At AWP, I went to a panel that spoke about how writers used pop culture in their published work. They’d write as if they were the characters themselves or at least in that fictional universe.
Some were fun and silly, but it was also a way for them to develop and understand their feelings towards trauma. They could take themselves out of the picture and into a new world while still exploring that same painful topic.
My first reaction was questioning the legal rights of it. How can I publish poems set in the Marvel Universe without Disney asking for their commission? But one of them, who writes poems using Star Wars references, mentioned that, “Disney does not own the name Ben.” She also didn’t write “lightsabers” but instead would describe something similar.
One of the panelists was also a college professor. She was the only teacher in her department who taught works from living writers. She said that she thinks it’s important to understand the world around us.
She also wanted to let her students find the reason they love writing again. She gave an assignment of writing 250 words about something they love. They could revise it later, so it didn’t have to be perfect. They just had to write something about whatever they loved whether it involved watching TV, listening to music, etc.
She let them remember why they love writing. It wasn’t about writing essay after essay but rather writing what they like writing about.
They did mention the one major downfall of pop culture writing: no one can usually accept two pieces with the same pop culture reference. For example, a journal would have to pick one Shadowhunter poem per issue even though the three Shadowhunter poems they got were awesome.
Overall, I enjoyed hearing the poems and short stories they read to us. Sadly, I did not get their names written down. The names got mixed up after the original panelists didn’t come and others stepped up last minute.
What do you think about using pop culture in your writing? Leave a comment below!