“What do you write?”
“Contemporary romance and women’s fiction.”
“Oh, I see.”
I never realized there was a stigma with “chick books” until I started writing them. For me, I’ve always been a fan of women’s fiction/chick lit/any other genre for women. From Debbie Macomber to Liane Moriarty to Jojo Moyes, many of my favorite writers pen books in this sometimes loosely defined genre. Looking at my book list, many of my favorites could be labeled as chick books.
Once I published my first two “chick books,” though, I quickly realized people do not always understand or appreciate the genre. There is a misconception that a chick book cannot hold the weight of a “real literary” piece. There are labels such as “mindless” or “light reading” thrown around in the genre, all of which are far from the truth.
Misconceptions About Chick Lit
1. Everyone gets a happily ever after.
2. There are a lot of women being “saved” by men.
3. The only decisions grappled with are what man is hotter, what makeup is better, and which outfit to buy.
4. It’s all about sex.
5. They are glorified soap operas in writing.
Chick books are often treated like the drugstore beauty brand of lipstick standing beside the designer brand. They are looked down upon…but why?
As both an avid reader and writer in the genre, I’ve come to realize the misconceptions sometimes stem from a lack of reading of modern books in the genre. Despite their reputation, chick books cover the same depth of issues as any other genre.
Realities About Chick Lit
1. Many chick books deal with heavy issues like suicide, loyalty, identity, self-realization, infertility, marriage, monogamy, death, and loss. Not everyone gets the rosy, rainbow ending. There is often a lot of drama, even if things do eventually turn out okay.
2. There are also strong women in chick books. Jojo Moyes writes about a lot of strong female characters, as does Janet Evanovich. Louisa Clark from Me Before You does not strike me as a weak woman needing saving. She’s bold, sassy, and perhaps the stronger character in the book.
3. Sure, there may be discussions of hot men and makeup, but there are so many other issues grappled with in chick books. Modern chick books deal with the tension of opposites women face—how do you balance the call of motherhood and domestic life with the desire for a career and other successes? How do you find who you really are when society is always trying to tell you who you should be?
Chick books go beyond the obvious “girly” topics and delve into situations and choices that real women face. My favorite chick book, What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty, deals with memory loss but also the main character’s identity crisis. What happens when you wake up in the middle of your life and don’t recognize who you’ve become? What happens when you realize your life isn’t what you want?
4. Chick books often focus on the emotional development of characters and relationships. In my own writing, any sex scenes are closed door scenes and few and far between. My focus is on the magic of the development of the relationship—the first look, the first kiss, the first argument.
Real love doesn’t become apparent during a rated R moment. It happens when a character opens her heart again after the tragic death of a husband. It happens when a woman regains her confidence and goes for hot chocolate after an ugly divorce has stripped her of her confidence. It happens when a character realizes a physical disability doesn’t have to prevent him or her from finding connections.
5. Okay, I’ll admit: I’m a fan of soap operas, so this misconception doesn’t bother me. Chick books, though, get this stigma of being cheesy, corny, and unrealistic. This is simply not true. I’ve read gut-wrenching chick books that speak to me at the core. I’ve read chick books about affairs and lying, about confusion and death. I’ve read chick books that speak to inner questions we as women often face. While in soap operas every woman gets a new man every few minutes, chick books are much more true to reality, where sometimes we find ourselves all alone.
Foundations of Chick Book Stigma
The stigma surrounding chick books (and chick flicks, for that matter) perhaps stems from the false, antiquated view that women only care about superficial, lighthearted issues. In a way, it stems from longstanding beliefs that a woman’s intellectual ability and, thus, life issues are inferior to the heaviness of issues in the other gender.
Certainly, we know this is not the case. I would argue that the modern woman is, in fact, facing more difficult identity issues than in the past. There is a constant battle between being the social acceptable child bearer and wife our culture values and the strong willed, “go get it,” achiever our culture also promotes. Somewhere in the crosshairs, many women find themselves confused about what they want out of life and who they should be. These issues are far from superficial, and chick books give these scenarios a platform to express themselves in combination with other conflicts presented in other genres.
Thus, in a society that has come to realize women are, in fact, an equal gender, I think it is important to re-evaluate our views of literary genres geared toward women.
Improving Views of Chick Lit
A part of the solution must stem from both the authors and readers of chick books. We must stop shying away from the genre and stop contributing to the falsities drowning out the value of these books. We must own our reading preferences and start seeing them in a positive light.
My newest book, Then Comes Love, will be classified as chick lit…and I couldn’t be prouder. Sure, there will still be some who squirm at the genre, who dismiss it to the doldrums of “mindless” literature.
But not me.
I’ve read enough life-changing chick books, books that speak to me as a woman, to know the beauty and value of the genre.
To give a woman the chance to find herself in a book, to see her own life issues mixed with a touch of humor and fun, is a truly beautiful thing. Literature is about creating connections. For me, I will continue to make those connections with fellow modern women who are able to juggle identity crises, love, and everything in between.
How about you? What are your favorite chick books?
Cue everything pink, sparkly...and, as contradictory as it seems, the winter blahs.
The holidays are over, and summer seems so far out of sight. The prospect of two-hour delays is dwindling for those of us in the teaching world, and it seems like we're in the eternal days of slush, cold, and boredom.
Okay, enough dreariness for one post! If the season has you down, read on to find some of my newest obsessions. They've managed to perk me up...maybe they can help you boost your mood as well :)
1. Born This Way Foundation by Too Faced
I've tried dozens of foundations, always looking for the perfect mix of coverage and glow. I've tried foundations that have turned orange or looked cakey. I've tried brands that make me look oily and that don't cover.
This one is sheer perfection. It's medium coverage, so it does give you the evening out benefits you need in a foundation, but it doesn't make you look like you have on a Halloween mask. It also seems to help control oil, as I have somewhat oily skin and haven't had any issues. It's a little pricey at $39, but I feel that it is definitely worth it!
2. Jane the Virgin
I found myself in a "show hole" a few weeks back, so I decided to give this show a try.
Laugh out loud funny! That's all I can really say. I love that Jane is into writing and English. I love her soap opera dad Rogellio. Most of all, I love the narration that makes this drama-filled, ridiculous show amazing to watch.
My mom and I tried Zumba for the first time a few weeks ago and were surprised that we LOVED it.
Let me give you some backstory. Three years ago, I begged my mom to try a Zumba class with me. We went to a small Zumba class in a small building, nervous but ready to shake our Latin hips.
The instructor was...well...a little crazy. My mom and I found ourselves stumbling all over our own feet while the instructor consistently came and danced in front of us in some questionably scandalous moves. Yeah, it was awkward, and we were left wanting to crawl to the doorway and leave Zumba in our past forever.
This week, though, we decided to brave up and give Zumba another try. We went to a new location with a new teacher...and guess what? We LOVED it. It's such a good workout and so much fun. Thankfully, we love our new instructor, and there haven't been any scandalous moves happening. It is an amazing workout that doesn't feel like a workout. It just feels like pure fun. And this is coming from a self-proclaimed workout hater.
4. LuLaroe Leggings
I just got my first pair this week...and yes, they are worth the money!! They are so soft and comfortable. Do yourself a favor and buy one...or ten!
Check out the pattern...so fun! And Stanley also thought they were super soft!
How about you? Have any new obsessions lately? Please share!
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To celebrate Valentine's Day, I'm giving away a Without You Prize Pack! Enter below to win:
1. A signed paperback of Without You
2. A Bath & Body Works New York City Lotion
3. A red velvet cupcake candle
4. A cupcake pan
5. An adorable "Love" box
You have four different ways to enter! Click here: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/647b4ef010/?
First there was Corbin.
Based loosely on my husband’s characteristics, he is the heartthrob in Voice of Innocence who is wrongfully convicted. So many readers felt complete sorrow for him and loved his sense of humor.
Next came Camden.
The man with the big heart, he’s Jenna’s main squeeze in Without You. A gorgeous body, a penchant for video games, and handy with any tool, he’s loyal and romantic.
I truly do love Corbin and Camden…but I have to admit Owen is my favorite male protagonist to date. He is my book boyfriend choice from my own writing.
Owen’s a bit of the rebel compared to the other men. Tattoos, a tendency to say what he’s thinking, and a passion for life that’s unbeatable all characterize this spiky haired, Adam Levine lookalike. He’s funny and warm. He’s messy and loves takeout pizza. He’s fearless, he’s confident, but he’s also got a soft spot for family. He’s a personal care aide by day, a rocker in his dreams.
He’s the perfect mix of badass and sweetheart with some gorgeous attributes mixed in.
There are quite a few men in Then Comes Love, but I’m confident Owen is going to steal your heart.
He certainly steals Amelia’s.
I’m a January baby, a bookworm, and a teacher, so I have my reasons to love winter: my birthday, snow days, and excuses to sit for hours on the couch with a book are all winter blessings.
This year, though, I’m finding myself in a predicament: I’m feeling the winter blahs.
Typically, the winter months suit me just fine. I’m not an outdoor type of girl anyway, so in summer, the most I make of nature is to sit on my deck sipping iced tea. I’m not a runner, a camper, a hiker, or a swimmer. Thus, freezing cold days that give me an excuse to stay indoors usually make my heart glow.
This year, though, I’m getting a bit sick of the couch potato life.
Couch Potato LifePerhaps it’s a result of my introversion over holiday break. Usually, my days over break are filled with lunch dates, activities, and shopping. This year, I opted for a couch potato sort of break, unlocking achievements on the Xbox for Netflix shows watched in a row.
It was nice, relaxing, and recharging.
And then came this weekend. The blizzard of 2016 left me trapped indoors all weekend. More Netflix. More napping. More couch sitting with Henry
So perhaps this is why I’m a bit over the couch potato life.
Overcoming the Winter BlahsBut what can one do when it’s the end of January and summer feels like a million miles away? We’re stuck in the sweater weather for quite some time, and my flip flops won’t be grazing the fresh grass for quite a few months.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve found a few ways to pump up the motivation, to refresh my mood, and to dump the frumpy couch sitter within.
1. Try a new exerciseOkay, so as much as I hate nature…I also hate exercising. Lately, I’ve found myself in a rut that usually involves me skipping the exercise. This week, I’ve vowed to try some new exercise classes. Am I nervous about looking like a fool in front of people I don’t know? You bet. But Zumba, here I come :)
2. Feng Shui Your Way to HappyThese past few weeks, my husband and I have been on a “love it or leave it” purge of the house. If we don’t love it or haven’t used it, it’s gone. Other than giving the garbage man a serious case of anger from our twelve bags of trash a week, it’s been refreshing.
I can’t tell you how lighter your mood feels when you lighten the amount of stuff you have. Honestly, the experts are right: less is more. I find I can now appreciate what I have because I can find it. Chad even found pizza shaped plates that were lost in the pantry. What could be better than that for a mood boost? Purge away and you’ll find it takes less effort to do basically everything in your house. Plus, maybe you’ll find your own pizza plate treasures. Check out this article at HGTV about How to Feng Shui Your Bedroom if you want to get started!
3. PandoraMusic can truly do wonders on a tired soul. Lately, whether I’m cooking, watching it snow, or just sitting around, I’ve got Pandora on. It’s amazing how much your favorite song can make you feel like dancing a little bit more and encourage you to get off the couch.
4. Play a GameMy husband and I are guilty of phone addiction. We are the couple at the restaurant who can’t go five seconds without checking our phones. We are always plugged in. Lately, we’ve been taking a few hours a week to put the phones aside and ignore the siren call of the notification. We’ve been busting out the old board games and card games and playing a few time a week. It sounds stupid, but we’ve honestly been having so much fun reconnecting over Phase 10 and Yahtzee.
5. Do a Mini-MakeoverSometimes a style rut can play into a mood rut. Mix something up this month. Whether it’s trying an outfit you’d never try in a million years or getting a new brand of makeup and playing it up, try something new. Ulta and Sephora are great because you can try makeup out before you buy it, and the workers are really nice at helping you find what will work for you. I've been on a huge Urban Decay kick lately. If you're like me and already swimming in products, try out some tutorials on Youtube for new ideas and uses for your palettes. An excuse to buy make-up? Yes, please! Mood boosted already!
6. Eat Healthier NowI usually let myself go over winter and figure I’ll work it out over the summer. Perhaps this can lead to the winter blahs just as much as anything else. Pick one think to work on with your eating habits so that when summer rolls around, you can bust out the shorts and tanks without any hesitation.
This is probably the hardest for me. I love chocolate, junk food, and eating out. Chad and I have been trying to cut back. We’ve been eating at home more, swapping white carbs for whole grains, and eating turkey instead of beef. We’ve also been ditching the soda for water. We’re not doing a perfect job, but I’m hoping that by starting how, we’ll be pros by the time the weather breaks.
Have any winter blah breaking tips? Share below!
The vision:My perfectly white dress cascades behind me as I walk, flower bouquet bulging in my arms, down the lace-enshrouded aisle. After some elegant words and lofty I dos, we head to the reception, a perfect balance of elegance and fun. The cake is illustrious, the food delicious, and the DJ gets everyone on the floor. We party the night away, walking out under the stars, floating on a cloud.
The reality:While the dress is truly beautiful, the straps start to come off, and my mother-in-law has to quickly stitch them after the ceremony to prevent a crazy malfunction. The bustle is incorrect, so we have to hastily do a makeshift, curtainy bustle. I almost put the ring on Chad's right hand instead of the left, and we are confused when it is time for us to kiss since there is no "you may kiss the bride." The sandcastle cake I requested looks more like sea slime and sort of tastes like it. We have no clue how to cut the cake and end up awkwardly making a disastrous mess of it. The DJ blows a fuse, leaving us standing for ten minutes in uncomfortable silence, and he picks the longest version of every song, leaving the traditional dances lasting way longer than expected. The photographer is awful...there are actually no pictures of just us that are clear.
Our wedding in October of 2011 was far from the perfect vision we had in mind. There were plenty of things that went wrong and that were disappointing.
It's the same for our marriage. This October will mark five years since our wedding day, and I'd like to say life is like a bouquet of roses. But it's not. The wedding flowers wilt quickly, and sometimes the gold band you bought starts to tarnish. Marriage is hard work.
The romantic dinners and roses and strolls in the park hand in hand are sometimes just a thing of the movies. Real life--grocery shopping, work, cleaning, house disasters--can be exhausting. Spending almost every moment with someone can be agitating.
Do we have beautiful romantic moments? Absolutely. We go to nice dinners. Chad surprises me with chocolate instead of roses (which is exactly what I would prefer). We laugh at life's crazy moments, and we often have a perfect night getting takeout and watching Netflix. We have a good life.
But are things perfect?
We have screaming fights about his snoring or spilled soda on the floor or whose turn it is to let Henry out. We argue about where our furniture should go or when I last did laundry or who left food out on the counter to spoil. We scream about where the stamps are or where the savings account book is or where my favorite shoes got to. We accuse each other of eating the last Kit-Kat or misplacing the Xbox controller or Henry's vet papers.
Like our wedding day, things aren't always the dreamy vision we had in mind. There are plenty of disappointments. But over the years, I've learned one big thing.
Love is never perfect.
It's frustrating and messy, just like a wedding. Sometimes the cake you bought tastes awful. Sometimes your gorgeous dress almost loses its straps. Sometimes the man you married snores way too much or refuses to put his laundry away or puts empty boxes back in the pantry. Sometimes the woman you married stuffs the trashcan full so she doesn't have to take it out or leaves coffee cups everywhere or leaves cereal in the sink (hypothetically speaking, of course. This is CLEARLY not about me :) ).
But real love, the kind worth hanging onto for a lifetime, doesn't have to be perfect. In fact, if you can choose to stand beside someone who sometimes drives you crazy, if you can look past the ugly moments and focus on the beautiful ones, then you know you actually found love.
Fall in Love
Some people fall in love at a coffee shop, their eyes meeting and instantaneously telling them that they have found their match. Others meet while passing each other on the street or at the library. Love reveals itself at the mall, at work, in the produce aisle of a grocery store. It can come all at once, or it can languidly reveal itself between mutual friends. Love can transpire between two acquaintances thrown together by mutual friends or a dating website. It can come when we are young, when we are old, or anytime in between. It can come once, it can come twice, it can come more times than we can count. Love’s story is unique to each of us, despite the common core of its emotions. No two love stories are the same, despite what movies and literature may try to tell us.
For me, love revealed itself at the art table when I was twelve. True to love’s qualities, my love story is its own.
Love at the Art Table
It was the first day of seventh grade, and my Cocoa Puffs were threatening to spew onto the floor from nerves. New students, new teachers, and new classes had upended my sense of calm that was usually shaky at best. Tapping my new shoes together and wishing I could fly back home, I waited for my name to be called for my seat in art class. Once in my chair, my brown eyes glanced around the room at the other faces, finding few that I recognized. That’s when I saw him. The blonde-haired, blue-eyed kid who would become my best friend, my first boyfriend, my fiancé, and eventually my husband. As fate would have it, he was seated across from me at the art table.
It wasn’t love at first sight. There weren’t angelic rays flooding onto us like a spotlight. No cheesy love song blasted from the speakers. Nonetheless, when I saw him, my twelve-year-old self knew that there was something about him. He wasn’t dressed like a model from the pages of my Seventeen magazine. He wasn’t flaunting himself or even saying a word. There was just something about him that I was drawn to, something that told him he would be important to me. That gut feeling was one hundred percent accurate, as I would soon find out.
From the beginning, Chad and I were the least likely couple you could imagine. I was Miss Goody-Two-Shoes, always saying “please” and burying my nose in a book. I was studious, serious, and rational to the core. He was free spirited, racking up detention halls as I racked up As. He cursed often, he hated school, and he hated rules. We had nothing in common other than the fact that we both played trumpet in the band and laughed at the same jokes.
Over the years, however, we found something in each other. At first, it was friendship fused by a common sense of humor and the time spent together at the art table. There was something between us, a light that ignited when we were with each other. There was an ease to our conversations, even at the young age of twelve. We brought something out in each other. He made my rigid personality lighten up, and I helped bring some seriousness and goal setting to his carefree nature.
As the years passed, we continued to grow together as we grew up. Laughter turned into kisses, dates turned into proms, and “I love yous” eventually turned into an engagement ring. We maneuvered the murky waters of adolescence together, finding that the connection merged would weather us through early adulthood as well. Many were skeptical about our relationship. Who finds their soulmate at twelve? However, we seemed to prove the naysayers wrong as we glided through our maturing relationship, always together.
Certainly there were struggles. There were immature fights over jealousy and the other nonsensical ramblings of teenagers. There were angry words and tears, broken promises and slamming doors. We fought, we thought about breaking up. We wondered if we should move on and find someone new. No matter what feelings or thoughts threatened to tear us apart, though, our love always conquered them. No matter what we faced, we always found that we faced it better together. We realized that together was our only desired option.
Now, at twenty-seven, people are amazed by our story. When we tell them that we have been each other’s “one and only” since we were twelve, we face skepticism and astonishment. In an age where you should try to “play the field,” we are an archaic trend from the past. When we got married, we had already been together for over a decade. At our wedding, our first dance was to Faith Hill’s “Just Breathe,” the song that we first danced to in junior high.
People assume that to be with one person since junior high, you must have an unbelievably perfect connection. This is far from the truth. Is our relationship roses and candles, smiles and stolen kisses? Are we living in a fantasy fairytale that is unattainable for others?
The answer is a big fat no.
Those who know us well know that we are not the ideal couple. We fight, and we fight often. Although our opposing personalities often help us balance each other out, they can also lead to turmoil. I am a planner, while he is free spirited. I am a saver, while he is a spender. I am meek and self-conscious at times, while he isn’t afraid to stand up for himself when he feels cheated. I worry about social appearances, while he isn’t afraid to curse in public.
Our differences often lead to differences of opinion. Like any other couple, we have been tempted to throw in the towel from time to time. We push each other away, we frustrate each other, we annoy each other. Somehow, though, we always find a way to bridge the gap between us, no matter how wide it gets. For all of the bad days we’ve had, there seem to be at least twenty good ones.
Additionally, we are not perfect adults, nor do we have the picture perfect life. We eat ice cream for dinner and buy way too much candy at the grocery store. We struggle to save money, splurging on impulsive buys. We don’t have a white picket fence in front of our house; in fact, our house is covered in the decaying leaves that I have been nagging him to clean up. I am a terrible cook, and he is a terrible handyman. Our only children have four legs. We are still working out the details and rules of this thing called adulthood.
Through it all, though, we’ve learned one thing together: love isn’t perfect.
The idea that it is perfect stems from a meticulously constructed illusion that fairytales do exist in real life, that the show Once Upon a Time can actually happen. In our world, however, Prince Charming doesn’t exist, but neither does Snow White. Instead, we must realize that love is about sacrifice, about reality. It’s about finding joy in the small things together. It’s about ignoring his annoying chewing habits and him forgiving me for spending way too much on makeup. It’s about just finding something to smile about each day. It’s about deciding that our faults deserve forgiveness because at the end of the day, we’d rather fight through our struggles than throw in the towel. It’s about deciding that our history together is worthy more than giving up or trying to find something new. It’s about choosing to believe in the power of us and our story over the pull of temptation. It’s about realizing that our life together isn’t even close to being perfect, but it makes us perfectly content overall.
Monogamy is Possible
So no, our story isn’t all that special. We are not romantic heroes who deserve a medal for staying together so long in a fickle society. We are not blinded by an unattainable love, we are not the model marriage. We don’t have this whole thing called love or life figured out. We’re still changing, we’re still growing, and we’re still searching for ourselves.
We are, however, proof that against all odds, against the statistics and stereotypes, our generation can stay true. Despite our “short attention spans” blamed on technology and our tendency to stray, our generation can stay in a monogamous, meaningful, fulfilling relationship. We do still believe in the power of love and the possibility of experiencing life with the right person. Chad and I are not supermodels or movie stars. We are not relationship experts. We are, however, two people who found each other at a young age and invested in each other. We are two average twenty-somethings who value love, our relationship, and the life we have built together.
Above all, though, we are just a boy and a girl who fell in love at the art table in seventh grade.
Pieces of My Heart, a poetry collection, by A.G. Porter is releasing March 3rd with Fifth Ink Publishing!
In this poetry collection, A.G. Porter shares part of her story with you through the pieces of her heart scattered in the pages. She transports you through love, loss, strength, and sorrow with which we’re all familiar.
Be sure to like A.G. Porter's page and Fifth Ink Publishing's page for updates!
A.G. Porter: https://www.facebook.com/TDTAGP/?fref=ts
Fifth Ink Publishing: https://www.facebook.com/Fifth-Ink-Publishing-471822992974816/?fref=ts
Without You is available at
*As an Amazon Affiliate, I get a small fee for any books purchased through the links below.