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Wicked Pretty Update #3: The Wickeding
Since LJ is, in fact, staying up for five seconds: an entry that didn't go through this morning.

We have some Wicked Pretty Updates. It was about to die down, and then it took a hard left turn onto WTF Street.

I have seen a blog post from a writer who agreed to take Jessica Verday's place. Since I don't know whether she is aware of the controversy or not, I am not saying who it is and possibly causing a dogpile. People directly involved do know.

Francesca Lia Block (whose response a lot of people have been waiting for) is staying in the anthology:

@francescablock: Pretty Wicked Things: l support Jessica Verday but b/c pub apologized & offered 2 use her story i will be keeping mine in

Which personally sounds reasonable to me. To elaborate on that, though, Telep's formal, non-flippant apology was finally discovered, buried in the comments of one of Jessica's posts, so she has made one. I'll repeat it (once again) here:

I sincerely regret the sequence of events which has led to Jessica Verday’s story ‘Flesh Which Is Not Flesh’ being excluded from the forthcoming anthology Wicked Pretty Things. This has been the result of a misunderstanding on my part which is entirely regrettable. Along with publishers Constable & Robinson Ltd, who commissioned the anthology, and Running Press, who are due to co-publish the book in the United States, I fully support LGBTQ issues. I apologise wholeheartedly for any offence that I have caused and offer the assurance that I would not in future reject any story on the grounds that it included a gay (or any LGBTQ) relationship.

And then, this morning... this happened.

The Misinformation Age: What Happens When A Headline Goes Viral.

It's basically a press release from the president of Running Press (literally: it is written by him and has no additional reporting or comment from Publishers Weekly) that... kind of misrepresents what happened.

Nowadays, a few keystrokes can powerfully magnify intolerance and bullying or spread a falsehood or incomplete story fast and wide, often with dire consequences. We were all made especially aware of this in the tragic incident of cyberbullying at Rutgers University last year. As publishers, it behooves us to be very aware of the blogosphere and digital environment with respect to titles in process on a daily basis. A news item suddenly creates an opportunity, or a celebrity meltdown jeopardizes a planned book. And in the sudden viral spread of a headline, facts are often the first casualty.

At Running Press, we faced this firsthand just last week.


According to Verday, when the manuscript was delivered, Telep requested that the author alter the story so the romance not reflect a male/male relationship, citing—quite incorrectly—that Running Press preferred YA anthologies to exclude "alternative lifestyles."

Yes, and Running Press's Lisa Cheng told Jessica Verday that, while they support LGBTQ writing, they "stand behind" this same editor.

Running Press's guidelines for YA anthologies do not exclude diverse lifestyles.

This is actually, demonstrably true. Both Saundra Mitchell and Sarah Rees Brennan (LJ is down, so I can't access her comment) noted that they have not had problems with stories in previous anthologies, and Saundra Mitchell in particular said that Liz Miles actually put out a call for lesbian/gay stories.  

Ms. Verday, understandably, refused to change her story and pulled it from the anthology. Then she took to her blog and social media connections, and accused Running Press of intolerance and censorship. Other authors in the anthology asked to pull their stories, believing the account.

Jessica never accused Running Press of intolerance or censorship, as far as I have seen. She specifically reposted both Running Press's and Constable Robinson's statements to the contrary. The person she took to task was the editor, Trisha Telep, who herself stated that Running Press did not request the story to be changed and did not agree with Telep's request for such a change. In fact, commenters here have expressed concern that too much of the discussion was focusing on Telep, rather than the publisher. Jessica was never unclear about this once she was aware of it. "Believing the account" implies that an untrue story was believed. Not to mention the phrases "facts are often the first casualty" and "falsehood or incomplete story" mentioned in the opening paragraph, and the oblique connection to "cyberbullying" connected to a suicide at Rutgers, supposedly comparable to what Running Press has just "faced firsthand." (Let me repeat that: the president of Running Press--who mentions that he is openly gay himself--just compared writers standing up for their pro-LGBTQ beliefs to cyberbullying that caused suicide.) The inaccuracy here is from Christopher Navratil in claiming something happened that, as far as I have seen, did not happen, and in implying that Jessica lied and/or embarked on an unjust smear campaign. (Just from a logical standpoint: what in the world would be her motive to do that?) If Running Press chose to "stand behind" an editor whose public statements, as they said, do not match their beliefs--statements that same editor has now acknowledged as "regrettable"--before that editor apologized appropriately, it is not Jessica's fault if other writers decide this is not acceptable to them, either. None of these things are "accusations." These are all public statements and/or corroborations on the part of the editor and publishers that I, among many people, personally witnessed, and which can still be read.

And lastly, when there are inevitable misunderstandings, as with all human enterprises, be sure to be available, be accountable, and stand up and say what is right.

Well, now would be a good time to start, in regards to what you've just said about Jessica.

@moirarogersbree: Publishers, I hate to break it to you, but sometimes people are going to assume your editors know your policies & speak for you.

@Ceilidhann: How nice of Publishers Weekly to give Running Press free ad space to pretty much blame Verday for all this instead of Telep.

@Ceilidhann: Terrible reporting @publisherswkly Why didn't you talk to the authors who pulled out of the anthology? Or Telep herself?

@SmartBitches: "It is hard to believe you abhor bigotry when you have a continuous, ongoing relationship with a bigot." - @courtneymilan on Running Press

@SmartBitches: Article where @courtneymilan's comment cracks open the righteous, erudite whoopass: http://is.gd/7ZU2EH

[In reply to previous commenter] Erastes: The author, a bestselling author in her own right, was contacted by Tricia Telep to write a story, and was told the guidelines were that it needed to be a dark fairy story. She wasn't querying. And for the president of MLR: "Then she took to her blog and social media connections, and accused Running Press of intolerance and censorship." Actually, what she said was this: http://jessicaverday.blogspot.com/2011/03/being-gay-is-okay.html Notice: she quoted the editor in the original post, and when the editor made it clear that it had been her decision, and not her publishers, she edited the post to include Telep's remarks. This is not just a "misunderstanding." I don't care if the owner of the press is openly gay. He's working with a freelance editor whose response was breezy and flippant and full of unconscious and yet rampant prejudice. This is an editor who has published scores of anthologies with Running Press, and has many more in the works. I'm an author, and after hearing about this, I would never, ever work with Tricia Telep. It's not the press I wouldn't work with, but so long as you continue to have a relationship with her, you won't have one with me--or with any of the other authors out there. I am aware that you claim you wanted the story. I'm also aware that you're continuing your relationship with someone who thought that an appropriate response to the original accusation was to offer up a video of herself wrestling with a gay man. You want this to go away? Choose another freelance editor for your anthologies, stop pretending like you have no choice, and stop telling yourself that people are "misunderstanding" you. It is hard to believe you abhor bigotry when you have a continuous, ongoing relationship with a bigot.
--by: courtneymilan @ 20110404100348

Other replies:

I would like to see you [Publishers Weekly?] acknowledge that: (a) Jessica Verday made very clear, in her blog and in all other communication, as soon as she was aware that the publishers were not anti-gay-romance; (b) that all the withdrawing authors are aware of this, and they have all said they are withdrawing from work edited by Tricia Telep, not from RP indiscriminately; (c) several people have expressed discomfowith the fact that you have never publicly criticized Ms Telep for her unacceptable assumption (that she made an error is not the point, it is the prejudice behind the error that was offensive). This article is frankly insulting, and I would hope for better from a respectable publisher.
--by: Johann @ 20110404102146

But is Running Press and C&R still working with Tricia Telep? What did she say when informed of your policies? You mentioned your conversation with Verday, so what conversation with Telep did you have? Have you and C&R kept her on as the editor of this anthology? Do you plan to work with her in the future? The problem here is not about if Running Press "abhors bigotry" it's about what you're going to *do* about it. If you're still going to publish this title with Telep as the editor, you have to understand why Verday and other authors won't want to be part of it. You have to also understand that your words come off as hollow. If you truly "[stood] behind the creativity and authenticity of our authors" you would not want to work with someone who did not, who not only misrepresented your values but apparently sought to squash said creativity and authenticity. Steps you can take to ACTUALLY make a difference: refuse to work with someone who so doesn't represent your core values and find a new editor for this anthology AND query for an editor of a new YA anthology that will feature queer paranormal romances. Maybe that's an anthology Verday will be happy to be part of and it will definitely be a way for you to show what your REAL core values are.
--by: AngieManfredi @ 20110404090131

Meanwhile, there is still some confusion as to what is really going on:

@Ceilidhann: @donnajherren I was willing to give RP the benefit of the doubt since Telep took the blame but this un-apology & scolding of Verday for (1)

@Ceilidhann: @donnajherren (2) going public, and rightly so, about the deliberate exclusion of LGBTQ content is baffling at best and disgusting at worst

@JessVerday: @cleolinda @donnajherren FYI: I was told [by Trisha Telep?] "the publishers commissioned me for a collection of het YA romances."

@donnajherren: @JessVerday I know Trisha never mentioned that our Mammoth story had to be het, and it definitely wasn't in the contract. @cleolinda

@JessVerday: @donnajherren @cleolinda That's what I don't get here. 2 + 2 is NOT equaling 4

I don't even know. I don't. even. know. The irony is, after the formal Telep apology, I would have been willing--well, I'm not directly involved in this; I'm here in the capacity of an observer. I'm not calling for a boycott, except in the sense that I said at one point that if people did want to do that, they needed to not punish writers and editors who had nothing to do with this. But if I were one of the writers asked to be in the anthology, I either would have dropped out in the period of time after the flippant non-apology but before the formal apology, or, if I had heard about this after the formal apology, I might have considered that to be sufficient and stayed in, maybe specifically trying to submit a story with LGBTQ themes. I don't know. It's a tough decision to make after the apology; it depends on how you feel about that. But I probably would have endeavored to work only with editors like Liz Miles from then on. My problem, as an observer, at this point, is not with Trisha Telep. It's with Christopher Navratil's inaccurate, self-serving, easily disproven, somewhat baffling retelling of the story. Because seriously, what the hell.

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I would be less inclined to stick with the publisher, even with a different editor, after that article. I'd hate to be the next author who stood up for something and got thrown under the bus in a thoroughly inaccurate representation of what happened and why. It's like they just dug themselves deeper.

I'm baffled. My instinct had been to feel quite sympathetic towards the publishers, and I wouldn't even have blamed them for sticking with Trisha Telep in the light of her second apology, which struck me as sincere enough, though I'd have liked to hear further assurances that she had been spoken to about it and neither she or anyone else at RP would be doing anything like that again.

But this -- just-- what are they doing? And it's so unforced. I can think of all kinds of things they could have said that would have been better, but if they couldn't manage any of them, then why say anything?

Great. First the whole "Beer Enema" incident and now this. I'm losing faith in humanity right now. :(

Seriously, "Galadriel smash" doesn't even begin to cover it. :/

(Deleted comment)
Oh, I wasn't using it anyway, not for anything important...

...so here, have one shiny Internets.

I'm just.

I'm literally staring at all of this, re-reading it, and trying desperately to WILL it to make sense.

I'll let you guys know if I have any headway.

*jaw drops*

So, let's see. Are we arguing that Jessica Verday streamed videos of Running Press being homophobic on the internet without their consent and now they're committing suicide? Because that's the only situation I could see that analogy being acceptable in, Running Press.

Yep. And there's the whole disgusting conflation between calling out bigotry/harassing a gay kid to death. Because these things are ~exactly the same~ you know...

I might, perhaps, be giving into unwarranted cynicism here...but I do wonder if 'the controversy was dying down' part might be linked to the sudden appearance of this article. Everything about the thing, the tone, the word choice, seems *specifically designed* to stir up all the same arguments and all the same links and all the same ATTENTION again. I bet RP's hit count shot up by two or three hundred precent when this first started setting the blogosphere and Twitter ablaze. The moment that hit counter started sliding down again, this inflammatory, pointless article appears. Hmmm...

What good would it do them, though? They don't make their money from page hits; they get it from book sales. All they'll have managed with this is alienating even more YA authors who might otherwise have been willing to work with them.

I've been reading some twitter responses to this, thinking about my own, and I think I can summarize why I have a problem with Navratil's statement.

When you are a business that has been embroiled in a PR scandal by being implicated in an immoral practice, there's a right way to respond and a wrong way to respond.

"Fuck you, I didn't do anything wrong," is the wrong way to respond, even if you did not, in fact, do anything wrong. It doesn't matter how personally outraged Navratil feels by what he perceives as slurs on his character. I imagine that being accused of running a homophobic business when you've tried your best to foster a LGBTQ-friendly business ethic feels like a slap in the face. But if you can't put your own defensiveness aside and answer as a business, then hire a PR agent to handle your press releases.

It's not about hurt feelings, it's about regaining the trust of your customers and future business partners (authors) - you swallow your pride and do damage control.

After weeks of silence, if you choose to open your mouth, you need to soothe ruffled feathers. A statement that blames Verday (and in rereading it, I am firmly secure in my opinion that it blames Verday) only serves to alienate everyone who needed to be reassured.

This may have felt cathartic to Navratil, but it was bad business. Personally, I wouldn't want to publish with Running Press because, regardless of what Navratil is like as a person, I don't have confidence in him as a businessman.

This, yes, here. Of all the ways that Navratil could have responded to the situation, this is pretty much the second worst. The worst would have been along the lines of "Everybody who said anything bad about us is a bunch of [expletive deleted]s, they will never work in this business again, I have the blood of a tiger."

I know authors are always desperate for publication, but even so--hearing about Navratil's response, specifically, of everything else involved in this situation, is the one thing that would make me, were I writing YA stories, avoid Running Press.

I'm a little confused by the rage. When this publisher talks about a "misunderstanding," he's clearly referring to Telep's misunderstanding of Running Press's policies. The article does everything it can to publicly distance Running Press from Tricia Telep, explaining that they didn't even hire her. This guy's objecting to the fact that his press got blamed for this, which the first version of the author's post - pre-edit - certainly led to. You didn't blame them, cleolinda, but others clearly did, even in comments on your site. So is this article really such a lie-fest?

I agree with you. I think that Running Press wasn't formally accused by Jessica to be intolerant, but the original "Gay is Okay" post put the spotlight on the publishers and not Telep. If I hadn't been following the story here, I wouldn't have even realized that Telep was who Jessica had problems with. Jessica's original post implied that Running Press was running the show and this was flatly contradicted in Navratil's statement. Aside from that, if C&R continues to work with Telep, it looks like Running Press has no choice but to do the same (or to cut off relationship with C&R altogether), seeing as C&R was the originating publisher on these projects (as Navratil stated).

I don't think that it's fair to accuse Jessica of cyberbullying. But I do think that Running Press is justified in its frustration. They have an indirect relationship with Telep via their UK mirror publishing company. And now, even if this wasn't Jessica's original intention, people are threatening Running Press with boycotts and withdrawals because of Telep's mistake. I definitely don't agree with that, and while Navratil may not have articulated his frustrations accurately, I don't blame him for wanting to do so.

Did you see this tweet from Saundra?

For any author who got the "Please come back to our anthology" Ietter from R&P I DIDN'T authorize that quote and my story remains withdrawn!"

Any clue what that was about?

It always give me the willies to see Tyler Clementi mentioned, since I go to Rutgers :( The bullshit spouted off here (the president of Running Press--who mentions that he is openly gay himself--just compared writers standing up for their pro-LGBTQ beliefs to cyberbullying that caused suicide) burns me the fuck up.

Well, this is certainly 'wicked' effed up. I think what I find most particularly distasteful about what Navratil wrote is the way he poses as the victim. The title to that statement alone offends me in the way it lies about what happened. This isn't cyberbullying, this is a writer informing other writers about institutionalized bigotry. I'm even more disgusted than I was when I read about the initial situation earlier.

Either Running Press's publicity department is staffed by crazy people or they're currently banging their heads against walls and trying to work out how on earth to get out of this mess. It's as though somebody saw a fire and decided to reach for the bucket of petrol instead of water in order to put it out.

What with this and the Crazy Self-Publishing Lady Who Only Wants Perfect Reviews, the internets are awash with prime examples of how not to deal with situations in the publishing & writing world.

Navratil spends a lot of effort distancing himself/Running Press from Telep. He comes across all "OMG, we have no idea who she is and she's nothing to do with us and I've never met her she's just some chick who answered our Craigslist post and started taking in submissions or something, I dunno," but hasn't Telep done a bunch of anthologies for RP? And they still don't have a clue who she is and she, clearly, doesn't know who THEY are because despite all the work she's done for them she still thought they'd find a m/m relationship objectionable.

I think this whole thing is really a study in communication. RP made assumptions about Telep who in turn made assumptions about RP and neither of them actually bothered to confirm, deny or clarify those assumptions. Verday assumed that RP would find her story acceptable and took Telep at her word when she said that RP wouldn't allow non-het stories in the anthology. That, at least, was later clarified by Telep, but the damage train had already begun to roll and it was not in any way helped by Telep's initially flippant reaction or by RP's initial support of Telep's actions.

Telep did manage to get a "real" apology out there, but instead of posting it somewhere obvious left it buried in the comments section under a generic Constable & Robinson account instead of under her own name. Maybe it was because she was putting on her official C&R hat, but it was not, I think, the right decision to make and was also done in the wrong place. The situation was already snowballing and I think at least part of the avalanche could have been avoided if Telep had either made a more visible apology or if she'd sent the letter directly to Verday and trusted her to inform the masses. Or both. When in doubt, cover your bases.

Navratil only compounded all the mistakes that had gone before by either trusting what he'd been told instead of checking the original sources themselves or by flat-out misrepresenting the facts. Facts that anyone with internet access could easily check. He practically bends over backwards in the effort to disassociate from Telep but also blames Verday for all his current woes when better lines of communication could have prevented this whole sorry mess from happening. He tries to act as if Telep is some random person off the street who sends them stuff and they publish it. Well, did it occur to him that this may be part of the problem? I'm not saying Navratil has to personally know every editor under the Running Press umbrella, but someone at the company should be in touch with Telep and that someone should be able to give her a good idea of what RP will and won't accept in their manuscripts so that she won't have to make assumptions based on what she thinks she knows about them.

I may be arguing in circles, now. I think I need more caffeine. My point is, I think, that despite the hugely interconnected world we live in there seem to be a hell of a lot of breakdowns in basic communication.

"Verday assumed that RP would find her story acceptable and took Telep at her word when she said that RP wouldn't allow non-het stories in the anthology."

Actually, I took her at her word when she told me THREE times that the publishers wouldn't accept a m/m story. Then, when that changed, quite frankly, I didn't buy it.