Sunday, January 30, 2005

Ten Things We Should Never Say To Kids


UPDATE | 07 July 2008

[A smarter man than me would have refreshed this page some time ago, but that man was not available, so...]

The Tiny Company Called Me released Ten Things We Should Never Say To Kids as a free eBook. You can download it by chapters, no strings attached, right here.

Send chapters to anyone you please (but please don't alter, charge or take credit for them).

For the whole story on Ten Things We Should Never Say To Kids (well, most of it) check out the post called A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Bookstore .

So, read to your hearts content; be generous with your children + friends; and let me know what you think...

Thursday, January 20, 2005

a funny thing happened on the way to the book store...

UPDATE | 07 July, 2008

I wrote this book called Ten Things We Should Never Say to Kids . The notion started as a riff off a book I did called Raising Adults. An acquisitions editor thought the idea seemed good enough to offer me some money and a contract to write about these ten things.

The book proved to be harder writing than I anticipated and I ended up working right up to the last minute. So I wouldn’t say the manuscript was the cleanest, tightest thing I ever delivered to a publisher. Still, I was reasonably happy with it—happy enough to actually hit “send” and deliver the manuscript to the developmental editor.

The developmental editor was less happy. The editor seemed to think that (if I may share my impressions), at certain points I was wrapping things a reader might care about—practical things—in a blanket of things a reader most certainly would not care about—I hesitate to put a label on those things but if did I might call them historical narratives, sociological observations, a few less-than-obvious linkages. The editor thought they were distractions. Both us, I’m sure, were thinking about people reading the book and making something of it. We were not, as they say, on the same page.

Figuring neither of us was probably 100 percent right about the spots where we disagreed; I did my best to blend our concerns in reworking several sections. Honestly, I thought the manuscript got better in the next pass. I’m not sure what the developmental editor thought, as this was our last contact.

The next step in publishing is what’s called a “line edit” or “copyedit.” The copyeditor goes line by line through the manuscript to check spelling, punctuation and the like. On this occasion the copyeditor happened also to be the project manager who would move the manuscript through typesetting and proofreading before shipping it off to production. Which sets the stage for the following digression.

One thing that made the developmental editor uncomfortable was my story about how a non-profit called Focus on the Family assailed a different publisher for something Kara Powell and I wrote called Good Sex. Good Sex is an adolescent learning design on sexuality. I like to say the title is autobiographical which for some reason makes my wife smirk and hold her fingers in the shape of a W on her forehead. I’m not certain what that means but people laugh so I just smile and play along.

Anyway, I thought the letter from Focus on the Family was pretty demeaning and, here and there, a bit hysterical. The letter, and a critical review they promised to publish soon (though I don’t think they ever did), included obvious misstatements—where by obvious I mean a side-by-side comparison of what they said was in the book with what’s actually in the book would show they misspoke. I’ve told the story elsewhere (Focus on the Family Hates Good Sex), so I won’t recount it here.

In response to the developmental editor’s discomfort, I softened my telling of the story a bit. But I held onto the point, which has to do with my perception that adults frequently bluff and bully and generally disrespect kids by expecting them to continue taking the big people’s word for things long after they are quite capable of puzzling those things out for themselves—and not merely capable of figuring those things out but responsible to do so and responsible for the choices they make as a result. The perverse transaction is that, in exchange for taking the big people’s (or authoritarian organization's) word for things, kids get privileges and affection and acceptance. You may recognize this as the same logic employed by child molesters but this is not one of the less-than-obvious linkages I made in Ten Things We Should Never Say to Kids. I saw no need to go overboard.

So. The developmental editor flags the story and I soften it a bit. Then comes the copyedited manuscript with the story missing altogether and a note giving six reasons why the material must be removed. This, I think, is a bold move for a copyeditor/project manager. Conversations with the acquisitions editor from the first paragraph of this story ensue.

+ + + + +

Fast-forward a few weeks. It was clear from the moment the copyeditor yanked the story—as distinct from, say, talking further about how to find a win/win—that this was probably not going to work out. And when the acquisitions editor (who is a good friend by the way) said, "Let me run this by our new attorney," I was pretty clear I would be giving the money back.

Which is exactly what I did. I gave back the publishers advance on royalties, deciding I'd rather take my chances than go along with what I believe to be buckling under to…what? a bully? an 800 pound gorilla? a phantom?

We may never know.

In the meantime I've decided that, since I'm out all that money I may as well give the book away as well. At least for a while. In that spirit, I turned Ten Things We Should Never Say to Kids into a downloadable eBook and posted it right here for anyone who wants it.

I suppose some day I'll figure out what to do next. Meanwhile, there's no sense sitting on it, is there... And a fair number of people are reading it and passing it along to friends and I do the occasional radio interview and speaking engagement and that's not so bad as far as I'm concerned.

— RANTS + REFLECTIONS ON THE COMMON GOOD —

[mostly]