Marni Advice Monday: Cat’s Got My Tongue.

Hey everyone,

My housemate’s cat passed away a few days ago and…I miss him. Hamlet was a devoted feline companion with a low rumbling purr and a weakness for belly rubs. I didn’t live with him long, only a handful of months–but he made an impression.

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And not just because he drooled on everything in my room.

Hamlet loved everyone. He was an incredible listener with a fondness for lazy afternoon snoozes and quiet evenings spent curled up on the sofa. He wasn’t crazy about my taste in music, or my tendency to dance around the room when he least expected it. Still, he accepted me as another one of his loyal human subjects with only a handful of reproachful meows.

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Worship me, Human! Earn your keep!

So here is my advice for today: Pet a cat. Hug a dog. Snuggle with a parakeet.

If you’ve got a snake…um, GET RID OF IT!

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They are the worst.

Nothing beats unconditional love. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have found that with Hamlet, even if it didn’t last nearly long enough. I hope you have some of that in your life, too! Oh, and I still recommend those lazy afternoon naps…

*Crawls back under the covers*

Awkwardly yours,

Marni

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Marni Advice Monday: What You SHOULDN’T Ask An Author

Hey everyone,

Author protocol is a scary thing! I say this as someone who has, um…committed more than her share of social faux pas, both online and in person.

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Um…whoops?

That’s why I thought I’d take some of those experiences to compile this list!

Here goes:

1. Respect personal boundaries.

This is a whole lot harder than it might sound.

I definitely wish it always worked like this…

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Even online friendships take time. Tweeting fifteen, “follow me, please!” messages isn’t really the way you want to get someone’s attention. Trust me on this. You want your favorite author to follow you because they want to chat, not because they feel guilty. The best way to make this happen is to have conversations with them, not at them.

2. Accept that personal safety trumps EVERYTHING.

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*Marni quakes with fear*

I’m not going to tell you where I live. I pay for a P.O box. for that very reason. Most of my author friends are parents who take both their personal safety and that of their childrens’ very seriously. Everyone sets their limits differently. I personally have reached the point where I’m just not comfortable Facebook friending my readers. It’s not because I don’t love you all (I do! I totally do!) but if you’d like to interact with me on FB, I sincerely hope you will “like” my author page.

I enjoy being accessible to my fans. That doesn’t mean I forfeit the right to personal space.

3. Don’t ask questions that sound identity theft-y.

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It’s not uncommon for authors to hear from teenagers who have been assigned a list of questions. Now while I think that it’s great that teachers are encouraging their students to engage with the literary world…some of these questions are inappropriate.

You don’t need to know my mother’s maiden name. Details about my first pet, my first job, my high school mascot…

(Teachers: Please revise this questionnaire!)

These questions put authors in a really awkward situation. We don’t want to come across as rude or standoffish, but if we give out that information to the wrong person–even once–our bank accounts could be emptied.

Which wouldn’t be good for anyone.

So here’s a good rule of thumb: If you think somebody could make trouble with the answer, don’t ask the question.

Oh, and please check out the author’s blog/Frequently Asked Questions tab. Usually you can find what you want to know right there!

4. NEVER quote a bad review at an author!

Not even when you want to know what they think about that really nasty one-star review someone left on Goodreads.

Resist. The. Urge.

Why?

Welll….

a) Bad things happen when authors respond to reviews. In fact, some careers have very publicly imploded this way. Even when an author doesn’t publicly get in trouble, they are often privately reprimanded by their agent, editor, friends, colleagues, etc., who say something similar to this…

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Or at least you shouldn’t share those feelings. Go back to discussing stickers and stop-motion animation book trailers!

b)

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My feedback doesn’t matter. At best, I’ll look defensive. At worst, condescending, snide, rude, arrogant, over-entitled…yeah, not good. The solution to this might seem easy: Don’t be a jerk about it, Marni! But it’s always hard to hear mean things about yourself. No matter how well-intentioned the bearer of bad news, that information hurts.

That also leads me to the biggest reason why you should NEVER quote a bad review at an author…

5. Remember that you have NO IDEA how they are doing.

You don’t. Even if their Twitter feed is all happiness and hedgehogs, that doesn’t mean they aren’t dealing with crippling self-doubt/depression/anxiety, etc.

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This is very true for writers.

Someone very important to me is bipolar and she can’t openly discuss it because of the stigma attached. She is horribly, gut-wrenchingly afraid that if anyone discovers it, her career will go up in flames. Nobody would suspect that anything was wrong just by scrolling through her Facebook feed. Myself included.

So, I repeat: You can’t draw conclusions about someone’s mental health from their online presence.

That’s why I highly recommend airing on the side of compassion and kindness. And leaving bad reviews where they belong–buried deep in the bowels of Goodreads.

That’s my advice for the week!

Stay awesome, friends!

Awkwardly yours,

Marni

Marni Advice Monday: Humble-bragging and Jealousy

Hey everyone!

People seem to like it when I give advice. And well…I’ve never exactly suffered from a shortage of opinions. Just ask my (long-suffering) family members.

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Elementary School Marni considers what advice to give…

So feel free to ask questions! About writing. About life. About anything you want to discuss.

Today I thought I’d tackle professional jealousy.

This topic has been on my mind a lot recently. See, this post about writers on social media started making the rounds on my Facebook feed. I read it, laughed, then stared a bit guiltily at the keyboard.

Because I’ve definitely humble-bragged about meeting my favorite authors before!

In fact, I’ve not-so-humble bragged about meeting people!

Case in point:

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Marni plus Laurie Halse Anderson.

Oh and…

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Marni plus Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

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Marni plus Nora Roberts.

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Marni plus Ally Carter.

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Marni plus Jay Asher.

And my personal favorite…

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Marni plus Ellen DeGeneres!

Are you getting the picture? I’ve posted ALL of these online. Why?

Because. I. Totally. Geeked. Out.

And, yes, because it feels really good to look all smart and professional and…fancy online. These pictures were taken during some of the most wonderful moments of my life. But they are snapshots in time. They don’t tell the real story.

The real story is never as glamorous. The real story is that after a night of dancing with authors at the RWA in Atlanta, I spent the next six hours vomiting in a toilet. My friends think it must have been an allergic reaction to my TWO SIPS of Long Island Iced Tea.

I kid you not. Two sips.

Did I share that with the world? Um, no. I didn’t.

I conveniently left that part out.

So should I feel guilty about my not-so-humble bragging? Am one of those authors that people want to punch in the face(book)?!

Here’s what my friend and fellow KTeen author, Brigid Kemmerer, has to say:

I hate articles that seem to imply that we should shut up about our successes because we might make other people feel bad. It’s ridiculous. There’s no need to police social media to protect anyone’s feelings. Yes, non-stop promotion gets tiresomeBut so does non-stop complaining or non-stop anything.

If people are allowing social media to make them feel inferior, then they need to step away from the computer and get back in the real world. What people post on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram is such a narrow slice of their world — and it’s only what they WANT you to see. Further, if someone IS offended or overwhelmed by what one person is posting, then they can block that person or hide them from their feed. There are a few people I’ve unfollowed on Twitter because all they tweet are promo feeds for themselves and others. That’s IT. Who wants to read a non-stop stream of that? I like social media for one reason: the social aspect.

That’s when it kind of hit me. It’s not the bragging that bothers most people. I mean, yes, sometimes it can be grating, but that’s not at the heart of this issue. I suspect that the real problem is that the publishing world is a really murky place. To the best of my knowledge, there is no way to look at a book deal and say, “Oh okay. This is standard.”

I have a friend whose debut YA advance was 5x more than mine. Another friend was paid 40x less. It was only after a three-hour long conversation that any of us were brave enough to broach the subject of advances, even though we all depend on them to keep the bills paid.

It’s impossible to know if I should commit to using Instagram/Tumblr/Goodreads, etc., or even if these social media platforms translate into book sales! Do blog tours actually help reach new readers? Or would that time be better spent, y’know…writing?

These are all unavoidable questions for everyone within the industry and the fact that NOBODY appears to have the answers makes it even harder to reach any satisfying kind of conclusion. In the wake of all that uncertainty, we all seem to scrutinize each other’s Facebook feeds to see if we’ve been left in the dust.

This is where the real professional jealousy kicks in.

So how do we fight it?

I think Brigid’s advice is spot on. Step away from the laptop. Stop comparing yourself to others. Do not check out someone’s Wikipedia page to determine if they were younger than you when they got their first book published. Guess what? It’s not a competition!

But let’s say that isn’t working for you. Let’s say you’re feeling jealous and petty and irrational, oh, and annoyed because even though you know you’re being irrational you can’t seem to logic your way out of the situation.

Maybe…give yourself a little room to be bad?

Not terrible. It’s not like you’re going to say and/or do anything mean. Are we clear? That’s not going to happen, because you are not a bully.

But sometimes it feels really good to read terrible reviews of famous books. When I was in high school, I was obsessed with a book of quotations called, Writers on Writing. My favorite section was the one where all these iconic authors trash-talked each other. There was something oddly liberating about watching them trip over the pedestal my English teachers had reserved for them. The Germans have a word for this: Schadenfreude. It means, “happiness at the misfortune of others.” I like to look at it a slightly different way though…

Sometimes it’s good to remind yourself that you’re not the only flawed person around.

So that’s my Marni Advice for the week!

Awkwardly yours,

Marni