When I was a kid, one of my favorite authors was a woman named M.V. Carey. She was the only female writer on the list of professionals writing for the Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators series that I loved so much, and she inspired me more than any other writer at that point in my life. In fact, the pen name I have chosen for myself is sort of an homage to her.
I wrote her a letter once, asking her a lot of silly questions and giving her all kinds of suggestions for storylines that involved abusing my favorite character, Pete. And she actually answered my letter! I don’t remember the specifics of her response, but I remember that it was kind and gracious and oh-so-encouraging.
Fast forward nearly forty years. I am an author now. Not a hugely successful one by any means, but an author all the same. Over the years, I’ve contacted other writers via email, and I still get that same fangirly rush when I hear back from them. I can hardly believe it when writers like Jasinda Wilder and Nancy Gideon take the time out of their busy schedules to answer questions and offer encouragement to a nobody like me!
Let me confess right here: I actually cried for a minute or two when Nancy Gideon started following me on Twitter.
Yes, I get emotional like that sometimes.
Basically, I’ve been spoiled. Up until recently, my interactions with other writers have been overwhelmingly positive. I’ve been proud to call myself a writer. It was a huge step for me to go from “I want to be a writer” or “I’m trying to be a writer” to “I am a writer.”
Right now, I’m not so proud of the writing community.
Maybe it’s because of the immediacy of the internet; maybe it’s because of the politically-correct positive-reinforcement brainwashing that has tried to convince us that we are all wonderful. Perhaps it’s because not all of us have examples like Carey, Wilder, and Gideon.
Whatever the reason, there are a lot of authors out there who need a visit from the Reality Fairy. They’re referred to as BBA’s, or Badly Behaving Authors, and they are an embarrassment to the rest of us. Upon getting a bad review, they whine, complain and cry about cyber bullying or harassment or the unfairness of life in general. They rage against reviewers and book bloggers with accusations and threats that are sometimes laughably over the top.
Like me, some authors are also bloggers. And in recent weeks, they’ve been coming out in droves to throw in their two cents’ worth in certain high-profile situations involving authors and reviewers, most notably the Kathleen Hale/Blythe Harris kerfuffle. Everyone’s got an opinion, no matter how ill-informed; everyone’s got to jump right up on that bandwagon.
Several book bloggers have joined forces this week in a blogging blackout. In other words, they are taking the week off from reviewing new books in their blogs. Bloggers all over the place are standing up to join forces or to criticize the effort.
My first impulse? Move over; make room for me on that bandwagon! Sure, I’ll take a week off to show solidarity.
But . . .
I’m not a book blogger. My joining them would be meaningless because I don’t use my blog to review books, and because I often go weeks without a new post anyway. Going a week without reviewing a new book in my blog is sort of the status quo.
The world isn’t exactly going to tremble in response to my saying that I want to be part of a blogging blackout. My joining in at this point would, in a sense, minimize the efforts of those who really do have a stake in this.
I don’t know what’s true and what’s been exaggerated out of proportion about BBA’s like Kathleen Hale or Maggie Spence.. But I do know that the authors I admire, the authors I respect, the authors who have inspired and encouraged me . . . well, they don’t answer their reviewers on Amazon. They don’t argue with book bloggers who don’t like their work. They don’t write tell-all articles for The Guardian about the time they stalked a reviewer. They don’t complain about being cyber-bullied or harassed.
They don’t show up in articles about Badly Behaving Authors.
They write. They write books, and they act with dignity in the face of the occasional bad review or criticism. They treat fans and detractors alike with equal grace and courtesy.
They act like grown-ups.
I’ve written two books, with a third one almost finished. They aren’t perfect; I still have a lot to learn. Of course, I want to “make it big” and be remembered as a great author! But if people are talking about me twenty years from now, or even fifty years from now, I want them to talk about my books, not my behavior. I want to be remembered because I made people laugh or cry with my words, not because I acted like an ass in response to criticism.
And since I just got my first 1-star review, I guess it’s time to find some Toblerone and go practice what I preach.