By the time this post posts, the 2012 Olympics will be only a smattering of sweat, endorsement deals, and a few medals Michael Phelps dropped on the way home. Among the standout performances, two American gymnasts in particular caught my attention. Not for their cute outfits, toothpaste smiles, and medal counts, but for what was (and wasn’t) said about them. Gabby Douglas is African American; Aly Raisman is Jewish. These are facts. Sure, there were a few easy comparisons and benchmarks, as American media likes to put everything in tidy, “newsworthy” categories. But I considered these strong young women as Olympians and stultifyingly talented, well-trained athletes first, before even thinking about their cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
What the heck does this have to do with writing, you might ask?
I’m getting there; don’t get your leotards in a bunch. Here are a few things that happened to me recently that made me believe great strides are possible within the community of humans (and some dogs) bound by books:
• I did a radio interview with Cyrus Webb last week. As we sent messages back and forth to schedule the slot, not once did he ask about my publication pedigree. During the twenty-three minutes I was on-air, we talked about writing. We talked about my story. We did not talk about what publishing entity converted my Word file into something people could buy.
• When I went to my local library to ask Marion the librarian (yes, that is her real name) if I could do a reading, she did not paw my POD with disdain, sniffing at the lack of indicia. She just said, “Let me get my calendar.”
• When I told my neighbors that I had a new book out, they didn’t ask who published it. They said, “Where can I get one”; “You’d better sign my copy”; and “Would you tell your #$*%@ husband to return my lug wrench he borrowed six months ago?”
Look, I fully understand and appreciate the personal and professional joys of being an indie author and working with indie authors. I think it’s one of my better decisions. Certainly better than the Kate Jackson haircut I got in the eighties. (That’s the “smart” angel in the original Charlie’s Angels, kids.) You may feel otherwise, and that’s your right. But it rips me up to see blog posts and Facetwit threads polarizing our community. Healthy discussions are great. We encourage them on IU. It makes Hise happy, because if we’re all busy, no one notices him sneaking off to retool the Death Star’s satellite dish so we can get better reception on those channels. Yeah. Those channels. But name-calling, boycotting, or beating each other stupid because someone chose one publication method over another? No. Not on my playground.
Or, to completely mangle a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “When in the bloody heck will we be judged not by the imprints on our copyright pages but by the content of our paragraphs?”
I want to believe that indie and traditional publishing can coexist without one having to denigrate the other. I want our standards to be so high that if you tore off the covers and the logos, you wouldn’t be able to tell if a book came from a flightless aquatic bird or Fred’s laptop.
I want to live in a world where a book is just a book, an author is just an author, and the quality of your double-back-handspring-with-a-twist is more important than the color of your leotard.