To Read those Reviews, or Not to Read!

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with another writer who just had her third book released. She told me that she never reads reviews of her books, and I had to wonder if this approach is a good one.

Sure, great reviews are awesome! We all need our egos stroked once in a while and a good review on Goodreads or some other website is like that much needed pat on the back. But what about the bad reviews?

Do bad reviews serve any purpose? If the good ones build our self confidence, do the negative ones tear our fragile egos down?

First off, whether or not to read reviews is something each writer must decide on their own, and, if they chose to read them, they need to be able to sort the helpful ones from the ones that aren’t helpful.

What do I mean by helpful?

We write to be read. Many of us write for certain audiences. If that audience feels a certain way about our stories or our character development (or lack there of), we might want to hear what they’re saying — after all, they’re the ones buying our books.

In psychology, they say that recurring dreams usually mean something — that our unconscious self is trying to get us to deal with some issue. Well, in reviews, recurring issues might be something we, as writers, need to deal with.

Of course, it doesn’t feel good to admit that maybe we could do something better, but isn’t that always the point — to get better at our craft. If I’m a singer, and I’m singing off key, I want to know! I want to fix it! But if we place our hands over our ears every time someone starts to say something negative, we’ll never improve.

The most difficult part is knowing which critiques are helpful and which ones aren’t.

I recently read Neil Gaiman’s  book The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I LOVED it! I went on Goodreads and out of curiosity looked at what other readers had to say about the book. I couldn’t believe that anyone wouldn’t like it, but of course, there are people who don’t like chocolate, strawberry shortcake, or walking along the beach.

People have different likes and dislikes, and as a writer, we have to know that there will always be people who don’t get us or our characters or our stories. That’s just how it is.

You can’t please everyone, and there are, sad to say, haters out there who just enjoy hating and might need to see a proctologist to have something removed from a certain part of their bodies.

But if there are recurring issues being brought up in reviews, we might want to take these critiques seriously and see if or how we should apply them to our future work. But we can’t know if there are recurring issues if we don’t read the reviews.

That being said, you don’t need to read a hundred reviews to get the gist of what your readers think. After all, that would take hours and hours, and that time needs to be spent writing!

Dear Teens, Here’s Alex!

So in my last post, I said I was going to introduce you to teens who are doing amazing things (because, yeah, teens can do amazing things and they do them everyday!) Today I’m going to tell you about a senior in high school named Alex Deans.

When he was twelve years old he saw a blind woman trying to navigate her way across a busy street. He decided to put his love of science to use. It took several years and a lot of collaboration, but Alex, inspired by bats, created a device that uses sound waves to help blind people navigate without a cane.

The people who have tested the device say it improves their confidence in navigating through the world.

Alex was twelve when he got the idea, and thank goodness no one told him that he was too young to be brilliant!

Alex had an idea. He had a dream.

What’s your’s?

The second leading cause of death for teenagers is suicide. Close to 5,000 teens take their own lives each year. That’s at least 5,000 dreams that never came true.

Make sure you have a dream. (Make sure you have a lot of them!) And don’t give up. You don’t have to be great at science. You just have to be you!

Be you!   You Matter!!!!!!!!!!

Dear Teens, You Rock!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, and again and again and again — teens get a bad rap into today’s society. We constantly hear about spoiled, lazy, entitled teens but no one ever talks about the fact that many teens today help to economically support their families. That many teens to go school, then are expected to keep a job and then get criticized for not keeping their grades up when there’s no time to do homework between family responsibilities, classes and work, not to mention trying to fit a little bit of being social in there.

I’m tired of the negativity so starting today, I’m going to post about some amazing teens and the amazing things they do.

The first teen I’m celebrating is one we’re all familiar with: Malala Yousafzai.  Yes, she’s the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize. She’s articulate, intelligent, inspiring and a hundred other amazing things, and she’s seventeen!

On Jon Stewart last week, she talked about her younger brothers and how their relationship is pretty much like any seventeen year old girl with two little brothers. She talked about taking exams for school, and she talked about speaking up when something isn’t right.

For Malala, the issue is education and making certain that every child has the opportunity to learn.

Before this, Jon Stewart was talking about the tragic murder of nine people in a church in South Carolina and about his certainty that, sadly, nothing is going to change in our nation to address the issues of race and violence. Then, he spoke with Malala, and there was hope. If a teenage girl can stand up against the Taliban and against a world of beings who believe that only the privileged deserve to learn about the wonders of the world and the universe, then what can we do — each of us. We all have a voice, and across the globe, Malala is helping inspire people to use theirs.

What will you use your voice for?

You don’t have to try to solve world problems; you just have to remember that you have a voice and that you matter.


Losing my Book Signing Virginity ;)

His hair was white with a hint of silver. He approached slowly, having risen from his chair in the small, intimate room where we had discussed literature, shared words. Outside, the rain had stopped but the sky was still gray and large drops of water fell from the trees creating a slow, comforting rhythm.

Yes, he was older and, having taught English for thirty years, he was experienced. I’ll confess, I was nervous. My hand trembled as I grasped the pen. This was it. I was about to sign my first book. He was calm. Of course he was. It wasn’t his first time. He’d been here before, dozens of times. He probably had bookshelves lined with signed copies, but for me, he’ll always be my first.

This is how I lost my book signing virginity in Tampa, Florida at a charming bookstore, called Inkwood. I have to confess that the night before was plagued with book-signing nightmares: I forgot a pen, there were no books, and the audience was a crowded room (that part was good) of hyper and slightly deranged children (children of the corn variety!)

I’m not sure what I expected. Truth be told, I wasn’t sure anyone would show up, not with the rain, the road construction and the debut author. But some did brave the weather and the orange barrels, and we had a very rousing discussion about genetics, ethics, and of course, books.

At my second signing, the crowd (I use the word generously) was about the same, but there was a young man who stood out to me. He seemed shy, reserved, his long black hair hanging in his face, and I couldn’t help but think how he and the main character of Deadly Design, would be friends if Kyle was real. I thought to myself that this young man had a story and I wished I could sit down with him in the Starbucks and talk. While I didn’t get that chance, I’m glad Kyle went home with him, not because it means I sold a book, but because even if Kyle isn’t real and even if we didn’t get the chance to talk, he and I and Kyle will have conversations on the page and that’s what it’s all about.

At my third signing, I was met by lovers of YA and young aspiring writers, both groups asking lots of questions about the book and about the writing process. I was humbled when many already had questions prepared because they’d read the book and were curious about so many things. I signed books, stumbling over what to write because I wanted those who attended, those who had read or wanted to read my book to know how much they matter. I wanted to send home a reassuring voice, a cheerleader, to those who want to write but who struggle with the fears all writers have.

Did I sell a ton of books? No. Did I meet some people I will never forget — absolutely.

From the wonderful store owners and managers, to the graceful older men and women, to the young man with a story of his own behind his long black bangs, to the warm YA bloggers and those wanting to write. Thanks for crossing my path.

Touching people in person is a luxury writers seldom get. So here’s to touching on the page.