Authors And Their Opinions

I see an article is going around, apparently from the RWR (the Romance Writers Report, which is connected to the RWA), that talks about how authors should deal with controversial topics — which is to say, the article seems to suggest that they should take a very soft, inoffensive, middle-of-the-road, milquetoasty approach. Just smile, it seems to say. Think of England.

Here, you’ll see author Racheline Maltese offering up a few snapshots of the article.

(I don’t have the original article to go on.)

(I don’t suspect this is an RWA “official” stance.)

(I don’t even know who wrote it.)

You’ll note that it mentions both gay marriage and racism via Ferguson.

Given that romance writers are generally women, it sounds troublingly like asking them to be more lady-like and not speak about issues that would trouble others — do not, it suggests, get all uppity and think that people want to hear your opinion on issues of import. You might further infer from there that women aren’t… something enough to opine such important matters. Not smart enough? Not savvy enough? Not man enough?

Here I’m aware that there’s a danger of me squeezing myself sideways into this conversation, as I am a) not a woman and b) not a romance writer, and you’d probably be well served by going and reading a lot of the discussion around the topic via women authors who are far smarter and better connected to this subject than I am (again, Racheline Maltese’ feed is a good place to dive into and branch out of this subject). And I know that there’s always a danger that when I get up on this rickety soapbox I’ve made out of old toilets and broken chains of binary code that it seems like AH FINALLY THE MANS HAVE SPOKEN, and then I wave my plunger — er, scepter — at you and everything feels altogether more official. I also know that I can say crazy shit and people will applaud, and maybe that’s not a luxury everybody has.

Hopefully, this doesn’t feel like that, and if it does, I’m sorry.

That said, I think there’s a larger, broader question about if any writer of any genre should speak out about reportedly controversial subjects.

And, my answer to that is, holy shit, yes.

With the caveats of:

a) if you want to.

b) if you can do it without being horrible to other people.

Nobody should make you speak out about controversial subjects. It can be uncomfortable to engage in that kind of conversation online — you might end up with an Asshole Magnet firmly bolted to your forehead. Some people’s milkshakes bring the boys to the yard, but other people’s milkshake bring all the trolls to the Twitter conversation. You might not be up for stomping that many ants or throwing rocks at wasp nests.

Further, if you do choose to speak out about controversial subjects, just don’t be horrible about it. This is a stickier wicket, of course, because you’re probably always going to be somebody’s asshole in that kind of conversation — I can say, politely as I can muster, “Gay marriage is a civil rights and humans rights issue, please and thank you,” and somebody out there in InternetLand is going to immediately going to think I’m a walking, talking, tweeting, blogging pile of demonic excrement. And the wicket gets even stickier when women and LGBT authors and persons of color have long been told to play nice, don’t get angry, don’t stand up too tall or too loud, and my intent here is not to slick this slope with Astroglide so you zip down it right back into the valley of just be nice and sell books. By horrible I mean, outright shitty. I mean, beating people down, or bullying them, or threatening harm. The very nadir of human behavior.

Now, with that said —

Why should authors speak up and speak out?

Because you’re writers, that’s why.

Writers know the power of words. Words change the world. Words have always been more effective at bullets when it comes to changing both the present and the future (and, in some ways, the past) — writing and storytelling have been a part of the human code since we figured out how to mash berries and streak red goop across cave walls with the decisive swipe of one of our hairy thumbs. Words make a difference. Stories move the fucking needle.

Ah, but: will you lose sales?

Could be, rabbit, could be.

But, I want you to ponder:

a) if you lost sales due to your having an opinion (gasp), did you want those sales in the first place?

b) if a reader doesn’t care for you or your opinions, will that reader actually like your book?

c) have you also thought about the sales you may have gained?

Let’s tackle that last one — “c.”

In my experience, having an opinion has lost me a sale here and there. I note this only because once in a while I actually get people saying, “CHAZ WENDING JUST LOST HIMSELF A SALE” and at first I’m like, “Jeez, who the hell is Chaz Wending and do I need to fight him?” but then I’m like, “OHHH they misspelled my name.”

But for every lost sale, I’ve seen more folks say they’ve bought my books because of me having an opinion. People want to read books by human beings, not marketing platforms. Human beings are complicated, sticky, thorny tangles. We’re not advertising robots. We’re not weaponized brands. We’re people, and we have thoughts and feelings and ideas and fears and gasp opinions on the world and other human beings that exist around us. Because we’re all connected, and social media — often thought of as somehow unreal — is just as real as real life and only deepens the connections we experience. We’re more bound up together, not less. (Though in opposition to this I’d also caution you to not place too much actual importance on social media in terms of selling books — it’ll sell them here and there, but I think we often overstate how much social media from the author specifically can sell books. It does. But much of your audience won’t ever be reading your tweets in the first place.)

Even still — sales (gaining or losing) isn’t a good reason to have an opinion online.

Have an opinion because you’re a person.

And you’re a writer, with your own unique means of expressing your feelings.

Don’t be a brand.

Don’t be so hyper-focused on selling your book that you forget to act like a human being. I don’t pay much attention to those writers who just bark out advertisements for their books day in and day out — I just squeegee their greasy spam tracks from my monitor and move on. I do, however, pay attention to writers who are bold enough to be people — that’s not just about them sharing opinions, but just about how they come across online. More like humans, less like SkyNet.

You are more than your book sales.

Speak up and speak out if you so choose.

Or, put your opinions into the work, instead.

You shouldn’t feel pressured to get loud.

But you also shouldn’t feel pressured to be silent, either.

Having an opinion doesn’t give you any authority, no. But it’s one of the milestones of being human. And being a writer ostensibly gives you a way to put those opinions out in an interesting way.

So, should writers have and share opinions on matters both small and uncontroversial? Absolutely. Engage. Talk. Share. Join up with the human experience. Connect in that way if you so choose. Opinions, as the saying goes, are like assholes: we all have them. And it would be weird for you not to have an opinion just as it would be weird if you did not have a butthole. That’s actually how we test for alien marauders, by the way. We scan them at the TSA to see if they have rectal passages. It’s how we know you’re not human — surely we’ve all been there at TSA when a xeno-terrorist suddenly realizes he’s been butthole-scanned and been found lacking, and then his flesh splits and his gelatinous tentacle-body explodes forth in protest and then —

Okay, I think I’ve lost the thread.

And I probably just lost a couple sales, too.

DAMNIT

I knew I was supposed to pay attention to this series of Post-It notes stuck to my monitor: “STOP TALKING ABOUT THE ALIEN NEGA-BUTTHOLE CONSPIRACY; IT REALLY FREAKS PEOPLE OUT.”

I am such a fool.

*hangs head in shame*

80 comments

  • Meh. I think we spend too much time worrying about being PC or too PC. Can’t we all just write good books?

    • “Politically correct” is often code for “I want to say something shitty but do not want to deal with the repercussions of that shittiness.”

      So, dare I ask, what do you mean by PC?

      — c.

      • That’s part of it – probably the thing you’re wrestling with – but isn’t it also a badge folks sometimes wear for no reason other than to be “in”?

        It seems like a fruitless activity to spend time worry about whether or not we are about to say is shitty. I daresay a better use of our time is saying what we want to say /well/.

        • I don’t know many people who wear a “PC” badge — they are, however, often accused of being PC by people who disagree.

          An exchange might be:

          Person A says something kinda shitty. Maybe they use a word that goes beyond mere offense and into hurtful territory. A gay slur, let’s say, one popular for a period of time as kind of a catch-all insult.

          Person B says, “That’s shitty, what you said. You shouldn’t say that.”

          Person A says, “You’re being PC and something-something thought-police something-something censorship.”

          Which of course is absurd because nobody is policing anything, and nobody is censoring anything — but Person B is within her rights to find what Person A said to be shitty. Because that’s how it goes — you have an opinion online and someone is likely to have a counter opinion. This is doubly true when what something someone said is thinly veiled hate speech.

          It isn’t a fruitless activity to worry about the impact our words are making — that’s the other side of this coin. Just as we should use our words because they have power, we also shouldn’t abuse our words (or other people with our words) for exactly the same reason.

          • Ugh this is the worst kind of dialogue ever:

            A: “Something Something something”

            B: “I think that was shitty/absurd/dumb”

            A: “STFU I HAVE THE RIGHT TO SAY WHAT I WANT”

            B: “Right, and I have the right to disagree…”

            A: “LALALALA I’M NOT LISTENING”

          • March 9, 2015 at 9:06 AM //

            Respectfully, maybe you don’t know a lot of folks like that, but they’re out there 🙂 Like Seinfeld once said “not that there’s anything wrong with that” – but the underlying inference is that there was something vaguely wrong with whatever it was.

            How many people look at goths or punks and think to themselves that that other person’s goal is to make an offensive statement? If you happen to be that goth, you’d go crazy worrying about whether or not your presentation is designed to be provocative. Still, your point is well taken; That goth probably doesn’t want to pop in cyberlocks if she’s going to interview for CPA firm. Consider your audience.

            On the other other hand – and I fully admit the possibility that I’m way out in left field – I think it’s useful to go the other way. In my first book, the one, single thing I wanted my readers to walk away from it thinking was that other people, no matter how different they seem, they aren’t, because what they see doesn’t really amount to much when the rubber meets the road. In doing so, I specifically chose to craft a few of the characters controversially, because in my (possibly warped) mind, sometimes a message needs to be delivered with a smack in the chops. In other words, I knew what I was doing, and did it on purpose.

          • I don’t think you’re way off base. I was just pointing out something I’ve seen in 527,967 different internet convos. Were you referring to “The Way of All Flesh”? I’ll check it out, it sounds like an entertaining read.

  • CHAZ WENDIG LIVES IN BIZARRO WORLD AND WRITES BOOKS ABOUT A MAN WHO CAN SEE PEOPLE’S MOMENT OF BIRTH AND ABOUT A TINY VEGETARIAN WHO TAKES MONOCHROMATIC DRUGS TO SEE ANGELS

  • Like a good little author-publisher droid, I have considered my ideal reader.

    As it happens my ideal reader is someone who is provoked to wonder and ponder by the world around them. So, commenting publicly on contentious issues if I genuinely have thoughts about them is part of my branding.

    As someone seeking to be ethical and moral, I would feel uncomfortable putting my potential handful of loose change from Amazon above someone’s right to walk safely down the street anyway; so, if I lose sales because I suggest people think more about others, then it is really a donation to a better world and not a weakness in my approach.

  • I stopped following the blogs and feeds of a few authors whose work I admire, and I did that because it occurred to me that they treat me like a commodity. Nothing upsetting to be written, no controversy to be born or fed, and steering clear of the potholes of being human just in case I disagreed and they lost a few bucks on the next book deal. They lost me anyway, but not for the reasons they were protecting their banks accounts against. Then along comes Wendig; a writer with opinions, a foul mouth, and with a butthole fixation. I buy your books and sometimes I read your blog posts. Especially the ones with butthole references.

    You haven’t forgotten that you’re talking to people. Yeah, you shamelessly plug, but you appear to make it a part of the conversation and not the conversation itself. Thanks for that. Keep having opinions, even if they’re batshit crazy or controversial. The Internet has become the latest incarnation of the Flat Earth Society, so it’s refreshing and heartening to come across people like you who are willing to suffer the indignity of the occasional oversized alien butt plug.

  • I’ve always been of the opinion that an author should do what they want to do. Like, y’know, any person who works in any field ever. There’ll be some kind of response (I dislike the word “consequences” in this context because it more and more carries the connotation of “You’re a horrible person and karma’s gonna get you, that or Right-Minded People will”). Always. Keep that last in mind, don’t be surprised when it happens (for good *or* ill), and beard the fuck on.

    • Cause and effect, yeah. You say something, and someone will respond. The effect will not always match the cause because, forget it, Jake, it’s Internet-Town. You can say something about how you didn’t like FIREFLY and people will go apeshit. (I remember Jay Kristoff did a post about how the FIREFLY protagonists were also straight-up villains, and I posted it on FB because — hey, great post. And some of the response was hilariously over-reactive, like he’d just eaten their pet gerbil.)

    • Many people do not express their political, religious or philosophical beliefs at work because either in their company or their ‘field’ they will hurt their career trajectory. Some choose to do so anyway. But it’s very disingenuous to claim that anybody in any field can trumpet any opinion they want to.

      And it’s not just in ‘fields.’ It’s in life.

      One atheist friend whose child was undergoing a risky surgery with the best surgeon in the area was horrified when he asked to pray with the family before surgery. What she wanted to do was tell him no, because his need to ‘talk to his imaginary friend’ in order to feel better going into the surgery horrified her, and she wished she didn’t know he felt that way. For her it was a weakness in scientific and medical thought that he needed to do so.

      What she chose to do was allow him to do pray without commenting, because it was more important to her that the surgeon go into the operating room with a clear mind and positive feeling than that she defend her right not to participate in his religion.

      Another atheist friend’s mom was asleep when a church chaplain came in and asked if he could pray for them. My friend thought he seemed kind and well-meaning and she told him yes, by all means if he thought it needed to be done, but would he do it outside in the hall because if her mother woke up and saw him, she wouldn’t like it because they didn’t believe in God.

      People way their options all the time about what to say when and where.

      • Yes, but that isn’t the point of this article. In situations where it is absolutely necessary to put your opinion aside and just get stuff done, naturally you’re going to do what’s most important and push your personal opinions aside to, taking your example, help a surgeon feel at ease before he operates on your son. That isn’t the type of situation Chuck is addressing here. The situations you described were extraneous circumstances. But in general, particularly when talking to an entire audience of strangers over the internet, Chuck is arguing that people should not be afraid to put what they believe out there. For your friend to be horrified that her son’s surgeon needed to pray is her opinion, and she felt the need to keep it to herself in order to ensure her son’s best well-being, that is not the issue.
        If she had been a writer, or an actor or someone else with a relatively large and judgmental audience willing to drop her and attack her at the drop of the hat, and said nothing about her lack of religious beliefs on say, social media, before during or after the event with the surgeon. not because she felt that nothing needed to be said, but because she was afraid of what people would think of her, THAT is what we’re talking about. Chuck is not saying that you should spout your opinion all the time from the rooftops every minute of every day, he is saying that when the need strikes you, don’t be afraid to say what you need to say publicly, and if you decide not to, then that is your choice. After all
        “a) if you want to.

        b) if you can do it without being horrible to other people.” I get the feeling that refusing to pray in the two instances you cited would fall under the ‘being horrible’ part. “Say your piece, but don’t let anybody force you into it, and don’t be a dick about it. The other people who don’t agree with you are will sort themselves out.” That was my main take away from the article. Maybe, even if you don’t agree, you can see where I’m coming from.

  • Thank you thank you thank you for this post, Chuck!

    My current w-i-p tackles what is popularly called a ‘controversial topic.’ It’s not the main theme of the story by any means, but it occurs about two-thirds of the way in as a somewhat inevitable result of the events that preceded it, which ARE related to the main theme (i.e. I didn’t just put in there for shock value or to shoehorn in some kind of ‘feminist agenda,’ whatever the heck THAT means anyway.)

    Why am I so defensive about this? Because when I asked some writer friends of mine about if I should put in some sort of ‘trigger tags’ in when I get to the stage of asking for beta readers, I got two or three comments along the lines of “If you’re going to write about that stuff, just don’t make a big thing of what a terrible thing it is and how much the person suffers, okay? I am SOOO sick to death of hearing that in real life, I don’t need my enjoyment a of fictional story ruined by it as well!” And I was like, “well jeez, I wasn’t planning to write it like an Oprah Winfrey ‘true-life confessional!” but at the same time I did feel… sort of confused. Particularly because, of those three people who made those comments, two were WOMEN.

    If I’d put in this story event in the spirit of the stereotypical ‘Woman in the Refrigerator’ trope I could TOTALLY understand people being negative about it. But saying that NOT doing it like will ‘ruin the enjoyment of the story?’ Up until that point I hadn’t even considered that people would take that view… or worried about it. Maybe that was spectacularly naive of me, but I honestly thought that people would take more offence if it was gratuitous or glorifying the violence (the LAST thing I would EVER want to do with that subject.) I’ll admit, it’s preyed on my mind ever since, to the point of me thinking “am I going to be throwing myself into the eye of a major shit-tornado when I finally start getting this thing beta-read? And if I am, does it mean I shouldn’t be writing it at all?” .

    Which is why I’m heartened by this post, Chuck. Taking this event out is not an option unless I change the plot so much it becomes a completely different story. Yes, some people are probably going to read that particular part and think “Well, THAT’s peed all over my previously lovely day,” but you’ve reassured me that I should stick to my guns and risk upsetting those people. I have to write this the way it is, because it’s the truth. Sorry if it’s ugly, but sometimes so is real life.

    • To be honest, I’ve had gay sex, group sex, gay marriage/mating, murder, torture, cannibalism, gang rape, rape-where-the-heroine-never-admitted-it-was-rape, and all manner of awful controversial things in my romance novels. Yes, ROMANCE novels. None of these things were there just for fun–they all had a purpose. I expected to be, as you said, tossed “into the eye of a major shit-tornado” and you know what? No one ever said anything about it.

      Let me repeat that: no one, thus far, has ever said anything negative about the controversial topics I tackled.

      And, yes, I have sales numbers that prove people actually read these books 😉

      I’ve gotten more complaints about stuff I considered relatively minor. So, you can never really know what will set people off. For example, I had a friend with a reviewer who went off (at length, in every possible venue s/he could find) because the dress on the cover wasn’t from the right time period for the book. Really, you can’t always tell where people’s triggers are.

      If you’re really concerned, trigger warnings might not be a bad thing, but not all of my books had them (depending on the publisher).

      Write the story the way you think it’s told best. Holding back rarely makes the story better (except in the case of info-dumping). And good luck with your book!

  • How dare you, sir. HOW DARE YOU.

    No, wait. Never mind. I agree with everything you said.

    One of the most distressing events of recent times for me has been the general feeling that I need to avoid controversy for my own physical real-life safety. It’s pretty much straight-up bullshit. I don’t have to think ‘wow, am I going to alienate one of my readers?’ but rather ‘wow, is one of my readers going to start mailing me death threats and calling the police to send a SWAT team to my house?’

    So I do understand why the RMA (or whoever wrote that article) might be advising women to avoid controversy. It’s dangerous out there. I’m not going to pay attention to such advice, because I’m stubborn, but I DO understand.

  • Thanks Chuck. I often agonize over the topics I wish to write about, mainly because I have this ingrained fear that PEOPLE WON’T LIKE IT. And now and then I have to remind myself that I write for me first, for the rest of the world second. I realize I’m gonna get some hate for the subjects I enjoy, but in the end I’d rather have readers who are up for some mental challenge than a bland, inoffensive book :}

  • This article had some good advice about being professional on social media (avoiding public criticism of other industry people, not fishing for compliments, etc.) but point ten was nearly as bad as point three, which you address here. The author counsels against expressing one’s “overt” happiness. She states, “While it’s great to share good news and be positive in social media, being too positive or overtly happy can appear contrived and that you are not a real person–someone pretending to be more than you are.” Hmmm…since the main things I get expressively worked up and unhappy about are social and political issues, I’m in a real quandary now.

  • We were also told not to post pictures of ourselves in low cut blouses or form fitting clothes, which smacked of slut-shaming. I mean, the romances I write are pretty damn steamy and have graphic sex scenes. But yeah, my target audience will probably be super offended if I post a picture in a sundress in the summer. WE CAN’T HAVE THE WOMENZ SHOWING SKIN!

    2 other things that made me rage-laugh:
    If you check the article author’s twitter feed, it’s all buy links and stats on how many followers she gained or lost. Which is the least likely way to get me to buy an author.

    The other was this article’s juxtaposition in the RWR. We’re told not to have an opinion on “controversial” issues like gay marriage or racism (I use “quotes” because I just have trouble accepting that “don’t be a prejudiced asshole” is a controversial stance). In the same issue of RWR was an article about diversity in romance. So we were simultaneously told how to work in characters who aren’t able-bodies straight white people, and to avoid ever speaking publicly about those things. It was a serious WTF moment.

    Overall, I would sum up the thesis of the article as “Be milquetoast.” Which seems like a swell way to attract readers. “She’s super boring! I MUST read her books!”

  • I’m currently writing a YA book that deals with issues in a time where some kids are less than nothing, and are thrown away like bananas that’ve ripened a bit too far. Some in my writing group have had to stop reading it because of the IMPLIED violence. Not real violence, yet, but implied. My villain is too creepy. It triggers memories. AND NOTHING HAS HAPPENED YET. I’m still setting things up, and I almost stopped writing it until I realized that… well, these people aren’t my audience, they’re my critique group. So, rather than stop writing and submitting it to them, I said screw it, and gave them another chapter this week. One person had to bow out as it’s ‘too intense’ for her, but oh well, she won’t buy my shit anyway.

    Did that have anything to do with the topic? I’m a guy and don’t write romance either, but being a MANS I figured I’d throw in!

    Just don’t tell my wife I called myself a man. In fact, I was never here.

  • This subject. I could go on for hours. It’s about patriarchy and women trying to survive in a world that doesn’t look out for women’s interests. It’s about a woman’s fear. That she won’t be liked, she won’t be accepted, that she won’t be allowed to play in society.

    Express your opinions. What’s the worst that can happen? That you are sent to your room where you spend hours alone at your computer writing? Right. You do that anyway.

  • Also, it’s INCREDIBLY insulting to characterise those things simply as “controversial subjects” when, for some of us, those are our lives. Our struggles. They’re not just some faceless thought exercises that happen to other people. We’re writers too, and those subjects are our subjects.

    They might be our readers’ subjects, too. Who’s to say it’s all about what narrow-minded readers we might lose? Can’t it be about what audience—what connections, what camaraderie, what kin—we might gain?

    What if our discussion of it helps someone feel they’re not alone?

    What if something we saying actually fucking _helps_ someone?

    Doesn’t that have value, too?

    Like, seriously, that advice is insulting as hell. It seems like a very privileged, ignorant viewpoint from someone who doesn’t understand that they were telling writers in their community that their lives aren’t suitable for the daylight.

    • This: “Also, it’s INCREDIBLY insulting to characterise those things simply as “controversial subjects” when, for some of us, those are our lives. Our struggles. They’re not just some faceless thought exercises that happen to other people… They might be our readers’ subjects, too. ”

      THANK YOU!

  • Interesting post! To share or not to share? I was thinking about this subject the other day. Wearing my romance writer tricorn…I tend to avoid publicly engaging in controversial topics. I have no problem debating anything with friends or people who I know aren’t going to get violent or psycho because their sacred point of view is politely dissected, however, when you’re dealing with the internet…you haven’t got a freaking clue who people are. Some people seem to live their lives like a leaking gas line just waiting for a flash spark to justify exploding in someone’s face. Who has the energy to deal with that crap? I don’t! I’d rather spend it writing or painting or tormenting my friends with my opinions (or polishing their furniture – is it controversial to be addicted to the smell of furniture polish? Can’t get enough!).

    Then there are the people/writers who feel strongly about an issue who go on and on about it…and it’s freaking boring (whether one agrees with the position or not). Those people need to learn to ration their favorite subject. Saying that, I think writers can engage in controversial topics, but it depends on the writer and on the type of books they write. You (Chuck) have lots of strong opinions and you often rant about them, but there are lots of them (so no broken record syndrome) and that part of you is woven into your stories. It would be weird if you didn’t share your opinions; you’re like a professional demolition man blowing up derelict sky scrapers.

  • Well-behaved women seldom make history.

    So I say fuck that noise, sideways, with a rusty rake. I get why someone might write an article like this, but they are soooooo far off the freaking target it looks like they might have accidentally shot themselves in their own ass by writing it. (Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, and a u-shaped shotgun comes to mind…)

    Do I go kicking hornets’ nests barefoot? No. I also don’t go jumping into a tank full of ravenous sharks wearing nothing but a bikini of raw London broil, or playing soccer in a minefield, either.

    Have there been topics I’ve steered clear of? Yes. GamerGate was one such topic not because I didn’t want to comment (I did, oooohhh boy, did I ever) but because the toxic crazy of the crazies in that one literally translated into danger in the real world (doxxing, threats, etc) not just screaming crazy I could tune out if they aimed my way. I have my health to think of. I have fibromyalgia, and honestly, some battles, despite wanting to fight them, I know I can’t devote the mental energy or intestinal fortitude to them because it’ll only be to my detriment and not make enough of a dent in the issue to have been worth the trade-off to my health.

    I avoid politics somewhat, because I’m not a political writer covering politicians and I will be the first to admit it’s easy to get sucked into hot-button topics and not understand all the nuances of the issue. Doesn’t mean I don’t mention stupid shit (mouths are a pipeline to vaginas so why can’t we just make them wimmens swallow a camera?) or nail a pol to the wall when I feel they’ve spectacularly screwed up.

    Gay marriage, however, is a topic near and dear to my heart. I’ve had readers read my FICTION work and then e-mail me later and say that because they read one of my books, it did realign their views and gave them insight they hadn’t considered before and now they’re supportive in a way they hadn’t been before (or hadn’t considered before).

    WIN.

    Ditto BDSM. I will go toe-to-toe with radical feminists who think BDSM is EEEVVVVIIILLLEEE all day long because I LIVE the farking lifestyle and they don’t bother to read or research or learn anything about the real people in the lifestyle before making their outrageous claims about WIITWD.

    Racism in Ferguson: I signal-boost the crap out of issues like that. As a white woman, I do not feel I am (or should) speak for POC. I do, however, as a human being and a mother feel outraged that this kind of bullshit is still going on, so I try to participate by signal boosting and expressing my outrage in a way that doesn’t take the focus of the conversation off where it needs to be or off the people who are better positioned to make the arguments. I will signal boost those people because ethically and morally it’s the right thing to do.

    I disagree that writers shouldn’t be a brand, however. We should be. It allows us to reach the readers who will best mesh with our writing. My “brand” won’t and doesn’t resonate with every reader. But it does resonate with some, and they read my work, they pimp me to their friends, and they want to be here. It doesn’t mean we have to dodge the sticky stuff. Maybe we need to stick some of that stuff all over us so people know our brand better. Being a brand doesn’t mean you cease to be a person, or that you can’t be true to yourself in the process. It means you give readers an idea of what to expect from you, it helps you attract the readers you want to attract, it helps define you more broadly in a way that will help readers decide if you’re their cuppa or not.

    I disagree with the writers who want to reach “everyone.” Um, you can’t. Not possible. Nor should a writer sacrifice their authentic brand just to make sales. It shows in the work and actually dilutes them, makes them less attractive to the readers who want that particular “brand.” If you want your “brand” to be mild and…boring, well, be prepared to constantly struggle to survive in the industry. We’re flooded with mild brands who don’t stand out.

    It does NOT mean a writer needs to be offensive or deliberately throwing excrement into the spinning turbine every time they turn around. But they shouldn’t be afraid to pick a line in the sand and defend the crap out of it. If a writer isn’t able to let at least some of their true authenticity show in their work, that lack of personality will also show.

    I don’t go hitting people on the head every day with controversial topics. And some of my readers won’t agree with me on stuff, and that’s okay, too. They also know that, unless they’re a raging douchebag about their own beliefs, I’m okay with them having their beliefs. I’m a Pagan witch, but I have Christian readers who know that I have no problem with their religious beliefs, as long as they aren’t trying to use their beliefs to quash the rights of others in the name of their religion. I don’t shove my beliefs down my readers’ throats, and they don’t shove theirs down mine, and we all sing Kumbaya after the naked marshmallow and chocolate sauce wrestling…

    *clears throat*

    Um, forget I said that last part.

    If a writer’s books come off sounding like every other author’s books, they will be lost to the masses. Literally. It’s books–and authors–that make a statement, who stand out, who readers remember. Not Harriet Milquetoast and her non-offensive cozy sweet HEA romance.

    • A well-behaved woman is someone who drinks her whiskey from a shot glass instead of straight from the bottle, right?

      And seriously, if someone can’t take my opinions, there’s no way in hell they’re going to enjoy my books.

  • March 9, 2015 at 11:40 AM // Reply

    I do have that issue of RWR, and had to go track that article down. Yeeeeah. It’s all advice for managing one’s social media accounts vs. what topics you write about, but. It does smack of selling a brand and having a strong demarcation between one’s personal social accounts and one’s professional accounts,and I think for most of us that line is pretty blurred, if it exists at all.

    I totally agree with Liz and Bran above, it’s a little too old-school and out of touch to suggest being anything other than yourself. A filtered-for-common-sense version of yourself, sure, but still. Articles like this one make me feel like I’m some sort of crazy romance writer rebel or something.

    • March 9, 2015 at 1:26 PM // Reply

      I also have it, and already scanned the issue and had totally missed this when I saw the topic come up online. Thankfully, it’s not a feature article and is shoved toward the back, so maybe it won’t get read by everyone.

  • For me this isn’t about being well-behaved. I have never suffered under that affliction. And opinions? I have many. As a business owner my question: which opinions am I willing to lose customers over?

    Gay rights, civil rights, feminism–yes. But I prefer to lose those customers because they read my most persuasive arguments, got pissed off, and said, not for me. Not before they ever crack a book open or open a digital file.

    My books have what ~some~ people [guess which ones] might consider some subversive ideas in them. I do support feminist issues, gay rights and civil rights issues on my twitter feed but am less likely to do anything political in blog posts and on my FB author page. Why? Because my stories are exploring those issues right now. I feel my stories and characters have a better chance of influencing those who disagree with me than my shrill voice raised in outrage–as so often happens–does.

    I don’t have the gift of persuasive essay writing in nonfiction. Mine are not the tweets that go viral and make an impression. I gladly RT/share when somebody else nails it, which is why twitter and my personal FB page are where I share my opinions–often by simply sharing how others have expressed them brilliantly.

    But as a business person–and as a human being with opinions I truly do want to share–I use my most public voice to broaden my reading base.

    First, I need to build readership to get that voice heard. Perhaps this comes from knowing and loving people who don’t share my opinions, and knowing that individually there are some wonderful people who need their eyes opened, but whose eyes will never be opened by the ‘preaching to the choir’ essays and tweets and memes that warm our hearts because they resonate with us.

    Second, perhaps some of those readers who disagree with my opinions will read my work and find even a small bit of understanding they didn’t have before. “If you don’t like my opinion, fuck you, I don’t need your money” does not spread a message to those who are resistant to hear it. My most powerful voice is through my fiction, and I want to get that voice read.

    My opinion and approach is always subject to change.

    • So of course, I have an addendum.

      Romance as a genre embraces everything from love stories that Evangelicals can embrace–that put God at the center, have no premarital sex and no sex on the page, to m/m, f/f and menage a thousands.

      I have read so-called inspirational romance that I assumed was filled with God and prayer and preaching, that barely mentioned God at all. That dealt with rich historical worlds, well-researched, stories told well with compelling characters. I do not know whether the author disapproves of relationships that don’t fall within those narrow confines or whether she simply is more comfortable writing about them, while reading all over the map. I have no idea. I do know that I resisted this author for many years because I assumed she was telling stories that didn’t speak to me, and I was wrong.

      From my experience at local RWA writing conferences, and in the classes where I’ve been teaching novel-writing for over 20 years in the Bible Belt, the writers accept each other equally, respect each other, and help each other–even when the books they write are reaching readerships that probably don’t mix at all socially or philosophically. Writers who write inspirational cheer for the successes of gay writers writing gay romance, and vice versa. I’ve witnessed it. It’s real.

      In the climate of RWA, writers who are polite and who accept one another despite our differences are also learning from one another, and learning to expand their world view. I was at an RWA conference in Shreveport LA over the weekend where one of the successful young writers, clearly much loved by those who write inspirational as well as those who write other genres, had his husband with him, who is also clearly loved by the chapter’s members. This is today’s RWA.

      I’m not sure advising people to leave doors open and not draw lines in the sand within that culture has been a bad thing.

      Like you, I’m an outsider looking in, since I haven’t been active in RWA in over 20 years, since I stopped writing romance. But I wish I lived close enough to Shreveport to be an active member of their chapter, and I know other chapters around the country that are also as inclusive and accepting. This is today’s RWA.

      • Wow, Pooks, that was incredibly well-said. I totally agree with you. I’m a member of TRW (Toronto Romance Writers) and have had exactly the same experience.

        The support, acceptance and inclusion in our chapter (and obviously others) is a beautiful , human thing.

      • Oh my gosh, Pooks–so much this!

        This is exactly one of the things that makes RWA unique. At my local RWA meetings we all write in different sub-genres and have vastly differing opinions and yet we can all be in the same room, laugh together and introduce each other to pros. Most of the time politics don’t get a mention, although we all know what each other thinks (We follow each other on Twitter and Facebook). RWA’s atmosphere is much different than SF/F where I can go to any Con and have an entire group avoid talking to me based on who I’m talking to at that moment and a heated debate or flame war could erupt on any panel (or after on Twitter/Facebook). Although I’ve seen a lot of RWA people speak up about this article (and voice major concerns), the majority of my feed of people speaking up over it (and upset) are SF/F people (But also I’m friends with a ton more SF/F people than RWA people, so I’ll have to say my feed may be biased). When there’s a bad article in the RWR or a bad panel at a con, people say: It wasn’t the best I’ve seen and they move on, giving positive attention to the people doing it right, so the cream floats to the top naturally without a ton of shaking.

        It’s a different way of doing things. I’m not saying one is better, but I do prefer one over the other and I think it’s just my natural tendency to want less focus on who’s doing it wrong and more on who’s doing it right. Although it’s good to know what a bad example looks like, I learn a lot faster when see more examples of how it’s done correctly.

        RWA is a much different atmosphere. They pride themselves on being inclusive and open to new opinions and ideas.

        • Like you, my current connections are more SFF right now than romance. So I know exactly what you’re saying. But my current trilogy is epic fantasy with romance crossover and I’m very aware that a substantial number of readers will be coming from the romance side of the aisle. I love romance and romance writers, even though it wasn’t my natural fit as an author, and I left after publishing only five books.

          • I have more ideas, publications, and awards in SF/F, but all my novel ideas have romance in them. I do write some straight romance, but SF/F is more my fit right now I think. However, I’m a member of RWA and not SFWA (even though I qualify for active membership) because I had to choose one and RWA had more to offer. I’ll probably eventually be a member of both some day.

      • March 9, 2015 at 1:33 PM // Reply

        I’m also a member, and one who came to RWA for the professional affiliations and connections rather than having been a lifelong fan of romance books (in fact, I unfairly dismissed them). My eyes have been opened to a wonderfully supportive community.

        I consider this article an under-vetted blunder that is not representative of RWA as a whole. I do think it’s a problem this advice made it into print, but I don’t think of RWA as promoting an agenda of information like this. I’ve attended nationals, regional conferences, and have listened to national RWA conference recordings from about 4 different years–literally hundreds of sessions, and I don’t hear this message of self-censoring for book sales trumpeted at all.

        • I agree. I don’t think this is the opinion of RWA. It sort of goes against what they’ve held as value for a long time now.

          Plus it’s a very privileged position to say “remain neutral” on some topics. Some people don’t get to remain neutral because their very existence is controversial.

          This is why I don’t think that this was what the author was really trying to say (because I’m always inclined to think people aren’t out to be evil). I could see not being a jerk about topic as a go-to advice on the subject, but that’s not how it came out (especially with the examples at the beginning being loaded social issues that many people don’t get a choice on being a part of since they can’t change their sexual identity or their skin color).

          I hope the author has a chance or takes measures to clarify and retract the statements.

          • Irony alert! By telling people it’s dangerous to voice opinions because it might stir up a shitstorm, she stirred up a shitstorm.

            I think she may be like me, and ended up not expressing herself well. That’s my problem most of the time when it comes to this kind of thing, which is why I RT and share those who do it well.

  • I’m a RWA member as well as a member of the SF/F community. I read the article in question and I dismissed most of the items on the checklist. Don’t wear revealing clothing? At my bra size, I’d have to wear a turtle neck mu-mu to not have cleavage. Better yet, I should cut a hole in a blanket and just take a pic of my head. I bet that this is NOT what the author had in mind. I’ll bet the author wasn’t thinking about the people who don’t get a choice on having cleavage or not cleavage–or much of a choice–I think the author also didn’t think too far into having/not having opinions on controversial topics.

    Susan Brockmann is my absolutely favorite romance writer of all time. She doesn’t get the luxury to not have an opinion on gay marriage. And following her twitter feed, it’s not an awful thing for her fans to endure. Pretty much everyone who had an issue with it left her fan base in the 90s when she started centering gay characters in her Troubleshooter series. I for one loved her for it. It was fresh and made me really think hard about a topic I’d not been forced to think about. I was naively neutral. A tabula rasa. It gave a friendly face to something controversial at the time. She challenged all the other information floating around out there on what being gay is. I’m glad I formed a stronger opinion about it because it became more personal and important to be supportive of civil rights –even though I didn’t have to have a stake if I didn’t want to– later in life.

    Some of the other topics like not discussing how much money we make as writers, or fishing for compliments, or criticisms of other professionals in the industry, or giving out personal information–varied on the scale as to what was okay. For example, on the topic of money I think Jim Hines has done an awesome job posting his earnings and how they’ve changed over the years. Several self-published writers have shared their sales earnings from Amazon and it’s super helpful to see what has and hasn’t made a difference in promotion. Where as I’ve seen it done wrong other times and I can’t put my finger on why it felt wrong, it just did.

    Because I’m an empathic person, I want to read between the lines of what the author was trying to say and that is to not be a jerk, but adding the examples took it too far and made it personal for a lot of people. I have the luxury to not have an opinion on Ferguson if I didn’t want to, but some of my friends don’t get that luxury, either because of the color of their skin or their profession or their geographic location or become of someone they love. Reading the section over and over, I can see it could be taken another way. She is saying not to take a “polarizing” approach in the opinion. I’m guessing this means not to flame people. I get it, I don’t like people forcing me to have an opinion on a topic, especially if it’s a topic I have a range of opinions on (because it’s not all extremes sometimes). If I post a picture of my cousin’s wedding and exclaim, “So excited to be here on my cousin’s wedding day! Congrats to the brides!” and it shows two women getting married, Readers can decipher pretty quickly I’m pro gay marriage, the topic is deeply personal to me, and I probably won’t welcome their opposing opinion. *I* don’t think that a simple mention isn’t polarizing, but several people would see this as an attack on their way of life. It depends on where the author thinks neutral is, because neutral is a moving target in today’s world.

  • Well, I didn’t read the article you’re talking about and I don’t write romance but the Internet is jam-packed with these type of articles. All of them with the same message, be a nice robot and say nice things and don’t ruffle any feathers. Fine if you’re a church lady I guess.

    What worries me is the vast (apparent) acceptance of this philosophy. Like as you read them you can feel a thousand heads nodding in agreement and noting it down on their branding/platform checklist. But me, when I read such things, if I can even get through the article without swearing or finishing, I get annoyed, pissed, depressed. Because I think, crap if I have to act this way then I’m screwed.

    I don’t think you should go looking for a fight because there are far too many people who will take you up on that and it’s really a distraction (like the endless debates with trolls on FB and twitter, what’s the point?) but if you have an opinion and feel compelled to voice it, then you should. I don’t think it matters what kind of writer you are or what genre you write in – by the very nature of being a writer you have opinions or you wouldn’t have anything to write about, right?

    Anyway Chuck, or Chaz, thanks. Good way to start the week.

    Annie

  • March 9, 2015 at 12:44 PM // Reply

    We as writers have the power to change minds. Asking us to stifle our opinions to maintain a proper image is just wrong (even more so that this was circulating on International Women’s Day) on so many levels. While I agree with everyone who speaks of using common sense, and not taxing your readership with constant bitter rants on a variety of controversial subjects, I do believe in taking a stance on the things you believe in–and using your ‘power for good’ to share that with your audience.

    I also believe in showing your audience what you believe through your storytelling. That’s trickier, and sometimes harder to convey. Someone asked Suzanne Collins once why she didn’t write a backstory for the Hunger Games, as to how a society could develop that would result in such a situation. Her response supposedly was “I don’t have to write it. We’re living it now.” Which is an awesome way of both letting your work speak for you and also saying what you think.

    I’m definitely someone who tends to overshare, and I’m working on moderating that. But you know what? There are some things people SHOULD get angry about, and should let their opinion be heard.

    • Really? You think it’s harder to let your storytelling make social and moral points? I’m just the opposite. I am much better letting my stories make my points than trying to wrestle words into nonfiction form to make them. So this is a difference in writers, maybe.

      • March 9, 2015 at 3:19 PM // Reply

        Perhaps I should have said ‘harder for some people’. 🙂 For some writers, it can feel like awkward product placement if it isn’t a natural part of the story. For me, however, it really boils down to notion that we should muzzle ourselves on social media for out of fear of alienating fans. That we’re all supposed to be bland, boring, generic non-entities, a kind of Stepford-Writer. I’m sure that wasn’t the intention of the original author, but that is certainly the impression they gave. Not to mention creating the very controversy they want writers to avoid. 😉

  • March 9, 2015 at 1:32 PM // Reply

    I’m going to take the last two things I tweeted about that article yesterday and make them shinier here (because there were several things, but the last two summed up my thoughts).

    Every choice we make has consequences. This is true from what genres we choose to write down to talking about political topics or not. But the reality is, saying nothing about a topic is still saying something. It’s saying you’re not willing to take a stand.

    The comments above about letting your work do the talking for you? I get that, and if it works for you, that’s still talking–it’s just doing it in a different forum. For myself, if I’m “not allowed” to talk about whatever the hell I feel like talking about, being on *social* media is a waste of my time and a boring waste of it at that.

    Lastly *high fives Tina Gower*… I say we both wear blankets to any RWA events from now on.

  • Some women in this thread seem to feel oppressed by “the Man.” I don’t feel that way. In fact, the pendulum has been swinging the other way for quite a while. Think of all the “stupid white man” commercials you’ve seen, where the guy is obviously incompetent and his wife waltzes in to save the day. How’s that any better than the “Dumb Barbie” commercials of the 1980’s? My teen daughters, my husband, and I all analyze these subtexts and talk about them. Sexism is bad whether it targets men or women, and a chip on the shoulder is as outdated as layered shoulder-pads. If you want to fight for something, target tangible, education-based initiatives such as reproductive rights or subsidized daycare for working parents. Note I’m saying “parents” and not “mothers,” and that’s because I know a number of guys who stay home with the baby because their wife makes more money and it’s the logical thing to do.

  • Well, Chuck, as far as opinions go, at least your opinions on various things are SMART. You write eloquently, it’s obvious you’re educated and intelligent and you can back up your opinions with articulate points made. You have a lot of fans who think you’re wonderful (including me.)

    I’m always afraid of sounding stupid. In fact that happens often where I get called “stupid” by the internet thought police so that most of the time for having an opposing opinion. It happens so often that I usually keep my opinions to myself, lest I get bullied. The old: “You have no write to say that.” or “Your opinion is stupid, go away.” or “You have no right to think that.” Last time I made that mistake I said that “William Shatner is a dick for not going to Leonard Nimoy’s funeral.” Everybody else in internet land: “YOU FUCKING STUPID BITCH.”

    whatever.

    I write gay romance, and I don’t get hassled much about that, myself being a straight female. I include horror elements, comedy, science fiction, group sex, all kinds of sex, etc. I just write what I feel like writing and have yet to be censored. Maybe because I’m not a member of the RWA.

  • Hell, yes. I blogged about Ferguson and some other things people probably feel they should stay away from in public. But…my circus, my monkeys. And the term ‘politically correct’ is beginning to chap my hide. It began as an encouragement to courtesy. Now, it’s a gag order. You can’t please everyone, but as long as you don’t intentionally hurt them….have at it! Speak up if an issue means something to you! Just own what you say.

  • if I stopped talking about things that freaked people out I wouldn’t talk a whole lot. Which might put my coworkers at ease, actually. We have a new(er) maintenance guy and he was not prepared for me to just start talking about demonic possession on Friday.

  • As a longtime (now former) member of RWA–and one-time president of my state chapter, I’m only surprised that it took this long for someone to write about the org’s implied creed: We’re all just girls having fun, here, so let’s play nice and not take ourselves too seriously. RWA has never outgrown a passive sorority girl complex. Granted, it’s getting more liberal, what with awards for light erotica and a recognition of same-sex romance, and there are plenty of outliers who push the boundaries of plots and themes, but at heart it remains a bastion of conservative behavior and ideas. To be fair, I wrote twenty-one “category” romances (like Harlequins) for three different houses, and the pressure to be non-controversial came straight from the editors. “You’re writing escapist entertainment. Don’t piss off your readers.”

    RWA embroidered that message into its culture. For one brief moment in the 1990’s the RWR launched an opinion column that intended to welcome hot debate. As one of the first columnists, I wrote a screed about white authors appropriating Native American traditions and characters for the ever-popular “lust in the teepee” historical romances. An uproar ensued. The opinion column died a quick death after that.

    In recent years the organization has dropped the longtime “Novels with Romantic Elements” category from its RITA awards. The category featured the type of books generally labeled “Women’s Fiction.” Books that dealt with bigger issues, some of them controversial. The erotica category replaced it. The focus of the newest generation of officers and members has turned sharply toward extreme sex as the major image of romances. Believe it or not, that’s not how many fans and authors see the genre, which has always included a variety of “other.” Nothing wrong with whips and chains and Fifty Shades of Gray wannabes, mind you, but not at the expense of everything else–including any semblance of unique voices talking about more than the best way to lube a dildo.

    • The end of the Romantic Elements category stems from an attempt to rein in the influence of YA and Erotica. With the push to define Romance as having the love story be “the main and central focus of the story” instead of “an important and integral part of the story” the “Romantic Elements” category became the baby that got thrown out with the bath water. No YA is solely a love story, it is also a coming of age story. No erotica is purely a love story, but also a sexual exploration and awakening. I hope this tide will shift in RWA because this insecure circling of the wagons is not healthy for the organization.

  • This is one of the reasons I left the RWA, tired of taking workshops and being told to not make the female characters so “strong” and that everything should end with a HEA. Give me a break, women do amazing things and can kick ass. My women are tough and not afraid to take chances and certainly don’t wait around for a man to act. Thanks Chuck for letting me vent!

    • HOLY SHIT. I never once had anyone say not to make female characters too strong in romance in all the years I was active in RWA. Granted, that ended in the early 90s and I didn’t rejoin until last year so there was plenty of time for that bullshit to happen. I’m not doubting you. Just astounded that it ever happened.

      • Happened whenevr I took a class, waa often told to “tone them down”, readers don’t like it when the female heroine takes the lead – wanted me to puke!!

        • March 9, 2015 at 8:17 PM // Reply

          I think that pendulum has swung. My romantic suspense debut just came out from Penguin in January with a heroine who not only took the lead and was dominant in bed, but saved the hero’s bacon at the end (she was essentially his bodyguard).

  • There are writers work I love, with whom I disagree profoundly, who aren’t shy about sharing their views, that I still follow on social media. On the other hand, endless angry posting (and, worse, re-posting) on political topics will send me running, even if I don’t particularly disagree. Which isn’t much of a threat, I realize, but everyone who gets sick of you and stops listening is one less person who is going to hear about your new book announcement or reading.

    (Also, kind of off-topic, but this goes double for those Facebook quizzes. No one cares which single-celled eukaryote you are.)

  • The readers I hope to attract are like the woman who wrote to me about my Royal Navy boks and said, “I didn’t know men could be executed for being gay in 1800. That’s horrible!” I wrote back thanking her for her letter (she liked the books) and reminded her that there were many places in today’s world where that was still happening.

    I am incredibly blessed to have a wife who makes a good salary, and I spent most of my life doing non-writing jobs so I do have Social Security and a (very) small pension. In the twenty or thirty years I have left, I’m going to speak up. Being a bi woman with a wife = my very existence is “controversial” to some (and I do so hate that word used to mean, “ignorant people question my right to exist.”)

    We’re here, we’re queer… if that pisses someone off, that’s *their* issue.

  • So, I write a lot of romantic plots. Given that my Universe is composed of people meeting and parting across hundreds of lifetimes and at least as many worlds, the ways they bond and form their families, creating the next generation along the way, is a subject I deal with a lot. And throw magic into the mix and things like biological sex and gender identity become subjects that are legitimately viable for discussion and exploration.

    I also grew into my adulthood reading ElfQuest, where the elves are Word of God stated to be Omnisexual and that any potential pairing is a legitimate possibility at some point or another.

    It took a lot of years for me to finally come to terms with the fact that my characters were more open-minded than I was regarding what form a “family” can take and that not everyone is monogamous or even wants to be. It’s like one of my characters said at one point, “There is room enough in the heart for any number of loves.”

    I doubt I’ll ever be Mainstream, but I don’t really *want* to be Mainstream. What I want are readers as devoted to my characters, my Universe, as the fans of ElfQuest, of Homestuck, of Star Wars and Star Trek. I want readers who love my characters as much as I do. And I highly doubt that I’m going to find that by toning down anything.

  • Thanks for the thread, Chuck. I’ve just spent a nice bit of time reading through the comments and saying, “Yes!” to a bunch of stuff.
    I’m an outspoken person – though not CAPSLOCK style, really.
    I’m the sort of person who’ll gramble* about things in real life (in person, on blog, on FB), then subtly just drop them into the story like they belong there – cos they do! My cast is diverse – gender, colour, orientation…
    I’m more of a SF/F than R writer. My tastes are varied and I’ll respect you more if you and your books are diverse too.
    I’m still unsure of how big a deal I want to make of some things. I’m a young female member of the majority, so though I want to write about “minority” stuff, I’m getting info second-hand.
    I’ll just keep blundering through. Shutting up is not an option.

  • I’d rather an author write their heart out than shut up. I don’t care if I were to disagree with the author. As a mouthy author myself who doesn’t fit the mold of left wing or right wing (both are wings of the Dodo Bird IMO) I hope readers will respect my right to write what I feel the pen is leading. I am opinionated, no matter what I write, my opinions sneak in there. And sometimes the majority will applaud me, other times they want to crucify me. But as a reader I read deep and wide. If I only read authors I agreed with, my library would be microscopic. I like reading other views, I like it when I read the parts I can agree on, and the parts I don’t I try to see if there is something I can learn from it. It also makes the stories realistic. And besides, who cares about color, gender and sexuality when it comes to authors(and by who, I mean people with a half of a brain)? Authors come in all kinds, with all kinds of stories to tell. Let them tell their stories. Make their stands. I am going to make mine, even if it cost me greatly. I expect no less from anyone else. Telling someone what they can say is a dick-tator move.And some of my favorite authors are different races (which is dumb because we’re all one race, but for a lack of a better word), different genders, and different sexualities. Two gay authors I know can write circles around many authors who are famous. They have gay protagonists, so what? Their writing and their stories are awesome! The only change any writer should make, are the changes they want to make upon what they perceive as enlightenment. No one should bully others into what to write.

    That being said (I am saying before anyone here makes the mistake of applauding me), I am a Chrisitan Conservative who is very pro-life. And I will have characters of all color, sexuality and gender in my stories. I am not going to exclude someone for being different, because even with my brief rapsheet I just gave, I am very different. If I can write my stories, we all can write our stories. And besides, writers are supposed to be a tight family. Oh, the awesome author, Patricia Cordwell is the first author that I really got into. I loved Stephen King, but I mostly watched his movies instead of reading his books. Cordewell I read. A woman and a lesbian. Awesome writer and heart of gold.I like her. My mother actually turned me onto her books. I even have her two cookbooks. All in print!

    Readers and writers need to love each other, and be willing to toughen up when it comes to reading other views, lifestyles or just something they are not use to. It is fun, and it is so educational. You can learn a lot from others who are different. And besides my faith and being a writer, I don’t have a people. I am practically a heretic in almost every circle. So I tend to understand those who are different or are treated as different even they aren’t different.

    My thoughts. Love you, Chuck! Well said! And folks, write your books! No matter where you stand, at least you stand for something.

    Cheers.

  • If one looks on page 2 of RWR it states that “publication of material in the RWR is not to be interpreted as acceptance or endorsement of the views expressed by the author . . .”

    I really don’t see the article shaming anyone. A suggestion is made. It actually applies to some and not to others.

    It’s an article with the author’s opinion. While I also disagree with it, I tend to disagree with a lot of stuff published not only in RWR, but also on blogs and other places on the Internet. It’s opinion. People get to have them. The philosophy ‘take what you need, leave the rest’ applies. As the only male author on the RWA Honor Roll I often find articles pretending to understand the male psyche rather foolish and misbased and sometimes demeaning (okay, we’re not that deep); and don’t get me started on the covers.

    If an author wants to present a vanilla image, that’s their prerogative. And it appears that taking a stand has helped the author based on her last blog. But I don’t think RWR or RWA needs to apologize. And perhaps look at the article on page 14? Should they apologize for that? But then again, it’s not RWR or RWA’s acceptance or endorsement, so . . .

  • There has been an assumption that people are being told not to speak out against injustice if it will cost them readers. Perhaps the choice some people are making is not to voice anti-gay, anti-civil rights, etc. The opinions that really would cost them readers amongst the larger populace. Remember Orson Scott Card.

  • I follow writers for the stories they tell, not the opinions they hold.

    Nothing more boring than a writer/actor/celebrity pontificating on this subject or that as if they know more about it than Jane or Joe Average on the street – just because they are a writer or actor or other quasi-famous person.

    I think someone unknown- but should be known to all — said it best: Opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one.

    But I must admit I have more respect for people who say “Fuck you, this is what I believe — and if you don’t like it, suck my ass and don’t buy my book, watch my movie, listen to my song…”

    I am free to choose what comments I want to acknowledge and which ones go in the memory-bank shit pile. I am motherfuckin’ FREE.

  • Well played, Chuck. I think there’s a lot a validity to what you’re saying here. As much eye-rolling and bile-churning as the opinions of some people cause me, I will always stand by the right of those people to speak their minds and share their truths.

    One of my favorite sayings will always be, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good [people] do nothing.” (Edit is mine, quote is not.) I can definitely promise that in the coming years, I will practice it more. Speaking up for what one believes is not only a right, but a moral obligation.

    That is, of course, in my opinion. Keep up the good work, Chuck!

  • March 11, 2015 at 1:15 PM // Reply

    #TheBeardGivesZeroFucks

    Then he writes what he wants ta’….

    And perhaps we should all follow The Beard’s lead…

  • “People want to read books by human beings, not marketing platforms.” THIS, so this. As an ex-romance writer (long story) and leader of a group of them in my community, I have to say this is a topic that has stuck in my craw for SO long. Having to keep my mouth shut for fear that my national organization will slap me with a flogger made of Fabio’s hair cuttings has been one of the worst things to happen to me as a writer. Like you, I am an opinionated life form and though I try not to be reactionary, it’s hard in this day and age when there is so much ignorance being bandied about as if its genius. And by those in charge, no less. Don’t get me started….

    I have never been one of those writers who plasters every social media outlet known to mankind with quips about how mesmerizing my work is and that everyone needs to buy it immediately. I’ve never been about the sales. Writing has been the only place where I could speak my mind, when I wanted, how I wanted, and that will never change based on how offensive someone might think it is for me to speak about anything. I never claimed to be a lady and gods forbid if I back down because someone thinks I’m being too insensitive. If you can’t handle what I’m saying, turn off your damn ipad and go back to your mocca skinny latte, you whiney hippie.

    BTW, on a sub-note…. what is it with the Twitter emails I’ve been getting lately from writers (psychos in my mind) saying shit like “I will eat glass and drink bleach if you buy my book right now!” ?!?!? Oh yeah, no THERE’s a genius marketing ploy. Besides the fact that writers are wasting their time posting ANYTHING about book sales to A BUNCH OF WRITERS!!! Morons….

  • My first book was about mass teenage suicide shooters, and I chose to write about that topic because a) it’s something that happens in real life, b) I had issues with the way the media covered these stories, and c) I didn’t see a whole lot written about it in fiction. I wondered if there was a dangerous trend forming and wanted to do my own research. After three years and four drafts I finally knew what I wanted to say. But while I was writing it I got a lot of different reactions, ranging from “Wow” to “What have you learned so far?” to “Why do you want to write about something so morbid?” People cautioned me that it was a sensitive/controversial topic. And then there were those who said, “People aren’t interested in these kind of facts and stats. They want to be entertained.” So I’m grateful that my self-published book has been downloaded by over 11,000 readers. This was the first social issue that caught and held my attention enough to become my first novel, and I wasn’t going to ignore that. My current project is science fiction that takes place 50 years from now in a much more conservative environment and deals with the scientific method versus religious belief. Again, I’m getting the same warnings about “looking for trouble.” But these are the things that matter to me, so shouldn’t I write about them? As it turns out, they matter to other people as well, and it’s that kind of connection over “touchy” subjects that keeps me going.

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