Five Stars, All the Time?

Five stars, all the time? Tenacious Ink posted that's exactly what she does on Goodreads. And I'm pretty much in agreement, although my standard is a 4. If the book totally amazes me, I'll go with the 5.

But now, I'm considering erasing all my ratings, like Teralyn Rose blogged about doing on her post.

You'll notice I rarely post reviews on my blog. I've interviewed authors, which I really love to do. But I don't normally review their books. Here's why: everybody has different tastes, and I shouldn't be telling people whether to like a novel or not. That's up to them. Plus, there's this bone-chilling story of the author who sued. And the author who probably earned more from her lawsuit than from sales of her book.

So, when I was asked to do a review for a blog tour, I hedged. Instead, I posted some of what I just said, about not wanting to take my subjective opinion and influence someone before they had a chance to form their own opinion. I opted to just give a general overview about the book. Ratings free. And learned something very interesting in the process.
One, ratings and reviews often have motives attached to them. And two, I probably should be careful about offering to review books and join blog tours. After all, there's no way of knowing whether I like the book before I read it, and if the goal is publicity for the author and book, I'm stuck with whether to back out (as I was asked to consider -- instead I deleted the explanation above about not giving ratings, which the blog host called a rant) or compromise my ethics/own chances at publicity. Apparently, the blogosphere maintains a blacklist for folks who are honest, as the blog host also pointed out, as she warned that I should not include anything controversial on my blog for fear of offending potential readers.


Frankly, my books might offend a potential reader or two. Not everyone will love my books. And some readers will adore the stories, and be glad I took risks to write about topics that speak to them and reflect certain truths in their own lives.

Other writers have other truths to express. I might not like them, but it's not my business to dissuade readers away from discovering these.

What is art for, after all?

Writers are supposed to pour themselves into their stories, not just pop out bland little fluff muffins that couldn't possibly bother anyone. Yes, I know, this is a business (for some people). But the truth is, very few authors really make a living at this business.

Why sell your soul in the process?

Sparkfest, continued.

Sparkfest, continued.: Today I continue my first post for Christine Tyler's Sparkfest that I blogged about yesterday. Here's the recap: "As writers, we're al...

Sparkfest Day One: Books that Doomed Me to Write

(I posted this first on my author blog, but want to share it on my writing blog, too.)

Today marks the start of Christine Tyler's Sparkfest that I blogged about yesterday. I'm so hyped!

Here's the recap:
"As writers, we're always striving to get out a message of inspiration to others. This blogfest is a celebration for those who have done this for us."

Today, I want to answer her first question:

What book made you realize you were doomed to be a writer? 

This is the most impossible question to answer, because in truth, there was no single book that "doomed" me. There were hundreds. I'll bet this is true for most writers. My earliest memories include picture books galore such as Dr. Seuss' Cat in the Hat, Maurice Sendak's Higglety Piglety Pop, and Harold and the Purple Crayon. When I got older, and was the weird kid who didn't fit it, I ran away with the Boxcar Children. I hid in the Metropolitan Museum of Art with From the Mixed of Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. I space traveled with A Wrinkle in Time.

As I got older, the library was my refuge from an unhappy childhood. I checked out everything I could on every obsession that caught me: mars, for example, and ESP (see, I told you was a little weird). I read classics such as Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, and heart-wrenching reads like Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar. And I wrote. Poems, stories, journals.

Photo by Jeff Smith at Idaho White Water Rafting
Then life swept me down its river and left me clutching my raft for dear life. Years passed. The longing to write never left, but the dream of being a writer was thrown overboard like some non-essential treasure the raft couldn't bear the weight of.

Until my mother died.

And then my father did, too.

The dream turned up on the shore as my raft cascaded over terrifying falls, white water churning below, threatening to take me into its depths. It was there, around the bend, beside the rocks which damned the stream and slowed my plunge downstream.

 I picked it up, turned it over, saw the dream was still shiny and new. Like finding a long lost diamond ring I'd given up hope of ever finding, my joy overwhelmed the fear of entering this new and scary relationship. I picked up a pen and a notebook, and began to write.

For many months, it was a secret passion. I'll tell you more tomorrow, and share one of my first journal entries from those days when I was a closet novelist.

Callie Kingston: Sparkfest!

Callie Kingston: Sparkfest!: Christine Tyler at The Writer Coaster has a fabulous blogfest this week called Sparkfest. Here's her idea: " As writers, we're always...

MyWANA Explains It All (Book Marketing that Is)

This post by Kristen Lamb, the amazing creator of MyWANA, about what authors do wrong as they are trying to build their readership is one of the best I've come across. Worth a look.

Lor Mandela - L. Carroll: Let's Hear It for the Indies!

Lor Mandela - L. Carroll: Let's Hear It for the Indies!: Ever wonder why some wonderful authors are self-published? Today we have none other than A.M. Jenner here to sum it up from her perspective...

What's the Rush to Publish?

Juliana has a great post at I Aspire to Be . . .

It's a great reminder to enjoy the journey rather than focusing solely on the destination. Thanks, Juliana! Keep writing, keep learning, and allow the process to unfold without becoming too attached to instant gratification.

But don't quit striving for publication, either. Just don't let it rob you of the pleasure that writing brings, which is a sweet reward all by itself.

Willamette Writers Conference 2011

Yesterday I attended my first major conference. The Willamette Writers Conference is one of the largest on the West Coast, drawing hundreds of writers from around the country, plus some awesome agents and editors. It was tough to choose which sessions to attend, there were just so many. Jane Friedman's session on how to use Twitter was helpful. And I pitched in-person to an agent for the very first time. Thanks to this tremendously helpful post about pitching, I knew what to expect and how to prepare.

Still, after reading Anne Lamott's hugely discouraging Salon magazine article I was pretty ambivalent about the whole thing. And some of what she wrote is exactly what I found: high levels of tension among the attendees gathered in the 1:1 pitch session waiting area, anxious writers practicing their pitches with volunteers, people hanging on the words of the screenwriter at lunch who spoke of the Fairy Tale ending we all hope for. And most of us do hope for that golden ring, right? To get published. To call ourselves Authors, with the capital A. To join the book-signing club.

But to my surprise, the sessions on craft were well attended. People were friendly. The food was great. I learned a lot, conquered my nerves, and consider the day a great success. I garnered one request for my manuscript, but more importantly, I enjoyed a sense of camaraderie in an endeavor that is so often an exercise in isolation.

Have you gone to conferences? What was your experience?