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Monday, May 03, 2010

Ah, so THIS is why...

Let it never be said that I cannot take constructive criticism. My Publisher's Weekly review -- the one that I "earned" by making the top 250 in this year's Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award -- arrived by owl post today, and I think it just about sums up why I did not advance through to the next round.

Here it is, in its entirety:

This amusing epistolary manuscript lacks shape and any semblance of dramatic trajectory. It consists entirely of a series of emails from rookie teacher Jack Woodson to a former colleague of Jack's at Heat Pumps Unlimited, where Jack had worked as an engineer. The emails document Jack's first year teaching third grade at a public school in a low-income neighborhood in Dallas--an experience that is hilarious, frustrating, and disturbing. Among the anecdotes, a little girl asks Jack how big he is, and it turns out she is referring to his genitals; Esteban screams out his answers to questions and changes his answer every time he's asked, even if he was right the first time; precocious Ariel not only does great work, she critiques Jack's classroom management; and scary kids like Jun'tober have even scarier parents. Jack's emails are entertaining, but about a third of the way through, his relentless joking and constant pop culture references start to grate, and the reader wishes the missive would start to take a direction. Instead, he just keeps joking his way through the school year. The book gets an A for amusement, but when it comes to story or emotional resonance, it gets an "incomplete."




Hey, I never claimed that Learn Me Good had a plot. It really IS just a chronicle of a school year. There is no murder, espionage, low cunning, or even mistaken identity discovered too late. However, in my (its) defense, it was never PROVEN that Jessica actually was referring to my genitals. I'd still like to give her the benefit of that doubt.

Honestly, having written the book and knowing full well that it doesn't really have a plot, I'm quite happy to have received an A for amusement, since that was what I was really after.

12 comments:

halpey1 said...

Well on the positive side, you know somebody took the time to read your book and actually took the time to give you feedback. On the negative side, it sounds like none of us who blog about our daily ordeals will ever secure a book deal. :(

Mister Teacher said...

Actually, there HAVE been a couple of success stories...

Mrs. Mimi of Flowers and Sausages, and Carol of Bellringers come to name right away...

Also, I have a ton of much more positive reviews on Amazon, so I'm not taking this one PW review too critically.

Angela said...

Boo! Hiss! @ Publisher's Weekly. :-(

How did you get in the top 250 for Amazon's Breakthrough Novel? I've never heard of this. Was it something you had to enter, or were you automatically placed in it?

OK, so they were expecting some sort of novel, that's not exactly what this was supposed to be. It WAS, however, supposed to be amusing, and if you got an A for that, I'm pretty impressed. It probably takes a LOT to amuse someone who has to read novels for a living.

There aren't many books that make me laugh out loud on almost every page. Yours did. I know you're not bothered by what PW says, but it still doesn't hurt for me to repeat: YOU ROCK. :-)

Mister Teacher said...

Angela, you're just commenting so that I would feel bad for not including The Cornerstone in my earlier comment about teachers who HAVE had books published! :) (Sorry)

I heard about ABNA right before the entries were due, and I submitted Learn Me Good. They started with the first 5,000 entries, and they based the first round on just the novel pitch. That cut it down to 1,000. Then they used the first 30 or so pages and reviews from "top Amazon reviewers" to narrow the list down to 250. This latest cut was based on the Publisher's Weekly reviews, and it cut the list down to 50.

Angela said...

Hah, no my book doesn't count because I didn't score a book deal based on a blog about the daily ordeals of being a teacher (which was what you were referring to when responding to Matt). There's nothing novel-like about my book, so don't worry, I don't feel left out!

That's a pretty rigorous process for the contest. Wow! Congrats on making it through that far!

TeacherFromTN said...

Your real reviewers are your regular readers, and we keep coming back for more! LOVED the book, laughed out loud many times, then shared it with my entire third grade team. I loved that your emails share the absurdity of teaching with an "outsider"--a peek behind the curtain of an elementary school classroom. Unless you live it, it is often unbelievable!

Chris Osborne said...

Seems like a simple case of the entry not really matching up with what the judges are looking for. Which makes it even cooler that you made the top 250 if you ask me because you beat people who actually wrote a novel.

Mister Teacher said...

Thanks, guys!

John Spencer said...

A few thoughts:

1. I thought there was a story arc to the the book (loved it, by the way). It just didn't fit a Hollywood prototype. I thought there was a movement from confusion to a sense of belonging.

2. I admire you for not feeling rejected. I've self-published two books and both times I felt a little rejected that publishers weren't interested. At least you have a decent number of reviews. I have a grand total of four spread between two books.

3. In response to Matt's comment - don't give up, either. You have a big following and it's gaining momentum. Just don't quit when you get a book deal, either.

HappyChyck said...

Your determination is simply impressive!

Have you thought about writing another book?

Anonymous said...

John,
What are your books called? And where are they available (if?)?

Happychyck, thought about? Absolutely. Taken steps towards fulfilling those thoughts? Mmmmm, not so much. Actually I HAVE had sort of a rough framework in place for Learn Me Gooder (working title for the sequel), but I just haven't gotten down to really pounding it out.

Mister Teacher said...

No idea why that last comment showed up as Anonymous. It was from me!

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