Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Query Question: so why exactly do you want me to shut up?

In a recent post, you offered as an aside that a writer whose platform involved speaking out on the issues of the day might not be a good fit for you. Can you expand on why a polemicist or controversialist, however well known, might not be right for you, and why such a platform might be counterproductive in the realm of fiction writing. 

I make my living selling books to publishers and then helping authors have successful careers. By and large this means selling Many Many copies of this  book, then the next book, and so on. Rinse, remainder, repeat.

An author who is busy writing blog posts on why Felix Buttonweezer is a scamp are 1. alienating all Felix Buttonweezer fans; and 2. getting known as a Felix-basher, not novel writer.

I'm not saying don't do it, I'm saying do it in moderation. A blog that's all Felix, all the time isn't a blog that general readers are going to follow, or check in with to find out there's a new book coming.

What many writers realize only after the book is published is the author persona is an entity that may not be a clone of the writer.

May I use myself as an example here? I've been known to rant about certain political things once or twice. Most often it's in response to a query.

Sometimes I really bring out the big guns and start quoting Scripture.

Most of my blog readers are willing to let me do this because I don't do it often, and I'm generally not going to delete their comments if they disagree with me.

This blog is known for dispensing information, advice and rants to writers. That's my goal. The other blog posts are just cause I get riled up sometimes as we all do.

When  you're planning your social media, ask yourself what your goal is. Is it to make friends who will buy your book and support your career?  Is it to convert people to your political agenda, or show them the error of their ways in thinking differently than you do?

Those are mutually exclusive goals, and if you don't know it, I do. 


Today's blog post brought to you by The Tao and The Bard by Phillip dePoy.

The Tao Te Ching or Book of the Way of Virtue is a touchstone of Eastern philosophy and mysticism. It has been called the wisest book ever written, and its author, Lao Tzu, is known as the Great Archivist.

Shakespeare, the Bard, was the West’s greatest writer and even invented human nature, according to some.

The Tao and the Bard is the delightful conversation between these two unlikely spokesmen, who take part in a free exchange of views in its pages.


Kitty said...

While Janet says "do it in moderation," I say just don't do it at all. One of my dearest friends is a writer (who makes her living writing) whose political label is the opposite of mine. She's also a lapsed Catholic and I'm a practicing Catholic. We've been very good friends for many years because we do not discuss politics or religion. Instead, we respect each other's views on said topics.

I used to read another really good lit blog but quit when the blogger tip-toed into politics one day and all hell broke loose in the comments. She didn't say anything offensive, but it generated an ugly civil war amongst her readers. By the end of the day, she deleted the whole post and promised never to inject her personal political views again. I kept checking her blog periodically, but finally quit because that one incident had soured the blog, like a rotten apple in the bin.

When you speak out on "issues of the day" you could be offending potential readers. I used to read a popular mystery writer until he went public with his political views. Up to that point, I hadn't cared what his personal politics were.

Maybe you should write under a pseudonym.

Just Jan said...

Echoing Kitty's last sentence, can you get away with writing under a nom de plume (author persona) and carry out your political/religious/other polarizing agenda under your given name? Or is that just begging for trouble?

Unknown said...

Here's the cold, hard facts. There are going to be a great many people out there who don't believe as you do however you believe.

By an large, many creative people tend to be more liberal. Last night an author said someone said someone should be arrested for a comment they made which was offensive. The same person supports another person who once said the same thing except applied it to all people of another race and he's an elected official not an idiot reporter. I was going to point this out and thought it wasn't worth getting into a political debate.

Unless you're someone like Clint Eastwood or Adam Baldwin, you really can't afford to have an unpopular political opinion. Leave the politics to private discussions.

These days I just ramble around happily tweeting about writing contests and flowers and ignore agents who rant that people who think a cop involved in a shooting should be given a chance at a fair investigation before charging him with murder all look like "they just got out of a brawl in a recliner sale" to which another agent replies, "Well, you know, trailer park trash."

So, I sit here, trailer park trash that I am, and wonder how many agents look down their noses at someone who lives in a trailer and remind myself once again why it's important to watch what you say in social media. Of course, in this case, a great many people agreed with these two honyockers.

Then I think, well, I may be trailer park trash, but at least I'm not driving myself insane worrying I'm going to be homeless in the middle of winter like I was all last year. Then I mark two more agents off the list because I don't want them to soil their lily whites on trash like me.

Kitty said...

Julie, do you remember the 1985 book "The Beans of Egypt, Maine" by Carolyn Chute? I remember the the lit world made a big deal that Chute was dirt poor. According to Wiki, Chute is "an American writer and populist political activist strongly identified with the culture of poor, rural western Maine. Rod Dreher, writing in The American Conservative, has referred to Chute as "a Maine novelist and gun enthusiast who, along with her illiterate husband, lives an aggressively unorthodox life in the Yankee backwoods."

Colin Smith said...

Wow. What a topic for the day! Where to begin...?

Julie: It truly amazes me what people come out with on Twitter sometimes. I've "unfollowed" well-known writers not because I disagreed with their views, but because they expressed their views so disagreeably. I think among the creative community, because the majority seem to have left-leaning political and social views, there's a danger of assuming EVERYONE will agree with any left-sounding viewpoint, and worse, it's okay to disparage those who disagree with you because you know the majority of those in your community will agree with you. That's an AWFUL assumption. Dare I say, a REPREHENSIBLE assumption. Especially since left-leaning folks like to champion virtues such as inclusion and tolerance. Moderate- and right-leaning voices may be a minority in the creative world, but since when does that make them a target for offense? It's okay to disagree with a point of view, but keep your disagreement to the point of view, not the person expressing the point of view.

"Trailer park trash." Really? REALLY?

Sorry... okay I'm still in shock... I'm sure I'll have more to say, but let's give some others a chance. :)

Unknown said...

Kitty, I've never read it, nor am I familiar with her, but I will add her to my pile of books to buy. Good for her and boo on those people making stupid remarks.

Colin, I left one of those bastions for "tolerance and inclusion" years ago when I put up an avatar my son had sent me from basic. This was during the Iraq war. He joined the National Guard when he was 17 and a junior in high school. He planned to be career military. By joining the Guard, he could get two years of his first enlistment out before he graduated. So, between his junior and senior year, he went to basic training.

Once in a great while as a reward they got to email home. He sent me a picture of a soldier stooped down petting a kitten and it reminded me so much of him because he loved cats. I put it up as my avatar on this writer's forum.

The harpies descended. They accused me of being a war monger. There was a massive debate about it. One of the mods told me privately I needed to stop baiting C out and I was deliberately being combative. I said I didn't have a clue what he was talking about as I had put her on ignore six months ago.

I finally left the land of inclusion and tolerance I had been a member of for ten years as it apparently only applies if you are in lock step with the hive mind. I've returned, but by and large, I stick to writing and keep my head down about political discussions. Most of the harpies left because they got so radical they were driving away anyone who didn't agree with the pack and the mods finally started coming down on them.

LynnRodz said...

I just wanted to say (before running out the door) Janet, I love your third link. I know I'm repeating myself, but you have such a beautiful way with words.

Dena Pawling said...

I posted a semi-rant on my blog a few weeks ago. A San Francisco Public Defender was arrested while inside a courthouse discussing with her client his constitutional rights. Apparently there's a little-known San Francisco law that says attorneys can't do that if it will annoy a police officer who wants to take photos of said client. This rant is relevant to my blog's topic, not entirely “random”, so I did it.

Julie, I also have removed agents from my “good fit” list because of something in their twitter feed. I have a very distinct and unpopular opinion regarding a certain issue which has always simmered below the surface of public discourse, but recent events have caused that issue to move to the forefront of political commentary. Said agents tweeted their opinions, which are mainstream and opposite of mine. It's not unexpected, because most people have that same opinion. But not only was said agents' opinion opposite of mine, they tweeted that people of my opinion [which is based on personal experience] are idiots. Unlike quite a few people on either side of the issue, I can see both sides [and both sides do have merit], altho that doesn't make me change my opinion one bit. I can handle it if people have honest opinions that are the opposite of mine, but I don't want to be associated with people who are so full of themselves and how they are RIGHT, who believe people who disagree with them are by definition idiots.

Susan Bonifant said...

Colin: Absolutely, positively. Everything you said.

Julie: I'm pretty sure your comment raised my blood pressure.

People can fall so deeply in love with being seen, and lose all awareness of how they are being viewed.

Julie: Yup. I will probably avoid my treadmill today.

Ardenwolfe said...

And there's another reason it's recommended not to write scathing reviews on your fellow writers' works.

Let your assistant deal with your twitter account. Or your spouse. Anyone but you.

Nothing worse than 'rage-posting' a topic on twitter. And then trying to remove it. Because of all the backlash and lost fans.

Hello? It's the Internet. Your stupidity is out there forever.

Just don't do it.

Colin Smith said...

OK, so for once in my life, I'll comment on the specific topic: how publicly vocal should an aspiring novelist be on potentially controversial issues?

Anyone who reads the About page on my blog 1) knows where I stand theologically, and 2) can probably assume most of the social and political positions I would take on given issues. If one were to go so far as to read my discussions on Scripture passages (of which there are an abundance on my blog, including all my Sunday School notes on Romans), one will probably achieve an even greater understanding of my worldview.

I don't present my faith as an argument. It's what I believe. I'm happy to discuss it with anyone, and I'll even discuss disagreements: you can tell me why you think I'm wrong, I'll defend myself and tell you why I think you're wrong, and you can defend yourself. And because I hold to certain theological convictions, I do believe you can be right or wrong on theological issues. In any rational discourse, that has to be assumed. Why hold to a position if you don't think you're right and those who disagree are wrong? Depending on how important the issue is, I might try to persuade you to my view, but if end up holding your ground, fair enough. Just because I think you're wrong, that doesn't mean I think you're stupid. I might think you need to study a topic more, or consider more deeply certain things, but I don't measure how much I like and/or respect a person by how much I agree with them. Case in point: Janet's third link. If you scroll down the comments, you'll see I disagreed with her exegesis and application of the passage. Yet here I am. And she didn't ban me for it.

[lots of things I could say... edit... save for your own blog, Colin!]

Yes, I could avoid discussing theology altogether on my blog, but I think a) that would be contrary to one of the fundamental articles of my faith (Luke 9:26; Matthew 28:19-20); b) it would be misleading to my blog readers who want to know me, since this is an important part of who I am (I have theology degrees, after all). So among all the music and writer stuff on my blog, I also post Sunday School Notes (primarily for those in my church who want to catch up on what we studied, but also for anyone who's curious), and I post Devotionals. I'll also occasionally post discussions of Christian theology, the purpose of which is to inform, to help people understand my faith.

So to the question, I don't think it's a question of whether to address controversial issues, it's how and why. If you feel a compelling need to sound out on a potentially controversial topic, fine. Just don't do it in the heat of the moment. Allow time for reflection. Read opposing viewpoints, and try to understand those who disagree. Try to put yourself in the shoes of those who disagree when you write. Think: am I addressing their objections? am I offending them such that they would never agree with me on principle, even if I have a convincing argument? And finally, how important is this topic to a) my blog; b) my career; c) my life? Is it worth making enemies over?

OK, I'm probably rambling so that's enough from me for now. :)

Jenz said...

Colin said: "So to the question, I don't think it's a question of whether to address controversial issues, it's how and why."

Yes, 100% agreed. It's entirely possible to present beliefs and opinions in a non-judgmental way. Though not everyone manages to achieve that.

Unknown said...

Here's what twitter is really good for. I was so disgusted with Far Rider two days ago I was ready to throw it in the trash. Don't pooh pooh that. I've done it before. Some children's and YA books are floating somewhere in the nethers and I had an agent for them.

Anyway, I was growling at myself and hating this story, so I went to twitter to putz around and see how Melissa was doing. She made it to the agent round in #Pitchmadness. Then I noticed I had a new follower. Ah, let's check it out. Hmmm. Interesting handle.

Oh ho, what an interesting face. I instantly see him in armor, cloak billowing behind him, striding down an arch-lined walkway with rosebushes growing in a courtyard. He's bareheaded and frowning. I wonder what his story is.

And that's when twitter is good for me. When it sends my mind whirling off in wild directions and away from something that gets me in trouble.

Colin Smith said...

Jenz: I would qualify "non-judgmental." I don't think we should make value judgments on PEOPLE based on our disagreements. But we can make value judgments on their ARGUMENTS. I've seen and heard very intelligent people I have a lot of respect say some really silly things in defense of positions that I agree with as well as positions I disagree with. I see nothing wrong with judging those arguments as "dumb" while holding great respect for the person making the argument. I know, under pressure, people can resort to saying anything just to have something to say, and when they're on their own they kick themselves saying, "Why did I say that? There are so many better arguments I could have used!" And sometimes smart people make silly arguments out of ignorance (which, by the way, is not an insulting term: it simply refers to a deficiency of knowledge in a particular area. I'm very ignorant about a great many things.). Again, they may have had a momentary lapse of judgment that led them to pronounce on a subject they ought to have kept quiet about due to lack of study. But that's part of what being human's all about. Brilliant people often say and do less-than-brilliant things. :)

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I try not to be terribly political or inflammatory, mostly because I don't care. I do have some Strong Opinions™ on hot button topics, to do with things like nukes, space exploration, and dogs.

Apparently, the most inflammatory thing I've ever written was on my dog blog. I had the gall to opine that I feel dogs in public, regardless of breed or size, should maintain a certain standard of decorum and, barring that, the owner should maintain a certain standard of control. I said this after an apparently demonically possessed chihuahua ran in the middle of the road, parallel to my Doberman and I, at the end of its flexi leash while barking/snarling/spitting (it was some legit "I need an old priest and a young priest" stuff there). If my Doberman was doing that, people would call the police. If a Chihuahua does it, it's permissible, if not necessarily acceptable. If my dog did it, people would call the police, but it's "okay" because it's a Chihuahua.

(Elka through this, bless her, listened to my "that's not your problem" cue and took her cheese cubes with dutiful focus as we sailed past.)

Anyway. The person who took exception tried her hand at trolling, but as it was not my first day on the Internet, it didn't matter and they gave up.

Unknown said...

Thank you, Colin, for putting yourself out there. As much as I hear where other perspectives are coming from, I agree with you, although not exclusively from the religion side.

I watched an excellent documentary a while ago about the evolution of gay rights my home city. One of women being interviewed talked about how much things had changed for her as a lesbian in the last 25 years, from going to the lesbian club to be around people who accepted you to how controversially people reacted to her tongue-in-cheek lesbian art in the 90s to now, having 20-year-olds tell her that "They're not called Gay Weddings anymore. They're just weddings." For her, evolving politics had an everyday impact on her life. Her T-shirt had a quote from the Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei: Everything is Art. Everything is Politics.

That kind of politics is very much a part of me, and I don't think I could keep it out of my writing if I tried. But I can always strive to do it with thoughtfulness and respect.

Unknown said...

I think that when you publicize your views on controversial topics (no matter how respectfully) you can't necessarily expect potential readers to react to those views reasonably. Using myself as an example: I recently finished a book by an author that I enjoyed. I wanted to read more and looked up the author. It turns out that he has said many things I dislike/find offensive. I doubt I will get around to reading the rest of his books. I recognize that this is probably unreasonable, and even unfair. My TBR list is about a mile long and new interesting stuff is released every month. I can afford to be unreasonable. It seems to me like putting these things out there is just giving potential readers possible reasons to NOT read your book - basically the opposite of what your online persona should be going for.

Unknown said...

I'm pretty rabid about some of my views, especially since Will went to Iraq.

Regardless, if you want to be a professional, you have to keep your mouth shut. I've learned this the hard way. It isn't easy.

I detest it. I despise listening people rant about the right wing religious nuts when I worked by butt off for 6 years to keep a prison ministry open for 2,000 students that was supported by myself and six other little housewives only after a Christian broadcast network shutdown the ministry.

We helped people learn to read, kept them from committing suicide, healed the rift with their families, re-established hope that they could have a life, and get into rehab programs. We did it out of our homes. We hand wrote letters, raised funds, searched for donated learning materials and bibles and to have someone turn up their noses at what we accomplished for six years pisses me off, but you shut your mouth and go on. I have to be content with a letter from a prisoner thanking me for sending a hand written letter to an 18-year-old boy who had been repeatedly gang raped, was depressed because they wouldn't let him go home Mom's funeral and had decided to hang himself that night when he got my letter that day and changed his mind. He was in prison on a pot charge. So, yes, this bitter bible clinging religious nut will keep on and ignore the crap. It isn't worth the debate.

Colin Smith said...

A: But isn't that always a risk we take when we dig into the lives of our favorite writers? How many college literary courses would survive if we didn't know anything about the life and times of the writers studied? Part of understanding the work is understanding the author. I like that authors talk about things that matter to them online. It helps me understand why certain issues come up in their fiction. Certainly, I may decide not to read them for that reason, but isn't that just one of many reasons we might decide not to read an author--and some of those other reasons may be equally, or more unreasonable! If I were to talk theology with H.G. Wells, we would have some very sharp disagreements. Yet I think there are some very bold and important moral insights in THE TIME MACHINE that have great theological bearing. The same could be said for George Orwell and 1984.

If I stopped reading fiction because the authors disagreed with me, or even said potentially offensive things regarding issues of fundamental importance to me, my bookshelves would be a lot emptier, as would my life. :)

Christina Seine said...

Julie, NO ONE is trash. Well, except maybe people who hurt animals and children. There is nothing wrong with living in a trailer, and anyone (including agents) who thinks worth is determined by where you live is beneath you.

This issue that Janet has addressed is something that I have thought a lot about. What happened to Orson Scott Card - although I do not agree with his opinions - is rather terrifying. I know people who have vehemently boycotted his book (Ender's Game) and the subsequent movie, to the point where someone reading the book was compelled to defend his decision. Now, karma is a bummer and maybe certain people just reap what they sow, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of genuine tolerance these days. As is, tolerance for people with differing opinions. I made a decision not keep my mouth shut publicly and only torture immediate friends and family with my opinions.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

In between jobs, haven't been able to read all the comments but I want to jump is because THIS IS SOMETHIMG I KNOW ABOUT.

Years ago I was into writing op-eds. I took the flavor of the week story, stirred in a different angle and almost every op-ed I sent out was accepted. My opinions got me published and filled my pockets with change and pissed off a lot of people. I didn’t care what anyone thought.
Actually that’s not quite true. My husband once asked me, “do you want to be that writer, the one everybody knows as being anti-everything?”
I did not.
After taking about ten years off my rant-raging to raise children I got back into writing calmer stuff.
Now that I write a column dealing with me, living in the age of perplexity, I am very careful to stress the humor and not the anger. I don’t have it in me to be a hard-ass anymore and I like the me I have become. I guess you could say I grew up.
That is not to say that anyone with strong opinions and the need to share them is immature, it’s just not me anymore. With all the crap that is going on in the world, and the lack of action in DC by both sides, I have been ‘want’ to step into the fray, but back off because I will alienate readers. I don’t need the validation blowing off steam provides, that’s what my husband is for.

Okay off to work again. Will read all the amazing comments later.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

I think what Janet is trying to say is that a FICTION writer is marketing their brand.

There is no place for opinons in marketing. The creative professional, thus fiction writer, is selling a product: their books.

Non-fiction and op-ed articls are good place for opinons. They have specific audiences and are supposed to make blood boil or sell baby products.

@Julie, please don't destroy your book. I love reading your stories, because of your voice. I've never exprienced anything you have, except training a few dogs. I'm allergic to horses. If you didn't make the 60 finalists out of the 915 entries in Pitchmadness doesn't mean your m/s is not worth my eyes. There is a space on my bookshelf waiting for Far Rider.

Years ago, I threw away in the city dump an entire box of handwritten manuscripts. When I dumped the box off the pick-up it opened and I hesitated. Like it had opened its mouth. "Save me," it said. I wish I had. Lost went gnarly sonnets, poems, an entire year's worth of travel sketches from my first year in Italy. I regret it and also think if I wanted to destroy it I should have burned it. There is the doubt that some unbeknownst character fished it out of the dump.

Andrea said...

One of my favourite authors is very vocal on political issues on Twitter and Facebook and I admire her for it. Her novels are quite outspoken and share her vision of equality, diversity, truth (if that word is a problem philosophically you could also call it honesty and integrity), and compassion. The fact that she strives for these things in her own life only proves her integrity, and makes me appreciate her writing even more. And those people who are put off her books because of the views she expresses wouldn't enjoy her books anyway.

I guess it also depends on the kind of novels you write. It doesn't make a lot of sense for a romance writer (for example) to write about politics, but it does if you're Ursula Le Guin (for example) and write about gender equality.

Unknown said...

"I am very careful to stress the humor and not the anger."

Carolynn, that's a great approach--especially in the context of a fiction writer's Twitter, Facebook & blog posts. I'll remember that.

Lizzie said...

Christina, I didn't know about the Orson Scott Card boycott. That relates to what I want to talk about: prejudice. A family member recently stopped buying a favorite crime series after discovering the author was gay.

According to the a lot of the logic here, I guess the author should have omitted mention of a domestic partner in a review or bio. I hope we all agree that catering to bigots is wrong.

By having any social media presence readers can obviously make judgment about you that have nothing to do with your beliefs – far from the balanced decisions suggested by Colin.

There are causes where we can split hairs and then there's human rights. I hope the tiptoers don't forget that.

Unknown said...


"If you didn't make the 60 finalists out of the 915 entries in Pitchmadness doesn't mean your m/s is not worth my eyes."

Oh, heaven forefend, that isn't why I'm disgusted with it. I've been fiddling with it. Yeah, I know, you shouldn't do that after you start submitting. However, one of the posse made a suggestion that made sense and it did open my eyes. It also added words. Then I entered some contests and mentors told me to get it down to 100,000 words or no one would look at it. Then readers said, "You know, this really reads like YA, have you thought about pitching it as YA?"

To which I replied, "Yeah, but at 150,000 words I doubt anyone will be interested in it as YA."

"Well, no. No one will be interested in a debut 150,000 word novel of any kind. You need to go through and cut out all that fluff."

Then another reader goes over it and says, "You write really lean, you need to add..."

And at that point my head explodes.

Unknown said...

Also, Julie: my mother spent a good part of her growing up years living in a trailer with her eight siblings and two parents. She's one of the most amazing people I know. I'm sorry you had to go through that but glad you're two fewer agents closer to finding The One.

ProfeJMarie (Janet Rundquist) said...

Word of the day from Julie Weathers: "honyockers"


Unknown said...


Yep, not all people in trailers are bad people.


Unknown said...


Honyockers is a great word, isn't it?


Colin Smith said...

Is that pronounced "hon-yockers" or "hony-ockers"?

(Yes, I know this is wildly off-topic, but I think I've said enough on-topic to get a break!)

Unknown said...

And now I have watched Melissa get a request from an agent and I am thrilled for her. It was fun watching agents jostling for manuscripts. I was honestly hoping for more trash talk like on The Voice.

But now, I must hie me back to a manuscript and dwell on a scene with a lovely male erotic dancer who's busy trying to seduce my dismayed lady army commander. It's a rough job, but someone has to do it.

Lisa Bodenheim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jed Cullan said...

I don't post any political or religious opinions. It's much easier that way. I just stick with totally weird random stuff.

Although I am thinking of posting about how oranges are evil and should be eradicated. Really can't stand those things. If I get voted into power, oranges will be banned, hunted down, and killed. And that's all oranges, even satsumas and tangerines.

Colin Smith said...

JED?! How could you! I LOVE oranges, satsumas, tangerines--all types! That does it! I'm going to have to go all huffy and not read your books and stuff and whatnot!! ;)

BTW, I just noticed Sarah LaPolla and and Victoria Marini Tweeted a link to this article. Other agents are reading this, folks. We need to behave. Perhaps they ignore the comments...? :)

Elissa M said...

My sister-in-law and her husband are extremely liberal. My brother-in-law and his wife are pretty far right. All of them think they're in the center, or just barely right or left.

And all of them are really terrific people.

I think writers should follow their hearts, and if espousing strong opinions is what their hearts tell them to do, they should do so. But they mustn't forget that some people won't appreciate those opinions, and they must be willing to accept the consequences.

Sometimes readers get mad not so much because a writer's opinions differ from theirs, but because the writer suddenly doesn't fit the image the reader created. The reader feels betrayed. In those cases, the writer who was always "out there" with their opinions and such is probably better off because everyone always "knew" who they were.

Jed Cullan said...

Colin, I could tell you some stories about oranges that'll blow your mind. They would make you believe the evil fruit should be expelled from Earth and shot into a black hole. Along with spiders and the bus driver who doesn't know how to read a timetable.

Unknown said...

Hon' yocker

ProfeJMarie (Janet Rundquist) said...

"BTW, I just noticed Sarah LaPolla and and Victoria Marini Tweeted a link to this article. Other agents are reading this, folks. We need to behave. Perhaps they ignore the comments...? :)"

I think, Colin, that you have adequately supported the original point of this post. Haha.

Unknown said...

I doubt they ignore the comments, but I'll stand by what I said. I maintain a professional attitude as much as possible considering I'm senile.

Amy Schaefer said...

I think much of the issue here is the concept of controversy. Surely we, the grown-ups of this world, should be capable of having a thoughtful discussion full of differing opinions on any given topic without it turning into a shrieking bout of name-calling. But instead people get emotional, things get ugly, and many people with something pertinent to say instead say nothing at all.

As to our hypothetical author who is Full of Opinions, Janet's advice of "know your goals" is to the point. I would add: "know the consequences." You have the choice to speak out on any topic you choose in any manner you choose. But if you dip your toes into the murky swamp of Controversy, you forfeit the right to be surprised if something bites your foot off.

So, by all means, speak out. Make a rational, well-reasoned argument on a subject you care about. Just make the risk/reward calculation first and decide whether the cost is worth it to you.

Craig F said...

Part of the joy of the interweb is that it doesn't matter who you are or what you say, someone is going to take exception to what you remarked. If they are even slightly infantile they will go to the social media and call you a troll. In the long run that makes them more of a troll than the first person. Then the circle grows and eventually you get to where we are now. Where everyone is apprehensive about posting thoughtful and well considered thoughts.

Colin Smith said...

Well said, Amy. Clearly the sunshine, palm trees, and Mai Tais by the ocean is good for the brain.

I propose a vacation for us all. :)

Susan Bonifant said...

At least we've left the subject of lima beans.

Karen McCoy said...

Late to this party (day job duties abound) but most everyone, including Colin, Amy and many others, are right on the money.

Sticking to books and writing does sound simplest. And in fiction, since we tell lies to tell the truth anyway, perhaps these controversial and complex issues can be expressed there, where the same impact can be felt by book readers.

Christina Seine said...

Colin, I don't think anyone could argue with that.

Amy Schaefer said...

There are Mai Tais here??? I think I have given you all a false impression - I can't even get lima beans in this place.

(aaaaaand they're back.)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Holy Moly I work a double and can only stop by for a minute this afternoon and tonight I come back to this...yee hah I missed a good one. I'd say a few of you Buttonweezers, 2Ts, 2Es, got a bit riled up.
That's what you 'git' for lovin' limas.

It's Amy's fault she brought the lima beans back first.

Unknown said...

I think Johnny Cash wrote a song about this some years back.

I have kind of an interesting posse of writers who try to get together at conferences and writer's retreats. We have a few conservatives, a few liberals and some moderates and I think Joanna Bourne just sits around, tapping her chin, pondering how to put her mc in a whore house, torturing her, and basically staying out of political discussions. Usually we avoid politics, but when we do have those discussions they stay pretty civil and intelligent.

Our last Myrtle Beach foray wound up at at Medieval Times, strictly for research, where we had front row seats. Everyone there was a romance writer except Beth Shope and I. So, here's this group of middle aged, mostly romance writers, and two epic fantasy writers who aren't adverse to romance and sex in epic fantasy, lustily cheering the knights on, except Beth who is very quiet and shy. She, of course, is the one who is given the rose by the knight.

After the show, I decided we should go track down the knights for some up close research and talk to them about their horses and hawks. Jo agrees. Beth gets the vapors and looks for a fainting couch.

We trap, I mean find, these lovely, quite handsome, young knights and surround them. One of them asks what we do and I say romance authors mostly except Beth and I who write epic fantasy. I point Beth out and say she's going to be a best selling author one day. Beth turns the same color as her red rose. Then I mention Jo is up for two RITA awards and what RITAs are.

They invite us to the stables. We are thrilled they have agreed to give us a personal tour. Jo asks some interesting, intelligent questions. She and Beth are always the adults. Beth discusses horses, she's a horse lover. One in the group had been drinking. We shant discuss what she's talking about, but she's a romance writer, so it's all research and her young knight is amused.

We've been friends for over 20 years. We know we all have wildly different views on things. We just all respect each other as people, friends and professionals and that's how it should be.

That's how you know you have true friends. They'll help you trap a herd of knights.

Calorie Bombshell said...

Speaking of those controversial legumes, I used to swallow them whole in order to satisfy my mother's twisted obsession with spotless dinner plates. Those puppies would catch right at the base of my throat and linger - adhering themselves like chalky barnacles - until I chased them down with skim milk my mother made from a powder mix and lukewarm tap water. I didn't realize milk wasn't supposed to have a frothy head until well into my twenties.

Now, getting back to the subject at hand, I don't mind writers expressing their views, etc., as long as it doesn't relate to lima beans or bleu cheese. If they as much as tweet about either one, they're dead to me!

Colin Smith said...

Awww not bleu cheese too! I love bleu cheese. I suppose you all eat meat... ;)

Sam Hawke said...

I think the hardest thing to balance is avoiding being inflammatory while also avoiding being so sanitised that you're boring. There are some writers who have made a decision to never offend anyone - which is totally fine - but it's left their social media presence so bland it's not really worth reading. You engage with writers on social media so that you can feel a connection, a relationship (of sorts). If every post and word is measured so as not to offend any potential reader, you may end up demonstrating no personality.

Finding the right balance can be tough, I think. As many of you have said, it's as much about HOW you present your opinions, and how often, as it is about the content of the opinion.

In my opinion. :)

Sam Hawke said...

Oh, and I meant to say the other day - my sister (who shared the dreary and frustrating experience of shelling and being forced to eat our horrid broad beans as children) tells me she ate lima beans when she was in the States and they were delicious, and not at all like our broad beans.

So the mystery continues.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Blue cheese on a burger, heaven.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Julie: Love, love, love your story about the posse of ladies/writers and the herd of knights! Made my morning (on the day after.)

2Ns: I'm with you. Sorry Colin. Bleu cheese on a burger. yum.

This post? I deal with issues of white privilege and racism at my church and then I chose to sit on a task team that deals with the same issues for our larger regional church judicatory. There are days when it's stimulating and intoxicating and all that is good. Then, there are those days (like yesterday) when my head explodes because of a deadline crunch or a misstep due to a cultural misunderstanding. And face-to-face relationships with real live people who care about me, who I care about. There's a lot more room for forgiveness, reconciliation, and reparation when we're face-to-face. Or...on a blog like this where trust has developed and the Shark has allowed a respectful diversity to flourish.

Colin Smith said...

Sam: I didn't like broad beans when I was a child, but grew to like them in my teen years. What can I say? I'm an easy-to-please vegetarian. :)

LynnRodz said...

What a spewing forth from the keyboards yesterday! I was out all day and didn't get back to Janet's blog until today. There isn't much more to add that hasn't already been said, so I'll keep this brief. I think less is more here. It doesn't mean we as writers/authors can't have an opinion on important issues that matter to us. We need to do it in moderation and not on a soapbox sort of way. Janet's advice was the same and she's not the QOTKU for nothing.

Which brings me to Jed. Oh, Jed, Jed, Jed! Why pick on the orange? It's the perfect fruit. It's so easy to share (no knife needed), you can eat or drink it, and it taste so good. That goes for it's whole family: mandarins, clementines, tangerines, etc. All I can say is I'm glad you're not the KOTKU.

A side note to Janet's agent/food blog, who brought up bleu cheese, I hate that stuff? And don't get me started on Roquefort, yuck! (This time goat is better than sheep.) The best way to eat a burger is with goat cheese and sautéed onions. Mmm!

(Four exclamation points - bad me.)

Unknown said...
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Calorie Bombshell said...


It was I who broached the bleu. I, like you, consider it Satan masquerading in a layer of veined creaminess. I was raised in a family of bleu worshipers. I lost the man I once knew as my father after he ventured into Newton, Iowa on a seemingly innocent business trip. Little did he know that three-pound chunk of Maytag would corrupt my entire family. After that, I slept with one eye open and both arms wrapped around my beloved brie.

LynnRodz said...

Calorie Bombshell, you're my kind of girl. Brie all the way, or better yet, Comté. I sort of skimmed a lot of the comments, so I wasn't really sure who had started that thread. I'm still shaking my head over what Jed said about oranges, however.

Sam Mills said...

One of the few blogs where I always enjoy the comments section!

My politics are liberal and I'm married to a police officer, but a liberal police family would make the web explode so I don't mention either fact on my blog. (Oh well I mentioned it here, don't follow me home!)

I think the Orson Scott Card example mentioned above is really perfect for this discussion. It wasn't a matter of nosy readers sussing out his personal beliefs-- he is a big name in the field and went out of his way to publicize his opinion and throw money at political causes a whole lot of people don't support. If you want to use your fiction-writing name to push a political agenda unrelated to your fiction, be prepared for some shock and outrage from the segment of your fan base that won't agree. (That said, OSC is financially secure and can throw away whatever he wants. The midlist and aspiring authors can't afford to take those chances)

Neeru Iyer said...

Dear Janet,

What about people expressing their support for LGBTQIA, feminist and other such movements on Twitter, Facebook, etc?


Gingermollymarilyn said...

One of my fave words is 'ultracrepidarian'. Has an amusing ring to it. Far too many of these in the world, like my ex brother-in-law - insufferable! Late, late, late to the party I am, but I'll comment anyways.

lena said...

1. There's a place for opinions on hot-button issues. Successful authors turn them into literature. We just have to find the fine line between verbal diarrhea and being too afraid to offend and therefore never saying anything.

2. Beans of Egypt Maine is a gritty, depressing novel (I loved it). For anyone curious, a movie adaptation is floating around as well.