Friday, April 22, 2011

Which Are You?

Which Are You?

I watched them tear a building down;
A gang of men in a busy town.
With a mighty heave and lusty yell,
They swung a beam and a side wall fell.

I said to the foremen, “Are these men as skilled
As the men you’d hire if you had to build?”
He gave a laugh and said, “No indeed!
Just a common laborer is all I need.
And I can wreck in a day of two
What it took the builder a year to do.”

And I thought to myself as I went my way,
“Just which of these roles have I tried to play?
Am I a builder who works with skill and care
Building others up by the rule and square,
Or am I a wrecker as I walk the town
Content with the labor of tearing down?”


In the past few weeks, several authors whose work I truly admire have been blasted in reviews. Not just reviews that expressed a disappointment in a book, but reviews that were sharp and painful. Mean.

One of my teacher friends follows my blog and noticed that I've been doing more reviews lately. She asked me today what I do when I receive an ARC or review copy that I don't like. That is a good question for all of us: what should we do? 

We have a choice.

I choose NOT to review a book if I have negative feelings about it. Someone else out there will undoubtedly like/love it. Instead, I choose to see my role as a promoter (builder) of books and authors I enjoy, not a destroyer of books I don't happen to like as well. We aren't going to love every book we read, and we don't have to rave in every review we write, but I believe we do a disservice to writers when we review them in a cruel and hurtful way.

We've all read posts about this topic before, but it's an important issue for us to remind ourselves of regularly.

Today, ask yourself: 
which have you been lately?

Have a wonderful weekend!!


Laura Pauling said...

Sometimes I want to love a book but it doesn't quite meet up to the hype. I just don't talk about them. I don't put them up on Goodreads. Or I if I do I focus on the positive. Because we all have our strengths and weaknesses. What I don't get is the downright meanness. That makes no sense.

Jennifer Shirk said...

Oooh, I'm sorry that's been happening. Sometimes I think people do that for attention or for people to go to their review site and check it out. Like Mrs. Giggles review site.
I try to be honest if I review but NEVER hurtful. I know what it's like to be on the other side of those reviews.

Christine Danek said...

This is great. I think I'm a builder. At least, I try to be. If I don't like a book, I don't review it. I try to find the positive points in everything because there is.
I do sometimes write what I didn't favor and it may be something like a character or a certain scene, but I never say it in a negative manner. I may say, for example, the many scenes where there was food slowed it down for me. That's strictly my opinion.
I NEVER say things to hurt the author or the book. Karma comes back around--if you know what I mean.
I always love your posts.
Have a great weekend!

Yiota said...

I think that depends what your "goal" of your blog is. Obviously if you like to promote authors to be negative is not really an option but what if you just wanna write your opinion?
My blog was set up on the idea of write about things we do and what we feel of them. And there are many negative reviews. But i don't see the bad thing of a negative review if it explains right its reasons and don't offend the author, for 2 reasons: firstly, i feel i don't have to much money to spent so various opinions help me understand easier what i like and there are more chance to love what i read. And second, if an author reads only good things how will get better. Cause let's face it, none of us is perfect.

So I'm not really sure if i do but or good to the world :p

Old Kitty said...

I love this poem and what a great post too!!

I think you are living up to the ideals of your fab blog!! Yay for you!! Have a great Easter!! take care

storyqueen said...

Your poem today really says a lot.

I'll be thinking about it all day.


Stina Lindenblatt said...

I stopped reviewing books on my blog because while I would never review a book I didn't like, I was afraid I would gush about a book (hmmm like I did this morning) that someone else buys because of me and hates it.

Mary Aalgaard said...

That's a chilling poem and a great metaphor for our interactions/actions in this life. I also think of the labor involved in planning and preparing a big meal, a feast, which is devoured in minutes. Makes me think of this: Take care in our creations and be just as careful and thoughtful in our devourings, and always remember to be gracious.

Lenny Lee* said...

hi miss Shannon! its way sad that happens. heres what i gotta say bout that.

check out my leggos
youll see its true
im a builder
just like you

i never wreck
what others build
for pulling down stuff
im not skilled

if i don’t like
someones plan
i find another
that i can

…hugs and smiles from lenny
p.s. happy easter!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I'm loving all these comments! I am fully supportive of honest reviews, because it's good to know when a book doesn't match the hype. Many of us were disappointed by Mockingjay, but most of expressed that without drawing blood. LOL.

And Stina, I know just what you mean. I have that same fear. I worry that I will adore a book, someone will buy it and hate it, and then not trust me anymore. BUT...that's why it's important to remember it's a subjective business. :-)

Robyn Campbell said...

I love that poem and I triple love Lenny's. Cool Lenny. :-)

I'm a builder. I never want to trash another writer, agent, editor or anyone else for that matter. God wants us to have respect. If I read a book that I don't like, I still respect the writer. It takes A LOT of hard work to write a book. We know don't we, bff? And it scares me that someone will hurt me with their reviews someday. I guess that's another time when we need thick-skin.

Happy Easter. (((Easter hug)))

Sara B. Larson said...

What a great poem, thanks for sharing it. And it definitely gives us a lot to think about. I certainly try to be a builder, to look for the positives. If someone wants to share an honest review, that is their choice, but I don't think it is ever called for to be mean, cruel, or to personally attack an author.

Heather said...

This is something I feel very passionate about as well and I couldn't agree more. If I don't enjoy a book, I don't review it or talk about it publicly. Opinions vary so much that I feel like it isn't my place to say something wasn't good.

bfav said...

Even if I don't like a book, if it got published, it has something to offer. For example, I'm not a fan of Twilight. I only read the first book. But I can always give her cred for tension and story.

When I review, I always try to find a couple of characteristics that make the story strong. I believe in being positive.

Kasie West said...

Love that poem. And I'm exactly like you, I only review books I like/love. The others I just never mention (on my blog). And quite truthfully, I like most books I read. It's rare that I read a book that I can't find something I like about it.

Elana Johnson said...

I love that poem. And I'm with you. I choose to only discuss the positive in a public forum, which the Internet is. I keep all the worry, fear, negativity for my house and my spouse.

Carrie said...

I am all about promoting books. I can see good in a lot of things. Even if I read a book I'm not crazy about I can still find something positive to say.
I think as a writer I feel like I know at least part of what has gone into these books even if I am only on draft 3 and not final proof copy step. This makes it hard to make negative comments about people's work.

Love the poem and love Lenny's poem too.

Jemi Fraser said...

2 great poems!!

I don't discuss books I don't like either. I love to promote books I've enjoyed, but I limit it because I worry someone will ask me to talk about a book I don't enjoy. Can't do it.

Heidi Willis said...

I sat in a very interesting panel at the writing conference I went to this weekend, about book reviews. One of the panelists says she doesn't write bad reviews. Her point was that there will always be people who love those books, even if she doesn't, and why beat those authors down?

Although she said if she doesn't like a book, she just doesn't review it, an audience member got IRATE about that. He said it was her JOB to be brutal if necessary - otherwise bad books would continue to be overrated.

I disagree with him, and agree with you. Why speak harshly of a book (and thus an author) when someone will love the book, and there are so many good things to say about other books.

Karen Lange said...

Great food for thought! Thanks for this weekend send off! :) Hope you have a wonderful weekend.

Angela Ackerman said...

Becca and I have talked about this too. IOf we do reviews, we won't review negatively, rather just skip books that don't appeal to us. Each one of us has different likes and dislikes, which has nothing to do with whether a book is 'good' or worthy', right?

Sorry to hear about those negative reviews--that's terrible.

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

Leslie Rose said...

Love the poem, and I choose to be a builder. I've found a wonderfully positive community in authors of children's lit. Dark clouds of negative criticism don't contribute forward motion for anyone.

Valerie Geary said...

There is a difference between a "negative" review and a "spiteful/cruel/hurtful" review. One is beneficial for potential readers. The other is not.

I like what you said in your comment...about expressing disappointment without drawing blood. I think it's okay to say, as a reader, "I personally didn't enjoy this book" and why. I think writers should have tough enough skin to withstand those kinds of reviews. And I also think writers need to understand and be okay with the fact that not every reader is going to love every book. However, any kind of review that specifically attacks the writer or digs into things that have nothing to do with the book itself or is just plain cruel for cruelty's sake...that kind of review is rubbish and has no place in a book lover's paradise.

True bibliophiles read books with their arms wide open. They read looking to fall in love.

Deb said...

Yes on being a promotor of books I enjoy-once I delve more into reviewing, that's where I'll land. I want to celebrate the people and books that make a difference in kids lives. Those that make those kids, laugh, cry, understand something going on in their lives, understand or related to things going on in others, feel not so alone, feel like they can go anywhere and do anything...I truly and deeply appreciate what authors do for us. So yeah...I'm a builder 'cause so are they.

Deb said...

And, lol...I am back to say that but, of course, we need solid, well rounded books of materials for kids and teens, that is what helps us build our library collections, make that choice between books if that is what you are having to do. That's not, however, my role as blogger. And, this business of tearing down books and dog piling on them that I sometimes see...sure, there is express your thoughts and opinions, but some just cross a line of respect and professionalism, imo.

That's all from me---I think there is a point or two in there somewhere....I'm off to them .

Juju at Tales of said...

I'm a builder or repair gal :) Great question and thought.

kelworthfiles said...

"If you can't say anything nice, then don't say anything at all." Reviewing books (if it's not your day job that you have to make a deadline on) seems like a good place to apply that maxim.

On the other hand, if you can manage an encouraging but warning review, along the lines of 'X book would be a good read if you're looking for this, but not if you want that or the other thing,' then that might be valuable to readers, a perspective that another reviewer wouldn't contribute, and might even tell the writer something useful.

I'm starting up a 'Critiquing Crusaders' program, where participants in the Second Crusade can find other writers to exchange critiques with or form critiquing circles. If you're interested, come by The Kelworth Files to check it out!

Alexia561 said...

I really don't understand why someone would attack an author. If you don't like them, then don't read their books. Constructive criticism is different than being mean just to get attention.

If I don't enjoy a book, I try to explain why it didn't appeal to me. I know I've said that a book 'just wasn't my cup of tea' more than once! :)

Excellent post!

brookerousseau said...

Beautiful post! I'm sorry for the hurt your friends have endured. It is hard enough to put ourselves/our creations out there, without the possibility of mean-spiritedness.

As a writer, I am a builder. As a friend, I am a builder. As a mother, I am a builder.

Thank you.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I totally agree with you. I only discuss books I want to promote. I'm here to support authors.

I do understand that book review bloggers should be honest in their reviews. But the ones I follow are careful to also mention the positives. All books have them.

Liz @ Cleverly Inked said...

I love how you wrote this post, You get your point across with out taking a negative stance.

I think a review is personal...I think everyone has an opinion and I don't see the harm in sharing it even if it's negative. I personally don't write extremely negative reviews. I try my best to write something positive about the book. As you said someone else might love the book.

Julie Hedlund said...

Great post, and now that I am a writer and not just a reader, I am much more careful about reviews. I took down all reviews I'd written previously that were negative, and now I only write reviews of books I enjoy.

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