Insanity Via Craig’s List

It’s nuts around here today. I have a ton of stuff to get done before I head off to Maine tomorrow. Five interviews between 11 and 4:30, car in for an oil change (who has time?), and negotiations on yet another job that came in on Friday.

Thanks to Wendy Johnson for sending over this ad, which she and I delighted in ripping apart privately. It’s just too good not to share with all of you.

Anonymous Writer (and Others) on the Verge of Suicide (National)

NATIONAL SEARCH FOR WRITER (OR ANYONE ABLE TO EXPRESS THEMSELVES IN WRITING)who is at the end of their rope and contemplating killing themselves – for real.

If your story is genuine, you could be part of a very special project by best-selling nonfiction author.

This opportunity is not for someone who is looking for it to be a conventional paycheck or immediate compensation. You will need another job for that. However, the rewards can be very worthwhile in the long run in more ways than one.

You will not be required to reveal your identity, however you must convince and verify that your circumstances are real and that you have come to the realization that ending your life is an option for you.

You will not come into direct contact here with any doctors, psychologists, counselors, life coaches or experts in suicide prevention. You are encouraged to seek professional help elsewhere to save your life. You will not be required to meet anyone in person.

To apply, please (1) introduce yourself by reply e-mail (gender, age, city of residence, profession, first name or pseudonym), and (2) go to the web address below to share your true story that lead you to the point of seriously contemplating suicide:

We will match your e-mail with your posting and you will be contacted with additional information about this project.

Compensation will come contingent on the project moving forward and based on a portion of potential grant or other project monies. This is an invitation for you to express your deepest feelings and share your experiences and thoughts … to be heard and acknowledged anonymously. Again, this is for someone who wants to be involved in something unique, positive, and rewarding beyond the possibility of monetary payment. (If you need a GUARANTEE of payment from this, please do not reply.)

Reply to e-mail in this ad and post comment at:

You will be contacted.

Thank you for your sharing and trust.



I want to express that I am aware this ad – especially the headline – is extreme, blunt, harsh, and can be offensive to some. I didn’t know any other way to express what this is and who I am looking for than to be direct and honest … and use the word “Suicide.” Let me be clear that this project is for a good cause, is sensitive, and comes from a good place with wonderful intentions. I have a history of doing impactful and inspirational projects. I believe it will touch many people in a positive and powerful way, and, hopefully save lives. If it generates revenues, those who participate will benefit in this way too. The Project was sparked by the loss of my childhood friend who killed himself – it is my way of hopefully helping others in his name. Thank you.
• Compensation: Payment Contingent on Project XXXXX XXXXX (Portion of Grant or Other Monies)
• Telecommuting is ok.
• Principals only. Recruiters, please don’t contact this job poster.
• Please, no phone calls about this job!
• Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.

I feel like I need to gargle after reading this. Or wash off several times. Or both. It’s probably one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever witnessed. Here’s what bothers me about it.

The author’s approach. If you’re a nationally published author, you’re not a good one. Why on earth would you circumvent suicide prevention experts, who could probably help you find some personal input that doesn’t do further damage to the person who is suffering? Why set someone on the brink up for further rejection?

The coldness of it. Sure, there was a clarification, but it read like a disclaimer on a credit card notice. I think this line in the ad told the real story about this person: “You are encouraged to seek professional help elsewhere to save your life.” Nothing says “I don’t care” more than getting what you can out of someone and then letting them know all those emotions you’ve just dredged up aren’t your problem.

The promise that can’t be delivered. The ad says “… the rewards can be very worthwhile in the long run in more ways than one.” Really? In what ways? Or are you thinking their spilling their guts to you is going to improve their outlook? Or that your book, IF it’s ever published, will be THE tool they need to get beyond their suicidal thoughts?

The pay. This is not a real job by any definition. So don’t frame it as such. And don’t worry – if you live through the experience, we’ll pay you a stipend. Maybe.

About the author




  • Wendy August 3, 2011 at 11:51 am

    It is disgusting on so many levels. Notice they say that this project is for a good cause and they have wonderful intentions for it, but I'm sorry it's a lie. If you really wanted to help others, this ad would not have been there. Get off your butt and go through the right channels and red tape to write an inspirational book on such a sensitive topic as this. Counselors and prevention groups would have been the best choice for that material.

    They're not just exploiting writers, they're exploiting people. People who are going through some tragic issues that don't need to relive the pain by writing their story so you can make money.

  • Lori August 3, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    That's what concerns me most, Wendy. It feels like exploitation. "Show me your scars and I'll make money – oh, by the way, you're on your own after that."

  • Cathy Miller August 3, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    Just when you think you've heard (or read) it all…sigh*sadly shaking head*

  • Damaria Senne August 3, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    I cannot believe that anyone who claims to be working for "a good cause, is sensitive, and comes from a good place with wonderful intentions," would actually publish such a harsh ad and circumvent organisations that work with people who want to commit suicide.

    P.S. Lori, enjoy your vacation.

  • Wade Finnegan August 3, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    Wow! Is all I can say.

    Have a great vacation Lori. I hope your interviews go well today.

  • Ashley August 3, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    Someone with "good intentions" or with any brains at all wouldn't have posted this on craigslist. There are certainly ways to get a story like that that will turn out to be inspirational … all this poster is saying is that they're too lazy/cheap/stupid to go through the proper channels.

    Enjoy your trip, Lori! Glad you're getting things taken care of so you can take some time off without worrying about work.

  • Devon Ellington August 3, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    If it was legitimate, it wouldn't be posted like that on Craigslist. It would be done through recognized organizations that deal with this. It needs to be flagged and removed. It could, literally, kill someone who's right on that edge.

  • Paula August 3, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    I agree with every comment above. If it's for such a good cause, why not name it? Um, maybe because the good cause is refilling the "best-selling non-fiction author"?

    The line that stood out to me was the one about worthwhile rewards int he long run. Right. Like people who are suicidal want to hang around for the long run. Perhaps that's exactly what the poster is banking on. (Pun intended.)

    Disturbing, exploitative and disgusting don't even begin to describe that listing.

  • Lori August 3, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    Pretty pathetic, isn't it Cathy? Worse, I visited the link to the site and people contemplating suicide are there commenting. So far it's been a bit of a commisseration, so maybe the best thing to come of this is that they realize they're not alone. But what happens when that site is yanked?

    Thank you, Damaria. That's exactly my reaction to this, too. It's harsh and unfeeling. And it's obvious this is not someone who understands how to deal with humans.

    Thanks, Wade! Packing the bug spray. 🙂 And I'm three interviews in – two more to go!

    Ashley, exactly. It's way beyond professional behavior. It's lazy, and it has the potential to do some serious damage.

    Devon, if I knew where that ad was, I would. I'll tap Wendy for that.

    Paula, I suspect someone thinks he/she will be trumped if they name the organization – if it exists. I think it's someone trying to make the case for grant money without actually building the case organically and with tact. What a sleazy tactic.

  • Wendy August 3, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    I flagged it when I saw it as violation of TOS. I went there a bit ago to see if it was still up and it is. WTF?

    Here's the link direct to it:

    Flag away. They won't let me do it anymore.

    The website name sounds like a place you can go to find out how to do it, not a place to find out how to get help.

  • Lori August 3, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    I'm on it, Wendy! Thanks. 🙂

  • Jake P August 3, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    Words escape me.

  • allena August 4, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    kinda off topic, but I'm also sick of writers/publishers thinking they can get "grant money" for a book or project. I've seen a lot of that on CL, including those searching for a grant writer to get fundingg for thier entirely for-profit project.