A Sticky Situation

Ever try gluing something that seemed to resist the glue? Though the package tells you the item you’re gluing is definitely one of the items the glue works on, it stubbornly refuses to stick to the other item. I mean you’re just gluing one piece of paper to another piece of paper, for crying out loud! A glue stick should work!

And then you turn to other glues that supposedly work—Tacky Glue, Elmer’s School Glue, and—the last resort—hot glue. Nope. It’s like one piece of paper has set its will against sticking to the other.

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So then you consider stapling the two together. But a big staple will mess up the effect you’re going for. You really need Item A glued to Item B. So you ask someone for advice. But that person points to the glue stick, because it has worked for him every time. You growl at the person, telling him, “The. Glue. Stick. Does. Not. Work!” He insists you’re doing it wrong then. Seven buddies of his used a glue stick every time, and it worked for them. You hang up the phone, vowing never to speak to the dude again, though he’s your own brother.

Sounds extreme, right? But the glue situation happened to me with paper recently and with fabric. However, I did not vow to stop speaking to my brother. But let’s change the situation from gluing two items together to finding a job; getting a book published; finding an agent; getting a date; finding success—whatever you currently need. Maybe you can relate to the frustration I felt then. As for the items on the above list, been there done that too.

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When we’re looking for any of the above, people give us all sorts of advice they think should work, because the method they chose worked to achieve the same goal for them. The assumption is that Method A (applying online/at a dating website/whatever) will net Goal A at least most of the time. If Method A doesn’t work, then surely Method B (networking), C (blindly sending out resumes/hanging around places where lots of people frequent/whatever), or D (cold calling) will work. If these four don’t work, well surely we must be doing something wrong.

Not necessarily. After all, can you think of anyone who has been offered every job for which he or she has applied? (Okay, there are some people who get everything they want.) Sometimes, we get none of the jobs for which we apply.(Been there, done that.)

Time for Plan B!

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The fact is that sometimes things don’t work out the way we or others planned. I know. You didn’t have to read this blog post to figure that out. Just living life teaches you that. But we also don’t have to start doubting ourselves just because someone else’s advice didn’t work for us.

What, if anything, have you had trouble doing, even after taking the advice of others? Did you eventually succeed? (By the way, eventually, I managed to get the two pieces of paper glued together. Hooray for me.)

Plan B image from teenology101.seattlechildrens.org. Find a job image from vizfact.com.

Good by Whose Standards? Exploring the Gap between Critics and Consumers

Hope you had a happy Easter! ****WARNING: If you wish to avoid reading anything about what critics have said about Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, stop reading right now. You have been warned.****

By now you’ve heard that one of the most anticipated movies of 2016—Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice—opened to dismal reviews. It earned a stunning 29% on Rotten Tomatoes. (By comparison Zootopia earned a 99%.)

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I was surprised at that score. But what interested me more than the reviews I’ve seen was the reaction of fans in regard to the critics who viewed the film with such disfavor. Even director Zach Snyder and some of the cast reacted to the criticism.

The New York Times addressed the gap between fans and critics in an article by Jonah Bromwich that you can find here. Bromwich proclaims

Critics who have panned the film have been met with fury online, with angry fans sneering at their reviews, their writing and even their motives.

512px-Thumbs_down_font_awesome.svgThis is not the first time fans and critics have failed to see eye to eye. Undoubtedly, it won’t be the last. While Bromwich’s article mentioned that a critical thumb’s down won’t deter diehard fans (case in point: a teen I know saw the movie and loved it), a steady onslaught of critical reviews can sometimes take a toll. As of the writing of this post, the box office take for the movie had not yet been posted. So who knows? Perhaps the fans will have the last word if the film rakes in a ton of money. (Wired.com has what I think is a fair take on Batman v. Superman and the critical drubbing it received. You can find that here.)

Reactions to any artistic endeavor can be subjective. But when so many people pan a project, thus inspiring another group to pan them for panning said project, I can’t help wondering who decides which elements make a project “good” or “excellent.” Is beauty truly in the eyes of the beholder (the consumer) or in the eyes of the gatekeepers (critics, agents, movie studio executives, publishers—whoever)? Is the gap between consumers and gatekeepers widening?

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Many people have written books on what makes a piece of writing “good.” I’m sure you’ve seen some of those. You’re probably thinking of Strunk & White right about now, or Stephen King’s memoir, On Writing. I think of Ursula Le Guin’s Steering the Craft (a personal favorite). As for films, you have only to look at the lists of the “best” films of all time and books like Agee on Film: Criticism and Comment on the Movies to see what many have regarded as “good” films.

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If I’m serious about seeing a film, most of the time there is no critic alive who will deter me from seeing it. In fact, I try to avoid reading reviews until I’ve seen the film. But I’m not always successful in avoiding them; consequently, negative reviews sometimes sway me. With books, however, I often check the reviews (including verbal praise from friends) beforehand. I’ve been burned too many times in the past not to.

I have opinions, yes, about what I consider “good.” Sometimes I judge by the way a book or film made me feel as I read it or viewed it. Many of the books and films I’ve loved over the years haven’t had all of the bells and whistles of a critically acclaimed, National Book award finalist or Academy Award nominee. Yet I found something endearing about them. On the other hand, I’ve loved some extremely well written books (All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, for instance) and films.

All the Light We Cannot See

The jury’s still out on whether or not I’ll see Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. I have to chalk some of my reticence up to my inability to escape some of the negative press. How about you? Have you ever been swayed against seeing a film or reading a book because of a negative review? Do you, like some fans, believe that critics don’t understand what the average person likes? Why or why not?

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Batman v. Superman poster from thegg.net. Book covers from Goodreads. Peeps from Pinterest.com. Thumb’s down image from commons.wikimedia.org. Gap image from clipartpanda.com.

Slow Your Roll

I don’t know about you, but I usually like to get where I’m going as fast as possible. Why drive a Civic if you can’t drive fast? Okay, I hear you mumbling out there, since I admitted in a previous post that I had a bad year when speeding tickets followed me like crows. (Yes, that was an oblique Lord of the Rings reference.) But that’s not important now. What is important is that I get where I’m going quickly.

Today was one of those days where I hit every red light. No matter how fast I sped up, I still couldn’t make the yellow. And even when I reached home and was about to turn in my driveway, there was a little kid, his thin, shaky legs pedaling a bike with training wheels. So, I sat watching him, realizing that this was God’s way of saying, “Slow your roll, girl.”

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Another way is through the wait for agents. Those of you on the search know the drill: you query and wait. And wait. And wait. And no amount of blowing or pacing will speed up the response. Trust me on this: I feel your pain. I’m in the middle of that myself.

Perhaps you’ll appreciate the irony of this: I was a manuscript reader for a publisher for almost nine years. (I won’t say which one, so please don’t ask.) Thousands of manuscripts arrived each year. As aslush pile reader, I had to weed through the dreams. With the publisher’s 98% rejection rate, I knew most of those dreams would be quashed until another querying session revived the flame again. (Believe me, saying no to someone is not easy. I never relished the task.)

Anyway, I’ve received a few rejections from agents in recent months. (Go on. Say it with me: “Slow your roll, girl.”) With each rejection, I had to take a step back and rework and cut and cry and try again.

As I considered the daunting task of reworking my WIP yet one more time, one stanza of a poem that I wrote for an exercise came to mind. Since you’re already here, I’ll share it with you, even if you run away screaming.

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To Hope
Keats talks of ethereal bursts of hope
And sky-bound drifts of inspiring thought.
I feel earth-bound, on a bus, dreaming of
Clear skies, blue and crisp like fresh washed sheets
and ice cream clouds on a picnic, scattered wide.

Slow your roll—what do the words mean to you? Like me, are you waiting for a response to your literary baby? Are you battling an illness? (I had my share last week.) Facing a decision that tempts you to leap before you look? Tempted to write an angry text or email that could have long-lasting repercussions?

You know what to do. Slow your roll.

P. S. I don’t think I properly thanked Patty at Petite Magique for nominating me for another Sunshine Award and Kristen Mazzola for nominating me for another Liebster Award. So kind!!! Thanks, Patty and Kristen. Had to slow my roll to remember to do that!!!

¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

Photo from thejanedough.com.