The Good Room added a zany and light-hearted touch to the Dublin Book Festival, but still covered some important issues in the word of publishing. I managed to catch a discussion about chick-lit featuring Vanessa O’Loughlin, Sarah Webb, Clare Dowling, Regina Levelle and Sinead Moriarty which looked at the attitudes towards this genre and the women writing chick lit books.
Although chick lit may not be to everyone’s taste, it is a valid genre – as book sales show. Female writers persistently make up at least three of the top ten on the bestsellers list, so there is obviously a market. But many of the writers feel like chick lit is maligned (Sinead), making writers feel “ashamed of what they’re writing, and making women feel ashamed of what they’re reading (Clare). Chick lit is placed in a defensive position.
As Vanessa pointed out, this is unfair because chick lit is a follow on from the great women writers such as Jane Austen; it came about because women found a voice and began writing about what was important to them, about what they knew. And that’s why it’s popular. But popular doesn’t mean bad writing. As Sarah explained, there is good and bad writing in every genre.
So where does this attitude come from? The women on the stage agreed that there were plenty of factors including gender inequality, marketing and publishing industry attitudes. But they also agreed that writers need to look at their own approach and try and force some change; they need to step away from the cliché and break through the current restraints, to give chick lit a bit of a revamp. Whether you enjoy chick lit or not, this attitude has to be admired and it’ll be interesting to see how this genre shifts over the next few years.