August 17, 2006

Notes From All Over

Via Buried in the Slushpile - help for those REALLY long short stories that just...won't... quit, Miami U presents The Miami University Novella Contest. This isn't targeted specifically toward YA literature, but my long-winded peoples (and we know I mean me), might really benefit from this.

Okay, you know you've probably entered far too into the YA spectrum when you write an email to Disney demanding that they Save Kim Possible, but you know what? So what? Writers are artists, and artists are allowed to be... wildly eccentric. So there. Plus, KP is a stand-up YA heroine... I neglected to mention it last week, but Chasing Ray has a most excellent piece about bookish YA heroines in the latest Bookslut that I'm sure you'll want to read. I know I am putting all of those books new to me on my personal to-read list -- Bookish Grrrls R Us!

And people, did I say it was the Summer of Food? It IS! There's another teen cookbook - this time written by an actual teen. This 15-year-old UK teen has just hit the States, chatting with Martha Stewart and going on the Today show. Food and teens: popular. Who knew?

Yesterday I read the School Library Journal's criticism on a mystery written by a former professor of mine, and I just cringed. I live in a dull dread of a.) actually publishing someday (which does tend to be a bit limiting since that is also my life's goal, at this point), and b.) actually garnering reviews. I have determined that I should probably not read them, and leave that kind of drama to the doughty S.A.M. as part of his job. And then I read today's Planet Esme which has an "Ask Esme" segment that was heartening. A fan asked Esme why she never really rips on the books she reviews but doesn't like. I loved Esme's response, that criticism, in this society, is overrated, and an attitude of competition has given would-be critics more power and clout than is really necessary in this world.

It takes five seconds to write a bad review, and really, the main audience of a children's or YA book is a kid, right? So if the book didn't speak to us? Maybe it will speak to someone else. And as writers we all know that we will indeed have the "big books" and the "little books." Perspective: good stuff, that, and in lamentably short suppy in this snarky, post-Simon Cowell, writer-stab-writer world in which we live.

Have you seen this cartoon by Devas T? Keep pushing, people. BIC. It's the phrase of the week.


a. fortis said...

I really enjoyed that "Ask Esme" segment. Thanks. It does sum up a lot of reasons why I review or don't review things on ReadersRants: Much as, yes, it does annoy me sometimes that obviously flawed manuscripts not only make it into print but are quite successful, that's not the point of our forum. I want to recommend books that I liked, to other people I hope will like them too. I might write a few non-glowing reviews, but destructiveness isn't really helpful (as I learned in both art and writing grad school).

MotherReader said...

I read the "Ask Esme" segment also, and I understand her position, but I had some issues with it.

First of all, while Esme reads many books and just chooses which ones to put forward, many reviewers are just given books to review. If the reviewer doesn't like the book, that is a fair assessment. That explains many of the bloggers who have been given ARC's specifically to review.

Second of all, while Esme focuses on younger books, many reviewers read teen books and older elementary books. When you've spent three hours reading a book, you should be able to say something about it, even if it's not good.

Third of all, while Esme has chosen to have a site that focuses on highlighting the positive, other bloggers use there sites to chronicle what they are reading. And if the book turns out to be less than good, well that is what we might choose to share.

And lastly, while Esme says that people don't need to know what NOT to read, I disagree. People who buy books for themselves or for their libraries may want to know if a book isn't all that. Or if it is a teen book, is there anything objectionable in it? If they can buy one new going-to-school book, should they buy this new hot title, or not? Sometimes the answer is "or not."

Maybe I'll have to do a post on this after all. Darn.

a. fortis said...

Great points, motherreader--thanks for the insights. I guess it depends on what the intention is behind the particular blog, and even the specific reviewer.

I didn't mean to imply that everyblog or reviews site should conform to this model; but these are questions I've turned over in my head since we started ReadingYA, and in watching the choices I've made to review or not review a book for the site, I realized that my MO has generally been to write up books that excited me on one or more dimensions, and to avoid reviewing ones that I didn't feel were particularly interesting.

When I think about why I'm doing this, I think it's because years ago I used to write humorous reviews of "weird websites" and when I first got started, I was much more hamhanded about the way I mocked sites that I thought were flawed or ridiculous in some way (although in certain respects that was the point of the column). Early on writing the column, I got a couple of minor complaints from website owners and, since then, I'm probably oversensitive to that kind of thing and deal with it by avoiding it entirely! :) I operate as though any author or editor could be reading our blog at any time--not in a pandering way, but to ensure that I express myself professionally instead of saying something flippant or off the cuff that I might regret later.

However, this shouldn't stop me from writing a negative review if I choose to. Fortunately, we don't really have a prescribed format.

TadMack said...

Admittedly, I'm not the nice one in our Reader's Rants duo! I have read and reviewed some things that I think are horrifically stupid -- if they're too stupid, I often don't review them because it's a huge stretch to find the words to describe their awfulness. Yet I do want to describe them... responsibly? Professionally?

I tend to have a contrarian opinion about books much of the time; I write in the mindset that someone is going to share my view, yet I don't want to discourage people who don't.


I, too, need to think about this more...

DaviMack said...

You know, the real thing? You're all mindful of your blog's audience as well as the writers on the other end. If it's truly horrific, it gets written up, or reviewed limply. If it's marvelous, it gets a glowing review.

That said, I'll never forget Please Don't Eat the Daisies. I'll never forget it because of the scene in which a perfectly decent screenwriter says to the critic that he'd given up writing because he'd read that critic's review. I know that I'd hate to have been the critic to have squashed a beginning talent.

When you happen across books in which the publishers and editors have truly not done their jobs I think you need to review them honestly and tactfully, if not just to help the author. I mean, if their publisher is telling them it's good? Would YOU want that? Even such soulless creatures as Neutron Jack* understood that you're doing someone a disservice if you do not tell them where they are failing; because if you don't tell someone what they're doing wrong, you're denying them the chance to improve.

* Jack Welch, CEO of GE, who laid off 100,000 employees; he got his nickname after the nuclear bomb that vaporizes people but leaves buildings standing.

TadMack said...

Yeah... I think of JK Rowling, and realize that her books, after fame...? Not so great. It would do her a favor to have an honest critique. Not that I am in any way comparing myself!!! But I hear ya.

...I, also, won't forget that bloody movie. The song is now stuck in my head. Yay! Another morning with Doris Day!