Tag Archives: writers

AND THE REST IS MYSTERY

Souvenir of True Friendship

I’d nicknamed her AK-57 for the year she was born, a moniker that wasn’t lost on Amanda Kyle Williams who fostered an irreverent, self-deprecating sense of humor about herself, the world at large and, oh yeah, serial killers.

We were wired (as I believe everyone is) through happenstance.

In 2012, I was asked by a mutual friend to add my name to a list of those vying for a chance to win a free copy of her recently released hit novel, The Stranger You Seek, even though I’m an irremediable romantic who avoids most media pertaining to violence. In fact, I’d never read a mystery — not even In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, whose other written works are all favorites of mine.

So, I was a tad taken aback when Amanda friended me on Facebook to say I’d won a copy of her novel and asked me to provide shipping information to Bantam Books.

I immediately confessed to my disinterest in reading mysteries — but ended up agreeing to making her the one exception to my rule after learning we had more than wordsmithing in common. Big things, like our love for animals, rescuing dogs, and the feeding of feral cats. Little things, like the linoleum of her entryway being the identical pattern to that on the kitchen floor of the first apartment I’d ever leased. And other things, like how she’d signed with the same literary agency that rejected my query, we both had a Pekingese named Bella, we’d both been private detectives, and we each had a cat that threatened us within an inch of our toes and nose on a daily basis.

She’d requested my brutally honest opinion of her book, so I gave it: No, her account of Atlanta didn’t make me want to visit . Yes, her description of the Carolina coast tempted me to move there. I’d warned her that I prided myself in using my chess expertise to predict plots ahead of endings. She humbled me by proving I hadn’t a clue as to who the killer in Stranger was until being astounded during the final pages.

But our lives were seldom similar otherwise. She had difficulty reading because of dyslexia; I am a voracious reader without afflictions. She lost a parent at a young age following her mother’s slow decline. My mom passed instantly as I turned sixty. The love of her life succumbed to a malignancy after their twenty years together. My love affair still flourishes at nearly fifty.

Yet we both understood how it felt to lose a cherished sibling after providing steadfast care during their inevitable demise, just as we both knew my combat against heart failure is pure child’s play compared to her valiant fight against cancer  — truly, life’s most insidious serial killer.

Amanda Kyle Williams lost her battle on Friday morning, August 31st, two weeks after turning 61.

And, although we never actually met face-to-face, eye-to-eye, shoulder-to-shoulder, or toe-to-toe, we existed as tongue-in-cheek and heart-to-heart kindred spirits for six remarkable years.

Losing her saddens me.

Deeply.
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Marguerite Quantaine is an essayist, author, and animal rescue activist.
And The Rest Is Mystery © 9.2.18
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Crying Girl and her Doll

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WHEN BAD REVIEWS HURT GOOD AUTHORS and what can be done to change that

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Imagine you are Meryl Streep sitting in the audience, nominated for a Best Actress Oscar at the Academy Awards and Golden Globes and Mia Farrow’s name is called instead of yours.

It doesn’t matter that a vast majority of the general public and international acting community think — make that know — Meryl Streep is the finest actress to grace a screen since the talkies. And, it doesn’t matter that her performance far outshines that of any other actress on the planet.

She must sit and smile and be grateful just to know that she’s the superior actress, even when saddled with being lesser so, by those who are not as talented, or as accomplished as she.

(And by ‘she’ I mean those of ‘you’ still up there in my opening line, imagining yourself as Meryl Streep.)

The point is, being the best at what you do is never enough to win the acclaim of those around you.

Indeed, the chances are good it will elicit exactly the opposite results, regardless of your profession. Because that’s the nature of awards and winning and — especially for the craft of writing — book reviews.

I say ‘especially’ because book reviews and letters to the editor are the two areas of the media where everyone, regardless of their intent, intelligence, or lack thereof, can participate as an authority.

And, because of this, both (along with the installation of the five star system) have become the weapon of choice for malcontents.

The question we all need to ask ourselves is simple: Am I complicit?

The answer is YES if you:
(1) Write a good review for your friend or relative, simply because she is your friend or relative, not because her/his book is as good as the review you’ve given.
(2) Award a five star rating to a book because it was authored by a friend or relative, not because her/his book is as good as you’ve rated it.
(3) Issue a bad review for a book you haven’t read.
(4) Issue a bad review for a book you haven’t read because you carry a grudge against the author, or you have a friend who carries a grudge.
(5) Award a low star rating for a book you haven’t read.
(6) Award a low star rating for a book you haven’t read because you carry a grudge against the author, or you have a friend who carries a grudge.
(7) Sabotage an author whose publisher is in competition with your publisher.
(8) Sabotage an author for revenge.
(9) Sabotage an author out of jealousy.
(10) Sabotage an author because you can, and that ability gives you power.

About now you’re wondering how this essay became about you instead of those so-in-sos who gave you a bad review.

That’s the thing.

When it comes to writing — just as when it comes to all other areas of life — it is never about what is done to you.

Rather, it is always about what you did to help create an atmosphere where such injustices flourish.

And, by ‘you’ I mean ‘me’, and ‘us’, and ‘we’.

Like every journey, this one takes one step by one person at a time.

It takes resolve.

It takes a decision by each of us to (1) refrain from giving credit where credit isn’t due, and (2) refrain from sabotaging those we don’t like, and (3) choose to learn from those whom we consider to be more talented, more creative, or more accomplished, and (4) mentor all who are receptive, in an effort to improve our craft and our writing community.

It isn’t necessary to like every writer. But we must try to respect every person who makes the effort, takes the time, and risks the rejection that results from writing a book, regardless of its caliber.

And, if we can do that, we will know
our own worth.

And, if we can do that, we will rejoice
in the success of others.

And, if we can do that, we will accept, as a burden,
that there will always be those whose low self-esteem,
jealousy, envy, ego, or anger won’t allow them
any other recourse
but to lash out.

And if we can do that, we’ll realize, as a blessing,
that the next essay, article, story, or book we write
will be better because of it.

And if we can do that, we will each,
we will all, know what it’s like to be
Meryl Streep.

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by Marguerite Quantaine © 2015

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Marguerite Quantaine is an essayist and author.
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