Miss. Amie M. Evans’ Etiquette for Authors, or Things You Should Have Learned in Kindergarten


Dear Kind Reader,

I implore you to humor me while you make your way through this humble edition of “Two Girls Kissing.” Recent events have compelled me to take pen to paper (or fingertips to keys as it were) and share with you items of the greatest and utmost importance. Perhaps, at first, they will seem out of place in a column dedicated to tips on how-to write lesbian literary erotica, but, alas, I employ you, good reader, to have faith in what appears to be of unlikely value and to trust in me, your humble guild, that the bits of information contained herein are as important (dare I say, more important) as “how to build strong characters” or “which tense to use when” to your continued career as an author of lesbian literary erotica or for that matter as an author of anything.

For some of you this will be a review of things you already know and hold close to your heart. For others it will be a discovery that will shock and amaze you. I request only that you read with an open mind. For, it is true, gentle reader, that none of you will want to admit to seeing yourself reflected in the words that follow. The seasoned pro and the emerging beginner will balk at the idea that they display any of these traits, but the author who has published a few too many short stories to be considered a beginner but is struggling, perhaps only in her own mind, to rank herself among the pros will be the least likely to accept that she is the owner of any of the traits described in this column. And those of you who protest the loudest are most likely in the greatest need of heeding these humble words of advice from someone as insignificant as the likes of me.

And so, I offer to you “Miss Amie M. Evans’ Etiquette for Authors” or just as like and perhaps a more accurate title for these bits of advice would be “Things You Should Have Learned in Kindergarten.”

Very Sincerely,
Amie M. Evans

It’s a Small World After All

Disney was correct when he built his diversity ride long before diversity was popular and the sentiment of that song holds true today. It is a small world and getting smaller by the moment with global economies, telecommuting, and the like. And this is, of course, also true in queer publishing. In fact, Disney’s little song should be the theme of this entire article. Every point I make can be traced back to this one point. Every point, dear reader, every point.It is almost impossible for you, an author some where in the world, to realize how incredibly small the queer publishing world actually is. You may think you understand it, but, it is unlikely that you can wrap your mind around the facts as they truly exist. So I will do my best to paint the picture for you.

Consider that: Editor A who lives in New Orleans and works for Publisher B located in Ohio and Editor D who lives in SF and works for Publisher C located in LA could both be in almost constant contact with Editor F who lives in England and works for Publisher E located in NYC. You cannot possibly know how often these editors email and call each other or run into each other at dinner and cocktail parties hosted by the industry bigwigs. And you’d be even more surprised to discover that one of the hottest topics of their meetings and emails is you, the author. You are of course the every essence of what they spend their day dealing with. Your submissions, your emails, your contracts, your manuscripts. So it makes complete sense, since you are their work, that they discuss you and share their knowledge of you like any craftsman or trained professional would.

And let me tell you, dear reader, these editors are ruthless with their time and have memories like metal traps. They are overworked, and anyone who wastes their time by behaving badly will end up in their conversations about bad authors. And trust me, this isn’t the place you want to be. This isn’t the context in which you want editors to be talking about you, the potential author. And these folks, they name names.

And so, dear reader, the moral is the same as when Walt Disney set up the ride in his amusement park: it is a small world. So take care when you interact with anyone else in the industry and remember: “It’s a small world,” (everyone sing along), “after all, it’s a small world”

Use Please and Thank You

This rule was designed to make the world a more pleasant place to live. To spread a little human kindness in a cold world. The underlying principle for this rule is to be polite and respectful to others. The word “others” might be deceiving so I’ll define it for you so you aren’t confused and don’t have any leeway to pretend you don’t understand.”Others” refers to anyone who isn’t you. That includes, but is not limited to editors, publishers, and famous and semi-famous authors. Most importantly, “others” refers to emerging authors who have yet to publish a single word and authors in your peer group, and, oh yeah, the lady who takes your order at Starbucks or gives you your registration badge at that conference.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, how you treat other people says a lot about you as a person. Folks who pay attention to your behavior (and you might be surprised who is watching you) will see you being mean to the lady at Starbucks or the emerging author, and later they will see you kissing up to the editor or famous author and well, ultimately they will judge you as a fake, insincere, and maybe even mean. So even if you don’t feel it in your heart, be nice to others.

This is especially true when working with an editor on your manuscript. Remember to ask nicely about whether or not there is any flexibility on the edits suggested. Remember when requesting to not make a change to explain why and be humble and kind. Remember to thank them for spending their time on your manuscript. Remember that they are people too.

Do Not Run With Scissors

The point of this rule was to prevent you from falling and cutting yourself or someone else on those scissors. The same is just as true now as it was when you were five. You shouldn’t run with scissors. The scissors, of course, aren’t as obvious as when you were five. They don’t actually look like scissors any more. But, scissors are hiding, waiting for you to run, fall, and cut yourself.Scissors for authors can be a tone of voice or a lax attitude towards instructions, deadlines, or other guidelines form the editor. Scissors can be an inflated ego, bad social skills, a negative attitude, or an inability to be nice. Scissors are everywhere, waiting for you to pick them up and run and fall and cut yourself. So think about the ramifications of your actions, attitudes, and the words you speak. Make sure you put the scissors down before you run forward.

Share the Crayons and Do Not Eat the Paste

This is about respecting your neighbors (other authors and editors). Resources are limited and we need to share them. No one wants to use the paste after someone has had the stick in their mouth and eventually everyone needs the blue crayon, so please return it to the box when you are done with it. Likewise, just as editors share information about difficult authors, you should share information with your peers and emerging writers. Information on working with specific editors, on open calls or other potential opportunities, or general writing tips. Introduce new writers to more established writers, editors or publishers that you know. Mentor someone. Peer review someone. Go to coffee and talk about writing with another writer. Support queer literature by supporting the authors, bookstores, and publishers that create it. Buy new books while they are in hardback at small book stores and buy new queer titles at Barnes and Noble even if (especially if) you have to request they order it for you.No Temper Tantrums

No kicking. No screaming. No difficult behavior. This is the key factor of getting asked back for another play date.Divas are not fun to work with and will not get asked back. Make yourself an easy author to work with. Follow instructions, meet deadlines, be where you say you will be when you agree to be there. Be prepared. Require as little assistance as possible. And be flexible. You will be asked back for another play date.

Look Both Ways Before Crossing the Street

This rule ensures that you do not get hit by the tractor trailer coming down the road from the right when you are crossing and only looking to the left. The road represents queer publishing or specifically, your path on the journey as an author in queer publishing. The tractor trailer represents anything that could flatten you and turn you into road kill. I could go on with a long list of what the tractor trailer symbolizes, but I’ll leave that to your imagination.May I simply suggest that you look both ways before crossing the street? Look hard and long before stepping into the road. Make sure nothing is approaching on the horizon and if you cannot see up the road, maybe you should wait to cross or move to a position that is more advantageous before you start to cross.

If You Can’t Say Some Thing Nice, Don’t Say Anything at All

Words to live well by. We all have fragile egos or at the very least we all have egos. If you cannot say something nice about the (conference/workshop/short story/book/manuscript/reading/experience with editor or publisher X/fill in the blank) then don’t say anything. Your silence will speak volumes and no one will ever be able to hold your words against you. Let me also suggest that since it is a small world the connections between folks aren’t always clear (see crossing the street rule) and the person to whom you are bad mouthing the (editor/conference organizer/author/ reader/fill in the blank) may have an intimate (friendship/business relationship) with the target of your harsh words.Does Not Play Well With Others

If you follow these little bits of advice, you will not be labeled as an author who doesn’t play well with others, you will most likely get invited to another play date and you will be thrilled as the doors open up to you.
If there is an issue you would like me to address in “Two Girls Kissing,” please email it to me (Amie M. Evans) with the column title as the subject line. To be added to my confidential monthly email list, please email me with subscribe as the subject line.

NEXT TIME: Is Writing Erotica Serious Work?

Amie M. Evans
July 2007

“Two Girls Kissing: Writing Lesbian Literary Erotica” © 2007 Amie M. Evans. All rights reserved.

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