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Do Writers Listen to Critics?

When you are a public (i.e., published) author you are going to get public (published) criticism. In all the years of my publishing I have never gotten universal positive responses to any book I wrote. One review of The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle indicated that if I had worked harder I would have written a better book. True, I guess, in a way.

These days, with the internet and anonymous reviews, and an open platform for anyone, one gets many (shall we say) curious comments. I recall one review of City of Orphans. The critic wrote that she thought it was going to be a dystopian novel, and when she realized it was not, wrote that it was, therefore, a bad book.

Mind, I’ve gotten vastly more positive reviews than negative ones. But as many a writer will tell you, you tend to remember the unhappy ones. (See above).

That said, when a negative note is put forward by a good number of readers, I’m inclined to think they are right.

When Ragweed (Number 1 in the Poppy series) was first published (1999) it received very good reviews. Still, there was one persistent criticism: that there was an excess of slang.

During the past year Harper Publishing let me know they were going to reissue the series (in paperback) with revised covers.

I made a bold request. Could I revise the text of Ragweed? To my delight (and surprise) they said yes.

But, wait! Not so simple. I did not have the text of the book in any particular format. Was it composed on a typewriter, or some kind of computer disk? Certainly it wasn’t on any hard drive.

I found a company that converted printed text to digital format. They took a copy of the published book, and after a couple of weeks sent me an e-mail with the text attached. (Note to reader: Not cheap!)

In any case, I now had the book on my computer (or does one say in my computer?). I set about my revision, and that revision focused almost exclusively on that excess slang.

The revised Ragweed has now been published. It also has a better cover, one that captures a key aspect of the book, Clutch’s band, The Be-Flat Tires, performing at the Cheese Squeeze Club. Also, some of the art has a slightly revised layout: Thank you, as always, to my esteemed colleague, Brian Floca.

Having listened to my critics, and acted upon their suggestion, is the book better? I think so. But I have no doubt I’ll hear one way or another.

Happy to listen (and learn).

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