The Book is Here … but What if They Don’t Like It?

I got my box of contributor copies of Hungering and Thirsting for Justice in the mail yesterday, so I promptly sent an email to all the friends and associates I thought might be interested in knowing about it. Interest was especially piqued amongst those who know me mostly in a Catholic context. My former boss at the Writing Center at The College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University let me know she’d pass the word on to the English and Theology faculty and get a copy for the campus libraries. And the priest from my home parish told me he’d order three copies, and send one to the bishop.

I fought the urge to respond, “But I don’t think the bishop will like it!”

Our publisher has been wonderful in backing us even though the book expresses, sometimes quite strongly, some views that are not in line with official Catholic teaching. And of course, now that the book is out in the world, I must deal with something I don’t have to deal with so much when my manuscripts stay on my computer: people are actually going to read this (I hope!), and not all of them are going to like it.

That fear has been niggling at me for the last month or so, as the reality of publication came closer and closer. I’ve always wondered if I’ll be one of those authors who doesn’t read reviews of her work, and it’s certainly tempting. But I’ve also realized that I already deal with the fact that some folks don’t like my writing on a regular basis.

Over at Young Adult Catholics, I’ve received negative or argumentative responses to my posts for almost as long as I’ve been writing them (my most recent, rather non-controversial post, is here). Some of them are reasonable, well-thought-out disagreements, but more commonly, they are a line or two implying that I’m a horrible Catholic, with no real invitation to continue a dialog past that point. There’s one particular commenter who seems to read my posts for the sole purpose of writing a snarky line or two in the comments. It’s gotten to where, when I see there’s a new comment on a blog post, I cringe before I open it, preparing for an attack. When it’s a supportive or even reasonable response, I breathe a huge sigh of relief and bask in a moment of profound gratitude.

It hurts, and it’s scary. Even in the midst of mostly positive remarks, it’s the negative ones that stick with us. But I keep writing because I need to. I keep writing because, I believe, other people need me to, too. I think the best thing about books and all the other written media out there in the world is that it makes us feel a little less alone. And as a progressive Catholic at a time when the Institutional Church is fondly reminiscing about Pre-Vatican II days, you can get to feeling pretty alone.

I continue to write out of gratitude for all the brave writers who have helped me feel less alone by putting their words on a page or on a screen.  I continue to write so that I, too, can remind people that we’re not alone. This means that I’ll continue to open myself up to reactions from people who don’t like what I have to say. That’s the price we pay for hitting “post” or for opening our mouths. It’s important to keep doing it anyway.


4 Responses to The Book is Here … but What if They Don’t Like It?

  1. About a year ago, I had an interesting experience: a right-wing Catholic blogger who disagreed with me did not comment on my post directly, but wrote his own post in response. It began with a multi-paragraph satirical “biblical” quote. Next was a paragraph-by-paragraph (sometimes line-by-line) exegesis of my post, showing why every thought was heretical. And then, astoundingly, came yet a third section that began: “Justin, let me give it to you in ten easy-to-understand points.” I counted and indeed, he went on to produce ten of them. The end result was two to three times as long as whatever I wrote. But I think it was great for me to see all this, because since then I’ve realized that once the invective gets to a certain point, it definitely isn’t about me, or about you. (P.S. Got my own copies on Saturday via UPS. They look and feel fantastic.)

    • Well, that does trump my experiences, so far! Did the blogger contact you so that you knew about the post, or did you find out about it by Google alerts or trackbacks? At any rate … as uncomfortable as those situations can be, they’re also strangely hopeful. Because if someone is willing to invest THAT much effort in tearing down what you say, it’s because you’re probably making an impact. So … congratulations! 😉 (And you’re definitely not a heretic.)

      • The “how” of this was that I was inside WordPress one day, scanning the referrers and search terms for Young Adult Catholics (I find all the stats widgets very interesting). I saw we kept getting hits from this one post on somebody else’s blog. I followed the link, where I found out the blogger was spending WAY too much time thinking about me. (And thanks: I like to think I’m definitely not a heretic either. And that I’m making an impact. :))

  2. […] else who cares deeply about the same issues that I do. I was reminded again that this is ultimately why I write, and why publication is important. My priority isn’t selling books (which probably means […]

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