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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Writing Popularity...and late night ponderings

I did an interview today. Yup, my University is proud of my achievements and wants to shout them to the world. Or viewers of the University website, whichever.

Anyhoo, we were talking about my books, the one on submission and the one I'm writing now, and we both noted a common theme: Popularity.

It seems to be a topic I cover a lot, but I suppose it's because it fascinates me. It's not necessarily popularity as in the cool group of kids - I mean 'cool kids that everyone aspires to' is not the definition of popularity.
Okay hang on, let me go find out what the definition IS.

Right, says:


[pop-yuh-ler] Show IPA
regarded with favor, approval, or affection by people in general: a popular preacher.
regarded with favor, approval, or affection by an acquaintance or acquaintances: He's not very popular with me just now.

(it also had some other definitions that aren't relevant to our discussion)

Often, this word Popular, or popularity has a different definition, especially when it comes to teenagers. I know at school and University, I didn't necessarily like the kids that were considered popular, and I don't think this was unusual.
I think when it comes to high school popularity, this word popular is not about who everyone likes. Everyone really liked one of our school captains, the whole year level did. But she wasn't one of the cool kids. She was funny and athletic but mostly she was an academic and respectful of others and I imagine she loved her parents and she certainly wasn't wild and rebellious and going crazy on the weekends. At least she didn't seem the type.
She was popular with everybody.

But this word popular, in high school means something else. A popular person is not someone everybody likes, but someone everybody wants to be like. Do you agree?
I didn't actually pay a lot of attention to these popular kids at school except to notice that they were the ones with the eating disorders, showing up to school dances and socials drunk and as much drama as my group of friends had, theirs seemed to have ten times more which spilled into the classroom.

So yeah - popularity has nothing to do with the cool kids that people don't necessarily like, but aspire to be like. All though these teens definitely show up in my books, I don't actually write about hunting down this form of popularity, my characters want to be popular with the people they 'regard with favor, approval or affection'. The other type can just get in the way.

When it comes to my writing identity, if people get me wrong, it really irks me. But if they've never read my work, how would they know differently? Clearly I'm not explaining myself right.

I met someone overseas and he was interested in the fact that I'm a writer, and asked what I want to get out of it, why I do it. One thing I mentioned that I was looking forward to, was the fan mail. The mail from teenagers not telling me "wow I loved your book it's so awesome!" but the mail I've heard about, the mail some writers get where a teen tells the writer how much their work impacted on their lives, that they felt they were my character, or that even though I had never met them, they felt I understood their life and what they were going through.

I want to make a difference.

His response was: "Oh, so you want to be famous?"
Um, NO. He didn't get it at all. I definitely don't want to be famous. Though the money sounds awesome, I don't want to be as well known world-wide as JK Rowling or Stephanie Meyer. I want to be known by my target audience. And I would love to receive letters saying "OMG, that exact thing happened to me. It sucked but I got through it, and reading your character laugh about it helped me deal with everything myself". I don't care if people over 30 have never heard of me.

So yeah, I guess I want to be popular with those I regard with favor, approval, or affection.

So there we go. I guess I become a bit philosophical at 4:30 in the morning.


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