The chick lit debate continues

Some of you may have seen this article in the Guardian over the weekend, asking the question if we should mourn the death of chick lit, a death which may, in the words of Mark Twain, be described as an exaggeration.

It all depends on what you mean by ‘chick lit’. Is it a catch-all label for all women’s fiction, or does it only refer to those with the hot pink covers sporting ‘stilettos and Martini glasses’, as mentioned in the article? But is there much more going on inside the covers, and the problem is merely the way women’s fiction is being packaged?

When my first book (above) was published, a male friend asked me what women’s fiction was, and was he allowed to read it? He also said he never would have picked up a book with a hot pink cover, but he was surprised he enjoyed it. Now I don’t mind that our books are marketed to women, women are the biggest buyers of books by far, but has this led to the assumption that all women’s fiction is the same, and worse, that it’s light fluff? There is a whole other discussion to be had – in a future post – about covers and marketing, but this is more about perception. Those of us who read women’s fiction know that it’s often about much bigger issues; that martini glass could be making light of alcoholism, and the shoes masking some painful body image issues.

So why the cutesy label? Because we do mention shoes? Martinis? Love? Or, gasp, is it because it’s written by women? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if men write about relationships or domestic issues, they’re considered insightful forays into the human condition. Perhaps they’re not always lauded, but they ain’t called chick lit either. I’ve heard many excellent female authors shrug and apologise for what they write. I’ve done it myself. ‘It’s just entertainment’. ‘I don’t mind it’s called chick lit’. We wouldn’t want to look like we’re taking ourselves seriously as writers, for goodness’ sakes.

That doesn’t mean you must write only about serious stuff to deserve to be taken seriously as a writer. Look at Nick Hornby and Nick Earls – both wonderful, funny writers whose books are very much about relationships. Their solid reputations are well-deserved. Just not so sure that female writers of the same ilk are given quite the same status.

What do you think? Am I worrying about nothing? Does it matter what it’s called? Do you love the girlie covers or shy away from them? And if there are any blokes out there – would you be caught dead reading one?


64 thoughts on “The chick lit debate continues

  1. We can lay the blame squarely at Mills & Bills …… those covers are ugggghhhh and Dont even get me started on those books with Fabio on the cover!! 😦
    I like a book that is easy to read, sucks me in & makes me feel like Im there & I admit I have picked up many a book because of the cover but not necessarily bought it as a result (if when reading the blog on the back I am rolling my eyes, its a safe bet that it will be replaced back on the shelf) I usually shy away from books that require me to think…I dont want to think when Im reading, I want to escape into a fantasy world where everyones problems are pretty much sorted by chapters I guess that makes me the main demographic/target of the ‘chick lit’ brigade.
    I dont care if it is called ‘entertainment’ or ‘chick lit’ of ‘abit of fluff’….if I enjoy it and keep buying books as a result then thats surely the most important thing (for any writer)
    I like the original covers of your books (I have 3 of those) and I also like the new design (although they are also a bigger book and therefore not as easy to carry in ones handbag lol).
    As you know Dianne, I ❤ your books and am eagerly awaiting the new one – keep up the great work !!

    #1 Chick Lit Fan 🙂

    • That’s interesting that you’re influenced by the blurb on the back of the book – to be honest, the vast majority of blurbs probably make me roll my eyes, even on the back of my own books! 🙂 They are SO hard to write.

      You’re absolutely right though – when you hit upon an author you enjoy, that’s what makes you most likely to pick up her next book.

  2. You are spot on Dianne. Women writers who write about women’s lives have always battled with perception. Virginia Woolf commented on this and battled with it – Mrs Dalloway is a book about a woman doing the things a woman of her class and time would do and reflecting on life, love, loss and missed opportunities.
    Yet today fiction by women written about other women – the things they do and their reflections on life and love etc – rarely receive serious critical attention – usually just criticism!
    Thanks for a terrific blog post. I have a vested interest of course being a woman and a writer writing about women’s lives but I do feel that that those who ignore or dismiss women’s fiction, both chick lit, and other forms demonstrate contempt for the hundreds of thousands of women (and men) who enjoy, take comfort from and are inspired by women’s fiction.

    • Thanks for the great comment, Liz. Sometimes I think I shouldn’t get too precious about it, but then I think that’s just what we’re trained to do as women – not to make a fuss. Don’t mean to get all feminista about it, but sometimes it makes my blood boil! It’s the contempt, as you put it, that bothers me most.

      And P.S – love Mrs Dalloway!

  3. This was mentioned indirectly on a panel at the National Young Writers Festival on the weekend, where a bunch of publishers, editors and publishers publicists talked about ‘life after the book deal’. There were many stories about writers rebelling against the cover put on their book, which is in essence, the way in which the book is sold to the audience.

    I think the problem with ‘chick lit’ as a branding is that while it is spectacularly successful at marketing a type of book, it also puts the book in danger of being exclusionary. While that pink cover with the shoes makes it more likely to be picked up by a certain demographic, it means it definitely won’t be chosen by a whole range of others. There’s a danger that this breaks it along a gender divide.

    Look up on Google images, Rupa Bajwa’s The Sari Shop. There are two covers that I’ve seen released, one bright pink with a candy floss font and a woman dancing. The other a lit-fiction Indian temple kind of look, with faux Indian font. It’s a wonderful story, beautifully written with a powerful message. It deserves to be read. But my sister saw it on my shelf, the bright pink version, frowned a little, and said ‘This looks nice, I’ll take it on my holiday’. When she came back, she loved it. But she also said: ‘I really was just looking for some trash to take my mind off things, but I enjoyed it nonetheless’.

    I’m conflicted! I feel like we should have branded on every single book

    You’d think people would know that by now.

    • I heard about someone in the book industry who wishes all books just had the Penguin classic-style covers – plain colours, block title, nothing which brands or labels or places a value judgement on the content. Just let the book be the book.

      Your sister’s experience is interesting – I did google The Sari Shop – there were a couple of exquisite covers, very evocative, and then I came across the hot pink cartoon-looking one – Yikes! Lionel Shriver complained about this in the Guardian last year (, that she writes some really ‘nasty’ books, yet her publishers always want to clothe them in soft, feminine covers, something that she likens to ‘stuffing a rottweiler in a dress’! Picking up on your point, that branding like this creates a gender divide, she addresses the pointlessness of that – in the US, Britain & Germany (and I daresay it’s comparable in Australia), 80% of fiction readers are women. Clearly, women choose from a whole range of books, regardless of the cover, whereas men would rarely choose a book with a girlie cover. Shriver maintains that packaging her books as though they’re exclusively for women cuts off a large portion of her potential audience, and not only that, allows the serious literary establishment to dismiss her.

  4. I have to be honest and say that more than anything I do follow authors (including you of course!) and dont really pay attention to the book cover or the blurb on the back or on the inside cover mostly because I am hoping that the book will come up to the same high standard as the one before. I have of course come a cropper with this methodolody and have been bitterly dissapointed because the author has wanted to try something different – and it has fallen in a heap and I havent finished the book because it was just awful!! For this Iam thinking of 1 American author in particular who was just churning out great book after great book – he then did something different and it basically sucked! I read 2 chapters, thought that was more than generous and donated it to the local library!

    I think that there is definitely a market for the “light and fluffy” – and sometimes that sort of book is all you want – but for me, mostly, I prefer stories that make you think about the characters, what they’re doing, and the story they are trying to tell.

    I wonder how many good books go unread because people have looked at a book cover and thought “??? – nah not what Iam wanting” – maybe the people who design the covers of books should be rethinking their marketing strategy?

    I dont mind what book covers you use Dianne…. I’ll always read your books 🙂

    • I think it’s great when the author becomes the ‘brand’, rather than the cover – but that can be tough on debut authors. As you can see in the covers, above, my publisher deliberately and consciously made my early covers almost exactly like Marian Keyes’s at the time. That was okay, it immediately told people the kind of book it was if they were familiar with Marian Keyes, but what if they weren’t? What if the vibrant hot pink cover turned them off?

      Like you say, how many good books go unread because the cover suggests something that people think won’t appeal to them?

  5. As a male reader (I was going to say “bloke”, but you and Liz both know me Di, and I know you’d both laugh yourselves silly…), I actually love the term chick lit. I think it implies that a story will be a bouncy, vibrant, lively read filled with characters I can relate to, who could well be my contemporaries, and who I’d love to sit down over a meal and several bottles of wine with.

    You know what I can’t stand? “Women’s Fiction”. My fingers trembled as I typed the phrase. It’s a horrible, reductive, forbidding term, that sends EXACTLY the same signal to potential book reader/buyers as chick lit, only accompanied by a frown rather than a wink. Thou Shalt Not Pass, bearer of Y-Chromosome. This is Women’s Fiction. By Women. For Women.

    In all seriousness, labels are really helpful when you work in book retail. For those of us involved in buying and selling books, they carry no more meaning than the Dewey Decimal System. They tell a buyer at the point of ordering how well a book will fit into their store’s general demographic. They tell shop staff to make sure they put the book in the right part of the shop (I used to find Elliot Perlman’s “Three Dollars” in the business section all the friggin time). And in the end, covers and titles and fonts, and all the other little semiotic signals tell readers – at a glance – the tone and mood of a book, and whether it’s the kind of read they’re looking for.

    The problem is that we attach values to labels – and then they start carrying false meanings. There’s an astonishing level of intellectual snobbery attached to books. Books that are written for entertainment somehow have less value than books that are supposedly written to educate or inform. Chick lit = dumb! Chick lit = desperate spinsters. Literature = Worthy. God forbid anyone should curl up on the couch with a packet of Tim Tams and a Mills and Boon. No, we should all be reading The Slap – preferably in a high-backed wooden chair in a really cold room.

    People need to relax. Reading is one of the great joys of life, yet we’re made to feel guilty for reading for pleasure. I say fight back! Carry a trade paperback of whatever book you like, and if someone sniffs at your choice of reading, belt them around the head with it. They’ll soon learn….

    • Ah, Paul, you put it so well, thank you! You’re right, it’s not what we call it – but ‘the problem is that we attach values to labels’. And ‘women’s fiction’ does smack dully of women’s iss-yous!

      Funny, I love the term ‘romantic comedy’ or rom-com, and I think that’s what I write. So I should proudly stand up for the entertainment value of my books!

      Thanks for putting it into perspective – as someone who I love to sit down to a meal and share a few bottles of wine with!

    • Paul Kenny – how splendid to hear your voice from afar. I agree that ‘women’s fiction’ strikes a gloomy and politically correct note, but I think the problem with the term ‘chick lit’ is not the term itself but the fact that it is now invariably used derisively to dismiss the books, so its become a label with sneer attached. For me it’s a disadvantage because as I write about older women 50+ and increasingly 60+ it gets labelled as ‘hen lit’ or ‘matron lit’ neither of which sounds like half so much fun as chick lit – who wants to sit down with a a book described as ‘matron lit’? I don’t! And unlike the books categorised as chick lit my bookd only occasionally have romantic resolution so it’s misleading too.
      I am very fortunate with my publisher who has pitched my covers perfectly for my readership.
      The sneering literary snobbery about mass market fiction in Australia is far more extreme than in the UK or US and is frankly very silly and pretentious. What matters surely is whether a book has an interesting and thought provoking narrative, engaging characters and is well written. Writing is about communicating ideas and mass market popular fiction is a wonderfully robust and democratic way of doing that.

      • You’re so right, Liz, and Paul said it too, it’s not the term itself, it’s the value attached to it. Years ago, the SMH labelled one of my books ‘matron-lit’, and the female characters in it were all in their thirties! But then again, I don’t know a woman at any age who’d want to be referred to as matron. Ugh.

        I’ve heard that about the US and UK – why are the literati such snobs here? Might be another post in that …

  6. Well said, Di. I agree with you whole-heartedly. I can’t really speak for all chick-lit as I only read your books but your writing is certainly deeper than frozen margaritas and spray tans. You write about trials and tribulations that we all go through – or at lease know somebody who has gone through. It’s real and it’s touching, blended with a wonderful sense of humour while still maintaining a message without preaching. I suppose the writing in itself is rather like a cocktail – you’ve got to have the right mix and know which elements to team together. Otherwise you wind up feeling seedy with a rotten headache.

    Oh, and yes, I love the girlie covers. After all, I’m a girl. Now get writing! Regardless of what it’s called, I love reading it!

  7. Hi Di, great blog and I’m enjoying reading all the comments. I’ve written about ‘chick-lit’ and ‘women’s fiction’ a bit, discussed the terms at writing conferences etc…and have come to the conclusion that I don’t care how people choose to label my books as long as they read and enjoy them.
    I agree with Paul that ‘chick -lit’ implies a certain tone – it’s going to be about the trial and tribulations women face but it’s also going to upbeat and humorous. My publisher says I write ‘women’s contemprary fiction’. I think I write about real life women going through ups and downs and trying to navigate their way through life whilst dealing with infidelity, divorce, teenagers, friendships, etc. I don’t want to write tragedies but at the same time my books have little (okay, a bit) to do with shoes and shopping.
    As for Nick Nornby and Nick Earls – I love their books but they are given far more respect in the literary world than most female writers out there.

    • Thanks Lisa – and haven’t the comments been great? My publisher also insists it’s ‘contemporary women’s fiction’, but then Paul, above, got me thinking – that can sound a bit dour. You and I both like to inject a bit of energy and fun into our books, alongside some pretty weighty life matters.

      And why shouldn’t you write about shoes and shopping? The two Nicks write about sport and popular music and beer, but like you say, they get a whole lot more respect for it.

      I can see I could do many more blogs on this – but then, it can be difficult for us ‘women’s fiction’ authors to speak up, for fear we’ll come across as whingers. And part of the problem is definitely the literary snobbery in this country. I love what Liz said above – that popular mass market fiction is a ‘wonderfully robust and democratic way’ of communicating ideas.

      • Di, I’ve commented and written a lot about women’s fiction Vs Chick lit in the last couple of years so am very conscious about not wanting to sound ungrateful (or a whinger). However, I believe there is definitely a literary snobbery in this country and there are many female authors starting out who feel the same way but don’t want to comment for fear of jepardising their career.
        I would never have spoken out four years ago but now that readers are beginning to recognise my name and know the kind of books I write, I’m actually chuffed to say ‘I write chick lit and I’m out and proud!
        PS I stand by my belief that if Nick Earls and Nick Hornby were women (aka – US) they would be facing the same barriers…but they have escaped all criticism and are the ‘comic voice of our generation.’ * Am not suggesting I have a comic voice but still…

      • I think you’re right Lisa – Nick Horny and Nick Earls books get very different treatment and the other example – mentioned in the original Guardian article – is David Nicholls’s novel – One Day, published in 2009 widely reviewed and already (not quite two years later() rleased as a movie.

      • The David Nicholls’ novel is a great example, Liz. Wouldn’t you love to have been able to conduct a controlled experiment, and have had that manuscript submitted to publishers under a male and a female name, and see what happened …

      • Oh I wish! The David Nicholls cover is interesting too – bold bright orange sillouhettes of two faces on a cream background with vivid blue font. (Let’s not confuse it with girlie stuff!!!!!!)
        Thanks for getting this topic going – it’s great to see the conversation take off like this.

  8. Shakespeare wrote romantic comedies! Part of the problem with “Chick Lit” as a term is it’s a little useless: Ii covers romantic comedies and depressingly honest relationship sagas (and all those in between). Also I notice these covers are not even accurate! I have just read Liane Moriarty’s new book in which the main character dresses like an “elegant bohemian” with black tights and ballet flats. On the cover a bare foot woman in an orange dress. I also think we shouldn’t be too disparaging of books shopping, spray tans and happy love endings. Anita Heiss’ books for example are delightful.

  9. I think it would be a good idea to categorise books as they do movies – romantic comedy, drama, comedy, family, action, suspense…etc. Because then you know what you’re going to get. Of course, some books have elements of all of those, and that’s where it gets tricky (“What do you write?”, “I write romantic comedies with drama, some action, suspense, oh, and it’s suitable for the whole family!”).
    I call my work ‘contemporary women’s fiction’, mainly because I’ve been told not to use chick lit, and when submitting to publishers, ‘women’s fiction’ helps to define the market. But if chick lit implies light fluff that is ‘only’ ever about image-obsessed shopaholics looking for Mr Right, then that’s not what I write! Not that I can’t have a character who is like that, and in fact I do have one like that, but she is also dealing with her father’s death along with a genetic medical condition, so what I am really writing about is real life issues facing female characters.
    For me, the ideal scenario would be for books to have an overall genre that is not gender specific (like the movie genres), and then symbols on the book to let me know what other elements it contains, eg: comedy, action…etc. Then a book could be described as ‘a drama with elements of suspense’, or a ‘drama with elements of comedy’, or a ‘romantic comedy with action’…etc. In that case, I would classify my writing as ‘romantic comedy with drama’, because not only is it humourous and contains romance, but contains drama (which I think of as more serious topics or real-life emotional stuff). Then it is up to the cover design and blurb to further clarify the book so it reaches its ideal audience.

    • Hi Juliet,
      Agree. I think I’d also like to call my books romantic comedy with drama – but what if people read my books and don’t laugh? That’s my huge insecurity…I’m at home writing in my pyjamas laughing hysterically as I’m writing…and people reading my books are thinking ‘Yeah, big deal. The mother-in-law wears turbans.’ One person’s idea of comedy is another person’s version of blah. (Although you and I both know we write funny, right?)

      • Don’t worry, Lisa, your books are funny! (Well, I laughed!)

        I like your idea, Juliet, about classifying them the way we classify movies. But funnily enough, I was chatting with a couple of friends this afternoon, and one of them owns a video shop. She said she would probably put me under ‘Drama’, after I had said earlier on this blog that I write romantic comedy. But she’s probably right, or else it straddles both. ‘Human interest drama with heart’? ‘Somewhat humorous relationship drama’? It all gets so unwieldy trying to find a neat label. And to drag the Nicks into it again – does anyone go to such lengths to label their books?

        What is really interesting about the comparison to films, is that we don’t have a whole genre of ‘women’s’ films – and we certainly don’t call them that if they were made or directed by women. Unfortunately I do think there’s some inherent sexism underlying all of this, and we need to be out and proud like Lisa suggested, and not apologise for what we write.

      • Don’t worry Lisa, I read your books in my pyjamas and laugh! (Just finished Lucy Springer, lots of clever humour – love it!), and I also crack myself up sometimes when I write funny scenes, you’re not alone!

      • Yes, that is the big difference between movies and books, although we call some movies ‘chick flicks’, they are not categorised as that, but usually as romantic comedy or drama.
        I think that some kind of label is necessary to narrow down the target audience somewhat, but I also think it is important for authors to brand themselves and what they write, so they stand out as individuals. I also find it helpful when choosing a book, if they say ‘If you like ‘so and so’s books’, you’ll love this’.

  10. Browsing for, buying and owning a book is a whole physical experience and it’s a shame when publishers don’t put in the effort with the cover. There’s something so satisfying about a book that is beautiful inside and out, And of course, these days, it’s so easy to go to OS websites and choose a cover you like better. (Although not perhaps in your case Dianne, what’s going on with that German cover!)

  11. I do wonder why some genres seem acceptable to the Australian literary set – and I’m talking particularly about crime here – and others are not. I notice that there a quite a few crime sessions these days at the Sydney Writers’ Festival . I would think the writers of crime fiction are no less or more talented than writers of womens’ fiction, or chick lit, if you prefer. Neither group aspires to write literary fiction – the aim is primarily to entertain. Perhaps we women writers should introduce a few murders into our books!

      • Yes crime is taken very seriously. Peter Temple’s crime novel Truth won the Miles Franklin last year and science fiction also gets serious attention. I do think many people have lost sight of the value and impact of the various types of popular fiction that focus on women’s lives. It seems that if it’s about women it must be trivial, yet it is women who, as you pointed out earlier Dianne, make up the great majority of readers and book buyers and therefore keep the industry afloat.
        If Jane Austen were writing today she would be writing romance or chick-lit but she wouldn’t be winning awards for it nor would her work be adapted for TV by the BBC.
        And there is plenty of evidence that the realist novels written by women in the late sixties and the seventies is what brought so many women to second-wave feminism. Thousands of women who felt alienated by what they saw of feminist politics viewed things very differently once they read Dorothy Byant’s book Ella Prices’s Journal, Sue Hoffman’s Diary of a Mad Housewife, Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying, and Marilyn French’s The Women’s Room.
        I do keep being drawn back to the ways in which what we write affects other women in very personal and often empowering ways. And I do wonder if the people who sneer and dismiss it have any understanding of how, by trivilaising the books, they are actually pouring scorn on our readers.

    • Such wonderful examples, Liz. The Women’s Room had a profound effect on me when I was a young mum at home, knee-deep in babies and housework, a decade after she wrote it. While I would never put myself on Marilyn French’s level, I have received so much mail over the years from women who have gained some small comfort, or insight, or relief, from reading about women like them. No doubt you have experienced the same. I like how you keep coming back to what it says about the reader – Janine, further down, is quite clearly upset by being judged on her reading preferences.

      And it does my head in to imagine how Jane Austen would be judged had she appeared in this enlightened era.

  12. Great stimulating blog and comments, thanks @Lisaheidke for retweeting. Waving to Liz Byrski too, many many moons since we met in Perth. “The problem is we attach values to labels” is so true, Paul. I say I’m a “romance writer” – watch the labelling then. “Chick lit” strikes me as a loaded term for the same reason, the implied baggage of fluffiness and frivolousness which may or may not be accurate. Women’s fiction is not the answer, way too ponderous. So what is? Do we need a brand new word – feminovels? fictShen? Remember how Ms was ridiculed when first mooted? We’re writers, we can do this, let’s invent our own umbrella term. Meanwhile I’ll go read The Slap on a high-backed wooden chair, in a really cold room.

      • Have posted the link on my Facebook page and invited other writers and readers to participate. If everybody on here does the same, we might get somewhere. Was also wondering about spelling it FictSHEn to make pronunciation clearer. Tall oaks from little acorns etc etc

      • Good idea Valerie, I’ve just posted the link on my Facebook ‘writer’ page too. And waving to you too after all these years. Dianne you’ve created a monster with this blog so lets see if we can monster some of the literary snobbery.

    • Seriously, what do you think we could do about this? Start a Facebook page? Our own festival or conference? An award?

      As I said to Lisa somewhere in this thread, and she made the comment too, we don’t want to come across as whingers, so what if we were to do something positive, like an award?

      • I’ve often thought we should have an RWA chapter dedicated to (ahem) women’s fiction/chick lit writers. There could be a Facebook group for the writers, a facebook page for fans of ‘ficSHEn’, and a blog to promote the ficSHEn writers work/competitions/ interviews…etc. Thoughts??

  13. As they keep telling us that chick lit is dead, and not to use the term, I’ve started calling my writing ‘women’s fiction with attitude’. But as my current manuscript also deal with gay issues (as quite a few of my stories do), maybe I should call it sassy fiction for young straight women and gay men both in and out of the closet. How restrictive! No one refers to Hornby’s and Earls’ books as men’s fiction, although ‘lad lit’ was a popular term for some time.

    • Hi Diane, I often refer to Hornsby and Earls as lad-lit just so that people understand that they write about similar experiences that the chick-lit authors do…yes, it all gets very confusing. Popular fiction is such a broad term so I understand why publishers want to label us but then again, women’s contemporary fiction is just as broad. Fiona Palmer, Fleur McDonald, Karly Lane et al are doing well to be branded ‘rural lit’ or ‘farm lit’ and while this gets the message across to readers and book sellers, I don’t think their necessarily 100% happy with the tag. Truth is publishers and book sellers need to catagorise us so that their job of selling us is easier…Valerie’s suggestion of FicShen is quite clever!

    • I think the point you’re making, Diane, is that how can you possibly classify the range of subjects that female authors write about – it ends up sounding absurd!

      I do like ‘women’s fiction with attitude’ though 🙂

  14. Hi Di, re David Nicholl’s One day – which I read and loved – yes, it would be fascinating to have done an experiment…I wonder whether any of these guys (I’m thinking Nick Earls) would be willing to do one in the future…that would be fun!

  15. Pingback: Chick Lit – love it or hate it? « JULIET MADISON ~Australian Author~

  16. We could be harsh and say that whom ever coined the term ‘chick lit’ must have been lacking the full capacity of their faculties at the given time. The words themselves immediately conjure and evoke images of fluffy little chicks. Quite possibly, this is what has painted a big bulls eye that elicits target practice on women’s literature as being nothing but fluff.

    Truthfully, it’s rather difficult to take ‘chick lit’ seriously with such a name but then again should the writers of chick lit care? The proof is evident in the sales (lush pudding), not so much the name or the covers.

    Answer me this, if the name stirs so much debate then why not alter it? Rightfully, and in my own demented opinion I feel women’s literature should be called Savvy literature. For are we not modern day women? Women who juggle the complexities of life such as job, family, household and not to mention the bedroom all in one clean sweep? Yes we are and yes we do and we successfully manage all this and more because we are SAVVY!

    SAVVY LITERATURE for savvy women. That’s my new Chick lit.

    • Great article, but sad that Harmer wrote it in 2005 – nothing seems to have changed. The point she makes is still true – the people who write off all variants of ‘women’s fiction’ have probably never read it.

    • Thanks Valarie, I loved that article.

      She makes so many valid points and all utterly true and I’m with her on her finish.
      “And if it’s all just banal “women’s stuff”? If children, marriage, friendship and happiness are just of marginal concern? Pass me the pastel-covered girlie book and break out the chocolate!” Here, here.

  17. Why is it that women authors are supposed to be chick lit, are there any male authors out there who write “guy-lit” or are they tarred with only writing action, crime, political thrillers etc.

    I know when I used to be in a book group, the books some of the girls picked who were award winners were the worst books I read, in fact you felt if you didn’t pick a literary type book, there was something wrong with you. One ,onto someone picked The Notebook which I loved as it was a damn good story and the others classed it as having one-dimensional characters and pooh poohed it. As you’ve probably guessed by now, I am no longer in said book group.

    Why do we have to label books or authors at all? If the book gets me hooked from the start, it’s a winner. Also if an author is tagged a women’s chick lit author, god help them should they want to deviate from that writing style and try something new, if that doesn’t work, they will be pigeon-holed in their genre forever.

    As well as not judging a book by it’s cover, people shouldn’t be judged by what they choose to read.

  18. Couldn’t agree more, Janine, and I think you’ll see above that Liz Byrski has said this over and over – that trashing the books trashes the reader as well, and who has a right to do that?

    I had a friend who went to a book group and after a year, she asked if they always had to read books with such depressing, unhappy endings. The other members had never thought about it like that, and although they agreed, they maintained that these were literary books reflecting real life. My friend – an intelligent, educated, professional woman – disagreed. She didn’t know anyone like the characters in the books she had read, she could not relate at all, and she wondered why they couldn’t read books that offered hope and also gave some joy.

  19. Great post Dianne – quite the lively debate! For my two cents worth, I’m not a huge fan of what I classify as ‘shoes and chardonnay’ novels, which I think had their heyday in the years following Bridget Jones’s Diary. There was an awful lot of ‘me too’ (much the same problem as we have with vampires at present) and I got bored with that. But there are a lot of women writing fabulous stories that are NOT LIKE THAT – but they’re being marketed in the same vein. It’s a huge shame if you ask me.

    • I agree, and personally the ‘shoes and chardonnay’ novels are not my particular thing, maybe because I can’t even wear high heels any more! As you point out, successful ideas are always going to be imitated and done to death, but unfortunately for some reason, it seems that all fiction written by women, which is largely focused on the lives of women, is tarred with the same brush.

  20. Coming in late here. Thanks for the discussion, Dianne.

    Someone mentioned creating a Facebook page. I’ve just created one that encompasses Australian Women’s Writing generally, not just Chick Lit/FicSHEn, but everyone’s welcome.

    Here’s the link:!/pages/Australian-Womens-Writing-Reviews-AWWR/176862202396763?sk=info

    I’m inviting anyone to post any links to blogs, reviews, discussions and workshops on Aussie women’s writing. I hope it will act as a resource and help demonstrate that Aussie women writers of all genres are to be taken seriously.

    If someone creates a FicSHEn page as well, feel free to post the link to that, too.

  21. Pingback: A little privileged whining … | dianneblacklock

  22. Pingback: Beware of Chick Lit – it can ruin your life!

  23. Pingback: Romance writing is crap, isn’t it? « Devoted Eclectic

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