Thursday, June 9, 2011

Don't write mom off

A few months back, I entered a piece of fiction based on my time as a full-time working mom into a literary contest. The results were to be announced this week, and of course I hoped to be a finalist. I waited, watched the mailbox, watched my inbox, jumped every time the phone rang. Tuesday I checked my mail and there was an envelope from the contest, containing my two critiques and informing me that I was not a finalist.

I just started writing fiction again after 10 years of writing nothing, so I didn't really expect to be a finalist this time. But not only was I not a finalist, I got two very negative critiques. One is helpful and constructive, offering many suggestions for how I can improve my work. The other is brutal and unnecessarily mean. It seems like the critic was having fun writing the critique, showing off his own writing skills and his apparently evil sense of humor instead of really writing a critique.

I poured my heart and soul into this work. It's highly personal and means a lot to me. Telling the fictionalized story of my experiences as a full-time working mom has been cathartic for me and I think if I succeed with this work, many women will relate to it and enjoy it. The critic apparently did not think so. As I read the nasty critique, I cried harder and harder but then the tears turned to rage as I got to this sentence:

"It needs a lot of work and is no different than the other stories we've heard other women around Starbucks talk about."

Oh, hell no. Tell me what's wrong with my work. Tell me it needs more conflict, tell me my characters need more depth. That much is true and I need to know that in order to fix what's wrong with it and make it good. But don't you write me off because I'm a mom, and don't you write mothers off in general. This sentence dripped with sexism, almost outright misogyny and it pissed me off to my very core. He may as well have written, "Oh, aren't you cute, trying to write fiction. Now go back to playing bridge with the ladies and then get back in the kitchen."

I'm not the only female writer being written off. Earlier this week, posted this article about Nobel Prize-winning author V.S. Naipaul, who said that "no woman writer is his equal." Really? In the year 2011 we are still up against moronic, backwards attitudes like that?

Tell that to Tina Fey. Tell that to Oscar winner Diablo Cody. Tell that to Anne Rice. All three are women who have inspired me to have the balls to write and have the balls to put my work out there for scrutiny. Don't ever underestimate a writer because she's female or because she's a mother. All three of those inspiring female role-models are mothers and it sure as hell hasn't held them back. It hasn't stopped them from writing about motherhood, either. And it won't stop me.


  1. Where he sees that as a reason to write you off, I see that as a reason to invest in your story. It's called relatability... Jerk. (Dana)

  2. Thank you! I thought, "That's my audience, you BEEEEEEEEEP." :-)

  3. I am shocked that someone would write that nasty Starbucks comment. This is clearly their problem and not yours - just save their name and that brutal piece-of-shit "critique" for them to swallow when you're famous. (-:
    I have gotten 3 of those in my lifetime and will never forget them. It's funny though - all of the professional editors who my agent submitted my novel to - I got wonderful, helpful critical feedback. Some of it was hard to stomach but all of it was professional and helpful ... this person was not a pro. Don't sweat it. Consider it a scalp and hang it from your belt.
    PS: Loved your piece on Today Mom's! Grossest thing for me was too gross to write here but involved the delivery room and my worse fear ever, which of course, happened. (-:

  4. Great response. Use that nasty critique as a challenge, not a put-down.

  5. Thank you so much, Sharon! And Ado, I love the way you think! I am definitely keeping that "critique" to laugh at now and later. Thanks for sharing your experience, too. Not feeling alone is really helpful in getting through this and back to my writing!

    Alas, I don't write for TODAYMoms, that was Dana! I consider it a huge compliment to be mistaken for Dana in any way, though. LOL

  6. If you can't write, critique...don't let the bastards get you down!

  7. Megan - And in return for taking on said job, we'll never be taken seriously again. Isn't it the biggest load of bullshit?

    Pauline - Thank you! I could not agree more. :-) That's my favorite Latin phrase. LOL

  8. Allow me to apologize for men everywhere. What a stupid comment. For what it's worth, I love the way you write, Sara!


  9. Thank you, Matt! That really means a lot!


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