Letter from the Editor, November 2013

James // 11/9/2013

Dear HomeSchooling Friends,

It has been a while since I've written. For the past year, I have been employed full time in software development and testing, and have been relying heavily on Arthur and Benjamin to help maintain the site. I have also received several requests for becoming monthly writers. If you are one of those who sent me a request, I apologize for not getting back to you. There are several things I have been wanting to take care of first on this site, and it has taken a while. I will get back to you soon.

I also want to thank Ben Kniaz, our founder and leader emeritus, for fixing the pictures on ApricotPie. He had some time when I was swamped, and so he lent us his time and expertise to fix this problem we've had for half a year. Thank you, Ben!

I also have a weighty matter to address with everyone, and it concerns the content of this site. Over the past few years, I've noticed that sometimes some of the posts on this site have been a bit edgy, seemingly "pushing the envelope" of what is considered appropriate. This can be corrected with those of us who aren't monthly writers, as it has to be approved before it can be posted. However, with those of us who are monthly writers, we can post without prior approval -- which means it is even more important for us to be careful. Lately we have been letting our guard down. I simply can't let this go on. ApricotPie needs to be a place that's safe, a place where innocence is respected. It also needs to be (I realize not all will agree with this) a place where God is honored.

Instead of elaborating more on this here in the letter, I've created a separate page addressing this more specifically. You can click this link to see it:

http://www.apricotpie.com/apricotpie-standards

If you have any comments, thoughts, questions, or concerns, feel free to comment about this below.

Comments

Yay! I was happy to see the

Yay! I was happy to see the pictures back! I know that I am guilty of said "pushing the envelope". I'll make sure to edit anything inappropriate out in the future. :)

Erin | Sat, 11/09/2013

"You were not meant to fit into a shallow box built by someone else." -J. Raymond

This really disappoints me.

This really disappoints me. Not the fact that I can't use "coarse language"--really, who cares--I just won't post any of my writing with it in it--but the amount of prejudice in just that one Standards Page. There is some obvious homophobia present, and, I'm sorry to say, hypocrisy. You list all of these rules--every single one strictly abiding to your beliefs/the Bible--and then go on to say that anyone is welcome. How are people to feel welcome if they read that? What if they don't believe in God? What if they don't believe in marriage? What if they're gay? What if their version of a happy story is two men/two women being happy together?

I'm Quaker, which is Christian. I have a strong belief in God. My parents have been married for eighteen years, and they lived together for two years before they were married--we're certainly not suffering for it.

I don't want you to think I've taken this personally. I haven't. What upsets me is the amount of censorship that you're putting in place. This has been a wonderful, wonderful place to post my work. It's been open, and free, and full of lovely people who helped me to move forward in my writing.

I'm sixteen. I write your typical, twenty-first-century teenage characters. They curse and they say "Oh my ***" and they aren't inherently "good". They're normal. It's realistic fiction--that's what I write--and I'll hate to not be able to share that anymore.

My main concern here is that censorship should not be forced upon writing. The best writing comes from a natural place where the author is unafraid to say anything he/she wants to. What happens when you put that on people? When they have to think--"Oh, this fits. But I'll post the edited version on Apricot Pie." You get lesser quality of writing.

I know everyone won't have this problem, but I fear I will, because I don't edit my writing to suit other people. I've had people tell me to do that before--for a couple articles--and I refuse. I stand by what I write.

There is always a way to improve, but at a certain point you learn what feels right.

I just hate to see this site turn to excluding so many people and so many things. There will be a lot less diversity here. This reminds me of when someone posted a lovely, lovely poem but it contained things everyone here deemed "inappropriate" or "ungodly". It was taken down, despite the fact that it was a wonderful poem.

This is my issue. After three years on here and 100+ posts, this is what I have to say. If you're going to take my account down, I ask that you please give me some warning so I can remove things off the page that I'd like to have for keepsakes. :) I certainly won't be breaking your rules now that you've enforced them, but you know what I think.

Thanks.

-Homey

Madeline | Sun, 11/10/2013

everything was better when/you would call and I'd be like/yeah babe, no way

:)

Thanks for fixing the pictures, Ben! I hope everything's well with your studies, James.

I too have been guilty of pushing the envelope when submitting writing. I will take care to make sure whatever I submit is by the apricot standards. I am blessed to be a part of this site, so going by the standards is necessary, whether or not I agree with them. :)

Another question I have is when applying to become a monthly writer, do I submit it to you, James? Or you, Arthur and Benjamin? And also, do I just say what I love about Apricot Pie, and include some samples of my writing?

Maddi | Sun, 11/10/2013

Goodbye? Oh no, please. Can’t we just go back to page one and start all over again?” – Winnie The Pooh

^I do agree with what Homey

^I do agree with what Homey said. I was going to send an email, but she said basically the same thing I was going to. I understand the elimination of cuss words (h*ll and d***) but I thought that heck and god were a bit over the top. Also, I think that all sides of the human nature need to be shown in writing in order for it to connect. If your main characters are unfailingly good then they will not be human. That's basically my two cents:).

Erin | Sun, 11/10/2013

"You were not meant to fit into a shallow box built by someone else." -J. Raymond

Thank you!

Glad to see the pictures are back!
Also, I just wanted to say that I appreciate your standards, especially the one about taking God's name in vain. This is one in particular that bothers me. I understand the idea that it is important to show all sides of human nature, but this does not require us to go into detail. As we are all sinners of the worst kind, only redeemed by grace through faith, we are all aware that characters are capable of great sin. This does not by any means require them to take God's name in vain or swear to get the idea across. Is that not setting a stumbling block in front of those who read it?
Anyways, those are just my thoughts.
Thank you, James for being so clear. I do not think these standards are unreasonable in any way, and all can be backed up by scripture.

Elizabeth Anne | Sun, 11/10/2013

See him with his books:
Tree beside the brooks,
Drinking at the root
Till the branch bear fruit.
See him with his pen:
Written line, and then,
Better thought preferred,
Deep from in the Word.
~John Piper

A couple thoughts.

James is not saying we can't show human nature and sin, only that we can't celebrate and glorify it. He's not asking for all our characters to be perfect, rather, that we reassess how we portray that human nature. (Correct me if I'm wrong, James, but that's the understanding I get).

We can't dictate what people write and don't write, or what they believe. But, as James pointed out, Apricotpie is supposed to be a safe place. That doesn't mean what we write on here never deals with evil - stories and poems would be useless if they didn't because they wouldn't help us in the real world - but if they don't show evil as evil (and this is where the disagreements come, I think, because we have different views of what constitutes evil), then Apricotpie ceases to be a safe place.

James, the one thing I would disagree with is "small children." I think there are stories and topics that can be dealt with well but that are still too mature for small children - but I think that those stories should still come with a warning, and while their content may be somewhat heavier, it still needs to deal with the evil in it in the same way - not dwelling on it and not making it seem good - just like we wouldn't show Lord of the Rings to small children, yet for older children it's a not just acceptable but even potentially good thing to watch.

Kyleigh | Mon, 11/11/2013

I will not become a monthly

I will not become a monthly writer. I am not going to be able to edit everything mature out of my writing. Life is harsh. Yes, there is holy and there is evil, and they are quite different, but the lines between good and bad are sometimes difficult to discern, both for myself and for my characters. I have been in several terrible, wrong-side-of-the-tracks, catch-22 situations, and while I understand that there may be those who do not want to read about them, I still need to write about them. I typically don't post those on here anyway, but I had one post denied, back in the day, because it ended with a suicide. After the initial fury (yes, I admit it), I was struck by the unfairness of it all. Life is not all roses. People die, sometimes by their own hand, and they get hurt and ruined and they make stupid, life-changing decisions. Bad things happen. There ARE gangs and rape and murder and drugs and abuse, and granted, I know almost nothing about them so I don't write about them, but how can we leave reality out of our writing?
I can't. I will still post here, but these standards make me sad. I understand there must be lines drawn, but I cannot abide by them in all of my writing. If any of my writing must be taken down, please send me an email at least a week in advance, as I would like to make sure I have copies of it all.
EDIT: When I joined this site, I was under the impression that it was a site for homeschoolers to share their writing. While I am myself a Christian, I don't think it's fair to force others to align their writing to our beliefs if the original mission statement of this website did not include that information. Perhaps it did. But if it did, I missed it.

Bridget | Mon, 11/11/2013

"I always wonder why birds stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on the earth. Then I ask myself the same question." - Harun Yahya

Understanding but Disappointed

I know everyone has their share to say about these standards, and James, I know you knew this. You knew exactly what you were getting into when you created these standards, so having that in mind, I know there is nothing I can say that will make you change your mind.

I understand your motives, indeed there are many younger generations on this site which, I agree need to be sheltered from a lot of what is out there. I just wish you would respect their own judgement in knowing what is appropriate for them or not. I can understand wanting to regulate some of the material that is posted, but I feel like you could have handled it a different way. My suggestion would be instead of banning these things, you would ask the older writers to put a warning at the top of their posts like: "This is PG-13 material with mild language and romantic content" then the younger reader would be warned and decide if it's appropriate for them or not, since everyone is raised differently with different standards.

My beliefs are very spread out, I am coming into Quakerism like Homey, but I used to be all sorts of other things. I believe that everyone has their own calling, and I believe that everyone has a right to believe in whatever they feel is right. Though I am personally still working on loving everyone unconditionally the way Jesus told us to, I still accept you and the way you see the world.

I can understand your personal want to not have God's name said in vain, and I can understand how many writers here would agree. I agree that we shouldn't be rude about God's name, but I feel like banning the use of "Gosh," "Jeez" "Golly" etc. is extreme. I would be okay with this if you would have given us an alternative... but what do we do now that we can't use these, and we're writing realistic style? Honestly, I am clueless and had no idea that "Jeez" was slang for Jesus, and "gosh" to me doesn't sound that bad... But, since you don't want us using these I would IMPLORE you to give us an alternative.

I agree with the girls, if you are to take down any kind of writing, please notify me before hand so that I can retrieve it and document it, we (as writers) have the right to be warned ahead of time.
I am honestly horrified at the thought of Bridget's writing being taken down, no matter what the writing was about.

Truly, James, thank you for your work and your dedication. But I am disappointed in the way you've taken up a dictatorship, I believe that you should at least have discussed this with us other writers before setting things in stone. I know you are trying the best that you can, and I really do appreciate you and your work and the thought that you've put into keeping younger readers safe, and also fulling your spiritual need to please God.

Please consider our arguments and suggestions, that's all I ask.
Thank you.

Kassady | Mon, 11/11/2013

"Here's looking at you, Kid"
---
Write On!

I agree with no evil

I agree with no evil triumphing over good, but does that mean I can't post anything that humanizes characters generally thought of as evil?

Kathleen | Thu, 11/14/2013

Yes, I rolled in my grave.

I haven't read or posted on this site forever. I have kept writing and reading with my friends. But once and a while I check the site to see if anything is going on.
This is horrific on both sides.
James has a point: this is a private website where the maker can decide the rules and what is appropriate. As a Christian, God's name should not be taken in vain, and nothing that is bad should be shown as good, such as intimacy outside of marriage, homosexual, or any pornography.
Though life is harsh, and cruel, and bad things happen, truth must somehow prevail, and whether the redemption happens with the person who commits suicide, or their best friend, it must be shown. As writers, as artists, we are meant to tell the truth and to seek it: and sometimes, Truth is not what some people believe.
BUT, cutting out "gosh" and "geez" or "jeepers" or "jimmy crickets" (which I use frequently) is hypocrisy. They are not harmful. AT ALL.
Lastly, I agree with Kyleigh on her thoughts about "small children" I would like to add that, though most parent don't, parents should be monitoring for their younger children what they read. Back when I was nine, that is what my parents did for me. Though I believe that the writing on here should not be rated "R" (or worse) and that we should protect innocence here, we cannot be responsible. But what we can give parents is the knowledge that nothing on this site will contradict the Truth. And I agree that people have the right to believe what they want, but by george, I am a Christian and know that there is a definitive truth.
~Bernadette

Bernadette | Thu, 11/14/2013

P.S

j.r.r Tolkien uses "Good heavens"

Bernadette | Thu, 11/14/2013

WHOOHOOOO! (applauding in the

WHOOHOOOO! (applauding in the background!) Go James! :D

I seriously agree with everything you said. Lucy Anne is also excited, I can tell you that right now! XD

YYYYEEEAAAA!!! I'm SO happy and excited!

j. Glen pollard | Thu, 11/14/2013

"The trip is a difficult one. I will not be myself when I reach you."-When I Reach Me.

My thoughts

First of all, I have to say thank you, James and Ben, for fixing the picture problem.

Second, I will say my bit about the standards. I do agree with everything you said, though I have one question. I hope you will answer it someway, either in here or by email. What if my story deals with the main character getting addicted to drugs and drunkenness BUT he becomes transformed by the work of God in his life? I can't post it on here? What if I am very discreet? Would it still be for children? What do you mean that it has to be suitable for children? The theme? Then what? Does that mean I cannot have more older themes published here? Or do you mean unnecessary ungodly - scenes that may cause people to stumble, scenes?

Much of the books I read are true stories about people who lived in sin, but later they find God and their lives are transformed. And of course, most of the story talks about the parts of their life when they lived in sin. That is what makes the conflict. It makes the testimony. BUT these authors are discreet. For example, in one book called Lucy Winchester by Christmas Carol Kauffman, one of the sins in the main character's life was adultery. Still, even though the book has romance, it is discreet and is in no way sensual. It does not have scenes that I would have to look away from. There IS a bit of violence (and even the violence is not at all gory), where the husband comes home drunk, and although I would not read the story to a 5 year old child simply because in the first place, they wouldn't even understand and grasp the power of transformation by God as well as older children. But even though the story revolves around the more "ugly" parts of life, it does not cause anyone to stumble or have a feeling that it is something they should not be reading.

Another example. If we are writing about a marriage, it would be inappropriate for us to write about those certain moments that should only be shared between the couple. You know what I mean. Those descriptions, no matter what, will never be a healthy aspect of a story.

So, do you mean I CAN write about the "ugly" conflicts, but it must not be unhealthy? Because the way I look at it, there is always going to be something too difficult for younger readers to understand, and there is always going to be a darker side in life. To avoid this darker side (and making sure that good always overcomes evil) would be impossible.

One more thing. I would very much appreciate if you would step out more and comment more on everyone's work here. That way we can know what you are thinking. I know you have very limited time, but as a leader of this site, it would be so incredibly wonderful for you to even write too, to show us an example, a model to follow. I did not even know that Benjamin was maintaining the site. I just wish that the leaders of this site could instruct us by writing and commenting themselves. Especially you, James, because you are one of the oldest, and probably one of the most respected and the most wise.

Thank you, thank you for leading us. I hope with all my heart that Apricotpie will never again lose its place in my heart. --Megan

Lucy Anne | Sat, 11/16/2013

"It is not the length of life, but the depth of life." Ralph Waldo Emerson

...

Just thought I'd add my thoughts like everyone else.

Firstly, I don't agree with everything being appropriate for younger children.
When I joined apricotpie, I did not get the impression that the content I wrote had to be for younger readers. See, I think the things we write should be appropriate (and not shedding a positive light on evil) for everyone (like what Megan said about marriage) but making it understandable for younger children? My story at the moment, is about how this character will go through sin and defilement, but then hear the gospel and become a believer. I wanted to include sin in it (of course, not shedding a positive light on it) for the sake of writing conflict, and the overall powerful message of the story. Basically, I agree with what Kyleigh and Megan have already said.

I agree with the standard of taking God's name in vain; for one, it's against the 10 Commandments and is just wrong.

I disagree, though, on the use of "gosh," "golly", "heck", "gee". I use them, excluding golly, in almost everyday language. My family, friends, and everyone (to my knowledge) uses and doesn't have a problem with it. Not saying that because of my culture the standards on AP have to allow it.
And also, if you're going to rule out those four, why not "Oh my goodness"?

I agree with the rest of the standards, as they are God-honoring.

Maddi | Sat, 11/16/2013

Goodbye? Oh no, please. Can’t we just go back to page one and start all over again?” – Winnie The Pooh

Follow Up

All,
Thank you for your comments, your thoughts, and your feedback.
I had hoped to post a follow-up this week, but was unable to finish it. I will hopefully post one next week. For now, know that I have read each of your comments and am taking them seriously. If you have any additional thoughts or concerns during the next week, please continue to post them.

James | Sun, 11/17/2013

<><~~~~~~~~~~~~><>
"The idea that we should approach science without a philosophy is itself a philosophy... and a bad one, because it is self-refuting." -- Dr. Jason Lisle

Uh-oh

I saw this and immediately thought, "Thus ends my writing on apricotpie!" I can safely assume I'm one of the writers to whom this is addressed.

To be fair, I've also been challenging myself recently to find an alternative writing outlet (while keeping my AP profile), because even though the site allows for homeschool graduates, I've been wondering whether I belong, being ten years or so older than most here. But it also has to do with the fact that my own writing is beginning to explore topics that I myself didn't address ten years ago when I first joined apricotpie - topics that could definitely be called "edgy". So this has been on my mind as well, and I'm glad you brought it up. I'm glad it's being discussed.

That being said, I have a lot of emotions right now over the subject! Maybe I'm having an overly dramatic reaction to your position, but it seems the 'doomsday' of good writing when outside principles begin to shackle style and limit content. However, philosophy of art aside, it's entirely within your right (as this site's manager) to set standards that pieces must meet in order to be posted here. I just hope I'm not being out of line when I say some of us (including myself) may be a bit shaken by this, seeing as these standards were never set there in the first place. Ben's guidelines were very loose and open to interpretation. He told us to respect goodness and innocence and beauty. He left it to us to decide how to proceed from there. I never considered this a Christian site (nor do I believe it was intended it to be), so I'm not sure if we should be imposing specific Christian values - and fundamentalist ones at that - on the writers.

Along with my own writing, I've noticed that some other writers here have also been exploring what you called "edgier" topics, and a lot of people (from what I can observe) have attempted to resolve the dilemma themselves: by putting precautions before their piece, so that the reader can make an informed choice about whether to read it or not.
(Side note: I'm not sure if your question ("Would a parent read this aloud to a small child?") is relevant, seeing as small children are not on this site.)

Is there any way that you can re-evaluate these standards? Or, if you'd like to keep them as-is, would you open to formulating some kind of "rating" system, where we, in a set formula, say "Caution: this piece contains mild violence," etc. ?

Again, I have been conflicted lately in my mind as to whether I'm deviating from apricotpie's general content with the "darker" topics about life I have been exploring... so I am glad you have put the subject on the table. It needs to be discussed, and I hope you see the topic still open for discussion!

I just think we will lose a lot of writers with these new standards. People from different backgrounds or religions or worldviews will not feel "at home here" with these rules. The people who are morally opposed to saying "Oh my gosh" or "What the heck?" are few and far between - and imposing them on others will bring in a limited audience and limited contributions. If you're fine with that, then that's okay, but I don't think it was apricotpie's original vision.

Sarah Bethany | Fri, 11/22/2013

OKAY, it's time for me to put

OKAY, it's time for me to put my fully formulated opinion on here.
Part of why I appreciate this site so much is because of the fact that the writing is QUALITY. There are so many other writing websites and forums with writing that is tacky, lusty, crude, and grammatically incorrect. I feel that everyone has respected Ben's original standards.
I don't mind people stating their opinion. Most of the writers on this website are Christian, and that's great. A lot of their writing heavily reflects their beliefs and I think that it's great to present what your faith is within your writing. However, we shouldn't all have those same beliefs enforced upon us. I am not personally a Christian, or particularly religious, and I haven't tried to push my beliefs on anybody (aside from a little internet battle when I was 12 and stupid). We have to face the facts, as Sarah Bethany said, that there are very few 21st century teenagers who would be offended by "Oh my Gosh". If you are offended by that and choose not to put it in your own writing, that is perfectly fine. I think that our instincts should be trusted. I, and several others, have been putting disclaimers at the beginning of our posts if there is anything that might be considered inappropriate for younger children. I strongly disagree with the idea that all writing must be OK for little kids. The writers on this website have gotten older. If we don't deal with anything that actually happens, then we aren't writing anything that is real.
Now, I don't know if I'm reading this wrong, but I didn't feel that James was really trying to force anything on us. He seemed like he was just presenting some ideals to keep in mind. I disagree with most of these (aside from the part about explicit sexual content. That makes sense.), but I'm willing to keep an open mind.
Anyway, that's my opinion. :)

Erin | Sat, 11/23/2013

"You were not meant to fit into a shallow box built by someone else." -J. Raymond

I would just like to add that

I would just like to add that I think Sarah Bethany and Bridget summed up all my other concerns perfectly. When I joined I was not under the impression that this was a Christian-based writing site.

I always try to put a disclaimer before any of my writing that might contain sensitive content, and I wonder if you'd consider letting people do that so the writers can decide for themselves what's appropriate to read. Also, I'd like to add that I agree with Erin--no explicit sexual content should be allowed.

Anyway, thank you.

Madeline | Sat, 11/23/2013

everything was better when/you would call and I'd be like/yeah babe, no way

My thoughts

I know that I'm not a monthly writer, and that since I don't write fiction very often, many of these standards don't apply to me as strongly as they do to many of you, but I thought I would still give my opinion, coming from a writer of poetry, and a reader of much of the incredible writing on this site.
Firstly, I believe that innocence can be respected, and for the most part has been, by a disclaimer, or rating, at the beginning of a story which may not be appropriate for all readers. Evil should always be shown as such, and never glorified, yet at the same time, things which are not appropriate for small children may become so as they mature. Life is not all roses, life is not all immediate redemption. Bad things happen, and people get hurt, and they do not always heal easily. This is terrible, but must we avoid it in our writing, must we avoid the reality that although good is infinitely more powerful than evil, it does sometimes seem as if evil may conquer? I understand that AP is meant to be a "safe place", but you see, I have always found it to be such. Yes, there are stories, both on AP and in general, I may not like my younger siblings to read, but it is often not because they glorify improper things, but because they are simply not old enough. Some content refers to things of which they are still unaware, some is simply over their heads emotionally. Try reading a 10 year old Jane Austen. They're going to be confused and bored. Give it to them again in 6 years, and watch things click.
On AP, I have found writers with similar worldviews, and those whose beliefs differ from my own. This diversity provides a greater span in writing and in critiques. I have never once read a comment which was cruel or rude. I have never once seen one author torn down by another. I have seen disagreements of opinion, but I know that most of us greatly respect the debate-free zone that is AP, and do not bring our arguments here. The beauty of the original statement is that it sets general guidelines, yet still allows for this diversity. I know that there may be disagreements as to what is good, yet, it does seem unfair, that a certain worldview should be imposed after the creation of the site.
As for curse words, I believe that is wrong to take God's name in vain, and that certain words should be avoided, yet including "heck" "dang" "gee" and "gosh" does seem to be a bit over-the-top.
Of course explicit sexual content does not belong at AP, and again, the issue of romance is where a rating system or content warning could be used. As well as concerning the words above, readers could then use their own judgement to decide whether the story in question is appropriate for them.
Of all the comments so far posted, many of which I agree with on most levels, I would say that Bernadette really just sums up what I've been trying to express. So maybe just count my opinion as matching hers.
I strongly recommend implementing a rating system/content warning, as a way to protect the innocence of younger writers without overly restricting older writers.

little woman | Sat, 11/23/2013

The most astonishing thing about miracles is that they happen.
-G. K. Chesterton

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