I'm told it takes great courage and great faith to be a Catholic writer, and that I'm in good company. Which I am.
I'm told I should shake it off, move on, pray about it, forget about it.
I'm told it gets easier every time.
I wouldn't know. It's my first time.
In over three years, I've been blessed: My books haven't gotten one bad review.
It happened on January 3, the day after St. Therese's birthday. I wonder what that means.
A parent, on Amazon Canada, ripped Olivia and the Little Way to shreds. I saw it for the first time this morning.
The book and its sequel, Olivia's Gift, were given to her 11-year-old daughter, probably by some well-meaning friend or relative on Christmas, hoping to give the child a meaningful, religious present. She turned up her nose when she saw the "religious" covers and begged not to read them. The mom said the girl didn't have to, but out of curiosity the mom read the first book.
That was tough enough to read. I've read worse on sites like this, however. People can be unbelievably cruel. They say things no writer should ever hear: Your books belong in the trash can, they should be burned, you can't write.
My reviewer said none of those things. She said my book was "simple and loudly preachy, and that its message to proselytize for Therese of Lisieux is without a trace of subtly" (which should have read subtlety).
Of course it's simple, I wanted to say. It's all about the Little Way, loving Jesus simply, like children. And of course I am obvious about introducing St. Therese. That was my intention! But you can't argue with a computer screen. I tried, and it doesn't talk back. Which is probably a good thing.
Then came a kick in the gut: The reviewer wrote that St. Therese didn't follow the Little Way "out of unselfish altruism, but instead to garner points with God, as her goal was sainthood."
Garnering points? Nothing could be more untrue!
Trashing my little book is one thing, but trashing who the Catholic Church calls the greatest saint of modern times? Quite another. Therese never did anything for herself, you see. No one who knows her could ever say that. Everything she did, she did out of pure, unselfish love for God. After all, St. Therese once wrote, "I am a child of the Church. I do not ask for riches or glory, not even for the glory of heaven."
I could go on and on about the blood, sweat, and tears authors (especially authors like me who aren't writing about the latest trends, who aren't feeding trash to children) endure. The prayers we pray, how we can toss and turn at night, wondering if God is happy with our work. The Good Lord knows we certainly don't do what we do for the money.
But you know all of this. That's why you write to me to tell me that your sons and daughters can't put the books down, why you're teaching from them in your classrooms, why your daughter just chose St. Therese as her patron saint and is now following her Little Way, how your son who never took an interest in anything Catholic now wants to learn more about saints and how they loved Jesus. That's why your children send me little pictures in the mail, why they e-mail me with sweet little notes, why they tell me they are praying for me.
Authors have many ways of dealing with bad reviews, whether they be from professionals or from average Joes on Amazon or Goodreads. Some cry, some pretend they don't care, some get angry.
I confess, I wanted to do all of those things. It would have been pretty easy to do, and could have ruined my entire day, if I let it. I'll be honest: It did ruin my morning.
So I took a winter walk around my neighborhood. I passed a nice man walking his dog who said "hello." I waved to a neighbor who was taking down his Christmas lights from the bushes in his front yard. I passed a mom in a car who smiled at me. I heard barking dogs, garage doors opening, kids playing. I was sad. I told St. Therese I don't like people talking badly about her. I asked God to continue to give me strength and courage to keep writing for children. And I felt blessed.
Then I went home and made my family some waffles.
Life goes on.