Thursday, April 23, 2009

(Book) Parents DO Just Understand...

Sometimes, my blog sits before me like a blank canvas and I wonder whether I'll find something to write about. Eventually, I do. The one thing that's always been easy for me is words; I use a lot of them. This is probably why some of my novels are longer than the recommended length for submitting to an agent of publisher. I never have understood that, to be frankly honest. Yes, I know the time it takes to read a book should be taken into consideration but a true reader, one who enjoys a good book, doesn't look at the thickness of a hardback or paperback and say, "oh, no, too long!"

For me, as a reader, the thicker a book, the more potential it has. It's a bigger world for me to get lost in, an escape from reality that will suck me in and keep me there for longer. If you're like me, when you find a book you love, you never want it to end. You find yourself reading every word, savouring it like good food or fine wine, trying to talk yourself out of picking it up and reading it every time you have a few minutes because if you do, it means you'll be done more quickly. Then, when you get close to the end, you start to feel a strange sense of deflation and grief because you know the end is coming, whether you want it to or not.

Books like this are rare but they're out there. That's the way I felt when reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It's the way I felt when I read Wally Lamb's I Know This Much is True or A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. Neil Gaiman's American Gods was like that too. Stephen King and Peter Straub's Black House earned a 'book hug' for making me fall madly in love with Jack Sawyer and then breaking my heart a little at the end. I could go on and on. I love books and always have. That's probably why I want to write them.

I still do want to write them, even after the brutal review I wrote yesterday. I've had time to process it and even though I will forever dislike Publishers Weekly and I think should be put to task for allowing their contest to become such a psychological mindgame for their writers, like I said yesterday, I'm going to have to ignore it. If I don't, I'll second guess every word that I write from now on. I'll find myself going back to the other novels I've written and I'll worry that those, too, are worthy only of burning, the way the critic suggested of Sleep.

Truth be told, I know that when I get published, I will have to develop a thicker skin. I'm sure this won't be the last nasty review I receive. I think my only hope is that I am, at least, published and not a struggling writer who wants to hang onto ever piece of (constructive) criticism I receive. I hope that I at least have some positive reviews as well as negative to balance out the nastiness.

And my review was nasty. I think that was why I was so angry yesterday and why I'm still a little angry today. Whoever my reviewer was, I pity them. Clearly that person is so unhappy that he or she is thriving on the pitiful power that is given to them to take an author's prized work and offer their opinion. Whether or not they liked my genre, my writing or my story, they should at least take into consideration they were reviewing a work that was completed, that was the result of months of careful labour, a work that is so precious to an author, it is like a child.

I am not one of those gushing people who thinks all babies are beautiful. I've seen some ugly babies. Yet I've also seen that no matter how funny looking a kid is, their parents still love them a lot. If you're around that baby long enough, you realize it's not ugly at all, it's just not the same as all the other babies. Just because it doesn't look like something off a Gerber baby advertisement doesn't mean it's bad; it means that it's different.

I don't think my reviewer must like babies very much. If he or she did, they'd probably grasp the concept that behind every book that's in their hands, there's a writer who put it into the world. I wonder how many of the reviewers from Publishers Weekly who read our ABNA entries have actually written a book themselves. If they had, they probably would have a kindler, gentler approach to reading someone else's work. Though I have no kids, I imagine that when you're a parent, it makes you more aware of other people's children and makes you protective. I am an aunt and since becoming one, I've noticed that I am more aware of children around me. I find myself watching my language if I'm in public, I find myself worrying if I see them doing dangerous things. If I had my own kids, I think I'd be even worse.

And though I have no child of my own, my novels are my children. Creating them, shaping them, moulding them so they're ready to go into the world is hard work but when you feel like you've done as much as you can for them, you sit back, breathe a sigh and let them go. Then you hope they don't run into nasty people who kick them when they're just finding their way into the world. In this sense, I view my Publishers Weekly reviewer a little like a sociopath in society who steals from the poor; they put no thought into the fact that their victim is a human being and needs everything they have in their meager little living space, they can't be bothered to care and so they steal anyway.

My reviewer at PW have sent my 'child' home to me. It's come home as a shivering, quivering mess. It's so bruised and broken, I don't know what's wrong with it or if anything in it is worth keeping. I think once the injuries have healed, I'll be able to see what's happened. I don't think anything is ever so broken, it can't, at least, be fixed a little even if the damage is so bad, it'll never be stable without being rebuilt from the beginning. When the sting from all this has gone, I'm hoping to look at Sleep and help it become a better book. I'm a 'parent'. I owe that to my 'child'.

Though it may not have happened with Sleep, one day, I hope to write a book that people don't want to finish. I want to write a book that creeps under its readers' skins and becomes part of them. I want them to see my novel in a bookstore and want to buy another copy just because they're afraid something will happen to the one they currently own and cherish. I do that with books, I do that with CD's. I even do it with DVD's. Maybe I haven't written anything like that yet but I think I can and I hope I will.

Until then, I'll continue to create and form new books and hope, beyond hope, that in the future, the world is a little kinder to them.

Happy Wednesday.

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