I can’t help it.

I find some of the reviews by the kids who are reading the Carnegie Medal shortlist hilarious.

But only when I’m feeling strong.

When I’m feeling as if my whole life is a pathetic waste of time and effort and I’ll never write another word worth reading, those kids make me feel a bit like Wile E Coyote after a disastrous run-in with that beep-beeping roadrunner.


Take this, for example:

The bride’s farewell wasn’t a very good book but it wasn’t the worst book I’ve ever read. That just about sums it up. I have read much better books and I think the book would have been much better if there was a better plot. I think the book would have been better if Pell had run away without her brother and found a new lover. I also think that if the names were more normal it would have been easier to understand. Finally I think that there should have been a better excuse to run away and they should have made the part where Pell runs away easier to understand. Overall I think that the bride’s farewell isn’t a very good book but I have read worse.

Was it Beaumarchais who said ‘I hasten to laugh, for fear of being obliged to cry’?


17 thoughts on “Everyone’s a critic.

  1. Helelen* 8 years ago

    Well, obviously that reviewer doesn’t like thinking very much. It’s all very sad.

    *Helen. The typo was too good to resist.

  2. bookwitch 8 years ago

    But at least it’s one of the best I’ve read.
    Are you busy punishing yourself again? Don’t.

  3. Thomas 8 years ago

    My favourite part was the word ‘they’.

  4. sharon creech 8 years ago

    Oh, I know! When one of my books was shortlisted for the Carnegie, one student wrote that if given the choice between cleaning his teeth with hydrochloric acid and reading my book again—he would choose the acid. Alas. A hundred readers can love your book, but the one that hates it can really stick you.

  5. Tony 8 years ago

    A classic bit of glass half-emptyism from you, Meg, when in fact your cup overfloweth. And, tangentially, it’s only the blandest of books that nobody hates, and who’d choose to write one of those? Well, Michael Morpurgo, of course, but who else?

    1. Meg 8 years ago

      You’re right of course, Tony. My cup doth overflow. But isn’t the pessimism part of the job? I’m sure there’s a reason so many writers are depressives, and doesn’t everyone have a constant sense that any success is a precarious temporary state that will disappear when the negative voices prevail? In the olden days, we wouldn’t have had any contact with our readers, except the occasional fan letter. Now everyone has a (public) opinion, and if you’re the sort of writer who divides opinion, you’re faced with all the negativity. Does everyone want to be universally loved? I fight it, but….there you go.

  6. Emma beasley 8 years ago

    By the way your speach really inspired me at the carnigie meeting on Wednesday so I have started to write a fantsy book (for my own enjoyment) and hopfully one day I will, like you publish books of my own, I thank you so much for your insperation, and I can’t wait for you new book to come out, There is no dog !!! I also know you didn’t just give me an idea that day you also gave my friend lara an idea for a great book, once again we are so greatful to you, THANKYOU!!!

    1. Meg 8 years ago

      Great to hear, Emma. Good luck with it!

  7. sophia 8 years ago

    My favourite part was ‘Carnegie Medal shortlist’.

  8. Kirsten Baron 8 years ago

    I’m with Thomas, re “I think (…) they should have made the part where Pell runs away easier to understand”. Is this grudging child under the impression that books are written by committee? Perhaps they should be: plots would be more straightforward, names would be more ordinary, people would be easier to understand. Kinda like ‘Eastenders’, I imagine. Which would free up my life tremendously, because then I could leave it to some other committee to read novels.
    As it is, I’m trying to find time to re-read all your older novels while waiting for my copy of There Is No God.

  9. Jan Carr 8 years ago

    I have heard that some people who are in thebusiness of getting reviews never read them. I think that the only reviews that children’s/YA authors should always read are those from young people and you should be commended for publishing one that is negative.
    Dismissing a child’s opinion is a bad thing. We don’t have to agree but children deserve respect when for example, they gone to the bother of reading a whole book and commenting to powerful adults. I think you have done that.
    I believe to be an excellent children’ s author you have to love and respect your readership – all of them.
    I’m just a wannabe so what do I know? It’s just theory for me at the moment.

    1. Meg 8 years ago

      In order to keep writing, Jan, I need to dismiss a lot of opinions. Which doesn’t mean I don’t respect my readers. The difference between Carnegie readers and “regular” readers is that in the main, they haven’t chosen the books, the books have been chosen for them. So the match is sometimes an uncomfortable one.

      I believe to be an excellent children’s author you have to be an excellent writer and forget about your audience. But everyone’s entitled to a different theory!

  10. Jan Carr 8 years ago

    Thanks for responding, Meg.
    Interesting to share theories; I kind of assumed the excellent writer bit went without saying. I like what Stephen Moffat which is something like – ‘to write for children you just have to write better’.
    I’ve been a teacher in the past and was always concerned when colleagues would share unhelpful opinions about the kids in the staffroom which i thought resulted in unhelpful relationships in the classroom. So even if something is not said directly to the child just the fact that it was expressed embeds an attitude in the teacher that is communicated to the child. Similarly, I wonder if dismissive attitudes by authors about readers result in dismissive voices?
    I’m impressed you’ve been big enough to publish your negative review. I would love to be in your position. Currently I’m picking myself up from agent rejections a place where many a published author has been before me.
    Hoping I’m strong enough to keep on doing that.
    Don’t know.

  11. nicola baird 8 years ago

    I’m home schooling at the moment and it is really hard to make kids write with the positive forcefield they give off when you talk to them (and they are in a good mood). I guess your guineateen wasn’t feeling too positive generally that day. Don’t despair, books have long term and short term impacts. Bet when your film comes out they’ll all come around! Nicola

  12. Jess 8 years ago

    It must be pretty popular if it made it onto the shortlist! I’m rooting for you even if you aren’t. 🙂

  13. Jake Elliott. 8 years ago

    Hi Meg!

    You probably don’t even remember me, I attended one of your talks at Hoddesdon Library 2/3 years ago. My name was Jake Elliott, you signed two books for me and we briefly spoke about other Carnegie candidates. I have been lurking on here for a while now, and figured I would finally get in contact.
    (I was the only teenage boy there, I had glasses and medium length brown hair. I attended with my mum. [Who still hasn’t read any of your books… What a moron…])

    When ‘Just In Case’ was in the running a couple of years back, I gave it the most positive review of any book I have ever read in my life. I just wanted to let you know that, despite what everybody else may think, you are an amazing writer. ‘Just In Case’ was our school’s favourite to win, and when it did, everybody went insane!

    As soon as I get my hands on your latest masterpiece, I’ll tear into it straight away. Thanks so much for being such an inspiration over the years, I would love to hear back from you!

    Stay awesome.
    – Jake Elliott. 🙂

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