Sunday, December 30, 2007

Nearing the end...of the year. That's boring.

Hee hee, I've figured out how to add images.

I might point out, to those who would consider me less than brilliant, I was following the same procedure when trying to upload my vacation photos. I wasn't doing anything wrong. It just didn't work.

Perhaps a more productive use of my time would be writing the screenplay I determined to finish on my too-short break from work. (I return to New York on Saturday, the 5th.) I’m on page 80 (and can probably stand to cut that by 10), and aiming for a completed screenplay of 120 pages. But I feel compelled to write just a little something.…

I have sent out numerous copies of my book to reviewers across the internet. The exact list is at work, on my Outlook with its zillions of folders (I know, Gmail, you’re superior because you don’t need folders...but guess what, I like them) marked “personal” and “book” and “marketing” and “publicity” and “review requests,” and I don’t have access here. But I found some things. Trying to write the screenplay, of course, means trying to find ways not to write the screenplay. First on my ever-expanding list of ways to waste time (which includes “watch TV,” “mess with my bad haircut,” “pluck my eyebrows,” and “make toast”) is Google. I Googled myself yesterday and found two reviews that I had requested. It was interesting. One review absolutely loved the book. I mean, loved. She gave a summary of the plot and then, I kid you not, said “I couldn’t put it down,” and “the character development is superb” and, this is the best, “Kathryn Maughan is a master storyteller.” Now, maybe she went a bit too far, but I was excited to read that. Who doesn’t want to stumble upon effusive praise of something you’ve worked on for five years? (Off and on, I remind you, off and on.) This review can be found on, under “recent reviews.”

Now, the second review was not so pleased with me. My book, I should say; they’ve never met me. (A bit too difficult to separate the work from the individual, at least in the individual’s mind.) The second reviewer did enjoy the Jennifer part of the story, and mentioned that he/she was really sucked into her grief and depression, but didn’t agree with my style with the Henry part. He/she…was it a she?...said that Henry’s story was fascinating, but the way I/he told it was not. Henry, for those who haven’t read the book, sits Jennifer down to tell her the story of his life, and the way I wrote it was as if he were actually telling it. He sums up a lot. I did put in a lot of dialogue and tried to liven it up by making it more action-oriented, but underneath it all, he’s just telling a story. Hmm.

The reviewer also took issue with Henry’s grammar. I have wondered if anyone would, but this reviewer didn’t like it for a reason I had never thought of. The reviewer said his/her father is an immigrant and has been successful in business, and an excellent command of English is mandatory in the US for that to happen. Henry’s English, since he is completely self-taught (and not that educated to begin with), is… not excellent. I worked very hard on his grammar, and ended up using mostly Spanish grammar imposed on English sentences (e.g. phrases like “more big” rather than “bigger”). I didn’t want people to get offended that Henry couldn’t speak perfectly, but I also wanted to be true to the character. The reviewer felt he would never have become successful speaking like that.

Now, for a bit of history: in 2002, when I was just getting to the “Henry part,” (for the first time, anyway) I met a successful businessman, who had immigrated from Cuba about 40 years ago, whose English was exactly like that. Indirectly, I based Henry on him—a couple of events of Henry’s life, and all of Henry’s grammar and occasional Spanish interjections. This man, in all of our conversations, never once used the word “but.” Each and every time he wanted to say “but,” he would say “pero.” Since I understand Spanish, I got that he was just mixing the two languages. I assumed that, with context, readers too would understand the interjections, especially in very similar words, such as imagĂ­nese. Do people not look at that word and see “imagine” in there? But the reviewer said that a little glossary of terms would have been helpful. I suppose it would have. Hmm.

So it was an interesting day on Google. It brings up some larger questions: was I in too much of a hurry to finish? Should I have taken another year to do really extra-thorough research and written Henry’s story differently, maybe even in third person, to have the reader “live” through it like Jennifer’s? Did I not get enough outside opinions? Will most people agree with the MyShelf reviewer, or the other reviewer, or somewhere in between?

All right, I’ll tell you: the less-than-positive review is on CurledUpWithAGoodBook. I think the exact address is I prefer you go to MyShelf, of course, but…trying to be open and forthcoming etc.

No one loves everything, and nothing is loved by everyone. Of course I know that. (Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones, one of my favorite books ever, received a total smackdown review, well after it had (1) gotten numerous raves and (2) become a smash success.) You have to believe in your work, believe there’s an audience, believe you’ve done your best and, not only that, but your best is enough. I have gotten a lot of positive feedback, feedback from people I know and trust, and I try to dwell more on that. I know this book has an audience, and I believe I will find it, or my book will find it for me. I know the hard work and tears (literal tears) that went into it, and … hopefully it is enough.


Andrea said...

For whatever it's worth, I liked Henry's parts the best. I liked Jennifer's parts of the story too, but overall, I would have to say that Henry's narrative actually seemed strongest to me, and I liked the way it was written to sound like his speech. So there you go. And you know what people say opinions are like... And everyone has one.

Therese said...

Hi Kathryn--

We met at ALA and I've only just now found your card and looked you up.

This post resonates with me. Being reviewed is hard! We love the good, we fear the bad--but we learn from the fair, yes?

Just wanted to say hi, and let you know I'm linking you up over at my place.