up on the phrase 'YA' or even 'Young Adult'.)

I have discovered that 'writer' and 'teen novel' are the hardest phrase to get out of your mouth. Something like 'Toy boat, toy boat, toy boat.' And I always feel uneducated and inept saying them...

SM Schmidt said...

Most of the people I've told have had the "Oh" face when I mention I write in my free time.

Then a worse question than are you published pops up, "So why aren't you an English major?" ....some days I prefer answering that question then having to be polite and explain what my book is about. Most of them zone out after finding out I'm writing scifi.

J.S. Wood said...

I don't tell people I write. Ever. My close friends and family know, but it's not something I tell others because there's too much weirdness when it's mentioned. And in a way I regret telling some of my friends because I get the, "so have you found a publisher yet?" questions. "Uh. No. I don't have an agent yet." And then the next thing is, "There're some great websites out there for self-publishing, they even give you your own bar code." Bar code?!?

So when asked what I do I simply reply, "I stay at home with the kids." And then I battle the face that says, "Oh, she's not bright enough to get a job."

Tahereh said...


love this post.


Angelica R. Jackson said...

I mostly got the dreaded question from my dad, "Are you working?"

"Yes, Dad, I'm still working as a writer. And photographer."

"Making any money on that?"

"I sell an article here and there, but no takers on my book yet."

Dad pauses before asking, "How's your husband's job going?"

They ask out of love, right?

Sarra said...

I'm with Susan on this one (wave!) I am writing a YA zombie/magic novel and when I mention YA, I get the blank stare. Maybe a polite smile. But when I get the "What's your book about?" question and answer that I'm writing about the zombie apocalypse, I get the :| and the :/ looks. Most of the time, that's the end of the conversation. Haha.

It's okay though, because I am really happy writing in this genre. I feel that there are so many amazing writers in the YA genre, and I would be so honored to be on the shelves with them someday. When you're doing what you love, that's all that matters!

Some Screaming Fangirl said...

Gah. I hate it when that happens. Only, I'm in high-school still, so it's worse...I have friends who are convinced their "poetry" and "short stories" are worthy writing as well after I tell them what I "do".

I think a got through a page of my friend's story before wanting to spontaneously combust. Do they not teach grammar anymore?

Thanks for the LOLcatz...LOLcatz make everything better. :)

Christina Rodriguez said...

Where's the face of "general disdain?" I remember getting that one from some relatives of my in-laws I'd just met WHILE THEY HELD MY PUBLISHED BOOK IN THEIR HANDS. Eventually they left with a sneering "Good luck with your little books!"

It's not everyday that one gets such clear signals to stay away from folks who are obviously bad news, so I'm kind of grateful for that.

Leah said...

Lol, wow, this happens more than I thought. Quite sad actually, but nice to know me and my best friend aren't the only ones this happens to :P

Thanks for the responses! :D

HH said...

You never get the - I'm a writer too! And then you have to sit there and listen to them talk about their bad poetry?

Krista Ashe said...

OMG!!! This is both hilarious and so incredibly true!!! Even now I still get those looks and then of course there's the WTF looks when you try to explain the business!!!

This post is made of awesomesauce!!!

And the kitteh pics are HILARIOUS!!!

Heather Dougherty said...

I love this. Suffering is hilarious - right?

So - my story. Because I'm OLD I guess it makes it for even more fodder. I finally confessed to a good friend that I am writing Young Adult novels... and an acquaintance that was standing nearby jumps in, "Things not working out for you as a grown up? Feeling the need to live out the old glory days?"


Oh - and if you knew the guy who said it, you'd realize what an even bigger insult it is coming from him!

So... thanks for sharing - and I love the LOL catz.

Anonymous said...

I get the the "Oh," but it's in pleasure or surprise.

Of course, before my book deal very few people knew that I wrote. I had some toxic co-workers and friends in my life years ago. I'm sure I would have gotten an ugly face if I told them.