Oh, Readers

Coble has an interesting post about advice for writers you should check out. I have nothing to add. I think she’s spot on. Read and write the things that make you feel fulfilled and sustained.

But I have been thinking a lot about readers. It’s funny. I am really so spoiled by y’all that it makes me really pissed when things get off track at Pith. I mean, Pith should be a dream, right? Tons more people read over there, so you’d think there’s be a lot more knowledge to go around, more interesting discussions, but by and large, no. And I’ve become more… short with my attention. The second it becomes obvious that the likelihood of the comment thread just being a clusterfuck, I stop reading. And it’s not even that I don’t think there’s anything to be gained. I do believe that there was a time in my life when I would have really struggled to engage even the trolls and to try to figure out what they are saying and what motivates them.

But whatever trait that was, and possibly it was a good one, it’s gone now.  I just feel like I shouldn’t have to open myself up to that amount of terrible noise just to eventually find an insightful gem.

I was listening to Lindsey talk to her friend, Ed, who is sadly not that Eddie Arnold, who I believe is dead and had a large penis. I make no claims either way for this Ed Arnold’s penis. Probably, considering what Lindsey and Ed are talking about, and the ways I agree with them, I should delete these sentences. And isn’t that part of the shame of how blogging has changed? Or at least my approach to blogging? I mean, people, I used to tell you about my boob freckle. I keep reading these polemics about pubic hair and I have opinions about it–namely, I don’t care what you do, but if you are over 25 and you get it all lasered off thinking that there’s no possible way a full-hair cooter will ever come back into style, you forget how youth and rebellion works. Believe, especially if “old” women can’t grow it any more, that young women will take it up as some ironic, fun throwback that marks them as different. Why? Because that’s what you do when you’re young–come up with ways you think your elders are stupid and out of touch and not as free as you.

And in some ways you’re right and in some ways you’re wrong.

Anyway, just something to consider.

And a nod to the old days, which, for better or for worse, are gone.

I heard from K. today about the book and she is loving it. Which, on the one hand, is a great relief and on the other hand, yes, people who’ve read it seem to really like it, so I should maybe stop worrying about if people will like it and more fret about more tangible things like if I have Tow-head/toe-head spelled correctly and if I will ever learn when someone lies and when they lay.

But it’s funny. I picked readers like you put together a team of superheroes, each reader obviously someone who likes reading, but who brings his or her own unique skill-set and experiences to the manuscript. On the one hand, this is good. I was able to ask each person to look at certain things and make sure they rang true. And I knew if multiple people were like “Um…. I don’t know about this part” then I really needed to look at that part. But it also means that each time I hear from someone, I’m like “I can’t read this email! I can’t listen! I need a stunt double to do this for me!” because that person may have seen something no one else saw.

Like, you know, Wonder Woman can comment about the Invisible Jet, but you’re going to need Aquaman to tell you if you got the sounds of clams singing right.

So, I get nervous.

But speaking of Lindsey, the other reason you should listen to that is that, other than the gal who runs the office at my heating and cooling place, she has the most beautiful Tennessee accent. If that’s what rubs off on me from living here, that I begin to speak like the sound of it is an art, it will be worth every second.

One thing I feel bad for people who aren’t from the South about is that pretty much the only “Southern” accents they ever hear are the fake Southern accents of tv and the movies. But it’s not like that at all when you live here. Just Tennessee alone has four or five really distinctive accents. Someone from Chattanooga doesn’t sound like someone from Memphis who doesn’t sound like someone from Johnson City and none of them sound like my heating and air conditioning gal who sounds like she could fix your HVAC system and make you a pie without breaking a sweat.

Anyway, I bring that up because one of my characters is called Paw Paw, which is a term of endearment for one’s grandfather I hadn’t heard until I moved south. In the Midwest, in general, you are “Grandpa.” You might occasionally meet a “Granddad” but I feel like a “Granddad” is almost always going to be an engineer or someone who teaches you how to drink whiskey.

My nephews call my dad “Paw Paw Brent” though, which I love. My North Carolina nephew, especially when he’s kind of tired and whiny can drag it out so cute “PaWWWWW PaWWWWWWW Breyent.” My Georgia nephew says it almost like “Pawhp awh Brent.”

My East Tennessee reader thought it should be Pa Paw and we ended up having a really interesting raucous discussion about this on Twitter and again, it became obvious that the way you pronounce this varies a lot by what we might call micro-region.

So, I’m leaving it spelled Paw Paw, but you can bet, if I have to read it in various parts of the state, I’m going to ask how they’d say it and try to match it. Ha ha ha.

Shoot, this has been a meandering post. And I’m not sure how to tie it all back together so… I’ll just end here.

8 thoughts on “Oh, Readers

  1. Growing up in East Tennessee, I always heard people use Mammaw and Pappaw.

    Now that my and husband’s parents are grandparents, we have one who goes by Pop Pop and one by Pappy (kid you not–but he IS an engineer).

  2. Well, I appreciated the meandering walk, mostly because it had a lot of warmth and appreciation in it. Having lived in Philadelphia for six (!!!) years now, I go for long stretches of time without hearing a Tennessee accent. And when I do… once a redheaded guy in a convenience store asked me a question about beer, and I could immediately tell he was from East Tennessee. I kind of wanted to be his friend immediately.

    Your comment about not wanting to sift through lousy comments really resonated with me. I’ve been rethinking my relationship to blogging… trying to post again, so that I get into the habit of articulation and sharing again. And commenting on blogs goes along with that – you can’t blog in isolation, it’s better to be in dialog. But for months I’ve just been lurking on blogs (including this one! that I have been reading for years!) and not commenting, because I didn’t want to develop the relationship with a thread where you bookmark it and keep coming back trying to explain and expound and teach and defend. I used to thrive on that, now it just seems like so much trouble. But what else do you do when you have dissenters, besides block, mock, or teach?

    Still thinking about that.

  3. Jess, you know a “Pappy” is either going to be an engineer or a sea captain! In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some ceremony marking some experience (like you get your ear pierced when you cross the equator) where “Pappy” is bestowed on you, even if you’re not a grandfather yet. I’m going to imagine it’s wrestling a giant squid and living to tell about it!

    Tanglethis–I hear you. I still love the blogging part. But you know, I also am really enjoying the novel stuff in a way that strikes me strange because part of what I enjoy about it is that no one reads it until it’s done and whole and then they go off and make their own relationship to it.

    It’s weird how much the emphasis on the publishing blogs I read is about being open and in dialog with one’s readers, because, coming at it from the direction of being a blogger who turned to writing fiction, I find that I like that they are different–that you can read my book and have nothing to do with me.

    So, I don’t know. I guess what I’m mulling over is that I feel exactly like blogging specifically is an activity between readers and writers (and people occupy both spaces at the same time). But then, over at Pith (or maybe just in general), the trolls ruin that by not reading or deliberately misreading while at the same time insisting you read the best intentions (or the smartest insights) into what they’re saying.

    And that pisses me off. It doesn’t feel reciprocal.

    I guess my problem is that, when blogging was new, I really thought, if I disagreed with someone, either I just needed to understand their position or they needed to understand mine and we would come to an agreement or at least a state of mutual respect. And I honestly think that happened, regularly.

    But I feel like that must have been threatening to folks in some way because boy did the people who willfully and deliberately misunderstood people and who ruined dialogue by insisting that their slightly-off-topic monologue steer the conversation come out.

    It’s weird. I think I write because I want to be heard. i want to share ideas and be in constant communication with people. But I don’t feel cheated or ignored if other people also get heard.

    I think there are a lot of people who do, though. Who think attention is so finite that, if someone else is getting it, they are stealing it from them.

    That’s the only way I can understand why these assholes are unrelenting. I think they experience some kind of catharsis of getting back from me what they feel like I’ve taken (or could potentially take) from them–attention.

  4. Thanks for the shoutout! Now if only I could get a book behind all that advice….

    As for the nihilasses over at Pith…

    They have dull marriages if they have any at all. They have desk drone jobs and vending machines with stale sandwiches and under ripe fruit. They have a back injury that keeps them in pain all the time. Their kids keep flunking math and their lawnmower just crapped out. So they come to the public blog to fight with anyone over anything.

    It’s even better when the blog is written by a woman, because then they feel utterly safe in treating you and your opinions with contempt.

    On a private blog people stay because they like the voice. They like the general atmosphere. On a public blog they go to spar.

  5. Jess, yes! Papaw (or pa paw, but it sounds all run together) and mamaw, and you might here an occasional peepaw or meemaw thrown in.

    B, clearly I am going to be unable to get over this. :)

  6. Rachel, I had forgotten peepaw and meemaw, but you are dead on the money! I heard both of those, too. They always struck me as more “country” when I was a kid. (Sorry for cluttering up your comments, B, irresistable linguistic rabbit hole…)

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