I came across this 2015 article (Celeste Ng is right: authors shouldn’t feel forced to respond to readers) recently and it made me think of 2017.
The article said, “Ng, author of Everything I Never Told You, which won Amazon’s book of the year award, simply tweeted a request to teachers not to assign emails to authors. In a series of explanatory tweets to angry users, who tweeted to chide her for being ‘selfish’ and tell her that students should stop reading her book, Ng patiently explained that a teacher required students to obtain a quote from her in order to receive full credit. Other authors quickly came to Ng’s defense, noting that responding to upwards of 30 emails from students would constitute hours of unpaid labor. ‘We’re not robots,’ author Roxane Gay tweeted. ‘We do what we can.'” (See also ‘A Case of Charity‘ by Christine Mager Wevik)
In 2017, I went in to the hospital for surgery and during my recovery period when I (a freelancer who found it impossible to stop entirely but slowed way the hell down, doing what I could from my bed) was suddenly hit with a number (what felt like a lot) of DMs and emails from students and parents alike. This wasn’t new (and is usually in Independence and Black History Month season). And I have made myself available many times in the past to visit schools and answer questions. But from my bed, with a healing incision, in 2017, it was too much. There were some standard questions that they had , about me and aspects of my life, some of which I don’t consider public. There is always parent info, for instance – I should point out that while one of my parents doesn’t care, another has explicitly requested that I not give out information about them. And for myself, there is some tension in myself about how much to share because of my socialization but I’ve learned to let some of that go. In 2017, or maybe just before (I can’t remember), I updated my bio page and created a media page which I felt would provide answers to all the questions for anyone willing to do the research and dig through the links. Most of the people who contacted me weren’t willing to do the research and dig through the links. They, a fairly steady stream of them, just wanted answers to the questions they’d been tasked to ask. One in particular, reaching out via my public facebook page‘s DMs, led off with don’t send me no link just give me the information (I guess she had been warned that I was providing a link in response to requests). Her tone and entitlement were the last straw for me. I am aware that I am not a superstar and need every reader I can get. I know that without readers and reader interest my books would be that proverbial tree falling in the woods. I share reader reviews as readily as any critical review. I am grateful. But I am also human and I was hurting and I had had enough. So I told the person that they were being rude and entitled, and cautioned them to stop, and they basically said, sorry, but give me what I asked for. And continued the harassment every few minutes. I closed off my public facebook DMs and it’s remained closed since. At that point I needed to protect my peace. I hope this site (notably the resources and databases links, and the Wadadli Pen project itself) is evidence of the fact that I do try to give back and pay it forward and all that, sometimes at cost to myself, my time, time lost, and because I am freelance not salaried, money lost, but especially at cost to writing time and other things I need to do and guard in order to create. Do I, does any writer owe anyone that? Does a writer owe more than the book they sweat blood and tears to create? How do you make space for the people who feel entitled to your time when you can barely find time for yourself – or the people who don’t feel entitled but are just trying to figure ish out (talking of aspiring and emerging writers here). You make time when you can, of course, and, if you’re me, you offer workshops, you provide links, you create study guides for students, you organize school tours in a way that aligns with your time (if not your budget) and hope that teachers will respect the schedule you propose (some do, some don’t), and hope that people understand. So, yeah, Celeste is not wrong nor selfish for saying teachers should not hinge a grade on getting a quote from an author nor feel entitled to a writers’ time. And to students (and anyone else really), do your secondary research (especially when your subject takes the time to build links you can use) so that if you do get a bit of the author’s time (because there are windows of time when you will) you’re prepared and it’s meaningful.
I try to make the time (we love our readers and appreciate any interest in our books), but I am not always able to make the time; and I don’t think I am unique in that regard. Just a bit of understanding of that point is all that’s asked.
See also Author Invites – a Checklist.
As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, and The Jungle Outside). All Rights Reserved. Subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.