Archive for January, 2007

Keeping It Real?

Dear Arbiters of Blackness,

The Blacker than Thou lobby is designed not only to shape and define a people, but also to demand a certain kind of conformity from them – forcing its members to swear allegiance to their side. With that, my new Intake column is up where I question the idea of what it means to “Keep it Real”.

Love,

Maurice (go to my website to direct your hate mail)

P.S.

I was interviewed for a new blog by my friend Lisa Baker that will reflect on various environmental issues, concerns, and events from a spiritual perspective. I was asked about my actual day job, as an environmental toxicologist for Commonwealth Biomonitoring. If you’re so inclined, you can read it here.

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Black Self-Image

A teenage girl stirred up quite a bit of controversy with her documentary re-creating Dr. Clark’s doll test that was used to make the case against segregation (in Brown vs. the Board of Education). The results of her experiment every are every bit as tragic today as it was in the 60s. Something in our culture still propagates this destructive (self-)image.

There was a reason for Amiri Baraka having to start a “Black is beautiful” movement and a reason why Ossie Davis said in his eulogy of Malcolm X, “Malcolm was our manhood, our living, black manhood! This was his meaning to his people.” It was about the reclamation of dignity. As the documentary makes painfully obvious, it is important to continue to have conversations and ask questions.

We continue to have debates about racism (what it is and how it affects people differently), reparations, affirmative action and so on. Too many times it is seen as black people wallowing in self-pity, a mentality of victimhood (although some folks also feel threatened by the rhetoric of escaping this victimhood). There is an assumed hubris of knowing the “answers” to the “Negro problem” because, as I will inevitably hear it, black people are too ignorant to work out our own solution.

It’s usually at this point in the conversation that white friends of mine feel unduly put upon. “They didn’t own slaves” and so on. They sometimes get defensive around discussions about white privilege. Why? Because the tricky part about conversations is that we aren’t always hearing the same thing. White privilege is not “all white people are evil.” It is not that all white people are out to get black people. It is not all white people are racist or “benefit” from racism. It is, however, the acknowledgment of the reality that there is a legacy of racism.

I don’t care if you agree with it or not. What I am saying is that there is a point of view, a mindset, a perspective that I’m coming from. Our story is the paradigm from which we operate. You might not “get it”, maybe because your story seems so removed from mine. You could see if you could contribute to the solution. You could see what you can do to challenge your thinking. You could see where you can find and recognize injustice and fight it where you are.

Or you could listen.

Let me try this another way. There is also male privilege in our culture. It doesn’t mean all men are evil or that they hate women. It does, however, point to the (historical) fact that the mentality that went into the founding of our society, that created the infrastructure of the culture we live in, was patriarchal. There is a legacy of patriarchal though that we have to deal with, systemic issues as well as heart issues – neither of which are easily rooted out. From closing the inequality of pay gap between the sexes to sexist attitudes in the work place as “old boy clubs/networks” are dismantled.

It’s the (sometimes perceived) attitude built into the system that causes so many to give up before they begin. It’s why I care so much about images and depictions of black people in news, movies, television, etc. It’s why I keep harping on the power of words. It’s why my mother so impressed upon us why we shouldn’t buy into being told what we can and can’t do. Look at the recent rise of black quarterback. It’s not like black people suddenly learned how to throw the football. The mentality was that black men weren’t smart enough to be a quarterback. So they were steered towards being a wide receiver or a running back. You don’t become “firsts” by buying into old stereotypes and accepting old barriers.

Progress has been made, but some battles still need to be fought. Hearts changed and lingering hatreds rooted out. This year’s Super Bowl marks the first time a black coach (much less two) has coached their team to the championship game. Lovie Smith, when asked about the significance of possibly being the first said that “Progress will really be made when something like this is not news.” The sad fact that he had to then concede was that “we’re not there yet.”

But we’re trying. One conversation at a time.

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Go Colts!

Well, I got one of my Indianapolis Wish List items: the Colts made it to the Super Bowl. The question before me now is will the Colts win the big game?

I could talk about the running tandem of Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes or the money of Adam Vinatieri’s leg. I could talk about this being a team of character and heart, how we’ve gotten rid of grumblers and bad eggs and have only become stronger. I could talk about the defense finding new life after being told by so many that they couldn’t. However, that would require the kind of sports expertise beyond my casual brand of interest. To my mind, though, this game boils down to two men: Dungy and Manning.

Coach Tony Dungy joined Chicago Bear’s coach, Lovie Smith, in making Super Bowl history by being the first black coaches to lead their teams to the Super Bowl. One more barrier broken, another cultural advancement achieved – and another step toward this not being an issue. In the NFL, where nearly 70 percent of the players are black, only seven of 32 head coaches this season were black. The NFL has aggressively fought for diversity and their efforts have paid off. Save me your blather about affirmative action, covert racism is something difficult to root out. People are people and still cling to those they are comfortable with. We aren’t quite to the colorblind utopia we all hope for and keep talking about. Should either of these two friends, Lovie or Tony, win, we will be one step, on a still long journey, closer.

QB Peyton Manning has finally proven he can win the big game. In the AFC Championship game, he exorcized a lot of demons. He came from 18 points down, went through arch-rivals: coach Bill Belichick, QB Tom Brady, and the rest of the New England Patriots. However, he is still an elite quarterback haunted by the ghosts of Dan Marino: incredible individual talent that has yet to win the championship ring. He has nothing left to prove to his critics, but he is in need of the last measure of greatness. Should Manning win the Super Bowl, however, everyone should shut up.

I like our chances. In the end, I just want Dungy and Manning with championship rings to signify what we already know. They are men of integrity, passion, and greatness. Of prodigious talent and quiet dignity. Part of a team who play the game and win the way they should. And they can do it on the largest stage available. In other words, go Colts!

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To Pen Name or Not to Pen Name

My friend, Simon Wood, recently wrote over on Murderati about him “splitting” his writing career by starting to write under a pen name. That got me thinking about whether or not I or any author should choose pen names and when they should do that.  Let’s make sure that we’re talking about the same thing, however.  A pen name is a pseudonym used in place of your legal name taken by an author to publish their books under.  I’m not talking about the name you chose to post on online message boards.

Using a pen name is not a mark of becoming pretentious.  As a writer, you are establishing a brand name.  It was strange when I began to think of myself in terms of “product”, but in a lot of ways, you are developing your brand. And your brand name is what agents and editors will encounter and factor in when they think about dealing with you.  Plus, some of us have always had a fascination with super-heroes and have wanted a secret identity.

Now, there are times when taking up a pen name is taken out of a writer’s hands:

-you may be writing too many books per year and need to spread it out a bit

-you’ve been dropped by a publishing company due to lack of sales and need to establish a new track record

-you’ve been blessed with a name like Al Hitler, Osama bin Williams or the same name as someone famous, say your name is Steve King

-you’re sex might possibly be a detriment to your main market.  For example, say you’re a male writer wanting to break into romance

-you want to make it harder to be stalked

-like Simon, you want to break into a new genre

-your name changes too often.  For example, you’re a woman who wishes to take her husband’s last name.  Every time.  (I’m just saying.)

Some people worry about having names that sound too “ethnic”.  Well, don’t be too hasty in getting a pen name.  If your name is unpronounceable, you may want to consider creating a “user-friendly” one for the U.S. market; unless you are promoting yourself to the market of that ethnicity.  The bigger worry is having a name that is too generic (if for no other reason, it makes it harder for you to Google yourself).

At any rate, you probably shouldn’t get “married” to the idea of (keeping) a pen name.  Sure, it can be fun to create a persona for yourself, but more likely than not, your pseudonym will be exposed (the likelihood ever greater in our computer age).

One reason why I’ve thought so much about getting a pen name is because I’m a pretty good test model for why one might want to go with a pen name.  I am mostly a genre writer (mostly horror).  However, the bulk of my name recognition right now comes from my blog.  For that matter, I’ve established a bit of a reputation in Christian circles and have put out feelers for some non-fiction work.  A pen name would allow my readers to differentiate between the different categories of books I write and publish.

However, I’m pretty heavily invested in being a “Christian horror writer” (which practically speaking is a horror writer who is a Christian) or as some have referred to me “the sinister minister”, so that’s my brand and why I’ve chosen to stick with Maurice Broaddus.  For one, if my readers are finding my books in the fiction section, with the word “blood” in the title or all over the cover (authors have less control over that than one might think), I’m guessing they’ll be able to figure out that the book isn’t exactly “Purpose Driven Horror”.  (That plus, should I get big, I can say things like “do you know who I am?” and I don’t have to remember who “I” is referring to.)

Now, should I start seriously pursue doing romance writing, well, that would be done under a pen name.  I have to draw the line somewhere.

Friday Night Date Place – Break Ups Part III: Forgiving

(Or “Did God mean I have to forgive them, too?”)

(a.k.a. Keepin’ the hate)

I’m very quick to forgive, or to offer apologies, when offense is given or taken. Forgiveness is an emotional lubricant and a learning opportunity, at least for me. As mentioned before, it’s important to me to get along with people, and I am genuinely horrified when having given offense, most especially the unintended kind. But long-term forgiveness, when, for example, someone has a change of heart, can be a real challenge for me.

How often have we gotten out of a relationship, a bad break up, and it not been clean? He did you wrong. She cheated on you. He hurt you. She tore out your heart. Somewhere along the line, the two of you got lost in a spiral of betrayal, anger, hurt, and even hate. Then we wear the scars into our next relationship. However, at some point we have to wrestle with what it means to best love one another. This includes forgiving one another.

During the grieving of the relationship, the mourning time allows us to process the hurt and lessons of a relationship. We often think of forgiveness as something that someone who has done us wrong must ask of us. It is much harder to offer forgiveness to the person who has wronged you, especially if they haven’t asked for it or won’t hear it; but forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself.

It is tempting to hold on to the anger, resentment and the sense of betrayal that may come with a break up, but you can’t keep holding onto things that happened in the past. It only leads to problems with the health of your future relationships. It’s like we get stuck in an emotional rut.

Scripture teaches us that we must forgive, because Christ forgave us. India.Arie sings “If Jesus can forgive crucifixion; surely we can survive and find a resolution.” I do not know if we can ever recapture our friendship, but we can ensure that there is no resentment between us. Forgiveness does not happen in a moment. It’s a process. Today, I choose to begin that process. The completion of that journey will not happen tomorrow or next week, but hopefully soon.

There are times when we are called to be a peacemaker. Let’s not forget that our former Significant Other was a part of your life. You carved out time for them, carved out space for them, they became part of your routine. Sometimes we have to villify the other person in order to move on, or more precisely, have a sense of moving on. We burn the bridge so that we don’t, or aren’t tempted to, keep going over and over it again. Yet it may be more healthy for us to forgive in order for us to move on.

Look, forgiveness is a choice, not always an easy one, but “forgive and forget” is a lie we tell ourselves. You’re much better off believing in forgive and remember; forgive and learn; as long as you forgive and move on. Moving on, any kind of transformation, is a process and the power of forgiveness and love is in the process: starting with absolute honesty (confession), owning up to what you have done, your part in things. Acknowledging that what you have done doesn’t define you. And then letting it go, as forgiveness opens the door for a new beginning.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean a restoration of the relationship. Sometimes the loving thing is to walk away. “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18) As much as I’d like to conveniently toss out the words of the apostle Paul, we’re to try our best to live at peace with one another.

Jesus’ forgiveness is a living parable that teaches God’s forgiveness is not dependent on our worthiness, ability, or even our deeds of repentance. It is completely a product of God’s grace. “I, even I, am the One who wipes out your transgressions for my own sake; And I will not remember your sins” (Isaiah 43:25).

You’ve been forgiven (by God) and need to move on. Forgive them and move on. And don’t forget to forgive yourself. And move on.

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The Catheter Incident

The last two weeks of Grey’s Anatomy have been particularly uncomfortable to watch. It’s my wife’s favorite show and she forgot to warn me about it One of the storylines featured a character who had a form of severe scoliosis. I had scoliosis and had to have surgery to correct it. It’s been 20 years now and I still remember the surgery like it was yesterday. Particularly what I will refer to as “the catheter incident.”

My parents began having me checked for scoliosis in fourth grade. Every year I got checked out and every year I was told that there was a slight curvature but “we’d” keep an eye on. Well, one year “we” decided that some time between the previous year and that year, the curve went from slight to “in need of surgery to correct”. I was fifteen years old.

The night before the surgery, the doctor and nurse come in to go over the procedure of the next day. The briefly mentioned something about a catheter and moved on to issues of anaesthesia, recovery, etc. Since I was more concerned about the risks of paralysis, I never stopped to ask about what exactly this “catheter” thing was.

The next morning, 5 in the morning (since time has little meaning in a hospital), a nurse comes in to begin all of the pre-op stuff they had to do. She ended with, “I’ll be back to put in your catheter.” When she comes in, she has the “stuff” and let’s me know that it was time to put in the catheter. So I open my mouth.

“What are you doing?”
“You have to put in my catheter, right?”
“Yeah.”
“It’s like taking my temperature, right?”
“Not exactly. This,” she pointed to the tubing, “has to go, in there.”

I didn’t like where she pointed next.

“You’re kidding.” I started to laugh, waiting for the Candid Camera guy to pop out (hey, this was nearly 20 years before Punk’d).
“No. Didn’t someone explain this to you?”
“Obviously not clear enough. That’s thicker than a pencil and there’s no way THAT is going THERE.” Not to mention, THERE, sensing a threat, was begin to experience what we’ll refer to as a “turtling effect”. “Can’t you put me to sleep to put it in?”
“No. And we don’t have all day. The sooner we get started, the sooner it will be over.”
Apparently she underestimated my resolve.

Now, I’m not exactly proud of the next few moments. It began with the nurse grabbing THERE and my foot reflexively responding to “push away” the threat. Then came the chase, which involved me running around my bed in a desperate bid to keep THAT from going THERE. Apparently there was some girl-like yelling involved because my mother popped her head in to ask what the problem was. The nurse explained the situation and my mom, also being a nurse, quickly got the picture. My mom turned to me and assured me “I’ll handle this,” then walked the nurse outside. She came back in a few minutes later and told me that they had come to a different arrangement and there was nothing to worry about. I needed to get back into bed until the doctor arrived.

My mother. My savior.

I got back into bed and asked “what sort of arrangements?”

My mother then jumped on my chest and yelled “Got him!” The nurse rushed in while my mother had me pinned to the bed. Then the nurse quickly and roughly, in part a payback for the kick, put THAT … THERE.

It was the longest morning of my life.

Luckily, the surgery went picture perfect. I even got used to the catheter thing. Sure, I had the occasional hospital visitor make fun of it, but I began thinking of it as an extension of me. I even began listing practical uses for it. Why? Because it was in now and in case you missed that part about me living by a code, no one was messing with THERE if I could help it. New rod along my spine or no, I still had two feet that said no nurse would be messing with me. So when the nurse came in with gloves on and that “I don’t want to have to do this” look on her face, I told her that THAT was simply going to have to come home with me. She left for a few minutes, then came back and said “fine, do what you want. It’s not worth the hassle anyway.”

Just then, the phone rang.

“Hello.”
“Hey son.”
“Hey mom. What’s up?”
“Yeah, sorry about this.”

At which point the nurse grabbed THERE and whisked THAT out of me to the sound of another girl-ish scream that sounded like her soul was being removed. Thus endeth the catheter incident. Ironically enough, a childhood friend of mine was due to have the exact same surgery as me the following weekend. Same doctor, same hospital. Oddly enough, they put him to sleep before they put THAT … THERE.

Sort of put a damper on this song, doesn’t it? All this because I’m about to sit down and what this week’s episode … with one eye open.

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Responsibility of the Artist

A few ideas have been running through my head about the nature of how ideas are propagated and disseminated in our culture. I’ve been mulling over the “food chain” of ideas:

-philosophers/theologians/scientists – the generators of ideas, of new ways of looking at reality

-artists – the communicators of those ideas, transmitting them to the (pop) culture at large.

-audience/culture – consumers of those ideas

Discuss.

In the meantime, my column for Intake. “Living Life in Light of Death.”

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Broaddus Family Scares

My wife bit my head off the other morning.

Not that this is so unusual that I considered it blog worthy, but this time I was actually not guilty of anything. In fact, I was pretty pleased with myself because I had taken it upon myself to do all of the laundry as a surprise for my wife. I’m a bit of a night owl, and in a combination of mania and procrastination from a writing deadline, I washed all the dirty clothes in the house. Six loads worth. She woke up to baskets of folded clothes.

That isn’t why she bit my head off.

Well, the next day, my wife blew up, not in a biting my head off way, but in a “why am I so swollen” way. Huge red splotches covered her body. She itched, was uncomfortable, and couldn’t sleep. Now, you have to understand, my wife is allergic to just about everything. Fish, pollen, grass, water (she’s on special medication: there’s something in tap water she’s allergic to. Without the medication, a shower leaves her looking like she was attacked by a swarm of bees). Me, I have no allergies. I can roll around naked in poison ivy.

Through some detective work, she found out the source of her allergies. Our laundry detergent apparently switched formulas on us, a new color safe bleach alternative. This all led to her having to go to the doctor to do something about the severity of her reaction. The last time her body went so crazy was when we found out that she was pregnant with our second child, which is how we found out we were expecting so early.

It was at this point when the doctor explained that we were going to have to test to see if she was pregnant. You see, my wife got fixed soon after the birth of our second son (and, for the record, she loves it when I refer to her procedure as “getting fixed”. I’m guaranteed not to hear about that one). However, we’ve all heard the stories: how you can have your tubes “fried, tied, and laid to the side and still find yourself pregnant inside” (thank you, my o so supportive brother-in-law). Did I mention that she was two months “late”?

Which was when I got my head bit off.

The merest suggestion of the possibility of more kids put her in a bad mood. She got fixed for a reason. We were pretty set in staying at two. A lot of thought went into the decision. For one thing, the reality of children killed the dream of children. When we first got married, I said that I would like to have five children, enough for a starting basketball squad (ironic considering that I suck at basketball). After our first was born, I told my wife that I would be content with three kids. Then after our second, I informed her that I was done. (She, however, always had the number two in mind and simply waited for me to come to my senses).

The thing about going from two kids to three, is that you have to go from a man-to-man defense to a zone defense. I love my kids, but I know me and I know how much time I can effectively give to my children. Two isn’t dividing my attention and I can usually outsmart two brains. I can still get free babysitters with two, even people VOLUNTEERING to watch my two. The odds greatly decrease once you hit three and I’m not trying to be stuck at home all the time with the kids. Plus, I still cling to the dream of affordable family vacations.

It’s why I have crazy respect for single parents and families who have no other hobbies than breeding.

Not that we wouldn’t have loved a third child, we had merely gotten comfortable with our routine and you know how people get with their plans, especially with the threat of those carefully laid plans being disrupted. Anyway, I give my wife enough reasons to bite my head off with the two that we have.

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I Love Sin Taxes …

… as long as you aren’t taxing my sins of choice. There is an old saying that, “if you want less of something, tax it.” That is the rationale for “sin taxes,” high taxes on things like cigarettes and booze, although there are “sins” we like, such as gambling. So why the rant today?

The Republican governor’s plan calls for covering at least 120,000 low-income adults by hiking cigarette taxes by at least 25 cents per pack. It is one of six or more proposals being considered by the Democrat-controlled House as it wrestles with how to provide insurance to the estimated 850,000 Indiana residents who now lack it.

Our governor is attempting to push through his version of an “extort Peter to pay for Peter’s eventual costs on society” tax scheme. On the surface it seems like we’re trying to kill two (good) birds with one (questionable) stone: find a way to fund an insurance for those who don’t have it (good) and lower the amount of folks who smoke (good). As a way of changing people’s behavior, it’s a start, I guess. We’ve been waging our war on smokers for a long time. You can tell it’s a real war because we haven’t “officially” declared war on them. They just woke up one day under siege and treated like second class citizens. They can no longer smoke in restaurants (because we apparently decided that restaurants were making too much money). But like I said, just don’t attack MY sins. I’m not a smoker and I appreciate being able to breathe free in restaurants, so I’m not complaining too loudly. The government hasn’t come for me. Yet.

Actually, we might as well raise the price of cigarettes a dollar a pack. A quarter isn’t going to deter anyone, not even that fifteen year old who is thinking about picking up the habit (and isn’t that who we do these things for? The children?). The smokers I know would pay the extra dollar, because they’re addicted. And it’s the state’s role to exploit the addicted and the ignorant (need I mention the lottery thing again?)

It becomes harder and harder to call myself a Republican because I’m not seeing any clear delineation between the parties much anymore. If we’re against taxes, we should want to see taxes go down across the board wherever we can. What happened to “the desire to return power and control of our economic resources to the grass roots people of this country. THAT is our agenda. It is not a money agenda. It is the moral agenda of self-government.”? What happened to seeing taxes as a moral issue, governmental racketeering and money laundering with tax cuts merely the State giving us back the money we’ve earned?

At this rate, and by this rationale, I’m surprised that the government hasn’t legalized “soft” drugs, like marijuana, and prostitution if only to tax them. Those would seem to be consistent with this line of thinking. I’m sure it won’t stop there. Frankly, I keep waiting on the transfat tax, especially in the land of State Fairs. Come on, right now there are redneck scientists in their basements trying to deep fry something new to debut this year (we’ve had deep fried Twinkies, chocolate covered strawberries, moon pies. However, I’m here to testify, deep fried Snicker bars will be served in heaven.)

However, in the final analysis, nothing is free. Not health care, not education, not any of the things that government has to do. And the money has to come from somewhere. In the ideal system, everyone would pay their fair share. In our world, we seem to want more from those who have more (the rich) and those who “benefit” more from the system (the poor). Nothing about that seems particularly fair to me. But hey, I’m in the middle somewhere and you aren’t taxing my sins. Yet.

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American Idol: the Editor’s Dilemma

If the American Idol auditions are like writers submitting their stories to a slush pile, then that would make the judges the equivalent of editors. I want the record to reflect that I want all of my editors to be as drunk as Paula Abdul when reading my stories (you hear that Sizemore?!? You too, Puglisi!). Let me tell you, if I had to read the equivalent of these auditions as slush, I’d be drinking, too. Heavily.

What kills me is how frivolously some people take their opportunities, though I try to take the American Idol auditions with a grain of salt since, after all, they are mostly teenagers. Here you have judges dressed like normal people and you have people showing up in costume in the name of standing out. If we want to talk about being professional, this is the same as sending in your manuscript on colored paper or sticking glitter in the envelope.

Here’s the thing, editors have a job to do. Just as the Simon Cowell et. al. are searching for the most marketable talent, editors are trying to find stories they want to publish. They have magazines, anthologies, and web space to fill and want to find the best stories to do so. They especially want to be the ones to break new talent. They aren’t the enemy and aren’t out to get you. Realize that you are not the exception: read the guidelines and submit your best work. Sure, you might get a rejection letter from them, but if you’re lucky, you will get feedback from them also. Feedback aimed at why your story didn’t work for them and how you can make your story better.

So then how do we as artists respond to our judges, critics, or editors having to reject us? Too many are quick to respond with “they don’t know what they’re doing. They’re a frustrated [insert vocation of choice]”. Worse, they put that response in print and hit the send button (much less those who do it on camera on American Idol), fearless as to how many bridges they may burn, due to their lack of professionalism, in the process. We have to remember, it is only that editor’s opinion that matters … but only for that market. (And it’s funny how we respect/crave their opinion before the audition/submission, but their opinion holds no water should you flop). To quote Nick Mamatas from a Shocklines discussion:

I don’t think musicians or fine artists or automotive manufacturers or chefs should respond to their critics either, except insofar as defamation may be at issue (e.g., a review claiming that a safe car is unsafe). The reasons are simple:

1. It doesn’t matter. What can one say? “No, my book is scary! My flavor pairing were appropriate! My car does make your penis feel larger!” There will be no persuasion, so one may as well save one’s energy.

2.The public has a right of response and responses will always be varied. There’s no substance to negative complaints about the response because of this diversity of response.

Now, reviews can be poorly written, and God knows that in genre fiction they frequently are, and the public has a right of response there too. But when the only complaints one can make is about reviews of one’s own work, it becomes transparently obvious that one is just whining and cares nothing about reviewing itself as an art or craft. A writer can respond to reviews as a reader of reviews, and talk about reviews generally, but shouldn’t complain about his reviews.

If you have to respond, and I mean, if the voices in your head won’t leave you alone until you say something to your reviewer, at least keep it to e-mail (actually, it’d be best if you wrote that e-mail, printed it out, and put it in your trash can). What you really don’t want to do is go to message boards griping about your review. You will only look like a cry-baby (and you can probably consider that reviewer site dead to you).

American Idol” judges Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul say they’re no crueler than usual this year, and that people who audition should know what they’re going to get.

I imagine that editors reading a slush pile probably do sound a lot like Simon. Thank God I’m not actually at ground zero when they are reading my stories. All I have to put up with is the occasional self-addressed stamped envelope with a rejection letter in it. (And I know how to take rejections, even from friends.) At their first stop, the judges picked 17 people to move on to the next round out of 10,000 applicants. That’s a worse average than most slush piles (where, at the risk of antagonizing yet another editor before I submit to them), where it’s close to 1 story in 100 moving up the editorial ladder. Our job as writers is to be that 1 in 100.

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