Saturday, January 16, 2010

Toughening Up My Skin

There's a sad little fact about writers once they get published - we tend to Google ourselves every now and then to see if anything is being said about us and what we've written.

In my defense, I don't do it every day, every week or even every month. That's how it came to be that I didn't see this April review from the Bismarck Tribune until earlier this week. Of course, the headline "Guide to military forts lacks depth" got my attention because I'd never had a bad review to Forts.

The Tribune actually turns its reviews over to "citizen reviewers" - when books come in, they let readers know and, if one of them is interested, he or she can do a review. In this case, one of the state's district court judges took my book.

Strangely, he focused on the book's introduction, devoting more words to that than to the book itself. Using my own words out of context, he said the book was limited in scope, had little history to it, and required the reader to drive to the sites himself if he wanted to learn anything about them! He also added a couple of things that weren't true (saying most of the forts were reconstructed and run by historical societies) and couldn't have been interpreted from the book. He said the travel information was really about the only thing that the book contained, but he was looking forward to using that after his retirement when he drove his convertible around the region.

I did exchange a couple emails with the judge - I was very civil in asking him if he had even read the book - but his remarks were short and dismissive (i.e., "I stand by my review" and "Goodbye, Mr. Barnes"). I did respond online to his review, and you can see that on the "discussion" tab after clicking the link above.

I suppose I should be toughening my skin for things like this, but I don't think it's too much to ask for a reviewer to actually go through the pages of a book and maybe read a chapter or two!
This week (Thursday) I'm presenting "Forts of Nebraska" at the Nebraska Museum of History, 15th and P in Lincoln. Their monthy "brown bag lecture" is at noon and I hope to see some of you there! If you miss it and live in the area, I'm told that Time/Warner Cable Channel 5 will air it later.

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