Representation Matters: Confronting Privilege with Grace

Or, how to not be an asshole when you screw up.

Representation Matters is a series that explores topics of representation in writing and art. Our first guest-poster, who will explore the topic over the next few months, is Rebecca Croteau. Rebecca is an avid writer, reader and knitter, who is also quite active on Twitter.

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If you’re still here with this series, I’m going to make some basic assumptions about who you are as a writer. If you’re still here, I’m assuming that you agree that we need more diverse literature, especially for kids, and that if you are a writer who is trying to write about an experience other than your own (or even your own!) you should have someone who has had that experience vet your manuscript to look for any obvious or harmful errors you’re making. This is called a sensitivity read, and the person who performs it is a sensitivity reader.

This is no different from having a police expert look over your crime scenes or a forensic pathologist discuss your character’s autopsy report. Absolutely no different.

I’m glad we’re on the same page. Now that we agree, I want to talk about what happens when your sensitivity reader says those fateful words: You’ve fucked up. They’re not words that a writer wants to hear, clearly, though as we discussed last time, the earlier in the process you hear them, the better.

They’re words I heard just this week, in fact. In an erotica novella, I have a fat character, and while I am not the skinniest of people, I am not someone who would classically be defined as fat, nor am I a cis man, so I wanted to make sure I was getting a couple of scenes right.

I wasn’t. So let’s talk about how this went down. I am going to be deliberately vague here; I have no interest in pointing fingers at the person who is kind enough to read for me and say they did a bad thing by pointing out where I fucked up. I also do not want to sound like I think I’m some kind of saint for being decent and committing to fixing the mistakes I made. This is just about how this conversation went well, and what could have gone differently to derail it and make it a miserable experience for both me and my reader.

Can we talk a minute?

Maybe it’s just me, but whenever I hear this phrase, I always know that the conversation that’s about to follow is going to be a little bit stressful. It’s probably because the indication that the speaker needs my attention for a period of time shows that they’re trying to make sure we’re not going to be interrupted. In this case, I was quite glad my reader started here; I got a quick minute to prep for the idea that I’d made a mistake.

Why did you make this choice?

The reader was approaching me about a specific scene I’d written in a specific way. They asked why I’d had the character discuss a particular thing.

I will be honest here; my first thought was to throw someone else under the bus. The passage that the reader was pointing out had been inserted at the request of someone else, but as soon as I started to say that, I realized that I was completely out of line.

I explained to the reader: “You know, I initially inserted that conversation because of feedback I received from someone else, but as I’m typing this to you, I’m realizing that this is really problematic.”

The reader’s response was agreement. There it was, right on the table. I fucked up.

It’s really hard as a writer to fuck up. I always feel a number of things, very fast; it’s my world, how can I possibly fuck up? If I built this character, how can I be wrong? It’s my story, dammit.

Guess what: every one of those impulses is incredibly wrong. I wanted to lash out, say that my scene was absolutely NOT problematic, I HAD been told to write it that way, and—and—

If I’d done that, I would have lost a friend, a reader, and a valuable opportunity to make my story much better.

Instead of lashing out, I sat my ass down (both physically and metaphorically). My reader explained why the scene didn’t ring true to them. They said that even if the character might feel the way I’d written them, I was not the right person to tell that story. I let them say their piece, and when I sensed that they’d said what they needed to say, I thanked them. I said I appreciated their feedback, and committed to fixing the scene. I apologized for the harm I’d caused them in writing something that was hurtful. I said that the trust they’d shown in offering me guidance in fixing it was incredibly meaningful to me.

And problem solved.

No, seriously. No one lashed out at anyone else on Twitter, no one screaming, no subtweeting, no messes, no shouting. No “policing” or “censoring.” I got the scene wrong, and I took a deep breath and dealt with it like a damn adult who got a scene wrong. Because – and I know this hurts to hear, fellow writers – our characters aren’t actually real people.

But our readers are. And when we write things that hurt our readers, when we hurt real people, we’re doing the opposite of what we’re supposed to be doing as writers.

So I’m taking a book that I thought was nearly done and doing another editing pass. I’m more than okay with this. It’ll be a better book that will be less harmful when it’s done. And that’s worth as many edits as are needed.

 

Why Do You Follow Eclectic Alli?

Hi!
So, I’ve been doing some thinking and reflecting about my blog over the past year – as part of a larger reflection and thinking about what I’m doing in my life and the directions I want to go.  One of the problems with being such an eclectic individual is that it becomes quite easy to be drawn in a million different directions, equally passionate and excited about a whole array of different projects, topics, and possibilities. Which, in my case, means I often end up chasing them all in bits and pieces and never quite settle or complete any one.

So I’m trying to figure out how I want to move forward, with the blog and with what I am doing in my “free” time. One of the sad truths about me is that I care WAY too much about other people’s opinions (to the point of assuming judgement’s exist from others when they may not – but that’s a WHOLE other topic of conversation).

However, a place where caring about what others think that is actually important is here on my blog – because I really am wanting to write this not just for me, but for all of you who are reading it.  To that end, I’m curious what kinds of things bring you all back to the blog. What things would you like to see more of?  What would you like to see less of?
Let me know in the comments!

 

Monday Updates: Feb 20 2017

So.. you may have noticed that I have no Monday Update today.
I had a really busy weekend (between being sick and working a table at Wizard World Comic Con) and didn’t get a chance to write the update, or to write my weekend coffee share!

So, I will get updates next week, though I’m considering if this is something I want to continue doing weekly.

In the meantime… what updates do you have to share from the week?  News?  Good News? Action Items?

Monday Update: Week of February 13

News:

The vote for both DeVos and Sessions occurred this week – and both passed. There were a few Republicans that voted against DeVos (though some argue that they only did so to appease constituents, because they knew it wouldn’t keep her from being appointed), but one democrat voted FOR Sessions.

There has been continued lack of distinction between the presidency and personal profit, including the promotion of Ivanka’s fashion line from the White House, and the use of 45’s personal resort for a visit from the Japanese Prime Minister.

ICE raids have increased, leading to the deportation of a number of undocumented immigrants. The claim has been made that they are specifically targeting those who have had prior criminal convictions, and others are just “caught” in the net. However, this is important to pay attention to – Sanctuary status of a state or city applies only to the way local law enforcement acts, it does not extend to federal enforcement and this can (and it could be argued has already) become a matter that needs to watched closely. There are many undocumented immigrants here in the States, and many of them have been living and working as contributing members of our society and culture for decades – they have raised families here. There are our neighbors, and actions should be taken to help them become legal citizens, not uprooting them from their families and homes and shipping them to places that are no longer home.

45 continues to drive hard at declaring all news sources he disagrees with to be “Fake” news, including stating provable lies. He is taking extreme stands and we must be paying attention to these attempts to discredit the media.

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Good News:

The 9th Circuit court ruled, 3 to 0, against 45s Travel ban.

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This page, in particular, is pretty awesome.

45 was not pleased… but it was a beautiful moment of reassurance for all of us. There are checks in place and, at least in this case, the courts are keeping an eye out for our nation.

Action:

Contact those Representatives. Continue to get after the Republican (and sometimes Democrat or Independent) representatives that are not standing for their people, and thank those who are working for us.  We need to continue to remind them that we are here, we are paying attention, and we are not going to let go. Contact them about any votes coming up, contact them about issues you are hearing about. Make them hear you.

It might be good to also remember those Senators who voted for Sessions and DeVos who are up for reelection in 2018 – keep them in mind if you’re in these states and be ready to fight to get them replaced.

  • Flake – AZ
  • Wicker – MS
  • Fischer – NE
  • Heller – NV
  • Corker – TN
  • Cruz – TX
  • Hatch – UT
  • Barrasso – WY
  • Manchin III -W.Va (the democrat that voted for Sessions. Voted against DeVos)

 

Pay attention to what is happening.  You can visit congress.gov to find out what has been happening in congress – both the House and Senate.  You can see when the next meetings are, what the legislators are doing. You can also follow bills that have been introduced. There are a lot that get created and it’s important to pay attention. However, so many never even make it past committee.  When a bill comes to your attention I recommend going to Congress.Gov and finding it there. Take a look at it and look at where it is in the process. If it’s been introduced but still in committee it may not be worth your energy to start contacting people about it. However, if you sign in you can set an alert and receive updates om it as it moves through the process. This way, as soon as it does move to the House you can begin to make calls to fight it (or support it. It would be nice if we are able to find ones that we like the sounds of as well)!

This is a totally kid-focused page, but I think it’s helpful for all of us who may have not been too engrossed in politics until recently. Reminder of the steps a bill must go through to become a law.

Remember that this is a War, and also, a marathon.

I encourage you to read the Twitter thread I’m sharing here (and follow Celeste!) And also to remember that we are in a marathon. There are others who will take the baton for a stretch, when you need to step back, when you need to rest and take care of yourself until it’s your turn to take point again.

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Weekend Coffee Share: New Homes

If we were having coffee today I’d be a little sniffly and suggest you stick to the other side of the room.  I’ve been fighting a cold all week and it seems to be winning – I kind of want to just curl up in bed and sleep forever.

But that’s not in the cards this weekend.  At least, not today. I’m heading out shortly to enjoy some times at a friends house — my last time being there… they’re moving and are out of the house on Monday! I’m excited for them to be getting to start a new adventure (their looking for a house to move into now, will be staying somewhere else for a while in the interim), but I’m also kind of bummed.  Right now they live so very close – so it’s easy to get together for quick visits (“Hey, I need to run to the store, you want to come along?”), it’s awesome and I love having the so close. But they aren’t planning to move very far, it just won’t be as easy to do random stop-by’s.

Speaking of moving… Weekend Coffee share has a new home!  After starting and taking great care of this lovely little link-up for quite some time, Part-Time Monster is handing over the reigns to Nerd In The Brain! A great new home for for this feature.

I’m going to spend most of the weekend resting outside of that. Hopefully I can fight off this thing… and hopefully I can also get some work done. Because there is certainly work that I need to get done!

Keeping it short because I have to get moving… but I’ve got the time to listen to what you’ve been up to.  Any great weekend plans?

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Three Things Thursday – Cats and Coffee.

Midnight Monster has been being extra cuddly (once he got over the fact I took him to the vet. I’ve been waking up in the morning to find him curled up next to me, or on me, and it’s pretty awesome.  This morning he was on my back, his head on the back of my head, his arms stretched above my head — but I couldn’t get my hands on my camera to take a picture without dislodging him, so instead I share this picture from yesterday.  One picture, but I’m counting it for two smiles 🙂

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This week I got to be the first to taste the new latte at Ole Latte (my favorite cart). It’s a pear and rose latte and it’s DELICIOUS!

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A bit of this, a bit of that, the meandering thoughts of a dreamer.

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