Indie Novels Are Like Organic Apples

Gentlemen Harvesting Hops and Stories
Gentlemen Harvesting Hops and Stories

Wednesdays at the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm where I worked were packing days when no matter the weather or the raspberries left rotting on the bush, we met in the cool, dark room to sort and pack pesticide-free, non-migrant labor harvested produce to be delivered to starry-eyed customers in the morning.

Our Harvard-educated, Russian-Lit major boss told us not to worry too much about dirty garlic as the customers were customers because they wanted to feel part of the farm-to-table process.

new camera 083Some customers visited the 200-year-old farm to see up close the dirty business of nutrition. They gazed in wonder at the strawberry fields alive with jewel-toned fruit only a day or two away from collapse and decay. They enjoyed getting pricked by the thistles as they reached for a berry and tossed the juicy, warm fruit into their mouths. Misshaped berries delighted the customers as much as the perfect ones (they were rare) for it was taken for granted that despite their imperfections the berries were more nutritious straight from the garden.

Too shiny.
Too shiny.

And so we might see our independent authors. Have you ever seen organic apples? Sometimes they’re not perfect. In a chain store they’d be thrown in a dumpster–edited out by committee and the corporate shopping experience. Until recently most of us were unaware of the difference (remember the red delicious apple in the brown bag lunch?).

Most of us have spent lives buying books and peanut butter manufactured by a marketing team. Everything tastes the same and we’ve grown fat, dumb and bored, always surprised when the Cheetos and vampire novels leave us empty.

When a book doesn’t have a committee of consultants, editors and proofreaders it may be rougher around the edges (like life). There may be some dirt left on it and the snide corporate-led critics and public may remark on the blemishes and miss the nutrition.

But why do we organic writers listen? Most CSAs don’t eventually want to be Monsanto. Why are we cowed by one bad review pointing out too many commas? Would we spend our time in a redwood forest looking for crooked limbs?

Let’s face it, most writers aren’t going to be celebrities and quit our day jobs. Most writers throughout history had day jobs. Even corporate, committee books don’t make authors big bucks, in general.

A farmer worries about the weather. His story, his life is a force of nature, dependent on nature. Most things are out of his control. Yet the satisfaction for the farmer who snubs Monsanto is in his integrity. It’s in his deciding how to write his rows in the earth. Every day IS the satisfaction. His fruit, his friendships, his nourishment–these things only a small segment of society will taste. So be it.

My farmer boss took 15 years just to reach the point where he could be semi-confident his eggplants would grow. He had back surgery from lifting ripe squash. Being independent can feel back-breaking. Maybe we don’t have the editorial staff as writers to cut the heart out of our rugged individualism. Maybe that’s a great thing.

Lots of us sell something sweeter (with a few too many commas). We give our stories our soul. There may be blemishes that bitter critics will harp on, but like people drunk on cheap wine, they miss the nuances, the many voices, the good years and the independent thoughts that make life and art worth living for.

So to all of you independent writers and farmers, the harvest is in the doing. Blemishes come with freedom.

66 thoughts on “Indie Novels Are Like Organic Apples

  1. Adrienne, I just love this analogy. Lately I have been reading books but fairly established authors in a particular genre and they are so predictable I am bored to death, but I can’t say that at all about the wonderful indie authors I have read over the past two or three years. I love looking for that one imperfect carrot that looks like he’s got three legs and two arms and I love my indies with all their unique character pushing the boundaries with a typo or two.

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      • You voiced the sentiments that were in my head after reading another post today that praised the mundane predictability of genre fiction. I couldn’t help myself. 🙂

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      • I read it, too. I don’t like predictable. I suppose that’s why I don’t care much for romance novels. Boy meets girl and HEA just don’t do anything for me no matter how it’s flavored.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t like super-predictable, but I do like a hopeful ending. I never imagined Crime and Punishment would end hopeful 🙂 I thought it had to be miserable in order to be considered a classic. Haha.

        I will admit that I avoid reading miserable endings. Life is full of them so I want my fiction to have some redemption or hope.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I came this way via SK Nicholls. Great post. Love the analogy. I don’t think readers realize the team a traditionally published author has behind him or her. Those who publish on their own have to wear so many hats.

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    • Thanks for reading, Carrie. While it’s definitely had its moments of frustration (and despair–when trying to learn InDesign for covers), I’ve really loved the experience of independence. I think we need to be gentle to ourselves and other authors. There’s so much to learn.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “Blemishes come with freedom.” Indeed!

    I made $18 on my writing last year, but it was one of the best years of my life!

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    • Yee-Haw! I love making money–though I’ve avoided it most of my life. 🙂

      You know, I thought I’d been following your blog. I assumed you didn’t post much. Sorry about that!

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      • You probably were following my old blog. It went “poof” back in December. Casualty of the whole “double life” thing. Anyway, I had managed to find a backup – sadly, without my audio files “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” – so I restored a lot of the posts. But with a new account, URL, etc.

        I think this Christmas I’ll do The Holly and the Ivy.

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  4. Just love this post!!! It’s not what it looks like but how it tastes that matters, anyway. Perfect-looking food is like a perfect-looking lawn–you gotta ask how it got that way. 😉

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  5. Great analogy. I admit, I’m jealous of the polish some novels have. Most know conflicting grammar and punctuation standards exist. WordPress must have some buggy about the following, It must show only one blog from each individual account.

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  6. “It’s in his deciding how to write his rows in the earth. Every day IS the satisfaction. His fruit, his friendships, his nourishment–these things only a small segment of society will taste. So be it.” Love it, LOVE it. Now, you know I can hijack this thread if I wanted to. =) I will just say inspirational, A.

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  7. I’m a self-published author and, more recently, I’ve returned to Michigan to build a house and a small farm. The bees will arrive Monday. I hope I’m not getting ahead of myself.

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    • What sort of books do you write?

      One year we got goats, chickens and bees. It was insane, but it was fun. I think if you’re enjoying what you do the insanity doesn’t bother you too much–although there are the overwhelmed moments! Good luck with your bees!

      A

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      • I’ll do bees this year and work up to chickens next year. We need to spend some time building the house…and then there’s the day job.

        Literary fiction–so far centered on artists.

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      • Artists? What time period?

        We had our house delivered (the shell of it) and then in that first summer we put down wood floors, finished a 900 square foot attic and basement . . .I wanted to kill someone. My husband pushed us along while I played drama queen.

        In comparison to that the animals were a breeze (2nd year). The chickens were a surprise. I didn’t expect to love them so much and their pretty easy keepers.

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      • The downstairs is a cedar log cabin shell. We got that up last year–but then weather came, then injury, and delayed us for the whole winter. We’re just about to get a roof on and then the buildout. In the meantime, prep. Fencing, garden, bees, tree planting…. By the end of the summer we’ll either be happy as clams or dead of exhaustion. Sounds like your house is about the same size as ours.

        The first book is the life of a fictional SF Bay Area painter, born in 1900, through the eyes of modern woman. The second is the (shortened) life of a French Canadian sculptor, in the 1980s and early 1990s.

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      • I started out in Art School. I’m from a family of artists and doers. Events led to a personal crisis of confidence, and I abandoned Art for Poly Sci. I like to think that I haven’t abandoned the viewpoint, only the practice.

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      • I had a personal crisis of confidence as a writer so ran to art, but then realized that painting with no words left me really depressed. I abandoned painting for farming and research which led me back to writing.

        I come from a long line of creatives who abandon things. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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