Mentioned during tea break at work that I’d sold a story to a weekly magazine. As you do. Well. I’m excited.

‘Oh dear,’ chortled a colleague. ‘Should you be admitting that out loud?’ Chortle, chortle. ‘You’ve obviously got the common touch! We’ll have to pretend we don’t know you in future!’ Chortle, chortle.

Reader, I was genuinely bemused.

‘What do you mean?’ I said.

‘Well. Come on. Surely anyone could write one of those stories?’

‘Have you?’

‘No. But then again I wouldn’t want to!’ Chortle, chortle. (I’m assuming the chortling was to take out the sting, but I could tell she meant it.) ‘I'm sure it's very good and I don't mean to be disrespectful (why do people always say that when they're about to be disrespectful?) but do you think anyone even reads them apart from the writers and their families?’ Chortle. 'I'm pleased for you though, don't get me wrong.' ???

Well. I was stumped. Everyone else was supportive but I couldn’t help wondering if they secretly agreed with her.

We’ve touched on literary snobbishness on here before. I’m sure it’s all been said and, to a large extent, I’ve developed a thick(ish) skin on the subject, but what annoyed me more than anything was the fact that I couldn’t for the life of me think of a decent comeback. Something cutting, but dignified. Witty but charged. It’s not as if I haven’t been here before, for heaven’s sake. I need to be able to whip out something I prepared earlier, Blue Peter stylee, for next time. With sticky-back plastic, if necessary. If there is a next time.

I’ll probably just keep my big trap shut in future.


Anna said…
the obnoxiousness of some people just amazes me... sigh...

keep a brick in your pocket and when she's not looking, slap her upside the head with it.

or maybe she'll just choke on one too many chortles...
Miranda said…
Oh my god! I'm horrified - seriously! Yes, my pet hate is "with all due respect..."
I can't think of a suitable comeback either. I'll sleep on it.
And congrats!
Calistro said…
Oh what a b*tch! Grrr, that attitude just makes me so bloody angry. Did you say, "Have you ever actually READ one of the stories in the magazines?" I can only assume she's jealous of you. Still a b*tch though.
Cait O'Connor said…
Some people are so ignorant, take no notice, she is sure to be as jealous as hell.
Congratulations by the way, your story must have been really good to be accepted and writing short stories is NOT easy is it?
HelenMH said…
Don't take any notice Sweetie. Writing is hard enough - and the only people who are disparaging about writing for the womag market are people who haven't tried it - you don't need people like that sucking the life out of you. I've experienced this kind of reaction and I know how annoying it can be. The dignified response is shocked silence! So you were spot on xxx
You know, there's no pleasing that kind of jealous and petty idiot. Imagine if you had just published a poem in some really high-end journal - she'd be sneering because so few people would read it. Or when you win the Nobel Prize, she'll tell you it's politically rigged.

Congrats on your story - really very well done! Ignore the ones who only want to drag you down
There isn't much of a comeback really, because her behaviour was itself rather unusual. More common would be "Well done you" (Thinks: who the eff does she think she is).

On the other hand, you could try the "feelings commentary" thing - i.e. don't be too sophisticated and just say what you feel in real time. Don't censor it.

So, for example, "Gosh, I was pleased because I thought I had achieved something. I'm surprised by what you said there. I've always thought it *was* quite difficult to get published" etc.

The straighter you play it, the more embarrasing it usually is for the other party. In theory.
Lorna F said…
Karen, don't you dare keep your trap shut - blow your trumpet instead because you've done brilliantly. It's typical that those of us who write are easily discouraged and play down our ambitions and achievements - even Jane Austen talked humbly of the little bit of ivory two inches wide on which she scribbled. I know how often a throwaway dismissal from some callous nobody has sent me into that long dark night of the soul where you question talent, meaning, motivation. Don't let a nonentity grind you down, girl. Well done - the discipline of short story writing is such a challenge. Be proud. And write another story in which a snobbish chortler falls under a bus ...
Lane said…
Damn cheek! As Lorna f says - don't keep your trap shut! Be out, loud and proud about your short story achievements!

As your successes pile up - and they will, people like Ms Chortle Knickers will have to come up with something far better than that if they wish to put a dent in your self esteem. Just let 'em try!
Annie Bright said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Annie Bright said…

Basically, the woman is jealous of you! She may not want to write - but she is envious of your achievement. That's all there is to it. People who aren't jealous say LOVELY things, simply because they are so pleased for YOU.

It is notoriously hard to get short stories published - don't you forget it! So keep on feeling good about your success, missy!!

Oh, and tell her to get over herself or I'll have to send the boys round!

p.s. Sorry about the delete - I'm going to get a reputation for deleting comments!
Honeysuckle said…
I wouldn't answer back - that makes it seem like you care what she thinks, and for the most part people are lovely, aren't they, and really impressed when you tell them your story's going to be in a national magazine. She doesn't matter.
But my own feeling is that every kind of person - from those who want to read War and Peace to those who want to read the back of the cornflakes packet - they need and deserve reading matter. If you elevate it to the level of a moral argument on the human right to read you'll probably lose her.
Bernadette said…
I'm afraid I get a lot of that, though not quite so blatantly. There are a number of people who I don't bother telling about my stories anymore because I know they think nothing of it and aren't interested. (I wish they'd do me the same favour when they are telling me about their children's potty training, which they seem to think is not only interesting but also worthy of some kind of an award!)

Basically, we all respect the achievements we understand. Someone who has never written a story (your colleague) has no idea how hard it is to get one published. So her opinion of your achievement is not only rude but also ill informed.

As far as a response goes, I wouldn't waste your breath.
(Sorry if that sounds harsh but I'm feeling rather peeved on your behalf!)
Tam said…
I would smile sweetly and say, "Well, I'll keep that in mind when I'm spending the big, fat fee."

Not exactly Oscar Wilde but better than nowt.

Then I'd ask her what, exactly, she'd written that was so noteworthy. The answer is probably nothing, to which I'd smile in superior fashion.

After which I would wake up.
Pat Posner said…
I was 'indisposed' yesterday so didn't catch this until now.

I used to write for kids' comics and, wow, what sneers that could produce. As Annie says, I think jealousy is at the root of it. You've achieved something she hasn't (probably couldn't).
Keep feeling happy, be proud of it and just let people like her stew in their misery!
Denise said…
You might have to do a bit of research but I would have something in mind along the lines of "They only publish X stories a year and get X thousand submissions so I was quite happy to be paid for my submission..." You might also want to quiz them on what their PAYING hobbies are! OK, I'll retract my nails now!
L-Plate Author said…
Hey Karen, if it was that easy we would all have been published by now. And I've mentioned it before that I can't sell a short story if my life depended on it. Even it was a common thing to do I would be so proud of my achievement.

There's always someone who likes to knock us down. Just remember, if ever you need a hand getting back up we're always here to help. xx
Casdok said…
What are some people like?!
I think its wonderful! Congratulations!
Give her the victory sign! Put some laxatives in her tea. Swear at her in French (I'll teach you) Ahhh, so many possibilities ;-)

Anyway, we all appreciate your success Clarkey :) Tommox
Faye said…
In the southern U.S. any comment that begins with "Bless her/his heart. . ." is going to be a strike to the heart. Much like your "friend's" "I don't mean to be disrespectful. . ." In dog society I call that getting my leg peed on! Those of us who own male dogs understand exactly what they mean to do when they lift their leg! The superior sister knew exactly what she was saying to you. Forget her, Karen. You're the one who accomplished something worthwhile.
KAREN said…
Thanks so much for all your comments, suggestions and thoughts - I certainly know where to come for support :o))

This person is the sort who prides herself on being outspoken (rude) and 'telling it like it is,' but to be fair she has since apologised and said she hopes I didn't take her comments the 'wrong way.' Hmmm. I think I took them exactly as they were meant, but I said (after looking thoughtful for a minute) 'oh that! I'd completely forgotten about it!' HAH!
Debs said…
I think the fact that you sold your story is enough to upset her (by the way she reacted). But if that fails then do what anna suggested with the brick. Love that.
Yvonne said…
That is so obnoxious and rude...I can't believe that obviously JEALOUS otherwise she would not have been such a b*tch. (Sorry for the strong language but you do NOT deserve that treatment Karen!) :(
Mickmouse said…
Dear Karen
You have achieved something great and should remain proud and positive. Daft woman, probably doesn't read the magazines you are published in because they are not HEAT, OK or HELLO. Magazines with a literary aspect probably escape her.
Glad she has apologised...stable door, horse bolted comes to mind. Anyway all we happy band of writer sorts are proud of you too!!!
womagwriter said…
Good grief.

I would point out that the story you had accepted is for Britain's biggest selling weekly magazine (TAB), one which has a weekly circulation figure most Booker prize winning authors can only dream of. Point out that over a million copies of your story will be sold. Ask if she really thinks the mag editors would waste a page of a million-selling magazine on something only the author's family will read.
kallioppe said…
I'm with the brick in pocket suggestion. You can smile politely afterward and say you didn't mean anything by it. Also, a copy of the magazine passed around would do the trick. See who is chortling then?

'Common touch' indeed! If it were that easy, more of us would be selling stories. :)
KAREN said…
Thanks guys. I like the brick idea and also pointing out the circulation figures for TAB!
Emerging Writer said…
I used to think writing a book would be a piece of cake...until I tried it. As for a response, why not try the 'you're so funny' response and treat everything she says as a complete joke.
'Imagine trying to pretend anyone could write a story. You're hilarious, really you are.' chortle chortle.
'But I'm serious'
'Of course, you mad woman, you. Stop making me laugh. I'm going to wet myself' etc etc to side splitting levels
wordtryst said…
You sold a story! Huge congrats.

Clever comeback be damned - you should have fried her with your laser powered glare! Horrible witch!
KAREN said…
emerging writer - Trouble is, I always think of clever comebacks AFTER the event. Typical :o)

wordtryst - I need to work on that glare. I was busy blinking back tears!!
B said…
Hello! The blog widget brought me here and I will be back, for sure.

Couldn't believe what that woman said to you! I'm pretty sure that whoever said she was jealous and doesn't have the self-discipline to sit down and write herself.

There is an article in the current writer's forum about Della Galton and how she gets paid a lot more for her short stories than she did for her novel, you've probably seen it?

WELL DONE on getting published. It's an amazing achievement that I believe will have taken a LOT of hard work. You deserve all the credit!
April said…
I'm proud to have the 'common' touch; it seems to me that commoners are the real people unlike Ms Chortle.

I have been fortunate and sold a couple of stories. I find that mentioning the fee usually has chortlers choking on their chortles :)
Jan Jones said…
How foul. Use her in a story. Hell, use her in all your stories. The preaching next-door-neighbour who has to bite her words. The condescending boss who gets overtaken in the promotion race. It'll make you feel better, promise.

And maybe spit in her tea next time you're on refreshment duty. That'll really make you feel better.
Milla said…
now THAT is obnoxious. Puck her. And you know what teh P is standing for...