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 Comments Add yours

  1. sknicholls says:

    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.

    Like

    1. At the farm my friend used to bring home the two-legged carrots as presents to his nephew 🙂 Thanks for the reblog!

      Love
      A

      Liked by 1 person

      1. sknicholls says:

        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. 🙂

        Like

      2. Life is funny. I wrote my post sitting on the hood of a pickup truck last week (waiting for goats to kid). Then this morning I read Luanne’s interesting post at http://writersite.org/

        Liked by 1 person

      3. sknicholls says:

        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

      4. 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. sknicholls says:

    Reblogged this on S.K. Nicholls and commented:
    I love my indies and Adrienne has a wonderful analogy I’d like to share. Every indie author or newbie should read this!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Carrie Rubin says:

    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.

    Like

    1. 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

  4. erickeyswriter says:

    “Blemishes come with freedom.” Indeed!

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

    Like

    1. 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!

      Like

      1. erickeyswriter says:

        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.

        Like

      2. That was one of my favorite posts. I couldn’t believe anyone would have the guts to sing through all those verses!

        Like

      3. erickeyswriter says:

        Perhaps I will try and re-record it. Anonymity can make one bold sometimes!

        Like

  5. This was well done. Even had me thinking about getting back to writing a book again.

    Like

    1. Go for it! What sort of book were you thinking of doing?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Usually my attempts have had a supernatural feel, but I might go in a completely different direction this time. We shall see

        Like

      2. Good luck and have fun.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. 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. 😉

    Like

    1. Thanks, Lori. How about perfect looking people? LOL.

      Like

  7. Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
    INDIE AUTHORS – Read this post by Adrienne and be nourished 🙂

    Like

    1. Thanks for the reblog!
      A

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Welcome Adrienne – great article 😀

        Like

  8. Kylie Betzner says:

    What a great comparison. Sharing this on Twitter!

    Like

    1. Kylie,

      Thanks so much!

      A

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Love this analogy and cannot add anything else not already stated here. ❤ ❤

    Like

    1. Thanks for reading. 🙂

      A

      Like

      1. You are welcome. This is a wonderful post. ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Luanne says:

    What a fabulous analogy, Adrienne. So positive, too.

    Like

    1. Thanks, Luanne. Who knew? My work as a farm hand finally came in handy. 🙂

      Like

    2. WordPress said I wasn’t following you . . . but I was!

      Like

  11. 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.

    Like

    1. yeah, I get jealous, too, but not as much as I used to. I’ve found wearing all the hats to have real benefits–I’m never bored.

      Like

  12. As a gardener (perennials and shrubs, not veg — except for tomatoes, of course) I could really relate to this.

    Like

    1. Oh, I love gardening. I’m still learning how to put plants together in pretty ways. Glad you enjoyed!
      A

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Reblogged this on Audrey Driscoll's Blog and commented:
    Here is an analogy that is close to my heart. Indie novels as organic creations, not sanitized “products.”

    Like

    1. Thank you so much for sharing my post. 🙂

      Like

  14. Sweet! Maybe we should start calling ourselves “artisanal novelists…”

    Like

    1. Perfect. Artisanal novelists–that has a nice ring to it.

      Like

  15. “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.

    Like

    1. You inspire me all the time, Diana. 🙂

      Like

      1. Awww!!! I wanna bang the table or something. LOL. You sweet friend, you. So how long have you been working w/ the CSA? I just got some berries today from a co-op but we stopped CSAs a while ago. Was too far.

        Like

      2. Once we got our own little farm going I stopped working for the CSA. I loved my fellow workers (all very witty), but milking my own goats is a lot of fun too (though now I mostly talk to myself). 🙂

        Like

      3. Ah – jealous. So….you drink raw goat milk?!! Only what I looked for high and nigh when we came out to cow country here (inland, away from the CA coast) some yrs ago.

        Like

      4. Yep. We drink raw and make cheese as well. I have my “play” blog for the farm:

        https://raisingmilkandhoney.wordpress.com/

        Like

      5. Love it. Will show T around the site. He just asked me last night how cheese is made and I paused, mouth open, realizing I actually wasn’t sure. I mean, exactly. Shoot me a post if you have one. Otherwise, we’ll just browse. =) (I’m jealous about the raw dairy.)

        Like

      6. Funny, I never did a post just about cheese making (I thought I did). But there’s a REALLY easy way to make a soft cheese even using store-bought cow’s milk: Slowly bring 1 gallon of milk to a boil (about 185 degrees). Take it off the stove and add about 1/4 cup of lemon juice. Stir it gently until curds form. I leave it sit for about ten minutes then pour scoop out the cheese into some cheesecloth, stir in some salt and hang it like this: https://raisingmilkandhoney.wordpress.com/2013/11/16/overrun-with-milk-and-cheese-not-a-bad-thing/

        BONUS: A step by step at: http://www.clockworklemon.com/2012/08/whole-milk-ricotta-cheesepalooza.html

        Love,
        A

        Like

  16. Reblogged this on Raising Milk and Honey and commented:

    For my farming friends . . . too.

    Like

  17. Isabella says:

    This is so precious, what a beautiful message you are spreading.

    Like

    1. Thank you.I’m happy you feel that way, Isabella! 🙂

      A

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Isabella says:

        You are more than welcome Adrienne:) I love your blog<3 Smiles, Isabella

        Like

  18. What an interesting way to look at the matter. Thank you.

    Like

    1. You are quite welcome. Life can be taken in so many different ways 🙂

      Like

  19. Kate Loveton says:

    What great thoughts – I needed ’em! Thank you.

    Like

    1. I’m glad to be of assistance!

      A

      Liked by 1 person

  20. I love the analogy! Thank you for a great post 🙂

    Like

  21. avwalters says:

    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.

    Like

    1. 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

      Liked by 1 person

      1. avwalters says:

        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.

        Like

      2. 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.

        Like

      3. avwalters says:

        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.

        Like

      4. Do you just admire artists or are you an artist as well?

        Like

      5. avwalters says:

        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.

        Like

      6. 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

  22. avwalters says:

    We all have our legacies to overcome!

    Like

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