One Size Does Not Fit All

shoes

I have large feet for a woman. 9.5 E wide (Or EE wide – it depends on the manufacturer).

I have a problem finding shoes. I can’t buy at Wal-mart or Payless or most any other place that sells shoes in town be it a high-end specialty shop  or a plebeian budget store. I have to special order all my shoes, usually months in advance if I want them in time for an event or a season. Last year I ordered two pairs of sneakers in the beginning of February, knowing I wouldn’t receive them until April or May because shoes that look fun, or nice or even stylish in my size are usually back-ordered within five minutes of their existence being announced.

The year before I bought two pairs of black heels without an event in mind, but I didn’t have any dress shoes at all, so there was a gap I knew I’d get caught in if I let it slide. I bought black because it goes with damn-near anything. I have one  dress it doesn’t match. One. I’m hoping I can find a pair of sandals I like that hold the promise of fitting my clod-hoppers and go with it. If not, I might have to learn how to make my own rope sandals or something.

I am routinely bummed out because a pair of boots or sandals or what-have-you that looks fun to wear, simply don’t come in my size. At all. The manufacturer refuses to make them.

I routinely spend about $120 on a pair of shoes. Not fancy shoes. Not high-end shoes of fashionable awesomeness, but shoes that are on SALE at $120, normally retailing at $160, or $300, only because of their size. If I was a normal size, I could get cheaper shoes and probably be happy with them.

Shoes are big business if you think about it.

“Katty, honey, where are you going with this?”

Only 7-10% of the literate population reads books these days, I’m told. But for such a small population, they make up 90% of books sales. That’s a tight demographic to fit into, if you think about it. I imagine only 7-10% of the female shoe wearing population has feet as big as mine or larger.

There’s a lot of advice out there for those of us who write and dream and work towards publishing. “Examine what’s popular and write to that,” is basically what a lot of folks say. “Don’t write what you love, write what will SELL,” are the words that come from hard-bitten authors who manage to make a living off their royalties. “Look for the popular trends then create something that will match.”

This advice usually makes me feel like an idiot. I don’t write fast. Certainly not fast enough to keep up with market trends. I write the story that sounds interesting to me. If I can’t laugh, cry and shout in outrage or fear at my own manuscript, I’ll be so bored I may as well write a manual aimed at a fifth grade reading level on how to use a database (which I have done).

Romance is the biggest seller in the fiction world, accounting for something on the order of nearly 60% of all sales. Fantasy is not a big seller in the world of fiction. It is populated by big names, but in the vast scheme of the cosmos, no one takes them seriously except for fans and conference-attendees. Budding fantasy writers, while not completely discouraged, are looked down upon with a patronizing fondness. “Don’t worry – you’ll grow up someday and realize that fantasy is nice, but the real writing is in other genres. As is the money.”

I write mostly fantasy. I dabble in other genre’s but fantasy is the big call.

That’s so far down on the pecking order of fashionable writing I have to look up to see worm shit according to every writer, editor and agent I’ve heard speak or read articles from.

About seven years ago I was able to attend my first writer’s conference. Editors and agents came out of the wood-work, telling the bright-eyed audience  “Write to meet the market demands and you will succeed. Write to meet your heart and you will fail with a horrible, writhing death.” At the same conference, less than a quarter of attending agents and editors accepting pitches were interested in hearing about a fantasy novel, as according to their bios (about the same percentage in the market actually, if you dig for a place to submit to).

During lunch at this conference, I ended up as the only female at a table of older men, and of course, the topic came up of “what do you do/write?” There was a poet, a few western historical fictions, some military fiction and a murder-mystery writer. All published. All reasonably successful. (Maybe not more than 10 or 12k a year after taxes, but better than $400 in a year, all of which is the result of your mother’s credit card.)

My turn to speak. I pull out my social ninja skills – I know how to work a conversation around with vague statements and get people talking about themselves. “Oh, I haven’t published anything yet. I’m still working on it. But I’m a slow writer and it’s hard to fit that in with a day-job and all that. I’m here more for planning and such. Could you pass the salt?”

It might’ve worked if the guy looking at me hadn’t been a retired cop. “But what do you write?” the cop presses.

I realize that this guy isn’t just a retired cop – he’s the retired detective who gave a presentation earlier in the day about what it’s like to be a real detective.

Shit. There is no getting around this guy. I’m caught and I feel like I’ve committed a crime.  “I … uh … I write fantasy,” I mumble.

Dead silence at the table. The guy next to the cop speaks up. “What’s your day job?”

“I’m a civilian contractor file clerk on a military base.” I want to shrink under the table and die. Please, someone talk about politics or religion or anything other than me. I’m just waiting for someone to tell me not to quit my day job.

The other guy next to me, across from the cop,  gives me a very serious look. “Honey, I’m a retired Senior Master Sergeant. You need to write fantasy.”

“No, shit,” the cop agrees. The other men around the table nod their agreement.

“Don’t be ashamed of what you write,” the poet says. “Despite everything they tell you here, if you can’t wrap your head around it and enjoy it, don’t write it. It’ll come out all wrong.”

I don’t know the names of those men.I don’t know if they were trying to make a woman young enough to be their daughter feel better or if they honestly felt that way.  I don’t even know if they remember the conversation. I do remember I wanted to cry, though. I was so grateful to hear that I wasn’t stupid and doomed for failure.

That conversation stays with me.

Reading some of the advice successful authors give out to budding newbies feels a lot like shopping for shoes. Very few manufacturers for shoes make them for women in my size. When they do, they’re often ugly, orthopedic things that no woman in my age bracket and in her right mind would willingly buy if she had a choice. Yeah, you might think you want the kicky, cute brown boots that look like a lot of fun, but you really don’t want them. You want these shoes – the ugly ones.

Kinda like writing. You’re told you might want to write in one genre, but you only think that because you don’t know any better. If you’re smart, you’ll get the story of your heart out of your system and run your writing life like a well-oiled machine that only makes shoes for c-wide ladies.

I think that cheats not only myself, but the potential readers out there as well.

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About kattywampusbooks

A SAHM with delusions of literacy.
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