Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths [...] I would spread the cloths under your feet: But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams." -- William Butler Yeats
Well, the ole noggin is a bit frazzled this week, so I will leave you with Yeats and a short thought. As an author, I hear all the time that we need to develop a "thick skin." That people are going to criticize our work and we had better get used to taking the good with the bad, the adoration and the abuse. And while this is true and I agree with it, the fact of the matter is that a writer's work exists in their heart and mind. It is their dream. So as a reviewer, I try to take a gentle approach with any negative commentary I might have on an author's work. As a reviewer, I want to help the writer by offering my feedback and pointing out any critical issues I might have discovered during the reading. Being blunt and honest is not the same as being snarky. I also want to make sure I balance the subjective and the objective opinion, and I want to be open to varying perceptions of the work. The only time I will generally refuse to review a work is if the editorial issues are so pervasive that it appears that the author has wilfully ignored the craft. Sure, I have been frustrated during a read before but never so frustrated that I feel I must give the author a sound public thrashing. I find that uncalled for. It's a book, that's all, and I would rather devote my time to the books that don't frustrate me, which means I read reviews and I read excerpts. If the style suits me and the cross-section of reviews doesn't put me off in any way, I will give a book a try. If I like it, I will review it and make a big deal out of it, and if I don't like it, I won't. If there are typos and grammatical errors and inconsistencies of logic littering the work, chances are, I will get frustrated.
As a reviewer and a reader, I have an obligation to remain objective. Many reviewers in the blogosphere are not compensated for the time and effort they put into their reviews. They do it because they love literature, like myself, and most of us try very hard to tread softly. As an author, I try to write the reviews I would want for my own work. Critical commentary is difficult to take. We all know this, and while the sting can be unbearable at times, the pain is fleeting, and we are better for it in the long run. Of course, that is just my opinion as an author, an editor, and a reviewer.
Cheryl Anne Gardner