Monday, August 17, 2015

Little Miss Crabby Pants Talks Community

I’ve been stewing on this post idea for a while and as I told a fellow blogger in an e-mail exchange recently, “I’ll only write it once I can get past the use of swear words and keep the explanation points to a minimum.” I’ve finally seem to have landed in a perfect storm however – between recent brouhahas in RomLand, a workshop proposal I’m a part of for the upcoming RT Convention about “voice” and blogging (let’s see if it gets accepted) and various Twitter conversations I’ve been unabashedly eavesdropping on, but have not participated in.

I have definite feelings about how the romance community is operating these days. I’ve talked about it at a bare minimum for reasons – most of them involving beating dead horses and coming off like the cranky granny sitting on her front porch with a shotgun telling the damn kids to get off her lawn. When you’ve been around as long as I have you’re kind of in a quandary with stuff like this, plus I’ve never been one to believe my own hype. Call it Middle Child Syndrome. I still go to conferences these days and just assume that nobody knows who the heck I am. My blog is one tiny corner of the community and I’m more than aware that not everybody 1) reads it or 2) knows I exist. Even if I do have people around me who think I’m some sort of “influencer” in the world of romance novels. Wendy thinks that Wendy isn’t that important and my feet stink just like everybody else’s. Translation: Wendy is not a special snowflake.

I have strong opinions about things that have happened in my corner of the community over the last several years. The ones I react strongest to are the ones that have me asking, “How would I feel if someone else’s snafu sucked me up in its wake and reflected badly on me – when I really didn’t do anything wrong?” Online RomLand largely exists on the (mostly) unpaid talent of the fans. And when we are paid (like I am for my H&H posts), it’s kind of the equivalent of play money (I can support my book habit, maybe pay a conference registration fee – but I’m not feeding my family on it). Which begs the question of why do we do it? I can tell you why I do it, but it’s not necessarily why everybody else does it – and it’s up to the individual reader to determine, at the end of the day, what really matters to them.

When I started blogging I didn’t do it for fame or glory – which is probably a good thing since neither has found me. OK, RWA gave me that nice Librarian of the Year honor in 2011 and My Man does call it my “National Award” – but yeah. To be fair, I haven’t done any of the hard work one needs to do to gain fame or glory, but since it’s not why I started and not why I’m still doing it 12 years after the fact I’m obviously OK with this.

I started blogging because I love to talk about books, especially romance novels, and I had no way to scratch that itch outside of listservs (remember those?) back in 2003. I didn’t want to be one of those people who “took over” on the listserv so figured blogging was a good solution. All of the Wendy Narcissism All of the Time and people could decide for themselves if they really wanted to subject themselves to that. I’ve always operated the blog using my own moral compass, but as time has marched on, and things have changed (for one thing, authors and publishers noticed that blogs were easy and cheap marketing tools), I’ve had to be a bit more firm with disclosure. Why? Because I feel like I owe it to anyone who reads my blog. Yes, dear blog reader – I OWE it to you.

Here’s the thing about this gig. You’re only as good as your word. Yes, it’s the Internet and yes, seemingly everybody lies on the Internet. Trolling is practically an Olympic sport. It’s easy to point fingers and grab your popcorn when you’re hiding behind a keyboard. I strive to be pleasant to everybody. Even when I think you’ve left the figurative bathroom with your skirt tucked up in the back of your panties. The idea of a “cut direct?” I’m from the Midwest. I’m pretty sure my DNA makes me incapable. That doesn’t mean I think Everybody Should Love Everybody. Nobody is immune to being called out – even Little Miss Crabby Pants, and I’m sure I have been called out online and in public over the years. Hey, that’s OK. You can think I’m wrong. You can also choose to not read anything I have to say….anywhere. The Internet is a wide and vast place. I think everybody should spend their time at places where they want to be – not at sites or interacting with folks on Twitter that are the equivalent of having a root canal done.

At the end of the day you are your own barometer. How folks carry themselves online, how they run their blogs, how they run their sites, how they interact with publishers/authors/publicists? These are things you need to decide for yourself. If something bothers you – how are you going to proceed? Will you stop reading that blog or taking recommendations from that person on Twitter? Or will the benefits outweigh the squirkiness for you? You need to find your line in the sand. Over the years I’ve found mine – over and over again. I don’t publicly spout off what they are on this blog, because frankly I don’t think anyone really cares that much. Also there’s the very really perception that Wendy Is Just Blogging About This To Beat Dead Horses and Raise Blog Traffic. But for the sake of transparency, here are things I have done over the years:

1) I’ve stopped reading some blogs. As in, deleted out of my feed reader because I could not be bothered anymore. In most cases they were blogs I largely lurked at anyway so it wasn't a major bloodletting.

2) One author so offended me that I weeded every single one of her books that I owned. Both TBR and books in the keeper stash. I bought them all brand new, so she already got my money – but, done. I’m out. I donated them to a library. Hopefully the Friends of the Library raised some money for “good.”

3) There’s a certain publisher I won’t buy books from or promote on this blog. This sucks because I like some of the authors they publish. Oh well.

4) I still read some blogs (mostly because of specific features I like) but no longer link to them (hence, no promo from me) and no longer comment.

5) There are some folks I will not take book recommendations from any longer. If I was planning on reading the book anyway? Fine. Will they sway me to buy/try a book?  That ship has sailed.

At the end of the day does any of this really matter? No. I’m sure the blogs don’t miss me and to be perfectly frank – my sphere of influence is such that I can’t believe either the author or publisher are wringing their hands over me not being in their camp. But it does matter to me. It also matters to me that readers of this blog know what they’re going to get when they get here. This is why I have the disclosure page. This is why I disclose before some reviews by certain authors. You can make the argument I shouldn’t have formed some of these relationships to begin with – and that’s your right. But I like these relationships and I don’t want to quit them. This means – disclosure. And you, dear blog reader, with making up your own mind.

I don’t think we need personal manifestos of Who I Trust and What Blogs I Read, and that probably includes me writing this post. But at the end of the day you can only control you. Find your line in the sand and draw it. Some people will be on the other side of that line, and that’s OK. The Internet is a lot of things – big is one of them.


Laura K. Curtis said...

I don't know (thank goodness, for once) what inspired this, but I've done many of the same things as you. I was talking to a librarian friend (I have too many! I can't remember which!) and she was shocked that so many people she knew had quit authors over their personal behavior. It's a hazard of the new culture. Back when I started reading romance and fantasy, I didn't know anything about the authors, just the books.

I sort of wish I could go back to that.

Lori said...

FWIW (probably nothing), I care what you think and my approach these days is basically the same as yours. I'm trying very hard to cut back on online BS and stress and one of the results is that I've cut way back on my contact with Romanclandia. That makes me a little sad, but for quite a while now the stress to benefit ratio has been tilted the wrong way so it was time to take a step back.

There are blogs that I no longer read because I no longer trust them. There are a few authors whose behavior I have found so appalling I won't read them any more. That's partially on principle and partially because their terrible behavior colors my reading of the books and I don't have time to waste on that. My TBR can be seen from space. I have plenty to read from people who aren't jerks.

I also have a publisher I will no longer buy from because I can't in good conscience put money in their pocket and I'm about thisfar from totally refusing to give Amazon any more of my money.

I don't kid myself that any of these people/entities give a crap that I've sworn off them, but that's fine because ultimately the choices I make are for my own mental well-being and self-respect, not to "punish" them. They make their choices. I make mine.

azteclady said...

Whether or not many people notice, or care, this--this type of ethical/moral stance--is why I trust you, Wendy.

Thank you.


Once upon a time, I followed/read, well over 70 blogs. These days? Sorry, but I only follow people I trust, and given recent shenanigans...well, there you have it.

PK the Bookeemonster said...

As Laura said, I don't know what inspired this but the inference is that someone has accused you of unethical behavior of some sort. ???

Repeat after me: "I am not responsible for other people's feelings or behavior." This is a huuuuge one for me personally.

Not knowing any details of what's going on for you, let me tell you that I appreciate that you share your blog with us. It entertains me; it sometimes gives me ideas of things to read. You have a fun personality that comes across in the words you type that I like to visit.

Don't let them win or control who you are. They don't walk in your shoes.

BTW, I'm totally binge-watching and in love with Once Upon a Time. I'm such a sucker for True Love delayed. :)

Wendy said...

It was hard to write this post without coming off as a harping banshee flogging a dead horse - but I think I went too vague :) Honestly, nothing new happened - it's a lot of stuff that steamrolled and I've struggled (mightily) when putting my thoughts into some sort of cohesive blog post that didn't come off as me shrieking. I would say the first kerfuffle that fed into this post for me dates back to 2012 - but 95% of this post is inspired by everything that has happened starting with Katherine Hale - so we're talking late 2014 to present day. It's the snowball rolling down hill effect. So let's call this a too little too late post - mostly because it took me forever to figure out how to write it.

But I really wanted to write it. So I did.

PK the Bookeemonster said...

Then there are two takeaways here:

1) You can write what you want ... it's your space.

2) The community you've created here cares about you.

nath said...

Now I'm curious about who's the author and publisher...

Seriously, it's time like this I'm a small blog and am quite isolated in my corner of the internet.

While I like that with the internet, we get to know authors better... I'd rather it just be the professional persona. I'm one of those bloggers who'd rather have some distance with authors instead of being chummy buddies.

In my years of bloggin, I've witnessed blogs going from personal blogs to industry blogs... and while I don't blame them, I'm always a bit sad about that fact. Can't help it. I don't think they sell out, but I wonder at their motivations. Perhaps I just lack ambition.

BevBB said...

I'm a little late getting to this but just wanted to add something encouraging. The problem is figuring out what exactly to say. I mean, I could get all philosophical but frankly that doesn't help.

I do, though, remember exactly how it feels to be plodding along, doing my own thing & just commenting on what I just read and having an email pop up in my inbox pretty much updset because I gave a book a bad review.... and all I did was comment that maybe I didn't finish a book, maybe I wasn't that crazy about it. Heck, maybe I simply wasn't extra enthusiastic about it. Thing is that getting comments like that when all you are is a reader who's just trying to enjoy reading and maybe share some thoughts along the way is, well, disconcerting to say the least.

I guess the thing that's always amazed me isn't that authors and even reader-fans get upset because we don't react exactly how they want us to to their books but that there's an assumption out there that we're all attempting to be literary style critics just becasue we're posting some comments online. Or that we're all frustrated writer wannabes. Whichever. Whatever.

There's a reason why I've always been so adamant over the years to maintain that I'm just a reader who just wants to talk about her favorite hobby. I figure that if I say it often enough then somebody will actually get the point that this isn't a job or work to me. It's fun.

At least it's supposed to be...

Wendy said...

Nath & Bev: I think it's getting harder and harder to be a "hobbyist" blogger. Not that it's impossible - it's just harder. I've finally landed somewhere in the middle territory. I wouldn't call this blog "professional" or "industy" - but I accept ARCs, have done promo-style posts (although I tend to generate those on my own and not do "blog tours"), so I'm not a pure reader-blog by any stretch of the imagination. You guys, and KristieJ are really the only ones I can think of off the top of my head.

The other problem for me is Twitter. I love Twitter, but oy - the dramz that gets stirred up over there. Sometimes I just need to keep myself sane and avoid it for a few days to reset my personal barometer.

Bona Caballero said...

Yes, Internet is vast and wide, but I only follow 8 Romance novels blogs in English and 3 in Spanish, at this moment -I've followed more in the past and I hope I'll discover more in the future. The only ones I've found that give candid opinions about books that I could be interested on.
I'm of a certain age in which I cannot lose my time or my money with books that don't add anything. That's why I buy the majority of books I review and why I don't lose my time or money with cheap books I know nothing about.
Even if I don't agree or my personal tastes are not the same as those bloggers', the thing is that I know I can trust they are sincere.
You're one of those few bloggers I follow, so it's good to see that you have clear ideas of what you are doing and what you don't want to do.

BevBB said...

"You guys, and KristieJ are really the only ones I can think of off the top of my head."

That is almost depressing. Seriously, depressing.

But then I make myself think through how much the Internet has changed in the 2 plus DECADES that I'm been online and involved in the romance community. (Which could actually make me even more depressed if I spent time thinking about it at all... o.O)

Where was I? Okay, yeah, the Internet has changed a lot and I think a lot of people just coming onto it nowadays do so through their smart phones. And other gadgets. Which means that they may do their commenting in totally different venues. That are both easier and harder to find.

So, I mean I think they're out there. Connecting up with them, now that's another issue altogether.

LibrarianLizy said...

You being "the cranky granny sitting on her front porch with a shotgun telling the damn kids to get off her lawn" is totally the reason I read your blog. Little Miss Crabby Pants is the best because she doesn't seem to really give a shit if people read her or not. :)

I came here to say that and to say that having your own hard lines is key. In romance reading, yes, but I have them for dating and librarianship. If you need to talk about them for some public accountability, great, but having lines and holding to them is all we really need to do to keep our conscience clear and free from guilt.

Wendy said...

The more I stop and think about it - I remembered more bloggers I consider "hobbyists." Bona's blog is a great example ::waving::, also Rosario! I can't believe I forgot Rosario's blog. She's reading a lot more widely these days (not just romance - she's currently on her Booker Prize reading marathon), but one of the best books I read last year came from her (Stephen King's Mr. Mercedes). There's a slew of others, of course, just looking at the TBR Challenge folks - but I think the thing I'm seeing is that everyone seems "less active" these days. Bloggers go weeks at a stretch without blogging, when "back in the old days" - we'd see multiple posts a week. And that's just the nature of Real Life getting in the way. I know I've slowed down a lot - and it's go everything to do with "Real Life."

Anonymous said...

I'm old school. I remember how it used to be when bloggers couldn't even get ARC's. I don't read romance anymore but hey, I get it. Also,I didn't like True Detective season two all that much and you did but I hope you don't hold that against me forever. I've never had to worry about you, Wendy. I feel the same as you do about disclosure and recommending stuff. However, I don't consider myself influencing anybody. Also, not that I felt you were singling me out by any means but my blog of late has been going long stretches without much updates because of real life and I'm doing this as a hobby. Reading should be fun. How did it get to be so serious? I lose and pick up readers all the time. The ones who stick are either dead, failed to cancel their account or haven't checked back in forever. I appreciate the few readers I do have (who are mostly friends) and that's enough for me.

Wendy said...

Keishon: I know, right? Seems like a billion years ago now when bloggers getting ARCs was a big ol' "to do."

And I don't hold True Detective Season Two against you :) Seriously. I'm convinced I'm literally the only person alive who actually liked it, but even I have to admit it had problems. My Man actively disliked it - so even he thinks I'm nuts.