Fear Of Fables
By Janice Kimball
Wikipedia: Fable is a literary genre: a fictional story that features animals, legendary creatures or forces of nature that are given human qualities, and that leads to a moral lesson.
I was a literary innocent at the time I wrote my first book, Three in a Cage, unaware that writing a book was only a part of what is expected of an author. I didn’t consider the issues of genre or marketability, let alone that of my image as a writer. I simply followed my desire to write about my world inside our weaving studios in West Ajijic.
I submitted Three in a Cage to a Writer’s Digest Contest. The enthusiastic critique that I received back was heartening, even though it pointed out that the book was written in the style of Magical Realism, which includes fables, and therefore, it pointed out, was usually not publishable as an adult book. However, the editor also suggested that I should add a beginning chapter for the reader to better understand how I, a native of Detroit, Michigan, became the owner of Aztec Weaving Studios in Central Mexico, then resubmit it the next season. I had already begun to write The Joy of Art, which also came about as an extension of my life, so I did not follow up on the editor’s advice.
In writing The Joy of Art, I incorporated four years of Art Talk columns written for the Lake Chapala Review. (Heck, the book is already half written, this would be a half year’s slam dunk, I convinced myself, not dreaming that its writing would become a passion, that the project would take me three more years.) Joy was neither a textbook, a how-to, self-help, an historical, nor was it slick. Had I again written a book that did not fit into a niche?
The Future of The Joy of Art looked brighter when I discovered the genre of prescriptive non- fiction, which fills the gap between textbook and self-help. But later I learned that my history as a Fabulist might hamper the success of Joy. Publishers now demand a cohesive platform from an author. Three in a Cage, like a child born out of wedlock, would compromise my image as an expert in the field of art. I asked myself why. Google helped me find the answer.
Aesop, who is often thought of as the originator of fables, is purported to have lived sometime before 620 BC and 560 BC; that is if there ever were an Aesop, as nothing of his in writing exists. But his tales, I have found, are a source of contention to many who, for religious reasons, find them a threat. Quotes from the Seek God Website: Fabulist: “A person who tells, writes, or makes up fables. In other words, a liar! A lie becomes that person’s truth. It is very clear that those who do not love truth will readily believe a lie to their own destruction. Blatant and cunning promotion of error and false doctrine teach you that fables are good when they are going against the word of god.”
Under the definition of Aesop in Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary it states that “Aesop made the journey to Delphi, where he angers the citizens by telling insulting fables, he is sentenced to death and, after cursing the people of Delphi, is forced to jump to his death.” No wonder publishers aren’t eager to step into the genre of fables!
And yet David Sedaris wrote a book of fables, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, that became a #1 national best seller. How did that happen? In the 2017 edition of Writer’s Market there is not one call for either fables or magical realism in adult books; furthermore, I have been led to believe, if they receive queries that do not coincide with their list of genre, they may be shredded. Fables are growing in popularity. But those that have been published are works of proven authors who have distinguished themselves in another genre.
In other words, all I need to do is to become famous for my book Three in a Cage to be taken seriously. There are many more books on my list waiting to be written, so the fate of my book of fables, as well as The Joy of Art, is yet down the road. In the meantime, I will continue to write where my heart leads me.