Whining: In Defence of Janet

Posted on February 25, 2011 by


Uncle Sam says, "Stop whining!"

There’s been some discussion recently about whining in the blog-o-sphere microclimate of wannabe authors and the publishing professionals who blog for them.

1. An unpublished author and nénette Twitter writes a blog post about the literary agents who rejected her. She tweets this post to all and sundry.

2. Janet Reid, the big cat who stalks the grasses, is apparently of the opinion that unpublished authors would be wise to keep mum about rejections. She makes a rather ruthless post that does not name the author.

3. Blogger-agent Jessica Faust thanks Janet for her post. Much commenting.

4. Alice (who follows J&J — and their assistants — on Twitter) idly searches @Jessica tweets because, well, maybe something will show up, and Alice nosily wants to know what a no-name author could write that would upset Janet!!! Reid!!! so much she takes time to a) write a post and b) illustrate it with puppies.

5. What do you know — an apology tweet from a no-name unpublished writer @Jessica. Though, as the tweet declares, the post in question has been deleted.

6. Uhhh, Google has a cache? Alice reads and saves the post for future reference.

7. Alice stumbles across a dissenting opinion (and boy, is it dissenting) from a stand-up comic and literary agent rejectee Marjorie Palimpsests (?).

The purpose of this post is to defend Janet Reid’s ruthlessness from criticism she may not even know she faces.

Look. My blog is kind of informal, but I think about every single damned word. Ditto when writing a manuscript. It should be obvious that this is the case: I’m writing under a pseudonym — allowing me to restrict what I make public of my private life, I swear a bloody lot but I make it clear my fiction is for adults, I link to writerly things and blog about writerly things, and most importantly, I suck up to the hand that feeds me.

If I were unhappy with my lot, I’d talk about something else. But, because I fucking love my job, I make certain to let everyone know this, and often.

There are plenty of things I am unhappy about — so I suck it up and resist the temptation to blog or tweet about them. A good example: if I were to grumble and whinge on Twitter every time I get a headache or feel tired or PMS (as I do privately and to my long-suffering Skype friends), no-one would ever follow me.

But, as Marjorie rightly says, no-one can tell me to stop complaining. I have a right to complain. I think her “whistle-blower” analogy is kind of melodramatic, but sure, okay, let’s assume she’s right because I don’t want to get into my opinions about excessive feelings of entitlement (“screw you”, basically).

Janet makes another point that I think Marjorie, and a lot of other outraged authorial huffing and puffing misses: if you are as yet unpublished, it is very unwise to advertise your rejections.

This is really important: you do not want to advertise your rejections. Ignore for the moment that literary agents are people. Think of them as sharks, okay? (Sorry, Janet.)

Now, if you spend for-ev-er trying to marinade the perfect cut of beef in the perfect spices specifically to be shark-bait, and you throw it in a tank of sharks, and if it makes it to the bottom of the tank, do you ask the research department for funding based on your experiment?

Put it another way: you have a brand of hot dog you want to sell. Do you advertise it by saying, “Nine out of ten kids sniffed it and threw it in the trash,”?

If “yes”: are you nuts?!?!?

This isn’t about the right to complain, this is about not being dumb.