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Monday, 28 April 2014

REVIEWS: JUDGMENT OR FEEDBACK?


Tanya J Peterson, open heartedly,  talks about judgement and how an earlier experience shadows her.

I recently realized one of the great ironies of my life. For as long as I can remember, I have feared and hated the idea of being judged, yet I became a writer by trade. Some people might argue that these two things—judgment and writing—have only a little bit to do with each other. In my mind, though, they have had everything to do with each other.

I think my obsession with being judged began in kindergarten. I did something terrible, and I received a horrible consequence. It’s painful to talk about even to this day, but I’ll do so anyway. Brace yourself for the horror. On a shapes worksheet, I colored the circle black and the square blue. But it was supposed to be the other way around! One of my first official creations for people other than my family, who approved of everything I made, and I did it wrong! Not only did I fail to receive a gold star, but I didn’t receive a star at all. The teacher marked my paper with (gasp) a frownie face!

Now perhaps the irony is clearer. I have chosen to be a novelist. I write stories and “turn them in” and then hold my breath uncomfortably and pace (pacing would be easier if I were to allow myself to breathe through it, but I don’t) while I await judgment from the world. I hope for stars. I fear frownie faces.

Of course I’m not alone in this. Writers care about what they write. They love their characters, who become not characters but real people whom they love and cherish. Much like parents who don’t want to see their children hurt, writers don’t want to see their characters crushed by the outside world.



Leave of Absence was my first book in the genre of adult contemporary fiction. I’ve been very worried about Oliver, Penelope, and William and whether I did a good enough job with them so they weren’t met with too many frownie faces in the real world.

I have a second novel almost ready to be released into the world. My Life in a Nutshell: A Novel will be available around June 1, 2014. Currently, it’s out for some professional reviews. Despite the fact that I’ve been here before with Leave of Absence, I’m extremely nervous about its reception. Will I receive nothing but frownie faces?



Happily, I’m no longer five years old. I’m not in Kindergarten. (Maybe first grade, but hey, that’s progress.) Of course I care deeply about my characters, and I care very much about the readers, too. I will never have an “in-your-face-I-don’t-care-about-your-opinion” type of attitude, but I’m coming to realize that book reviews aren’t black and white, they’re not an either-or, gold star or frownie face type of judgment. They’re a special type of interaction between reader and writer, a tool that can be used by the writer as feedback.


As a parent, I want my children to do well in the world. I take in feedback from teachers, activity leaders, other parents, etc., and I use it to further nurture my children. And so it is for my books. Reviews, with their honest evaluation of my books, can help me be a good parent for the characters I put forth into the world. 

Find out more about Tanya by visiting her web site http://tanyajpeterson.com/

1 comment:

  1. Reviews scare me too, but I keep in mind what one reviewer reminded me--reviewers are writers, too, and care a lot about their words and how people react to what they've written. So we all must remain kind to each other and appreciate the thought and work that goes into both books and reviews.

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