Samara O'Shea

Alice Hoffman Should Have Hired me to Write Her Apology

Author Alice Hoffman has issued an apology to Roberta Silman—the reviewer she attacked via Twitter (full story is two blogs below). And here it is:

“I feel this whole situation has been completely blown out of proportion. Of course I was dismayed by Roberta Silman’s review which gave away the plot of the novel, and in the heat of the moment I responded strongly and I wish I hadn’t. I’m sorry if I offended anyone. Reviewers are entitled to their opinions and that’s the name of the game in publishing. I hope my readers understand that I didn’t mean to hurt anyone and I’m truly sorry if I did.”

Let’s focus on these words: I didn’t mean to hurt anyone. I’m sorry, publishing someone’s phone number is a deliberate act of cruelty. The only reason to do such a thing is to invite others to harass that person. This was the most offensive of Ms. Hoffman’s Tweets: “If you want to tell Roberta Silman off her phone is 999-9999. Tell her what u think of snarky critics.” That looks like a premeditated plan to hurt someone to me. And, of course, Alice is free to make her mistake and recognize it later. But that needs to be acknowledged in the apology.

An apology, by its nature, needs to focus on what you (the doer) did wrong, and what steps you are taking to make the situation right—the apology itself being the most important step. This involves coming clean about what you were thinking/feeling at the time and how you could have handled the situation better. Alice’s apology first blames an omniscient presence for blowing the situation out of proportion and then goes on to mention what Roberta did wrong (giving away the book’s plot). She apologizes to her readers (because she wants to keep them) and forgets to apologize directly to Roberta. It’s true, the situation was blown out of proportion—by Alice. Had she not tweeted so drastically, this would not have been news.

If Alice had hired a letter writer—like oh say, me—then the apology would have gone something like this:

I am overwhelmed and embarrassed by my actions, and I have no one to blame for the situation except myself. I would like to extend a public and sincere apology to my readers and directly to Roberta Silman for my instant and inappropriate reaction to her review of my book The Story Sisters. I’ve been fortunate in my career not to have received many bad or even skewed reviews of my books. Regrettably, this hasn’t done much in the way of thickening my skin and preparing me for the reality that not everyone is destine to be a fan. Roberta was the victim of my inexperience or—perhaps more accurately—my unwillingness to accept this simple truth.

It goes without saying that the review was a blow to my ego, and I got angry. I didn’t hesitate to react. Instead of calling a friend and complaining or going for a long walk, I headed straight for Twitter—hoping to garner some sympathy and support from my readers. This was unwise for several reasons. The two main reasons: 1. Twitter is a public forum
2. Writing for an audience only fueled my anger. My frustration climaxed when I saw fit to publish Roberta’s e-mail address and phone number. I did this because I wanted people to write and call her to make her feel as bad as the review made me feel. That was the most regrettable of my actions, and I am truly sorry. I am also sorry that I called her credentials into question without doing any research. Roberta stands atop a remarkable literary career, and she should be very proud of all that she has accomplished.

Roberta, you are entitled to your own opinion as a reviewer and as a citizen. The better part of me knows this, and I apologize that the worse part of me got to my computer first. I have shut down my Twitter account in an attempt to remedy my actions. I hope that the shame I feel is a consolation to you. I wish you well in all future endeavors.

With sincerity and chagrin,

The Soap Opera Continues: Apparently, Alice was once the victim of an author’s rage when she wrote a bad review.