The #MeToo Thing

I have avoided posting the #MeToo meme, thinking I didn’t qualify because I had not been physically abused. But I “got to thinking,” as we say down here, about the whole spectrum of abuse and how destructive and demoralizing emotional abuse is. That, I can testify to. 

And then I had an encounter this morning while I was waiting in the dentist’s office.  Now understand, I am way past expecting a man to flirt with me. I have, as the actress Frances McDormand says in a recent article, become invisible to men. So I was stunned when this guy struck up a conversation. He was talkative, he was friendly–but in a way that made me instantly uncomfortable. We were the only people in the waiting room; none of the staff had come to the desk yet.

He was wearing his camo jacket and his cap, and he told me about the traffic driving in this morning, about how heavy it was, and there must have been a wreck but he never saw one. He told me what he does for a living (he paints houses), how his partner left the business years ago and then his brother left too but he’s still at it, he’s “only 69,” and “you got to eat, right?”

All the time he was talking, he was moving. He made jokes and laughed and touched my arm, my shoulder. Made jokes about age: “You’re like, 28, right? or maybe 25?”

I don’t remember what brought up President Trump, but this man said, “You’ve seen what the president has done, right?” His eyes bright with wonder. And I froze. I lost my courage to say, “Yeah, I’ve seen it, all right” and cut him off, I think because I didn’t believe it would. So I tried to ignore him, but he kept going on about what great things the president has accomplished, like getting rid of all that “green” stuff, and we should continue to drill for oil anywhere and everywhere, because oil comes from rock, and “Are we ever gonna run out of rock?” Laughing. Sure of his point. “If we don’t drill for it, it’ll just ooze right up out of the beaches and spoil them anyway.”

Finally, one of the staff came out and the guy started the same joke routine with her. I slunk away and sat down, praying he wouldn’t sit by me, and he didn’t. He announced he needed to go to the back and “use the little room.”

I had failed to stand up.

As I said, I haven’t had the horrible experiences other women have testified to in recent days. But how many times in my life have I been subjected to this kind of bullying disguised as a “friendly” male? Years ago, I was deep-kissed and touched on a dance floor by a drunk friend, and when I reported it to my then-husband, he called me a prude. I lived in an emotionally abusive situation for years because I was married to it, and for me, marriage was sacred. You could work anything out if you tried hard enough. Wrong.

So is it a matter of degree? Are these (and other instances I could relate) any less worthy of rebuke than if I had been physically attacked? 

It’s a mindset–to stay silent—that I hope is more typical of women “of a certain age” like me, who were schooled in a kind of male dominance that was the heart of the family. That would explain, I suppose, why I would excuse a man’s behavior as his “right.” Well, I’ve gotten older and wiser. I hope, for the sake of my granddaughters and the other young women I know, that the mindset is gone for good. I hope they’ll be braver than I was this morning. That they will speak their minds. That they will take care of themselves first.

Great Expectations: Ten Things to Expect When You Launch Your Book

Welcome to the new world of this first-time author!

It’s a grand place to be, full of surprises and rare moments. The learning curve has been steep at times, but it’s oh-so-much fun.

Lemuria Books, Jackson, MS

Lemuria Books, Jackson, MS

After months of preparation and anticipation and, finally, these last two weeks of launching Crosscurrents and Other Stories, I want to share some observations about kicking your precious baby, your book, out into the world:

  • Expect to learn about marketing. Unless you publish with a major house, you’ll need to do much of your marketing and promotion on your own. (Yes, even with a terrific small press like mine–I say that word, mine, with great pride, Press 53.) You’ll research bookstores and review possibilities, make those contacts and introduce (sell) yourself and your book, set dates, send promo material, follow up, follow up, follow up. (Did I say follow up?)
  • Expect to get comfortable with self-promotion. If you don’t believe in your book, who else will?
  • Expect to choose what you’ll read at a signing (a real signing; imagine it) ahead of time, but have a backup plan so that, when you size up your audience (and realize the adultery story Just Won’t Do), you’ll have another option. Read your selections aloud and time them. Better to be too short than too long. Read scenes, not an entire chapter. If your book is a short story collection like mine, read scenes from two or three stories and stop each time at a powerful moment; leave your audience hanging so they’ll want more.
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    TurnRow Books, Greenwood, MS

    Expect the unexpected: The hem comes out of your pants. Your hair goes limp. Your ex shows up. Your best friend from childhood, whom you haven’t seen in ages, shows up, too. She’s the first person you see when you get out of the car in front of the bookstore and you fold into each others’ arms and hug and cry like the girls you used to be.

  • You’ll see people you haven’t seen in years. Expect not to remember the names of everybody you’ve ever met who might show up at a signing. It’s okay to ask. It’s also okay to say, “Now, you spell that with ie, not y, right?” Much better than getting it wrong. You’ll meet strangers. Treat them like friends.
  • At a moment when you least expect it, expect a lump in your throat when you’re reading, that rare moment when your own words move you and you know–you know–they’re good.
  • Expect the turnout, however small, to be great: these folks are your readers. Make them feel significant. Make their coming out to meet you feel worthwhile.
  • Expect to be disappointed: the turnout isn’t what you expected; the audience (if you’re lucky enough to have one) doesn’t laugh where you thought they would, or they laugh when you think they shouldn’t; you don’t sell many books. But you’re making contacts. You’re creating a network of bookstores, readers, and friends who’ll come back–next time.
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    Off Square Books, Oxford, MS

    Expect a remarkable level of generosity and hospitality on the part of independent book stores. They are gracious. book-loving folks; they want you to succeed.

  • Expect to be gracious back. Pass along the wealth of good will. Thank the bookstores for having you. Recommend them to others. Write notes or call or at least email your friends and thank them for coming. Go to other authors’ signings, like their Facebook posts and pages, and generally be a cheerleader for other authors’ voices whenever and wherever you can because now you know what it feels like to be a first-timer, which, I expect, is not so different after all from being a second-timer or a fourth or a  twenty-first. Because we are all after the same thing: we want our words to matter.

Other first-time authors out there: what was your most unexpected moment? Your proudest?

The reason “pantsing” is so easy to embrace…

The reason “pantsing” is so easy to embrace might be because it’s kind of like eating Tater Tots and watching Duck Dynasty. It’s much easier to “let ‘er rip” in the hope that a story “will magically appear” than it is to dig down into what you’re trying to say, and create the clay from which the story itself will be built.

Lisa Cron in “A Modest Proposal to Pantsers: Don’t!” at Writer Unboxed. I stand convicted!