Wednesday, March 19, 2008
The reviewer is reviewed
Other than a friend telling me an old boyfriend threw one of my books across the room, I haven't seen any reviews of my stories in the first two books out this year. I got that this morning, just a few moments ago. I made the reader cry. She said it brought up memories she had forgotten and that it was "very good". I'll take that. She's not a professional reviewer, but the stories I wrote were meant to touch people and not to impress reviewers. Yes, reviewers are people, too. I'm a people and I still read like a people, but I also read like a reviewer and balance my reviews to offer an educated and considered opinion. It's not the same -- and yet it is on some levels. Enough babble or I'll confuse me.
The old boyfriend who threw the book across the room is also a writer. He has tried for years to get his poetry and prose published, but with no success. He still gets form rejections with no scribbled notes on them. He does write and he gets paid for writing but it's because he publishes the newsletters and is the editor, so he can write what he likes. Of course, it's easy to write about security industry issues and products because he's done it for more than 20 years and his business is flourishing.
When I worked for him, he said he knew I could write, but he didn't know that I could write. He took me aside and told me that the board members or some of his clients would likely ask me to take over his job and he wanted me to say no. Of course I'd say no. I worked for him and I don't steal clients. If I had said yes when they came asking (and they did ask me) I would still be in Ohio with a lucrative communication business instead of typing medical reports, editing newsletters for free and writing and publishing in between. I wouldn't change places with him. My life isn't perfect, but mine is a good life.
My friend told me his criticism of my stories ("not good", "can't imagine how they were accepted and published", etc.) didn't match the rage and jealousy he displayed when he threw the book across the room or the tears that spilled down his cheeks when he read Love is Enough. I can't read the story without choking up and I don't know how I'll read it when I have to do public readings, but I know I'll find a way.
I fully expect some of the reviews, what few I do get, to be negative. It's the way things work sometimes. I won't always know what motivates the negativity but it's not important. Good or bad, the person had to read the story and that's what's important, not that they think my writing is wonderful or the characters fully drawn or that the prose sparkles. What matters is that the stories are read. Now, if I can only remember that when more of my work is on the shelf, I'll be fine.
As a reviewer, I realize that my opinion is my opinion and comes from the well of my experience and understanding. The way I respond to a story will not be the same way someone else responds. I have often wondered how some stories ever got published and there will be people who feel the same about me. My reviews one subjective point of view that should never be taken as gospel but rather as a guide post that should never be used to deny a reader the pleasure of forming their own opinion -- good or bad. It's one lone voice among the stacks.
There have been writers I have avoided like the plague and then come back to and enjoyed and vice versa. I couldn't get into Heinlein when I was a teenager and now I love his spare prose and hidden emotional currents. I liked Shakespeare as a child but I appreciate him more as an adult. Some stories grow richer with time and my own experience helps me see them from a different perspective that adds color and depth and meaning to words I may have read a dozen or more times before; it's part of the magic of the written word. And I'm proud to be a writer no matter "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" -- or cranky critics -- that come because I harbor the hope that someone somewhere will find in my words something that adds a small thread of color to the tapestry of their life.