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August 1st, 2011

If you've been in the writing community long, you probably frequent writer-centric sites, or you haunt social networks like facebook and twitter. As a wannabe author, I used to  hang out on Verla Kay's Blue Boards. If you write picture books through young adult, the blue boards are wonderful-- cram-packed with information (multiple agents and published authors are always around to answer questions) and incredibly supportive. There are many other sites too, like  Absolute Write and Query Tracker Forums.  I am constantly telling people to get their query letters critiqued on one of these sites before ever sending it out into the world.

But, there's a flipside to forums, and while I'm probably preaching to the choir here, it begs repeating:

The internet is not as big and anonymous as you think it is, and even when you speak in code, or scramble someone's name with asteriks and @ symbols,  it's easy to find. And most folks in publishing have publishing friends too, so if someone doesn't see it themselves, chances are a friend will point it out.

On one of the boards I saw a note from the moderator saying, eseentially, that that particular board was a safe place to bitch and vent. It was even a safe place to bitch about your "friend's successes'.


GUYS. Message boards are not your living room. They are not private emails. They are readily visible to anyone with google. The writing community is small. Even if you don't name someone, with the tiniest ibt of context, we can all figure it out.

I've never been attacked on a message board, but I have seen other writers lambasted by people who have never met them, and never even spoken directly to them, not even on twitter or emails. And you know what? It hurts. Nothing is ever as perfect on the inside as it looks to people on the outside.

I've learned about what writers thought of my revision requests by seeing them discussed on message boards as well. Is it okay to discuss? Sure...but I would have loved to have talked more about my ideas with you myself. Had I known you wanted things to go a different direction, we could have talked more about it. Instead I find out your thoughts via a message board that is supposedly "private".

Because I'm an author and agent, I may be more tapped into the writing communities than the average agent. But some of the hostility and anger I've seen from some writers toward others has really put me off.

Have I ever been bitter, jealous, or angry? You bet. I would have ripped my hair out, at times, if it weren't for my CPs and writing friends and flurries of emails. So next time, consider whether a forum is really a "safe" place, and maybe send an email to your buddy instead. It's human nature to have a range of emotions, especially when you desperately want something and it seems as if someone skates in and grabs it when you've been toiling in the fields forever.

But think twice before you vent about it online.

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