An Author in Search of a Genre
By Judith Cullen
We like to categorize. It makes it easier to find things we need or want when they are classified, organized: canned vegetables in this aisle, pasta and soups in the next. Everything sorted and alphabetized so we can lay hands on it at just the right moment. It is not a bad working concept.
I was the primary proponent of this very concept recently in my Mother’s house. An overhead cabinet was mounded with decades of holiday decorations and items for little homey touches: candles of all sizes and shapes, votive holders, mobiles, windsocks, table and window décor, various objects d’art. After 45 years they had become a festive Fibber McGee’s closet. I was regularly ascending a 6’ step ladder, as the designated household climber, opening the cabinet door with one hand, and holding the other up protectively against anything that decided to descend before its time. I reached my limit. I bought a bunch of inexpensive plastic storage bins and sorted out both that cabinet and the closet beneath. Now we can find things without risking life and limb. Now the holiday accumulations of the years can be found and chosen from easily. I can’t tell you how many times the words “Oh, I haven’t seen that in years” were spoken. But this essay is not about reducing clutter or increasing your feng shui.
Authors are regularly asked to categorize themselves. What do you write? What is your genre? The literary word is a vast series of pigeon holes and authors are challenged to fit themselves into as many as possible to make their work easier to access by interested readers. It makes sense, right? Yet I continually find myself straining at those carefully drawn boundaries. I know other writers who have chosen more defined markets for their books, and are much more prosperous than I: Christian Romance, Historical Romance, Historical Fiction, etc. Am I only a fiction writer? Am I only an essay writer? Do I have any claim to being a poet? Why can’t I wrap all these things up in the term “author” and just write what inspires me?