Friday, November 27, 2009

Trapped Between the Slats (By KazzaBP)

I'm trespassing here on DUD without my pal Jack's prior knowledge. Jack is a dedicated writer, and he's been busy lately doing some serious writing and editing. I, on the other hand--while a writer--have been doing nothing but flubbing off. Twiddling my thumbs while I wait for the inspiration to create the next great American novel. It's a good thing I'm a patient woman, that's all I can say.

Anyhoo, don't blame Jack for the content of this blog entry. The man can't be held responsible for this woman's wayward mind and sometimes uncouth sense of humor. He'll either forgive me when he reads this, or he'll quickly delete. I'll chance it, and see. I'm not working on an amazing novel like Jack is...but I AM brave. And just a little bit foolish, too.

Okay, gals and guys, grumblers and grinners! Have you read it? Have you scanned down through this article? Have you paused--lingered, perhaps--as the image seared itself in your mind, like it did mine?

Get it out!!! By all that’s hairy, shrunken, and shriveled, get it out! And I don’t mean get what’s hairy, shrunken and shriveled out of the CHAIR! That’s HIS problem! I mean get the image out of my mind!

Oh, for Pete’s sake! For MARIO’S sake!

Good Lord.

There is so much wrong with this picture, this story, this newspaper article! First off, the question must be asked…what makes ‘news’. Hmmm? Seriously, is this ridiculous episode worthy of being memorialized in print? Distributed to thousands of unsuspecting readers? Will this man—this naked swimmer/sun-bather—ever be able to show his face in public, again? For, as sure as the sea is salty, the poor fellow’s nether regions will forever be associated with his name! Mario Visnjic! Is it fair to do that to someone who is, quite obviously, not all ‘there’. (Because some of him was trapped between chair slats, you see…)

Heh. What an idiot. And Mario, if you are a reader of DUD or GAG, I would say that to your face, too. I’d hug you while doing it (if you were dressed, that is), but I’d tell you true.

You’re a dipstick.

How long have you had those things? Most of your life, I would assume. Certainly long enough to recognize your little buddies’ vagaries and propensities! Holy smokes…

I’ve simply got to say this. IF I was a man, and IF I was brazen enough to go swimming in the nude at a public beach, and IF I was then so dim-witted that I’d sit in a SLATTED chair afterwards…well. There’s no doubt about it. If my Joe Fridays got wedged (good Lord!) between two pieces of wood, I would never—and I repeat, NEVER!—call Beach Maintenance for help. No way, no how!

Could the discomfort of being trapped in my chair ever compare to the humiliation factor involved when total strangers then have to cut me out of it? Because, of course, they couldn’t cut me out without LOOKING at me! Arrgh! I can picture it, now! And I shouldn’t! No! I should never have that image seared into my brain.

And what follows the looking, Mario? The LAUGHING!!! The rolling on the ground. The gasping for breath, the side-splitting shrieks. The cell-phone calls to REPORTERS who print your humiliation in the newspaper! Maybe, even, the photographs! Because, trapped like that, I would be powerless to stop them, right? Short of lunging at them with a heavy wooden chair swinging from my…gah!!! Holy moley…no way in the world would I suffer through that humiliation. No way!

Nope. What I would do is sit still. Wait for sunset. Pass the time until the dark of night brought--not only cold temperatures--but DARK! So no one would see me!! With my private parts (for they SHOULD be private, Mario) smooshed between the slats of a chair on a public beach! A chair where other people sit!!! Did you ever think about THAT, Mario? That other people might want to recline in the sun in the very same chair that your naked, hairy bum was plastered into? Hmmm?

Aw, man…have a care for the rest of us! That’s just gross.

So…my plan of action, if I was a man who had shown a tendency to be as numb as a pounded thumb, would be to WAIT. Until the night grew cold or hell froze over--whichever came first. I’d sit there anticipating the time when those little fellows shrunk back up again. Shriveled, withered, ascended. Slipped through those wooden slats all on their own, thlupp, and released me from my confinement and my mortification.

Problem solved. Chair in one piece. Dignity intact. (All right, all right… I’m trying to be generous, here. There’s no way you’ll ever be able to hold your head up in public again, but I’m a kind woman and don’t wish to add to your humiliation. Anymore than I already have, that is…)

Chances are good that this kind of thing will never happen to the men up here in Maine. For one thing, we have no nude beaches. For another, our men tend to have more common sense than our good friend, Mario, displayed. And lastly--and most importantly—we are hardy folk, and impervious to the cold.

Mario, my friend, don’t do that again. Ever. Learn from your mistakes. But if you simply can’t help yourself, if you just can’t swim on a public beach in a suit or sit on a towel like the rest of the civilized population does, then please, man. Please.

Disinfect the chair before you leave.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

American Football--What a DUD! (by Karen Bessey Pease)

I think I’m in love.

And the best place I can think of to gush about this new-found adoration is here on Down Under Dunder, my pal Jack’s blog.

I’ve been in love before. The first infatuation I can recall was with Steve Austin, The Six Million Dollar Man. Then, as a teenager, I was enthralled with horses--most particularly, McDuff, my blue roan Appaloosa. Into my twenties, I had the hots for Thomas Magnum, of Magnum, P.I. And as I matured towards my thirties, I flipped for Mr. Bessey Pease. (By the way, my husband does not come when he’s called by that name, so you’d be wasting your breath to try. At fifty years old, he’s barely housebroken, and rarely even lays down on command.)

Now… here I am in my forties. Middle aged. Like old McDuff, I’ve gotten long in the tooth. My days of fantasizing that I could run off into the sunset with my bionic dream man are a thing the past. (I still like to make that distinctly bionical, percussion-like sound when I run, though…)

What?????? Aw, c’mon!

Anyway, my new-found love is not for a man, or even a large and noble animal. (And those were, of course, completely different kinds of love. Just thought I should be clear on that…) Nope, my most recent fancy is for a game. A game where there is not just one handsome man to look at…but a whole slew of ‘em! Well-built men…men who are dressed in short shorts and have thighs like those of a Greek god.

Ah, RUGBY!!!

You understand that I am a Mainer, from the United States. The most north-eastern state in the Union. Baseball, hotdogs, apple pies and Chevrolets…that’s what little American girls are made of.

We have our own version of football up here, which is all I was acquainted with until recently. I am a fan of the New England Patriots. I’ve been known, on occasion, to have the patience to watch—for four hours straight--a game that should only last a little more than one hour. I’ve even managed to do so without screaming in frustration. Without cancelling my satellite dish subscription, or cussing too loudly, or swearing off the game forever. But see….American football was all I’d known.

Not so, anymore!

I’ve just had the pleasure of watching some awesome DVDs. Wallaby Wonders. A Decade of the Super 12s. Rugby League’s Greatest Tries of the Century. And I’ve gotta say….Rugby beats the socks off American football! And without a doubt, Rugby uniform socks are MUCH prettier than their American counterparts, too!

Naturally, I’m feeling a bit of guilt, here. Feeling like a traitor to all men with massive shoulder pads, heavy helmets and over-sized cups. But I’m an honest woman—usually to my detriment—and there is no doubt about it-- Rugby makes football look like a game for sissies.

I did NOT just say that!!! Not, not, not!!! I am a loyal American, and would never utter such blasphemous words! This is Jack Ramsay’s blog, and he must have snuck in here and tinkered with the intent of my statement, and censored my words before publication…

What I said is this: Those pro football players need to shuck some clothing and accessories!! To keep my interest from now on, they need to slide along the turf on the skin of their knees instead of the padded upholstery they currently protect themselves with. They need referees who aren’t dropping flags right and left, but who let the game be played despite the potential for bone-crushing boo-boos or slight infractions of the rules. Football players need to doff those huge helmets and let their fans see the agony on their faces when they’re tackled, or the euphoria that lights them when they’ve made a touchdown. (I know, I know…it’s called a ‘try’ here on DUD. Excuse me…I’m still a novice to the game.) Yup, to ensure my enthusiasm for the sport, the NFL players need to toughen up, and they need to undress! Grrr!

Of course, that’s just one American woman’s opinion. But I’m an honest American woman, and I think I’m in love.

Ah, rugby!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Snakes Alive! (by Jack Ramsay)

One tub of lard and I'm anyone's.

I'm no stranger to snakes. I come from Scotland, after all, where the adder still rules the moors. Nah, that's crap - I walked the hills of Perthshire and beyond for years and years and years, and never once saw an adder. I think they're related to the pond-dredging haggii - they're certainly just as rare. Still, a few of my friends claim to have seen one, and that's good enough for me.

Yes, I'm from Scotland, where snakes rule.

Then I came to Australia. But I didn't just rack up here and expect to fit in. I did my homework. I found out what could sting, bite, nip, paralyse, hypnotise or even kill me. I'd list them here for you - from ants to ticks, to wasps, spiders, caterpillars (that's just taking it too far!!!), dingoes, kangaroos (they fight dirty...gouging little so-and-so's), crocs and of course snakes - but it'd take too long and I've got tea brewing. Oh, there are more. And all are in the 'most dangerous in the world' category, or 'the most poisonous...' or 'just one bite can kill a million elephants...'. You get the picture.

So, when I arrived in Australia in April 2000 with my dear lady Alison, I was alert. I was prepared. Nothing would sneak up on me and bite my bahoochie (bum). No red-backed critter would nip my cheek while I contemplated the state of the Chinese economy in the dunny at the end of the garden. Nuh-huh.

We rented a place in Perth in Western Australia, moved in, and after the removalists had gone we sat outside with a 'coldie' or three and breathed a big sigh of relief - we'd arrived in Australia at long last. The sun went down, the cloudless sky turned purple and eventually we clambered over boxes and cartons to get to the bed, exhausted from the stress of moving home from one side of the planet to the other.

I didn't get much sleep. All those documentaries I'd watched; all those natural history museums I'd visited (and all their gift-shop books I'd bought) came back to haunt me. I'd visions of huntsmen - like the one I found in my new garden shed a few minutes after picking up the keys - marauding over us as we slumbered with our mouths agape (I've seen Alison sleep like that all night - all night!) I tried to relax, thought of haggis hunting on the Perthshire moors, and was soon drifting off...

And that's when the hissing started.

It wasn't even one of those 'is it, isn't it?' moments - it was loud, unmistakable hissing. A bloody snake was in the house! Already!! I knew it sometimes happened in Australia, if screen doors had been left open. We'd had the removalists at work all day, and every door had been wide open. And I knew that snakes here are viscious, deadly, pure evil and nasty for the sake of it...

I sat up, straining for some indication that I was imagining the noise (hoping I was imagining it.) But no. It was clear as clear can be; so I poked Alison in the ribs and she confirmed I wasn't hearing things.

"Go get rid of it," she said.

I can't tell you what I said in reply - I have a reputation to uphold - but after about twenty minutes of lying there (no, I wasn't quaking, even if Alison says I was...pfft!) the noise stopped. No hissing.

Only dripping.

Well, I had to get up and have a look, didn't I? Snakes don't 'drip', do they?

Ah, it's wonderful moving to a new country. See, in Scotland we never once had to water our garden. Installing a bore water irrigation system was a home improvement project that had never crossed my mind.

The thought of killing my land lord did cross my mind, however. I mean, who the **** (thanks to Anonymous for the correct spelling of **** there) sets an irrigation system timer to come on at 4am? Eh? Who?!

Yes, I come from Scotland where snakes rule the moors, and men never have to dodge those invisible, pop-up-when-you-least-expect-it watering heads when walking on someone's lawn. Pfft. 4am.

It's been almost ten years since we arrived in Australia, and it's true what some people say - you do become used to the heat, and the mozzies...and the snakes. In fact, it's snake season now and the slithering from the rafters tells me that Malfoy the python (it's so handy having a name for each snake, I find) will be out sunning himself in a few minutes. I might just go get that tub of lard, grease myself up and see if he fancies a wee wrestle.

Here he comes now...

Published in The Irregular newspaper, Kingfield, Maine, USA - November 2009

Monday, August 24, 2009

Bullying - Victims and Aggressors

Ah, holidays! them as you see fit. I love them. There just aren't enough of them, I'd say. But, as enjoyable as they are, they must always come to an end. Sad, but true. The worst thing about the end of any holiday, imho, are the aftershocks - the work that should have been done but hasn't been...

So, while I've been away, sunning my puny body and stocking up on the vitamin D, the work's been piling up. But I'm back and ready to go again...for a while, at least :-)

Before I left off, some friends very generously wrote some articles on a topic that's close to my heart: bullying. I'd like to introduce a 'new chum' of mine (as we say here in Australia) - Kara Tamanini, author and therapist, and founder of Kids Awareness Series. Kara's a licensed therapist who works with children and adolescents with a variety of childhood mental disorders, so I'm more than ready to listen to her advice and insights on the subject of bullying. Here's Kara's article, and I think you'll find it very interesting - I know I did; so, thank you, Kara.

Bullying-Who are the Victims and the Aggressors?
Bullying has become a very widespread problem in a number of countries and is usually not reported for fear of further reprisals for the victims. First, I think we should start with exactly what bullying is and where bullying typically occurs. Bullying, by definition is a repeated, harmful act and it involves an imbalance of power. Bullying involves either verbal, physical, or a psychological attack on a victim and usually involves an aggressor trying to intimidate someone that is perceived to be weaker than them and the victim usually does not fight back. Victims also tend to be either smaller, younger, or at some disadvantage when compared to their aggressor.

The act of bullying involves physical assault, attempts to intimidate the victim, spreading rumors about the victim throughout the school, demanding that the victim give money, or tripping them. There are a number of other acts of bullying, however these acts appear to be the most common. Those individuals that bully also tend to not only be aggressive in some way to the victim but also to his/her teacher, parents, and in most of their surroundings. In addition, most bullying will occur in the school setting and not to and from school, which is a common misconception.

A question that is often asked of me as a therapist is, “why would someone bully another person”, “what happened to him/her to make him act like that?” That is a question, for which there is no clear or easy answer. What research does show us is that children that bully others tend to be those children that have parents that use physical aggression or physical means in the home for discipline. The parents of the bully tend to be disconnected or “too busy” and are usually not an active participant in the child’s day to day life. The bully tends to what to be in complete control of others and feels happy and satisfied when they are able to belittle others and make those around them suffer. These are children that usually have parent’s that do not show them a lot of affectionate and modeling of appropriate social behaviors towards other children has not been taught to them. Bullies often have poor anger control and often are children that exhibit oppositional behaviors and are also often rude; disrespectful to adults and those that they perceive to be an authority figure. Unfortunately, these are children that have not been taught the proper tools at home in order to deal with their own anger, fears, and proper social mores and skills.

The victim, on the other hand, tends to be a child that is quiet; reserved and is an easy target. These are children that usually have poor social skills and have a difficult time “blending in” at a school setting. Other children usually perceive the victim as a child that is a “nerd” or that is very awkward and the victim rarely fights back or speaks up for themselves. The victim usually has parents that are very overprotective and as a result the victim has been isolated socially from their peers and does not know how to interact easily with others. These are children that are usually smaller and physically weaker than their aggressor and are anxious; very insecure children that tend to be very unsure of themselves on most levels. From a therapeutic standpoint, the victim is usually the individual that is seen in the treatment setting due to the significance of the symptoms of depression, anxiety, etc.. that the victim suffers. Unfortunately, most victims are not seen in treatment as a result of their reluctance to report the bullying behaviors and this does not usually occur until they are adults.

Awareness of this particular widespread problem is growing and research has shown that this problem has long-term effects on the victims. Children that have been bullied tend to grow up to be anxious; insecure adults that also have unresolved feelings of anger as a result of being victimized in their youth. The victim often suffers from low self-esteem and feelings of depression that can occur long into their adult years. In addition, children that have been the aggressors often feel tremendous anxiety and guilt as adults due to their bullying behaviors as children. Most bullies also tend to continue their bullying behaviors into adulthood and their aggressive and oppositional behaviors seem to last into their adulthood. Most of society, does not want to associate with a “bully” and those individuals often have difficulty maintaining appropriate and lasting relationships.

Sadly, most bullying behaviors go unreported by the victim for a variety of reasons. Most children that are victims fear that the bully will retaliate and make their lives “even worse than it already is” (a child I saw recently in therapy told me that). In addition, the victim does not want to tell their parents because they are ashamed and do not want “to worry” their parents. Most victims have been bullied so long that they think that reporting it would not change the bullying behavior and often they do not feel that the teachers or the principal of their school would take care of the problem for them.

Kara T. Tamanini, M.S., LMHC
Author and Therapist
Founder of Kids Awareness Series

Kara T. Tamanini is a licensed therapist that works with children/adolescents with a variety of childhood mental disorders.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Old Friends Welcoming New

I'd like to join Jack in welcoming Lynne Kenney! Without knowing more than the barest details about me, she accepted my request to write an article for Jack's blog. She trusted me, took me at face value, and donated her time and effort to helping parents and children learn to cope in a world that can be frightening. Bullying is a problem, and it is a BIG problem. It's not going to go away over night. If we are to be realistic, we know that some forms of bullying will always be around. And so, it is important that we teach our children (and learn, for ourselves) how to exist in a social setting. Better yet, how to thrive! What follows are some words of advice from Lynne, followed by links to some excellent resources on this serious subject. In a day or two, others will be contributing their input on the issue of bullying, from slightly different perspectives. Look for Kara Tamanini, Children's Psychotherapist from http://www.kidsawarenessseries/, and Vanessa Van Petten, teenage advocate from http://www.onteenstoday/.


Making and keeping friends is a central part of entering school. Teaching your child prosocial friendship skills is a valuable part of your relationship with your children. When you teach your children friendship skills early on you can help prevent social isolation, bullying and social cruelty.

Where do you begin?

A. A few great books have been written on friendship skills. Ones from the American Girls library include: Friends: Making them and keeping them; The Feelings Book, and Stand Up For Yourself and Your Friends. For middle school children and teens, Queen Bees and Wanna Bees is a good read for parents. For parents who wish to coach their teens to health and wellness, The Parent as Coach by Diana Sterling is great for parents of teens. Michele Borba's Building Moral Intelligence is a must-read for all parents and teachers.
B. Healthy friendship skills begin with confidence and self-respect. Children who have self-esteem are able to be kind, share, and include others in their friendship circles.
C. Knowing your child's social style and what is unique about your child is another fine starting point. Emphasizing that everyone is different and we are all special in our own ways enhances acceptance and tolerance among children. Celebrate the differences!

Here are a few, little discussed, tips on helping your children develop their friendship skills.
1. As young as age four you can begin to help your child discover his or her personal style. What kind of child is yours? Help her see that she is bright, funny, articulate, caring or thoughtful. Teach her how to recognize positive social skills in others so she chooses skillful friends who are likely to share her values.
2. In order to help your child see when she is using prosocial friendship skills, comment specifically on what your child does in her friendships that shows she cares.
“When Jose hurt his arm and you offered to sit with when he could not play, that was a kind thing to do.”
“Offering your sister your sweater at the skating rink when she was cold was a thoughtful thing to do.”
3. Teach your child to observe the behavior of others non-judgmentally in a manner that helps her to see how other people behave. Talk with her about how other people respond to that behavior.
"I heard you trying to help Jane and Macy work together after they had an argument, that was loving of you."
4. As your child gets older help her develop the ability to observe the impact of her behavior on others.
How does what your child says or does impact how other respond to them. Look at it, talk about it, notice it, be kind about it. Help your child develop the skill to make choices about what they say or do.
5. Giving your children the words and actions to: a. enter into and exit social groups, b. include other people in their group and c. recognize what characteristics your child wants in his or her friends is invaluable.

Talk with your children about what makes a good friend. Write a short story or a book on what one does to show respect, integrity and honesty. If there is a school-mate who criticizes others or mocks others, that is not a friend you wish for your child to choose as a close mate. Draw distinctions between kids who are willing to lift one another up and those who desire to feel powerful by cutting others down.

Here are some sample social skills you might wish to introduce to your children one skill as a time. Role-play with your children, create positive conversations with your children and teach them the importance of learning these skills.

Sample List of Skills
• Accepting "No"
• Accepting Consequences
• Apologizing
• Arguing Respectfully
• Asking a Favor
• Asking Questions
• Being a Good Listener
• Being in a Group Discussion
• Conversational Skills
• Declining an Invitation
• Expressing Empathy
• Following Rules
• Good Sportsmanship
Developing friendship skills can be fun. So practice, play and enjoy with your children. Friendship will follow.

Lynne Kenney, PsyD
Author of the forthcoming book The Family Coach Method: Raising Good Kind Ethical Kids in a Complicated World, St Lynn's Press.

-- Lynne Kenney, PsyD
The Family CoachNorth Scottsdale Pediatrics
Author of The Family Coach Method, Oct 2009
St Lynn's Press

Other helpful links:

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Warm Welcome

A few weeks ago, my good friend Karen Bessey Pease let me read her magnificent YA novel, Grumble Bluff. The messages and themes in Karen's novel really struck a chord with me, and after searching within myself I came to realise that Karen and I share a common view on the subject of bullying.

My loathing for that type of behaviour stems from personal experience as a youngster in school, but also from stories my mother related to me, of what life was like growing up in a small village in Perthshire during the Second World War. Times were tough, thanks to food rationing and the influx of school children from Glasgow and Edinburgh. But for my mother things were even tougher. She was the eldest of a fairly large family, and two of her younger sisters were born with learning difficulties. That made them 'different' and they soon became targets for the school's bullies. Of course, as the eldest, my mother had to stick up for her little sisters.

So, having established a common bond, Karen suggested that she, and some of her friends who also have an interest in the subject, should write a column or two for the Down Under Dunder, and I'm delighted to say that very soon I'll be extending a warm welcome to Karen, to Lynne Kenney, PsyD - author of the forthcoming book The Family Coach Method - and (hopefully) many other writers who can offer support or links to online resources.

If we can ease the pain of being bullied for even just one child, it's a start.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Thunder from the bleachers...

Hey, Jack! Thanks for the show of support. :o)

We Americans don't have 'bike sheds' but I think I know what you mean. We'd probably say 'meet me behind the bleachers'. Little of anything with scholastic value happens behind the bleachers. But you CAN get 'an education'.

Which reminds me, you being a Scotralian, and an opinionated one, at that (after all, you're the 'dunder' while I'm more of a 'drizzler'...)

I read an article last December which reported that bullying in Australian primary schools is in the worst category in the world! Only Kuwait, Qatar, Taiwan and New Zealand schools fared worse than Australia in this particular survey, 'Trends in International Mathmatics and Science Study'.

According to this article, Aussie school students suffer bullying at a rate almost 50% above the international average, with more than 1/4 of 'year 4' students reporting having been bullied in at least three different ways in the month before this research was conducted.

Makes me wonder what's UP, Down Under?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Still drizzling down under

My thanks to Karen, there. And if anyone thinks she doesn't know what she's talking about, see me behind the bike sheds after class :)

Down East Drizzle- A Maine Author Ponders Authonomy

As an author on Authonomy since the end of January, I’ve had ample time to ponder the convolutions of the site. I believe—I HOPE—that the premise behind the creation of this HarperCollins website was a just and honorable one. That it was what it touted itself to be: a traditional publishing house looking to track down new talent in a non-traditional way. By having new authors submit samples of their work, by asking them to make public a portion of the products of their talent, the folks at HC aspired to have five almost-ready-to-be-published manuscripts handed to them at the end of each month. Manuscripts that had already been reviewed by other gifted writers; and then tweaked, proof-read, and edited by the authors themselves.

It seemed like an excellent idea. It certainly sounded good to me, on that very first day when I uploaded my YA novel, Grumble Bluff .

And then I took a look around.

I’ve been a writer for most of my adult life. In the traditional manner of query letter to agent, or cover letter to publisher, I’ve submitted articles, short stories, anecdotes, and novels countless times over the years. I’ve played by the rules every time. I have the rejection letters and cards to prove it. My badges of courage, I call them. For it takes a whole truckload of willpower and nerve to continually offer up these pieces of my heart and soul to a callous and over-worked publishing industry employee. I understand that there are thousands of other authors just like me, who are waiting for the chance to tell their story. Hoping for their shot at a lucky break. I know the chances are slim-to-none that anyone in the industry will ever take the time to read my most excellent endeavor. And so, Authonomy seemed like a terrific alternative to the traditional route I’d been taking.

But, you see, we aren’t just conjurers of words. Writers are people, too. Human beings. Imperfect creatures who desire to have that end-of-the-rainbow title: Published Author. And because we ARE human, we sometimes act in ways that are not flattering to our race. Authonomy, because of the hope it tenders, has become a miasma where anticipation wars with integrity. The concept seemed sound. Have authors read manuscripts and honestly review and judge those books-in-the-making! Encourage them to make helpful suggestions and give thoughtful opinions. And if the reader truly, sincerely believed that the manuscript was publishable and/or showed great promise, then the reader would ‘back’ the book, thereby propelling it upwards towards the coveted Editor’s Desk.

Every author wants the same thing. A chance. Just one opportunity to be offered the deal of a lifetime. But, sadly, not all manuscripts are publishable. Not every story written is written well. And perhaps most importantly to a publishing house, very few of them have a commercial value. Regardless of these facts, books are very often ‘backed’ or ‘placed on a shelf’ simply to reap a return backing or to get a ‘favor’ from another member. Some members on Authonomy have literally placed their lives--and their writing--on hold while they stare at a plasma screen for hours on end, reading one t0 three chapters of a manuscript. They write a comment (or sometimes, they don’t!) often not longer than a sentence or two, and frequently with no useful words of advice—then ‘back’ the book, and move on to another. And yes, I’ve been disappointed to observe that some authors ‘back’ a book simply to make a ‘statement’, or out of spite for another author, or to receive a backing for their own book—and NOT because they believed the manuscript they placed on their shelf had what it takes to make it all the way. This ‘you back me, and I’ll back you’ negates the whole purpose of the site. And may very well snatch a publishing opportunity from a very talented writer who has too much integrity to sink to those same levels.

This is not ‘sour grapes’. I do not have a manuscript in the running for the ED. I’m not in this competition anymore, as I was fortunate enough to have a literary agent pick up Grumble Bluff. I’ve been reading for the pleasure of it, for the networking, and for the delightful experience of meeting other authors who are just like me. Men and women who have a story to tell. Kindred spirits who are facing the same struggles as I am, and who hope and pray for the same outcome that I do.

I understand frustration. I identify with desire. But this system is flawed, in my opinion. If HC truly wants to ferret out the freshest talent, this is not the way to do it. With the current Authonomy system, all HC will discover is who, exactly, is willing to bend and break the rules to get what they want. They’ll learn which authors have the ability to abandon all semblance of a ‘normal’ life, in order to devote every waking hour to promoting their books. Perhaps that is what they are looking for. A fellow Authonomite recently suggested that HC might very well be looking for those authors who are willing to give the marketing of their manuscript everything they’ve got--regardless of whether or not that manuscript exhibits great talent, imagination, mechanics or magic-making ability. Because an author who will promote a novel with religious fervor (which can be tweaked and re-worked by an expert until it is a viable money-maker) is an extremely valuable asset. I hope that’s not the case. I hope we all aren’t part of an anthropological experiment.

Because if we are, I think we’ve failed the test.

Monday, June 22, 2009

PP (premier posting)

As a writer I often ponder what makes the human mind tick. What, for instance, compels obviously intelligent human beings to sit at their computers every day, often for hours on end, posting comments on other writers' work? I'm referring to the HarperCollins website which gives writers the chance to submit a sample of their work in the hope that it will rise to the surface and win a coveted place on the ED - the Editor's Desk. The fate of the sample thereafter would appear to be disastrous, for at the end of each month the top five samples are 'reviewed' by said 'editor' and the pattern hasn't wavered thus far: the writer spends months completing a manuscript; said manuscript is submitted to authonomy; the writer spends months schmoozing with like-minded writers; makes it to the ED; waits with baited breath for the offer of a publishing contract...only to receive a review suggesting revision.

What's the point?

Well, authonomy can lead to publishing contracts. It can lead to a writer securing a contract with an agency. But none of that good stuff has - as yet - resulted from winning a place on the ED. All that hard work, hours and hours of mutual backslapping and fake plaudits, leads to nothing.

The sad fact is that unless a sample is picked from the pile before it gets to the ED, it's destined to go nowhere.

Is that a bad thing?

Well, no - not as long as the writer is aware of the fact, and is prepared to draw the line when the sample isn't picked up.

My sample of Brogan's Crossing has been available since the middle of February, and although it's received mostly positive reviews, it hasn't been picked up by an agent or by a publisher. That tells me it won't be picked up off the ED, either. And that's why I'm giving it a few more weeks before I make it 'private' - dead horses and flogging, etc.

Updated 20100107: the horse lives! A new version will be sent out to agents soon.

Good luck to those who are still content to spend all day every day reading, commenting and backing (or just backing, as some authonomites are doing.)