Monday, 16 April 2012

WALKING BACK

Hello, Dear Readers. Today, I have some apologies to make.

Remember how I said, in this post about Diversity in Fantasy and in my guest post on Ellen Oh's blog, that sometimes you mess up? And when you do, you need to be ready to admit it - admit that you did a stupid, jerky thing - and learn from that, and hope you do better next time?

Well, the time has come for me to do that, as publicly as possible. I messed up, did a stupid jerky thing, and I hope that you will forgive me and allow me to do better next time.

What am I talking about? Some of you may already know, but I'll lay it out.

Last week I posted a giveaway on my blog in which I offered a variety of prizes, and I asked readers to vote for me in the Queen of Teen Award nominations.

I wanted to try and get a fantasy author - preferably me - onto the Queen of Teen shortlist to encourage diversity and show girls that it's all right to love traditionally 'male' things like books about battles and magic and sword fights. I also wanted to say: "Hey, this award may be pink and sparkly, but it's still a great thing that we should support and be happy about." None of that was necessarily a bad idea.

What was a bad idea was the way I went about it. Effectively - although I was too dim to realise this until it was pointed out to me - I was offering prizes for votes.

And that? WAS NOT OKAY.

I had fallen into that dangerous mindset - the one where you're a Crusader on the Side of Right - and where it's all too easy to do dodgy stuff and assume that it's fine because you're one of good guys. If you do it, and for all these good reasons, it's not dodgy right?

No and no, and a thousand times, NO.

There is no excuse for the dodgy thing I did. It was wrong of me to set up a giveaway in which I effectively bribed people with entries for voting. Especially because I had been given a bunch of Queen of Teen swag - badges and whatnot - and was giving them away too, making it seem as if I had some sort of official sanction from the organisers of the award.

I'm lucky that a kind, lovely author decided to pop her head up above the parapet and explain to me what my actions looked like from outside my little Crusader on the Side of Right bubble. And I hope that by withdrawing the giveaway and telling you that no more entries will be offered in return for votes, I can show everyone that I understand how very dim I was, and that I'm sorry.

I also want to say, completely up-front and without quibbling, that I admire writers of contemporary fiction for girls tremendously. I know that your work is vital, and much under-valued. I know that you tackle important, every day issues which genuinely affect the lives of today's young adults, and deal with those issues with humour and poignancy and truth. You face quite enough prejudice and quite enough othering and dismissal because you dare to dedicate your lives to fiction which is accessible to young women (because in our society nothing is more fatal to being taken seriously than this) and because publishers tend to put pretty, feminine covers on your stories (le gasp!).

Some of my comments on Twitter when I first got worked up about Queen of Teen were incredibly badly expressed. I said: 'Let's show everyone that YA is about more than just kissing!'

*Takes a moment to bang head on desk in sheer exasperation*

I know, I know. What a stupid thing to say, right? I was trying to communicate the idea that the way the award is currently presented might encourage certain stereotypical assumptions of what YA is about. But my natural tendency to open my mouth and insert both feet and the limitations of 140 characters made it seem like I was aiming this comment at contemporary fiction writers.

That must have felt like a slap in the face. You must have wanted to slap me in the face. I don't blame you one bit. I'm so sorry to anyone who felt dismissed and othered because of my stupid, thoughtless comments.

I do not want to be forever known as That Dim Fantasy Chick Who Thought It Was OK to Buy Votes. Or That Dim Fantasy Chick Who Had No Respect For Writers of Contemporary Fiction. If you want to think of me merely as That Dim Fantasy Chick? That's fine by me. It would be a vast improvement.

Anyone who, now that the ice is broken, would like to email me or comment to let me know what they think about my actions is welcome to do so. Thanks for reading - and I hope that you can eventually forgive me.

*

So...if you have already entered the giveaway, what does this mean for you? Well, at first I wanted to withdraw the giveaway altogether and draw a line under it. But I've been persuaded that it would not be fair to penalise my readers for my mistakes, which is a completely fair point. You guys didn't do anything wrong.

Therefore, I will still be doing a giveaway (though with slightly different prizes and without any link to Queen of Teen). I'll give more details on that tomorrow. Rest assured that everyone who commented on the original post will have their entries counted - that's only fair, since they acted in good faith - but please, please, please don't do anymore Queen of Teen voting. Votes will no longer be counted as entries! I can't emphasize that enough.  

Phew. OK. Have a good Monday everyone, and I'll be back tomorrow.

9 comments:

Lollo said...

You are forgiven :) and I think it is very brave to write a blog post like this.
We have all done things like that and many times we haven't admitted it. So it feels good to read this, in many ways.

Keep up the good work!

malrostan said...

You have the courage of a fantasy heroine!

Susie Day said...

I don't think anyone could ever think of you as That Dim Fantasy Chick, Zoe. I don't comment much but I come here regularly, and your posts are always so thoughtful and progressive.

I'd already assumed there was nothing but honest enthusiasm behind it all (and an entirely valid response to the narrow-minded sparkly branding of Queen of Teen!) - but thank you so much for writing this. We are all on the same side (readers like lots of different things and that's awesome, hooray!) and it's great to have that all laid out in such an entirely classy fashion.

(From one of those contemporary girlybooks-with-pink-covers authors - who thinks swords and ass-kicking are brilliant too :D)

Isabel said...

Don't worry, it was really noble of you to apologize and I doubt there's any huge harm done. You're definitely forgiven.

Amy said...

This is a great post. You were not intentionally trying to do anything that seemed shady and I think that everyone understands that.

sophia bennett said...

Bless you, Zoe. What a lovely post: brave and true and everything fiction for girls (and boys too), of any genre, should be. Plus what Susie Day said ... sophia xxx

Keren David said...

Great post Zoe, well said.

Megha said...

I think it was really amazing of you to apologise like this :) Also, I don't think you realised this, but a lot of people who voted for you in the award would have voted for you anyway -- it's not like you stole fans from other authors for yourself or anything! And a lot of us didn't know about this award, so it's better to vote for someone rather than no one.

It shows you're a true role model the way you've apologised :) Anyway, all's well that ends well! I realise that the award hasn't ended, but cancelling out the prizes is better than having won and THEN realising what you've done, right? Don't worry about it, you've done the right thing, it's fine :)

Megha said...

Furthermore, I enjoy how we're not 'hating'* on girly books anymore because just because there are more of those kind of books does not mean that they're not good or anything. And at the end of the day it's not 'contemporary v/s fantasy' etc, it's writers v/s the rest of the world :P

*Not that we were hating on contemporary before or anything, just that we're starting to acknowledge the importance of them in the writing industry too :)

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