We hear all the time about the dumbing down of America. And that started decades ago. We’ve seen it progress in publishing through the years. When my first novel, By the Book, was published, the industry geared its books to an eighth-grade reading level.
Doesn’t that make your ears fly up.
But as time marches on, it gets worse. Now, publishing is geared to a sixth-grade level. Of course, I blame a lot of that on Vampire YA. LOL. I can pretty much blame that genre for the fall of Western Civilization if I put my mind to it!
Now even that has moved a bit aside for werewolves and zombies. Me thinks we might be going the wrong direction. 🙂
On the other hand, look at how many folks this Horror genre has gotten into the reading room. And that always makes me joyful. I don’t care what you’re reading, but only that you’re doing so! The back of the Wheaties’ box is better than nothing (and of course, what I’m prone to doing if no other reading material is sitting around at breakfast.
Because the more you read, the more you want to. And, the higher your level of reading sophistication becomes. Kinda like lifting weights or any other endeavor. The more you flex a muscle, the bigger and stronger it grows.
But I don’t hear from folks reading at the lower levels much. I know they’re out there reading (I can tell by the Bestseller’s List! LOL). And again, I’m glad for it. The folks I hear from however, have been reading for a long time to a lifetime, and can read on as sophisticated a level as anyone can bring.
I’ve had editors in the past say that my fiction was “above the heads of most readers.” Or that “Readers don’t want to commit as much effort as your writing requires.” Or my favorite, about Five Keys for Understanding Men, “You have to dumb this down so the average person can understand it.”
These are actual quotes 🙂
And while I believe into my soul that an author’s first priority is to entertain (none of those editors said the books didn’t regale them!), I don’t believe readers, especially my readers, are stupid or ignorant.
Because they express to me huge ideas, concepts, and understandings every single day. I’m constantly blown away by the scope and breadth and depth of my readers. These are sophisticated folks indeed!
And I’m honored that people glean any good thing from my work. Most folks are way ahead of me. I’m just good at expressing these things on paper, like some folks are good at brain surgery or making banana splits.
Many authors tweak me too, and I love not only being treated by them to other characters and worlds, but also by learning something from their works as well. As Socrates said, “Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings, so that you shall gain easily what others have labored hard for.”
And isn’t that just the point? We learn from one another. And what a great deal to be able to do that while being entertained!
So, dear readers, I believe in you. I have faith in you. One thing I know for true—you rock! I’m just so grateful to know and meet folks who read.
What have you learned from a great book lately?
Award-winning writer and editor Susan Mary Malone is the author of the novels, "I Just Came Here to Dance" and "By the Book," as well as four co-authored nonfiction books, including "What’s Wrong with My Family?" and many published short stories. Forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to traditional publishers.