Friday Speak Out!: Steampunk is Not for Me, Guest Post by Jo Barney

Friday, July 22, 2011
Steampunk is Not for Me

by Jo Barney

Graffiti Grandma is out to three agents. Wednesday Club, the script, is entered in a contest and is sent to two producers, and Solarium just got its twentieth rejection, one more to go. I don't know where Mom, my hockey novel, is. Its cards have escaped my card file. Marshall, the miniature horse, has not made it into the card file yet. He's romping around in SASE land. I've thrown all of my literary children to the winds. Likely, they'll never return. "Just not right for me," their epitaphs will read somewhere out there in the ether.

The only thing for me to do now is write something new. Margaret is shuffling in the wings of this computer. She's seventy-six, straight bodied, aching in only several non-essential parts, and she doesn't know what she's in for. This old lady is going to be manipulated, mulled, cut into pieces, disdained, wept over, and then, if she's like the rest of my literary offspring, laid to rest in my Zip for someone to find when I myself lie in the same sort of quiet place.

I sometimes think how angry I will be if my human children, posthumously for me, discover my Zip storage system, send out its quiet occupants, and make a million dollars in movie rights, and at just the right time for their retirements. I'll really be pissed. If one can be in that condition sans bodily components.

My timing has always been off. I wrote of sad divorces in the early 80's, a few years after most of the debris from the free love decade infiltrated stolid 50's marriages. Then Umarried Woman and Jill Clayburgh took all the wind out of my muse's sails.

I described of the travails of being single with children just after Jane Smileys Ordinary Love came out and said it all for me. Elizabeth Berg covered the drives of singleness: sex, loneliness, missteps in choosing while very needy, even as I was being driven all over the map and not writing.

One of my novels dealt with foundering young sons when my own sons headed out into the world. Research into the genre revealed that not only Salinger but Brad Easton Ellis and Jay McInerney, even if I disliked their books, got into a young mans psyche a lot better than a mother could.

Remarriage, oh god, with children, led to six unpublished articles, right about the time Joanne Trollope Viking wrote Other Peoples Children and dissected a stepmother role as precisely as it can be done.

I can write as well as a few of these authors. I just need to find my niche before someone else does. What will sell three years from now? What will be at the front edge of the next wave? I don't do vampires and I get too depressed with dystopic scenes. Who wants to eat a friend's finger? Or sacrifice a person you've just had sex with?

Wait! I can imagine that, sort of. Perhaps I can create a new genre, a hybrid combination of romance, mystery, fantasy, dystopia, and chick lit.

I Googled "genres" and found one that might be work, slightly adjusted: Bildungsroman, a coming-of-age story. The modus operandi seems to be the use of a normal story to simply explain difficult and/or dark parts of human life.

I will call my new genre Geriatric Bildungsroman. Coming-of-old-age stories. I know its been done, but not by me yet, not the way I'm thinking about Margaret.

* * *
Jo Barney is a retired educator who is delighted to have time to write even when it means rejections every once in a while, or more often. She's been published on-line and in printed journals but her goal, for whatever misguided reason, is to see her novel, any one of them, in print. Her blog is Breakout Novel, a Race to the Finish, but it remains to be seen who or what finishes first. (


Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!



Anonymous said...

Jo, you can really write! Keep that focus going, and good luck!

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