Sentimental vs. Stylish

I’m cleaning up my website, which is a lot like cleaning up my room (translation: not that much fun) and I’ve realized that this little story, as much as I love it, can’t continue to have its own page on my new website. Well…it can, but I won’t end up with the pretty, well-organized room that I want. No, my room will just continue to be mismatched, overstuffed, and haphazard at best. I can be sentimental, or I can be stylish and streamlined, but I can’t be both. I am sentimental; I want to be stylish and streamlined.

Even so, I can’t just toss this little story into the garage sale box and be done with it. I can’t. I just can’t. Why not? Because this little story, this little girl, single-handedly carried me for at least a month – maybe more:

When my first novel was officially released, it received only one immediate review, by Kirkus, who is known for shall we say…tart (translation: downright cruel) reviews. Do I need to tell you that this review was not favorable? Well, it wasn’t. And I felt horribly ashamed, mostly for my family. I mean, how awful to have someone criticize your mother, daughter, sister, niece, or friend, on a national scale!

But worse than the shame I felt, was the knowledge that my writing career was over before it even really began. No one would ever read my little book. Soon, I would be getting letters from my publishing house, offering to let me buy all my books for pennies on the dollar, before they were burned to make room in the warehouse. This is what I get, after all these years, I thought sadly. All these years, I’d worked on the hope that somebody, somewhere, someday, would give me a chance, and finally somebody did. And now I realized – feeling slightly devastated –that the only thing worse than not getting a chance, is getting one and blowing it, so that you never get another one. It was all over. There was no point in ever writing another word. What would I do? Who would I become? A plumber? A real estate agent? A shoe salesperson? – well, I do love shoes!

And then, my very best friend – who is not a reader – called. She said that she’d purchased several copies of my book – as required by The Law of Friendship – but since she’s not a reader, she gave these books away, to local libraries and friends. One of her friends, who received a copy of Something to Sing About – another non-reader, apparently – gave the book to his next door neighbor, who gave the book to his ten-year-old daughter, the day they were leaving for a vacation in Florida. As this girl’s parents packed and loaded the car, she began reading.

When the car was fully loaded, and the family was ready to hit the road, the girl got into the car and continued reading. Now, she knew that reading in the car made her sick. Her parents also knew that reading in the car made her sick. So, as the girl continued to read, her parents kept asking her, “Are you feeling sick? Don’t you think you had better put that book away, before you get sick?” At first, the girl said that she was fine. Then, the girl admitted that she was perhaps starting to feel a little sick-ish, and said that she would put the book away in a few minutes. She continued to read; her parents continued to ask. The girl kept saying, “Just one more page.”

This went on until finally, the girl vomited all over the backseat. “I’m sorry!” she cried. “I’m sorry, but I just couldn’t put the book down! I just couldn’t!”

The most amazing thing is that when the girl finished the book – out of the car, in Florida – she said she loved it. Loved it! Somehow, that sweet girl found a way to love a book that had literally made her sick!

I consider this my best and most important review ever. (Look, if you knew me, you would understand that it is only fitting that my highest praise comes in the form of puke.) It is the review that carried me through those dark and fearful weeks that followed my first book’s release, before other reviewers rode in to save the day.

(Now if you are reading this, and you happen to be that little girl, well…honey, I am SO sorry. And thank you! Thank you! Thank you! When my next book comes out, I promise to send you a new, signed, non-pukey, copy of Something to Sing About, along with my new one, as well. Just don’t read them in the car, okay?)

So, you can see why I can’t just toss this review away. It has great sentimental value, like the tattered chair from the living room of my childhood that now resides in the living room of my adulthood.

Sentimental or stylish? I vote for compromise. And I call it eclectic. Yes, eclectic. (My husband calls it something else. But he tolerates it.)

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