Tuesday, 3 July 2012

A statue has never been set up in honour of a critic

Misfortunes, like buses, never come singly! Currently, I have no potatoes on my allotment, slugs have eaten all my bean plants, I have had to gaffer-tape another bit of my car and my cat has cystitis.
You have problems? Believe me, you do not have problems.

There has been a lot of blog-chat about negative reviewing, lately. We have shared my opinion on this in an earlier post, but I thought I'd throw my twopennyworth into the hat once again. So here goes. Firstly, although many of the 'reviewers' on sites like Amazon certainly can be most unpleasant about a book - tho' they've probably never written one in their lives (on the 'those who can't write, criticise writers basis), at least they don't attack the writer him/herself.

The same cannot be said in other areas. As some of you know, I am the Chair of a local action group, fighting to save a playing field from being sold off by the council to a developer. This involves maintaining a very high press profile, which I have been doing for 3 years now. Letters in the local papers twice a month, articles quoting me etc. When I had my tattoo done in Feb, I even used that to get further press coverage for our campaign.

The abuse I get from supporters of the council, or from some councillors themselves is amazing! Think of all the nasty things you could say about 'hedges' and you've got some idea of the rubbish that gets sent in to the papers slagging me off. It is nasty and it is personal. Do I care? I did when I read the first one. It upset me a lot - mainly that someone could be so petty-minded not to see the big picture. Now I just shrug, and use it to frame a witty, sarky, put-down 'reply'. Hey, if they give me the oxygen of publicity, I'll take it. If I'm being criticised, then I'm rattling cages, and that is good.

So as an activist, and as I writer, I will get criticised, constructively or not. If  I can't handle it, then I shouldn't put myself out there. But I will, and so will you, because we just love what we are doing, and we want to share it with others. Besides for every put-down, there is someone who appreciates our efforts and gives us the sweet honey of praise.

The other point I want to make is that I am a published writer. So are many of you. But equally, many others are not. Sometimes we forget that there are thousands of our fellow scribes who have never had anything published ever, let alone reviewed.

We are so lucky to be at that stage where our books are bought and read. I keep all my rejection letters, because it is good to remind myself of the journey I have been on to get here. So I thought I'd end this blog by sharing one little gem of a letter. It's from a very well known literary agency, and runs thus:

'' I am very selective in the clients that I take on and I was not sufficiently enthusiastic about your work to be able to offer to handle it.''

The 'work' in question was a teen novel called 'Jigsaw', which was eventually taken by OUP, went up for 2 awards and was on the Carnegie long-list. Gentle blog-readers, I rest my case.


  1. Nice one Carol! I think we can set too much store by reviews. People are so different in the things they enjoy, it would be horrendous if we all liked the same things. I also remember starting Gone with the Wind and not being able to get on with it at all. The next year I happened to pick it up and couldn't put it down!

    1. Thanks fellow scribes. The post came from a discussion with a young writer friend who has never been published, but keeps submitting to agents, publishers, going in for comps etc. and it just made me think maybe we don't appreciate how hard it is for those struggling to get on the ladder. Ok, remind me of this when my ebook gets slagged off!!!

  2. Well said, Carol. Negative reviews are tough, but as long as it's not personal... well, we need to accept them as part of the job. But when it becomes personal, I think it crosses the line.

  3. Good comments Carol. Wonderful that you are prepared to put yourself on the line publicly to save some land from development, what a brave woman. Love your car, love your blog, keep up the good work. I am a novice writer,less than a novice writer, and while I am not struggling to get into print, any form of feedback for an apprentice from the sorcerers, needs to packaged in a professional manner - such a way that it will not destroy the person's soul. Like a story or not, the artist needs respect. Its all creative energy flowing in action and deserves respect. I would draw the line at something like Mein Kampf.

  4. Thanks Nicole. Glad you enjoy the blog! Re: novice writer - not sure I'd agree; we're all writers, in that we all weave words into tales. You, me, Talli, the Year 8 pupil who spoke to me after a talk I gave recently at her school, and said she was writing a book, are all one and the same. Don't think of yourself as a 'novice', but as a practitioner!! And write....

  5. Good for you Carol. I agree good comments/ reviews makes us feel good, and we can always keep the negative critic's opinions in our mind, and see whether there is some truth in what they say, and if possible/ feasible we can change for our own good.
    I must congratulate you for your remarkable achievements.
    You are right when you say, that you are realizing that you have come so far, and there are writers who are still struggling to get noticed. It is so easy to get carried away by success and take things for granted.
    You are a good woman.
    Thanks for stopping by my blog. Have a great day!

    1. Reciprocated, rama. And thanks for our remarks. I shall be stopping by your blog again.


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