My good friend Chuck Wendig made a big decision this week.
For those who don’t know, Wendig is an award-nominated, best-selling author of books like Blackbirds, and Under the Empyrean Sky and was just announced as one of the authors of an upcoming new series of Star Wars novels. He also writes for video games, the screen and blogs at terribleminds.com, “dispensing dubious writing advice”. You should also follow him on Twitter @Chuckwendig because he’s pretty funny.
Given all of this, I was stoked that my buddy was announced as a faculty member at the upcoming Midwest Writers Workshop in July at Ball State in Indiana. I’d finally get to see Chuck in person!
Oh, by the way, Chuck and I aren’t actually friends in the strict sense. We might be except we’ve never actually met, which would seem to be a minimum threshold for friend-dom.
But I feel like we’re friends. I’ve tweeted at him a few times; he often tweets back. That’s not why we’re “friends”, though. I like and respect him because he seems to genuinely care; about the craft, about his family, about people in general. He’s the kind of dude I’d like to be friends with, so, for purposes of this blog, I’ve decided we are friends. Sorry, Chuck.
And I was going to see him in Indiana!
Indiana had to go and get all political.
Lawmakers there passed the super-discriminatory “religious freedom” that, in particular, targeted the LGBT community. People from all over spoke out against it – some, like business, out of worries about angering their customers, others because, well, it’s a horrendous law.
And Chuck, rightly, wondered what Midwest Writers Workshop was saying about all this. MWW said lots of good things about being inclusive, about how everyone is welcome at MWW…but they stopped short, it seems, of condemning the law, for fear, apparently, of upsetting people who do support the law.
And that was not sufficient for Chuck. MWW refused to budge and Chuck decided not to participate in the conference. When he announced it on Twitter, I was – for a moment – annoyed. I wondered how the religious freedom law could have anything to do with a bunch of writers and agents and editors hanging out.
But then I realized that a writer is exactly the person who should stand on principle when the moment calls for it. Writers develop characters, create worlds. We should want those worlds to reflect real values, not political expediency.If writers won’t stand up for inclusivity, who should?
So I applaud Chuck’s decision, even as I fight back the petty disappointment of not getting to see him. He made the right the call.
I’m still going to the conference. As, I’m sure a lot of other people are, despite the controversy. It’s a brutal truth that principle sometimes gets slammed in the face with reality’s door. Faculty might have the latitude to walk away, but it’s a little harder for attendees. I’ve already budgeted the time and money for one conference this year. This one. It was booked a couple months ago before Indiana’s political existence imploded. There will be people at this conference – attendees and faculty – from all over the country, all over the world. I’m also optimistic that the organizers from MWW on the ground at the conference will make this political stuff a non-issue for this four day weekend. I’m going in with the hope that I’ll be surrounded by enough free-thinkers to make all this mess a nullity.
But I’ll still miss you, Chuck.