Day 22 Lucy March – Celebrating Joy

Never Be Ashamed of What Makes You Happy…

We’ve all heard the stories. The people who hide a romance novel inside a Tolstoy dust jacket for the morning commute. The That Touch of Magic - Lucy Marchpeople who deride genre fiction despite the fact that they’ve only read maybe one or two, if any at all. The successful women’s fiction author who is asked at a party how it feels to write “trash.”

Let’s face it; while our culture has many wonderful things to offer, it froths above a seedy undercurrent of shame and judgment that gets attached to certain things. In the storytelling class I teach at Syracuse University, the topic eventually hits on the “low-brow” entertainment that seems so popular these days. My answer is the same two-part answer it always is: The only person who suffers from snobbery is the snob, and never be ashamed of anything that makes you happy.

My go-to example for the first part of that answer is my own experience. When I was fresh out of film school, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a big hit, I had a good friend who insisted I watch it. “Oh, right,” I said. “Like I’m going to watch something called Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” It was a full seven years later, after the show had come to an end and all I was hearing from my writing friends was Buffy, Buffy, Buffy that I finally sat down to devour it, season by season, in a lost month of wild narrative abandon.

I was enthralled. Buffy was smart, and funny, and emotionally charged. It was important, and to this day, I have never taught a class without at least once using Buffy as an example of how to do something right, and I have never taught a class without telling my students that no one suffered from my snobbery but me.

The B-side of my two-part answer is even more important; never be ashamed of anything that makes you happy.

I know; sometimes it’s tough when you’re reading a terrific book, but all that shows to the world is the prodigious décolletage or man-titty on the cover, and you feel judged and shamed by anyone who can see you. So, you hide your mass-market inside a respectable hardcover, or you thank God for the Kindle that keeps your reading preferences private. That’s all well and good, but the problem isn’t that other people are judging you.

It’s that you are judging you. And that, my darling, we just can’t have.

The world is a crazy place, full of sleazy politicians and injustice and heartbreak and bad weather. It’s also a wonderful place, full of ice cream and late-night giggles and great sex and polka dots. Anything that adds to the wonder, that makes you happy inside, is a good thing. So I don’t care what it is that you love – Real Housewives or pop music from the 80s or, dare we say it out loud, romance novels – you should never hide from or apologize for your joy. It’s popular now to be a hipster douchebag about everything, to insist that everything is crap and nothing is worthy, but anything that generates happiness makes the world a better place, and should be celebrated.

So, today, your job is simply this: Go out into the world and proclaim your love for whatever you love, without shame and without apology. Let other people suffer from their fear of embracing what they love; do not share in their joyless fate. The world needs your happiness, so grab a great book and serve the world well.

Questions for the Author:

Describe the most daring, adventurous or inspiring thing you ever did.

I think the most daring thing I ever did was move to Alaska. It’s one of my favorite places on the planet, and I spent five wonderful years working in Anchorage, which I loved. The only reason I ever left was because it was so far away from everywhere else, but I absolutely loved the sun being up all day in the summers, and I loved going to work in the dark in the winters. I’ve always had a thing for variety, and Alaska scratched that itch in spades.

Tell us about your journey to becoming a writer. (How did you decide to get started? Did you always know or was there a specific moment when you knew?)

I’ve always been interested in storytelling, but I never thought I could make a living at it, so I didn’t pursue it. But when I quit my job to be home with my daughters, I decided I couldn’t lose anything by spending some time writing, so I joined up for Nanowrimo in November of 2002, and over those thirty days I wrote what would become my first novel, Time Off For Good Behavior. From there, I quickly got an agent and a publisher, and it’s been a wild ride ever since!

Tell us about The (or A) Book That Changed Your Life. (Why?)

Faking it, by Jenny Crusie. I read that after finishing writing my first book, but before I decided to try to get published. I loved that book so much that I decided I wanted to give it a try. Seven years later, in a bizarre twist of fate, Jenny became one of my closest friends, and I ended up moving with my two daughters into the attic apartment of Jenny’s incredible house on the Ohio river, where we had an amazing few years being housemates. I guess when things are meant to be, they’re meant to be!

Lucy is generously giving away two copies of THAT TOUCH OF MAGIC, which came out in February 2014. Domestic only, apologies to international readers. Entry below.


Lucy March is the pseudonym of NYT bestselling author Lani Diane Rich. She lives in Central New York with her husband and daughters, and teaches storytelling at Syracuse University. She also co-hosts the weekly storytelling podcast, StoryWonk Sunday, with her husband, Alastair Stephens.

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  • MK

    What a wonderful message- thank you!

  • Thank you for your words! Read-a-romance-month is superb for a lot of reasons, but also for reminding us that reading romances is worth and we must be proud of it, most of all because it makes us better people! 🙂

  • Emmel

    OK, now I want to take one of your courses. 🙂 What a marvelous essay. I am so using “the only person who suffers from snobbery is the snob”!

  • Wonderful words! Can’t believe romance readers must defend the genre and their choice of what they read especially in this age of zombies, vampires, and murder mysteries. It’s a crazy world.

  • mariannewestrich

    I’ve embraced my inner-nerd. I’m known as the word girl … because I read so much and because I’m the one they come to for help composing anything (letters, reports, etc.). I’ve never been happier or more secure in myself.

  • Erin F

    I love Lucy and Jenny’s books!!!!

    I totally get what you’re saying but I’m still a book hider…. not b/c I’m ashamed but b/c as an introvert I do *not* want to be asked about what I’m reading. Especially while I’m reading it. I didn’t use dust jackets but large post its to obscure covers and now it’s Kindle for the win 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  • Rochelle

    Great post and oh so true.

  • Martha B

    “It’s that you are judging you. And that, my darling, we just can’t have.”

    Oh, my. Those two sentences hit me between the eyes: I realized my own behaviors (hiding my paperbacks ‘under cover’ and using my Kindle because it won’t show the book I am reading). When someone asks – “What are you reading?” I hesitate and then give the name of the latest Baldacci book I read. I censor myself. Yikes! After reading this blog (and the essays from previous authors,) I will honestly answer that question without judgment. Thank you.

  • cheryl c.

    I have yet to read one of your books, but I very much like the sound of your latest book. Romance mixed with “a touch of magic” sounds delightful!

  • LisaVH

    Romance definitely makes me happy. You are a new name to me, but I am definitely interested in “That Touch of Magic”

  • Patty Vasquez

    I love the message of your essay! When I turned 50, a fellow teacher, already past the magic number, told me I no longer had to apologize or worry about eccentric behavior. Go forth and be who you are was her message, too. I have tried to be faithful to her wise counsel. But your closing sentence sums it up best: “The world needs your happiness, so grab a great book and serve the world well.” I’m a huge fan of Jennifer Crusie, too. I think I’ve read Faking It at least 3 times. Just thinking about Tilda and Davy makes me smile. 🙂

  • Carrie

    What a wonderful essay; tere are so many messages to take away from what you stated. Romance novels make me happy, and there really should be no shame in that.

  • Wendi Rogers

    Don’ hide your joy. What a great message.

  • Lucy March

    Thank you, everyone! I’m glad the message was good for some of you, but those who hide because it’s no one’s business and you wouldn’t want other people asking even if you were reading Tolstoy… you get a pass. What matters is the why. As long as you’re not ashamed of what you love, we’re good. 😉

    • Thanks so much, Lucy! I love your post. I’m definitely not ashamed of romance. ;o) Thanks for taking part again. I always love what you have to say on this subject. xoxo

  • Tammy H

    Very true! I love my romance novels. I’ll take them over “meaningful” books any day.

  • Quinn Fforde

    Great post! I’ve had to learn the snob lesson a time or two myself. Faking It is one of my favorites! She weaves that theme in everywhere!

  • Sharlene Wegner

    I have read a few Jennifer Crusie books. They have the just right amount of humor, mystery & romance. How interesting that you connected!

  • Sue G.

    I love my romances. Once in a while the hubby will poke fun at me reading (ok devouring) my romances, but I don’t care! I enjoy them and that is all that matters! 🙂

  • donnas

    Great advice. It can be hard to accept but you are right.

  • Joan Varner

    Thank you for your encouragement for readers to declare the love of reading romance novels. You are right.

  • Gretchen Miller

    nope not ashamed of reading it.

  • Pamby50

    I stopped a long time ago. I love to read romance & don’t care who knows it. Wow, you got to live with Jennifer Crusie. I enjoy reading her also. I’ve never been to Alaska but I remember reading that watching the sun set was like a big rubber ball bouncing the sun back up in the sky.

  • Debbie Oxier

    Haven’t read your work yet. Thanks for sharing.

  • Eileen Aberman-Wells

    Loved the post!!! I’m late getting caught up on these posts. I was the one introducing all my friends to romance books, so I was never ashamed. I love reading!!! BTW, I’ve missed reading your posts on reinventing fabulous.

  • Courtney Cogswell

    I am a HUGE Buffy fan 🙂 Before the DVD box sets were available, I painstakingly recorded each episode on VHS and would watch and rewatch them. I’ve always had a lot of guilty pleasure from music to tv to movies to books and somewhere along the way I grew up and became a lot more open and proud of my pleasures. Romance novels have always been a source of joy for me and I feel sorry for all of the haters out there that feel the need to limit themselves with their snobbery 🙂 Great post and I’ve only read a few of your books, but the rest are heading to my to be read list!

  • rebecca moe

    I felt exactly the same way about Buffy, to my shame! My only consolation was being able to binge watch it as fast as I could get my hands on the episodes once I did watch the first episode and got hooked–no waiting seven days or (horror!) an entire season break between shows for me!

    Thanks for posting 🙂

  • Sheila M

    I feel the same way. Who appointed these people are arbiters of what we are allowed to read, watch and enjoy?

  • M Kuxhaus

    The reasons you loved AK are the exact reasons why I would never want to live there! I need sunshine for my peace of mind. 🙂

  • Toni Linenberger

    A good reminder.

  • Glenda

    Thanks for a great post! Too many of us spend way to much time worried about what other people think. Yes, I’m guilty of it as well. Maybe if we weren’t so judgmental. . .

  • Stephanie M.

    I loved your post and will add you to my TBR list. Okay, so I bought nice covers from B&N to help keep my book whole during my commute and taking it in and out of my bag. Yes, they conveniently cover the hot man on the cover. I’m not ashamed of reading the book, just want the hot cover to keep safe and for my eyes only. 😉

  • Laurie W G

    My S-I-L’s sister lives in Anchorage and she loves it there. (5 years) I hope to visit Denali National Park, Anchorage and Juneau too.

  • Meredith Richeson Hillenbrand

    I admit that I don’t really talk about the different books that I read ordinarily. I have mentioned to people that I love SciFi and attend superhero movies with my adult son because we enjoy them, and have felt judged. Usually, I just mention I am eclectic in my enjoyment of books which includes all kinds, such as romance, mysteries, scifi, etc. I’m not really ashamed, just frustrated. I really like what you wrote. Thanks.