Hit or Miss — A reader’s perspective of authors’ messages by Erin Saluta

Hit or Miss–A reader’s perspective of authors’ messages
by Erin Saluta

I always tell people that my favorite food is anything I don’t have to cook myself. Going out to eat is always a fun experience because I’m not the one in the kitchen, but it can also be a scary one. Scary because I’m a vegetarian. So, when potatoes are prepared with chicken broth or the beans are cooked with ham or the chips are cooked in animal fat, it sometimes creates more time in the bathroom than I really like to spend.

So what does my dietary preference have to do with books and being a reader? Well when I go out to eat with new friends or acquaintances, I am often asked about my journey into vegetarianism, and that is all about a book.

In college, I took the best history course of my life. I was never very good at cracking open those enormous tomes of history throughout high school and, for me, history was always the boring class. That changed with this one college course (kudos to great teachers everywhere!!) because the instructor assigned seven novels that depicted American history through fictional characters living in that time by writers who were capturing their current history with their words.

Through exceptional time oriented pieces such as The Jungle by Upton Sinclair my view of history changed forever. As did my dietary preferences.

Since that moment, I can’t tell you how many individuals want to debate that changes have come about in the food processing industry and how the conditions depicted in The Jungle no longer exist. I have no problem with people telling me that, but for me, a book made a difference in my life and I respect that.

Words are powerful, and they are capable of making changes. I mean wouldn’t it be the same as saying that since times have changed since I read Rubyfruit Jungle, should I still be a lesbian? Heck yeah!!

I’m not one of those people to say I’m better because I’m a vegetarian or because I’m a lesbian (though the latter- that’s a given!) but what I am saying is that words have and do have powerful impacts on each of us. And it’s still happening!

Recently I read Anyone But You by KG MacGregor. I enjoy her romances and her skill as a storyteller. She’s good, one of my favorites, and when I pick up one of her stories, I know I’m going to enjoy myself while turning the pages. However, it wasn’t very far into this story that I realized I was learning something, and more importantly, I wanted to do something!

I wanted to make an impact on the world I live in by volunteering for the fictional program of Clean Energy Action Network. When I closed the cover (yes I still read paper!) of this sweet romance, I realized that yet another story was talking to me. But then I started really thinking about this amazing genre of LesFic that I now frequent on an almost daily basis and wondered about other books that have inspired me. Inspired others.

First though, think about that word- inspire.

It has multiple meanings. One being to breathe in, inhale. Another to influence, move or guide. What books have you breathed in so fully, been consumed with so utterly that there was barely room in your mind for anything else? I know that happened with Catherine M. Wilson’s series When Women Were Warriors and more recently with Fletcher DeLancey’s The Caphenon.

While reading those and for weeks after all I wanted to do was talk about ideas and interactions uncovered in these works to anyone who would listen. They filled my page loving soul to the brink! What about the books that have influenced you, moved you, guided you to actually do something about it? Made a change?

I’m sure I’m supposed to say that all my reading selections have that purpose- they all inspire me, but I’m wondering about the misses. As Sinclair wrote about his novel: I aimed for the public’s heart, And…hit it in the stomach.

Yes, I was supposed to be inspired by the socialist outcry so prevalent in The Jungle, and I was, but I was hit big time in the stomach. A hit that caused me to change. I would venture to say, though not confirmed, that MacGregor was doing what she does best with Anyone But You– providing her readers with a well written story featuring dynamic characters who give readers a chance to escape for several hours of reading pleasure.

Was it a miss to hit my conscious instead of just my romance loving heart? Did she intend to write a story that made a reader want to reach out to her community and participate in change or was that a bonus hit?

How about Susan X Meagher, do you think she expected a reader to sign up for the AIDS LifeCycle after reading the first in her series, I Found My Heart in San Francisco thinking that sounds like a fun adventure!? And then sign up for the next three years?

Would Jean Stewart be pleased that a reader thought about adopting a LGBT youth, after reading Emerald City Blues? A thought reconfirmed in Annameekee Hesik’s Driving Lessons. Or are these all good misses to stories of our LGBT history?

As a reader I’m wondering what other readers have been hit with “misses” and how they embraced them. Has a book caused a change in your life? Have you been inspired beyond the pages to do something or change something? Have you ever let the author know what they did to change your life? Just one curious reader loving how dynamic our LesFic authors really are.



  1. I love books that inspire me to be a better person – through a character I can love, and grow with. I loved this blog – and now you have me thinking. Great job on that 🙂 I tried to show a different side of addiction in The Deadening – by different I mean a different perspective and that not all addicts are cardboard cutouts as the media will show you. I received a letter from a reader that thanked me – for not portraying Shade as a monster. Very thought provoking – and YES, I wanted to adopt a LGBT youth after reading Emerald City Blues!

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    • Yvonne that is so cool! How our society has progressed over the years I think addiction is more prevalent and a lot of times we don’t want to recognize it. I also think it extends beyond what, for lack of a better word, traditionally was thought of as addictive items such as drugs and alcohol. Thank you for creating a way for us readers to connect and find a safe space. I haven’t read The Deadening (yet?) as it seemed to be scary- I got scared in Ghostbusters to give you an idea of how much of a wuss I am- but I may have to turn on all the lights in the house for a couple of days (and nights) and read it.


  2. Erin, I can tell you the book, The Black Unicorn, by Audre Lorde, and even the poem, A Litany for Survival, that encouraged, and almost forced me to find my voice as a lesbian writer in the late 80’s. Heck, I can even tell you the lesfic romance novel that convinced me coming out was the right thing to do and that i WOULD find people like me, Daughters of a Coral Dawn, by Katherine V. Forrest. That book made me feel like I’d come home. Did they inspire me to be a better person? Hmmm, a more honest person yes, a more activist person definitely. A writer, most certainly and that is where I can do my best work and make the biggest difference, not just through fiction, but through the grants I write for non-profits and the educational materials I create. These and the hundreds of other books I have read have made me the person I have become. What an awesome blog to find on a monrning where the words are coming slowly! This has been a great booster shot! Thanks! Ona.

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    • Ona I had to look up Audre Lorde- thank you for sharing a new author with me! I haven’t explored the poetry genre much so this might be a good incentive. I have read Coral Dawn several times and each time I finish reading with such an empowered sense I completely understand how this could be the story that would be home. You are so on target with being more honest, at least in my opinion. And grant writing is no small feat! So thank you for all that you are doing!

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  3. What a great and pleasant surprise to see you here! I was laughing at your last – question – what book HASN’T changed my life? Books are my forever, steady-Freddy constant friends. Each one, good or bad, is an experience. The bad, as a writer, I try to learn from. The good I savor as I would a cuppa with a pal. Some are corner friends, the ones I don’t see for years and years, but that are always there, always in my corner rooting for me. Some are acquaintances I’ll soon forget, but that nonetheless briefly touched my life. If you were a book, Erin, you’d be on my top shelf. Hope to see more of you here. (And elsewhere – you write well.)

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    • Baxter you made me smile! Thank you! I know the idea of going to e-books is a great advancement in our time but I so love to be able to sit in front of my bookcase filled with all my treasures and run my hands over them. Pulling some out to read a passage or two or just knowing which one I need to read to change a mood or entertain me for a couple of hours. I like that- savor as I would a cuppa with a pal. No wonder I love your writing so much!!

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  4. Excellent post, Erin, and not just because you mentioned my book. 😉

    In thinking about books like The Jungle, we can either say, Well, I’m just one person and I can’t do anything about factory farming or the meat-packing industry. But then when you become a vegetarian you ARE doing something about it. You are doing the ONE thing that will put an end to the cruelty.

    I think we give too little credit to the importance of the choices we make as individuals, even the seemingly small ones. And that’s where fiction is so valuable. It opens our minds to possibility, to things we might never have thought about on our own, like adopting a LGBT young person. The most important and lasting change comes about because of small changes in individual lives.

    And an aside about history classes. I hated history class. It was all endless boring lists of kings and wars and laws. Then I met a history major who simply started telling me stories. In this case, stories that were historically true. And I was hooked!

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    • I so agree Catherine! Fiction has changed my life in multiple ways and it is one of the most valuable things that I am able to enjoy. It captures the feelings that are often missing in text books and makes possibilities real. Fiction may not be historically accurate at all times but it can definitely captures the heart in regards to a historical event.

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  5. So I drove all day today and was lucky enough to read this during one of my pit stops. Over the next few hours I tried to think of specific books that changed me and, as Baxter writes above, I concluded that most of the books I read affect me. It was really fun to think back through some of my favorites! Thank you for the thought-provoking blog.

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    • Ann even when I’ve closed the cover on some of my favorite books they continue to entertain me for hours afterward with the characters, scenes and ideas! I’m glad you enjoyed the blog!

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  6. Most of the time I just read for entertainment, but sometimes a book does have a message that will cause me to think and perhaps change something in my life. Interesting blog – thank you for sharing. I don’t eat red meat either for very similar reasons….

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    • Annette I love those moments when a book causing me to think or do something I was expecting to think or do! Thanks for the comment and for reading!

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    • Andi I’m so in awe of all the individuals like yourself who are able to put words together in such a way that create beautiful stories for me to enjoy. It is a gift to be blessed with!

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