Monday, October 20, 2014

On Safety, Kathleen Hale, and what to do next

A lot of bloggers are thinking about what the next steps are after this weekend. How do we react when negative status updates about a book can get you stalked? Is an author going to show up on my doorstep? Call me at work and harass me until I cry? Blogging isn't a job, it's a hobby. It's supposed to be fun, a way to connect with other book nerds.

It's not supposed to put you in danger.

Of the two big issues facing book bloggers right now, a major lawsuit looks like "lucking out."

That's fucked up.

And it's worse than authors showing up in your front yard and calling you at work. It's the people who automatically take her at her word that the reviewer was wrong and harassing her. She wasn't. I know. I'm shocked, too! A woman who thought that showing up on someone's doorstep was a rational response to bad status updates has a skewed version of the reality leading up to that point. Shocking! But there are a lot of people who are applauding her for "fighting back."

So, what's next? Do I seriously have to balance the safety of my family with my desire to talk about books? Is this a real live thought process I've been having the past few days? REALLY?

I blog and tweet with my real name. It's not that hard to figure out where I work. And part of this is on purpose--my blog is personal and mine and I do it on my own time, but to say it's 100% separate from work is hard. My day job (which includes regularly scheduled nights and weekends) affects the blog--it informs what I read, my library users inform my reactions to titles and my blog affects my day job-- it's opened up professional doors to me and given me opportunities I may not have had. Many of my blogging friends are also professional colleagues and part of my personal learning network. My blog is on my resume. Honestly, in the grand scheme, at this point, it doesn't make sense for me to change it to a pseudonym. But what am I leaving myself open to?

And here's another area-- I'm not just a book blogger. I'm also a professional reviewer. I regularly review for School Library Journal (paywalled) and the RT Book Reviews website. These are signed reviews and SLJ even includes my place of employment after my name. If anything, this is what makes the most sense to give up. The majority of my critical or negative reviews are professional (mostly because I'm not apt to finish a book I don't like unless it's assigned.) But, I really like reviewing professionally. It's made me a better reader and a better blogger. It has helped my career and sometimes I get paid. It's not something I'm willing to give up, and I don't think I should have to in order to protect my safety.

And then my thought process turns to the fact that the affected bloggers are much bigger than me, so it's not going to be an issue for me... except. I have had an author track me down at work about a review I wrote. This person used my library's "contact us" form to comment on my review of their book. Luckily, it was for one of the professional outlets, so I could just forward it to my editor and let them deal with it.

Who do I forward the scary lady on my front lawn too? What happens when someone defames me in an international newspaper? What happens if the it's the blog, where I'm the editor? Will my professional reputation be dragged through the mud and affect my ability to put food on the table?

Where do I go next? Do I give into my fear? Is that letting the terrorists win (in the parlance of our times?) Do I accept the risk, knowing there are more Kathleen Hales out there and if they can write well enough (and let's be honest, that article was fascinating and compelling. She can clearly write. She just can't recognize dangerous and probably illegal behavior) people will just take her word at it without even trying to hear the other side of the story?

In a month and a half, Biblio File will turn 10. Yes, a decade of book blogging. Posting has been spotty at times, and this is not the first time I've seriously considered stopping. But, every other time it was because of internal issues--do I really want to devote the time it requires or do I want to prioritize other things in my life? Do I still have the passion to make it worth the brain space? And I've always just taken a break or powered through. It's never because of something external before. And... I just don't know now.

I just don't know.

Edited on 10/21/14 to add Please also read this post by Beth Revis. It has links to the story of a an author who showed up at a GoodRead's reviewer's place of employer and hit her in the head with a wine bottle hard enough that she went into shock and had to be hospitalized. Because of a bad review.

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Sonetka said...

I suppose the only thing to do is keep on and trust that navel-gazing narcissists like Kathleen Hale are rare enough that you're unlikely to encounter one. (I have to disagree with you on her writing -- she's good, but she doesn't stand out more than a hundred other twentyish YA authors I've read. Of course, she's very well connected, which explains her publication venues).

The Guardian should be absolutely embarrassed at having published that article -- it gave Hale a world stage on which to re-victimize the woman she was stalking. But of course, cute white Harvard grads aren't criminals; when they stalk people, it's performance art or something.

Jen Robinson said...

Well, for what it's worth, I hope you don't give up your blog over this. I do think that such things are very, very rare. That's what makes them newsworthy. I am thinking that a PO box may be necessary in the future, though...