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November 16, 2005

Why The Publishing World Should Be More Like Ice Hockey

Why the Publishing World Should Be More Like Ice Hockey

by Susan, New Fan

I went to my first-ever hockey game last week, and I had a great time, even if I don’t understand all the rules completely.  Still, the more I watched, the more I realized that the book world might be a much nicer place if it borrowed a few rules from ice hockey.  I know, I know, that sounds bizarre, but stick with me.  Listen to my suggestions, and I think you’ll see the logic, too.

First things first, the publishing business can be tough, sometimes dirty (depending on the players).  I tend to think of it as the playground, where bullies thrive on ruining everyone else’s fun and name-calling abounds.  If you believe that all adults act grown-up, hang around a convention for a few days, or go watch big boys play hockey.  Although the latter are a lot smarter in one way:  they dress appropriately for the rough stuff.  Having authors suit up in pads and helmets might not be such a bad idea.  In fact, I’d suggest it prior to engaging in:


Hey, it’s no secret that, the more you succeed, the more enemies you make in any business.  Publishing is no different.  There are folks out there who’ll decide you’re a threat just because of how you speak, look or what you’re wearing.  They’ll talk behind your back, hoping to give you a reputation if you don’t have one already (nice doesn’t count).  So let’s just bring this whole meanness out in the open, like fights at hockey games.  When an unhappy, disgruntled, envious author comes sniffing around, why glare and whisper behind each other’s backs?  Hell, just throw off your helmets and gloves and start pummeling each other.  The referee can’t interfere unless there’s blood drawn or you both end up on the ice…I mean, the floor.  Once you’re finished, get up, shake it off and go back to your benches until you see each other again at the BEA or Bouchercon.

Anyone else really tired of the Convention Jerks who strut around, acting like they own the place?  Who hurl insults like hockey pucks and call you a sissy if you “can’t take” their nasty jabs with a false smile or forced laughter?  Who, as panelists or moderators, can hijack the microphone and talk over everyone else for an hour?  That’s where this next rule comes in:

The Penalty Box

After five minutes of a Convention Jerk holding a panel hostage and/or delivering an insult too many (really, one is enough), the whistle blows and that’s it.  Off to the penalty box.  If the offender can quickly reform and return with a more gracious attitude, then he/she remains in the game...er, on the panel.  If the bad behavior continues, then it’s back to the box for good.  Unfortunately, Convention Jerks never seem to get the message that their behavior is offensive, so they’ll doubtless be hanging out in the penalty box again at the next book gathering...and the one after that. 

And for times when folks are just taking the game too danged seriously and need to lighten up, how about this:


During the first intermission of the hockey game last week, a bunch of Pee Wee players scrambled onto the ice to demonstrate their skills.  They were adorable in their little uniforms and padding with their tiny helmets and pint-sized sticks.  The crowd applauded and roared with delight, and the kids skated around on their stubby legs, having what looked like a great time.  Nothing like seeing children enjoying a game to remind us what it should all be about:  having fun, smiling, loving what we’re doing.  So I suggest we have a convention intermission where young authors read examples of their fiction or poetry.  As we listen to their hopeful, eager words and grin at their enthusiasm, we can remind ourselves what joy and passion feel like and vow never to lose them.

See what I mean?  Not bad, huh?  If we just treated publishing like the game it is and applied the battle-tested rules of ice hockey, we might all have less stress and angst.  Just remember to dress warmly (my God, those rinks are cold!) and, if you break any rules multiple times or just plain don’t cooperate, you will be tied to the middle of the ice and flattened by the Zamboni. 




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Susan - But where is the hockey puck in the mouth? Or the fist fight? Aren't I allowed to throw my opponent into a headlock and beat the living crap out of him or her? Hmmm. I'll read again to see if I missed that part.

Oh, right. It was under fighting. D'uh. Okay, sistuh, you're on at RT. (Hey - can we charge extra for a good knock down, drag out?)

Other hockey rules could apply, too:

Offsides--you can insult someone only if they do it to you first.

Shootout--Ties are decided by rapid-fire insult round. For an example, I refer to the video-game-playing scene with Paul Rudd and Seth Rogan in "The 40-year-old Virgin," which was apparently all improv.

Goons--you can have proxies who are tougher than you to take up your cause, assuming that you were wronged first (see Offsides, above).

Josh, those are all good! See, I still don't know all the rules, so I'm sure more would apply. Keep them coming.

Sarah, yes, we can start implementing at RT and see what happens. That could be interesting, particularly with all the half-nekked male cover models and women dressed in costumes. Hmmm. I think people at RT are having too much fun and gawking too much to really rumble. Maybe we can use them at Malice and Oakmont. Ha ha! (If you read this, Mary Alice, I'm only joking!)

I once went to a hockey game, but couldn't make heads or tails of it and also, you can't tell the hard-bodied players from the . . . well, not so hard-bodied players and eventually, I nodded off. Great thoughts, Susan, but for uniforms, give me a guy in a baseball suit any day. Or tennis. Diving. Swimming. Boxing. Surfing. Beach volleyball.
Stop me, someone.

Harley, is a baseball suit the formal version? Does it offer a tie and French cuffs, perhaps? Just curious. ;-)

I like Josh's "goons" idea. I need to git me a goon, bubba, and fast!

Abandoning the hockey theme for a moment, I hope to be the Jay Leno of the publishing world, who is widely considered to be one of the nicest guys in show business.

Do nice guys count in publishing?

Rob - they do with me. And yes, they do count. Not always but they do.

Harley - my favorite sports are figure skating and gymnastics. And diving. I like books of photography and sports photography can be awesome. I once bought a book of sports photography SOLELY because of the cover. I didn't CARE if anything was good in the book (it was a book on the Olympics by Sports Illustrated, of course it was good) but the COVER photo was The Most Amazing Shot of Greg Louganis you can possibly imagine. Coughed up the money without, I think bothering to OPEN the book.

Susan - I'm going to check on how much it would cost to issue whistles to every attendee at LCC 2007.

Rob, you're lucky in that you're a guy. Guys seem less competitive than women. I'm not sure why. So you can definitely be the Jay Leno of publishing. I have tried to be myself (aka, Pollyanna with a Rebar spine), but sometimes it doesn't matter. There are folks who will dislike you before they even know you, and, though I don't understand it, I'm learning to deal with it. The world is a huge playground, and the sandbox is a nasty place sometimes. Thankfully, there are loads of nice people out there to offset the handful of yucky ones. That tends to make the yucky ones easier to avoid.

I think some of these ideas could apply to life in general. I really like the idea of the penalty box. Although I'd probalby spend more time in there then I want to admit.


Andi, whistles at LCC 2007 would be great! I can imagine it now...a mike hog takes over a panel, and all of a sudden the audience starts tweeting madly! I love it!

(Hmmm, I'm rethinking my "Pollyanna with a Rebar spine" comment, as I've no doubt there are folks out there saying, "Susan? Pollyanna? More like a bulldozer with no off switch." Oh, well, that'd work, too.)

Susan, I'm sure it has to do with the fact that you're just a damn good-looking woman. That alone would make anyone jealous.

Rob, have I told you lately that I adore you??? Just making sure. ;-)

Great Blog Susan. I like the idea of throwing down the gloves and fighting it out right there, instead of carrying things on forever with snide remarks behind your back. Throw down and get it over with right there, and go on with life. Fight over, winner declared and no whining or backstabbing allowed afterwards.

Sarah has a good point, make money on the all out knock down drag outs, always a plus and covers the bar tab later.

Packing list for next year's Bouchercon:
-Hockey mask
-Brass knuckles
-Air horn
-Pepper spray

Maybe I'll even go.

Daisy, that's what I'm packing! I swear, we are twins separated at birth (except your birth came a few years after mine). Thinking of shopping (one of those freaky psychic things we share a passion for): Girl, do you get Lucky Magazine? It is incredible. You must subscribe.

I *love* Lucky. I even use the little stickers to mark the things I want. In fact, I'm really annoyed right now because my latest issue hasn't come yet, even though I saw it on the newsstand almost two weeks ago. Grrr. One more day and I'm calling them to complain.

The one with Anne Hathaway on the cover in the cutest Moschino satin blouse??? Pick up the phone and CALL them. They are depriving you of your monthly fix. It isn't right. (Or have your goons call...that's what goons are for.)

Hey, Josh, they're talking clothes again. What's a guy to do?

Rob, this is the part when you go into the garage to 'fix' things. ;-) I hate to be the one to break it to you, but women can turn any topic to clothes, shoes, jewlery and chocolate. A blog based on the manly sport of Hockey isn't safe, as you have found out today.

I have a hockey helmet and gloves in case someone would like to borrow them. Actually, 2 helmets, but who's counting :) We use them in arnis (aka Filipino stick fighting) for head protection. It was great fun picking the first one out at the local sporting goods store:

Me: "I need a hockey helmet."
Skater dude: "Who's it for?"
Me: "Me" (that would be me, the middle-aged mom).
Skater dude: "Oh. OK . . ."

Skater dude takes me over to the helmets and we try some on. We find one that fits.

Me: "Can I test this out"?
Skater dude: "Sure"
I grab a hockey stick and proceed to beat myself on the head with it.
Skater dude's eyes get a little big . . .

I love doing stuff like that. So anyway, if anyone needs them, I've got hockey helmets and gloves. Also boxing gloves, Tae Kwon Do sparring gear, arnis full body padding, and an escrima helmet. Also a lot of sticks, a couple of swords I don't really know how to use, a nice machete, a set of sais I'm just now learning to use, and a couple of scary knives. My nunchaku are foam-padded, so they don't really count except as fashion accessories, but my toy catapult more than makes up for them.

Can I come to Bouchercon? Pleeeeease? :)

Kerry, how could you NOT come to Bouchercon with all that awesome gear??? I mean, that's incredible. We could suit up a whole team! How fun would that be? See, Rob, sometimes talking about clothes and accessories is fun, especially when it's foam-padded nunchaku and toy catapults. Weeeee!

Holy accessories Batman, you've got everyone covered with all that gear! Sounds like a real party now. Can I come too? I have a nifty pocket knife, and I know there's a stash of sharp objects hidden in this house somewhere. I'm not allowed to touch them.

If anyone's got good fightin' accessories, it's you, Ms. Nancie. So pack 'em up for Bouchercon next year. Though I think that means we all have to drive, as I'm not sure they'll let us on the plane with all this good stuff. Or else we can get Rob to haul it and meet us at the airport when we land.

Ahem, yes, the airlines do get a wee bit tense about certain items I own. We might have to rent a large bus to get all of us and the fightin' stuff there. I can also get some of my friends to donate to the cause without a problem.

Hey, guess what was in my mailbox when I got home? No, not a twelve-piece set of throwing knives and a new crossbow- my magazine. Good guess, though.

I can do one better, I have an AK47, a Thompson machine gun, a 357, a 45, a 9mm, a 40 cal Storm, and assorted smaller calibers, can I come play too?

Ohmigawd, SusanCo! With that arsenal, I'd say you more than qualify. Honestly, I don't know any hockey players allowed to take AK47s onto the ice, but I think we'll alter the rules a bit for mystery cons. Does anyone have some Kevlar body armor I can borrow to go with Kerry's escrima helmet??? Just wondering.

If any of you show up at the ThrillerFest, I'm bound to get some very interesting video.

I can get you a great deal on a kevlar vest. I have connections.

This really is a surprisingly well-armed backblog.

Hockey for writers~a new sport. Cool. I think women hold grudges longer but that men are more competitive. As the mom of two teenage males I think I have the authority to say they'd compete to make sure each had the exact same amount of cherrios for breakfast! Doofs. Thanks for the hockey imagery. I was sitting here demanding my brain soak up the body chemistry of muscle contractions and.....I know this is unbelievable.........my brain rebelled! It said "Science? HA! I DON'T think so!!!" It spit all chem right out of my ears. Good thing the test is still a week away. LOL. Maybe I need a helmet to hold all this science in my tiny brain. :) I think Susan that you and the tarts should get sumo wrestler blow up suits and settle all writer differences that way. Please. I'd pay for that video.

Janice, that's some of my favorite biochemistry! I used to hook my students by using it to explain how rigor mortis sets in (and why it goes away). That was probably at a simpler level than what you're dealing with, but at least it made things seem less like science and more like murder mysteries . . . appropriate here, eh?

Susan - These rules sound suspiciously like the unwritten guidelines for my Italian family gatherings.

But, Janice, I think men are more competitive in physical ways, while women compete on more subtle (often nastier) levels. I have yet to hear any of my male author-friends quote me their Amazon numbers, plus the numbers of authors they feel are their competition (and give a running commentary about whose numbers are better and why). It's an incredible thing to witness, and it tells me that, at least from what I've seen, women fight on a different level than guys. (An often much scarier level.) Goes back to my cheerleading days when, a very pretty and popular girl who didn't make the squad, ran around telling people I said to her, "Ha ha, I made it and you didn't." Never happened. I barely spoke to this chick (she used to thrive on stealing away my boyfriends). Those kind of tactics just slay me (oh, wait, I do know one male who operates that way...so, hmmmm).

Kathy, you must have some incredibly, er, intense family gatherings! Wish I could be there for Thanksgiving!

I should clarify that Amy J. was popular with the guys more than with the girls, if that tells you anything. (And, yes, Sarah, the evils of my cheerleading past still haunt me to this day! It's so sad. Good God, where's the Kleenex??? No, no, wait, where's SusanCo. with her AK47 so I can hunt down the b***h and settle this score for good! Oh, wait, women are gentle, nurturing creatures without friends who have incredible weapons arsenals, right?)

Susan, you have more women friends with incredible weapon arsenals than you realize. Women don’t discuss this topic as a general rule, as we don’t comprehend the bragging rights involved in this subject. We prefer the element of surprise. The great part about this being kept low key is the simple fact we can mobilize with speed and precision that would impress any military general, ready to defend our girl in a moments notice. (Phone trees come into play here, along with minivans and SUV’s for hauling the appropriate gear.)

Yes, that does include matching fashion accessories specifically designed for the mission, storming a building, crawling through the brush, or ambushing the enemy in a shopping mall parking lot, we’re ready and we blend into any surrounding. Dressing up in green camouflage in the brown desert area is a Fashion Don’t we’d never consider for any operation.

Nancie, you have totally made me rethink my priorities. I'm wondering if friends with automatic weapons and related accessories may be more valuable than friends with good shoes. No, wait. That sounds sacrilegious. I think it's a tie. But if you threw in a helicopter with gun turrets (or whatever they're called), well, that might tip the scales....

The good shoes are part of the accessories, so you give up nothing. I might be able to arrange the helicopter, but do gun turrets on my roof count?

Kerry I SO love the image of you "trying out" the helmet. That's so wonderful. I hope to hell you rocked the skater dude's world. Can you imagine him going home to tell his roomies about this woman "who like came into the shop and WHOA! She was like all middle-aged and i thought she was gettin' stuff for like her son or something but she like wanted a helmet and...."

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