Guest Post – by Ann Ormond Fennell


I am a wife, a mother of four adult children and dare I say it a ‘Writer’, an unpublished writer.  I divide my time between Wisconsin and Ireland, spending the summer months at home, in Ireland.   I created my blog Inkpots N’ Quills in October 2009 which has been described by a fellow writer and blogger as, ‘varied from writing to life.’   Check it out. 

Last night I was asked what do you write.  The question stumped me!  I know this might sound strange but I really have not given much thought to identifying a genre for myself. Not at this stage anyway, I am an unpublished writer.  In the past saying I am “ unpublished” shuts this topic of conversation down, letting me off the hook.  Not the case this time!  I was left struggling with the question.  I floundered around trying to formulate a description of my writing.  I rather feebly said, “Life.”  Now isn’t that an all-encompassing reply.  Isn’t all writing Life! My reply dissatisfied me as much as my company.   I found myself unable to qualify what I meant by Life.  I turned to my sister in law, who has read my blog musing and asked her could she describe my writing style.  She seemed baffled by the question too!  In the crevices of my mind and emboldened by a glass of wine, I said, a fellow student in a writing class told  me once, my style reminded her of one of her favorite writers, Cathy Kelly. I was thrilled with this assessment, as I am sure you can imagine.  I turned to my sister in law and hesitantly asked what she thought.  She agreed, high praise indeed.  I am hoping it wasn’t the wine.  I love that style of writing my questioner added.    A fraction of Cathy Kelly’s publishing history wouldn’t be too shabby either.

I felt good about my writing, empowered really.  I called myself a writer and my company was not dismissing my claim as fraudulent due to my unpublished status.  But as we “writers” know this type of empowerment is tenuous.  All it will take is the glazing eyes of the next person who asks the published question and I will once again feel I am misrepresenting myself.  But for an hour on this particular night I was a writer in the eyes of my company.  Now all I need to do is pin down a genre!

21 thoughts on “Guest Post – by Ann Ormond Fennell

  1. Hi ladies,

    Olive I really appreciate this guest post and the topic. And Ann thank you for taking the time to do it and so honestly. You are absolutely correct that gone are the days that being ‘published’ pegged you in. Now, thanks to online, just having your own website or blog and connections via twitter (or Facebook for those that engage that way) one is constantly asked this. I applaud you for being so graceful….I never know what to say. Fiction. Sure. But I write a lot of non-fiction too and apparently that has genres?! Whodathunkit! :)

    I feel bad but now I answer depending on who is asking. This is not to box people in but because I really do struggle with it. Someone told me I wrote literary fiction as compared to general fiction. Now I have read a lot—but I didn’t study theories etc. since as a reader I didn’t box myself in, as I writer I can’t imagine. So I was a bit shocked because that meant that the ‘general public’ won’t enjoy what I wrote!

    But for some people asking that question is as simple as: horror or children’s books! So it really depends on who is asking.

    But I like your answer: Life. What else is there to write about?! :) Whatever genre the style falls in.

    Great idea, Olive. Really enjoyed.


  2. I bet the more you write, the more your genre will come clear. And some writers hop from genre to genre, so maybe that will be you.

    We unpublished writers are almost always awkward, embarrassed, fumbling when asked about our writing. You’d think we were revealing a nasty drug habit or admitting that we sold a child to gypsies for a little cash. I keep reminding myself to be proud because I’m attempting what most people are too scared to try.

  3. Great thoughts here. I think that with the technology growth in publishing, our writing has expanded in many ways, too, where it’s hard to pinpoint exactly. In addition to querying a manuscript, I’ve had pieces published in online journals and magazines, and I regularly blog. Writing has definitely expanded into new avenues that resist being defined by one category.

  4. Hi Ann

    It’s amazing what a glass of el vino could do to one’s self confidence! :-)

    Good for you for feeling empowered and for your apt and fab riposte! It just shows how important it is to be active with your writing – ie. attending classes, critique groups, sending your stories/pieces out for competition or for publication. These are all handy back ups and they beef up the reply “I am a writer”.

    Well done you!

    Thanks Olive for hosting this wonderful guest post from Ann!
    Take care

  5. I’m sure you will find a genre, your blog is very easy to read and often brings a smile to my face so that’s a great start:)

  6. HI Ann (and Olive),
    This is such a wonderful topic. I think if you write, you are a writer–unpublished or published. When I’m asked what I write, I say memoir and personal essays, because that’s what I’ve done. But now I’m working on something that as yet is not defined, so I say I’m not at a point where I can talk about it because I’m mulching.

    So don’t worry so much about what people think about your response. Your answer, “life” is perfect.

  7. @Ann; Thanks so much Ann for taking the time to write this post. Most of us have been in the same situation as you, I think. And it can be pretty difficult to explain one’s writing. At the moment, I mostly write children’s books, so luckily that’s pretty easy to explain:)

  8. Lovely post, Ann and Olive.
    You have a very warm voice,Ann, and your blogposts really show this off.
    You are a writer !!
    We are all trying our best, just need to keep plugging away.

  9. Great post, Ann! Thanks to Olive for having you here.

    ‘What do you write’ is such a hard thing to answer – especially to people who aren’t writers themselves. Putting yourself out there by telling people you’re a writer is a brave thing!

  10. Lua

    Hi Ann,
    Another ‘unpublished writer’ over here who calls herself a ‘writer’ :) (you know- until ‘that person’ sitting next to me at a dinner party asks me the name of my book and I start mumbling umm err aaa’)
    You have a lovely voice and I think your confidence will carry you through this road to publication. Good luck :)
    And thank you Olive for the wonderful guest post!

  11. @Ann @Olive @Theresa Really interesting post. Some people have a genuine interest in the “secret” life of writers, however people often criticise what they don’t understand or what they are afraid to do themselves, as Theresa said above. Asking what someone writes is like saying to a non-writer – Define yourself! Right here and right now! An impossible query to meet!

  12. Ann

    Thank you all for your lovely and supportive comments. I am making an effort to get over my reticence with the “W” word! Wine or no wine! Next time I get the glazed look, I will repeat my new mantra over and over to myself,”You’re just afraid.”

    Thank you Olive for inviting me to guest on your wonderful blog.

  13. Great post Ann and you echo what lots of us ‘writers’ feel. For what its worth I love reading your posts; as others have said they are warm, often funny and self deprecating. I wouldnt worry too much about putting yourself into a genre. If I am asked what I write I usually answer something like ‘I write all kinds of things, personal essays, articles and fiction’ and remember to hold eye contact as you say this! And the wine – yep can see how that can work!!

  14. Ann

    Great advice Barbara, I will practice the eye contact thing!

  15. Your answer is so pure. Writing about life is what we all do, though we define our genres to make them fit into a tidy box. Good for you for feeling empowered as a writer. More power to you!!!!

  16. I always say I write about the human condition. No one gets it.

  17. Hi Ann, nice to see you guest post at a friend’s blog – I did one for Niamh (who’s commented here!) last year and it was a different experience from writing on my own blog – you bring another perspective to the actual writing.
    I really enjoyed our lunch yesterday and hope we can do it again before you leave Ireland. It is very true that writing about life is what it’s all about – writing about what you know I suppose that sums it up. I like your writing style a lot, you have a very direct and honest approach and don’t force the writing, it seems to flow very naturally, whatever you are writing about. Memoir writing is the only kind of writing I covered in a writing course, and I still find it amazing that when you start reflecting on a theme so many memories flood in and you can actually recall so much to write down. So if that’s a genre to cover then so be it! See you back at your blog!
    all the best, Catherine.

  18. Hi Ann,

    I surely can identify with this post. I hold writers in such high esteem that it seems arrogant to call myself one. Funny how we let our minds play with our esteem. One reader with the power to buy can transform our self-image from unpublished to writer.

    Or maybe it’s just my mind that’s so cruel. ;)

  19. Al

    Thanks Olive and Ann,
    I entirely identify with your difficulty to pigeon hole you genre. I had (have) exactly the same problem.

  20. Ann, this is a great post. Excellent job!
    By the way, I love your style. Your posts are full of refined and beautiful words. Reading your posts is simply a delightful experience.


  21. I have the same problem as you. I like to write about a lot of different things and hate to get confined to one genre. But I understand that’s the way it works. Guess that’s what pen names are for.

    Tossing It Out

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