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Should Writers Have Muzzles?

Originally posted 8/1/12 at New Wave Authors.

Yesterday on Facebook, I posted a link to an article about New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposal to have hospitals lock up baby formula in an attempt to encourage new mothers to breastfeed. I also posted my opinion about this proposal. The comment section quickly lit up with opinions from both sides of the issue. And about fifteen minutes after I posted the link, I received the following private message:

I am sorry to tell you that I have decided to unfriend you. I sought you out [on Facebook] because I enjoyed your book and wanted to hear more about your writing not because I’m interested in seeing you go off about your personal opinions or political views all the time.

I’ll admit this surprised me, because I generally don’t “go off” on political issues on Facebook (the exception being LGBT rights, which I consider to be a civil rights issue rather than a political one). A quick perusal of my personal Facebook Timeline will reveal my love of pie, bacon, and geek culture, links to writing and publishing related articles, and occasional plug for my book. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty well-informed about current events and have very strong opinions that I’m not afraid to voice in my everyday life. My car would be plastered with bumperstickers proclaiming these opinions forth to the world if my husband and kids didn’t keep me in check (apparently they devalue a car and embarrass teenagers who are being driven to school). But I’ve never been comfortable with online political debates. They almost always follow this pattern: Person A states his opinion, Person B chimes in with his support, Person C strongly, but usually respectfully, disagrees with A and B. Then Persons D – Z begin the inevitable pile-on. Political buzzwords like “liberal agenda” and “heartless conservative”, as well as idiotic buzz-non-words like  “libtard” and “conservokook”, are thrown around. Someone makes an impassioned plea for unity that almost everybody ignores. Someone pulls out the Nazi card. Cue finger-pointing and chest-thumping, a little more name calling, and…scene! Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, that’s a wrap. I find the whole thing tedious, and I try not to invite tedium to my wall.

But mostly this guy’s PM irritated me. I’ve always been under the impression that writers are human beings and citizens of the world with the right to talk about their opinions about political issues, or any other issue they’re interested in or concerned by. Personally I enjoy reading the political and person opinions of other writers, particularly novelists. Not because they’re well-known or worthy of more esteem than the average person, but because their inherent command of words and language enables them to make their points more succinctly, usually precludes the use of annoying buzzwords, and nearly always makes for interesting reading, whether I agree with their opinions or not.

I realize that not everyone feels this way. Unfortunately, writers who are politically vocal risk alienating a portion of their audience. In the olden days, it took an interview with a national reporter to cause a stir. Five years or so ago, a blog post. These days, however, a casual Tweet or status update can do the trick. Hell, on Facebook it doesn’t even require addressing people directly. Every time you “LIKE” a photo, update, link, or page, that activity ends up in the newsfeeds of your friends. This means they’ll all know whether you’re pro-life or pro-choice, if you’re boycotting Chick-Fil-A or supporting them, if you’re an atheist or a believer. They’ll even know if you’re a secret Nickelback fan.

Part of my problem is the semi-sloppy way I’ve managed my Facebook account. My friends  list is a strange amalgam of family, friends from “real life”, online friends, other writers, and people who (like the gentleman who sent me that PM) are only interested in hearing about my books. When I signed up for the account, I didn’t think ahead to the challenges that odd combination would set up for me. I could, I suppose, create a new account and invite only those people I know well to be my friends there, keeping the existing account as a professional one. But I waste enough time on Facebook as it is with one account, and besides, that’s why I supposedly created a separate author “fan page.” Also, I really like meeting and getting to know people online from various backgrounds and whose opinions are different from mine. I think most people do. It’s how we grow. Segregating my personal and professional online life may be a safer way to go, but it’s much less rewarding.

And, most importantly, I like to give my readers credit for having enough intelligence to separate my personal opinions from my work. They deserve that.

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Waiting For Spring around the world

Just dropping a quick line to let everyone know that during July, Waiting For Spring is being featured on Amazon UK’s 100 Kindle Books for £2.99 or Less page, where it’s remained in the top 10000 ranking (whoo hoo!). It’s currently only £1.98 to download to your Kindle.

Here’s where you can get it: Waiting For Spring, UK Amazon

Here’s where you can find it around the globe:

 

 

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Question Wednesday! (The Jason Edition)

I’ve decided to start a new feature here at da blog called Question Wednesday which, as its name suggests, consists of me answering readers’ questions. On Wednesdays. Whether this feature appears weekly, monthly, yearly, or some other -ly depends on reader response.

So here we go!

Today’s question was sent to me via email:

I often wonder if you have ever considered writing the book from Jason’s point of view? It seems that he was suffering as well.

Truth be told, Jason is one of my favorite characters in the book. Writing it started to really click for me once I got a handle on his story and I got very involved in the process of deconstructing his and Tess’s very complicated relationship, then putting it back together again. I did end up writing a couple of chapters from Jason’s point of view, one of which became the basis for chapter 22, which chronicles the beginning of Tess and Jason’s romantic relationship. In fact, a rather more masculine version of this sentiment was originally expressed by Jason in that just-messing-about draft:

He laughed. Laughed. That was all. It was the sweetest sound I’d ever heard. And the moment I knew what the Something was. There were no bells or lightning bolts or fireworks, no angelic chorus from heaven singing Hallelujah. I just knew, in the same way I knew that I had to pee. It was that primal and that obvious. I wanted him, yes. It wasWant. But a want of all of him. His mind and heart and body and laughter, his words and smile and soul and life.

His life.

I wanted the rest of his life.

I REALLY love the story of Jason-and-Tess; how they started out as childhood friends, lost touch, then found each other again. Even the break up of their marriage was great fun to write, in a horrible, heartbreaking way (I’m sick like that). Plus, their story is crucial to the book in so many ways. It serves as a contrast to Tess’s subsequent relationship with Brian and as a way to expose the fact that Tess’s insecurities and problems are not exactly recent ones to readers as the book progresses. Also, it was an interesting way for me personally to explore the question of soulmates. Is there such a thing? If there is, what happens if you lose him or her? (Confession time: I ended the writing with the same conclusion I began it with, ie I don’t believe in soulmates. Sorry.)

But back to the topic at hand. I’m thrilled to know that Jason’s story resonated with so many readers and that in spite of the fact that it was told from Tess’s point of view, his love for her and consequent suffering at the ending of their marriage was apparent. However, I believe their story has been thoroughly told and will not be revisiting the character of Jason in future novels. This doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes wonder about how he’s doing in his new life and wishing him all the happiness in the world. (Don’t make fun of me. I’m pretty sure all writers do that kind of thing…right?)

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Women Turn to Politicians for Reproductive Guidance – new Paper Rats video

Kristen and I took a slightly different turn with our newest Paper Rats episode, entitled Women Turn to Politicians for Reproductive Guidance.

 

I’ve said in the past that I generally try to refrain from expounding publicly on politics, for a variety of reasons, but sometimes I feel like I can’t stay quiet. This is one of those times. What’s going on in America right now should frighten and anger all of us, regardless of political party. I never thought I’d be living in an America that seemed so poised to take a leap backward. I honestly thought our society had evolved beyond that. Right now I feel unbelievably naive for having held that belief, and I feel compelled to add what I know is a small voice to the growing chorus of women who are speaking out.