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02 February 2008 @ 03:50 pm
Writing: Daze of Whine and Razzies, Part 1  
Disclaimer: I had no dog in this race, and had never heard of this author. The board MotherTalkers linked to her article at MSNBC.com. The article that the readers of MotherTalkers found hysterical was, in my opinion, pedestrian; it wasn't anything that hadn't been seen before in those chain e-mails "What if the PC-police took on . . . ". The commenters at MSNBC.com message boards were no different than their counterparts at any other news site: some had good points; some disagreed; some got their panties in a bunch. However, what stood out in the message board discussion was the flailing and fapping of the article's author: Mary Beth Ellis.

I'm someone who finds amusement in reading n00bie fan authors whine over negative reviews. At one time or another, we'll all receive a negative review. Take whatever you can find of value from some, and ignore the rest. It may be a blow to the ego, but it's not the end of the world. Most fan authors eventually mature, and move on with their lives.

Fan authors' fapping is amusing. Professional authors' fapping is hysterical. And while Ms. Ellis's article didn't garner my interest, her repeated postings to the MSNBC.com message board explaining and defending her writing did; her blogpostings on the subject and now her latest article over the incident have been over-the-top in defensive posturing and self-serving passive/aggressive behaviour.

I'd posted a rebuttal to her article, which, since it criticises Ms. Ellis's work, appears not to be suitable for posting. (And based by her blog full of praise-only-comments seems to be par for the course.) But I suppose that is because Ms. Ellis is a delicate flower. Even her husband says so:

I married her because of her writing, and I was horrified that she was considering shutting down her blog and not writing anymore. I learned a lot about my bride through this experience. I already knew she puts a lot of herself into her writing, but I had no idea she could be so devastated by anonymous criticism.

I was a cheerleader in high school and college, and after graduation I thought my cheerleading days were finished. After this episode, I realized that my cheering career is just getting started. However, instead of yelling through a megaphone and tossing girls in the air, I’ll be whispering encouragement to my bride and preventing her from tossing the computer out the window. I have learned that a freelancer like Mary Beth needs a lot of emotional support, and I’ll be there, with arms to hug her… and ice cream for back-up. I love you, darlin’!

Preferring public discussions to private ones when events have already occurred publicly (and when it becomes apparent that any criticism isn't welcome), I've decided to compose a follow-up to my previously ignored post. Ms. Ellis, I welcome you to the discussion should you choose.

Let's Start at the Beginning . . . It's a Very Good Place to Start

1) It was a satire about the danger of ruining cherished American Christmas cartoons by viewing them through an adult lens .2) for a very general audience 3) which was not accustomed to reading satire on this particular site

Obviously one of her editors at MSNBC.com wasn't accustomed to reading satire either as his lead-off to the discussion was:

What do you think are the biggest social issues brought up in classic Christmas specials such as "A Charlie Brown Christmas," "Frosty the Snowman" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"? (For example, Santa's sense of entitlement in "Rudolph.")

I’m not a stranger to negative feedback; . . . So I clicked over to the site’s message boards to investigate. . . . and had never in my life seen anything even remotely approaching what unfurled on the monitor before me. . . . I was shocked by the backlash, not because I’d never considered it impossible that another human being might not like my writing, but because, well—these people were just so mean .

And how many messages were there on that board at the time? A grand total of eleven -- one was from MSNBC.com; two were deleted; one didn't like the article; two didn't understand that it was a humour piece; and four didn't get the humour and criticised the author. Only one could be classified as a troll -- and his smart-ass remarks were directed at the piece, not at Ms. Ellis. More like a tempest in a teapot than being "shocked by the backlash".

I mulled it over, and decided that this was all a simple misunderstanding compounded . . . Discuss it openly, that’s what we needed to do! I posted to the message board myself, offering apologies to those who hadn’t liked the article, explaining in non-condescending terms that it was, indeed, a satire, and inviting those who had questions or comments to email me.

Was the Features Editor at MSNBC.com one of those who took her up on the offer? Since, apparently, he didn't get the humour either.

Exactly three people took me up on the offer of a personal email conversation, and all three parted e-ways with a mutual, heartfelt “Merry Christmas.” I continued to field only positive feedback on my personal site and in my inbox.

While not an overwhelming positive, she does have the consolation that four message board posters did express their enjoyment of the article. They'll be disheartened that she didn't remember them past the holiday.

And why does the author feel it necessary that folks e-mail her? The article was posted publicly; any discussion should take place there as well.

I went back to the publishing site’s bulletin board, [ed. note: MSNBC.com is hardly a publishing site] and did exactly what the trolls wanted me to do. I unleashed about a hundred words of defensive furor. Sorry you didn’t like the FREE ARTICLE, which you were also free to stop reading at any time.

There were exactly seven comments following Ms. Ellis's initial response: two didn't understand the intended humour and criticised her; two found the article funny; one critiqued her writing; one critiqued her writing and criticised her; one responded to her posting; and one responded to another commenter. This is hardly the hounds baying for blood.

And considering Ms. Ellis is a professional author, she comes across as unprofessional as any newbie fanfic author by using whiny excuses such as "it was free", "you were free to stop reading at any time", and calling anyone who doesn't like the article a "troll". (While there was a total of six deleted comments, half of those came after she stopped posting to commenters; only two posts still remaining on the board could possibly be called "troll", even using the broadest definition of the term.)

The breakdown of comments is as follows*:

Those Who Responded to Other Commenters 22.99%
Those Who Didn't Realize it was Humour and Criticised the Author 17.24%
Those Who Critiqued the Writing 10.44%
Those Who Responded Negatively to the Author's Post(s) 9.19%
Those Who Wished a Merry Christmas 9.19%
Those Who Critiqued the Writing and Criticised Author 8.05%
Those Who Didn't Like the Article 6.89%
Those Who Didn't Realize it was Humour 6.89%
Those Posters Whose Comments were Deleted 6.89%
Those Who Found it Funny 5.75%
Posts from Mary Beth Ellis 5.75%
Those Who Responded Positively to the Author's Post(s) 4.59%
Those Who Criticised MSNBC.com over the Article 4.59%
Those Who Made Posts Totally Unrelated to the Discussion 4.59%
Those Posters Who Thought They were Comedians 4.59%
Those Whose Posts Were Only Tangentially Connected to the Original Discussion 3.45%
Posts Where Mary Beth Ellis Speaks Generally to Critics 3.45%
Those Who Understood the Article, but were Ambivalent 2.29%
Those Posters Who Could be Classified as Trolls 2.29%
Posts Where Mary Beth Ellis Speaks Directly to Supporters 2.29%
Those Who Didn't Realize it was Humour, but Defended the Author 1.15%

*Total of percentages doesn't add up to 100%, as some posts fall into multiple categories.

There was a grand total of 87 messages from 57 posters (including Ms. Ellis), that's not exactly a torrent of comments. There were more people talking to each other than to or about the author. As for the 17% for whom the "humour" passed by, that's about the percentage of people who still think Dick Cheney is doing a heckuva job.

Ms. Ellis has turned her PR disaster into a positive; brava for her. However, there's little doubt based on her behaviour that when the next negative comment comes her way, she'll start flailing, fapping and flouncing. After all, she's a s00per speshul snowflake.