Sunday, September 17, 2006

Apologies Accepted (or not)

I read with interest and self-recognition the account of a writer who convinced other people to spam an editor's blog in the hopes of getting published. You can't read the original post anymore, but you can read the comments on literary agent Miss Snark's blog, plus Miss Snark's advice on apologizing:

Here's the thing. You can recover.
This isn't death.

We all screw up.
All of us, every day.

It's what you do after you realize the great idea you had wasn't so great. The email sent in the heat of the moment was overwrought. What sounded funny to you wasn't heard with the same ears. You just screwed up for whatever human reason.

Pick yourself up.

Some years ago, when I decided to grace my favorite writers with fan letters, I wrote to Kathryn Lasky. I didn't expect a response, but I got one. It was a form letter that began with "Dear Kids!" I was indignant, and I wrote a snotty letter in reply. I hadn't expected her to read the letter I'd sent, and let loose with comparisons to other authors I thought handled fan mail much more professionally. Ms. Lasky wrote back to me, and took me to task. I was humiliated. I wrote her a letter of apology with a self-addressed stamped envelope, asking her just to let me know that she got my letter. She handwrote back, "I got it. Now, dry your eyes and go off to library school to become a wonderful children's librarian."

Anyway, thanks, Kathryn Lasky, for showing compassion. For years, I avoided your books because I was so embarrassed about what I did. It's about time I start reading them again.


Nonny said...

I don't understand why she took you to task. Obviously she initially sent you a form letter instead of a personal one. Now I know authors are busy and can't be expected to respond to every letter unless it's negative apparently. Anyway, if you feel better for apologizing then I'm all for it.

Read your WV post also. It won't ever stop me from commenting. The odd part-I never get spam. What does that mean?

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Nonny: She hadn't meant to send me a form letter, and if you think about it, an author sending anything at all is pretty cool. Most people don't include self-addressed stamped envelopes, and most authors aren't as rich as J.K. Rowling. She owed me nothing, and yet, in my response, I acted as if she did. She was working very hard, taking care of sick parents on top of everything else, and then to get a snotty little letter saying, "You didn't give me what I expected" must have really stung.

Re: spam, you're lucky. Or maybe you had a good outlook from the start. I expected spam, and I got it. I guess I need a blogging attitude-makover. Thanks for being willing to continue with comments! You are true blue.

The Moy said...

I once got into a long, public, cantakerous argument with a fairly well-known mystery writer at a bookstore signing. To my astonishment, I was contacted by the bookstore owner (a friend of mine) a month later who told me the author had sent me a "packet" -- not a letter, a packet. It turned out to be a thick collection of clippings and a very long, very nice and well-thought-out letter explaining his position.

I was unconvinced (and I still think I was right) but I was very impressed by the effort he made, and his kindness in doing it. To this day, though I don't care for his genre (hardboiled detective fiction), I keep an eye open for his signings and try to be there, just to say hello.

limpy99 said...

"Well Done"

"Good Design"

limpy99 said...

Do you suppose Pope Benedict is going to read the advice on apologizing?

Me either.

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

The Moy: I love anecdotes like these! Then again, I love authors. (I'm not so much a groupie as I am a cheerleader.)

Limpy99: Thanks! Don't think that the idea hasn't crossed my mind, either.

Lone Star Ma said...

I have had a few such embarrassing letter moments - a few too many. Years later, my cheeks still turn red.

I am not trying to make Bede mad, but the new Pope - he is not impressing me. I still like Catholics!

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

LSM and Limpy99: I received a link to the full text of the Pope's speech, and in all fairness, it does look as if the Pope's words were misinterpreted. I know I jumped to conclusions, especially since I've not been a fan of some of the things he's said in the past. After reading the full text of the speech, I owe the Pope an apology for taking at face value what the media reported.

Um... do I have to do it publically?!

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Oops, I meant "publicly."

Fridaysweb said...

I have always had a bad habit of indulging in my knee-jerk responses and reactions. I mean REALLY bad. I'd curse and yell and throw things in a fit before even realizing I was doing it. It actually took a small lesson in "mental health tools" to make me realize just how damaging it could be to go off, half-cocked, in a moment of heated passion. I still do it, ocassionally, but for the most part, learning to stop and catch my breath has helped me tremendously. I love the thing about apologizing. I'm a firm believer that a sincere apology means way more than the snarky comment that started it all.

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Friday: Last night, I said to Bede, "I'm sick of apologizing. I want to be always right!" Then I paused, and added, "But I don't actually like people who are always right."

Lone Star Ma said...

Oh, I don't think the Pope could have actually gone off and said nasty things about Islam - he could not be that silly. He just gives me a narrow-minded feeling. I disagreed with the previous Pope about many things but I always felt he was a holy, loving man (except when I was very small and thought he was an assassin of the 2 Popes before him but that is a whole other story) and I do like holy people. This one...I'm just not feeling the love.