The First Years After Jenna Sold Absolute Write to Melodi "Mac" Sherman and Partner Spangenberg

2006

In a sadly prophetic post about Jenna Glatzer's founding, building, and eventual sale of Absolute Write, author Ted Gross states:
We miss you, Jenna!
If the new owner(s) and moderators choose to use it for their own personal ends, something that Jenna never did, AW will fall by the wayside. If they choose to allow a differing of opinions then AW may flourish. They will need balance and wisdom. They will require certain innate qualities which no one can know they have until it is put to the test. They will have to learn the elements of respect and fear and know how to understand each. That only the future will tell, and thus no amount of discussion will do any good...
A poignant observation on how Absolute Write became the central forum of the writing industry. For a bit of background, Ted Gross was an active, supportive member for years. His glowing recommendation from 2005 can still be seen.

2007

A bare few months pass with the "new guard" in charge. The same Ted Gross, who spoke so highly of Absolute Write community, becomes one of the first targets of mob mentality. When a member of Absolute Write used a swastika in his signature line and the moderators did nothing about it, Ted, who is of Jewish descent, took offense. The questions he asks may sound familiar to some readers:
[W]here the hell are the police mods who seem to be all over when heaven forbid, someone says something not to their liking? Where the hell are the "open-minded" people who run this board? Could it be that if you say something not kind about Absolute Write you will get banned but showing a swastika is considered "freedom of speech"?
Lisa (yes, that Lisa, a la Spangenberg) feels it her duty to lecture Ted on what he is and isn't allowed to be offended about, and how the swastika had meaning for centuries before the Nazi's began using it. I would love to see someone post "gay people suck," and then lecture Mac and Lisa on how the word "gay" had meaning for centuries before homosexuals starting using it, and then tell them they aren't allowed to be offended because it means "happy people suck." I'm too big of a coward, but someone should do this. I'd watch. With popcorn.

So anyway, the AW moderators continue to bash Ted, his feelings, and his beliefs for months and defend the use of a symbol one of their members found offensive. One commenter even blames Jews for allowing a few decades of hate to obliterate the wonderful meaning of the swastika.

Yeah, we're not kidding. It's there in the last link.

2008

Money troubles abound at Absolute Write, starting this year and spilling into next. Part of the financial woes could stem from Barbara Bauer's regular tantrums (she got the web host shut down in 2006, sued in 2007, and filed amendments in 2008).

Class instructors turn to Writers Weekly as a neutral third to arbitrate disputes over not receiving payments for services rendered. Not all writers know about the possibility of arbitration, though (ironically, the reason communities like Absolute Write exist), and at least one writer is forced to take a loss.

Look at Them
In a blow for the writing community at large, having Barbara Bauer (a proven fraud) attack Absolute Write shored up the AW community and made it appear more legitimate. We suspect that if no lawsuits were filed, Absolute Write would have faded into obscurity. However, their heroic battle against the evil Bauer agency resuscitated and introduced the forums to a new generation of writers.

Some of those financial woes might also link to MacAllister's (aka Melodi Sherman--her real name) new business ventures. It's hard not to speculate where some of the money might have gone when at the same time Absolute Write was financially struggling, MacAllister "Melodi Sherman" Stone was aggressive expanding her own personally branded site, macallisterstone.com, and online magazine, Coyote Wild.


Written in Stone - stone engraving business http://www.macallisterstone.com/wis/index.html

(Not) Written in Stone (now defunct and deleted) - forum touted as "sister site" and actively pedaled to new members: http://absolutewrite.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-111521.html

Per Internet Wayback - Registration turned off between 10/17/2008 and 11/20/2008, members dropped from 217 to 115; before 2008, was a simple Blogger blog, between 6/2/2014 and 7/14/2014 went live with new content - Content now resides at /wis subfolder

Absolute Write Amazon Store http://web.archive.org/web/20081207132549/http://www.absolutewrite.com/shop.htm + Absolute Write newsletter called Absolute Markets

2009

Beginning in January, the servers behind Absolute Write experienced intermittent outages throughout the year. The core group, who couldn't survive an hour without bashing someone, migrated among a Starchat channel, a temporary forum hosted by Roger Carlson, and MacAllister Stone's own website (presumably because allowing someone else to own the site host for the forum was unbearable for her).

The forum at Absolute Write flourished without the participation of the owner and her band of cronies. Lisa and Mel popped in only rarely to ban people or attempt to discourage beginners; Old Hack worked on her self-publishing review site, redesigned her personal "God's answer to writers" website, and started a brief (pun intended) flash fiction blog; and Hapi "Teresa Nielsen Hayden" Sofi lent her particular brand of vitriol to the forum.

The rest is still unfolding history, ugly history. Thank you, Macallister Melodi Sherman-Stone.

Examining the Truth of Absolute Write's Claim To Being a Valuable Writer Resource

Publishing Experts James D. Macdonald and Debra Doyle
Does it all center around the meaning of the word "valuable"? Below is the advertising claim of Absolute Write as related by AW's foremost champion and spokesperson, Victoria Strauss--who utilizes AW as her main source of advertising for her fantasy series. This passage is taken from her "Haters Gonna Hate" post (recommend reading the comment thread to the end) on her blog:
The truth: AW is a valuable resource, one of the largest and most active writers' forums on the Internet. (As of this writing, it boasts nearly 60,000 members, over 8 million posts, and anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 users active at any given time--scroll down to the bottom of AW to see these statistics.) At AW, you can discuss every aspect of craft and genre, learn about the ins and outs of publishing and self-publishing, share your work-in-progress, get your query letter critiqued, connect with beta readers and writing buddies, commiserate about rejection and rejoice about success, and participate in discussions about culture, music, art, politics, and just about anything else you want to talk about. AW members include writers at every stage of their careers--from just thinking about publishing to multi-published--along with a wide variety of publishing industry experts and professionals: literary agents, publishers, editors, illustrators, designers, and more.
Our response to the above as follows.

This is a country of over 300 million people. Millions write. Absolute Write has been collecting a member list for well over a decade, and in all that time, the list has grown. It makes sense that after millions of pageviews a list of 60,000 by 2015 is not unreasonable. As a matter of fact, we would have predicted a list three times as big if the original owner, Jenna, were still running things. But she isn't, and it's all speculation, though we believe that the failure to build a much larger list has been the result of unprecedented hostility towards large numbers of writers (as noted on this blog). Regardless, we did view the users at the bottom of the page and found the count to be less than 150. We haven't tracked it day to day, but less than 150 on a weekday afternoon is far less than 3000.

But what difference does this make? AW can still be a valuable writer resource whether it has 3000 at any one time or 30. Right?

Business Pro on AW
The spokesperson Victoria says, "you can ... get your query letter critiqued," among other things. Sure, you can, we've seen the proof: dozens of unpublished and self-published whoevers giving query letter advice that varies drastically in quality from one thread to the next, from one whoever to the next. And whoever are these scores of sage professional advisers anyway? Look closely. If you can actually translate one of them into a real name, you'll immediately realize that you've never heard of this person. But of course. What real publishing house editor or literary agent is just going to be hanging around disguised in AW chat forums on a daily basis just waiting to give beginner advice to beginners? Don't they have better things to do, like their job?

Moving on to the "ins and outs of publishing and self-publishing." We find this amusing since AW and its owners have been excessively nasty towards proponents of self-publishing, so there is a huge contradiction here. For example, taken from the comments on the page regarding the banning of Robin Sullivan:
As a member of Absolute Write since January 2009, I have been extremely dismayed with the increasingly hostile attitude to anyone who displays a positive attitude towards self-publishing. As you know, I have been in many of the same threads as you, and I have witnessed first-hand the same small group of people attack you over and over again. Throughout it all, you have kept your cool, and answered them with facts. I don't know how you did it, but you did. I think your ban was 100% baseless.
The golden rule of Absolute Write is supposed to be "respect your fellow writer". I have been seeing precious little respect towards any writer who expresses an interest in self-publishing.
Absolute W Owner Who Isn't a
Writer But a Horse Farm Operator
As with the query letter, just whoever with a pail full of neophyte advice is hanging around just waiting to tell you the "ins and outs" anyway? Back to query letter mode. Here come the whoevers with loads of "advice" for you. If you're fool enough to take it, you've got a problem. Everyone is an expert on Absolute Write. Let a million thoughts contend! And as we've noted elsewhere on this blog, you can't trust the owners, they're not fiction writers. Rarely do you see a moderator with any sense intervening in these amateurish blather fests that go on constantly at AW. So where is the value? 

We agree with Victoria that like any writer forum or chat board thing, Absolute Write Water Cooler is a place where you can dialogue with peers, share stuff, talk about your trip to Tasmania, and so forth. But does this make AW a stand out "valuable" writer resource? 

Stacia Kane Ready for Action
Finally, we come to the claim that "publishing industry experts and professionals" are members of AW. Well, you can't refute that since we have no measure or basis to judge what Victoria means by experts, and no list of names. Whoever they are, they are rarely if ever present. The fantasy author Stacia Kane is an exception. Like Victoria, AW is the primary vehicle for marketing her books. You'll see her popping up on every popular conflict thread where a good bash fest is going on. But just casually step into the novel forum section of the Water Cooler and you will see the name of only one person there who is in any way related to the publishing business: James D. Macdonald. He hangs out because he and his wife, Doyle, make money from consults and classes they advertise on AW. We've discussed good old Congenial Sage Macdonald here on W.A.R. Are these the so-called experts and professionals Victoria is referring to?

Our ears and eyes are open, AW. Come over and comment on this thread. Feel free to set the record straight. You won't be bullied, and neither will we.