Jan Flanders

As everyone who has not been dwelling under a rock for the past half century knows full well, Jan Flanders is a world-renowned expert on writing, editing, and publishing fiction. A bona fide member of the landed gentry dating back to the Jamestown, Virginia, settlement, and a magna cum laude graduate of Ms. Finicky’s Foundational Finishing School of Fiction for Well-Bred Females (FFFSFWBF), she resides with her three Angora cats in the heart of the deep South on the plantation, sadly diminished, where she was born and reared, and which her family has owned since creation. God forbid she would ever allow it to fall into the rapacious hands of any vile Northern carpetbagger! Rest assured that will happen over her cold, dead body. She is still mourning the lamentable outcome of the late War of Northern Aggression, and if you know what is good for you, you would be well advised not to bring up the subject unless you wish to have your ears roundly pinned back. If anyone knows etiquette, it is our own dear Ms. Flanders, and she is doing you a favor by sharing her expertise with the likes of you. If you do not demonstrate proper gratitude and humility, she is likely to give you a brisk rap on the knuckles or some other especially tender body part with her ruler in order to get your attention.

Fiction Etiquette with a Southern Twist Twisted Southern

A lovely May Day helloooo to all you young heads full of mush! Y’all are in for a treat for Ah am in extra fine fettle today. Spring is in the air, and Ah am feelin’ mah oats, so to speak!

Didn’t my darlin’ niece Star do a charmin’ job of takin’ over for me last month—in spite of the fact that she has the misfortune to hail from the North? She descends from such noteworthy Southern stock that we’ll just overlook that distasteful detail. Now, be assured mah absence was merely due to overindulgin’ ever so slightly in April foolin’, but Ah am fully recovered and more than capable of handlin’ the likes of you, so don’t you be gettin’ any ideas.

Oh, dear—it appears my furbelows have gotten in a bunch. Ah confess Ah arose a wee bit late this mornin’ as a result of spendin’ more time than Ah intended preparin’ mah festive May pole last night—if y’all get mah drift. And by the time Ah finished pirouettin’ around the lovely thing at daybreak, there wasn’t time left to complete my toilette properly before sashayin’ to class. So if you will pardon me for just a moment . . . ah . . . That is ever so much better!

I declare, it is plain to see that y’all have been enjoyin’ some festivities of your own while my back was turned, you naughty children! Well. Now that Ah have set mahself fully to rights, let us turn our attention to settin’ you in order as well through serious contemplation of the Sacred Laws of Fiction Etiquette. The envelope, please, sweetheart.

Thank you, baby doll—and do not linger on your way back to your seat unless you wish to have yours paddled. There is only one star in this classroom, and alas, it is not you.

Dear Ms. Flanders,

I recently joined a writers e-mail loop, and being a newbie I am totally confused as to the proper etiquette. So far I have been roundly admonished for not cutting off something called “tails” and for encouraging loop members to check out updates on my blog and Web site. Good gracious, when I posted an invitation to sign up for my newsletter, I feared the list hostess was going to have an apoplectic attack! It also appears that announcing my book signings and other events or sharing happy news about my books or even prayer requests, for pity’s sake, is strictly forbidden. What is a writers e-mail loop for anyway?


Bothered and Confused

Dear Bothered and Confused,

Rest assured that no one on your e-mail loop ever wants to hear about your news. Decorum demands that you keep to your proper place—which is to say, maintainin’ a posture of slavish submission to the powers that be. In their infinite wisdom, they have declared that the loop is for discussin’ writin’ only, and it is more than clear that none of the subjects you mention has the least thing to do with the topic at hand. Now pay attention and do as you’re told, sweetheart. And make absolutely sure you cut off those tails before clickin’ send, or you are in danger of a brisk rap across the fanny from yours truly!

Lordy, there is no one who can straighten out a clueless neophyte as succinctly as your own Ms. Flanders, if Ah do say so mahself! Ah don’t know about y’all, but Ah am havin’ entirely too fine a time today!

And speakin’ of today, time is a’wastin’. Y’all scoot on out of here now, and be sure you behave yourselves until our next class. Ah intend to avail mahself of the opportunity for more festivities around the May pole while there’s daylight left, and Ah surely don’t need any competition in that department!

Upcoming Topics


June: What is proper etiquette on writers’ e-mail loops?

July: Oh Jane! Oh Roger! Using characters’ names in dialog.