Saturday, January 29, 2011

RWA and the Rainbow Connection

I’m posting the video below because not only is it a great waltz, but because it inspired the title of this post. WARNING: Explicit scenes of a singing frog playing a banjo.

At this point, you’ve probably guessed we’ve been back from RWA for quite a while. While some of the events/parties lasted into the wee hours some nights, none of them, to my knowledge, have lasted into the new year. So we’ve been back and we’ve finally had the chance to peruse the goodies in our swag bag with great interest. Every conference hands out swag, or give-aways, and the organizers usually put them in an inexpensive tote bag labeled with the conference’s name and dates. Goodies can include a variety of promotional items--well, yeah! You don’t think they just give them to people to be nice, do you? As well they shouldn’t--including pens, notebooks or writing journals, bookmarks, etc. In RWA’s case, they included seven actual books, hence, the Rainbow Connection.

For those of you who don’t remember your 5th grade science, a rainbow is a spectrum of light created from the sun shining on water droplets. Typically, its seven colors range from red to violet (at this point if you want to pause to have a “name the colors of the rainbow” contest with your friends, feel free to do so). Seven colors. Seven books. A spectrum of light. A spectrum of quality.

Oh my, what quality.

I took time to read through the promo books and came away with a renewed respect for how publishing reflects society. Publishing is people. People is publishing. In society, there are few highly consistently successful people, a few people who rarely find success or choose not to, and a whole bunch of people who find themselves successful here and there. People can flow in and out of these groupings as they grow and change or as they regress. The seven books I received courtesy of the publishers, their authors, and RWA illustrate this easily.

There was one that was utterly delightful and one that was probably the worst book I’ve ever read in my life in any genre, and the other five were scattered somewhere along the spectrum. At this point, you’re wondering if I’m going to name the tomes that fall into each category, but I’m not. If you received the same books at RWA, you probably think you know which ones I’m talking about. However, it might be that one I begged TSA to confiscate was the one you fell in love with and read over and over again.

This sheds light on something few industry people discuss: Who should be choosing the books readers read? Why do we have books at all? Who decides what quality literature is?

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