Storyteller

I just remembered something embarrassing. *laughs*

My first Usenet/email name/handle/display name was “Storyteller”.

I mean, I was 17, okay? So I can forgive me for being a little dorktastic, but in retrospect it makes me laugh because it’s so…17 and pretentious. Or dreamy-eyed or whatever you want to call it, but as dorky as it was, it was also how I perceived myself, either as I was or as I wanted to be. I wanted to tell stories to people. I’ve always wanted to tell stories to people: my earliest memories of answering “What do you want to be when you grow up?” were with things like “An astronaut/fireman/lawyer/first woman Senator from Alaska* and a writer.” No matter what else I was going to do, I was gonna be a writer, too.

And I did it! I went out into the world and I got published and I’m a writer, and it’s the best job I’ve ever had. But while I was doing this job I loved, the industry that supported it…imploded. And it didn’t just implode. It imploded in a way that made it seem like the music industry implosion ten years before had happened in an entirely separate universe.

I mean, the music industry panicked. They introduced DRM and player-specific formats and they started casting away midlist bands that might develop a slow backing in favor of demanding #1 Billboard Chart hits from first-timers and if that didn’t work they could throw them away and try a new band to see if it caught fire. And while they were running in circles, forgetting that they sold content, not CDs or tapes or vinyl, savvy musicians built MySpaces pages and promoted themselves and found audiences that the Big Music Industry Machine wasn’t looking for because those bands and musicians didn’t fit their preconceived notion of the Next Big Thing.

Go through that last paragraph, replace the music industry terms with publishing industry terms, and that’s what’s happened in *my* field.

I *love* my job. I love the people I work with. I love the traditional publishing game, and I don’t ever see myself voluntarily leaving it. But I’m in awe that the publishing industry as a whole has managed to copy the music industry’s errors as if walking in lockstep with them, a decade after the fact.

And I am so, so grateful that part of what *caused* the implosion is another way of getting stories to the readers became available, because–like NO DOMINION–The Redeemer Chronicles didn’t fit anybody’s preconceived notions of a Next Big Thing.

Nobody’s except mine, anyway, and I want to tell that story.

Ten years ago it wouldn’t have been a viable option to even try. Ten years ago, Rosie Ransom would have gotten trunked, because even if I wrote her story, I wouldn’t have had a way to get it to readers. I wouldn’t have the chance to tell people that–okay, yes, of course part of the reason the character is Rosie and that she’s a riveter is because of the iconic Rosie. We all know that.

But my Mom’s name is Rosie, and my grandmother was a riveter. And those things matter to me, just as much as the icon does. More than the icon does, because they are and were real people who obviously helped define who I am. I’ve been asked what makes me write what we now tiresomely call “strong female protagonists” (by which we mean “three dimensional people”), and the question always kind of flabbergasts me. They say write what you know, right? Well, that’s what I know.

I also know that I’m a writer–a storyteller, god help me :)–in an era where the publishing game has changed dramatically, and that I am insanely fortunate to actually be able to talk regularly with many of my readers. I’ve gotten play-by-play agonized responses to books over on Twitter, as readers turn pages and the stories unfold. I’ve gotten emails from people who have been astonished to find aspects of themselves in my books, or who have been inspired to pursue things they might not otherwise have done because of what they’ve read.

Writing–not so much storytelling, perhaps, but writing–is often a lonely pursuit. The incredible thing that is happening here and now is that in so many ways, I am not alone in making books happen. We’re in this together, you and I.

And I cannot possibly thank you all enough. ♥

*I grew up in a very political family, what can I say? :)

**When I say “a teacher how to fly” I don’t mean I meant to be a pilot. No: I would stand on the arm of the couch, announce that I was going to be a teacher how to fly when I grew up, and fling myself into the air in the absolute confidence that one of these times, I was going to soar instead of crashing to the earth. I was going to learn how to *fly*, and then I was by God going to teach everybody else.

1 Comment


  1. Yes to all of this. I have also spent the last few years baffled that traditional publishing (which I also value and respect) has been so freakin’ tone deaf (um…funny unintentional pun…sort of) regarding the impact of current technology on the industry. I love the access readers and writers have to each other now. It’s a heady responsibility and goodness knows there are lots of ongoing growing pains both for readers and writers, but in the end I cannot see it as anything but wonderful and positive. I am particularly inspired by exactly what you are talking about here which is the hybrid published writer experience…you have books that are traditionally published and yet can still write and self publish (including the crowd funding process that secures the financial investment for you) the stories that are perhaps for a different audience or just a smaller audience that would not have previously gotten their chance to shine. This is nothing short of fantastic in my opinion.

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