Storm Tide just got it’s first bad review. I won’t go into detail, since I’m not into self flagellation, but let’s just say this reader won’t be picking up my next book in a hurry.
So what’s a gal to do? How does one respond to such a thing? I mean I don’t have to respond to him actually, he’s somewhere in Florida, thank goodness, a whole continent away, but I mean in my heart, how am I to respond?
My first reaction was to give him the finger (figuratively, of course), but now I’m not sure where to go from there. Maybe he has something valuable to say. Maybe there’s something in his dislike for the book that can teach me something. Hmmm… maybe I’m not ready to move on to that reaction yet. Give me a day or two of sticking him the finger.
I guess it was inevitable that someone wouldn’t like my book. Maybe many people won’t, but that’s not going to stop me is it? Surely not. Maybe I’ll just ignore it, turn that page and move on to the next project (with a quick review of positive reviews to bolster me first). And while I’m at it I’ll practice the art of being zen about bad book reviews. Ommmmmmm…..
In the past two weeks I’ve launched Storm Tide twice, once with Jodi Ludgren, and once with 8 other Orca book writers. They were both fun, and what I learned about book launches is that they’re really an excuse to see all kinds of friends who you don’t normally get to see, but like at weddings, you don’t get a chance to spend much time with them. So thanks so much to all of you who came out to either of the launches, and I hope we get more time together soon.
What I loved most about both events was listening to other writers’ stories about how their books came about and their writing or illustrating process. I had no idea how labour intensive illustrating graphic novels is!
It was also really fun to talk about my own writing process, and to read from my book. My favourite moment: when my seven year old friend came up to me and said, “You made me want to read your book.” Yahoo.
This week, for the first time, I gave the manuscript of a novel I’ve been working on to a reader. Wow, what a moment. Like walking off a precipice you can’t turn back from. There’s no pretending now. No saying, I’m not really working on this thing, it doesn’t really matter. It’s a manuscript now. A book in the making, not some notes and scenes I’m messing around with.
A big step yes, but I chose my reader carefully. I wanted someone who was an astute reader, but not a writer. Someone who could read with enough distance from writing to be a reader, but enough knowledge to be able to articulate their thoughts about the book to me. I didn’t want someone who’d just say, “it was great” or someone who’d day “I hated it, I don’t know why.” I needed someone who’d say I liked this part but not that, and here’s why. Someone who’d care enough to tell me the truth, and to take the time to tell me gently.
So who’d do all that? My husband of course. He reads voraciously. More than I, even. And he loves YA, which is what I’ve been working on. He was the perfect choice and he told me all the things I already knew but had been hiding from, plus a whole lot of other things. He honed in on the places where I wasn’t sure, as a writer, where I hadn’t quite made up my mind. He found the places I’d skipped over details because I didn’t quite know what I was trying to do. He took a look at the big arc of the story and found the places I hadn’t filled in. He told me when my characters knew too much or not enough. Wow, he gave me enough feedback to start editing again, this time with purpose, with direction.
So thanks Michael. Your input was invaluable. My next reader’s going to be writer Laurie Elmquist, who’s fine eye will catch even more detail. I’m intimidated already at the thought, though I know it’s necessary. But I’m also encouraged, because I know how empowered I feel right now to continue with this project.
Author Jodi Lundgren and I took ourselves on a book tour today. We visited independent bookstores in Victoria that sell children’s books, and introduced ourselves as local children’s writers. I was nervous! Were we about to make fools of ourselves? First stop was Cadboro Bay Book Company, and boy am I glad we started there. We gathered our nerve and said, “We’ve come to introduce ourselves. We’re local authors, and we want to tell you about our recently published books.” The ladies smiled welcome, and we were both put at ease. The ladies asked us lots of questions about our books so that they could speak about them more knowledgeably when kids asked, and then showed us where our books were on the shelves. It was a wonderful, empowering experience. From Cadboro Bay Books we went to Ivy’s, Bolen’s, Munro’s and Tall Tales Books. We saw our books on the shelves in each store, signed copies and had those lovely “Autographed Copy” stickers put on them, and met many of the wonderful, committed and knowledgeable book sellers that take care of writers in this city. I know there are a lot of adjectives in this post—but it’s because I feel blessed when I see how many people there are out there spending their lives learning about and selling good books. The independent book stores in Victoria are so welcoming and they’re full of the best books the world has to offer. I’m so grateful to be part of that!