Monday, May 6, 2013

Life Imitates Art

Anyone who knows me, or who’s taken time to read this blog, knows that I’m a writer. Only some of you know about my obsession with teen related television shows, movies and books. Okay, maybe obsession is a bit too strong, but I do enjoy them tremendously. I like to think that’s what gives me an edge with writing young adult novels.

In the last few months, I’ve been sharing with you the ups and downs of both my personal and professional life because like it or not, one does correlate to the other.  Just last week, I told you about a decision I made to walk away from my first publishing contract because of “creative differences” with the publisher.

One of those creative differences had to do with the content of the story. Prior to signing, I asked the publisher if there was a plan to change any of the content of the story. Not only was I told no, but I was told the publisher loved the book and thought it was perfect the way it was. When the editor the publisher employs sent me the manuscript full of changes that were more than the occasional misspelled word or missing punctuation mark, I was both shocked and saddened. After much back and forth with the publisher, I walked away. I couldn’t allow my name to be placed on a story that I didn’t feel I’d told. Sure, it was my characters and plot and setting, but it wasn’t the same. The changes had a big impact on the feel of the story which I couldn’t live with so I walked away.

Yesterday, my fourteen-year-old daughter and I finally got around to watching Thursday’s episode of Glee that was still on the DVR, and one of the story lines struck a chord with me. After spending a year of her life working on her first music CD, one of the characters was told her CD wouldn’t be released if she wasn’t willing to show more skin for her cover photo. Asking her to do such a thing contradicted her religious and moral upbringing. After much soul searching and some wise counsel from family and friends, she decided to pull out of the recording contract and release the CD on her own. 

Being fresh off a similar struggle in the literary world, this story touched something in me. It also got me to thinking about how many other artists have been affected this way. The story this character faced in Glee mirrored that of Martha Wash who provided the stunning vocals for the C&C Music Factory nineties anthem Gonna Make You Sweat. Martha was allowed to sing but not featured in the video due to being overweight. Then there was the sad story of Milli Vanilli a nineties singing duo that had the look the record label wanted but couldn’t sing a lick. It wasn’t until after they won a Grammy that it was discovered they’d been lip synching at every appearance. We all laughed at them at the time, but you have to wonder how much they’re to blame. These poor young guys probably got caught up in something they didn’t know how to get out of.  Artists are also expected to fit into this nice eye catching box as you can see on any American Idol themed talent search. Only The Voice actually forces judges to hear the contestant and make a decision before seeing them.

Like the character on Glee, I made a decision that was right for me. All I can do now is wait and see what I can make of that. In the meantime, it’s both comforting and amusing to see art imitating life.