categories: Cocktail Hour
As anyone who has ever been in a writing workshop knows, you say the nice stuff first and slide in the criticism in later. Apparently, this is not common knowledge in the world beyond workshop walls. At least not based on some of the letters I’ve gotten about my new book this summer. Purportedly these are “fan letters,” though some of them stretch that definition.
Here’s an example from a letter I got last week:
I recently bought a copy of “All the Wild that Remains.” Although I thought it got off-track and dragged a bit in spots (sorry!), overall I enjoyed it…”
How exactly should I respond to that? Well, I can tell you how I did respond: I stopped reading (sorry!). Which brings me back to my point about the workshop model being a good one here. If your real reason for writing an author is to criticize their work, then maybe at least Trojan-horse that in later and say some nice stuff first. It’s a Miss Manners kind of thing.
For the purpose of this blog post, which I know is kind of off-track and draggy in spots, I did go back and skim the entire letter. It turns out our letter-writer went on to add that my book was “well-written and well-researched” (thanks!). Then: “That is, except for one glaring omission, about which I hope you’ll let me have my say.”
The next four paragraphs explained that my omission was spending too few pages on the damage that ranching has done to western lands. Which is actually a valid point, (and one I might have been more open to had he not begun his letter with an insult). Of course it turned out that our ill-mannered letter writer had a self-published book on this very subject…..
I need to stress that this guy’s letter was not a mean or spiteful. This guy is no Dobyx. He was just a little weak in the tact department. So that’s this week’s bad advice. Say it with flowers first. Then slip in the arsenic.