Tuesday, October 19, 2010


As a rule, I try (sometimes I don't succeed) not to write or speak critical book reviews. I've never been comfortable criticizing art, but after I became published, criticizing or giving bad reviews verged on (to me) arrogance (who do I think I am anyway?). However, I love spreading the word about things I like or love; even so, I try not to say much more than "I liked it" or "I loved it as much as I love popcorn with lots of butter and salt." I would hate for anything to be misinterpreted by a fellow writer -- I know how hard writers work. So, I'm kind of breaking a rule, but I think it's for a good cause. I'm going to expand some (not a lot, but some) on why I so enjoyed THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett.

Why am I doing this? Well, I get lots of questions in person and via email and Facebook about getting published. I don't mind answering these questions. I've found, though, that my journey was so long and full of rejection that sometimes I tend to horrify more than inspire. Sometimes I wonder if people walk away from these conversations or messages thinking they'd be wise to ask someone who got there more quickly.

Anyway, one thing I try to share about getting published is that writers should always be true to themselves, true to their stories - you'll hear it sometimes said as writing the stories that are "in your heart" or "in your soul." In simple form, what that means to me is that if the stories that are in your soul, the ones that reach out to you as easily as you reach out to them, don't have vampires in them, quit trying to insert the creatures into your story just because Stephenie Meyer was so successful.

It occurred to me as I was reading THE HELP that the author, Kathryn Stockett, not only wrote something unique, something with three dimensional characters, something full of life and story, but she wrote something that was "true" to her heart and soul. You can feel it -- I felt it more than I think I ever have. There was such connection between the author and the story. Ms. Stockett bled these words, happily. On some level, I notice the same thing when I read J.K. Rowling, or Diana Gabaldon (particularly her first book), or any number of amazing books, including, yes, some cozy mysteries. Hang on, though -- am I saying you'll be hugely successful if you write the story that makes your soul sing? I wish! I'm just saying that you'll stand a better chance of getting published, of being successful, if you are true to . . . yourself.

I know you've felt it -- your book list is probably different than mine. But the big question is: When you're writing, do you "feel" it with your own stories? If so, you're probably on the right track; if not, you might want to get rid of those vampires.

Best of luck.



  1. I'm just enough of a writer to understand how it feels to write what's in your head and heart, to know that those stories want to tell themselves, and that to try to add vampires (good example) is a very bad idea. It weakens and confuses the story. Yes, I can feel it when an author is true to her/himself--and even more, I can feel it when (s)he isn't. Thanks for breaking your rule just a little; I think it's a necessary caution and praise.

  2. Good point, Laine - "I can feel it when (s)he isn't."

    That's even stronger, huh?