Nicholas Sparks Sued for Being an A-Hole

Don’t you love it when your instincts are right?

A year or so ago, something about Nicholas Sparks rubbed me the wrong way. Let me remind you that he actually believes that no woman has successfully managed to break into this category of “love tragedy”—which makes absolutely no logical sense.

But that’s old news.

Today we’re talking about Nicholas Sparks the accused racist, homophobe and anti-semite. I read through (most) of the complaint and, assuming the allegations are true, this what I concluded:

Sparks is an a-hole, which, combined with his position as a privileged white male, has given him an undertone of racism, homophobia, anti-semitism, sexism and anti-anythingnotlikeNicholasSparksism.

Let’s start with the Nature of the Claims:

Defendant Sparks, the world-famous romance novelist of such popular works as ‘The Notebook’ and ‘A Walk to Remember,’ describes himself as ‘one of the world’s most beloved storytellers.’ However, despite his commercial success as an author, the greatest fiction created by Defendant Sparks is the public image that he is somehow a proponent of progressive ideals such as diversity and inclusiveness. In reality, the non-fiction version of Defendant Sparks feels free, away from public view, to profess and endorse vulgar and discriminatory views about African-Americans…LGBT individuals, and individuals of non-Christian faiths.

In addition to a number of a-hole tendencies (yelling, berating, etc.), Sparks was accused of:

  • telling the Headmaster not to pose with people in the NAACP (after he was hired to help diversify the school) and other prominent black people
  • stating black students wouldn’t do well at the school because they are poor and can’t do academic work
  • discouraging teachers from assisting bullied gay students in part because the student who started a “homo-caust” was the child of a prominent donor
  • Locking the Headmaster in a room and threatening him until he signed a resignation letter (because he had a multi-year contract)

This is where I stand on this: Nicholas Sparks is the definition of white, male privilege. He views his success as purely individual, the result of his own personal hard work and talent and is unwilling to recognize the advantages that this background has given him, especially as a man writing about topics traditionally viewed as “female.”

It’s one thing if he is just walking around high on himself, making dumb comments at book signings. It’s quite another when he is put in a position of power. Sparks seems to just accept that he and people like him are superior.  He genuinely has no interest and sees no responsibility as an author or a school founder to understand the racial and socio-economic nuances that helped to enable his own success.

The result is that he actually believes he is simply being loyal to his network when he supports their kids who started a “homo-caust” or instructs teachers not to discuss non-Christian faiths in his non-sectarian, non-demoninational school. He genuinely believes that African-Americans are nearly absent from his school (despite it being located in an area that is 40% black) simply because they are less capable.

Does that make him a racist? Or simply a product of and facilitator in the larger structural problems embedded in this country?

Either way, I’m glad someone is filing suit because, ultimately, someone with that mentality should NOT be running a school. As I learn more about him, I also feel increasingly uneasy with his prominence in pop culture if these are the sort of xenophobic messages he’s trying to send.


My First Writer Retreat Was a Blast! And Marlene Winners Were Revealed…

In my last post I mentioned that I was off to the unknown adventure that was the Washington Romance Writers retreat. I had no idea what to expect, got a ride and shared a room with someone I met that day and just generally hoped for the best.

All I can say is that the retreat far exceeded my expectations!

The Atmosphere Was Intimate and Collegial

What I loved most about it was that it was intimate. Only about 120 people were there including authors who had published dozens of books and others who were hoping to one day get published like me. The group was diverse in every sense of the word—from genre (ranging from paranormal romance to women’s fiction) to location to race to age. And it wasn’t just writers in attendance—top agents and editors were there, including one from St. Martin’s Press.

In addition to the small number, the atmosphere was collegial because there was no distinction in terms of activities, seating arrangements, etc.—all of our meals were together (remember- no room service!),  so you could sit at the same table as these accomplished authors, editors and agents. (I ended up having a really informative conversation with an agent I wanted to pitch to, but couldn’t get on her schedule and definitely plan on sending her a query letter!!) The same was true with the night activities—the people on the panels during the day were the same ones singing karaoke that night. There were also a ton of useful panels and workshops.

The experience was both inspiring and fulfilling.  When I got there I knew no one, when I left I felt really connected to a lot of people who could share this experience of sitting down and writing a novel.

Marlene Contest and Pitch Sessions

I did not win the Marlene contest, but I did not expect that I would! Several of the other finalists had already been published for goodness sakes! I was one of the few Marlene finalists in attendance, however, so that was cool.

I also did four pitch sessions—three editors and one agent. I was so nervous, but the more I saw them all drinking and hanging out, the less worried I got. When I finally did meet with them, they were all open to my idea, and asked that I send them chapters or pages—but only when I’m done (which I’m not)! No rush they said!

Note that this alone would have made the trip worthwhile. Half the battle in this game (I’ve heard), is just getting the agent to respond and ask for pages. It turns out in these pitch sessions, many of the agents/editors will just ask for pages if the concept falls within what they represent because, unsurprisingly, authors are notoriously horrible at pitching their books in this fashion lol. Also—you can’t really make a decision on a novel when you haven’t read a single page.

And The Speakers Were Awesome

Other highlights included the speakers—Liliana Hart, Robin Perini and Cathy Maxwell. Liliana had these sky-high heels and talked about how we all understood each other simply because we were writers (and overall gave a hilarious speech). Robin Perini had some incredibly helpful tips on organizing your novel and developing strong characters and Cathy Maxwell, who gave the final speech, was so, so, so inspiring. One of the best author-speakers I’ve seen—she talked about continuing to find inspiration and passion when writing because more like work—a lesson applicable to newbies and accomplished writers alike.

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Best part is the retreat is a gift that keeps on giving. I learned that Washington Romance Writers is actually a great organization to be part of. Membership is only about $30, and with that you have access to free workshops in the DMV area that I believe are monthly. Numerous people told me that the workshops are incredibly impressive and definitely worth the small membership fee.

Ultimately, I left inspired, eager to work, and having made many new friends and contacts. I really felt like I was part of the community, and I highly recommend the retreat to others in the future!!


5 Reasons Why Lawyers Make Good Romance Novelists

A friend of mine sent me a podcast from the ABA journal that includes a discussion with four lawyers turned romance novelists. Apparently this is a very common thing—who knew?

I took a listen to the conversation between Grace Burrowes, Julie James, Courtney Milan, Lauren Willig and someone from the American Bar Association. The first thing I heard was someone tell a story about a douchey guy in her section who wasn’t “brightest dish in the drawer.” I was happy to learn that she put the gunner in his place.

Anyway, here are five reasons why lawyers make good romance novelists according to the podcast:

1. They typically have backgrounds in liberal arts
2. They desperately need happy endings
3. There are a lot of ex-lawyers who are no longer interested in practicing the law
4. Noveling takes discipline
5. Lawyers have a lot of experience with broken relationships and broken people

I found the general lawyer talk entertaining in a nerdy way. For example, one novelist included a joke about the rule of perpetuities in her book. She said a lawyer-reader told her it made the crazy rule worth learning.

Another noted that a common misconception about lawyers is that they can be neither sexy nor funny. To combat this atrocity, one of the novelists made her lawyer-characters sexy and funny. What? It’s fiction.