Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Do I look like a librarian to you?

I saw these tweets on Monday morning around 9am.
I'd logged on to Twitter to see if anything was trending that would preclude a tweet about the blog's topic that day.

(The last thing you want to do is merrily tweet out "Come read about comps!!" when there's a national tragedy unfolding)

My first reaction to this tweet was annoyance of course.
That's my default reaction to people asking me to do stuff.

But what moved this from annoyance (and maybe actually getting answered on the blog) was the second one: A link or two will do.

At that point I want to snap back "I am not the reference librarian at your local library. She is a salaried professional whose job involves answering questions.  I am not."

These are librarians

this is a shark

Any questions?

I realize my annoyance is out of proportion to the question, and that's entirely because I am prickly and grouchy. 

There is a larger point to be made though. This person didn't intend to annoy me at all.  I'm sure s/he is perfectly nice and just wants some help navigating the shoals of this industry.

I DO spend a good deal of time helping such people, and answering questions.

So, why did this ruffle my finny feathers so much?

It's clear that the questioner hadn't even tried to find the answer on her own.
I understand the befuddlement of conflicting answers, boy do I.
And some questions don't lend themselves to a search engine (example: how do I handle competing offers; how long to wait before nudging)

But this question is clearly search engine material.

This writer could have saved the day with one more tweet, one akin to these:

1. I've googled and can't find the answer
2. I've found conflicting answers

In other words: showing me that I wasn't her first stop on the Answer Quest.

Asking for clarification on things I've written here on the blog, or asking questions about things I've posted here: no problem.

General publishing questions: also no problem IF you've at least tried to find the answer before asking me.


Lisa Bodenheim said...

Love that frowny puppy. Fierce.

And, if people know our QOTKU on Twitter, why aren't they hustling their little butt over here to this blog to see if there are answers in the archives? Because anyone who would take even a wee bit of time to check it out will find a ton of info at their fingertips. It might take awhile to find it but that's all in the name of research for the writing and the marketing of our stories.

No one said writing a best seller would be easy. (I can always dream, right?)

Lucie Witt said...

Whew. This should be a modern golden rule - do not ask people to provide you information you can google yourself.

nightsmusic said...

We live in an age of instant knowledge. Couple that with the inherent laziness of many people who find it's easier to ask someone than do it yourself and I can see this as a problem that will only continue to grow. Which leads to the next issue of, what happens if you sell your book and it gets published. Are you going to do any work to promote it? Or are you going to leave it for others to do, shooting yourself in the foot in the process? Just sayin'...

Kitty said...

My reaction was the same as Lisa's. I typed "pseudonyms" into this blog's search engine and found this: Query question: legality of pseudonyms Imagine that!

Boy, can I relate to Janet's comment, It's clear that the questioner hadn't even tried to find the answer on her own.

One of my good friends periodically asks me to search for some info. What makes this particularly galling is she used to be a research librarian for the government.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

But, your Majesty, you know everything and sometimes the Internet spews out poppycock. I can understand the tweeter, at risk of being dumped into Carkoon's Oblivion Cell, thinking they have stumbled upon a mythical Oracle. It is going to happen.

Hopefully, next time they will undergo the appropriate trials, set the question in appropriate format (not Twitter), and make all necessary offerings as required by such supplicants. Otherwise, I hear there is plenty of room in the Carkoon Oblivion Cells. A place I wish to avoid. I should have coffee now and shut up.

Julie Weathers said...

I don't like asking agents publishing questions on social media aside from blogs like this.

The exception is in invitation windows. For instance, The Bent Agency does an #Askagent thing from time to time. I'm convinced someone in the office knocked over a sacred statue in the Holy Order of Agent Temple and they are doomed to answer the same questions from would be authors for all eternity.

What's the word count for X?

Do you accept manuscripts that aren't finished?

What if I'm self published, but the sales aren't so good. Will you be my agent?

What do you think the next hot thing will be?

Are vampires out?

Why do I have to write a query letter? Can I just send sample pages?

Do I have to send the first five pages? They are kind of boring.

What can you do for me?

You rat B@stahd agents are all the same. You're just in it to crush dreams and kill all hope of ever getting published. I just wanted you to know how I feel.

Colin Smith said...

GoogleShark. That could be a thing... not a thing for you wondrous QOTKU with the pointy teeth and the one-way tickets to Carkoon. No. Not at all! :D

I do find it interesting that with all the research possibilities available with the internet, people still want to fire their questions at a person. Writers will go online and read for hours about Elizabethan underwear, or blood splatter from stab wounds. And yet when it comes to publishing questions, turn to Janet on Twitter. Perhaps people assume that since she's on Twitter, she has time to kill. I mean, it's not like she's using Twitter to keep up with her clients, or maybe for a few minutes' distraction before chomping down on a contract, is it? No! She has sooooo much time on her hands. After all, being a literary agent is all about reading queries...


Julie Weathers said...

Out of curiosity before I pop over to babysit wonder grandchild, I checked #askagent. Sure enough, there was an author who made a reject agent speech. Nailed it.

Of course, other agents and agencies, do this periodically. Apparently masochism in publishing isn't that uncommon.

Anonymous said...

Not being the one they're directed at, I can see a possible interpretation of the second tweet being "you don't need to put much effort into this. Throw a bone or two my way, and I'll get out of your hair." But it did NOT come off like that.

I'm sympathetic to Google issues. My own Google Fu is quite weak. Most people I know find answers in three seconds to questions I spent three hours trying to solve. But if you haven't done enough research into publishing in general to have some idea where to find the answers to those questions even if you are spectacularly bad at Google, please don't publish yet. Read more.

DeadSpiderEye said...

Really don't understand Twitter, I just see pictures of food, pets, cosmetics and clothes purchases. I know it's something you need to get into to understand it and decipher the idioms but in that way, it's a bit like sheep dog trials: not really something I can muster any enthusiasm for.

Colin Smith said...

DeadSpiderEye: For most people, I would not recommend just getting a Twitter account and wandering into the Twittiverse to see what you can see. Follow people you know (e.g., people in the SharkTank), so you can at least get some dialog going with people to get your feet wet. As you grow more comfortable, you can start following others, gaining followers, and establish your own Twitter habits. Some people seem to conduct half their day's conversations on Twitter. Some throw out three or four Tweets a day. Just be you in 140 character bites. :)

Joyce Tremel said...

It kind of reminds me of when my boys were growing up and asked me questions like I was a walking encyclopedia. My standard response was, "Look it up," even if I knew the answer. Research skills are important and I think you learn better by doing, rather than having someone give you the answer. One of them is now a historian and the other is a scientist, so it must have worked.

DLM said...

Even apart from Google, there is the "search this blog" function - at Janet's blog, at BookEnds, at many many agents' blogs. It does not take skill to TRY TO FIND AN ANSWER.

Being a secretary for 30 years now, I've fielded some extraordinarily stupid questions in my day. Usually, I just feel like they're a nice opportunity to talk with my team or someone who thinks I know more than they do. At TIMES, I may passive-aggressively ask them "Oh, you couldn't find anything when you looked in Help/Google/the manual?" - but that is only for people who annoy me. Most often, I'll just find or give the ready answer, and enjoy the sense that people are under the impression I'm a Knower of Things. It's not the worst feeling, people turning to you.

However, I'm paid for that.

Janet is not the first "in case of ignorance, please break glass" resort. She's the hammer that breaks the glass.

DLM said...

Joyce, so true, and a brilliant choice.

One of the reasons I love writing historical fiction has been the research. I love researching; for contractors to use on an upcoming job, for things I buy, for questions in my mind, for pop-cultural stuff I don't understand ... for history, and archaeology, and cultural understanding. As I face old age, I'm convinced the habit I both love and cultivate, to learn all the time, will be a saving grace for my wee and paltry brain.

Colin Smith said...

Diane: Good point--sometimes people ask questions they could research because they're actually just trying to start a conversation. Kind of like going to a convention and asking someone's name, ignoring the big name tag they're wearing. That probably wasn't the intention behind this particular Tweet, but that thought should perhaps temper our initial desire to slap the questioner. Maybe tone the response down to, "There's probably a discussion of that on Janet's blog. Take a look there. So, how are you?"

nightsmusic said...

DLM! My vote for sub-header of the week: Janet is not the "in case of ignorance, please break glass" resort. She's the hammer that breaks the glass.


Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I can't even get up the gumption to ask an agent about whether they do still actually always respond, they way they described in a recent interview (Though I don't feel like that's a question I should ask. So I haven't. And I just printed out that novel to revise, so I'll requery with the revision when it's done.), I can't imagine being like "hey, link me a couple things about this stuff I ostensibly care about but not enough to look up myself."

Though on the topic of library reference questions, we've gotten some doozies. Because, you see, if people think of the library at all, they still think of us as a bastion of "well, they know everything, right?" Which is kind of cool, and kind of mind boggling. The ratios vary.

One Saturday morning (we open at 9:00) the phone rang as soon as we took it off hold. I answered, and the person on the other end, without preamble, said "I have a wooden end table that we kept an air conditioner on. Well, we moved the air conditioner and now there's a white ring on the table! What do I do about that?"

I paused, and said "You know you called the library, right?"

She said "Yes, I called over to the bus station first and they said to try you."

Other fun reference questions have included "do you know what kind of bug this is?" (GIANT dobsonfly in a mayonnaise jar, what a Cthulian horror that was of a nice summer eve), "why doesn't my banana tree have bananas?", and phone numbers for various companies and institutions across the country (though one time, somebody wanted the contact info for the Anne Frank House, which they didn't seem to know what is).

Donnaeve said...

"A link or two will do." I'd have tweeted them the link to Google.

This post reminded me of a prickly/agitated feeling I got recently. I logged onto to FB the other day, and found a private message from a sporting artist I met a few years ago at the Field Trials. She and I have kept up an email correspondence ever since. What rankled me about her PM was she did the same thing this Tweeter did to you - asked me a question she could have found in five seconds via Google.

Her question, "Do you know any children's book publishers?"

I think what got my craw was the fact there was no initial polite "how are you? Hope you're doing well. I have a quick question I hope you don't mind me asking..." Something like that.

Maybe I just got up on the wrong side of the bed. :>/

Anyway, I replied back with an imprint under S&S I said I'd just found via Google. (as in hint hint, hello? Google)

I got - silence. :>/

Megan V said...

That tweeter sure is lucky to have their fingers! It's important to do research first. It's also important to know how to utilize available resources wisely. A tweet to the QOTKU is not the first step towards the answer. It should be the last, when other resources are exhausted. If they're asking on twitter, then they can use the blog search function, or Google, or even asking fellow writers where they might find the information.

And yet, here's where I veer OT...into a bit of a vent.

I hate when friends ask me "why don't you just Google it?"

If I'm asking a friend a question, there's a reason for it.

1. I might not have access to the all powerful Google and I think they might have the information.
2. Google isn't giving the answer I'm looking for and I think they might have the information. Or I just don't understand what I'm seeing on the Google. I.E. what's that song that goes like this *hums tune* I don't remember the lyrics or artist. OR images of chemical makeup with explanation.
3. I want to have a conversation with them. They're so busy looking at their phone or other tech that they've forgotten what it means to have a conversation...or even something so basic as being asked a question. IF I have to share my friends with the Google, fine. I've figured out asking them a question is the quickest way to engage them and remind them that they too are capable of storing information and sharing it with living creatures. No phone, computer, etc. required. (This tactic is utilized few and far between and generally deals with fun topics only. It would not be used to gather info I know I should be researching on my own in a professional industry).

Donnaeve said...

Ha, Jen, your comment about people calling the library asking crazy questions reminds me of those 911 calls that get attention the 911 call about the pizza place not putting enough pepperoni on their pizza.

julieweathers said...


My father was an auction addict. He probably saved my life via an auction, but that's a story for another time. However, one time he bought a set of encyclopedias at an auction and brought them to me for the boys on one of his trips to Texas.

Whenever the boys asked me a question they could look up, I sent them to the encyclopedias. They invariably wound up reading for hours as one thing led to another even though the books were far out of date. I think in some respects book form encyclopedias are superior to online ones. It's much easier to get lost in them, which isn't a bad thing for a child.

When I was researching cattle barons'wives, another subject we'll get back to one day, my local librarians were wonderful. The gals in the historical department had that stuff down to a fine art. Librarians are awesome. Although agents are also awesome, they are not the same awesome.

InkStainedWench said...

As nightsmusic points out, there's a tendency to ask others rather than seek actual information. I recall sitting in a library (before Google) and overhearing a high school kid ask her friend what the capital of Venezuela was. The friend didn't know, but another friend tossed out an incorrect answer. They made a few more guesses, then gave up. THEY WERE IN A LIBRARY.

Joyce Tremel said...

DLM, I love doing research. I have to stop myself sometimes so I can to the actual writing.

Libraries aren't the only places where callers ask dumb questions. I used to be a police secretary. Emergency calls went to the 911 center, but I answered the police department phone. I dreaded calls at the end of June and the month of October. Callers would inevitably ask "When is the fourth of July?" I had to assume they were asking when the township would have their celebration and fireworks (which was ALWAYS on July 4th). In October the calls would be "When is Halloween?" which translates to "When will trick or treating occur?" Once again it was ALWAYS on October 31st. It was so hard not to be snarky.

nightsmusic said...

Joyce, OT but not really...I have always said about Thing 2 (younger daughter) that blond is not a hair color; it's a state of mind. She called me a couple years ago (she's 27 now) to ask if Easter was on a Sunday that year...


InkStainedWench said...

(Julie Weathers) Do I have to send the first five pages? They are kind of boring.

*carefully sets down coffee*


Theresa said...

I knew right away why this ticked off Janet. Not that devoted fans follow me on Twitter like this, but because it seemed to be a case of someone who didn't want to start doing the work. I tell my students this at the beginning of the semester: If you're having trouble with your research, come to see me and bring along what you've already found, and we'll go from there. They have to turn up with the beginnings of their research. If not, I remind them how to find the library website, and send them off on their own for a little while. It's not until I research something to death that I ask someone else for help.

Susan Bonifant said...

Two things: thank you for the pic of answer-puppy and, how does one not LOOK FORWARD to chances to Google? In just seconds yesterday I found out how long chipmunks live (3 years,which is two years and eleven months longer than I would have guessed), and that birds, in fact CAN get stung by a bee.

Dena Pawling said...

One of the odd things I've learned this week is that if I click on a fire on the California Fire Map, a window pops up which sometimes has a link for more information, and for one of the fires that is visible from my office window, the link that popped up was actually a Twitter account.

So for the past few days, I've been reading the Angeles National Forest and the Azusa Police Department Twitter accounts. Evacuations are still in effect, but the fire is now 10% contained. Yay!

You don't even need Google =)

One thing I learned from my Twitter feed this morning - Up to 40% of a shark's brain is dedicated to the sense of smell. I wonder how I might use that to my advantage here? Can a person perfume a query email? Would that help me get a request? Maybe I can tweet that question to the Shark =)

Janice – thanks for that link yesterday. I noticed it still uses the previous fire names, instead of the new name [it grew up and was therefore entitled to a new, combined name]. Interesting.

Stephen Kozeniewski said...

We've tried nothing and we're all out of ideas!

julieweathers said...

You know, in thinking about this, though I am not making excuses, perhaps the person was genuinely trying to start a conversation with Miss Janet, though this is the absolute wrong way to do it. Janet posts comments on her feed and you can respond to them and she will often respond back. Shock, I know.

If a person has a genuine question, email. That's how stuff ends up on the blog.

However, I do see so many people bombarding agents with publishing questions on social media that could be easily researched. It just isn't the way to establish a rapport. Agents aren't there as information desks.

Joyce, agreed on the research. I'm reading Jefferson Davis' memoir now which is fairly dry, but fascinating historical detail. My stars that man documented the history of early America. He's recorded everything in meticulous detail, which I very much appreciate. It will be a good resource further down the road for my work. I finished Spies Of The Confederacy by John Bakeless, which was one of the best books on the subject I've read and I'll give it an excellent review. The one Amazon keeps promoting as a best seller on the other hand is undocumented, based on lies and the author admits it, but it's sensational. I don't understand how they can promote it as nonfiction. ugh.

I'm also reading a book for Cowgirls, which gives me a headache every time I pick it up, but I try to soldier through it. It's so poorly organized I can't keep anyone straight. I have no idea what the author was trying to accomplish. I'll have to pull out a few tidbits here and there and cross reference carefully as I'm not sure I can trust much here.

It's easy to fall down the rabbit hole of research if you don't have an idea of what you're looking for.

Unknown said...

Any questions? Yes. Can you tell me the best place to buy kale in Wisconsin? I'm too busy writing the Great American Young Adult Thriller to Google it. Thanks!

Joyce Tremel said...

Julie, I'll have to ask Historian Son if he's read Davis' memoir or that other book. If he hasn't, I know what to get him for Christmas this year!

Brigid said...

Susan, birds can get stung by a bee?!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Where are my boots? Have you seem my socks? Where are my jeans? Do I have clean laundry in the dryer? Are the dishes in the dishwasher clean? Are we out of milk? What's for dinner? Are the bills paid? Are you feeling sexy tonight?
Look, search, find out yourself, I'm not the "shell answer man." (That one is for you mature types), and not tonight honey I've got a deadline.

DLM said...

Colin, it is a better gambit with someone you know a bit, though. Pretty much no fair to go tugging on Janet's sleeve on this one.

nightsmusic, thank you. I've looked at my non-public communication with Our Sharkly Host as an opportunity to exercise my manners. And show off Gossamer, of course. (By the way, Janet - new photo of him for you: ... puddy boy is all about the eyeballs.)

Julie, on your questions - pure comedy gold, as usual.

nightsmusic said...

DLM, I love Gossamer! Such a pretty cat. This weekend, we'll have Thing 2's three cats and the bun as well. Next weekend, they move in for three weeks.

Husband can't wait...notice dripping sarcasm there...

Bethany Elizabeth said...

I think librarians must be a special class of people born with the patience of a saint. I think there's another class of people (let's call them asshats) who always assume that the answer is living on the top of your brain, and it's so much more efficient to ask you than spend five minutes researching on their own.

I work as a technical writer for a company that produces large, VERY complicated software. Because of this, we have a very comprehensive and set of internal wikis. Sometimes, we're so dependent on the wikis that we forget Google exists.

For instance, last week someone emailed every technical writer in the company because he couldn't get spell check to work in Word. You know, that thing that everyone should be proficient in before they're allowed to work in IT.

I admire the restraint of anyone who can get a question like that without answering, "Here, let me Google that for you."

Colin Smith said...

Here's Diane's link to her Gossamer picture.

DLM said...

Thank you, Colin - and nightsmusic, yes, he's almost unbearably adorable. That pic, those eyes, those sweet paws.

OT Gossamer story. Yesterday, we had a number of contractors coming and going in the house. Everyone met Penelope (, but Gossamer being a bit less obtrusive, he doesn't always go in for intros. One of the basement guys was downstairs photographing away and measuring, and Goss was quietly playing on his habitrail (the ducts running throughout the ceiling down there). Basement guy was confronted with a giant pair of green eyes, and dang near jumped out of his skin at the unexpected apparition.

Goss is OSUM.

Also, Jennifer RD - "a Cthulian horror that was of a nice summer eve" is a gorgeous spill of wordlery. Love.

John Davis Frain said...

I had an aunt who was an Operator. Think Aunt Bea from Mayberry. She tells the story that back in the day, when people called information to get a number, the Operator just looked it up in the phone book. No different than the caller could have done.

I'm guessing that free service when away when Ma Bell's monopoly vanished.

If the Google had an operator, I reckon it'd be the same way. Apparently Twitter has an operator for some folks. It's called @Janet_Reid.

Craig F said...

The only thing I know with conviction here is that I am not the one the one who trying turning the Queen into the Queen librarian.

I do have to disagree that we live in an information age. We have had an information breakthrough but have not reached an information age. Yes there is more info out there and you can sometimes access it from easier places. It has added another level to the search though. Not only do you know have to know what you are looking for; you now have to know how to frame the question.

There are two reasons for this. One is the differences in the search engine algorithms used by the different companies to define and thereby limit you search. The other is the lack of cross references in most places in the interweb. Those are mostly lacking because most people on said interweb are in it for money and not knowledge.

Colin Smith said...

Diane's link to her picture of Penelope.

Craig: Indeed. These days, you look stuff up, and then have to weigh the relevance of what you find, cross reference with other sites, maybe refine your search... man, it's like the old days when you had to use books, and work, and think... :)

abnormalalien said...

Hmm, yea I know students who won't even try to look things up. They see the titles on the first page of Google, see a word they don't know and go, "I don't get it!? I know, I'll go ask a real person." *sigh* I have a lot of sympathy for professors and teachers.

DeadSpiderEye said...

Colin Smith:

Thanks for the tips, I'll get round to Twitter eventually I suppose, at the moment though, it's below climbing Ben Nevis and snogging an angry parrot on my things to do list.

Sherry Howard said...

Be still my heart! I thought I was getting desperately pissy in my dotage. I've had the exact same reaction to writers in groups asking questions that have clear, abundant answers on the net. I've decided that people who do this are not seeking answers, but attention. So now I send them brownies and a kitten.

BJ Muntain said...

Kitty: One thing reference librarians know is resources. The most efficient way to find an answer. And if that is by asking someone to help you, that's the way to go.

I once asked Twitter: "Where are my glasses? I need my glasses to find my glasses and I can't find them."

Someone responded: "Did you look on the floor by your feet?"

So I did. There they were. Thanks, Twitter!

Susan said...

nightsmusic: I'm afraid I have to side with your daughter--I ask my parents "stupid" questions on a regular basis. I think part of it is habit and part of it is subconsciously being grateful they're still here for me to ask stupid questions to.

Julie: I love encyclopedias. I tend to look up my "really, really stupid" questions--the ones I don't want to ask anyone because they just randomly pop on my head--on the internet, so I'm grateful for the internet as a source of information. But I love physical books. One day, when I have a library in my house, I hope to own a complete set of encyclopedias. Dreams, dreams...

A little off-topic, but has anyone seen the BadLiteraryAgent account on Twitter? I just discovered it yesterday and can't figure out if it's really an agent or an author. Some of the advice is good and similar to what's being said here on the blog (though you have to dig through the snark). I'm not sure how I feel about it.

Colin Smith said...

DeadSpiderEye is in the local library conducting serious research among kale and lima bean recipe books when DSE notices someone waving in DSE's direction. DSE looks up from a particularly mouthwatering picture of kale quiche. A man is beckoning DSE to come to him. Curious, DSE leaves THE JOY OF KALE to see what this man wants.

"Hi," the man says. "Um, could I trouble you to help me. My daughter accidentally threw her soft toy on the top of a bookshelf. I can't quite reach it, but I thought maybe..."

"But I'm not much taller than you," says DSE. "I'm not sure how I can help."

"Come and see," the man says, and DSE follows him to the bookshelf in question. It's certainly tall, and DSE can see the yellow foot of the toy at the edge. "There," says the man pointing needlessly at the foot.

"What do you want me to do?"

"If you get up on my shoulders," says the man, already crouching down, "I'm sure you could reach it."

"How about you get on my shoulders?"

The man blushes slightly. "I'm, uh, not so good with heights." DSE sighs, but smiles at the opportunity to help someone in need. DSE climbs onto the man's shoulders, and the man slowly lifts DSE up to the soft toy. DSE grabs the toy and soon DSE is back on ground level.

"Angry Birds," the man says taking the toy. "Clara's fanatical about them."

"You got him!" A young girl comes running toward them, and snatches the bird. "You got Mister Parrot! Thank you, Daddy!"

"Don't thank me," says the man. "Here's the hero of the day." The man pats DSE's shoulder.

"Mr. Parrot wants to say thank you," says the girl, and she presses the Angry Bird's beak to DSE's lips. DSE is taken by surprise, but heart-warmed, nonetheless.

"It was my pleasure, Clara."

The girl hold out her hand. "The name's Clara Nevis." DSE shakes her hand. Then it's the man's turn.

"Benjamin," he says, gripping DSE's hand. "Thank you, again. Now let's get you home," says Benjamin turning to his daughter.

DSE grimaces. "I guess I need to go open a Twitter account..."


julieweathers said...


I totally agree. My boys asked me how to spell something and I would say look it up in the dictionary. "Mom, how can I look it up in a dictionary if I don't know how to spell it?

They had a point.

That being said, they did at least learn to make an effort to use the dictionary before they came to Mom and we always had numerous dictionaries in the house.


I know. When I have money, I will order a set of encyclopedias just because.

Sometimes I pretty much know what I am looking for, but I'm trying to pinpoint something. I get everything, but what I'm looking for. I've learned to make notes right then if I find something interesting because I can't trust I'll find it again.

Then there's the grandma looking up anklyosuarus for her grandson and getting dino porn "Sex Slave to a Horny Ankylosaurus!", which is always interesting. I've had to block two authors lately who think it's all right to promote x-rated book covers on my twitter feed. I don't want to see it and I certainly don't want to my grandson seeing it.

I think #badlitagent is a troll.

Anyway, I'm running off at the mouth again today. By product of a headache.

Susan Bonifant said...

Brigid, my source reports that wasps can sting birds in the back end. At first glance, it seemed okay, but when I went back, I dunno, it looked a little Cliff Clavin-esque to me.

Let's not guess. I'm taking writer-cat Gus for his physical later, I'll ask my vet. It will take a very, very long time because he speaks in lengthy, complete paragraphs, but I'll do it for the team.

Lennon Faris said...

In the medical field, it's generally a bad idea to Google things. Heaven forbid that you actually trust the advice you find there...

But in publishing it makes sense. At least demonstrate that you tried when you ask an expert. That second tweet would ruffle anyone bc as nice as the person may be, the written comment SOUNDED condescending. Perception is everything and in the digital world you need to be esp. careful!

John Davis Frain said...

Your vet sounds like a person who might worm their way into one of your stories. Make her a vet who hates animals but loves money. That's why she talks incessantly, because she can't rationalize what she's doing for a living.

But change her gender to a guy so you don't panic every time you visit. Your cat will sense your panic, but possibly not understand the cause.

Susan said...

Lennon: Generally-speaking, probably yes. But I saved my own life because every doctor and specialist I went to over a period of six months told me I was fine when I was, in fact, dying, and I knew it. I Googled the crap out of my symptoms and finally found the doctor who would help me. You can't put all your trust in the medical field. You certainly can't put all your trust in Google. But you can trust yourself enough to know that experts aren't always experts.

That applies to writing and publishing in some way, too, probably--you know when an answer (or an edit) doesn't sit right with you.

Beth Carpenter said...

My son did substitute teaching for a year and ran into this a lot.

"Why aren't you working on your assignment?"

"I don't understand it."

"Read the first question." Student reads aloud. "What does it say?" Student explains. "What's the answer?" Student gives answer. "Write it down."

Ten minutes later. "Why aren't you working on your assignment?"

"I don't understand question two."

Stephen - one of my favorite Simpson lines. Loved Ned's parents.

Amy Schaefer said...

I'm coming to this late, but this post immediately made me think of the College Humor skit If Google Was A Guy.

Growing up, whenever I didn't understand a word in a book or had a reference question, my dad would say: "Look it up." I groaned about it at the time (pull out the dictionary? Volume L-N of the Encyclopedia? Daaaaad!) but it gave me good habits.

Perhaps someone artistic could make Janet a lovely "I am not a librarian" shark pic for the website. (Not me though. The last time I tried to draw, my four-year-old sadly patted my arm and said: "You tried your best, Mom.")

Miles O'Neal said...

Um, so what's the answer?

(scurries away)

Anonymous said...

I know there are limits to 140-character tweets, and writers can be really awkward/bad at social interaction, but still. Beyond even those allowances, a couple things grate with these tweet questions. One is that this person is asking about using a pseudonym to give new life to a couple self-pubbed books. Forget the request for legal advice from a non-lawyer, and the misguided notion that a new name will somehow magically improve sales, how is it appropriate to ask an agent (who is not YOUR agent) about help with self-pub? And of course, the entire second tweet. It's just so self-centered and presumptuous.

My dad was another who never answered when asked what a word meant, other than to say "look it up" and hand me the dictionary. Irritated the hell out of me at the time, especially since he was an English teacher and knew the definition, but I'm so grateful for it now. I still remember the lightbulb moment of realization that the stuff in brackets was word origin; discovering etymology was like finding a whole new world. I sometimes look up words I know, just to make sure I'm not mis-remembering some nuance. I'm entirely serious when I say the dictionary is my favourite book, ever. Makes me sad when people seem to lack the curiosity to do their own exploration.

Panda in Chief said...

My friend Mr. Badger may be the last person on earth that refuses to use a computer. Nevertheless, he has no problem asking me to "google it" when he wants to know something. I love google when I figure out how to make it work for me, but a lot of the time I have trouble phrasing the question correctly.

But this is different than a total Twitter stranger asking you to be their google-goddess.
No wonder puppy has such a severe look on his face.

BJ, your story reminded of me of a lost glasses incident just yesterday. For some reason (probably to read a message on my phone, I took my glasses off and left them somewhere and walked over to the couch, sat down to read a few emails on my phone, and when I finished, I couldn't find my glasses. I'm one of those people who can't drive without glasses because I wouldn't be able to find the car. I did finally find them, but not before I had a severe panic attack.

Is it almost time for the weekend yet?

DeadSpiderEye said...

Colin Smith:

That's uncanny, it's like you took a peek into my day and rendered it on the page in black and white, or rather on the screen in a plummy brown and pale peach; with one minor deviation, I was reading Something by Barbara Cartland. Trying to read more like, kept stumbling over the bit where the hapless heroine is nursed back to health by the stoic friend she took for granted.

Lennon Faris said...

Susan - yes. I always listen to the patient/ client over any test (mine are 4-legged, but it applies. And for what it's worth, I don't know about the bird/ bee thing -ope that sounded wrong. Gonna stop there). Anyway Susan - very glad to hear you are alive because of your persistence!

Dena Pawling said...

Susan - I saved my son from a not-very-nice future because of medical information I learned on the internet and followed over my doctor's objection. So I'm with you.

Fire update - now 15% contained. It advanced to the next ridge, which is about a half-mile closer to my office, but there is a LOT of orange and pink ground between the fire and my office now.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Bethany: Personally, some of my librarianesque (I don't have an MLS) patience comes from the pernicious need to have the right answer, or to be able to ferret it out. For one, ending up with "I don't know" is bad customer service. But also, why don't I know? Why can't I find it? Point them in the right direction? Something? No. I do my damndest to at least get the breadcrumb trail started, if I don't know already. This was more difficult, though still doable, pre Google (and before Google's algorithms were what they are now).

Donna: I'm thankful every day that nobody has (on my watch, anyway) called the LIBRARY instead of emergency personnel if something was truly wrong. Though we have had people in wanting to look over medical books, and wanting to pick OUR brains about what's wrong with them. Like tax advice, however, we are not able to give medical advice. Thank God. Sure, here's the Merck manual, here's the physician's desk reference, hit up the 616's and surrounding environs....but I can only give you the tools.

DLM: thanks!

BJ Muntain said...

Panda: Panic attacks suck. :( And yes, I do think it's time for the weekend. However, I'm not exactly sure I'm ready for the weekend, either...

I used to work in interlibrary loans, which meant I got to work with databases full of book information (you know, the type of information you find in library records. Not always useful.) I would get all the tough searches, because I knew how to search. I knew how to take the best keywords and how to search the results for what was probably what I needed. That was how I learned boulean searching (using 'AND' and 'OR', etc.) I was darn good, too.

Although the libraries that sent us the requests were supposed to do some general research on them, we still sometimes got requests for 'blue book about dogs', or 'horse book from Oprah'. While I couldn't find EVERY blue-book-about-dogs that was requested, I did quite well.

All that practice gave me incredible Google-fu, once Google came along.

Some Google searches, though, do need to be tempered. I remember working in an office with some older women (who would have been my age now - that was a long time ago) when Google first came into being. They decided to look for information to contact a certain local comedian they wanted for an event. They learned about tempering their searches when they simply searched for 'Brent Butt'....

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

My library story:

A teenage girl doing research asked me to help her find books on a subject. She had the physical Dewey subject catalogue in her hands, but wasn't sure how to make it work. She earned one point for attempting to do her own research.

Unfortunately, one point was all she earned.

"What are you looking for?" I asked.

She pointed to an entry in the catalogue: "The Great Depression". Not a problem. I'm good at history. I ask her refining questions: Any particular aspect of the Great Depression?"

She didn't know. "Social impact? Financial impact? Cultural impact?" She had no clue. Just gave me this vague look of bafflement. All my questions couldn't get a clue out of her. "I don't know." Was the best answer I could get out of her.

In frustration she abandoned me because I was asking her too many hard questions.

Two days later she shuffles up to the Check-Out desk with a stack of books on Depression in Teenagers, Clinical Depression, etc.

She was talking the Black Dog, not Black Tuesday. But what made her situation pathetic is that she didn't know how to explain herself, nor did she know how answer my questions with, "I don't think that's what I'm looking for."

Sometimes people want to know something, but they don't know what it is they want to know. No research librarian can help you if you don't know what it is you're looking for.


I earned a black belt in Google-Fu when I was working in the library. Serves me well in all my other careers since.

P.S.: I'm thinking about doing #QueryWars this year. Posted an intro tweet declaring my intent, that I was unsure of what #QueryWars was, but I was researching it.

Helpful people came out of the woodwork to aid me without my asking. That was nice of them.

Moral of the story: if you demonstrate you're actively doing your best to find the answer, others are happy to help you. If you aren't, they aren't.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Julie Weathers: "He probably saved my life via an auction, but that's a story for another time."

Now's another time. Spill, Queen of Hooks.

Peggy said...

Oh man, what a perfect opportunity for my favorite passive-aggressive/snarky website, Let Me Google That For You!