It’s an arrrrrrgh day.*
Okay, I don’t rant about readers very often. No matter how many times I start off by saying THE VAST—THE VAST, VASTVASTVAST—MAJORITY, that’s MAJORITY, did you get it that I said MAJORITY? OF PEOPLE WHO WRITE TO ME ABOUT MY BOOKS ARE COMPLIMENTARY AND I AM GLAD TO HEAR FROM THEM,** on the comparatively rare occasions when I do allow my inner vicious cow to express herself I can pretty well guarantee I will, shortly thereafter, receive one or more emails from outraged members of the public*** telling me that I am toxic pond slime, and conceited, and arrogant, and that I don’t deserve to have ANY readers, and that they will tell all their friends not to read me, and occasionally, on a roll, they start telling me that I have no idea what their life is like† and it’s all downhill from there††.
I do not enjoy reading these emails††† and I have to read enough of each of them to know to delete it, you know? But sometimes my inner vicious cow just cannot be silenced. Yesterday I received an email from a teenager doing an Important Project. She is an Aspiring Writer and she has decided that, for her Important Project, she is going to collect a lot of writing advice from fabulous published writers, create a book-shaped object out of this, and dispense copies to all the libraries in her area.‡
She addresses me, one of her chosen fabulous published writers, thus: For years I was reluctant to read your novel, The Dragon and The Sword, solely because my mom recommended.‡‡
So, which one do we think she is referring to? Or has she conflated SWORD and HERO and is fondly remembering a story where a tall/middling blond/redhead from the Homeland/North rides a chestnut/grey to glory involving dragons/monsters/distant relatives‡‡‡?
If you’re going to write to somebody, like maybe an author, like maybe a stranger you’re asking a favour, for pity’s sake DO YOUR HOMEWORK FIRST.
A few hours after this unlovely email arrived, another one pinged into my inbox from the same person. Oh, I thought, she’s noticed, and she’s writing an embarrassed apology.§ Not at all. She was sending me an extra question that was left out of the earlier version of her questionnaire,§§ to wit, would I be willing to teach a class in a writing seminar day at her school?
Do I get to hope she means via Skype?§§§
* * *
* It did not end well when three of the four of us rushed to the exit after the first act, cheeping with boredom, frustration, and the kind of embarrassment you feel at a good professional troupe wasting their time on tosh, tonight at the theatre.
We all came home during intermission, the fourth of our party having said, oh, well, I didn’t think it was that bad. I had fed hellhounds—and they, for a wonder, had eaten—really early, before we left. I now have a hellhound who is convinced he never had supper. I guess it makes a change from . . . Food? You mean . . . food? We’re supposed to . . . eat this stuff?^
^ Southdowner says that I have to feed Pavlova first. That bullies do like their food, but that the megrims of hellhounds might conceivably put even a bull terrier off.
** Although . . . siiiiiiiiiiigh . . . wouldn’t you think someone writing to an author would be REALLY REALLY REALLY CAREFUL with stuff like grammar and spelling? Okay, looking up grammar^ can sometimes be a ratbag, but spelling? It takes a fraction of a fraction of a second to look something up from pretty much ANY computer programme that produces words any more, and if I see ‘definately’ once more I may run mad with an axe. —Which the faithful Microsoft Word just automatically corrected for me (and is now objecting with a red line to my de-correction) so apparently there are a lot of people out there not using Microsoft Word or who have turned the auto-spell thing off. Turn it back on. Please.
^ Between you and me. Not I. ME. Between you and me. Between is a PREPOSITION. Your pronoun needs to be in the OBJECTIVE. Please generalise this to with her and me, from him and me, etc.
*** They’re not even necessarily readers of my books. This is the thing that really boggles me. It’s tedious and discouraging enough to get yelled at for being a Loathsome Human Being by someone who claims they used to like my books. It’s really disconcerting to get yelled at by someone who says ‘and now I’m never ever going to read ANY of your books.’ Huh? Are there specifiable search protocols out there for finding stuff that will piss you off when you need to yell at someone?^
^ Where do I . . . no, no, my computer(s) supply as much yelling-at opportunity as I need.
† Okay, that’s true
†† Rolling, you know.
††† At least they’re rarely street mail any more. I swear hate mail off-gases nuclear meltdown or car exhaust or something.
‡ Just by the way, if there’s a book-shaped object to be made out of professional writers’ words, there’s usually, you know, contracts, and, conceivably, money, involved in the transaction. I haven’t got a problem with donating to a charity^ but I think I might feel a little twitchy about this project if other details weren’t ploughing it under. It could be a perfectly genuine error of concept on her part, but aren’t teenagers doing Important Projects usually assigned adult mentors with a clue?
^ Aside from the fact that I’ve never produced a piece of writing to order that a charity would want. See: Peter’s EARTH AND AIR, since I can’t write short stories.
‡‡ Sic, by the way. There is no ‘it’. This is probably an acceptable typo—it’s always hard to proofread your own stuff, and we’re going on the assumption that she doesn’t have an adult mentor with a clue who might proofread with her—still.
‡‡‡ Okay, there is some cause for confusion. There is a war, a blue sword, and marrying the king in both of them.^
^ Unless she’s talking about DRAGONHAVEN. In which case it gets really interesting.
§ Not that this will actually do her any good. I haven’t got time to—or the least interest in—writing a lot more drivel about The Writing Process. That’s what my website FAQ is for. I haven’t updated it in years—bad me—but the writing stuff doesn’t need updating.
§§ Which she sent as an attachment. Does anyone open attachments from strangers any more? Not me babe. And this is something I would have thought Today’s Teenager, on Facebook from birth, who may have forgotten how to sign her name on a piece of paper with a pen^ but who can text faster than Super(wo)man can leap a tall building in a single bound, wouldn’t have needed an adult mentor to tell her not to do.
^ Pen? You mean like that thing I need to buy before my BULL TERRIER PUPPY comes home in about ten days?
§§§ She’s a year off graduating. She’s old enough to have some idea of money and that, you know, travelling costs an amount of it. Never mind professional fees. And she’s writing from America and it’s a one-clicker to find out I live in England.
Please join the discussion at Robin McKinley's Web Forum.