Different Strokes

A-barc  skull face graffiti attrib MujingaAttribution: Wikimedia Commons, Mujinga

Graffiti is a form of artistic self-expression. Within that umbrella, graffiti artists express themselves in countless different ways, each work as unique as the artist who rendered it. Those who view graffiti are just as unique. A person who enjoys the skull-like graffiti above may find the graffiti below visually disturbing. I’m not sure I ‘enjoy’ either, but I do appreciate the artistry and creativity of both.

Attribution: Wikimedia Commons, Blu

Artists have different talents, different tastes. Some prefer the whimsical. Some, the disturbing. Some embrace realism, some work in the abstract.

Graffiti_in_Via_Flaminio_Rai_11 purple spot face graffiti attrib MassimilianogalardiAttribution: Wikimedia Commons, Massimilianogalardi

Each art form has its followers, its detractors, its champions, but none of that is in the artist’s control. Only the work itself is in the artist’s control, so he or she does that work, puts it out there. . .

576px-Lanificio_Calamai_06 skinny girl graffiti attrib Massimilianogalardi (Attribution: Wikimedia Commons, Massimilianogalardi

Novels are a lot like graffiti. Fiction comes in different genres and sub-genres, each expressed in a myriad of different ways. Each genre and sub-genre has a loyal following, just as many individual writers do. Of course, reader preferences are as varied as the works one finds on a bookstore shelf because likes and dislikes are fluid, mutable, subjective. Tastes change over time and yet the novel, like any form of artistic expression–belongs to its author first. Like graffiti, a novel is self-expression in its purest form: an idea flowing from mind to hand, recorded for posterity; perhaps inviting contemplation, spurring dialogue, stirring emotions. . .

C-barc melting face graffiti attrib MujingaAttribution: Wikimedia Commons, Mujinga

But none of that is in the writer’s control.

I was reminded of that truism today as I opened my email, only to find two more form rejections from literary agents. As a writer, I have to remember that not everyone is going to respond favorably to the stuff I write. For publishers and agents, personal preference is just part of the equation. Luck and timing are everything. Add to that, consideration of the current literary market, the economy, societal issues . . . all have some bearing on whether an agent says yes or no to my work.

So I’m telling myself: DO the work. Do it well, then put it out there and keep putting it out there because it doesn’t matter if a writer takes chances with style and tastes; or if their characters are edgy or unlikable. It doesn’t matter if our stories aren’t for everybody; doesn’t matter if selling our stories is challenging. What matters is that we remain true to ourselves and our vision, do our best and above all, don’t give up.

There’s an audience for everything.

640px-Mural_in_Prato_01 monkey attrib  MassimilianogalardiAttribution: Wikimedia Commons, Massimilianogalardi


6 thoughts on “Different Strokes

  1. I got another form rejection today as well. While I get that it is a subjective call, I spent a moment contemplating how lovely it would be if there were some kind of rejection rating system agents would apply. 1 – You are hopelessly misinformed about the query process. Please spend some time with The Shark. 2 – You have the basics down & you followed submission guidelines and this is a genre I represent. But I don’t like the premise in your query. 3 – Your query is fine, the premise is tolerable, but your sample pages don’t sell it. 4 – All looks great, but I’ve got another pitch/client/working deal very similar to this already and don’t want the competition/don’t think I can sell it.

    To compare it to your artwork, I’ve got another rating system. 1 – I recognize that is a horse, but it is an ugly horse with only 3 legs. 2 – I like landscapes, but not of the desert. 3 – I enjoy the idea of it more than the work itself. 4 – It’s fine to hang on the coffee shop wall, but I don’t want to own it.


  2. Thanks for the great post – the comparison of graffiti and writing works so well! There used to be a derelict building in the University District of Seattle that allowed graffiti artists to decorate it – for years and years. Paintings and writing and tags of all sorts would be covered over by newer work, over and over. It was an amazing, living piece of modern art. I wish someone had taken a still shot of it every week for all that time, just to see the changes it underwent. Alas, the building was torn down last month to make way for new construction.

    Thanks again for your post, from a fellow AW-er.

    Evelyn Arvey / Gail Bridges


    • It’s too bad nobody thought to do that, document that before it was too late. I can see it: a short documentary, fast motion — the changes to that building over time, all manner of artists making their magic in the heat of the day, or in the shelter of night. How awesome that would be. Somebody has to do that!!!

      Now I’m all excited!!!


      Thank you for your kind words, Gail, and for sharing that little story, and for visiting my little blog.

      Helping me twice thrice ;).

      xoxo kk


  3. Hate the rejections for your work, but I love this post. I’m sure it’s wrong in at least 999 ways (and the grown up, responsible part of me knows why), but part of me misses the NY I grew up in, where it seemed all the walls and trains were canvases. Because yes, my taste in art is as eclectic as my tastes in fiction. Well executed and different are my favorites, but harder to tempt an agent, I think. Not impossible, but a longer road.

    *And I love Courtney’s idea of a form rejection rubric. Don’t see it catching on, with so many not even sending a form R anymore, but still a great idea. For us, anyway–I suspect agents will disagree. 😀


    • I agree, Mrs Fringe. Courtney’s idea of a form rejection rubric would explain a lot, with minimal effort on the part of an agent (or his/her assistant). Of course, there’d be ample space at the bottom for personal comments and suggestions, with a few kind word thrown into the mix, which is what we–scratch that, I–crave. Just a nugget . . . something. . .


      As for graffiti, when I wrote this post I considered mentioning the social, legal, and ethical issues associated with graffiti. I decided not to. This post is about the artist and the art–creating it, letting it go. That’s what we do. That’s what needs remembering, especially on days like today.

      Thank you for your two cents, mrs fringe. Worth every penny. 🙂

      xoxo kk


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