Thursday, July 15, 2010

She Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

***Invite a friend and drop in at University Bookstore Bellevue for my Author Event, Monday, July 19, 6:30 p.m. Homemade lemon snaps for all comers!***

My mileage is varying.

Got the results for the 2010 Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary Contest some weeks ago and am just now overcoming my summer laziness to blog about them. This year I sent in three entries: excerpts and synopses of MBC, my YA in-vitro-twins book, and my children's book MIA AND THE MAGIC CUPCAKES. Like any contest entrant, I pictured myself a Triple Crown Winner, borne aloft on the shoulders of less fortunate writers. As it turns out, only MIA was chosen as a Finalist, winners TBA at the conference.

I guess I might have known from my experience with the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest that there's no pleasing everyone. Or even two people in a row, which is how many people critiqued each entry. Take, for example, MBC. I sent in an excerpt of an earlier draft last year and fielded scores of 84 and 87 out of 100, with some suggestions for improvement, which I heeded. So I figured when I sent in the revised excerpt this year, it would be met with love love love. And so it might have, had the judges been consistent from year to year. This time MBC scored 64(!) and 45(!!) and drew comments such as, "Pacing seems a bit rough. Cass's year of mourning goes by too fast"--you mean one sentence was too fast? I should have had two, maybe?--"...Maybe there's a later chapter that deals with her mourning in more detail?" Or objecting to Joanie saying she was "a mere 27," instead of saying she was "only 27."

Had I gotten such scores last year, they would probably have demolished me and prevented me from ever forking over the $$$ to put out MBC myself. But now, a year and 1000-copies-sold later, I shrugged, stuffed the review forms back in the envelope, and moved on to my next entry.

Don't know if I've talked much here about the in-vitro twins YA story. Basically a girl who was adopted as an in vitro embryo gets shipped off to a boarding school in California where she falls in with her biological family and gets tangled up with her in-vitro-twin brother. The first reviewer LOVED it. Gave it a 98/100 and a "Great job with this story! I'm looking forward to reading the book one day!" Yippee! Headed for the Finals, right??? Whoa, Cowboy. Not so fast. The second reviewer scored it 74/100 and sniffed, "Plot is convoluted and not believable. Too many strange circumstances and coincidences." S/he did concede that "the main character is well-drawn," but the "shaky premises" did the story in, as a whole. But--but--! Those shaky premises were what the first reviewer called "interesting and--yikes!--something new."

What conclusions am I to draw from these results? Clearly MBC should have been stuffed in a drawer, never to see the light of day, and the YA novel should be finished, maybe, but will provoke love-it-or-hate-it responses. Or maybe it all just means I should keep on keeping on. Write what I write and let those who like my writing read it. Simple as that.

In any case, off I go to the writers conference next week. Or, at least, to whichever portions I can catch in between children's swim practices and meets, a Mariners-Red-Sox game, the Farmers Market, and such. Here's hoping I run into the folks who like me and avoid the ones who don't!


  1. I like your conclusions - as a people pleaser I know that's how we all need to respond to feedback about our work - some people will love what we do and others will find little things to criticize. If we respond to every criticism, we'll get battered back and forth and never move forward. So I know I need to listen, use what is helpful and rings true and then trust myself and God's leading. I hope the conference is great and inspiring, and that you run into people who encourage you, even if they challenge your thinking. Maybe you've already blogged about this, but why do you think you are intrigued by adoption of various kinds? I'll look back to see if you've written about this...

  2. My own take on people who are actually labeled as critics is that they consider this to be their job. If they do not criticize then they are failing at what they are called to do. Hence, take it for what the name implies... criticism from a critic. What else can one expect? Someone gave the judge the job of being critical and judgmental and so they must be negative either about a lot or at least a little of everything they read. It is the rule.

  3. On the same day, one of my in-laws said "The problem with your girls [quite little at the time] is that they get too many naps, and the other one said, "The problem with your girls is that they get too few naps." Everyone has an opinion and you can twist yourself inside out trying to please them all, and lose yourself in the process. As far as a farfetched plot, a friend of my daughter's has a son by a sperm donor, donor X211799, who is/was a Stanford pre-med athlete (probably gorgeous to boot) and sat next to a woman at a support group who also has a son, coincidentally, by donor X211799, they discovered. I have been wondering how many daughters this donor may have fathered and what if one of his sons falls in love with and marries one of his daughters, which could happen if the mothers do not give their children all the details.

  4. I say you have good instincts. Treat the writing of your stories like the raising of your children. That is to say, weigh the input of others but follow your own intuitions. It's worked out well so far, right?

  5. @Anonymous--Wow! What a story. I guess truth really is stranger than fiction. Maybe that could be a sequel. Ha ha.