I always enjoy receiving email or letters from my readers. But a recent email really made me stop and think. Not so much because the questions were particularly disturbing, but because of the message behind them.
Here’s how the email ended: Does your publishing company encourage a certain style of writing? A certain viewpoint? Do most of your writings express liberal views or conservative views?
The email also talked about the “liberal agendas” of publishers, not to mention all entertainment media, and asked, essentially, if my publisher required me to follow a certain party line.
I’m still shaking my head over this, although I’m sure this reader meant no harm. I’m not even sure where to start. But start I must, because these are the issues we have to talk about before we can talk together.
One, nobody has ever, ever told me what to write. Nobody has ever, ever, told me what political or spiritual slant to follow in my writing.
Two, despite years and years of communication and friendship with a variety of writers, I have never heard anyone say that a publisher asked him or her to lean in a certain political or spiritual direction in their novels. Yes, if you have decided to write inspirational fiction, there must be inspiration in your books, most commonly a Christian message, or you will need a different kind of publisher. But that’s it. And inspirational publishers really want people who agree with their viewpoint. They would never ask someone who clearly didn’t believe what they do to follow the “party line.” They simply would reject their manuscripts.
Three, even if somebody did tell me what I had to write, what are the chances I would listen? Were my parents alive today they would testify that telling me what to do was always an uphill battle. Telling me what to do when I don’t believe it’s the right thing to do was then and is now a complete waste of time.
As for the second question? Do my writings express conservative or liberal views?
I like to think I write to tell a good story. Along the way my personal values show through. I believe in bringing people together. I believe in compassion. I believe in people reaching out to help each other. I believe that words like “agenda” were invented by politicians to keep us apart, both liberal and conservative. I believe that good people need to listen carefully to other good people and try to find common ground. I believe this is not happening in Washington today and our inability to compromise and find solutions that most of us can live with is tearing our nation apart and adding to the escalating divide between the rich and the poor.
Does that make me a conservative or a liberal? You tell me. But does it matter if I’m telling a good story with values you share whether I vote Democratic or Republican or not at all?
No, it does not.
Do we now have to pass a political litmus test before you can say, “Gosh, I really enjoyed that book?” I sincerely hope not.
Let’s stop talking about agendas. Let’s stop assuming we must all agree or some of us are bad people. And let’s stop assuming that publishers want anything more than a riveting novel from the authors who write for them.
Because that’s what they want, and that’s what we always hope we’ve given them. I hope that’s what my readers want, as well.