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The Head and the Heart: 5-Minute Memoir

In this article from the March/April 2022 issue of Writer's Digest, Lauryne Wright writes about rejection, rumination, and staying true to the creative voice inside ourselves.

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the March/April 2022 issue of Writer's Digest.

“Your idea is too cerebral and issue-oriented for today’s romance,” read the polite rejection letter. I came to realize this was high praise indeed.

That was 1986. I was a 20-something newlywed living in Hawaii, dreaming of being a romance novelist, having devoured many a bodice-ripper in my teens.

(Writer’s Digest Columns: How to Write a Five-Minute Memoir)

Back then, one could pitch a novel via posted letter to a publishing professional at places such as Silhouette Books in New York City and promptly receive a personalized response in military housing on Oahu.

I had never seen myself as cerebral. Three years later, I attended law school.

In the interim, I shelved my romance novel idea, combining a journalism degree and passion for prose to scribe for multiple military wives’ publications and military-based association newsletters.

Meanwhile, the romance genre evolved, and so did I. During law school and beyond, I was lauded for technical skill when it came to writing, but it would be years before I turned to drafting creative works.

First, I penned a nonfiction tome about as issue-oriented and cerebral as possible, pitting the Ten Commandments against the Bill of Rights to analyze social and political turmoil of the 21st century via landmark Supreme Court decisions.

It was when I thought to draft my first novel for what I planned as a speculative fantasy series that I ran smackdab into this picadillo of being too issue-oriented once again. First, I had to get past being seen as just another disillusioned lawyer with no writing background who thought to become a successful author of legal thrillers.

Next, I was (and continue to be) faced with an infinite universe of opinions wherein books about aliens are automatically categorized as futuristic science fiction when mine deal in present-day realities. Not to mention how aliens must be projected as evil, manipulative, and out to destroy Earth. That, or my idea must be some sort of take on The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy because of snarky humor entwined in my prose. It isn’t.

But the primary problem, as I came to see it, was there are folks who simply want to be entertained and not reminded of or informed about what’s happening around them. Those readers, I determined, were not my target audience.

The Head and the Heart: 5-Minute Memoir

I had the wherewithal—and the freedom of self-publishing—to push back on the written and unwritten rules of publishing professionals, literary agents, and other authors sharing advice at conferences about tackling touchy subjects you’re not supposed to talk about at the dinner table, much less between the pages of cross-genre novels with a post-menopausal, mouthy protagonist.

Aging, it turns out, has not squelched my desire to use my voice, and my mighty pen, to craft a story that doesn’t pull punches when it comes to politics, religion, and bigotry.

And, ironically, I’ve come full circle infusing romance—albeit highly alternative romance—within urban fantasy. My protagonist is not a woman of child-bearing age looking for her one true love to offer matrimony and happily-ever-after. She’s not shy about discussing scintillating hot-button issues with aliens. Between the sheets and beyond Earth.

A writer’s greatest tool can be cognitive awareness of universal issues affecting themselves and others. If an author doesn’t ponder the plight of anyone else, how will readers come to care for characters conjured in a fictional world?

Why emotionally invest in cardboard cutouts devoid of passion beyond fixating on finding a partner? It’s time we well-seasoned women over 50 change the rules of romance—and defy societal strictures on writing about it.

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