Recently I heard about a blog post over at HuffPo that I really couldn’t believe when I was told about it. Which post? Well, let’s just consider the title.
If J.K. Rowling Cares About Writing Then She Should Stop Doing It by one Lynn Shepherd.
What could ever be inside a post with such an interesting title, I wonder?
“When I told a friend the title of this piece she looked at me in horror and said, ‘You can’t say that, everyone will just put it down to sour grapes!’ And she does, of course, have a point.”
Oh. It’s like that.
She then goes on, “But this particular piece isn’t about that.” and I can’t but help think that someone was lying to herself just a touch when she wrote that sentence.
What follows is a blog post that comes across like that type of person, you know the type of person, who drops “helpful suggestions” in a particularly droll tone of voice that just happen to have a slight insulting slant to them or could be taken as a jab but, were you to suggest such a thing, they’d put hand to breast, go all wide-eyed, and say slightly hushed and certainly shocked, “I’d never mean it like that.”
Because you see, Miss Shepherd didn’t “mind Rowling when she was Pottering about”. Why? Because the books were meant for kids (why else would Miss Shepherd then claim she thought it a “shame” that adults were enjoying them when there were other books out there “surely more stimulating for grown-up minds”, i.e. her books) and so, in theory, not competition for the readers Miss Shepherd was hoping to attract. Not that Miss Shepherd read any of the Potter books apparently. One might assume that such things are beneath her.
But then Rowling had the audacity to pen A Casual Vacancy and, well, darling, that just is certainly not done. While I am no fan of A Casual Vacancy (or as I like to call it, Everyone’s An Asshole and No One Is Happy), Miss Shepherd found the hype regarding the book “drearily excessive”, that it “sucked the oxygen from the entire atmosphere”.
The entire atmosphere, you guys. Entire.
It seems, by publishing an adult book Rowling made it simply impossible for other people to publish because she somehow created a “monopoly” that made it “impossible for anything else to survive.”
“…But what can an ordinary author do, up against such a Golgomath?” Miss Shepherd asks us, I imagine, with a deep earnestness as she stands surrounded by piles of her own, unsold books.
She brings up Cuckoo’s Calling, how it was a “well-written and well-received crime novel”, but the fact that Rowling wrote it, albeit under a pseudonym, made it so that no other books of similar genre (*coughcoughherscoughcough*) were possibly paid any attention when the reveal about who had written it came out. Miss Shepherd then bemoans that Rowling would get a sequel to Cuckoo’s Calling! A sequel! Won’t Rowling think of the poor, lesser known authors named Miss Lynn Shepherd? Does she have no shame?
Finally, she concludes with her “plea” to Rowling. Miss Shepherd magnanimously says “[by] all means keep writing for kids, or for your own personal pleasure – I would never deny anyone that”.
Well, that is certainly very nice of Miss Shepherd, isn’t it?
She continues “but when it comes to the adult market you’ve had your turn” because, apparently, authors get “turns” at being published and artists are behooved to simply step aside into some kind of artistic limbo or retirement once they’ve reached a certain plateau it seems.
“Enjoy your vast fortune and the good you’re doing with it, luxuriate in the love of your legions of your fans, and good luck to you on both counts. But it’s time to give other writers, [i.e. me], and other writing [i.e. mine], room to breathe.”
What. A. Bunch. Of. Horse. Shit.
Unsurprisingly, this was the Internet’s reaction:
What also isn’t surprising at all was her reaction to the Internet’s…exuberance in expressing their displeasure with her blog post. You see, over at the Guardian, “Shepherd apologised for upsetting writers and readers alike, explaining that she had ‘only ever meant to raise the issue of how hard it is for new writers to get noticed and how publishing is much more of a zero sum game than people often think.'”
She goes on to say, I imagine wide-eyed, palm to her chest, voice slightly lowered, “With hindsight I’d have written my piece an entirely different way, as I never intended it to upset anyone, and I’m very sorry that it did.”
Sure you didn’t, sweetie. Sure you didn’t. I have to wonder if Miss Lynn Shepherd wishes she’d listened to her unnamed friend, choked down her helping of sour grapes, and never suggested that a fellow, and much loved, artist give up the craft for her own selfish gain.
Hat-tip to Sage Bear for letting me know.