Mafia Shmafia

March 5, 2011

I've read several posts over the past couple of days regarding something called the YA mafia. Most of them taking the form of debunking.

Since I post the occasional book review and also sit squarely in the "still working at breaking in" portion of the writing camp, I have an opinion here.

I made the choice long ago to not (or at least rarely) post negative book reviews. Some will probably see this as an argument bolstering the "you're afraid for your career" side. I don't see it that way. I'm not a professional reviewer, I'm a reader and a writer. I don't view myself as a taste-maker. I like what I like, and that's sometimes not what other people like. [Updated 9AM] So it's not that I'm worried about hurting MY career. I don't see it as my place to hurt another writer's career.

The problem with a negative review is that many perceive it as an attack on the writer, and I haven't really figured out how to write one so that it clearly isn't. My perspective is that just because a book doesn't resonate with me, it doesn't mean it won't resonate with you. Or that it's a bad book. My taste is not yours. So if I don't like something, I simply don't comment on it. The tricky bit is that the reverse isn't necessarily true: just because I don't comment on a work, doesn't mean I don't like it. I just didn't have anything to say about it. Or I was in a rush to put out my reading log post and couldn't come up with something pithy. My reading log is just that: a log.

The flip side is that if I loved something, I like to share that love with the world. Why not? There's still no guarantee that you'll like it too. But if someone blows me away with their work, they deserve to have that shouted out across the virtual rooftops.

So back to this YA mafia thing. I've met dozens of professional writers over the last few years, and this is how many have actively tried to ruin my career:

ZERO

Sure, some of them have been indifferent to me at best. And why shouldn't they be? They're busy people, who don't know me from Adam. They don't owe me anything.

But more impressive is how many of them have been welcoming, supportive, willing to donate their time, answer questions when they didn't have to, and tolerate a total noob trying to act cool in their midst.

I mean heck. I can't count them all. The ones that have pointed me at online resources I didn't know to look for. The ones that, having published dozens of novels, go to a Con and agree to critique the uneven work of unpublished writers. For free. The ones that let me e-mail them questions, AND ANSWER THEM, even after the paid workshop is long over. The ones that exchange critiques. Of whole novels. The ones that simply say: don't give up.

I'd name them all but then I'd just look like a grubby name-dropper. You know who you are.

And I say THANK YOU. I can't say it enough. You are beautiful people.

If you think you've been done in by a YA mafia, then you're hanging out with the wrong crowd.

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