|An interpretation of Norvin, the main character in 'The Great White Man-Eating Shark' by Margaret Mahy|
These public expressions can be loosely put into three categories,-
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
(Aaah-eee-aaah-eee-aah. . .Wah wah wah. . . as Ennio Morricone put it so well)
The Good -
If you are very lucky, you might get reviewed in a national publication, a Sunday Paper for instance. If that happens, it tends to be a good review, for the reason that reviewers are usually engaged in the recommendation of a few books they feel readers might want to consider this Christmas, that sort of thing. I have been lucky enough to have that happen two or three times over the (many) years and it's a good feeling to see your work in the Sunday papers ;-) Something for your parents to show the neighbours ;-)
I have also been in my local paper once or twice, but I find that just a bit embarrassing so I try to lay low and not tell the local press about stuff being published etc. . . Come on, you all have local papers, you know where I'm coming from ;-)
Another really nice thing that can happen is being sent fan mail. Sometimes from parents, sometimes from children. Children's fan mail is usually sent via their school, as sometimes schools ask a class of children to pick an author each and write to them. Sometimes it's the whole class that writes. Especially after a school visit you might have done, as a kind of thank you. The best part for me is seeing their illustrations of my characters. I love children's artwork anyway, but seeing their interpretations of your creations is really magical. These are from a very long time ago, but they were the only ones I could lay hands on without much tedious rummaging, as they were already scanned and jpegged up. . .
Another cool thing that happened with 'Mucky Moose' was that a Japanese puppet group made a puppet show of the story and sent me some photos. That was great.
The Bad -
Occasionally, a negative review crops up in a newspaper. I illustrated a few books by the late, great Margaret Mahy, and one of them was in a list of picture books being reviewed by a very well known children's author and illustrator, namely, Raymond Briggs. He was quite snotty about my illustrations. The nerve! ;-) Fah! Oh well, at least it allowed me to unashamedly name-drop years later on Picture Book Den. . .
The growth of sites like Amazon, where people can leave reviews of your books, without having to have journalistic or any other credentials, though a mixed blessing, has meant the democratisation of the reviewing process. Anyone can leave a review. This is a good thing I think, but people can 'miss the point' of a book, and leave an unfair review just as easily as someone can leave a thoughtful and well considered one. The good usually outnumbers the bad, but it's still odd reading a bad review from someone who doesn't seem to 'get it', or is just being rude. Of course they may be pointing out flaws in your work that need pointing out, in which case it's constructive criticism and to be welcomed, but they might not. it makes you understand why many writers and performers feel it's better not to read any reviews, good or bad. After all, if a book is selling well, who cares about a bad review?
And of course, some reviews are just plain odd. A review on Amazon of my version of 'Chicken Licken' just said,
"Chicken Licken? Isn't that illegal? This book is poo."
The Ugly -
This is something decidedly unpleasant that happened to one of my books a year or two ago.
I received an email from somebody I didn't know, containing a link and the advice that I 'May want to look at this', and that the publisher should be concerned. After due pause, I clicked on the link and could immediately see what they were on about.
Somebody had taken the cover of a pop-up book I did years ago called "Don't wake the Baby!" and changed it to read "Don't Rape the Baby!" (!!) . The site it was on seemed to be some kind of american anti gay hate site, that wanted to imply that gays were paedophiles. I was shocked, as you can imagine, and left a strong message for the perpetrators, telling them to remove it immediately. I also contacted the book's publishers, who were also appalled and promptly contacted the ISP to get the site taken down. The site owners meanwhile replied to my message, denying that their site was a hate site and claiming it was put up to 'promote hetrosexual love'. Yeah, right.
Anyway, after nearly sending several very angry replies, I responded to the feeling I got from them that they were enjoying the attention, and decided not to feed the beast, but to ignore it, as the publisher was very much on the case. The site was taken down shortly afterwards.
So you never know what proportion of Good, Bad and Ugly you may find coming your way. May it be mainly good, may you take the bad with a pinch of salt, and may nothing ugly crawl out of the woodwork and bite you!
I leave you with my favourite bit of fan mail to cheer you up after that bit of unpleasantness.
(from a good few years ago, it's been on my wall ever since, hence the blu tack and general grime)
And I extend it's wishes to you all, pausing only to wonder how old the writer is now and what she is doing now?