Monday, April 28, 2008


I made a heartbreaking discovery this week. Someone does not like BLUE. Of course there was no way to expect everyone in the wide world to love my book. I’ve read a gazillion reviews of BLUE and I’m used to the occasional comment stating that the reviewer has issues with some aspect of the story. I can take that. The thing is, until now, every single review has been more positive than not.

But now, over at LibraryThing comes this review from a class in my beloved North Carolina.

“We thought Blue was too sad to enjoy. Some of the book was boring to us as readers, and there was not much action. Some characters in the book died, and we thought it made the book too depressing. The mood was dull and gray throughout. If you would not like to read a sad story of death, do not read Blue.

Hmmmmmm… Maybe I should have called my book GRAY…

3 Reasons Why This Review Troubles Me

1. It represents more than one person’s opinion – apparently, it’s a group consensus – (and a group of my dear young readers at that!)
2. My newest book Healing Water is even grayer than Blue! (But puh-lease read it because it’s based on real people’s life experiences. And because it does contain hope!)
3. I am researching yet another heartbreaking story. I didn’t want to – honest I didn’t. It just came and grabbed me by the heart and dragged me weeping and wailing from three other books I’d already begun!

Would someone please raise your hand if you think authors should get to choose their own stories!

The thing is, when I first began writing, I did it with my young son in mind. I’d hear him giggling over some book he was reading and I’d think I want to write stories that make boys laugh.

And what do I get instead? Polio, leprosy, and pets that die! This is so not fair. I think I’ll throw a stomping hissy fit! Perhaps it will unnerve the hander-outer of stories. Maybe the muse will feel apologetic and deliver me a rip-snorting, laugh-out-loud, pee-in-your pants funny story to write! Then children EVERYWHERE will love me and give my books 100 stars and vote me the funniest thing since The Stinky Cheese Man.

Or maybe I’ll write a picture book about an author who goes in search of Pandora. She finds that lousy box/jar and stuffs Pandora inside. She does the girl some damage. (But we won’t get into the sad details here.) And don’t feel sorry for Pandora. It is her fault - right? If she hadn’t let all those sorrows out into the world then certain unlucky authors would not be selected to write about them.

You know what, Pandora? I DESPISE YOU!

There. I feel better now. So I’m going back to my research. The subject? Mental illness. Like I said, I didn’t choose it. But I make this solemn promise – I will be looking for comic relief in the archives of mental hospitals. And when I find it?

I’ll be all over it like a blue mood on a gray Monday.


  1. (Hand up in the air, waving wildly) Yes, yes, yes, how ironic...does the story choose you or do you choose the story? I definitely have a spiritual relationship with writing. It calls to me. It bends me and moves me. And I get so emotional about my stories.

    And that is as it should be. I haven't read Healing Water yet, but Blue has such a beautiful voice, such spunk. It's not "all grey" just because there is sadness. That is a part of life, and 5th grade is a time when kids are really starting to see that part of life with different eyes. Some kids will be ready...some won't.

    Don't despair, dear Joyce. Listen to your heart and to your muse. They have not led you astray...

    And give Pandora a swift kick in the butt for me, too!

  2. Oh, I love how you "get" this post - that it's really about how we have to write what we have to write.

    I really am grateful to the 5th graders for the reminder to lighten up. Humor is a whole other layer for me to work on but I can do it!

  3. Humor is awesome, but I have always loved to read stories that brought a tear or two to my eye. Somehow they seem more "real" than stories that crack you up. I guess its all in the perspective, but I am glad that you and many others write blue.

  4. I'm glad I have some readers who love the tear jerkers! But as Wendy reminded me, if I can make em laugh and cry then I've really done something. So that's what I'm working on next. Really jerking your emotions!

  5. I've not read either book - so now must. Of course reading a young adult/children's book as an adult means we see a lot more than those 5th graders do, for the simple reason, we have experienced all the emotions and even lived through some of what is written about and so we know where it ends up. Whereas those fifth graders are just now beginning to realize there is more to life than a cartoon on TV and fun and games all the time. They are learning their place in the world as it is and seeing that growing up involves more than meets the eye. They are at the tween stage in life - young enough to be considered a child still but old enough to want to be considered a young adult. I must check my library out to see if we have your book now and read it.

    Like you said you can't choose what you write when the muse drops in front of you and grabs you by the shirt collar and hands you a story to write. It is yours to put down on paper and get it out there but that is all - you are the medium by which the story comes alive. I will be reading soon hopefully - see you in the postings - E :)

  6. loved this post. Perhaps, green is a better color??? You're funny with the smiley faces. ALso liked the library post.
    Miss talking to you. May just have to call you on my way home from IRA. Wish you were here.... carol

  7. I loaned my copy of BLUE to Naomi -She called me last week after trying to reach me while we were in Israel. She said she loved the book, couldn't lay it down,and she laughed and laughed. She also said she hadn't realized that HKY had even had a polio epidemic despite the fact that they had lived there for a period of time. She wanted to know where she could purchase a copy for herself. I directed her to several local bookstores where she could get access to BLUE. I told her about Healing Water as well. Keep writng the stories "as they come to you".