Adding a Grain of Salt

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As writers, sometimes we find that we live and die by reviews. I have heard of some authors who receive a bad review and never write another word. If they do, they never release it to 41k+EUGO3GL__SX260_the public. Who wants to live like that? Not I, said the fly.

This brings me to this point of my warped thinking which often, unmistakable makes a good deal of sense. As a writer, author or blogger, you have to take each review with a grain of salt; even the good ones. I will tell you why.

As I was having dinner with a good friend, she told me she had read The Basement of Mr. McGee and mentioned she found a few things in it. I told her there are a few things in everything I write, I leave them in  intentionally. I don’t need it to be perfect, I need it to be good. I want my readers to see the growth in me with each work. If it is perfect, then I have nowhere to go and a mistake when you are on top, feels really painful. It is hard to get back up.

However, there are times, when there are no mistakes and everything is as it should be. However, there are still some people who will take fault.

80 of 113 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Triumph of Mediocrity, April 8, 2001
By A Customer
Where are the gatekeepers? There is absolutely nothing here that I haven’t read before, in the eighties, by other trendy young women writers. They put an Indian stamp on it, and it’s supposed to be profound? These stories had no ability to evoke character or emotion, the prose style was unremarkable, the structure color by numbers. There was not a surprise or a genuine moment anywhere. A real effort to pander to trendy tastes, though, with unconvincing depictions of adulterous affairs, and so forth. Nothing new here, except for the color of the characters’ skins.
Pretty harsh isn’t it. There are 26 other reviews very similar to this one favored with a single, solitary star. Others were kind and rated the work with two stars and a bit of advice.

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I like this book a lot less than everyone else does, February 15, 2012
The first story in this book is interesting. It’s about a couple who suffered through the horrible experience of having a stillborn baby, and this made the wife lose interest in her life and in her marriage. I was hoping for an upbeat, positive ending, but no, that’s not what this book is about. It’s about depressing endings. I kind of thought it would be.

Try for another baby, okay?

I read 3 or 4 more stories in the book, and nothing was positive about any of them. All right already. Life sucks. Thank you for telling me that. The last one I began to read opened up with a woman having an affair with a married man, and that about did it for me. I don’t want to suffer through any more of these depressing stories.

41Fu2Ed5uqL__SY346_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_These reviews were written about The Interpreter of Maladies, a Pulitzer Prize winning work by Jhumpa Lahiri. It does not stop here. I found the same thing with The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. There are 46 one star reviews on this masterpiece about soldiers in the Viet Nam war. Even Jeffrey Deaver and Kurt Vonnegut received single star reviews.
You have to take some of these opinions with a grain of salt. Not everyone is going to like, love or get everything you write. If there are readers who feel that “The New York publishing cartel, the editors of the New Yorker magazine, and the Pulitzer Prize committee together run the risk of turning readers away from ethnic fiction if they continue to elevate unremarkable books like this above all others.”

If this is said about a Pulitzer Prize winning work, then adding a grain of salt to what people say about your works, will make swallowing their malarkey much easier. At the end of the day, write what you know. Write what you love and write because that is all you know how to do.

And you couldn’t keep that to yourself?

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I am often amazed that in our moments of fury, we open our mouths and allow words to flow out that should have stayed in our heads. I have seen it happen in the classroom, in the boardroom, and heard about verbal faux pas in the bedroom. How do we learn when to close our lips and speak with our eyes?

Last week, during demonstrative speeches, one of my students gave an excellent presentation on how to tie dye a shirt. One brilliant student in the back felt it was necessary to share her opinion once I mentioned I would be interested in trying out the method. She asked, out loud, if I would be applying the process to my sweater collection. Really? And you couldn’t have kept that you yourself?

Adding insult to injury, I have a student that is legally blind. Judging by the thickness of her spectacles, and the placement of the lens, legally, may just be a misnomer. I asked, “Do you still drive?” The student responded yes, and of course from the peanut gallery came the words, “Oh, hell naw!” Seriously, and you could not have kept that to yourself? I was proud of the other students for not laughing,

I was even proud of myself for waiting until after class to pull the student aside and speak with her about keeping something in her head.

Students you can overlook because they are of course, still in a learning slash training environment. In the workplace or in social settings, some verbal faux pas are not so easily dismissed. I experienced this yesterday. During a very prominent literary event in which I was a member of the planning committee, we took great effort in the placement of the authors. The authors in the entry way, the authors in the children’s section, the authors on the second floor were all placed by genres. One idiotic participant, who is friends with one of my fellow organizers, evidently felt as if she should have been given preference. Really? A young newcomer to her writer’s group, in which my fellow organizer was also a member, was given prime placement on the first floor as a new self-published author. He was placed next to a seasoned author with several published titles. This was a great opportunity for this young man and he maximized the moment.

Yes, I called her idiotic and here is why. Instead of her coming to me or one of the fellow organizers to express her concern or question her placement, yes, you guessed it, she opened her stupid mouth and allowed stupid words to roll out. She found a person that she felt she could express her concern, and she began her conversation by stating that, “Yeah, they placed all the black authors on the second floor and we ain’t getting no traffic!” She told this to the Big Boss. She told this to my fellow organizer’s boss. Did she know who she was talking to; I don’t think she really cared. I think she felt slighted and just chose to shoot off her stupid mouth. But she did not let it stop there, she started ranting and raving to other participants, creating an atmosphere of distrust. She created an atmosphere of disharmony. She created hostility.

Here’s the thing. Book festivals are designed for the author to meet, mingle and make new friends. Unless you are a New York Times best seller, in which you would be on press junkets, you are there to create a buzz about your book. If you are self-published, unless you have an excellent editor, your work is suspect anyway. Book sales that are made are really the luck of the draw.

Now, it is unlikely that she will be invited back next year simply because she could not speak with her eyes and keep her thoughts to herself. Adding insult to social injury, she shared her incorrect assessments with others, causing strife. Was it really that serious? Are you that angry that you could not have kept your feelings to yourself? In the end, you gained nothing but a reputation as a trouble maker.