Kathleen Hale, Stalking and The Safety of Book Bloggers

No One Else Can Have You. Kathleen Hale. January 7th 2014. HarperTeen.

Author Kathleen Hale Stalked A Blogger Who Negatively Reviewed Her Book

I’ve already written about author Kathleen Hale who wrote a piece in The Guardian on how she stalked a book blogger (resulting in her going to that blogger’s home) all because she negatively reviewed her book.

Yes. That’s right. You didn’t misread anything.

What the hell? When I went on my unintended break from book blogging, I never expected shit to get this scary. I was already going to start putting out posts this week to mark my triumphant return but this situation has just fanned the fire inside me. An inferno, in fact.

This issue is unlike any the blogging community has ever faced before. We’ve seen authors who’ve sent pictures of someone about to be beheaded in response to bloggers criticizing her racist comments. We watch as a publishing company sues another blogger for libel after she reported on the publisher’s financial standing and allegedly not paying their authors. We’ve seen authors get on social media saying the wrong thing or refusing to let go of a negative review or comment made regarding their book. We’ve seen these things happen and we still blog. We still review. We still read.

This time, I’m actually frightened.

I’m frightened because of how easy an unhinged author can get access to my address which I gave, in confidence, to people who I expected to keep confidential. I expect books and not a human being at my door step. I now contemplate getting a P.O. box which inconveniences me because I don’t get paid to blog about books. I don’t get paid to tell people what books they should go out and support. I love to read and I love to share my experiences with people. I also work and have a life outside of the one online. There are bloggers out there who don’t want their employers to make a link between who they are with their blog. There are young bloggers out there who are underage. There are bloggers out there with families. These people use pseudonyms as a shield to protect them because have you SEEN the types of people out there? Anonymity can be used to hurt people but that same anonymity is used to protect people.

I sometimes wish I had used a pseudonym. I sometimes wish I initially used a P.O. box.

Kathleen Hale went to this blogger’s door thinking it was okay to bring her online obsession to the blogger’s door step. She thought it was okay to have her obsession affect other people. She thought it was fine to keep the identities of her friends and colleagues hidden but then out the identity of the blogger in question who uses a pseudonym. The Guardian thought it was okay to publish a “how to effectively stalk your object of obsession and then get people to pat you on the back afterwards” piece.

This is not okay. In any way. Nothing you can say can make Hale’s thought process okay.

What if Hale was a man? Would we be so quick to pat him on the back when he shows up to the house of a woman who gave him a negative review? Hale has made it impossible for me to read her book and anything else she publishes because of the stain her terrifying actions has left. I hope that the blogger in question is okay and will one day feel safe in her home.

I know fantastic authors and most of them are lovely people. I refuse to let Hale ruin this for them.

When you put your work out there, you need to understand that terrible things will be said about it. It’s no longer the piece you nurtured secretly in your home and shared among friends. It’s now one of the countless objects and ideas to be consumed and commented on by the outside world. Don’t reply to your reviews especially the negative ones. Don’t. This situation illustrates why you shouldn’t. There are other great posts that breakdown the situation: Sarah’s piece over at Smart Bitches Trashy Books which discusses the reviews and an author’s relationship to them and highly recommend Jane’s piece on why people use pseudonyms and the facts regarding Hale’s piece.

Be safe and never let your voice get stifled.

– A. A. Omer

Don’t Call It A Comeback–Okay, I’m Back

Gif. Ll Cool J. Mama Said Knock You Out. Don't Call It A Comeback.

I haven’t been writing on this blog FOR MONTHS and I apologize to those who follow and eagerly await new content from yours truly. Okay, okay. Enough with the cricket sounds.

Seriously though, I’m happy to be back blogging. I’ve had book slumps (not great) and been feverishly writing for Women Write About Comics (WWAC) as a staff writer/reviewer (really great). I was actually pretty okay with being away for so long because it was the break I desperately needed after feeling so burnt out and it didn’t help that I was stressed out from my last year of university (and finally graduating!). As the weeks turned into months, I started to miss this little chunk of cyberspace. Man, I’ve been doing this for over two years! How insane is that? This blog started out as a place to chronicle my writing but instead it connected me to great friends and saved me from a very lonely transition from high school to the university campus.

It also gave back my love of reading.

So I’ve decided to not only return to blogging but also make it fun again. You’ll see me play with gifs, do more fun/short reviews (the longer and more analytical ones will likely be on other outlets like WWAC) and inject more of my humour into it which I haven’t done since my first few posts in 2012.

Thank You. Lupita Nyong'o. Gif

So thank you to those who’ve grown with me and welcome to those who decided to take a chance. I hope I exceed whatever expectations you might have.

Now, here’s some Ciara!

A. A. Omer

Spotlight Read: In Real Life

In Real Life.  Written by Cory Doctorow. Art by Jen Wang.  Graphic Novel. October 14th 2014. First Second.

Anda loves Coarsegold Online, the massively-multiplayer role playing game that she spends most of her free time on. It’s a place where she can be a leader, a fighter, a hero. It’s a place where she can meet people from all over the world, and make friends. Gaming is, for Anda, entirely a good thing.

But things become a lot more complicated when Anda befriends a gold farmer – a poor Chinese kid whose avatar in the game illegally collects valuable objects and then sells them to players from developed countries with money to burn. This behavior is strictly against the rules in Coarsegold, but Anda soon comes to realize that questions of right and wrong are a lot less straightforward when a real person’s real livelihood is at stake.

I read In Real Life (written by Cory Doctorow and drawn by Jen Wang) a few months ago and absolutely loved it. It’s a lovely comic that looks a gender in games and the role of games in relation to economics. In fact, Doctorow writes a fantastic forward that discusses exactly that: Games and Economics. The art is fabulous as well so some enthusiastic clapping for Jen Wang. I definitely suggest picking it up. It’s a fun read with some important things to say. The book comes out today! Run, don’t walk, to enjoy it.

A. A. Omer

Staff Writer and Book Reviewer at WWAC

I haven’t fallen off the grid but have been on a different grid entirely since coming on as a staff writer and book reviewer for Women Write About Comics. That’s where most of my reviews will be going unless I feel the need to write – at length – about a book that I DNFd (did not finish) or a book considered a conflict of interest (good friends with the author type of thing). I would of course disclose that kind of thing right before the review on the blog.

I will keep the blog active by updating you all on the most recent book reviews I’ve written. I’ll probably even write my personal thoughts that are more fitting for a blog type setting.

Don’t fret. I’m still reading and writing like a maniac. :)

A. A. Omer