An Open Letter to our Community from Natsgirl

I was dismayed by the recent unrest within our writing community. Things were written and feelings were hurt. I am told there is an effort underway to improve the You Want Blood Awards, and that is worthy. In my opinion there should be recognition for our writing. There have been statements made that if there were suggestions as to how things could improve in the process, these suggestions should be put forward. I am happy to make my suggestions public in the spirit of full transparency.

First though, I’d like to address an educational concern:

Cyberbullying:

  • 49 states in the U.S. have laws on the books making cyberbullying either a misdemeanor or a felony (a crime). It is already considered a matter for civil litigation. While most case law is specific to school-age individuals there is a growing body of litigation involving other classes/types of individuals
  • Those who can be sued:   Those bullying or anyone who aids, abets, incites or otherwise encourages cyberbullying
  • Those who have cause of action: Those who are the target or any person who witnesses the bullying and suffers damage as a result. Damage can include stress, anxiety or depression
  • How does the law define cyberbullying? Sending hateful, threatening or frightening messages online or through texting; spreading slanderous rumors online; harassing the victim with persistent insults or threats via internet
  • Is information within Facebook or other media sites private (not discoverable) if a group is private? No. The courts have determined that Facebook and other media sites are public by definition, so there is no confidentiality of information permissible regardless of security setting.

 

My suggestions for improving future You Want Blood Awards:

  • Be clear about the reason for the award: This is, in my opinion, the primary cause of our current confusion. I have seen two different purposes stated: recognition for writers of popular works that have drawn readers; a method to reward and recognize new writers/new stories as a way to build this writing community. If the purpose is the first, I think the current way of operating works well aside from the suggestions I make below.   If the purpose was the second the current method did not work. Bottom line: If the purpose of the award is clearly defined, then rules can be set to drive toward that end and participants should have no confusion as to what it takes to win.
  • Limit the number of categories for any author/story: There will always be one story/a handful of stories that are the ‘favorite son’. If you do not impose a limit any contest will resemble a lifetime achievement award rather than an open contest.
  • In no case should anyone associated with the running of the awards be a nominee: Perception is reality. It is not possible for a person, no matter how well-meaning, to be perceived as impartial if their work is up for recognition and they are in any way active in any part of an awards activity/contest. I applaud padfoot4 for removing herself as a nominee in this most recent contest. It was an honorable gesture. To that end: I will volunteer myself to help in running any future awards of this type. I understand that would remove my body of work from any consideration in the particular contest and I am good with that.
  • Voting is one per person: Unlimited voting can lead to an appearance of impropriety. Again, perception being what it is, limiting voting to one vote/one person avoids confusion.

Suggestions if contest/award is for the purpose of building the body of work:

In addition to the above suggestions I would add:

  • Do not differentiate new writers from more seasoned writers: If the playing field is level and the purpose is to encourage writing, then anyone with a new story should be eligible.
  • Only new writing (not updated writing) is eligible with a clearly defined ‘as of’ date: This encourages writers to flex their creative muscle regularly and continue building on the body of work.
  • Only completed works are eligible: Stories have a beginning, middle and an end. Readers should be able to judge the whole work on its merits. One hopes a story will end as well as it started, but that is not always the case.
  • Authors must self-nominate: Let the writer choose the work(s) they feel best exemplifies their skills. This method is tried and true in other writing contests and it allows participants to put their own best foot forward.
  • Works are posted without authors/titles identified: While it is a certainty that there will be some who will identify themselves privately to their friends, this approach does promote a more level playing field. This also implies that the period between nomination and vote would be longer, but if the category and date restrictions mentioned are in place, the number of works within any one category should be limited by definition.
  • Voting within any category is one story – not multiples: First, second and third will be determined through the natural fall of numbers. Should a run-off be needed that could trigger a second round of voting for that category. Current survey software makes tabulation the easy part.
  • Different rules apply to betas, banners and those who provide service to our community: The rules that apply to stories do not make sense for those who provide their talents in these other disciplines. Rules that are specific for their disciplines should be developed. And, if this moves forward, I would be happy to make suggestions for those as well.

Last – I’ve seen references to rules from the Academy Awards in some emails.

The specific comment I saw mentioned that in the Academy Awards nominees are allowed to vote for themselves.   I would agree – and why not? People should always be allowed to support their own work! With that said, there are many more rules that apply to the Academy Awards. Here are a few: 1-Nominations can only be made for work that is released/published within the prior calendar year; no other work qualifies. 2-Categories are, by definition, self-limiting. An actress can only be nominated in two possible categories: Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. 3-All results are assembled, tabulated and reported by a neutral, disinterested third party. I would be in favor of making rules more like those used for the Academy Awards.

I hope that my suggestions are helpful in improving any future awards event. I would hope that mine are not the only suggestions. With the creativity and talent we have in our midst I am sure there are other ideas and suggestions.

I am honored to be among you. You all make me want to be a better writer.

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27 thoughts on “An Open Letter to our Community from Natsgirl

  1. I’ll have to admit it, it seems like I live under a rock. I didn’t know about all those things happening in the community although I caught glimpses here and there. I’m still fairly new to writing for this fandom and I only felt welcomed and loved by all of you ladies.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As well you should (feel welcomed). I wouldn’t read too much into it. It is because we care so much that we are so passionate about making it right for each other. I certainly have enjoyed my time in this community and I hope you have the same experience.

      Like

  2. You make logical and valid suggestions. It was sad to see all the messages flying around and the obvious hurt feelings that were their result. We have wonderfully talented writers in our fandom and they create stories that are a joy to read. Anything that encourages them is to be commended.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I believe that the hurt people felt was sincere; the hurt of people who did not mean the outcomes and then were dumbfounded to find themselves immersed in what had been so unintended. I hope we can all move on from this and work harder to respect and support each other. We do have a tremendously talented community. We are all very fortunate.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. If your suggestions are not specifically applied to the most recent awards, I sincerely hope they are at least read and taken into consideration- I appreciated them all. I was especially incredulous at the surprise and anger of the judging panel, that voters/readers/writers had an issue with the foxes guarding the hen house, so to speak, and that is one of your more meaningful points for me.

    I’d like to share your post and reblog it, in hopes that all involved in the awards process will read your thoughtful comments and suggestions. There are also many who could use a refresher on cyberbullying and complicity. I’ve never been one to hide behind someone else’s words, though, so I’ll wait for your permission.

    Thankyou for posting this, I hope you get the positive feedback it deserves.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I believe that the original people who put this together were sincerely surprised by the reactions. I believe that the perceptions that are so human were never intended, and so, as can happen, when they found themselves becoming defensive; a perfectly understandable reaction under the circumstances. It was a lesson to me on the unintended consequences of actions and it certainly made me reflect on my past actions and promise myself to try harder to be the person I wish to be. My suggestions are intended on future events and are meant for anyone considering becoming involved in running one of these. As long as they are blogged in the spirit in which they are meant, you are free to share. I would not have posted as an open message if I had not intended for others to read them. Thank you for your feedback.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I agree that the surprise was genuine. One of my least favorite excuses, though, is ‘it wasn’t intended…’ Nor am I a fan of taking your ball and going home. Neither of which you said or did, you offered real ideas, and I respected it very much.

    Regardless of such, when stepping out in front expect to get hit first, and when putting your intentions to use, expect not all will appreciate them. These are the things I’d have said, your eloquence was much more useful and appropriate.

    I did reblog and share the post. I don’t know that those who need to read it will appreciate it, but I do know that those who do, will support your ideas. Thankyou again for speaking out.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Natsgirl, I commend you on an absolutely fabulous, respectful, reasonable, and intelligent post. My hope is that the eyes which need to see it, do and are able to put any knee-jerk emotional reaction aside and absorb what you’ve posited. I’ve never authored a fan fiction, just a happy reader. Mostly. Until lately. The overwhelming *conflict* filling my inbox in the past week makes me question the value of continuing when strife outweighs enjoyment. With each new ‘I’m just getting this off my chest’ style email, pushed me further and further away. I felt as if I were back in high school. I’ve been in this fandom since 2008 😳 🎶embarrassing🎶 and most of the time I still really enjoy it. I hope it’s soon back on track.

      besides, if I left I’d miss out on newish authors like yourself who I’m absolutely enthralled by your storytelling weaving. Not kissing your booty, I speak the truth 💥

      jrwatkins…for years you and I seem to have shared at least a portion of the same brain, so I’m not surprised to be total agreement with your thoughts…especially your ‘incredulous’-ness. I truly believe the shock was genuine….which had me scratching my head thinking Really!?!?!?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. which of us has done something in the heat of the moment and wished when we were less angry or upset that we’d handled it differently? I have. I look at your icon and am reminded of a saying about not judging till you’ve walked a mile in the other person’s shoes. In the case of those shoes I might have trouble with the full mile! I offer my suggestions as just that. A way to move forwards.

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  5. I rarely speak of the ‘Nat’ of Natsgirl. He was a rare man. He lived his code and that included being a person you were proud to see in the mirror every day. I thought about this and came to the conclusion that even if it meant I had to leave this writing I couldn’t live with the person who didn’t speak. For me it was a matter of conscience.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. I commented on a blog (my only other discourse on this subject aside from with you), that the worst outcome of this would be to lose one’s courage to speak up. It’s absolutely a matter of conscience. You’ve done a great job, you needn’t leave writing.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I like these suggestions. My only change would be that it might not work to have the works be started and completed within the year. Maybe the start date could be two years previous if works need to be completed. Just because the nature of fan fiction is that the people writing have lots of other things they are also doing. Of course, if it’s one year and completed, that would lessen the pool of eligible stories and that might make things more manageable.

    I’d also like to see a brainstorming of categories overall. I didn’t realize some of the categories were missing from last year. Maybe it was stated and I just didn’t see. I found it hard to think about what fits with TB vs SVM but maybe nobody else did. I haven’t actually read the books, lol. 😀

    And I also just don’t want to see any more drama and discord within this fandom. I know we are all different people but it really just hurts to see people attacking other people. I understand feelings get hurt and as a sensitive person, I really get it, but the level of hatred was astounding to me. I mostly tried to gloss over any posts I saw going that way so I don’t think it was even the ones who were hurt that were saying the meanest things. It just turned totally ugly and it made me really sad. I hope that we can leave it all behind and move forward. I hope those who were hurt will not let this stop them from writing what is in their hearts. That would be the biggest shame. And I know that more than just those who were offended/attacked are hurting over this.

    I commend both Natsgirl and Elfchef(have you read what she wrote?) for writing, so eloquently, what I’m sure a lot of us are thinking.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I especially agree with the time limit/updating suggestion. I noticed a few of the stories nominated had not been updated for over a year(s), but we’re in time to meet contest guidelines. Maybe it was only coincidence

      In the past few years there have been several similar ‘episodes’ and are becoming more and more frequent, but none that I can remember reaching the level of hate this hit. It’s ironic some of the worst comments were from those pointing fingers at ‘haters’. Huh? Mirror. Pot. Kettle. However whether intentional or not, just like author notes slamming someone for an opinion – even a ‘hateful’ guest opinion/rant disquised as review- when one chooses to air their laundry this way it serves as a rally call and opens the floodgates on mob mentality. That is exactly what this reminded me of.

      I read Elfchef’s post and the only other one of these I’ve commented on. I appreciated her brutal, stripped down honesty. I’m going to get off Natsgirls page now

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There is something to that saying that if you don’t have something nice to say don’t say it. But we should also be able to agree to disagree with each other in a kind and respectful way. It is in our differences that we find the spice of life.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I see what you are saying about the longer time period. Particularly for multi chapter works. But perhaps that becomes a separate category or even contest? There are stories and then there are books! I’m not sure where the line falls but I’m pretty sure it’s on a wiki somewhere!
      I think everyone was caught flat footed by the way things escalated. I use that saying about only understanding backwards. I’m sure we all wish we could see into the future.

      Like

      1. Yeah, like my Northman’s Nanny story. It’s crazy long. But then you get into words vs. chapters, etc and I don’t know where the lines are…or how easy they are to determine, esp for nominators. Maybe authors are given categories and asked to produce a list of eligible works if they’d like to be included in the awards.
        There are definitely lots of things to discuss! I have an interest in helping out because I am not very into awards anyway(for myself) but I’m reluctant to get involved now! I will be part of the discussion at any rate…

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I applaud you for speaking out on these topics to remind us that cyberbullying is, indeed, a crime, and one that was rampant over the latter portion of this past week. There’s a fine line between the use of free speech and bullying/making name-calling/threats on the Internet. If such a thing had occurred with any of our children, we wouldn’t have tolerated it for a hot minute! As for your suggestions for future awards/contests, I find your them most interesting and close to matching my own thoughts as for improvements on how to keep things fair & equitable for all. The fandom is thriving still. A more open-minded dialogue about this topic before it’s forgotten once the next scandal hits. 4Padfoot seems quite willing to regarding these topics could still be necessary, and 4Padfoot seems to be open to suggestions, and she did a remarkable job. It’s a good place to start.

    Thanks for bringing your thoughts & ideas to the public forum. Good work!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. i have no opinion as to whether there was anything that crossed a threshold but thought some facts on the cyber topic might be thought provoking. Since there is talk of more contests I wanted to get my ideas out ahead of rules being considered

      Like

      1. I don’t either, but it’s a great reminder. You have some great ideas, and I think 4Padfoot would be interested in reading them. You may want to contact her. Thanks again for your very well-written and thought provoking post. Well done.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank-you for this post. I agree with all you have mentioned here. Voting should be limited to one per person. I cannot understand why anyone would feel like they have won anything if that win was based on a very small group voting repeatedly. It would not feel authentic to me so I whole-heartedly agree that one vote per person is warranted.

    WiP’s should be nominated in my opinion but in their own category. it is difficult putting a WiP of a popular author up against the completed work of a not as well known author. WiP’s should be recognised but not to the detriment of completed works.

    Perhaps the people involved in these awards should be on a rolling roster. This way, someone is not forever more excluded from nomination.

    As for the topic of bullying; this is absolutely something that should never occur. Authors should be aware of how loyal their followers are and how one word from them can unleash a torrent of abuse, all in the name of apparently standing up for someone. there are ways one can say “I do not agree” without resorting to the hate filled diatribes I have seen. I am in no way innocent on this front myself having once joined in on lynch mobs but no more. As someone who has been bullied her entire life, I cannot and will not be a part of that any longer.

    That said, there are MANY people in the fanfic community that deserve recognition. It is unfortunate that a ‘small’ group now essentially dominate all areas and whole-heartedly agree that lesser known authors / betas / artists be recognised for their work, away from the mountain that is a more ‘famous’ writer.

    The End

    Liked by 1 person

    1. i knew my suggestion about WIP would be controversial. It’s how I feel but if it were to move forward I agree that the separate category is a good way to handle it. As for recognizing more vs recognizing the draw of reputation: you have captured the heart of the debate in my opinion. What is the purpose of the contest? Both purposes have merit but they don’t live well in the same space because the rules to achieve either outcome are different. We call it ‘channel conflict’ in my working world.

      Like

      1. Perhaps there should be a nomination system on the types of categories people want to see and the type of criteria they believe is fair?

        Best Fic Completed within last 12 months – is probably a good one. Some fics out there have been going for YEARS and limiting start and finish to a time frame may mean these authors will never be allowed to be recognised.

        It may also be fair to disqualify fics already nominated in a particular category. Meaning, if FIC A was nominated as a WiP this time, you can’t be nominated next time. Or if Fic A was nominated for Best Lemon, the same fic can’t be nominated for that category again. This will encourage new works and also allow others a look in.

        Just a thought

        Liked by 1 person

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