Confessions of an Undercover Fanfiction Author

Graduate Student By Day, Fanfiction Writer by Night

"Sometimes you've just got to work even harder to be able to keep the piece you love the most about yourself—but that most see as a flaw—alive, and it's really a damn shame."

 

As movellians we already know the deal, fanfiction is kind of not a genre. I know, there's no way I'm saying this, right? Okay, well, just hear me out before you try to rip me to pieces.

 

As much as we may argue until we're blue in the face, the reality is that the academy does not view fanfiction as a legitimate form of literature. While it is gaining some serious commercial traction, fanfiction (and its writers) are still looked down upon and ridiculed by many. Especially, you've guessed it, by this so highly regarded academy. But what constitutes the academy? Why do they decide what is and isn't literature? Well friends, while I could explain this in a long, rather painful, blog post, I'd much rather just gloss over it and move on. 

 

The academy consists of a great deal of literary scholars who have had much schooling and who have done much research in the formalist literary tradition. What this means is that they've basically gotten the credentials after about 20+ years in the field to be able to appropriately gauge what is literature and what is not. I have not been informed as to whether or not they get plaques or laminated badges, or some kind of member's only gift basket, but I can only surmise that they most likely do.

 

Now, I explain this to you because as a first year graduate student in a pretty well established English MA program, I've had to learn how to avoid questions about my writing. Tragic, isn't it? But it all has to do with the rules of the academy, it always does.

 

As the first in my family to go to college it's been a difficult ride as of yet. Add onto that the fact that I am Latina, about 4-5 years younger than the other 10 people in my program, and am always referred to as the prodigy. A lot of this wild ride has consisted of learning how to model my behavior, of changing my vocabularly, and of constantly having to step out of my comfort zone to keep up the facade.  

 

I've had to assimilate, learn how to act when I step foot on my campus. Ridiculous? Yes. Crucial? Unfortunately. (Obviously, this is problematic in and of itself, but we can talk about this in another blog)

 

As an English student, and now Teaching Assistant,  my reputation rests upon on how I present myself, both orally and of course, in the written word. So, if the academy looks down upon fanfiction, how could I possibly ever tell anyone about my successes on Movellas and the novels and stories I've composed so far?

 

You've guessed it, I haven't. 

 

A number of my teachers have always believed that I don't have much to say because I don't contribute much in class, in fact, they are shocked when they discover that my writings are actually good. Sometimes even more than good, sometimes astounding. (No, I'm not tooting my own horn. I wouldn't be pursuing a career in English studies if I wasn't that good) As one professor later confided in me:

 

"Your other professor and I? We bonded over how shocked we were about you. We never thought that you'd be the one sitting here today, excelling in such a tough program. You never speak, but god, you write. You truly write."

 

A lot of my research, analysis, critiques, and projects have been starting points for discussions, revelations for professors, and of course, a great padding to my own resume. I love what I do, don't doubt it. It's the constraints that I'm under that are getting to me, and as we know from my previous blog, this isn't anything new. 

 

I have found few confidants that are trust worthy enough to show them the person that you know. The two that are within the academy, and are my two greatest mentors and supporters, have told me that it's unfortunate that I've chosen this genre, because I can never get true recognition for it within the career I am pursuing. One misstep, and honestly, and my "respectable" academic reputation could be ruined. It wouldn't matter how much I've done to get to this point, all I will be known for is for writing One Direction fanfiction—that is subpar at best. And the thought of this is infuriating. 

 

While I understand the fact that boybands are trite and fanfiction is much like YA (which, unfortunately guys, is also highly frowned upon in the academy), that doesn't mean I want to understand. 

 

My undergraduate years I spent as a student during the day and an avant fic writer during the night. If you've been following me for a while, you know that many moons ago I would publish one chapter every night. I managed to write Labels this way. That fic in and of itself is over 600 pages. How can you tell me that's not something to be proud of? Who can juggle school, two jobs, and a substantial amount writing all in a day? As an undercover fanfiction writer, that's the life you lead. You go from begrudgingly finishing that dreadful 10 page paper about Hamlet or Robinson Crusoe, to gleefully outlining a 6 page chapter for fun (As of late I haven't been able to do much writing for fun, but you better believe I'm already outlining my next few projects)

 

I'm sure many of you feel this way, regardless of the genre. We're all alike in this respect, our work, it's our heart

 

Which is exactly why it sucks that when people ask me what I write I have to play it off as YA fiction, and still, I get some shit about it. Oh, and if people ask if they can read my work? That's a flat out no. Not even my mentors have read more than mere excerpts of the amount of work you've seen on here. 

 

I'm sure a lot of you think I'm being dramatic or ridiculous. I'm sure you're wondering why I don't just try in writing in other "more serious" genres. Well, jokes on you, I have. Academically I am being trained as an Ethnic and African American literature scholar with a specific interest in slave and neo-slave narratives. A lot of my scholarly work has to do with the authenticity of certain slave narratives, and how perhaps fictional, or neo, slave narratives hold more historical fact that than those we regarded as factual and canonical because they have a deeper understanding of the trauma slavery caused (Blah, blah, blah, I know. All you need to know is the first line, really. The second line is just what I'm used to responding every time I'm asked what work I do). 

 

My novella The Poet's Guide to Heartbreak was the winner of a highly regarded fiction prize last year at my university. And even then, the fact that it was a romance novel, angered the head of the creative writing department. He refused to call out my name at the ceremony, and in front of my parents, I had to hold back tears and pretend that I was above it. I took my prize from the assistant director as a confused audience of my future peers and colleagues mumbled amongst themselves, and brushed it off, even as she apologized profusely for him.

 

You want to talk about how ingrained hatred towards the more sentimental or "womanly" genres are? Here is a prime example. Your girl not only got humiliated in front of the entire English department, but her work was not featured on the university website. Most did not even realize I had won the prize that year, as it usually went to someone who was actually in the creative writing program and who wrote "real" fiction. Neither of which I did. (Add this onto my reasons why the academy is twisted as fuck)

 

But I digress. I have had other short fiction works published in my Writing Center's literary magazine, works that have in fact been analyzed by other classes and peers. And it was a wonderful feeling, indeed. But this is where my heart is. It doesn't matter how well versed I am in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or academic writing, I will always come back to fanfic and YA novels. And of course, I will always come back to Movellas.

 

So it's usually at 2AM after a long day at work, sometimes if you love something enough, it won't matter. Sometimes you've just got to work even harder to be able to keep the piece you love the most about yourself—but that most see as a flaw—alive, and it's really a damn shame.

 

While I would love to show this part of me to the world, I don't think it's ready for me quite yet. Let me make it perfectly clear though, I am not ashamed of anything I've written on this website (other than that very first fanfic that will never see the light of day again. But throw the first stone if you don't have drafts you wish you could burn). If you know me, you know that I am the first advocate for fanfiction. But one of those horrid things that I've discovered in my first year of being a "real" adult, is that sometimes you have to choose your battles wisely. Unfortunately, this is one of those times. 

 

As I'm breaking down barriers and walls in other respects in the ivory tower, I promise you, one day, you'll hear about the astounding English scholar who got her start writing One Direction fanfictions, and is still—to no one's surprise—writing about Harry Styles' dimples. 

 

All the love as always, 

oh hipsta please

 

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