Wednesday Midday Links: Local news reporters jeopardize author’s career as schoolteacher
File under the awful things news people do, WNEP, a news organization out of Pennsylvania reported that a junior high school teacher of 25 years writes erotic romances on the side. Who gave them the tip and why they thought this might be important isn’t clear. What is clear, however, is that the news of this may place the author’s career in jeopardy. So she is a great teacher but because she writes stories about sex she’s a danger to her teenaged students? COME ON PEOPLE!
Parent Deanna Stepp said the evidence is clear. “She is teaching children that are under the age of 18 and definitely the books that she is writing are adult books. I think she needs to make a decision as to what she wants to do. Either be a school teacher or author,” Stepp said.
“I was shocked. If you are a teacher you shouldn’t be doing that,” said former student Shanette Apple.
“I was sort of shocked.Sitting in her class I had no idea. She is a good teacher but I had no idea what was going on behind the scenes,” said former student Drew Hollenbach.
Sarah Wendell has contact information on her site including WNEP’s facebook page and their station’s phone number (570-346-7474). All Romance eBooks has a link to all the books by Judy Mays if you want to support her financially.
Penguin launches Book Country, a site for authors patterned after Ravelry. Readers can join to read original fiction, rate it, and even offer editorial suggestions. The NYTimes suggests that Penguin will monetize this site by offering self publishing options, for a fee, for the members. Will this lead to RWA decertification for Penguin books? Probably not.
I can’t remember if I linked to this before but Orbit, the SFF imprint of Hachette, has launched its own digital first program but this is designed to showcase existing authors rather than an arm to acquire new original digital fiction. I think Orbit has the coolest site around and some of the best covers, even for books I don’t like!
Amazon announced its quarterly results. Its sales are up but its profits are down. Whether this is the result of its low pricing or whether it is reflective of the reinvestments into company growth remains to be seen. Amazon is going to open new fulfillment centers to meet increasing demand both here and abroad.
Technology has resulted in some serious privacy scares lately. Sony has come out and acknowledged a hacker has obtained the Name, Address, Birthday and password of Sony’s 75Million memberdatabase that uses Play Station Network. Borders was so blase about its customer information that one could look up the Borders Rewards members and email addresses on a public non secured website. Finally, programmers last week revealed that there is a file on your harddrive that is created every time your iPhone or iPad is backed up. This file reveals that the Phone/iPad is tracking your every movement. Apple has come back to say that they aren’t tracking anyone and that this file is used to monitor cell towers and satellite signals. Apple said that an update would be pushed which would secure this data and allow users to opt out.
Now that Sarah got a hold of them, I think WNEP is going to look back at that lazy story they did with a regret or two. Their FB page has been lit the hell up.
Or maybe they’ll just enjoy the traffic spike.
In any case, I hope Ms. B keeps her job. She sounds like a well-liked and respected teacher. It’d be a huge shame for students to lose a good teacher or for her to lose access to her creative outlet (and extra pocket change.)
I read that teacher story this morning and felt really disturbed and sad. I always planned to go back to teaching in a couple years but I would hate to be outed and “shamed” like this by a bunch of ignorant jackhats. I live in the bible belt and I can see it happening here.
Thus my no-conferences, no-book-signings, no-recognizable-online-photos policy. I love teaching and I have a lot to offer as a teacher. I don’t want my erotic romance writing to give people a chance to take all that away. :(
“She is teaching children that are under the age of 18 and definitely the books that she is writing are adult books. I think she needs to make a decision as to what she wants to do. Either be a school teacher or author”
She wasn’t pushing her books on her under-the-age-of-18 students, so there’s absolutely no reason why her writing life and her teaching life couldn’t be separate. It’s too bad that WNEP forced her writing life and teaching life to cross paths like this. What, were they having a really, really slow news day and decided to create some local controversy?
The NYTimes suggests that Penguin will monetize this site by offering self publishing options, for a fee, for the members. Will this lead to RWA decertification for Penguin books? Probably not.
It would be an interesting question, if/when they do offer the self publishing options, not just for RWA, but some of the other author groups as well. Given the rise of self-publishing, would it surprise any of us to see more publishers try to get in on it?
The Orbit short stories are seriously overpriced. ~3,900 words for $1.99? And Mira Grant is an author I like, but I’ll be skipping this one.
And what WNEP did was completely shitty. First, how is this a news story? And second, the parents’ overreactions are ridiculous. What a teacher does on her spare time shouldn’t be anyone’s business unless it somehow affects the students, and since nobody knew about her published erotic romances, it obviously wasn’t causing any trouble.
I did a quick round-up of other places you can find Judy Mays books in both print and digital form.
Just as a point of accuracy, Judy Mays teaches 10th grade English at Midd West High School (not a junior high school). Not that it matters. She could teach kindergarten for all I care.
Regarding self-publishing and Penguin, I think RWA has a difficult few years ahead of it. With big name authors fleeing traditional publishing for self-publishing and making much better money at it, it’s going to be difficult for RWA to maintain the position that self-publishing is a poor business decision. By the same token, so much of what is being self-published is so awful–unedited, poorly plotted, cliched, boring, and just plain bad–that it’s hard for me to champion the total elimination of the gatekeepers. (In fact, I hereby extend my gratitude to all the editors and agents who have suffered through reading those types of manuscripts in the past so that I didn’t have to.)
So, from RWA’s perspective, embracing self-publishing fully means embracing not just the competent authors but the incompetent ones as well. Maybe that’s just what RWA has to do, but it also means that judging the RITA is going to start to feel an awful lot more like judging the Golden Heart.
What difference does what the teacher does in her spare time make? If she loses her job I would hope some other school district snaps her up. How shortsighted of the parents who are overreacting. And what a lesson in stupidity and intolerance they are “teaching” their children.
I called WNEP to complain about their decision to run the story, and how one-sided their coverage was. The news director was polite and informative, and said that they reported on the story because it was local news about an issue being brought to the school board. While I remain unconvinced that this story qualifies as news, I was impressed by his commitment to covering local issues. He also said they will be running a story about parents and citizens who support the teacher .
Re: Book Country– I think it’s smart to read BC’s fine print and decide what submitting a manuscript might mean.
BC sounds a lot like HarperCollin’s Authonomy website. I would be wary of posting anything on BC if it’s like Authonomy.
So, from RWA’s perspective, embracing self-publishing fully means embracing not just the competent authors but the incompetent ones as well.
I think RWA’s responsibility is going to be to educate its members as to how not to put out incompetent crap. We do a decent job now teaching people how to query and so forth. I think that it’s our…obligation, perhaps, to help vet authors and help them decide if they’re ready to self-publish, and educate them on what they need to do to put out a professional product.
Re: Judy Mays. This really hits home for me, and it makes me feel sick on her behalf. Just sick.
So … if you participate in adult activities, you shouldn’t be teaching children. I guess they’ll have to start hiring nuns/priests and minors as teachers. But wait, that won’t really work either what with all the religious sex scandals and married priests. And isn’t it some kind of socal crime to reach the age of majority as a virgin?
WTF, Snyder County? (Almost typed “Harper Valley” there, which…indicative, much?) Teachers are human beings. They think about sex. They even occasionally *have* sex. As long as she’s not distributing the books in her classroom, or writing about hot teacher-student action, then…what exactly is the problem?
Shades of those Old West rules where schoolteachers weren’t allowed to be married or have sweethearts, really. Also: ugh.
The whole Judy Mays thing makes me so angry I almost can’t type. Shall we go back to the days when women were forced to give up teaching when they married because once they’d had sex, they knew inappropriate things (apparently it wasn’t a problem for sexually active men to be around children though)? And just what is going on behind the scenes in the households of the complaints? Presumably they’ve had sex, since they have biological children. Right? It’s scandalous! How can they sit across from those poor children at the dinner table? I mean, what must the children think of their parents? How can we ask them to face such a horror?
OMG, Isabel C. and I are actually the same person, LOL!
@Courtney Milan: Is RWA capable of doing that? They’d first have to acknowledge that some authors write incompetent crap, and they don’t even like readers to criticize authors’ writing ability.
I mean, as an outsider, I think it’s a good idea. Readers need somebody to vet for them. It just seems completely at odds with my impression of what RWA is all about.
@Courtney Milan: I’d be curious to hear what you think RWA should do to educate its members about self-publishing. More of an academic question, since that’s not something I’m seriously considering at the moment.
I agree in principle. In practice, let’s face it, even authors who are contracted by a publisher may not truly be ready for publication and the end product is often not professional. Which, I suppose, is an argument for “self-published books are no different”.
RWA has never been able to prevent authors whose work isn’t publishable from being published. What it HAS been able to do is limit the number of those books that make their way into the RITA. But with the Connie Brockways of the world making the leap to self-publishing, I have a hard time imagining that the prohibition on self-published books will last much longer. And once you let in Connie’s self-published book, you’re going to have to let in everyone else’s. And that’s what I mean when I say judging the RITA is going to become a lot more like judging the Golden Heart. A lot more of the books are going to look like agent/editor slush and less like polished finished products. There will be gems, of course. But gems will probably not be the norm among self-published books by previously unpublished authors no matter how hard RWA concentrates on teaching those skills.
(And yes, you can interpret this as meaning I have read an AWFUL LOT of self-published books lately that should never, ever have seen the light of day.)
The whole thing with Judy Mays reeks of an old-fashioned, mean-spirited witchhunt. I know very little except what I saw in the article, but I wonder if some “concerned” parents aren’t unhappy with her as a teacher-perhaps she’s asking her students to read material they deem “inappropriate,” and using this as an opportunity to make life uncomfortable and difficult for her. It’s simply wrong on so many levels.
Presumably, though, if she’s like most other public school teachers, she should be a member of a union and unable to be terminated for such a ridiculous “offense,” by the School Board. Hopefully, the School Board will do the right thing.
One additional thought on self-publishing: Maybe I’m naive, but I tend to think that the market will take care of any problems with authors who self-publish and produce a sub-par product while talented authors who self-publish will flourish. And by “flourish,” I mean have readers who are clamoring for their work. If someone’s self-published work stinks, presumably people will cease buying it. Conversely, if it’s tremendously popular, people will continue to buy it and the authors can either continue to self-publish, or if appropriate, sign with a traditional publisher.
given what I read at SBTB about Lora Leigh’s latest book and how bad it was (checked it out, couldnt get past the first page), even to having missing scenes, I am not all that impressed with the job that the professional “gatekeeper’s” are doing.
I’d like recommendations for an indy author who writes good romantic suspense, but I don’t go out looking for it, because most of what I’ve found is even worse than Leigh’s writing. But maybe I’ve just had bad luck.
When I started teaching almost 30 years ago there were still many school districts that had “morality” clauses in the contracts. I thought those days were now in the past but apparently not.
given what I read at SBTB about Lora Leigh’s latest book and how bad it was (checked it out, couldnt get past the first page), even to having missing scenes, I am not all that impressed with the job that the professional “gatekeeper’s” are doing.
I sampled the Lora Leigh book, too. Let’s just say that while the editing was far below the quality I would expect of a traditionally published book, it was nowhere near as bad as the majority of the self-published books I sampled. (And this is to take nothing from the self-published authors whose work I’ve read that is fabulous. It’s simply to say that on average, the self-published books are much likelier to be bad than those put out by a publisher.)
I used to believe the market would “punish” bad self-published books, too. But after having read samples of many that are selling consistently in the top 1000 overall on Amazon and riding high in some of the sub-category lists, I have less faith. Several authors I sampled have multiple books out, all selling quite well on Amazon, and all of them (in my opinion) atrociously written and edited. But clearly, these books are selling.
I’m sure some people will interpret my observations about such books as sour grapes. Obviously, I’m jealous of these authors and trying to tear them down as a result. I’ll freely admit I’d love if it my books sold as well as some of the ones I sampled. But I’m not jealous; I’m just baffled. Do the people who buy these books really read them? And do they think the books are good?
Anyway, from what I’ve seen thus far, the cream doesn’t always rise to the top. Apparently, crap floats, too.
@Jackie-I totally understand what you’re saying, but I think that’s true of published authors as well. I’m now in my mid-thirties and have been an avid reader for close to twenty years. I read various genres-romance, romantic suspense, YA, thrillers, mysteries, historical mysteries, “chick lit,” or “women’s fiction,” etc. And in each genre, I can think of writers who I think are beyond talented, but have never achieved huge commercial success.
Conversely, numerous “successful” authors I think are not necessarily talented writers. For example, I think Stephenie Meyer is a very mediocre writer (at best). And yes, I read all four of the Twilight installments. But she had huge sales.
I guess maybe what I’m saying is that reading is such a subjective experience (although I think there are no excuses for poor grammar, typos, etc.), that what may be “crap” to you or me is someone else’s gold, self-published or not.
Excuse my ignorance, but reading those comments about the Judy Mays incident, particularly the history of female teachers, marriage, morality clauses, etc. Has there ever been incidents where male teachers got in trouble for writing “inappropriate” works?
I’m asking because when I think of three earlier incidents where teachers got in trouble for writing “inappropriate” novels and all these teachers involved were female.
@Courtney, I don’t know if you truly understand what Jackie says when she says the writing is bad. For me, it was “beyond the pale” bad.
I’ve been sampling self-published books for about a week now and most of what I’ve come across isn’t fit for any readers eyes. Certainly not fit for publication and definitely not worth even $0.00 if that was the price tag.
We’re talking books so atrocious in terms of grammar, plot, voice, it’s hard for me to express how truly bad they are. And even when the writing is competent at best, everything else is a mess. I’m constantly walking away with the thought, this is why you are not published traditionally.
At this point, I’ve completely embraced paying $7.99 for a book I really want, by an author I know who can, will and does deliver. Life is too short for me to try and find that diamond in the rough. If they are out there, someone else is going to have to discover them and tell me about it. Put a fork in me, I’m done.
As an organization? I have no idea, but I suspect not. As individual members? Yes. I had some great mentorship from individuals in RWA–people who read my work and said “this isn’t ready” and then who read my work and said “this is ready.” I’ve had lots of people offer me advice and help. I appreciate that.
When I can, I try to pay it forward, and I think that we’re going to (hopefully) see more of that by individual RWA members. I doubt I’ll see something formal.
I think it benefits us to make sure that romance is a quality product. We can’t make a difference for all of it, but I bet we can on the margins. So, I don’t know about RWA, but I do know that I have friends who are self-publishing or thinking about it, and I’m willing to share what I’ve learned. Can’t help people who are uninterested in hearing criticism, but there are tons of people who are trying to improve their craft.
@Jackie Barbosa: Prediction–in the next five years, RWA will come up with a self-published award, separate from the RITA and the Golden Heart. There will probably be some kind of a threshold requirement so that not everyone can enter–I don’t know what that would be, but I can think of a few ideas.
And finally, re self-pubbed books generally: I’ve read more than a handful at this point and sampled a ton more. Not all of them suck. For instance: last night, I downloaded a sample of John Locke’s book. While it definitely could have used a stronger polish, the situation was compelling and he made me laugh in the first chapter. I totally get why he’s selling as well as he is. I don’t know that I could read it–there were enough POV slips in the sample that I think it would have hurt my head to read it because I wouldn’t have been able to take my author hat off.
But he made me want to know what happened, so much so that I’m actually considering reading the book. In a genre where I don’t normally read. Where he made my head hurt with POV sloppiness. That’s talent. I wish the talent had also cleaned up the rough edges, but hey.
A lot of the ones I have sampled have not been my thing–but for the ones that are selling like crazy, I can usually identify why they’re selling even if I wouldn’t buy it myself.
The Judy Mays story ruined my morning. I was planning to go back to teaching in a couple years and I can’t imagine being the subject of this witchhunt and shaming by idiots. How sad and horrible for her.
This just reinforces my decision for no conferences, no book signings, no conventions, no recognizable pics of me on the internet. It’s not worth losing my teaching credentials.
@Courtney: Unfortunately, IMO that theory fails due to the sheer number of self-pub’d works. A lot of readers (like me) are going to give up sorting through crap books before they get to the scattered gems. Even established authors who are repub’ing their backlists have trouble getting the word out. If those gems can get lost in the wash of crap, books by unknown geniuses can be too. At least with traditional publishing, the truly execrable are weeded out beforehand.
(When we talk about crap self-pub’d books, I don’t think we’re talking about taste. I think there’s a level of crap in self-pub not found in trad-pub because there’s no weeding for incoherency. So it’s not a question of “one person’s trash, etc.” so much as a basic question of readability.)
Maybe what’s needed is a review blog/website for self-pub’d books that focuses mainly on writing quality, classifying them as “readable” and “needs to be buried” and posts writing samples. It would help readers and, if it became popular, might serve as a reality check for writers considering selfpub’ing.
I teach Kindergarten, and I write erotic romances as well as horror. My principal and fellow teachers know I’m an author, but I’m very careful about “announcing” it to the parents because of the very thing that happened to Ms. Mays. But I know there are people out there who might think I read my books aloud to my students, as well as believe other outlandish tales. My heart goes out to the woman, and I hope this ordeal ends up on a positive note. Oh, and Deb? That morality clause was in my contract, too.
@Courtney Milan: I read the Locke sample and thought it was decent, too. I’ve also read and enjoyed Zoe Winters, Moriah Jovan, Ann Somerville, and Kitty Thomas. They are excellent and generally polished without point of view slips. I haven’t tried HP Mallory or Amanda Hocking yet, but I suspect I would find them readable as well.
That said, over the past week or so, I’ve been sampling historical romances by previously unpublished authors in the name of research for a friend, and I have yet to read one that was remotely tolerable that didn’t have a paranormal element. (I think it’s interesting that many of the breakout writers in self-pub have been in paranormal and I don’t believe it’s entirely a coincidence.) Most of these books are currently in the top 100 in Amazon in the Books | Regency category. Let’s just say that most of them would not have received a score of better than 4 from me if they’d been entered in the Golden Heart.
@MaryK nails it when she says:
So, in short, I’ve read self-published books that are apparently selling well on Amazon that I cannot, for the life of me, see the appeal of. I certainly would not pay money for them (even 99 cents). I only read small portions of the samples and I would like the portion of my time I invested in that back.
Again, none of this is to say that ALL self-published books are bad. They’re not. It’s just that a higher percentage of them are than books put out by traditional publishers. And I don’t think that should come as a surprise to anyone, since it’s always been true.
@Courtney: I’d also add that, sometimes, certain tropes or character types can outweigh less-than-stellar writing. I have a couple authors I read, whose books I have bought at prices I know are higher than what they’re actually worth. I know the writing isn’t great, and yet I keep reading…because they have hit on just the types of characters that are 100% wins for me.
@bettie: The persecution of Judy Mays is sickening but I’m glad to hear the station is planning to air a story about Mays’ supporters in their community, too.
@FiaQ: I don’t know the answer to your question about morality clauses but I believe that teaching has traditionally been a profession that has drawn more women than men, so I think that even if the morality clauses were included in all school teaching contracts, they would still affect more women than men.
@Jackie Barbosa: I wonder if most of those books are being read? I think the one click button at Amazon is a terrible temptation and I can believe that if a book is cheap enough and there are some good reviews posted, many readers buy it without sampling it first.
For those trying to sort wheat from chaff in the self-published world, try:
The Indie eBook Hall of Fame lists self-published ebooks which have had a minimum of three well-rated reviews from book bloggers (not generalist sites like Amazon or Goodreads). I’m sure mileage will vary as to whether the books work for individual readers, but I guess they’ve worked for _somebody [There also seems to be a category for republished backlist ebooks.] _.
There are other ways ‘good’ self-published books will come to notice. One of my own books has been shortlisted for a mainstream literary award (the Aurealis), which I guess is a different form of gatekeeping. I do wonder how long awards such as the Aurealis will be able to accept submission of self-published works, however. There were over 50 novels in my category (Fantasy), most ‘mainstream’ published, and that’s a lot of books for a judging panel to consider, and the number will surely only increase.
That, and there are a bunch of folks out there that seem to collect the $.99 titles as long as it sounds remotely interesting whether they’re likely to read it or not.
For some good self pubbed authors I’d look at Vicki Tyley and Shayne Parkinson.
Being a good writer isn’t enough to guarantee a floaty kind of success in any type of publishing, unless you define success as, “Book is available at Amazon.” With self-publishing, this is just the beginning of the mudslide, too. The more, the hairier! Thank dog for the sample feature.
Re: Sony haxxor. How odd that DH signed up for some Sonyish account a couple weeks ago and our CC company called to say our CC number had been stolen the same day Sony FINALLY admitted they’d been haxxored. That’s a mess people are going to be cleaning up for a long time. I hope they all have CC companies as cooperative as ours is so far. Knock on wood.
I guess none of those disgusted parents have ever had sex.
How something like this can be considered an outrage in this day and age, I do not know. Why do so many people still refuse to see sex as something bad?
Where I live, the age of consent is sixteen and prostitution is legal. Seeing these eighteenth century attitudes in an apparently modern society is shocking to me.
I was a high school English teacher of ten years experience when Lexxie Couper was born. I told my principal the day I received my first contract. He laughed himself silly, asked where I got my ideas from and where he could buy my book. Then he told me, with all trace of smile vanished, if the NSW Department of Education found out they would demand I stop writing or fire me. He warned me parents of the students I taught may not take kindly to my “other existence”. One of the teachers in my staff room (there were eight of us – four female, four male) insisted I be removed from teaching the Year 10 boys class (30 16yr olds) because I was likely to be “too sexual” for them. I was dumbstruck by the response to the situation and lived in fear of being discovered every day. Thankfully, Lexxie Couper was never discovered until after I left teaching.
My heart and support goes out to Judy. That narrow-minded individuals could threaten her career and passion for teaching saddens me greatly.
So here’s my latest, half-assed business plan idea for curating self-published. (I can’t seem to keep myself from spewing out ideas that I’ll never act upon. Sorry about that.)
I (or, more likely, somebody with time, ambition, and tech skills) set up an online bookstore.
I read and review self-pubbed books, and have a sale link. And excerpts.
It would be like a consignment store, so the author would set the price, and I’d get X% per sale through my store.
The reviews would be ruthless, and there would be a standardized scale for formatting, typos, grammar, and other measurable stuff, and detailed-enough reviews for shoppers to make an informed decision.
It would provide a gatekeeping function that readers want, and maybe be a way to bring good self-published books together with people who’d appreciate them.
Regarding teachers writing erotica: why are parents so freaking irrational? Is it really that much easier to demonize people who are materially helping your children mature into useful members of society than it is to actually engage with your kids?
I’ve seen more parents of horrible, delinquent thugs attacking teachers, other parents, other kids, ANYTHING that will enable them to ignore their own parenting failures.
“Oh, my darling angel would never have DREAMED of doing that awful thing if X hadn’t been in the same room as him at one point in time.”
The school board where Judy Mays works would have been far better off ignoring the whole issue. I bet all of her students will go off and read one of her books. It will be the first erotica for many of them. For some, it might represent a significant part of their “education” about sex.
If my kid were in that school, I’d sure be pissed at the school board. What would I feel about the teacher? It would depend on what she wrote and how I felt it would impact my kids, who are ignorant, but thirsty for “knowledge” about the world of adult sexuality.
Re: Judy Mays – I went to check the facebook page of the TV station. They have removed all notice of the original story and keep deleting any comments by people angry at the treatment of Ms Mays
Oh Noes! There’s an author teaching English up at the High School!!!!!!!! LOL
I’d object to my children being taught by a drug dealer or a cross burning member of the Nazi party.
This is ridiculous.
@MrsJoseph: I can’t say what they’ve deleted or not deleted, but they have kind of hidden things. You need to click on ‘most recent’ at the top of the page to see most of the comments on this “story” they have defaulted it to ‘WNEP Newswatch 16 AM’.
I will certainly agree that HQ’s branch of epubbing is a very valid thing. It’s awesome, really.
But I consider that very different from DellArte, whatever the new name is.
There is a distinct difference between self publishing and over inflated predatory type practices. Those that play on a brand name. The big brand names.
I didn’t say anything about Harlequin, so I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make to my comment?
No, you did not say anything about HQ/Dellarte, I did. I find the Penquin thing much the same.
And I will stand by my convictions that self-publishing is a very valid option…Unless a big publisher buys into the Author Solutions trope.
Again I say The epub end of HQ is very valid, awesome authors getting a real chance. But this play for pay thing, still not my cuppa. Be it Penquin or anyone else.
Oh, I see. Thanks for clarifying, I was confused by your comment and wasn’t really sure what you were saying, but the follow-up clears it all up.