I’ve spent some time judging poems this week as part of the process for one of the competitions I entered during my 30/30/30 challenge and it has been a fascinating insight…. more of that in a moment.
I have also been casually glancing through (with a dash of envy I will readily admit) the shortlisted entries for a chick lit writing competition I had also entered during my challenge and I have been struck by two questions that have had me pondering and exasperated in equal measure. Firstly, I have become more and more aware of the trend to take the life of a well known celebrity or the plot line of a popular television show and adapt it into novel form, only changing a few names before unashamedly leaving all other obvious pointers that this in fact is a carbon copy of what people already know and then plonk it on the shelves amongst all other consumables in the supermarket. The irony for me is not that I didn’t make the shortlist this time (honestly i’m not sure mine strictly fell into the category of chick lit or perhaps I will have to accept that mine wasn’t good enough), but that I have been torturing myself over my lack of originality, whereas plagiarism seems acceptable. Of course it is, it’s a sign of our times! TV shows, pop music and many other forms of entertainment are now churned out from a production line that gives the consumer what they demand… And demanding and hungry for vast quantities of it they are! I don’t profess to have written a novel that is groundbreaking and mindblowingly intellectual, and it does of course reflect real life but I hope it is not the processed meat version of literature available for mass consumption alongside your family bag of potatoe smilies and a litre of cola. I am a realist though and I do know that fast food and fizzy beverages sell, so does that mean I should compromise? Ahhhh, maybe I should go back and rewrite my main character waking up and realising it was all just a dream after all… That’s not too familiar is it?!
Which brings me on to a pen name. Now I am a marketing consultant, so I know a fair bit about branding and that sometimes things dont have to be the best but they do have to be well packaged and branded to be popular. So I have often imagined my name splashed across a book cover (even my maiden name too) but however I look at it, my name is not ‘an authors name’. There is no romance or creativity in it (even though I have lots in my head, heart and on my pages), no aspiration about it, no fashion conscious edge to it. It’s just me, my name, my words. So what to do? Should I change my name? Would any interested publisher change it on my behalf? Will I be ditched because my name doesn’t look nice in Helvetica font or stick with it as it is? If I change it, I then have to tell my followers on Twitter and on this blog, and then I lose the joy of knowing its my name on that book when it eventually makes it into print. I don’t know, your thoughts? Perhaps I should just walk into a book shop, pick up a random title I like and just start telling everyone that I wrote it and that the name on it is just my pen name.
And back to poetry, I have been cursed and blessed to have been involved in the judging process for almost 50 poems as part of the Poetic Republic competition I participated in. Cursed because I have instantly been able to see where I rank amongst the wide and varied talent I have seen, and blessed because whilst I am pretty sure I am not the best, I am also now pretty reassured that I can hold my own amongst what I can now consider to be my peers. Fascinating to be part of such a process, and whatever the outcome (winners unveiled in June) I know that it was not judged by a small but select group of academics in a dusty office, but by real people, real poets, young and old, modern and traditional, natural and urban all side by side. What fun?!