Breaking my Silence and my Happy Mask – Kelly Fitzharris Coody, Author

All the Things I’m NOT Supposed to Say – so be it, I’m biting the fucking hand that feeds. – Kelly Fitzharris Coody, Author of Unhinged

 

I won’t and can’t apologize for the minor editing errors that slipped through the literary cracks; not when I look at the whole of the process that was writing, editing, and taking on the responsibility for “professionally editing” my own manuscript, with the help of my longtime friend, Marisela Mitchley. (Despite what was promised to me by my publishers in my contract.)

Yes, I got a damning review over the weekend of my book, Unhinged.

(Psst: please, no need tell me over and over again that “you are going to get these bad reviews, Kelly,” because I KNOW THAT. I have a few things I need to address.)

The “errors” that were called out in said review aren’t actually even grammatical errors – to so confidently call out a writer for “assaulting the English language” and for “possessing bad grammatical skills” warrants a manuscript that is consistently poorly written, by a writer who uses the wrong “your” or “there” and doesn’t understand how commas or semicolons work. Not a few sentences ending in prepositions. Or for the way I used the word “idler.” To say that M.B.Reviewer has grossly exaggerated her assessment of my literary abilities is putting it lightly.

Sitting in my author’s seat is very frustrating; I’m not allowed to defend myself. It comes across as whiny, defensive, and flags me, by proxy, as weak and thin-skinned, along with possessing an inability to take constructive criticism, not to mention it pegging me as difficult to work with, when that could not be further from the truth.

What I consider to be an assault on the English language are words like, “obvs,” “OMG,” and “guyliner” not only existing in pop culture, but being added to the Oxford Dictionary. THAT is an assault.

You may read the review here: Review on Amazon of Unhinged

According to the Oxford Dictionary, ending a sentence with a preposition is “not a grammatical error.” And, according to http://www.dictionary.com/browse/idle, the way I used the word “idler” in the prologue is 100% correct. The statements that this review made about my abilities as a writer are defamatory, unnecessary, and flat out bogus.

A successful constructive critical review might look something like this: Coody’s book provided great literary insight into a different type of protagonist, giving the reader layers to peel back as they discover different aspects of Agnes’s personality and background. While, at times, Agnes is a character I can identify with and root for, there are other times that I feel Agnes is written to be too aggressive, detracting from the main plot and story-line, making the reader side with those around her who are out to get her. But, then, at the same time, is Coody attempting to make an overarching statement about how a protagonist doesn’t always need to be someone we identify with? While a few minor typographical errors made their way into print, they weren’t enough to distract me from the story and the characters. Unhinged is a solid, thrilling, unique book. Although I wasn’t a big fan of the way the book ended, and feel that it could do with a bit of revision, it’s nothing that a second and/or third edition wouldn’t be able to address and/or fix. Overall, Unhinged is one hell of a psychological thriller that will stay with you long after you read it.

Here’s the other part:

I’d love to share a story with you.

No, not a fictitious one; not an anecdotal, humorous holiday tale, either. But I’d like to share with you the ridiculously unprofessional process I endured and underwent with the publishing of my first book, Unhinged.

I was saddled with an editor whom shall remain nameless and gender-less in order to protect their identity. This person broke my book; they made unnecessary changes according to their style and/or taste, added errors and sentences that made no sense with the story, and repeatedly asked me to dumb my book down for the readers.

To be frank, I tried my hardest with the shit I was shoveled and I’m not the least bit sorry that more than a few shitty bits of grammar edged past the editing process and made their way into the final manuscript.

This has been an optimal outcome for me: through dedication and hard work, my friend and I made my book a cohesive, solid manuscript in a short amount of time, after playing clean up with what nameless editor had done to my manuscript. (One example: they changed Rolling Stones to Rolling Stone’s.)

Given this unforgivable lack of knowledge, competency, and professionalism, this editor was “let go” from “their” position at said contracted editing company.

NOW, mind you, I, like my good friend Marisela Mitchley, am not given to brevity. So stay with me.

After “Rookie Editor” soiled my manuscript, I looked over the PDF that was about to be sent to print, “Ready-to-go!” The further I read, the worse it got. Rookie Editor fucking annihilated my book, ADDING IN grammatical errors, changing my correct grammar to incorrect.

Guess what I was given as an alternative to “Rookie Editor?”

NOTHING. A half-hearted, ‘I’ll try,’ from the CEO of the contracted editing company, whose email to me was RIDDLED with typos, which I politely turned down. I was also given the same offer by the men who own the publishing company which published my book. They said the same thing, ‘This isn’t really my area, but I can give it a try.’ 

WHAT THE FUCK? 

At this point in the process, I’d become so jaded and disillusioned with not only the publishing process, but with everyone’s lack of concern and competency who were the supposed “experts” and “professionals” surrounding me, when it came to my book.

So, guess what I did? Guess what I had to do?

Not trusting the two people who freely admitted that they would probably fuck up my book even more, I enlisted the help of an old college friend. We were initially given two weeks, which was extended to about six. the fact that we were able to fix all of the many, many added typos, grammatical problems, and more than a few apostrophe problems, along with editing it the way it should have been done the first time around is nothing short of a miracle.

As for the remark in this review regarding the book’s premise being “not so unique?” This book is based on my life. Yes, I’ve mixed fiction in with it, but the premise is my life. Me. I don’t know how much more unique I could have gotten than that.

I’ll tell you something, though: despite the few “errors” that you feel discredit me as a writer, I am a damn good writer, I am proud of the book, and I have excellent grammar.

(“errors” = they aren’t, by definition, grammatical errors)

I’m not an idiot, guys. Some of you have even told me that you hated thrillers and that’s why you weren’t a big fan of my book–then, two weeks later, I saw that you posted something about how much you love thrillers.

This week has been a hard one for me. Forgive me, but my family has lost two important people; two close, dear, family friends, and it has thrown a crack into our foundation. So, in between the daily sexual harassment I deal with, along with the hypercritical stone-throwing pertaining to my literary merit, I am grieving, and am so, so deeply sad for my friends and their families during this time, along with feeling violated and stepped on for a long time now.

Don’t worry though: I love proving people wrong. I’m actively working on The Undoing.

Kelly Fitzharris Coody

(Just to show you another instance of utter incompetency on my publishers’ part, when they first listed Unhinged on Amazon for sale, they added a hyphen to my name. This is a pseudonym, for God’s sake. I don’t have a hyphenated name, nor have I ever. My legal name is Kelly Marie Coody, because I changed my name after I was married 9 years ago.)

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Sticks & Stones may break your bones; but words, they stay forever.

My last letter was written with the intention of giving kudos and thanks to Melisssa Libbey; and she deserves the hell out of it. She has been a breath of fresh air – exactly what I needed. I was holding armfuls of lemons; she was the one who came along and told me how to make lemonade with them.

Some of my journeys are too long for this letter. I’ve been sick off and on since I came down with mono, after being infected by the Epstein-Barr Virus when I was 30. My health deteriorated after receiving the Gardasil vaccine back in 2007 at the urging of a trusted OB-GYN.

I fought other uphill battles, daily, for example. A typical day during 6th grade (at Ruckel Middle School in Niceville, Florida), I was carrying my clarinet case with me to band, when I realized I was being followed by a boy who kept calling me a “F_gg_t.” (I despise that word on so many levels, hence the reason why I’m blanking out the vowels up there.)  My friend was walking with me. Instead of coming to my defense, she, instead, said, “Hey! I’m not in band!”

Yeah, so I was in band, had unruly red hair, glasses and braces at the same time, and it was 1996, so the glasses back then…they were not so stylish. That doesn’t matter. I was bullied from then on up until the end of my senior year of high school.

With a few moves in between, you know, because of my dad and that whole Air Force and Lieutenant Colonel and flight instructor thing that made him have to work at different Air Force bases.

 

My freshman year of high school, in Wichita Falls, Texas, I actually was on the receiving end of a classmate (a boy) walking up to me and telling me to my face: “You’re ugly.”

I didn’t cry. I didn’t react. I stood there and stared at him like he was insane.

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A few other guys razzed him about making such a heinous comment to a girl–first, because it was mean as hell, but second, according to them, because it wasn’t true–but my friends and I stood there, stunned, unwilling to talk to the entire group.

I’ve told my eight year-old daughter about some of this, to which she replied, “That’s horrible!” , sadness painting her face and her big, bright doe-eyes.

“It’s okay, baby,” I explain to her. “Mommy’s all grown up now. And it doesn’t matter.”

“But you’re beautiful!” she protested, crying.

Now I felt really bad.

“Let’s say that I wasn’t the prettiest girl you’ve ever seen.(Not that I think I am; my daughter thinks I’m pretty by default because I’m her mother.) Then, would that have made that situation right?” I asked.

Well, no. Of course not! she said.

“That’s the point I’m making: bullying is bullying is bullying. I don’t care why they do it, how they do it or what goes on at home, but it’s wrong. And it does, in fact, hurt.”

I always got bullied for the dumbest reasons:

1 Having pale skin

2 “Talking funny”

3 Red hair

4 Freckles (“Tell me, are babies born with freckles??!!”)

The worst part about bullying a new kid is that you are absolutely kicking them when they’re down, no question. I already went home to our rent house on Putter Drive (off of Bay Drive, in Bluewater, close to Niceville) and cried my eyes out in the bathroom after school nearly every day, bullied or not. I was so lonely. The worst part about those two years was that there were a few teachers who’d decided they didn’t like me and slyly ostracized me from the group of students, the class activity.

The Florida panhandle is still my home, no question. Going there makes me happy. Life is full of bumps, twists, turns, what have you. I had a hell of a lot more happy times living there than I did sad. The hard part was that we lived there for six years, moved away for four, then moved back for the last two years of high school.

This journey isn’t always one that we complete or grow out of; there are plenty of adult bullies, trust me. Judgmental, angry, unhappy;  who will do anything and everything in their power to bring you down with them. They may be coworkers, family members, whoever. But there are inevitably people you may have to encounter on a daily basis who seem to make it their life’s work to bring you down.

I encourage you guys the way that I do because I know what it is to feel sad and alone. I know what it is to start to hate your own writing. Hell, I know what it is to hate myself. Don’t give me a bunch of flak for that last sentence, guys; I’m being real. Adolescence wasn’t always necessarily kind to me. Adulthood isn’t a breeze either: as women, we’re always fighting to feel recognized, encouraged….and, sadly, worthy of praise. Worthy of feeling that we have intrinsic value.

This is how adversity has strengthened me. 

I still have nightmares where I’m confronting someone that I’m so angry with; and I’m trying so hard to scream, and my voice barely comes out a whisper.

I am on the pragmatic, skeptical side of life as opposed to the endlessly optimistic, but I’m okay with that. Overcoming personal battles are sometimes the hardest ones; and those wounds are the ones that run the deepest.

The point is this: the only person who has the power to tell you what or who you are is you. No matter how hard that is to swallow, no matter how many people have told you that you aren’t worth it, that your work is all for naught, CLOSE YOUR EARS to them! Work that much harder, smile, find your happy place; once you do, you’ll find where you belong. This goes for poets, writers, artists, etc, but for everyone else as well. I omitted some of the more “vicious” stories about my past, but it’s because I don’t need to sit here and relive it. Writing about it once is cathartic; fifty isn’t.

But, let your critics strengthen you. They don’t have the power to tell you who you are or what you’re able to do.

Break that glass ceiling, girls – and fly straight to the top. Where you belong.

And if you get a minute, drop me a line: sicklitsubmissions@gmail.com

 

Kelly Fitzharris Coody

KellyHeadshotPhoto1

CEO &  Editor-in-Chief

 

*Featured photography courtesy of Brian Michael Barbeito*