Saturday, July 28, 2018

On the Author Label

A central thesis by linguist Ferdinand de Saussure explains that the connection between a sign (like a word) and the real-world thing it represents is arbitrary. In the words of Shakespeare, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

Few people would argue that labels are arbitrary in action, though. We label ourselves and others constantly. Juliet's whole speech is about how important Romeo's name is. One word, one name, makes all the difference between a viable relationship and tragic doom. Labels can be an opportunity to express who we are, a burden to bear or share, or a self-fulfilling prophecy. I make a point to call my students learners, readers, and writers for a reason.

So, why has it taken me so long to label myself an author?

I mean, consider this evidence:
  • I've had what I referred to as an author website from age thirteen, when I thought that was how I'd be discovered. (Aside: It's not, guys. Websites don't matter. The manuscript is where it's at.)
  • I have a dual master's degree in creative writing and children's literature.
  • I have, at minimum, ten really rough manuscripts under my belt, and I'm actively querying the polished one. These manuscripts include fantasy romps with a chosen one destined to save the world, sci-fi adventures with space pirates and robots, urban fantasies with protagonists who are trying to find their place in a complex and dangerous world, fairy tale retellings, and super hero stories.
So, what was I waiting for?

The answer is surprisingly straightforward: Validation. I called myself a writer because I felt I wasn't a valid author unless I had a published book under my belt. Despite practicing this craft literally since kindergarten, finishing my first novel my senior year in high school, and writing and revising constantly pretty much my entire life, I wanted someone else to tell me that I'm an author.

When I set forth to create my updated author site, I sat there for nearly an hour debating whether to title it "Stephanie Gildart, Writer" or "Stephanie Gildart, Author."

I did one of those Millenial things: I googled it. Susan L. Stewart has a great article on this topic. Jami Gold does, too. After much reading, I came to this conclusion:

In the past, writers were unpublished and authors were traditionally published, but the internet blurs creator lines. For me, the difference between wanting to be an author some day and living with the self-confidence to act like an author begins with choosing to own the label author.
Writing is an individual journey. Writers and authors alike choose their labels and their paths. I have friends who write purely for self-enjoyment, friends who self-publish their work, friends with traditionally-published novels, and friends in all areas of the publishing industry. Everyone chooses their labels with a reason--but hopefully that reason is pride rather than doubt.

I'm an author, so I keep writing and revising multiple projects while I query those that I feel are ready.

I'm an author, so if my query is rejected, I keep querying.

I'm an author, and my website is as in-progress as my career--but it exists.

I'm an author. No modifiers, no doubts, no holding back.

Friday, July 27, 2018

About the Authors!

Hello and welcome! This blog will be about many things - from traveling the world to a warm bowl of mac'n'cheese on the couch, in yoga pants, watching Netflix. We are writers, teachers, foodies...

But the core of this blog is truly the friendship that started it all.

Eighteen years ago. If our friendship were a child, she would be going to college this year!

As a culture, we don't talk enough about modern friendships between adults. How do you "break up" with a toxic friend? Can you still be friends, if you don't talk for months? Rom Coms and novels feature endless romance stories, of course, but your best friend isn't the sidekick in your love story. Friendship is an adventure wholly independent and worthwhile on its own.

So, this blog is about our friendship, and it's also about each of us.

Rachel is an atheist.
Stephanie is religious.
Rachel analyzes literary fiction.
Stephanie is all about children's literature and pop culture.
Rachel lives in Florida.
Stephanie lives in California.
Rachel has traveled Europe and the Middle East.
Stephanie has lived in Japan.
Rachel is married.
Stephanie is single.
Rachel teaches high school English. Private sector, privileged students.

Stephanie teaches middle school English. Public sector, underserved students.
Stephanie has two dogs.
Rachel has no idea why.
Rachel says poh-tay-to.
Stephanie doesn't say poh-tah-to because that's crazy.

But none of these differences can cause a rift because we've been through the thick and thin together. Moving across the country or overseas, a wedding, losing our jobs--these experiences have brought us together. At the end of the day, there's no hack for this type of friendship.

You just can't fake time.