My dilemma for the past couple of weeks has been that I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to blog in support of Sarah Daltry or one… well, warning about her. I’ve been trying to weigh both sides of the story, since I felt it was worth a blog post, but simply couldn’t decide. Supporting either side felt, and still feels, wrong. When I moped about it to my wife, she – wisely, as always – told me that there’s nothing wrong with continuing to sit on the fence if neither side appears palatable.
So, here I sit.
Undecided, but wanting to get my doubts out.
After my passionate rant in her defense (and that of anyone who’s ever been bullied) when I heard that she was withdrawing her written work and her social media presence due to extreme bullying, I didn’t hear about the issue again for months until I received an email from someone who said she was a friend of Sarah’s. She apologised for the delay, saying she’d only found my post recently in a Google search (and that Sarah wouldn’t do such research herself), explained Sarah’s current situation (which was apparently much improved after she was suicidal and required professional help, so improved, in fact, that she was “coming back, with a focus on [...] the stories she loves and what the writing means to her”), and thanked me for my supportive words in the open letter I wrote.
Honestly, that felt good. I’d done the right thing, stood up for what I believed was right and smote (well, with words) what I believed was wrong. And I was being thanked for it. I was under no illusions that my words had pulled Sarah back from the brink of darkness or anything that dramatic, but I was sincerely glad to hear she was doing better and writing once again. Someone who’d had that many bad things happen to her (bullying, via bad reviews as well as emails and on social media, rape, poverty, depression, suicide attempts…) surely deserved my help.
I replied to the email, thanking her for the update and confessing to be a “sucker for happy endings, but enough of a realist to understand that it’s not always like that”. I offered to help if I could:
“If there’s anything I can do to help, please do let me know – however much, however little, I’d be glad to help, whether it’s a new blog post with your words (only with your permission, of course), beta reading, feedback of any kind, or simply taking down the old post if Sarah prefers and never mentioning it again… just let me know.”
Research of my own
We emailed each other another couple of times; she was happy for me to do a blog post, even to post the contents of her first email, and, since Sarah was currently “rewriting her NA series that was originally romance [into] a new series [that was] geared more towards YA”, I could share upcoming promos for that series.
I agreed, saying I’d do a blog post later that week (over two weeks ago). In the meantime, I wanted to do a little bit of research to know more about Sarah’s story; surely, many others had carried the torch as I had, had stood up to bullying in their own ways in support of someone who’d been treated that badly.
The original “Open Letter to Bullies” post, in which Sarah announced that she was giving up, conceding defeat to all the hate, was no longer available, but there’s always the wayback machine for such cases (even if the styling is off, the content is there):
The other side
To my surprise, what I discovered next was quite a different story. Rather than the social media outrage I’d expected at an author being bullied, the first three results of googling “Sarah Daltry” were her author pages on goodreads.com (with quite a favourable rating), her own site, and amazon.com, followed by a blog post by a site that seemed dedicated to stopping bullying on goodreads, except… that one was not supportive of her at all. Instead, just four days after Sarah published her open letter to bullies, it claimed to have sufficient information to take the stance that the whole thing was just a PR stunt to promote her work:
Wait, I thought, aren’t you guys supposed to be trying to stop the bullying rather than adding to it? I read through this post with skepticism sitting heavy on my shoulders, but starting to slip as I found out that she’d reversed her decision to take down her site and her self-published books. Reading through the comments, people seemed to be quite willing to get right back to bashing Sarah (or was it “back”?).
There were a few other sites that were similarly dismissive of her claims, stating that Sarah had made quite a profit out of “crying wolf”, getting many “sympathy buys” after asking publicly for support, etc., and that there was no proof that she’d ever been bullied by bad reviews, with high ratings on both goodreads and amazon.
Hmm. So either Sarah Daltry was right with her claims and those other websites were just adding to the incredible unfairness she’s experienced, or they (I’ll call them her “decriers”) were right to call BS and Sarah has been abusing the sympathy of a great lot of people, myself included, for her own profit.
Either way, I feel I have a right to be outraged. I think. I’m just really reluctant to direct my outrage at anyone unless I can be sure that, when I get down from my fence, I land on the right side.
Here’s what I emailed back to Sarah’s friend after I’d read up on the issue:
Wow, do I feel stupid. I was about to write up that blog post I mentioned, but, having just done a bit of googling myself, I’m not quite sure what to believe…
The reply was… well, understanding, ending with: “I will respect your choice either way, because in the end the choice is up to you as to what you believe.”
Checking newer posts on Sarah’s site like this one, she replies to comments by Nicholas (whose post first alerted me to the whole issue and who I think is a genuinely nice guy) that, yes, she’s read positive things as well as negative things posted about her.
What doesn’t add up for me
Here’s why I’m not willing to leave my perch on the fence just yet, some things still don’t quite make sense….
Assuming Sarah Daltry’s claims and reasons for withdrawing from “public life” were legitimate:
- Why did she claim that she’d be removing her books but then did no such thing?
- Why are her reviews so high on goodreads and amazon if there was such extreme bullying?
- Why does she claim that she reads positive and negative things about herself when her friend says she’d never do that (only two days earlier)?
- Why wasn’t her friend more, I don’t know, outraged when I said I wasn’t sure what to believe? If your friend gets treated really badly and someone says they think she might be lying about it, wouldn’t you get upset?
- Would a site that’s supposed to be about protecting those who were bullied call BS on someone claiming to have been bullied, unless they had pretty good evidence?
Assuming it was all a farce and those who say she cried wolf to engender false sympathy are right:
- Couldn’t the lack of evidence of bullying and the positive reviews just be because the abusive reviews and comments were removed from the sites in question? (I honestly don’t know what their policies are.)
- Is Sarah’s “friend” who emailed me actually just another one of the multiple personas her decriers claim she maintains?
- Why does the “stopthegrbullies” site not post the “evidence” that proves who Sarah Daltry is? Is it really because of a promise to those who gave them that information, to protect them from Sarah using her other personas (“socks”) to write bad reviews about them? Even if she abused sympathy to sell her books, making Sarah sound like an evil kingpin with that much power doesn’t quite gel.
- Why did the “stopthegrbullies” site remove commenters’ last names and links to their websites? Because of “trolls stalking their blog” to protect the commenters, really? Sorry, but that seems far-fetched to me. By the same token as their argument about Sarah’s “socks”, some of those commenters who were “convinced” could then well have been the site owners themselves.
And, either way: Would people really do that?!? Wow, maybe I’m just too naïve.
So… was I duped?
What do you think? Or know? Have I missed any major information? Am I being silly in not being able to reach a conclusion, one way or the other? Should I just “let it go” and stop fretting?
Please let me know in the comments below, or feel free to email me (amos at amosmcarpenter dot com) if you’d rather not make it public.