Publishing on other sites is great especially on curated sites where there is a chance that a piece could become an editor’s pick and get featured to a wider audience than would ordinarily frequent an individual’s blog. By publishing on other sites, I don’t mean posting a link to your web page. I mean publishing or re-posting a piece so that it appears wholly under another banner.
It can be a very heady experience. I had a piece selected by then Open Salon as an special pick by an editor who hours later emailed me to tell me the piece would run on salon.com as a featured piece. It was a confessional, painful essay about an illegal abortion I had when I was a freshman in college, a piece of writing forty-five years in the making. So scrolling through Facebook and seeing my piece with a new title and a woeful picture of terribly sad woman sitting on the floor of a bare room made my heart stop. There was no controlling where it went now. The Open Salon editor had asked me if it was okay for him to send it for publication to salon.com and I just immediately said yes. I think of myself as a writer. What would I say to the chance for more exposure?
It was an extraordinary experience. I felt strong and righteous. Outed in the most complete way, standing for my pre-Roe v. Wade generation, my grey sisters, the only people alive who could tell young women what they had to fear if reproductive rights continued to be restricted across the country. More than a hundred thousand people read the piece. It was great.
And then many months later, there it was again in the salon.com feed. No warning. No message from an editor. Just there it was in the Facebook feed getting likes, comments, like it was new. It was my little piece of truth that I thought I’d so gallantly shared with the world scrolling in the news feed on a slow news night, just another confession from a red ink writer. Only this one wasn’t about going to an orgy in a New York hotel or finding out my mother was a part-time Russian spy, the usual Facebook fodder. This was my little life, flashing up again, the same poor sad woman sitting in the same bare room. Only now it was deep winter and not late summer. She needed to put on a sweater.
I just shrugged it off. You know Facebook, in a few minutes, everything is old news.
And then it happened again last week. A piece I’d written about my father, a sarcastic, over the top rant of complaints meant to counter the endless ‘my father is the greatest person who ever lived’ tidal wave of gratitude that is Father’s Day reappeared after being featured by BlogHer last year. When it ran the first time, a lot of people read it and most took me to task – for complaining, for not having a mean enough father. My pale little stories of a strict dad who overworked himself and the rest of us in our chintzy five and dime store didn’t measure up to the blood and gore of modern day exposes about dads. So I got scorched. It happens.
The rerun of this unfortunate piece was a few days after the Charleston shootings, a day when every serious blogger was about her/his business trying to make sense of the incomprehensible. And then, boom, in the stream of things was my mug and the piece with the same, over the top, inflammatory title. It was sickening to see.
So I tried taking the piece down from my BlogHer site but quickly determined that one cannot take one’s own work down. I Googled how to remove a post on BlogHer and found out that I should email a particular editor. So I did and she graciously agreed to remove the blog post so it could no longer be accessed but not before reminding me that, by publishing on BlogHer, I had given them permission to use the piece in whatever way they wanted pretty much forever. I knew that but I didn’t. It still felt to me like I’d loaned a pair of shoes to a friend and that the friend should give them back when I wanted them again. And here was the piece again, only now it was awful, the juxtaposition with the events in Charleston hideous. I couldn’t stand it.
So the moral of the story? I’m not sure I have one. Be careful what you give away?Don’t write something you wouldn’t want to see published and republished at random times? Don’t let the attention whore part of you as a blogger grab your good judgment and run down the street with it?
Seeing my work published to a larger audience has been great, very rewarding. But losing control of my work makes me feel oddly exposed like I have to keep feeling the way I felt the day I wrote something, keep being ready to respond to people, defend it in my head and heart. Nothing gets filed.
Knowing that has made me a lot more cautious, more circumspect, like I could do with a lot less bubblegum. Just something to think about.