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Grin and bear it--or at least bear it

I write books, and yes, I hear voices in my head, but aside from that, I don't think I'm much different from anyone else. However, I'm scratching my head about something that happened after my library presentation. The organizer had suggested I bring about ten handouts, so when the had to bring in extra chairs to accommodate about 15 people, I was delighted. I ran through my "How I Got Started Writing by Mistake" anecdote, and proceeded to run down all the things I was clueless about when I started writing, and what I've learned. I stopped after about 30 minutes and asked for questions, and those went on for another 30. I handed out goodie bags with chocolate (hey, I'm a romance writer, we live on the stuff), chapter booklets, magnets, bookmarks, etc., and even sold a few books. Everyone seemed satisfied, and I felt pretty good. After everyone was gone, the chapter member who'd come to make sure I had at least one person in the audience introduced me to her daughter, an exchange student from Germany. Since one of my daughters had been and exchange student to Germany, we started chatting. As we spoke, another woman who'd been at the program came back. She indicated that she'd wait, because she wanted to speak to me privately.

Once my friend had left, the woman proceeded to tell me that I had been very rude during my program. I was astonished, because I couldn't think of anything I'd done or said that might offend anyone. She explained that she'd come with her daughter, and I'd skipped right over her while I was chatting informally with the group as we were getting started. I absolutely could not recall doing so, and apologized profusely, and told her it was inadvertent, and probably due to people arriving, and my getting them handouts, or pointing to empty seats, that I must have lost track of where I'd left off and missed her daughter. She then said she might have overlooked that, but then I 'cut her daughter off' when she tried to speak. Now, I'm an old schoolteacher, and everyone in the group was raising hands to ask questions, so if her daughter had said something, I certainly didn't hear it, or notice. Again, I apologized.

The woman would not leave. She went on and on about how I had offended her daughter (who wasn't even in the room at this time), how her daughter studied Creative Writing, was a writer herself, and edited for a publisher that the mother was sure I'd be impressed with if I knew who it was. She told me I could never tell who was in the audience and how important it was to pay attention to everyone, repeating again that I had slighted her "important" daughter. I tried again to apologize, and suggested that I would have to come up with a way to make sure that I never overlooked anyone if I did another introductory "are you a reader or a writer" segment. At that, she rolled her eyes and said I'd just insulted her for the third time and she stormed off.

Now, things like that will get to me. I had no idea I'd done anything 'wrong', and normally, I'd have stewed over it for a while, because I don't like people not to like me although I know that's an impossibility. I know not everyone will like my books, and it's hard enough not to take that personally, but this was definitely an attack on me as a person. I've tried going over it again (and again, and again), and I still can't figure out what pushed her buttons so badly. I had slighted her daughter, she told me over and over, and she was coming to me as a mother protecting her young. All I can think is that maybe she wanted me to apologize by giving her a free book, and because I wasn't offering to do so (because to me, that would have been like buying her approval), she kept harping about how rude I'd been.

But, the kicker for me is that to me, the woman is a stranger. I have no idea who she is, or who her daughter is. However, she knows who I am, and she can give me negative publicity and she has the power to do harm to my career. It's one thing to have to smile and accept whatever the "public" says about you, but what can you do if they just won't go away? You certainly can't tell them they're wrong.

8 Comment count
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The Fuel to be Rude

I might have apologized for an inadvertent insult or slight, but that would have been the end of it.

Frankly, it sounds as if this mother was far more envious of an author's success than anything else. Success she my hope for her daughter.

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Well, I DID apologize in the

Well, I DID apologize in the 'custormer is always right' tradition. But when she refused to accept it, and wouldn't simply say, "thank you for listening" or its equivalent, I was at a loss. At that point, saying "Sorry, but I have to leave," would be rude. Anything I said, apparently, was perceived as rude. And were we just two strangers, it would have passed much more easily. But the idea that she can tell people that I was rude, and that she's likely to use it to discredit me as an author is the scary thing.

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I think I have met this woman too

While guiding in Alaska I talked to between 20 and 60 people a day and once in a while there was someone who no matter what anyone did or said they were unhappy and continued to complain. We would try "active listening", asking them what would make them happy as they teach in the industry and maintaining our objectivity but there was nothing anyone could do for some people. Don't take this personally as anyone who spends time in front of the public will meet this woman once in a while. Linda

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Thanks, Linda Jo

In hindsight, I should simply have said, "What would you like me to do?" Too bad we can't use the backspace and delete keys, or go back a couple of days and edit our conversations the way we can with our manuscripts.

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Don't lose any sleep Terry

Sounds like a dyed-in-the-wool narcissist. They can, I believe literally, be 'in hell' when attention is diverted elsewhere and simply can't stop themselves creating a scene. They have an overweening need for an audience else they feel they don't exist. Incredible, I know. But oh so true! This woman can't do anything to your career. She'll have no influence in the real world. That's the problem!

Be thankful it's hers, not yours.


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Thanks, Rosy.

Thanks, Rosy. Intellectually, it's one thing, but emotionally it's another. It fades, but it'll be in the back of my head the next time I do a presentation, I'm sure.

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Fantasy daughter

I was thinking about this again and you know what. . did you ever actually see her daughter? Maybe she wasn't real and the woman was totally bonkers and was upset you didn't acknowledge her imaginary friend. . Just a thought.

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She was real

No, the daughter was real. I remember seeing her next to her mother, and they left together. What I don't remember is skipping her in our 'get acquainted' bit before we started, but I'm sure I did. My oversight, but I think it was a trifle overblown.