Can’t Take the Heat? Go Cry to Momma!

Lee Goldberg’s thoughts on this fictive flummery from Steve Clackson have been commented upon by a number of bloggers. David Thayer, in particular, was puzzled by why one would go to the trouble of “attacking” unpublished fiction. I have to ask why anyone would go to the trouble of publishing a fiction-in-progress and expect nothing less than hosannas. I have to ask why the prevailing attitude here is to celebrate Clackson’s inadequate draft (“In a surprisingly strong voice he began” is the clause of an amateur) and not give him the hard and brash criticism he might need to become a better writer. Any real writer knows that there’s more to be learned from an honest response rather than some vapid confirmation of his “talents.”

One of the problems with the Web is that anyone can publish. And indeed, so many people do. But why should literary standards be surrendered in the process? Goldberg, a professional writer with several credits, had the courtesy to inform Clackson that his book needed lots of work before being sent to a publisher and advised him to take his chapters down.

I’ve had fiction I’ve written (clearly not ready for prime time) raked over the coals, but the value I have imparted from these lessons has been astronomical. One would think that with the Web’s interconnected possibilities, such hard lessons would allow the next generation of fiction writers to understand just how valuable exceptionally hard yet enthusiastic reader reactiosn are. To insist that there is a shortcut or that there is some easy path from writing to publishing to reception is the height of hubris. It is to subscribe to an abject American Idol-style mentality where “everyone’s a winner.” I suggest to Clackson and his tetchy horde of cheerleaders that a little humility goes a long way.

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  1. It’s true that Lee Goldberg, having published his work successfully, deserves some respect for his accomplishments, but I have always found it difficult to respect a person’s character when they take themselves so seriously while treating other people – people who are not really doing anyone any harm – so rudely.

    As I said on Frank Wilson’s site:

    The guy invited a little friendly advice, one aspiring writer to an established writer. It’s pretty harmless. If his writing isn’t finished or polished, or even needs a lot of work, you’re certainly doing him no favors telling him it’s great. You have to be honest, but you can be honest tactfully, maybe even privately. If a person has a great love for something, even if they have yet to really develop the skill, there’s no harm in encouraging them while telling them exactly what’s wrong so that they know how to attain the skill they so desperately desire. Lee is of course free not to be interested in putting in the time to do this, in which case a polite return e-mail thanking the would-be author for the invitation but declining to get involved would be a fine response. Lee shows something of his character by the way he handled this man. He enjoyed kicking him around his forum.

  2. I’m sorry, I have to call bullshit. This guy was not “inviting a little friendly advice” or politely requesting Lee’s opinion and guidance as a seasoned writer. If he had been, I might have sided with the comments that Lee should have advised him privately. However, Mr. Clackson was grabbing for free publicity, and rather rudely as well. He sent out that impersonal cut&paste FYI notice to at least a dozen people who he doesn’t know and who he did not take the time to research. In my world, that’s known as spam. In sending such an email, Clackson implicitly asked for (and deserved) the public advice he received. Advice which was not even particularly harsh, merely abrupt and to-the-point. I’ve noticed many commentors reading a hostility and abusiveness in Lee’s intitial post that is patently absent. His post demonstrates far better manners than Clackson’s own mass email.

  3. I’m sorry, I have to call bullshit.

    Ditto. Or should I say, I have to call sycophancy sycophancy when I see it. I had no idea Lee ‘something-of-a-jerk’ Goldberg had so many groupies.

    There is nothing wrong with trying to get attention for your product and one of the prices you pay for being established in an industry is that wannabes try and contact you. Why would Lee even bother to take the time to write a post on a guy he thinks can’t even write? My answer is that he took a sick pleasure in humiliating him because he could.

    Read Lee’s post. I thought it was unnecessary and I certainly don’t think it was polite.

  4. Seeing as how I have not yet fornicated with Mr. Goldberg, much less met him (although there have been a few email volleys and the promise of phone sex at a later time), I have no real stake in Clackson or Goldberg. What take the time to write about a stranger’s writing? Because they clearly care about the craft of writing. And I contend that anyone who genuinely wants to improve as a writer should probably listen to the people who are courteous enough to tell them why something they’ve written is dogshit.

  5. Noel, I really don’t consider myself Lee Goldberg’s “groupie” — I’ve only visited the blog a handful of times in the past, and have no personal investment in him or in Steve Clackson. The fact that I disagree with you and happen to think Clackson’s rude & unprofessional behavior elicited the response he deserved doesn’t make me a sycophant.

    In my opinion, Lee took the time to post largely to educate other writers who might be thinking of doing the same. Such an email campaign is a truly terrible idea, and if Lee’s post prevents other aspiring authors from doing the same, he’s done them and their careers a service. I didn’t say his post was polite, I said it showed more manners than Clackson’s rude attempt at self-promotion deserved.

  6. What take the time to write about a stranger’s writing?

    Frankly, Ed, your writing needs improvement. Please pay attention: it is better if you do not use ‘what’ when you mean ‘why’. Resist the urge to begin sentences with conjunctions – ‘because’, ‘and’, ‘but’ – which I notice you do often. If you must try to paint pictures with your words, please try to paint pictures that are appealing. Imagining you having phone sex with Lee Goldberg is not appealing, in the same way that we would not like to hear that you enjoy sticking peanuts up your nose in your spare time. Telling us that fornication with Lee Goldberg is on your mind is also not appealing, nor is it in any way interesting. You really want to keep people’s attention engaged in your story and not cause them to feel repulsed by what you say.

    Just a few pointers. I know you’ll appreciate them since you claim to care about the craft of writing. You know, one day, Ed, you could be as great a literary giant as the deep and meaningful Lee Goldberg. If you keep practicing, you too could be headed to the mediocre fiction Hall of Fame.

  7. Noel, come on. That is ridiculous. I don’t even know what “Frank Wilson’s” site is. I don’t provide a link because I don’t have a blog.

  8. Noel, presumably there’s no information I could provide that would convince you that I am not some guy calling himself ‘James’ commenting on another site, so there’s really little point in continuing the conversation about my supposed identity. If it fits your worldview that no two separate individuals could possibly disagree with you or be working from a similar response to the situation & must be one person posing under different identities (for reasons unknown), then all power to ya. This is an awfully small internet kerfuffle to bother to form a conspiracy theory about.

  9. I find it interesting that some of Lee Goldberg’s most vehement supporters claim to have little interest in him and also don’t have links. In my experience it’s unusual to find this, unless you’re dealing with trolls. It’s also interesting that they’re proponents of conspiracy theories. This suggests that a). Lee Goldberg attracts trolls, or b). Lee Goldberg is frequented by a bunch of paranoid schizophrenics, or c). a far less likely scenario, Lee Goldberg attracts people who adore him so much, they would never consider any other online existence, like, for example, starting their own blog, or d). Lee Goldberg himself poses under nom de plumes like ‘James’ and ‘Juliet’ and ‘Editor’ to fawn over himself in his and other people’s forums. Hmmm.

    Of course, I could be wrong. It could be that there are a number of people in the world with nothing better to do than follow and defend Lee Goldberg.


  10. I fail to see how not having a personal website makes me a troll. That’s an interesting leap of logic.

    The first link you provided shot me straight to a comment from Lee Goldberg, so I’m not sure what you were trying to show me? The second is clearly to the “Frank Wilson’s site” you mentioned before — I hadn’t heard of it or visited it before. I read the comment thread, and saw the comments from “James”. It’s unfortunate that we both happened to mention conspiracy theories (in different contexts, mind you), but the wording is a) a coincidence and b) perhaps generated by the fact that your posts on both sides seemed to be taking on a tinge of paranoia. On reading, I happen to agree with ‘James’ that moderating comments does not indicate a “power trip” but is a common activity taken by site owners who have been bombarded with comment spam — but that is where our similarities end.

    I am baffled that you seem to be equating me with “some of Lee Goldberg’s most vehement supporters” — where do you get that impression? I’m commenting on a link Ed provided, as I *do* read Ed’s blog daily (and have commented before, with the same Juliet/no link moniker), and happen to think that Goldberg’s response wasn’t as out of line as your comment seemed to argue. I also thought some of the comments on Goldberg’s site seemed to be a bit hysterical — interpreting a blunt comment on rude behavior as a horrible personal insult on the level of puppy-skinning. I expressed that opinion clearly in my comment on Ed’s post. I don’t see how that makes me a “vehement supporter” of Lee Goldberg. I don’t think Goldberg needs my defending — I am criticizing Clackson’s actions & the hysterical response to what I saw as a reasonable reply to such an email, not defending Lee Goldberg and his “good name.”

    If you think that my comments have the stink of troll about them, I can only surmise that you haven’t come across true trolls. Why is this so important to you? Why are you getting in arguments in comment threads on two different sites (as far as I know — perhaps there are additional random comment threads on this issue that you’d like to accuse me of posting in?)? What is the big deal, Noel?

    Ed: I’m sorry this thread has degenerated into a pointless spat. I think I’ll remove myself from this situation, as it is clearly headed nowhere but down.

  11. Noel, meet Juliet; Juliet, meet Noel. This cat postulates that you two actually AGREE more than you disagree and would like to play matchmaker or broker a detente. I recognize in Noel’s comments a brash young man ready to play iconoclast. And I recognize in Juliet’s comments someone who has the same goals, but who is a bit less confrontational. I would concede that BOTH parties have the same noble end.

    So here’s what I’m going to do. If we can find a Peet’s Coffee for you two to meet in and talk this out, perhaps somewhere in between your two respective geographical points on the axis, then perhaps the argument here will be less a personal fight and more of a respectful disagreement. Is this a deal? Come on, people, let’s do a little bit of loving here! 🙂

  12. Juliet -” I am criticizing Clackson’s actions”
    All I did was send an email that said chapters 1&2 are up at Sand Storm. For any that are interested. Link included.
    FYI it went to 12 addresses all from email correspondence I had had previously (I’ve stated this on other blogs) Lee was one of two to not only offer support but take offense?
    PS Ed was also on that list (I don’t know why as this is not what he reads so that is my mistake) but for what it is worth he never replied well…until this post that is.

  13. Come on, people, let’s do a little bit of loving here!

    DrMabuse, are you trying to get my wife to walk out on me, take the children, ruin my life? Is that what this is? Have me answer awkward questions like: “Who is this Juliet person?” with “I don’t know. Honestly, honey. She doesn’t even have a link! You’ve got to believe me!”

    And what’s this about ‘Juliet’ being less confrontational? She/he/it started it! Hurling such abusive terms as bullshit in my direction. I won’t stand for it, do you hear? I won’t! I might sit and blog for it, but I won’t stand for it. And that’s final.

    Steve, there is absolutely nothing wrong with emailing people to look for advice and direction and even for promotion. If some of those people are going to be jerks about it, well they’re just going to have to work through their own insecurities.

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