Taking Criticism

So I’m writing this particular entry because of this blog post. Not necessarily the post itself, which is just a review of an independent book, but the author’s response to that review. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s gone viral (there’s a blog all in itself, huh?), but it’s certainly making the rounds with small press and indy writers.

Before I get off on that, though, I want to give a head’s up and a brief report. This week I’ll be leading the first ever SPRING edition of the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Writers Retreat to be held at the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Education Center (HPMEC). It’s not the first HPMEC Writers Retreat, but the first one in Spring. Why, you ask? Tis simple: the demand for such an awesome environment to escape from the rigors (and hassles) of everyday life and focus on writing is growing and growing. This is, of course, in tribute to the fantastic staff who host it and take such good care of the writers (and their mentor!). The schedule for this version is both condensed and expanded: meaning the days are longer but there are fewer days.

My sessions at the Nashville Public Library system branches at Goodlettsville and Madison this past week seemed to go well. The librarians seemed happy when it was all said and done, and that’s important. Sara at the Madison branch suggested that the event was one of the better attended. The photos here are courtesy of her! I met some cool folks and talked about graphic novels/comic books. Hard to beat that!

Okay, so back to the title topic. For those who didn’t go view the blog, I’ll recap. The site, Big Al’s Books and Pals, is a book review blog. Big Al accepts independently (self-published and small press publishers alike) published books to read and review. As with all reviews, authors aren’t guaranteed a “good” review. I’d love to submit my own book for more reviews, but the few I’ve tried I haven’t had much luck (though I’m hoping to get some reviews over at Goodreads—yes, I’ll keep you posted).

So Big Al posts a review of this book (not gonna mention the book as I don’t want to drive hits to her!—you’ll see why). Says the story was compelling, but that the book was full of typos and the like and thus would make it hard for casual readers (ie, NON-reviewers) to actually finish the book. Wasn’t a glowing review and wasn’t a horrible condemnation. However, the author immediately begins to defend herself telling Big Al he read the wrong version (if I read it correctly, the version was SUPPLIED by the author!). She argues with others leaving comments, even swearing at them at one point. Many, many followed that up with an “I’ll never read your book no matter how good it is because you’re a jerk” kind of statement.

Thing is, though, authors must know that the very nature of their work lends itself to criticism (“criticism,” as a reminder, is not inherently a negative word). It’s something they should prepare for. It’s something I even talk about sometimes in workshops or retreats—obviously partly because my job is often to extend criticism throughout. In a nutshell, I always say (and try to practice what I preach, as well) listen to all criticism—the good and the bad—and place it all into a big pot. Stir it up and learn from it. Some of the criticism an author receives will be well informed and on target. Some of the criticism an author receives will just be hot air. Regardless, it is someone’s opinion—and obviously someone who TOOK THE TIME to read that author’s work. So give them the courtesy of their opinion, thank them, and then ignore it if you wish.

It really isn’t that hard to do.

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1 Comment

Filed under writing

One response to “Taking Criticism

  1. I read his review. It wasn’t too bad. I’ve seen worse. Then I spent at least fifteen minutes reading the comments as she bashed him with horrifying words. Her comments were so misspelled I had to chuckle a little. She wasn’t selling her point of, “My writing is just fine.”
    I was floored people really act like that. Glad your sessions went well.

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