Thursday, March 23, 2006

Lets play 20 questions. Here's number 1:

Just for the record, I've been busy. Really busy. I need a vacation. A long vacation. Far away.

I've got a few questions for you to ponder.

This week I've been inundated with letters, emails, and phone calls from readers taking me to task for an article I wrote last week about a family that enjoys hunting big game, and has a house full of trophies - lions, leopards, hippos, etc.

The readers who are writing me seem to equate my authorship of the story with an endorsement of the activity.

"...the fact that you would highlight this in your paper only show that your paper is uncaring for our world."

I know this has happened to fiction writers. Stephen King wrote about being blamed for his characters' behavior - from their language, to their treatment of animals, to their blasphemy- in his book, On Writing.

Has it ever happened to you?

Have you written anything that you think will stir up resentment or controversy, and how will you handle it when it comes?

Mark Pettus,
Thursday, March 23, 2006

31 comments so far. Thank you, Blogger jason evans, Blogger Bernita, Blogger Erik Ivan James, Blogger Adam Hurtubise, Blogger Mark Pettus, Blogger S. R. Hatcher, Blogger Shesawriter, Blogger serenity, Blogger Jeff, Blogger anne frasier, Blogger Dana Y. T. Lin, Blogger Bernita, Blogger Mark Pettus, Blogger Amie Stuart, Blogger Bernita, Blogger kitty, Blogger M. G. Tarquini, Blogger Mark Pettus, Blogger kitty, Blogger Lady M, Blogger Amie Stuart, Blogger Mark Pettus, Blogger Kelly Parra, Blogger Rene, Blogger Mayden's Voyage, Blogger Mark Pettus, Blogger kitty, Blogger September, Blogger Dawno, Blogger Joanne D. Kiggins, Blogger Lisa Coutant,

Let me know what you think

Leave a comment


at 1:49 PM Blogger jason evans said...

I don't mind disagreement.

So long as it is dispassionate and respectful. Unfortunately many of our fellow humans don't abide by such conventions. I imagine you got some pretty hysterical letters. Cuddly animals tend to provoke that in people.

How would I handle it? I'd like to say I'd just blow it off, but I know I would stew over it. It would bother me. A bit of time would put it out of my mind, however.

In your case, it was journalism for Pete's sake. You reported the reality. No more, no less.

Hmmm. I think I just answered my own question. Lots of people quite happily live in their own reality.

at 2:30 PM Blogger Bernita said...

I'm sure I'd stew over it to - the injustice, the narrowness, the blinking unfairness of it.
But it's a fact that there will always be people who demand that everyone conform to their version of what's right and moral, and further are quite happy to shoot the messenger.

at 3:43 PM Blogger Erik Ivan James said...

No, it hasn't happened to me yet because I don't have anything published out there to have it happen.

It still happens in real life though, and I am always caught by surprise at how many people truly believe their world is the only world and all others must conform to it. A miserable way of living, I think.

at 4:03 PM Blogger Adam Hurtubise said...


I hope you got some good recipes from the hunters. That blue cheese sauce sounded spectacular, and wild game dinners are some of my favorite memories of life in my hometown.


at 5:32 PM Blogger Mark Pettus said...

Jason - I did get some hysterics, and I got some thoughtful responses, but almost every letter writer blamed me for the things they didn't like about my interview subjects. I find that quite odd.

Bernita - Is "Don't kill the messenger" a Shakespeare quote? Writing erotic scenes will undoubtedly earn you eternal damnation in the minds of some readers.

I can't wait to see what kind of condemnation I'm going to draw for Transit Gloria. Adulterers, murderers, fornicators, and sodomites. I'm already half-way to hell, I'm sure.

Erik, it is amazing to discover so many people who wear blinders, and who think with their hearts. I would have loved to print a letter to the editor this week that challenged trophy hunting on moral grounds, but instead I got a pile of letters that challenged my decision to write about it. The last sentence of the letter in front of me says volumes - the writer says he will never read my paper again, then sarcastically says he hopes the "Safari family" enjoys their hunting, but adds, "I won't ever have to read about it."

He might not have to read about it in my paper, but something tells me I'm not going to be the last person to write about hunting.

Adam - Welcome to The Bluff. Oddly enough, in my Op-Ed column this week I mentioned that blue cheese sauce when I talked about the uproar my safari article caused... something to the effect that my chicken marsala wasn't born as a breast filet, and that I doubted my blue cheese was donated by some altruistic cow.

at 5:54 PM Blogger S. R. Hatcher said...

If it stirred up comment, then it was thought provoking. Thought provoking is good... Also controversy sometimes means you touched an emotional nerve.

I haven't had this happen to me personally but I would not be deterred from writing about a subject because it might touch off debate. I'm just glad to hear people are actually reading and thinking.

at 7:50 PM Blogger Shesawriter said...

The only thing I cringe about are the love scenes I write. Just thinking about my agent and ny editors reading them makes me nervous. It's embarrasing. :-)


at 10:12 PM Blogger serenity said...

I'm quite certain if/when my novels ever get published, I'll be condemned and crucified by every SOuth Dakota-lovin' citizen in this state. I base most my stories here, and I imagine I'll get the same sort of criticism Stephen King did for all my "negativity" toward the state. Hey, I love living here - if I didn't, I wouldn't be here anymore - but what can I say? South Dakota's full of shithole little towns full of close-minded little people. If they don't know that, they should.

Oh, and I also have one main character who's quite the homophobe. I suppose I'll get called on that, too, some day. I intentionally created him out of all the characteristics I personally find detestable, but I doubt that will matter once others get their hands on him/me.

We are what we write? I dunno. There must be some catchy saying to sum up the situation, but I'm tired. :)

at 10:22 PM Blogger Jeff said...

You reported the facts of the story, Mark. There will always be people who disagree with the subject matter we write about, whether we approve or disapprove of it. But I won't lie, some of the comments would be sure to bother me. Goes with the territory I guess.

at 11:31 PM Blogger anne frasier said...

that's just bizarre, mark, but i guess not surprising when i think about it.
i'm sure people have been horribly offended by some of my writing, but i can't recall anybody complaining to me about it. talking about it/me behind my back? oh, yeah. i know that happened. :D

at 12:54 AM Blogger Dana Y. T. Lin said...

Well, the only folks who ever complained were my own family. They take everything I write as if it really happened to me somehow.

Like the piece I just did for Spinetingler about underground male prostitution - I mean, come on, really? It's FICTION, and set a couple hundred years ago! geesh. My relatives are real nutcases.

at 5:25 AM Blogger Bernita said...

Mark, I'm afraid that having my heroine stick a knife in someone is apt to cause more fuss than any erotica I might write.

at 8:40 AM Blogger Mark Pettus said...

Sharon - hehe... my boss and I exchanged emails this week - "at least we know someone's reading the paper."

Tanya - Have you let your mom read them?

Serenity - Your homophobe may be the next Archie Bunker - laughed at by some, hailed by others...

Jeff - I think, perhaps, we have to decide whether we want our writing to elevate people's thinking. The other option is writing to the lowest common denominator - not an unusual choice, unfortunately.

Anne - People are probably afraid to complain - I've read some of your writing, and you've written some disturbing things - wonderful and creepy.

Dana - You didn't tell them about all those late nights doing research?

Bernita - George Carlin told us that it was okay to kill people, but not to have sex with them.
Remember his bit where he took an old-time western and substituted sex for violence... "Okay Sheriff, we're gonna fuck you now, and if you think that's bad, we're gonna fuck you slowwwwwwwww."

at 9:51 AM Blogger Amie Stuart said...

I guess that means I"ll burn in hell for writing about sex =)

No, seriously, I have written a book (it's not done) that I KNOW will catch me a ton of flack from my family. Do I care? Some. But not a whole hell of a lot. I care more about catching flack from adoptive parents, birth parents, adoptees and the adoption community at large.

at 10:06 AM Blogger Bernita said...

Hey, Mark, I said "erotic" - nothing erotic about that quote, that's just mechanics.

at 10:13 AM Blogger kitty said...

My mother read my short story You Won’t Tell, Will You Rigby? and was shocked, SHOCKED! that the woman turned to prostitution to help pay the rent.
Where did to ever get such an idea?
It's fiction, Mom!
But good Lord, you had her do THAT?
You're outraged that she turned to prostitution but you weren't shocked that she killed a man?
No, because he deserved it!

Which is why I write everything with the picture of my mother's blue-haired book group reading it.

at 12:31 PM Blogger M. G. Tarquini said...

Well, I worry some about the novel I'm querying. It's...un-PC.

at 1:07 PM Blogger Mark Pettus said...

Cece - I think I see a theme here - family. Hmmmmm.

Bernita - Whether or not that is erotic may depend on whether you're the outlaw or the sheriff. :)

Kitty - Grace, in Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace, said she considered prostitution a last resort, but that when she had lost everything else, at least she would still have one thing left she could sell.

I'll bet your mom is less shocked by what you wrote than she was by the fact YOU wrote it. Just a guess.

M.G. - you're such a tease.

at 1:22 PM Blogger kitty said...

That's exactly what my mother thought, Mark. She asked where I got the idea :)

at 1:23 PM Blogger Lady M said...

I don't worry about anyone being offended. Because IMHO they can always close the book or stop reading.

If they can't contain themselves to do so, then perhaps they ought to figure out why they are fascinated enough to continue reading, and not bother me with their own issues... LOL!

But - by the by - looking at those pictures, the people who are doing the game/trophy thing... They don't care what other people think. They also appear to have enough money to not care.

I'm not a fan of hunting for trophy - although where I live, I do think it is necessary to be able to hunt for production of food, etc. I do not believe in waste.

However, I am in no position to judge the people who have chosen a different lifestyle than myself - nor would I ever DARE write the author to critisize them for their article or story on something I did not like. Silly people, I should think.

So - pop out the article - so we can see... LOL!

Lady M

at 2:38 PM Blogger Amie Stuart said...

Mark....indeed =)

at 3:39 PM Blogger Mark Pettus said...

Lady M - send me your email address and I'll send you the article.

Kitty - I'd love to know what she told her blue-haired buddies about you that afternoon...

at 6:11 PM Blogger Kelly Parra said...

So sorry this has happened, Mark. You've reported on a touchy subject and hopefully it will blow over soon.

I've never been pubbed before so I guess I'll be finding out next year if anything I write will tick some people off. =)

at 7:59 PM Blogger Rene said...

I can't imagine writing anything to stir up feathers. Just not what I write. Being a romance writer, I don't want to distract too much from the mushy, kissy stuff.

at 8:59 PM Blogger Mayden's Voyage said...

People are idiots.
As long as they are talking about are on their minds.
Keep up the good work.
Still day dreaming about that rose...

-Bella :)

at 9:48 AM Blogger Mark Pettus said...

Kelly - I'm not sorry it happened. I love letters to the editor, they give me an opportunity to expound and clarify - things I love to do.

I try not to inject my personal feelings into a a feature article, but when I OP-ED my response to a letter I can do just that.

I thought it interesting that this story generated such personal animosity.

Rene - You may someday be surprised by what ruffles feathers - we're not talking about the most reasonable readers here...

Cora - Thanks!

at 4:33 PM Blogger kitty said...

Mark, I think the only story of mine she mentioned to them was Sometimes Irish.

at 7:56 PM Blogger September said...

Because I speak Spanish fluently, I am often covering some of the controversial Hispanic subjects. I went out to cover a story about a protest over the drivers' license issue. I was NOT for illegals getting licenses. I just covered the protest. Yet, I got all sorts of letters to the editors and emails and other "disgusting" letters about how the reporter this and that.....auughh!

at 11:32 PM Blogger Dawno said...

Does anyone out there (ourselves excepted) think rationally? Reporters report what they see, hear, find. You report fires and robberies, do they think you approve of them? *sheesh*

I do have to say that at first glance those lions look like they're up to something NSFW...

at 1:22 PM Blogger Joanne D. Kiggins said...

My first three novels, whenever published, I'm sure will be stomped on by family members, if they read them. That's why I wrote them as novels and not memoirs. :) I don't know how I'll handle the comments if and when they come. But I'm already practicing a zipped lip just in case.

Sometimes, no matter what we write or how we write it, there will be someone who doesn't like what is written. As writers we have to deal with the good and the bad.

at 8:43 PM Blogger Lisa Coutant said...

By default, good lit is controversial.

What will I do if I publish something and it gets lots o' flack?

I guess I'll figure that out when/if the time comes.


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