Marvin’s Mom. . . and the rest of us.

Granted, I occasionally miss the Sunday funnies.  But, I think I’d have remembered that Marvin’s mom (the comic strip “Marvin” by Tom Armstrong) wrote a romance novel somewhere in the past.  Apparently I missed that, because as of yesterday, she’s on her SECOND romance novel now.  I don’t know why this shocked me so much, but it did.

Then I started to wonder why Armstrong would choose romance writing for the mother of this… precocious?… infant of his.  For a chuckle?  Somebody who lives with MARVIN still has stars in her eyes?  Or does he know first hand what it’s like to live with a romance writer and is throwing that into his creative mix?  Given the topic of yesterday’s strip, that just might be the case.   Marvin’s father starts out thinking about all the things his wife does. . . running a household, helping the grandparents who just moved in adjust to life with them, and writing a SECOND romance novel.  She’s so busy, he starts to wonder if she’s tending to HIS needs enough.  He ends up presenting himself to her as she is typing away on her computer with this dialogue: “You’ve got male.”

Given the discussions and “spouse” panels I’ve heard and participated in over the years, many spouses of romance writers think they don’t get enough… um… “research time.”  Yeah, okay, that’s what the old boy and I used to call it when we took time out for some major lovin’.  We joked about it.  But apparently there are plenty of romance writers who sometimes have to wedge in a little quality physical time with their spouse or significant other.  Hmmm.  Sounds like Marvin’s dad speaks from experience to me.

Except, just when does a married man think he’s getting plenty of sex?  How about NEVER.  If it’s not romance writing, it’s scrapbooking or needlework or reading or volunteering or spending time with her sisters/friends/relatives or even (Heaven forbid!) working and parenting that occupy a wife’s time and thoughts!  Not her mans libidinous needs.  Which of course is foremost in her husband’s mind, so why isn’t it foremost in hers? 

Um… we’re wired differently?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about the male preoccupation with sex.  Wait, did I just write that?  Because without that pesky “thinking about sex every 45 seconds,” the human race would probably have ended a few million years ago.  Females of our species (see Marvin’s Mom) have a few trillion things to do besides hungering after their favorite male and the world’s favorite sport.  Things like, oh, keeping families, workplaces, and the world in general together while testosterone-fueled males keep trying to blow it up.  Yes, I know that’s stereotyping, but I never said I didn’t have a few prejudices.  Very few wars in human history have been started by women.

But I digress.  My point here, if I had one, is that romance novel writing is everywhere these days, sometimes as comic-fodder, sometimes as a genuine peek at the world behind the scenes, and sometimes just because “romance” is bigger business than it used to be.  And for that you can thank us, the real romance writers of America.  To quote both admirers and critics: we make it look easy.

And we all know it’s not.

Writing a book of any kind is hard, time-consuming work.  Yes, sometimes it’s joyful work and give us such pleasure that we don’t think of it as work, but it still requires effort aplenty and dedication to the same story and the same blank page over a long period of time.  And yes, almost everybody thinks they can do it.  Who knows? Maybe they could. It is often said that there’s a book in everybody.  Personally, I would revise that statement to say, there’s a STORY in everybody.  Only writers have a book in them and not everybody has the introspection, stamina, or desire to bring forth their story onto a page for others to read, talk about, and just perhaps enjoy.

A writer acquaintance of mine has pronounced publicly, again and again, that “Anybody can do this,”  meaning that anybody can write and publish romance.  In this age of internet access and the democritization of publishing, that may be literally true.  But I still don’t think that just everyone can write a novel-length work of fiction that tells a coherent, creative story borne forward on themes that engender hope and satisfaction.  Because that’s what we do, we professional romance writers.  It’s a tall order.   You writers out there… think of the last time you faced putting together a new story, a “fresh” new proposal and stared at a totally blank page.  How easy did it seem then?

That’s not to say we don’t encourage people who want to write romance to do so.  Heck, we have a whole 10,000 strong group of people willing to join an organization at $90 a pop just to be with other people who share the same goals and obsession.  Imagine the number of others out there who’d like to do so, but don’t have the time or the cash at the moment to do so! And we writers share the “secrets” of publishing and teach our craft FOR FREE to pretty much anyone who wants to try it.

Some days, that’s just too amazing to get my head around.  As a writer friend’s husband said: we’re training our competition.

Yep, that’s us.  We’re women and we stick together and share and cope and hold things together. . . we help each other reach for dreams, knowing that our kids are watching and learning from our experiences.   With each bit of sharing and growing and writing and publishing. . . the world becomes a better place.

That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

What about you?  Where was the last “unexpected” place you saw romance writing as an occupation?  And do you think “anyone can do it?”  Do you read “Marvin?”  Do you also think that’s it’s about bloody time the kid got a haircut and was potty trained?

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13 Responses to Marvin’s Mom. . . and the rest of us.

  1. Ah, Betina, you started my morning out with a smile and a memory of the time I was on the phone and Clyde sneaked up behind me and “Tell her we’re doing research.” The girlfriend at the other end of the line said, “Oh! Sorry! Call me later.” And hung up.

    Writing is like teaching. Everybody thinks he could do it. You don’t find out how challenging it is until you give it a serious try. I wonder how many first chapters languish out there on computer hard drives. But I’m the first one to encourage people to go for it. The world needs good writers almost as much as it needs good teachers.

    • bkrahn007 says:

      Clyde is my absolute favorite cowboy (eat your heart out Sam Elliott) and one of my favorite romance husbings. He’s got that little glint of mischief in his eye– always ready with something unexpected. Kathy, your life is one big adventure!

      And teaching/writing being easy until you try to do it yourself. . . oh, yeah.

  2. Leanne Banks says:

    Who’s Marvin?lol Now, I’m going to have to reach for that cartoon, Betina! You’ve got me curious!:) Oh, man, writing is hard. I’m sorry, but it just is. I used to say anyone can write a book… but I must add anyone can as long as they are extremely determined, willing to revise, can make themselves write when they don’t feel like it. And here’s the kicker, it does not get easier. GREAT BLOG MISS BETINA! xo, Leanne

    • bkrahn007 says:

      So right, Leanne. . . about the perseverence. Wasn’t it Einstein who said genius was 10% inspiration and 90 perspiration? And you’re so right that it doesn’t get easier. Higher expectations make the slogging parts more drugery than ever. . . but the little writing diamonds that make our hearts glow with joy and pride are so much more precious.

  3. michelehauf says:

    I never see the comics anymore. Sigh… After Garfield was done, I just didn’t bother.
    But yes to writing being hard! Well, heck, any profession, done well, is a challenge and keeps getting more challenging the longer you stick with it. And that’s the way it should be. If it suddenly got easy, what would be the purpose, or the joy in learning news things and pushing yourself?
    I think romance writers are finally getting over the bon-bons and boas image, but when will we ever get beyond the ‘trashy read’ status?

    • Betina says:

      MICHELE, we will probably never get over that status. My feeling about the “trashy reads” is that a lot of people still feel wretchedly guilty about sex. It embarrasses them and while they know on one level it’s vital and glorious, they can’t bring themselves to admit it. Not even in their reading tastes. Shame on us for being so prudish and two faced.

      On the other hand, it probably helps us sell more books. Yea us!

  4. Kylie Brant says:

    Not familiar with Marvin, but given the misconceptions that still exist about our genre, I suspect the creator just chose that occupation because he thought he could get plenty of laughs with it. Which, based on the example you gave is probably likely. And I prefer that to the ridiculous portrait of a romance novelist portrayed in a few movies I can think of.

    Pretty sure dh is wired differently as his brain seems to go that direction every *15* seconds rather than 45. Being a romance novelist has far less to do with not getting *male* than essentially working two full time jobs, chasing after five kids and grandkids and just in general exhausting myself elsewhere!

    • Betina says:

      Kylie, you have Marvin’s mom beat hands down. She’s got one kid and can’t seem to get it all done. You had FIVE and never quit! Wow, I’m in awe.

      Every 15 seconds? Wow that has to be on the “busy” end of the scale. how do you have time for anything else? Woohoo!

  5. loisgreiman says:

    Doesn’t it seem that the literary occupations pop up a lot in movies?? I think the lifestyle of an author seems romantic. Huh!! I remember seeing a Robin Williams movie where he was talking to the editor of romantic fiction. She was kind of belittling her own career and he said, “No, the world needs more love stories.” That’s paraphrased but I thought it was sweet and quite true.

    • Betina says:

      Oh, Lois, you’re a peach. And what a lovely scene to hold onto in your mind and heart. The world does need more love stories. . . and here we are to supply them.

      Maybe the literary occupations pop up so much in movies because so many screen writers and pitch-men are secretly novelists at heart! What do you think?

  6. Helen Brenna says:

    Betina, I think you’ve hit on something here. I think they need a TV series about a romance writer. They’ve got Castle, a mystery writer, right? Why not a comedy with a romance writer as one of the leads?

  7. bkrahn007 says:

    Helen, I nominate you for the romance writer/sitcom heroine. You’d be great. Except you might have to ditch the hubby in the series. . . it would be much more fun to see a romance writer who needs some romance in her life. Or is that too close to reality for most of us?

    I adore Castle– the writers must really get off on putting in a few inside things about writing. And I LOVE those poker games with the other writers, where they go over plots.

  8. Kathleen O says:

    I have never scene the Marvin comic strip, but am sure no matter what a woman’s occupation, men would still complian they are not getting “enough” whatever… But I am sure that in the case of a Romance writer, the research time, when it came along, would be well worth the wait….\Just my opinion of couse, as I have not first hand knowledge of being a romance writer, but I am a reader of romance and that can be all consuming while reading it, you are not getting it, except in the pages of a book. And I call these research and putting it to good use.. LOL

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