The Heart is Not a Size: responding to a reviewer's gentle prod

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

In her generous review of The Heart is Not a Size, Jeannine Atkins, a professor of children's literature at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and the author, most recently, of the wondrous Borrowed Names—wrote:  I loved learning about Mexico, though might have liked seeing a bit more of the landscape the girls move through, because seeing anything through Beth Kephart’s eyes is a treat.

It's the sort of prodding most writers need—that what if? question asked charitably from one with a knowing eye.  And it's a prod that comes, oddly, on the very day that I discovered (much earlier, this morning) that much of what has been ailing Small Damages, my ten-year odyssey of a novel that takes place in southern Spain, might be pinned to my growing unwillingness to trust the reader to dwell with me in that gorgeous, glorious landscape.  I have felt, increasingly, the writerly need to hurry things up in my books, to move plot along, and especially with Small Damages I have given Carmona and its Necropolis, for example, too short a shrift, have moved too quickly through bullrings. 

Jeannine's words, found this afternoon after a long day of corporate consulting, are oddly timely and reassuring.  Press harder.  Go deeper.  I will.  Thank you, Jeannine.


Jeannine Atkins said...

The timing is interesting, though perhaps in another mood you wouldn't have felt my comment as a gentle prod? Even though I'm older than the readers The Heart is Not a Size was intended for, I felt thoroughly engaged in the story, and can see the value in the chosen pace. But being older, I also love chances to see places I may never see myself through a great observer's eyes and am more eager than many to give up a faster plot for this privilege.

But if the words felt like a confirmation on a new angle into your manuscript, well, yay for serendipity!

Kelly H-Y said...

What wonderful feedback at just the right time ... amazing how things work sometimes!

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