Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Ouch


For one full year, my daily mail brought a fresh rejection letter from an agent or publisher. I survived those daily wounds believing that once my memoir was out and stocked on bookstore and library shelves, I’d be safe from further pain. But now, six words have emerged in my blogging life that cut even deeper than those earlier brush-offs: Take Me Off Your E-mail List.

While my rational self understands that those who make the request mean no harm – they’re busy, inundated with e-mail and spam, have better things to do than to read my essays – it still smarts. Just hit the delete key, I want to tell them. But if I replied with that suggestion, I’d just be aggravating the situation, don’t you think? After all, they just wrote to tell me they NEVER WANT TO HEAR FROM ME AGAIN.

Instead of weeping onto my keyboard, I decided to query some of my favorite people (photos included in this post and identifications are at the end) who, via their art, gain critics and dejection along with fans. I thought perhaps I could learn a thing or two about growing thicker skin from these stars who survived barbs, digs, despair and other weaponry.


First up, my daughter Jill Soloway, author of ‘Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants’ offers this stinging episode:
“Once, in the ‘do-anything’ frenzy of the first few weeks of my Tiny Ladies publicity, I agreed to do an interview with a site called Television Without Pity. I spoke to the guy for about an hour, mostly about Six Feet Under and a little bit about my book. All seemed fine until a week or two later while masturgoogling I came upon a violent discussion about the level o' my intelligence. I know I'm not the smartest person in the world but these people were actually calling me a dumb bitch. Turned out the guy who'd interviewed me published an exact transcript of our interview instead of an edited interview like most people who publish interviews do. He left in every ‘um,’ ‘uh’ and ‘like’.


It was like a court document but less funny. It's a full fifteen pages-- he took out NOTHING. And, although he removed most of the ums and uhs and likes after I sent him an email explaining how a kind interviewer would do it, I still sound like a total tool. I guess my wounds were that the 6 feet under fans were so quick to jump onto my grave and call me out as an idiot. Read the whole thing plus the mean-ass comments for yourself right here.


Hillary Carlip, author of “Queen of the Oddballs: And Other True Stories from a Life Unaccording to Plan,” sends us this story of dashed hopes:
“OK, here's a wound. Maybe not a deep puncture, or a severe laceration, but more of an oozing scrape. When you're wishin' and hopin' and thinkin' and prayin' about having your book reviewed in People Mag, and your publicist tells you the good news -- IT'S HAPPENING! THEY ASSIGNED A REVIEWER, THEY NEED YOU TO SEND SOME PICS OF YOURSELF ASAP!!!!! (alright, maybe she only used one, perhaps two, exclamation points) -- life is good.


Sure, in another email, moments later, she adds, ‘Um... they over-review and not all reviews make it in, so don't get too excited yet.’ But that doesn't deter me. I'm CONVINCED a Critic's Choice, 4 star review will be in there! In fact, I still look in each new issue, every Thursday. So what if my book came out six months ago?! I'll get back to you in a year and let ya know what happens.”


Danny Miller writes a wonderful blog called "Jew Eat Yet?" yet despite scores of faithful and passionate readers, got bruised in this painful episode:
“In March I wrote about a recently discovered home movie of my 1959 circumcision ceremony or bris. I wasn’t trying to proselytize at all and I added a few comments about the people who oppose circumcision, stressing that they made some good points. I also included a tongue-in-cheek recounting of my wife Kendall’s queasiness on the subject in the event we one day have a son. I received some interesting comments, including several from people who thought
circumcision was an unnecessary practice, but it was a very civil discussion.

“In addition to my own blog, I’m an occasional contributor to the Huffington Post, a group blog founded by political commentator Arianna Huffington. I decided to post the circumcision piece on Huffington as well and I was excited when I saw my post zooming to their ‘Top Posts’ list, inching above entries by Nora Ephron, Deepak Chopra, and Harry Shearer. When the comments came fast and furious, I was glad that my post was generating such attention. But I couldn’t have been less prepared for the level of personal attacks (including examples of blatant anti-Semitism) that I received on the
Huffington Post. Here’s a small sampling:
—Pull your head out of your egotistical Jewish ass.
—Would you think the same thing if all male babies had to have their ears cut off at birth? Let’s dress up and make a fucking ritual of it and have a party with covered dishes!
—YOU are the reason there are self-hating Jews, asshole. Your son would have every reason to hate you for being a coward.
—Being Jewish and circumcised is no excuse for the kind of abusive behavior Miller exhibits. Many Jews are humane, decent people. This bozo is a disgrace to the good name of Judaism.
—Circumcising infants is a Satanic blood ritual. All children who are
circumcised are severely injured for life.

“Hello? One person compared me to a Nazi and another urged my wife to ‘replace this monster and find a human being for a father for your children.’ Suddenly the cozy left-leaning website felt about as safe as a Munich Beer Hall in 1942. Oy. When I started getting personal emails on the subject including some ugly comments about my 11-year-old daughter, I realized that this topic was too incendiary for my comfort level and I deleted the whole post. I don't mind a little controversy but I've learned that there are some topics I'll write about on my own blog but not on a national forum. There are a lot of crazies out there!”


While Danny stirred up a whole mess of circumcision critics, my daughter Faith managed to rile the Catholic community with her schlock opera “Jesus Has Two Mommies.” To explain what happened, I’m reprinting the Boston Herald’s description of the controversy. It appeared in the Dec. 14, 2001 issue:

“Faith Soloway was looking for laughs, not controversy. ‘But any time you name a play 'Jesus Has Two Mommies,' I guess you have to be prepared for trouble,’ said Soloway.


The musical satire, which features Catie Curtis, Jennifer Kimball, Sean Staples, Jim Infantino, Meghan Toohey and Soloway, sold out the Somerville Theater twice more than two weeks ago. On Dec. 21 and 22, the uproarious musical will be reprised for three shows at Boston's Copley Theater.

Soloway's goofy, high-spirited, lesbian-themed comedies often place the writer's neuroses center stage. Yet last Friday night, Soloway suffered a different sort of spotlight. A segment of the Fox News Channel's ‘Hannity & Colms’ show pitted Soloway against Bill Donohue, Catholic League president.

Donohue, who hasn't seen the play, continually claimed Soloway was a liar, and then, calling her ‘baby and ‘honey,’ offered to pay for her therapy sessions he felt she obviously needed.

‘It was like watching, not playing, a tennis match. I could barely get a word in. Donohue was like a feral rat,’ said Soloway, who spent much of her allotted time trying in vain to explain that a press quote of hers about ‘putting my middle finger at certain sorts of social construction’ had nothing to do with Christianity.

‘She wants to stick it to Catholics,’ Donohue retorted.

Soloway was ultimately forced to admit, however, that she doesn't approve of Catholicism's condemnation of homosexuality. ‘I think you guys are a little harsh on us,’ she said.

Soloway, ex-musical director of Chicago's Second City comedy troupe, good-heartedly lampoons gays, straights, folkies and big-haired women from Revere in her silly, excessive, highly personal and often hilarious shows.

‘Jesus’ concerns Faith's difficulty committing to gay marriage and motherhood, while a black, funky, female God tries to guide her by telling her the tale of Jesus, Mary and Josephine.

As theater, it's both impressive and cheesy, sophisticated and adolescent. The Video segments and multimedia effects, by Ian Brownell, are sensational. (Mary Chapin Carpenter makes a campy guest appearance as the musical star of one video.)

‘Jesus’ is, ultimately, an affirmation of gay lives. ‘I want to please a mixed audience, but the gay crowd doesn't have much theater, and I think it's needed,’ Soloway said.

Will Soloway ever write nongay plays? ‘I will when I get it all out of my system. It's almost out now,’ she said. ‘You see, it's all about me.’”

Now, having poured out our hearts, I think I speak for all of my blog contributors when I acknowledge that our scrapes and kvetches are minor compared to real problems of the world. And, I suppose you can say that if we’re going to put ourselves and our work out there – in cyberspace and for audience consumption -- we should anticipate some jabs and disappointments.


But in the end, we’re all as eager for pats as my golden retriever, Buddy. And when -- instead of earning the “good girl/boy” we’re expecting for sitting up or rolling over -- we get a swat, it hurts. Ouch.

Photo Captions:
1. My rejection letters.
2. Jill Soloway.
3. "Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants" paperback edition.
4. This is the photo they're going to include when Hillary's review finally appears in People.
5. "Queen of the Oddballs: And Other True Stories From a Life Unaccording to Plan."
6. Danny Miller at the 30th reunion of Von Steuben High School on Chicago’s north side.
7. Faith Soloway.
8. The cast of “Jesus Has Two Mommies.” Faith is in the yellow t-shirt.
9. Buddy, mellowing out with my Shuffle.

Postscript:
No pain here; just great fun. Some photos from our Oct. 27, “Holy Trinity of Girl Power” gig at Women and Children First Bookstore with Hillary, Jill, and me. More than 75 people attended and enjoyed the hilarious readings of the two L.A. authors, plus a poignant piece from yours truly.

4 comments:

Leah said...

I sent out a "Please Vote For Me" email when I was in the Memoirist Collectives competition this summer and accidentally sent it to a listserv of all the webmasters in the Union for Reform Judiam. D'oh.

I got one really nasty email back about how long-winded I was and how could I call myself a writer, blah blah blah.

I think the best thing for you to do (other than cultivate a thicker skin) is teach your readers about RSS feeds and how to subscribe to your blog. That way every new post goes to them.

(If you want, I'll even guest write it for you.)

All the best!

Leah

Elizabeth Crane said...

Oy, can I relate to this. I'm glad to have such esteemed company though!

Rachel said...

Hi Elaine,

I'm a fan and friend of Jill's (and Hillary's), which is how I found you, and just wanted to say - keep on blogging, writing, and sharing. I think we all have these possibly defeating moments and as someone very wise once said to me, if you're not making someone angry, you're not doing your job.

best,
Rachel

Rhea said...

That whole rejection thing can be hard. When I started out in journalism I was sending out queries for freelance work. The first ones were hard. Then I started papering the wall with them. That made it fun and OK. It takes a long time to develop a thick skin. Being a Bostonian I am familiar with Faith's problems with the media. No one has a sense of humor when it comes to Jesus. Christ!