where the writers are
Authors Behaving Badly

Last week was a great week for most writers. Alice Hoffman had a Twittersode where she invited fans to email and telephone a reviewer she felt had done her wrong; an interesting twist given that Hoffman herself fell victim to such author-over-the-topness years ago when Richard Ford, displeased with a revew Hoffman had written of one of his books, took Hoffman's latest book out in his back yard and shot it to death before mailing it to her. And to round out the week, Alain de Botton went off on a NYT reviewer, claiming that the poor review had effectively killed the book in the U.S. and vowing, "I will hate you till the day I die." I felt like I was watching The Princess Bride all over again: "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." 

Like I say, it was a good week for most of us writers. We got to Schadenfreude our pants, secure in the notion that whatever stupid things we'd ever done, at least we'd never done that. 

Here's a little bad poem I wrote, representing Utopia for writers:

If I could sit on your shoulder,
and tell you what to think,
I'd tell you how wonderful I am,
you'd never tell me I stink.

Unfortunately, no such Utopia exists, and in the absence of that, the rule authors need to live by is: Never complain, never explain.

Or, you can learn to have fun with it as Alexa Young has done with her fabulous blog The Worst Review Ever.

I don't know that I've had a single worst review although I've certainly had my share of bad ones. It is frustrating when a reviewer gets the facts wrong or is clearly not the right reviewer for your book, someone not capable of "getting" the book on the level which it's been written. This happens all the time with YA and children's books, where the reviewers are by necessity almost always not the target audience.

I've also done my share of stupid-author things, probably the worst of which was making an online author enemy who spent a few years determinedly trying to make my life a living hell. I also made the mistake one time, after Google Alert turned up a blog where someone had posted some errors about my work, of writing the blog host what I thought was a polite letter, receiving a polite response, only to have GoogleAlert turn up from the same person the next day something about how you'd think Lauren Baratz-Logsted would have better things to do with her time; and the next day the musing, "I wonder if Lauren Baratz-Logsted is reading this?"; and the next day, a blog post with just "Lauren Baratz-Logsted" written about 150 times. I had to admire her determination and the fact that anyone could spell my name correctly 150 times.

Never complain, never explain.

It's such a hard lesson to learn, but I am trying, doing my best here.

And in the meantime, at least I've never shot up a reviewer's book, published a reviewer's email and telephone number, or vowed to hate any human being until the day I die. Still, there's always tomorrow!


Be well. Don'r forget to write.

6 Comment count
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That's classified

I'm not evolved enough to unearth the painful crap buried in my author memory. But just wanted to say how good your blog post made me feel.

I come from a community news background, where we were always taking criticism from readers -- in-your-face, he's-ringing-my-phone-right-now criticism -- some of it deserved, some of it ridiculous.

They say you develop a thick skin. That is, I said I developed a thick skin. But that was a lie. I never did. Even the criticisms that were way, way off base -- "You're in the pocket of developers!" -- still left me red-faced, wanting to complain, explain, and exclaim how ridiculous the allegations were. (Ah, another just came back to me: When I was an editor, there was a reader who thought an article went too easy on the mayor. So, the reader concluded, the reporter was obviously sleeping with the mayor. Case closed.)

Anyway, thanks for your post! Did my heart good.

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thick skin

I do think the skin gets thicker, at least if you put effort into it. I've talked in previous posts about The Five-Minute Rule, giving yourself five minutes to feel however bad you need to about a bad review or what-have-you and then letting it go, heading back to work. Glad my post did your heart good, June!

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It is frustrating when a

It is frustrating when a reviewer gets the facts wrong or is clearly not the right reviewer for your book, someone not capable of "getting" the book on the level which it's been written.

I've had my fair share of this.  My book on dishonor killings is highly analytical, but that doesn't keep the obviously innumerate from weighing in.  But I'm not inclined to counter. . .better to let the ignorance speak for itself and demonstrate why more work is needed in the area in which I write.

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Black irises?

Gosh, those are beautiful. Empathies, Ellen, on the occasional frustrating reviewer.

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I'm not famous enough to do stupid stuff like that...

Yet. :-)

Seriously, when most of the people you know online are people you know personally (or kind fellow writers), you don't get much opportunity to upset/lash out at/vow eternal vengeance on a random stranger.

I'm sure my time will come though!

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Miriam, here's to being famous enough...

...to do all kids of stupid stuff!