Unknown Blogger Ages Ten Years After Receiving Negative Comment!

lovehateHow I love getting those emails from WordPress which announce a new comment! Maybe, in time, I will choose not to receive a notification for each and every comment, but for now, they aren’t so much in abundance that they are annoying. In fact, they pretty much make my day, they make my world a little brighter, they are my walk on the beach, my birdsong in morning, my wine after sunset… okay, enough with the mundane metaphors.

So imagine my surprise, nay, utter humiliation, when I received a very negative comment, which critiqued not only my post, but slandered my very character, and hurt me deeply, a cut to the bone.

Doctors Amazed by Premature Aging!

Doctors Amazed by Premature Aging!

In September 2011 I published a post, Writing With Music, about listening to music while writing. There is a particularly haunting piece that I played over and over and it worked so well for me that I thought I’d pass it on to fellow writers, or maybe just alert some people to a great audio experience. It wasn’t a successful post. No one appeared to care much about it. I don’t believe anyone even clicked on the YouTube video provided within the post.

But fifteen months later, I received notification from WordPress that I had a comment on the Writing With Music post. It was from someone named “Anonymous”:

I find it amazingly careless, ignorant and unprofessional for someone
who claims to (and may very well) be an author and reviewer of fiction to not research first, something they’ve chosen to write about, with the intention of presenting it to an audience of their readers.

It diminishes the credibility of the writer and the trust a reader invests in them:

ADAGIO – is an italian musical term that marks the tempo in which a piece of music is to be played as “slow and stately.” It means literally, “at ease.” An antonym would be ALLEGRO, meaning “fast and lively.”

Op. or OPUS – is a composition, piece of work, work of art or creation.

Holy crap. My life is over. I am shutting down this blog. Right now. I’ve been found out. Not only am I careless, I am amazingly careless. And ignorant too? Isn’t it enough that I’m just amazingly careless? So, I picture it this way: Amazingly careless is the Hostess cupcake, ignorant is the chocolate frosting, and since that is never quite enough, unprofessional is that white curly thing on top.

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

Really?

I “claim to be an author and reviewer of fiction”. Well, sir, I can’t make that claim any longer since I have acted in such a lowly and reprehensible way.

And I’m not sure why I believe this commenter to be a male, it’s just a gut feeling I have. I could be wrong about this. God knows, I’ve been wrong about a shitload of other stuff in my life.

After rereading the post again, though, I found that what Mr. Anonymous most likely had taken it upon himself to object to was the following:

“I’m not sure of the meaning of “Adagio” nor what “Op.” stands for…”

That was the only thing I could find.

What?

Dude. Mr. Anonymous. This is a writing blog. Not a music blog. Why all the blow-it-all-out-of-proportion nastiness on your part here? Couldn’t you have worded it a little nicer? Maybe just implied that I might have my head you-know-where, rather than pointing out for all the WWW to see? A little subtlety would have been most appreciated.

Then I thought: But wait! I have no idea what was going on in Mr. Anonymous’ life when he decided to expose me for the ignorant, music-illiterate that I am.

  • Maybe his Significant Other of n number of years just called him a Music Bigot and walked out on him?
  • Maybe he’s writing a music blog and no one is commenting and/or even reading and he’s getting damn tired of it?
  • Maybe he’s just in a really rotten mood, and he’s annoyed that someone with no music clue would deign to comment on Vaughn Williams?

Any or all of these things could be true. So, I’m giving the benefit of a lot of doubt here and accepting Mr. Anonymous’ critique with the dignity it deserves.

Here’s my response:

You are so right! I am careless, unprofessional and certainly ignorant. As a “maybe” author, these are traits that will affect my career — and ultimately render whatever life I have left — worthless. A broken woman, that’s what I am. Finally found out.

The only argument I have, the only trivial little thing I can conjure up as even a hint of an explanation is this: It’s a writing blog, not a music blog. I was trying to give my readers some ideas about what types of music might inspire them while writing, but unless I can define Adagio, I suppose that information is meaningless.

I may never blog again. But wait! I should blog about this very thing. Look for your comment, blown up out of all proportion in a post January, 2013.

Again, thanks so much for setting me straight. Consider my credibility duly diminished and I’m sure there isn’t a reader out there whose trust I can safely say I still have.

(And, Mr. Anonymous, I don’t mean to be picky here, but “italian” should be capitalized.)

On the other hand, could this be a positive thing? Is the fact that I have received such negativity a sign that I have arrived in the World of Bloggery? Can I compare it to Amazon reviews of Jonathan Franzen novels? He gets as many one-star reviews as five-star! And wow, we know what a successful author he is, so can this be a step up for me, from total obscurity to relative obscurity?

That would be, well, amazingly spectacular.

Love/Hate Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Crying Old Lady Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Will I Ever Be Freshly Pressed?

Will it ever happen? Will I ever be Freshly Pressed?

Alas. So far, it has not been so.

Being Freshly Pressed is a big deal to WordPress bloggers. And we all know that WordPress is the best blogging platform ever (!) with the best blogging tools ever (!!) and WordPress is, well, pretty awesome. (Will this help my chances, WordPress?)

If a blogger’s post ends up on the WordPress home page, he or she can expect high stats, lots of readers, lots of likes, lots of comments, lots of followers. In turn, if the blogger is a writer of books (like me), those readers will see my books, click on the images, buy from Amazon, and write five-star reviews. And I will live happily ever after.

I have never been, nor am I likely ever to be, Freshly Pressed. It just doesn’t seem to be in the cards for me. What am I doing wrong? Why can’t the WordPress gurus find me? Why do some bloggers become freshly pressed on their very first post?

And another thing. Occasionally (and I mean this literally – occasionally) I get a notification that a new reader is following my blog. These are so scarce that I nearly always look them up, see what they are up to. I see bloggers who have been at it for four months and have hundreds of followers already. How are they doing that? I have some piddling percentage of that number! Bah!

Enough whining.

I decided to look at each blog post that was Freshly Pressed as of Friday, July 20, to see if I could figure out what was good about it. What was it that caught the eyes of the choosers?

Here are a few of the FPd posts, and links, in case you are interested.

Can a Film Ever Truly Beat a Good Book? Basically no, says the post. If it is a really good book, one where you are drawn in by the characters and the story, a movie will usually come up a lot or a little short. Exception: The Help was almost as good in its film version as the book, but not quite. A very well-written post. 

Hey Rubiks Cube, EFF You! Okay. This is not good, not funny, filled with slight profanities which supposedly gets you bumped from the Freshly Pressed list. The formatting was strange. It had a nice picture of a Rubiks cube. I thought the original had a couple of typos but those have been corrected, if there were any. It was not long, thankfully.

Why Blogging Scares Me. OMG. This was good, the blogger is young (19) and that was apparent, which is fine. I like it a little better if you can’t discern the age or sex of the writer immediately. At least until they give away details so the reader can then figure it out. That’s just me though. The really pissable-off part is that this is the first post this individual has ever written! What?! How does it work that a first post such as this gets noticed and makes the list? I don’t get it. Not that it wasn’t good but… Really? Does this blogger know someone who is calling the Freshly Pressed shots?  It was well-written, despite a plethora of italics, bolded text and caps.

Shirley the Sheepish Feminist. This is pretty good, a post about feminism and why Jerry Seinfeld, in his new show Comedians Driving Around Getting Coffee, found  no women comics to drive around and chat with, only men. 

DIY Scratch Off Cards. Okay, who in their right mind wants to waste time making scratch-off cards?  I’m sure these cards work fine, and there were detailed instructions complete with pictures on how to make them. But why would anyone do this? In the event that I am completely missing the irony intended and also duly noting its originality (i.e. that anyone would have investigated this topic enough to write about it) I’d have to say this was very good.

Why I Watch The Newsroom. I have been told this is a very good series. I intend to watch it, so I was interested to read the review, which was good. From the comments, most think the show is excellent or were encouraged to watch by virtue of reading this post. It was a good review.

Follow the White Rabbit. I didn’t get much of this. It’s about artificial intelligence or something. I started yawning as soon as I realized this. Not into science fiction or fantasy or AI. Nice photos of billboards. Some would probably think this interesting. Alas, not me. But there’s nothing wrong with the post.

Dogs Married In $158,187.25 Wedding! Why Are You Still Single? Apparently a couple of dogs were wed and this pricey event took place in order to raise money for the Humane Society. It was just okay, not great. A picture of the bride and groom would have been funnier but this was not provided. The over-the-top craziness didn’t really work for me.

To My Son…..Finally The Phone Call. Wow. Poetry? I guess it is, short packed phrases which depict this mother’s trouble with her adult son. It was moving, yet I felt voyeuristic reading it, as if perhaps something so personal might be better left to a more private venue than the internet. And then it went FPd so even more people saw it. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. 

My 15 Minutes. I suspect most of the calamities suffered during the 15 minutes before the film crew arrived might be a bit of an exaggeration in order to make this post funny. It didn’t work too well for me. Interesting concept: The writer of this blog is giving herself 1000 single days (no relationships, no dates, no sex) in order to “find herself”. That might work, but I guess if I told my husband I was going off for three years, he’d have some trouble with that.

DIY: Swimsuit Wrap. (Apparently “DIY” is big now.) Made with 1½ yards of fabric, four grommets and two chains. For some, I think this would be fine. Myself, I’m into “cover-ups” that are a little less revealing. My current cover-up is a burka. Nice post.

10 Non-fiction Books For the Novel Lover. I’ve read three, and this is a reminder that I always wanted to read Fast Food Nation. A good list.

None of these blogs rate an A+ in my opinion, although there have been FPd posts that I thought did merit that high grade. I have started following several blogs based on the post that was Freshly Pressed, and continue to enjoy every post from these fine writers. Here are three: The Write Transition, Life in the Boomer Lane, and The Byronic Man.

Photo courtesy of freedigitalprints.net

5 Blogging Insecurities or Will I Ever Be Freshly Pressed?

I started reading an Elizabeth Berg novel yesterday called Once Upon a Time, There Was You. I’m not sure I should have done it and I will now tell you why I say that.

Ms. Berg is one of the very best women’s fiction authors in the country, in the world, in the universe. That’s merely my opinion but I know a lot of people agree with that statement. I was immediately hooked. There was a prologue about a couple who’d planned to marry, from each of their POVs. They each had second thoughts about the other and misgivings, serious misgivings that they might be doing the wrong thing, but went through with the wedding anyway. They were both in their late thirties and felt it was “time to settle down”.

Fast forward twenty years. They have an eighteen-year-old daughter and guess what? They are now divorced. Not surprising, given their reluctance to go through with the marriage in the first place. A few chapters in and I am still hooked, and I really like the main characters. What a lovely book it’s going to be. And what I really want is to be reading it, instead of writing this blog or editing my own novel.

Reading a Berg novel, while it may not educate you in anything other than great food presentation, or perhaps serve as a tool to demonstrate what really good writing looks like, is vastly entertaining.

Uh. All the insecurities rear their ugly heads.

I won’t ever be as good, I can’t compete, I might as well devote my life to chasing after dust bunnies and finger prints. Is it too late to learn how to cook? Maybe bake a pie? Yeah, probably.

My day is divided into thirds while I babysit for my four-month-old grandson. He is remarkably predictable, and has periods of wake, sleep and eat. Three times during my day, he repeats this cycle and while he sleeps and sometimes while he is awake, I can do things other than tend to him. I promised myself, one period of Elizabeth Berg, one period of editing Perigee Moon and one period of blog writing.

This is period three, blog writing. Speaking of blogging, check out my stats from the beginning of time. Not sure I can keep it up but it sure looks good to see the lovely graph of hits go up and up each month.

And even though I see this steady increase, still my blogging insecurities are ever present.

Here are some of the things I worry about, blog-wise:

  1. Have I remembered to answer everyone’s comment? It is not polite to ignore comments and only if one goes viral is it acceptable to lump one response to several comments. A successful blogger should at least attempt to answer each one individually. I think I may have ignored a couple, but wait, crap. There’s one from last week I forgot about. Well, I’ll respond to that one right now.
  2. Does my latest blog post suck? Does it sound like I just wasn’t in the right mood but it was time so I wrote down just anything? Looking back at some of the earlier ones, I think some of them do, in fact, suck. Some more than others. Some are helpful to writers but boring to non-writers, some are superficially entertaining and have no redeeming value to writers but may appeal to non-writers. Some are vents and some are just whatever happened to inspire me that day, like political rallies or food labels or maligning the Kardashians. Do the writing posts suck, or the non-writing ones? Do they all suck?
  3. Why don’t many bloggers “like” my posts? This is a big deal. If I have more readers now, why doesn’t anyone “like” it? Do they hate it? If they do like it, why don’t they tell me, then I can get those cool emails from WordPress telling me Congratulations! Someone liked your post enough to click the Like button!
  4. Why don’t I get many comments? Is it because my posts aren’t interesting enough, or funny enough, or educational enough? Probably all of the above. I love getting comments! Whenever I see emails from comment-reply@wordpress.com I get euphoric with joy. The email has all the information, the name of the comment and the text. It’s so exciting to see these in my inbox!
  5. Will I ever be Freshly Pressed? This may not be familiar to some readers, but other WordPress bloggers know well what this status symbol does for the old stats. This is when the WordPress gurus themselves find a blog that they consider to be original and worthy of a place on the home page. I have started to follow many blogs based upon their Freshly Pressed status. My personal goal is to achieve this someday. What a feather in the old writing cap that would be. I’m not sure how the individual blogs are picked by the WordPress people, but somehow they find them.

So I wonder. I like to post once a week. Is it better to post a so-so article, or a rather dumb article, or a completely lame article, rather than post nothing at all?

I haven’t been feeling all that funny lately, so I hope the readers I have managed to accumulate stick with me.   

It’s that Time Again…

I just did a review of a book on the Boomers and Books blog, where I am now a collaborator. It’s a humorous book, called According to Jane. Click to be redirected to the blog and my comments about this delightful read.

The blogging group is a bunch of authors who have attained a certain age, thus the title. It’s relatively new, so the look and feel may change from time to time. But it promises to be a good resource for all us baby boomers who like to read.

I find myself in that anxious time, during the “I just ordered your book” phase and the phase where any feedback is offered. So, yet again, my insecurities rear their ugly heads. I try to be objective, and reread my own book and think, does it suck? Is it any good? I still like it, but of course, I would like it, I wrote it. Certainly no one would write something they, themselves, didn’t like.

It’s true then, it’s not possible to be objective. I can’t read it, as if I’d never seen it before, and give myself an honest opinion. I’ll just have to wait. And assume that if I hear nothing, then that means, well, it sucks.

Perfection is the Enemy

My post is a little early this week. But I wanted to share it.

I had an eye-opening discussion with my daughter-in-law over the weekend, as I attempted to assist her with an upcoming interview. When I asked if there was a time she sacrificed quality on a project, she said something interesting, that yes, there were times when absolute perfection might not be the ultimate goal, if it involves missing a deadline or going over budget. And as my husband says, “Perfection is the enemy of just good enough.”

It occurred to me, that’s what is happening to me, even though I don’t want my book to be “just good enough”, the comparison is clear. I have edited, and proof-read, Second Stories so many times that I think I might know it by heart. And every time I say, I’ll just look at the things I changed, make sure that’s right, and then I end up reading the whole thing through again. Frankly, I’m sick of it. And now I’ve found one thing, yet again, that I don’t like. I’ve fixed that, and a couple of other things that nagged at me and now I am ready to pull that trigger. Get it out there. Has anyone else gone through this?

Second Stories is actually my first book. I put it on the shelf for a while, and wrote Whatever Happened to Lily?, and afterwards went back to it. It needed to be tweaked, of course, and many parts were completely rewritten but the basic story is the same. It’s the story of four men, and a lasting friendship among them, since their first day of work at Bethlehem Steel. The office politics, the union problems, the angst when the place shut down, all of that is in the book. Of the four, three of them have relationship issues, to varying degrees. Especially one of them, a guy who always tried to do the right thing, and discovered he’d done everything wrong.

They say the first book is autobiographical, and that’s probably true. You write what you know. There’s Lydia, who is agoraphobic, and has low self-esteem, and renovates her house, and all she wants is to have her beautiful home and the love of her family. Of course, she can’t have that, because she’s married to the guy who did everything wrong. Then there’s Bonnie, who went back to school later in life, and Angie who became a macramé addict and a feminist and a computer programmer in the eighties, and Patti, who loved soap operas and romance novels. They are all me, to varying degrees. I took something of myself, and exaggerated it and formed four separate characters. Although, in defense of my soap-watching days, I did that while steaming wallpaper off the walls. Well, mostly, I did.

I wanted the book to be about experiences in the sixties, seventies, eighties, up to the present. The first chapter is a bit of a prologue, it takes place in May, 2008. Then there is a history of each of the four couples, up until the time the men start work in August of 1968. Then the Steel years, the changes that take place in the relationships of the couples, and finally, back to 2008 and the last half takes place from May through New Year’s, when the excrement hits the fan, with Lydia and her wrong-doing husband, and other changes take place, with the other couples. There’s a little politics in the book, as the guys sit around in a delightfully dumpy bar, named Wally’s, and discuss the events of the day, and the upcoming election. The model for Wally’s is a bar called Obie’s in Toledo, Ohio. Mr. Obie (aka O’Brien) used to lean on the counter and pass out beers and talk to the regulars, while Mrs. Obie just smiled at everyone and flipped burgers.

Back in the sixties, it was a lot easier for misunderstandings to happen. That’s why I like writing about it. Today, with voicemail and email and texting and IMing and Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn to name a few, combined with the way people are today, free, unencumbered by hang-ups like we were, or maybe not to the extent we were, it seems harder to me, to have the kinds of gut-wrenching problems that could have happened back then. Back when there weren’t even answering machines, and the phone just rang and rang and rang when nobody was home.

Remember when Jay tried to call Lily after she stopped writing to him? He called and no one answered. That’s because Lily couldn’t talk to him, she was there but didn’t pick up. She didn’t have the guts to tell him what had happened. If she’d had an answering machine, he’d have left a message. If she didn’t return his call, he would have got it, that she didn’t want to be with him any longer. End of relationship, end of story. But he really didn’t know what happened to her. Ah, conflict. Conflict = Good.

Do you recall the story of the Duke University student who rated her lovers, last year? I thought, wow. That’s sure a lot different than it was back when I was a college student. Back then, we still were a lot more romantic about sex. I think I liked that better. I’m pretty sure there are a lot of young women out there who will find the kinds of issues that happen to the Second Stories characters, a bit, uh, dated. Or silly, or just plain stupid. But then, as I said in an earlier post, this may not be their genre. And it’s history. It wouldn’t happen today, but it could have happened back then.

Who agrees? Love to hear from you…

Not everyone has to like your book for it to be a success

I’ll bet every writer feels the same way, when that first novel is finally out there, and s/he waits with a great amount of trepidation, what will the comments be? What will people say about it? The notice goes out, okay all you Friends and Family, I’ve been talking about it for a couple of years now, it’s ready for prime time. And they tell you, I just ordered your book, or I’m going to order your book but couldn’t find it on Amazon, or I looked for your book in the store but couldn’t find it, and so you answer each one, because after all, it’s important for as many people to get their hands on it as possible.

(Never mind that Amazon’s search engine won’t find the book unless the title is typed in exactly, “Whatever” is one word not two, and “Lily” is with one L not two, and if you mess up, you won’t find it. That’s not good. I’m betting if you screwed up one of John Grisham’s titles, it would probably come up anyway. But that’s another story.)

The first two weeks are the hardest, although occasionally someone will tell you that they are reading it, and they really like it, or once in awhile they’ll say, “I can’t put it down.” That’s good. But still, no one has reached the end yet, so maybe they can’t put it down now, but it gets boring in the end, or maybe the end is just, well, dumb.

I gave a proof copy to my daughter-in-law. She likes cozy mysteries, and has a job, and a five-year-old, and a house to take care of. She doesn’t get much time to read she said. She texted me six days later to tell me she’d been hooked from the first, that she thought it was really, really good. To say her comments were important to me, and very, very gratifying, would be an understatement. I was stunned. I hadn’t expected it.

And then I got an email from a high school friend, who ordered the book and it arrived in time for him to take on a trip to Europe and he read it on the plane, and while he was there, and on the trip back. He wrote to me when he got home and told me he absolutely loved it, that the characters were great, and he used lots of exclamation points. I could tell he meant it, he wouldn’t have had to be that complimentary, and I had only seen him once in twenty years. He wouldn’t have had to say anything, but he did. That was a turning point for me. Two people liked it, and one was a guy. I was on my way.

And a few of my friends, women, started to tell me they really liked it too, and I noticed some were very moved by the story. But still, some of the comments were more like “Good job, I liked it”. I went to a week long gathering with six friends, and they all liked it, but I knew some liked it more than others.

One of my best friends said it was the best book she’d ever read. Although she may have actually said “it was maybe the best book I’ve ever read” or “one of the best books I’ve ever read”. I’ll have to go back and check that voicemail, which I kept.

Another close friend of mine ordered it, immediately after it came out. And to this day, not one word has been said between us, about it. To me, this means she probably started to read it, didn’t care for it, and gave up on it. Or maybe she read the whole thing through, gritting her teeth the whole time, and still didn’t care for it, or disliked it a lot, or actually thought it sucked, but couldn’t say that.

I talk about it with my husband sometimes, my writerly insecurities, and one day he said, you know, not everyone has to like your book for it to be a success. And I thought about that, and how right he was.

My close friend, above, the one who has yet to say anything, is a Stephen King fan, a lover of Dean Koontz. She likes action movies, science fiction. We can hardly find a movie to talk about that we both like, although we did both like Fargo and Pulp Fiction. She likes musicals. I dislike musicals. She loves the TV show Glee. So I tried to watch Glee. You Glee-watchers will know the plot better than I, but I watched a segment about the cute cheerleader, who is pregnant and everyone thinks it’s one guy’s baby, but it’s really another guy’s baby. Apparently the Glee cheerleaders are doing more in their spare time than practicing their back flips. The guy-who-everyone-thought-was-the-father, while at the cheerleader’s house, and at the dinner table with her parents, breaks into song, “You’re Havin’ My Baby”.

What?!! Really?

Really?

Is it any wonder, then, that perhaps she couldn’t be as enthusiastic as some of the other readers, who might be more inclined to favor the genre in which I write? She just doesn’t have the guts to say it. Your book… well, it sucked. For me anyway.

I’ve read reviews of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. Most liked it. Some did not. We all know how successful that book has been. Oprah liked it, that’s enough. The reviewers who didn’t like it probably gave rave reviews to the Twilight series.

The President’s approval rating will fluctuate between 40% and say, 60%, although that’s on the high end. There are 40% of people out there who will never approve of the President no matter how good a job he does. If he found every single American a job, and stopped global warming, and secured the borders, and reduced the deficit to the point where we had a surplus, and didn’t raise taxes, and wore a flag pin every day, and even learned how to bowl better, 40% of the population still would not approve.

So the moral of the story is: Not everyone likes the same stuff. And it’s a good thing we don’t.

I’d love some comments!