Last weekend was my graduation! Hooray! I made it. Given everything that had happened over the time I was trying to complete this bloody degree, I decided that the best thing for me to do was to actually attend my graduation ceremony (I didn’t for the last one, but I did for the one before that, and the one before that…).
I don’t know why I had it in my head that the ceremony would be at 3pm, but I was convinced that it was for weeks leading up to it. A few days beforehand, I decided I should probably check and, whoops!, it was for 10am. I had planned on driving down there on the Saturday morning, but that wouldn’t happen. Thus began an epic trip that consisted of me driving for an hour to get home from work, picking up the husbro and the child and driving to New South Wales. It was a moderately pleasant drive as the kid fell asleep as soon as the batteries ran out on the phone so she wasn’t there moaning about how long it was taking.
Walking through the campus to get my robes (how hot are those damn ugly monstrosities?) James and I were talking. I was ruminating on the fact that I have spent about 10 years studying and that I still feel like I’ve missed out on a fundamental aspect of being at university. His response: “Well yeah, coz you’ve never actually attended a university.” Which is true. I haven’t. I have done all of my studies, bar six months, as an external/distance education student. I would have loved to have had the actual experience of being at uni and meeting like minded people to discuss mutual interests and passions, as well as bouncing ideas off. But alas, I have always had a financial commitment in the form of a mortgage and then a child, so I could never actually attend full time.
Thanks to the time difference, we ended up going to sleep way earlier than normal and as a consequence were wide awake at what would be our normal 4:30am. UGH! A natural follow-on from that, coupled with my obsessive need to always be on time (read: ridiculously early), meant that I was on campus a good hour before I needed to be.
I decided to go sit down and talk with some of the staff running the event. Eventually another student came over and we got to talking. She had completed a Bachelor of Arts as an internal student so our paths had never crossed, despite us both majoring in creative writing. We talked about future plans and whatnot and she said a few things, just casually in passing, that I have to say actually shifted my entire perspective. I had begun questioning myself lately, after a lot of work I had been submitting for publication had been rejected. I was beginning to think that my ideas were “out there” or that I wasn’t good enough. But no, the case was that I was submitting to publications recommended by the uni that were just not suited to my style of writing. I had an epiphany that weekend, thanks to that student and her off-hand comment (and I don’t even know her name to thank her, so thank you random girl in a cool dress).
My epiphany is this: I am a genre fiction writer. I love genre fiction. I love fantasy, and science fiction and crime and bumbling female detective stories. I have FOUR bookcases full of the stuff, plus an amount that would be equivalent downloaded to my Kindle. I don’t really like poetry, even though I am (according to uni) exceptional at it. I do not like experimental fiction and especially detest experimental poetry. I do not like wanky existentialism in my writing, or obscure artwank for the sake of being artistic. It’s fine for those that do. But it’s not me. I read through some of my “must have” digital subscriptions on the drive home and realised that I hated the content. I’m now on the lookout for some journals and publications that are more in line with my own interests and ideas. I love what I love and no amount of trying to shoehorn myself into another box for the sake of publication is going to change that. So I won’t.
I wrote my thesis on feminism in paranormal fantasy. I will quite happily talk your ear off about why I hate the genre, why I think that shitty novels like Twilight and all the ripoffs it spawned are hurting women (basically because the big bad is always a sexy powerful supernatural dude who pretty much ends up sexually assaulting the plain Jane “heroine” with his fantastical big bad ways and she forgives him all manner of physical/emotional abuse because it’s “true love/she got wet, so she secretly wanted it” which is all crap and the staple of abusers the world over). If we let this shit become normalised in fiction, how on earth are our women supposed to realise that this kind of behaviour is unacceptable? When we romanticise stalking and obsessive behaviour, what is that teaching our young girls? Paranormal fantasy is the pits. There are some gems out there, Buffy for instance, which celebrated TWENTY FUCKING YEARS this year! (How am I that old already? Also, I LOVE YOU JOSS!), but most of it is crap. I took a literary concept (feminist theory) and applied it to genre fiction. It’s pretty clear now that I look at it, that I am a genre girl.
As for what my literary future holds? Well, I applied for my Masters degree last weekend. No word yet on whether I will hear if I get in or not, probably not for a while. I would have applied for a PhD instead of a Masters, but the person I have picked to be my supervisor is not taking students currently. I had the privilege of hearing this person give several talks last year and they’ve gained themselves a little groupie for life, whether I do eventually go down that road or not. I picked a Masters where I can combine coursework (because I would like to expand my skills) with research (because I love it). I do actually have a poem being published sometime this year. I plan on expanding my novella I wrote for my thesis into a full length novel for publication. I have some short stories planned I would like to work on. Mostly, I am planning on shifting my focus this year into writing things that I would like to read.
Wish me luck!