Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Worst

It probably won't surprise you that I was a high-strung student. School was something I was very good at, and I took it VERY seriously.

That said, my grades weren't perfect. The first term of my freshman year, the last assignment in biology was to turn in our binders. We were supposed to organize our papers, create dividers and a table of contents, and, last but not least, "decorate." I had no problem with the organizing--I'd been doing that all term--and though I thought it was silly, I added swirls and designs to fulfill the last requirement.

When I got my grading sheet back, I was shocked to discover that this binder was worth two hundred points--and that I'd only gotten, like, a hundred and fifty. (A quarter of our grade had been allotted to the decorations.) My grade dropped five percentage points on the last day of the term. I went from a solid A to a barely-there A-minus.

I talked to my biology teacher, but he refused to budge (though he never required us to decorate our binders again). It was the first term of my freshman year, and my GPA was already ruined.

For fourteen-year-old Krista, it was kind of devastating, but there was an unexpected side effect: while my friends spent the next four years living in mortal fear of A-minuses, I couldn't have cared less. (Okay, maybe I still cared a little.) The worst had already happened; I'd never have to get my first A-minus again.

By now, you're probably wondering why I'm telling you this story. Well, THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING got its first industry review, and it was straight-up abysmal. (I'm not going to link to it, but I'm sure Google can find it without too much trouble.) It really stung for a few hours, but then I realized I could stop holding my breath. The worst has already happened; I'll never have to get my first bad review again.

That's one milestone I'm glad to get out of the way.

18 comments:

Michelle Mason said...

I have a story like this. I came into college as my high school valedictorian. Probably the lowest score I'd ever gotten on a test was a B plus. Well, my very first psychology test my freshman year, I got a D. A D! I called my dad in tears, unable to understand how this had happened. I'd studied, but I guess not hard enough. Fortunately, this class allowed you to drop one test, but still, I learned a valuable lesson there. I'm still kind of bitter about that test, actually. I'm sure you won't forget the bad review--just like you haven't forgotten the binder assignment--but I'm also sure there will be many other wonderful reviews to come. Because that's the beauty of this industry: everyone's tastes are different. I'm still counting on that :).

Carla Luna Cullen said...

High-strung students, unite! It happened to me during my freshman year of college. By then, I'd been doing a lot of creative writing and considered myself a "writer." First English essay - I got a C-!! I'd never gotten below a B in my life, and only in Chemistry. It was a huge blow, since it was one of my favorite classes. I never learned to like that teacher, but I also stepped up my essay-writing game. I'm sorry about the bad review, but I'm sure there will also be people who LOVE your book and rave about it.

RC Hancock said...

You just got the bad luck to encounter a reviewer who fancies him/herself a historian. He/she calls your science simplistic....um... This is not a sci-fi. It's a period drama. If the worst he/she can come up with is historical inaccuracies I'd say you're doing awesome. Now I have two reasons to be angry at Kirkus. (The first is that they didn't review Blue. Haha) Way to rise above that A-!!

Ann Noser said...

Do something--anything--that makes you feel better. We are all told not to stalk our reviews for a reason, but I know I don't listen. And I HATE IT when my characters get "picked on". Bullies!

Yes, it's hard not to take things personally.

And some reviewers are just sour grapes.

Amy Cattapan said...

A lot of my author friends have said that they felt like a "real author" when they got their first one-star review because *everyone* gets a bad review sooner or later. Not sure if that takes away any of the initial sting, but at least you know others have walked this path before you.

Nonetheless, I'm seriously considering not reading any reviews after my book comes out. What good would it do? It's too late to change the book by then!

My advice? Make like Taylor Swift, and "Shake it off!" After all, haters are gonna hate. :)

Rachel said...

Krista I just read that review and let me tell you……your audience is MIDDLE SCHOOLERS. They are not going to give a chicken's leg about the history and the exact stuff… they want to read about Ella and her story. :-) Chin up, lady. You are a rockstar for writing about such a unique time period…I don't recall reading many books at that age about the 1950s :-)

Karen lee Hallam said...

Your story is exactly what my 14-year-old is going through. I found it hard to believe he was actually being graded on his binder. He's very disorganized, but still manages to be on honors.(??) I helped him clean out his binder (I know, so bad)

I thought I might offer some comment of the bad review, but I couldn't find it. However --your book sounds SO great, I cannot wait to read it. Guess, we'll all have to deal with at least one negative comment at some point. Jeesh, can't wait. Yours is out of the way now. onward! :))

Heather said...

I love your perspective on this. And no matter what, this story - this beautiful story that you worked so hard on - is out there in the world now - a real book - and it is going to be read and loved by so many!

Krista Van Dolzer said...

High-five, Michelle. It never ceases to amaze me how much we have in common:)

Another high-five, Carla. And thanks for your words of encouragement.

Ryan, in the reviewer's defense, we have been calling it historical science fiction, but it's less about the science and more about the relationships. But I think it's safe to say the reviewer didn't get that. (And I'm sorry they didn't review BLUE!)

These characters really do feel like our kids, don't they, Ann? In that way, it's impossible not to take it personally, and yet we forge ahead.

Amy, I've informed Kate and Shauna that I'd rather not hear about ANY reviews, good or bad, from here on out. Like you said, it's just background noise now; there's nothing we can do to change it.

Aw, thanks, Rachel. Your comment put a smile on my face:)

Well, Karen, tell your fourteen-year-old that there's a thirty-one-year-old in southern Nevada who knows exactly how he feels. And the review in question came from the reviewer that starts with a K and ends in "irkus." :)

Great point, Heather. It's all about perspective.

Laura Moe said...

Krista,
I'm sorry to see thT snarky review, but your attitude is great. Ann Noser has the right idea; do something nice for yourself.

I won't rview books I don't like because I know how hard it it to write them, and my opinion may not be universal. I wonder if this critic has ever written a novel, and one for MS age.

Rebecca Gomez said...

I suppose it is good to get the worst over with. I think you are handling this quite well! I've seen some abysmal reviews for some of my favorite books, so keep that in mind too!

Ben Spendlove said...

You sound just like my wife. (Who wants to meet you, btw.) I've spent the last thirteen years training her to slack off and be imperfect. I think maybe I should start taking lessons from her, for a change.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Laura, like you, I generally only recommend books, and I only recommend the ones I absolutely loved and have no reservations about. I know reviewers have to review a wide variety of books, but I like being able to stay positive.

Thanks, Rebecca. Trying to keep my chin up.

I want to meet both of you, Ben. And you two sound like Honey Bear and me:)

Kathleen Basi said...

Oh, man. I'm glad you could put that good an attitude on it. Go you!

Carrie-Anne said...

That reviewer made a historical mistake of his or her own, for all the talk about your inaccuracies! Japanese-Americans (and Japanese-Canadians and Japanese-Latin Americans) were in internment camps, NOT concentration-camps! I couldn't believe anyone would even make such a major mistake!

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Thanks, Kathleen.

Carrie-Anne, I noticed the same thing. Perhaps the reviewer thought calling them concentration camps would pack more of an emotional punch? (It's still not accurate, though...)

Jessie Oliveros said...

Oh no! I'm sorry they were bad. I'm glad you got that out of the way, and you have a good attitude about it all. I'm very excited to read your book, and I may not see eye-to-eye with said industry reviewers...

Krista Van Dolzer said...

The sting has definitely worn off, Jessie, so that's a good thing. I've decided I don't see eye to eye with said industry reviewer, either:)