Wednesday, August 1, 2007

#@1&*%#*

Yesterday I got my once-a-year email from the sisterhood of Miss Grimshank, complaining about the bad language in my books. (It's ALWAYS a woman.) She informs me that using such words makes me a bad writer, that such foul words are not necessary, that I should write books that don't use such words, and that she will not ever read any more of my books.

Oh, the temptation! I sooo want to write back, "Well, shit! I'm gonna miss the hell out of you!" But I sit on my hands and don't reply at all, because I can't do it without at least some tinge of pissyness, and I don't need to make things worse for whomever she encounters next in the grocery store. At some point, it dawns on me that I'm itching to be just as bossy as she is. She wants to dictate to me what words I may use and how I may write my own books? Well, I want to dictate what may or may not offend her and what she may or may not say to me. Miss Grimshank, meet Miss Pissypants.

It gets pretty amusing in my own head sometimes. The cast of characters, you wouldn't believe!

So the Miss Grimshanks won't read books with cussing in them. Other readers are offended by sex. Some refuse to read prologues. Others don't like epilogues. Some detest novels written in the present tense. Others hate it when a book slips back and forth between different time periods, or has too many points of view, or. . .

In my 17 novels, I have managed to offend all of those readers at least some of the time. I've used all that stuff--cussing, sex, prologues, epilogues, prologues with sex, epilogues with cussing, present tense, different time periods, multiple points of view. . .

I've stopped worrying about it, mostly. That's all you can do, right?

I figure, the next time Miss Grimshanks writes one of my books, she can use darn and drat and shoot, if she wants to. But since I'm still the author of them, I'll continue to write them however I damn well please, dammit.

So, how the hell are you this morning? :)

39 comments:

katiebird said...

Stunned, actually. I can't imagine telling an author how/what/when to write a book.

I wonder what she thought you'd say in reply? Do you reply to such letters?

And speaking of letters, my mother has a letter in the NY Times today. It's the last one on this page.

Nancy P said...

katieb, I'm still smiling about your milestones (65 pounds, and the 2-year anniversary of your eating plan that made it happen).

Maybe Miss Grim just needed to express to me how offended she was? Or, maybe she thought I would write back,and say, "Thank you so much for bringing me to see the error of my goshdarn ways."

I want to read your mom's letter! But your link goes, strangely, to a Blogger page, instead of to the NYT.

Beth said...

You have a great attitude about it, Nancy. You can't please everyone. If they don't like those things about your books, they don't have to read them. Pure and simple. Now I need to go back and see what cuss words she's talking about - they didn't stand out when I read it last week...

I wonder how far she read before she decided she didn't like the cussing. Like folks who will eat a meal, lick the plate, then complain to the mgmt and want their money back.

My friend J Kelly Wright (also a writer!) owns a restaurant called the Shark in Ocean City, MD (stop there if you're in town - amazing people, amazing food). When someone complains, she deftly snatches the plate from in front of them. Resolves their issues, but also refuses to let them eat any more of that TERRIBLE meal. They are usually stunned...that woman has balls (oops, sorry).

Ditto - I can't get to that page either, k. :-(

katiebird said...

Well, that's embarrassssing!

I'll try it again...

Nancy P said...

Great letter from your mom, kb. Thanks for sharing that.

Hi, Beth. That story about your friend and her restaurant is so funny. "lick the plate, then complain," lol.

Speaking of sharing. . .Did you guys feel as jazzed as I did after reading through the accomplishments here?

We had a new commenter (Hi, Jean Sheldon!)at the very close last night. Maybe somebody else will jump in for the first time today,too. I hope so. The more (up to a point), the merrier, me thinks. I'd like to maintain this feeling of a group that's small enough to know and respect each other, and large enough to bring in lots of different life and creative experiences.

katiebird said...

By the way, speaking of accomplishments -- 17 Novels. 17 published novels.

And awards? Just look at this!

And that doesn't include the awards and nominations for The Virgin of Small Plains. (Which doesn't include the latest, Anthony nomination....)

Nancy makes it sound so normal. But, that simple phrase, "In my 17 novels" is mind boggling to me!

Nancy P said...

I guess I must not be TOO shy about trumpeting my own stuff, lol! But trust me, it took YEARS for me to jump into having a website. I would never ever ever have done it if katiebird hadn't appeared in my life as my persuasive friend and magic webmistress. The me who was then would find it almost impossible to believe that she has her own blog now.

Jean Sheldon said...

Since I know Buffy won’t be an issue, I’d be delighted to hang around. My favorite part of your list of awards, Nancy, is the little ‘* Partial List’ notation at the top of the long page. Very nice!

I recently left a writer’s site because they rated one of my short stories ‘R’. I couldn’t believe it because it had only a handful of expletives and reference to a thong and someone flipping someone else off. I asked them why they gave it the rating, but they didn't respond.

No matter how I try, I can’t make my bad guys say, ‘Gosh George, you really aren’t a very nice person.’

Nancy P said...

lol, Jean!

FARfetched said...

I tend to use such language sparingly, at least externally. My internal narrative though… yeesh. "Bad words" can be overused, to the point where they lose their impact, and then how do you get your point across? On the other hand, if you refuse to use The Seven Deadlies at all, then what do you do when you need the impact?

Now if you were writing fiction for a juvenile audience, "out there" sex scenes and bad language would be a problem. Maybe… it's amazing what new vocabulary and knowledge you can pick up listening to conversations in the hallways of most junior high/middle schools. :-P

GreenMinute said...

Too funy, Nancy. How did you get so lucky to receive such a classic letter from a reader? So nice, that one! I'm impressed.

Recyling: There's a song I tried hard to remember when the blog briefly discussed the death of small towns in America last week.

I finally got it. Iris DeMent.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FikZwgj89HI

I can't put links in so if you are curious you will have scroll copy the url. Sorry.

Anyway, I have always LOVED this piece. Because I am from a small town that died and every time I went back died some more.

Iris DeMent might scare you at first. A very strong but honest voice. I understand that natural, rather than polished, music is troublesome to many. Sorry.

Her voice, btw, is the speaking accent I grew up with. Listeing to Iris is like speaking to my mom on the telephone.

I think sometimes we find writers who have the same effect on us. And I think sometimes that is what we are looking for when we read fiction. Voice. :-)

Nancy, when I was hanging out single in bars in KC, Iris used to practice her songs at open mic night at The Point. She was so sincere but then could barely play guitar.

She learned fairly quickly. She came up from the Ozarks and I always thought of her as poet and I admired her greatly (and still do) for writing all her own stuff.

A huge talent. Once I got to Ashevile she had made some recordings without telling me. The bride and I went to a John Prine concert here and, lo, there was Iris playing the piano and singing at a few of her pieces.

Then when John came on, she stayed on stage and sang along on some duets they'd recorded (why don't people tell me these things). You know, ten or fifteen years go by and folks just don't keep in touch. Iris!

Nancy P said...

far, I remember when my son and his friends were in a car when they were about sixteen and one of them made the mistake of not pushing the off button after he spoke to his mother. Whoops, lol.

And one of my fav stories about my own kid. . .when he was maybe 10, I said to him one day, "Do you realize you're cussing a lot?" "I know, Mom," he replied. "I'm trying to cut back."

I don't know if I was right or wrong to do it, but I always told him that I didn't care if cussed--I'm a writer, after all, so forbidding the use of any words feels like taking tools out of somebody's tool belt--but that *where* he used certain words could have consequences that he might want to consider. :)

I'm always suspicious, I suppose, of real attempts to quash language. I look to see who benefits from that. Who wants the power, and what happens to the rest of us if he gets it? Historically, it's the powerless who are deprived of certain words. . .children, women, slaves, etc.

Jen said...

Heh, Miss Grimshank would be likely to spontaneously combust were she merely in the same room with one of my books.

There might be a really interesting non-fiction book in that brand of "fan" mail. The closing chapter could be what the author might write were she to follow everyone's advice:

Once upon a time some stuff happened and some of it was bad and the rest of it was awesome but everyone should be assured that no one ever did anything offensive or dirty. The End.

Nancy P said...

Randy, thanks for that link to Iris Dement, whom I'd never heard before And Emmylou Harris singing, too! I love those kinds of songs/voices. Her facial expressions are wonderful--so earnest and sweet.

Nancy P said...

jen, lol!! And of course everybody lived happily ever after. But somebody would still complain about the puncuation, or something.

FARfetched said...

Nancy: heh, I've got a couple of stories to tell about my own kids along those lines… primarily when they were little & didn't know any better. It's funny then.

Oh, and I forgot to point out that one of my favorite songs, "Forever Indebted" by Shout Out Out Out Out, has a *lot* of language in it. Sometimes, like I said, you just need the emphasis. (Go to myspace.com/shoutoutoutoutout and click "Forever Indebted" on their little radio thingie.)

Beth said...

I agree, k, about the 17 novels. Nancy, you set a high standard for the rest of us. ALL of the accomplishments are incredible - everyone should be doing my happy dance. Let's keep sharing these - maybe we'll teach each other to celebrate the little things - that maybe aren't so little when told to someone else!

And thanks for the music links - I'm always looking for new artists.

Welcome, Jean!

Maria Lima said...

Nancy - that cracks me up. Reminds me of a customer we had when I was working at Remember the Alibi.

She told me her 90+ year old mother liked mysteries, but wanted very tame ones. We suggested Agatha Christie novels...evidently, they were too much for Mom.

OTOH, *my* mom (70+) refuses to read tame books and loves Jeff Deaver's works.

I figure that if the narrative calls for it, then cuss away. ::g::

Jean Sheldon said...

Thanks for the welcome Beth. I'd like to learn your happy dance for celebrations. Do you have anything for someone with two left feet?

Nancy P said...

farfetched, I couldn't understand most of the lyrics (geezer alert!), but the one word that came through loud 'n' clear made me Grin Real Big. Now I'm listening to another one of theirs, "Dude, You Feel Electrical." Me likee.

boran2 said...

So, asking for more sex and cussin' would be out of the question?

I admire your restraint, Nancy.

Nancy P said...

lol, boran2! No, that's a kind of letter I have never received yet, darn it all to heck.

Nancy P said...

Oh, jeez, I just saw the news about the bridge collapse. Best wishes to everybody up in Minneapolis. What a scary thing. I know a lot of writers up there, and I'm counting on the fact that they're writers to insure that they weren't out in rush hour traffic.

FARfetched said...

Rats... I'm pretty bad at missing lyrics, but nearly all of it came through loud & clear for me. My favorite line in that song is "Why do you think they fucking advertise? It's 'cause we make 'em rich, while they ruin our lives!" That is soooooo true....

FARfetched said...

Whoa! I spent the summer of 1981 in Minneapolis, but I lived just off West Broadway & used that bridge (not the I-35 bridge) for my commute. I probably went across it a few times though....

olivia said...

Dear Nancy,

Please add more sex and cussing in your next novel.

Sincerely,

Miss Behaving


(:*)

olivia said...

Oh yes! On a serious note, that is just horrible ... those poor people ... :(

Nancy P said...

Dear Miss Behaving, you are my kind of reader, lol.

Nancy P said...

I've been across that span a couple of times, farfetched--most recently, last fall. Minneapolis is such a nice town. Did you like your time there?

katiebird said...

Oh, this Minneapolis thing . . . mister and the kids are going through there on Sunday (on the way to Duluth). We always take 35E not 35W, but it's still a shock to see such a familiar stretch of highway (really ANY stretch of highway) so blasted.

!! My mom just called. The doctor who did her surgery saw her letter this morning and tracked her down. He's retired now, but he recognized her list of procedures. She was one of the very first to get that particular treatment. He was so excited that she's still around that he called two other Hendricks before finding Mom.

And this is interesting, they'd gotten other phone calls from people wanting to talk to her.

Nancy P said...

katiebird. . .

Does Mister have an alternate route in case they close the other span? I notice it's closed right now, and they'll probably need to check it out just to be sure. And, I may be confused about this, but wouldn't he usually come back across 35W?

That's so cool about your mom today! I just love it that the doctor was that excited about her well-being. Is your mom going to talk to the people who want to reach her?

katiebird said...

I liked the sex in your latest book, Nancy. And I REALLY like listening to the ladies at your book signing talking about it.

Nancy P said...

lol, kb. Some friends of mine, a married couple, listened to it on tape as they took a car trip recently and she told me they nearly had to pull over to the side of the road, tee hee.

I'm going to take a walk, but I'll be back in case anybody's still around and wants to talk. I will have to watch Top Chef, though.

katiebird said...

35E goes through St. Paul. I'm guessing it will be SLOW, but it should be open.

And yes she'll talk to them -- she'd love to. And her doctor said that while he's not still in practice, he still gives 2nd opinions.

katiebird said...

(sigh) I forgot to say, she's feeling guilty that she didn't mention him by name.

katiebird said...

"they nearly had to pull over to the side of the road"

THIS is almost too much information. (tee hee, indeed)

OK, that picture is going right now. It's too much!

Nancy P said...

Anybody still here? :) If not, I'm signing off til manana.

katiebird said...

I'm fading away, but I have to watch Not My Type, our kids are in the audience!

Beth said...

Sorry - I disappeared to watch the Mariners, and missed a bunch! I didn't know about the bridge until you mentioned it, Nancy - I'm driving through Minneapolis next Thursday, and I'm not sure if I was going to go across that bridge or not. Hoping my friend in Lakeville can tell me. What a horrible accident.

Looks like I'm the only one on the west coast, so I'll say goodnight too. Thanks for the company today.