Thursday, 26 March 2009


In an earlier post about the HarpernotCollins site Authonomy
I wrote:
"The forum can be a veritable viper's nest of vituperation, snark, nark, nay-saying, bullying, fawning and faint praise -- some of it wittty and amusing, though most of it dull, plodding and self-serving."

Had I over-egged the pudding? Well ...

Writer George La Cas, a regular over at Authonomy, left a comment and suggested I re-visit the site, which I did, and sure enough things did seem to have quietened down since the days of Joe Ridgewell. I mooched about a bit in the Forum, left a couple of links to this blog, browsed a few books, and then ... and then ...

Things got really out of hand with insults - and racist abuse - flying around on a string of threads. I spent a good few hours reading the main thread and a few spin-off threads, and chucked in my two ha'pence worth.

It was all good fun, but it wasn't easy; the site was up and down, and the electricity supply and ADSL service here was on and off all day.

Nathan Bransford, literary agent for Curtis Brown in California, posted his thoughts on the issues which prompted several comments from a few of those involved in the fracas.

Finally the administrators of Authonomy issued two statements: here and on the Authonomy blog here. When you read the blog post you'll see that yours truly has been quoted. Yes, that's right, Clive at HC lifted a quote from one of my two posts on the debacle:

'Harlson Phillips (my grandfather used to go ballistic if people spelled the family name with only two 'pees') wondered on authonomy's role in preparing authors for publication:

"If Authonomy is a testing-ground for would-be writers then surely it's equally valid to use it as such for testing other aspects of the professional writer's package than simply the text…there are dozens of other online critique sites, some general, some genre specific, where any of us can hone skills if that's what we want/need to do. But there are no sites I know of wherein you can properly practice promotion and marketing writing and writers in real time with a real audience. Here, on Authonomy, we have an opportunity to test a complete skillset before launching ourselves and our work into the 'real' world."'

HC's blog post prompted another 67 comments for, against and indifferent to HC's ruling.

If you're curious you can read the complete version of my post here in which I ramble on a bit, throwing in references to Damien Hirst, Dalí, Isadora Duncan, Michael Clark, The Beatles and Salman Rushdie, before getting to the point above.

All good fun.

It has quietened down now, but a few resentful members of the 'old guard' refuse to let the matter go, and pop up now and then to poke the slumbering bear.

Prompted by events a good dozen or more Authonomy regulars (including Fred Limberg who made the racist insults) have, if not wholly migrated, set up accounts with a fairly new peer review site, Writers Wrule, one of a dozen peer review sites you'll find links to in the sidebar here.

It all reminded me of why I avoided working with writers' groups when I worked as an arts development officer.

Tomorrow I'll be posting a very authoritative update on Macmillan New Writing.

And on Monday I hope to post an interesting list of a dozen or more publishers based in Ireland.

Stay tuned.


  1. You might want to add the Absolute Write forums under peer review, seeing as they have an extensive Share Your Work section. It is a tightly moderated site, and nastiness on the personal level tends to be dealt with rather quickly. Which doesn't mean you'll get treated with kid gloves in there. Shortcomings in your writing will be pointed out without much mercy. Which is pretty much as it should be.

  2. Hi Janet, thanks for calling in, and many thanks for your suggestion to check out Absolute Write's Share Your Work section. I'll try and get over there next week. Writing, shortcomings, no quarter; sounds like a tough arena. Regards.

  3. I followed David Isaak's breadcrumbs over. :o)