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H is for Heckling #atozchallenge

In one Seinfeld episode, Kramer brings a date to Jerry’s show, and the woman heckles him. Seinfeld decides to retaliate by going to her place of employment and heckling her back, with, of course, unexpected consequences.

That episode, while hilarious, also illustrates the risk any creative person takes when putting their work out there for public consumption.

People say you need a thick skin to offer your work up for public consumption, which is true. If you write truthfully, you’ll offend someone sooner or later. Stephen King has said “If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.”

Every writer eventually gets negative reviews, and, while some of those reviews come in the form of constructive criticism, others are nasty personal attacks. When the attack comes, it’s difficult not to feel the effects in your core, but you have to shrug it off.

Until it crosses into your personal space.

I recently came across a post by Nora Roberts that addressed the problem of readers showing up at her site and criticizing her work. The poster’s defence for doing so is that it’s an opinion.

In response to this, Roberts says, “Readers are absolutely entitled to opinions, and there are a zillion places on the internet to express any dissatisfaction. I’m not going to go onto those sites and debate with a reader over her opinion on my work. But these are my pages.”

Before the Internet, authors might receive mail criticizing their work, but the lambasting and harshness was done in private. I’m sure it still stung, though. Creative people tend to be sensitive, and it doesn’t matter how often they repeat the mantra that they need a thick skin and sticks and stones yadda yadda yadda.

Now it’s possible to publicly trash an author even on their personal page.

Roberts had enough after a poster called her stories predictable and that it didn’t take much brain power to read them. She responded with this: “That crossed a line for me. It’s not only insulting my work on my page, but insulting every reader who enjoys the work. That’s a frigging bitch-slap to everyone.”

She’s right.

Reviews of a story should be posted on review sites. An author’s site isn’t the place to trash that author’s work or his/her fans. I love that Nora Roberts assertively defended her space.


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