golen pens and ink on notebook

When It’s Not About You

Karin Kallmaker Craft of Writing, Readers and Libraries


Question posed by another writer who was berated by a reader for portraying lesbians in her novel as violent: What do you do about e-mail from a judgmental or passive-aggressive reader whose issues don’t seem relevant to your work?

I mean to stir the reader’s emotions with my work and sometimes I hit nerves I did not intend and are simply not about me at all.

The best example I have is a flat-out nasty email I got from a reader who insisted that Maybe Next Time promoted incest and an atmosphere of shame and silence. Sadly, I was quite sure that response was not about my book.

More often than not, abrasive emails are from readers whose experience of lesbians, lesbianism and community are different from my own and they question what world I live in. They contain sentences that begin “No real lesbian would ever _____.” They remind me that I don’t see the whole lesbian world, which, fine, is a point I can take now and again. But it could perhaps be made more kindly.

Whether I answer or not depends on if it’ll make me feel better. Most of the time ignoring it (after a good vent to a friend) is the better choice for me. Life is both too short and too long to get bogged down in an anonymous stranger’s issues.