Today, I was thinking of writing about how I’ve set my Tivo to tape every Thanksgiving-themed Friends episode that’s on in the next couple of days, so I can watch them back to back while stuffing my face with leftovers. Or maybe, about the continuation of New Purse Search 05 and the bag I bought yesterday at Gap which is either 1) cute 2) ugly or 3) a combination of both. But then I went to check my guestbook and saw this:
While I have really liked some of your other books, I could never recommend “The truth about forever” to anyone because you completely misrepresent libraries and librarians. Why would you completely bite a hand that feeds you? Public libraries are insanely busy in the summertime with kids’ and teen programs. Teenagers cannot work at an Info Desk (in fact, a librarian needs at least a college degree and often a master’s degree). And you portray those who would work there as rude and stuck-up. Shame on you! We want to encourage teens to come in and even eventually work in libraries. Where do you think your future readers will come from?
I would have responded personally, but whoever wrote this didn’t leave an email. And maybe that’s a good thing, because this is something I’ve been wanting to address for a long time, and now I have the opportunity to do so. So here goes.
It was NEVER my intention to show disrespect to libraries or librarians by having Macy have a not-so-great experience working at the Info Desk at her local library in The Truth About Forever. In fact, it never occurred to me that this would be a problem, until I heard from a couple of people who were bothered by it, and I was horrified. I am a YA writer, and I’ve gotten more support from librarians than I can even begin to address in this small space. Here’s why I did what I did.
The basic fact is that when I was writing the book, I needed Macy to have another job that contrasted with the chaos of catering, something totally different. So I started thinking back to my waitressing days—which is what Macy’s experience catering was really based on—and I remembered how, before my shifts, I often went to the Chapel Hill Public Library to read magazines, especially People, which I could never in a million years afford to subscribe to but loved dearly. I’d settle in for a half hour or so into the quiet of the reading room and just hang out. I LOVED it. It was peaceful, and cool in the summertime, and just a great place to be. Then, I’d get in my car, drive to the Burrito, where I’d usually walk in the door and smack into some kind of crisis, interwaitress dispute, or kitchen tantrum. Everything was always insane, and would pretty much stay that way until I left six or so hours later. So that was where it came from. The quiet and peace of the library versus walking in and having someone throw a pack of tortillas at my head in a fit of anger (true story, I’ll tell it another time).
As far as Bethany and Amanda, who make Macy’s life difficult at the Info Desk, I didn’t intend them to reflect the character of librarians at all. In my mind, they would have been awful to work with no matter where they were employed, the library or giving out directions and maps at the mall or even, yes, waiting tables. Some people are just Like That. I also never intended for them to be perceived as having any kind of true librarian training: I just remembered when I was in college that many of the desks were manned by students, so I figured it was believeable that high school students could lend a hand helping people look up things in the stacks or card catalog. If I was wrong—and it seems I may have been—I apologize.
Again, it was not my intention to offend. As a writer, I’m admittedly often single minded: I want things to work around my story, because it’s the main thing I’m concerned with. I worked very hard on The Truth About Forever, and it kills me to think someone would disregard it because of this issue. The book has now been out a year and a half: maybe I should have just let this go, and not dealt with it here at all. But then again, it is almost Thanksgiving. A good a time as any to open up, get something off your chest, make amends and hopefully move on. So for what it’s worth, there’s my side of things. Thanks for listening, at any rate.
Tomorrow, back to Friends and purses. I promise.