Let’s talk about safe spaces
This is a story of how i fucked up… and how i wanted to fix it.
In both of these photos, I was mid panic attack and in a depressed spiral. Now, with the subject line you may ask… Why is this so important? In the larger photo, you can see the stress and panic and exhaustion on my face. That was taken the day after my step-brother died via suicide less than a year ago. I don’t remember what was going on, but no doubt it was someone trying to check on me and make sure that I wasn’t losing my mind. (I absolutely was).
The second, smaller picture, you can’t see my face. But I was mid-depression spiral here. Unable to write. Unable to focus on anything because my family was still a wreck that I couldn’t hope to help pick up the pieces.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
Because, to understand why I’m able to make the promise I give everyone in my life, you have to understand who I am as a person. I’m autistic, come from an abusive upbringing, and struggle every single day of my life with the kind of soul-crushing anxiety that most people will never imagine, let alone experience.
What’s that promise? The one I make with my platform?
I will never bully anyone. I will never shame anyone. I don’t do it. Flat out. I will never and would never intend to hurt another person using words, or my actions, unless it’s in defense of my loved ones. I KNOW this for a fact, because I’ve lost multiple siblings to suicide. Mental health issues rum rampant in my family. I do NOT enter any situation with the intent to hurt, or shame, or anything of the like.
I’m ALSO a very private person.
So, why am I sharing this with the entire internet?
Because recently, there was an issue on a social media platform. I have a new release coming soon, and the review copies have gone out to reviewers. Not only have they gone out to the reviewers that I’ve had for years, but my assistant has also been helping to find reviewers on instagram and tiktok who are new to my brand and new name.
In the review copy, I put a standard content warning, which you can see below. (and keep reading because I go on underneath)
Never Give Up is by FAR the darkest book that I’ve written. In fact, it’s a toned down rewrite of my very first book, ever. In my excitement to get it to reviewers, not once at all did it occur to me that what I was trying to say would get miscontrued.
What I was Trying to say was
There are situations in this book that may be triggering for some readers.
Period. End of story. I didn’t have a full trigger list in it. And I should have. There’s not an excuse for it whatsoever, with today’s climate and the expectations of readers as a whole, I should have been more aware.
Now, while that was what went out in my review copies (and you can see that it says that it’s the advance review copy in the text there, the final copy of Never Give Up DOES have a full list of trigger warnings.
So – fast forward a few days into the new year, and reviews are starting to come in via social media platforms. YAY, right? Well, as anyone who happens to read and review knows… sometimes reviews are negative.
That’s PERFECTLY FINE! Keep that in mind.
I am one of the weird authors that doesn’t mind getting negative reviews. It helps me see where I need to grow as an author. That’s not what this post is about. This post is about something else.
So, I woke up and got to work and received a message that afternoon from a friend/author, letting me know about a negative video/review on TT about Never Give Up, but I couldn’t see it. (No big deal – I’ll just go look at it from my backup non-author account) and what got me (and honestly the ONLY THING I CARED ABOUT) in the review, was that the reviewer said that there are no Trigger Warnings.
CUE THE PANICKED BREATHING.
Because about ten minutes later (actually a little longer), I was sent ANOTHER video, this time from a READER, telling me that someone had stitched the first reviewer’s TT with another message. At which point, in my mind, I need to address this.
THIS IS WHERE I FUCKED UP
I recorded a video, dueting the stitch that the second person made. To me, I was trying to let them know “Hey, this is an oversight. I do have trigger warnings in the final copy of the book. I would never want to hurt my readers. And you can always come to me with any questions, concerns, anything like that.” I told them what my review copy had in it for the content warning, but also showed them what you see below – the actual trigger warning page. I wasn’t trying to do anything in a dick-way.
(also keep reading because there’s more)
That’s not how it came across…
What it came across to them, was like I was trying to invade their platform, remove their safe space, and take away their voice. That I was intentionally hurting them.
That was not my intent.
I understand, better than most, I think, what the effects of bullying are. What people who are bullied, harmed, or hurt are capable of. What happens when people feel like they don’t have a safe space. I know this because I’ve lost two siblings to suicide. Two of the people I love most in the world felt like they’d had everything stripped away from them to the point that they took their own lives. Like I said before, I would never intentionally do anything at all to hurt anyone, let alone the readers who literally make my career possible.
Over the next few hours, it blew up. In the mix of authors commenting in support, there were also readers who threw the red flag saying that it was the wrong thing to do. And then Tiktok removed my video. In the midst of learning that my reviewers may think that I intentionally hurt them, I immediately went to the platform that I’ve used the longest, FB and put a post in my review group, my reader group, and my author page to make sure that my readers and reviewers – the readers that I have a connection with that goes back years, know that I did not intend to hurt them. And then I put the same message up on TT in a video and image format, along with my instagram page.
But in the midst of this, there are people who think I tried to hurt a reader. That I tried to take away someone’s safe space. That I would intentionally carve out a hole in that area for myself just so that I could push where they did not want to be pushed.
Nothing I say or do will take that hurt away from them. And I would never invalidate their feelings.
I just want to make sure that I also allow myself a safe space. A place that I can tell what I was trying to do. A place where nothing can be misconstrued or misunderstood.
Just like our readers deserve a safe space to talk about their feelings, so do we as authors. Because we’re people too.
Written by Rue
I don’t do this…
I don't know how to do this...So, if you didn't see my previous post - you can check it HERE. But essentially, I fucked up. When I sent out my review copies of Never Give Up, I did NOT include an itemized trigger warning page. I put in a general content warning....
Why Rue? I don't like surprises, and I know most of you don't either. Especially with everything that is happening, and has been happening recently with the world around us. I also don't normally share this much personal information, but I think you need to understand...
“Just like our readers deserve a safe space to talk about their feelings, so do we as authors. Because we’re people too.” This is the takeaway everyone needs right now. None of us know what the stranger behind the screen is going through and everyone’s feelings deserve to be respected.
I am a big proponent of the whole “when you know better, you do better” philosophy and I am just a bit perplexed by the readers that demand better from us… yet don’t want us reading reviews, etc… How are we supposed to learn how to be better if we’re supposed to avoid seeing what readers feel we’re doing wrong?
Thank you for that, Kathy. I didn’t mention in my post, but since the explosion, as I’ve come to think of it, I haven’t been feeling at all like I could have made any right decision in the situation.
Some people need to have a little lie down. Not the author. Not the person who posted in the first place, but everyone who piled on over…nothing.
Some out there want trigger warnings on spicy romance because it’s…spicy. Others want it on swearing, or age gap, or because some author had the audacity to name a character Kermit and they’ve got a real phobia of green felt frogs.
Me? I can read the back of a book, read reviews, the blurb and the first few pages and decide if it’s A)a story in that sub genre I want to read, B) well-written. While I like spoilers, I don’t give a damn about trigger warnings. If something icks me out, I don’t read it.
A review is and should be about the story, not what’s missing in an advance review (cover, trigger warnings, the thank you page, etc). By all means, absolutely have an aside and say “I loved/hated/liked this book. What I would like is a trigger warning page, my advanced copy doesn’t have one, but that might change).
I’ve seen authors come for those who give them a negative review, or whine about it. When…the review is someone’s opinion.
That’s not what this is about.
The reviewer is entitled to point it out. The author is entitled to point out that the released copy will have those warnings.
In all honesty, the keyboard warriors need to take a breath. Have your opinion but be nicer online than you might be in real life. After all, online you can step back and take a breath and compose yourself.
But I take my hat off (if I was wearing one) for the bravery of Rue. And for a well-written, kick-ass book (I also got a copy). I’m also going to say what Rue did here is above and beyond. She hasn’t been mean, she’s owned up to screwing up when it doesn’t sound like she did.
We readers have a safe space. We can post reviews anywhere. We can discuss it. If an author wades in with a spear gun and poison arrows, that’s not okay. But she didn’t. Rue tried to make sure it was understood the issue isn’t an issue the release for those who want trigger warnings listed.
Just because someone is out there in public like an author doesn’t make them fodder for target practice.
This world is big enough for everyone to discuss things, and if an author makes a space to discuss, take it, don’t diss. After all, this author reached out and opened up without malice, right from the beginning. That’s rare.
That said, read this book. I read it. It’s awesome.