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Agony Editor: Crossing paths with your critics

Dear Agony Editor,An illustration of Brian Francis

My friend invited me to join her and her new friend – let’s call her “Mary” – over Zoom for a glass of wine. The trouble is, Mary reviewed a novel of mine a few years back. And while she didn’t completely trash my book, it wasn’t glowing either. It’s obvious my friend isn’t aware, but Mary must know who I am. This entire situation screams “awkward.” Should I tell my friend? Do I bring it up with Mary? Or do I just not show up and blame it on a bad internet connection?


There’s Something about Mary

Dear There’s Something,

As if we needed yet another example of just how small the publishing world truly is. Turn around at a festival party (once we get back to having parties, that is) and you’ll no doubt run into your former writing teacher who just happens to be married to your publicist.

While I understand the complexities you’re facing, your wine date doesn’t have to be awkward, so long as you keep your perspective in check. After all, imagine how Mary must be feeling. She’s the one who slighted your book.

My advice would be to accept the invitation, take the high road, and reveal nothing. Because even if you brought it up, what could Mary possibly say in response? Her review of your book wasn’t personal, although negative reviews can often feel that way.

Working in a small industry requires knowing how to sometimes navigate choppy waters. And writers need to learn how to develop thick skins if the goal is to not collapse into sobbing heaps at the end of the night.

Personally, I think there’s a lot to be said for taking the stance of complete obliviousness. As if you’re a writer who is so wildly successful, you don’t have time to read reviews. Why would you when you’re too confident to care what other people think?

And while none of this may be completely true, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with acting this way. For one night, anyway. Keep your head up, plaster a smile on your face, and, for extra security, make sure the wine is within reach.


March 22nd, 2021

2:53 pm

Category: Opinion

Issue Date: April 2021

Tags: , ,