Ya'll are so sweet. I feel like I have a coven of best gal friends, who are always here to say, "They were mean to you? Then they're crazy! Here, have some ice cream." (and Marcus Aurelius too, who rocks via witty ironic statements) The last post wasn't about any particular review for any one book. On this blog, I try to be honest about the life of a professional writer, good and bad. When I was young and unpublished, I would've thought negative reviews wouldn't hurt me 9 books later. But they do. They always do. They always will.
As Laura ZM pointed out, how many professions require the worker to be publicly mocked for their work? For every detail of what they've done to be analyzed and criticized? There are some. Athletes. Coaches. Actors. I understand scientists are pretty hard on each other. American Idol contestants. Anyone who posts on youtube. But it's rare generally, I think. I don't like it. But I know it's part of the profession. If I want the privilege of writing books and sharing them with people, I have to take the lambasting. (I don't have to like it! But I do have to take it.)
I don't want to sound complainy here. I have no right to. I have had 8 books worth of really gorgeous reviews. (my ninth book, forest born, just got its first national review from Kirkus--and it was lovely! YAY!) There are always the lukewarm reviews to irritate and depress. And then there are the reviews that feel less like a critical response and more like two slaps and a gut punch. But here's the truth about reviews--they're all good. And I have to be grateful for them all.
I wince when I write that, because I don't want to accept the bad ones as good. And I certainly don't want to be grateful for them. Not for that one, at least, and not that other one. Do I really have to be grateful? Do I? Yes, I do. Say it, Shannon. Say it and mean it.
"Thank you, reviewers, who hated my book and wrote out your words so that all would know that this book, in your opinion, was less appetizing than a pile of fresh hippo poo. Thank you for taking the trouble to express that sentiment in 500 words or less. Thank you."
I kinda did mean that. Of course I'd rather have glowing, loving reviews! But someone told me early in my career, all reviews are good. Just as there's no such thing as bad publicity, there's always good that comes from any review. With shrinking review space and growing numbers of books published, any attention a book gets at all is good. For example, this happens: woman reads a negative review of book; woman goes to bookstore and sees that book; woman can't remember what review said, only that it mentioned said book; woman buys book. So, thank you. Thank you, angry readers who type.
Okay, that's easier said than felt. It is SO hard to read, often physically painful. So how do I handle the two-slap-gut-punch reviews? Sometimes I just feel down and dumpy all day. Sometimes I bury it, then it sneaks up on me and I think, "Why do I feel like crap?" until I remember. Just like with anything else bad that happens. My most effective method is NOT eating chocolate till I'm sick (though I try it...often), but to put it in perspective. "Waah, waah," I say to myself in a high, whiny voice. "I have my dream job and write books for a living that thousands of people love, but some people don't like them. Poor me, waah, waah, waah." Ironic that I use self-mockery to counter public-mockery, but hey, sometimes it works.
And of course, there are the good reviews too, that I cling to during the tougher times. the actor and the housewife has gotten at least two national double-slap-triple-gut-punch reviews. But then that's balanced by some outright shiny national reviews, and some simply gorgeous heartfelt emails from readers, and ultimately, the most beautiful response to a book I've ever had. A review that made me cry--stunned, overwhelmed, relieved, so grateful. This reader happened to be in a position to judge very harshly what I wrote--she is a Mormon mother of four living in Layton, Utah who is happily married and has had a male best friend. Just like my main character, Becky Jack. Wow. And on top of that, she is a writer too. That she so publicly offered her praise completely took my breath. Her name is Mette Ivie Harrison, and if you don't know her books The Princess and the Hound and The Princess and the Bear, she is a young adult writer of no mean talent, and I am so grateful for her thoughtful reading and voiced thoughts. Thanks, Mette.