Monthly Archives: August 2012

Have Good Manners Gone the Way of the Quill Pen?

I’ve become a little obsessive about Jane Austen lately. No, I’m not trying to commit her books to memory, but rather I’ve been reading about her and the Georgian/Regency era. Good manners in particular ruled the day. Not to say, those folks didn’t gossip. The affairs of the Prince of Wales, later the Regent(Still later George IV) and his younger brothers and their excessive lifestyles were fodder for the gossip sheets. And these guys(one could hardly call them gentlemen)were not known for denying themselves any kind of pleasure. Their poor sisters were denied any kind of fun, but that’s another post.

But in Jane Austen’s books, we see most of her characters trying to behave with “more than a degree of civility.” Some the texts on my beloved Jane’s era point out that to be as open and emotional as Marianne Dashwood was not  exactly the best of manners. While Marianne would have claimed she was being honest and refusing to hide behind “manners” there was a reason people talked about the garden or the weather or the crops. It was simply considered ill mannered to be deliberately rude, even to one’s servants.  Jane Austen, the middle class daughter of a clergyman and far from being an aristocrat, was raised to know how to behave. The fun in her books is watching some of the characters(and Marianne was certainly not among them)behaving very badly, sometimes to tragic end(I refer you to Mansfield Park) Rudeness never knows success.

What is the point in this ramble? A friend recently sent me a link to a story entitled, “Authors Behaving Badly,” which went into great detail about the exchange of  less than polite comments going back and forth between readers and an author. Earlier in the week I heard part of a newscast on NPR about a popular cricket player whose unflattering tweets about fellow players and (I think) the team manager “went viral.” Said player’s popularity took a nose dive. Such is our media driven world today. You can post anything about anyone you want on the Internet and never have to face them.

And that, gentles all, is the point. Take care what you post or tweet because it will come back to bite you. Hard. Despite what Alice Roosevelt said(“If you haven’t got something nice to say, come sit by me.”)civility still counts. I’m not suggesting one fawn or be obsequious(I love that word)in your postings, but to remember what you might think is a private posting can suddenly explode and people you’ve never  and may never meet are responding in full force and with great anger. I would hope I would never publicly “trash” any writer whose works I have read. If you must vent, do it by private e-mail or better yet by phone. Don’t get the reputation for being hateful. I would rather become a mid-list writer(working on it)than to be known as a meany. You don’t always have to say you think. Be nice. Be respectful. Be kind. Someone I had professional dealings with years ago, told me she remembered me by name.  Considering it had been years before that when we met, I was intrigued. When I asked why, she said, “You were kind to me. You listened to me.” I consider that to be one of the finest and most humbling compliments I have ever received, professionally or personally.

So the next time you feel the urge to tweet or Facebook your anger or frustration,take a deep breath, count as high as you need to, and take up your quill pen to write out(you do have one, don’t you?)what you want to say before you post it. Edit as needed and ask yourself, What would Jane Austen do?

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P.I.T.C.H or What I Learned from Watching the Olympics

Every four years I watch the Olympics or at least some of it. I can’t help myself. All those smiling faces, so eager to “strut their stuff” before an audience of billions. Billions! When I think of the countless hours the athletes have spent practicing over and over over to get it just right, it takeS my breath away. Such determination. Such devotion. Such sacrifice.

Writers are in a way, athletes. We spend hours and hours in front of our keyboards, building and creating worlds to tell the perfect story. Practice, we hope, makes perfect. And so we keep at it, sometimes fueled by chocolate or caffeine(or both) hoping to ultimately “nail” it.- The big sale to the house of our dreams, the award ceremony(“I’d like to thank all those who chose my novel to be this year’s winner of the **** award….”)or the phone call from Hollywood(What?! Steve and Quentin and Ang and Clint are in a bidding war to turn my latest work into a movie? I didn’t know those guys did romance!)See what fun writers have?

But for those dreams to even begin to come true, you must P.I.T.C.H (Put It In The Chair Honey)and write. This is your “workout.” A mental one, but a workout none the less and one that needs to be done often for it to work. And yes it’s work. Hard work and often we make all kinds of excuses for not doing it. I’m almost ready to throw the TV out the window because if I turn it on and there’s an episode of NCIS I haven’t seen, it becomes a marathon evening of watching Gibbs and Ducky(David McCallum was a schoolgirl crush-obviously explaining my passion for men with accents) and no writing done. And then Not  Writing becomes the norm, and that my fellow authors, will kill any career you want to have.

There are two reasons I’m writing this post. Number One is I know several writers who are already published that have fallen into the habit of not writing.This is sad, because they are good at what they do. They have a variety of reasons, most of them understandable, like taking care of parents or children or spouses, their own health issues, or just feeling overwhelmed by day to day life.Such challenges can put a damper on your ability to think creatively or even think at all.

But some of them(like my watching four hours of Gibbs and Ducky, and yeah, Abby too)are ones that can be shoved to the back burner. WAY back. I urge all my author friends to identify all such reasons  for what is keeping them from Putting It In The Chair, and writing and getting rid of it.  I can always rent those old episodes of NCIS and watch them as a reward for writing.

Because you know what one reward is? Financial Compensation! Another royalty check arrived in the mail the other day, and while I’m still not nearly as close to being at the top of my writing game as I want to be, that little scrap of paper with numbers on it(and the print out of how many “copies” had been sold)is reason enough for me to force myself back into the chair, or to sit in the “reading room” with the wipe board and dry erase markers-two of my “plotting tools” to work on my current WIP or start a new one or even drag out an old one, give it good hard critical look, and maybe change it to make it the best it can be.

So friends and colleagues, before I go to the gym, heed my words!(Can you tell I like Shakespeare?) get thee to computer, be it desktop or laptop. Vault yourself into the worlds you are creating! Make your work your personal best. Nail that plot and character!   Bring home the gold! PITCH and write, write, WRITE!

THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER

I went to a meeting today where the topic was on using Social Media. I am  relieved to say that I’m wasn’t the only one there who is still confused by the whole SM(not that SM!)explosion.  I still have a hard time believing that the cyberspace population wants to hear my thoughts(many of them very wise and witty)on anything. Except of course unless they’re about Holmes the Wonder dog. Do I tweet or blog or Facebook about the weather? My job? It’s an interesting concept and a convenient way to share information, but I’m going to advocate for an old fashioned way to stay in touch.

Greeting cards. The kind you send through the mail. The kind where you have to sit down and add a message of your own composition along with the pre-printed greeting. As a result of being a sucker of companies asking for contributions for all kinds of causes(especially for animals)and writing them a check, I have lots and lots of greeting cards for all occasions. Sometimes I send the card for no reason at all.  But people love them. They actually seem surprised to have received it in the first place.

Which leads me to thank you notes. A dear friend’s daughter graduated from high school a year ago, and my friend insisted that said daughter write thank you notes for the gifts she had received. The daughter, a very nice young woman “didn’t get it” but did as she was asked. My friend explained that in another twenty years or so, this would probably be a lost art, but that to receive a handwritten  acknowledgment of all the gifts the daughter had received would be much appreciated by the sender.  It’s certainly easier to send an e-mail or e-card but writing a card or note keeps our fingers (and hopefully our brains )nimble.And nothing but nothing beats the smile from the friend who says, “Hey! Thanks for the card! It made my day.” The same could be said for those friends who send us cards. A small but wonderful gift to find waiting for you.

And so, dear friends, get thee to a shoppe that selleth greeting cards! A mailbox is waiting!