Open mouth, insert foot…but at least let it be my own foot, please.
If wisdom’s ways you wisely seek,
Five things observe with care.
To whom you speak,
Of whom you speak,
And how, and when, and where.
So said Ma Ingalls in one of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books, and the words have stayed with me for thirty-five years and counting. Unfortunately, I often remember them in the context of, “Crap! Why didn’t I think of that dorky little Ma Ingalls poem before I said that?”
The publishing industry is a lot like a little town on the prairie. Hard to get to. Population is small, but local heroes are big, as are local scandals. Gossip is gold. Nobody knows everybody, but everybody knows somebody, and somebody always knows somebody else. This dynamic bit me on the ass last week.
Last Monday, I posted my two cents about the downfall of Judith Regan:
But you wanna know what bothers me most about this whole thing? It's the unbridled lip-smacking glee with which so many people are watching Judith Regan get consumed by the volcano.
And I went on to say:
Judith Regan is easy to hate. She's a skank. I'm not defending her.
The lip-smacker I linked to was Media Bistro’s galleycat. In the spirit of dialogue (and hoping for a little link-love, of course) I emailed Ron Hogan, providing a link to the post and saying:
First, thanks for providing me with daily delicious bits about the industry. I enjoy your blog with breakfast every morning, and it frankly gives me the will and conviction to drag myself to pilates.
I was surprised and pleased to get an email back saying:
Thanks! I just mentioned your post on the 'Cat... and rest assured that any "lip-smacking glee" over the situation at this end is strictly ironic!
I was surprised and unpleased (with a capital F) when I went to galleycat and saw:
Judith Regan Finds Support Online
"Judith Regan is easy to hate," author Joni Rodgers admits. Nevertheless, she's sticking up for the embattled editor-publisher because she thinks the way Regan is being treated by HarperCollins is inexcusable...
In what thesaurus does “Judith Regan is a skank. I’m not defending her” equate with me “sticking up” for her? Never in my original post did I mention Harper Collins. I certainly did not say firing Regan was “inexcusable”, nor do I think that! My post was about the salivating sideliners, not the players themselves, and about the sexism I think is inherent in the coverage of that story. But none of the people who sent me hate mail after seeing this item knew or cared about that.
Know who else was unpleased when she saw this item? My editor. At Harper Collins.
Naturally, someone forwarded it to her skippety quick. I was heartsick. This person has been my mentor and friend for eight years, and I’ve always considered myself ridiculously lucky to have found a publishing home at HC. I should have carefully considered saying anything that could be construed—or misconstrued—as me biting the hand that feeds me. And I should have remembered that seeking to be quoted is just begging to be misquoted. Something that galls me to bitter tears about our little town is that the Nelly Olsons so often have the frilliest Sunday dress, the least accountability, and way more influence than they deserve.
I have strong opinions, and I’m not afraid to speak them. On the inevitable occasions I have to eat my words or take a beating or pay stupidity tax, I suck it up. I’m okay with that. I’m not okay with getting beat up for something I never said and never thought about a situation I don’t even care about. Unfortunately, I’m obligated to suck that up, too, because if I want to put myself out there, have an opinion, and occupy a place in the dialogue, that is sometimes the price. But in this case, it was so not worth it. I wish I’d just kept my mouth shut.
Maaaaaaa! Oh, Ma Ingalls, where are you when I need you?