The Value of Thick Skin

She has just finished reading to Roddy.
She has just finished reading to Roddy.

A long time ago I decided that I would make my dreams come true and get a book or two published. That was about twenty years ago. I’ve worked hard since on reaching that goal, but you have to admit twenty years is a long time. Along the long and winding road to publication I discovered a very valuable tool to always have in my tool drawer. Every once in a while I must, must, must pull it out and slip it over my head to wear. Yes, that’s right, a writer must have a thick skin to be able to withstand the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and/or snark.

This odd skin development starts at home. The act of writing is a private thing in the beginning. Unless you are having the words of your novel tattooed on all forty of your friends, or you are twittering the novel in increments of 140 characters or less over the course of however long it takes to do that. Or, like Neil Gaimon you tweet all your twitter followers a question a month, and write-illustate-sing a complete story from each favorite answer. Me? I write alone – with the dog, an impatient-for-a-walk companion. I then take the bit I’ve written and share it with a family member for an opinion. This can be tough. Family members aren’t necessarily your best and most encouraging critics. Here is where the skin begins to thicken.

Next, you take your revised work to your critique group. They give you constructive (we can only hope) criticism that you can use because you trust them. Then, there’s always the one – you know what I mean if you’re in a critique group – there’s always the one person who slams your effort. Here is where the writer’s skin becomes cow hide.

Last but not the least in this process is presenting your masterpiece to editors and agents. Oh, the mortification! Oh, the anguish! Oh, the *let’s not get too melodramatic!* Let’s just say the skin begins forming layers upon old, crusty layers to become inches thick.

Having thick skin doesn’t mean there aren’t hurt feelings, it means that you quickly dry your tears and pick yourself up and go forth to write another day!!

Then, years and years and a lot of tears later, you see your baby book birthed. Oh, isn’t it precious? Isn’t it adorable? Doesn’t it look just like Mommy? (Okay…that’s too far) But yes, you have a novel. And in order for that novel to grow up and make it in this world it has to have reviews.

The reviews begin to trickle in. Oh! How excellent! Look, isn’t that lovely? And

what’s this?


Two stars????!!!!

I received my first bad review last week. Before you, my friends, storm the Bastille to take down the infidel – stop. Don’t do it. Don’t do a thing. This is important. Why? Because I have thick skin. I can take it. There are two good reasons to have bad reviews. First reason, it teaches me something that perhaps I was unaware of and in this instance I did not stress enough on that The Dry is a children’s book. Secondly, a bad review proves that this is a real book read by real people.

Yes, please read the bad review. Please do not press the “no” button that this review was not helpful, and do not reply with a comment to the review. Do read the five-star reviews and press the “yes” button if any were helpful to you. The best defense is always a good offense and in this case if you have read the book – give me an honest review. Or if you haven’t read the book, get it and read it and give me an honest review. This is especially true if you have youngsters in your house that you can read it to or who would like to read it. I really need reviews from some kids.

Here’s a review that is not posted on Amazon about The Dry. This is from a junior high girl writing to her school librarian.

Mrs. Martin,

I finished the book you asked me to preview! It was wonderful! I will bring it back to school tomorrow.

It is totally appropriate for middle school students, I would put it lower middle school. 6th – 7th grade age. As a girl, I liked it. The girls would enjoy it if they like science fantasy, like Chronicles of Narnia…

In very general terms, it is a good vs. evil battle. It is like a mix of Narnia and Lord of the Rings set in the 1800s using insects, lol. It is the Wet (water, animals, good) forces against the Dry (arid, insects, bad) forces. There is a boy trying to save his father and a girl who is trying to save her brother as the main characters. It gets a little convoluted toward the end trying to keep up with everything but I really enjoyed it. Of course, the good wins out in the end and the queen of the Wet (good) shows forgiveness to those that betrayed her.

Moral of the story – it is never to late to ask or receive forgiveness, keep your promises, working together can bring triumph.

It is a very interesting book. It didn’t explain everything that I wanted to know, but it moved fast enough that I wasn’t bored.




4 thoughts on “The Value of Thick Skin”

  1. Oh, yes, the bad reviews. I hope you keep some chocolate nearby for those days! Speaking of chocolate, I like to remind myself that books are like food served to kids – not every reader/kid at the table is going to like every meal you serve. Some crazy people don’t even like the finest Belgian dark chocolate! So bad reviews are sometimes the natural result of a reader who isn’t into your sort of book reading it and not liking your flavor of prose. It happens – and it’s not necessarily you. It can be simply a matter of taste. Now go eat something sinfully delicious and keep on writing!


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