Does This Dress Makes My Butt Look Big?

June 16, 2017

Please excuse me while I take to my bed for a few weeks.

Okay, not really. But if I were ever inclined to crawl into a hole and hibernate for a spell, this would be the time.

This is when reviews will start trickling in for my upcoming novel, “All the Wrong Chords.” There are several stages in book production, some tedious, some exhilarating and some downright terrifying. I’m in the thick of the most terrifying stage. Several months before a book is officially launched, the publisher will produce a few thousand advance copies and send them to reviewers. If all goes well, the reviewers will do backflips over the book and build buzz. It all goes predictably, some reviewers will love it, some will hate it and some will pronounce it decidedly meh. If all goes horribly, the bad reviews will pile up so precipitously that the earth will tilt off its axis and I’ll spin into a black hole of shame and oblivion. (Can you hear me, Major Tom?)

Well, the world won’t really spin off its axis, but that’s how it’ll feel. Imagine asking a group of strangers, “How do I look?” and hearing their most brutally honest assessments. That’s how the next few weeks will play out.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not complaining. I’m so tickled and honored to make a living as a novelist that even a gazillion bad reviews would prompt me to pinch myself, serving as a reminder that this amazing career is the real deal and not a dream.

Still, how daunting it is to cast my art into the world and potentially have it rejected, or hated, or misunderstood, or considered inadequate. I know that professionals in all walks of life are subject to scrutiny and judgment to some degree or another; every day job I’ve ever had, for instance, has included the dreaded performance appraisal. But it’s one thing to be deemed sub-par in, say, computer proficiency or teamwork. (Draw your own conclusions about whether I’m mining examples from actual experience.) It’s another to be castigated for your imagination, your creativity, your innermost musings, your baring of your soul. It would be as if someone invited you to share your deepest hopes or fears, then mocked them. That’s just mean.

Still, this is part of the process, and I can handle it. The reviewers who in the past have poked gigantic holes in my carefully conceived plots? Or derided my beloved characters as hopelessly one-dimensional? Or heaped sarcasm on my tone, or pacing, or dialogue, or what-the-heck ever? I took it all in stride, gulping stoically and trying my best to learn from the criticism.

And I’ll do it again. And again. And again. God willing. Because reviews, even bad reviews, mean I’m still getting turns up at bat. Maybe I’ll hit one out of the park. Maybe I’ll strike out. Maybe one reviewer will marvel over my sweet spot while another will unceremoniously declare, “Yerrrr out!” Maybe yet another will cry foul on tiresome baseball metaphors.

But if people are judging my creations, that means I’m creating. And it means I’m not just creating art, but sharing it with others. What a profound privilege that is.

So bring it on, reviewers. Whether you find my protagonist in “All the Wrong Chords” refreshingly witty or annoyingly snarky, hit me with your best shot. I can take it. (And trust me, so can Scarlett. That’s the protagonist, and she’s heard worse.)

Feel free to judge my words, and I’ll try my best to learn from your opinion.

Just be forewarned that if I ever meet you in person and you ask, “Does this dress make my butt look big?,” well. . .

All bets are off.

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© 2020 Christine Hurley Deriso