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, SheWrites.com 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.