Thoughts on being star-struck …

Emma's StarIn the past two weeks, I’ve found out that my picture book, SOPHIE’S SQUASH, received starred reviews from two industry journals — Kirkus and Publishers Weekly.

As a debut author, I’m new to this, but I knew enough to know this was a big deal. My publisher was happy. My agent was happy. My writing friends were happy. I was, to put it mildly, ecstatic. After all the work and the waiting and the rejection and the waiting and the revision and the waiting, people who didn’t know me or my book thought it was worthy of some distinction.

Wow.

And Lisa Morlock, an author friend of mine, even sent me two stars of her own to go with my Kirkus and PW stars. One, shown at the upper right, was drawn by her daughter, Emma. That was even nicer.

When things calmed down a little, I started reading other book reviews. I looked up my favorite books. Books I have displayed on my desk as inspiration that maybe, someday, if I’m lucky, I’ll be a good enough writer to write a book like that.

I was surprised to see that many of the books I adore did not get starred reviews. And one of my absolute favorite books, one that many people regard as something of a classic, not only did not get a starred review, it didn’t even get particularly positive comments.

This didn’t shatter my illusions, but it did make me pause. And remember something I knew all along.

Art is subjective. Two equally intelligent people are capable of reading the same book or watching the same movie or listening to the same music and having equally passionate — but completely opposite — responses to it.

So when all is said and done, your book is your book. Loved, loathed or overlooked, it was your best effort to tell the story you wanted to tell at the time you told it. You control that part. How others perceive it and what they see in it may have more to do with them and their life experiences than you and yours.

I’m happy my first two reviews have been positive. I’m not, by nature, a huggy person, but I’d hug Kirkus. Or Publishers Weekly. Or Lisa Morlock. The whole thing has kind of been like having an extra birthday without having to turn a year older.

But, I’m mentally prepared for the less-glowing comments as well. They may come from another well-known review journal. They may show up on Amazon or GoodReads. Or in a private email to my inbox. Or be reflected by lackluster sales and remaindered copies.

I think my mantra for when that happens will be: “It’s out of my hands.”

But for now, I’m going to enjoy the stars I have — especially the ones provided by my friend, Lisa — and focus my efforts on things I do have some control over. Promoting SOPHIE’S SQUASH the best I can. Writing and revising my next books (Maybe even using the Carol Brendler non-outline method.) Working to be a better and better writer so I can live up to the standards set by the books on my desk.

STAR-ting right now.

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7 Comments

Filed under Happiness, Reviews

7 responses to “Thoughts on being star-struck …

  1. Hang onto this attitude (you may have to remind yourself periodically). Negative reviews do eventually come to most of us, but if you’re prepared, you can spare yourself a lot of angst.
    Still, congratulations!

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  2. Pat, what a wise and wonderful post! I’m so happy for the great initial reactions, and impressed with your outlook on the whole business.

    I’ve also looked up industry reviews on some of my favorite books in the past and been shocked by quite a few of them. It is a good reminder of how subjective reviews are.

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  3. Congratulations on the great reviews. That’s awesome. And how true about subjectivity. Bookshelves of Doom regularly features the one-star reviews another compiler finds on Amazon. Some of these were given to critically acclaimed books. Can’t please everybody I guess.

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  4. So wise, Pat! So happy for Sophie and her squash. You can remember these stars if you can’t keep yourself from reading GoodReads and Amazon reviews. Some are delightful when people understand exactly what you were trying to do. Others are painful. Whenver I remmber how one person called SUSPECT a cheesy mystery, I always tell myself that Kirkus called it “intriguing, suspenseful fun.”

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  5. Sounds like you’ve struck a great balance between starry-eyed and well-grounded. But for now, kick those feet up and dance! You’ve earned it!

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  6. Pingback: When to Stop Asking for Feedback | EMU's Debuts

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