Writers’ social etiquette

Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Lee Kofman

headshot of Lee Kofman
Lee Kofman

Even a writer is not an island. Most of us mix with other writers, either out of want or necessity. However, unsupervised encounters between writers may result in unintended injuries – external and internal. So here are some suggested rules for harm minimisation when associating with fellow scribes.

1. Don’t tell a writer suffering from writer’s block that you have never understood this concept, because for you writing is so effortless that you often feel like a medium through whom your characters speak.

2. Don’t give your work to someone to read and say “enjoy”, even if personally you find your story highly entertaining.

3.Don’t give your published (or unpublished) book as a birthday gift – even if you’re certain that mankind will be infinitely enriched by reading it.

4. Don’t ask other writers when the book they’re writing will be published, unless you are prepared for an untimely death.

5. Don’t email, tweet or facebook other writers (or anyone, for that matter) asking them to buy your book. And if you really must do so, don’t use CAPITAL LETTERS in your requests.

6. Don’t ask writers more successful than you to refer you to their agent, at least not during the first decade of your acquaintance.

7. While staying in a shared writers’ retreat, don’t suggest a night of readings, then go first, read half your novel, yawn, say you’ve had too much wine and go to bed.

8. On that last point, when going to a writers’ retreat, don’t show up with bottles of wine and finish them all by yourself.

9. Still at a retreat – don’t dominate the dinner conversation by discussing your dilemma of which publisher to choose out of the twelve fighting over your book.

10. Don’t answer questions about your book by saying “You’ll have to read the book to find out”.

11. Don’t tell memoirists that you find memoir writing self-indulgent.

12. Don’t tell novelists that contemporary novels suck.

13. Don’t tell poets anything. Of all creative species, poets live the shortest and most troubled lives – there is research to prove this. I must reinforce this point: tell poets nothing. Just listen. They need you.

About Lee Kofman

Lee Kofman is an Israeli-Australian author of three fiction books (in Hebrew). Her short works in English have been widely published in Australia, the UK, Scotland, Canada and the US. Her first book in English, the memoir ‘The Dangerous Bride’ is due to appear in October 2014 through MUP. More information is available at Lee’s new website.