Writerly Responsibility

23 Feb

Hey Everyone!

Yesterday Sarah and I were lucky to have a few spare hours, and we decided to go ahead a film a dual vlog!

Our topic is Writerly Responsibility: Do writers –especially YA writers– have a responsibility to appear a certain way to their fans? Also, should they present themselves in a certain light on the internet for professional purposes?



What do you guys think? Is it inappropriate for YA writers to talk about how drunk they get when they might have younger fans following them? Does there need to be a separation between personal life and professional life?


Sarah J. Maas is the author of several novels, including QUEEN OF GLASS, a YA fantasy retelling of Cinderella. Her agent currently has her novel on submissions to editors. Sarah resides with her fiancé in Los Angeles. You can visit her blog here.


Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Antebellum (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress. She has written five novels, owns her own freelance writing company, and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency. Antebellum is currently out on submissions. Her website is www.savannahjfoley.com, but she updates more frequently on her livejournal.



27 Responses to “Writerly Responsibility”

  1. Biljana February 23, 2010 at 12:14 PM #

    I think you guys are absolutely right. This goes not just with writing but anything. Even though it’s annoying to have to censor yourself, it’s better than losing credibility.

  2. Corona February 23, 2010 at 12:25 PM #

    I think image is important to any writer/artist who puts themselves on the internet. It’s difficult to draw a line between private and public persona especially with mediums like journals/blogs and twitter. I agree that it can be detrimental to your reputation, not just because younger fans may think “It’s okay” but also because ‘the industry’ may frown upon it.

    We leave so much trails on the internet, I don’t think I want everyoneto know every little thing I’ve said or shown on the internet, I’ve been here since 1999, I’ve probably done or said some silly things, but I know I’ve always tried to be respectful. Though reading early blog entries of myself make me cringe!

    I’m not a writer, but an illustrator, so my writing probably won’t be something that will be scrutinized – but still, I don’t want to come off as arrogant or something else that’ll shine a negative light ^^

    • svonnah February 23, 2010 at 12:28 PM #

      I think you’re exactly right. I used to have a blog that basically just made fun of writers that I didn’t think were very good, and have since removed the offending entries, but I would be mighty embarassed if someone were to come across archives of those entries.

      • Sarah J. Maas February 23, 2010 at 1:09 PM #

        Yeah, my original LJ (which I started in high school) was filled with tons of incriminating stuff I wouldn’t want to get out. I definitely agree with Corona about the cringe-worthy entries!

        Facebook also makes us all VERY public–some authors choose to create fan-pages for themselves, rather than have their personal account be blended with their professional writing. I actually still use my personal facebook as a way for my readers and fellow writers to contact me, but I’m very careful about what I post on it.

      • Corona February 23, 2010 at 2:42 PM #

        I just discussed this with my house-mate, she’s a journalist and her opinion is that no one is perfect and that you shouldn’t try to be perfect. The higher the expectations… the higher the fall.

        She also gave a long list of (Dutch) authors who are simply not enjoyable (to put it mildly!) people both offline and online. Interestingly they are all established authors. Makes me wonder if it matters less when you’re already successful.

  3. Gaby da Silva February 23, 2010 at 1:28 PM #

    I would say that using a pseudonym could solve most of those problems, but as we all probably know, “internet detectives” can get about everything and anything.

    For me, it all boils down to having AND using common sense, whether you write YA or adult fiction. Even if you write Trainspotting-like, hard-drugs novels, you can’t go around saying you consume heroine. You might even be able to say you used to (“for research”) but now you’re clean.

    Thing is, as you gain actual fans who follow you (be it on twitter or facebook) you might want to start taking some distance from them. Not to say that you ought to become a far-off unapproachable figure, but is there any need for the fans to know just what party you went to over the weekend, or why you broke up with your significant other? The moment I start having a significant amount of followers I’m opening dummy FB/Twitter accounts for my friends and keep the other one compltely professional, with only announcements or friendly comments on writing/reading/working. Sounds… safer to me (internet detectives notwithstanding)

    • svonnah February 23, 2010 at 1:33 PM #

      That used to be my philosophy with followers… I wanted to appear Stoic and well put together, and retain a sort of aura of mystery. But, as Sarah and I have been discussing back and forth across several weeks, no one follows people like that. Why should they follow you if they feel like they can’t connect to you? I started to talk more about my personal life and feelings, and got a lot more followers.

      This defies all logic, but it works 🙂

      • Corona February 23, 2010 at 2:50 PM #

        I can understand the need to separate the two. But I like how Twitter gives you a different side to someone’s life (not just the professional one) without it being too personal (like facebook can be).

        As long as you’re not one of those people who are drunk and then log into their livejournal to post, it should be fine, like Gaby said, common sense.

        I have yet to see anyone I know get drunk and post on twitter. But dear lord that would be embarrassing D:

  4. Anthony Panarelli February 23, 2010 at 2:17 PM #

    I agree with what you guys suggest. I am still in high school and I wouldn’t worry too much about influencing young readers, given that you generally do things you’re not supposed to or you don’t. I think there are enough avenues of corruption in high school already, so I guess it depends on what you individually feel comfortable with in terms of personal liability.

    In terms of being professional, I think that maintaining your fans’ repsect is the first priority. I have never been able to enjoy the work of an author I don’t respect. But at the same time, I need to be able to relate to the author. I like to know that the author is a fellow human being and enjoys having fun and has a social life. It’s a careful balance of desired intimacy and liable disclosure.

    P.s. Dual vlog…genius

    • svonnah February 23, 2010 at 2:19 PM #

      Anthony, that’s such an excellent point, and one we didn’t talk about: Respect. You are absolutely right; I can’t enjoy the work of an author that I don’t respect. I’m going to forward your comment to Sarah to make sure she reads this!

    • Anthony Panarelli February 23, 2010 at 2:19 PM #

      correction: respect. oops.

      • Vanessa February 23, 2010 at 5:18 PM #

        I totally agree with the respect point.

        Even in terms of professionalism with people in the industry, being someone that can be respected is important. I mean, agents don’t like it if clients come with a whole lot of baggage. Especially if that baggage comes in the form of someone who appears to be very immature. I mean, you should always be yourself (and have some personality, because agents often become very close to writers), but you want your agent to respect you. So you just have to remember that you can talk about yourself, but you should avoid saying things that would make anyone lose respect for you.

    • Sarah J. Maas February 23, 2010 at 10:09 PM #

      Yeah, I was always offended when I was a teen and overly-paranoid parents assumed that just because X-Celeb did Y-drugs, I’d do them, too. I wasn’t some lemming!

      But keeping the respect of my fans is SO important! I’ve tried to make myself as accessible as possible without appearing unprofessional. There are certain things NO ONE needs to know (whether they be readers, or my work colleagues), but I always need to double-check with myself before sharing some personal things.

      • Caitlin February 26, 2010 at 2:48 PM #

        the thing about this is thought that your readers are younger than you think they are and I don’t know about any of you guys, but now that I’m older I look back on my younger younger years and I can see just how impressionable I was. Sure I wasn’t going to start smoking because I saw it in movies or whatever, but this has jsut as much to do with the fact that I have some very strong opposing influences in my life as it does with me “not being a lemming” and there are things I did b/c a celebrity I liked did them too whether it be a style I wore (remember those knit poncho things?) or whatever. I have a freind who started taking Russian because Johnny Weir speaks Russian, now is that the sole reason she’s continued? no, but it is the reason she started.

        That being said it’s better just not to let those parts of your personal life be public than to out and out lie. I think you can choose to keep some parts of your life private and still keep a following if you talk about things your readers are interested in. I don’t care what you eat for breakfast, but I think we can all agree that your writing process and writing life is fascinating.

  5. Gaby da Silva February 23, 2010 at 3:10 PM #

    Yes, yes – I’m not saying that the best option is to become this faraway, cold existance that none can’t reach because that would alienate your readers. Not to say I couldn’t be stoic if I was paid to. Nope nope.

    And yet, I think that a certain amount of mystery helps the writer – and that depends on the amount of detail you give out. It’s one thing to write “Had a great time last weekend! Happy birthday X!” than “OMFG im sooo watsed loool jk luuuv ya X!!!11”

    Think of it as a “spoiler” – you can write “I’m working on the final chapters of my new novel – they’ll blow you away, I think they’re awesome!!”, but if you write a detailed description, incluiding who dies and who gets together… you pretty much kill the suspense. Again, I guess it’s common sense… which is said to be the less common of them all.

    Then, it depends on how public you want to be. Look at Tom Pynchon – he’s the most secretive writer ever and yet he has one hell of a following and can write whatever he wants. Or look at…. uhm, Tila Tequila. Yeah. Surely we can find a nice middle point!

    • Corona February 23, 2010 at 3:25 PM #

      Please tell me Tila Tequila isn’t planning on writing a book… *googles*

      Nevermind! Looks like she already did D:

      *head desk moment*

      Seriously though. I think it also depends on how comfortable you are with what you’re putting out there on the internet. If you have an avid YA following, the choice could perhaps be a more conscious one.

      • Anthony Panarelli February 23, 2010 at 4:19 PM #

        “Had a great time last weekend! Happy birthday X!” than “OMFG im sooo watsed loool jk luuuv ya X!!!11″

        Haha, well put. This is exactly right.

  6. Sennia February 23, 2010 at 5:22 PM #

    This is great advice for everyone one and not just writers. While I write at night, the majority of my day is spent as a medical student…and we have the same sorts of problems. What do you do with your online presence once patients (and bosses) start googling you? I really wouldn’t want my patients knowing about my personal life, and I wouldn’t want them to lose respect for me because of something that I said while not at work. I know no one wants to constantly censor themselves, but sometimes it’s for the best!

    Also, sometimes I have to be more careful than most about what I post because any stories from work would be a breach of doctor-patient confidentiality (and then legal problems begin). Anyway, great post and great advice 🙂

    • Vanessa February 24, 2010 at 5:30 PM #

      I have a friend who is a social worker, and often the people he works with often try looking him up. Same with some of my friends who are teachers – their students try to find them on facebook and whatnot.

      So I agree – while it might not be fun to constantly censor yourself, around certain individuals, it would be wrong to NOT censor yourself.

  7. Janijon February 23, 2010 at 11:01 PM #

    I think what the both of you said was very wise, not just for authors, but for anyone who wants to be taken seriously in any industry.

    I read Antebellum back when it was still Woman’s World (Women’s World?) on fictionpress, as well as QoG. I’m rooting for the both of you! I really hope to see your books on shelves soon!

    I also find it really exhilarating to see pictures of authors for the first time. Usually, I end up being really surprised because authors are never as I imagine them to be! For example, (forgive my ignorance) I’m surprised whenever authors of fantasy novels turn out to be really chic and modern people, but authors of pop fiction end up being more stereotypically bookworm-ey.

    Anyways, I remember seeing Sarah’s pictures of the first time, which was really great because it helped make QoG more personal. Same with Antebellum, now that I know what Savannah looks like! =)

    • svonnah February 23, 2010 at 11:07 PM #

      Aww, yay! I’m so glad we didn’t disappoint you! It is always a surprise for me too, to see authors for the first time, especially on book jackets. I wonder about those people, and what they look like when they write.

      Sarah is totally surprising, isn’t she? XD

      • Sarah J. Maas February 24, 2010 at 2:18 PM #

        Haha, you guys are ridiculous. I love you, Jane!! Hearing from you always makes me so happy. 🙂

        And yeah–seeing authors for the first time is always surprising. Especially when I read a really great YA novel, and the author turns out to be like…50 years old.

      • Vanessa February 24, 2010 at 5:35 PM #

        It’s crazy when you see authors who are writing YA, and are SOOO incredibly good at imitating a younger voice, even if they are much older and a part of a completely different generation.

  8. Myra February 24, 2010 at 11:09 PM #

    This is definitely something I’ve been thinking about lately–how to present yourself as a professional while also maintaining your emotional and/or personal self. As a teen slowly integrating myself into an adult world I think it’s important, and I’m starting to consider it as I become more aware of professionalism and its ins and outs.

    I think that anyone who blogs–me, you, writers, anyone, really–or shares anything about themselves attached to their real names, not a pseudonym, should be careful. I mean… you hear stories about how some percentage of employers check up on you via Google or Facebook, and it’s a bit scary, because I don’t always censor myself, especially on Facebook.

    I’m starting to become more careful about what I post, and I think it’s something everyone should consider. You see things like what you guys were talking about on FB status updates–“got so trashed on the weekend LOLOL.” “so drunk right now i can’t even!” Umm… okay? That’s great? Like someone else said, it’s difficult to respect someone who portrays themselves as hardcore druggies, partiers, or generally negative people. IMO everything is good in moderation, not extremes; and besides, status updates saying how drunk you are are not cool. I just roll my eyes and move on.

    • Vanessa February 25, 2010 at 1:39 AM #

      I think it’s one thing to portray yourself a certain way to your friends, and another thing to portray yourself the same way to co-workers/family/strangers. You will (and should) act differently. Especially when it regards professionalism/respect.

      While I agree that FB status updates about how drunk you are can be very unprofessional and are somewhat immature, I think that you shouldn’t censor yourself entirely.

      Personally, while I censor myself somewhat on facebook, I also use a lot of their privacy functions. If you aren’t a friend of mine, but a co-worker or instructor, then you won’t be able to see my pictures. You might not even be able to see my wall. The way I see it is that you shouldn’t have access to every little detail about myself or my friends. Sure, facebook is great for networking, but I am not going to completely give up my personal privacy on facebook for the few people who aren’t my friends. So I might have stupid status updates or pictures of myself at a party – but if you aren’t a friend, you won’t be able to see that. If you are one of my past instructors or current coworkers, you won’t be able to see that. Relative? I’ll probably block certain albums/ status updates so that you can’t see them. I’ll probably block some of my notes as well. And if I don’t have you on my friends list on facebook at all? You won’t be able to see my full profile.

      I don’t think you should hide who you are, especially from friends. I hate the idea of censoring myself on something like facebook (which I still primarily use to keep in touch with friends). So using the multiple privacy settings is like a godsend for me.

      It’s all about moderation when it comes to the people you are trying to portray a good image to.

  9. Peg366 February 25, 2010 at 8:41 PM #

    I write for younger kids but am helping to raise a preteen. He’s kind of naive and will believe lots of what he reads. It has made me very carefull about the image I project as a writer.

    I have a separate FB account for my family and my writing friends, because I don’t want a younger family member posting pictures of their weekend activities on my one Facebook page. I am careful about what I say without being secretive about who I am. It seems like a fine line but it is the line I chose to walk.

    Once something is out there on the internet, it is out there.

    • svonnah February 27, 2010 at 6:12 PM #

      Thanks for sharing your experience!

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