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writer shaming

September 8, 2015

One thing I’m getting tired of seeing on facebook and other venues — something I may have unwittingly laughed along with in the past — is writer shaming.  It seems to be a favorite pastime of certain editors to air poorly or cluelessly written cover letters, chunks of stories, or opinions by unknown writers, for the express purpose of roasting them behind their backs with their circle of friends and colleagues.

On one hand, writers who are downright rude may have it coming.  On one hand, writing your cover letter in pink ink with little hearts and pictures of unicorns and a sketch up of your main character, or trying to “elevator pitch” your story, may seem absurdly humorous.   On the other hand, I remember that I was once that writer (well, no pinkness or unicorns, but similarly absurd tactics) and probably had real hopes that the story would get somewhere.  If I’d seen the public roasting that ensued, I’d have felt horrible.

Even worse, I often see hordes of fellow writers egging the shamer on.  I, myself, was one of them a couple of times, and I’m vowing never to do that again.   I can’t help but think this is some form of self loathing or distancing from past mistakes, the way kids in school who aren’t serious bullies will sometimes go along with a bully just to keep themselves out of the crosshairs.

And I’ve read some intense bursts of slush in the past, so I get some of it.  I really do.

Writers should not be punished for being new.  A simple rejection with an explanation of protocol should suffice.  Editors who do this once or twice, I can even forgive.  But editors who do this as a regular daily or weekly form of entertainment make me want to question their career choice.  Don’t you have anything better to do than make punching bags out of new, possibly young, uninformed writers?  Or, if it bothers you that much after so long, maybe you should find another hobby-job.  Go write some new form of art for a venue you’re unfamiliar with — screenplays or such — and see what happens.  Go read some submission guidelines when you have a natural tendency to miss certain things, dyslexia, or some other form of minor reading disability, and see what happens.  In other words, stop being as whiny and prissy as some of your worst would-be contributors.

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