Note: This post was written five years ago. I wish I had posted it then, but frankly it didn’t feel safe to do so then. With the strange–and welcome–sea change currently happening, it seems relevant. For what it’s worth, two of the people quoted or referred to herein were women, and two were men. Bias, it turns out, exists along all axes.
I’ve let myself be talked out of posting on this subject multiple times. The argument is generally the “protest too much” problem of lending legitimacy to falsehoods by acknowledging them at all. I understand that argument, and until this weekend it seemed adequate. Haters, it is said, gonna hate.
So I didn’t blog about it when a colleague said to me, in front of a room full of people, that “Some of us had to do more than marry well,” to get where we are in our writing careers.
I didn’t blog about it when a fellow student said that they were mystified by my presence at a writers workshop. “Can’t you just give it to John and have him tell you what’s wrong with it?”
I didn’t blog about it when in that same workshop an attendee who learned that my first sale was to one of John’s anthologies said “Well, isn’t that a coincidence.” Or when I was telling a friend about that, and how hurtful (and insulting, to both of us) it is that some people assume that John bought that story because we were dating (we weren’t) and that friend said–without a hint of embarrassment–“Oh, yeah, that’s what I thought, too. But now I know you both, so I know better.”
So the problem here is that it’s not just Haters. It’s colleagues, and even friends.
This weekend something happened that has acted as the proverbial last straw. Someone was so absolutely certain of their assumption that all of my work must be edited by John before it’s sent out that they actually lied–in front of a handful of colleagues–and claimed that they had seen John’s notes in Track Changes in one of my submissions. John and I looked at each other in surprise, and said things like “That’s strange.” And it is very strange indeed.
Today I downloaded the file from the actual submission email, and not only are there no notes from John–which I knew there wouldn’t be because he never saw it until after it went out–but there are no Track Changes applied to the file at all. So there is no chance of a simple misattribution, as I had hoped. The story was completely made up.
This person assumed such an extreme level of plausible deniability because it never occurred to them that it was even possible for their cute anecdote about John editing my submission to be demonstrably untrue.
Folks, you might want to sit down for this revelation:
John does not edit my work.*
Many writers are happy to have their partners critique their work. Their partners are often their first readers. It’s generally not a problem, because the partner is either not in the industry or their credentials are perceived to be equivalent. The author’s success is not credited to their partner. I don’t have that luxury, because in our case I am perceived as a New Writer (where “new” means more than a decade of working my ass off to learn my craft) and John as an Established Professional (with a near-equivalent period of working his ass off learning his). Because of that, people assume that I write to some sub-par level and he fixes it for me.
Every time someone makes that assumption, they take that decade away from me. Every time someone credits John with my career, or the quality of my work, they undermine the thousands of hours that I’ve put into this. It’s hurtful, it’s insulting, and it’s factually incorrect.
And I’m fucking done being polite about it.
* I really shouldn’t have to add that yes, of course, he edited the few stories that he purchased from me, because he was the editor of the publication. For a list of all of my editors, see my bibliography.