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Monday, March 05, 2007


Support versus competition

Some of the nicest behaviour I've ever seen on the internet has been on writing blogs, including this one. At various times, hopeful writers among y'all, my excellent readers, have written in with a problem, and others of you have written back with suggestions, opinions and encouragement. I'm always delighted to see it; the Internet is one of those places where, free from the risk of getting punched, you can act however you want, and it cheers my faith in humanity to see people taking the opportunity to act nicely rather than horribly.

Watching the blog evolve is raising a question in my mind: what duty do writers have to support each other?

The polar opposite to supportiveness is competition, and writers can feel that, too. When you're worrying about your own work, it's hard not to compare yourself with others. This can happen in one of two ways; either you compare yourself with a published writer you've never met, or - and this one gets tricky - you compare yourself with a writer you're sharing a writing group, discussion thread or other social encounter with. The latter, I've generally found, tends to be more competitive. After all, a published writer is Published, out there in the ether somewhere, but if you meet another writer at your local adult-ed centre, then they're plainly just a person like you, and claiming the same dreams as you with nothing particularly spectacular about them to suggest that they deserve them more than you. That, at least, is one possible reason why people can be competitive in classes; the other is simply evolution. You don't worry about which berries the monkeys on the other side of the forest want, because those berries are out of your reach anyway, but if you want red berries and the monkey in the next tree wants red ones too, then you're in competition: there are only so many red berries to go around. This makes no sense when you translate it to writing classes - since we left the trees, we invented a marvellous thing called the postal system which means every monkey can send off for every berry in the forest - but there's something about proximity that gets the monkey jumping. Possibly.

It's only a rough sense, and if other people have experiences that differ from mine I'd love to hear from them, but my general impression based on my own experience has been that the more selective or expensive the writing class, the more competitive it is. The reason seems basic: the higher-end the class, the more emphasis there will be on producing good work. I've been to meditation retreats with lots of arts workshops included, where the atmosphere was completely non-competitive and people who showed unusually ability tended to be praised and petted rather than resented; in those classes, producing publishable work wasn't the idea. On the other hand, if you've invested ambition in a class, it raises the tension levels. You worried about getting in, and once you're in, you bring that worry right into the classroom.

I remember when I was doing an MA in Creative Writing (their capitals, not mine) at UEA, which was a selective class with a lot of applicants per place. Over dinner in the student cafe one night, I remarked to someone on the course that there seemed to be rather a competitive atmosphere around. It was, I said, kind of a shame; it would be nicer to be less competitive, and it seemed pointless anyway. She disagreed. It was inevitable, she said, and anyway, I didn't want to be like so-and-so, did I? (So-and-so being a writer who'd recently handed in an unpopular piece.) Personally I'm suspicious of anyone who considers hostile behaviour inevitable - generally they're the ones who are making sure it's inevitable by being hostile, and if they take a day off sick, the atmosphere improves remarkably - but even leaving that aside, I maintain I had a point. It wasn't as if the CEO of Penguin was standing outside the door, saying, 'All right, folks, I'm going to make one of you a star; decide amongst yourselves who it'll be and we can get cracking.' Whoever's at the top or bottom of the pecking order in a particular class is going to have absolutely no impact on the real world. People left the class to future success of varying degrees that bore pretty much no relation to their rank within the class. Competiveness within a group, in short, sours the atmosphere and achieves nothing.

On the other hand, do all writers have to support all other writers regardless? That seems an equally unworkable idea. We can all sympathise with the pain of rejection, for example, but if a rejected novelist gets turned down by a publisher, then goes into her office and shoots her, then I, for one, would not be on that writer's side. I wouldn't be on his side if he wrote her an angry letter making personal remarks, either. There are some things people simply shouldn't do, fellow writer or not. Hunter S. Thompson wrote that the Hell's Angels charter includes the rule 'When an Angel punches a non-Angel, all other Angels will participate', but it's not a code I want to sign up to*.

Nor should writing lead to an us-against-the-world attitude just because it's difficult to get published. Which it is, no question, and that can suck, no question. Most writers don't know any publishers personally, but quite often will have at least met other people who write, so it's easy to sort the world into two tribes in your mind - and then feel that because Tribe Publishing is always upsetting members of Tribe Writing, it must be a nasty tribe. Well, that's a silly attitude. It's the monkey brain again, drawing a false conclusion on partial evidence. One reason why I went into publishing - apart from the fact that an English degree isn't exactly vocational and I had to earn money somehow - is that I knew I wanted to write, I knew getting published wasn't easy, and I reckoned that if I saw it from the inside, it might increase my chances - or at least, my knowledge. Not everyone who wants to write can work in publishing, because that would be ridiculous, but take it from me: from the inside, publishing is just a bunch of people in smart-casual clothes trying to resist eating the office biscuits and doing the best job they can under pressured circumstances. They may not have time to be supportive to every aspiring writer who sends them a manuscript, but it doesn't mean they're up to anything sinister, and concluding that writers should support each other against publishers is like monkeys ganging up on a tree because it doesn't always bear fruit. Only one side of this war is actually doing any fighting.

An idea that's probably best to confront, if we're thinking about writers' duties or lack thereof to one another, is what we associate with the word 'writer'. Are we thinking about writers as somehow special? Do we owe each other support because we're all part of some exceptional category? I would say no. Many of us went into writing because part of ourselves found the idea somehow glamorous or exciting, but if we let ourselves think that this gives us separate status, we're in trouble.

The really good thing about mutual support, when writers provide it to each other, is that we know, more than someone who's never tried it knows, what the other person is going through. And that helps. Well-meant sympathy from someone who doesn't know what it's like can often end up making you feel worse; the person tries to be kind, but then they'll say something like, 'Well, maybe your book needs more popular appeal,' and then there's nothing to do but say, 'Thanks, I appreciate this,' then go and hide somewhere and cry. Someone who's gone through the same thing, on the other hand, has encountered the pitfalls, the vagaries, the experience of what it's like to be blocked, or to be sick of your hero, or to be waiting anxiously for the return of your manuscript, or to have gotten a rejection letter that's so kind and thoughtful that you want to shoot yourself because if even really sympathetic and perceptive people don't want your book then it must be terrible . . . And possibly, they might have a better idea of how to console or advise you.

In short, writers don't have a duty to one another because we're part of the Special Club which includes a fraternity oath on the door. It's broader than that. Human beings should be kind, supportive and helpful to each other because it makes the world a nicer place - and when it comes to writing, other writers are sometimes better able to offer the kind of support we need. We don't have to throw our weight behind behaviour we don't like, but we can turn what we know to useful account for other people, if we choose. It's simple, really.

Which is why I say that anyone going through a hard time with their writing is welcome to have a moan or ask advice here, and hopefully other posters will make suggestions or give advice if anything occurs to them. I can't look at anyone's actual work, see here for an explanation of why - though if anyone else wants to look at anyone else's work, go right ahead - but if you're wondering what to do about a publishing situation, or just want to let off some steam, you're entirely welcome. Let's all make the world a nicer place.

*Anyway, the Angels Thompson hung out with got annoyed after a while and stomped the heck out of him. And where were his writer pals then, eh? Nowhere, that's where. Leave the gang stuff to the experts, I say.

Sometimes I've seen a certain attitude from yet-to-be-published writers aimed at those who have been published: In essence, that since those now-published writers must've learned some sort of secret, or found a shortcut into getting their work into the public eye, it is now their DUTY to help out the less fortunate and get as many other writers into publication as possible, whether through the dispensing of free advice, handing out the names of their editor and agent whenever anyone demands it, or answering questions (with a straight face..no giggling mind you) such as "Where do you get your ideas?" and "How much did it cost for you to get your book published?"

This is not an option, it seems. It is a DUTY, and if a published writer doesn't want to help others get a leg up, whether or not they have the time for it, and no matter the true reason for the other person's lack of publication, than that author obviously doesn't care, and is a stuck up prig who is only in it for the money.

It just amazes me how many times I've seen a published writer freely give of their time and energy to help others with advice and resources, and then the moment they want to take a break and actually work on their own stuff without distraction, they're labeled as selfish, uncaring or disloyal to the writing community. Anyways, Kit, I do thankya for the community you've fostered here. It's a great example of how it can be done right, without anyone's feelings or sense of obligation getting smushed.
It's an interesting attitude - though thankfully I, at least, have run into it less than I might. The majority of aspiring writers are very nice ... but of course, being rude and demanding tends to make you conspicuous, which gives the nice people a bad name by association. Put twenty nice people in a room with one jackass, and everyone will remember the jackass.

If you do get people being aggressively demanding, I think part of it has to do with the idea that 'writer' is a separate category of person. If someone else is a Published Writer, it means they're practically superhuman, with infinite resources and the answers to everything - they get viewed as a source, rather than as an individual with their own set of concerns. Which is one of many reasons why it's important to remember that people are people first, and writers second.

Ultimately, though, I think that at the base of most unreasonable behaviour is just badly-handled frustration and disappointment. 'You have a duty' often translates, fundamentally, to 'I really really wish you'd do it'. And possibly, if a writer turns someone down directly, there's a reaction to embarrassment going on. Which is understandable - though it doesn't make it okay to be unpleasant.

I don't really mind being asked where I get my ideas, as long as it's asked honestly, rather than 'Where do you get your ideas, and could you ask the clerk there to set up an account for me?' It's a natural question from people who don't have experience of writing. It gets a bit repetitive answering the same question dozens of times (so bless whoever invented the concept of a FAQ section), but I think it's only fair to try and be polite about it, as long as it's asked politely.

And, while there are quite a lot of silly questions that people often ask like 'How much did it cost?', I think it's important to distinguish between the silly and the uninformed. If John honestly thinks it costs money to publish a book, that's not his fault: how's he going to know otherwise unless someone tells him? So if he asks a published writer and they give him a good answer, that writer may have saved him thousands of pounds and a vanity press run-in, which is great. If he clings to the idea that it costs money in the face of more experienced people telling him otherwise, then he's being silly - but it's best to give him the benefit of the doubt the first time he asks you. Everyone begins ignorant; it's only staying ignorant on purpose that's a problem.

Anyway, thanks for the thanks. I like this community. When you work from home and don't have office gossip to entertain you, it's nice to have a virtual water cooler.
I reckon a big problem in the virtual environment is also tone. Because you're talking to people you don't know, one misplaced word has the ability to ruin an atmosphere completely. Here's an example: Have you ever received an email that says "Thanks a lot!", and wondered if maybe, just maybe, the sender is being incredibly sarcastic? Whether you think they are or not will be based on how well you know them.

As writers we really should know better (ho, ho, ho), but we're writing as ourselves here, not in plot-driven characters (well, I am... don't know about the rest of you guys!), but without the benefit of inflection, cadence, pitch and all the rest, it becomes difficult to convey irony, sarcasm, etc. which has the potential to lead to misunderstandings...

Also, on the other side of the fence, I would like to say I've been to a lot of writers websites (not mentioning any names, natch) where the sense of pure inflated ego is overpowering. I'm referring to people who've managed to get one or two books published and, whoa!, just let them tell you how great they are! Funnily enough though, when you cross-check customer reviews on Amazon, their books aren't rated so highly as they rate themselves... Just goes to show that getting published is, we might suspect, only the start...

The thing about here is that there's a really nice absence of ego from all posters - there's a ton of sound advice and you're never too far away from a smiley :-)

Besides which, there's enough grief involved just trying to break in... I mean, the endless waiting is absolute torture, really. I can't concentrate on anything... I just keep logging on here and at Miss Snark's (thanks for putting me on to her Kit, she's quite a hoot, isn't she?!)... Waiting for THAT name to pop up in my inbox...Urrggg, how to get over the endless waiting? How many games of Monopoly and Ker-plunk can I play with my kids? How long can I stay stuck on this plot point in my next book... (I'm not stuck really, it's just every time I open the file and try to write my concentration withers like a slug when you tip salt on it...)

Any advice for this tortured soul would be most gratefully received... :-(

(I know, I know, my wife keeps telling me not to think about it, to just crack on and hope for the best...)
Actually 'Kit Whitfield' is a character. Really I'm a giant purple rabbit with a fetish for milkshakes and a morally complex scheme to take over the world. I'm lulling you into a sense of false security.

(I shall provide no emoticons to give a clue as to whether I'm joking on this one. I prefer to leave you wondering...)

I'd love to offer some sensible advice on the 'nerves make you blocked' problem. I really would. In fact, I'd actually love to hear some, because I suffer from the same thing.

In general, I find that your lovely wife may have a point: the best method is probably denial. Real, proper, full-on denial. As in: 'My agent probably forgot to send the manuscripts to the publishers. And even if she did, I bet they got lost in the post. Any remaining few that made it through the Royal Mail probably got eaten by an under-fed secretary at the company's reception desk. I'm never going to hear back from them. La la la, I can't hear a thing...'

And the other thing that's probably helpful - this has just occurred to me, so maybe I'll do a longer post on it some time when I've had more of a chance to think about it - is to ask yourself why you want to be a published writer. Yes, I can hear the cries of 'duh' coming from computer terminals all over the nation as well, but really, what does it mean to you? What qualities would it confer on you, or express in you? What element of it would give you a sense of happiness and pride? And can you feel happiness and pride in other ways as well? If you can draw happiness from as wide a range of sources as possible, you've got a bit of a cushion. A bit.

This is speaking as a writer. Speaking as a giant rabbit, I recommend the following: take about three very ripe bananas, cut them up and put them in a tall blender (or blending jar, if you've got a hand-held mixer). Add enough milk to cover, and a generous scoop of smooth peanut butter, and a smallish splash of Bailey's. Whiz together till smooth, and drink until full of fruit and happy.

It doesn't solve the publication problem, but it tastes good, and for a milkshake it's reasonably healthy.

Have a few smileys; sounds like you need them:

:-) :-) :-)
Why do I want to be a writer? That easy: because I want to leave something behind (and the "duhs" are going on all over the world dear, not just the "nation" - I for one live in Warsaw, and I seem to remember Josh saying he was on the other side of the pond!)

It's got nothing to do with such abstract concepts as "happiness" and "pride". I've got three wonderful, beautiful children who, predictably, I adore and who will ensure (hopefully) that my genetic material at least will continue.

But you know what? They're not enough. I want to leave something more. Something only I made. So when I draw my last breath and finally get some decent sleep, my closing thought is "Something remains of me, apart from my remains" Selfish, eh?

By the way, if you really are a giant purple rabbit, can we assume that you also have some fiendishly clever method of contraception which has stopped the world becoming full of giant purple rabbits?

And thanks for the milkshake recipe - I'm going to try that when I get home tonight!
Not selfish, understandable. But how successful would you have to be to consider it a legacy? I'm not sure anyone's going to remember my books when I'm an old lady... Or is that even more depressing?

As to the rabbit thing, what makes you so sure the world isn't full of giant purple rabbits already? You didn't know I was one till I told you, after all. :-)
Now THAT'S the question. Edina said to me once that "Writing is a skill, the more you do it, the better you get", and I believe everything she tells me. How many books are a legacy? Or how popular do you have to be? I was really upset the other day because of one of those ridiculous surveys of "100 books the nation can't live without" and you know what? There wasn't one book by H.G. Wells - the best writer there's ever been in the English language (and I mean that - I honestly think Wells is better than Shakespeare). The guy wrote tens of first-class original novels and social commentaries - and what now, 61 years after he died?

(Pause for sound of Chris spitting blood)

This is something we really should talk about though. Do we just want to tell stories? To entertain people? To make money? Or do we just fancy an indoor job with no heavy lifting?

And what about that guy staring at me on the tram this morning? His ears were big and suspiciously floppy...
Glamorous? Exciting? Most things that people label "glamorous" leave me cold. I write to silence the voices in my head. I want my stories published because I think (some) people will enjoy reading them. Glamour and excitement I can do without.

It's satisfying to support other writers, but the task is daunting. How many times can you give the its/it's lecture, or stand up for the much-maligned adjective? Bah.

Here, have a carrot.
-waves to Chris from the other side of the pond-

Are you seeing Harvey the pooka on the train now? Better doublecheck your meds, my friend.

As for why write? I pursue it myself for several reasons. Partly because I've chosen to do it and I love doing it. I don't think anyone is ever "compelled" to write by anything outside themselves. You compell yourself by choice, and eventually it becomes that second nature to all your thoughts and actions. Writing becomes your Polaris, and everything else spins on the edges of that compass. Any of us could've chosen to pursue another career, and I'm sure we would manage well, if not excel in many other areas. Thank God our fates weren't stamped on our foreheads from birth. And since I've got that ability to choose and my finger landed on writing, I'm going to make sure that time and energy doesn't go to waste in the slightest.

I also write because I believe stories have the ability to pass on values and truths (at least the ones I hold to) and fiction, especially fiction, can be exceptionally effective in bringing those often confusing and complicated aspects of reality, faith, and emotion to life in ways that other people can relate to, even if they don't agree with.

Yes, the more business side of writing demands that we be entertaining. And if we want to be able to survive, sure...we've got to be marketable and make money. But I hope that is never my end-all-have-all reason.

We'd all love to leave a legacy, but rarely is that something we have much control over in how others regard us. The most I know I can do is take whatever gifts or talents I've been given and decide how much I am going to dedicate myself to refining them and being the best writer I can be. And I'm going to enjoy it as much as I can.

Oh, and I also write because if I don't let the words out of my head, they start clawing up the drapes and peeing on the carpet.

Kit, don't worry. We'll remember yah.

No heavy lifting, Chris? Have you ever trucked around a fully printed manuscript for revisions? I think that's the main reason I have something resembling muscle.
Josh: Really sorry if I'm mistaken, it was just a vague recollection from some weeks ago. Please do put me straight on where you are. Also, could you possibly explain what or who "Harvey the pooka" is? If you let me know what my "meds" are, I'll be happy to doublecheck them (does this sound as ridiculous to you as it does to me?)

But I strongly agree with your "passing on truths" comment - that's spot on for one function of story-telling. Also, with reference to your first post above, I just want to say that I really, really like the word "smushed" :-) I'm going to make a point of using it in my next book - what does it mean?

Buffy: What glamourous things do NOT leave you cold? And do we really have to stand up for the much-maligned adjective? I always thought it was adverbs that editors smushed (Am I using it right??!! Am I using it right??!!)

Gosh, all this codswallop and I'm still sober!
Well ridiculousness and confusion are my three middle names.

Yes, I'm over here in New York City. And ya'll don't know Harvey? Jimmy Stewart? Anyone? Pookas? Invisible, six-foot tall rabbits? How can ths not be common knowledge? Prepare to be edumacated!


Smushed- The combination of being both smashed and mushed. Results often resemble mud pies, squishy grapes, or oil spills. Otherwise known as the physical state of being after one is stepped on by an elephant. Some scientists have also lobbied for a redefining of the phases of matter to include solids, liquids, gases, and smushed.
What glamorous things have you got?
Oh, right, thanks for that Josh. Definitely a film to catch somewhere on cable... And I love the smushed definition - wonderful!

Buffy, glamour(ous) is a subjective concept. To me, I'm certainly not writing only for the money, but yes, I do hope to get some sort of return on my (time and imagination) investment IF I sell the book. The driver here is that I want to try to pay off my mortgage sooner than the next 13 years. But if I suddenly found myself with enough cash to buy, for example, a brand new car (instead of yet another crappy old banger), it would not leave me cold...

I think we're all smart enough to have worked out that glamourous things will not make us happy. Happiness (if such a thing can exist for more than a few seconds at a time) comes from inside - you can't feed it with nice holidays and expensive meals out... Having said that though, I think there are worse problems for a writer than worrying about how to spend the next royalty cheque.

Here's something I've always wondered: what DOES a royalty cheque actually look like? Can anyone help? ;-)
Not me, I'm afraid. I'm still earning out my advance. Of course, I'm prepared to research the subject - just for you, my friends - so if y'all can just force everyone in your respective countries to buy several copies of my book, I'll be happy to look into it. :-)
I'd love to, but the natives here do tend to lean towards speaking Polish. Do you have a Polish version on the way?
I fear not. Danish, Swedish, German, Dutch? Any of those languages anything like Polish?

Sigh. Thought not. I'll just have to teach them all English!
It is possible the to dislike the function and effect of the Tribe publishing without disliking the individual who make up that tribe. I tend to find I like most people I just don't agree with many of them.

As for creative writing classes and competition etc... when I did my degree in creative writing I found there to be little real competition between regular attenders. We of course were sometimes jealousy of each others ability but that is, I really think, pretty natural.

Tension tended not to come from competition but from opinion. Nobody agreed what was good and what was bad, and certainly when we were had a particular tutor the tutors opinions (normally brutally and authoritarianly put) towards others work was what hurt and upset people the most.

You are right, writers owe other writers nothing, but being nice is worth doing whoever you are. The problem is that sometimes people think that being nice means being mean, cruel to be kind etc... and sometimes people mistake difference of opinion for attack or condemnation. Especially when the opinions are expressed (as opinions normally are) roughly and without sufficient tact.

chris - I agree entirely with the issue of tone and the virtual environment. However it is often these mistakes in interpreting each other that creates interesting new debates etc... however it is tone that can lead to people upsetting each other.
That's fine goosefat, I was only speaking from my own experience of posting on other forums where people seem to delight in getting the wrong end of the stick, and interesting new debates are followed all too quickly by tedious repetition. In general it's all a bit more laid back and agreeable here.
Yeah I'd agree with that, I'm not sure that many people actually delight in getting the wrong end of the stick tho, but I am sure it feels like they do. I've had some pretty bad message board experiences myself, I tend to avoid them these days. There is nothing worse than posting a comment and then finding yourself rounded upon by an established clique. Message board things can get nasty and personal very very quickly.

My internet username is goosefat101 incidently, the numbers matter to me for some reason (it was deliberate there aren't 100 other goosefats as far as I am aware).
Beautiful post. Thank you Kit Whitfield.
Read Below Letter Sent March 24th
Please sign our petition at Care2.com--And pray for justice.
Please help us if you can along with the Senator, the letter below were sent to the Senator
Go to---http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/937399751, then type in “Working mother and Citibank ethics‘ for search .or, www.thepetitionsite.com/
go to, www.thepetitionsite.com/ http://my.care2.com/dcsbears
then click on sign a petition
go to the bottom of the page, click on all petition
go down to the 'w' and click on Working mother and Citibank ethics
at the bottom of the petition click on ' sign petition' they will ask you if this is Damari, click on log out and cintinue from there
I need 1000 signatures within 4 months or my petition will be taken off I have would have to start over, please sign and tell a friend.
Working mother at Citibank, how did they make the list of the “Best 100 Companies for Working Mothers? Fired for putting daughters needs first? Fired via UPS, 12 days before Christmas?
Why would a man who feels and believes that what he is doing is right, hide behind a letter of termination by sending it via UPS? Because he was afraid to do it in person and was too much of a coward to wait for me to return? Or because he was on a power trip? Or is he just mean and unsure of himself? None of this makes sense.
Please forward to anyone that could help us, thanks.
Keep this story going so we can get help. Tell a friend to tell a friend, how else can the little guy fight corporate America?
Working mother at Citibank, how did they make the list of the “Best 100 Companies for Working Mothers?
Please forward to anyone that could help us, thanks.
Keep this story going so we can get help. Tell a friend to tell a friend, how else can the little guy fight corporate America
March 24 2007
To: Senator Barbara Boxer
Also: Jason J Chan,
1700 Montgomery Street, Suite 240
San Francisco, Ca.94111

Dear Senator Barbara Boxer, Re: Response by the U.S. Department of Labor

I agree that I mentioned to Ronan Byrne that Citibank had violated the Family and Medical Leave Act, but I don’t believe that I said , I was fired for taking FMLA. I have never felt that I was fired for that reason. FMLA was never brought up to me by Citibank, FMLA was brought up to me by Met Life after papers were filed for STD. In fact, Met Life had told me not to fill out the papers for FMLA just STD and LTD.
In, October 2005 I was told that the bank was going to start opening on Saturday, I explained to the manager that this would be stressful and a financial burden for my family and I. I explained that my husband worked Saturdays and my daughters was involved in sports, on the volleyball team and that I was team mom. I explained to him that I feared leaving my daughter alone because I had been raped at her age and molested earlier in life. I explained that earlier that year my daughter had been followed home and that is why I was cutting my hours back from 5 to 3. A police report was filed with Seaside PD. I also explained to Citibank how many child molesters there our within ½ mile of my house, and I explained that my daughter had tryouts on Nov. 5, 2005 in Salinas and my husband was already scheduled to work. Although the manager had two other tellers scheduled for that day he would not allow me to change weekends. On Nov. 7 and 8, my blood pressure was up and the doctor told me to take the rest of day off on the 7th and the 8th. Although I did not wish to work Saturdays to care for my daughter , the manager had asked me to go home and talk to my family, which I did. The manager also suggested that I bring my daughter to work and have her go in the back room and watch videos. The manger asked me to meet him half way and at least work one. After talking to my family I asked if I could work on the 3rd Saturday of every month along with my 5 days a week scheduled, my husband agreed to take the 3rd Saturday of each month off to tend to my daughters needs. Two days or so after I discussed this with the manager he calls me just as I am getting off of work and said “:sorry it will have to be 2 Saturdays a month. Yet a teller with less seniority and not as good as I was asked for Tuesdays and Thursdays off and it was granted. I was only asking for one day off a month she was asking for 8 days off a month and she requested this about 3 weeks after my request.
On the first Saturday that I was schedule they already had 2 other tellers and the managers boss had spoken to me on my cell phone while I was at the doctors office with my daughter waiting to see the doctor. I told her that my daughter had tryouts and that I was driving her there as long has she wasn’t to ill to tryout. My daughters ended up having bronchitis . During our conversation I had said I wouldn’t be in and the manager had also been told along with the supervisor bit I was threaten with a write up if I didn’t go in. Why was the manager flexible with Andrea schedule and not mine. Why was it ok for her to do her homework at the counter, leave about $10,000.00 out and never get written up?
The manager wrote me up, 5 days later, he could have written me up on the 7th, 8th, 9th, but didn’t , he wrote me up after getting my letter and calling me to find out if the letter was just for him, which it was. The following Saturday that I was scheduled was the 19th, and on the 17th I had gone to the doctors, after work, my blood pressure was up again and the doctor put me out of work for the 18th, 19th,and 20th. The state that in early November, 2005, that I didn’t show up to work during the week, this is a LIE and I had always called in. The only time that I personally didn’t call in was on12/12/05 because my doctor had called in for me due to my blood pressure and also faxed in a note. Andrea had her mother call in for her and she didn’t get fired but my doctor calls in for me and I get fired, why? Citibank did not decide to terminate me in November, Jeff Ursino decided to terminate me because I ask that I be contacted via email to protect me health. I f Citibank had decided to fire me then were was my final check and exit interview and why fire me in the middle of a workers comp pending case? California codes were not follow by Jeff Ursino or the bank. When I requested my file there was no notes that I record had been reviewed or that HR gave Jeff Ursino permission to fire me, why? I was given a medical note not to work on Dec. 6th and then it was extended on Dec. 12 -16th. Citibank states or the letter from US Dept. Of Labor that I sent in my note at the same time that I was being sent the termination letter, yet another lie.
Kathleen Munoz had been faxed the disability note on the 12th of Dec. Jeff Ursino decided to fire me on 12/13/05, sometime after 1:45 pm, after reading my email. At that point the manager suggested to HR that I be terminated immediately, although he acknowledges receiving my email. I f the termination letter was being sent out at the same time I was sending my note in were was my final paycheck? Citibank rescinded the termination because I did not qualify for unemployment and State disability due to a program the bank carries. But had I not gone thru these steps they would not have rescinded their decision. They rescinded , in my opinion because they realized that Jeff Ursino had made some errors, they ignored that I was ill and they realized that he fired me during an open workers comp case. In fact, Chrys Smith, of HR ,called Carla at Travelers Insurance for workers comp on the 14th of Dec. 2005 to see how the case was going, at that point she was told that it would probably be denied, but she never mention to workers comp that I had been terminated via UPS the day before. I did not apply for workers comp at the end of my Short Term Disability Leave Plan, the workers comp case was started 11/22/05, or so.
Again just more lies by Citibank, Jeff Ursino and Kathleen Munoz.
Citibank continues to give false statements. Please don’t stop helping us they are not telling the truth. You have returned my binder to me, thank you , but the proof is all in there, now what do I do? Citibank did not behave in good faith, not fair and equal treatment of all employees. They would tell clients that I left to work for my husband or that I was on vacation, anything but the truth.
Damari Stratford, 1291 Ord Grove Ave, Seaside, Ca 93955 831-583-9077
To whom it may concern, 10/03/2007


Please help the little person fight corporate America and their lies and false statements

On, Feb. 16, 2006 someone representing Citigroup Inc at One Court Square, 14th Floor, Long Island City, NY 11120, submitted a rebuttal to Ann Luekeman, Consultant for the Department of Fair Employment and Housing at 111 N Market Street, Suite 810, San Jose Ca 95112, and the statement entered is false and full of lies . Ann Luekeman also conducted the interviews for the investigation and was also lied to by Jeff Ursino and Kathleen Munoz during their interviews. I feel that the case needs to be investigated due to the fact that the DFEH made their decision with false statements submitted by Citigroup attorney and their employees. Sheri Paulo, the Employee Relations director for Citigroup was aware of the false information submitted yet even though they/she said they would submit a new statement they did not and stood by the lies knowing they were lies. I was wrongfully termination, harassed, by Jeff Ursino, and I can’t understand how an attorney lies to the DFEH and then they aren’t held accountable. This is unethical behavior on all those whom lied and I have to pay for their lies. Citigroup violated several Ca labor codes in the process of firing me nor did Citibank follow their own firing procedures. I was not offered FMLA until months later.
I am begging that someone out there will help a mother who was simply trying to work be a mom and a wife making a honest living yet the manager and supervisor both lied as well as the Citigroup lawyers. Their lawyers requested more time to answer the DFEH yet submitted false information and this is unethical, please help us. I have been on disability since I was fired on 12/13/05 via UPS, I did not know I had lost my job until 12/15/05 because I was out on a workers comp pending case when I was fired. Violation 132A.My last pay check was direct deposited into my checking account, it was not included with my letter of termination. I would like to know who submitted these false statements for Citicorp and or Citibank and Citigroup. I don’t have a team of attorneys as they do or the funds to hire the right attorney to get to the truth. Please help us.


Damari Stratford
1291 Ord Grove Ave
Seaside, Ca 93955
A marginal point, years after the fact: All other Angels will PARTICIPATE, no more. In theory, that covers a situation where one Angel is sorely out of line, and the others have a collective responsibility to restrain him. Still a tighter-knit community that writers writ large, but an interestingly marginal point nonetheless.

I thought.

At 3:24 in the morning
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