One of my family’s inside jokes is that whenever we have the occasion to say “label”, the word cannot be left alone and naked like that. It must be said, “labellabellabel” with exactly the inflection of Alastair Sim in minute 5:40 of this video:
Accordingly, I wish to speak of labellabellabels today — specifically “author”, “writer”, and their attendant modifiers, such as “pre-published.”
The precipitant of this conversation, in case you haven’t figured it out, is my recent website unveiling. (Thank you all for your helpful feedback. Tartitude readership rawks!) What you don’t know, because I had the sage advice of one Teresa Frohock before I hit “publish”, is that the bar containing my name also contained the word “aspiring.” I’ve been encouraged to ditch that adjective, along with some of the self-deprecating attitude on my bio page. (Thank you, MJ!)
Writers are people who write, I’m told. That’s it. Period. Full-stop.
When I consult my Oxford Dictionary, because despite all appearances to the contrary I’m troubled by self-inflation, this is what it had to say:
writer n. 1 One who writes or has written something 2 One who writes professionally
Dictionary.com had almost identical language. When I look at the bios other unpublished writers have on Twitter or Facebook, popular usage seems to concur. So okay. I’m not exactly comfortable with calling myself a writer, unadorned, without half-apology, but I concede it’s justified.
What about another title I see bandied about? “Author.” Does the Tart qualify for that moniker? Here’s what the Oxford Dictionary has to say:
author n. 1 a writer, especially of books 2 the originator of an event, a condition, etc.
Dictionary.com, possesses much the same information, but they snuck in this passage at the bottom of the page:
Usage Note : The verb author, which had been out of use for a long period, has been rejuvenated in recent years with the sense “to assume responsibility for the content of a published text.” As such it is not quite synonymous with the verb write; one can write, but not author, a love letter or an unpublished manuscript, and the writer who ghostwrites a book for a celebrity cannot be said to have “authored” the creation. The sentence He has authored a dozen books on the subject was unacceptable to 74 percent of the Usage Panel, probably because it implies that having a book published is worthy of special lexical distinction, a notion that sits poorly with conventional literary sensibilities and seems to smack of press agentry.
So according to these resources, three-quarters of you wouldn’t blink should I decide to call myself “Jan O’Hara, contemporary romance author.” As for the rest of you, I could feel 75% justified in telling you to shove it.
I don’t know, peeps. I do. Not. Know. That doesn’t sit well with me in the least. But then, like certain…personal activities of my adulthood, I now regularly partake in behaviors once alien.*
Here are my questions to you: If you write, at what stage of your career were you comfortable assuming the naked labels “author” or “writer”? How do you feel about adding in adjectives, such as “pre-published” or “aspiring”? If you don’t write, do you distinguish between authors and writers, and if so, on what grounds?
As for me, after reflection I’ve settled on this phrase as my descriptor: Jan O’Hara, writer of quasi-humorous contemporary romances, author of Tartitude, and all-round epitome of modesty. Suits me to a T, dontcha think? 😉