Standards Followup, short and not-final

James // 11/24/2013

All,

There is so much I want to say and to explain to you. I have been unable to write it all down yet, but rather than delay longer in following up, I want to at least give you a brief update with my thoughts.

Thank you for all your responses, both in agreement and disagreement. I know that the standards I put up are a shock to the system. In hind sight, I wish I had done it sooner, or more gradually, or found some way to make it less disturbing. I also realize that there were some things in it that weren’t clear, or were ambiguous. So, here are a handful of points:

  • Already Published Posts: I have no plans to take anything down that has already been published. Also, if I find that anything that has been published or posted needs to be taken down, I will let you know so that you can make sure you have a copy saved first. But I am hoping that it won’t come to that.
  • Things that are simple to identify, and are definitely banned: using God’s name in vain, and swear words or coarse words that are derived from careless sexual acts or human/animal waste material.
  • Euphemisms: This was probably the most unpopular, and I understand why. I have considered giving a slight concession and allowing them in moderation, but am still not sure whether or not I should. Perhaps to help in making this decision, I should post an essay, or a letter, that explains some of what I took into consideration when I initially excluded them in the standards, to provide more space for feedback on this. I cannot guarantee that my decision would be based on a democratic consensus, but the matter should at least have a fair hearing.
  • "Small Children": I realize from your feedback that this is ill-put, is causing confusion, and is not useful as a rule of thumb. I will either remove it, modify it, or replace it with something that works better. (Suggestions?)

Also, to clarify, it is alright (in fact, it is usually good and necessary) to write about things that are bad, immoral, or evil. My concern is that, when this is done:

  • That which is evil shouldn’t be represented as ok or good.
  • While it’s alright to not explicitly call out wrong as wrong, that it is not implied to the reader that wrong is ok.
  • Inappropriate details are avoided.
  • It does not become overly dark (and this is somewhat subjective and hard to determine, I know).

One other thing I wanted to note -- I know that in the past few years, I have not participated as much as I should have, by interacting with you all and commenting on your writings. From now on I will do this more often.

There is much more I need to say and to explain, and many more of your concerns that I need to address or respond to, but for now I have run out of time. Please continue to comment with your feedback, and I hope to post another follow-up letter next weekend.

Comments

I appreciate the follow up. I

I appreciate the follow up. I would say that the small children part should be removed. With all of the other standards, I feel that nothing on here would be inappropriate for children, even if it might be a bit mature.

Erin | Sun, 11/24/2013

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

Again, this leaves me

Again, this leaves me disappointed. I'm aware you're now in charge of this site, but to make such changes when they weren't in place before seems an abuse of authority in that you are forcing your personal beliefs onto everyone. I really don't know what's left to for me to say.

The majority of the writers on this site appear to be twelve and up--so the "small children" matter is entirely irrelevant. Personally, I don't believe small children should be joining a writing site anyway--a nine-year-old, for example, doesn't seem quite old enough to have such access to the internet.

My only request is this: if you're aspiring to make this a Fundamentalist Christian site (which, in line with the standards, you are), perhaps you should just come out and say it. That should also, for the sake of future writers wanting to join, be specified somewhere on the site--either in a tagline or on the "about" page. If these standards had been in place when I joined three years ago, I don't believe I would have because of how much this prohibits.

My writing has come a long way thanks to the people on this site and the fact that I was made a monthly, but I won't be able to post much anymore. Most of my current writing (coming from your typical sixteen-year-old teenager) breaks at least two or three of the rules, and it's because I write realistic fiction and contemporary poetry.

Sorry to disagree so strongly yet again, but I feel it a disservice to myself after three years on this site to stay quiet. I definitely don't set out to convince you of something, as it seems your mind is well past the point of being made up. I just want you to know that not everyone (or at least one person) is going to be okay with this.

Again, I realize Apricot Pie is not my site, and I won't be breaking any of the new rules. Thanks.

Madeline | Sun, 11/24/2013

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

A few more thoughts

These aren't super coherent, just a few bits and pieces for thought:
- I agree with what everyone has said about putting disclaimers/age targets before pieces that are more mature. Just like at a library you'd find books in specific categories.

- Looking back on my early days on Apricotpie, there was no need for rules like this because of the type of work that was being posted. Yes, there were mature subjects being dealt with, but it was done very tactfully, in a way that got the point across and showed the issues being dealt with but didn't go into too much detail. Apricotpie has changed a lot since I found it seven years ago... so what I'm saying is that while the rules are a surprise in some ways, I've also seen AP change a lot to the point where some things do need to be corrected.

- I do agree with not using euphemisms. I know a lot of you don't... but I just wanted to give a thought on that, not necessarily the rightness or wrongness of them but why we use them in our writing. To me, swearing in writing shows a lack of polish. We don't often write like we talk. Yes, there's dialogue and it should be realistic... but why do people swear? Often because of frustration and that's just the first thing that comes out of their mouth. Yet often there are better ways to show that frustration, and as writers we have time to think about how to craft that. I know sometimes authors go for a more "raw" style, but there's still craft in that, still time to think about how to show frustration or excitement in a way that doesn't use a swear word (or a euphemism, which is pretty much a way of saying "I want to swear here but don't think I should say that word so I'll say something almost like it instead").

Kyleigh | Sun, 11/24/2013

My two-cents

Thank you James for setting up these standards. In my opinion they will improve the quality of writing on this site. What Kyleigh said about euphemisms and swearing is spot-on.

I realize that we are going to be writing about the real world and don't want to sugar coat things, but most of us are teenagers and is it not entirely possible for us to write about things we have no business discussing for our age? While I haven't seen anything posted here that crosses the boundaries of decency, there are some recent posts that border it (albeit with a "PG13" warning). These new standards will only prevent things from going too far before they happen.

As for them being fundamentalist, I don't think James is forbidding anyone who disagrees with his beliefs from writing here, but only asking that they respect his standards if they want to post. That is something that he has every right to do. Maintaining a website takes a lot of time and effort; I think we should all remind ourselves to be grateful for the privilege granted us by using this site and remember how few other writing forums are as safe as this one.

Finally, all of us should be concerned about constantly working on and improving our writing. In my opinion the new standards will help us do that, in that they will force us to think creatively about how to present certain issues in our writing without stating them outright. In many creative writing forms, and especially poetry, it is considered desirable to suggest feelings and emotions rather than simply telling the reader what you think.

Hannah D. | Sun, 11/24/2013

"Reason itself is a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all." - G. K. Chesterton

A couple of other things: You

A couple of other things: You should allow euphemisms. I very strongly believe that their use should be up to the writer. If you disagree with them, don't use them in your own writing.
I also think that it is pretty narrow to tell writers what viewpoint to take on various matters, considering the fact that everyone has different ideas of right, wrong, and evil. Thanks.

Erin | Sun, 11/24/2013

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

Some guidelines are too 'slippery'

Thanks for taking our thoughts into consideration. That's the mark of a good leader!

I wanted to say that some of the guidelines are too vague to me, specifically these: that evils shouldn't be represented/implied as ok/good, that inappropriate details are to be avoided, and that the piece should not become overly dark.

When it reaches what shade of dark does it become 'too' dark? How can the censor know whether the writer is implying that evil is good - without getting into the mind of the writer, or outright asking their intent? (And perhaps it's just me, but I get uncomfortable having to reveal my thoughts behind my writing.) What if the censor sees a topic as black, while the writer (who's the one handling the topic) sees an issue as more finely gray? And, yes: there are basic, accepted social ideas of what is inappropriate (for example: children should not be exposed to explicit sexual content) but beyond that, 'appropriate' becomes a moving target, because what disturbs one may not disturb another. We can only guess as well as we can, to respect the broad range of readers on here, and put our warnings before our writings.

It would be nice if we all WERE coming from the exact same mindset, and knew just what you meant when you say 'too dark' or 'portraying evil in a good light'. If we all had the same background, we'd know where such lines were drawn with rapid instinct. But without incredible specification, there is going to have a LOT of debate going on about whether pieces fulfill your criteria or not. The writers without your particular Christian background are going to be left severely floundering, wondering whether their pieces are acceptable or not.

The problem is, I also see us dangerously approaching a debate on what goodness and evil and reality and truth really are. Do we really need to define these things? This website does not seem like the appropriate venue for such a debate. Apricotpie is a writing website. The definitions of goodness, truth, etc., have always been left up to the individual writer's beliefs, and there has been an implicit trust in the writers to hold onto some (very, very) simple tenets. I understand the need for basic guidelines (no swears, no graphic sexual content), but I think beyond that, it should be up to the writer's intuition and discretion. I guess I'm asking for trust in us! Or allow us a rating system so that apricotpie can continue to be inclusive (for everyone), free and as unrestricted as possible (for the writers), AND safe (for the readers).

Sarah Bethany | Mon, 11/25/2013

Why I want to throw my computer at a wall!!!!!!

There are no words to express how frustrated I am. I'll try to be decent in my language to you, but I can't lie that I really want to cuss you out!
First off, I agree with Sarah Bethany, in that I feel like you've lost your trust In us. I feel completely belittled by theses standards, I feel like you don't trust my human ethics, my intuition, and my judgement. I don't remember a time when an author on this site WASNT being thoughtful of the readers ethics. It's our Responsibility as writers to judge what is appropriate for the crowd and regulate our own writing, if our judgement and our ethics don't match with yours than STOP READING! Your actions and words express a belief that people don't have minds of their own, and that is so insulting and offensive! It's only natural for most of use to feel defensive of our writing and our judgement when you post something as belittleing as your standards. They are YOUR standards and not just one apricot can fill a pie. Its not that I will have a hard time critiquing my work to fit your personal standards, but what I have a hard time with is the lack of trust. I feel as if your the parent and I'm the grown up child, being told to be home by a set hour when I already live independently in my own house, at some point the parent has to let go and leave the child to decide what's best.

Question: what small children? I remember joining when I was...12....13? I loved it! I was excited, enthralled, I felt so grown up to be able to create an account online! I remember only reading the stuff I understood, the stuff I was allowed to, I remember trying to read Stars of Llorley (sorry if I spelled that incorrectly), which is a dark story is it not? And I got so bored I had to stop reading, because I didn't understand (sorry! No offense to the author). If we were to only write in Disney princess, Narnia, and Peter Pan style, then those "younger" generation of writers won't have a next level, they'll have nowhere to go. As older AP writers, who have developed, learned, and mastered new fields of writing. We feel inspired to write the gritty and realistic Charles Dickens (who swore!), the Brontes (who had deep dark romance themes), and J.R.R. Tolkien (who made you question the line between good and evil). Let us grow James! I don't want to be stuck on the PBSKids channel my whole writing career, let me go out into the wide, unknown open, to the depths and the darkness, the romance, the trial, the confusion of good and evil, and the gory details of pain! I would like to believe the world is all sunshine and roses, and stay in Narnia (the older characters left the books because they became too old!) forever, but that isn't realistic, and neither is regulating euphimisms!!!!!!

I have found, writing my NaNoWriMo story, that I've been writing a lot more cuss words than I did BEFORE the standards... I got so ticked off with you and your regulations I went on a cussing spree! Do you think I would talk like that in real life? NO! Literature is one of the ways that authors let off their own steam! We strike out in paragraphs and sonnets! We light up the page with our anger and our frustrations, our longings and our dreams!
You are completely cutting off all creativity and life from writing! It's suppose to be raw, it's suppose to be inspiring, it's suppose to be full of passion so that you inspire your readers to live passionate lives!!! No matter what you write about, or what your style of writing is, you are trying to convey your inspiration and passion to someone else!
I feel disappointed, enraged, betrayed, passionate, frustrated, revengeful, disregarded and slandered!
Thank you for responding to our arguments, I agree it shows leadership, but I wish you could have actually addressed our issues instead of slithering and sliding your way through our complaints. I feel as if you've completely disregarded everything we've said and only hinted at an answer for our infuriated questions!
Meaningless to say, I'm ticked! And I'm sorry, because I'll probably regret this comment tomorrow, but I think it's important for you to see the true feelings behind the matter... Hopefully this was helpful, and not too hateful.
Wish you the best of luck.

Kassady | Mon, 11/25/2013

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

I think that, with both of

I think that, with both of these posts, I agree pretty much exactly with Sarah Bethany. She is much more organized with her thoughts than I am :)
Edit: also, Kassady, while I appreciate both you and your awesome writing, I felt that your comment was pretty unnecessary. James is trying to accommodate us here; if he wasn't, he wouldn't have posted a follow up:).

Erin | Mon, 11/25/2013

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

My 2 cents

Admittedly, I haven't posted on here in a while, but that's mostly because I've been primarily writing fanfiction, which isn't widely read here. I think that James is being fair--he's not limiting genres, removing content, or banning authors. He's trying to set very general standards, and I stand with him.

Julie | Mon, 11/25/2013

Formerly Kestrel

Okay, guys. Herein lies my

Okay, guys. Herein lies my problem if I wasn't clear enough before: James is asking us to edit our writing/content for this site based on Fundamentalist Christian values.

The evil/dark content matter is way too vague and on such a large, personal scale that we couldn't possibly determine what's appropriate there. That should be up to the writer, and I don't think any of us are particularly evil-inclined, are we?

Frankly, I don't appreciate someone telling me to edit my writing to suit their conscience. My values are not the same. I know you probably think the site got away from you--that we took over, posting "edgy" stories with gay people and slight cursing and slight romance--but guys, they're not "edgy". It's the realistic world, in perhaps even a less realistic view, as I haven't found any of these posts (including mine) to be particularly dark. And you can find tons of those stories just by turning on the news.

I also don't wish to call out someone specifically, but I would like to address one thing Hanna D. said about writing about things we have no business discussing for our age. My response is this: I do have business discussing whatever matters to me, at any age. We all do. We live in the real world, and just because some of us are teenagers doesn't mean we shouldn't speak out about what goes on in it. In fact, now is the time to start. Our opinions may change down the line, but in the moment we mean it, and that's all that matters.

Also, decency is also way too big of a topic to even touch upon. We're all going to have varying opinions on that. It should be up to the writer to determine where their story/poem/essay rates and then give a disclaimer (as I have) if it needs it. I understand wanting to have some standards as the people on the site mature and grow, but why couldn't those be that we should give a warning (G, PG, PG-13) before our writing? That would be extremely well-received among us all, I think. And as for the "edgy" posts, what's the real harm in having them on the site if they don't go above PG-13 (mine never do anyway) and people who don't want to read them don't?

I give disclaimers because I know some people on this site will be uncomfortable with the subject matter I tackle, but I also know there are others who will read it and give me honest, helpful feedback. I can't imagine another place like this, like Apricot Pie, that feels so much like my writing home. I don't want just anyone's opinions, I want the opinions of the writers on this site. I just wish I could have them on my full, unedited writing. That's how we grow. Take that away, and there will be no growth.

Plain and simple, this saddens me. I'm sorry for the double posts, but I felt the need to clarify some things after reading through your comments this morning. I like that we can all have an open discussion without being hateful towards each other, and it's one thing I've always appreciated about this site. We are all so different, but what we have in common is a love for our writing. And I thought that was all we needed to continue on as we were, but perhaps not.

Madeline | Mon, 11/25/2013

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

Apologies

Erin, I completely agree, and I'm sorry I've been so disrespectful James. But I do not regret telling you my true feelings in the moment. I probably could have taken a minute to cool down so that I could write more clearly and professionally, and I'm sorry if I insulted you James, though it was my intent in the moment, I see now how that is wrong.
You really have done a lot for us, and I am appreciative, certainly of your work.... But I did mean every word in my comment last night. I am very frustrated! I am an American and so maybe I'm a bit more sensitive with my rights and my indenpendce being taken away, I'm sure I have some sort of patriot blood still coarsing in me somewhere which makes me feel like your trampling on my writing and my judgement and all of the above.
I should have worded me comment differenly, but now you see the raw frustration I have with these standards. I am sorry if I hurt your feelings.

Kassady | Mon, 11/25/2013

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

@James and Kassady

James, I already emailed you my thoughts, and I think they're essentially the same, although as ALWAYS I am more than willing to dialogue with you about them. In fact, I'm about to be on Thanksgiving break, and I would love to take some time to do that and maybe work out some other thoughts.

And Kassady? Absolutely no offense taken. I got bored and confused when I tried to reread Stars over Llorleya, and I was the writer trying to edit it! Not sure I'd call it a dark story, but it had probably had the highest death rate on the site at the time.

Anna | Tue, 11/26/2013

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief

Just had to say hi...

Anna!! Hi!! You've been gone for so long. Stay here, please!

Bridget | Fri, 11/29/2013

"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

FINALLY, I got time to do this!!

I really do appreciate the follow up, James, and thanks for taking our comments into consideration. As Sarah Bethany said, it's a mark of a true leader.

Small children: I agree with everyone else Kassady: What children? Lots of people have already said on that, so I won't repeat them.

Rating system: A good idea. Definitely.

Euphemisms: For me, it was a bit of a shock when you first said about euphemisms in the first post because I'd used them my entire life and was using them in my writing....but after I thought about it, it won't be too hard to edit them out, or not write them at all. But I think it should be up to the writer whether or not they edit it out. Your call. But I think definitely outright swearing should be avoided.

Maddi | Sun, 12/01/2013

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

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