Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Reviews and the Myth of Trying to Please Everyone.

I recently put my book in the YA category just to see how those readers would receive it. A friend of mine told me my book was YA. I was not sure about that, but now I am more convinced by the confused and mixed reviews that it may not belong there. I read each review I received like I thought an author should, so I could improve my writing. Unfortunately, the reviews were all over the place. Some said my book was a light, easy read; others were confused. Some understood the profound nature, some didn't know what I was talking about it.  Some wanted more of this. Others wanted more of that. Others wanted less of this. Other wanted less of something else.  Most loved it the way it was.

This triggered in me a memory of one of the earliest tales I read when I was a girl. I read it in Hebrew for school. It was called "In order to find acceptance in the eyes of everyone."   I like the English title better, it is simply named, "In order to please everyone.”

A father and son and a donkey start off on a journey together. They are heading out to market. It is a beautiful day. The father and son walked side by side next to their mule. On the road, they pass some travelers. The group of men start laughing at them.

“Look at those fools walking next to perfectly good mule when one of them could be riding! What dolts!”

So, the father looks at the son and kindly picks him up and puts him on the back of the mule. They go along happily for a few more miles until they meet another group of older people on the road. The older people stare at them and shake their heads.

“What a pity!” one says. “Such a shame to see how disrespectful young people are these days. A fine healthy boy riding a donkey while his old father has to creep along. How disgusting!”

Well, the young boy loves his father. He does not want to be disrespectful. So, he jumps down and immediately make his father ride. They go a few more miles like this enjoying the day talking about what they wish to buy at market when they run into another group of people. These people frown at them as they go by.

One person says in a not too quiet voice, “Look at that big fat man riding the donkey while his little, skinny child has to walk in the dust and dirt. The child will perish and the fat man will go on not caring.”

Well, the father loves his son. He loves him to pieces. So, he pulls him up in front of him. (He does not get down himself because that would give others cause to say something bad about his son again). Now both are riding.  Ahh! Now things are good. Everyone is riding and comfy. The father and son are both happy. Proudly, they ride by the next group, heads up.

“Look at those oafs riding that poor mule to death!” a person in the group cries as she passes. “They are being so cruel to that animal! They are both healthy! Why should they torture that scrawny beast to death with their tonnage!”

So, now the father and son both get down  and scratch their heads. Well, they can’t walk beside or ride on the beast. How will they get to market?  So, the little son makes the final suggestion that will please everyone. They pick up the mule and carry her kicking and braying on their backs to the market. When they get there they are all terribly uncomfortable and sad.

So, what does this mean for me as an author? I enjoy the praise, then read the criticism with a grain of salt. I try and see if any of it is valid, and if  there is something I can do about it without changing everything and without destroying the integrity of the story I wrote. Usually, except where grammar is concerned, the answer is no, so I continue writing something else. (Also, I read the great reviews a few times to inspire me to go on, if I need it. I also read a valid bad one to keep me on my toes.  Then I forget them and keep on writing.)

Reviews are great when they are great, but they are opinions and everyone’s is different. It would be nice if we could make the whole world smile, be happy, and whole, but the truth is we cannot. We are lucky if a few people truly understand us and connect with us in this life, and it is for them that I write. So, thanks for the great reviews!