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Lord Fisher to the Right Hon. Winston Churchill

My Dear Winston,

I am here for a few days longer before rejoining my “Wise men” at Victory House–

“The World forgetting,

By the World forgot!”

but some Headlines in the newspapers have utterly upset me!  Terrible!!

“The German Fleet to assist the Land operations in the Baltic.”

“Landing the German Army South of Reval.”

We are five times stronger at Sea than our enemies and here is a small Fleet that we could gobble up in a few minutres playing the great vital Sea part of landing an Army in the enemies’ roar and probably capturing the Russian Capital by Sea!

This is “Holding the right” with a vengeance!

Are we really incapable of a big Enterprise!

I hear that a new order of Knighthood is on the tapis-O.M.G. (Oh! My God!)–Shower it on the Admiralty!!

Yours, Fisher.


My first book, A Royal Pain, came out November 1 (please don’t tell my publisher I called it twaddle) and, especially while I was writing it, I’ll confess it relieved me to think that none of my friends at the Smart Table would ever pick it up in the bookstore.

But guess what? She realized that given other Ivy Leaguers like Julia Quinn and Eloisa James are romance writers that it was okay for her to like and write romances too. Because the degrees of the Ivy League wash all the unsmart filth away? Mulry “now realize[s] they are great books in their own way.”

The irony is that I needed to let go of all of my preconceptions of what “smart” meant in order to let it all out. And then sell it. Those ugly words. Repeat after me. Sell. It.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Jayne
    Nov 21, 2012 @ 04:53:19

    Okay, so … since I picked up “A Royal Pain” and not only read it but reviewed it, does that therefore mean that I sit at the Twaddle Table? I’m fine with it as long as it means I can shoot peas at and blow raspberries towards the Smart Table set.

  2. Michelle
    Nov 21, 2012 @ 06:11:15

    Wow, nice way to make a reader want to read a book-call you own book twaddle. But it’s ok to churn out drivel since readers are so stupid they will read anything-sigh.

  3. Willa
    Nov 21, 2012 @ 06:20:56


    Well after reading your C+ review – it would seem she does indeed write twaddle.

  4. Brie
    Nov 21, 2012 @ 07:00:45

    I already commented on Mulry’s post yesterday, and I don’t want to waste more time on her, but I really liked Stephanie Tyler’s response: As she said, that post was lost when she started it by saying “I’m pretty sure I used to sit at the Smart Table”. There’s no way to come back from that.

  5. DS
    Nov 21, 2012 @ 07:21:12

    @Jayne: Well, she is in company with Georgette Heyer who wrote dismissively of her popular novels, saying about Friday’s Child that she ought to be shot for writing nonsense.

    But what can I say, I’m a mystery fan, and a lot of authors I enjoy wrote mysteries under pseudonyms so it wouldn’t affect the opinion of their “serious” work– and I don’t think this has stopped, either.

  6. Ren
    Nov 21, 2012 @ 07:26:37

    Speaking from both experience and observation, if you’re not so proud of what you’ve written that you’d tell your archenemy about it and DARE him to find fault with your work, it’s because you know, deep inside, you wrote a bad book, and “selling it” feels dirty only when you know, deep inside, you should have put your garbage out at the curb or put the work into making it good and don’t deserve to be rewarded for what you’ve done.

    Genre is not to blame for bad writing; unskilled and/or lazy writers are.

  7. jmc
    Nov 21, 2012 @ 07:34:21

    Is Mulry *trying* to alienate genre readers and tank her booksales? Because that was the most patronizing bullsh!t I’ve read from a “smart” author in a while.

  8. Avery Flynn
    Nov 21, 2012 @ 07:51:48

    Selling is not a dirty word. Fun is not a dirty word. Self-important is not a dirty word either, just a descriptive one.

  9. Laura Florand
    Nov 21, 2012 @ 08:10:39

    I post all my covers on my office door. And when we had a big display of everyone’s published works, I made them include my fiction in among the academic ones. It’s fun. It’s good for everyone to open their minds a bit. :) Some people are hugely supportive, some more or less act like I’m walking around naked and how icky is that. Either way, everyone has to think just a little bit.

    There are 3 professors at my rather elite university, Duke, that I know of who write romances and all assume it quite proudly. Julie Tetel Andresen, Katharine Ashe (who writes under a pseudonym but is very public about both), and myself. But it certainly requires self-assertion and confidence, if you are in academia, to raise your eyebrows at some misconceptions rather than flinch from them.

    A lot of people grapple with this. Fear of social judgement is a very powerful force. I know it comes across wrong in this article, but I wouldn’t blame her too much. :)

  10. Liz H.
    Nov 21, 2012 @ 08:21:37

    “Because the degrees of the Ivy League wash all the unsmart filth away?”

    And in my experience at Princeton, it showers those remaining with a nice solid coating of pretentious jackass. *That* must be why my grandmother told me to always carry an umbrella.

  11. Anne V
    Nov 21, 2012 @ 08:40:05

    Does Mulry not realize that romance readers read other things? In this case, her appallingly pretentious and self-aggrandizing post, which, wow, yeah.

    @Laura Florand: pre-judging herself, and her entire potential audience, in public, is not the best way to receive positive feedback on her work – or get that book she feels so dirty about selling into the hands of readers.

  12. Laura Florand
    Nov 21, 2012 @ 08:54:13

    @Anne V: I know. It’s a mistake. But I do know a lot of people have this struggle, unfortunately. I’m just saying, I personally would cut her some slack.

    Sabrina Jeffries (PhD in Literature, college professor until her writing income and family situation just meant that wasn’t a smart way to be spending her time anymore) does an AWESOME talk on this, by the way. LOVE IT. I heard her give it at the Fall into Romance Festival that the Durham County Library does (that Jennifer Lohmann organizes).

    I think a lot of us academics who write just are OVER this discussion already. I threw out the idea once of doing a panel talk on it with other professor-writers (academic judgement and popular fiction type of thing) and essentially the response was, “Whatever. People can get a grip. If they want to go around judging someone else’s success, or someone else’s creative tastes, I don’t see why I need to bother giving them any of my time and attention to acknowledge it.” Which, upon reflection, made a lot of sense to me. :)

  13. Jane
    Nov 21, 2012 @ 09:07:47

    @Laura Florand: It’s not so much the “I’m struggling with my identity” post. I can understand that. It’s that she is using this as a way to promote her own book. SELL IT. That’s really distasteful.

  14. Anne V
    Nov 21, 2012 @ 09:17:58

    @Jane: Yeah, THAT. “The whole I’m ashamed but I’ve decided to be okay with my shame and validate me by buying my book schtick.” It’s a particularly repellent false modesty.

    and FWIW, I work in academia – not faculty, IT staff – and it’s not been my experience that people are snarky about other people’s reading habits. (outside the administration, which likes to show off!)

  15. Liz Mc2
    Nov 21, 2012 @ 09:20:27

    Huh. I didn’t read Mulry’s post that way at all. I read it as a tongue-in-cheek or ironic poking at *herself* for her former snobbery and prejudices, and about how she overcame them. I have sympathy for this, since it’s my own history of romance reading. (The reference to her book as “twaddle” is clearly ironic, since it comes after a paragraph in which she describes all books about women, their concerns and desires as “twaddle,” something it’s clear in the post she doesn’t believe).

    The reason I read it this way is that I have context. I’m not her friend, fangirl, or sockpuppet, but I’ve been following her on Twitter for a while and have enjoyed some of her other blog posts, so I have seen her talk about these issues before and know how much she loves romance. Still, I’d say *this* post of hers is a failed piece of writing, since so many people who lack that context read it in a way I’m pretty confident she didn’t intend.

    Should she have thought more carefully about how it might come across to people who didn’t “know” her? Yes. But I have some sympathy for writers who make this kind of mis-step. It must be awfully easy in an era when new writers are expected to churn out several self-promoting guest blogs a week, which they seem to be.

  16. dick
    Nov 21, 2012 @ 09:22:04

    Well, hey, cut the lady some slack. Blogs, review sites, commentaries constantly review or ask why romance fiction gets no respect–and those are from readers. That a newbie author in an academic setting would make excuses about her own “falling away” should be no surprise.

  17. Laura Florand
    Nov 21, 2012 @ 09:32:08

    @Liz Mc2:

    Yes. But I have some sympathy for writers who make this kind of mis-step. It must be awfully easy in an era when new writers are expected to churn out several self-promoting guest blogs a week, which they seem to be.

    Yes, this is what I think as well.

  18. Jill Sorenson
    Nov 21, 2012 @ 09:40:33

    I’ve never cared what outsiders think about romance and I will never care. So what if the smart folks look down on the sexy covers and “fun” content? Shoo, smart folks! I don’t need validation from literary snobs who wouldn’t stoop to pick up one of my books. My validation comes from within the genre, from within myself.

    I’m struggling to relate this feeling of pride and dismissal of snobbery with my own experience being “out” as a romance author. I use my real name. I’ve had awkward public moments. I understand why Mulry is glad her peers won’t read her books and why she has moments of self doubt. Vicki Lewis Thompson tells a story about sitting at a dinner party while a male guest read one of her sex scenes aloud to the group for laughs. I’ve had relatives say to my face that I write smut. I’ve had used bookstore clerks give me disapproving looks for buying sexy romances with a baby on my hip.

    I think that Mulry was sharing her honest feelings…and haven’t we all felt embarrassed before? When reading that sexy scene in public, or buying a book with the naked man on the cover? There is a difference between shame and embarrassment. I’m not ashamed of what I write; I’m damned proud. I like sexy covers. But I still blush sometimes when I’m confronted.

    I’m not saying that no one should be insulted by Mulry’s article. My reaction was different. I identified with her, not as a former snob (I’ve always read romance, never sat at “smart table”) but as an author and a reader who has both felt embarrassed and been shamed by others in public.

  19. Laura Florand
    Nov 21, 2012 @ 09:45:53

    @Anne V:

    (outside the administration, which likes to show off!)

    Mmm. Yes. But the administrative opinion of a professor’s intellectual gravitas is a major factor for faculty, as is the opinion of other faculty members. It’s a genuine issue. One people face in different ways. As I said, most professors I know who write fiction of any kind are over it and content to assert their own success and let people who don’t like it deal with it whatever way they choose to. But I have certainly heard phrases like, “We will *never* support *popular* fiction”, stated openly by deans, with lips quite literally curled and their noses almost literally held. That’s a genuine context in which people have to choose their path.

    Is Mulry a faculty member? I hadn’t picked that up. But anyway…I do understand why this article bothers people, but again I would argue for slack.

  20. Evangeline Holland
    Nov 21, 2012 @ 10:06:20

    @Liz Mc2: I had the same reaction…self-deprecating and dryly humorous. I’m now wondering if this piece would have gone down easier to some if it’d been posted on Mulry’s website/blog (fostering discussion on her own turf with those who sought her out?) instead of being used as promo?

  21. Laura Vivanco
    Nov 21, 2012 @ 10:06:40

    @Laura Florand:

    I have certainly heard phrases like, “We will *never* support *popular* fiction”, stated openly by deans, with lips quite literally curled and their noses almost literally held. That’s a genuine context in which people have to choose their path.

    That’s sad; given that the Popular Culture Association has been in existence since 1971 I’d have hoped that the study of popular culture would be much more accepted by now. Those who haven’t accepted it aren’t likely to have their minds changed by the work being done by members of the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance, but perhaps we can do something to convince those who’re more open-minded about the value of other forms of popular culture that romance is also worthy of respectful study.

  22. Laura Florand
    Nov 21, 2012 @ 11:02:47

    @Laura Vivanco: Oh, STUDYing it would be fine. :) Producing it is different.

    To keep in context, at a top research university, writing well-respected academic textbooks that are widely adopted at other top universities ALSO doesn’t count toward much. It has to be “legitimate scholarship”, and academic textbooks aren’t considered as such either. Writing literary fiction does have a place; we have several respected literary authors, but it does have to be the serious, not-very-fun-to-read type, absolutely. The type that wins Nobel prizes is good. :)

  23. Laura Vivanco
    Nov 21, 2012 @ 11:18:43

    @Laura Florand:

    Oh, STUDYing it would be fine. :) Producing it is different.

    Hmmm. I see. Well, I suppose the disapproval could therefore be ascribed to a belief that an academic who is also an author of fiction is obviously not spending all of her/his time in a manner befitting an academic: writing cutting-edge research, teaching, or carrying out necessary academic admin/grant-related tasks. If those were the sole grounds for the disapproval, though, wouldn’t the disapproval extend to all leisure activities which are not directly related to an academic’s area of study? Maybe it does?

  24. Kathryn
    Nov 21, 2012 @ 12:07:56

    @Laura Vivanco:

    I suppose the disapproval could therefore be ascribed to a belief that an academic who is also an author of fiction is obviously not spending all of her/his time in a manner befitting an academic: writing cutting-edge research, teaching, or carrying out necessary academic admin/grant-related tasks.

    Absolutely this: why aren’t you, faculty person, out there doing research that brings in grants (so that the university can take its cut) or writing very important books that are winning very important literary awards and being reviewed in very important outlets (s0 that we can boast about this to major donors)? It’s also a need to fit what an academic is doing into certain acceptable categories (especially the trifecta of service, teaching, and research).

    I’m at a university that has a creative writing program–and has had it for a long time. Yet, it has been a struggle to get the administration to consider what the creative writers in the university’s own degree program produce as something worthy as being counted towards tenure, promotion, departmental ranking, etc. And most of the writers who teach in this program write in the “respectable” literary areas rather than in the genre fiction areas.

  25. Laura Florand
    Nov 21, 2012 @ 12:34:26

    To provide another context, besides the purely faculty/academic one I seem to have somewhat derailed this conversation onto, I will also note: I was quite the over-achieving, win-all-prizes kid. Figured once you won a big enough one, everyone would respect you. They didn’t, so I won bigger things. Finally, I won a Fulbright Grant, and of the first four people told, two responded very negatively. The other 2 were my parents. :)

    So…it was a pivotal moment, and I will uphold that people should seriously assume ALL their accomplishments fully, and just live in the acceptance that there are people out there who are going to judge you no matter what you do. They judge Mother Teresa. They judge Nobel Prize winners. People will ALSO turn their nose up at you when you win a Nobel Prize for Literature. (Camus, when he won, was facing judgement right and left.) If you are ashamed of what you read or what you write or anything else you do, trust me, someone is going to be delighted to try to make you wallow in that shame. Part of the problem is that women in particular let themselves become very vulnerable to shaming, and romance as a genre is strongly tied to women. It’s probably a biological instinct, and I’m sure there’s good research on it. They tend to be far more conscious of it and sensitive to it, in cases where many men I know don’t even notice or care what other people think. And if it’s pointed out to these men that other people are thinking bad things about them, they will stare at you in a, “Who the heck cares?” way.

    I could guarantee you that far more women write under a pseudonym than men, for example. (I’m going to say this with complete conviction without a single statistic on hand to back me up.)

    So you know…keep doing what you love, assume it proudly, savor your accomplishments for yourself, appreciate those friends good enough to be able to feel happy for you and support you, and don’t worry about anyone else, insofar as you can control that instinct.

    Which I think was Mulry’s point, even if the approach might have put people’s backs up.

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