Saturday, January 12, 2013

Want to help out a writer friend? Give 'em four stars!

One thing that astounds me about Goodreads is the number of five-star reviews that so many books have. I don't know about you but I can count on my fingers (and maybe my toes) the books I would give five stars to. A book has to have a profound effect on me to give it five stars. I would give Arthur Golden five stars for truly making me believe he was a 15-year-old Japanese peasant-turned-geisha. Or JK Rowling for getting people (not just kids) reading again. CS Lewis, for creating a world that I wanted to find. Jane Austen, for her pioneering and playful view of women and their roles in society.

So when I see a new YA or MG book that has tons of five-star reviews, the first thing that pops into my head is how many friends that author must have. Maybe that isn't fair, but I find it hard to believe that the book could be so very perfect that everybody would give it five stars. As writers, we know how hard it is to craft a good book, let alone a perfect one. Five-star reviews seem too good to be true.

As I scroll through the five-star reviews and then come to a two-star review, which do you think I read? That's right. The two-star. Because I think it might be more honest. When I'm looking for a book, I don't want to read "It's perfect" twenty times. I want an honest opinion of its strengths and weaknesses.

I think it is wonderful that we rally around the newly-published and support them by giving reviews. But just as a "It's great" beta report isn't all that helpful, an "It's perfect!" review isn't helpful either.

So if you have a friend, a critique partner, or a favorite author who has a book coming out, think hard about your review and how it is perceived by those looking at the reviews. Your honest four-star review could go much further in selling that book than the shiny five-star one.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Learning something new

I have a new job.

Okay, not so new. I've had it a month, but it has taken me a month to feel it under my skin.

It's been a long time (four years) since I've worked in a full-time, 9-to-5, shower-and-put-on-real-clothes type of job and I don't mind admitting that it has been an adjustment. For my husband (who, for the record, has always been super-supportive of my writing/freelancing/Etsying gig), because I think he finally realizes how much housework and grocery shopping I actually did during the day despite the fact that I was sitting in the same position when he left and when he came home. For my kids, because we're expecting them to do more for themselves. And for me, because I now have a supervisor to answer to (so no more of that "I don't feel like working so I think I'll clean the bathroom" kind of mentality).

But I'll take it. Because I have one of the coolest jobs out there. I am the new Coordinator of Community Education for our school district. You know those continuing ed catalogs that come through the door a couple times a year? Yeah, I make those now. My job is actually sitting around and thinking "What cool things do people want to learn?"

Today I put together a grant proposal so we can update a campus kitchen to offer kids cooking classes. Yesterday, my Google searches involved looking for instructors in baby massage, reflexology, woodworking, and genealogy. Tomorrow, I will be teaching myself InDesign to prepare our Annual Report celebrating how many people learned something because of us.

Honestly, this time last year I had no idea I would end up here. I'd hoped I would have an agent (I'm still working on that) and that I would still be writing (and I'm still working on that, too). But sometimes life offers us an opportunity to learn. To do something new. Or to help someone else learn and do something new.

And I'll take it.

By the way, if you are in San Antonio and want to help people learn something new, get in touch. I just might know someone who is looking for you!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Help Baby Jayden

One of the things I love most about the blogging world is how people come together in times of need. Recently, Natalie Bahm posted about a little boy and his family in need of help.

Here's Jayden's story:

Jayden Huynh is a seventeen-month-old little boy who has already survived four surgeries--two bowel, one heart, one gastric-- due to a combination of congenital problems, including Hirschsprung's disease and other issues that are still in the process of being diagnosed. Despite the best efforts of his doctors and family, Jayden has failed to gain enough weight to make it to even the 1st percentile. He only weighs 6.6 kilograms (14.5 pounds) and his low weight is affecting his organ's ability to function. His doctors are considering put him on TPN treatment (IV feeding) which carries its own dangers. The greatest risk to survival is sepsis at the site of his IV port, so Jayden's family need to convert a room in their home into a treatment room that can be kept separate and as sterile as possible in order to give him the best possible chance. This will include buying a small refrigerator/freezer to store the TPN, cabinets for storing medical supplies, a changing table for Jayden, a steam cleaning unit to keep the surfaces as clean as possible, and other supplies.

To help raise funds, Natalie has organized an auction, to begin June 2. The auction will feature agent and author critiques, signed books, and jewelry (including an item from my Etsy shop Faerie Lights Studio), and also some fun new things like original art, customized portraits, and even a special little something from the new HOBBIT movie. 

Make sure to follow the Help Baby Jayden blog (where the auction will take place), Facebook, or Twitter so you can get all the updates.