Take This Personally. No, Really.

T-ShirtHilariousHey, all! For my farewell post here at the EMUs, I have a burning desire to talk about reviews and how to survive them.

My debut novel, Radio Girl, has been on the shelves for a few weeks now. Reviews are cropping up in journals and stuff every few weeks. I’m lucky in that mine have been largely favorable, but you know how it goes when you’re being critiqued–it’s the negative parts that stick with you. Those words become forever seared into your brain. It might even make you sick to your stomach, knowing that thousands of potential readers will read that one negative sentence in an otherwise glowing review and take a pass on your novel, the work that took you so many months (years, decades) to craft.

Seasoned authors will advise you not to take the comments personally, but gads. How can you not?

I’ve developed a way for me to focus on the praise in a review (works for a critique, too!) by picking out positive words and phrases from it that would be fun to wear on a T-shirt. When printed on a shirt, these phrases automatically become connected to the wearer. So, in a way, by imagining myself sporting these T-shirts, I’m taking the review extra personally. The good parts, I mean. Make sense? Here are a few shirts I’ve designed, with phrases taken from reviews of Radio Girl:



OK, maybe “cringeworthy” isn’t that flattering, but it makes me smile anyway.


See? I’m the epitome of moxie! The reviewer said so. Funny how this eases the sting. What about you? In the comments, won’t you all share some positive phrases from your critiques or reviews that would look good on a T?

In conclusion, let me thank the other EMUs, both current and emeriti for the opportunity to be a part of this amazing blog. My time here is ending, but my interest and support never will. There are so many awesome books coming out of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency in the next two years–I’m sticking around to watch them all debut. Hope you will, too.

Fondly yours,

Carol B.
CarolSmilingCarol Brendler is the author of the young adult novel RADIO GIRL (Holiday House) September 5, 2013.
Coming 2014: A picture book, NOT VERY SCARY, illustrated by Greg Pizzoli, from FSG.
Also by Carol Brendler: WINNIE FINN, WORM FARMER (FSG, 2009) a picture book illustrated by Ard Hoyt.


Filed under Advice, Anxiety, Farewell, Reviews

28 responses to “Take This Personally. No, Really.

  1. Joshua McCune

    Carol, you are above awesome, full of charm and humor. The epitome of moxie! Thank you for sharing your journey with us. Kick ass going forward… thousands of more T-shirt slogans to come.

    So far I have one review (fair to middling)… the positive element (I think, lol): Definitely a thinker of a sci-fi novel.


  2. Mike Jung

    AWKWARD HIGH FIVES FOR CAROL! I’ve also been lucky with reviews, but one of the relatively few bad ones contained this gem: “I liked the Oxford comma in the title.”


  3. Carol, thank you for this post. Thank you for RADIO GIRL. Thank you for your wisdom and humor and awesome Emutitide. Go get ’em! ❤

    This made me think of a DVD of Space Ghost: Coast to Coast that I have. It's one of my favorite shows. They took a slightly different approach by putting all the worst quotes from reviews on the back — "Dumb." "Only amuses itself." Etc. It's one of the best things ever. (K and I frequently say, "Only amuses itself" to each other.)


  4. Ah, reviews–there should be a contractual clause that publishers provide free therapy for debut authors. On the positive side, one of my favorite lines was from a good review that started with “HOLY BARNACLES!!!!!!!!!” I may have to order a T-shirt.

    Best of luck as you sail forth into the waters of published-authordom!


  5. Oh, I love this idea, Carol. Bravo! I don’t have any reviews to scavenge from yet, but, when they do come in, I’ll be thinking of your positive t-shirt messages, for sure.


  6. Carol, we will miss you so on this blog! It’s been so great getting to know you and your fabulous book. I love this t-shirt idea, too!

    A review of one of my plays once called the writing “loquaciously reminiscent of Stephen Fry.” I love Stephen Fry enough that I almost got that tattooed on myself, but maybe a t-shirt is a smarter idea.

    Happy writing!


  7. Christine Hayes

    Carol, you and your moxie will be sorely missed! Thanks for being the one to welcome me into this amazing group!


  8. aahhh, Carol, you are the pluckiest of plucks, said the new little emu duck. I am so glad you will always be nearby.

    Personally, I always love it when some writes in the margin of a manuscript: “LOVE!!!” with hearts after it. Or Perfect Ending!!! Such as this post is.


  9. The T-shirt idea is so much fun! Since my book isn’t out, I have no reviews…the whole idea scares me! But I’m going to keep in mind that I need to look for the positive nuggets! Great advice! We’ll miss your posts!


  10. Carol, I absolutely adore you. And your book. And I loooovvvve your t-shirt idea!!! I’m one of those authors who will likely bury her head in the sand when (because it’s always a matter of “when” not “if”) someone says something negative about my book. But my little exercise lately has been to read reviews about my favorite books of all time — books that have done amazing with both readers and sold like crazy — and see that every single one of them have stinging, hateful reviews. All of them. Like, the Harry Potter series for example has PLENTY of one-star reviews. And a masterpiece like THE BOOK THIEF is called “boring” over and over again. And yet millions and millions and millions of people have fallen in love with these books. And the authors are drowning in their “boring” piles of money.

    But again, I’m really liking this t-shirt idea. So you can quote me when you actually make some up. Here are a few key phrases for you to use:

    I Am So Freaking AWESOME!
    Don’t You Wish Your Girlfriend Was Hot Like Me?
    Who Cares What YOU Think? Amy Thinks I’m Amazing.


  11. Hah! Thanks, Amy, for your too-kind words. I just read a “not recommended” review of a book that just made the short, short list for the National Book Award. So. There. 😛


  12. I love “the epitome of moxie.”
    Like everyone else here said, “you are awesome.”


  13. megtyme

    Carol, that is genius. It really is harder to make the praise stick, and that’s not right – we should absorb the praise just as readily as the criticism, and this is such an awesome approach to doing so. And those are some pretty awesome words of praise, too! I hope you really do make some T-shirts. I think I will one day, because of this. 🙂


  14. kevanjatt

    I meant to reply to this earlier and now everyone has beaten me to the great lines. That said, and knowing you only briefly, I find you hilarious and fun. And if moxie actually has an epitome, it might very well be you! Congratulations! Now, onward!


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