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  • Writer's pictureallieyohn

The missing stairs in the writing community

One of those things that you somehow never expect about the writing community is the number of super creepy men who use it to prey on women. For example, someone I WAS mutuals with on Twitter has now been exposed as one of those super creepy men.


If you don't follow booktok then you probably haven't seen the latest drama, but J. D. Barker- a New York Times Bestselling author (and past Stoker Award nominee)- sent an email to a large group of female reviewers.


In the email he offered suggestions for book promotion videos. One suggestion was that the women should disrobe and strategically place the book to cover certain areas. Another was to ask their followers about the most taboo place they'd ever had sex, with the camera panning to a "taboo" place on the book reviewer's body.


The email continued with a payment scheme whereby he would pay for these videos. Of course, he'd need to review them and approve them before deciding to issue payment.


He's now blaming it on his PR firm... that he is at least a partial owner of.


This is not the first time that an author has been caught doing something objectively foul when it comes to female reviewers or fellow authors. It almost certainly won't be the last.


What's horrifying is that most of the time when one of these authors are exposed, as is the case here, there is a chorus of "oh, you must mean so & so" which correctly names the person performing the bad behavior.


I first heard of the term "Missing Stair" on Captain Awkward (a wonderful advice blog which I love).


The essence of the missing stair is that it's something everyone knows is broken, like a missing stair in the middle of a staircase that everyone warns each other about.


They tell you to avoid stepping on the missing stair by stepping over it or around it.


They tell you to avoid being alone with the person or even to avoid contact with the person altogether. But no one fixes the stair.


There are a lot of reasons people don't want to fix the missing stair.


  • They don't want to publicly call them out because they're concerned for the professional repercussions from mutual editors and agents.

  • They don't want to get sued for speaking the truth if they can't prove it happened (especially difficult when the missing stair does something physical, in person, with no witnesses).

  • They don't want to lose mutual friends who might believe the badly behaving writer over them, friends who don't want to choose (though by not choosing they are, in fact, making a choice on who they believe).

  • They don't believe the person making the accusations, or they don't think the accusations are that bad. They think "maybe the person making the accusations is too sensitive/too dramatic/looking for attention."


The thing about a missing stair is that ignoring it won't magically fix the stair.


When we hear about a missing stair we need to act beyond a whisper network.


We need accountability for these predators- from their writer associations, their editors, their agents, and themselves.


The only way to fix the missing stair is to enact consequences commiserate with the damage they've done- even if it ends up functioning more as a cautionary tale for future writers.


Without consequences, all that missing stair will do is lay in wait for the next unsuspecting victim. And if we know about the missing stair and do nothing then we're all culpable when it comes to the damage they do to that victim.


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