Books have long been my refuge from the crazy, ugly real world. Now parts of the online reading community are eroding that safe place.
Books have long been my refuge from the crazy, ugly real world. Now parts of the online reading community are eroding that safe place. 2014 was not a very good year for the reader. Readers were stalked and the stalking was celebrated in a major newspaper. There were dozens of smaller skirmishes and many vocal rallying cries for uncritical support of books and authors. There was a drumbeat, particularly from self-published authors, that readers exist to support the author.
It was also a year in which women were under attack. From being referred to as “binders full of women” to the horrific display of misogyny toward female gamers and gaming developers, the online community seemed especially vile. And it spilled over into the book community with regular ad hominem attacks being lobbed at readers for their reading choices, which had little to do with the books themselves for many times the critics hadn’t even read the books in question. Instead the ad hominem attacks had more to do with the fact that the online discussion wasn’t about the books they felt were stronger, better, worthier than these lesser ones being elevated and praised. Or it was authors who felt that readers didn’t appreciate or understand their work OR worse, assumed that the reader who didn’t like their work had a secret, evil agenda to bring that author down.
It’s enough to want to crawl back into one’s turtle shell and hide.
Dear Author is coming up on nine years of existence. It was established in April 2006 by Jayne and I, because we wanted to talk about books, and specifically we wanted to talk about books with other readers. That it has grown into what it is now pretty much astounds the both of us. Over the years I’ve made mistakes, mostly because I felt like I was still talking to my five friends about books.
And as Dear Author has grown, so have the headaches (and I’m not even talking about the lawsuit), to the extent that I’ve privately told individuals that I’m ready to throw in the towel and walk away from the blog. I’m not going to but I have those feelings. I’m sure many of you have those feelings, because you’ve shared with me your frustration and discontent with the online community, with social media, with the constant negativity in countless emails.
Internally, DA has had discussions about making a safe place for readers where we can talk without fear of reprisal. After weeks of thinking about this, I’ve come to the conclusion that we shouldn’t be afraid to speak about books. It’s books. How did discussions about books become so fraught and dangerous that we have to hide away? I mean, that’s a bit ridiculous and a lot tragic, right?
Ultimately I understand that we want to talk about the books we love and those we don’t without judgment of us as people. From what I hear from others, we want to be able to share our feelings–both love and hate–without pissing people off. And I guess the question is whether that’s a reasonable expectation.
The community of readers, authors, and bloggers is smaller than we think and larger than we are willing to acknowledge, but no matter the size, it is still intimate. We are connected through a hundred threads from one reader to another to an author to a blogger and the impact runs down those thin vibrating wires long after the first explosion.
And if we cannot separate the personal from the impersonal, we all get our feelings hurt. Even me. Frustration, anger, lack of understanding, and desire to protect our friends all play a part in how we interact. This is not to say that it is the recipient’s fault but rather that each of us need to learn to separate the personal from the impersonal. That we focus on what’s said and what’s written instead of the person behind the words. Meaning when we make a comment online, we address the letters on the page.
I’m not free from those feelings of “What did you see in this book?” Everyone has those feelings but the best way to engage and to allow ourselves to have robust conversations is to assume that the other person on the other end of the computer has the best intentions. Sarah Wendell and I rarely agree on any book. If you listen to our podcasts we have wildly divergent opinions on books and oftentimes, even when we both like the book it is not for the same reasons. However, we are able to respect each other despite holding strong opinions that we are right and the other person wrong.
I can ask the question “what did you see in this book?” with true incredulity to Sarah and she will not be offended. In fact, she will be excited to share with me what she liked about it. And it is the same for me as well. I am sure she has questioned my devotion and love for certain books. Truly, I question my own love and affection for certain books. But I know that Sarah respects me no matter what at the end of the day.
There are authors who write books that I do not like. I really need to work hard separating the book from the author and understand that even if the author should choose to write something that I find personally offensive, it does not mean the author is personally offensive. Similarly, because the reader doesn’t like the book doesn’t mean that she is dumb or offensive or doesn’t get it.
My hope for 2015 is this–that we can return to the topic of books and the issues surrounding books while operating under the belief that the other party with whom we are engaged in spirited debate has the best intentions.
This is not to say that there aren’t some people out there that are terrible human beings. There are. And some people have shown conduct repeatedly online that is juvenile, immature, and not worthy of debate. Ignore them. Answer the people you respect and admire and leave the others behind.
We can do better as a blog, and as a community, to make reading our safe place. Let’s have 2015 be the year we can disagree as adults and still be friends or at least readers with a common interest of loving books.
Some truly outstanding points made here – thank you!!
I, too, wish we could just go back to reading books, without all the brouhaha that this year has given us. I have always maintained that opinions/feelings/reviews are totally personal and unique to that person – and that we’re all allowed those.
I admire and respect anyone who has a book-blog – I know I couldn’t do it <3
But, I abhor those who create difficulty and cause harm by unconsidered (or even considered) statements which should remain private and personal.
So, thank you for keeping going thorough difficult times! I'll always keep reading :)
Great post! I too have been incredulous at some of 2014’s goings-on. As you say it’s BOOKS! At most should inspire debate not hate.
I hope Dearauthor.com continues with your participation Jane. I have enjoyed this website for many years, I think I found it within a few months of you ladies starting it.
I’m sure 2015 is going to be better for the entire community.
Thank you for your insightful comments. I wish you and your site all the best in 2015.
This has been a tough year to be a female gamer and reader of a genre still considered to be beneath some people.
Let’s hope this coming year will be better, but to be honest, I don’t think it will be.
Even though its been a tough year for the reading community I still feel that DA has been a bit of a haven for me. Because of family obligations my life and my reading were in a major upheaval for most of the year. However several post here reminded me why I loved reading in the first place. Many of those post happened after something occurred , it might have been the stalking horribleness but I am not sure. Anyway the comment sections were filled with readers passion for a certain book, genre or just for reading in general. It helped remind me of why I loved reading when I wasnt getting to do very much of it and reminded me how crucial it was to the person I am. So thank you Jane and Jayne for doing what you do.
Yup, this has been a depressing year for the reading community, and for women online in general. DA has been a little beacon of reason for me, so many thanks to Jane and the rest of the DA regulars for the great reviews, insightful commentary, and industry news. The online world would be a much dimmer place without all of you.
Please don’t leave. There’s a shortage of intelligent, thoughtful sites where we can discuss books, and romance novels in particular. Sites like yours, and like Smart Bitches, are a haven for authors and readers, and our community needs you.
I know it’s been a tough year, but I’m optimistic it’s going to get better. Perhaps this was like a shake-down cruise, where you take the ship out to make sure it’s seaworthy. You find problems, but they can be fixed and it’s smoother sailing from that point forward.
What a wonderful post to read with my morning tea and toast. Since I first found DA I have been amazed by the discussions, insights and information shared here. The reviews have definitely changed my reading habits. Thank you for all the hard work. I so look forward to more about our great love- BOOKS- in 2015.
Thank you for your insightful commentary. You had me worried reading the beginning of the post. We can’t lose Dear Author. I may not participate regularly but I read this site faithfully for its wonderful commentary and intelligent conversations.
This self-published author would be heartbroken if DA ceased to exist. I was ecstatic when I found this community.
But agreed, this year has been terrible. Your comments about entitled authors makes me wonder if that’s linked to the “gold rush” mentality which existed up until earlier this year. Here’s hoping that increased competition will improve professionalism.
As for The Guardian’s Hale piece, I haven’t been able to read them since.
Love love love this post Jane. I enjoy reading various book blogs for all genres – they have helped me discover authors and books that weren’t familiar to me. As I’ve become more familiar with both the blogs and the reviewers, I actually look forward to the reviews written by someone whose tastes do not align with mine – it gives me a fresh perspective on the book/movie/artwork. Its all about critical thinking and expanding your thought processes and possibly discovering something new altogether.
As a former French lit major, I remember sitting in countless of classes thinking “How can the professor actually LOVE this piece of cr*p?!” It is there I discovered that I love the journey to the happy ever after even if that journey isn’t always so happy or satisfying. That’s the thing with books, movies, art etc, there is something for everyone and to denigrate someone’s tastes in a hurtful way is shameful. My 2 most favorite pieces of literature are so different you would think that 2 different people were residing in one brain… Hamlet & Ivanhoe. One a tragedy and the other a classic romance.
Thank your for doing what you do so well, I look forward to reading more from you!
PS I love your podcasts with Sarah and hearing those divergent opinions. I’ve bought/borrowed way to many books based on those podcasts alone!
Well, no one has a perfect life. Mine is about to have a major shock and I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have my books to cheer me up and to make me just be myself while I’m reading them.
I think that books and book talking should be about what it means to read books and why we feel amazing while we do it. I understand the business side of it, but personally, I read because I love it and because after years doing it, at this point, I NEED it. It’s so sad people who have a life because of a world created in a story can’t be happier in real life. But in the end, if there’s one book lover out there, books and reading will still be that special and magical dream we all embrace and cherish, I think.
Here here. Well said. I believe that the majority of readers feel the same as you. Don’t let the dissenting few (regardless of how loud they may be) cause you to do anything other than what you want to do. I came across Dear Author just 2 years ago and I follow the opinions closely. Don’t always agree with mine, but I like the discussion and opinions.
I loved this piece. We should all feel free to disagree and debate things that are important to us. I hope you continue to do that here. All the best for 2015 x
“Answer the people you respect and admire and leave the others behind.”
Thanks very much for your level-headed, no-nonsense attitude toward everything that’s happened the past year. I appreciate your optimism in the face of all the shit you’re having to deal with.
We all have to move forward, dealing with the world as adults. If we stoop to the level of those who are lashing out at us out of petty, self-absorbed immaturity, nothing is solved and things will continue downhill.
A lot of us needed to hear this for more reasons than you know. Your determination is heartening.
Thank you, Jane.
I discovered Dear Author two years ago when I was at a crappy workplace that blocked almost all Internet content, but for some reason Dear Author got through the blocks and I was in heaven. Couldn’t believe I hadn’t known about it before.
Over the last two years I’ve been through more crappy jobs than I care to count, but DA is always a little beacon of hope, especially at 3 p.m. everyday when I check the daily deals and spend more money than I should. But seriously, if it wasn’t for sites like this, I wouldn’t even have heard of the only authors I currently enjoy – that’s how far out of the loop I had wandered.
I have a decent ability to tune out negativity, but some of the stuff in the writing community has gotten out of hand to a most shocking degree, and I can only hope cooler heads will prevail. But with all things Web related, I have severe doubts. It’s a shame that something that brings so much to so many is a burden on the back end because of these things.
I’m all for spirited discussions with differing opinions in the new year. I always read my favorite film critics back in the day like Pauline Kael even when they hated movies I loved. Understanding (but not necessarily agreeing with) someone else’s diametrically opposed opinion helped me learn what mattered to me and what didn’t, and kept me intellectually curious. When you stop being curious, you calcify.
Just couldn’t ignore this… I really tried, but I have a conscience.
“From being referred to as “binders full of women”..” That false meme was from 2012, not 2014. Let it go already.
I have come to expect higher standards from DA.
This is easier for me to say because I’m far removed from so many of the shenanigans that you have to deal with hosting and contributing to this blog but please, please stay #notchilled. It’s vitally important that you group of intelligent, vibrant women have a voice…a loud one if necessary…online. I’m here because yes, I love talking about books. But I think DA is much more than that. You bring to light thoughtful commentary and insight into our growing digital world…the good and the bad and the ugly. But more importantly, you are often (and perhaps unfairly) one of the most vehement voices standing up to those who want to silence or belittle us for our READING choices.
That may put an unfair onus on all of you that contribute here but please know it’s very much appreciated. DA is a beacon, even when (maybe especially when) things get ugly and I’m deeply grateful.
@Mike: I am afraid I have read very similar expression very recently, certainly not only in 2012. And no, I am not going to say where, you could take my word or not take my word for it. Also for a full disclosure I am one of DA reviewers, but Jane have not consulted me during writing of this article, so I am sure both of us have read this completely independently from each other.
@Mike: You’re right that the Binders full of women comment came from Mitt Romney during the 2012 debates. It stuck in my mind, but I could replace it with a dozen, probably a hundred, other examples such as the restrictive abortion laws passed throughout, the inability to pass an equitable pay act, the shooting of the sorority girls by a men’s rights activist, the celebrity nudity hack, the word feminism being used as a pejorative, and so on.
@Jane: Gamergate, mansplaining, no ERA…it’s depressing and the list gets longer every year
“Answer the people you respect and admire and leave the others behind.” Amen, Jane, and thank you for everything.
Please don’t go anywhere — I just found you!! And I love you!
Thank you for First Page. I read it every weekend and learn so much from the constructive criticism. Many thanks to all of the people who take the time to read the amateur pieces and comment on them.
I still treasure this place and all the wonderful authors and books (and people!) it’s introduced me to.
I’m also more shy to comment because last time I said how much I enjoyed the conversations and discussions in the comments here, someone came in to slap me down, and I’ll admit it still stings. If the drive-by things like that sting me, I can’t imagine how they hurt the folks here. I don’t have huge relationships with folks here, so I’ve been really sad to see blogs I mostly read and didn’t comment on go dark or private.
I’m glad this place is here, and I always will be. The news posts are the first things I go to, as they’re all relevant and interesting to me. The reviews have taught me different ways to look at books and have really helped me find words for the things that I like, that I dislike, that really make me pause and think. The letters of opinion are always, always good conversation. I’m glad that we CAN have these conversations, even if some people have no interest in engaging in them, and I really do try to assume people are commenting in good faith.
I’m a game dev. This year was brutal on the work front. I left an abusive relationship, so it was pretty hard on the personal front. I was diagnosed with PTSD, which has been a massive blow and at the same time is finally letting me get the treatments I need and I am healing and it is incredible. I’ve lost loved ones and gained new family members. I’ve broken bones and had major surgery. Through all of this there have been books, books by women game devs, books about abuse that let me understand what was going on and most importantly let me get OUT safely and gave me the words I needed to identify what was happening, books about PTSD and characters with PTSD who are still awesome and kick-ass and if THEY are okay, then maybe I will be too. Books about love and emotion, about accepting that you CAN be loved the way you want and that love is not an “unreasonable expectation”. For me, romance novels really are neither a fantasy nor a blueprint for life, but a constant reminder that yes, we all do deserve love and respect, and that it’s a very reasonable expectation indeed.
I respect folks here tremendously, even when I don’t agree with something they’ve said. I love folks here, because you make yourselves vulnerable in your discussions, because talking about how a book made you think and feel is opening yourself up, even when reviews are a profession. It hurts when people see that vulnerability as weakness, because people here are so incredibly strong.
So yes, 2014, not a banner year for me, and yet every day I spend with you folks and with books is better for it. Thanks for being here.
Thank you, Jane! I don’t post much, but I read Dear Author every day, and it’s been a safe place for me to enjoy books and other discussion for several years. I appreciate what you do so much, and while we don’t always agree on books or whatever, I always look forward reading your posts every day, and reading the discussions. It’s always a great and wonderful thing when you can read somebody else’s opinion and learn what makes them appreciate a topic from another point of view :)
Happy New Year to all!
Books have been my refuge too from the world. Yet this essay and Jane’s comment persist in equating love of romance books with a love of radical feminism. I go to romance books to get away from this garbage, not be assaulted by it. And restrictive abortion laws are very very good for all the very young women whose lives will be saved by them. I will grant you it’s been a very very bad year for women who lie about rape (Lena Dunham, the UVA Rolling Stone story), and maybe liberal women are pissed off at being called out on these things, so yeah it’s been a bad year for those women. Liberal Democrat women that is. As for me, I’ve had a pretty good year. But then I would never equate my good year with “all women.” I find that to be arrogant. So please stop lumping anyone with a vagina under the banner of “all women.” I don’t like bringing politics into things, it wasn’t me that made it political.
@Lindsay: If you wish, consider this a drive-by hug:
Jane, i wish you a happy, peaceful, and victorious year’s blogging.
@Barbara: bless your heart.
It’s been a tough, though exciting year for me too, though nothing as bad as yours. (Also, please have a hug if you can use one). But I’ll say it not the books that got me through, but the wonderful women (and one man) I’ve met through reading and writing them. I’m bad at making friends, worse at keeping them, but the smartest, kindest, most liberal and forward thinking people anyone could want, exist in the community of book lovers.
And a good many of them comment on Dear Author :)
>the horrific display of misogyny toward female gamers and gaming developers
GamerGate, indirectly, had a huge effect on feminism in the popular imagination this year, because it showed third-wave feminism up for what it is: a hateful, bullying, authoritarian creed of funless cultural Marxism.
“a hateful, bullying, authoritarian creed of funless cultural Marxism.”
I nicked my currently blog subheading – “Proudly displaying the worst excesses of liberal secularism” – from a comment at SBTB. Maybe I’ll use this one from Thomas for 2015!
Thank you, Thomas. Mind how you go now, love.
This is my second comment to your website though I check it almost every day. I enjoy your reviews and articles. I appreciate your tags so I can skip reviews of books I don’t generally read.
I hope that public websites like yours will remain in the public and not go private or dark because of the discourse becomes strident and devoid of billing.
I think I can disagree without being disagreeable (I could be wrong) and I wish more folks shared that value. On the other hand, I appreciate a good snark now and then so perhaps I’m not being consistent.
Anyway, thank you for this website and I hope you can find a way to increase the enjoyment and decrease the hassle.
Well said. While I use and appreciate the Internet and its ability to bring people together from around the globe, it has also had a negative impact on our culture, IMO. The ability to hide behind a screen and keyboard, or a phone, has enabled and encouraged racism, gender bias and inequality, and other unseemly elements which many of us thought banished — or at least minimized — over the past couple of decades. The truth is these wrong-headed viewpoints merely hid in the shadows, like other vermin, biding their time to step into the light once more.
Diversity is something that should be celebrated, rather than denigrated. If we all looked, acted, and thought the same, the world would be an incredibly boring place. The only thing we should all agree on is that it’s all right to politely disagree and respect one another’s opinions.
@Ann Somerville: Because tired brain is tired, I misread “funless cultural Marxism” as “funicular Marxism” and thought, “Cool! Where can I buy a ticket?”
And googling that got me this stanza from a poem by Wallace Stevens :)
I love the internet :)
“apostrophes are forbidden on the funicular”
And now *I* have a new tag line!
Thank you, Jane! You, and your colleagues, have consistantly taken the ‘high road’ and I think that is why so many of us read this blog daily.
As for the shenigans in 2014 of those in the ‘cheap seats’, well, you always seem to get what you pay for.
Let’s hope for a better 2015.
In the interest of honesty unless I missed it I have never heard the phase “binders full of women” except during the 2012 debates. Did I miss another instance?
Dear Author is bookmarked on all my devices….I often check here before going to my e-mail. DA has enriched my reading life…….so thank you Jane……I wish you the best in 2015;
@Barbara: Feminism is the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of social, political, and economic equality to men (wiki). What’s not to like?
Answer the people you respect and admire and leave the others behind.
I think we need this on a sticker. I definitely need it tacked to my computer screen.
Jane, do you remember that dickhead who dismissed Romance and denigrated its readers? And how you engaged with him and made him see that in the world of eBooks, it was Romance leading publishing and doing all of the innovative things the then-Big Six should have been doing? And how since you took the time to *educate* him, he has never again said one bad word against either Romance or its readers?
You should remember, Jane. That dickhead was me!
So don’t stop. More strength to you and all of DA in 2015.
@Mike Cane: Ah, you were never a dickhead. And thank you for engaging with me! It’s been great interacting with you!
This is a timely post. A goodreads audio group I belong to had just had someone post that one narrator is the worst ever and another shouldn’t narrator any books ever again. It just kind of annoys me when people post stuff like that without going into specifics about that they didn’t like about a book or audio narration and then some to think that everyone else should feel like they do. Stuff like this makes me hate the internet.
*Answer the people you respect and admire and leave the others behind.*
This is it… exactly… in fact… I was going to respond to a few of the *ahem* more colorful comments here and then reread this phrase. And @Ann Somerville has already blessed them so there’s nothing more to say :) I visit this site daily but hardly ever comment but I hope you know what a haven this site is. I wish you and everyone here well and I am going to go into 2015 with optimism… even if it hurts! Thank you for such a thoughtful and inspiration post!
@Lindsay: I always appreciate your comments.
I’ve had a rough year too. I was diagnosed with PTSD 24 years ago and I’ve worked so hard at healing and managing my symptoms – I was in a really good place for many years. And then I was laid off this June and it seems to have re-triggered my symptoms – I haven’t had such a hard time in more than 20 years.
The online romance community has been a refuge for me – it’s nice to have one part of my life that isn’t taken over by networking and isn’t (very) fraught with potential triggers. I’ve deliberately tried to stay out of most of this year’s online kerfuffles – although it’s hard, because I’m also curious and opinionated, but mostly I’ve been able to stay safely on the sidelines. But it’s been upsetting to watch.
@Lindsay: If you are willing to accept it from me I would like to offer hugs to you as well. To you and everybody who had a rough year. Mine could have been better for sure but it was not horrible. May the next one be better.
Aw, hapax, Ann, Cleo, Sirius, everyone — thank you and hugs back! Cleo I’m so sorry, I have been learning a lot about management of it from folks who have been there and it’s heartbreaking knowing people still suffer 20 years out — but at the same time, I’ve HAD it for over 20 years, it just took that long to be diagnosed correctly.
It was a HARD year but by no means The Worst or even all-over awful, honestly, even if some parts really were! Through all of this there has been so much good, and quite honestly I think I’m coming out of this year a hundred times better than I went in. I’m happy, I’m safe, I’m peaceful, and I’m hopeful — it really is good stuff.
Ann, it totally is from people, too — I mean, people write the books I enjoy, but they also recommend them, help pull them apart to see what works and what doesn’t, I met my Online Support Group this year, there are really too many folks to name who have touched my life in such good ways but I am grateful for every single one. This year has been all about love, even across borders and oceans, and it’s a good thing.
I’d really like to go to something like RWA just to meet folks and hug them and such… maybe I will (maybe not RWA thanks to all the posts about it, but something)! It’s a long trip but if I’m willing to go to Indy every year for board games and geekery, I think I really want to connect with folks from here and the romance/book community in general.
Re: Answer the people you respect and admire and leave the others behind.
There’s a nice corollary quote, which I just googled & appears to be Mark Twain: “Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.”
@Lindsay – overall, I’d say I’m much, much better than I was 24 years ago, even though I’m going through a rough patch now – and I truly believe I’m going to come out of this stronger and healthier than I was before. But it is humbling to me how hard it is right now. I was a bit too cocky before. If I have any wisdom to share, it’s that I keep being reminded that healing is a process, not an event, and that the path is more like an upward spiral than a straight line up. And while it can be a rough diagnosis, it’s so much easier once you know what’s going on. I’m glad you were finally correctly diagnosed.
I regret not going to RT when it was in Chicago, and I hope to make it some year and meet everyone in person too.
@Robin/Janet: So much this.
@cleo: May I just say how much I always appreciate your comments Cleo – in every venue I see them. Please let me know if you ever decide to join Twitter – I’d follow you in a hot second.
To @Lindsay and anyone else who needs one: Another drive-by hug. It’s surprising how such a small thing can mean so much – but I’ve been on the receiving end of some when I’ve really needed them so I try and remember to take the few seconds to give them back.
I love reviewing at Dear Author and I love reading the posts and comments here. I feel lucky and grateful I can be a DA contributor. Happy New Year everyone! :)
Great blog post and thread comments.
It’s been a hard year, yes, the hardest I remember when it comes to blogging. Jane and DA were sued. Book bloggers got stalked and in one case, attacked physically. People whose opinions I respect left Twitter and/or made their blogs private because they felt unsafe.
But there have also been silver linings, like some of the messages of support left on the Defense Fund thread at GoFundMe, or the thoughtful comments made during the Kathleen Hale firestorm. Disparate parts of the community came together around these issues and it was a beautiful thing. It’s moments like that, and a thread like this one, that keep me posting.
@Lindsay @Cleo I’ve had my share of tough times and during one of the toughest a friend (now my husband) said to me “You’ll get through to the other side.” I still have hard days when I have to repeat that to myself, but have gotten through very tough shit, more than once. For the new year, 2015, that’s my wish to my friends offline and online, for myself, and for the community. Let’s get through to the other side of the crapola, and remember that others are with us.
@Lindsay: You get a big, squishy hug from me whether you want it or not. ;) And you too, Cleo. Both of you are warm and open and generous in talking about your knowledge and experiences, and I’ve drawn on your strength this year, believe me.
The online romance community has been a critical part of my life for going on 15 years now, and for half of those I’ve been at DA, first as a lurker, then as a commenter, and finally as a contributor. I’ve come to and left personal blogging and Twitter more than once, but DA is my mainstay. I’m so glad Jane wrote this post, because some of the most rewarding conversations here over the years have been the ones where infrequent commenters and lurkers contribute. We know you’re out there, and it keeps some of us going when things get grisly, but it’s especially nice to hear your voices too.
I could go on but Janine said it all and better than I can. Happy New Year, everyone.
Just saw this in Kelly Faircloth’s Jezebel column today about her favorite reads of 2014:
“Boatloads of romance: Whenever I get especially annoyed about how much of popular culture just straight ignores the perspectives of women (for instance, whenever I read anything about Aaron Sorkin), I calm myself by dipping into the cool pool of water that is romance, one of the few genres that really puts the female experience first and makes zero apologies. So some shouts to the writers who sucked me in this year: Sarah MacLean, Meredith Duran, Kit Rocha, Courtney Milan, Eloisa James, Lisa Kleypas.”
I will never understand why some authors have hissy fits when everyone doesn’t love their books. A book is a product; some will like it and some won’t. Honestly, it’s embarrassing to read about the stalking and temper tantrums and bad behavior from authors who just need to grow the hell up. I write the best book I can, but I know not everyone will like it. That’s just the way it is. Authors who argue with reviewers because they “don’t understand” need to get over themselves, and authors who think everyone who gives a one star rating must be out to get them really need to develop a thicker skin. It’s nice to find an honest reviewer like DA who tells it like it is with the books you review. Don’t stop!
“After weeks of thinking about this, I’ve come to the conclusion that we shouldn’t be afraid to speak about books. It’s books. How did discussions about books become so fraught and dangerous that we have to hide away? I mean, that’s a bit ridiculous and a lot tragic, right?”
Incredibly tragic. It’s censorship through fear and intimidation. It’s allowing a kind of intellectual terrorism to win.
It has been a rough year on a lot of different fronts. I’m a reader, writer, and teacher. Because I’ve built a program where my students are free to pursue a degree in whatever genre they wish, the classes and I read a lot of different genres. Some I love better than others. But it is only through the honest, non-judgmental deconstruction and criticism of published books and the students’ unpublished writing that a young writer can grow. Criticism is a huge part of learning. If we aren’t allowed to discuss books properly and thoroughly, the writing world will become much poorer.
A fantastic post, really hitting the nerves of the issues that plagued the community in 2014. I, too, hope 2015 is better, and more accepting than this one has been.
2014 was a tough year for many writers also.
Many established writers have quietly found non-writing day jobs.
(They usually don’t talk about it publicly because failure breeds failure and success breeds success.)
Some writers always step back but never to this degree.
I suspect that extreme disappointment (the death of dreams) isn’t helping reader/blogger/reviewer relations.
I’m sorry to be so late in commenting on your beautifully expressed and temperate review of 2014; I’ve been unwell, and then in hospital, where I was even more unwell, and am now convalescing.
It takes a while to step back into engaging with what could loosely be called the real world, directly and via the Web, but I have been sustained by rereading tried and trusted favourites, many of which I first encountered on DA.
One aspect of your drive to make ebooks more easily available has been overlooked; it’s a Godsend to people unable to lift physical books either because they are simply too heavy or need two hands to operate them. My Kindle lacks the aesthetics of my much loved hard covers, now happily available to me once more, but it was amazing when one or other arm was attached to an assortment of IV lines and monitors.
I very much hope that 2015 will be a better year for all of us who love books; embracing the spirit in which you and Sarah disagree with each other would be a very good start!
@Stevie: What a lovely comment! Get well and feel better soon.