Thursday, March 03, 2011
So, I'm a judge for this year's SLJ's Battle of the Books! Not only does it give me an excuse to read (and listen to) some of the year's best books, I was quite honored to be asked.
But while I have no regrets, I do feel some twinges of anxiety when I realize that I am suppose to chose which one I think is better. There is kind of an unwritten rule that an author should not criticize a fellow author's work publicly.
I learned this rule rather belatedly, and through experience. When I first joined GoodReads, I used it as a book journal--writing my honest opinions on what I had read. And, since I have a personal dislike of anonymity (I feel that one of the reasons people are so mean and rude on the internet is because they can hide behind "anonymous") I used my real name. Some books I liked better than others and I didn't think too much of what I wrote.
However, going to GoodReads also let me see reviews of my own books. Some reviews were good, some reviews were...not so good. Mostly, I felt I could handle what was said, the unfavorable comments made me a little sad but were digestible-- even though they left some unpleasant aftertastes. However, it was when I saw a negative review written by a fellow children's book author, the feelings transformed from rueful glumness to something else. Betrayal.
As LM Montgomery wrote, "Human nature is not obliged to be consistent," and my indignation went deep. How could a fellow author, who knew all the suffering and effort and trials and tribulations that goes into making a book, write something so belittling? That was so mean!
But I finally realized I was doing the same thing with my own reviews. I had no right to be hurt. And even beyond the hypocrisy, an author is also a reader and all readers are entitled to their opinions. The sting still lingered, though.
Since then, I've learned that most authors have a "no-negative review policy," which has encouraged me to delete my non-glowing reviews from GoodReads and try to keep any negative book opinions to myself. Sometimes they slip out, especially when I think it could be something fixed, but mostly I've vowed not to judge.