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Monday, December 29, 2008

The Sun and the Moon

"Love lights more fires than hate extinguishes."
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

My paternal grandmother would fill me with wisdom when she would tuck me in at night and tell me bedtime fables or give me advice on how to be a better gentleman. I collected these on her short trips to England from Cyprus (she could never leave her beloved island for too long), or during our summer vacations over there.

Usually the things she said made more sense as I grew older, and have resonated much more strongly with me through time. Now, a recent email correspondence has reminded me of an analogy my grandmother used to make about the sun and the moon.

The moon may look prettier, but those in the know understand if the sun stopped shining, lights would go out everywhere. Be the sun. That's what my grandmother would tell me. Be the sun, for the moon cannot shine without you.

My grandmother was telling me to always try and be true to my light, to shine with my own source and not that of others. I have tried to make this a motto for the way I live my life and for the way I write.

No Moonshine

I have constantly commented for years that we must not copy or steal other people's work, and to credit everyone for their efforts, no matter how small. I follow what I preach, and in every public and private thing I have done, if someone has had a hand, an inspiration or idea in my works, then I have given credit where it has been due.

I can't say that I have been extended the same courtesy in my work, but I try not to behave in reciprocation to the action of others. I follow what I have been taught, and what I have learnt, is right, and not necessarily what others do.

So, when a comment was made in an email correspondence that my book Little Miss was co-written and that I had cheated this supposed co-author (by someone completely unrelated to the book, and who hasn't even read it), I felt I had to set the record straight. My book has no co-author. I am the sole author. If there was a co-author, their name would be on the front cover.

I instigated the original story that Little Miss came from, I invented the character and manner of the main protagonists, and I only took my parts of a serialised story that had over time turned into fan-fiction, and re-wrote them, adding sub-plots to create a novel. My book is not a piece of fanfic and holds no real characters, alive or dead, other than historical ones.

It was hard work, and anyone that has read and compared the two stories, will realise that my book is not only different, it is almost four times the size of the original story. It took me years of writing and editing on my own to produce Little Miss, and I have not taken one penny in proceeds. All monies have been donated to charity.

So, although we must respect everyone's opinion or achievements, this is certainly not the case if they are without justification and at the expense of achievements that need none.

True Validation

We all want our voice to be valued, our opinions to be valued, and when we feel it isn't, then naturally that can make us angry.

However, such valuation isn't what I crave with my writing, because it is like breathing to me. Although literary agents and publishers have been trying to persuade me otherwise, I feel foolish to try and get validation or remuneration for something that I will do irrelevant of money or popularity. Plus, just my small body of work that I have selected to publish on this blog I think should be ample evidence as to the standard and output of my writing.

The reason I decided to publish Little Miss was because I realised that it could be used to help others, and my need to set the record straight on some person's throwaway hateful comment rather than dismiss it, was the fact that, with all sincerity, Little Miss is my child, and I am a protective parent that will rise to defend when the need arises.

I have been a modest parent, too, as I haven't boasted about or promoted the book (as some good people have tried to persuade me to do, either). I have watched with quiet pride as it has slowly accumulated enough proceeds over the years to help women and children in need all across the world, with the help of this blog's readers and through word of mouth alone.

Since its first publication, and it has been re-issued three times, I have explained the back story to my book on my Amazon profile page and I have accredited everyone where necessary (it is a two-and-a-half year post and the date of this cannot be altered by me). I had no moral or legal obligation to do this. I merely did it because my grandmother taught me, not only to create instead of duplicate, but to respect those that have the talent to do so, too.

And when someone tries to say I have used this project to cheat someone talented, it offends me, because I have given my time freely for a project that has not made me any money, but has helped to bring change into many people's lives. And, effectively taking about two years of my life, it is a project that has been all my own work.

Be the Sun

Had the comment made by this person been out of concern for another's work, (even however misguided, as it would take no time at all to google my book and reveal everything I have stated here), I may still have dismissed it good naturedly as a mistake, and tried to explain to that person privately what I felt the need to publicly write today. However, as always, I have to consider the source.

The comment made wasn't out of concern for anyone, or to defend anyone, it was a comment thrown in amongst a series of threatening letters, trying to force me to recant a truth I blogged about years ago. The comment, placed in amongst other personally abusive mail, was also made in an attempt to get me angry, but it failed.

If we cannot control our anger and frustration this means it may go much deeper than the subject that provokes it, but all it could rise in me was initial anger that such a good work could be slurred in this way - simply to attack me.

To say anything, to twist absolutely anything, at the expense of slandering something that has helped hundreds of women and children simply to feed our own beliefs is beyond the pale. For if people form opinions of others with no source other than their hatred (which is ultimately directed at themselves and a lack of self-esteem), then I would question the validity of everything they say. They have no moral boundaries, and in their moment of anger are capable of anything.

If they put on a mask of nicety, which slips when things do not go their way, and their succeeding anger is like waves crashing against a cliff or a tide imprisoned by the moon, which just keeps coming and coming in bursts (until they write or do things they later regret), then that shows there are deeper issues no anger management sessions can resolve.

I won't let any such raging seas douse the small fires my book Little Miss has lit, which is indeed burning in almost one house in every country in the world; it is a light that I will not allow another's hate to extinguish.

For as my grandmother taught me, I wrote it to be a sun, and as long as it still has the potential to benefit others, I want to let it shine.

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