Why Write Genre Fiction, Part 1

A piece for the Huffington Post by Anne Brown Walker about smart women reading (and writing) romance has been getting some play on the interwebs. I’ve been reading romance for 18 months and writing it for half that time. I’m also a “smart” woman: a PhD student, a former professional, etc., so I thought I’d add my thoughts.

In the poem “Nuns Fret Not at Their Convent’s Narrow Room,” William Wordsworth describes how nuns find happiness, freedom even, within the confines of the convent. Yes, their lives are routine but within the rules and regulations, the nuns are able to be creative and find their bliss.

Now, a former poetry professor of mine used to say that at some level every poem is about the act of its own creation. In other words, if you aren’t sure what a poem is about, pretend that it’s about the process of the poet writing it. You’d be amazed at what smart stuff you come up with.

I don’t even know that you need that sort of interpretive jijitsu with “Nuns Fret Not,” because Wordsworth gets a little meta in the middle:

In truth the prison, into which we doom
Ourselves, no prison is: and hence for me,
In sundry moods, ’twas pastime to be bound
Within the Sonnet’s scanty plot of ground;
Some writers might complain that the sonnet form is a prison with too little to offer writers but Wordsworth finds the binds of the form sufficient ground for his work as a writer.
The poem concludes,
Pleased if some Souls (for such there needs must be)
Who have felt the weight of too much liberty,
Should find brief solace there, as I have found.
Look, I have a lot more to say about the romance genre and why I like it. But for the moment, I want to start with this: when I’m teaching writing, I often use an exercise where I give students a list of words and instruct them to write a poem using only those words. The poetry they write is much better than if I instructed them to write a poem but gave no constraints. When you’re focusing on the rules, some part of you gets freed up. That’s why I read and write romance.

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