We need to discuss the Becky Tuch apology on Twitter, the five years of bullying, mocking, disparaging comments, gaslighting, and collective group mob efforts to sabotage another writer’s career. Becky Tuch has officially left (or claims to have) the Chunky Monkeys group. There has been no confirmation from the group leaders or other members that this in fact is true. They’re all either silent about the scandal or have made their Twitter accounts protected.
This apology of Becky’s continuously defends the group and bypasses all sense of 100% responsibility, and even justifies/rationalizes the behavior. It’s a half-ass apology. And you’re about to see why.
A Boston Writing Group of Liars and Bullies
I view the Boston Chunky Monkeys writers as a group of liars. When people gaslight, mock, bully, lie, and work as a group together to intentionally hurt one of their own peers, and for some of them, a student, I tend not to believe people like that. I require a bit more proof than just a threaded post on Twitter.
So far, none of the other Chunky Monkeys have stepped forward to acknowledge their behavior. Celeste Ng has chosen to double down, further perpetuating the lies and gaslighting her own audience into thinking she’s an innocent party in all of this. Let me assure you, Celeste Ng is not a good person here.
The Chunky Monkeys Bullied and Mocked Dawn Dorland for Over Five Years
This apology comes only now, over five years later. Only now, when Becky Tuch got caught. Where was this apology before the public gained knowledge of what had been done and said about Dawn Dorland?
This behavior and group attack went on for over five (5) years. That’s over 1825 days of opportunities to correct your behavior and stop the group from destroying someone’s career. To stop the gaslighting, backbiting, viciousness, bullying, and express intent to seek revenge on Dawn Dorland for exercising her legal right to her copyrighted work.
She could have walked away years ago. Becky Tuch could have apologized to Dawn Dorland long before this case came out to the public eye.
The issue that I have with Becky Tuch’s apology is that it comes too late, and it has a rationalized explanation attached to it. Only when she was publicly exposed for her involvement did an apology emerge. Only when her own career and reputation was threatened did she emerge from the group as the first to issue, what I feel is half-ass, an apology.
At Least Becky Tuch Apologized and Publicly Acknowledged Her Involvement
I’m not the apology police, though; a public apology is better than nothing. But it doesn’t strike me as completely genuine, as I’ll point out below. At least she has apologized, unlike the other group members.
I will acknowledge and do appreciate Becky Tuch’s apology to the writing community, because it has been long overdue. Writers should not be gathering together to collectively sabotage other writers. Especially when they’re working together at a writing center, GrubStreet, and are actively doing it while the target of their actions [Dawn Dorland] is also employed there.
But there are glaring problems with Becky Tuch’s apology, as you’ll see below.
Becky Tuch fails to acknowledge that both can be true.
The truth is that the Chunky Monkeys ARE catty. They ARE backstabbing. They ARE elitist. It’s not “in spite of”, and then make your own narrative time, Becky. Why are you still defending them with this? Both can be true. And I’m sure, to Becky, as a member, they can be kind, supportive, generous, and a source of support, humor and camaraderie for you. Both can be true. It’s just that you’re not acknowledging the former to be true as well. That has come out in discovery within the court documents.
I can’t imagine what else this group has done to other writers they took issue with. Ten years they’ve been together. Only this ONE chat series related to Dawn Dorland has been made public. If they’re willing to talk like this about Dawn Dorland, imagine what they’ve said about other writers this whole time.
Suggested apology correction here that does not rationalize or further defend the group: “This group was formed one decade ago. In that decade, the group has engaged in catty, backstabbing, elitist behavior that I’m deeply ashamed of, and participated in, and for that I’m sorry.”
This isn’t exactly true. There was much discussion within the group, which Becky had access to as part of their group chat discussions. What she’s not admitting to in this thread is that she was a part of the group emails, group chats. So even if she didn’t respond to the ongoing discussion about Dawn Dorland, she was still in a position to stop it or point out their behavior as wrong or unprofessional. Even ethically wrong, as many of the Chunky Monkeys hold director-level positions with the organization.
If you’re in a group, and you get the group emails and chats, then you have access and knowledge of things transpiring in the group.
“Superficial”. This is where you should have probably gleamed a balanced, impartial understanding of what was actually transpiring, Becky. “She was mired in some kind of legal shit that would not let up.”
This is what is called a red flag, Becky. Your friend Sonya Larson may have perpetuated some of this as a result of her own actions, right? Surely a lawsuit cannot merely be one-sided when there is a countersuit claim. Or is Sonya Larson a lying friend?
Logic would tell you to seek the truth.
It is possible, Becky, to support your friend without slamming a peer in the process. Without disparaging them. And the awful situation started when Sonya Larson made a bad choice. Your failure to see that and the tweets in this thread continuing to defend her speaks volumes. Can you not see that this was an awful situation for Dawn Dorland as well? Because your apology thread doesn’t reflect that at all, Becky.
How would you feel if people started referring to you as Becky Fucking Tuch? That wouldn’t be very nice, right? You freely participated in these conversations in chat group replacing her middle name with “fucking” repeatedly, Becky. You had to smash someone else down in order to lift up your friend. What a horrid behavior this is. Is this how you support women writers? Pushing others down to elevate your inner circle?
Let’s fix this apology: “Everything I have ever said to her in email or elsewhere has disparaged another woman writer while lifting up my friend. It was 100% wrong, and this is not how I wish to support writers, by punching down on others.” – This is what could have been said in lieu of what was above. Stop complimenting her. Address what you did and the result of it frankly and take responsibility.
I hate these kinds of apologies, where one of the abusers keeps complimenting another one of the abuser/aggressors. These are vomit-inducing.
Translation: “I am watching on Twitter all of my bad behavior and actions come to light, and I’m finally reading the legal documents that started 3-4 years ago that I should have read when they first were published. I am starting to experience the consequences of my behavior, and I am choosing not to apologize on each piece that comes to light. Rather, I feel like my blanket apology, loaded with continued defense of my friend Sonya Larson, is sufficient enough.”
Finally, 7 thread posts in, we see an apology. Becky should have added: “Dawn Dorland was undeserving of the aggression. Dawn Dorland is also an excellent writer and I failed to allow her any sense of dignity or respect.”
Becky is still a consultant at GrubStreet. Ethically, she should step down from that position, per her own admission on what students (and peers, included) should feel when engaging with a writing center.
Step down, Becky.
Exactly. This isn’t normal behavior. We are not going to condone it, normalize it, or allow it. If you’re currently in a group that encourages this kind of behavior, remove yourself immediately from that kind of toxic environment that resembles the Chunky Monkeys of Boston. It’s not healthy. And it certainly does not elevate the profession of writing.
Here she deviates away from her victim again. Changing the narrative of the apology to writing in general and taking classes.
You know who was brave in all of this? Dawn Dorland. Dawn has had to endure hostility and secretive undermining of her work while instructing at GrubStreet. She didn’t have the support of a hostile group of elitist writers. She had to endure this all on her own, bravely seeking the help of an attorney.
Let’s not forget that, ok?
There are red flags all over thread part 11 (image above).
“Awful, gross, and bad.” Yes, they are. Full stop.
It is true. Full stop.
“Darker impulses” reflects on impulsive behavior. Impulsive behavior is generally allowed to be used to explain bad behavior for acting quickly – a spontaneous moment of action. It’s reserved for a lack of judgment at a point in time – ONE point in time. Not years worth of repeated behavior.
This term of “impulse control” does not get extended years worth of group sabotage, backbiting, repeated behavior, long-lasting conversations and smear campaigns. This was no “impulse” moment, Becky. This was planned, executed, well-thought-out attempts to be hurtful with multiple instances. Not a momentary impulse issue here. Not at all.
I believe the term is insidious, malicious behavior. Not “darker impulses”. The Chunky Monkeys were insidious, engaging in malicious behavior that revealed their darkest side of insecurity and willingness to promote bad ethical behavior.
Justice needs to be served. Christopher Castellani, Sonya Larson, Alison Murphy, and Jennifer De Leon need to be removed from their positions. Becky Tuch needs to step down as consultant and find a different job. Eve Bridburg needs to be investigated for her failure to address an HR complaint fully without allowing that investigation to be comprised with conflicts of interest, and possibly, removed from her position as well.
Then there can be peace going forward, and writers taking classes at GrubStreet can do so with confidence, knowing that their learning space is not one subject to humiliation and ridicule, and that the words they write will not be stolen by a director or instructor.
That’s the only way this can move forward.
Translation: “Please stop reading and commenting on it; I’m already embarrassed enough and am trying to salvage my career and reputation.”
And the story was NOT good. The New Yorker ripped it to shreds. I myself am trying to piece together how Becky Tuch thought it was even remotely well-written. Blind support for her friend gives rise to impartial opinions of writing? This is the problem with writing groups, my friends. Everything shitty you write will be labeled as a masterpiece. Especially if it is a punch-down project like “The Kindest” was.
The Lesson to Be Learned in the Art of an Apology
Writing apologies publicly is humbling. But there’s an art to this.
If you’re actually sorry about what you did to the victim, focus on the victim, and not in the defense of your own behavior. Don’t compliment your friends and group members who willingly participated in a punch-down campaign.
This apology was not really about Dawn. It was a thread of defense, complimenting the group and Sonya Larson, and about writing in general. This apology should have been about Dawn, and how she was hurt in the process by the actions of the abusers and aggressors in the group, as well as how it made Dawn’s working life at GrubStreet so unbearable that Dawn had to resign.
You Chunky Monkeys forced her to resign, in effect. You caused all this. Sonya Larson CHOSE to plagiarize, and attempted to deprive Dawn Dorland of her right to seek legal action. And you want to continue to lift each other up with compliments and talking about writing classes in general? This is not taking 100% responsibility for your actions. This is copping out a narrative that makes it more comfortable for you to apologize.
Apologizing isn’t supposed to be comfortable, Becky. Taking accountability and dealing with the backlash of your actions is often humiliating, and you need to experience these emotions, and express a true apology with your words accordingly.
“I was defending and supporting my friend” is not an apology.
“I was wrong. She was undeserving, and it cost her greatly, for which I am partly responsible.” – THAT is a responsible, ethical responsibility.
You Chunky Monkeys have hurt us all as writers with this behavior. It brings shame to our profession. If this had been a true apology, without all of the added nonsense, I would have let it go. But I’m sorry, this is just not a good apology.