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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment #339

Getting Along

Across the street from our home there lives an 84-year old woman. Anna doesn’t get around as well as she once did, and many of her daily chores are difficult for her to complete. A couple times each week, my wife, Bev, goes across the street and helps Anna with her maintenance, and a couple times each week, Anna cooks small meals for Bev.

Last week, the young couple living next to Anna was having trouble starting their car. I happened to be outside at the time, so I walked over to see if I could help. It turned out they simply needed me to jump their car battery, and I was happy to do it.

Not once has Bev ever asked Anna what her political affiliation is. Not once have I asked that young couple what they think about abortion or gun control or mandatory minimums in sentencing criminals. None of that stuff seems important when dealing with neighbors. They are humans, we are humans, and we do what we can to help each other move through life. It’s the way I was raised. It’s the way Bev was raised. We concentrate on the important things in life, like love, like helping one another, and like treating others with respect.

It all seems so simple to us.

I know you understand.

We have some good questions in the Mailbag this week. Let’s get to them.

The Mail Room!

The Mail Room!


From Ann: “I listen to the news and I turn it off as soon as possible, or I think, maybe some good news will come in a minute - sometimes it does, but rarely. So I don't watch the news, I sink into isolation and I have no idea what the wider world is doing. That comforts me as I'm safe in my own little corner - well, as safe as one can be at the moment. Do you think that's burying my head in the sand? Does that happen to you? I'm very tempted to find a place in the middle of nowhere and do my own thing but I think I might miss a few people! Any thoughts?”

I always have thoughts, Ann! You just described me in 2020.

I think we are all dead-tired of this pandemic. I think we are all dead-tired of bad news. I allow myself to watch thirty minutes of the news each day. That’s all I can handle. Any longer than that and I find myself slipping into depression or anger, and that does nobody any good.

Escapism sounds good, but even for this introvert, it sounds lonely. I need people. It seems strange for me to type those words, but I do need people. I need contact. I need to know I’m being heard, and I need to have my feelings validated. I would not do well in isolation. I really don’t think I would survive if I ran away. I’m a card-carrying member of the Loners Club, but true isolation frightens the hell out of me.

Isolation is a harmful game to play.

Isolation is a harmful game to play.

Best Times for Posting an HP Article

From Ben: “What with all the current problems commenting on HP articles, do you think there is a good time of day to post an article which will result in the most comments?”

What a fascinating question, Ben! I wish I had a fascinating answer. I always post my articles first thing in the morning, but that’s morning in the U.S. When I post, it’s already afternoon in Europe, and I have no clue what time it is in Australia or India or Japan. I have followers in quite a few countries, and some of them have already shut down their computers when I post, so there’s no way they can make a comment in that small window we have before the article is whisked away to a niche site, and I’ve seen the number of comments drop dramatically because of the time change and the HP changes.

So no, I don’t think there is a “good time” to post. Just post and hope for the best!


From Rosina: “Last Monday I heard about others' experiences in self-publishing short stories books. Now I would like your opinion. Do you think self-publishing short stories books on Amazon would be a good idea? I want to compile short stories books in several volumes, collecting both from and (where I have also authored them). Do you think it is possible to have enough sales?”

Rosina, I have no statistics to back me up on this opinion, but my guess is that anthologies do not sell as well as novels and “how to” books. You asked me if it is a good idea. I can see no reason why you wouldn’t do it, but please be aware that doing it does not mean sales will happen. Sales of an anthology will depend upon your marketing, your following, and your ability as a writer. An anthology of Stephen King’s short stories will sell; an anthology of yours will only sell if you have a great marketing campaign, and the gods are smiling down upon you.

I encourage you to do it, but do it for your own satisfaction, and keep your expectations low.

Scroll to Continue

I’m Not a Poet

From Andrea: “I read a piece you wrote last week, an Ode to Musicians, and to me it was poetic, but you constantly say you can’t write poetry if your life depended on it. I think you’re wrong in that assessment. Thoughts?”

The piece you are referring to, Andrea, is what I call free-form writing. Thank you for calling it poetic. I guess it’s all in the way you look at poetry.

A lot of my work is inspired by the coffee-shop poets of the 50’s and 60’s. They would sit on a stool, on a makeshift stage, open-mike night, and they would read their “poetry.” And a lot of it was free-form verse, like I did in that musician’s piece. I love that style. It’s like a stream-of-consciousness style, where punctuation and grammar are suspended, and I just let the words flow out of me without any thought to organization.

Anyway, thank you! If you want to call it poetry then I am humbled. I can mark that off my bucket list and move on to the next item on the list.

Pull up a chair and let's talk as friends. There's no need to be angry.

Pull up a chair and let's talk as friends. There's no need to be angry.

Getting Along on Social Media

I’ve got nothing against social media. I actually love Facebook. It’s given me an opportunity to reconnect with old friends, and it’s provided me the opportunity to connect with new friends from around the world. Pretty amazing, really, and I would miss it if it were to disappear. But what I can’t stand is the vitriol and hatred you can find on social media. Complete strangers saying hateful things to other complete strangers about political and social issues, and it all seems like such a waste of time to me. If you need me to help you, I will help you. If you need me to support you, I will support you. If you need to laugh, I’ll try my best to make you laugh, and if you need someone to simply listen to you, and be empathetic, I can do that too.

The rest is just b.s. in my humble opinion. I understand the need some people – heck, all people – have to be heard. I know there are millions out there who are frustrated and angry and lonely. But that’s no excuse for being rude and hateful towards others. Learn to communicate rather than infuriate, or stay off social media. Just my humble opinion!

Have a great week and please, remember, do all things with love.

If you have a question for the Mailbag, or you want to hire me for your writing coach, drop me an email at

2020 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 16, 2020:

Mary, I'm with you and your friend. I haven't read a book in over a year. I'm not sure why, but it bores me and I can't sit long enough to read more than a couple pages. Strange times we live in, my friend.

Thank you and stay safe!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 16, 2020:

Let's hope for that indeed, Lora! You take care as well, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 16, 2020:

It finally showed up, Denise! Thanks for coming back and trying again. I give up trying to figure out what's happening with HP these days.

Blessings always


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 16, 2020:

Denise, it is fascinating to see what happened to former students. I was just having a nice chat with one last night on Facebook. Another one, though, I had to ban for his hateful rhetoric. Sad to see.

I hope this finds you well. Take care and Happy Holidays to you!

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on December 16, 2020:

I was with a friend last night and we are so distanced from each other so it was safe to spend time together. She told me how bored she is and could not even get herself to read a book. I find that happening to me, too. I love to red but these days, I can't manage to read a few pages. She asked me if it is because we are under stimulated or what. I really don't know. Anyway, you are right about spreading more love rather than the hatred we see on social media.

Lora Hollings on December 16, 2020:

Thanks for your good wishes, Bill. I hope the same for you and yes, let's hope that the New Year brings more love and a better life for all! Take care, Bill.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on December 15, 2020:

Well, I don't understand it. What happened to my comment I left 6 hours ago? Did it get sucked into the nether regions? Is there an Internet black hole?

Anyway, I wanted you to know how much I appreciate your opening about neighbors. Also, I agree about social media. I've been so happy to "friend" some former art students who are now grown people and then suffer the agony of unfriending them because they couldn't help spewing some of the most hateful nonsense.



Denise McGill from Fresno CA on December 15, 2020:

So true about social media. I feel the same way. Why waste time spewing trash when there are people out there who could use uplifting supportive talk and empathy. I rarely go there anymore. I had a few former students on there that I loved reconnecting with until they started spewing such hatred I had to distance myself. Sad, really. I enjoyed seeing how they were after all these years but not what they think about politics. I'm with you about the posting times. I have randomly posted at dozens of different times and there doesn't seem to be a difference in how long it takes the platform to whisk it away to a niche site.



Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 15, 2020:

You are very kind, Lora! Thank you for that. I hope this holiday season is filled with love and joy for you. Let's hope 2021 brings more understanding and love in this country.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 15, 2020:

It's always a pleasure having you stop by, Linda. I appreciate it very much. Happy Holidays to you.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 15, 2020:

It's a mystery to me, Bill. Hopefully he will just fade into history and we won't have to hear his name ever again. I doubt it, but it's a nice dream.

Happy Holidays, my friend!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 15, 2020:

I agree, Flourish! I had a friend on call me a name on Facebook the other day, a local friend who I have helped on many occasions. It stung when she did it. I shouldn't have let it bother me, but I thought our friendship was deeper than that.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 15, 2020:

I believe that too, Ruby! I think we are going to see a cultural shift because of this pandemic. It should be interesting at the very least. :) Thanks for being here, and Happy Holidays to you.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 15, 2020:

You and me both, Peggy. I hope that day comes sooner rather than later. I'm running out of years to witness it. :) Have a fantastic week, and Happy Holidays to you and yours.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 15, 2020:

Thank you Chitrangada Sharan! I hope your week is filled with happiness and blessings.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 15, 2020:

Jo, if it's possible in Tennessee, it's possible anywhere. :) Thanks for sharing, and thanks for getting here fast enough to comment.

Lora Hollings on December 14, 2020:

Hi Bill,

You express your thoughts so well about the importance of caring about others. I heard it said that the measure of how well we have lived our lives is how much we have loved others. It seems to me, that this is very true. We are more alike than different as you point out in your mailbag. If we could only grasp that. We all want to feel loved, to feel needed, that we belong to a community, a family and to find purpose in our lives. But yet, it seems to keep eluding us. So we need to keep reminding ourselves of this! I loved your free-form writing that you did in your "Ode to Musicians." See, there is a poet in you as well as a wonderful creative writer! Bless you and Bev for your kindness and concern for others. With much respect, Lora.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on December 14, 2020:

Your comment in your article applies to me, too. I'm an introvert as well, but I wouldn't like to avoid all contact with others. Thanks for another interesting edition of the mailbag, Bill.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on December 14, 2020:

Nice mailbag, Bill. I am also somewhat of a loner, but I think we all need some interaction with others, namely family and friends for me. I don’t think I could live in the middle of nowhere. I never ask people about their political affiliation but I must say I don’t understand what 70 million people see in our current President. I am baffled by it all. Have a great week.

FlourishAnyway from USA on December 14, 2020:

I feel similar to Ann regarding isolation. Just give me my cats, my husband, and select members of my family. The rest can be at arm's length. To me, politics provide insight into people's values and what they stand for. We often don't truly know the people we are interacting with or related to. Sometimes I'd rather not know because it makes me think less of them.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on December 14, 2020:

I just read your weekly mailbag and enjoyed the questions and answers. There was no comment section for me to make a comment. Times have changed so much, politics are very unimportant to me. I like the way you and Bev help the neighbors, to me that's love in action. I believe this pandemic has caused a lot of us to pause and rethink what is really important in our lives. Thanks for being you.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on December 14, 2020:

Good questions this week, as always. One need not go to Facebook to find vitriol. Just look at this site! It seems so sad that people cannot treat everyone as you and Bev treat your neighbors. I long for the day when the subject matter that is written and being discussed on the nightly news can express more kindness and interconnected feelings of what we all experience as humans living our lives from one day to the next.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on December 14, 2020:

Hello Bill!

Great mailbag with good questions and answers.

It was a pleasure to read your opening paragraph, and I agree with you.

The question by Rosina and your answer and Heidi’s answer is helpful.

Thank you for sharing and wish you a happy week.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 14, 2020:

Ann, good morning! This is the time of year that drives me crazy. The darkness seems oppressive, you know? That year I spent in Alaska, oh my God. We had two hours of light during the winter, from about 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and that was it. So very strange and so very sad.

Anyway, have a great week, and Happy Holidays to you and your family.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 14, 2020:

Manatita, you speak the truth I subscribe to, my friend. I've tried hate. I've tried negativity. Love is the only way I can stay sane and be of use to my fellow man. I think I'll continue.

Merry Christmas to you, my friend. Eleven more days to go.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 14, 2020:

That's the only solution that I know of, Nell, and it's a pain in the patoote. :) As for social media, it's a bigger pain in the patoote. lol Have a great week!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 14, 2020:

Good morning MizB!

I wonder why that is, the change in neighborhoods? It would be interesting to study that, the change in attitudes, the aloofness. I do miss the old days, and I know I sound like an old fart saying that, but it's true.

Happy Monday to you! It's 38 degrees and misty here. Too cold for this old fart.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 14, 2020:

All aboard the Love Train, Linda! You get to ride free of charge, my friend. We can't charge a person who is fueling this vehicle. :) Happy Monday my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 14, 2020:

Heidi, good morning! You get extra bonus points for writing "I couldn't care less" instead of the way so many people write "I could care less," which is terribly wrong, don't you know? lol

Social media...I wish I could find the time to do YouTube and TikTok! Maybe in 2021.


Happy Holidays my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 14, 2020:

Thanks a bunch, Alyssa! It's always nice to hear from you. I'm glad to hear you have great neighbors. It sure helps to see a friendly face when you step outside. As for social media, blah!

Happy Monday and Happy Holidays to you.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 14, 2020:

Thank you Pamela! I don't know if there is a best time, since we are a global community operating in different times. I just post early in the morning and hope for the best.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 14, 2020:

Thank you Rosina! Happy Monday to you as well, my friend. Let's hope the hatred subsides and calmer minds arrive.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 14, 2020:

Thanks for your perspective and thoughts, Mr. Happy. I always appreciate hearing from you.

Trump supporters? I have no answer. It is unlike anything I've seen, on a large scale, in this country. They have come out of the woodwork, and there is no pesticide powerful enough to finish them off.

Maybe they should secede. Maybe they will find the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence.

Blessings to you always

Jo Miller from Tennessee on December 14, 2020:

What do you know????? I got here in time to comment the old-fashioned way.

Loved your introductory piece. John and I are liberal Democrats living in a blood red part of the country, yet we manage to have meaningful relationships with those around us, and we've managed to find some like-minded folks anyway.

Ann Carr from SW England on December 14, 2020:

Thanks for answering my question, bill. I feel the same most of the time but lately it's just unbearable sometimes and when I see a remote island where people are at one with the wild, I want to be there! Not for a long time though!

I agree with Andrea that your writing is often poetic - I've said so before. It's the rhythm of your writing and that's what poetry is all about. You have rhythm and you have soul - what more do you need?!

Have a great week, bill and enjoy your day (4.30pm here and almost dark - ugh!).


manatita44 from london on December 14, 2020:

As regards the last questioner, we can actually serve humans in subtle ways. I see the same things on Facebook, but if it's bad, I simply add an effective aphorism. One I like is:

"Be kind, be all sympathy,

For each and every human being

is forced to fight against himself." - Sri Chinmoy

It is amazing how quickly some aphorisms can change negativity. If we do not add more, then we can transform the conversation.

Bill, you're getting better this Christmas with your loving news and why not? I even have support from others who also think you're poetic. Lol.

To return to the first question. I empathize with the person. Loneliness and bad news are killers! We should only use so much and discard the rest. So it is good to protect yourself. However, God is in the world and we should not try to escape it. If my child is naughty, I do not run away.

How much more Love God has for us! We do not escape, but live with wisdom/prudence/vigilance as our guide. Truly speaking, for the esoteric, even suicide is not a healthy option! Merry Christmas!

Nell Rose from England on December 14, 2020:

Great advice as always. Talking about arguments on social media, that we me the other day. I made one comment, and they all pounced. I retreated and deleted my comments. As for commenting, luckily you are still here instead of the new site, lol. So it was good to comment. But what I tend to do is go down the feed, find the new articles, then open another tab next to it so I can read, then go back to the other tab and comment.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on December 14, 2020:

I love your opening anectdotes. Being a good neighbor will never go out of style. Our neighborhood is not neighborly, and I miss that. I've lived here 26 years and I know the names of about three families. People moving in and out have had a lot to do with that, but here people wave at you and then forget that you exist. And they say that Southerners are the friendliest people in the world. Bah Humbug! Maybe in small towns, but in metropolitan areas they/we are clannish.

Too bad about books of short stories not selling, but that is a fact of life. I have several books of short stories that I've acquired, and I may read one or two stories and then shelve the book. Oh well, life goes on with or without you and me. Have a good rest of this cold week, my friend.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on December 14, 2020:

Bill, it's Monday and I found you, so life is good. Your story of the neighbors is just the way it used to be, the way it should be. Neighbor helping neighbor--no grudges, no keeping score. It's the way your mom and dad showed you (by example). I'm sure they are both smiling.

Let's keep this love train going. Have a great week my friend.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on December 14, 2020:

It's Monday morning and I'm Mailbagging. Yay.

Re: Getting Along. I honestly don't know how one of my very best friends, who I've been connected with since 2007, is politically inclined. I don't think we've ever talked about it in all those years. But another friend is all about talking politics. It depends on the relationship I think. The only thing I care about is if they vote and are kind to others and animals.

Re: Best HP Posting Time. This used to be a big issue in the blogosphere and social media. Now, not as much because we're a global and highly distracted society. Blogs and articles are asynchronous communication. So does it matter? Not in my opinion. I post when I finish the darn thing.

Re: Anthologies. I'm not so sure about anthologies. Anthology projects in the business arena don't seem to be big sellers on Amazon (and I have a whole rant on that). Short stories are a tough genre when it comes to sales. So it all goes back to what are your goals? If it's to make sales, short stories probably aren't your best choice. That has blog written all over it. Then maybe publish a collection later.

Re: Social Media. Even though my platform choices are shifting all the time, I would miss it if it was gone, particularly Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and YouTube (even though YouTube really isn't "social"). The rest I couldn't care less.

Glad we're connected wherever that may be. Have a great week!

Alyssa from Ohio on December 14, 2020:

The story you shared about your neighbors is heart-warming. We are also fortunate to have amazing neighbors who are more like family than anything else. (The good kind of family.) We help each other and can chat about anything. No one is disrespectful or rude. It's wonderful! I agree with you about social media. It always boggles my mind to see the keyboard warriors grace the world with their opinion, no thought in the consequences of their words. I'm 100% positive that if someone were to act the way they do online in person, they'd be aghast and offended, among other things. I usually roll my eyes and move on. Who has time for that?

Thank you for another excellent mailbag! Have a wonderful week!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on December 14, 2020:

I really like the beginning of this article, and I fully agree. We have neighbors that pull our garbage cans out to the street. I have entertained their children when they had to work in the summer and we made them an apple pie. We can all get along! It is a choice.

I wonder how Rosina could market her book in addition to facebook. I have also wondered if there is a good time to post an article. I posted this morning but it was done late yesterday. LOL This has been another interesting mailbag, Bill.

Rosina S Khan on December 14, 2020:

Thank you for answering my question. It was a satisfying one. The rest of the questions and answers were also intriguing.

I agree social media should not be a place to express hate or to be rude. Let us hope an understanding of this will be realized by these people who behave in such a way.

Yes, we should learn to communicate properly and love one another.

Very good mailbag this week and a happy Monday to you, Bill.

Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on December 14, 2020:

"None of that stuff seems important when dealing with neighbors." - As You well know, I was born and raised in a dictatorship. With that in mind, all that "stuff" is very important and not for one second do I take any of that "stuff" for granted. We have to fight for decency, for fairness, for justice and so on. There are not many moments for me when that "stuff" is not important. On top of which, "stuff" is the fabric of Being, it's always needed/important. : )

"Do you think that's burying my head in the sand?" - Yes. Sorry, I do not beat around the bush. We're social animals, living in societies. The problem is, instead of creating a social system of governance because we are social animals, living in societies, we have created a model in which greed and competition are prioritized and rewarded. How is not being involved ever going to solve anything? Would your porch have fixed itself if You just ran away? Sigh ... it's when good people do not act, when ill-intended/misguided people take control. Then, the good people say: "don;t judge so harshly! We have to meet them half-way." Half-way to Hell is where? Haha!! Not me. I'm ready: always. When others are ready: we act. There are many things to be done.

"do not sell as well as novels and “how to” books" - choked on my coffee here, haha!! Almost had coffee come out of my nose. Yuck!! Haha!! But it's so true: bloody "hot-to-books". They were selling well two decades ago when I was working at a publishing house and they have not stopped. Yet, how are people still so clueless, with so many "how-to-books"? lol Yes, I do not like them. To me, they seem like the antithesis to writing.

"So no, I don’t think there is a “good time” to post" - I would say weekends because people generally have more time in the weekend to read and comment but I have no statistics on this, just a guess.

"where punctuation and grammar are suspended" - The grammar police is not impressed, I would like to mention. Haha!!

"If you need me to help you, I will help you." - Okay help me get the Trump supporters to understand that their Dear Leader lost the election fair and square. Help me explain to the 109 lawmakers who signed the "Texas Lawsuit to Overturn Election", that that is SEDITION, what they tried to do. Thanks for the help - I appreciate it.

All the very best - thanks for the writing, as usual. : )

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