Avi

word craft

blog

Evaluation

evaluation

A recent online review of my lat­est book, Loy­al­ty, read: “…since most of [Avi’s] books are short sto­ries … I felt it was a lit­tle too long.” 

How am I to respond to such a state­ment? After all, I have more than eighty pub­li­ca­tions. Only five of them have been short-sto­ry collections. 

Did the read­er con­fuse me with some oth­er writer? 

Had the read­er only read those five short sto­ry collections? 

Is the read­er some­one who only reads short stories? 

What does “a lit­tle too long” mean? Ten pages? A hun­dred pages? A tad vague, no? 

Con­sid­er your own pro­fes­sion. Per­haps you are an insur­ance bro­ker. Or in sales. Or a teacher. Per­haps a librar­i­an. You’ve worked at your job for any num­ber of years. One day some­one (you have no idea who) from man­age­ment comes along, sits down, and for three or four hours watch­es you as you pur­sue your tasks. Then that per­son dash­es off an eval­u­a­tion of your work and pub­lish­es it online. 

What would be your reaction? 

We all know what’s hap­pened with inter­net com­mu­ni­ca­tions, how folks write what­ev­er comes to mind, what­ev­er they feel. It has become a major social prob­lem. Some sug­gest that anonymi­ty is a fac­tor in this phe­nom­e­non. What comes to mind is the notion, “You are enti­tled to your own opin­ions. You are not enti­tled to your own facts.” 

It’s also true that if one is a writer part of your world is to receive pub­lic crit­i­cism, pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive, and every­thing in between. It’s inher­ent in the nature of the work. You live with it. Hope­ful­ly, learn from it. 

There is a sto­ry I once heard—I don’t know if true, but I like it: Lau­rence Olivier—the famed Eng­lish stage actor—was work­ing with Charl­ton Heston—an equal­ly famed (most­ly screen) actor in a play. The pro­duc­tion must have got­ten mixed reviews. Hes­ton said, “Well, I guess we’ve just got to for­get the bad reviews.” To which Olivi­er is report­ed to have replied, “No, we’ve got to for­get the good ones.” 

Good reviews are sup­port­ive, mean­ing­ful, and help­ful to a writer. They can sug­gest what you have done well. They can keep you going. That said, if the same neg­a­tive crit­i­cism comes up, again and again, you need to pay atten­tion. Learn. But even as you need to learn from crit­i­cal reviews, you have to learn to ignore what are ill-informed responses. 

The truth is, there is no end to learn­ing the art of writ­ing. Reviews are part of that learning. 

One of the ques­tions kids often ask me—adults ask it too—is, “What book do you think is your best?” 

My sin­cere answer is, “I’m try­ing to write it now.” 

4 thoughts on “Evaluation”

  1. That is a great response on your behalf. But, the only thing to learn from this review is the the review­er is not famil­iar with your books. Keep writ­ing those great books!

    Reply
  2. Your best book… That sounds like Tom Brady’s when asked about his favorite super bowl. He always answers “The next one.” 

    But lemme tell you, I had my 14YO daugh­ter for spring break this past week and I’m learn­ing all about teenage sto­ries first hand. Either way, we binge lis­tened to the two West­ern Sea books. Wow, what a tale!!! 

    You’ve writ­ten these char­ac­ters like the muf­fin man and the coat guy and now they kin­da match who you are these days. I love you so much Avi, ty for all the great stories.

    PS: How about a favorite nar­ra­tion of one of your books, eh? Rag­weed? Hear­ing John McDo­nough say “dude” a thou­sand times and the thing about the “total yard sale” had to make you smile.

    Reply
  3. Avi, so true and indeed well said! When we put our­selves out there for the world to take in, eval­u­ate, and com­ment upon, the reviews come in lev­els. But regard­ing eval­u­a­tion, I real­ly like and appre­ci­ate a com­ment you’ve often made recent­ly, though not nec­es­sar­i­ly in these exact words, just my rephras­ing. You’ve men­tioned that when you receive less than pos­i­tive or even neg­a­tive reviews, take seri­ous the ones that come con­sis­tent­ly in patterns. 

    But in the mean­time, con­tin­ue to “try and write your best book now.” That is what chil­dren, young adults, and beyond from all over the world, want to read and noth­ing less. 🙂 Keep those eval­u­a­tions coming.

    Best regards,
    Sharon B.

    Reply
  4. To date, the only one-star review a book of mine got says, “Not my kind of book after all. I am sure it’s a good book, just not my taste.” 😛
    This exem­pli­fies how callous/thoughtless some review­ers can be. Sim­i­lar to the non­sen­si­cal review you com­ment­ed on in this post, Avi. We must shrug our shoul­ders and move on.
    It’s also a reminder that reviews are not for the writer. The more thought­ful ones are for oth­er read­ers. Under no cir­cum­stances are writ­ers to respond to non-pro­fes­sion­al read­ers’ reviews.
    It may be a good pol­i­cy for writ­ers not to read these reviews. But it’s eas­i­er said than done, because we always want to know whether we reached others.

    Reply

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.