November 25th, 2010

Reviews again

Before Once came out, I was pretty scared of reviews. To get over the fear, I gave myself several excellent peptalks about how it any serious attention to my work would be an honour, and I didn’t need everyone–or anyone–to like it, that I could learn from criticism and improve, etc., etc. I still pretty skittery, especially since reviews could jump at me from nowhere, in a journal or on a website I was reading, with no prior warning. It’s bad enough when someone blindsides me with a criticism of dayjob work, or my appearance, or the way I’ve arrayed my groceries on the conveyor belt (happens all the time; apparently, I can’t get that one right)–I try to be mature, especially if I sense they’ve got it correct. But the writing’s so important to me, I feel like I want to be alone in a quiet safe place when a stranger says something not 100% enthusiastic. Hence the utility of the self-Google–you decide when you’re ready, you lock the door, and then if you read something truly harsh (like the word “boring” several times), you can pace around your locked apartment in small circles until the urge to Facebook the reviewer with a lengthy rebuttal goes away. You take a lot of deep breaths, and decide you can’t please everyone. You eventually permit yourself to go outside.

I’m, er, a little sensitive, which is a pointless way to be when you are trying to publish work so that other people can read it–other people’s reactions to my work, and the fact that they differ from mine, is the whole point of publishing. Which is why I tried so hard to toughen up, and now can’t even remember the name of that reviewer who used the word “boring” so many times. Really!

But I’ve let my toughness muscles go a bit slack over the past year or so, after the reviews pretty much died down. So I was really startled when this week I ran into two reviews of my book, utterly unexpected. I was quite alarmed before reading–I hadn’t given myself a peptalk in ages!

Thank goodness the reviews were positive, insightful, and generous–no need for bracing! If you’d like to hear more about it, you can try the Canadian Literature website or the print edition of the current issue of The Fiddlehead.

And if you have advice on how to cope with reviews you disagree with, other than weeping or sending embarrassing rebuttals, let me know.

And a few notes:

1) I believe there are occasions when it is useful and wise for an author to respond to a review, and not at all cringe-worthy. I just can’t think of any right now.
2) Reading reviews by strangers is altogether different from receiving workshop or editorial feedback, or comments from readers–not sure why. Maybe it’s because I have the opportunity to engage and ask questions, or maybe it’s because, in the first two cases anyway, the criticism is offered for my own good, to try to help me improve the work…
3) I was totally going to do something clever with the title of this post–something rhyming or alliterative, or maybe both–but I couldn’t think of anything that made sense….

One Response to “Reviews again”

  • Scott Watson says:

    I wonder if this is how musicians feel when people talk about their song on the radio?


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So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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