Thinking back over the last 12 months, I thought I'd highlight some of my writing/publishing wisdom in "A Christmas Carol" sort of way. I've been visited in 2009 by many ghosts of my past, present, and future. However, as I began writing about my lost year, I lost interest. I mean, what a ride this year has been for me! Instead, I decided to write about something that happened to me in November that opened my eyes to my little corner of the world.
In September I'd been invited to read from my book, East Garrison, at a local library event that had been put together by a couple people who I knew through the Central Coast Writers club (CCW), a branch of the California Writers Club. The reading was scheduled for November 12th. On November 8th, my father and model for the homeless Vietnam veteran character in my book, died. A few days later, I was UNinvited to participate in the library reading due to material I'd posted on my blog. To be blunt, specifically the use of werewolves, vampires, and the swastika. The persons who objected to me didn't know that they were depriving me of my basic right to freedom of speech and, in fact, were censoring me. I was told that I just "wasn't a good fit." Nightmares of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 began to haunt me.
I never gave Bradbury's book much thought before. I mean, I live in America and have the right to freedom of speech. That's something I read about in history class. Fahrenheit 451, was published in 1953 (ten years before I was even born) and critiques what Bradbury saw as issues in American society of the era. In the twentieth century, book burning was considered the same as irrationality. The beginning of Fahrenheit 451 has been written about as being "contagious with the period of Nazi anti-intellectualism during the late 1930s." The novel also appears during the era known as the McCarthy period, characterized by blacklisting, and censorship.
Well, I was really, really hurt by the misunderstanding these two people were making. I mean, literally, my book and material on my blog have nothing to do with vampires or werewolves, and the swastika is an ancient symbol for good fortune. But the facts didn't make a difference. I became a scapegoat as this incident was brought to the attention of other CCW members and a lawyer/writer friend of mine who tried to "fix" the misunderstanding.
What happened? The person resigned from CCW and from putting together reading events at the library, but not before writing letters that weren't altogether truthful about what had happened. As I read his letters of lies about me, I became, at first, extremely angry. But anger isn't an emotion I'm comfortable with, I grow ulcers instead, and soon I found myself curled in the fetal position in bed.
What did I do? Nothing. The energy required to defend myself against the lies overwhelmed me, and I cried. I thought about Shakespeare's quote about protesting too much and let the issue die.
I now know what it feels like to be a scapegoat, and have also learned something about people that my father knew. He had spent a good two decades trying to educate the Western world about the true meaning of the swastika, and had come up against the same resistance. I'm still surprised that anything I've written and posted would need to be suppressed by anyone.
Fahrenheit 451 ends with the same premise as Dickens' classic Christmas tale. The society the protagonist knew has almost completely collapsed and a new society must be built from the ashes, like the phoenix rising. It's unknown whether this new society will meet the same fate, but it's implied that the book-keepers will begin to build mirror factories (mirrors are a metaphor for books) to show people who they are, what they have become, and how they can change with time and knowledge.
The year 2009 has come full circle. It has been a year filled with writing and publishing wisdom for me. Unfortunately, wisdom comes at a high price. I see the future if I stay this course, but I'm hopeful about 2010 and intend to make BIG changes in my life to interrupt what I see as my fate.
I hope the New Year brings good fortune to you, and may God (feel free to insert whatever word suits you) bless us, every one!