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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Box of Chocolates

I’m a writer. I’ve written nonfiction: books, textbooks, magazine articles, professional periodical pieces, and newspaper articles. I’ve written fiction: novels, novellas, and short stories. My genres include speculative fiction, contemporary fantasy, urban fantasy, sword & sorcery, science fiction, dystopian fiction, apocalyptic fiction, horror, slice of life, political and sociological fiction, satire, humor, drama, gothic mystery, western, children’s fiction, and young adult. I even wrote a chick lit piece.

The good side of my versatility as a writer is if you keep reading my work, the odds are you’ll find something you like. But – you knew there was a but coming, didn’t you? – I write stories for grown ups, like myself. Even though I may pen a children’s tale or a Young Adult story, I am not a “Young Adult author.”

Many of my stories, even those not specifically written for them, may be enjoyed by kids and teenagers. A few even have important moral lessons woven into the tales. But some are not suitable for children. They may deal with mature themes like racism, drug abuse, prostitution, violence, rape, or sexual situations. They may have profanity or epithets. Sure, the kids have probably seen all this on cable TV, heard it rap songs, and talked about it among themselves. But, still…

The question I’ve wrestled with is how to indicate a story may not be appropriate for all readers, either due to their age or sensitivities. Catcher in the Rye is required reading in some schools, yet banned in others because of its profanity. I am completely against censorship but I do think people should know what they’re getting, be it films, songs, or books. With that in mind, I’ve placed a Ratings Guide for my short stories on my blog. You’ll see little color coded triangles next to each story. “A” is for All Ages. “M” means there are mature themes not suitable for young children but appropriate for most Young Adults. “L” means there is strong or offensive language used. “V” means graphic violence. And “X” designates explicit sexual scenes or situations.

I know most writer abhor the idea of content labeling. Then again, most writers have labeled themselves through their writing. When you pick up a J.K. Rowling book you know you’re not reading a Harold Robbins escapade, and vice versa. In my case, to paraphrase Forest Gump, my writing is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’ll get.

So what are your thoughts?

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