Deb’s note: To be clear, I am not taking sides. Both “James” and “Harry” are my friends and I hope this will be the case for a long time to come.
As the quiet partner behind Men with Pens, I found Harrison McLeod intriguing. While James Chartand was clearly the outspoken leader, the mystery behind Harry made me want to know him better. The Pen Men handled a couple of redesigns for FWJ and are responsible from changing us from a single blog to a network.
Each time I contracted James and Harry they went on and beyond the call of duty. James was in constant contact and I had several late night G-chats with Harry who never complained, even though I’m sure I can be a pain in the butt sometimes. They were especially helpful during the Great Server Crash of ’08, and when they dropped everything to help and never treated me like an idiot even though I’m technically challenged. I can’t remember when I had a better customer service experience.
By now you know both James Chartrand and Harrison McLeod are women. Each chose to make themselves public in their own way, reflective of their very different personalities. We heard from James a few days ago, and now it’s time to learn more about Deb Dorchak who most of you know as Harry McLeod.
You’re probably not surprised when I tell you Deb is the same quiet, gracious and talented person. The only thing that’s changed is the name and gender we originally knew her by.
I give you, Deb Dorchak:
By now you’ve read the post on CopyBlogger, is there anything you wish to address?
Yes. There have been a few insinuations along the way that James’ hand was forced into coming out. Some have even gone so far as to label it blackmail. What is even more disturbing is that this rumor is allowed to perpetuate and at no time has the record been set straight. In no way were revenge, publicity, slandering Men with Pens or any of its members, destroying MwP, or causing intentional harm to James and her family the motivation for this situation.
I left. I left because of personality conflicts with James. I quietly resigned, told four people who were closest to me, who I respected deeply and who I felt I had to apologize to if I had hurt them in any way. Whether or not they wanted to continue a relationship with me, as friends or co-workers, was totally up to them.
I was starting clean. I owned what happened and left it up to the Powers That Be to figure out how it would all turn out.
I honestly thought I’d be starting with nothing. No portfolio, no contacts, nothing. The net isn’t as big of a place as people would like to believe. All of us run in circles that overlap. For better or worse, news travels fast.
People are also not stupid. It doesn’t take much to connect a few dots. I’ve been told there’s a lot of negative fallout from this. If there is, I don’t see it. Or maybe I haven’t seen it yet. Who knows?
What I do know is that I used Harry in name only. I’ve always been a private person and even if one of my close friends I’ve known for years asked me for a picture of myself, I’d be hard pressed to give one simply because I’m never one to be in front of a camera. Just ask any of my High School buddies on FaceBook. I think they can count the number of pictures they have of me on one hand.
The thing is, personal life is personal life, business is business. I’d like to think that all of my interactions as Harry, whether they were on the blog, in IM or in other correspondences were handled professionally and that I didn’t lead anyone on to believe I was more than their designer, tech adviser or a friend to spend some time chatting with.
If you’ve been keeping up with the news around the blogosphere, you probably have noticed bloggers questioning the Men with Pens name and design. Why make it so darn masculine and why suck everyone in with a persona rather than androgynous names or initials?
It started as a tongue in cheek joke. What amazes me is that no one can seem to laugh at themselves without getting offended. We were brainstorming blog names. I thought of that old skit on “In Living Color” called “Men on Film”. My mind made the leap to “Men with Pens”. The inside joke? The characters Harry and James were gay. They were both characters we had on an RPG creative writing board we used to run. We liked them, used the names and called it a day.
Looking back, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Hell, even my mother thought it was hilarious – and she dealt with the glass ceiling of the corporate world for twenty-something years. Now I’m seeing from the many points of view I read that it’s really doing everyone a disservice. Men, women, the human race in general.
Face it, this is human nature. There will always be one group or another that thinks itself superior. No matter how evolved you think you are, unless you’re Mother Theresa or Gandhi, or even Jesus Christ Himself, there’s still a small part in everyone that will in some way or another, be biased for some reason.
I didn’t start out to suck anyone in with a persona. And I don’t think I did, either. I hope not. Harry may have struck some as slightly feminine. That’s fine. I happen to be a woman who enjoys a lot of the things that men do. I ride a motorcycle, practice archery and iaido, I’d rather spend my time shopping for chrome than shopping for clothes, don’t give a damn about the latest fashions, never wanted kids and the moment a group of women I’m with start talking about babies, I’m gone. Are those stereotypical remarks? Sure they are.
I’ll tell you something though, stereotypes start with a tiny grain of truth. Maybe we over compensated for the masculine aspect. I don’t know. Men? Speak up, I’d like to know.
Was the increase in income really that substantial for a male dominated business over a female dominated business?
The increased income didn’t improve full force until we did the first redesign from JCME to Men with Pens. The writing was a struggle. It was long hours for very little pay and competing on auction sites for projects against third world countries bidding far lower than the rest of the world. Didn’t matter if you were male or female.
The moment our new blog design came out we started getting requests for graphics. Writing began to take a back seat. As I’ve said before, the work spoke for itself. From the time that site launched to the present, people came to us without any solicitation.
Now that I’m out, I find that the same is true. My work speaks for itself. The clients and contacts I have couldn’t care less if I’m a man, a woman or a Wookie. They like the service and products I provide and that’s the bottom line. I get paid what I’m worth, and if they don’t want to pay it, that’s fine. I’m not going to twist their arm or cry foul and pull the gender, race or any other card on them.
Did you enjoy being a woman trapped in a male online personality?
Didn’t even consider it much. I think if I were a man, I’d have the same personality. I’m very much like my Dad in that I’m quiet, like to work in the background and don’t go in much for following the crowd. I’m extremely patient and try to treat others the same way I’d like to be treated.
If I was trying to emulate anything at all, it was simply being a kind human being.
Was it as if “Harry” was taking over your life and you were no longer Deb?
Harry never took over my life. The only thing that hurt the most and wore on me over time was I made some very genuine friendships. There were many times when these friends would come to town (after all, all roads lead to Vegas, don’t they?) I’d have to decline a drink or a visit and the opportunity to get to know them better, or even just to say thank you.
The urge to say screw it all and tell them was strong. But I promised I wouldn’t, despite my many attempts to ask James to give this up and say enough was enough and call the show to a halt. She wasn’t interested.
Did you ever find yourself having to check yourself to make sure you were the right person?
No, never. I kept my personal life and my online life separate.
What made you decide to give it all up?
The internal personality conflicts, the power plays, the constant miscommunications and endless days of stress where there shouldn’t have been any. I was told I changed, and I really started to believe that. Using Harry’s name didn’t screw with my head half so much as the issues going on behind the scenes.
Last August I hit rock bottom. I had deep depression, felt totally alienated and really thought there would never be any way I’d be able to pick myself up and start over. I did that once before. Lost everything in a divorce shortly before I moved out here. It felt like I’d been through a disaster where my home and everything in it just got burnt to the ground.
I felt that way again. I had to dig deep and see where this was coming from. Had I changed? Had I lost my integrity? Was I being manipulated? Was I manipulating others? The mirror asks a lot of hard questions.
Now, before anyone starts to think I’m fishing for sympathy, I’ll be the first to tell you, that’s not the case. I didn’t broadcast this to the world, and I still don’t like talking about it. But that’s what happened. Again, it had nothing to do with gender, these were my problems, my situations that I either created myself or allowed to happen.
I owned it, picked myself up and made a decision. I could go on living like this or I could get off my ass and out of the pity party and do something about it.
Tell us about your new business…
Ahhh…the new biz. From the ashes of destruction grow glorious new things. Sirius Graphix started when one of my now team members, Rose Redelfs said she’d always wanted to write an ebook. I said go ahead, do it, I’ll design it. We’ll sell it. I wanted to do more ebooks anyway.
That led to talking to Wendi Kelly, who said she’d market that. From there I said I had a theme I developed, we should get that out…
One thing led to another and before I knew it we were three (four counting Elizabeth Fayle who was with us at the time as well) individual service providers pooling our skills together to drum up some business.
From there, Sirius Graphix was born. In the space of a week, we already had clients knocking at our door. We had no home site, nothing to show them from past projects, we didn’t even have our services and price list together.
But we had clients.
Within a month, the website was up. Yes, with a blog. That was a tough decision for me because I really don’t enjoy blogging. But people like what I write, so there you go.
When I realized I needed a good code person to help with the theme development and other technical aspects of web design (I think if I had to choose between coding and blogging, I’d take blogging) we took on Allison “Sushi” Day.
Although I knew I could have done this all on my own, I didn’t want to. I wanted to design. Not spend hours with code, or hours writing. Just design. My team allows me to do that. And I give them the freedom to do what each of them does best. You want to know the real secret to business? Teamwork. No micromanaging, no looking over anyone’s shoulder. Just let your people do what they’re best at doing.
We bounce ideas off of one another, and never shoot down any idea. Like Wendi is fond of saying, “There’s no such thing as a bad idea.” (much in the same way I like to tell clients there’s no such thing as a stupid question).
Are your new clients receptive to your ideas and prices even though you’re a woman?
Alright. I’m putting my foot down on this one. Enough already with the gender thing. It stays alive because we keep perpetuating it. And before anyone starts quoting my own words back at me, yeah, I know I started it with that Big Idea three years ago.
That’s what growing is all about. I bet a lot of you had some foolish ideas in the past you thought were great, only to look back and say to yourself “What was I thinking?”
Clients are receptive to our rates because we’re honest about the time it takes to put a project together. As much as I would like to give stuff away (and Wendi has to frequently hold me back and remind me when I’m in an overly magnanimous mood) the reality is everyone’s time is worth something.
I’m no different. I still have bills to pay, expenses to take care of and an internet connection to keep connected. Hey, I may not have kids, but I do have a roomie and two cats who still like to eat – not to mention myself. Food is nice. Very nice. So is enjoying life in general.
What’s next for Deb?
The sky’s the limit. I’ve got several concept projects in the works, everything from theme development to publications. The Team and I can’t stop the ideas from coming and it’s going to keep us busy for a long time to come.
I’ve always been impressed with the bond the “Pen Men” had with their community. I’m sure you miss them a little (and vice versa): Is there anything you’d like to say to them here?
I missed the people who were there at the beginning. By the time I left MwP in November of this year, there wasn’t one name in the comment section that I recognized. It was like I woke up one morning, looked at the comments and wondered where everybody went.
Once it all came out, I reconnected with many of the old crew. I explained the situation, and apologized for any misunderstandings. Whether they still wanted to be friends or communicate was totally up to them.
What I found was an amazing amount of support, I was missed, and they were glad to have me “back”. It was something very personal, between me and them, and something I’ll never take for granted or forget.
For more information about Deb Dorchak and her new design business, please visit the Sirius Graphix website.
If you have respectful questions for Deb, feel free to post them as she agreed to come by from time to time and respond.
John Hewitt says
Thank you for agreeing to the interview. I am glad I got to hear the other side of the story, not that I’m choosing sides, I just felt like I needed to know more before I was comfortable with what happened. I hope both you and James have long successful careers.
Bob Younce says
@Deb Ng – Thank you for letting us see the other side of the story.
@Deb D – Thank you for sharing it.
I’ve known both Deb D and James, by their real names, for the better part of two years. I’ve kept, and will continue to keep, my distance from the mess between them. Just like Deb Ng. Still, it’s good to see both sides of the story come out.
You’re welcome – and the Deb D gave me a double take. My maiden name begins with a D and since there are so many “Deb’s” in the world I answered to “Deb D” for 35 years.
Kimberlee Ferrell says
You know, I had the feeling that it had to have started as a tongue in cheek joke. I could easily see my friends and I coming up with something similar, had the situation arisen in our lives.
I’m very sorry to hear that things did not work out for you and James. I loved reading the drive-by shootings and I liked the gritty maleness of the site.
As for starting over, I am so proud of you! I understand what it’s like to begin again, with a clean slate. I wish you both the most success in the world!
And, even though I may not have been an old-school commenter, or even a very frequent one, I’d love to get to know you both. Totally up to you, as I’m sure you’re both very busy, especially now.
Karen Swim says
Deb and Deb 🙂 thanks for sharing this with your readers and fans. I can attest that Deb is the same gracious talent she was when I knew her as Harry. Deb revealed her story to me and she was not in any way malicious about MwP or James. In fact, she simply shared her story and I connected the other dots. I never outed James because I felt it was her story to tell in her way in her time. Since James did not share her secret with me personally, I simply kept the information to myself. This revealing has definitely inspired a lot of reflection and learning. The discussions on all sides of the issue have challenged me to look deeper and to learn from the whole experience. I make no judgments on either side of the coin but James and Harry have certainly made it an interesting December!
Cath Lawson says
Hi Deb – You never did come across like a man. If you had just been Harry – I would have assumed you were Harriet. But because you were Harrison, I figured you were probably gay.
I realised who you were, as soon as I saw your new Sirius site, because of the awesome design. Before MWP, I visited your old site a few times but when you first started the MWP blog, I didn’t make the connection. The site design really sold you – I wanted mine done as soon as I saw it.
Anyway, I’m glad you’ve managed to break free from an unhappy situation and make a new start. And I know where to find you when I need a re-design.
Deb Dorchak says
Thanks John. As I’ve said to Deb and many others, for me it’s not about choosing sides. People are going to do what they’re going to do. I hope the best for everyone involved as well.
Dave Doolin says
This notion of separation between personal and business lives is a social artifact.
It never used to be this way. It’s an aberration. Social media is wiping it out, and we’re returning to the way it’s been previous to industrialization and suburban culture: no privacy.
Deb D: Keep writing as Harry! Harry is an avatar representing one aspect of your life. Harry has branding, recognition. No need to throw Harry away. No need to hide Harry either.
Amy Derby says
You’ll always be ‘Harold’ to me.
Jamie Simmerman says
Yeah, we missed you a lot… I missed *Deb’s* late night IM chats and answers to my goofy questions to help pass the time as we both worked late into the night. I’m really glad you’re back, healthy, and online as Deb. Oh, and I simply LOVE the design for the new Sirius site. I think it’s the first site I’ve seen that I like better than mine. 😉
Michele | aka Raw Juice Girl says
I’ve just been surprised and completely blown away by this entire thing. I was offline for a couple of days, came back, and there was an explosion of blog posts and comments discussing that James was a woman. Then I realized that you, Deb, were also a woman. It definitely made my head spin! LOL
I don’t know… I feel deceived, honestly. I’m not here to be cruel or anything like that. Sometimes decisions are made, they spiral out of control, and things happen. None of us are perfect.
I do see how keeping SUCH a big secret and having to continuously keep that front up, could be very, very stressful – and that is NOT healthy. Hopefully everyone involved will sleep better and be healthier now that it’s out in the open. It has to be a huge sigh of relief.
Here’s to new beginnings!
Trish Lambert says
I had some clients in my marketing company that wanted turnkey websites and I needed a designer who was partner-oriented. My great friend Karen Swim said, “How about Harry? He’s not with MWP anymore, he’s starting his own business.” Great, I said. Love the work he does. BUT….WILL HE TALK ON THE PHONE? The unwillingness of MWP to simply be connected by voice never sat well with me and was a primary reason I wasn’t comfortable having as my partners on such a critical part of my clients’ projects.
Karen, bless her heart, didn’t skip a beat. She got in touch with Deb, who gave the all clear for me to call, and got back to me–without telling me anything. I dialed the number, a well modulated female voice answered. I asked for Harry, and the voice on the other end started laughing a wonderful laugh. “I’m Harry.” It said. I was stunned…..and then I laughed.
From there…the rest is history. Deb Dorchak and her team at Sirius Graphix are my “go to” partners for the graphics side of my clients’ marketing projects. And I know that we will be working together A LOT in 2010!
Thanks for “Debbing” yourself, Deb. I’m glad I get to have your great sense of humor and calm, professonal approach in real time!
Deb Dorchak says
Wow, I should have waited a little bit before responding to John H!
@Dave: You may be right. But I still intend to try to keep the two separate. Won’t be easy, not now anyway, but it’s not impossible!
Regarding Harry: I’d never throw him away. He’s happily living his fictional life on my private gaming board and glad to be off duty.
@Cath: Good to see you again!I’ve come a long way since I did your site, and I’d welcome the opportunity to do a redesign for you.
@Karen: Introspection is definitely the keyword here. I’ve been looking at this for a very long time, even before all of this started, and there are many, many lessons to be learned. I won’t forget them.
@Kimberlee: Pleased to meet you! And yes, I’m more than happy to get to know you too. You know where to find me now 😉
@Bob: I’ll just call you Switzerland from now on. Thanks.
@Amy: My dearest Pandora, I will always treasure “Harold”. And the kittehs have been dutifully scruffed.
@Deb N: It’s a good name, if I do say so myself
@Jamie: Hello to you again too! I still love your site. That was one of my best. It’s so simple and clean. I wouldn’t even dare suggest a redesign.
@Trish: Now that you know what that laughter sounds like, I’m sure you can hear it clearly now. Thank you so much, I can’t say that enough.
@Michele: I fully understand how you feel. Many people felt that way. Just goes to show that even the best intentions can go astray. But really, when we think about this, there are far bigger problems in the world. This is nothing. In a hundred years, it won’t matter, no one will remember. However, if we take what we’ve learned from it, quite possibly changes on a much bigger scale could come of it.
The thing is, where’s the focus going to be? Dwelling on the negative and feeding that? Or focusing on the positive and nurturing that?
@Deb – My vote is always for the positive. Looks like our next decade is happening at a good time.
Michele | aka Raw Juice Girl says
@Deb D: Very true! I think once folks get over the initial shock (and sort all their feelings, etc.) it will probably die down. Maybe. 😉
As for me, I have lots of holiday baking to do. There are hungry folks on the streets, and in missions!
And thanks for your kind, thoughtful response….
James Chartrand - Men with Pens says
I didn’t want to bring personal issues into this at all and put them on the web and I still feel that way. I am trying very hard to keep them separate. I feel personal issues should be dealt with offline, and not on a public forum. If anyone wants to hear my side of the story, please feel free to get in touch, but I won’t be discussing it here.
Many statements in this post are also inaccurate and frankly libelous. However, that too is an issue I’ll be dealing with off the web and not here.
I really didn’t want to do this whole rigamarole. I felt my hand was forced and had to confront the issue to put to rest rumors that were starting to affect my business. I was aware there would be backlash and I’m taking it in stride. I hope we can all go back to business as usual.
@Deb D- Thank you for telling your story without having to hire the trumpeters.
@Deb N – You had me wondering about you with the Demand stuff but allowing Deb’s point of view pumped you up a bit on the credibility meter. Kudos.
@James – Just. Wow.
“If anyone wants to hear my side of the story, please feel free to get in touch, but I won’t be discussing it here.”
Cool. I’d love to hear your side of story. Maybe you could contact me at my #1 funtime website.
I’m a writer just like you … I don’t use pens though.
What an excellent interview. Great questions, and the answers were solid. Deb, I totally appreciate your honesty and frankness more than anything, and I especially appreciate that you are who I have always known you as, no matter the name. You’ve remained consistent, to me, and I like that.
I really look forward to getting to know you even better and working with you under new and improved conditions! 🙂
Deb Dorchak says
@Steph: Thanks, and the best is yet to come. 🙂
@T: What more can I say except you’re welcome?
I’m glad I read this post.
Because to be honest, for the first couples of days, most of the opinions out there seemed to be pretty-much one-sided. Especially at CopyBlogger’s.
Like John Hewitt, I’m not taking sides. Just that it’s always informative to hear a story from another point of view.
Katherine McCleod (No relation) says
Thanks to both Debs. This side of the story is certainly more believeable and less sensational than the Copyblogger item.
@Deb D – You’re brave to come out for this interview in light of the recent publicity. Thank you setting the record straight.
Deb Dorchak says
@Friar: There’s always at least two sides to every story. I’m not expecting people to take sides either. It’s all good.
@Katherine “No-Relation” McCleod: Too funny, your name on the comment made me smile. Bravery really had nothing to do with it, but thank you. Whether it’s standing up for myself, or anyone on my team, I do what needs to be done. Thanks for stopping by and reading. 🙂
No one should have to take sides. In fact, no one should have had to know about the inner workings. Posting anything about the personal issues is inviting people to ‘view the wreck’.
I had no idea there was any problems between the two. Why even mention it if there is a desire to keep everything separate?
Basically, what does this have to do with writing, except to dredge up more drama in the blogosphere? Haven’t we witnessed enough in the past months? Did anyone learn even a tiny lesson from what happened to Deb N when she tried to tell her side of her story?
MORAL: If you want to keep it personal, then do so. The more you put your ‘story’ out there, the more people will be wondering why. People get tired of the emotional rollercoasters.
Can we please, please go back to sharing ideas? Networking? Learning more about writing?
Julie this is a very important dialog to have. If the entire blogosphere is rallying around a blogger who feels she’s been mistreated and had to resort to changing her identity to feed the children, and it turns out this isn’t so we need to know.
Deb N. Must think so too or she wouldn’t have posted Deb D.’s interview.
That’s great, Tracy. Sure, she did what she had to do and struggled to pay the bills. I’m in the exact same situation she was when she needed to change her name. Instead of support people stop answering emails. Guess I’ll take a page from her book. Be on the lookout for a new guy blogger.
Deb Dorchak says
@Julie: You’re absolutely right, no one should know about the inner workings, and none of this should have even been made public. I left as quietly as I could, perfectly willing to let it go and say nothing more. That’s it.
However, I will say that everyone has their right to say their side of the story. I’ve only made two public statements on this issue, both of them right here on this blog. I don’t think anyone needs to wonder why I’ve done so either.
I watched Deb N get torn to bits when she shared her side of the story on another blog. Don’t remember anyone coming to her defense, though I stopped replying and visiting after a bit. Just saying- neither of you should leave yourself open to that.
And people will take sides, no matter what.
Just tired of drama. Even reading it is exhausting. So, kudos to you for doing what you had to do and hopefully it all dies down soon.
Deb Dorchak says
@Julie: I understand, and doing this interview wasn’t a snap judgment by any means. I fully expect to get torn to shreds, it comes with the territory. You take a risk and you have to be willing to deal with the fallout.
I wasn’t here for the event that you’re talking about, but I’m not surprised either. Manners and common courtesy are things people tend to forget when dealing with one another in the virtual world.
Hopefully we’ll be able to close the curtain on this drama soon. It’s terribly time consuming for everyone involved. Thank you for reading and taking the time to share your thoughts.
James is a damn fine copy writer.
Harry/Deb is a damn fine designer.
Professionally, it boils down to that.
I think manners are even more important on the internet.
Deb Mallett says
People grow, people fall out. Two different realities – two different points of view.
Put aside all the reader’s opinions, judgments, emotions and you come down to an amazing story to learn from. Just even that your site design made such a difference. And what it’s like to work under an opposite gender pseudonym. What it’s like to not have the face-to-face (or voice-to-voice) interaction. In my imagination I think that might feel kind of lonely. Were you ever able to go to conferences? Would love to hear more about all of that kind of stuff.
@Deb D: Fantastic site design at Sirius Graphix!
@Deb N: Great interview questions!
From Deb M 🙂
(had to do it)
All these pseudonyms just reminded me of some outstanding female authors writing under males’ pen names in the past. Take Mary Anne or Mariann Evans as an example. She chose ‘George Eliot’ as her pen nameand stood out as one of the best Victorian writers.
I guess female bloggers, freelancer writers or whatever they are should start to prove the world wrong, that being females brings us fewer chances to have a better life. I even personally think that women can write better than men can sometimes.
I never thought that this gender-related issue has still been persisting even after decades since the first feminism wave rose. This would just land me on my next new post idea.
But just like Shakespeare said centuries ago, “What is a name?”. Name is just like a label on jar. Even if you stick “vinegar” on a beer jar, the beer remains beer, it doesn’t turn sour. I mean, name’s important but well… it’s not everything. What matters is what you can do for others.
Thanks for the great post, Deb! And for the other Deb, you go girl!
Deb Dorchak says
@_Deb: Agreed. Above and beyond best behavior!
@DebM: (you know, us Debs are going to have to start using numbers after our names!)Great question. It did get lonely. Every time an event rolled into town where I knew everyone would be there, it was tough.
I still went to the conferences. Went to Blog Expo the first year it ran here. Earlier this year I went to my first WordCamp. That was a trip. Turns out, I go to the registration desk and the woman says “Oh! You’re here! We’ve been waiting for you!”
Ok, the heart skipped a beat and I looked around to make sure she wasn’t talking to somebody else. Classic comedy moment if I ever saw one. I was the only one standing at the table. All I could think of was “Who told?”
Turns out,I was the 100th registrant.
I enjoy going to Cons. Now they’ll be even better.
I remmember that you went to the first BlogWorld and we didn’t meet. Well, that won’t happen 2010. I’m going to be at SXSW as well, so we’ll get that drink in.
It’s an interesting post, and as others have said it’s good to have the other side of the story. However….
No where can I find a reference to someone blaming Harry for outing James. So why the need for justification?
And this story is quite different to what James told me previously about how MwP began. Told me before all this blew up.
*scratches head in puzzlement*
I know this is Deb’s post, and again,I’m not choosing sides, but I do want to say if you go to the millions of posts about this around the blogosphere and read comments everyone, there’s widespread speculation that James was being “outed.” I can’t say that these posts named Deb personally, but there was speculation this was so. I do understand her wanting to set the record straight on that one.
Fair enough – I’ve been trying to read a lot of the posts out there about this and it’s just gone crazy. The only reference I’ve seen to Harry specifically was someone wondering if he was female too.
Personally, I’m hoping it’ll be a three day wonder and then die down and everyone can go back to running thier respective businesses.
I think that’s something in which all parties will agree!
Brett Legree says
Sometimes, business arrangements don’t work out – and while the split may be painful at first, we now have two great businesses where before there was just one.
I see that as a positive from all of this.
I am sure that the “ex-Men” will show the world exactly what they can do with their respective shops.
Barbara Swafford says
Hi Deb and Deb,
Having read both interviews it reminds me of a comment I made where I wondered out loud if anyone ever did an experiment by writing under the opposite gender, to find out if they would be treated differently in blogosphere. Having worked in the corporate world for many years and having dealt with the “glass ceiling”, I questioned if a glass ceiling also existed in blogosphere. I suspected it did.
I’m happy both you Deb, and James decided to “come out”. You’re both very talented women who needn’t hide your gender in order to gain recognition for your accomplishments. The particulars of how and why are none of my business. What warms my heart is knowing I have blogging “sisters” who have blazed the trail for many others and continue to make positive contributions to the internet. I wish you both all the best.
Arwen Taylor says
I just wanted to say thank you for doing the interview and giving us a glimpse behind the scene. I do like your new site and I feel you will have tons of success in the coming months. Keep on keeping on 🙂
Anne G. says
I missed all this due to writing deadlines and the holidays. I use my real name in writing work and three years later, it’s starting to pay off. I’ve had some awesome jobs over the years and recently landed a position writing for a Las Vegas casino group. So my income’s more than doubling, but I’m working longer. I’ve never felt the need to present myself as someone else in my writing, but that’s just me.
Given that, I remember years ago running a well respected online reading group. One of the members was a man who one day started insulting all the women on the group for reading romance novels. The words “Bon-bon eating horny housewives are the target market of all romance writers” came out, we banned him. He turned out to be a “she” who was doing an experiment to see how much information a woman would give a strange man online and now she really liked our group and wanted to be allowed back in. We wouldn’t have it.
For me, it wasn’t so much about the fact that she’d posed as a man, but that she felt the need to use our group for her little experiment and listed names on her blog. That’s where the line was crossed.
Deb, I didn’t know where to put this. I thought this thread was a better fit than the other one.
I just visited FWJ yesterday for the first time in about a week, so this James debate is new to me. I read several blogs yesterday to try and educate myself about the situation. The one thing that I can’t get past is something that I think is getting drowned out in the debate over gender in the writing world. However unfair that dynamic is, are we now learning that writers should combat that issue by lying? James’ creator perpetuated a lie. There’s a difference between omission and misrepresentation. Deb doesn’t tell the FWJ community her son’s name, for example, because of obvious safety concerns. However, she’s still Deborah Ng from the East Coast, who is the female founder of FWJ. In other words, she is who she has said she is. (I think/hope.)
The nom de plume defense doesn’t work for me, either, because this is more than that. Writers write under nom de plumes, but I’ve yet to hear of a writer being interviewed or doing an appearance as their nom de plume personna unless it was a publicity appearance and the personna was a known part of that event or situation. This woman didn’t just write as James. She “became” James. I remember James being interviewed for FWJ more than once. This wasn’t presented as someone who was “an Elvis impersonator” of writing. I believed that James was a successful male writer offering his thoughts and expertise. Since many members of the FWJ community are female, I found ir great that James added to the male perspectives that are part of the FWJ dynamic. I Googled James Chartrand and found an on-line syllabus for a class that talked about “his” credentials at Men with Pens. The credentials may be legitimate, but there is no James Chartrand as a teacher for that class. If James did teach that class, then the students weren’t getting the male perspective that I bet some of them also thought that they were going to get.
This misrepresentation reminds me of another James from the literary world. James Frey of A Million Little Pieces fame. He misrepresented his story, and it bit Oprah in the butt. That young Harvard student plagiarized (another form of misrepresentation) and she rightly became the pariah of the literary world. That world is a tough one, no doubt about that, but I don’t like the message that seems to be being celebrated by some, “To get around that and become a success, just lie, because hey the world’s not fair.” That doesn’t help to fix the existing inequality issue. It just adds the issue of misrepresentation to the pile of problems.
Deb knows that I’ve had to think about posting this comment. I’ve been hesitant because the atmosphere in some areas of the blogosphere seems to be rather hostile to anyone who doesn’t give James a big high-five. Many may be OK with James’ choice of actions. That’s their right, but I think those that aren’t have a right to their feelings as well.
What Andrea said.
When this first came out I said “I’m not going to touch that with a ten foot pole.” I also avoided forming much of an opinion about it. I never read MwP very much because, honestly, the in-your-face spirit annoyed me, and, in choosing to try more for print, their kind of writing wasn’t necessarily my own.
However, my opinion was formed for me in “James'” comment above. Go back and reread it.
An old Mexican revolutionary saying says “I’d rather die on my feet than live on my knees.” When you stop fighting, when you give in on the good fight, you take a knee.