Judy Mays: We Got Your Back, Ma’am

Book CoverAs a rule, I recommend that every carbon-based life form online avoid the comments section of news sites, from newspapers to television stations to local blogs covering the farmer’s market, because the comments are usually overflowing with fresh awful crazysauce.

In this case, I recommend everyone read the comments because they restore some sanity and hope for what is a truly disgraceful and frankly stupid news segment.

WNEP, a television station from the northeast and central part my home state of Pennsylvania (OH MY GOSH I AM SO PROUD. NOT.) ran this lovely piece of crap story revealing the pen name of a local high school English teacher who writes for Ellora’s Cave as Judy Mays. But wait, there’s more: the news segment then assists these parents in holding her up for public ridicule—and, in the case of one class act of a parent, accusations of pedophilia.

It is no secret that there’s crazysauce in epic levels which amplifies to a full boil when placed in front of a news camera. My question is why this was a story in the first place. What is the big deal if, in her private time, a high school English teacher writes erotic romance under a pen name and keeps that part of her life separate?

The comments to the news article are marvelous and incredibly supportive of Mays, including this one, from Jessica, a former student:

  I attended MWSD and had the pleasure of having Mrs. as my English teacher.  I LOVED her class! It was my one morning class I looked forward to everyday.  She inspired us as student just not to read and write, but to enjoy our high school years before they were over.  She gave me the idea to switch my graduation paper from becoming a photographer to a nurse. I am now in my third year of nursing school, and thank Mrs. B everyday for the lessons in English she gave me that allow me to write lengthy papers on nursing topics.  She also encouraged me to take honors and AP english in high school.   I knew about what she did when I was in her class, but I never gave a though to it.  I said great for her to find the time in her day while juggling so many other things to be able to do that.  I applaud and support her as a teacher, writer, and mother.  techniqually if we look deeper she has many jobs, but these two are the only two we are analyzing.

Hear, hear.

So how to respond? Often, I find websites for news organizations don’t really curate or even respond to comments to articles. They mostly fester alone and neglected.

But beyond the comments to the article itself, which are mostly made of Grade-A awesomesauce in support of Ms. Mays, I’ve found that the WNEP news room has a Facebook page. 

Kena Vernon, the reporter who did the story, can be reached at Kena.Vernon@wnep.com.

WNEP is on Twitter, too but all they do is broadcast (quelle surprise).

What makes me absolutely livid is that all WNEP did was expose someone’s private life because it made for salacious content. It’s not as if Ms. Mays had brought any of her writing life into her classroom or had behaved inappropriately – the two parts of her life were apparently separate – until now. And, as Colleen Thompson pointed out on Twitter, if a male teacher were writing serial killer fiction and doing well at it, he’d be lauded—probably with a soft focus profile as a “local author.”

But because a female teacher writes about sex and romance, parents feel the need to call her ethics and her professionalism into question, and expose her to public humiliation.

If you’d like to write an email to the author, the address published on her website is writermays@yahoo.com .

And oh, my gosh, look how many books Ms. Mays has written. You go on with your awesome self, ma’am.

ETA: The Associated Press has a very brief story on the WNEP site that highlights the accusations and the response. Ms. Mays has declined to be interviewed by the AP, but as per Dakota Cassidy’s comment below, Ms. Mays is aware we’re all irate on her behalf. (Hi Judy! Kick ass and take names at work today, ma’am!)

And a wise former broadcast journalist sent me a heads up that the News Director for WNEP and the General Manager for the station may be better places to direct your ire than the reporter, who may have been handed the story with little say about it (conjecture on my part, obviously). The News Director would be more likely to have approved it for airtime. Should you feel inclined, the News Director email is news@wnep.com, and the General Manager is generalmanager@wnep.com.

The Facebook page furthers the social and media fail that is WNEP: if you want to see the comments left by angry viewers and readers, you have to click on “Most Recent.” I’m hoping they come up with a better response instead of hiding them, but I’m not holding my breath.



Ranty McRant

Comments are Closed

  1. Thanks so much for leaping to the defense of Ms Mays. Even if so many who know her better are already there.

  2. I love you guys so hard right now. Even more than usual. I am still just vibrating w/ outrage on this one, in part because of the remembered anger about the dressing-down I got from my own (former) school district employer when they found out what I wrote on the side. 

    From all accounts Judy’s a delightful person and a great teacher. I just hope this whole mess ultimately means more sales for her.

    activity93—I can think of at least 93 activities those idiot moms could have better spent their time on than outing Ms. Mays’ sooper sekrit identity.

  3. Sally Kilpatrick says:

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention.  I can’t do much beyond a good righteous indignation or some comments, e-mails, and phone calls.  The thought did cross my mind that we wouldn’t be having this problem if she were a male teacher who wrote true crime or something like that, but I don’t know how to combat that.  As a former teacher myself, I can attest that we are always scared of a witch hunt.  Too many parents want teachers, especially high school teachers, to be nuns even while their kids run wild doing things I wouldn’t dream of doing.  For heaven’s sake, hasn’t she proven herself as a teacher?

  4. Barbara says:

    Hm.  Might be time to do some shopping as well.

    Asshats.  Heaven forbid the reporter find a real story that actually impacts her community.

  5. Daisy Harris says:

    Yahoo! It seems no one other than three parents and a TSTL news reporter thought that this was news.

    Yes- what’s most disgusting is that the “news” here was the salacious nature of her writing. It’s not illegal to write erotica. It’s not even immoral. This crazy witchhunt is beyond pathetic.

    Sadly, the damage is in some ways done. Though I bet she gets hella book sales from the publicity. Maybe I can find some right-wing nutjobs to “out” me!

    (Doubtful as I live in Seattle. 🙂

  6. Maisey Yates says:

    Thank you, Sarah! This is just beyond all sense…I think Ms. Mays has a heckuva lawsuit should she choose to go that route…

    It’s unfathomable that a woman who has served her community faithfully as a teacher for 25 years should suddenly be seen as a ‘danger’ to that same community for writing about *shock horror* sex and romance.

    You have our support, Ms. Mays.

  7. ninjapenguin says:

    I just went over and left a comment on the Facebook page. And I’ve been retweeting like crazy. I pointed out that logically, I know a whole lot more factual information about the sex lives of all of my teachers who had children than about this lady’s.  So can only childfree people be teachers now, or else it’ll corrupt the poor kiddies’ minds?

    What with the whole TN bill to prevent teachers from saying the word “gay” and the MI guy who wants to force foster kids to only shop at thrift stores, I am just full of RAGE on the internet lately.

  8. I’m truly horrified at the way the media has taken this poor woman’s personal life and splashed it around for nothing more than entertainment. The news story didn’t mention that the parents wanted her to resign, or to have her books pulled (which I’m pretty sure is impossible anyway), or what they expected to happen. There was nothing more than “Look over here! Look at that!” in this “news” segment. (News. Right.) The parents were just whining about how “disgusting” it was.

    Personally, I find ignorance to be disgusting. But hey, that’s just one reader’s opinion.

  9. Tina M says:

    What a disgrace! This woman is being unnecessarily vilified and she should not have to give up one career for the other. But, if she does have to make a choice, I say stick with the writing career. She shouldn’t waste her creativity and talent on this group of ignoramuses.

  10. Mia Watts says:

    Hi, I’m Mia Watts. I have a pen name and a private life, and I’m in full support of Judy Mays. Hang in there, Judy. We do indeed have your back.

  11. michellekcanada says:

    I just knew once you’d get ahold of this story you shoot to the top for support! Thank you. I too had to “like” that FB page so I could leave a comment. I promptly “unliked” as soon as I was done but not before I 13 other people “liked” my comment.

    Well done!

  12. Support shown for Judy over at the FB page. Cannot believe how narrow minded people can be, and they’ve pretty much trashed her life now. 🙁


  13. Jody Wallace says:

    The one good thing about this article is it’s given us such a handy catchphrase: “I had no idea THAT was going on behind the scenes!”

  14. thetawnytart says:

    The one Mom who said she didn’t want Ms. Mays looking at her son….WTF!  That’s like the serial killer example you suggested.  Would they be worried the teacher would want to murder their kids for material?  Utterly ridiculous. 

    Ms. Mays deserves should be applauded, not vilified, for taking an interest in what she teaches.  A lot of teachers don’t care about their subject or their students and Ms. Mays seems to be a teacher who cares about both. 

    If you don’t want your children reading erotic literature that I can understand; there is definitely some writing out there that I would think isn’t appropriate for 14-15 year old high school students.  But Ms. Mays isn’t reading sex scenes to her class, she is just writing them on the side!  And writing a lot, kudos to you for teaching full time and writing so many books Ms. Mays.  (PS LOVE the title Rednecks and Roses, def. made me smile through an otherwise cringe worthy news segment.)

  15. Outrage… I has it.

    mind88 – I can think of 88 ways to tell that news station to mind it’s own effing business.

  16. J-me says:

    Wasn’t it a gag in 10 Things I Hate About You that the school counselor wrote smutty romance novels?

  17. Lisa Hendrix says:

    I love you guys.

    We had some parents go off on a book we were assigned in high school. All it accomplished was that every kid in the HS read it quick-quick before the school board could ban it. I assume that will be the result here, too.

    From all reports—even the yellow-journalism piece by WNEP—Ms. May did her best to keep her writing separate from her teaching. I hope she sells a ton of books because of the publicity—and that the mom who outed her is exposed and labelled as a leading member of the Ignorant Tight-ass Club.

  18. I am infuriated by this for a few reasons.
    1.  To have erotic romance writing somehow portrayed as “bad”.
    2.  To have parents imply the author might “look” at her son as material
    3.  That the station/reporter did not present ANY opposing argument or side. 
    I emailed Ms. Vernon blasting her for this shoddy story. 
    It’s so easy to trash someone, but THIS was unbelievable.

  19. It is soo no one’s business what she does in her own time.  She protected herself by using a pen name, and she didn’t tell students about it in class.
    It’s not like she assigned her own literature and asked for book reports!
    Find something else to do with your time, people, because slandering a good teacher because she’s a published author shows nothing but too much time on your hands.

  20. Thanks, Sarah, for posting this. I’m a mom of two high school kids, I’m on the PTA board, AND I’m an author who writes “racy novels” under a pen name. This is just outrageous. As long as it’s not illegal, what we do in our free time is our own damn business. Last time I checked, reading and writing about romance and sex wasn’t illegal.

    She chose to write under a pen name in order to keep things separate, just as I do. Now these witch-hunt parents and a news station more concerned with salacious “reporting” rather than real news are destroying the life of a popular 25 year teaching veteran.

    If Ms. Mays wrote horror fiction in her free time, I doubt this would’ve ever happened. This is a pathetic case of bullying.

  21. BTW, I love your tags!

  22. I’ve known Judy a long time, and she’s a terrific writer. I just have one thing to say—you can’t fight stupid. Aside from the ridiculousness of the witch-hunt—one thing truly troubled me. That the subject even came up, appalled me.

    Pedophilia? Really?

    To suggest that because a teacher writes erotic romance she’s now got her eye on the boys in her classroom is heinous and such a dark, sick, twisted thought, I can’t even touch it. It’s like suggesting the gynecologist is a pedophile because he looks at cootchie-la-la for a living.

    It’s preposterous. Not to mention, the immature thought of a 12 year old.

  23. meoskop says:

    I think the more important question would be “why is that parent evaluating her child’s sexual attractiveness to an adult”?

    See how easy fake outrage is?

    “Why did these parents enroll their children in a school where the teachers might pursue secondary careers? What if one of them works with balloons? Balloons are made of latex. So are condoms. What if they get them confused?”

    People want teachers to be sexless robots devoid of personality. Happens all the time. I totally support this teacher telling them all to stuff it in the place of their choice.

    (Ha! Captcha is Moral58)

  24. Ash says:

    Thank you so much for directing your tide to this topic. I would never have heard about it, being in California. My support fully goes to Ms. Mays. <3

  25. I almost never comment here, (though I read everything!) This time, I can’t stop myself.

    What is WRONG with people? Clearly Ms. Mays is an excellent English teacher who loves the written word.  Are books about love, romance and SEX really so dangerous? Is there a pyre already being built?

    Keep going, Ms. Mays. We’re standing with you.

  26. Laura (in PA) says:

    This story was reported on at least one Philly news station this morning. I was seriously pissed off when I saw it. It’s ridiculous to go after this woman, who was a responsible teacher, who chose to write what she chose to write and used a pen name to separate it from her teaching life.

    I don’t real Ellora’s Cave stuff, but I would never in a million years question anyone’s desire to write it or read it. What she does in her own time is her own damn business.

    People are stupid. You go, Ms. Mays.

  27. liz talley says:

    You smart bitches are pretty damn sweet.

    Thank you for splashing this around. This is appalling. I’m a former HS English teacher and what I do in my home (unless it’s illegal) is my own damn business. Absolutely horrible and Laurie London is right. This is bullying. I hope she finds a good sharky attorney sues the pants off them…which would be suitable since she writes for Ellora’s Cave. Ms. May, I’ve got your back sister.

    I don’t read erotic, but I’ll buy some of your books.

  28. Sara Megibow says:

    I’m with you! Judy Mays – we got your back!

    Going to buy copies of her books in support.
    -Sara Megibow
    Nelson Literary Agency

  29. cynara says:

    It is soo no one’s business what she does in her own time.

    So you’d think, and I’d love that.  In teacher’s ed., however we were repeatedly cautioned that we were always teachers, no matter where we were, and to always act as if we were about to meet a parent.  People told us ‘horror stories’ about parents complaining because a teacher fetched her mail in her pyjamas every morning, or about a teacher being disciplined for participating in the city’s gay pride parade (which usually also includes the mayor).  One teacher told us about her mortification when she boarded a plane in an evening gown on New Year’s Eve, just to find parents aboard.

    I don’t want to live that way – but if I wrote erotic romance & it got out, I believe I could be professionally disciplined.  It’s crap and it’s stupid and it’s antediluvian, but whoever said that many people expect teachers to be “nuns” is right.

  30. SB Sarah says:

    @dakota cassidy: “Pedophilia? Really?”

    YES. THANK YOU. I can only hope that Ms. Mays has a lawyer who is most feisty with the slander slapping, because that was hideous.

  31. Peach says:

    Well said, one and all.  It is outrageous, and Jen Leeland made excellent points.  This isn’t reporting, it is (not so) thinly disguised libel in my opinion.

  32. Cynara says:

    Just to back this up – below you’ll find a link to Ontario’s Education Act, which contains the following responsibility of teachers:

    to inculcate by precept and example respect for religion and the principles of Judaeo-Christian morality and the highest regard for truth, justice, loyalty, love of country, humanity, benevolence, sobriety, industry, frugality, purity, temperance and all other virtues;


  33. Betty Fokker says:

    ARGH! I have sent emails using the words “yellow journalism”, “muckraking” and “prudish, Victorian-era hysteria”. Also the word “Asshat”.

  34. Katherine C. says:

    As a reporter at a small-town newspaper, I find myself appalled at this “story.” It’s crap like this that causes people to make snarky comments about reporters in general. Why do you have nothing from a supporter—there clearly isn’t any shortage of them. Instead she uses small-minded gems like, “If you’re a good teacher, you shouldn’t be doing that?” Flipping really? What in the world does the writing have to do with her ability to teach? Awesome journalism. Just awesome. This should never have been a story in the first place. If I found out a local teacher was writing erotica on the side, I’d say good for her and move on—the only thing doing a story about it would accomplish is stirring up trouble for her (or him). The ONLY WAY this should have been news, would have been if these jackhole parents had managed to get the school board involved and the teacher’s job was on the line because of it. Otherwise, it’s nobody’s business: If they had wanted it to be other peoples’ business, she wouldn’t have used a pen name. I don’t usually read a lot of Elora’s Cave—it’s not necessarily my cup of tea—but I find myself strongly tempted to go make a few new purchases at the bookstore this weekend.

  35. Absolutely ridiculous! From the article I read, I loved the former student who said, “I had no idea what went on behind the scenes.” WTH? She sat at her computer and wrote stories. It’s not like she lived it out for real. And even if she did, that’s her business. As a romance writer, I hope another news station picks up her story, tells her side of it, and she sells tons of books!!!

  36. CMD says:

    … this is one of the many things that are wrong with America. We Europeans so don’t get our knickers in a bunch about this kind of shite (same reason we keep the government out of bedrooms, where it belongs… despite the fact that we love us some big government!). Hell, we’ve had female members of our equivalent of Congress pose for Playboy and politicians who like to dress in drag in their spare time and don’t bat an eyelash because those things have absolutely nothing to do with how/how well they do their jobs.

    So “Ms. Mays” has a private life and likes to write erotic romance… so what? Is she teaching her secondary school kids to write it or making them read it? No, so gives a damn what she does in the privacy of her home! (You know, I think if she did teach an erotic writing class, maybe some of those uptight arsehats would get the stick yanked from their arses). The poor woman is being vilified and having accusations of pedophilia slung at her because some idiot(s) have their so-called ‘moral compass(es)’ stuck permanently pointing to “arsehat”. I bet the principal at that school and the “reporter” of this story have secret fetishes… should we all go splash that all over the interwebs?

    I personally don’t read Ellora’s Cave stuff—mostly because I favour contemporary suspense, and if I really feel like some racy, descriptive sex, all I need to do is check out a film from the motherland—but good for those people who do. The idea that someone would try to regulate the kind of stuff I can read or have access to makes me bristle. I think unicorns are creepy… does this mean that I should go on a massive witchunt to ensure that said creepy mystical creatures are removed from all children’s books to ensure they are protected from all sorts of unicorn creepiness? If it’s not illegal, leave it the fuck alone.

    Kudos on bringing attention to this. I hope Ms. Mays’s books sell a gazillion copies and she sues the arses off both the news station & the school.

    Captcha: report84. I can think of way more than 84 instances of astonishing stupidity in this news “report”

  37. kellye says:

    I should have known I’d find good comment here. I’ve been fuming about this. (Twitter & FB, too. Didn’t know about the sites you mentioned, just on my own.)

    I had no idea that hs teachers were under such scrutiny, and it’s outrageous that anyone would think it’s their business what a teacher or anyone else does in private, off the job, as long as it’s legal. Furthermore, writing and reading erotica is NOT illegal. And I’m so sick of so many people acting like sex is bad. Come on! (Loved @EvilWylie’s response to me on twitter: Can you imagine if teachers had sex, though? #gross.)

    I’m shocked by the quick jump from erotic writing to pedophilia, but I shouldn’t be. My friend’s picture book MY MOM’S HAVING A BABY was recently attacked and featured on national Fox News. Giving kids the straight dope about where babies come from? People called her a pedophile!

    And what’s this? The President of the United States releases his birth certificate?

    Make. The. Crazy. Stop.

  38. I am so disgusted by this! I posted in support of Judy on their FB page. I’m just…still spitting nails. Thank you for addressing this issue! I wish there was something more we could all do for Judy other than publicly show our support and buy her books.

  39. Misty says:

    I am not a parent but I am a bookseller and I am also studying to become a history teacher. I see no reason why a person cannot teach English, and write whatever they choose in their own private times. A person is not a pedophile just because they choose to write erotica. Heck some of the schools here are using V.C. Andrews for their “required” English readings, which includes incest. Maybe these so called news channels need to start investigating things that really matter and leave the hard working upstanding citizens alone.

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