I didn't want to be writing a blog entry today. I wanted to spend the day with my wife on what is perhaps our last weekend together before our baby is born. But there is a Class of 2k9 controversy a-brewin' and I'm in the eye of it.
A couple years back I came up with an idea for an author group called the Class of 2k7 as a way for 2007 debut authors of children's and young adult novels to share information, pool resources, and get the word out more effectively as a group than any one of us could ever do alone. It was all about helping each other, and we amazed a lot of people by the things we were able to accomplish. We formed strong friendships and proved that authors aren't the egomaniacal prima donas that some people make us out to be. We even gave talks and workshops to other authors to let them know how they could form groups of their own, and many of them have.
It seemed natural for me to continue on as a mentor for a Class of 2k8, Class of 2k9, and beyond. Since we're into 2008 now, the Class of 2k8 is in full swing and continually blowing me away with their creativity and professionalism. And the Class of 2k9 is just starting to organize itself and put out a call for members. Still at the start of the cycle, with first publishing contracts in hand, they have a steep learning curve ahead of them--and therein lies the problem.
Recently another group of debut children's and young adult authors started a 2k9 blog of their own, which is a flattering tribute to what we've done and a cooperative spirit that I support very much. However, the Class of 2k9 organizers were concerned that the other group's name and URL were too similar to theirs, and was likely to confuse people. In the tiny world of children's book publishing, lots of people have heard of the Class of 2k7 and the Class of 2k8, and might reasonably think that a 2k9 blog of 2009 debut children's and YA novelists might have something to do with us.
In hindsight, I should have engaged myself fully in the ensuing discussions between the two groups. I should have offered my services as a voice of reason and experience between these two very fine groups of authors. I should have, at the very least, better explained to the 2k9ers that our entire philosophy has always revolved around helping each other and supporting other groups who do the same--but instead I was very much occupied with my wife and I having our baby, so I delegated the matter and must accept full responsibility for the results.
Things weren't handled quite the way I would have handled them. Okay, that's an understatement. Things were handled very, very badly. Emails were exchanged in a tone that came off as condescending and threatening, totally unlike the friendly, conciliatory, and supportive feelings we've always put out to other groups.
Then the worst selections from the worst of these emails was posted online and all hell broke loose. The acting 2k9 co-president who sent this email assures me that it wasn't intended as a threat. That she feels horrible and is going to refrain from putting her foot in her mouth again. And I believe her, because I've only known her to be a kind and lovely person, but damned if she hasn't burned through two entire years worth of goodwill that the two preceding classes have worked so hard to build.
Members of all three 2k Classes are scrambling to distance themselves from this email, one of them even dropping out of the group, which is perhaps the worst fallout of all. And here I am, dishing out emails and blog comments at a breakneck pace, taking full responsibility for everybody's hurt feelings even as things continue to spiral on and on out of control. I can't express how badly I feel for not taking ten minutes out of my day to draft a polite email that could have avoided this whole mess. And now I must go off and apologize again to my patient-as-a-saint wife for ruining our entire day.
The 2009 Debutantes, as they are now called, have the full support of the Classes of 2k7, 2k8, and 2k9, offered by me as the founder and president of the Class of 2k7 and mentor of the Classes of 2k8 and 2k9. Our friendship and assistance are at your disposal.