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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

F--- 'Em

I've gotten quite a few emails over the post I did on how the YA Mafia (whether real or fictitious) feeds on fear an insecurity. Most of these emails ask one question:

How do you stay so calm?

The short answer--I don't.

Truth is, there are a lot of things that bother me, worry me, or otherwise throw off my groove. And between you and me, I hate having my groove thrown off. I hate sitting down to write and being so excited about a story, and then seeing a passive-aggressive jab from a "friend" on Twitter and feeling like crap for the rest of the day.

But you know what? Those things happen. And they're going to continue happening. Because that's life for you.

Of course, those things--albeit few and far between--used to bother me a whole lot more than they do now. I guess I can attribute a portion of my mellowing out to age and experience, but honestly, much of it came from adopting a mantra:

F--- 'em.

Someone wants to have nothing to do with you because you prefer CSI: Miami and she believes CSI: New York is by far the superior crime procedural?

F--- 'em.

An employer doesn't want to hire you because her husband's cousin's sister dated your half-brother and doesn't want anything to do with either of you?

F--- 'em.

An old writing friend stops talking to you because you were offered representation before she was, even though she has an MFA and you didn't even graduate high school?

F--- 'em.

(And believe it or not, those are all real reasons why people have rejected me in the past. Even the one about CSI: Miami).

I know the f--- 'em mantra probably sounds rude, maybe even a tad bit arrogant. But really, who would want to be involved with anyone so petty as the people I've described above? Why enter into a relationship--be it work-related, romantic, a critique partner, or a friend--where the default setting is always set to Walking on Eggshells? I mean, who cares what they can do for your career, think about what they're doing to your psyche.

I spent most of my childhood being bullied for who I am, what I like, the people I befriend, and the things I want to do. I grew up a scared, timid, insecure, miserable, self-loathing child. It's taken me years to find my backbone and put it to good use. So believe me when I say, there isn't anyone or anything in the publishing industry I covet enough to entice me to live that way again. No agent. No house. No award or list. No amount of money. Nothing.

So I guess that's where the calm comes from--knowing who I am and that it's OK to be that way, and understanding that if someone rejects me for me, I'm better off without them.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The YA Mafia is Watching You

But first, a Public Service Announcement on how you can help the people affected by the earthquake in Japan:

Shelterbox in Japan

Shelterbox is a non-profit organization that provides shelter, food and drinking water, and other things needed to help reconstruct areas affected by disasters. For example, the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that devastated Japan this morning. Author Maureen Johnson explains in this blog post how you can help. Every little bit counts. So go there. Give what you can. And if you don't have anything to give, that's OK, too. You can always help by spreading the word.

And in other, much less important, news:

The YA Mafia is Watching You

OK, that's a lie.  There is no YA Mafia.

I don't think.

Unless there really is, in which case, I meant no disrespect. Honest.


It's just that some of you think Monday's post, in which I talked about why being in a clique and actively excluding people from your precious group is a rude and foolish thing to do, had something to do with there allegedly being a group of YA writers out there controlling the social hierarchy.

Truth is, that post was more inspired by my own bad behavior than anyone else's, which I'm kind of ashamed to admit. Lesson learned: you're never too busy or too popular or to anything to be nice to someone. Ever. So be nice, even when you don't feel like it. You never know whose life you may influence (or whose feelings you may hurt) otherwise.

But is there a YA Mafia calling the shots?

I guess that depends on what you think a YA Mafia is.

I mean, is there a group that call themselves the "YA Mafia" and do they go around killing authors' careers before they begin?

Probably not.

But are there people out there--whether acting as a group or a group of individuals--going behind peoples' backs, making deals that they'll never blurb so-and-so or never invite so-and-so to retreats or read so-and-so's books or otherwise being not nice to so-and-so?

Yes, there are.

Because no matter where you go, you will find people like that. I ran into them when I worked at CitiFinancial. I ran into them when I worked for Embarq and TransNet. I ran into them when I volunteered at the hospital and at church and even at the gift shop where I worked when I was a teenager. And guys, only three people worked there. 

I know we all have this Pollyanna view of how the world of books works, because we all love writing and love books and where could there be room for any bad? But the sad fact is, there are mean people everywhere, and publishing is no different.

For example, when I wrote mysteries, one particular New York Times Bestselling author's daughter used to demand a certain author's books be pulled from the stores where her mother was signing, because her mother did not like that author and did not want to see that author's books while she was there. Pretty rude, right?

Or when I wrote romance, there was this big brouhaha about the awards, because it was said that people tend to vote for their friends over what they feel is really the best book, which meant the same people kept winning over and over again while the less popular authors never got any credit.

I could tell you even more stories, but I think you get the point: some people are just plain mean.

But that doesn't mean everyone who writes YA is mean. I'm not mean. None of my friends are mean. You're not mean. Are you?  I didn't think so.

We're talking a handful of bad apples out of hundreds of thousands of good ones. And for what it's worth, in the fourteen or so years I've been writing, I've only run into two of the bad ones. Neither of them came from the YA genre.

So if you're one of the people worried about whether or not a group of mean girls is going to blacklist you and keep you from reaching your dream, take my advice and stop worrying.

And if you can't do that, stop reading Twitter and blogs that mention "YA Mafia" until you can.

(Except for this one. You can keep reading this one. This one is exempt.)

Because the real danger of the YA Mafia--whether it's real or not--is that every minute you spend worrying/thinking/talking about the YA Mafia is a minute you're not spending on your book. You know, the one you need to write before you can get blacklisted and/or published.

So do yourself a favor and stop worrying. I mean it. Just stop.

Because there are plenty of other, more healthy, writing-related things you could be worrying about. Like maybe your plot, or how you can make your characters even more awesome than they already are, or whether or not you're going to get a headless torso on your book cover.

I once read about a guy who got fired from his workplace because he was playing Farmville all the time. Only when he got fired, he was in a real bind, because not only had he depleted his savings, but he'd also maxed out all of his credit cards...

...on Farm Cash.

Don't look at me like that, y'all, 'cause you know you can't make this stuff up.

Anyway, I don't think this guy ever intended on paying $35,000 in real money to own a virtual farm. He probably had his eyes on a promotion, or maybe he was using his current job to pad his resume for a better job he wanted with a nicer company.

I don't know for sure.

What I do know is that this kind of drama is a lot like Farm Cash--a virtual product in exchange for real currency. Only in this case, the currency isn't money. It's something much more valuable. Farm Cash Guy may very well hit the lotto tomorrow, thus ending his financial woes. But the time and creative energy you invest in drama is gone for good.

I want to say that again, because I don't think everyone who read it got it:

The time and energy you spend worrying about drama is gone forever.

And if you think about it that way, then maybe the YA Mafia really does exist. Because if you invest all of your time and energy into the YA Mafia, you become the YA Mafia.

The only person who can keep you from achieving your dream is you. Don't be your own worst enemy.



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