I just sent out a massive (belated) thank you email to everyone who donated for Sophie's fundraiser (dear GOD I hope I didn't miss anyone). There's a thing I was thinking about that I didn't mention in the letter because a good half of those people have no idea who I am and I didn't want to get too personal. My blog, though? My blog's good for that.
You know, everything I had to say was too long for a tweet so I wasn't going to step in it at all, but what the hell. It's my blog and I'll say what I want to.
I think the only thing rivaling my severe lack of faith in humanity after hearing about the recent terrorist attacks and shootings is the attitude regarding one woman's death at the same time.Read more
Fellow writer and friend Jaime Saare alerted me to an awful review she found on GoodReads...not a review of our books, not a review of books by a friend, but of a popular genre author. Jaime has some great thoughts about it posted here. Neither of us are going to point anyone to such a review, but we stumbled upon it in a writer/reader community.
In essence, it started as a negative review--which is FINE, as people are entitled to their opinions--in which the reviewer made her "point" by criticizing the author's appearance. This point was...that "ugly" (according to her) people write bad books, I guess? And from there more and more commenters piled on, mocking and criticizing the writer not for the book she wrote but for what she looks like.
This may come to an utter shock, but writers are people too. The have *gasp* feelings. They are trying to go to work every day, take care of their families, and make a living while trying to deal with as little bullshit as possible.
You don't have to like every book. You don't have to like the author as a person. But for Christ's sake, making fun of her appearance? WTH?
It's a publicly available picture! I can say what I want!
Yes, you *can* say what you want. Doesn't mean you should. If you insist on spending your time and energy tearing someone down for how they look, I absolutely do think you should keep that shit to yourself. Or, actually, share it with your therapist because you obvious need serious help. I hope you're not raising children.
An author doesn't put her photo on the internet to be made fun of; an author puts her photo on her site...well, there could be any number of reasons. I'm relatively certain none of them include, "So cockbite whores on the internet with nothing better to do can make fun of them after not liking their book." (Wondering if some authors do it to humanize themselves? To show there's a real person behind the name? Yeah, I guess THAT didn't work...)
I suppose it's naive to think people ever grow up. That they ever leave high school. In all of us there's that insecure teen who was picked on and just jumps at the chance to attack another person. To spread the hurt. To be a bully.
Here's the thing: You can't judge the content of a person's character by how she looks. Or by the fiction she writes, what her characters do, etc.
But you CAN judge a person on how she treats fellow human beings. And anyone who thinks it's acceptable to use a review platform to gang up on a woman and make fun of her appearance is a fucking waste of space, and I hope such people get leprosy.
A few people mentioned on my Twitter feed today disliking the backlash against NaNoWriMo. The article in question raised some excellent points that I've thought about as well--such as the push towards selling to writers instead of readers, and how we should be celebrating readers since they're the reason we can pay the bills and all--but it was wrapped in something that seemed to irk a lot of people. Apparently my F-list at least didn't appreciate their process being criticized, and their sentiment was "who the hell cares if people enjoy NaNo?"
I've talked about advice before when it comes to writing and how to deal with it when everyone contradicts one another. And I'm going to speak about advice again:
Do whatever the fuck you want.
Seriously. And I'm going to take a page from Michelle on this one (because I've already mentioned the parallels to be drawn between becoming a competent eater and using the same skills as a writer). This is the only advice I, or anyone else, is qualified to give writers with regards to their process.
Write words. Ones you like. As many as you want, whenever you want.
NaNo is a great time for writers to come together and just enjoy writing. It's a great way to get in the habit of writing daily. It's a great way to encourage students to jump into the fray and promote literacy.
Yes, it's stupid to submit a NaNo book that hasn't been edited. But you know, stupid people are going to do stupid things regardless of whether or not there's a month dedicated to novel writing--I know this because I work in slush. Yes, people who aren't writers and are never going to be writers are going to try to write a novel during NaNo and it will probably be an unholy travesty that should never see the light of day else it causes the universe to implode. THAT'S OKAY.
What I like about NaNo is that it, IMO, separates writing from publishing. Because those two things ARE separate. Not every book anyone writes, regardless of the month they write it in, should or will be published, even among professional writers. And you know what? Being a writer doesn't mean you have some universal obligation to ever seek publication for your work. I have a few finished NaNo books that were a total blast to write that likely will never be published, but I don't care because they were fun for me. Sometimes, some people *do* need time to celebrate the act of writing and not think about publishing it, not think about who is going to read it.
And other people don't or else they don't want to in November. And...that's cool too. It's okay if the quick bursts of writing aren't your thing. It's okay if you like to go back and revise as you write instead of spitting out a really rough first draft in two weeks.
When it comes to structure, pacing, characters, plot, dialogue--those are all areas where it's good to listen to people to improve your work. And publishing, well, obviously, "Do whatever the fuck you want" isn't going to yield positive results 99% of the time.
But when it comes to process, no one can tell you what is going to work for you. Find out how other writers do it, try everything on for size if you're just starting out, be prepared for your habits to change over the years, but at the end of the day, your process is YOURS and yours alone. Writers, don't ever let anyone make you feel bad if you find a way of producing work that makes you happy and leads to better writing.
So there you have it, chickadees. NaNo if you like. Don't NaNo if you like. Do the hokey pokey for all I care. Don't feel ashamed if other people are telling you you're doing it wrong--as long as you're writing consistently and enjoying yourself, it's all good. Find what works for you, do it, and tell everyone else to fuck off.
With all the life spring cleaning I've been doing lately, I've been paying close attention to things that cause me a lot of anxiety...and also noticing some patterns emerge. In particular, surrounding permission.
I've only had three sessions with my nutritionist so far, and one of the things I'm working on is giving myself permission before every meal to a) eat, and b) eat as much as I want. There are a variety of reasons for this, but they all come back to learning to become a competent eater.
But this permission concept has been popping up a lot lately for me--enough so that I've taken notice and really thought about it. A few months ago I was upset about some plans going awry, and in complaining to a friend about why it had me freaking out so badly, I explained certain issues and then said, "And now I'm going to have to explain to all these people why I won't fly." And she said simply, "No, you don't. That's no one's business but yours. You say you don't want to fly; that's all they need to know."
Similarly, a few months ago I made the choice to no longer participate in something, and I was stressing about having to explain the plethora of reasons for my decision (some of which weren't going to win me popularity points). Same friend reminded me that no, I didn't have to. Saying "no" is enough.
Intellectually, I know these things. I know I have choice. I know I have options. I know obligations are a pressure I put on myself and I *can* say no.
So why is it so difficult sometimes?
You know, I'm not sure. But I do know that right now, I need to give myself permission for things. To eat the foods I want to eat and--equally important--not eat the foods I don't want to eat. (I'm a notoriously picky eater and it causes me a lot of anxiety to feel pressured to eat things outside of my comfort zones.) Permission not justify or explain myself to people when it isn't actually important for them to know something that's only relevant to me.
And I'm carrying it into writing as well. I've written next to nothing since February and I was beating myself up about it. I wanted X done in a month, Y well underway, Z chapters written and posted for readers. But being under that pressure wasn't helping me--it was sucking the joy out of everything I was doing.
So I have permission to never publish another word if I don't want to. I have permission to take as much time as I need to recharge my batteries. I'm not obligated to share my work with friends who don't enjoy or appreciate it. And while I don't like that CotA readers have no new chapter on the horizons for yet another month, feeling bad about it wasn't getting those chapters written either, so I have permission to relax and take a break.
In short, I have permission to be happy, and if I'm not, I can actively make choices that *will* make me happy. Sometimes taking the pressure off myself opens things up (in fact, once I tell myself I don't have to eat something I don't want to eat, I'm more willing to try it). Sometimes not. But here's me having the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.
A few weeks ago we hired a company minion...eer "Executive Assistant" (but her business cards say Professional Minion). She's the official assistant for me, my boss, and the art director, and her sole job is to answer questions and help get problems resolved.
She doesn't create policies. She doesn't run things. She filters hundreds of emails that come in and tracks replies to facilitate communication and expedite responses.
In short, she's everyone's friend. So why in the hell have many people been so rude to her?
(Isn't she sweet and adorable? Don't you just want to be super nice and friendly with her?)
I used to work at a convenience store as a clerk. And I had lots of people (customers and some delivery men) yell at me. They didn't like the prices, we didn't stock an item they wanted, my boss had a quarrel with a supplier and I got caught in the middle, the Bingo prize was a free ticket and not cash the winner wanted. All these problems and people flipped out on ME.
Well, I would shrug and say, "I just work here."
I don't know why anyone needs to get short with someone who is not a manager, who doesn't control anything, and who doesn't make policies. Look, I know I have the reputation as a bitch (which Jaime doesn't agree with, so clearly she is insanely awesome...or awesomely insane). I'm really not; only the stupid, rude, or incompetent incur my wrath. You know who I never yell at? Wait staff, secretaries, customer service people, etc. Awhile ago iTunes fucking pissed me off because I wanted ONE app for my iPod to help with work stuff and they wouldn't take PayPal or a gift card (and I don't have a credit card). When I wrote in to complain about their stupid policy, do you think I screamed at the poor girl who answered my complaint? Fuck no. She doesn't run iTunes Canada; she just works there. I was polite and thanked her for her help. Because that's how you treat another human being who is just doing her job.
And you know, my experience has been that pissy/demanding (and worse) emails don't get answered any faster than the nice ones. Why? For me, pissy ones take a long time to respond to because my first instinct is "Fight! Kill! Go for the throat!" when set off, so I usually have to set those emails aside for several hours until I calm down (else I wouldn't have the reputation as a bitch--I'd have the reputation as a psycho). And while the minion is nicer than I am, she won't be for long if she has to keep dealing with irate people who are far more short with her than they would *ever* be with me (and I'd deserve it more than her).
I guess what it comes down to is that I don't understand the need for bullying behaviour in adults. I don't understand the lack of politeness. While I don't take bullshit from people, that isn't the same as not having common decency. I realize we believe that douche bag attitudes sprang up with the invention of the internet, but my mum worked in customer service for thirty years and people were fucking rude back then too.
Now, this isn't to say that everyone has been rude with the assistant. Many, many have been pleasant and polite, and I have no wish to paint everyone with the same brush stroke. But I'm noticing a trend of, "You're available and I'm mad about something, so I'm going to take it out on you and/or send you six emails a day complaining about something that's out of your control."
That's not cool. That's childish.
We all get frustrated and annoyed. But of the myriad of ways of dealing with it and expressing oneself, there's no need to take it out on one's children, pets, or people just doing their goddamn jobs. So no matter where you are or what you're doing, think twice before you go off on someone in a lower level position who has nothing to do with whatever is pissing you off. Because that person just works there and doesn't deserve the abuse.
There's a pause button on life, right? Something I can press to just let me get caught up? How about "restart level"? That would be handy.
I think I play too many video games.
Last weekend was the slush pile survivor workshop, which I ran with a fellow editor. It was lots of fun and we got great feedback. Of course, that also meant we were busy prepping from mid last week straight until the day of the workshop. Then I got a headache Saturday night, which continued until yesterday (at which point I realized it was coffee withdrawal, and promptly pumped caffeine into my veins), so I spent Sunday in bed reading.
I had 330 emails to deal with Monday morning.
A bunch of them, as I scroll through, are from the same people asking the same questions because I haven't answered yet. I'm totally stuck with how to address this kind of thing. Am I supposed to have an auto-responder saying "I swear I got your email--just give me a few days to get you an answer"? Am I supposed to email everyone I know every time there's life stuff going on/illness/etc to say "If you send me something, I won't get back to you until next week"? Should I add a block to my blog that has a current Skyla update?
I have no answers, beyond "get a secretary" but that's not an option at this point. But stupid February was all sneaky again and ended without me finishing the stuff I had to get done for February. I don't even have the latest CotA chapter ready to go, so that'll likely have to wait until the end of the week. Ugh.
Now. Round up of links.
* Adrienne Jones talks about the inspiration behind her novel The Hoax. Mundania is re-releasing it shortly, revised and with a snazzy new cover. I'll tell you when it's available so that you can buy it because Adrienne is awesome.
* Mundania is closed to submissions still. Normally we re-open in March, but there's just too much going on right now and it wouldn't be fair to hold subs for a few months before we have time to evaluate them. This time, we're waiting until June. And yet I'm still getting subs and questions from people about it. Writers, it should go without saying, but: when the info on the submissions page of a publisher's site contradicts sub info from another website, go with what the submissions page says.
Many authors feel differently than me and Jaime, and a host of others. Now, although I think writers should have a united front on this, I don't feel it's my place to tell others how to feel about their work being stolen.
Do you get that? It's not my place to tell others how to feel.
Some don't see piracy as a big deal. Maybe they don't have to rely on their writing income for bills (my royalties this month can cover groceries so I'm THRILLED) and they're happy just to be read. Maybe they see no problem with the work being shared around freely and they feel that a reader gained is a reader gained, even if it happens illegally.
Okay. Great. That's valid and fine for them. But that's the beauty of intellectual property rights: the creator can choose how and when the work is reproduced. The creator can say, "Sure--pirate away!" So while I won't tell others how *they* should feel about their work being freely shared, by the same token I'd prefer if they didn't tell Jaime and me how to feel either. You know what? If someone obtains my work via illegal mass downloads, I don't see the simple "oh well, I gained a reader--who cares if they didn't pay for my product?" view. Writing is part of my job. I'm well within my legal--and moral--rights to expect payment for the entertainment I provide. So if someone refuses to obtain my work legally, I don't *want* them as a reader. I don't want them as a fan. I'd rather not be read than have my work pirated. And I have every right to feel that way and express my opinion--without others trying to silence me--as the owner of the intellectual property rights of my work. So for those who would like to tell me and Jaime how to feel about piracy, you can go fuck yourself with a fucking loaf of bread.
"It's not easy breaking out of your comfort zone. People will tear you down, tell you you shouldn't have bothered in the first place, but let me tell you something. There's not much of a difference between a stadium full of cheering fans and an angry crowd screaming abuse at you. They're both just making a lot of noise. How you take it is up to you. Convince yourself they're cheering for you. You do that, and someday, they will."
~Sue Sylvester, Glee ep 4.
I want to be Sue when I grow up.
I was going to pontificate further, but you know, I'm going to go sit in a hot bubble bath instead, breathe in some lemongrass oil, and pretend I'm going to have an epiphany when in reality I'm just going to stress and think myself in circles.
I gotta get blogging more. I'm just really lazy and typically post links on Twitter to whatever I'm interested in, rather than do a proper blog post. But anyways, I'm going to try to do a round up post on Sundays of nifty, random stuff.
In Skyla News, I was on limited office hours this week due to really bad wrist pain, which flares up if I don't take enough breaks for several weeks. So...ouch. And in writing news, I've been suffering a whiny case of, "Writing is hard--waaaaah!" so I've pretty much kept to myself. I don't understand why staring blankly at the screen doesn't make words appear...
* I wrote on the MP blog about my author checklist. This is something I've heard a LOT of editors talk about--what type of writers do they want to work with...and who do they REALLY not want around? I came up with nine qualities I've encountered that make me twitchy. I also encourage writers to come up with their checklist for publishers. I think we all have to be clear about what our expectations are for one another to make the best match possible, because really, that's how a book is going to be successful--when both parties are on the same page. I expect someone's going to get bent out of shape over it but, you know, someone's gotta say these things.