Monday, June 20, 2011

Comment Haters

One of my goals for the year has been to get published. Specifically two books — "The EllaZoo," a collection of poems inspired by my growing daughter and "The Other Woman," a memoir in progress. To get published these days, a successful query letter must show not only that you have written a worthy book, but also that you are a "proved" author. Those who have already published, have built an audience through their careers or through successful blogs are more likely to capture an agent's attention than somebody who has merely written a good book.

In an effort to get published, I posted a number of stories on Open.Salon.com I had moderate success. At least half of these were selected as Editor's Picks. But my real test would be to jump from Open.Salon to the Salon.com pages proper.

When Salon.com posted an open call for "Mortifying Disclosures" it seemed made for me. As a family on the spectrum, we have generated ample material for such moments of extreme public embarrassment. I felt certain this would be the ideal opportunity to make that jump.

I submitted a story,"Positively Pissed Off" and it did. The editors contacted me with a request to cross post it to Salon.com It would be a cover story over the weekend, later to transfer to the Life pages.

The editors warned me in advance that comments could get a little rough. I was not surprised. As a parent of a high-functioning child on the spectrum, I know this territory better than most. After all, I am and my child is the type whose atypical acts likely receive more judgement and harsh commentary than understanding.

It was as expected. There were no shortage of Comment Haters: those who blamed autism on bad parenting, or coddling or a not tough-enough love; who viewed GI intolerances as mere childish capriciousness; who were more concerned about the neglect the dog received conjecturing a lifetime of abuse from a one-line mention; whose reactions openly seethed.

But there was also plenty of support and understanding. There were those who said it resonated with them. A few sent personal messages to say, thank you. That meant a great deal to me.

So, to those who asked, what was the point of this story, and plenty did, it was to offer that vivid moment of sympatico and empathy for those that a story like this might resonate. To describe that once you face the breaking point, even if it seems to come publicly, there can be a feeling of personal triumph on the other end. The point is to push through the comment haters and keep going anyway.

Silver Lining: It was a very public disclosure. I think it really did mean something or make a difference for other stressed-out Moms who read it. It brought the Comment Haters out in the open for all to see the sort of close-minded, ill-informed, seething judgement people load onto children with autism. And of course, I am now, officially, published!

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