One of the big words in publishing is “Branding.” You must have a brand, a writer is told again and again. At the West Virginia Book Festival, I attended last month, in the self publishing workshop with Jane Friedman, branding crept in to the lecture.
Oh, branding, I have resisted the thought. I don't want to be narrowed down to one thing. I want to be a fiction writer. I pick up a thought from Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggie Tales, in his book, Me, Myself and Bob. After losing his dream for a while, he finds he must be like a jelly fish, floating where God leads. Yes, I think, go where God leads me, don't be conformed to a rut, or in the literary world, a brand.
Still, I am a good student, and fight that rebellious spirit. I do want success, of course. I'd be lying to say I wasn't seeking a little bit of fame. I think any writer that pursues this publishing journey has to have a little bit of the dream of success to put oomph behind all that goes into promoting oneself. I won't cast dispersion, but anyone who says otherwise is maybe not telling the truth.
I envisioned with Main Street, my first book I wrote, of financial riches, well, maybe not riches, but more independence. I would write historical fiction only. I chose the pictures of the house I grew up in that my dad took with his Instamatic, as my symbol of Gables and Gingerbread, my first brand, of stories. Houses built with gables, the pitched roofs displaying the intricate designs, called Gingerbread. I thought first, stories about how the families or men who built these kind of houses would be an intriguing series. I drove around eastern Ohio for my job at the time and saw several houses like the one I grew up in, which were not common across the line in Pennsylvania, where mine is.
The Martha and Tom story grew in my imagination. The turn of the last century and its progress blossomed into a story of isolationism, protecting a way of life, and hatred with a worldly and godly sorrow in response to actions. I didn't want to be preachy, but I am a Christian, so my world view is through those eyes. I can't deny my beliefs. An atheist admitted to me, he liked the story, but his life didn't change, yet.
I thought these stories would be my brand, only. I encountered a house south of Fowler, Ohio, that I set my next story in. I haven't finished Country, yet, although I started it for National Novel Writing Month in 2011. I had a strong beginning with low clouds, storms, prodigal daughter and the good daughter, but not haughty. Christina is loving and loves to serve her family and God. I got lost in the historical detail and where the story needed to go. I have a better idea, but I don't feel it is it time, yet.
I chose as my symbol, the Gingerbread house or as I came to find out is really a Carpenter Gothic, like in the painting, American Gothic. We knew that at one time the boards lay up and down, like the house in the background of the farming couple, and you can see the gable, too.
In the year 2012, the seeds for Summer Triangle came to me. At first, I had no idea how personal it would be. No, I didn't become pregnant, but the other underlying theme is a mother's worry about her adult children following the faith in which they were raised. 2012 an abyss opened for me. I wanted my writing to save me from working outside the home. I had too much on my plate and I needed rest.
It didn't come. I left a home health job because the travel became ludicrous, as well as all the preparations for the Affordable Health Care Act. I imagined a steady 7-3 or as it turned out, 3-11, job close to home would ease some of the tension. Nursing home world ended up being one of the most disrespected jobs I ever did. Staff was always suspect and never to be believed. When I heard how much people paid to have a loved one stay there, I almost cried. Short staff is to be expected, but when it was scheduled that way, my mind was blown.
I had many rewards, though, from working there. I adopted mothers when I missed mine so much. One man always had the most beautiful proposals for me. I could only say I'd stay until the wind changed. Another couple adopted me. My residents and families rejoiced with my writing. They returned the love I feel for them.
I surrendered to God's will, that He wanted me there for some reason. Well, I had to do that almost every day. I had to pump myself up in the mirror for the first half year. And I often wanted to run screaming from the building, like Scarlett in Gone with the Wind, the Atlanta hospital scene. The last time I said, “God, You want me here, I will do your will.” I read an ad in the paper for a home health job in New Castle.
I e-mailed my resume and the next morning after I prayed that again about God's will, I read my e-mail, a response to my resume. I knew the director. She remembered me from when I was a co-leader for my oldest daughter's Girl Scout troop. My caring and compassion shown to my daughter let her know she wanted me on staff. I took the job and to borrow from Robert Frost, it has made all the difference.
So back to the branding. Today, I felt I had to put the historical stories, the Gables and Gingerbread stories, on hold. I needed to follow through with the story started in Summer Triangle. But what is my brand, now? I cringe at saying women's fiction, Christian fiction or as the library loves to tag it, inspirational fiction. I write about messy lives. Not everyone follows Jesus. Some die and we don't know. How far does forgiveness or the stubbornness of mankind go in rejecting God's promise of eternal life through His son, Jesus? Theologians have tried to answer that question for centuries.I don't want to speculate.
Of the choices above, I like inspirational. Don't we all want to inspire people? Though, I prefer writer of good stories. Is that a brand?