Latest News

Guest Post: Michelle Hodkin Talks Sticks & Stones

Today, we bring to you a guest post by the awesome Michelle Hodkin, lawyer and YA author represented by Diana Fox of Fox Literary, LLC. Her debut novel, THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER, will be published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers in Fall 2011. Find more of Michelle at her blog, website & twitter.

Sticks and Stones
Michelle Hodkin

Michael Jackson and what may or may not have happened with his underage Neverland guests. Woody Allen and his marriage to his ex-wife’s adopted daughter. John Mayer and his asstalking mouth.

Gross. Really gross.

But…I love Thriller (who doesn’t?). I’m obsessed with Annie Hall (DIANE KEATON!). And John Mayer’s voice is like butter (*Melts*).

But can I love the art without supporting the artist? If I buy Woody Allen’s movies or John Mayer’s music, am I implicitly saying “No problem guys, I’m cool with your sketchy shenanigans?”

Because there are some books I love by some authors I don’t. Authors who have said things that are mean or done things that have hurt people. Authors who have behaved badly, who I’m not sure I want to support with my dollars.

But there’s a subtler line, too. Authors who haven’t hurt people, but who have offended people. And not necessarily with their novels, but with their religious beliefs. With their quotes. With their comments. With their words.

And to someone, somewhere, I could someday be one of them.

Today, it's our job as writers to be visible on the internet. To blog and tweet and make friends and be funny and to entertain as well as to inform but above all, to be INTERESTING. And being interesting can be hard, especially when your day looks like this:

Wake up.
Screw around on the internet.
Write a little.
Screw around on the internet.
Shower, maybe.
Screw around on the internet.
Screw around on the internet.

So we have to work to bring the funny. We have to put effort into being entertaining. And sometimes, we aim, we shoot...

We miss.

If we’re lucky, maybe no one was paying attention. If we’re not lucky, our mistakes live on in infamy.

This internet thing, it’s a tricky business. And we have to ask ourselves what our priorities are. Some of us just want to be published. Some of us want to hit it big. For each of us, though, the journey is different.
But it never ever hurts to consider how our words will affect people.

Because that's what being a writer is all about.

~Michelle Hodkin

  • Blogger Comments
  • Facebook Comments


  1. Very true. But I think that sometimes if your words offend 1 out of a thousand people, it's not because you said "John Doe, I hate you." It's because they're offended for no reason. You mentioned religion. Well, for example, for a Christian to say "I'm Christian", most people are "okay, good for you." and it's fine. But if one person says "I hate Christians, and you're mean for mentioning it" that doesn't mean it's an offending remark, it just means that person is offended.

    As for the funny bit, I find that self-mocking is always a good way to go ;) Along with notes that say "warning: awful joke ahead." I have that on my blog.

  2. I agree. It's harder to support a writer without supporting the concepts they believe in, because those concepts often work their way into the novel. For example, if a novelist doesn't like Conservatives, he or she could have a Conservative character who gets run over by a truck.

    The thing is, I have my views and I make no attempts to hide them. But I don't think I'm aggressive with them. I think if someone doesn't agree with things I write then they have a few choices.

    1. Don't buy the book.
    2. Read it and try to see a new perspective.
    3. Read it and grumble.

    I'd really prefer that everyone took option 2, but the reality is some will take Options 1 and 3.

  3. thanks for guest posting, Michelle! such great food for thought.

    I couldn't read it without thinking of Orson Scott Card. how I love ENDER'S GAME. how staggered I am by the chasm between the pro-tolerance message in that book and the author's homophobic vitriol. Sigh.

  4. Very true. Great guest post, thanks for sharing! :)

  5. Really cool post! I kind of think this is why my first (trunked) novel has the characters it does - so many major extremists on both sides of religious and political issues. I think I was using those characters to explore thinking a little more one-sidedly (new adverb?) about those issues.

  6. Michelle, this is something I believe we all face in terms of our consumer choices. For me, the offensive comments, and so forth depend on what they are versus how much I can appreciate the artistic products (songs, books, movies, etc.). I will admit I have been influenced because it is hard for me to separate the person and the products they produce. This is something we should all keep in mind when we interact online in a detatched way. Thanks so much!


  7. These days, you can't say "the sky is blue" without offending somebody. ("The sky isn't blue, it's a horrible gray color because these damn politicians..." etc, you get my point)

    My sister's boyfriend's grandma hated her because she once wished her luck on some kind of test. Her reasoning was that "luck came from the devil. You should say 'blessings'." All craziness aside, I'd like to repeat: She hated her for saying "good luck."

    I think there's a difference between saying "I don't agree with *political-party*" and saying "Everyone who is in *political-party* is a flaming idiot."

    If someone merely disagrees with me then I have no problem supporting their work. They're just adding to the conversation, which should never be a bad thing. However, if someone says, "I hate Christians and they should all be killed," ... I would have a problem with that.

  8. Oh yeah. Words, to me, hurt WAY more than something physical. You can't take words back. They sting and burn into your psyche forever.

  9. You know, I heard a writer once say that a writer's job is to stare the truth (no matter how ugly or beautiful) head on and mercilessly report that truth, be it through fiction or nonfiction or poetry or whatever. This really resonated with me, so above funny or quirky or serious, I try and dig and write some version of what I see as "truth." And when people start talking about "truth" (especially when they start putting the word into quotation marks, heh), things can get tense and feelings get delicate.
    So, I guess this post has me wondering if interesting is same thing as truthful. Hmmm. I like things that make me wonder.

  10. I am loving all of these comments. So much to think about.

    And Kirsten- he was definitely someone I thought about while writing this.

  11. Great post, Michelle. Thanks for guesting :)
    I definitely try to think what I say before I say it, both in person and online. You're right--as writers, thinking about words is kind of our job!

  12. I think there's a fine line between being respectful and being self-censoring. I have opinions, and I think it's critical for my own integrity to own those opinions. Some of them, people aren't going to like, and that's totally cool with me.

    But I'm definitely mindful of it. And in the end, I think it makes me a better writer because I'm forcing myself to think before I type. Which any user of social media knows is a good thing!

  13. It's an interesting point, and one that I consider to be incredibly valid, especially when authors are encouraged to blog and be visible on the internet.

    Here's the truth (I'm an unpublished author, but a published photographer with a fanbase via that work): not everyone is going to like you.

    It's a trade off for writing blogs, replying to comments, and stating opinions. It's one of the difficulties to writing in an internet medium that makes it really difficult for tone and intent to be read the same by everyone.

    Something you may have intended to sound perfectly harmless (or maybe even playful or informative or any number of things) will be taken completely out of context by someone, somewhere, and they will probably use that as a reason to call you the dreaded B-word.

    It's unfortunate...but it happens. Can't win 'em all, as they say.

  14. You know the famous saying: You can't please all the people all the time.

    Great thoughts! :)

  15. Love the post, and love the comments. I would have a really hard time liking a book if I found out about an unsavory author BEFORE reading. (In fact, it isn't likely that I'd read it at all.)

    But I know from experience that if I fall in love with something BEFORE knowing that (ENDER'S GAME - fantastic example) I tend to be able to take the art apart from the artist. After all, all artists release their work into the world and completely lose control of it. The art is in the interpretation.

    So I guess what I'm saying is, I hypocritically straddle this line, and from now on I will probably be much more aware of it...!

  16. Love this post, Michelle. We're definitely in an age where writers are much more visible and our words, whether in a book or on our blog, can be dangerous.


Comments are moderated on posts two weeks old or more -- please send us a tweet if yours needs approval!

Item Reviewed: Guest Post: Michelle Hodkin Talks Sticks & Stones Rating: 5 Reviewed By: YA Highway