Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Chick-lit? Chicklet? Chick, let me tell you…

Okay. So I have been hocking my manuscript, The Princess Paradox, for quite some time now. I know what people say, “chick lit is dead”. And if you look up the term chick-lit, you will find dozens upon dozens of women and reviewers hacking at the genre like Freddy frickin’ Krueger. And you know what? That pisses me off.

So, in what may be my last ditch effort, I have been trying to research small presses that publish what was once called chick-lit. Now, the covers have been taken back, burned in a fiery pit of bubblegum pink ash, and repackaged with new titles, new colors, and a new genre label. New Adult? Maybe. Lighthearted Women’s Fiction? Possibly. Commercial Fiction? Book Club Fiction? Contemporary Romance?

At this point, I'm not even sure how to market this thing. What I do know, is it is hard to find someone, whether it be agent or press, to actually take my book or me seriously as a writer. And I have a million and one problems with this that I have no qualms about sharing. It doesn't help that recently there have been a slew of articles admonishing chick lit for making women feel fat. (see Telegraph article here) Uhhh, news flash, it is not chick lit that makes women feel fat. If you really want to know what actually does make women feel fat, first look at magazines and Hollywood and the fact that people always focus on how women look. (My co-worker just came in and told me the new trend is teenage girls measuring the empty space between their thighs as a measure of attractiveness. They have not read chick lit by the way) Not to mention, how women judge other women. But this is not a post about that. Maybe another time. This is a post on chick lit.

For me, these next few things are what I am going to call “common myths of chick lit as a genre”.

Myth 1: All chick lit contains vapid main characters.

No. No they don’t. What they show are real women. Real women who are insecure, who compare themselves to others, who are stuck in a misogynistic society where characters like Christian Grey and Edward Cullen can be shallow and into their looks and money and it’s considered sexy but when women give a concern about how we look, we're called vapid.

What about the fact that most of the character arc of these women are going from a woman who is insecure with themselves or their situation to being confident and finally taking initiative? What about the main characters who are muddling through major life decisions? Wives, mothers, daughters? It’s only because these books are typically narrated through first person so that the reader sees the obvious flaws in thinking that allow us to view these women for who they are. People who judge these characters need to get off their sanctimonious high horses and for a moment consider what they may sound like if a constant recording of their most intimate and personal thoughts and doubts replayed for everyone to hear as they order their triple-organic -venti-nonfat-soy latte in a carbon neutral cup. My guess is they would either end up looking just as insecure and flighty as any chick lit heroine OR a pompous assmunch. Either way, they wouldn’t be faring too well in the chick lit version of themselves.

Myth 2: All chick lit is about friendships, fashion, food, drinking, shoes, and boys.

Show me a woman who does not somehow in some way appreciate most of these things and I will show you a woman who is a man. That didn’t come out right. But you get the idea. What the hell is wrong with a great pair of high end shoes? Sure, I don’t have the money, but if I did, I would buy some Louboutins or Prada and wear them proudly. I love hors d'oeuvres  and a nice, crisp chardonnay once in a while. Hell, who doesn’t? And if chick lit is truly looking at life of a modern woman, then these things SHOULD be in there. Because it’s what we do! Especially when we are together or lamenting our sad love lives. But these are things that HAPPEN in chick lit. Things that build the world.

Fantasy has dragons and shapeshifters.

Science fiction has space and nanotechnology.

Historical fiction has…history.

You don’t hear anyone say, well science fiction is just lame because those darn writers can’t write about anything other than science. These mystery writers should stop putting dead ends, dark nights, and train rides in their novels. That’s because whoever says that would sound stupid. Wrap your head around that, chick lit naysayers.

Because these “dumb materialistic things” that are in chick lit, build the world of our characters. And it's as important as any wrecked future and totalitarian government entity in a dystopia.

Myth 3: Chick lit is always around girl loving the wrong guy, but ending up with the nice guy.

First, not always true.


Enough said.

Myth 4: Chick lit is unintelligent writing and is the plague of good literature everywhere.

Can this sometimes be true? Sure. Is all chick lit comparable to the work of Leo Tolstoy or Harper Lee? No. But you know what? I have read some pretty bad science fiction, or mainstream fiction. I am not a fan of all the classics. And some best sellers, I just don’t get. Some have every bit of cliché plotline in them as well. But you don’t castrate a whole genre because some books may be considered “fluff”.

Chick lit can be viewed as it is or perhaps it is in more complex terms a commentary on society and women in general. Or perhaps it is a reflection of who we are and how far we have come. Gone are the wild rebellious women of the 60’s and 70’s who are searching so hard for their role in the workplace. Gone is the winner take all mentality where women fight and claw to the top, sometimes risking their family all for the sake of equality. (I would argue at that time, we were not necessarily looking for equality, we were looking for superiority)I believe chick lit focuses on the women of today, balancing work and love and family and friends. And that is not unintelligent. Is it life.

So…as we sail into the OPI colored sunset, I’d like to end by saying:

I am tired of people (most who are so called authors or reviewers) ripping apart a book, genre or author because they are successful. Mark my words, if chick lit hadn’t exploded in the market a decade ago, no one would be even discussing it. And as the sequel to Bridget Jones grows closer and closer, I predict the negativity and backlash against chick lit will worsen. Because heaven forbid, we women look to Bridget Jones’ as a role model. We wouldn’t want women to go thinking that bigger, beautiful women with some insecurities and a bangin’ sense of humor is the norm. Heavens no.

Let’s stop hating on a genre. If you don’t like it, don’t read it. Yes, you have a right to your opinion, but don’t forget others do as well. And just like opinions, chick lit is not going anywhere.


  1. I personally think it's not worth defending the label chick lit, but defending the STORIES that used to be labeled that way.

    I agree with you on so many counts. I never liked the term chick lit, which is probably why it's practically taboo to say it these days. I think chick lit is still being written, we just thankfully aren't labeling it that way. Then it leaves you with the conundrum, what DO you call it?

    Knowing the romance community a little better has helped me see this a little more clearly. My RWA chapter (romance writers) has a mix of writers who do romantic suspense, paranormal romance, contemporary with romantic elements (which means romance exists but is not the primary plot driver) etc. If it's romance, it's probably going to need an happy ending, since that's what sets romance apart from the equally terrible label Women's Fiction. But you don't have to write yourself into a box; Kristan Higgins is a bestselling romance writer who sometimes writes just a female POV in first person, where more traditional romance is both "hero" and "heroine" (or hero/hero, heroine/heroine) and more often in 3rd person. Especially within the subgenres, you can play around a little bit.

    If you have romance as a driving force of the plot, I'd call it that. If not, maybe romantic elements. Maybe it's more literary.

  2. Chick lit is still one of my favorite genres to read (I didn't have a problem with it being called chick lit to be honest) because it's realistic and sometimes, not all the stories end up happily (which is the way life is).
    I know it's not going anywhere.
    Good luck on your journey to publication :)

  3. Another great post, Carey. #GoTeamChickLit


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