Since You Asked…

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Dear Caroline,

I’m an author and have just published my first book. Last week I was at my first book signing, and when it was time for a Q&A session, a man from my writing group raised his hand. I was a little nervous, so I felt glad to start by fielding a question from someone familiar. Then, to my shock and embarrassment, he asked me if I knew about a sentence in my book that was full of errors. When I said I wasn’t aware of it, he went on to give a page number and then read the sentence out loud.

I didn’t know what to say.

I think those errors fall squarely on the shoulders of my copy editor or proofreader. Of course, by the time they were pointed out, there was nothing I could do about them.

Later, when I signed his book, he mentioned it again and said he saw speaking up as “a teachable moment.”

He’s right. That sentence is full of errors, but strangely, I’m not mad at the copy editor or proofreader. I’m mad at him. Am I crazy to feel this way?


Dear Tim,

I can’t objectively assess anyone’s sanity, including my own. However, I can validate your anger with this particular man. He wasn’t trying to assist or teach. He was looking for a public opportunity to illustrate his superiority. In other words, it was gamesmanship. Few things are worse than being thrown into a game we didn’t show up to play.

Granted, it can be very helpful when someone finds a private moment to gently and discreetly alert us to something we can, and would wish to, correct. However, it’s not helpful when someone shines a light on a flaw in front of others with an inkling of triumph because they’re sure they’re the first to see it.

Though professional jealousy is natural, it can be very destructive. This man isn’t a friend. Keep him at arm’s length, and should he ask you for any professional favors in the future, don’t hesitate to quickly and politely decline. You’ll never enjoy a good collegial relationship with someone who isn’t colleague material.

Congratulations on your book!


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