Wednesday, February 2, 2011
What do John Grisham and Snooki Have in Common?
You most likely know who John Grisham is, and you're probably saying, "hold on a minute, he's a famous writer and his legal thrillers are a good read. Snooki, on the other hand, you might be clueless--unless you or your kids are big MTV fans. (For the record, I am not a fan, but learned about Snooki via the Today show when they spot-lighted her new novel. She is a regular on the hit reality show, Jersey Shore, which is basically a bunch of moral-less young adults of Italian heritage living their wild lifestyle on the Jersey shore in front of the camera).
I waited for three months to get a copy from my local libray of John Grisham's first attempt at middle grade fiction. I finally got it last week: Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer. From the first page, the book never ceased to amaze me at the total lack of understanding this seasoned author had in regards to writing for children. He would constantly talk down to the reader, defining simple words like carousel in a plethora of "as you know, Bob," moments, or bringing in new characters with descriptions such as, "Mr. Mount was in his midthirties, and had once worked as a lawyer at at gigantic firm in a skycraper in Chicago." I felt like I was reading a first grade reader, but with more words. The story was told from an omnicient point of view. This dis-allowed me to connect and/or warm up to the main character, Theo. The story was told 99% through narrative. A perfect example of tell, don't show. The dialog was thus left flat, accomplishing nothing but filler on the page. Good children's books are just the opposite of this: show, don't tell, using the narrative to move the story forward.
If I had written this book, I couldn't have even taken 4th place in a first chapter contest at a poorly attended local writer's conference.
Snooki's writing was somewhat more engaging compared to Theodore Boone. That's not saying much. (I admit, I only read the first 30 pages, compliments of my Nook free samples. I could see where the novel was headed--sex and promiscuity--and I didn't care to read on). The reason I was even drawn to this book was because of the interview on the Today show. There she had mentioned she had written the novel in 3 months. My first novel took me 1 year, a couple of writers' conferences and how-to books to complete, and it stunk! I was curious to see the quality of a twenty year old girl who sounded as if she had pulled C's in high school English--if she even graduated at all. She did mention, though it was not really stressed, that she had recieved the help of another writer. OBVIOUSLY! The following is an excerpt from an Amazon review I found nailed it on the head. I am truly saddened to think there are authors who have not been and never will be published, who have spent lifetimes dedicating the totality of their being to their art. Yet this book is currently # 24 on the NYT best seller list. America... you are lost.
The point I'm trying to make here is that this lack-luster, flat-plotted, first-time novel of a minimally educated young women gets highlighted and promoted on national TV. And so does a substandard children's novel. All the while, we as struggling writers, whose skill and writing surpass these two novels by leaps and bounds, labor through poorly attended book signings and time consuming blog tours to try and promote our books on our own because we don't have the name. Or, in my case, we struggle to even be seen by the agents and editors. It doesn't seem fair.
But then, life isn't fair. We can feel good, however, in the knowledge that when someone does buy and read our books, and they like them, that little trimph occured becasue WE earned it, not our name.