Although it's still too early to tell whether Tuesday's short story extravaganza was a success or not, one thing it garnered was my first public lukewarm review. To be fair to Tania, she actually made the effort to read each and every story and give her opinion, so I commend her for doing so. But I won't lie and say I was perfectly OK with it at first. My nature, when dealing with criticism, is to take the criticism with a near-instinctive indignance before letting the fog dissipate so I can see exactly what the person meant to say and what I should do with it afterwards.
But I'm not bringing this up to bitch and moan about a bad review because in the end, like the ones I write for newspapers, it's simply a matter of individual opinion. Instead, I was left with the curious sensation of standing on the other side of the mirror, so to speak. In other words, now I'm fair game.
Oh, I have been for a while, whether as blogger, book reviewer or even back in my bookselling days. But when it comes to fiction, this is brand-new territory for me. Territory that I'd better start getting used to if I actually want to persist as a writer because if my skin isn't thick enough, then thousands of others with hardened exteriors will grab the brass ring ahead of me at any given time. Still, the first lesson is always the hardest to learn, even if it may well be the likeliest to stick.
It's also a reminder that once a work of fiction -- be it a short story, novel or something in between -- is released into the public domain, it's no longer the sole domain of the writer and a couple of people who looked at it in early drafts. It's no longer an extension of the writer's feelings and thoughts and personal experiences spun into fictional format, or a way of working out particular issues or story questions. Now the public has access and can interpret the work with their own set of filters and experiences and produce a judgment that is either qualified or not -- but it's still a judgment.
So without asking anyone to recite chapter and verse (although I suspect some can) I'm curious about people's reactions to their first bad review, because being a newbie writer is a such a vulnerable state of mind. You're still unsure of your place in the world but you're grateful to have something, anything published at all. Did you take the criticism well? Did you want to kill the person in question? All thoughts for the backblog, please.