Monday, June 1, 2009


Right in the middle of thinking about my author brand, I got a request from a writer friend to read her manuscript and write a blurb/endorsement.

I met Selene a few years ago. It was obvious from the get-go that we probably write very different kinds of things. Well maybe not. After all, we met at a history writing retreat!

Selene and I connected during that week and although we haven't seen each other since, we occasionally swap emails. We affectionately refer to each other as Little Sis and Big Sis. (Yes, I'm the big one!)

Naturally I wanted to write the endorsement for her. So I emailed back. "Sure, send it."

Then I started reading. This one is not a middle school history manuscript. It's young adult fiction. Contemporary. With a little edge.

I am not so edgy. (Although I could name some people who think I've gone over the edge!) I tend to write the sort of books that elementary school teachers and cautious homeschool moms feel safe with.

Which brings up my dilemma. I've connected with lots of librarians, teachers, and students over the last several years. I have an ongoing relationship with some of them. I'm not sure what they'd say if I asked them to identify my brand but I have a feeling they'd assume that any book I write or recommend would be safe for fourth graders.

Selene's book is marvelous really. I love the quirky setting, the unique characters, the story line. And the voice. Oh, the voice. Selene has it! Her character has it!

The writing is really good. But the language gets strong. And the situation gets -hmmm what is the word? Gritty, maybe. And sexual too (although certainly not gratuitiously so). This is a book that struggles with deep emotional pain, self-loathing, and healing that comes through authentic friendship. It is a profound and highly readable story!

But when it comes to blurbing it, I think about the whole image thing and what responsibility I have to my readers. People come to expect certain kinds of books from a particular author. They don't necessarily like unexpected surprises.

I wonder if this bleeds over into endorsements. Might elementary and middle school librarians buy a book because I blurbed it? And might they end up with angry parents insisting it come off the shelves? How would I feel if some child who wasn't ready for the book, picked it up because I recommended it?

I've pretty much already declined blurbing the book for Selene.

But, I'm interested in your feedback. If you're a librarian, a parent, a student, fellow writer, or any sort of living breathing human being - what do you think?


  1. As the "grammy" of two rising 4th graders, I think you made the right choice. I have to think about our very wise Mom who always said, "remember who you are and who you represent". I'm thinking you have made her proud!

  2. Hmmm... tough questions, I think. Do we assume that Bible's are safe for 4th graders? Do elementary school teachers and homeschool moms think the Bible is safe in their kids possession? Yet does the Bible contain real life issues about gritty situations and sexual stuff too?

    I guess I can see your point but also hope that we don't blind ourselves to what 4th graders face in real life while trying to placate parents.