Today, some crazy sh*t happened on Twitter. Celeste Ng, author of Everything I Never Told You, tweeted a request that teachers not “assign students to email an author and ask questions” because “It’s not fair to us or them.” Much inappropriateness ensued, with “outraged” people tweeting things like, “Oh good, another author to not bother reading” and other such nonsense about “duty,” discouraging kids, and her being selfish for not responding.
And this isn’t the first time I’ve seen craziness like this happen. I’ve seen it with Roxane Gay, where people think they can critique every aspect of her life because she is very open and present on Twitter.
Hey. Guess what. Authors are PEOPLE and they have responsibilities (such as spouses, children, and oh wait, their career writing books), and people should not think that, because of how sometimes the Internet can break down that fourth wall of mystery, they have any sort of right to that author’s time.
With that out of the way, let me reiterate what I said on Twitter. I am a teacher. I love being able to interact with authors and other book professionals on Twitter. I would never, ever, assign a student to contact an author, and have their grade be based on the response. Would I grade their initial correspondence for proper form and for adherence to guidelines? Yes. Would I be so presumptuous as to believe an author would be able to respond to an email from thirty plus students? Never. And yes, presumptuous is the word to use.
The Internet (Twitter specifically, and in some cases Instagram) is great for leveling the playing field, so to speak. We get to peek into the lives of creative people maybe we wish we could be. We get to see their thoughts, their opinions, their interactions with other authors and book world people. Sometimes, we’re lucky enough to forge friendly acquaintances and maybe even friendships with those authors. But that does not give us any right to their time. No one—not anyone other than family—has a right to anyone else’s time.
So. Not trying to say “Writers are gods and we are mere mortals who should bow to their divinity and speak in hushed tones about them,” but for god’s (ha!) sake, respect them as people and individuals. Respect their time. Don’t ever assume they owe you anything.
Bottom line: Live and let live. Don’t assume negative intentions. And please pocket your outrage for things that really matter.