An open question for writer friends…

I just received a whole new batch of questions from kids at Madill Elementary School — a follow-up to my author visit there a few weeks ago.  Two questions from the kids were similar, and I thought I’d combine them and toss them out there for your thoughts…

Does it bother you when people say bad things about your writing?  Because you worked really hard on it and everything.

Ah…the wisdom of young people.

My response:  Having people say some negative things about your writing is part of being a writer.  Sometimes you submit work to editors and they say no thanks.  Sometimes, you have a book published, and then people write things about it in the newspaper or journals or online.  Lots of those things are very nice, but some aren’t.   And sure, it hurts my feelings when that happens.  And I might mope a little or sniffle a little (okay…sob) but I do know that it goes with the territory, so eventually, I go outside for a run and have lunch and get back to writing my next story.  I’ll also say this… Nice notes from kids make up for anything that grownup critics have to say.  So thanks!

How about it, writer friends?  Care to respond to that question?

Are you fond of Louis Sachar?  And did I take good pictures during your visit?

I like Sachar a lot.  Holes, which you’ve probably read, was my favorite.  And yes, you took great pictures. Thanks!

What was your favorite part of your book?  Who was your favorite character?  Mine was Abigail.

Asking an author to choose a favorite character is sort of like asking a parent to choose a favorite child.  I love them all!  My favorite part of the book is probably the escape scene.

I think that the hard tack was not good. Did you like it? Did you also like the pea soup also?

No, I don’t really like hardtack either.  I’m glad I don’t have to live on it.  And I really, really didn’t like the pea soup on the boat. It made me sick to my stomach.

I think Spitfire is one of the best books ever written. I think you did a terrific job. Did any one inspire you to write Spitfire?

Well, thank you!  Actually, I was most inspired to write Spitfire because of the educators who work at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. They visit schools, too, to teach kids about that period in history.  I bet you’d like their website:

My name is Adam. I am eleven years old and Spitfire is one of the greatest books I have ever read. I love your website!!

Thanks, Adam!

It was very interesting seeing how and where you got you’re ideas from. But I have to tell you the hard tack was disgusting!(no offense). I liked hearing about your adventure on the reanactment,that was cool! who inspired you to write books?How do you feel when you write books? How old were you when you started writing?

I was seven when I figured out that I loved writing.  Reading great novels by other authors has always been an inspiration.  How do I feel when I write books?  Sometimes it’s the best thing in the world, and words just pour out.  Other times…. well…the truth is that a lot of the time, I feel like it’s very hard work, and sometimes it’s frustrating, especially when I know I need to revise to make a book stronger and I’m just not sure how to do that.  But I always feel great after I’ve finished writing for the night.  And I love that kids like you get to read my books!

I don’t really like writing but people say I am kind of good at writing, like it is neat,but do you ever get bored of writing?

I used to get bored with writing sometimes when I was in school, because they wanted me to write about a particular subject — like apple trees or something — when what I really wanted to write was a story about gorillas.   Now that I get to choose my own ideas for writing, I never ever get bored.

I know you said that you love to teach and love to write but have you ever wished that you did something else?

I used to want to be a marine biologist.  I still love the ocean.

I know that making those powder horns are hard to make in all but have you finished them yet I know that you were just here not to long ago so you might not have but I was wondering if you have finished them yet?

Ummm…no.  But thanks for the reminder.

You have been writing for quite some time and I was wondering how old you were when you starting writing. And if your first book was Spitfire or was it another book but it didn’t get published?

I wrote a book about sharks when I was seven.  It wasn’t published, but my parents taped it to the refrigerator.  :^)

What kind of books do you read now?

I read a huge variety of books, including kids’ books, which I still love.  I’m reading No Talking by Andrew  Clements with my daughter right now (so funny!) and on my own, I’m reading a book called The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield.  It’s great so far, and the writing is really beautiful.  I hope you’re enjoying the book you’re reading right now, too!

7 Replies on “An open question for writer friends…

  1. No story is perfect, and people like different things when they read. So, since I am good at looking at things objectively, I would not be too upset if someone says something bad about my book. I would think, “That is one person’s opinion, but most people have been positive.”

    The other thing is that if someone says something bad, I can think about it, and maybe it will help me write a better book next time.

    Judith Mammay, author of KNOWING JOSEPH

  2. Someone (I forget who) told me “books are not $100 bills, so you can’t expect everyone to like them.” However, it’s still tough to hear negative things, but years of critique groups, self-flagellation, and the editorial process prepares us for the inevitable criticism.

  3. I like the $100 bill comment.

    Still, I look at book reviews so differently now that I have a book out. Whenever I see a negative one, I immediately imagine how crummy it must have made someone feel. It’s one of the reasons I only review books that I like on my blog.

  4. It’s why I really don’t review books at all. If I like one, I’ll suggst people take a look. However, I have so my friend-authors thatI don’t want anyone to feel as though I didn’t like their book or something. It’s easier for me to post silly videos anyway.