Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Out There

By Amy MacKinnon

I wonder if it's too late.

Galleys have gone out for review, been sent to booksellers for ordering, to friends and family to read. I want to pull them all back, re-pack them in their cardboard boxes and hide them away from curious minds. People will talk. They'll have opinions and thoughts -- not all of them positive -- about the story, the writing, me. Soon, very soon, the book and I will be judged.

Not everyone will be kind, though some will fall to the other extreme. I won't know everyone's motives. Reviews on Amazon and other sites will be precipitated by friendship, animosity, or true conviction. I won't always be able to tell the difference. Labels of mediocrity will sting worst of all. I despise average.

It's never bothered me to be judged by the way I look, my actions, gender, politics, my parenting, address, or religion. I don't generally care. I've been regarded as fat, ugly, poor, stupid, and cruel, all of which have been true at different points in my life. That's fine, I can accept those critiques just fine. I have been laid bare in my most primal state before a room filled with curious residents and not blinked. Childbirth is humbling that way. But to have my book reviewed publicly will be the most disconcerting experience of all.

I want to be the person who walks into the wind upright and steadfast. I want to be Teflon. I want to be above the fray of the naysayers and uglies. I want to be fierce. And I am. Much like Achilles on the battlefield, I am strong and sure for the most part, but this book of mine is my sweet, soft heel.

So how to cope?


Judy Merrill Larsen said...

You say it so well (no real surprise there!). I remember thinking it wasn't fair that my book couldn't defend itself.

But, here are some things that helped me cope:

~Accepting that while it wasn't perfect (or even the best book I'd ever write--that's still to come, I hope) I'd given it my all and that had to stand for something.

~Knowing it wasn't everyone's cup of tea but nothing is.

~Discovering there were complete strangers who loved it, who were helped/comforted by it and who wrote me to tell me so.

~Remembering that no one could ever take this away from me. No matter what else happened, no matter what anyone said, I had accomplished a dream I'd carried around for years and I was a published author.

~Experiencing (again and again) the thrill of walking into a bookstore and seeing my book right there. And seeing the pride on my sons' faces when they stood there with me.

And that evening glass of wine helped, too.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Dear Amy,

That's what bandages, good shoes, and friend's with strong shoulders are for. You and your sweet soft heel will be fine.


Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Judy, I may have to print this out and stick it in my binder (yes, I keep a binder for each book). Thank you for sharing your coping techniques.

Lynne, I'm going to put you and the others on speed dial for a while...if that's okay.


Larramie said...

Having referenced childbirth, Amy, can you protect and defend your children at all times? Publishing not quite the same, but I suspect it comes close.

You've believed and nurtured TETHERED for years, now it's time to let the novel stand and shine on its own. How else will you become Amy "McEwan?!"

Creative A said...

Hey :)

I can sympathize. I have this thing against being told my work is adequate. I've never published a novel but I'm working at it, and one of the things I dread is going on Amazon and seeing someone say my book is "mediocre." That would absolutely drive me nuts.

The only thing I know do do coping-wise is, if someone criticizes my stuff too harshly, I go back and find an email or comment from a friend that loved it. Reading that a few times always boosts me back up. It helps remind me that yeah, people will dislike it, but those aren't the people that matter.

Gail said...

you said this beautifully and honestly now just breathe...

Therese said...

All those things the others have said will help, no doubt.

My own experiences have been largely positive, which has helped me keep the negative bits in perspective. If/when you're judged unfairly or harshly, remember--make a list if you like--all the people who have vetted the book and found it more than worthy.

Eventually, time will do its job in carrying you to that shrugging stage we talked about here some weeks back.

(And for what it's worth, I'm feeling your anxiety too: my UK release is only about 60 days out!)

Anonymous said...

Hi Amy,
Take heart in the fact that you're about to be published, which speaks volumes about your merit and the quality of your work. And from reading your blog, it seems you do have an online community always supporting you!

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Larramie, I am a mother bear when it comes to my children so that isn't an apt analogy. But you're right, and I will let go...a little.

Creative A, that is excellent advice and I will surely take it. Thanks for sharing.

Yes, Gail, many ujay breaths will help no doubt.

Therese, I can't imagine I'll ever get to the shrugging stage, but it's a goal. I can't believe you're only 60 days out!

Thanks, everyone. This helps more than you know.


Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Joanne, you and I commented at the same time. I do take heart in that I have a book coming out, I don't mean to whine and moan -- though I am. I'm grateful for what I have, but sickened at the prospect of having it dissected. But it happens to all writers. I read an interview with Ann Patchett in The Atlantic in which she was viciously attacked for her memoir TRUTH & BEAUTY. I will try with all my might to withstand the naysayers with as much grace and dignity as she.


Snow falls in may said...

Everyone’s ego has a fragile aspect,
Tender to the touch,
But everyone knows you can’t grow inside an exoskeleton.

Good luck

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

True, Snow, very true. Thanks for stopping by.


Lisa said...

I admire your honesty and the realness of you more than I can say. I would like to pretend that I have an impervious outer shell and that if I were in your place, I could simply decide on an intellectual level that some opinions matter to me and some don't. I could say that the odds are pretty good that some negativity will come from somewhere and it doesn't mean anything, and I could say that it should be easy to put it all in perspective. I could say all of those things, but I'd be lying. I'd be afraid too. What I can say that is true is that you might as well enjoy this time and put all the "what ifs" out of your mind until they happen -- and there's a pretty good chance that they won't. Hang in there, Amy. xo

Carleen Brice said...

If it helps at all, that is such a normal response. I felt sick to my stomach when I got my first box of my first book. I could barely look at them. Then the morning after the book party I woke up feeling like I had danced naked on the table the night before. I really, really wanted to take it all back.

You're having a normal response and you will also have the sheer joy of hearing from readers who love it (because they will) and that will override any other concerns. Really.

Try to remember to enjoy it because it really is a special thing. As Judy said (to me to), they'll never be able to take this accomplishment away from you.

You'll be fine.

Ello - Ellen Oh said...


You are teflon and you will be fine! Without the naysayers and the uglies, life would be boring. We need people we can point our fingers at and laugh "Ha Ha! Those dummies just don't get it!" ;o)

People have such subjective tastes. I had a friend tell me she didn't think my blog was that funny or witty. Can you believe that I'm still friends with her? I told her, that's ok, I think your husband is an asshole. So we were even!

Chin up and cover that achilles heel with a fantastic paire of shoes!


Anonymous said...

Hi Amy. Wow. I know just how you are feeling. My first book just released last week, but when my ARCs went out, I felt the same way.

About a month ago reviews trickled in. Most are very good and even stellar, a couple were...less than stellar.

Every time I get a letter from a person who says the book inspired them, I don't care what a negative review said. There is nothing like this first time and I've really tried to enjoy it.

A bit of advice someone gave me was to not read bad reviews if you get one. Leave them to your publicist, spouse, sister, friend, etc., at least at first.

Then, hang good reviews and letters from readers on the wall behind your computer. I admit, I have my Romantic Times Book Review hanging directly above my computer.

You are published! Congratulations!

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Lisa, your comment touched me right there. Thank you.

Carleen, have you ever danced naked on a table? It's good to know this a normal response because this is the goal and now that it's here...well, I love what Judy said. No one will ever be able to take it away. Brilliant.

Ello, no she didn't! Frankly,I think you should hit the comedy clubs. And while I can't point (I'm from New England), I may just pointedly turn my ahead away. There!

Tina, I've been reading your reviews (yes,I read everyone else's but I'll never read my own) and they've been great.) Which reminds me, we need to update our Hot Off the Presses and get RUBY AMONG US UP THERE. Congratulations to you too, Tina!


Anonymous said...

Amy, I'm a long way from going through what you are but I know after every story of mine is critiqued I can expect a 24-hour funk. Then, I look at the critique again and see that, well, yeah, I agree with that concern and, well, yeah, there was a lot they liked about it, too. But still, I wonder if I have the mettle for this and console myself with the thought I really don't have to please anyone but myself. (My partner would be nice, though, and so far that works.)

I had a dear friend who's sage advice amounted to: "It just doesn't matter." And back in the less-PC days, "It could be worse. You could have no arms and no legs."

Kind of puts things in persepective. But you, or one of your colleagues, said the truth: This isn't curing cancer. If people don't like it, well, that's their problem. As long as you like it. And even if you can bring yourself to look at it and think, I wish I'd done that differently, then fine. Next time you will.

All the best.

Trish Ryan said...

I thought this would be harder than it has been. So far, it's been easier than I expected to keep a distance from it, to know that not every opinion is "the truth" and to know that for everyone who hates the book, someone else will love it.

Your heel is stronger than you know :)

Amy MacKinnon said...

Kira, I think about the no arms, no legs parallel all the time. The truth of the matter is I have three healthy children, a devoted husband, and the best bulldog in the world. You're right, the rest is icing. I will allow myself to wallow for a day and then move on.

Trish,I've read only good things bout HE LOVES ME, is ist possible there have been negative opinions? I have it on the bookcase behind me and it's next on my list of books to read. I'm really looking forward to something uplifting and for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Amy. :)

All the best with yours...

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Laughing Larry said...

I love the vulnerability you have shared. Writing is such a personal thing, and sharing your writing with the world can certainly be intimidating. Thanks for letting go and letting us know.