Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Dedications: Something New

I once had a book dedicated to me as a member of a writing group. This was Haiku Guy, a wonderfully witty book by my good friend David Lanoue. I felt pleased and honored. As my books have been published, I too have written dedications: to family members for love and support, to fellow writers I admire, to editors whose work and acumen I appreciated, and to members of groups who have helped shape my writing. The first Talera book was dedicated to my mom, the second to my father and my son, the third to my wife. I’ve dedicated works to my fellow Robert E. Howard fans, to my graduate school mentor, to my longest running writing group, and, yes, to David Lanoue.

Recently I had a new experience in the dedication realm. It made me think about dedications in a different light because the experience was a shocking and unpleasant one. I had never imagined a dedication could be taken negatively, but now I’ll never consider one without a dark edge to my thoughts. My world is a little bleaker for that. I’m certainly not devastated, just a little saddened.

Here’s what happened. I completed a novella called “Under the Ember Star.” When it came time for the dedication, I decided on a critique group I’d shared a number of chapters with. This group had been around a while and there’d been turnover. Some members who’d left remained friends and I’d even stayed in contact with them. Although these folks had not seen “Ember Star,” they had reviewed previous stuff from me and had impacted my writing. I decided I wanted to include them in the dedication. They deserved it.

Because I didn’t want to hurt any one’s feelings, however, I actually decided to include all the ex-members of the group who had attended more than a meeting or two. To make sure I didn’t miss anyone, I sent the potential dedication around to the current group and asked for help double checking the names. As I hoped, and expected, most members were pleased to be acknowledged. That made me happy, reminding me of how I felt when I first saw David Lanoue’s dedication for Haiku Guy.

Then a bombshell exploded. One current member of the group emailed the entire membership saying that my dedication “disgraced, not honored” the group. She insisted I remove her name from the dedication and that I had been “presumptive” to include it in the first place “without asking permission.” What floored me the most came next. She accused me of including the names of no longer active members as a way to: “inflate the number in ‘his’ writing group for his benefit; not ‘our’ writing group.” The email even suggested that I: “Check around the grave yards, maybe some more names can be found there.” I still can’t imagine what possible benefit I’d get in the publishing world from inflating the numbers in my writing group.

I knew this individual didn’t particularly like my writing, but had no idea she loathed it so much. Most of what I’ve shared has been SF adventure stuff. There’s action and what is often called “gritty realism.” That means blood and occasional gore, curse words, and sometimes things like characters spitting. The scene this individual objected to the most was a single sentence describing a disgusting toilet: “The fetor was bad enough, but to be able to see the spattered sources of the stench made her glad her stomach was empty.” Our hero had to escape an ambush through that bathroom.

No other members of the group write SF/Fantasy and most do not read it, but I think most have come to appreciate the effort I put into writing it. In the “email’s” aftermath, I’ve received an outpouring of support from most members of the group, although one other individual asked for her name to be removed from the dedication as well. I immediately did so.

In a bit of irony, on the same day that this situation exploded, over a week after I first sent the “potential” dedication around to the group, I got the word that “Under the Ember Star” had been accepted by the publisher. There will be a dedication in that book, and the names you’ll see there will be those who didn’t feel “disgraced” to be associated with my writing. The two who did feel that way won’t get a mention.

And wow, did I get schooled!

44 comments:

David J. West said...

You can't please everyone.

Congrats on the publishers acceptance-I look forward to reading it.

KeVin K. said...

Well, as long as my name's not in there, we're good.

In all seriousness, though, while I've dedicated everything to my wife and children, I always take the time to acknowledge the people who have helped me get where I am -- particularly if they had any direct impact on the work being published. It's one of the few things we as writers can do to show our appreciation for the folks who support us. (The other thing is tuckerize them and maybe give them a nifty death scene.) I can not imagine anyone being offended by the gesture, even if they don't particularly like the genre in which you write.

eric1313 said...

She responded to fetor with fetor (which I have painfully learned does not work), and bespattered your work with her own stench in the process.

Sounds as though she had been saving the graveyard line for quite a while though--too bad you stepped in the way of that one with your honoring of their contributions as a group.

But it was kind of nice of her friend to be supportive of her and likewise ask to be removed from any credit in helping you to hone your work. Clearly, you should have known better than to presume that credit was due in their case.

Charles Gramlich said...

David, thanks. And definitely not on the please everyone front.

Kevin, I have killed a few friends that way myself and much enjoyed it. Fun for me and them. I was really taken aback by this case. It came out of left field.

Eric, I wouldn't have included the first woman if I hadn't actually been trying to be nice. Her comments were never helpful on the story anyway. Guess I learned about being nice.

Deka Black said...

Can't please everybody. But at least you can have manners, a thing the person complaining did not had.

G said...

Wow, that person had some serious issues and an over-inflated opinion of herself.

eric1313 said...

Yeah, that is the worst, when being nice backfires like that, you can only blame yourself in that case, even if it's not a particularly blame worthy type of thing.

I just don't get the whole "you wanted to make your writing group look bigger" thing... It just brings to mind a big fat 'huh?' Why would she think that you think like that? Unless of course she would think like that... I don't know her, but it just sounds like pettiness. I hope one day the pay is commensurate with the grief.

Ron Scheer said...

To my knowledge, I've never had a book dedicated to me (though my memory is getting bad), but a writer once acknowledged me in a way that made me uncomfortable. I would like to have had the opportunity to opt out before going into print.

Paul R. McNamee said...

Wow. Now that I know the details I'm kind of speechless. That person needs serious diplomatic skill improvement - to put it mildly.

Anyway - a publisher accepted your work, so I hope that makes it an easier pill to swallow.

I'm looking forward to reading it.

Randy Johnson said...

Does sound a little goofy. And, I too, am looking forward to the book.

Chris said...

Just shows an utter lack of class and tact. One can certainly disagree or choose to opt out of something without being a jackass about it.

Looking forward to the book, Charles.

Angie said...

Umm, wow. I'd never have foreseen that either. And like others, I have no idea how "making your writing group look bigger" could possibly have benefitted you.

I think it's also significant that she replied to the whole group, rather than e-mailing you privately to ask that her name be removed. Grandstanding much? :/

If you'd included only the names of individuals who'd given significant assistance through their comments, which wouldn't have included her, I have to wonder whether she'd have made a fuss about that too?

Congrats on the contract, ridiculous kerfuffles notwithstanding. :D

Angie

Charles Gramlich said...

Deka Black, I used to think manners were a dying thing, but this individual is older than me so she should have gotten some of the manners from the past. I guess she missed that day.

G., isn’t it just the weirdest thing? I mean, I had to blog about it.


eric1313, that was the most bizarre in a way, the idea that somehow inflating the size of my group would increase my chances of being published. Whoa!


Ron Scheer, hum, well maybe it happens more than I know. My dedication simply read, originally as, “to my northshore writing group, and then listed the individual names of the members.

Paul R. McNamee, I don’t value this person’s opinion on my writing, anyway. The thing that did hurt was the bald faced statement that I was using the group.


Randy Johnson, definitely goofy.


Chris, This individual doesn’t seem to have that ability.

Charles Gramlich said...

Angie, I actually thought before I did the dedication that she might be the type to get upset if I 'didn't' include her name.

Tom Doolan said...

I can't even fathom the miondset of someone who would do that. The sheer lack of tact displayed by her responding to the whole group alone boggles my mind.

Yet another case of "Internet Cajones", as I call it. Chances are, if this person were in the same room with you, her response might have been much more muted and civil. People use the anonymity of the internet to say whatever they want. Sad, really.

Jewel Amethyst said...

Once I editted a book for a writer about walking in Manhattan. In his dedication he wrote, "To Jewel...of St. Kitts who does not know where the Hudson is..."

At that time I didn't know the East River was the Hudson. I had been in the country for only a few months.

I changed it. He changed it back. I changed it again. He changed it back again. By the time the book went to press, I had no idea whether that "do not know where the Hudson is" was still in the dedication or not. But I was not offended, nor was he. It was a playful back and forth bickering by two very conceited individuals.

Needless to say,I was still honored to have my name mentioned in the dedication.

Charles Gramlich said...

Tom, you are right. This individual is actually always sweet as pie in person.

Jewel, lol. Good story. If only my situation had been playful.

AvDB said...

You're a good man, Gramlich. Don't let anyone fashion you into something different.

Congratulations on the publication acceptance for Under the Ember Star. I truly look forward to reading it.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

It's a dedication page! How on earth would including a lot of names matter either way? That woman doesn't know how to accept a thank you.

Charles Gramlich said...

AvDB, don't let the word get out about that good man thing. It might ruin me.

Alex, well, she certainly doesn't have any experience in writing and publishing it seems. She doesn't even understand the nature of the beast.

Erik Donald France said...

Mind-boggling, what folks get exercised about. Bizarro. Great story, though -- even funny in the human foible chronicles kind of way.

Charles Gramlich said...

Erik, indeed so. grist for the mill.

BernardL said...

She sure went the extra mile to blast you. It's one thing to send a terse note asking to be left off, but doing a hit piece e-mail to the rest of the group creeps into looney land. I hope she doesn't read this blog or you'll need a bodyguard, buddy. :)

Lana Gramlich said...

People r stoopid. :(

Charles Gramlich said...

Bernardl, I hope I can still take her if the situation arises. But she might have the super power of crazy so I guess I could be aware.

Lana, you are sweet.

Liane Spicer said...

I've heard before of critique group members turning hostile like that when one gets a publishing contract. A case of the green-eyed monster, maybe?

Charles Gramlich said...

Liane, it seems there might be some jealousy there, although it's very weird in that this person has only had one poem published, to a market I recommended and gave the group information on.

laughingwolf said...

like a friend's son would say about that biatch: total waste of skin!

grats on the pub offer, look forward to reading it, too....

X. Dell said...

I don't know what the objector's issues were, but she apparently has her reasons. I do think, however, that it would have been wiser and more ethical to ask you directly to remove her name instead of mass mailing everyone in the group. That smacks more of politicking, trying to get the other members to turn against you.

One more reason for me not to like writer groups.

Cloudia said...

people like that disqualify themselves from the very "taking seriously" that they clearly crave so badly.


Aloha from Waikiki;


Comfort Spiral

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Charles Gramlich said...

Laughingwolf, certainly a waste of time for our entire group. Sad.

X-Dell, I've definitely got some horror stories about writing groups. I've got some good stories too, though.

Cloudia, oh she definitely wants to be taken seriously.I think she'd rather run the group but that is not happening.

Barrie said...

How very weird. Some people make a career out of being miserable. Sorry you had to go through this.

Charles Gramlich said...

Barrie, Some folks do, and they take a lot of others along on their journey.

the walking man said...

For thirty minutes i give you the right to cal yourself a citizen of Detroit...now you can *shrug* and say FUCK YOU! with al the sincerity you can muster then when your thirty minutes is up you can return to your southern gentleman self.



odd the words verification is hateds

laughingwolf said...

good'un, mark! lol

Charles Gramlich said...

Mark, now that's a gift I can sink my teeth into.

Laughingwolf, indeed!

Kate Sterling said...

OK, Charles, you know I've always got your back, and I'm thrilled about the release of "Ember Star", and love all of your work.

And just for a teensy-tiny second, I'm going to ignore this person's vitriol and wonder where it might have come from. Devil's Advocate, if you will.

Was this a situation where she might have clicked "Reply All" by mistake? That doesn't excuse the rest, but maybe explains the group mess? Or not...

Or, possibly there could have been some stress trigger in her life that caused her thinking to become distorted and irrational, and we can have compassion for her instead. (Easier said than done sometimes, I know!)

Am wondering also (and I really, really don't mean this disrespectfully), but maybe some mental illness could have come into play as well. You just never know what people are dealing with and what sure seems personal, really isn't.

Regardless, you're a good guy and a good writer. Best to you in all things.

Charles Gramlich said...

Kate, the email was addressed to the group by our name so it was clearly meant for everyone. There may well be some psychological issues but there are several psychologists in the group and her behavior is not diagnosable, just rather weird. There's always a reason why people do the things they do. When people engage in physical acts of violence there's always a reason and motivating factors. The issue seems to be to what extent is a person in control of their behavior, as well as how much others need to tolerate from an individual who has made certain choices, no matter what caused those choices.

Donnetta said...

Wow, Charles: That is almost beyond belief. Yes, most certainly, the woman has "issues" of some sort. I cannot imagine treating another writer in that manner. Good thing you checked it out first, though. I cannot imagine what she was thinking. You and Lana are 'mongst the nicest people I know. If I had been in that group, I would have said that I would be honored to receive the dedication. What was this crazy woman thinking?? D

Charles Gramlich said...

Donnetta, there's probably a bit of a control issue too. She wants to control the group, but only from the background. She's not willing to do any of the work to keep the group running but still wants everything she says to become group law.

jodi said...

Charles, good grief! How touchy can ya get? I would be honored and pleased to be in a dedication that included the company of your Dad, Son and Wife! sheeesh....

Charles Gramlich said...

Jodi, I would have as well.

Danette Haworth said...

Charles,

On the day of its release, I bought a friend's book at B&N and almost fell out of my chair when I saw my name (among others) in the acknowledgments. She never mentioned she was going to do it, and I was so humbled and THRILLED that she would include me, but then I doubted it was me because it was a huge honor and such a magnanimous gesture so I thought maybe there was another Danette H. she knew and I emailed her a shy, bashful note to which she responded it was, indeed, me.

It was one of the nicest gifts anyone could've given me.

Charles Gramlich said...

Danette, that's the way I felt when it happened to me. I naively thought everyone else would feel the same way. most did, but not this lady and another woman as well.