Phew! What a whirlwind this week has been! The weather flip-flopped between winter and summer, the Bat Mitzvah RSVPs flooded in and my fourth book released to critical and commercial acclaim. It was also the week that I got a swift kick in the gut.
The jolt came in the form of an Amazon 1-star review that felt like a personal attack because of its mean-spirited content and because two more 1-star reviews followed for my other books. My first thought—someone out there really hates me. (And really idolizes her cat.)
But then I corrected myself. Someone out there really hates my success. The success that’s come from eight years of hard work, learning about the business of children’s literature, building a respected blog, and writing (and rewriting) picture books. Someone out there is envious and thinks that the best way to feel better is to put me down. And it’s the most impossible thing for me to understand.
I want to say to this person—please, don’t feel threatened—feel buoyed. Why? Because the children’s book market is doing so well. Think about it, picture books could be dead right now. The portent of their demise came…but has now passed, unwarranted. The Newbery Medal was awarded to a picture book! Ebooks didn’t replace a physical book in a parent’s lap. Apps and video games didn’t rob us of story time. Children’s books remain a bright spot in the publishing industry. So be happy for those people who have worked hard to achieve and work hard to achieve, too.
Look, LADY PANCAKE AND SIR FRENCH TOAST released on the same day as EVERYONE LOVES BACON. Did Josh Funk and Kelly DiPucchio go at each other’s throats…or breakfasts? No. Those books help one another sell even better because they are both delicious titles. Right now there are a ton of YETI books being published and it’s making YETIS become all the rage. People are now seeking out abominable snowmen books because they see they’re becoming popular. Our books HELP one another.
Now, this is not to say I’ve never been jealous. Of course I have! It’s a natural human emotion. But I’ve never sought to strike down someone who has enjoyed success. Whether or not I personally like a book, that artist deserves the sales and the accolades. Hopefully, one of my books will reach the same level of success some day. That’s what I keep working toward.
I think this attitude comes down to the fact that I’ve been kicked in the gut before, but by a disease. Being diagnosed with MS was the worst thing to ever happen to me, and after being in a funk for a year, I realized that if this was the worst thing then I had it pretty darn good. Great husband, two beautiful daughters, a comfortable home—that’s all I really need to be happy. Maybe it sounds cliché, but it’s true.
I was warned that speaking out about this review might cause a backlash. After all, maybe the review was legitimate and I’m just a sour puss. Sure, I could be overreacting. But the timing of the review (just minutes after I posed about NORMAL NORMAN’s #1 New Release status on social media) and having two more appear on different books suggests to me otherwise. However, yes, that person had the right to leave those reviews and I accept that.
Thankfully I’ve moved past that initial sting. I have, more than ever, realized that authors and illustrators are in this together—if we’re to keep selling books, we’re to celebrate each other’s successes. Be happy for those who get on the best-seller lists or receive starred reviews from the journals. They are bringing attention to our format and keeping it strong and desired. They have worked hard for the limelight and they should shine. My hope is that we can all shine just as brightly…and yes, even Marie Poppy’s cat.